Saturday, February 27, 2010

Anglican Bishop: My Mom Wanted to Die, but now is Happy to be Alive

From England- An Anglican bishop has said that though his mother had told him repeatedly in the past that she wanted to die, she is now happy to be alive and he is grateful she didn't kill herself, reports the Christian Institute.

Bishop of Durham, Dr. Tom Wright, the fourth most senior prelate in the Church of England, was speaking during a House of Lords debate earlier this month on whether it was necessary to have an independent inquiry into assisted suicide, when he revealed that his mother had told him several times that she “just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.”
Bishop Wright said, “I sympathized with her view – her desire to die – but I shuddered at the thought of speeding her on her way.”

The bishop then recounted that his mom eventually recovered fully from her illness and celebrated her 63rd wedding anniversary and recently greeted her sixth great-grandchild. It is unclear what the bishop’s mother’s illness was.
The Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK this week issued new guidelines on assisted suicide will allow relatives to help loved ones commit suicide without being prosecuted, as long as they have not gained personally by doing so.

Bishop Wright pointed out during the House of Lords debate that had the guidelines been in place during his mom's illness, or if she had lived in Holland or the U.S. state of Oregon, where euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, respectively, are legal, “someone might have ‘compassionately’ given her a paper to sign and the deed would have been done.”

More here-

Controversial painting adorns Midtown church

From Houston-

The bible tells Christians that man was created in the image of God. So it stands to reason that most artists portray Jesus Christ as looking as human as anyone else. But one well-known Texas artist has painted a very controversial version of Christ.

Trinity Episcopal Church is steeped in tradition. Built almost 120 years ago, it's on the national register of historic places. While its surroundings now reflect modern life, the sanctuary has changed very little.

"We took kind of an old storage area that was also used as a practice room for the chorus," said Roni McMurtrey, a long-time church member.
McMurtrey was among those who wanted a different kind of a chapel, which now houses weekly jazz services and smaller gatherings. So she approached several well-known artists about creating a space both holy and contemporary.

"It was a way of reflecting what happens in this town. Taking something and taking a space using art and highlighting the sacredness," said McMurtrey.

The altar, the seating and even the lighting are made out of wood and stainless steel. There's a painting done by a local Muslim artist of the women in Christ's life removing his body from the tomb. And these dramatic stained glass windows.

"So many stained glass windows seem to enclose a space and he wanted you to be able to see out into the garden because this congregation doesn't see themselves as enclosed. They see themselves as part of the community," said Kim Clark Renteria, who designed the stained glass.
But the centerpiece, and most controversial, is a nine-foot tall painting over the altar, depicting the resurrection. It was done by Waco artist Kermit Oliver, whose son Khristian was recently executed for the 1998 murder of 64-year-old Joe Collins. The painting shows Christ rising from the cross, a Christ with the face of Khristian Oliver.

More here + video-

Ketchum: Church division similar to those of our country

From Michigan-

A new kid is moving into the Lutheran neighborhood of U.S. mainline Protestantism.

Dissident members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are upset with the denomination's decision last summer to let gays and lesbians who are in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" serve as pastors.

The dissidents are pulling out.

The group announced last week it plans to launch the North American Lutheran Church in August. It bills itself as the conservative alternative to the 4.8-millon member ELCA. Founders say they're tired of the decades-long fight about the role of gays and lesbians in the church.

They're also upset at what they believe is the ELCA's departure from scriptural teaching.

They join anywhere from several dozen to 800 Anglican congregations (depending on whose numbers you believe) that have left the Episcopal Church in the United States. The reasons are similar and come after the ordination of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is gay.

More here-

Chile earthquake kills 76 and triggers tsunami

My sister Stephanie lives in Santiago- waiting for word. Please pray!

(Update everyone is fine)

A massive earthquake on the coast of Chile has killed at least 76 people, flattening buildings and triggering a tsunami.

The 8.8-magnitude quake, the country’s largest in 25 years, shook the capital Santiago for a minute and half at 3:34am (0634 GMT) today.

A tsunami warning has been extended across all Pacific islands and the Pacific rim, including most of Central and South America and as far as Australia and Antarctica.

The wave has already caused serious damage to the sparsely populated Juan Fernandez islands, off the Santiago coast, local radio reported.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jubilee in Southeast Dallas

From The Living Church-

How might an affluent Episcopal church celebrate its Jubilee anniversary? Would it commission another stained glass window, expand its facilities, redo the landscaping, upgrade its parking lots?

All those options were on the table in 1997 when members of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Dallas, started thinking about its birthday bash. But then something strange happened. The celebration committee decided to put suggestion boxes around the church, and hundreds of parishioners cast their votes, and chose, overwhelmingly, to make a substantial investment in people living beyond the church’s upscale neighborhood. Members of the anniversary committee put away the silver service and got out their work gloves.

We had no money to invest, and scarcely knew where to begin. So we stepped out in faith — determined, by God’s grace, to transform the lives of others in need. Of course, we have ourselves been transformed, beyond our wildest imagining.

First we chose a neighborhood: Fair Park, a 62-block neighborhood in southeast Dallas, just 15 minutes from Saint Michael’s. The focal point of the neighborhood was a bar. There were several drug houses. The elementary school rated the lowest in the entire city. Many senior citizens were living there because they had no other place to go, but were afraid to go outside due to violent crime.

After the committee shared its vision with the parish, donations began rolling in. Working with AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity and the Greater Dallas Community of Churches, St. Michael’s acquired five acres to build a beautiful park, on lots formerly covered in whiskey bottles, syringes and trash.

