Saturday, April 3, 2010

Signs, signs every where signs #28

From England. (Thanks to Stephanie Fagan)

The Catholic Church's Blind Spot?

From CBS

My favorite moment of the whole child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was when Father Klaus Malangré suggested that Peter Hullermann, the redoubtable German pedophile priest, might be sent to work in a girls' school. No boys, no molestation. Or, in churchly language, no occasion of sin. Problem solved! Plus, the good father would spend his life warding off female cooties. Malangré must not have heard about priests--and they do exist--who abused both male and female children. Nor had he learned the lesson of Watergate: the cover-up is worse than the crime.

The church has yet to learn that lesson. There is a positively Nixonian smarmy truculence in the response of church hierarchs to the ongoing scandal, which now involves Pope Benedict XVI himself. On Palm Sunday, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan urged worshipers at St. Patrick's Cathedral to show "love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus."

On his blog, Dolan explains that what gets Catholics angry is not just the molestations themselves but also that "the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone." Oh, really? Does the name Mary Kay Letourneau mean nothing to him? This man needs to read the tabloids, which have for years featured an endless parade of molesting teachers, doctors, dentists, therapists and scout leaders. To go by the news, looking at child pornography on one's office computer is so common, it's a wonder anyone finds the time to abuse real kids. At this late date I doubt anyone is unaware that the sexual abuse of children is a widespread phenomenon.

More here-

Atheists’ Collection Plate, With Religious Inspiration

From The New York Times-

Four or five Sundays in 2005, his own atheism notwithstanding, Dale McGowan took his family into the neo-Gothic grandeur of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis on a kind of skeptic’s field trip.

Mr. McGowan went because he wanted his three young children to have “religious literacy.” He went because his mother-in-law, Barbara Maples, belonged to the congregation. He went because, as a college professor with a fondness for weekend sweatpants, church gave him the rare chance to wear the ties she invariably gave him for his birthday.

Something else began to strike Mr. McGowan on those visits. He listened to the vicar preach about ministering to the poor, and he learned that the cathedral helped to sponsor a weekly dinner for the homeless. Most importantly, he watched as the collection plate moved through the pews and as his mother-in-law, who volunteered at those dinners, dropped in her offering.

All those details added up to a nonbeliever’s revelation. The theology and the voluntarism and the philanthropy, Mr. McGowan came to realize, were part of a greater whole, a commitment to charity as part of religious practice. And on that practice, this atheist felt lacking. To put it in church slang, he was convicted.

More here-

Church is taking artistic approach to Stations of the Cross

From Ft. Worth

As Easter approaches, St. Martin's in the Field Episcopal Church in Keller is giving a new twist to an ancient ritual -- walking in the footsteps of Jesus on his way to the crucifixion.

On display at the church are highly intimate, personalized versions of the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross done by local artists who sought to identify with the agony of Jesus.

"It's part of our taking our journey with Jesus during Lent," said the Rev. Jim Reynolds, the rector.

The project was organized by Valerie Reinke, the church's director of education, and artist Kathleen Dello Stritto of Justin. The works, including one showing a blood-stained garment, have been incorporated into the church's worship leading up to Easter.

The personalized stations will be on display to the public April 10, an event that will feature a free wine and cheese reception in the church's parish hall during which the artists will discuss their works.

"What the artists chose to paint are part of their lives and their spiritual journey," said Stritto who painted her version of the 14th station, Jesus being laid in the tomb.
Her painting shows a rocky cave and in the foreground are dogwood blossoms -- cross-shaped flowers tinged with red tips that for many symbolize the blood of Christ.
"It is a real cave we visited last spring in southeast Kansas," Stritto said. "The dogwood was in bloom."

Read more:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

"Descent From The Cross"
by Ed Knippers

Church leaders unite against the `idolatry' of atheism

From Australia-

THE creeping forces of secularism and materialism were addressed by several religious leaders during their Good Friday messages yesterday, with Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen condemning atheism as a form of self-worship.

"As we can see by the sheer passion and virulence of the atheist -- they seem to hate the Christian God -- we are not dealing here with cool philosophy up against faith without a brain," Dr Jensen told the congregation at Sydney's St Andrew's Cathedral.

"Atheism is every bit of a religious commitment as Christianity itself.

"It represents the latest version of the human assault on God, born out of resentment that we do not in fact rule the world and that God calls on us to submit our lives to Him. It is a form of idolatry in which we worship ourselves."

Dr Jensen's comments came a day after Catholic Archbishop George Pell praised church-based community organisations "paid for by the Christian majority" for helping make the Australian way of life the envy of the world, but noted that atheists did not sponsor any community services.

More here-

St. Andrew’s Leaves S.C. Diocese

From The Living Church-

Two days after the Bishop of South Carolina announced a ceasefire in a long-standing property dispute, another large parish took final steps in separating from the Episcopal Church.

