The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania's Standing Committee plans a "time of open conversation and an opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings" about the reinstatement of Bishop Charles E. Bennison as diocesan bishop.
Evening Prayer will begin at 4:30 p.m. at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral and conclude after Compline at 6 p.m.
In between, Assisting Bishop Rodney Michel will guide the conversation, the Standing Committee said in a letter.
The Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop announced Aug. 4 that it had overturned a previous finding that Bennison had committed serious disciplinary offenses warranting his removal ("deposition") from the ordained ministry. The court of review concluded that Bennison had engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy; but found that the charge was barred by the church's statute of limitations.
The decision by the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop is here.
The Standing Committee, which has been the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese since Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori inhibited Bennison in October 2007, said in its letter that it met Aug. 5 "to share both our concerns and hopes for this Diocese in the new light of the decision of the court of review."
Bennison said during a news conference after the ruling was announced that he intends to return to the diocese on Aug. 16. The Standing Committee said that Bennison had asked Michel to "continue for a time" and that Bennison plans to meet initially with diocesan leaders "as we enter a new stage in our relationship together."
The Rt Rev Charles E. Bennison Jr was suspended from his senior post in the Episcopal Church of the USA in 2007 and later removed permanently, over his failure to investigate his brother’s relationship with a 14-year-old.
But a church appeals court has now reversed that decision, despite agreeing he was wrong not to look into the case, and restored him as Bishop of Pennsylvania because the events took place 35 years ago.
In its ruling, the ecclesiastical Court of Review concluded: “We find that Appellant committed conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. Because the statute of limitations has run on that offense, we have no choice under the canons of the Church but to reverse the judgment of the Trial Court finding that Appellant is guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy under the First Offence.”
When Bishop Bennison was in his first position as a parish priest in California in 1973, he hired his younger brother, John, to help out with youth groups. His brother, who was married and a newly ordained deacon, went on to have an affair with a girl who was then, at 14, under age.
“John, wearing his clerical collar, began picking up the minor female at school in his green Porsche automobile,” according to court documents.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sends missionaries door-to-door to spread its message, is reaching out to Western Pennsylvania as part of a new multi-state advertising campaign.
Pittsburgh is one of nine cities -- with Baton Rouge, Colorado Springs, Jacksonville, Rochester, N.Y., Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Tucson and Minneapolis -- where the Mormon church is running "branding" ads on television and radio.
Online, billboard and bus advertising will complement those spots in coming weeks. The campaign is scheduled to run through the end of the year.
"Mormon missionaries used to go door-to-door ... or spread their message in the town square. The world is changing. The town square is on the Internet," said Ron Wilson, manager of Internet and marketing for the church in Salt Lake City.
"We were looking for markets that were small enough that gave us the most efficiency for our money and lined up with our missions there," Wilson said.
Ever since 2003, when the Episcopal Church consecrated an openly gay man as New Hampshire's bishop, it has been under fire from conservative Anglicans around the world. Including some within its own ranks.
Bishop Peter Beckwith made headlines as one of several outspoken American bishops unhappy with the state of the Episcopal Church over the last decade. Beckwith led the Springfield, Ill., Diocese for 18 years. The diocese of about 5,000 people encompasses Southern and eastern-central Illinois and includes congregations in Alton, Belleville, Carbondale, Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Granite City and O'Fallon.
Beckwith retired in February, and today, clergy and lay leaders from the diocese will come together to choose four nominees from a slate of 14 who will stand for election in September to succeed him.
The Episcopal Church is the 2.3 million-member U.S. branch of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. It is one of 38 Anglican provinces around the world, the majority of which opposed the gay bishop's consecration in 2003.
According to church law, anyone in the Anglican Communion can be nominated for bishop. In the case of the Springfield Diocese, all the candidates are part of the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Anthony Holder, vicar of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in O'Fallon and president of the Standing Committee, the diocese's eight-member ecclesiastical authority between bishops, said nine other candidates refused their nominations.
With those words last week on Facebook, Anne Rice delivered a wake-up call for organized religion. The question is whether it will be recognized as such.
"I remain committed to Christ as always," she wrote, "but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and deservedly infamous group. For 10 years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."
You will recall that the author, famed for her vampire novels, made a much-publicized return to the Catholicism of her youth after years of calling herself an atheist. Now, years later, she says she hasn't lost her faith, but she's had it up to here with organized religion.
"In the name of Christ," she wrote, "I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life."
