Saturday, December 11, 2010
From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department - Great Britain
A Christian churches Christmas ad campaign that shows Jesus as a foetus with a halo in Mary's womb has sparked a controversy.
The sonograph image is part of a Christian campaign to promote the message that the meaning of the Nativity as the birth of Jesus Christ.
Drawn up by charity Churchads.net, the "Ultrasound Jesus" campaign is backed by a number of Christian organisations including the Church of England, the Baptist Union, the United Reformed Church, the Anglican and the Methodist churches.
But the National Secular Society has criticised the ad saying it achieves the opposite and carries an anti-abortion message.
Terry Sanderson, director of the NSS, said: "The image of this poster is very similar to the ones used by the anti-abortion lobby - in fact when I first saw it that's what I thought it was.
"It may not have been the church's intention to give a political message with this campaign but for many people - particularly women who have had abortions it risks evoking painful memories.
"The church have made a mistake and won't attract more people to church over Christmas.
"It's more likely to put them off."
But the Christian organisations behind it have defended the iconic poster saying it is meant to reinstill the message of the Christmas story.
From The London Telegraph-
The confidential reports claimed that the British ambassador to the Vatican believed relations with the Holy See as being at "their worst crisis in 150 years".
It followed Pope Benedict XVI's special dispensation to disaffected Anglicans who are against the ordination of women priests to turn to the Catholic faith. He said they could convert in groups while retaining their own leadership and some of their rites in a body called an Ordinariate.
After a meeting between the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in November 2009 British ambassador Francis Campbell told a US diplomat that "Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150-years as a result of the pope's decision".
He also described the meeting between the two men as "at times awkward".
The claims were among the latest tranche of cables to be published by whistleblowing site WikiLeaks.
Mr Campbell, a Catholic, made his comments during a conversation with Julieta Valls Noyes, the American deputy chief of mission to the Holy See.
He was speaking to her at a dinner held in the Archbishop's honour attended by senior Vatican officials following his meeting with the Pope.
A cable sent shortly afterwards relayed his remarks.
Mr Campbell also said: "The crisis is worrisome for England's small, mostly Irish-origin, Catholic minority. There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off."
In the midst of increasing violence in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince Dec. 9, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori assured that country of the Episcopal Church's concern for its citizens.
"Our prayers continue for the people of Haiti, particularly at this time of increased anxiety, uncertainty, and outbreaks of violence," Jefferts Schori said in a statement to Episcopal News Service. "May the Prince of Peace come speedily," she added, echoing the season of Advent.
The presiding bishop was due to spend Dec. 10-13 with the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Dec. 10 - 13, but she cancelled her trip earlier in the week at the request of Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin.
The capital's Toussaint Louverture International Airport was closed due to the violence and at least one U.S. airline, American, has canceled flights in and out of Port-au-Prince.
Violence broke out in the country's earthquake-ravaged capital late on Dec. 8 shortly after Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council announced the results of Nov. 28's presidential election. The council said that Jude Celestin, the candidate backed by current president René Préval's party, and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, would advance to a Jan. 16 runoff presidential election.
Friday, December 10, 2010
From The Church Times-
THE only female presbyter-in-charge in the Church of Pakistan has warned of the wide spread persecution of Christians in the country.
The Revd Jane Shaw, an Anglican woman priest from England, has said that persecution of Christians is rife. Some of it is violent, but most of it is more insidious. “It’s largely low-level harassment: not being shortlisted for jobs because you’re a Christian, or, if you do get the job, your colleagues making you so miserable that you have to leave. Also, in some cases, Christian businessmen have been told that they’ll only get the most lucrative contracts if they convert to Islam.”
Other harassment includes the bullying of Chris tian children at school, the eviction of Christians from accom modation without notice, and eviction of occupation of Christians’ land by influential community members.
Her comments came as it emerged that Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who has been sentenced to death by a court in Pakistan for blasphemy (News 26 November), now also has a price on her head. A radical Muslim cleric, Maulana Yousef Qureshi, has promised 500,000 Pak istani rupees (£3700) to anyone prepared to kill Mrs Bibi. Her family has been forced to go on the run to avoid attacks.
Mrs Bibi’s case has provoked international outcry against the country’s harsh blasphemy laws (News, 3 December). Pope Benedict XVI has made a public call for her release. It is hoped that she may win a pardon from the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zadari.
