Saturday, August 17, 2013

Guilty thief returns this to church after 40 years

A story from England-

The words “thou shalt not steal” – or at least the book containing them – had been eating away at the thief’s mind for over 40 years.

That’s how long it took for a guilty, unidentified man to return a 200-year-old Bible he says he swiped from a dusty corner of Holy Trinity Church in Hastings, England, in 1971.

According to the Hastings Observer, Church Treasurer Simon Scott received an anonymous, typed letter from Germany explaining the Bible’s intriguing story.

The letter reads: “It may be astonishing to you to receive a letter from one whom you do not know. More than ever to receive a parcel which contains an old Bible. In 1971 I was just married and went with my wife to Hastings to upgrade our English knowledge for a better start in our occupations. The English lesson we had were in some rather old and dark rooms not made for lecturing. The lecturer himself seem to be very old and he had no teaching skills. He confused us totally. So we were very disappointed as we paid a lot of money for the four week course. In this excited moment I made a big mistake. I saw some gorgeous Holy Bibles in a corner underneath a bench. It seemed they were no worth for the community or the church and I took one with me home. It was a compensation for the poor course. In my mind I wanted to read and study chapter by chapter to complete my English. But in reality I did not. Back home I felt my action was not correct. Even more my wife was very angry and tried to persuade me to return the book. This Bible always brought me a guilty conscience. I was too cowardly to hand it over personally. Now I am retired and I make a final impulse to clear my conscience. I deeply regret what I did and can only hope this Bible finds its rightful home again.”


Read more at

http://www.wnd.com/2013/08/guilty-thief-returns-this-to-church-after-40-years/#35qYKtffcb1zdrcJ.99

Two English Cities Battle in Court to Acquire Remains of King Richard III

From The New York Times-

As if 500 years of ignominy lying in a grave hastily dug after his defeat in battle were not enough, King Richard III now faces a new battle in the English courts over which of two cities, Leicester or York, will be his final resting place.

A high court judge in London, Charles Haddon-Cave, ruled on Friday that a group backing York’s case, called the Plantagenet Alliance and involving several distant relatives of the slain monarch, could take legal action against the government and the University of Leicester.

The university has laid plans for Richard’s reinterment in Leicester based on a government license that authorized the dig that found the remains. The license specified that the university should decide where the dead king’s remains, if found, should be reburied.

The plans, already well developed, call for reinterment next May in an elaborate tomb in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, and the opening of a $6.2 million visitors’ center that is expected to be a major tourist draw.


More here-

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/world/europe/two-english-cities-battle-in-court-to-acquire-remains-of-king-richard-iii.html?_r=0

Jewish Royal Baby? Rumors Swirl Around Prince George And Kate Middleton's Family Heritage

From Huffington-

A Royal Bris! A Royal Bar Mitzvah! Hanukkah at Buckingham Palace!

From the moment Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged, a rumor ran happily through the Jewish blogosphere (and menacingly on many anti-Semitic websites): the couple’s progeny, the heir to the British throne, would be Jewish! And then, on July 22, a son was born — a Son of Israel!

Um, no.

His Royal Highness, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, is not Jewish — and you can bet your yarmulke on that.

But because Jewish law considers a child Jewish if the mother is Jewish, and because Kate’s mother’s maiden name is Goldsmith — a name not uncommon among British Jews — some wrongly conclude that the wee prince’s matrilineal line is Jewish, and so he must be too.

But before we dispel the rumor that the world’s WASPiest baby is an Israelite, here are five reasons why some people assume he is.

1. The Iranians said so. The Tehran-based Mehr News reported that not only is Kate Jewish, but she was secretly baptized in the Church of England so she could marry William, and then they faked their whole Christian wedding. The story goes on: “Nevertheless even being baptized by the bishop of the church cannot prevent Prince William’s son, the next king and the senior governor of the Church of England, from being a Jew as Kate and William’s child will inevitably remain a Jew.”


More here-

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/16/jewish-royal-baby_n_3764180.html?ir=Religion


Archbishop of Canterbury refuses to become patron of RSPCA after charity faces accusations it has lost its way

From Daily Mail (The RSPCA is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)-

The Archbishop of Canterbury has turned down an invitation to be a patron of the RSPCA.

The Most Rev Justin Welby declined the invitation from the animal charity as he has 'reluctantly decided to restrict his patronage', a spokesman for Lambeth Palace said.


Dr Welby's predecessors Rowan Williams, George Carey, Robert Runcle and Donald Coggan all accepted honorary positions within the charity which was founded in 1824 by an Anglican Priest.

