Saturday, December 10, 2011

Out of Africa: What AMIA's Exodus from Rwanda Portends for Global Christianity

From Christianity Today

Divorce is messy, the lessons from a failed marriage often complicated.
Such is the case with this week's split of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA) from its majority-world leadership in the Church of Rwanda.

Until the 11-year-old partnership crumbled, it seemed to embody the potential for Global South church leaders to rise up and provide spiritual oversight and direction in the developed world.

"It would be unwise to draw any general conclusions for the future from a dispute which is clearly about particular human relationships," said Brian Stanley, director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh.

Under the oversight of the Rwandan province, the South Carolina–based AMIA grew to more than 150 congregations in the United States and Canada, AMIA spokeswoman Cynthia Brust said.

But the 2010 retirement of Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini—who had a strong connection with Bishop Charles Murphy, AMIA's chairman—precipitated a change in the relationship.

More here-

The End of Canterbury

From The Weekly Standard-

The archbishop of Canterbury is going to resign next year. At least that’s the story making the rounds of newspapers in London, and the interesting part is not that the 61-year-old Rowan Williams should be willing to give up another decade in the job. Or even, if the Telegraph is right, that the clergy and his fellow bishops are working to push him out.

No, the interesting news about the looming resignation is how little attention anyone appears to be paying to it. The Church of England just doesn’t seem to matter all that much, fading from the world’s stage only slightly more slowly than the British Empire that planted it across the globe.

Theological consequences will follow the dwindling of Anglican identity—the claim, ever since Queen Elizabeth I, that the Church of England represents the great middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism. Ecclesiological consequences, as well, will follow the end of Anglican unity: the disappearance of a coherent, worldwide denomination, led by the archbishop of Canterbury, for those who hold a certain moderate form of Christian belief.

Christianity will survive in other forms, of course, both theologically and denominationally. In the long run, the great tragedy of the fading of Canterbury and the looming breakup of the Anglican communion may be the geopolitical consequences—fraying the already weak ties between the global South and Western civilization.

More here-

'O Little Town of Bethlehem' remembered long after writer's death

From Alabama-

The famous preacher had been greatly inspired by a year-long visit to the Holy Land during the last year of America’s Civil War. He had been a verse-writer since early childhood.

Raised in a strict Episcopalian home (with a long line of Puritan ancestors), he was taught the hymns of the church. By the time he enrolled at Harvard College, he could recite more than 200 hymns. Through the years, his sermons contained references to those songs of the church and his recollections of his trip to the places where Jesus had lived.

In a Christmas week letter to his parents, the man who would become one of the most famous preachers of his time wrote of seeing “... shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.” It was a scene that fascinated him, maybe, more so than seeing other Biblical sights.

Phillips Brooks, 33 years old, had become rector of Philadelphia’s Holy Trinity Church and had become widely known for his preaching, which attracted huge crowds each Sunday.

In time, he became rector of Boston’s great Trinity Church. In 1868, during preparation for a Christmas Sunday school service, Brooks wrote a simple carol and asked church organist Lewis H. Redner to write the music for it.

More here-

Woodbury church seats fourth child bishop

From New Jersey-

On Dec. 6, Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury seated its fourth child bishop in observance of The Feast of Saint Nicholas. Selecting a child bishop is a tradition of many English cathedral choir schools and collegiate chapels.

This year, Kaitlyn Johnson, a fifth grader, was selected as child bishop. She was vested in full episcopal regalia, processed to the altar, took her seat at the Bishop’s chair, and offered the Homily and the Prayers of the People during the service.

Kaitlyn is 11 years old. She is in the fifth grade at J. Mason Tomlin School. Kaitlyn serves as an acolyte at the church. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rob Johnson.

Students were invited to compose an essay answering the question “Who was Saint Nicholas and why is his example of being merciful so important to imitate?” The student who offered the best response was selected as the child bishop.