'Tis the season to remember our veterans, the Rev. Rod Reinhart says.
With that in mind, he has organized a holiday party and gift drive for veterans who are hospitalized or homeless.
"Remember Our Wounded Soldiers at Christmas" is slated for 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at St. Joseph and St. Aidan's Episcopal Church, 2453 Oak St., Blue Island.
"I've been working with veterans for many, many years. With the war and things going on, the problem of veterans became much more visible and important for me and my ministry," said Reinhart, 61, the church's pastor.
"I decided one of the really important ways we can get the church and the community mobilized around helping veterans is to organize an event at Christmas," he said.
The party will be a potluck event, he said.
"We have food, we have music, we have people from the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) hospitals talking about how valuable it is to work with the vets," Reinhart said. "And we may have a visit from Santa Claus."
Thursday, December 9, 2010
During a recent visitation at Trinity, Houston, the Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle confronted the vestry for continued attempts by some to undermine the rector’s authority. The congregation worked with a mediator during the spring and summer to address dissention between the rector, staff and parishioners.
The bishop assured the rector, the Rev. Hannah Atkins, of his support noting her commitment to follow recommendations of the mediator, along with numerous lay leaders who were “setting about the corrective measures called for.” Bishop Doyle said however, he was “saddened” by the continued destructive behavior of some and promised to remove current or future vestry members unwilling to work with the rector in good faith.
“The roles and responsibilities of vestry members are clearly defined in our Canons,” Bishop Doyle said. “We cannot expect that there will never be conflict, but we do expect that our clergy and elected lay leaders will focus their energy to build a healthy congregation that welcomes new members and responds to its neighbors with compassion and caring,” he said, adding, “The congregation at Trinity is vibrant and welcoming. I’m sure they will continue their outreach to the Midtown Houston area and become one of the outstanding congregations in the diocese.”
From South Africa (Oh the things seminary doesn't prepare you for)
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has offered to mediate in the Makhaza toilet saga, which has pitted the ANC Youth League against the Democratic Alliance-led provincial government.
“The important issue is the provision of humane living conditions for the people of Makhaza who are directly affected. It should not be a political battle — it’s about the health and safety of our fellow citizens,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
“Anything I can do to resolve this conflict I will do gladly.” He said “attempts to improve consultation” should be made first before a recent court order on the matter be implemented.
“Such a meeting would need to include representatives from the City, community leaders, the ANCYL, and the broader community.
“It is hoped that consensus can be reached before the festive season, to allow for residents to enjoy this holy period with their family and community.”
A Cape judge last month ordered the City of Cape Town to provide wood-and-iron enclosures for toilets at Makhaza settlement, for any of the 1316 beneficiaries who asked for them.
Nearly 60 years ago, a young boy from Salt Lake City moved to the mirage-inducing heat of southern Florida streets.
He learned much from segregated fountains and two influential women in Miami, and now the Rev. Dan Lediard has arrived in Hermiston and become the priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Lediard, a former insurance salesman who was ordained four years ago, said his upbringing in the Florida city — especially coming from the mostly singular skin shades of Utah — quickly made him notice the way people of color were treated.
“It didn’t make any sense,” Lediard said, adding that he was grateful for influences from level-headed folks in his home.
A family maid named Mabel treated everyone with “profound kindred and love” and became a sort of surrogate mother, according to Lediard.
He had to provide care to his severely asthmatic birth mother since he was young, and about 10 years ago, Lediard brought lessons he learned from both those women to a frequently ignored population: inmates at Nevada State Prison in Carson City.
Lediard began sitting in with therapy groups in that institution after a friend asked for help.
When he first arrived at the penitentiary, he could sense a “current” flowing throughout the inmates.
“I immediately became aware of the presence of God,” Lediard said.
When the Rev. Bart Stevens is ordained a Catholic priest in Billings on Thursday, he will share the moment with friends and family — including his wife and five children.
Stevens, 35, joins a small fraternity of married Roman Catholic priests. Since 1980, slightly more than 100 former Episcopal priests in the United States have been ordained priests in the Catholic Church.
He is the first in the Great Falls-Billings Diocese. And his presence has sparked talk around town, as his wife, Becky, found out not long ago at a local grocery store.