If that was not nearly enough for atheist observers, one of whom berated her online for refusing to completely give up her "superstitious delusions," it was surely plenty for people of faith. But Ms. Rice is hardly the only one who feels as she does.
There are several reasons why I don't object to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site, but the key reason is my affection for Broadway show tunes.
Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago, President Barack Obama and his wife held "A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House," a concert in the East Room by some of Broadway's biggest names, singing some of Broadway's most famous hits. Because my wife is on the board of the public TV station that organized the evening, WETA, I got to attend, but all I could think of was: I wish the whole country were here.
It wasn't just the great performances of Audra McDonald, Nathan Lane, Idina Menzel, Elaine Stritch, Karen Olivo, Tonya Pinkins, Brian d'Arcy James, Marvin Hamlisch and Chad Kimball, or the spirited gyrations of the students from the Joy of Motion Dance Center and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts performing "You Can't Stop the Beat" -- it was the whole big, rich stew. African-American singers and Hispanic-American dancers belting out the words of Jewish and Irish immigrant composers, accompanied by white musicians whose great-great-grandparents came over on the Mayflower for all I know -- all performing for America's first black president whose middle name is Hussein.
The show was so full of life, no one could begrudge Elaine Stritch, 84, for getting a little carried away and saying to Mr. Obama, seated in the front row: "I'd love to get drunk with the president."
CHRISTIAN groups have expressed dismay at a Channel 4 programme that investigated African churches in the UK that brand children as witches, describing it as “im balanced”.
Churches Together in England, the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), and the Evangelical Alliance issued a joint statement after the screening on 26 July of the documentary Dispatches: Britain’s witch children, which reported on the alleged abuse of children and vulnerable adults by pastors who appeared to label them as witches or possessed by demons.
The groups said that they were “disappointed” that Channel 4 made no attempt to contact them for comment during the production of the programme, and are “dismayed that the programme did not feature any Christian representatives, who would have condemned these practices and provided the context that they are not tolerated in the vast majority of African churches.”
The organisations, which pointed out that none of the churches featured in the programme were members of the Evangelical Alliance or Churches Together, said that they would be making a representation to Channel 4 to explain their “unhappiness with the imbalance shown by the programme”.
A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: “As the Evangelical Alliance and Churches Together say, none of the churches or pastors featured in the programme are members of the organisations and were, therefore, not approached. . . Nevertheless, the programme did properly feature important contributions from AFRUCA [Africans Unite Against Child Abuse] and the Victoria Climbié Foundation.”
THE Church of England “needs strong Catholic hearts and voices” to defeat the proposed legislation on women bishops, a group of Anglo-Catholic bishops said in an open letter to their constituency last week.
The letter is signed by 15 bishops from Forward in Faith, including the Bishop of Ful ham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr John Hind, and the three Provincial Epis copal Visitors. It urges traditionalists to “engage in the debate and discussion” when the legislation from General Synod goes to the dioceses, which is the next stage in the process. The Bishops urge their supporters to be “active in the election process for the next quinquennium of the General Synod when the two-thirds majority in each House will be required if the legislation is to pass”.
The Bishops say these are “grave times” for the Church of England. Bringing in women bishops will mean a “disastrous cost to Catholic unity”, and will “not provide room for our tradition to grow and flourish”.
They are sceptical of a code of practice “yet to be written”, and question whether “such an inadequate provision will be honoured in the long term”. The Bishops write that neither the revision committee’s report nor the legislation showed proper understanding of their reservations.
They acknowledge that they must now accept that a majority are in favour of women bishops, but say that “a significant percentage of those in authority will not encourage or em brace with enthusiasm the traditional integrity or vocations within it”, nor “desire to create a structure” that will accommodate them.
The letter, which has been sent to 1000 clergy members of Forward in Faith, says that the narrow defeat of the Archbishops’ amendment at General Synod suggests that there is “a measure of disquiet in the majority about pro ceeding without a provision accept able to traditionalists”. It cautioned that while the press was speaking as if the legislation was all passed, “final synodical approval is still some way off”.
Dr. John Graham, a Briargrove resident, knows what it means to face life-altering medical conditions and draw upon faith to get through them.
Graham, a former plastic surgeon with 15 years experience in Shreveport, La., dealt with cases where he reattached an amputated arm and reconstructed a child’s face injured by a shotgun blast.
After his medical career, Graham became an Episcopal priest in 1994 and is an assistant priest at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in the Galleria area.
His current position as president of the Institute of Spirituality and Health in the Texas Medical Center melds his two diverse life experiences together.
