Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nigerian ‘Taliban’ on the rampage

From the Church Times-

ABOUT TEN Christians are reported to have been killed, and at least 12 churches to have been burned down, during a bloody campaign of violence in northern Nigeria by an Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, which caused the deaths of about 800 people.

The group, the country’s self-styled “Taliban”, seeks to impose sharia law throughout Nigeria. It has attacked government buildings, police stations, and schools, as well as churches, in the northern states of Bauchi, Borno, Kano, and Yobe.

Much of the violence centred on the city of Maiduguri, in Borno. Barnabas Fund, a campaign group, said two pastors had been killed, and two others were missing. One of the dead, Yakubu Soko, pastor of a Maiduguri congregation, had been hacked to death with a machete.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), another campaign group for persecuted Christians, reported that five churches had been destroyed in the Wulari suburb of Maiduguri, and that Christians were sheltering in the military barracks there.

Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, said it was not the first time Christians had been targeted by Islamic extremists in Nigeria. “We’ve been calling for justice for Christians in these areas where there is sharia law, but so often the Government turns a blind eye.” In Maiduguri last year, he said, he had spoken to a number of pastors whose churches had been destroyed, and heard “how Christians had been killed in their homes. The anti-Christian violence has been rumbling for a long while.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the Primate of Nigeria offering his prayers for the country.

He said: "I am writing to let you know how deeply your Christian brothers and sisters here in the UK feel for you all in the midst of the violence and uncertainty that has overtaken you in Nigeria and especially in Abuja in recent weeks.

"In the face of mindless and brutal aggression, you have been asked to witness to the essential Christian truths, and we honour your courage and faithfulness. 'You have kept my word and have not denied my name' (Rev.3.8)."

The Revd Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, urged the Nigerian government to “ensure the safety of all citizens”, and condemned the “wanton acts of violence”.

Last Saturday, however, Nigerian security forces declared they had defeated Boko Haram, and had killed its leader, Mohammed Yusuf.

The English care about their clergy

From the London Guardian-

A recent letter writer said: "The struggles of the contending parties in Anglicanism are over something to which the mainstream populations of the developed nations are totally indifferent."

And Marilyn McCord Adams described Rowan Williams as the "ex-officio colonial godfather who feels the burden of keeping the Anglican communion together".

Many in England share such views. But, if there is a threat against LGBT clergy here, the English can be expected to react strongly.

First though, there's a specific reason why a dispute about same-sex blessings in the US or Canada is a very poor argument for having a schism in the Church of England now.

Few know this, but the Church of England has, as a matter of plain fact, remained in communion with the Lutheran Church of Sweden, and also with some Old Catholic dioceses in continental Europe, throughout the past decade, in full knowledge that each of these bodies had given official approval for same-sex blessings at various times during the 1990s. So breaking communion with North Americans on this issue now makes no logical sense.

The rest is here-

Americans planning to start a civil war in the Church of England

From the London Telegraph-

Could the American Church be about to start planting churches in England? That’s the intriguing possibility raised by one of its most influential clerics, who has indicated that this might be the only option given that Rowan Williams has sided with the conservatives.

Geoffrey Hoare, the Eton-educated vicar of All Saints Atlanta, one of the largest churches in TEC, has asked colleagues to consider how they could begin “seeking partners throughout the world” if effectively evicted from the Anglican Communion.

Given the Archbishop’s comments last week, which were much bolder and firmer than many expected, it looks as though the liberals would be second-class citizens in any two-tier Church. This should come as no surprise considering how they have continually defied the agreed position of the Communion and refused to heed the archbishop’s warnings.
It clearly came as no surprise to Hoare, who saw the way things were going last year and started taking action accordingly.

More here-

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oregon Nominates Three Candidates for Bishop

From the Living Church-

The Diocese of Oregon has offered a new twist on full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: One of the nominees to become the diocese’s tenth bishop is married to a pastor in the ELCA.

The nominees are
The Rev. Michael Joseph Hanley, rector of St. Christopher's Church, Roseville, Minn.;
the Rev. Andrew Jeffrey MacBeth, rector of Calvary Church, Memphis, Tenn.; and
the Rev. Britt Elaine Olson, canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Northern California.

Canon Olson's husband, the Rev. Byron Hansen, is pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Auburn, Calif.

The diocese sought nominees to “walk collaboratively with us, as together we create a new way of being Christ’s church in the 21st century,” and “pioneer with us new ways of being a bishop and of being a diocese.” The diocese said applicants should “recognize Oregonians as independent-minded people who respond to leaders who respect them and have earned their trust, but resist those who have not.”

Two of the nominees specifically praised the diocese's vision for a different model of episcopacy.

“I am excited by the challenges and joys of walking collaboratively with you and pioneering news ways of being a bishop,” Fr. Hanley wrote. “The values you claim—tolerance, diversity, independence, love of Mother Earth and a commitment to social justice—I find wonderfully refreshing.”

“I am intrigued by Oregon's desire to forge a new kind of relationship with its bishop,” Fr. MacBeth wrote. “I feel called to a ministry of support and encouragement for clergy and lay leaders in congregations.”