"She's in the checkout line and these people are talking about me," Stevens said, sitting in his office in a house next to Holy Rosary Church. "One says 'Did you hear about the married priest in the Catholic church?' "
The other person corrected the first one, suggesting it must be an Episcopal priest. The two went back and forth until Becky Stevens broke into their conversation.
"Becky's like, 'I think you're talking about my husband,' " Stevens said, smiling. "It takes people a while to wrap their head around it."
He will be ordained at St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral by Bishop Michael Warfel. Priests from throughout the diocese are expected to attend the ceremony.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
From The Living Church-
After a big storm there is usually a mess, and some reconfiguration of the landscape, as old landmarks are destroyed and new ones appear. Finding a path through the mess, and rebuilding connections with the wider world, is the first step in recovery. The storm of the last several years has indeed reconfigured the Anglican world. Realignment of a kind has come, along with a big mess. Significant numbers of conservatives have decamped to the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Mission in the Americas, and other churches. Globally, the Communion has become a patchwork of churches in varying degrees of division or fellowship with each other. It is a bit of a mess, really.
The majority of theological conservatives remain in the Episcopal Church, and often in its larger and more evangelistically vigorous parishes and dioceses. As they emerge from the storm’s aftermath, just what sense are they making of the new landscape? And what pathways are they clearing to rebuild connections to the wider Church?
To hear what some of these conservatives were saying, I attended the recent Communion Partners conference in Orlando, Florida. Communion Partners began in 2008 as a fellowship of bishops, and quickly become a fellowship of rectors as well. Conservative in theology, committed to the Windsor Process, supportive of the Anglican Covenant, determined to maintain ties with the Anglican Communion, critical at times of the Episcopal Church’s leadership and policies, these leaders accept that they will need to take the long view and work for the renewal of the Episcopal Church. It is a new group with a low profile. But to judge from the enthusiasm of the Orlando meeting, we shall be hearing a lot more from it.
For longtime Anglican Richard Harding, switching to the Catholic church feels like coming home.
Last month, Harding and other members of the St. John the Evangelist congregation in Calgary became the first Anglican parish in Canada to accept an offer from the Pope to rejoin the Catholic church.
Harding said they are excited about the change.
Only two members of the parish in Inglewood, one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods, voted against the move and a few others abstained.
But some, including the congregation's former priest, have decided not to switch, so the move is bittersweet.
"There is a bit of sadness. This is a very sobering step and is a serious step, but it is a positive one," said Harding, who has worshipped at St. John for more than 20 years. "Every new beginning is a goodbye to some of the past."
The congregation decided to leave a church that has been their spiritual home for all of their lives for varied and complex reasons.
Anglicans split from Rome in 1534 when the pope refused to annul the first marriage of England's King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon.
From Northern California-
Chocolate flowed from a fountain, was baked into cakes and was rolled into round balls and covered in nuts or coconut.
What money was raised at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on Sunday — from the public tasting such decadent treats — will go to care for the needy.
"We've been doing this for so long, it just sort of organizes itself," said Chocolate Festival Chairwoman Sharon Zwald. "Everyone always seems to know just what they have to do."
About 150 people attended the 15th annual Chocolate Festival on Sunday.
Volunteers lined up to dish out dozens of desserts, eating featuring chocolate as it's star ingredient.
The festival, which includes a silent auction, raises about $5,000 each year, said Secretary Brenda Herrod.
"We got the idea from a chocolate festival on the coast," Herrod said. "The congregation donates the dishes, and all the money goes to charity."
From Austin- (video at the link)
One Austin man has such a passion for music, he's choosing it over everything, even a home.
Roger Lambert, 61, has been homeless since he moved to Austin nearly three years ago. But every Monday through Friday morning, he can be found playing the piano in the choir room at St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 East 8th Street.
"To hear such beautiful music coming from someone who didn't look like a virtuoso was a bit of a surprise," said David Boyd, the head pastor of St. David's Episcopal Church.
Lambert plays classical music: from Bach to Brahms.
Lambert earned a degree in music from UCLA. So the fair and obvious question is, why is a man with this much talent homeless?
"I came here with my last $200 in my pocket," said Lambert. "II went into a hotel lobby expecting to sit down and play and be employed in an hour."
