Saturday, July 25, 2009

Archbishop urges unity

The Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, Episcopal archbishop of Sudan, visited Roanoke on Thursday to deliver a stern message to the area's Sudanese Christian community.

"I am challenging you, you have a problem and you need to solve it. You are not speaking together," he told an audience of about 17 men and women at Roanoke's St. James Episcopal Church.

Sudanese expatriates need to organize their efforts to draw attention to the plight of people in the southern part of the impoverished and war-torn African nation, he said. Too often Sudanese get caught up in tribal allegiances that make it difficult to speak with a unified voice.

That message resonated with Nelson Walla, who has lived in the United States for about five years and who has tried desperately to get the Sudanese community organized.

"We have to unite and be one nation," he said after the archbishop's talk. "Even within the Sudanese community in Roanoke, wherever you go, this issue [of tribalism] is there. We need to bring all the people together despite all the differences."

The archbishop's visit was a momentous event for the area's Sudanese, who probably number about 120, according to Walla. At first, Bul hadn't planned to visit the area, choosing instead to spend time in more populated places where he could call on American leaders and Sudanese expatriates to pay attention to the plight of southern Sudan, which is today often overshadowed by Darfur, a war-torn area in the west of the country.

More here-

Episcopal Church official voices support for abortion-prevention bill

From ENS-

A representative of the Episcopal Church has joined some 50 other religious leaders and groups in supporting the House of Representatives' Ryan-DeLauro Bill, which, if passed, would aim to reduce the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and families.

"On behalf of the Episcopal Church, I am pleased to endorse the 'Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act' sponsored by Representatives Tim Ryan [Ohio] and Rosa DeLauro [Connecticut]," wrote Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, in a statement released on July 24.

"We believe 'that the beginning of new human life, because it is a gift of the power of God's love for his people, and thereby sacred, should not and must not be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly but in full accordance of the understanding for which this power to conceive and give birth is bestowed by God,'" wrote Shea, quoting language from a resolution first passed by the 1967 General Convention and reaffirmed in modified form at several subsequent meetings.

"We recognize that there are differing views on critical aspects of this gift. However, we believe this legislation is a faithful and honest approach to address areas in which those of diverse views can find common ground," Shea continued.

"In order to ensure that the gift of life not be 'undertaken unadvisedly or lightly,' this legislation seeks to prevent unintended pregnancies particularly for teens; it restores and expands family planning programs for low-income women; it gives childbirth support to women and new parents, as well as students so that they can continue their studies; and it provides important information and financial support for those wishing to adopt."

More here-

Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma explains his vote on gay issue

From Oklahoma-

The Rt. Rev. Edward Konieczny said he voted against a measure that many people are touting as an effective end to the Episcopal Church USA’s moratorium on openly gay or lesbian bishops.

Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, said he was concerned that people would see the measure called DO25 as a lifting of the ban on gay and lesbian bishops, and he does not think it is.

He said DO25 was a statement about the ordination process and that recent news headlines and broadcasts proclaiming it as an end to the moratorium are "rather inaccurate.”
"As we understand, that moratorium is in effect until such time as a vote takes place that changes that,” Konieczny said during a recent telephone interview.

"As we understand it, until such time as the House of Bishops and standing committees confirm somebody who is in an openly gay or lesbian relationship, that moratorium continues to be in effect.”

More here-

Judge rules deposed bishop can't transfer money

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has prevailed in its first lawsuit against a deposed bishop who led a secession movement prompted by the church's ordination of women and gays.
National church leaders removed John-David Schofield as the head of the Fresno-based diocese in March of last year, after he led parishioners to break with the national church.

On Thursday, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Adolfo Corona ruled that Schofield improperly set up outside accounts to transfer up to $5 million in church money to a new holding company.
The ruling also established that Jerry Lamb, a bishop loyal to the U.S. Episcopal Church, officially heads the Fresno diocese.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Texas Rector Withdraws from Episcopal Election in Malawi

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more confusing...From the Living Church.

The Very Rev. Scott Wilson, rector of All Saints’ Church, Weatherford, Texas, has withdrawn as a candidate to serve the Diocese of North Malawi in the Province of Central Africa.

Fr. Wilson, who has served as a missionary in Malawi and also was a candidate in a previous episcopal election in the African diocese, joined with others in the Diocese of Fort Worth in affiliating with the Anglican Communion in North America (ACNA). In a report published in the London Telegraph, Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana noted that Fr. Wilson would not be able to subscribe to Canon 6 of the provincial canons because the ACNA is not yet recognized as a province in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Convention Officers Write Archbishop, Primates on Same-Sex Blessings

From the Living Church-

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson have written to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the primates of the Anglican Communion to explain General Convention’s adoption of Resolution C056.

That resolution calls on the House of Bishops, in conjunction with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, to develop and collect liturgies and other theological resources for the blessing of same-sex unions, and report on their efforts at the 2012 General Convention.

In the meantime, the resolution also encourages bishops to provide “a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

“It is now left to each bishop to determine what such a generous pastoral response might mean in her or his diocesan context,” the presiding officers wrote.

“While the resolution honors the diversity of theological perspectives within the Episcopal Church, it does not authorize public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions," the letter continued. “The Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, the marriage rites are unaltered, and the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer define marriage as a ‘solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.’”

Bishop Jefferts Schori and Mrs. Anderson previously wrote to Archbishop Williams to explain the passage of Resolution D025, which affirmed “that God has called and may call” gay and lesbian people “to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.” That resolution is widely seen as a repudiation of Resolution B033, passed at the 2006 General Convention.

Though many bishops have commented that such was not the intent of D025, Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona described that action on his website as “a movement away from the ‘restraint’ of last convention’s [Resolution] B033,” calling it “a de facto repudiation of that stance.” Speaking in the House of Bishops, Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia argued that the house needed “to face the fact, the plain fact, that this is a repudiation of B033. It’s just in another guise.”