“Oregon is my heart's home,” wrote Canon Olson, whose family settled in the state when she was 7. “I believe that the diocese is poised for a new, vibrant and hope-filled future and I would be honored to be part of that Spirit-led development.”

The diocese's ninth bishop, the Rt. Rev. Johncy Itty, served from September 2003 to December 2008. Bishop Itty left the diocese in April 2008, returning to Long Island, where he had served before his election in 2003. He was a nominee by petition when the Diocese of Long Island elected a bishop coadjutor in March, but he was not elected. The Rt. Rev. Sanford Z. Hampton has served as an assisting bishop in Oregon since April 2008.

Candidate walkabouts are scheduled for Oct. 26-30. The diocese will elect the new bishop during its convention on Nov. 19-21. Pending consents from bishops and standing committees, the new bishop will be consecrated on April 10, 2010.

Time for Rome to rescue Christians trapped in the Anglo-Catholic wreckage

From Damian Thompson in the London Guardian-

Here is an article I’ve written in the new issue of The Catholic Herald, inspired by reports that Forward in Faith is – finally – in serious talks with the Vatican. Thanks to Luke Coppen for letting me reproduce it here.

A few months ago I witnessed a little miracle: an Anglican friend of mine was received into the Church. It was a miracle because this particular friend had been adamant that he would not become a “Roman”, despite his love of traditional Catholic liturgy. There were many factors in his change of heart, but two words explain why he suddenly took the plunge: Pope Benedict.
At the centre of my friend’s Christianity is public worship, and (so far as I can judge from many conversations with him) the main reason he did not leave the Church of England is that he could not accept the claims of a Church which did not get its worship right. His objection was not to Vatican II, but to a casual approach to the celebration of Mass that made it harder to believe in the unique universal status of the Roman Church.

And then along came Benedict XVI. I don’t want to imply that Pope John Paul II did not care about worship - he regularly denounced liturgical abuses - but it did seem to observers inside and outside the Church that nothing much ever happened. In contrast, the present Holy Father has made clear that bishops and priests must restore solemnity to the liturgy as a matter of urgency. And, although the fine print of Summorum Pontificum is still ignored by bishops all over the world, there is no doubt that Pope Benedict has liberated the older form of the Roman Rite.

Is it a coincidence that the Benedictine reform of the liturgy is occurring just as the Anglican Communion falls into irrevocable schism? It wouldn’t surprise me if Joseph Ratzinger, an old friend of conservative Anglicans, saw both processes as providential. His liturgical renewal could perhaps be seen as a spring-cleaning before visitors arrive. For, make no mistake about it, Pope Benedict XVI wants Anglicans to “come over” in large numbers. Such conversions represent the fruit, rather than the failure, of the ecumenical project (though one should add that the Pope also wishes to deepen solidarity with non-Catholics who have no plans to convert).

More here-

Signs, signs everywhere signs #22

Talk about "Damning with faint praise" !

English Anglicans breathe life into French chapels

From AFP-

The priest is a married woman, the Anglican service is in English, yet the old stone chapel in Bordeaux is definitely 100 percent French Roman Catholic.

In southwest France, once a battlefield between medieval English and French armies, expats are breathing life into borrowed Catholic churches left empty by their local flocks, quietly sprouting a dozen Anglican congregations.

As sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows of the 19th century chapel, Reverend Gill Stratchan unpacked the chalice she would use for the Sunday service while her husband sorted prayer books.

"I was ordained a priest in a magnificent abbey in the Dordogne in 2007," said Stratchan, a retired British schoolteacher resident in France since 1996.

Two Catholic priests and a bishop attended her ordination in their abbey. "It was a fairly unique situation for them to see a woman ordained," she said.

But the broad-mindedness on the part of the French was not entirely unexpected. "What brings us together is stronger than what divides us," said Father Lanuc, in charge of ecumenical relations for the Archbishop of Bordeaux.

"An English Anglican has the right to take Holy Communion in a French Roman Catholic church, which is not allowed anywhere else," added Reverend Paul Vrolijk, Chaplain of the regional Anglican Diocese and unofficial diplomat.

An important factor for this peaceful cohabitation is a long if tangled mutual history that includes the Hundred Years War in the Middle Ages, and a more recent ban on churches poaching each other's followers.

"We are not trying to steal their sheep," said Dutch-born Vrolijk. "Our mission is very clear -- it only includes English-speakers."

The resulting congregations are microcosms of the expat community, a mixed bag of Anglicans, mainline Protestant denominations, and a few English-speaking Catholics, all of which leads to occasional squabbles on questions of faith.

More here-

Breakaway bishop to appeal Episcopal ruling

AP Story

Attorneys for a Fresno bishop deposed by the Episcopal Church say they plan to appeal a judge's ruling recognizing another bishop as the head of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Episcopal leaders ousted John-David Schofield last year, after he led his conservative congregation to secede from the national church in 2007.

erry Lamb, who was previously bishop of the Diocese of Northern California, was later elected to head the diocese.

Earlier this month, a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled that Lamb officially heads the diocese.

Attorneys plan to file their appeal later this month.