The ISH, which was founded in 1955, seeks to increase awareness of the role spirituality plays in maintaining and restoring optimal health. They also offer programs that bring together scholars from academia and health caregivers, religious leaders and the public to debate on spirituality and health issues.
Jim Walzel, ISH chairman of the board and West University resident, said they are fortunate to have Graham take the helm. Graham had served on the ISH board of directors for more than six years.
Nearly three years after the Episcopal Church suspended him for covering up his brother's sexual abuse of a minor girl, Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. has been restored as head of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
In a ruling released Thursday, a church appeals panel reversed a lower church court's 2008 order that Bennison be defrocked and permanently removed from the helm of the 55,000-member diocese, comprising Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester Counties.
Although Bennison badly mishandled his brother's prolonged sexual abuse of a teenager in his California parish during the 1970s, the appeals court concluded, the church's statute of limitations on such wrongdoing had expired after 10 years.
"We find that (Bennison) committed conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy," the eight-member panel of bishops wrote. But "because the statute of limitations has run out ... we have no choice under the canons of the church but to reverse the judgment of the trial court that (he) is guilty."
Bennison, 66, described himself as "very gratified" in a teleconference call from Michigan, where he is vacationing. He plans to return to his duties as bishop Aug. 16.
Two Church of England vicars have been suspended after they were arrested for allegedly running a bogus marriage racket in their inner-city parish.
Reverend Brian Shipsides and his colleague Reverend Elwon John spent a night in custody after being arrested.
They are accused of attempting to carry out the allegedly sham marriage of a Nigerian man to a Dutch woman at an East London church on Saturday morning.
Yesterday, as the men were released on police bail, Border Agency officials combed the marriage registers at their two churches and seized documents from their homes.
They were looking for evidence that the clergymen may have helped more migrants get married solely to remain in Britain.
The arrests come just a week after another vicar, Reverend Alex Brown, was found guilty of carrying out the country's biggest ever sham wedding racket, in St Leonards, East Sussex. Border Agency officials arrested the Nigerian, 27, and the Dutch woman - a 23-year-old mother of one - at All Saints church in Forest Gate just before they wed.
The church was empty apart from the 'couple', a 30-year-old Nigerian woman witness and Mr Shipsides, who was initially dismissed as an innocent dupe to the scam.
But after questioning the ' couple', Border Agency officials went to the vicars' homes on Tuesday to arrest Mr Shipsides, 54, on suspicion of conspiracy to breach immigration law and attempting to pervert justice, and Mr John, 43, on suspicion of conspiracy to breach immigration law. They were later suspended by the Church.
Fifty years worth of Protestant Hour radio archives will be preserved, thanks to a $150,000 grant by the Lilly Foundation Inc.
“This enormous resource will shed light on how religious leaders dealt with the issues of an entire generation, from communism to civil rights, to women’s issues, and the growing secularization in society,” said the Rev. Louis Schueddig, president and executive director of Alliance Christian Media.
The restoration project affects 2,620 programs, aired from 1945 to 1995. In 2000 the recordings became part of the Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, Athens, but they have been deteriorating.
In 1949, four years after the Protestant Hour’s first program aired, the Episcopal Church joined several other institutions — including colleges and seminaries, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S., the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the United Lutheran Church, and the National Council of Churches’ Southeastern office — in chartering the Protestant Radio Center.
The organization built studios near Emory University and changed its name to the Protestant Radio and Television Center. It later became the Protestant Hour Inc. Since 2001 it has been based at the Pritchett Center on the All Saints’ Church campus in midtown Atlanta.
The Protestant Hour Inc. changed the name of its program to Day 1 in 2002. In 2004 it merged with the Episcopal Media Center. The new organization took the name of Alliance Christian Media.
The restored programming will be featured on Alliance Christian Media’s Day1.org.
The Anglican Church in Canada is dealing with fallout following a report that a priest gave Communion to a dog.
One congregant has quit St. Peter's Anglican Church in downtown Toronto in protest over the incident, in which the Rev. Marguerite Rea gave Communion to a man and his dog.
The Toronto Star reported that according to those in attendance, it was a spontaneous gesture intended to make both the dog and its owner — a first-timer at the church — feel welcome.
Peggy Needham, a lay official who was sitting near the altar, said that when it was time for Communion, the man went up to receive the bread and the wine, with the dog.
"I am sure for [Rea] that was a surprise, like it was for all of us," Needham said. "But nobody felt like it was a big deal, because it wasn't a big deal."