More here-

Sentamu here for big week

From New Zealand-

Iconic New Plymouth church St Mary's is about to become a fully fledged cathedral.

And Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, will be visiting New Plymouth to join in the celebrations.

The Archbishop is a former Ugandan High Court judge who became the first black Archbishop of York. He is the second most senior Anglican leader.

He fled Uganda in 1974 after he was imprisoned by dictator Idi Amin. In Britain he trained for the Anglican priesthood at Cambridge and began a notable and often controversial career.

The week-long celebrations begin with a powhiri in Auckland on Sunday welcoming the archbishop to New Zealand. His official welcome to Taranaki is on Tuesday at Owae Marae in Waitara where he will be joined by former governor-general Bishop Sir Paul Reeves.

The programme for the Cathedral Inauguration Week includes a mayoral prayer breakfast and a regional leaders' forum. Young people aren't forgotten. Archbishop Sentamu will meet Year 13 students from around Taranaki on Thursday, March 4, following a programme of music, speech and drama.

On Friday, March 5, Dame Malvina Major and Bishop Paul Richardson will host a concert of emerging young Taranaki musicians and singers. Dame Malvina will also perform.

St Mary's will be consecrated as the Taranaki Cathedral in a service that will blend ancient and modern, along with the diverse cultures of the South Pacific.

St Mary's Pro-Cathedral – the pro meaning provisional – will then become Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary.

The Reverend Jamie Allen will become the first Dean of Taranaki.

More here-

Editorial: Lent and Lawsuits

From The Living Church-

Not long after appearing in a soft-spoken and impressive video about Lenten discipline, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori took issue with the Bishop of South Carolina on the proper response to any congregation that distances itself from the Episcopal Church.

For those readers joining this melodrama mid-story, here is a quick summary: Thomas Tisdale, Jr., a former chancellor of the Diocese of South Carolina, has asked the current chancellor for reams of documents regarding four congregations in various states of disaffection with the Episcopal Church. The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence is trying to address the pastoral needs of these congregations without threatening to sue them.

As the Presiding Bishop described Bishop Lawrence’s actions, her tone departed from the proposed discipline of Lent. “He’s telling the world that he is offended that I think it’s important that people who want to stay Episcopalians there have some representation on behalf of the larger church,” she said in remarks to the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on Feb. 19.

This description should surprise anyone who has read Bishop Lawrence’s public letter in response to the former chancellor’s fishing expedition.

Bishop Lawrence did raise questions about the appropriateness of a hostile legal probe occurring within his diocese, and noted that he has not heard from the Presiding Bishop regarding this probe.

But he also explained the deeper motivation of his decision to delay the diocese’s convention for three weeks: “This is not a time for precipitous action; nor is it a time for congregations or members to strike out in unilateral directions destructive to the common life and witness God has called us to make in the world and the Church.”

More here-

Anglo-Catholics gather to pray over Pope’s offer

From the Church Times-

O FORMAL response is expected from the UK to the Pope’s offer of a Personal Ordinariate to Anglican groups until after the General Synod meeting in July, it emerged this week.
On Monday, dozens of churches, both Church of England and Roman Catholic, opened their doors for a day of prayer about the Pope’s offer. The invitation was extended last autumn to groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony (News, 23 October 2009).

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Andrew Burnham, had asked members of Forward in Faith, and others, to make Monday, the feast of the Chair of St Peter, “an opportunity to reflect, pray, and discern the way forward for each of us, our priests and our parishes”. But on his website he said that the day would not be “a day of decision”.

After the General Synod postponed until its July sessions the revision stage of the legislation for women bishops, it is thought that most traditionalists will wait until after that debate before react ing to the Pope’s offer. This means that they will participate actively in elections for the new Synod, which take place during the summer.

Bishop Burnham wrote: “The Apostolic Constitution (Anglican orum Coetibus) is not a crisis point but the opening up, permanently, of a new way into unity with the See of Peter. Decisions about how and whether this should happen for each of us will take place in different ways, and at different times.”

One cleric who spent the day in his church in prayer was the Vicar of St Mark’s, Stockland Green, Bir­mingham, the Revd Stuart Powell. “The Bishop of Ebbsfleet was asking for a day of discernment. I think some people may feel they want to take advantage of the Ordinariate, and some people will decide to stay. I think that I and my people will stay,” he said on Tuesday.

More here-

Controversial archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola steps down with purpose

From World Magazine-

It's a strange phenomenon when weather—or anything—slows the archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. But that's what happened when record snowfall in Washington last month forced the cancellation of a long-anticipated celebration, known among Anglicans as a festal eucharist, to commemorate Akinola.

The stout, 66-year-old clergyman, who friends say gets by on three to four hours' sleep a night and keeps a travel schedule to rival any gold-status f requent flier, will step down March 25 as head of the Anglican church in Nigeria—at 20 million, the largest Anglican communion in the world.

The event that was to include national and international church leaders would have displayed the significance of his six-year tenure, a time when the African primates began to lead rather than follow their Western counterparts. Instead the Nigerian is in a downtown D.C. restaurant—counting the hours until his plane departs ("six"), marveling at the snow ("a wonderful and fierce problem for me"), remembering what lies behind, and straining toward the future.

More here-

San Diego teens go hungry to help Haiti quake survivors

From San Diego-

Every day, over 29,000 children under the age of five die from preventable diseases. That’s 10.6 million children every year. Malnutrition from severe hunger is associated with half of those deaths.