A trial is set to begin early next year to decide who controls the diocese's properties

Good Stuff in TEC: Florida

Hispanic ministry growing

The Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, eighth Episcopal Bishop of Florida, will receive the Revs. Monica Bosque and Janssen Gutierrez as deacons in the Episcopal Church during a 5 p.m. Sunday service at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on University Boulevard, Jacksonville. Bosque will assist in serving the Hispanic congregation at St. Luke's, also known as Iglesia de San Lucas, where Sunday services are held at 10a.m. in English and at noon in Spanish.

The Rev. Janssen Gutierrez will be ordained priest at that same service and will serve the growing Hispanic congregation at St. Francis in the Field located off of highway 210 in Palm Valley. The Rev. Michael Ellis and the congregation of St. Francis in the Field have supported and encouraged this fledgling congregation. Sunday services at St. Francis in the Field are at 10 a.m. in English and at 5 p.m. in Spanish.

The Rev. Miguel Rosada, who is the rector of St. Luke's/Iglesia de San Lucas was the first Hispanic priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida to offer services in both English and Spanish, and he will be coordinating the ministries of the new clergy. "All of us in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida rejoice in the ministries of Deacon Bosque and of Father Gutierrez," said Bishop Howard "and we celebrate our rapidly growing ministry among those for whom Spanish is a first language. St. Luke's/San Lucas with its dual English-Spanish ministries has created a pattern for what true bilingual worship will look like in the future."

Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina on General Convention

The question [of General Convention 2009] was how much would the House of Bishops be able to moderate the aggression and onward thrust of this agenda of this “gospel of inclusivity.”

Why are we losing this whole issue of human sexuality – both as a culture and as a church?
We are approaching this whole GLBT issue as if it is in a vacuum, rather than in the whole context of human sexuality. And I think that until we, as a Church began to deal with our own compromises we will always come across as somewhat hypocritical to the world and to those who press its agenda.

When we recognize that the divorce level among evangelicals and godly Christians is at the same level (almost) as the rest of the world; when we recognize the pervasiveness within the church of those who tinker with this or that in terms of sexual compromise – the things they allow themselves to engage with in terms of computers or television – we are in need of a profound repentance. [We must recognize] that we can not keep putting forward this standard for gay and lesbian people and allow ourselves to live in such profound compromise ourselves. There’s a Spiritual thing at work here that I don’t think we’ve plumbed the depths of, and it’s time we paused and looked at that.

We don’t do much thinking about the purpose for which God made us as sexual beings, and then begin to answer that question philosophically and biblically. Sometimes we take a few verses out of the Bible and put those forward and forget that from the Book of Genesis forward it says that God has made us male and female, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife and the two become one, all the way to the book of Revelation when the whole thing concludes with the marriage of Christ and His Church! We’re not just taking about seven passages of the Bible, we’re talking about the profound thrust of all of human history which began with Adam and Eve, male and female and concludes with Jesus and the Bride – the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. These are profound things we are dealing with and we need to put it within that context.

It seems to me that on the far side of General Convention 2009, the Diocese of South Carolina must find a place to stand and a place to thrive that is relational and structural, and we shall find that place to stand and that place to thrive. We will find a way forward in the midst of all of this and God will strengthen us for the challenges at hand. I am almost eager for the opportunity that lies ahead of us!

More here-

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Archbishop to Pakistan: Protect Vulnerable Christians

From The Living Church-

Responding to deadly attacks last week by Muslims against Christians in the Diocese of Faisalabad in the Anglican Church of Pakistan, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has called on the government of Pakistan to assure citizens’ protection and see that justice is done.

Muslim extremists are blamed for fires set in Christian neighborhoods in two villages July 30 and August 1, resulting in at least seven deaths and the destruction of more than 175 homes and two churches.

In his August 4 statement, Archbishop Williams called the attacks “an abuse of real faith and an injury to its reputation as well as an outrage against common humanity. The whole country is injured and diminished by the violence that has occurred.”

The archbishop asserted that the small and vulnerable Christian minority in Pakistan is “disproportionately affected by the draconian laws against blasphemy, which in recent years have frequently been abused in order to settle local and personal grievances.

“I appeal to the government of Pakistan to spare no efforts, not only in seeing that justice is done in the wake of these terrible events, but also in continuing to build a society in which all faiths are honored and in which the most vulnerable can be assured of the protection of the law and the respect of their fellow citizens.”

Many examples of good in the Episcopal Church

From Hilton Head-

I have been an Episcopalian all my life and have proudly served the church as a priest for 43 years. I am proud that:

• Our church hosted a national prayer service after the presidential inauguration.

• Our European church ministers to a unique and culturally diverse demographic of Christians -- Americans, Europeans, Rwandans and folks from all over the globe.

• The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem runs a hospital in Gaza City that brings healing and hope to many Palestinians.

• The church sponsors a Network for Science, Technology and Faith and publishes a teaching program called "A Catechism of Creation" -- a downloadable resource at

• The affiliated Seaman's Church Institute, a New York-based ecumenical mariners agency, supports seafarers and their families.

• An Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tenn., has grown spiritually and numerically since welcoming 70 Myanmar refugees into its fold.