More here-

Episcopal diocese plans $1.5M renovation for retreat center

From New Mexico-

A $1.5 million renovation of a retreat center launches Dec. 16 on Albuquerque’s Westside.

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande purchased the Conference and Spiritual Life Center at 6400 Coors NW in January for $1.7 million and is investing $1.5 million to expand and upgrade it. It will have state-of-the-art conference capabilities, a 45-room retreat house and will house the offices of the diocese.

Officials with the diocese estimate the project will infuse more than $5 million into the local economy with the renovation and reconstruction. It is planning to hire local contractors, architects and workers for the project.

Bishop Michael Vono said the plan is to position the facility as a national center for spirituality.
“We have different denominations, nonprofits and the private sector inquiring as to the availability of the center,” he said in a news release.

Friday, December 9, 2011

When the Zoning Board Closes Your Church

From The Wall Street Journal-

What counts as a church? Chuck and Stephanie Fromm recently found out.

After hosting several periodic Bible studies for up to 50 people in their home in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., the Fromms were fined $300 for violating a city ordinance that prohibits groups of three or more people from gathering without a permit. The couple appealed and city officials agreed last month to reimburse them and re-examine the ordinance, but the case created a stir in religious circles.

"It struck a deep nerve. Bible studies in people's homes have been a long part of American culture and heritage," says Brad Dacus of the Pacific Research Institute, which took on the Fromms' case. "We're concerned that other cities will try to get away with the same thing."

Megachurches often dominate the news, but most religious institutions in America are small. The median church size is 75 regular participants on Sunday mornings, according to the 2009 National Congregations Study, which also found that about 60% of churches have an attendance between seven and 99 people. Just 0.4% of churches have more than 2,000 attendees, falling into the megachurch category.

Even those churches that eventually grow to a few hundred or a few thousand start small. Many churches originate as a Bible study in someone's home before renting or buying more formal location. Saddleback Church began in 1979 as a small Bible study with one other family in Rick Warren's condo. Seattle's Mars Hill Church began in 1996 in the apartment of Mark and Grace Driscoll.

More here-

Parents, pastors wrestle with place of Santa at Christmas

From Christian Century-

When the Rev. John McCausland crafted his Christmas Eve sermon at his Episcopal church in Weare, N.H., he always followed a basic formula.

There had to be a brother and a sister in the story. Jesus and the holy family played a prominent role. And there was always an appearance from Santa Claus.

"If we never mention Santa Claus, then you create a parallel universe," said McCausland, who retired in June. "What I try to do in this story is to tie the two together, but not make Santa Claus primary."

McCausland kept the Jesus-and-Santa story tradition for 14 years at Holy Cross Episcopal Church. Children would carry the figures to the creche display and sit for McCausland's story, in which Santa often joins in the adoration of the Christ child.

Just where to place the jolly elf in the original Christmas story can be a perennial dilemma for both parents and pastors. This year, two new products draw on educating kids about the origins of Santa, or inspiring them to become Santas themselves.

Phil Vischer, creator of the popular VeggieTales characters, has launched a DVD that answers the question, "Why Do We Call it Christmas?" The video, hosted by Vischer and featuring puppets and animation, spends 45 minutes detailing the origins of Christmas traditions, including Santa Claus.

One puppet on the DVD credits American TV shows and movies that "mushed up Christmas" by melding stories of St. Nicholas and the Nativity. "How did this guy become such a big part of Jesus' birthday party?" Vischer asks as the video opens.

More here-

Volunteers help social worker throw party for foster kids

From Mass.-

Thanks to a dedicated social worker, the desire of a local parishioner to help needy children and the generosity of local organizations, about 100 foster children will receive gift-wrapped presents and pictures with Santa during a large holiday party tomorrow.

Parishioners of Calvary Episcopal Church and volunteers spent much of last night wrapping those gifts, with the party slated for the Danvers Masonic Temple tomorrow afternoon.