Needham added that she doesn't recall the man asking for the sacrament for his dog. Instead, she said the priest leaned over and placed the wafer on the canine's wagging tongue. No wine was offered to the dog.
The congregant who quit the church has also filed a complaint with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, saying a sacred ritual had been desecrated.
Bishop Patrick Yu said he wrote to the parishioner that "it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give Communion to animals," calling the incident "a strange and shocking thing."
He said be believed Rea "was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming," and said the matter was closed.
"We are, after all, in the forgiveness and repair business," he said.
A proposal to separate The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the U.S. from the rest of the Anglican Communion has been rejected by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in London. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told the Anglican Journal that he finds this decision “encouraging” and a step towards healing.
In a recent meeting, the committee decided that such an action, proposed by committee member Dato Stanley Isaacs of South East Asia, “would inhibit dialogue and… would therefore be unhelpful.” The proposal followed the consecration of Bishop Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, in the diocese of Los Angeles.
The Episcopal Church’s decision to proceed with the consecration broke one of three moratoria outlined in the Communion’s Windsor Report. The report requested a period of “gracious restraint” during which there provinces would not proceed with the ordination of gay or lesbian people as bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions, and cross-border interventions by bishops outside their own province. In June, Canon Kenneth Kearon, general secretary of the Anglican Communion, wrote to members of The Episcopal Church to inform them that as a result of the Los Angeles consecration, their membership on committees for ecumenical dialogue had been withdrawn.
The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas announced Aug. 3 a slate of three nominees for the diocese's next bishop. They are:
• the Rev. Michael Pierce Milliken, 63, rector of Grace Church, Hutchinson, in the Diocese of Western Kansas;
• the Rev. Robert Allen Rodgers, 65, deployment officer in the Diocese of Eau Claire and vicar of two mission congregations, St. Albans' Church in Spooner and St. Luke's Church in Springbrook; and
• the Rev. Bryce Dennis Zimmerman, 58, rector, of St. Cornelius Church in the Diocese of Western Kansas.
The three priests were selected last month from a pool of several candidates, said the Rev. Laird McGregor, vicar of St. Anne's Church in McPherson and a member of the diocesan Standing Committee.
"Two of the candidates are very well-known in the diocese, and people are interested in what they have to say, and are also open to the possibilities," McGregor said in a telephone interview Aug. 4.
Another of the candidates, the Rev. Michael Milliken, was previously a candidate for bishop, in 1994, when the Rt. Rev. Vernon Strickland was elected third bishop of Western Kansas, he said.
"There was a sense that we're a very small diocese and a sense of confidence that the Holy Spirit would work with us and for us with whatever time we have left," McGregor said about a special electing convention, planned for Aug. 21 at St. Michael's Church in Hays, Kansas. Delegates will be able to make nominations from the floor, McGregor said.
The person elected will succeed the Rt. Rev. James M. Adams, the fourth bishop of the diocese, who resigned earlier this year to become vicar of Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Lecanto in the Diocese of Central Florida.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's office announced Aug. 4 that Bishop-elect Mark Andrew Lattime of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska has received the required number of consents from bishops with jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees to his ordination and consecration.
Lattime, 43, was elected April 10 as eighth bishop of Alaska on the fourth ballot from an initial slate of five candidates. He received 42 votes of 70 cast in the lay order and 14 of 25 cast in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 36 in the lay order and 14 in the clergy order.
His ordination and consecration is set for Sept. 4 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Anchorage. The presiding bishop will officiate.
Lattime had served most recently as rector of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Geneseo in the Diocese of Rochester (New York).
He will succeed Bishop Mark MacDonald, who left in 2007 to become the first indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada. The Rt. Rev. Rustin Kimsey has served as interim bishop for three years.
Before being called to St. Michael's in 2000, Lattime was college chaplain at Canterbury Fellowship and associate rector at the R.E. Lee. Memorial Church in Lexington, Diocese of Southwest Virginia.
Lattime is a three-time deputy to General Convention (2003, 2006 and 2009) from Rochester, where he also served in numerous diocesan capacities including: diocesan council, standing committee, as a dean of the southwest district and a stewardship consultant.
Three thousand Iowa soldiers are heading to war saying goodbye to families at ceremonies across Iowa, including Martha Kester, Chris and Caleb Meis.
They are part of the largest call up of Iowa troops since World War II.
"My dad and brother Chris and Caleb Meis are going to Afghanistan," said Erin Meis. Karla Meis said faith in God keeps her going as she sends her son and husband to war. "I know that he will protect them and bring them back or help me, if he doesn't," said Karla Meis.