• The Nativity Episcopal Church in Los Angeles won an award for its work as a center of environmental concern and action.

• In Michigan, the church supports the Prison Creative Arts Project. Prisoner-created artwork then is displayed and auctioned at an Episcopal church in Ann Arbor, Mich. Proceeds from the sale are used to support a variety of creative programs in the prisons.

If you look for good, you will find good.

The Rev. Jack F. Nietert


Federation isn't enough

From The London Guardian-

Desmond Tutu has often talked of the crucial support of the Anglican communion when he was under pressure from the apartheid regime. Robert Runcie, the archbishop of Canterbury at the time, commented that it signalled to the regime, "Touch Tutu, and you touch the whole Anglican communion." Tutu was not isolated.

David Gitari experienced similar worldwide solidarity following an assassination attempt. During the night of 22 April 1989, thugs attacked his house in the foothills of Mount Kenya. He managed to climb to the roof and raise the alarm. Neighbours came running. The thugs ran away. Gitari had taken a courageous stand on issues of local, national and international justice.

At the nearby college in Kabare, where I was teaching theology, the phone rang with the news and I drove to the bishop's house. Soon the Anglican communion office in London had alerted people across the world for the need for prayer and the government in Nairobi knew that Gitari was not isolated.

The year before, at the opening sermon of the 1988 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, where Gitari was the chair of the resolutions committee, Robert Runcie said:

As you enter this cathedral, your eye is caught by its massive pillars. In their strength, they seem to stand on their own feet, symbols of strong foundations and sturdy independence. Yet their strength is an illusion. Look up and see the pillars converting into arches, which are upheld not by independence but through interdependence ...

More here-

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My View — Doubting Thomas on church, gays

From Minnesota-

In a recent opinion piece in The Free Press, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas had some rather unflattering things to say about our denomination concerning decisions made at its convention in Anaheim in July. Likening our church to that in which a con-artist would feel right at home, Thomas used an appellation to describe his view of what kind of church he believes we are.

Actually, we’re really not that different from most other mainline congregations. Our worship is fairly traditional, with good hymn-singing, bible reading, praying and sharing of the Lord’s Supper. We don’t have a rock band or use big screens. There’s not much hand-clapping (save when a couple celebrates years of marriage or after we’ve baptized a child) and we don’t have folks dancing in the aisles like in that YouTube video.

No. I’m afraid as far as being a “Church of What’s Happenin’ Now,” we’d pretty much fail. I’m not saying that there aren’t Episcopal churches like that; it’s just that most of us are pretty middle-of-the-road.

What we are is a people who love and worship the God of Jesus Christ. Informed by scripture and mindful of our traditions, we use reason to engage the issues of the day in order to determine the leading of God’s Spirit. This is really no different from the way people of faith through the ages have come to understand themselves and their relationship with a loving God.

More here-

Speaking of Bishop problems...

Last candidate for Bishop of Northern Malawi withdraws

From Religious Intelligence

The sole candidate standing for election as Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Malawi has withdrawn from the Aug 1 election.

However, suggestions that the Very Rev. J. Scott Wilson, SSC of the Diocese of Forth Worth withdrew from the election after questions were raised about his being a member of the breakaway diocese are unfounded, The Church of England Newspaper has learned.

On July 22 the Daily Telegraph blogger Damien Thompson published an extract of an email he received from Anglican Information---a pressure group associated with the one-time bishop-elect of Lake Malawi, Ealing vicar the Rev. Nicholas Henderson.

Anglican Information claimed that Fr. 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.”

On July 9 the Dean of the Church of the Province of Central Africa confirmed to CEN that Fr. Wilson was the sole candidate on the ballot in Northern Malawi. However, upon his return to Texas after a final visit in June to the diocese before the election, Fr. Wilson decided to stand down.

More here-

Philippines: Council of Bishops issues letter in opposition to charter change

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Council of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines issued a statement July 30 against amending the nation's Constitution -- a change opponents say would perpetuate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's hold on power.
Arroyo's presidential term expires in 2010. In the statement, the bishops equate the current political situation with that of former President Ferdinand Marcos' cling to power in the early 1970s. In 1972, after Marcos' efforts to extend his term failed, he declared martial law, holding on to power until his ouster in 1986, according to the statement.

"The political atmosphere this year is highly charged because of the expected presidential election next year," the bishops said in the statement. "Under this highly politicized atmosphere, it is certain that the conduct of Charter change will be characterized by intense lobbying, backroom dealings, political trade-offs, bribery and corruption, and the deception and manipulation that are characterizing marks of the incumbent administration."

The bishops expected Arroyo to use her July 27 presidential address to the nation as an opportunity to say goodbye in the fashion of former President Corazon C. Aquino, said the Rev. Winfred B. Vergara, program officer for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church Center, in an interview.

"Instead she berated her critics and used her state of the nation address to hit back at critics and detractors. There is a perception that she will cling to power through charter change or declare a state of emergency the way Marcos did. They [the bishops] don't trust that she'll let go of her power," Vargara said, putting the bishops' statement in context.

(Aquino died July 31 while Arroyo was visiting the United States. Arroyo said she would cut short her visit to attended Aquino's funeral scheduled for August 5 in Manila.)