Lambeth Palace said: 'Since taking office in March this year, the Archbishop has received many kind invitations to patron a large variety of charities and good causes.

'Each invitation has been an honour, and in an ideal world he would like to accept them all.
'However, in light of the sheer volume of the requests the Archbishop receives, and the many pressures on his time and resources, he has reluctantly decided to restrict his patronage to a manageable number of organisations based on where he feels his support could be most beneficial.'


More here-

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2396078/Archbishop-Canterbury-refuses-patron-RSPCA-charity-faces-accusation-lost-way.html

In politics, it seems a little bit of God goes a long way

From Australia-

Is God in the (lower) house? Whatever the outcome of this federal election, the answer to that question will be yes, at least as far as the prime minister is concerned: unusually in our history, Australians will this time choose between two devout Christians to lead the nation. Tony Abbott is a committed Catholic, Kevin Rudd a practising Anglican. Our recently deposed PM, Julia Gillard, was an atheist.

Does any of this matter to a largely secular voting public, or to how it informs political debate in a country that takes seriously the separation of church and state? The answer to that is a mix of no and yes, a neat nexus of the tolerance and conservatism with which Australians approach many issues: we seem comfortable with a little religious belief, accepting it as a byword for decency, rectitude and perhaps even humility, as long as the politician isn't, you know, weird about it.


Not appearing too extreme has always been a bigger problem for Abbott than Rudd. The Liberal leader's Catholicism is seen as more of a worry, particularly on issues such as reproductive rights - what might he do if he got his hands on the reins?


Read more:

 http://www.theage.com.au/comment/in-politics-it-seems-a-little-bit-of-god-goes-a-long-way-20130816-2s28e.html#ixzz2cE2GOKfz

Gay Rights Stance Pushes Dartmouth to Un-Hire Anglican Bishop

From Charisma News-

Dartmouth College has rescinded the appointment of Bishop James Tengatenga of Malawi as dean of a foundation at the Ivy League school in New Hampshire over his past comments about homosexuality.

Reached by e-mail on Thursday, Tengatenga said he was "disappointed" by the decision.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon said the school revoked the appointment because "the controversy (Tengatenga's comments) created have compromised his ability to serve effectively."

Tengatenga had been named as dean of the school's William Jewett Tucker Foundation, which seeks to educate Dartmouth students "for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality and social justice," according to the college's website.

The appointment drew criticism after it was announced last month because of Tengatenga's leadership of an Anglican church in Africa that opposed gay rights. He served as diocesan bishop of Southern Malawi and chair of the Worldwide Anglican Communion's Anglican Consultative Council, a network of 44 churches.


More here-

http://www.charismanews.com/us/40654-gay-rights-stance-pushes-dartmouth-to-un-hire-anglican-bishop

also here-

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2013/08/16/dartmouth-nixes-hire-of-african-bishop-on-past-gay-rights-stance/


Mark Stevenson to Fight Poverty

From The Living Church-

The Living Church Foundation extends joyous congratulations to the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, a member of the foundation’s board.

Adapted from the Office of Public Affairs

The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, has announced the appointment of the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson as domestic poverty missioner on the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).

In this position, Stevenson will be responsible for work related to Anglican Mark of Mission 4 — transformation of unjust structures of society — which the 77th General Convention designated as a budget priority and structured with a focus on the alleviation of poverty in the United States. Stevenson will begin his new work September 16 and will be based in Dallas.

In addition to the newly created work of Mission Mark 4, Stevenson will be responsible for several of the church’s longstanding domestic-poverty engagements, including support for the Jubilee Ministry program and liaison with networks of Episcopalians working to address poverty in their communities.


More here-

http://www.livingchurch.org/mark-stevenson-fight-poverty

Fresno church's labyrinth to be a place to pray, meditate

From Fresno-

An outdoor labyrinth -- where people can pray or meditate at any time of the day -- will be built at a northeast Fresno church.

A labyrinth is a structure containing an intricate network of winding passages, usually hard to follow without losing one's way. While praying or meditating, people travel though the path with the intent to achieve a spiritual experience.

Holy Family Episcopal Church, a small congregation of nearly 150 families at 1135 E. Alluvial Ave., is planning to break ground in the fall on the first phase of a $45,000 labyrinth. Construction should take about eight weeks. A second phase features landscaping, a water display and seating area.

Holy Family's labyrinth is modeled after the one at Chartres Cathedral, a medieval Roman Rite Catholic cathedral in Chartres, France, and designed as an outreach to the public. It will be built on grounds in front of the church sanctuary, easily accessible from East Alluvial Avenue, either by foot or wheelchair. Solar lighting is planned so people can use it also throughout the night.