Starting Friday (Feb. 26), hundreds of San Diego youth will get a real taste of hunger as they participate in 30 Hour Famine, an international youth movement coordinated by World Vision to raise awareness and money to fight hunger overseas, and in the U.S.

During a “famine,” teens fast on an empty stomach by going without food (consuming only liquids) for 30 hours to get a glimpse what the poorest children and families face every day.

One local gathering of 33 teens will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday at St. Andrews’s Episcopal Church in Encinitas, where participants will stay overnight. Individuals will have already started fasting on their own at noon. The famine ends with a church communion service around 6 p.m. on Saturday. After that, the group will enjoy a “breaking-the-fast” dinner together and talk about their experience.

This is the sixth year St. Andrew’s youth group has taken part in the famine. To date, they have raised almost $30,000.

“It’s a way for students to actively participate in fighting hunger around the world, while having an empty stomach themselves,” says Brenda Johnston, the church’s director of youth ministries. “It really makes us think about how blessed we are and the abundance we live in every day. It teaches the students the facts of world hunger. Knowing that only $30 can feed a child for an entire month is mind-boggling. It makes you think twice about how you’re spending your money, and what an impact you can have on someone’s life for such a tiny amount.”

Read more:

The Beginning of the Reformation's End?

From The Wall Street Journal-

On a recent evening, about 60 people—ex-Episcopalians, curious Catholics and a smattering of earnest Episcopal priests in clerical collars—gathered downtown for an unusual liturgy: It was Evensong and Benediction, sung according to the Book of Divine Worship, an Anglican Use liturgical book still being prepared in Rome.

Beautiful evensongs are a signature of Protestant Episcopal worship. Benediction, which consists of hymns, canticles or litanies before the consecrated host on the altar, is a Catholic devotion. We were getting a blend of both at St. Mary Mother of God Church, lent for the occasion.

One former Episcopalian present confessed to having to choke back tears as the first plainsong strains of "Humbly I Adore Thee," the Anglican version of a hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas, floated down from the organ in the balcony. A convert to Catholicism, she could not believe she was sitting in a Catholic Church, hearing the words of her Anglican girlhood—and as part of an authorized, Roman Catholic liturgy.

And that was not the only miracle. Although the texts had been carefully vetted in Rome for theological points, the words being sung were written by Thomas Cranmer, King Henry VIII's architect of the English Reformation. "He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel," the congregation chanted, "as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever."

The language of this translation of the Magnificat, one of Christianity's two great evening canticles, is unfamiliar to many Episcopalians today, as it comes from earlier versions of their Book of Common Prayer. Yet a number of former Anglicans are eager to carry some of this liturgy with them when they swim the Tiber, as Episcopalians becoming Catholic often call the conversion. "I wonder why the phrase 'and there is no health in us' was omitted from the penitential rite" by the Vatican vetters of the newly approved rite for converts, one nostalgic ex-Episcopalian mused aloud. "Must be too Calvinist," suggested another.

More here-

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Anglican Bishop condemns Nana Addo, Alan `rift`

From Ghana-

THE PERCEIVED animosity between supporters of the former Presidential Candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo and his closest rival, Mr. Kwadwo Alan Kyerematen, appears not to be a bother to only party functionaries, but also the clergy.

The Anglican Bishop of Kumasi, Most Rev. Daniel Yinkah Sarfo has expressed concern about the fissure between supporters of the two prominent personalities and its likely repercussion on the nation's political and democratic dispensation during a thanksgiving service organized at the St. Paul's Anglican Church in Kumasi for the newly elected Regional Executives of the party.

The service, which was mainly to thank God Almighty for seeing the party through its regional congress held few weeks ago, was also to commit the new executives, led by the chairman, Mr. Frederick Fredua Anto into the hands of God as they lead the party for the next four years.

The outspoken Anglican clergy says he is personally worried about the seeming political intolerance and fanaticism creeping into the opposition party and cautioned that if nothing was done to immediately quell the situation, it would have negative effect on both the NPP and the country.

“What worries me more is that; Nana Addo and Alan and the regional chairman, Mr. F. F. Anto are all Anglicans, so why should you fight each other, you are only engaging in self destruction and this will not augur well for your supporters and the party, “ he stressed.

More here-

Texas to Study Anglican Covenant This Year

From The Living Church-

The Diocese of Texas will study the Anglican Covenant for the remainder of 2010, said the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, diocesan bishop, in his report to the annual convention.

The convention met Feb. 12 and 13 at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

“I think we have been playing it safe in this diocese on a couple of issues, when it comes specifically to the Anglican Covenant and to the issues of sexuality and diversity,” Bishop Doyle said in his address. “I am going to appoint a task force to help the diocese focus our attention on the Covenant and will ask them to develop a study curriculum and resources. I also will be asking the task force to propose a model for congregations to engage in conversation around the proposed Covenant and its principles.”

The bishop said he hopes discussion will help the next annual convention express a common mind on the Covenant, which will in turn guide the diocese’s deputation to General Convention in 2012.

“I have already said that I am in favor of the Anglican Covenant. I have been very clear about that,” the bishop said. “But it doesn’t do me any good if I am the only voice. I have got to listen with you and communicate with you so that we together may have a better understanding of what this truly means for us as a diocese.”

More here-

A summary of Executive Council resolutions

From Episcopal Life Online-

During its Feb. 19-22 meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church adopted several resolutions, which are summarized below.