More here-

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Letter from the Presiding Bishop discusses property issues

The Presiding Bishop writes about property issues-

I will continue to uphold two basic principles in the work some of us face in dealing with former Episcopalians who claim rights to church property or assets. Our participation in God's mission as leaders and stewards of The Episcopal Church means that we expect a reasonable and fair financial arrangement in any property settlement, and that we do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church.
Pragmatically, the latter means property settlements need to include a clause that forbids, for a period of at least five years, the presence of bishops on the property who are not members of this House, unless they are invited by the diocesan bishop for purposes which do not subvert mission and ministry in the name of this Church.

I understand that other bishops, such as Anglican bishops in good standing (but not any who is involved in provincial border crossing) might be welcomed to preach, preside, confirm, or even ordain, but that diocesan permission cannot encourage anything that purports to set up or participate in another jurisdiction. It is my fervent hope that five years on, we will all be in a much more clearly defined position.

Entire letter is here-

Pastoral Letter To Nevada Episcopalians

From the Diocese of Nevada-

But none of this, or the many other important and constructive things we did at Convention, will capture the headlines. The journalists are exclusively interested in our actions dealing with the inclusion of partnered gay and lesbian couples in the life of the Church. We passed two such resolutions. I voted for both of them. Some of you may think we went too far. Others may think we did not go far enough. That is perfectly ok. As Episcopalians, we are free to hold different beliefs about issues of doctrine. I am not trying to convince you that we were right. But I do want you to know and to understand what we did and what we did not do.

Some people want to interpret the resolutions one way; some, another. There is some ambiguity that is open to interpretation. We are after all Anglicans and that’s how Anglicans talk. But there are reasonable limits on fair interpretation. I want to tell you how I see these resolutions. You may want them to be a great step forward. I do not want you to be disappointed if they do not live up to raised expectations. You may think they are the worst thing we’ve done ever. I do not want you to be more distressed than necessary. These are definitely resolutions intended to affirm and include gay and lesbian persons, but I do not believe they are as great a change as they appear in the newspapers, let alone the blogs. So let me tell you about these two resolutions.

The resolution pertaining to ordination begins with an extensive statement of our commitment to the Anglican Communion. That takes up at least half the resolution. It then says two more things: First, it acknowledges that God has in the past called partnered gay and lesbian persons into all of the orders of ministry, and that they have served us faithfully. Second, it acknowledges that God may call such persons in the future and we do our discernment of calls in accordance with the canons of our church.

How does this change things? With regard to the ministries of laity, priests, and deacons, not at all. The possible change would be about bishops. But just how much of a change is there for potential bishops? Less than the newspapers suggest. In 2006, the General Convention asked those involved in calling bishops to use “restraint” in consecrating bishops whose “manner of life” might be contrary to the values of other parts of the Anglican Communion. I am paraphrasing. “Manner of life” was understood to mean partnered gay bishops. The consecration of such persons was not banned. The 2006 Resolution was a call for restraint as part of the discernment.

Resolutions to repeal that restraint policy were considered and rejected before ever reaching the floor of Convention. The new resolution does not explicitly repeal the call for restraint. It merely says that we do our discernment process in accordance with our own canons, as we have always done. Gay and lesbian people were not excluded from the discernment process, even for the episcopacy, even after 2006. Some journalists have portrayed the situation as if gay and lesbian persons were excluded from the discernment process before and now the gates have been thrown open. For better or worse, the shift in this resolution is not so dramatic.

The second resolution on same sex relationships also says two things: The first part is purely pastoral. Every resolution of the Episcopal Church mentioning homosexual persons since the early 1980’s has called upon the clergy to offer them pastoral care. The duty to afford pastoral care to gay and lesbian persons has been affirmed by the Lambeth Conference, the Windsor Report, and the Primates of the 39 Anglican Provinces. Every one of our clergy has taken vows to extend such care to “all” our people. So the principle is well established.

This Resolution notes that there has been a recent wave of law making and law changing concerning these relationships –some laws allowing gay marriage, some laws allowing civil unions, and other laws banning such unions. This new legal situation presents new pastoral challenges to which we must respond. The resolution says bishops “may” – not “must” but “may” – offer a “pastorally generous response.” What that means depends on the situation, the context, and the judgment of the bishop. The New York Times says it means blessing civil unions. But I never heard any bishop, liberal or conservative, define it that way. It could mean a special ritual or a prayer or a phone call. It’s up to the bishop. Pastoral generosity is not defined.

The second part of the resolution deals with developing theological and liturgical resources for same sex unions. There was no decision to authorize gay marriage or bless same sex unions. We worked with the language of the Resolution the best we could to make it clear that there is not a decision on that hard question. This Resolution requests the Liturgy and Music Commission to compile and develop theological and liturgical resources so that if and when we consider that issue in the future, we will have some examples to look at.

More here-

Conn. priest: Bishop wanted to send me to the nuns

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up Department". Connecticut division.

A former priest claims a bishop who played a leading national role in responding to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal threatened to send him to live with nuns after he hired a private investigator to look into his pastor.
The pastor, the Rev. Michael Jude Fay, later pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge and was sentenced to three years in prison for stealing more than $1 million from St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien to support a luxurious lifestyle.