Read more here:


http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/08/16/3445586/fresno-churchs-labyrinth-to-be.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, August 16, 2013

A church’s weapon against vandals: Reach out rather than fence in

From Utah-

Members of Grace Episcopal Church in Randolph, N.Y., recently had their building tagged with the words "Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?"

Rather than paint over the graffiti, the congregants let it stay and spray-painted their own response: "God loves you with no exceptions!"

While some have criticized the church members, they should be commended for seizing the opportunity to reach out.

Churches too often move into neighborhoods and do nothing to affect those around them. Christians sometimes forget that a primary focus should be on the people outside our churches.

More than two years ago, our church moved to Kearns and built a new edifice amid hundreds of homes. The area is sometimes marred by gang activity. Several times during construction, our building was tagged with gang symbols. After repainting the walls for the fourth time, it dawned on us that we needed to show our neighbors that it was not us vs. them; we intended to be part of the community. As a gesture of trust, we removed our fence. We staged free family events on our lawn and distributed food and clothing.


More here-

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/56739701-80/church-churches-corey-hodges.html.csp

Primates on Welby’s to-do list

From The Church Times-

THE Archbishop of Canterbury visited Barbados, Guatemala, and Mexico this week, as part of an ambitious plan to visit every Anglican Primate during his first 18 months in office.

Archbishop Welby flew to Barbados on Thursday of last week with his wife, Caroline, for a two-day visit, at the invitation of the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of the West Indies and Bishop of Barbados, Dr John Holder. The Archbishop met the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, and the Governor General, Elliott Belgrave, and clergy from across the diocese.

On Friday, the Archbishop preached at Christ Church, Barbados. He said: "In this part of the world there is a history of the Church in the past having acted in oppression. We cannot forget that, in every age and every place, the Church is human, and humans make terrible mistakes and do terrible wrongs. But it is still the family of God."

On Saturday, the Archbishop and Mrs Welby travelled to Guatemala for another two-day visit, at the invitation of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Central American Region and Bishop of Guatemala, the Most Revd Armando Guerra Soria.


More here-

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/16-august/news/world/primates-on-welby’s-to-do-list

Lutherans take surprise step in electing female presiding bishop

From RNS-

What started as just another church assembly turned into a historic one for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as members elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton the denomination’s first female presiding bishop.

Eaton will take over from Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who will step down after 12 years of overseeing the ELCA, one of the country’s largest denominations.

“I’m still in a state of shock,” Eaton said on Thursday (Aug. 15). “We wanted to open up a conversation, and as I said to the assembly, it looks like the conversation got out of hand.”


Eaton argued that incumbent Hanson paved the way for her election on Wednesday (Aug. 14). “The election of the woman to the office of presiding bishop is a fulfillment of his ministry of making this church a welcoming place,” she said.

It was under Hanson’s leadership that the denomination voted in 2009 to allow openly gay and lesbian clergy. And in June, Lutherans elected the denomination’s first gay bishop.


More here-

http://www.religionnews.com/2013/08/15/lutherans-take-surprise-step-in-electing-female-presiding-bishop/

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.

From The Washington Post (last month)

Last week a column on CNN’s Belief Blog titled “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church” went viral, partially because any time the words “Millennials,” “leaving,” and “church” are combined in a headline, people pay attention.

But why? Why do we care so much about the reasons Millennials are reportedly leaving churches?

I’m a Millennial, but I am weary of everyone caring so much about why Millennials do this or don’t do that. I’m sorry Millennials, but I’m going to have to throw us under the bus here: we do not have everything figured out. And if we expect older generations and well-established institutions to morph to fit our every fickle desire, we do so at our peril.

The CNN piece, written by Rachel Held Evans, makes some good points, to be sure. The line that I saw shared on Facebook more than any other is this:

“We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I made the same point three years ago with my book Hipster Christianity, and in a Wall Street Journal column called “The Perils of Wannabe Cool Christianity,” where I wrote:

“If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that ‘cool Christianity’ is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.”

It’s certainly important to remind the church that efforts to be cool will do little if anything to keep young people engaged. It often has the opposite effect.

More here-

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/07/31/how-to-keep-millennials-in-the-church-lets-keep-church-un-cool/

Why Christians need the church: An interview with Lillian Daniel

From Religious New Service-

Young people are disillusioned, disenchanted, and in some cases, downright disgusted with organized religion. So while they still want to follow Jesus, they are leaving the church and all its judgmental, hypocritical, anti-gay, partisan baggage behind.