From Staten Island-
The former pastor of a North Shore Episcopal church on probation for stealing $84,000 in parish funds to pay for Botox treatments and plastic surgery now faces new charges after police say he got into a drunken two-car wreck last night.
The Rev. William Blasingame, 68, of Vanderbilt Avenue, the former pastor of St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church in Stapleton, was driving a 1998 Volvo when he struck another car, then a tree, on the corner of Tompkins and Vanderbilt avenues just before 7 p.m., authorities allege.
When police arrived, Father Blasingame was sitting in the driver’s seat, a 20 oz. bottle of Fanta pineapple soda mixed with vodka between his legs, authorities allege.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Standing before an altar set with a silver cup of wine and bread invoking the Holy Spirit, the Rev. Carol Reese celebrated Mass for the first time Sunday before her longtime congregation at All Saints Episcopal Church in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
But the newly minted priest chose to be ordained among the people she intends to serve — the patients of Stroger Hospital, the Cook County hospital that serves the poor and uninsured.
"I really feel like, and believe, the hospital where I work is where I'm called to be," Reese said. "That's my parish."
This week, Reese will walk into Stroger ready to serve the spiritual needs of those suffering from traumatic injuries. Many hospitals, including those with religious affiliations, have paid chaplains on staff. Reese is the first one in Stroger's history.
Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., joined more than 100 members of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in Amman, Jordan, for the Majma (synod) -- an annual meeting to review and administer the work of the Jerusalem diocese.
Chane, along with his wife Karen and other Episcopalians from the Washington diocese, joined Bishop Suheil Dawani, the clergy and leaders of the Jerusalem diocesan institutions at the meeting.
"This valued partnership continues to grow in mutual support on issues benefitting both dioceses, respecting each other's differences," according to a press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Chane spoke of the energy of the Majma and the faithful witness to Christ. "It is not about the size of the diocese. It is about what it does and what it offers to the rest of the church worldwide," he said.
The Majma began with an opening service held at St. Mary's, Irbid, a church that was consecrated in August. Discussions and business sessions continued for the following two days, interspersed with fellowship and devotions led by various members.
The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem includes 27 parishes and supports 33 institutions throughout Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The U.S.-based Episcopal Church continues to support the Jerusalem diocese through partnerships and companion diocese relationships. The Diocese of Washington entered into a three-year companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in January. The relationship will be in effect until January 2013, at which point both dioceses will evaluate whether or not to continue.
Monday, December 6, 2010
From Catholic Online-
When the Holy See's response to the groups of Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church was announced, it was Archbishop John Hepworth, the Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), who immediately responded. In a pastoral letter to the faithful of the Traditional Anglican Communion he invited the members of the TAC to enter into full communion by following the Apostolic Constitution and Norms offered by the Holy See. When history records this moment, Archbishop John Hepworth will be a central part of the narrative. Archbishop Hepworth has released a pastoral statement in which he sets forth the plans for the Traditional Anglican Communion.
More here (including the full statement)
From New Jersey-
The folks at Trinity Episcopal Church in Vineland answered the call when we were asked to become a host church for the interfaith hospitality network, Family Promise of Gloucester County.
This is a very compassionate organization, whose mission is to provide homeless families an opportunity to achieve stability by providing shelter, food, case management and hospitality while simultaneously utilizing resources within local congregations and the community.
The religious organizations that host the families provide space for overnight accommodations and dinner each evening for a period of one week every 10 weeks. We feel that we are called to open our hearts and parish homes to those less fortunate than ourselves. Redeemer Lutheran agreed to co-host this project.
Isn't it a wonderful opportunity to work in cooperation with another religious community to do God's work?
Our first scheduled host week was in August 2005. We were prepared to host 14 people and ended with only 10, as one family moved into their own home sooner than expected. Redeemer Lutheran hosted in October. We invited our congregations to lend a helping hand at dinner, crafts, homework, reading or driving the Family Promise van. They also stepped up to opportunities to stay overnight and do laundry.
Jessica Posner has the attention of several dozen people on Sunday afternoon at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
It's not unusual for a church to have a gathering, especially on a Sunday, but people are here to hear what 24-year-old Posner has to say.
"There's so many people that your presence means more than you can ever know," Posner said.