The priest who hired the investigator the year before, the Rev. Michael Madden, made the claim about the threat of being sent to live with nuns in a deposition for a lawsuit by the church's bookkeeper, who says she was harassed and threatened for exposing Fay's embezzlement.

Madden was asked in the deposition in June for bookkeeper Bethany D'Erario's lawsuit if church officials told him they were going to send him to a nunnery.

"Nunnery is probably not the word, but, yes, the bishop was going to pull me out of the parish that day just as I thought and send me to live with nuns," Madden said, according to the deposition, which was filed Monday in Waterbury Superior Court.

Asked if that was a punishment, Madden said, "It certainly was."

An attorney for the church on Monday denied that Bishop William Lori had threatened to punish Madden like that.

More here-

Controversial bishop attacks Roman Catholic archbishop over Facebook

From the London Telegraph-

In a hard hitting statement Bishop Jonathan Blake, who heads the Open Episcopal Church, warned that there were far greater risks to relationships posed by the Roman Catholic church than there were from internet sites.

The outspoken Rev Blake, the Bishop of Greater London, attack was in response to an interview in the Sunday Telegraph in which Archbishop Vincent Nichols said social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace encouraged teenagers to view friendship as a commodity and increased the risk of suicide.

Bishop Blake, who was criticised for blessing the civil wedding of the late television personality Jade Goody, said: "So the Archbishop of Westminster warns about the dangers of electronic isolation and relationships mediated through the keyboard. Of course there are dangers and wise parents and balanced adults will guard against them.

"However, there are greater dangers to relationships perhaps in Roman Catholicism. I have counselled those heartbroken that a member of their family had been snatched from them into a closed order of Nuns, others sucked into the loneliness of the celibate priesthood, many more isolated into religious fanaticism, others damaged by the homophobia, authoritarianism and sexism enshrined in church policy."

The Archbishop of Westminster had warned that relationships were already being weakened by the decline of face to face meetings and the telephone. "Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities but I'm wary about it," he said. "Among young people often a key factor in their committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships."

The rest is here-

Losing Forrester

From Get Religion-

So — why did the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester not get the required consents from Episcopal bishops and diocesan standing committees to become bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan?

Answer — it’s not exactly clear.

Covering news in the Anglican Communion — and I, obviously, speak as an ordained member of that body (even that statement isn’t so “obvious” to those, including many Anglicans who don’t believe that women can be priests) — can make you crazy.

See? I’m in trouble already. It’s little wonder that you find some reporters, like the rest of us, striving to get a grip on terra firma, like comedians balancing on a banana peel.

Polity? Subject to debate, interpretation and extreme hyperbole. Theology? Depends who you ask. Who’s on first? Ask a bishop — or a judge.

We return to the latest episode from the just-cancelled miniseries featuring bishop-elect Kevin Thew Forrester, a Buddhist practitioner as well as an Episcopal priest. Actually, this isn’t quite the latest episode (see gay bishop nominees.). I’m reasonably sure we’ll get around to that.

Over at Bible Belt Blogger, religion editor Frank Lockwood posted the official Episcopal News Service statement and his own unofficial vote tally. The large number either voting against or taking some kind of evasive action indicates…well, it indicates something. The problem is, it’s not clear what. Lockwood has lots of links that will help readers who for some reason haven’t been keeping up with the Forrester saga.

More here-

First Hispanic female Episcopal bishop retiring

From Seattle-

The first Hispanic woman to serve as a bishop in the Episcopal Church is retiring from the Seattle-based Diocese of Olympia, talking of how she has "loved" being here but hinting at difficulties with the man who beat her in an election for diocesan bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Nedi Rivera, the suffragen (assisting) bishop, said that she and Diocesan Bishop Greg Rickel share the same goals, but are going down "different roads." In recent months, Rivera has spent one-third of her time doing double duty as interim Bishop of Eastern Oregon.

"I feel for the first time in my life that I am behind the times, slow on the uptake and out of synch with the future: I think I am part of the old order here," Rivera said in a letter released on the diocesan website.

Rivera was elected in May of 2004, and assumed Diocese of Olympia duties four months later. In 2007 she was one of five candidates for diocesan bishop, placing third as Rickel was elected. Rickel had served as rector of a large congregation in Austin, Texas.

The retirement of Rivera comes less than a month after the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The convention ended an informal moratorium on election of gay or lesbian bishops in the church.

Already, in the past two weeks, a lesbian priest in a longstanding relationship has been picked as one of three finalists for Bishop of Minnesota.

As well, a gay priest and a lesbian priest are among six candidates to fill two jobs as assisting bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

"I affirm each and every one of these candidates and I am pleased with the wide diversity they offer this diocese," the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno. Bishop of Los Angeles, said in a statement quoted by the New York Times.

The Diocese of Olympia has been outspokenly in support of full inclusion of gays and lesbians in all church rule.

Earlier this year, Rickel welcomed a visit by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire and the first open, non-celibate gay to serve as a bishop in the church. Until his resignation last year, a gay man, the Rev. Robert Taylor, was dean of St. Mark's Cathedral.