In the middle of this storyline, which is quite frankly growing staler by the headline, comes Rev. Lillian Daniel and her hit book When Spiritual But Not Religious is Not Enough. It’s incredibly well-written, and though she is a liberal Protestant minister, I think her message resonates with where many conservative evangelicals are.

Daniel shares how she has seen the good and bad sides of the local church–a BB gun-toting grandma, a rock-and-roller sexton, a worship service attended by animals and a group of theologians at Sing-Sing prison. Despite their flaws, she argues that local Christian communities play an important role in the life of faith, even though her spiritual journey extends well beyond the pews. Here we discuss why so many people want to follow Jesus without attending church and why she thinks this approach isn’t enough.

JM: In your opinion, why has this spiritual-but-not-religious (SBNR) trend become so popular today?

LD: People mean a lot of different things by SBNR, so let me clarify what I mean: Somebody who feels connected to the divine in some way but does not practice or worship with any community.


- See more at:

http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/08/13/answering-the-spiritual-but-religious-an-interview-with-lillian-daniel/#sthash.KqCfjM5R.dpuf

New Appointments for the Diocese of Egypt

From Egypt-

The Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa is celebrating two new appointments.

Yesterday the Board of the Alexandria School of Theology (AST) announced that the Very Revd Canon Dr Samy Fawzy Shehata, Dean of St Mark's Pro-Cathedral in Alexandria, is the new Principal of AST.

Dean Samy holds a Diploma in Theology from the University of Wales, and both a Masters of Arts in Mission Studies and a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Birmingham, UK. In June 2013, AST held its sixth graduation service at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. The Most Revd & Rt Hon. Justin Welby, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, was the commencement speaker.

Today the Most Revd Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, is pleased to announce that he will install The Revd Dr Toby Howarth as an Honorary Canon of All Saints Cathedral during the 75th Anniversary the cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, between 1 and 3 November 2013.

This honorary appointment is in recognition of great work and tireless efforts of Dr Howarth--who is the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs--in regard to the important and longstanding inter faith dialogue between the Anglican Communion and Al Azhar Al Sherif, the hub of Sunni Islam throughout the world, located in Cairo, Egypt.


More here-

http://allafrica.com/stories/201308141469.html

Church of England wades into fracking debate

From England-

The Anglican Diocese of Blackburn has released a pamphlet warning their Lancaster flock of the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.  

“The time we spend thinking, praying and acting now to protect our drinking water and the rest of God’s glorious Creation cannot compare with the time succeeding generations could potentially spend trying to make good what will likely happen if we in the church remain uninformed and silent,” reads the pamphlet.

Fracking, the process of drilling and injecting high pressure fluid into the ground to fracture shale rocks and release their natural gases, is certainly contentious to the environmentally conscious, risking contaminating water reserves and releasing methane into the earth’s atmosphere.

The pamphlet goes as far as to claim that fracking is “a choice between economic gain and a healthy environment” and that we must be wary of the long-term consequences before being seduced by the “temptation” of a “gas drilling bonanza”.

However, despite the somewhat partisan tone, a spokesman for the Blackburn Diocese is adamant that this is not propaganda bent on persuading parishioners away from the technology, but they are rather meeting their “obligation, under God, to bring a different perspective into the debate”.


More here-

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/14/church-of-england-wades-into-fracking-debate/

Dartmouth Rescinds an Appointment Over Past Comments on Homosexuality

From The Chronicle of Higher Education-

Dartmouth College has withdrawn the appointment of the dean of its William Jewett Tucker Foundation, after revelations of his past comments on homosexuality caused a controversy on the campus.

The college announced last month that it had appointed the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, the Anglican bishop of Southern Malawi, to serve as the dean of the Tucker Foundation, which, according to its mission statement, “educates Dartmouth students for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice.”

Some critics took issue with Bishop Tengatenga’s opposition in 2003 to the consecration of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, according to The Valley News.

After his appointment as the Tucker foundation’s dean was announced, Bishop Tengatenga issued a written statement pledging that he “unequivocally and categorically” considered all people equal “regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Philip J. Hanlon, Dartmouth’s president, said in a statement released on Wednesday that he had recently met with Bishop Tengatenga and asked him “tough questions” about his earlier statements. Mr. Hanlon said Bishop Tengatenga had described in “passionate terms” his commitment to gay rights.