Approve engagement of Grant Thornton, LLP to audit all accounts under the management or control of the council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society for 2010-2012 triennium (EC005).
Challenge the Episcopal Church to raise a sum of up to $10 million for the long-term rebuilding of the Diocese of Haiti with the final amount and the eventual disbursement of the money to be done in partnership with the bishop of Haiti (EC007).

Advocacy and Networking for Mission

Direct the Episcopal Church join the Jobs for America Now Coalition (A&N003).

Reassert the Episcopal Church's "long-standing belief that war is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ"; remember "with sorrow those on all sides of the hostilities in Afghanistan who have been wounded, traumatized or killed"; recall the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 that led to military action in Afghanistan; support the goal of just and lasting peace in Afghanistan; welcome the setting of a timetable for withdrawal; urge the U.S. and its allies to use force judiciously and protect the innocent people of Afghanistan; assert that "an escalation in forces need not lead to an escalation in force"; call on the Afghan government to end corruption and strengthen its security forces; encourage the U.S. and its allies to promote economic development and human rights in Afghanistan; pray for the safety and well-being of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, all those who have been wounded, traumatized or killed, and for a swift and peaceful end to the war; urge Congress to provide for the needs of troops and their families; acknowledge the pastoral challenges presented by multiple deployments and combat stress, and commend the Episcopal Church's federal ministries office for its work (A&N004).
Instruct the church's treasurer as to how to vote on a variety of shareholder resolutions (A&N005-A&N008).

Authorize General Convention planners to negotiate with the Indianapolis Hyatt Hotel for the 2012 General Convention (a matter having to do with concerns over a labor dispute with another Hyatt hotel group to which the Indianapolis property does not belong) (A&N009).

The rest are here-

Christ Church organizes disaster relief drive

From North Jersey-

Right now when Haiti is mentioned, destruction and sadness come to mind. Christ Church in the township wants to help rejuvenate the nation.

Through the Episcopal Relief and Development outreach funds, the church matched donations from parishioners. Within three days the campaign garnered $10,000.

As more contributions flowed in, Christ Church used their relief funds to match and the grand total came to $26,924.21.

All of the monies are able to be used immediately on site to aid the Episcopalian rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

John Cooper is one of the wardens at Christ Church. Although only recently aware of the fact, Cooper explained that there is a large Episcopalian presence in Haiti.

"Haiti is the largest and fastest growing diocese in the Episcopalian faith," said Cooper. "Before the earthquake there were 83,000 Episcopalians, 97 churches, 200 schools and 6,000 students."

Cooper said that money is the best thing to help rebuild the Episcopalian churches and schools.

"Money is what Haiti needs. Clothing and other items are useful but money is the thing which will allow them to do the most good," said Cooper. "It leaves the decisions to what is being purchased in the hands of the people who are there, who are on the ground with firsthand knowledge of what is going on."

The warden said Haiti has been through so many tragedies in recent times and can't seem to find a break. They had just begun to find their way after substantial floods and then the earthquake struck, said Cooper.

"I think this is a test of faith and a chance for the faith that exists to find affirmation in little ways and big ones," said Cooper. "Certainly the outpouring of generosity from our corner of the world and the rest of the world affirms, to some degree, faithfulness."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bishops act the bully in parliament

From The London Guardian-

It is more than 170 years since the Church of England was last able to dictate as to who presided at weddings in this country. In 1836, to much Tory and Anglican grumbling, Protestant Nonconformists were given the chance to celebrate the happiest day of their lives in their own chapels, rather than be forced to resort to an Anglican service in an Anglican church, and civil marriage was recognised in English law.

At the present day, certain of the bishops of the C of E don't seem to have noticed that it is not 1835. On 25 January 2010, a group of bishops in the House of Lords led by the bishops of Winchester and Chichester scuppered an amendment to the equality bill which would have allowed three specific faith communities, Liberal Judaism, Quakers and Unitarians, to register civil partnerships on their own premises. These three religious groups, after much discussion (and of course, prayer), had each independently decided that they wanted to take this step, as part of their commitment to their religious life and as an expression of their communal belief – but my Lords the bishops took it upon themselves to decide for Jews, Quakers and Unitarians what they should believe and practise. Never mind what these non-Anglicans think, they proclaimed, the amendment was the thin end of the wedge, and soon Anglicans would be forced to do the same sort of thing willy-nilly.

Quite apart from the fact that this group of bishops did not actually represent anyone in the Church of England other than themselves, their action was bizarrely inconsistent with what the same bishops had just secured for their own church. They had led the defeat of a government proposal to limit the space within which religious bodies may be exempt from anti-discrimination law. They had said that this was a matter of conscience, of the church's spiritual independence. It was hardly any time at all before the same Lords Spiritual were denying spiritual independence to other religious bodies who were seeking to find legal recognition solely for their own practice. That seems to me a bit rich. Luckily on 2 March the Lords have a chance to think again and think more logically, since Lord Waheed Alli is proposing to re-present the amendment that Winchester and Chichester helped to kill last month.

More here-

Anglican leader worried about Mideast's Christians

From the Washington Post-

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams voiced grave concern Saturday over the eroding Christian presence in the Holy Land on the first stop of his four-day pilgrimage to the region.

Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican communion worldwide, held a sermon for hundreds of faithful at the River Jordan after dedicating the cornerstone of an Anglican church to be built at the site where tradition says Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Williams said he "worried deeply" about the dwindling numbers of Christians in the Mideast, and stressed that it was the church's duty to support Christians who face hardship due to regional conflicts.