On March 27 the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence told the diocese’s annual convention that All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Waccamaw, and All Saints’ Church (Anglican Mission in the Americas) had reached an out-of-court settlement in their legal battle for church property.

On March 29 the congregation of St. Andrew’s, Mt. Pleasant, acted on a parish survey in December 2009 that recommended leaving the Episcopal Church to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Holy Spirit.

The Rev. Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew’s, wrote to members of his congregation that the new affiliation will occur by April 2.

Wood reported that a preliminary count of the congregation’s votes showed 97 percent in favor of leaving the Episcopal Church for the ACNA. The votes will be certified by an independent accounting firm.

“Unity and discernment are both gifts worked in our lives by the Spirit,” he wrote. “Having said that, I am reminded that at least 19 members of St. Andrew’s may not be rejoicing in this vote and I commend them to you and your prayers as brothers and sisters in Christ. Please commit with me to ensure that St. Andrew’s will remain a parish where all are welcome to gather at the foot of the cross; sinners yet redeemed by the wonderful work of Christ.”

Historic church given cash boost for repairs

From the BBC Scotland-

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Historic Scotland are funding the work through a joint scheme.

The Renfrew Old Parish Church, where the queen worshipped when visiting Lord Blythswood, will receive £260,000 for urgent repairs.

The grant will allow the church's stone steeple to be rebuilt.

Reverend Lilly Easton, minister at the church, said: "The congregation is absolutely delighted to be receiving the money, especially in the current economic climate, and it will go a long way to helping us with the repairs.

"We see our parish as being of central importance to our church life and are glad to be moving forward with our refurbishment process."

Seven other churches across Scotland will also receive grants for essential repairs.
They include St Mary's (Of The Assumption) Pro-Cathedral and St Agnes' Church in Glasgow, St Fillan's Episcopal Church in Killin and Jamestown Parish Church in Dunbartonshire.

Also sharing in the £1m will be St Peter's Episcopal Church in Peebles, Dunlop Parish Church in Ayrshire and Innerleithen Parish Church in the Borders.

More here-

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Barbie ordained to the priesthood

From Episcopal Cafe-

Toymaker Mattell™ would not comment today on reports that Barbie™ has left the toy and fashion world to enter the Episcopal priesthood.

News from Boston broke earlier this week that the Rev'd Barbara Hightower Smythe of the Diocese of Atlanta, for years known simply as "Barbie", appears to have received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, and after having done an internship at famed Trinity Church, Copley Square, is now serving in an Episcopal parish somewhere in the northeastern US. The Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of EDS confirms that Hightower Smythe graduated magna cum laude.

Unitarian Universalist minister, fashion maven and part-time paparazzi Peace Bang, who writes Beauty Tips for Ministers, discovered Hightower Smythe and broke the news.

Photographs of the famed 11 inch tall doll clearly show her wearing the professional garb of Episcopal ministry.

Observers speculate it will be hard for Hightower Smythe to put aside the frivolities of her fashion years for the serious work of ministry, as her "Friends of Episcopal Priest Barbie" fan page now on Facebook demonstrates.

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Keaton, of Chatham, New Jersey, on seeing the pictures of Mo. Barbi, said, "There's something about a woman in a long black dress and a biretta that just screams the question, 'And this is traditional clergymen's clothing?'"

More here-

Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes clergy over 'persecuted' Christians

From The London Guardian-

The archbishop of Canterbury has delivered a stinging rebuke to Church of England clergy who publicly complain of persecution, reminding them that Christians in other parts of the world are suffering from "terrible communal violence" and are "living daily with threats and murders".

Rowan Williams, in uncharacteristically forthright language, used his ecumenical Easter letter to draw the attention of those hailing from "more comfortable environments" to the "butchery, intimidation … and harassment" experienced by Christians in places such as Egypt, Mosul, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

"We who live in more comfortable environments need to bear two things in mind. One is that fellow Christians under pressure, living daily with threats and murders, need our prayers and tangible support – by personal contact, by continually reminding our governments and media of these things.

"To a Christian experiencing these threats, it matters more than most of us could imagine simply to know that they are not alone and not forgotten.

"But the second point to remember is that we need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy, even in comfortable and relatively peaceful societies, for us to become consumed with anxiety about the future of Church and society."

More here-

Anglicans warn of lonely heart at the centre of glittering city

From Australia-

IF SYDNEY were a person, she would have a loud laugh but a lonely heart.

The city's Anglican archbishop, Peter Jensen, says ''our glittering city contains so much loneliness'', and he is so concerned he has made it the theme of his Easter message.

''You can have it all and still be miserable,'' he said. ''We are not meant to be alone.''

This year the archbishop will make it his mission to ease the loneliness of Sydneysiders by bringing them to church in a campaign that some say is placing too much pressure on overworked clergy.

Connect '09, last year's campaign to hand out a million copies of the gospel of St Luke around Sydney, has been extended and rebranded ''Connect for Life''.