More here-

http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/dartmouth-rescinds-an-appointment-over-past-comments-on-homosexuality/64649

Also here-

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-14/dartmouth-president-pulls-dean-s-appointment-for-remarks-on-gays.html

In Egypt, priest and family narrowly escape attack

From ENS-

An Anglican priest and his family narrowly escaped harm the morning of Aug. 14 after a mob armed with rocks and petrol bombs were kept out of a church building by steel window bars.

The Rev. Ehab Ayoub, his family, a lay minister and a guard were trapped in St. Saviour’s Church, Suez, for hours while pro- Mohamed Mursi supporters were attacking the building.


Speaking from the Diocese of Egypt’s head office, the Rev. Drew Schmotzer, bishop’s chaplain, told ACNS, “They [the attackers] tried to get through the windows, but our steel bars prevented it, thanks be to God.


“Eventually, the army came with tanks and personnel and after a long morning, the family are now out of the church and in a safe place.”


The attack on the church came to light after the Most. Rev. Mouneer Anis, bishop of Egypt and president bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, posted an appeal for prayer on the diocesan website.


“As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi,” he wrote. “They…have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church.


More here-

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/08/15/egypt-priest-family-narrowly-escape-attack/

Lutherans shatter glass ceiling: First woman presiding bishop

From Seattle-

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, shattering a glass ceiling, has elected the Rt. Rev. Elizabeth Eaton as the first woman to serve as presiding bishop of the 4-million-member denomination.

Eaton defeated incumbent Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson at the ECLA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.  Hanson had been in office for 12 years, presiding over such difficult decisions as allowing partnered gays to serve as clergy in the church.

Eaton has been ECLA bishop of Cleveland.  She is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and is married to an Episcopal priest.  The ECLA and the Episcopal Church are in full communion and at times share ministries.

“We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture increasingly pluralistic.  We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places; that is a conversation we need to have as a church,” Eaton told the Churchwide Assembly, according to the Religion News Service.

The ECPA has 9,638 congregations but has lost substantial membership in recent years.  The decision to allow partnered gay clergy caused a split by conservatives, who have formed the North American Lutheran Church.

The Episcopal Church has experienced similar difficulties since election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori in 2006 as its first female presiding bishop.


More here-

http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/08/14/lutherans-shatter-glass-ceiling-first-woman-presiding-bishop/

Breakaway Va. Anglican Congregation to Appeal Property Case to Supreme Court

From Virginia-

A Virginia Anglican congregation that traces its founding to the colonial era has announced that they will file an appeal over a property case to the United States Supreme Court.

The Falls Church Anglican stated earlier this week their intention to file an appeal over whether they or the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia controls the historic Falls Church property.  "Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we achieved a broad degree of unity in our decision to bring these matters forward to the Supreme Court, believing that God has uniquely positioned TFCA to do so," reads an email sent out to parishioners on Monday.


"We are advised that the facts of our case are strong and that we are uniquely placed at this time – and perhaps for many years to come – to raise these issues to the U.S. Supreme Court. And each of us wanted to be good stewards of the resources God has given us."


Read more at

http://www.christianpost.com/news/breakaway-va-anglican-congregation-to-appeal-property-case-to-supreme-court-102276/#UCgTAYO9YYDYaAGO.99

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lutherans elect presiding bishop in Pittsburgh vote

From Pittsburgh-

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of Cleveland has been elected presiding bishop of the 4 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

On the fifth ballot she defeated 12-year incumbent Bishop Mark Hanson 600-287.
Both are considered centrists in a denomination that lost 500,000 members after a 2009 decision to permit partnered gay clergy.


She is the first female presiding bishop in the nation's largest Lutheran denomination.
The Episcopal Church, which is half the size of the ELCA, also has a woman as presiding bishop.
Bishop Eaton had been in third place, with just 87 votes, after the second ballot.


Bishop Eaton said she supported the decision to allow local option on partnered gay clergy, but that being an inclusive church meant respecting those who had a different understanding of scripture and doctrine.


"Those people also have voice in this church. We need to make room for those who do not agree with us, but agree with our claim upon the cross," she said.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/lutherans-still-searching-for-a-presiding-bishop-699257/#ixzz2bzmjthAY

How Reza Aslan's Jesus is giving history a bad name

From ABC Religion and Ethics-

He is my favourite subject, academically and personally, but popular accounts of the "historical Jesus" are getting tedious, and some of them are giving history itself a bad name.

Hardly a month goes by without a media outlet announcing something "new" about Jesus. Some half-qualified scholar tells us how the original Jesus was, unsurprisingly, quite unlike the figure of the Gospels. He was married, he was gay, he was both, he never existed, he was peaceful, he was violent, and on and on it goes.