Archbishop Williams has yet to issue any official response to the actions taken at General Convention.

Nigeria: The Country Must Have a True Re-Birth -Owadayo

From All Africa-

MATHEW OLUREMI OWADAYO, Bishop of Egba Diocese of the Anglican Church, will be retiring in October this year after turning 70. In this interview with CORRESPONDENT, SEGUN ADELEYE, the cleric speaks authoritatively on key developmental issues in the country and exhorts the citizenry to embrace the true spirit of re-brand of the country. He also speaks on 10 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria.


Would you say our experience in the past eight years of another shot at democracy has justified the nation's investment in June 12, 1993 Presidential elections?

With June 12, God wanted us to learn a lesson from the thing that happened in the history of our nation. It did not just happen; God has a divine purpose for everything. If it was a situation that brought us bitterness in our experience and in the area of politics, in particular, and more so that it involved the head of the nation and people who were vying for leadership positions in the country, then we should think that every citizen of this country should learn from it.

It was an occasion that topped the height of injustice. Somebody was supposed to have won election without any dispute, and it was considered to be one of the fairest elections ever conducted in this country. If it happened that people maneuvered, stage-managed or turned the whole thing upside-down, then we later saw the consequences of our actions corporately and individually.

more here-

Buehrle enters record books with perfecto

Only the 18th time in the history of the game that a pitcher has been perfect. For you soccer fans out there a perfect game is when no batter reaches base. (No hits, no errors, no walks)

Mark Buehrle had been in this situation before. His nerves were not an issue.

Chopping down batter after batter with his nasty cutter and deceptive change, Buehrle breezed through the Rays' lineup quickly, as only he can. The Rays simply couldn't keep up with the southpaw's swift pace.

On this particular day, the Rays were simply overmatched.

Buehrle hurled a perfect game and led the White Sox to a 5-0 win over Tampa Bay at U.S. Cellular Field, where 28,036 in attendance held their breath with each pitch. After every out, the roar of the crowd got just a little bit louder.

And when Josh Fields wrapped his mitt around shortstop Alexei Ramirez's throw on ground ball at first base to end the game, the South Side erupted with thunderous applause for its hero.

It was the second no-hitter in Buehrle's career, the first coming April 18, 2007, against the Rangers. He became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson to throw multiple no-hitters, and the first to throw a perfect game since the Big Unit did it on May 18, 2004.

Buehrle is just the 18th player to throw a perfect game in Major League history.

"I don't think it's really soaked in," said Buehrle, just minutes after being mobbed by his gleeful teammates on the field. "I think it will soak in a little later. I still don't know what happened. Obviously, any time your name gets up there with some of the greats in the game, it means a lot. I think it's another thing when you retire and sit back and you see how many perfect games have been thrown in history and your name's in there. I think that's when I'll sit back and kind of be surprised."

More here-

and here-

Pat Robertson will shed no tears if Episcopals fold

Ok now Pat Robertson has weighed in and we can all go home-

Pat Robertson, televangelist and gay hater will not shed a tear if the Episcopal Church folds. Not that anyone is expecting the church to fold, but on Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club he said the following. (From On Top magazine)

“They have lost their way. They were taken over by this controversy having to do with same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexual bishops. Once they got into that morass and lost their way from scriptural teaching, they didn't have much denomination left.

“There is a very vibrant denomination coming along, it is called the American Anglican Church, and thousands of people are moving toward it. It's amazing that their presiding bishop is from Rwanda. But nevertheless, they are filled with the flame of the Holy Spirit and we congratulate them.

“And there will be no tears in my life if the Episcopal Church of America just quietly goes out of business.”

I hope the American Anglican Church does not consider Pat Robertson's endorsement a feather in their cap.

More here- (if you dare)

Ex-DJ spreads word via podcast

From the Baltimore Sun-

Add the attendance from the two services at St. Matthew's in Oakland and the one at St. John's in Deer Park, and the Rev. Chip Lee is fortunate if he preaches to 100 souls on a Sunday.

But the former disc jockey-turned-Episcopal priest has hit on another way to reach the faithful.

Once a week or so, Lee settles into the professional recording studio in his house here at the far end of the Maryland panhandle, cues the New Age sound of an American Indian flutist and, in a velvety baritone smoothed by 30 years in radio, begins to read from the Book of Common Prayer.

The podcasts he produces - of Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer and the end-of-the-day prayer called Compline - have expanded Lee's ministry from the wooded mountains of Maryland's western extreme to a global congregation. This spring, the four-year-old effort claimed 50,000 downloads a month, from Anglicans on every continent and Christians of every stripe. And the number continues to grow.

The use of the Internet to spread faith is as old as the World Wide Web itself. But Lee and the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland believe his are the only daily audio readings from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer available online, and a Google search appears to back them up.

The installments of prayers and scripture passages known collectively as the Daily Office have found a particular following among the U.S. military, with chaplains and lay members accessing the 15- to 20-minute offerings from Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

"It is truly a wonderful contribution to our troops," Navy Chaplain Mark S. Winward e-mailed Lee after finding the podcast. "May God richly bless you and your parish for your outreach."

The 61-year-old Lee describes the endeavor as a case of "you can take the boy out of radio, but you can't take the radio out of the boy." A lifelong Episcopalian, he began his broadcasting career at the age of 16, when he would leave his high school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., walk across the street to the local radio station and read the news.

More here-,0,4937339.story

US decision triggers postal activity

From the Church Times-

A FLURRY of responses and clarifications followed the passing of two resolutions on human sexuality at the General Convention, the triennial meeting of the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 17 July).