Iowa Chaplain Martha Kester said she hopes to give the soldiers religious direction during the deployment.
"The motto of the chaplain is to bring God to the soldiers and soldiers to God," said Kester. Kester is the first female Iowa chaplain to serve.
The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri announced Aug. 3 a slate of three nominees for the diocese's next bishop. They are:
the Rev. Peter Frasius Casparian, 59, rector of Christ Church in Oyster Bay, in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, New York;
the Very Rev. Martin Scott Field, 53, rector of St. Paul's Church in Flint and assistant to the bishop for congregational life and dean of the Flint River Valley Convocation in the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan; and
the Rev. Canon Edward Daniel Smith, 54, canon to the ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. More biographical information is available on the nominees here.
The election will be held Saturday, Nov. 6 during the Nov. 5-6 annual convention meeting of the diocese, at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, according to Linda Robertson, chair of the bishop's search and nominating committee.
"An election is always an exciting time," Robertson said during an Aug. 4 telephone interview. "People have been very anxious to find out who our candidates would be and of course there's a petition process so there may be other names added to the slate," she added.
"We're all looking forward optimistically to the future but it's always a period of a little bit of tension as well, as you go forward into new territory with new people."
The Rt. Rev. Barry R. Howe, who was consecrated seventh bishop of the diocese in 1998, had announced in September 2009 his intention to retire.
A group of traditionalist Anglican bishops has admitted that Anglo-Catholic clergy are sharply divided over how to respond to the ordination of women as bishops.
Fifteen bishops belonging to Forward in Faith, the largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England, admitted that the Anglo-Catholic faction of the church could not decide collectively what course of action to take.
They said members faced a range of options in response to the mid-July vote by the General Synod, the church's national assembly, to create women bishops by 2014 without meeting demands of objectors.
Describing themselves as bishops "united in our belief that the Church of England is mistaken in its actions" they wrote to more than 1,300 Anglo-Catholic priests and deacons who, in June 2008, registered their opposition to women bishops in an open letter to Anglican leaders.
The bishops' letter, posted July 31 on the website of Forward in Faith, which has 10,000 members, said it was inevitable that many traditionalists, including some bishops, would take up Pope Benedict XVI's offer of a personal ordinariate within the Catholic Church. That offer was contained in the pope's November apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus."
Under this arrangement Anglicans can be received into the Catholic Church as a group while retaining their distinctive patrimony and liturgical practices, including married priests.
Virginia's Supreme Court recently ruled against conservative former Episcopal Church congregations trying to keep their property as members of a new theologically orthodox Anglican denomination. Hundreds of local churches across America are agonizing over whether to remain in the old and increasingly heterodox Episcopal Church or depart, potentially losing venerable church properties.
Former Dallas Morning News editor and current syndicated columnist William Murchison remains in the old denomination. He published his book about the Episcopal Church just in time for the denomination's implosively historic 2009 General Convention, which officially sanctioned gay clergy and same-sex unions. Himself a long-time active Episcopalian in the theologically orthodox Diocese of Dallas, and partial to the church's Anglo-Catholic wing, Murchison sagely traces the church's fall from America's most culturally elite church to an increasingly marginal, though still highly entertaining religious sideshow.
John Reece of Lafayette makes less than $20,000 a year, but he still finds time to volunteer.
"It's easier for me to give time than it is money, but time is money one way or the other," said Reece, who volunteers at the food pantry run by St. John's Episcopal Church and Lafayette Urban Ministry. "I like helping out somewhere so that's what I do. It needs done. I have a big heart. I was brought up that way."
Surprisingly, people who have less tend to be more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful compared to their upper-class counterparts, according to a study that will be published in the August edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"What we find counterintuitively ... is that the needy or the relatively less wealthy are actually more generous," said Paul Piff, lead author of the study. "They are more giving toward other people (and) they care more about the needs of others in their social surroundings."
Expressing their deep distress at the prospect of the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England, 15 Anglo-Catholic bishops have told their clergy that some among them will seek communion with the Holy See.
“Whatever happens in the Synod, there are some Anglo Catholics, including in our own number, who are already looking at, indeed are resolved to join the Ordinariate as the place where they can find a home in which to live and proclaim their Christian faith, in communion with the Holy Father, yet retaining something of the blessings they have known and experienced in the Anglican tradition,” they write. “Of course the Ordinariate is a new thing, and not all of us are trailblazers or can imagine what it might be like. Some will undoubtedly want to wait and see how that initiative develops before making a decision. Yet others will make their individual submission and find their future as Roman Catholics.”