The most recent effort is Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Typical of this genre, the author's principal credentials are not in ancient history, classics, New Testament or Jewish studies - the directly relevant disciplines. Instead, he has a PhD in the sociology of religion and is a "professor of creative writing," which explains both the riveting prose and eccentric content. The mismatch between Aslan's grandiose claims and his limited credentials in history is glaring on almost every page. The sizable bibliography and notes are no substitute for formal training - as is equally well-attested in the similarly blustering works of fundamentalist Christian apologetics.


Naturally, everyone is allowed to express a view on historical matters. All I am saying is that not everyone is allowed to claim the mantle of "expert" in what is a vast and highly specialized field of academic enquiry, in which Aslan has not contributed a single peer reviewed article, let alone monograph.

More here-

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/08/09/3822264.htm

URGENT PRAYERS NEEDED FOR EGYPT

From Egypt-

Dear Friends,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church. I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt (photo above), as well as a Catholic church in Suez. Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt. Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt.

Early this morning, the police supported by the army, encouraged protestors in two different locations in Cairo, to leave safely and go home. It is worth mentioning that these protestors have been protesting for 6 weeks, blocking the roads. The people in these neighborhoods have been suffering a great deal—not only these people, but those commuting through, especially those who are going to the airport. The police created very safe passages for everyone to leave. Many protestors left and went home, however, others resisted to leave and started to attack the police. The police and army were very professional in responding to the attacks, and they used tear gas only when it was necessary. The police then discovered caches of weapons and ammunition in these sites. One area near Giza is now calm, but there is still some resistance at other sites. There are even some snipers trying to attack the police and the army. There are even some rumors that Muslim Brotherhood leaders asked the protestors in different cities to attack police stations, take weapons, and attack shops and churches.


More here-

http://dioceseofegypt.org/2013/08/urgent-prayers-for-egypt/

ELCA Holding Its Biennial Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh

Fro The Christian Post-

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is holding its biennial denominational meeting in Pennsylvania this week.

Kicking off Monday, delegates from across the United States converged at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., for the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
The Assembly, which is scheduled to go from Monday until Saturday, has in attendance about 950 voting members from 65 of the ELCA's synods.


The theme for this year's meeting is "Always Being Made New," which derives from 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."


According to information at the ELCA's website provided by the denomination's Office of the Secretary, the theme stresses among other things the 25th anniversary of the ELCA's creation.


Read more at

http://www.christianpost.com/news/elca-holding-its-biennial-churchwide-assembly-in-pittsburgh-102126/#ZWSOQi5MfTwQsgF2.99

What Christianity can teach cricket

From England-

England's victory in the current Ashes series has captured the imagination of the country this summer. Many of us have been glued to our televisions and radios, or just as likely our computers and mobiles to follow the latest twists and turns of the Test matches.

There have, of course, been controversial episodes in the series and some behaviour which has departed from the high standards of a game that prides itself on a tradition of gentlemanly conduct.

This flared up during the First Test Match at Trent Bridge in July when Stuart Broad edged the ball to first slip and did "not walk." Some think this is further evidence that cricket has left behind its ethical roots, partly derived from Christianity.

As cricket developed in the 19th century, many Christians saw the emergence of the game, with its intricate rules and gentlemanly spirit, as a way of inculcating a moral code. Indeed, one-third of all Oxbridge cricket blues between 1860 and 1900 later trained for the clergy. Christians who played the game in this formative era included J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), the very first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool), the Rev. Edward Lyttleton (1855-1942) and C.T. Studd (1860-1931). Later on, batsmen to make their mark in the first half of the twentieth century included Canon Frank Gillingham (1875-1953), Canon J H Parsons (1890-1981) and the Rev E T Killick (1907-1953).

- See more at:

http://www.baptisttimes.co.uk/index.php/comment-opinion/1017-what-christianity-can-teach-cricket#sthash.Mw09XMjs.dpuf

Homosexuality is tearing fabric of Anglican union, says Ntagali

From Uganda-

Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, has attacked the church in America for consecration of a gay man as bishop, saying the unbiblical decision has torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level.

Ten years ago this month, a homosexual; a divorced father of two, was elected bishop in the Episcopal Church in America.

Archbishop Ntagali lamented that the homosexual crisis in the church still exists and is deepening, with no signs of improving.

“There were many attempts by the primates of the Anglican Communion to bring discipline to the American Church, but they were not implemented. And, so the spiritual cancer has spread,” he said.

The Archbishop added: “It has infected the Anglican church in Canada, the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Wales, and even the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.”