Resolution D025 recognises the present reality of gay and lesbian clergy in the Episcopal Church, and reaffirms that any baptised member can be called to any order of ministry. Resolution C065 calls for the development of theological resources for same-sex blessings, and allows bishops the local option of providing “a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church”.

The Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, have written separate letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

On Resolution D025, they say that it “acknowledges certain realities of our common life. Nothing in the resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under our Constitution and Canons for many years.”

On Resolution C065, they say: “While the resolution honours the diversity of theological perspectives within the Episcopal Church, it does not authorise public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions.”

In her closing sermon to the Convention, Dr Jefferts Schori said that the gift of Anglicanism was “holding together in tension polarities that some are eager to resolve. . . The long view says that if we insist on resolving the tension we’ll miss a gift of the Spirit, for truth is always larger than one end of the polarity.”

Up to 34 bishops produced the Anaheim Statement, affirming their desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. They pledged themselves to honour the requests made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meetings, and the Anglican Consult ative Council (ACC) to observe moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions, and the ordination of gay and lesbian people as bishops.

The rest is here-

Bishop: Episcopal Diocese of Dallas won't accept gay unions

From the Dallas Morning News-

Bishop James Stanton says the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas won't join in what he sees as the Episcopal Church's growing acceptance of gay unions.

"We will not consent to the election of a bishop living in a same-sex relationship, and we will not allow the blessings of same-sex relationships," Stanton said in a letter to clergy.

Stanton, a theological conservative, wrote in response to the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

The General Convention passed a resolution noting that some states now allow gay marriage, and calling on the denomination to "develop theological and liturgical resources" in response. The resolution stopped short of authorizing rites for gay unions.

The resolution does say that bishops – particularly where gay marriage is legal – "may provide generous pastoral response" to all members.

Stanton said such language appears to give a "green light" to blessings of gay unions.

While acknowledging that the Dallas diocese has many gay members, Stanton said it will continue "affirming the primacy of scripture, the sanctity of marriage and the call to holiness of life."

Stanton's letter also argues that the General Convention moved from a position of restraint on approving any more openly gay bishops. The acceptance of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has been a major concern for Episcopal conservatives.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gay bishops in the Episcopal Church: is the moratorium on or off?

From the Examiner

Contrary to what has been in the press recently, the Episcopal Church has not swung ever wider its doors to gay and lesbian bishops; neither, however, has it closed them. Actually, the door is about where it has been all the time in all branches of ordained ministry -- open to all persons regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, and subject to the discernment and consent of the diocesan Bishop and Standing Committee.

The resolution passed earlier this month at General Convention in Anaheim, CA, known by its number, D025, does not call off the moratorium but "basically describes the situation. It does not prescribe any action," says the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina.

WHAT, EXACTLY, DOES THAT MEAN? If a moratorium existed at all, Curry explained, it existed because individual bishops and Standing Committees in the dioceses, both of which must give their consent before a person may be consecrated, have chosen, on their own, not to give that consent. "D025: has it repealed or ended the moratorium? No. The moratorium exists or ends with the actions of the Bishops and the Standing Committees," Bp. Curry said.

"B033 [the resolution passed in the previous General Convention] did not establish a moratorium because it can't," Bp. Curry said. "General Convention can encourage and cajole. It cannot direct. Only bishops and standing committees, exercising their prerogatives, can maintain or end a moratorium. A resolution of General Convention, unless it amends the Constitution and Canons or the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, is non binding. ...The giving or withholding of consent is a constitutional prerogative of Standing Committees and Bishops diocesan."

The rest is here-

Episcopal Head Offers Report Amid 'Misinterpreted, Exaggerated' Claims

From Christian Post-

The presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church wrote a letter to members of the denomination Wednesday to summarize the results of their recently concluded triennial conference and to clarify the details behind two resolutions that have drawn notable, and mostly negative, attention from the media.

After eleven full days of worship, learning, and policy-making, those who gathered in Anaheim, Calif., for the 76th General Convention adopted a budget that will result in the loss of church staff and represents “a significant curtailment of church-wide ministry efforts, in recognition of the economic realities of many dioceses and church endowments,” reported Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Despite the reduced budget, the church body still decided to commit 0.7 percent of its budget to the Millennium Development Goals on top of the 15 percent already committed to international development work.

“As a Church, we have deepened our commitments to mission and ministry with ‘the least of these,’” Jefferts Schori stated, citing from Matthew 25.

“We have committed to a domestic poverty initiative, meant to explore coherent and constructive responses to some of the worst poverty statistics in the Americas: Native American reservations and indigenous communities,” the Episcopal leader continued.

Jefferts Schori also reported on the adoption of a health plan to serve all clergy and laity and reported about the revisions made to the church body’s rules to better keep churchgoers safe, “especially from abuse, neglect, and exploitation” at the hands of church clergy and staff.

Despite such gains, however, the presiding bishop noted that what captured headlines were two resolutions, “the consequences of which were often misinterpreted or exaggerated."

“Some have insisted that these resolutions repudiate our relationships with other members of the Anglican Communion. My sense is that we have been very clear that we value our relationships within and around the Communion, and seek to deepen them,” clarified Jefferts Schori.

More here-

Robert Hatch, Retired Bishop of W. Mass., Dies

From The Living Church-

The Rt. Rev. Robert M. Hatch, 99, retired Bishop of Western Massachusetts, died on July 16, in Louisville, Colo., where he had lived for the past five years. He was the fourth bishop of that diocese, and during his tenure helped establish new missions, support the civil rights movement, and was involved in many environmental causes.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was a graduate of Harvard University, Columbia University, and the Episcopal Theological Seminary. He was Bishop of Western Massachusetts from 1957 to 1970. Prior to that he was Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut from 1951 to 1957. He was also involved in parish ministry in the dioceses of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Delaware. After retirement he served in interim ministry in Berlin, N.H.