She's here to raise money for her non-profit in Kenya, called Shining Hope for Communities.
Posner co-founded the organization a year ago. The non-profit is in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. It's located in Kenya's capital Nairobi. Posner started with a free girls-only school.
The school provides education, uniforms and meals twice a day to 70 girls.
"We run our programs on a shoe-string budget, so 5 dollars feeds a class for a day, 25 dollars provides books, school supplies for an entire class for over a month," she said.
9NEWS rarely does stories on fundraisers. But this one intrigued us because of who's doing it. In July, Posner was named "America's top world-changer 25 and under" on VH1. Her charity received $100,000.
"We started a boarding facility for some of our most vulnerable and at risk girls, girls who have been victims of sexual assault, rape and abuse," Posner told the people gathered at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. "In Kibera, there are 1.5 million people who live in an area the size of Central Park. They're living without schools, roads, hospitals, sanitation, any services of any kind. It's really, really devastating."
Sunday, December 5, 2010
From the deepest recesses of John West's heart came the beckon. Soft, yet persistent, it called to him throughout his life, first in high school, then college, then later as a husband and father.
Always at the crossroads in his life, it was there. When West needed God the most, God called to him.
But West didn't answer right away.
West was raised in the Episcopal Church, and his faith was always a part of him. He recalls that at 15, he considered becoming a priest. He even had a great-uncle who was an Episcopal priest and he encouraged the same for West. But like many young people, West wanted to make his own way in the world.
He graduated with two degrees from the University of Georgia, one in fine arts, the other in history. He got married and had a son. He set out with dreams of using his skills as an artist or a teacher. But he found himself in sales jobs and eventually working with an entrepreneur who was into everything from insurance to real estate.
The opportunity to be materially wealthy was there. But the stirring inside never ceased. He just silenced it and moved on to the next phase in life, the next opportunity.
It reached a point, though, when he couldn't silence it anymore.
The Rev. Rayford Ray was elected Dec. 4 as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, pending required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church.
Ray, 54, a member of the Episcopal Ministry Support Team in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, was elected on the second ballot of a special convention from a field of three nominees. A fourth nominee, the Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton, rector of St. Augustine's in-the-Woods Episcopal Church, Freeland, Washington, had earlier asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration.
"We are a life-giving people here in this diocese," said Ray, who visited the convention after his election. "It is an exciting time as we will partner together as we look at the possibilities that stand before us. We have much to do, but we will do it together as we proclaim the Gospel as we know in Jesus Christ."
Ray received 59 delegate votes and 16 congregational votes. With 88 delegates from 25 congregations present, 59 delegate votes and 13 congregational votes were required to elect at the special convention held at St. Stephen's Church in Escanaba in the state's Upper Peninsula.
According to the bylaws of the Marquette-based diocese, a nominee must receive two-thirds of the delegate vote and a simple majority of the congregational vote to be elected. To achieve a congregational vote, delegates from a congregation meet and caucus--a simple majority of those delegates is considered a congregational vote.
Ray, a four-time deputy to General Convention, has served in Northern Michigan for more than 20 years, working as ministry development coordinator, and collaborated with parishes across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was recently an adjunct instructor at Episcopal Divinity School.
From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-
From horse-and-buggy Mennonites in Mexico to Amish in Arkansas, a new study reveals the variety of Anabaptist culture in North America.
"The biggest surprise was that there was a Mennonite group in the Bahamas," said Donald Kraybill, senior fellow at Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, who did the research.
But that plain-dressing group isn't lounging on the beach in bonnets and suspenders.
"They're doing evangelical mission work and have two congregations. But they also have an industrial training school and are teaching occupational skills to native people there," he said.
Dr. Kraybill, who published his findings in the new "Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites and Mennonites" from Johns Hopkins University Press, found Anabaptist groups in 17 of the 23 North American nations. It is the first study of all Anabaptist groups. Anabaptists descend from Swiss and German radicals of the Protestant Reformation who insisted on adult baptism, rejected state control of the church and practiced nonresistance despite brutal persecution.
The study found 809,845 Anabaptist adults. Children would raise the total to an estimated 1.3 million. More than two-thirds -- 578,195 -- live in the United States, with the next largest group of 144,000 in Canada.