Williams is also expected to visit Gaza and the West Bank, after traveling to Jerusalem for meetings with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel as part of an interfaith dialogue.

more here-

MIDDLE EAST: Archbishop of Canterbury meets with heads of churches in Jerusalem

From Episcopal Life Online-

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Feb. 22 held a series of meetings with the three most senior heads of churches in Jerusalem: His Beatitude Theophilus III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and members of the Holy Synod; His Beatitude Torkom II, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem; and His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

"The already-warm relations that exist between the various local churches in Jerusalem were underlined, as was the common responsibility of the church globally to confirm and strengthen the presence of vulnerable Christian communities in the Holy Land, including in Jerusalem," said a press release from Lambeth Palace, Williams' London residence. "Each encounter reiterated that everything possible needed to be done to ensure that the Christian communities in the Holy Land could continue to flourish and contribute to the wider good of all communities in the region."

Accompanied by Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Church of Ireland Bishop Michael Jackson of Clogher, co-chair of the Anglican Jewish Commission, the archbishop led the Anglican delegation in the fourth meeting of the dialogue with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

"The meeting was characterized by a deepening sense of trust and openness, and a growing determination to work towards a greater mutual understanding between the faiths, and especially between the Jewish and Christian communities in the Holy Land," the release said. "This growing mutual respect and confidence was symbolized by the delegations together visiting Yad Vashem," the holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Following a guided tour, members of the delegations "stood together in a moment of reflection beside the eternal flame at the Hall of Remembrance," the release said. Williams, Dawani and Jackson laid a wreath and prayed silently together.

More here-

Armstrong criminal trial postponed to October

From Colorado Springs-

A 4th Judicial District judge today postponed the criminal trial of the Rev. Donald Armstrong of Colorado Springs to Oct. 18.

The trial had been set to begin today.

The change was due to scheduling conflicts between Armstrong’s defense attorney, Dennis Hartley, and the Pueblo District Attorney’s office.

Judge Gregory Werner also set a status conference for Aug. 18, where Hartley is expected to waive Armstrong’s right to a speedy trial. Werner anticipates the trial lasting three weeks.

Armstrong, the former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, was indicted last April by a 4th Judicial District grand jury on 20 felony counts of theft charges. The indictment concluded an 11-month investigation by Colorado Springs police and the Pueblo District Attorney’s Office into Armstrong’s alleged financial misconduct while rector of Grace.

Police maintain that between 1999 and 2006 Armstrong funneled about $392,000 of church funds earmarked for Episcopal seminarians to finance his two children’s college education.

If convicted on all felony counts, Armstrong, 60, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Each count comes with a possible prison sentence of four to 12 years.

More here-

Ligonier priest chosen for Episcopal executive council

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

The Rev. James Simons, a theologically conservative Episcopal priest who remained in that church after most of his fellow conservatives in the Diocese of Pittsburgh left it, has been elected to an important post in the national church.

"I hope to bring a perspective from one of the dioceses that is rebuilding after the previous leadership decided to leave the Episcopal Church," said Rev. Simons. "I think there are some misconceptions about what that was about and what happened and who left and what this diocese is like." The Rev. Simons was chosen to fill a vacancy on the executive council. The board of 38 laity and priests governs the church between triennial General Conventions.

He will remain rector of St. Michael of the Valley, Ligonier. "I will bring a conservative perspective from my own theological viewpoint, which I suspect is part of the reason I was elected," he said. The Rev. Simons, a nationally known leader among conservative Episcopalians, stunned people on both sides of a rift over biblical theology when he didn't follow Bishop Robert Duncan out of the church in 2008. He was a central figure in rebuilding the Episcopal diocese from scratch. He has a history of service at a national level, and is well known because of that.

The link was here but is now not working-

Read more:

Ligonier Township Episcopalian priest's leadership expands

From The Pittsburgh Tribune-

A Ligonier Township priest who is prominent in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been named to a senior national leadership group of the Episcopal Church.

The church's executive council voted Monday to name the Rev. James B. Simons, rector of St. Michael of the Valley, Rector, as its newest member. The 38-member executive council serves as a board of directors of the Episcopal Church between sessions of the general convention, which meets every three years.

"I'm honored to be asked to serve the church in such a significant capacity," Simons said. "I am also pleased the executive council has chosen someone from among the dioceses that are currently rebuilding. In Pittsburgh, we have learned that people with differing views can work together to bring all people to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

This new appointment tops a list of responsibilities Simons has assumed at the national level of the Episcopal Church.

At the 2009 general convention, he became chairman of the House of Deputies Dispatch of Business Committee, a gatekeeper for the flow of convention business. He has been a deputy to the general convention seven times. He has just concluded nine years as a member of the president of the House of Deputies' Council of Advice, having served in that position under two House presidents.

Simons succeeds Bishop-elect Ian Douglas, who is resigning from executive council because of his election as bishop of Connecticut. Simons will serve the remainder of the term and will continue as rector of St. Michael's, a position he has held since 1988.

Simons is a Pittsburgh native and was ordained a priest of the Episcopal Church in 1985. He graduated in 1980 from Allegheny College and in 1985 from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, where he also received his doctorate of ministry in 2007.

He and his wife, Lisa, have three children.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anglican bishops back end to ban on gay civil partnerships in church

from The London Times-

Gay couples could soon be allowed to “marry” in church after a decision by Anglican bishops and other clergy to support a relaxation of the ban.