He was married to Helen Crocker Addison, who died in 1998. Bishop Hatch was survived by two daughters, Martha Balph of Utah and Louise Cass of Louisville, Colo., three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Churches stop offering communion wine to halt spread of swine flu

From the London Guardian-

Communion wine is not being offered in some churches amid fears over swine flu.

Some church leaders have made the decision just to distribute bread rather than offering the chalice to the congregation during Holy Communion services.

The Archdiocese of Liverpool, which represents the Catholic church in Liverpool, said yesterday that some churches had taken the precaution but added that it was a decision made by individual churches, following its guidance, and they had not told churches what to do or banned wine-giving from services.

The Anglican church in Liverpool has taken similar steps. Stuart Haynes, media manager for the Diocese of Liverpool, said: "At this stage the bishop has not instructed churches in the diocese to withhold the communion cup but some parishes may consider that precaution to be prudent."

The moves follow the advice last week of the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend John Gladwin, who advised churches not to use holy water in a bid to halt the spread of swine flu.

"The water contained in stoups can easily become a source of infection and a means of rapidly spreading the virus," he said. "This practice should be suspended."

Across the world, fears of the spread of swine flu are also affecting churchgoers. In New Zealand, the Roman Catholic Church banned priests from placing communion wafers on the tongues of worshippers, while Chilean authorities suspended a northern religious celebration, prompting protests from the faithful.

News from the thriving Anglican Communion

From the London Telegraph-

You may have been labouring under the misapprehension that it is only in the United States and Canada that the Anglican Communion is not in communion with itself. Alas, even in Africa there are… difficulties, shall we say.

The following quotes come from an email I received from I did not make them up. Though I could have.

The priests and people of North Malawi have complained that an election for their new bishop is to take place outside their diocese. In both North Malawi and Lake Malawi there are complaints that Bishop James Tengatenga of South Malawi and Albert Chama are trying to argue that candidates from previous elections may not stand …

North Malawi: The controversial Very Rev’d Scott Wilson formerly of Fort Worth diocese in the Episcopal Church of the United States has withdrawn his candidacy. Although he was runner-up to former Bishop Christopher Boyle (now retired to England) Wilson has left the Episcopal Church and actively joined a new breakaway faction in the United States known as ACNA (Anglican Church of North America). This has a very doubtful status in the Anglican Communion or with Canterbury. Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana pointed out only last week that Wilson would not be able to subscribe to Canon 6 of the Provincial Canons as he is not in a Province in communion with Canterbury …

The Diocese of Lake Malawi represents a particularly difficult case as many consider that it already has a validly elected Bishop in the person of London based priest the Rev’d Dr. Nicholas Henderson. An overwhelming majority elected Henderson bishop in July 2005 and consequently it will be difficult for any new candidates to establish an authentic mandate.

The people of Lake Malawi have fought for the last four years to have the Court of Confirmation that declared Henderson to be of ‘unsound faith’ independently examined and overturned. In November 2005 under then Archbishop Bernard Malango and with a House of Bishops including the notorious and now excommunicated Nolbert Kunonga and Elson Jakazi both of Zimbabwe, Henderson was declared of ‘unsound faith’ because of his one time membership of an academic theological society known as M.C.U. or the Modern Churchpeople’s Union.

Got that? No, nor me. And there’s lots more. What we need is an Anglican leader with a gift for summarising complex situations in a short, pithy, waffle-free précis. Over to you, Dr Williams.

Wrestling bishops: Rival Churches both claim high ground


This is a big week for letter writing for bishops staking out their claims to the righteous high ground on the future of the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued letters to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and to the Church in the USA clarifying the controversial gay-friendly moves made by the 11-day long governing convention that wrapped up last week.

Schori says they've been mis-interpreted in the media. Let's clarify here -- and I'm paraphrasing her:

First, they have not repudiated their ties with traditionalists in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Indeed, the resolution which opens the door to approving more gay bishops is entirely packaged with reiterations of the Episcopal Church's desires to keep listening to others and pursuing mission together.

However, the Episcopal Church, contrary to traditionalists, recognizes that homosexuals can also respond to God's call to ministry, a call that is always a mystery. The resolution, she writes:

...acknowledges that the members of The Episcopal Church, and of the Anglican Communion, are not of one mind, and that faithful Christians disagree about some of these matters.

Secondly, despite some reports, no prayer books have been changed to add blessings for same-sex couples. What hundreds of deputies and bishops overwhelmingly approved was a resolution that they'll look into writing those liturgies and presenting drafts three years from now at the next governing meetings.

Meanwhile, bishops have "generous discretion" to bless gay couples as they please -- or don't please -- "to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality," she writes.

Get the difference between the actual resolutions and public perception? Read both resolutions here and decide for yourself.

More here-

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Northwestern Buys Seabury's Land, Buildings

Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., has agreed to sell its buildings and land to Northwestern University for an undisclosed sum. The agreement also includes a five-year lease which will allow the seminary to remain at its current location while a task force studies other, more permanent options.

“With this agreement we are doing several important things,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, the seminary’s president and dean. “This sale has allowed us to eliminate our debt, balance our 2010 budget, and double our endowment so that we will enter our new life with adequate resources to fund our ministries.”

As part of the agreement, Seabury will lease back the first floor of the main seminary building. This area includes the chapel, administrative offices, and the area which formerly contained the seminary library. The library has been combined with Northwestern’s theological library collection and the area that formerly contained the library will be used for classrooms, said Ronald Fox, executive assistant to the dean.

Dean Hall said the property sale and lease back was part of an ongoing effort to position Seabury for a “new mission as the people’s seminary, meeting the demands of a changing world and church.”