More here-

http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Homosexuality-is-tearing-fabric-of-Anglican-union--says-Ntagali/-/688334/1947332/-/52s3yuz/-/index.html

Restoring our faith

From Georgia-

“This day restores my faith in humanity”

-- Spoken by a 12-year-old

The 12-year-old who spoke the above quote was reflecting upon her experiences as a participant in the Jonathan Daniels and Martyrs of Alabama Memorial Pilgrimage which took place in Hayneville, Ala., on Saturday.


The event was organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama 15 years ago to pay tribute to Jonathan Daniels, a young white seminary student from Massachusetts who was murdered along with a large array of African-Americans including the four little girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing.

Our day began at 6:30 a.m. when we met in the parking lot of St. Augustine’s of Canterbury Episcopal Church on the south side of Atlanta with a group that had traveled from Macon, Warner Robins, north Georgia and Massachusetts. The pilgrimage was organized by the Diocese of Atlanta’s Commission for Dismantling Racism and led by Bishop Robert Wright.

In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sent out the call for pastors and religious leaders to come to Alabama to help forge the struggle for liberation in in that state and the young seminary student Jonathan Daniels was among the folks who responded.

Read more here:

http://www.macon.com/2013/08/14/2606634/meeks-restoring-our-faith.html#storylink=cpy

Garrett Turns to the Afterlife

From The Living Church-

If popular culture shapes how 21st-century people understand the afterlife, then some literature and movies are more helpful — and truer to the Bible — than others. Perhaps a guide can help sift the wheat from the chaff.

Greg Garrett, 51, a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church and a professor of English at Baylor University, hopes to provide such guidance in Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Literature and Culture.

The book, scheduled for 2014 by Oxford University Press, explores how popular ideas of heaven, hell, and purgatory are shaped by what we watch, what we read, and what we’ve derived from religious traditions.

“Most Christians hold many of their beliefs about the afterlife as much from art and literature as from Scripture and theology,” Garrett said via email.

Sometimes those ideas stray far afield from any biblical basis, Garrett argues, citing the common refrain offered to someone who’s lost a loved one: “God must have needed another angel.”

“We may remember from what little there is in the biblical record on angels that God created them separately from and prior to humanity,” Garrett said, “but nonetheless find ourselves drawn to that human to angel narrative, or a story like It’s a Wonderful Life, where an apprentice angel finally gets his wings.”

More here-

http://www.livingchurch.org/garrett-turns-afterlife

'People of faith need to be involved:' Wyoming senator studies to become a priest

From Wyoming-

Of all the metaphorical images of God and Jesus – master of the house, carpenter, teacher, winemaker — Bernadine Craft’s favorite is shepherd.

Her grandfather, who died before she was born, ran sheep in the Wind River Mountains. Craft grew up hearing stories of his adventures.

A painting created by Craft’s aunt hung in her childhood home in Rock Springs. It’s of Jesus leaning over a rocky ledge, grabbing a lost lamb. Craft now owns that house and still has that painting.

“From the time I was a little girl, that somehow symbolized to me God, and symbolized Christ,” she said. “That love of the shepherd for his sheep. And I would hear the stories about the sheep herders that would go up and look for that one lost lamb, that one stray little sheep.”

The role of shepherding the flock has taken on new meaning for Craft, a Democratic state senator who is studying to become a priest in the Episcopal Church. On Aug. 20, she will be ordained as a transitional deacon at her Rock Springs parish, Church of The Holy Communion. She will be a deacon for at least six months before ordination as a priest.


More here-

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/people-of-faith-need-to-be-involved-wyoming-senator-studies/article_00872026-4e5e-5bdd-9c7a-dfc805446286.html

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cardboard cathedral takes centre stage in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch

From The Guardian-

With its celebration of the Gothic revival style and pride in being called that most English of cities, conservative Christchurch is an unusual place to host the world's first cardboard cathedral.

Two years and seven months after the February 2011 earthquake which physically and mentally rocked the foundations of Christchurch, killing 185 people, the Transitional Cathedral has opened its doors.

Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and delivered by Christchurch architectural firm Warren and Mahoney, the cardboard cathedral cost $5.3m, accommodates 700 people and has an expected life of 50 years. In a city without a town hall, and limited performance space, an expectant flock and the curious public are streaming in.


But in a broken place that has experienced so much loss – more than 220 heritage buildings have been demolished in a wasteland CBD where the wrecking ball is still swinging – it is hard for many to let go of a 132-year-old Gothic cathedral whose image was the city's brand in every postcard.