Senior bishops in the Lords have told The Times that they will support an amendment to the Equality Bill next month that will lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises. The amendment would remove the legislative prohibition on blessings of homosexual couples and open the door to the registration of civil partnerships in churches, synagogues, mosques and all other religious premises.

In a letter to The Times a group of Church of England clerics say today that religious denominations should be allowed to register civil partnerships on their premises if they wish.

It would be up to individual denominations whether to offer civil partnership ceremonies.

The Church of England, which along with the wider Anglican Communion is divided over gay ordinations and same-sex blessings, will maintain its official ban. But if the legislative prohibition is lifted, as seems likely, the Church’s own ban is likely to be ignored by some clergy.

The Lords amendment is expected to be tabled in the next few days by Lord Alli, the Labour peer, who is openly gay. It is likely to be backed by the Conservatives and, significantly, the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Rev Timothy Stevens, who convenes the 26 bishops in the House.

More here-

Va. Episcopalians narrowly vote not to recognize gay marriage

From The Washington Times-

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia hedged on recognizing same-sex unions Saturday, instead voting to form a committee to set standards for church-sanctioned blessings of such unions once they are approved by the entire 2-million-member Episcopal Church.

About 346 delegates to the dioceses annual council meeting at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria narrowly voted -- by a show of hands -- to form the committee.

It was a less radical choice for the 80,000-member Virginia diocese, the largest in the Episcopal Church. A substitute amendment suggesting the diocese allow openly gay clergy and same-sex blessings failed after a lengthy debate.

The vote was in response to last summer's decision by the Episcopal General Convention, which met in Anaheim, Calif., to pass resolution C056, which empowered the denomination to begin "collecting and developing theological resources and liturgies" for same-sex blessings. The denomination is expected to endorse some kind of rite at its 2012 meeting in Indianapolis.

Sixteen Episcopal dioceses -- including four since last summer -- already allow same-sex blessings.

Saturday's resolution was a compromise between three previous proposed resolutions: one that proposed Episcopalians keep to a traditional understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman, and two others that proposed the diocese lift its current prohibition against same-sex blessings, ordaining sexually active homosexuals or allowing them to serve in a parish.

Executive Council vows long-time support for Haiti, gives church $10 million challenge

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Episcopal Church's Executive Council pledged Feb. 22 to stand by the Diocese of Haiti as it continues to minister to earthquake survivors and plans its long-term rebuilding efforts, while challenging the church to raise at least $10 million to help pay for that rebuilding.
The council said (via Resolution WM011) that "Haiti's recovery and reconstruction must be directed by the Haitian people" and affirmed "the authority of Bishop [Jean Zaché] Duracin and the leaders he appoints to request and direct the resources required to rebuild the damaged institutions and impacted congregations of the diocese."

Meanwhile, Executive Council also issued a message to the church, saying that during its meeting it "was exhorted to humility and patience, inspired to action in the cause of justice, and reminded of the importance of the seemingly mundane."

"Meeting in the beginning of Lent we were constantly reminded of the power of God in Jesus Christ to redeem and save, in the moment and for all time," council said before going on to outline the results of its work in Omaha.

The $10-million Haiti challenge, proposed by out-going council member and Diocese of Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas, grew out of his colleague Mark Harris' call to the council to set aside a tithe from the remainder of the church's 2010-2012 budget for the reconstruction of the church in Haiti. He said that "the hurt to the family" in Haiti "requires a pledge on our part that doesn't come from the largess or the abundance of our lives, but comes from the core and, I would suggest, essentially our flesh." Without such support, Harris said, the future of the church in Haiti will "suffer in ways which we would be very sad to see happen."

Council members said they stand ready to receive Duracin's assessment of the diocese's needs and will review the church's support for the rebuilding effort at subsequent meetings. They also said the council "strongly supports" Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's "efforts to marshal the resources of the wider church" in support of Haiti, and to work directly with Duracin "in ensuring these resources are provided in the most effective manner."

More here-

Diocesan Leader Elected to Episcopal Church’s Executive Council

From Pittsburgh-

Today the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church elected the Rev. Dr. James B. Simons, Rector of St. Michael’s in the Valley, Ligonier, as its newest member.

The 38-member Executive Council serves as a board of directors of the Episcopal Church between sessions of the General Convention, which meets every three years.

“I’m honored to be asked to serve the church in such a significant capacity,” said Dr. Simons, adding, “I am also pleased the Executive Council has chosen someone from among the dioceses that are currently rebuilding. In Pittsburgh we have learned that people with differing views can work together to bring all people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This new appointment tops a list of responsibilities Dr. Simons has assumed at the national level of the Episcopal Church.

At the 2009 General Convention, he became Chair of the House of Deputies Dispatch of Business Committee, a gatekeeper for the flow of convention business. He has been a deputy to the General Convention seven times. He has just concluded nine years as a member of the President of the House of Deputies’ Council of Advice, having served in that position under two House presidents.

“I commend the Executive Council for its excellent choice, and I am not surprised,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr., who as Secretary of the House of Bishops worked with Dr. Simons at General Convention.

The bishop added, “I am impressed at how respected he is in the larger church. I am happy that the councils of the church will benefit even more from those gifts that Jim has shared so well here with us.”

As president of the diocesan Standing Committee from October 2008 until December 2009, Dr. Simons was instrumental in directing the rebuilding the diocese after its former leaders left the Episcopal Church. He was the ranking Ecclesiastical Authority in the diocese during that time until Bishop Price was elected in October 2009.