The new mission includes new programs and faculty, Mr. Fox said. Recently the seminary announced a joint D. Min. program in congregational development with Church Divinity School of the Pacific and a joint D. Min. in preaching in partnership with other Chicago area seminaries. Last month the seminary announced the hiring of the Rev. M. Susan Harlow, an experienced theological educator and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, as the director of congregational development and professor of practical theology. Seabury is also developing other course work, some of which will be individualized either through short-term residencies or online learning, said the Rev. Ellen K. Wondra, academic dean.

“Seabury is finding new and exciting ways to deliver [theological] education to a wider group than ever before,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago. “Seabury now has the potential to respond to the current and future needs of the church with unparalleled openness and flexibility. And their forward thinking and courage deserve our support.”

Anaheim Statement Attracts More Support

From the Living Church-

Five additional bishops have signed the Anaheim Statement, the letter of dissent to the actions of the 76th General Convention in which bishops pledge to continue moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions, and the ordination of gay and lesbian persons to the episcopate.

The addition of the five bishops brings the total number to 34. The five additional names are: the Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle, Bishop of Texas; the Rt. Rev. Dena Harrison, Bishop Suffragan of Texas; the Rt. Rev. Philip Duncan, Bishop of the Central Gulf Coast; the Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards, Bishop of Nevada; and the Rt. Rev. Julio Holguin, Bishop of the Dominican Republic.

The original statement was issued after the Rt. Rev. Gary W. Lillibridge of West Texas read a statement prepared by an ad hoc committee of concerned bishops during the House of Bishops’ afternoon session July 16.

Episcopalians, Lutherans Taking Action on Sexuality Topics

From World Wide Faith News-

The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal
Church took a series of actions on the topic of human sexuality July 8-17 in Anaheim, Calif. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will also make decisions on matters concerning the topic at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.

The ELCA and Episcopal Church have been "full communion" partners
since 2000. The relationship is based on a common confessing of the
Christian faith. The denominations collaborate on various ministry
initiatives, may provide for the interchangeability of ordained clergy
and engage in worship together.

On behalf of the ELCA, the Rev. Donald J. McCoid attended the
convention. He said the actions of the Episcopal Church "do not parallel
what will be before our churchwide assembly, although some of the
concerns are similar."

"The Episcopal Church has a different process for considering human
sexuality issues and policies," said McCoid, executive director, ELCA
Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.

During their convention, Episcopalians passed a resolution designed
to open ordination to anyone in the denomination through a discernment
process outlined in the church's Constitution and Canons.

The resolution also reaffirmed the Episcopal Church's participation
in the worldwide Anglican Communion, noting that members of the communion
hold opposing views on matters related to human sexuality.

The rest is here-

First ordained female deacon Phyllis Edwards dies at 92

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Rev. Phyllis Edwards, the first woman ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, died July 7 in Forks, Washington. She was 92.

Edwards was a civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and fought for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. She was ordained to the diaconate in 1965 by California Bishop James Pike. (General Convention didn't officially recognize women deacons until 1970.)

"That was the day when there were deacons and deaconesses, it was not like actor and actress," said the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, president of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul in Chatham, New Jersey. "She became a full and equal partner in the ministry of Jesus and opened the door for other women to become full and equal partners."

"She told me one time that she wanted to be a priest since the time she was 13," said Dawn Edwards-Tibbett, Edwards's daughter, in a telephone interview, adding that Newark Bishop John S. Spong ordained Edwards to the priesthood on June 29, 1980.

A native of Chicago, Edwards earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Black Hills Teachers College in Spearfish, South Dakota, while teaching elementary school and raising four children. In 1962 she enrolled in Seabury-Western Seminary to become a deaconess. In 1964, after graduation, she was sent to work in the Mission District in San Francisco.

More here-

US vote ‘not a snub to Archbishop of Canterbury

From Religous Intelligence-

The US General Convention’s endorsement of gay bishops and blessings and the sharp cut in funding for the Anglican Consultative Council was not a calculated snub of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion, but an honest statement of the Episcopal Church’s economic and theological realities, bishops and deputies tell Religious Intelligence.

On July 15, the Church endorsed a new three-year budget that included a one-third cut in its contribution to the ACC --- from $600,000 to $400,000 per year, while the House of Bishops gave their approval to the “local option” for same-sex blessings.

Deputy Sally Johnson of Minnesota said the votes on gay bishops and blessings were an “honest” statement of the church’s views on these questions. “It is difficult to have deep meaningful conversation” within the Anglican Communion “without honesty,” she said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams “told us to be truthful” on July 8. “We were,” Ms Johnson said.

The votes were “not at all a walking apart” from the Communion, San Diego Bishop James Mathes said, and the budget cuts represented the “economic reality of the church.”

Oklahoma Bishop Edward Konieczny added the ACC reduction was not part of “targeted cut,” as the church’s budget had been cut “across the board.” The gay bishops and blessings votes stated “who we are as a church.” The Episcopal Church had “crossed over into a position of vulnerability” with the wider Anglican Communion, and the bishops believed that by these votes “an invitation had been extended to walk with us,” Dr Konieczny said.

More here-

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Signs, signs everywhere signs #21

Not sure this is where I want to worship !

The Real Decline of Churches

From Belief Net-

Three news stories in recent days point to significant change in the landscape of North American religion. For decades now, the conventional wisdom about church growth has been that only conservative churches--those that take the Bible literally and embrace conservative politics--could grow. But it appears that conventional wisdom is being seriously questioned.

Take a look at these stories:

1. The Southern Baptist Convention--the largest and most conservative Protestant denomination in the USA--records a continued decline in baptisms and an increasingly aging membership. The oft-reported number of 18 million members has declined in the last decade to just over 16 million. And, according to journalist Christine Wicker (see her book, The Fall of Evangelical Nation), the internal number of active members may well be around 5 million people.