Dr Jensen has also extended his own reach beyond the religious holidays like Easter, seizing on Anzac Day, which this year falls on a Sunday, to distribute a special DVD message in parishes throughout the Sydney Archdiocese.

And he is still committed to the mission he took on in 2002, to have 10 per cent of Sydney's population in ''Bible-based churches'' within the decade, although he admits progress is lagging.

''Our starting base was 2.5 to 2.7 per cent [of the population],'' he said, while conceding Anglicans are not too good at counting.

''There is slight growth. We are nowhere near the 10 per cent.''

More here-

Steeple ripped from Anglican church

From Canada-

A bizarre act of property damage at the old Anglican church in this town outside St. John’s Wednesday morning has left parishioners and townspeople stunned and angered.

A heated debate over the future of the 116-year-old church, which has been vacant for several years, entered a new dimension just after 8 a.m. when several people went to great lengths to rip the iconic steeple from its roof.

Several of the wooden supports for the five-metre high steeple appeared to be cut with a power tool, which was then violently pried from its perch, a drop of about 10 metres to the ground. The remains of a thick blue nylon rope was found still attached to a beam inside the steeple, and observers believe whoever carried out the act used a heavy vehicle to pull it down.

The steeple plowed peak-first into the ground, landing metres from nearby graves and gouging a trench in the grass.

In a testament to its workmanship, the steeple stayed intact, although the small cross that was attached to its crown was nowhere to be found.

Dozens of bewildered and angry residents gathered at the property following the incident, expressing shock that someone would take such action.

Read more:

Video here-

Families in Need Get Easter Food

From Pennsylvania-

Hundreds of less-fortunate families in Susquehanna County will have an Easter dinner this weekend thanks to the Bountiful Blessings Program and the community support that made it all possible.

Bags filled with the makings of an Easter dinner were handed out Wednesday at Saint Paul's Episcopal church in Montrose, one of three churches in Susquehanna County distributing food as part of the Bountiful Blessings Program.

Area high school students helped hand out the bags filled with canned goods, sweet treats, bread and an even an Easter ham all to ensure more than 750 needy families will have a good meal for the holiday.

"I bet they feel a lot better once they leave than when they came in you know. They get all this food," said Mike Marz, a Montrose High School junior.

"Having a full meal is sometimes a real problem for some of them, especially during the holidays when they have so many other demands on their limited income," said Reverand Paul Walker with St. Paul's church.

Organizers said the Bountiful Blessings program is really a community effort. Three school districts, nearly 20 churches and dozens of businesses and organizations collected money and food donations to make it all possible.

"It's a community that really cares for the people that live within it and they realize the responsibility to take care of one another. They have a vision that's community-centered rather than individualistic and I think that's a wonderful statement," added Walker.

More here-,0,5750168.story

General Theological Seminary suspends dean search, faces financial crunch

From Episcopal Life Online-

Facing what some have termed a financial crisis, the board of trustees of the General Theological Seminary has suspended its search for a new dean and president and is looking for ways to cover the expense of the 2010-2011 school year.

Meanwhile, at the request of the trustees, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will convene a small group of advisors outside of General to address the seminary's financial concerns. The group is meant to provide "fresh eyes and will serve in an advisory capacity," according to the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop.

A roundtable discussion will take place this spring in an effort to "offer additional possibilities for General's board of trustees to consider," Robertson said in a news release due to be posted here.

The members of the group have not yet been chosen and their names will not be released prior to the meeting, he said.

Dean and President Ward Ewing announced in December that he would retire when his successor was hired. The trustees decided March 29 to hire an interim executive director, according to seminary spokesman Bruce Parker. The duties of that position and how it might affect Ewing's plans to retire have not yet been determined, Parker and Ewing said.

The decisions came during a special meeting of the Manhattan-based seminary's board of trustees, six of whom are elected by the Episcopal Church's General Convention.

Earlier in March a consultant for the search process told the trustees' executive committee that the seminary faced a projected shortfall in operating funds, a news release from the seminary said.

More here-

SOUTH CAROLINA: Mount Pleasant parish members vote to leave Episcopal Church

From Episcopal Life Online-

Some 700 members of a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina have voted to leave the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew's Church in Mount Pleasant, said in a letter to the congregation, titled "The Time Has Come for Our Departure," that members of the vestry decided early on the morning of March 28 "to withdraw from and sever all ties with the Episcopal Church in the United States and to transfer its canonical residence to the Anglican Church in North America or another province of the worldwide Anglican Communion…"

The parish held a special meeting later that day during which 703 members, a majority of the 722 who cast ballots, voted to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church. Those voting also passed two related resolutions by similarly wide margins.

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence said in a March 30 letter to the diocese that he was "saddened" but "not surprised" by the news.

"As bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, I receive almost daily letters and emails from people across this church suggesting that our stance gives them encouragement to remain and persevere within the Episcopal Church," Lawrence wrote. "Yet here at home we could not hold one of our strongest congregations. The departure of the Episcopal Church from the way of Christ and the biblically rooted teachings of the church has become too discordant for them to tolerate any longer."