Dr. Simons succeeds Bishop-elect Ian Douglas, who is resigning from Executive Council because of his election as Bishop of Connecticut. Dr. Douglas had been elected to the Council as a clergy representative from the House of Deputies.

Dr. Simons will serve the remainder of the term which expires after General Convention in 2012. He will continue as Rector at St. Michael’s rector, a position he has held since 1988.’s-executive-council/

Monday, February 22, 2010

Executive Council discusses trends in Episcopal Church membership

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Episcopal Church's Executive Council heard here Feb. 21 that church membership and Sunday attendance continued to decline in 2008, but also heard a call for the church to promote knowledge of the characteristics of growing congregations.
During his statistic-laden hour-long report, Kirk Hadaway, the church's program officer for congregational research, told the council that congregations grow when they are in growing communities; have a clear mission and purpose; follow up with visitors; have strong leadership; and are involved in outreach and evangelism.

Congregations decline, he said, when their membership is older and predominantly female; are in conflict, particularly over leadership and where worship is "rote, predictable and uninspiring."

The primary source of the statistics for Hadaway's report is the canonically required (Canon 1.6.1) information filed annually with diocesan bishops by each congregation. The so-called parochial reports are due by March 1 of the following year. An example of the sort of information gathered is available here. Hadaway analyzed the data received to compile a variety of statistical reports and also cited a variety of surveys of church members that he and others have conducted.

The 2008 parochial reports show overall church membership at 2,225,682 people, with a total average Sunday attendance (ASA) at 747,376. Those totals compare with 2007 membership of 2,285,143 and total ASA at 768,476. The dioceses in the United States saw a 2.8 percent drop in membership and a 3.1 percent decrease in ASA. Overall church membership -- including 10 non-U.S. dioceses -- was down 2.6 percent and attendance dropped 2.7 percent for the entire church.

More here-

Church was stop for escaped slaves

From Maryland-

The short stretch of tunnels and paths that makes up the local portion of the Underground Railroad remains as relevant today as it ever did.

The Rev. Edward Chapman of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Washington Street said “several thousand” students, scholars and curious travelers visit the trenches and tunnels under the church each year to follow firsthand the footsteps of an unknown number of slaves who used the basement of the church as an oasis before resuming their quest for freedom.

According to oral history passed down through generations, a slave named Samuel Denson escaped from a plantation in Vicksburg, Miss., and traveled along the Underground Railroad until he reached Cumberland. For unknown reasons, Denson, then just about 14 years old, stopped running. He was offered a job as church janitor by the Rev. Hillhouse Buell.

Buell was from New York and a known sympathizer to slaves. By hiring Denson, Buell risked his own freedom and social standing.

Buell, Chapman said, “was white and prominent ... he is likely to have been able to afford a good attorney. He probably would not end up serving more than a few decades in prison” if he’d been caught.

More here-

Out of the abyss of individualism

From The London Guardian-

Human beings begin their lives in a state of dependence. They need to learn how to speak, to trust, to negotiate a world that isn't always friendly, and involves unavoidable limitations. They need an environment secure enough for them to take the necessary risks of learning – where they know there are some relationships that don't depend on getting things right, but are unconditional. The family is the indispensable foundation for all this.

We are also beings who take in more than we can easily process from the world around us; we know more than we realise, and that helps us to become self-questioning persons who are always aware things could be different. We learn this as children through fantasy and play, we keep it alive as adults through all sorts of "unproductive" activity, from sport to poetry. It is the extra things that make us human.

This is closely connected with understanding and sympathy for others. If you live in a world where everything encourages you to struggle for your own individual interest and success, you are encouraged to ignore the reality of other points of view – ultimately, to ignore the cost, or the pain of others. The result may be a world where people are articulate about their own feelings and pretty illiterate about those of others. An economic climate based on nothing but calculations of self-interest, fed by a distorted version of Darwinism, doesn't build a habitat for human beings; at best it builds a sort of fortified box room for paranoiacs.

What is encouraging is how few people seem to want a society composed of people like this. We have, to some extent, looked into the abyss where individualism is concerned and we know that it won't do. This is a moment when every possible agency in civil society needs to reinforce its commitment to a world where thoughtful empathy is a normal aspect of the mature man or woman. And of course without that, there will be no imaginative life, no thinking what might be different.

More here-

Eblen: Churches join to honor former slave

From Kentucky-

The Rev. London Ferrill spent much of his life serving as a bridge between Lexington's black and white communities. Now, 156 years after his death, he is doing it again.

Ferrill may have been the most famous man in Lexington you've probably never heard of.
Born into slavery in Virginia in 1789 and later freed, he was an influential preacher in the black community here. His funeral procession of nearly 5,000 people in 1854 was the second-largest the city had ever seen, after Henry Clay's two years earlier.

The Episcopal Church has invited First African Baptist Church to services Saturday honoring the memory of Ferrill, the only black man buried in the Old Episcopal Burying Ground on East Third Street.

The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the national Episcopal Church, will be among the speakers at the 1:30 p.m. service at Christ Church Cathedral on Market Street.
Choirs from local Episcopal churches and First African Baptist will perform, and the program will include a new composition that John Linker, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church's organist and choirmaster, wrote to accompany the text of a prayer attributed to Ferrill.

Ministers will dedicate the plaque for a monument honoring Ferrill that will be placed in the cemetery later this year. And Ferrill's broken tombstone formally will be given to First African Baptist, where it has been on display for two decades.