For the past decade, Carla King, a social worker, recruiter and liaison for foster families for the state Department of Children and Families, has thrown a Christmas party for foster children on the North Shore. It's King's job to find families willing to open their homes to children who have suffered abuse or neglect, and who have been removed from the homes of their parents.

For years, King, with help from a crew of friends, arranged the Christmas party, but she wasn't sure she was up to the task of shopping, wrapping, finding a place to store the toys and arranging the party again after this year.

More here-

Right Rev. Mariann Budde reaching out for a more vital Episcopal Church

From The Washington Post-

Is the Right Rev. Mariann Budde the woman to save the Episcopal Church?

On meeting her, you’d hope so. Bright-eyed, string-bean skinny and 52 years old, Budde (pronounced bud-EE) has the athletic bearing and viselike handshake of your high school lacrosse coach. She is unapologetically liberal, and the way she answers hot-button questions — “I’m in favor of gay marriage, always have been. At this point it’s a no-brainer” — is bracing after decades of public squabbling and tepid rhetoric on such matters from church leaders.

But Budde, who was installed last month as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, faces a tough road. After a decade of schism within the church and a broad disillusionment with mainline Protestantism in general, membership in the Episcopal Church in America — the denomination of FDR and George Herbert Walker Bush, the throne of high WASP-dom — has fallen on hard times.

More here-

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Famed cathedral's dog becomes nativity star

From NBC-

It’s not unusual to find a nativity at a church this time of year, but the scene at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City has a little something that stands out. His name is Lexington II.
Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the famed cathedral's rector, added a new statue to the scene this year — a dog, modeled after a yellow Labrador named Lexington.

He was heartbroken when he entered a pet shop on New York's Lexington Ave. 15 years ago, as his previous canine companion had just died after 10 years of devotion. He didn’t want another dog, but in the shop, a friendly Lab puppy licked his hand — and he was hooked. Lexington hasn’t left his side since.

The dog statue was created in Ortisei, Italy, at the Demetz Art Studio — the same studio that carved the Jesus, Mary, Joseph and other parts of the crèche. The statue is actually a Golden Retriever, not a yellow Labrador, but when Msgr. Ritchie reached out to the studio, the dog had already been carved. It might not be a perfect fit, but the man in charge of painting the statue came to New York and loved Lexington’s coloring, so the Lab’s coat inspired the finishing touches.

While the new addition has plenty of fans, some visitors don’t think a dog belongs next to the baby Jesus, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

More here-

S.D. Moments: Church honors woman for missions

From South Dakota-

A South Dakota woman who served as a missionary in New York state and established a shelter for abused women in her home state has been honored by the Episcopal Church.

The late Margaret Hawk, who joined a society of lay missionaries in the Anglican Communion in 1963 at the age of 50, was a recipient of the House of Deputies Award of Distinguished Service by the National Episcopal Council.

Hawk, who died Feb. 18, 1993, was known as Sister Margaret by the people she served.

“The Church Army used to refer to women as sisters,” said Bishop John Tarrant, head of the South Dakota Episcopal Diocese.

More here-

Now Episcopalians oppose gay marriage

From Scotland-

OPPOSITION to Alex Salmond’s plans to legalise gay marriage grew last night when the Scottish Episcopal Church became the latest religious organisation to oppose holding same-sex wedding ceremonies in its churches.

Less than a week after the Church of Scotland officially registered its objections to same-sex marriage, the Episcopalians released their response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue.

In its submission, the Scottish branch of the Anglican communion argued that current Church law would not allow for a civil partnership to be registered through a religious ceremony in an Episcopal church.

Episcopalian canons – or Church law – state that marriage is a “physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God”.

The submission did recognise that some of the Church’s 40,000 or so members would disagree with its view on sex marriage.

But it said that “rites and ceremonies” must at all times be “in accordance” with authorised services of the Church. It added that “current authorised services include liturgies for marriage but not same-sex unions”.

More here-

Episcopalian presiding bishop in U.S. visiting Jersey City

From New Jersey-

Sidney King said it was “persistence.”