Rickel came back from General Convention facing a six-figure deficit in the Diocese of Olympia budget. He is faced with possibly cutting staff at the diocesan headquarters atop Capitol Hill.

More here-

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rwanda: Regional Clerics for Reconciliation

From All Africa-

Hundreds of Christians from Rwanda and beyond on Thursday thronged Amahoro indoor stadium to attend a four-day international convention.

The convention organized by the Anglican church of Rwanda-Kigali diocese was also attended by senior clerics that included Archbishops and Bishops from East Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, South Africa and from the Anglican congregation of the United States.

The convention whose theme is: "A new heart, a new spirit for an individual" focuses on the 'healing of people's hearts' that were shattered by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of the Anglican Church of Rwandan called upon Africans and Rwandans in particular to have a heart of forgiveness even to those who should not be forgiven. "It's high time Rwandans and Africans in general put on the garments of forgiveness and love if we are to experience rapid development," he advised.

The convention which is slated to end on Sunday with a service will also fundraise for the ongoing One Dollar Campaign.

Who cares about the Anglican schism?

A letter to the London Guardian-

Dr Rowan Williams's characteristically long and ruminative piece on the Anglican schism, or, as he would have it, the futures of Anglicanism, leaves one quite obvious question unanswered: what difference will any of this make?

If the Anglican communion reinvents itself around a new set of committees, why should anyone care who just wants to go to church? Even without the issue of openly gay clergy, Anglicans already disagree about whether women can be priests; whether in fact priests are needed at all; whether union with Rome is desirable, or possible; which translations of the Bible to use; whether to baptise infants; whether God can be said to exist; whether the resurrection could have been filmed with a video camera … and many other questions, all of which on their own could split churches, and have done. You could probably find all these disagreements within any single congregation, too. The people in the pews are notorious for not believing what they officially believe. But the question isn't "Why split over gay clergy, rather than anything else?" The question is whether the split, all formal as it soon will be, will actually make any difference at all to churches in their parishes, and, if so, what.

Good Stuff in TEC: Maryland

From Hagerstown Maryland-

Hagerstown residents work to improve life in Ghana

Groups in Western Maryland have been working to improve life in Ghana in West Africa.

In Akramaman, a village about 2 1/2 hours by car from Accra, the capital, has a new playground which was funded by the Westminster Rotary Club. A new preschool also has a summer literacy program.
Construction on a health outpost was slated to start in July. It will include living quarters for nursing staff.

Bruce Neumann is a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown. He's leading a team of nine that will spend a week getting the health outpost up and running.

A 2004 trip by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland to Ghana to share a Christian leadership program called Cursillo was the start of the partnership. Neumann was a member of that team.

Debi Frock of Westminster was so moved by the need of Akramaman that in 2005, she started Ghanaian Mothers' Hope Inc. (GMH), a nonprofit foundation. Neumann and his wife, the Rev. Rebekah Neumann, are on the GMH board of directors.

Frock said she got involved because of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty and related issues.

"As a community, we can do a lot," Frock said. "As individuals, it's way too hard."

Efforts range from collecting pennies to offering storage space for donated items to be shipped, Frock said.

She pointed out that children in one parish collected $800 in pennies. Combined with pennies from other churches, the Maryland Diocese raised $15,000.

The rest is here-

And in non-Episcopal news …

From Get Religion-

Gosh, did everybody see that wave of coverage of the United Methodist Church’s recent General Conference, the one in which evangelicals won two very important victories — moving in precisely the opposite direction as the course taken by the Episcopal Church?

No, I didn’t see that wave of coverage either, primarily since there wasn’t one.

Which is strange, if you think about it.

After all, there are about 2 million Episcopalians, depending on who is doing the counting. The membership statistics for the United Methodist Church have been sliding, as well, but the denomination still has nearly 8 million members in the United States and another 3.5 million (and rising fast) in Africa.

Do the math. The 2 million Episcopalians received X million gallons of printer’s ink worth of coverage recently as the denomination’s liberal establishment won a series of strategic victories on several doctrinal fronts linked to sex and marriage. Meanwhile, the 8 million or so United Methodists received how much coverage as the conservatives won two big victories on similar issues? Click here and here for a quick comparison, at the time this post was written.

The contrast is rather striking, don’t you think? By all means, call up the search engine of your choice and give it a shot.

More here-

Episcopal Church Picks Gay Priests for Promotion

From the New York Times-

Only weeks after the Episcopal Church ended a de facto moratorium on promoting gay men and lesbians into the church hierarchy, church leaders in Los Angeles nominated two openly gay priests as assistant bishops on Sunday.

The move came a day after a church search committee in Minnesota announced that it had settled on three candidates, one of them a lesbian, for bishop.

The decisions are certain to rekindle the hostilities between the liberal and conservatives factions within the Episcopal Church in the United States and between the church and the Anglican Communion, the generally conservative global network of churches to which the Episcopal Church belongs.