Lawrence said he hoped "many among us will look for ways to continue our mutual ministry and relationships" and added that he would be discussing "the arrangements to be made for those within the congregation who wish to remain within the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church" with Wood and the St. Andrew's and diocesan leadership.

More here-

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Should There Be an Inquisition for the Pope?

From The New York Times

It doesn’t seem right that the Catholic Church is spending Holy Week practicing the unholy art of spin.

Complete with crown-of-thorns imagery, the church has started an Easter public relations blitz defending a pope who went along with the perverse culture of protecting molesters and the church’s reputation rather than abused — and sometimes disabled and disadvantaged — children.

The church gave up its credibility for Lent. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday.

This week of special confessions and penance services is unfolding as the pope resists pressure from Catholics around the globe for his own confession and penance about the cascade of child sexual abuse cases that were ignored, even by a German diocese and Vatican office he ran.

If church fund-raising and contributions dry up, Benedict’s P.R. handlers may yet have to stage a photo-op where he steps out of the priest’s side of the confessional and enters the side where the rest of his fallible flock goes.

Or maybe 30-second spots defending the pope with Benedict’s voice intoning at the end: “I am infallible, and I approve this message.”

More here-

The origins of some of the Easter traditions celebrated

From Canada-

Where did the word “Maundy” in the name Maundy Thursday originate?

Many Bible scholars say it came from the Latin translation of words Jesus used speaking to his disciples as he finished the menial task of washing and drying their feet before they began the Seder meal they shared together to begin their observance of Passover, one of the most important celebrations of the Jewish year.

Meaning commandment, mandatum begins the sentence “A new commandment give to you, that you love one another as have loved you.”

Other scholars, however, claim the term comes from another Latin word, “mendicare,” meaning to beg, which came into old English as “maund,” giving the name “maunder” to the person begging and “maundsor” to the baskets beggars carried the Thursday of Holy Week, when the English king distributed money and food to some of the poor in London. In later years, the king or queen would give out maundy purses as they entered church that Thursday. In a way, this showed the sovereign’s care for the people actually blending together the two sources for the word maundy.

The Queen carries on this tradition today when she gives out these maundy purses that contain specially minted coins to a group of old-age pensioners during the church service she attends. Of course each year it’s a different group at a different church in a different part of the country.

In the ancient Middle East, where people wore only sandals or no footwear at all, was a mark of respect for a host to provide water and drying cloths for guests to wash their feet before entering the home. This had a dual purpose, as first it refreshed the guests, making them feel more comfortable. Secondly, it helped prevent them from tracking germ-laden dirt into the house from the often garbage-strewn, dusty or muddy streets. A well-to-do host would have a servant perform this task.

Mediaeval European kings would invite 12 poor people (representing the disciples) into their castles or palaces and take on Christ’s role of humbly washing their feet before serving them a meal. The lords, barons and clergy repeated this, as well as the giving of maundy money throughout the various kingdoms.

More here-

ENGLAND: Archbishop of Canterbury offers Holy Week reflections

From Episcopal Life Online-

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is giving three Holy Week lectures in a series entitled "The beginning of the Gospel -- reading Mark's life of Jesus."
In the March 29 lecture, titled "History and Memory," Williams talked about Mark, the origins of his work and how the Gospel of Mark "has an exceptional impact." He also spoke about the purpose and the goal of the book and what scholarship has been doing with Mark's gospel for the last century. A questions and answers session followed the lecture.

The March 30 lecture is titled "Unveiling Secrets" and the final lecture on March 31 is to address "A Lifelong Passion."

Williams is presenting the lectures at Canterbury Cathedral.

Multimedia versions of the lectures are available here.

In addition, Lambeth Palace has posted a Holy Week video message in which the archbishop calls the days leading up to Easter "a week when we discover in a way we don't do at any other time just who we are and just who God is." A transcript of his message is here.

The links can be found here-

The Church in Nigeria

From Nigeria-

Archbishop Peter J Akinola recently retired as Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria after a very eventful and evidently successful tenure. He was also Bishop of Abuja; Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa; Chairman of the "South-South Encounter" of the Anglican Communion and President of the Christian Association of Nigeria".

Bishop Akinola was most known worldwide for his opposition to the ordination of homosexuals within the Anglican Communion. In 2003, he led a revolt against the planned ordination of Jeffrey John and Gene Robinson as Bishops of Reading and New Hampshire respectively precipitating a crisis in the Communion when the US Episcopals proceeded with Gene Robinson's ordination. He became leader of a newly formed Convocation of Anglicans in North America, Anglicans who preferred to join with Akinola and the African Bishops who were irrevocably opposed to the ordain these homosexuals in the face of the explicit condemnation of homosexuality in several parts of the Bible.