For two years, Incarnation Church invited The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., to visit their church for their centennial, which will close this Sunday. And Jefferts Schori has accepted and will preside and preach.

“We are excited and elated,” said King, the senior warden at the church for the last five years.
King also thinks Bishop Mark Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark put in a good word.
Now everyone will wait to hear the words she will share to this historic congregation, which was founded in 1910 as a church of color to accept blacks who were not welcome in the established churches of Jersey City.

More here-

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mainline Protestants seek reforms, stir anger

From The Washington Post-

By his count, there are also nearly 50 departments and offices in the church’s New York headquarters, and 46 committees in its legislative body, the General Convention.

Sauls, who was hired by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in May, said that he has since learned there are even more offices “that I had never heard of before.”

“It has become just Byzantine,” he said. “The governance structures have grown by accretion, without any strategic plan.” Nearly half of the denomination’s budget is spent on overhead, according to Sauls.

Meanwhile, Episcopal membership continues to drop, dipping below 2 million in the U.S. for the first time in decades. Donations, too, are down. It is time for change, starting at the top, Sauls said.

“We’ve been operating in a system where certain expertise resides at the churchwide level and pronouncements get sent down the pipeline,” he said. “That model is last century. It’s a radically different time now.”

More here-

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church executes successful toy drive for Palomas children

From New Mexico-

An avalanche threatened Monday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

But it had nothing to do with the snowfall that blanketed Las Cruces throughout most of the day.

It stemmed, rather, from the piles of toys, clothes, household goods, school supplies, toiletries and Christmas-paper wrapped shoeboxes that filled the office of Deacon Barbara Fry.

The space has been difficult to maneuver around in recent days, thanks to the collection of donations awaiting shipment to Palomas, Mexico. The gifts will wind up in the hands of needy women and children - all victims in some way of drug war violence.

"It's just boomeranged. It's exploded," Fry said. "It's amazing what people have come up with."
This is the second year the church has collected items to give to Palomas residents. A year ago, the effort piggybacked onto one headed up by a Truth or Consequences church. The St. Andrew's church involvement was much smaller last year, resulting in about 35 shoeboxes full of gifts, according to Fry.

More here-

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Gospel according to 'Peanuts'

From The Pittsburgh Tribune- (Interesting it almost didn't make it to television even in 1965)

Few headlines about network television make me giddy.

Fewer still make me hopeful that all is good in the world.

But back in August 2010, I read the following headline from the media pages with great excitement: "Charlie Brown Is Here to Stay: ABC Picks Up 'Peanuts' Specials Through 2015."

The first of these to be made, the famous Christmas special, was an instant classic when it was created by Charles Schulz on a shoestring budget in 1965. And thanks to some smart television executives, it will be around for at least another five years for all of us to see and enjoy.

What people don't know is that the Christmas special almost didn't happen because some not-so-smart television executives almost didn't let it air.

You see, Charles Schulz had some ideas that challenged the way of thinking of those executives 46 years ago. And one of them had to do with the inclusion in his Christmas cartoon of a reading from the King James Bible's version of the Gospel of Luke.

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Even in 1965 -- just a few years before Time magazine asked, "Is God Dead?" -- CBS executives thought a Bible reading might turn off a nation populated with Christians. And during a Christmas special, no less. Ah, the perils of living on an island in the northeast called Manhattan.

Read more:

Beware of Boko Haram, Bishop warns Elechi

From Nigeria-

As the Ebonyi State government proposed to establish schools for Almajiris in the state, the governor has been warned to be aware and alert, so as not to put the state in great danger of breeding Boko Haram and the likes of Osama Bin Laden.

The warning was issued by Bishop of Afikpo Dioceses Anglican Communion Rt. Rev. Paul Udogu went he presented his presidential address during the Diocese’s second synod at St Paul Anglican church, Afikpo.

He described the intention of the state government as a dangerous move to the socio-political, economic and cultural existence of Ebonyi state and a subtle move to Islamise the state, adding that he would not want to believe that the state government was ignorant of the dangers associated with the proposed action.