2. The Anglican Church of North America, the umbrella group for conservative Episcopalians who have left their denomination over women's ordination and full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons, has long claimed over 100,000 members. Recently, they admitted that only 69,000 persons in 650 churches in the USA and Canada have joined their association. There are 2.2 million Episcopalians in the United States and approximately 1 million in Canada. Thus, the conservative group--the one that has garnered so much media attention in recent years is a very small percentage of the entire North American Anglican membership--some 2% of the total. And with their rigid opposition to women's ordination, it is hard to imagine that this group will find much appeal with young North Americans.

3. President Jimmy Carter last week publicly explained why he renounced his life-long affiliation with the Southern Baptists in an opinion piece appearing in The Age. He denounced the Convention's leaders statement that women are inferior to men (created "second") and responsible for original sin as inherently discriminatory and that Southern Baptist views on gender were contrary to both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the teachings of Jesus.

More here-

Former British priest John Mountford murdered amid child abuse claims

From the London Times-

A British former priest has been founded murdered in Libya after telling friends that he was being blackmailed over claims that he had sexually abused children.

John Mountford, 53, is reported to have been stabbed to death shortly after returning to Tripoli, where he was teaching English at a school for the children of foreign oil workers.

The former Anglican chaplain at The Blue Coat School in Edgbaston, Birmingham, told friends that he had been threatened by people preparing to reveal that he had been accused of abusing a boy at a leading Australian private school. They had also threatened to spread allegations that he was sexually assaulting children in Libya.

Mr Mountford’s employers reported him missing to the British Embassy in Tripoli on Thursday last week soon after he returned from visiting relatives in Britain. The Foreign Office was informed last night that his body had been found.

More here-

Accused Australian pedophile 'murdered'

From Austrailia-

ADELAIDE'S Anglican Church is trying to confirm reports a former chaplain accused of sexually abusing pupils at Saint Peters College has been murdered in Libya.

Archbishop Jeffrey Driver said reports John Mountford had been found dead in his Tripoli apartment at the weekend had not yet been confirmed.

"This has been a sad and difficult experience," Mr Driver said.

"A violent death is always a tragedy and causes shock and sadness for family and friends; I recognise that.

"But I also recognise that reports of Mr Mountford's death may stir difficult emotions for some and my thoughts and prayers are with them."

Mr Mountford was charged with sexually abusing students at the prominent boys' school, but the trial collapsed after his extradition from Thailand.

A second trial reportedly collapsed in 2007 and the charges against Mr Mountford were subsequently dropped.

Adelaide friends of Mr Mountford told the Independent Weekly the former chaplain was stabbed to death in Tripoli, where he had been living for two years, shortly after returning from London to celebrate his mother's birthday.

Mr Mountford reportedly claimed to friends that people in Tripoli, where he had established an English language school that was in no way connected to the Anglican Church, were blackmailing him and threatening to reveal his past in Adelaide.

Mr Mountford was charged with five counts of indecent assault, two of procuring the commission of an act of gross indecency and one of unlawful sexual intercourse in 2005.

The rest is here-,27574,25814343-401,00.html

First Lady's Office Mum on When Obamas Will Pick A Church to Attend

From CNSNews-

The White House has told that First Lady Michelle Obama is in charge of handling questions from the press about whether and when the Obama family will join and attend a church in Washington. But repeated requests to her press office asking for a response to that question have gone unanswered.

Although President Obama has not had difficulty selecting a golf course on numerous Sundays since he took the oath of office (see earlier story by, choosing a church has resulted in a wide range of statements on the subject, from Obama himself as well as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Statements by Obama and his spokesmen on the subject date back to May 2008, when Obama officially resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where he had been a member for 20 years. The resignation came after news reports focused on repeated controversial statements from the pastor of the church, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Back then, Obama told reporters his family would probably not join another church until after the November presidential election.

“But, you know, I'm confident that we're going to be able to find a church that we find comfortable with and that will reflect our concerns and our values,” Obama said at a May 31, 2008 press conference when he announced he was leaving the Trinity United Church of Christ.

“I'm not going to approach this as a political exercise. This is a deeply personal exercise about trying to express your faith,” Obama said at that press conference.

More here-

Jimmy Carter leaves Southern Baptists, backs women in ministry

From Philadelphia-

Here's an instant replay, in case you missed it: after 60 years, former President Jimmy Carter has split with the Southern Baptist Convention over its position on the role of women in the church.

"I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church,” Carter told the Atlanta Constitution today.

Carter's decision came about one month after the convention voted against women serving as pastors (the convention met June 23-24). Comments began flowing today. Exact wording of the convention's decision could not be determined. The Convention website does not mention the vote. A story by Charlotte's atheism examiner , which includes a YouTube video of Carter, appeared earlier today.

Carter writes about his decision in an article entitled "Losing My Religion for Equality" on The website. He plans to continue serving as a deacon in his hometown church in Plains, Ga., and associating with Baptists who share his views.

"My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be 'subservient' to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service." Carter wrote.

More here-

Good Stuff in TEC: Ohio

Senior Menu

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 197 E. Center St., provides a free meal, which is open to the public at 5:15 p.m. each Tuesday.

These meals are provided by seven local churches - Emanuel Lutheran, St. Mary Catholic Church, Trinity Lutheran, Epworth United Methodist, First Presbyterian and First United Church of Christ - with all meals being served at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Nutrition sites

Nutritious meals are offered each noon Monday through Friday on weeks with no holidays to anyone older than 60 who makes a reservation a day in advance, or by 8:30 a.m. for same day service.

Reservations may be made by calling 740-375-0202 between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. for meals served at Community Action Center, 1183 Bellefontaine Ave. Menus are subject to change.