Many true Christians in Nigeria, including non-Anglicans (and this columnist) were justifiably proud of, and encouraged by the leadership and principled position taken by Akinola. TIME Magazine was also impressed and nominated the Bishop as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006, recognising him in the category of leaders and revolutionaries. Bishop Akinola chose fidelity to the scriptures rather than bending to the will of the western Anglican Church, which appears to have lost its way. I have however wished that Bishop Akinola would devote the same zeal he put to work against homosexuality towards issues which plague the church and society in Nigeria such as witchcraft and occultism, polygamy, election rigging, poor governance and most importantly corruption!

More here-

S.C. church breaks with diocese

From South Carolina-

St. Andrew's Church-Mount Pleasant has voted to sever its ties with The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, becoming the second parish in the diocese to break away and realign with a different church governing body, after All Saint's Church in Pawleys Island left The Episcopal Church in 2003, prompting a court battle over property that ended this month.

At a special meeting Sunday, St. Andrew's vestry unanimously adopted a resolution that transferred the parish's canonical residence to the Anglican Church in North America, a recently established organization meant to provide theologically conservative congregations an alternative to The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Steve Wood posted results of the vote on his blog and expressed satisfaction that, after years of consideration, the parish had decided to go its own way.

"I rejoice and give thanks for both the clarity of this discernment process and the unity of purpose within this parish demonstrated by this vote," he wrote. "Having said that, I am reminded that at least 19 members of St. Andrew's may not be rejoicing in this vote and I commend them to you and your prayers as brothers and sisters in Christ. Please commit with me to ensure that St. Andrew's will remain a parish where all are welcome to gather at the foot of the cross."
St. Andrew's will affiliate with the Diocese of The Holy Spirit, part of the Anglican Church in North America. Its bishop will be the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, rector of All Saints Church in Dale City, Va.

St. Andrew's members ratified the resolution after the vestry vote. More than 700 members, or 97 percent, voted in favor of the change. Nineteen members voted against "disaffiliation."

Read more:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Essay: Concern for Progress

From The Living Church-

The bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church (USA) have consented to the election of Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the diocese of Los Angeles. That consent sadly confirms that TEC is determined to ignore all the repeated appeals of the wider Communion and, in the closing words of The Windsor Report, “walk apart.”

Since that report in 2004, it has been clear that the moratorium on same-sex blessings was being ignored in a significant number of dioceses, despite assurances otherwise. It has, however, been possible to claim that TEC was strictly adhering to the Communion’s repeated requests for a moratorium on “the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.” Such a claim is now impossible. We are now indisputably in a radically new situation. TEC as a body has determinedly, perhaps irrevocably, chosen autonomy over “communion with autonomy and accountability” (Anglican Covenant 3.1.2, quoting the Primates’ Letter from Alexandria, March 2009).

This is not simply a matter of disagreement about biblical interpretation and sexual ethics, although these are central and important. It is now very clearly also a fundamental matter of truth-telling and trust. In September 2007, at the Primates’ request and after meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, TEC bishops confirmed they would “exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” They made clear that “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons” were among such candidates.

More here-

Leaked police document exposes bias for sacked Bishop

From Zimbabwe-

A leaked police document has exposed the brazen police bias for sacked Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, whose small band of violent supporters have been harassing rival parishioners. Kunonga was excommunicated after trying to unilaterally withdraw the Harare diocese from the Central African Province. A fight over property saw the High Court order both factions to share, while the matter is still being dealt with.

However on the 26th March the Officer Commanding Harare Province, Superintendent A.M Nyakurimwa, issued an ‘Operational Order’ instructing police to ‘ensure that only one church service is conducted - by the Kunonga faction.’ The order goes on to map out the deployment of officers for the operation and instructs Police Internal and Security Intelligence officers to be deployed ‘for intelligence gathering in their respective areas of policing.’

Co-Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa said he was ‘deeply saddened and disturbed that an order like that had been issued.’ He told our Behind the Headlines series that he was surprised because, ‘only last week this particular issue was a subject of immense debate in cabinet. Thereafter I had a detailed discussion with the Commissioner General of Police, Augustine Chihuri, and the two of us agreed that there is a judgment in place to be followed by everybody,’ he said.

Mutsekwa said the government had since deployed the National Healing Ministers to intervene in the dispute within the Anglican Church. Asked why the courts could not do their job and deal with the pending case Mutsekwa said he believed in judicial independence and as a member of the executive arm of government he could not cross the line and tell them what to do.

More here-

Anglicans and Episcopalians: Anglican groups around the world accept Vatican invitation

From Religiosope-

In discussion with conservative Anglicans, Pope Benedict XVI drew up new guidelines in a document known as Anglicanorum Coetibus (or "Groups of Anglicans") which would make it easier for parishes and larger groups of disaffected Anglicans to convert to Catholicism. The agreement would allow for Anglicans to retain parts of their liturgy as well as establish "personal ordinariates," a structure similar to dioceses that would give them a measure of autonomy to preserve their traditions.