These and other efforts to commemorate Ferrill are an attempt at reconciliation, said Robert Voll, a member of Christ Church who oversees the cemetery.

More here-

Rector charged again with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse

From Central New York-

Another sexual abuse charge has been filed against Ralph E. Johnson, a former rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Owego.

Pennsylvania State Police in Gibson have charged Johnson, 82, with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a felony. He is accused of sexually assaulting a mentally disabled 14-year-old boy in 2001, according to police records.

The latest charge was filed after the incident was reported to police Feb. 7 -- 3 days after Johnson was charged in another case alleging sexual abuse of a boy.

Those charges include 15 counts of deviate sexual intercourse, a felony; 15 counts of indecent assault, a misdemeanor; and 15 counts of corruption of minors, a misdemeanor. The charges stem from incidents between 1992 and 1995 at Johnson's home in Gibson Township, Pa., with a victim between the ages of 11 and 15, according to police records.

Johnson was the rector at St. Paul's from 1970 to 1977 and was active with the Episcopal church since his ordination in 1962.

In May 2006, Johnson voluntarily surrendered his ministerial orders to Gladstone B. Adams, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, without admitting guilt to sexual abuse allegations.

More here-

Declining membership hurts Episcopal churches in Northern California

From Sacramento-

She sings the litany. He delivers the sermon.

It is Sunday morning at All Saints Episcopal Church in Sacramento and both the Revs. Michael and Betsey Monnot preside over the worship services, one of several ways the church keeps down expenses.

"We trade off duties every week," said Betsey Monnot.

The two priests, who are married and have two children and another due in three weeks, said the church could afford one full-time clergyperson. So they agreed to job-share and serve as co-rectors.

"When you're a small church, you have to be creative," said Michael Monnot.
He echoes a message that Bishop Barry Beisner has been delivering to the members of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

Faced with declining membership and less money to pay salaries and maintain aging buildings, Beisner is calling on staff and laity to come up with new ways of keeping their church doors open.

More here-

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Surgeon-priest brings together religion and science

From Georgia-

Healing the sick doesn't always require a medical degree, says the Rev. Dr. Talmadge A. "Joe" Bowden.

The surgeon and Episcopal priest believes all of humanity is called by God to care for each other. Sometimes, that can be as simple as telling someone you've been thinking about them.

"If someone calls you up and tells you 'I miss you,' man, if that don't make your immune proteins jump up in the air, nothing will," he said. "It's concern, like when Jesus talks about compassion."

Bowden brings his message on the ways in which religion and medical science are working together to St. Peter's Episcopal Church on Feb. 27.

The half-day discussion titled "Religion and Health: Separate or One?" marks the Skidaway Island church's fourth annual spirituality and health workshop.

Bowden is chief of general and vascular surgery at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Administration Medical Center and emeritus professor of surgery at the Medical College of Georgia.

He's also an Episcopal priest and an assisting priest at two parishes in Augusta.

More here-

Married Catholic priest will be Nashville diocese's first

From Nashville-

Prentice Dean will be ordained as a Catholic priest on Monday — while his wife watches.

The former Episcopal priest and father of two will become the first married priest in the Nashville diocese.

He resigned from the Episcopal Church because he thought the denomination had moved away from traditional Christianity. He converted to Catholicism five years ago, and, after Monday, he'll be celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and handling all the responsibilities of a priest.

Since the 1980s, the Roman Catholic Church has allowed former Episcopal priests, like Dean, to be ordained under a special provision. Church leaders say the provision is an act of grace toward converts. But some wonder why that same grace isn't extended to former Catholic priests who left the ministry to marry.

Right now, about 100 married former Episcopal priests have been ordained. Still, the vast majority of the more than 40,000 priests in the United States are celibate.

The tradition of celibacy is rooted in the Bible. Jesus never married, and the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that marriage is a distraction from serving God.

Eventually, Christians were divided on the issue. Greek-speaking Christians allowed priests to marry before they were ordained. Latin-speaking Christians, on the other hand, required celibacy.

That split continues today. Roman Catholics from the Latin rite tradition, which includes most of the world's Catholics, require celibacy. But Eastern Rite Catholics allow married men to become priests, as do Orthodox Christians.

More here-

Replacing Springfield Episcopal bishop could be contentious process

From Illinois-

Springfield’s Episcopal Church diocese will be under national scrutiny as it seeks a successor for Bishop Peter Beckwith.

Beckwith has allied himself with the conservative wing of the broader Anglican umbrella, and the timing of his retirement, which took effect Feb. 1, caught many in the church off guard.

Diocesan officials believe they can adhere to a timeline that will result in consecration of a new bishop by March 2011. But knotty problems may lie ahead, particularly because whomever local Episcoplians choose as their new bishop must also be approved by a majority of U.S. bishops and standing committees — delegates from Episcopal dioceses around the country.

“It’s a hugely messy situation,” said David Virtue of VirtueOnline, an orthodox Anglican Web site. “A search for his replacement will be ugly in the extreme.”

“Usually these votes are pro forma,” said the Very Rev. John Bettman, vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Carlinville. “But the church is so polarized nationally, (the candidate) might be a problem now.”

Beckwith, who was consecrated in Springfield 18 years ago, retired two years before the mandatory age of 72. He thinks the transition will be smoother than critics believe.

“Ugly? I don’t think much of that assessment,” Beckwith said in an interview at his Springfield home. “I have more confidence in the clergy and people than that.

“I’ve told people you’re going to get the bishop that you deserve.”

More here-