The moratorium on ordaining gays and lesbians into the church hierarchy was adopted three years ago and helped calm conservatives in the Anglican Communion, which was nearly torn apart by the election in 2003 of the church’s first and only openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. But church members voted overwhelmingly on July 14 at a general convention in Anaheim, Calif., to reopen the door to bishops who are openly gay.

The Diocese of Los Angeles, one of the largest and most liberal in the country, announced Sunday the nomination of six priests as candidates for two assistant bishop jobs. The list included two openly gay clerics, the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, 55, who is currently canon to the bishops in the Diocese of Maryland, based in Baltimore, and the Rev. John L. Kirkley, 42, who is rector of St. John the Evangelist Church in San Jose, Calif., part of the Diocese of California.

“I affirm each and every one of these candidates, and I am pleased with the wide diversity they offer this diocese,” the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, said in a statement.

More here-

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pakistan: Churches and Christian homes burned

From Pakistan-

Urged on by calls from their mullahs, Muslim mobs burned down more than 50 homes of the Christian community in a village of the province of Punjab. A house of worship of the Anglican-affiliated Church of Pakistan, as well as another belonging to the New Apostolic Church, were both put to the torch in the evening hours of July 30 following a reaction to a supposed desecration of the Koran. Around 1000 Muslim believers, bearing firearms and explosives, also attacked numerous Christian homes and burned them. The village of Kolyat, where the attacks occured, is home to some 100 Christian families who had been living there for several decades. As the attacks widened, Christian men, women and children fled the onslaught and hid themselves in nearby fields.

According to eyewitnesses, the attackers burnt everything belonging to the Christians, including clothes, food, utensils, beds, school books and Bibles in the houses. Even their animals were consumed by the blaze. There are reports that in some cases marauders stole some of Christians’ livestock as well.

The problem arose following a dispute between Muslim and Christian boys. Even while Christian and Muslim elders of the village settled the issue, some relatives of Muslim boys decided to pursue the matter. They spread a rumor that a Christian, Talib Masih, had burned pages of Koran during a wedding ceremony on July 29. The Christians of the area said that this was a false accusation. However, tensions rose, according to the Daily Times, after pages of an Islamist book were found outside a Christian house on July 26.

Denunciations arose against Christians and rang throughout the mosques of nearby villages as they did at the local mosque. After the announcements, Muslims from various villages gathered and attacked Christian houses. Chanting “Allah is Great” and “kill the infidels,” they blocked the main road and for hours did not allow the fire brigade to enter the village to douse the flames.

More here-

Episcopal Church names feisty aide of Indians a saint

She wore a habit and boots, drove fast on narrow roads and could intimidate powerful men just by the sound of her boots clunking on stairs.

She helped investigate at least one Everglades murder in the 1930s. She liked to sing and whistle, but her mission in life was helping Indians.

She worked first in Oklahoma, then Alaska and starting in 1933, in Southwest Florida, working with Seminoles and Miccosukee. Deaconess Harriet Bedell stayed until 1960, when Hurricane Donna and her age, then 85, ended her work.

And now, 40 years after her death, Bedell has been named a saint in the Episcopal Church.

"She really was a saintly person," said Marya Repko, an Everglades City resident and author of "Harriet Bedell in the Everglades."

"She thought about the other people she was with and what was best for them."

Unlike the Catholic Church, which requires proven miracles of its saints, the Episcopal church picks saints based on other criteria.

James Robert Dixon, who was known as the "Father of Dunbar High," helped shape young Fort Myers minds.

"I think it's her long service to people who were poor and especially among American Indians," said Ormonde Plater, a New Orleans author and deacon who has written about Bedell on his blog.

The Miccosukee name for Bedell was Inkoshopie, woman who prays, according to Plater.

Her sainthood is news in the Florida Episcopal community. The Rev. Michael Durning of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, had been pastor of two Collier County churches and knows the legend.

"In a Model T she would drive from Everglades City to New York unaccompanied," Durning said.

She sold Indian arts and crafts and came back, Durning said, "loaded with sewing supplies and sewing machines."

Both sides unhappy with archbishop of Canterbury

From the Boston Globe-

The archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is not a popular man these days. Beset from both sides of his fractured flock, it seems that he can’t do anything right.

His latest proposal to hold together the warring factions, a two-track system that could give his rebellious US Episcopal Church a secondary role in the Communion, has disappointed just about everyone.

“It’s well meaning, but, I think, a futile attempt to paper over two irreconcilable truth claims,’’ said Bishop Martyn Minns, former rector of Truro Church in Fairfax City, Va., who heads a group of congregations that has broken from the Episcopal Church because its members think the church does not follow the Bible closely enough.

Those on the other side aren’t happy either. Bishop Peter James Lee of the Virginia Diocese said, “Even though he explicitly says this is not a first-class, second-class division, it feels that way.’’

Rowan Williams, 59, an acclaimed theologian who spent much of his career as an academic before becoming archbishop of Canterbury in 2003, has found himself at the head of a church torn by disputes that are ostensibly over homosexuality. The division became pronounced when the Episcopal Church elected its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

But the dispute goes much deeper, church leaders and analysts say. It has brought to the fore simmering racial and class tensions between the Anglican Communion’s wealthy Western arm and its growing membership in the developing world.

More here-