According to him, “one would expect the Chief Martin Elechi-led government of Ebonyi state to make efforts to rehabilitate all the dilapidated public schools and raise the fallen standard of education in the state instead of venturing into Almajiri School that will cause more problems in the state.”

More here-

Anglican church appoints female bishop

From Australia-

The Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn has appointed its first female bishop.

Archdeacon Genieve Blackwell will be consecrated in March and will leave the Yass parish to be based in Wagga Wagga.

There she will be rector of Turvey Park and regional bishop.

She will be one of three female bishops in Australia.

Archdeacon Blackwell says part of her new role will include promoting the Church.

"There's a particular role a bishop has in say a keeper of the vision, and part of what I'll be doing is particularly looking towards promoting the mission of the church, in that particular region, the western region of the diocese," she said.

Archdeacon Blackwell says it is exciting women in ministry are being recognised for their skills.

"Women in ministry is about women being able to use the gifts God has given them in the ministry of the church and in the service of Christ. It's very affirming that it's recognised by the church," she said.

More here-

The Bishop's Blessings

From Newark NJ-

The Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, visited St. Andrew and Holy Communion on Sunday, a service that marked World AIDS Day by calling for continued support for the nearly 34 million people living with HIV around the world.

The Episcopal Church is encouraging renewed education and advocacy efforts to bring an end to the global pandemic. During his sermon to parishioners in South Orange, the Bishop recalled the fear and confusion – and avoidance of those with the AIDS when the virus was first diagnosed 30 years ago.

He called on parishioners to renew their commitments to help those infected and others troubled by lingering economic worries as the church readies for the holiday season.

More here-

Hundreds join in 'Hallelujah' chorus in Nyack

From Nyak NY-

For 42 years, professional soloists at Grace Episcopal Church have sung the arias to Handel's classic "Messiah" while audience members have sung the choruses — including the rousing "Hallelujah."

Sunday's "Messiah" sing was no exception, with several hundred people packing the pews at the First Avenue Church for the annual concert. The event is part of the church's GraceMusic program, which holds year-round performances.

"This is do it yourself," said Robert L. Barrows, the music director for the church and GraceMusic, minutes before the concert began. "Instead of going to a concert, you get to be part of the musical apparatus."

Barrows, who is also the church's organist and choirmaster, added emphatically, "There is nothing like standing up yourself and joining and singing the 'Hallelujah' chorus."

More here-

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Church scandals a 'wake-up call' to everyone

From New York-

The church is the last place where children should be in danger of abuse.

Through the decades, the church has founded and operated innumerable children's hospitals, summer camps, orphanages, preparatory schools and athletic programs.

So, when the church itself violates the sacred trust to care for children, the sin seems unpardonable.

"You expect a church to be safe," said the Rev. Marilyn Sanders, pastor of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bainbridge. "Abuse is a horrible thing to happen, especially in a church. That's why we need to create a safe environment."

Episcopalians, Catholics, Jews and others have adopted strict policies in recent years to protect children from child sexual abuse, ranging from such measures as criminal background checks of church officials to requiring that two adults always be present with children.

More here-

Bishop of Kansas finds true calling helping to lead Episcopal Church

From Kansas-

On the Rev. Dean Elliott Wolfe’s hand sits a gold ring with a large, purple stone.

Once at a youth soccer game in Lawrence, that ring caught the eye and imagination of a little boy. The boy was quickly disappointed when he learned the ring was worn by the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, not a Super Bowl champion.

Most Episcopal bishops have similar stories of humbleness, Wolfe said.

At a coffee shop near Coffeyville, a waitress inquired about a large gold cross hanging from Wolfe’s neck. Wolfe had just moved from Texas, where apparently even a pectoral cross is bigger.

“Now that is some kind of cross,” the waitress said, to which Wolfe responded he was the Episcopal bishop of Kansas.

More here-