In early March, the Anglican Church in America, a U.S.-based denomination that broke off from the mainline Episcopal Church, voted to seek entry into the Catholic Church. "The House of Bishops requested the establishment of an Ordinariate in the US as prescribed in the Apostolic Constitution," that parishes could then join. There are 100 parishes in the ACA.

A member of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the ACA is the largest of several Anglican groups to seek group conversion into the Catholic Church. The United Kingdom branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a worldwide umbrella group of traditionalist Anglican churches, the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, and the Australian branch of Forward in Faith, both conservative Anglican bodies, also accepted the Vatican's invitation.

More here-

E. J. Dionne: Church's worldly weakness

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

How in the name of God can the Roman Catholic Church put the pedophilia scandal behind it?

I do not invoke God's name lightly. The church's problem is, above all, theological and religious. Its core difficulty is that, rather than drawing on its Christian resources, the church has acted almost entirely on the basis of this world's imperatives and standards.

It has worried about lawsuits. It has worried about its image. It has worried about itself as an institution and about protecting its leaders from public scandal. In so doing, it has made millions of Catholics righteously furious and aggravated every one of its problems.

So instead of going away, the scandal keeps coming back - lately, in a form that seems to challenge Pope Benedict XVI himself. It was sickening to read Thursday's New York Times story reporting that Vatican officials "did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church."

In Germany, the pope's home country, more than 300 victims have come forward in recent weeks, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose party has Catholic roots, called the scandal "a major challenge for our society."

In the case of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, the Wisconsin priest who molested deaf boys, the Vatican did what every institution does in a scandal: It issued a statement putting the best face on its decisions.

"In light of the facts that Father Murphy was elderly and in very poor health, and that he was living in seclusion and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years," the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said, "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the Archbishop of Milwaukee give consideration to addressing the situation by, for example, restricting Father Murphy's public ministry and requiring that Father Murphy accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts." Murphy, he noted, "died approximately four months later without further incident."

More here-

St. James parish faces legal setback by state

From California-

The leaders of St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach, who have been fighting to keep the property after splitting from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, have nearly run out of legal options after being dealt another setback by a state appellate court, the diocese’s attorney said today.

A 2-1 ruling Friday by panel of the Fourth Appellate District, Third Division, reaffirmed that the diocese owns Orthe church property.

St. James leaders criticized the ruling, calling it a “revolutionary” decision that deprived them of submitting evidence to a trial court.

“This decision is not only stunning and overreaching, but it commits a grave injustice,” said St. James attorney Eric Sohlgren.

Sohlgren argued that St. James never got a chance to have a trial on the issues.

“Anyone with a fair sense of justice should be deeply troubled by what the Episcopal Church and two justices have done here,” Sohlgren said. “Due process and our Constitution require that people’s property should not be confiscated by religious leaders just because they say so.”

Diocese attorney John R. Shiner said the state Supreme Court ruled the property belongs to the diocese.

“It was sent back to the trial court and the trial court believed the California Supreme Court did not go that far in its ruling,” Shiner said.

Read more:

Second story here-

VIRGINIA: State Supreme Court will hear Episcopal Church's, diocese's appeals April 13

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Supreme Court of Virginia has told the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church that it will hear arguments April 13 in two cases concerning church property, according to the diocese.
Both the diocese and the Episcopal Church had asked the court nearly a year ago to review a Fairfax County Court judge's rulings in a series of church property lawsuits.

The appeal is based on a number of grounds, including a challenge to the constitutionality of Virginia's one-of-a-kind "Division Statute" (Section 57-9(A)), which dates to the Civil War and is triggered when there is a so-called "division" of a church or religious society, as well as the rulings of the circuit court in applying the law. The county judge's ruling has allowed former Episcopalians to claim Episcopal Church property as their own.

The litigation involves nine Episcopal parishes of the diocese which the majority of members and clergy left to form congregations of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The case originally involved members of 11 congregations of the Virginia diocese who left the Episcopal Church to form CANA congregations. The departing members of nine of those congregations then filed claims to parish property under the Division Statute.

The diocese and the Episcopal Church in September 2008 reached a legal settlement with two of the original 11 congregations, Potomac Falls Church in Potomac Falls and Christ the Redeemer Church in Chantilly, neither of which held any real property.

Judge Randy Bellows had previously ruled that the Division Statute applied to the case and overrode the Episcopal Church's and diocese's claims to the property. He also rejected the contention of the diocese and the Episcopal Church that his application of the law was unconstitutional.

The Virginia diocese and the Episcopal Church have opposed the congregations' claims and asked the courts to declare that the property must be held and used for the mission of the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

More information about the cases, including the Supreme Court filings, is available here.