Transportation is available if requested when reservations are made. All meals are served with milk, coffee, bread and unsweetened fruit. The meals are subsidized, and voluntary donations are requested.

Church ponders next step on gay vows

From the Boston Globe-

Episcopal bishops in New England and Iowa, the only parts of the nation where same-sex marriage is legal, are preparing for a wave of requests to allow priests to oversee the ceremonies as the result of a decision last week by the Episcopal Church that opens the door to church weddings for gay couples.

In interviews yesterday, none of several bishops interviewed said they were immediately prepared to allow priests to officiate at same-sex weddings, which remain prohibited by the canons of the Episcopal Church.

But, citing the denomination’s decision Friday to allow bishops in states where same-sex marriage is legal to “provide generous pastoral response’’ to same-sex couples, the bishops indicated that they are looking for ways to allow priests to at least celebrate, if not perform, gay nuptials in church.

“The problem is the prayer book says that marriage must conform to the laws of the state and the canons of the church, but if we respond to the laws of the state, we are in violation of the canons of the church,’’ said Bishop Stephen T. Lane of Maine, where the situation is further complicated by a possible referendum to overturn same-sex marriage. “We’re trying to respond pastorally, but not to get so far beyond the bounds of what the church understands that our clergy are just sort of hanging out there.’’

Lane also said bishops of New England, where same-sex marriage has been approved in every state but Rhode Island, are hoping to reach a common plan, because “we don’t want people running back and forth between the New England states.’’

More here-

Monday, July 20, 2009

'Defense of Marriage' Concern Will Get Further Review

From The Living Church-

During the final business session of General Convention on July 17, the House of Bishops turned back Resolution C023: Same-Sex Unions—Defense of Marriage Statutes, voting to refer the resolution to a standing committee of The Episcopal Church in the final legislative act at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The Rt. Rev. John B. Chane, Bishop of Washington, presented the resolution on behalf of the National and International Concerns Committee, urging concurrence with the House of Deputies in endorsing the resolution.

However, during the bishops’ private table groups, concerns were raised over the entanglement of the church in the political arena. The resolution calls upon “all Episcopalians to work against the passage of so-called ‘Defense of Marriage’ state statutes and state constitutional amendments, and, in states where such statutes or constitutional amendments already exist, to work for their repeal.”

The Bishop of Oklahoma, the Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny, told the house he was concerned by the call for “all Episcopalians” to agitate for the repeal of the laws. He questioned the wisdom of having the church direct its members on such a divisive political issue.

Bishop Porter Taylor of Western North Carolina asked that the resolution be sent to a committee for review over the next triennium. No debate was held and it passed on a voice vote with minimum opposition.

The House of Deputies then received the resolution, and in the last legislative act of the convention, concurred with the bishops’ request, prompting the president of the house, Bonnie Anderson, to note this was the first convention in her memory that ended early with all outstanding legislative matters addressed.

Good Stuff in TEC: Alabama

From Alabama-

Local teens spend week as camp counselor

Maddie Webb didn't know what to expect when she signed up to spend a week at Sawyerville Day Camp in Hale County.

Now that she's home in Florence and reliving her experience with friends and family, she said she's ready to go back.

"The kids that we worked with are practically coming from nothing, and they come to camp to have a good time," Webb said.

"You hear all the time that people are equal and that we're all the same, but you can't really understand that until you've lived it. We come from so many different backgrounds and with so many different experiences."

Webb, along with seven other members from the youth group at Trinity Episcopal Church in Florence, spent last week as counselors at the Sawyerville Day Camp, an outreach of the Episcopal Dioceses of Alabama and Episcopal parishes in the Black Belt.

More here-

Sainthood granted to Buffalo native

From the Buffalo News-

Buffalo native Harriet Bedell is now a saint in the Episcopal Church.

Bedell, who was born in 1875 and grew up on Amherst Street, was recognized as a saint for her missionary work among Native Americans in Oklahoma, Alaska and the Florida Everglades.

In the Episcopalian church, sainthood is bestowed on those who exemplify what it means to be a Christian. Unlike the Catholic church, Episcopal Church USA doesn’t require the confirmation of two miracles in the saint’s name.

While virtually unknown in Buffalo—her work focused mostly out of state—she was well respected by Episcopalians and Native Americans for her ability to cross cultural lines and improve the quality of life of thousands of American Indians.

Bedell was first listed in 2006 on a trial basis on the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, a calendar of saints celebrated each year by Episcopalians. She was elevated to the calendar during the Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention in Anaheim, Calif., which concluded Friday.

Inclusion on the calendar is temporary for four years and becomes permanent unless objections arise during that time.

“There wasn’t any bone of contention about that at all,” said Laurie Wozniak, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.

Bedell was nominated for the honor by the Episcopal Women’s History Project.

More here-

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Will Episcopal Church move draw in -- or drive out-- believers?

USA Today-

The Episcopal Church is opening the role of bishops to gays and lesbians -- and maybe widening the gap between the U.S. church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In a packed hall at their governing meeting in Anaheim Monday, the House of Bishops echoed the House of Deputies (priests and lay leaders) in a lopsided vote in favor of the move to allow "any ordained ministry" in the Church to any qualified person, according to Episcopal News Service.

(For the roll call vote, and observations of the post-vote press conference, check Episcopal Cafe for Jim Naughton's posts.)

This is expected to lift a self-imposed "restraint" on the Church confirming any more gay bishops since it accepted openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

Whether that "restraint" was a formal block or simply appeared like one, no other openly gay candidates have been elected since Robinson's confirmation ignited open warfare with traditionalists in the 2.1 million member denomination, the U.S. branch of the Communion.