The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.
Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.
But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.
“We had a pastor in our study group who hadn’t taken a vacation in 18 years,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University who directs one of the studies. “These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.”
As cellphones and social media expose the clergy to new dimensions of stress, and as health care costs soar, some of the country’s largest religious denominations have begun wellness campaigns that preach the virtues of getting away. It has been described by some health experts as a sort of slow-food movement for the clerical soul.
When former Episcopal Bishop Donald Davis of Erie was accused of child molestation in 1994, he resigned so quietly from ministry that most other bishops didn't know why. It was the same year that an Episcopal bishop who had admitted molesting a minor was reinstated after a year's leave.
Since then, church laws have been changed to make it easier to remove offenders. Church leaders praise Erie's current Bishop Sean Rowe for publicizing new accusations last month against his now-deceased predecessor.
But victim advocates say that church law still allows offenders in ministry.
"The Episcopalians, like most denominations, have a long way to go," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It's alarming that the denomination hasn't even committed to a 'one-strike' policy on paper."
But Bishop Kenneth Price of Pittsburgh believes that the policies dioceses are required to enact create a de facto one-strike rule that keeps offenders out.
"Over the years this has become a much more public concern. The House of Bishops is very concerned for the protection of alleged victims ... and the canons are very clear on what to do," said Bishop Price, who is also secretary of the House of Bishops.
In Pittsburgh, an accused priest would be suspended and civil authorities notified. If a church court upheld the accusation, the priest would be permanently removed from ministry, he said.
It appears to be the calm before the storm for the Anglican Communion.
Amid much debate and controversy, last month the Church of England decided to allow women to become bishops in the next two years.
The move greatly upset traditionalist Anglicans, who are now expected to leave the Anglican Communion in large numbers — although not just yet.
All of the traditionalists’ wishes were rejected at a heated July 9-13 meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod in York, England. The traditionalists had sought an amendment for alternative male bishops. The amendment would have allowed parishes unwilling to have a woman bishop to call upon a male alternative who would have his own autonomy and “joint jurisdiction” over those parishes.
But the synod narrowly voted against the compromise, despite it being supported by Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the archbishop of York. Instead, it was decided that women bishops should be able to decide the identity and functions of any alternative bishop, and they would only have to consult a code of practice in dealing with traditionalists.
The ruling will now be put to the Church of England’s 44 diocesan synods before returning to the General Synod, where it must receive a two-thirds majority. It must then receive parliamentary approval before being granted royal assent.
When last mentioned here, novelist and former New Orleans resident Anne Rice was releasing a vook. Before that, the New Orleans Literature Examiner informed readers that Rice, most known for vampire novels, was skyping into a local bookstore, Octavia Books, to promote her latest novel about angels, another product of Rice embracing the Christian faith via the Roman Catholic Church.
What's the news now? Rice, whose new book Of Love and Evil is set for release in November, has reportedly "quit Christianity." However, as is clear by Rice's own words in more recent Facebook posts, she has not quit her faith in God nor in Christ:
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
Some of her earlier statements on Facebook that drew much attention at the Atheist Examiner and elsewhere revealed Rice's disillusionment with organized Christian religion's political positions:
As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
On her Facebook page, Rice continues to publish feedback on her remarks. The most recent was posted at 1:00 p.m. today, July 31, and the person shares with Rice personal experience about growing up Catholic.
But as a dozen bishops placed their hands on the shoulders of a kneeling John Smylie, he became the new head of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming.
The national church’s presiding bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, conducted the two-hour consecration service attended by several hundred members of the Wyoming diocese at the Casper Events Center on Saturday.
“Therefore, Father, make John a bishop in your church,” Jefferts Schori prayed during the laying-on of hands. “Pour out upon him the power of your princely spirit, whom you bestowed upon your beloved son Jesus Christ, with whom he endowed the apostles, and by whom your church is built up in every place, to the glory and unceasing praise of your name.” In March, Wyoming Episcopalians elected Smylie as the diocese’s ninth bishop, which marked the first time a bishop was elected from within the state. All others, including the outgoing the Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell, have been from outside Wyoming.
Caldwell, bishop since September 1997, and his predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Bob Jones, were among the dozen bishops from the United States and Swaziland, South Africa, who laid their hands on Smylie during the consecration.
Wyoming has about 7,000 Episcopalians, according to the diocesan website. Their numbers have declined, as have those in the U.S. Episcopal Church, which has lost members in part from internal disagreements over doctrine and practice.