More here-

Monday, March 29, 2010

Editorial: Canonically Permissible Graciousness

From The Living Church-

In September 2009, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told journalist Denis O’Hayer that she would be willing to consecrate another openly gay or lesbian bishop because of her canonical responsibility to “take order for the consecration of bishops, when duly elected” (Canon I.2.3–4).

By December, the Presiding Bishop participated in a meeting of the newly christened Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. That body issued a brief statement affirming the Archbishop of Canterbury’s plea that the Episcopal Church continue to show the gracious restraint asked of it by the Windsor Report.

Now these matters are no longer abstractions. The Presiding Bishop intends to preside at the consecration of the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool on the afternoon of May 15 in Long Beach, Calif.

To put the matter another way, on May 15 the Presiding Bishop intends to do the very thing that the Joint Standing Committee — on which she serves — urged the Episcopal Church not to do. Many readers will remember that the Episcopal Church has walked this path before. In October 2003 the Primates Meeting urged the Episcopal Church not to proceed with consecrating Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. Weeks later, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III served as Bishop Robinson’s chief consecrator.

Granted: Bishops do not set the Episcopal Church’s policy unilaterally. Granted: A majority of bishops and standing committees gave their consent for consecrating Canon Glasspool as a bishop suffragan. Granted: Canon Glasspool will become Bishop Glasspool on May 15, regardless of which three bishops serve as her primary consecrators.

Nevertheless, even a rudimentary grasp of Jesus’ admonition to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37) highlights a conflict between the Episcopal Church’s rhetoric of reconciliation and autonomous actions. Leaders of other Anglican provinces have good reason to think that for some Episcopalians, words have become symbol systems in which today’s yes becomes tomorrow morning’s no.

More here-

Mary Kenny: Christians are at their best when persecuted, marginalised, disrespected and denied their rights

From Ireland-

In cosy arrangements with power, or social acceptance by the Establishment, churches grow arrogant and complacent

The former Archbishop of Canterbury -- that is, the leader of Anglicans worldwide -- George Carey, with six other senior Church of England bishops, has accused Gordon Brown's government of "persecuting" Christians in Britain.

The main case of contention centres on a "dedicated nurse", Shirley Chaplin, who is taking her local National Health Hospital trust to a tribunal for removing her from patient care. Mrs Chaplin's offence was to wear a crucifix around her neck while nursing. Carey points out that the lady has worn the said crucifix ever since her girlhood Confirmation.

He and his colleagues (the Bishops of Winchester, Chester, Hereford, Blackburn, Litchfield and the former Bishop of Rochester) have concluded that, on a range of issues, Christians in Britain are being discriminated against.

People of other faiths are permitted to wear the emblems of their religions -- the Sikh turban, the Islamic niqab, even the Jewish star of David -- causing no objections. Christians, alone, are asked to remove "offensive" religious symbols.

In addition, say their Lordships, other elements of Christian rights have been constantly eroded. Christian faith schools are to have government-controlled sex education programme foisted on them (although the British government has a lamentable record of lowering young teenage pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases).

More here-

NZ church pleased over billboard ruling

More on the Billboard in New Zealand

A New Zealand church is hoping its Easter message will prove "interesting" to the public, but doesn't expect it to match its controversial Christmas billboard, which led to complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA backed Auckland's St Matthew-in-the-City, ruling that the Christmas billboard outside the Anglican church last December was not offensive.

The billboard, which attracted attentions overseas, showed a picture of Mary and Joseph in bed and carried the caption: "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow".

It was vandalised several times and, after a woman attacked it with a knife, the church removed it out of concern for public safety.

Spokesman the Reverend Clay Nelson said the church was pleased but not surprised by the ASA decision.

"We feel our case was strong and they agreed," he said.

"We can move on now from Christmas and get ready for Easter."

Nelson said the Easter poster was still being worked on, but "a good billboard is a hard act to follow".

"We hope it will be interesting," he said.

More here-

Nigerian Anglican primate speaks out on fear of women

From The London Times-

I'm not sure I ever got round to blogging on this, but readers here may recall the recent presidential address to his diocesan synod by Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, which The Times ran an exclusive on and in which he called for an end to the Anglican wars over sexuality. The Bishop declared himself He declared himself 'in sympathy' with Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill lifting the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious buildings, including churches. Peter Ould is among the many who have posted counter arguments.

The latest to comment is the new Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.

In his sermon at the four-hour installation service, which took place at the Anglican cathedral in Abuja last Thursday, Archbishop Okoh said: 'The present crisis in the Anglican Communion, at the moment huge sums of money are being spent to undermine marriage. We are unable to accept this. The recent presidential address to his diocese by the Bishop of Liverpool is not acceptable to us. He argued that in the past people had to live side by side in the church, who held opposite views on war.

'In the same way he is saying, if some people say that same-sex relationships are okay, they can carry on, and if some say they are not okay, they can carry on too. The danger is of establishing two authorities in the Church, one of the Bible and the other the canon of a deviant subculture. We refuse to accept it. For whom does the Bishop of Liverpool speak? For himself and his diocese, but he does not speak for the Church of Nigeria. He also spoke of a direction for the Anglican Communion. We do not know if he has the authority to speak on that. If the Communion Covenant is intended to carry the spread of the homosexual lifestyle thoughout the communion, it is doomed to fail.