Traditionalists had been unhappy for decades with changes in the prayer book, the acceptance of women bishops and other theological disputes. Last month, a breakaway umbrella group of Anglican traditionalists -- which will exclude women and gay bishops but allow discretion on whether women can be ordained as priests --Â started a rival national church, the Anglican Church in North America.

More here-

Cronkite’s Funeral Scheduled for Thursday

And that's the way it is-

Plans were set on Saturday for a private funeral for Walter Cronkite, the pioneering CBS News anchorman who died Friday.

A service for relatives and friends will be held on Thursday at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan, a CBS spokesman confirmed. The Associated Press said “the Rev. William Tully will preside over the Episcopal service at the Park Avenue church, which the Cronkites attended for many years.”

A larger memorial is expected to take place in the next few weeks at Lincoln Center.

The Associated Press reported that Mr. Cronkite would be buried in Kansas City, Mo., next to his wife, Betsy, who died in 2005.

Episcopal leaders affirm new policy on same-sex blessings

From the LA Times-

On Friday, the U.S. church's top two officials sought to calm fellow Anglicans, including the communion's spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

In a letter to Williams, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the president of the church's House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, described the resolution on gay bishops as "more descriptive than prescriptive in nature."

They said it does not repeal the earlier ban on such ordinations, but instead reaffirms commitments made by the church's constitution and canons, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

More here-,0,2066151.story

"In adopting this resolution, it is not our desire to give offense," they wrote. "We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other churches across the communion. We believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if indeed we are to live into the deep communion that we all profess and earnestly desire."

Copies of the letter were sent to the communion's 38 other regional leaders.

During the convention, Jefferts Schori voted for the new polices on ordinations and blessings.

In an interview Friday, the Episcopal leader spoke of the need to balance the aspirations of her church with the broader goal of unity.

"Change doesn't happen overnight," she said, predicting that the church would continue to deepen its relations with the Anglican Communion, despite the conflict that erupted after the Episcopal Church's 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop from New Hampshire. Some Anglican leaders from Africa and elsewhere have since cut ties with the U.S. church.

Jefferts Schori also said she believes that the tensions between the church and some Anglicans are less the result of theological differences than varying social norms in different regions of the world.

"I think we are learning more about each other's contexts," she said of the relationships in the communion. "We know more about what it means to be a Christian in Pakistan or North India or Kenya."

The issue of same-sex blessings took up part of the convention's final day of legislative business.

Clergy and laity in the church's House of Deputies voted 152 to 64 to approve the measure, affirming a decision made two days earlier by Episcopal bishops.

The resolution acknowledges "changing circumstances" in the United States and other countries resulting from legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians.,0,2066151.story

Pared-Down Episcopal Church Is Looking to Grow Through ‘Inclusivity’

From the New York Times-

The Episcopal Church is betting its future on the hope that there are more young people out there like Will Hay.

Mr. Hay, 17, was one of the youngest voting delegates at the church’s 10-day triennial convention, which ended Friday. He has stuck with his church, even when the priest and most of the parishioners in his conservative San Diego parish quit the Episcopal Church two years ago in protest of its liberal moves, particularly the approval in 2003 of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson. Mr. Hay has helped rebuild his parish, which was left with 48 people and has since drawn nearly 100 new members.

Mr. Hay is no left-wing ideologue, and in fact fears that some of the convention’s landmark decisions last week may alienate even more conservatives. The church’s convention voted not to stand in the way if another gay bishop were elected and to allow for the blessing of same-sex couples.

But Mr. Hay was not troubled by those things. And he believes that the church can grow by emphasizing “inclusivity,” the favorite buzzword of Episcopalians.

“I’m sure we will attract people who are saying maybe we are doing it right,” Mr. Hay said as he came off the convention floor for lunch one day with his mother. “For me it seems right because I was raised in a household where we were always taught to accept everyone, regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual identity.”

Whether Episcopalians really can regenerate a church based on youth and “inclusivity” remains to be seen.

So far, they have paid a price for their actions. Four bishops, the majority of their dioceses and numerous parishes around the country jumped ship in the last few years to form a new, theologically conservative entity called the Anglican Church in North America. That group will not consecrate women, not to mention gay men and lesbians, as bishops. It has about 100,000 members, while the Episcopal Church has about two million.

More here-

Pa. House prayer rejected over 'Jesus'

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Three weeks ago, a Christian clergyman from Adams County was surprised and upset when state House officials wouldn't let him open a session with a prayer that contained what they termed an "offensive" word -- the name of Jesus.

He planned to end his prayer with "In Jesus' name, Amen." Now the Rev. Gerry Stoltzfoos of the Freedom Valley Worship Center in Gettysburg is hoping for a different result next week, when he opens a state Senate session with a prayer.

State House officials said they didn't err when they asked the pastor to alter his invocation due to a brief, quickly repealed policy of vetting prayers.

But as word about the incident spreads in and out of the Legislature, they are hearing increasing numbers of complaints, online criticism and even threats of lawsuits, which is bogging down the already complicated process of enacting an overdue state budget.

The Rev. Stoltzfoos said he didn't really want to open the House session but agreed to pray as a favor to a member of his church, state Rep. Will Tallman, D-Adams.

"I reluctantly agreed because it always seemed to me that the prayer was more for show than that they really wanted to get guidance from God," the Assembly of God pastor said last week. "But I agreed for Mr. Tallman's sake because I respect him very much."

He said House Speaker Keith McCall's office asked him "to submit my prayer in writing and to make sure it was nondenominational. I wrote it out and sent it to them. They said my prayer was rejected because it contained an offensive word. Just once, in closing, I mentioned Jesus.

"I was incredibly surprised," he said. "I thought they were kidding. I had carefully crafted the prayer not to be offensive in any way."

More here-