More here-

Signs, signs every where signs #27

Maybe Brad Pitt and Edward Norton live in the neighborhood?

Getting Creative With A Passover Staple: Gefilte Fish

From NPR-

Monday night marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Across the world, Jews will sit down to meals of ceremonial food. There's matzo, symbolizing the exodus from Egypt, and wine to celebrate freedom. Then there's gefilte fish.

These poached fish patties have been called the national dish of the Ashkenazi, the Jews of Eastern Europe. But as tastes change and Jews travel far from Europe — to places like the West Coast of the United States — they have found ways to keep the tradition alive.

That doesn't have to mean gefilte fish in a jar. Robert Sternberg, a cookbook author, culinary historian and rabbi, finds the stuff inedible.

"Wouldn't touch it," he says. "Once you've had the real thing, you can tell the difference."

Sternberg's grandmother came from a small town in Lithuania and used to make her traditional gefilte fish from carp, whitefish and pike — all fresh. Really fresh.

More here-

Sunday, March 28, 2010

OCEANSIDE: After split, St. Anne's congregations move on

From San Diego-

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego is reviving St. Anne's congregation in Oceanside after winning a court fight last year to reclaim the West Street church from a breakaway congregation.
"We don't have a presence there (in Oceanside) and we would like to restore that presence," said Father Steve Wendfeldt, the priest in charge of the revived congregation.

The diocese resumed Oceanside services Sunday in a temporary location in the chapel of All Saint's Cemetery, 200 Peyri Drive, said Hannah Miller, the diocese's communications director.
About a dozen people attended the 10 a.m. services, Wendfeldt said. It was the first meeting for the group in the more than three years since the former St. Anne's congregation separated from the diocese.

St. Anne's broke from the national Episcopal Church USA in 2006 as part of a theological dispute within the denomination over what the Bible means, who Jesus Christ is and whether the Bible and other doctrine should be re-evaluated and changed because of today's culture.
Dozens of congregations severed ties with the denomination because of the rift.

Although the revived Oceanside congregation is small, "it's a good place to start," Wendfeldt said. "It just takes time to develop a new congregation; that's essentially what we're doing."
Wendfeldt figures that more people will be drawn to the congregation once it moves back into the church building, which diocese officials hope will happen next month.

"It makes it a whole lot easier to a place as a base where I can have office hours and a wonderful worship area," Wendfeldt said.

More here-

S.C. Diocese Engages in 'Battle' with Episcopal Church

From Christian Post-

Though the Diocese of South Carolina remains affiliated with The Episcopal Church, the two are waging a battle over Scripture and polity.

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence was not hesitant this week to express his continuing frustrations with the national church body's "false gospel" and ongoing pursuit of litigations.

"The distractions that come from the decisions others have made within The Episcopal Church have created restlessness in my spirit," he said at the diocese's 219th annual convention which concluded Friday.

"Like those in the Church at Corinth with whom St. Paul was confronted, many within the leadership of The Episcopal Church have grown willful," he lamented. "They will have their way though it is contrary to the received teaching of God’s Holy Word, the trustworthy traditions of the Christian Faith, and the expressed will of the Anglican Communion."

Lawrence specifically mentioned the recent approval by a majority of Episcopal Church leaders for the ordination of a partnered lesbian. The Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool will be consecrated in May as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

"Clearly these are disruptive challenges to the teaching we have received from the last two thousand years in the church of Jesus Christ," Lawrence said.

More here-

Eco-Palms bring sustainability to Christian holy day

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Today as members of St. Andrew Lutheran Church wave palm fronds to commemorate how Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem, they will do so believing that Jesus would approve of how their palms were harvested.

The Shadyside church uses Eco-Palms, which are harvested by workers who earn fair wages and practice preservation of tropical forests.

"They're more expensive than other palms, just as the coffee we serve here is more expensive because it is fair trade. But it's a statement of social justice that we're glad to make," said the Rev. Janet Grill, pastor of St. Andrew, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"It makes sense that when we celebrate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, it's done in a way that honors Jesus in those who work for very little money."

Eco-Palms are full fronds attached to stems, not the long, narrow strips of torn leaf that many churches use.

"The kids love it because you can really wave them. I love them because you can't use them as spears," she said.

Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, is based on John 12:13. It says that when Jesus' admirers heard he was entering Jerusalem "they took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!' "

Read more:

Next Year in the White House: A Seder Tradition

From the New York Times-

One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

The day had been long, the hour was late, and the young men had not been home in months. So they had cadged some matzo and Manischewitz wine, hoping to create some semblance of the holiday.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. “Hey, is this the Seder?” Barack Obama asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)

More here-