More here-

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/13/cathedral-cardboard-earthquake-new-zealand-christchurch

One candidate being considered for Anglican bishop of Newcastle

From Australia-

After failing to reach agreement on a new bishop earlier this year the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle will meet next month to vote again.

In March, five candidates were considered to replace retired bishop Brian Farran but none of them received enough votes.

The synod will be considering just one person this time, Northern Territory bishop Greg Thompson.

Assistant bishop of the Newcastle Diocese Peter Stuart says the synod will be held next month on September 14.

"The synod is a gathering of 300 people, clergy and lay people from across the diocese of Newcastle," he said.

"They're looking at one candidate - bishop Greg Thompson from the diocese of the Northern Territory.

"The responsibility of the synod is to decide by two thirds majority whether they believe God is calling bishop Greg to be the next bishop of Newcastle."


More here-

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-13/one-candidate-being-considered-for-anglican-bishop-of-newcastle/4882524

Gays are not guaranteed the right to wed in church

From California-

The congregation cheered.

When Barbara Brecher and Terry Allen married in June 2008, during the brief window that year when same-sex marriage was legal in California, they asked the entire membership of Congregation B'nai Israel to witness the ceremony. Hundreds of congregants took them up on the invitation.

Senior rabbi Mona Alfi, a longtime supporter of same-sex unions, pronounced the couple legally wed, and the congregation erupted in applause.

"People went nuts," said Barbara Allen-Brecher, now 57, an administrative law judge. "They were hooting and hollering. Did I cry? Oh, of course."

What it meant to her to marry within her faith – not just in the eyes of the state but also the eyes of her congregation – is simple: It meant everything.

"I couldn't imagine not doing it that way," she said. "I can't express the joy we experienced having the opportunity to do it in the sanctuary."

Gay and lesbian couples can legally marry today in 13 states, including California. But if they want to marry within their faith, like Barbara and Terry Allen-Brecher, options vary widely from denomination to denomination across the religious spectrum.

From the viewpoint of America's religious institutions, the U.S. Supreme Court's recent landmark decisions on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 changed nothing.


Read more here:

http://www.sacbee.com/2013/08/13/5645493/gays-are-not-guaranteed-the-right.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, August 12, 2013

Churches feel vulnerable after Mugabe reelected in Zimbabwe

From Zimbabwe (via Alaska)

The atmosphere in Zimbabwe after the reelection of strongman Robert Mugabe is not one of great celebration, but of tension.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the main challenger, says he will not join in a new governing coalition but is contesting the credibility of the July 31 vote in court.

Fears are on the rise in the capital of Harare, reports say, that under one-party rule, a host of Mr. Mugabe’s old partners, cronies, henchmen, and friends will start to come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the hour.

Foreign-owned banks, mines, and businesses have heard that, to fulfill a campaign promise made by Mugabe, their assets may be seized and restructured into a majority national ownership arrangement.

Now it appears the considerable property of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe, though it is mostly a black membership, may also be under renewed scrutiny by the unscrupulous.

The chief Anglican bishop in Zimbabwe, Chad Gandiya, this week accused a renegade clergyman and friend of Mugabe of restarting a campaign using brutality, the courts, and police to seize churches, orphanages, and missions owned by mainstream Anglicans.

More here-

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130812/churches-feel-vulnerable-after-mugabe-reelected-zimbabwe

Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage in Hayneville marks progress, reminds of civil rights work remaining

From Alabama-

 The judge’s bench from which the murderer of Jonathan Myrick Daniels was declared “not guilty” in 1965 was transformed Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, into the altar of Christian Communion in the courthouse of Hayneville, Ala.

Hayneville is midway between Montgomery and Selma and just south of the highway bloodied during the 1960s struggle for civil rights for African-Americans.

“I hope you recognize the irony of sitting in this room – where such injustice was done – as we remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said the Honorable Judge Adrian Johnson, current Lowndes County District Judge.

Johnson welcomed about 300 pilgrims from around the U.S. for the 15th annual anniversary of the Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage.


More here-

http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2013/08/jonathan_daniels_pilgrimage.html

Episcopal bishop says gambling is a tax on the needy

From Western Mass-

As the new spiritual head of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Bishop Douglas J. Fisher pledged to immerse himself in the fight for social justice causes that affect the needy.

Bishop Fisher, who was ordained a prelate in December, said he eagerly wanted to rally his flock to advocate for issues such as real immigration reform, gun control, and food, health and other programs geared to help the less fortunate.

However, he didn't think that he'd be spending a chunk of his time, during his fledgling episcopate, battling developers interested in building gambling complexes around his diocese.

"I was neutral on the issue of gambling until all these proposals for casinos and slot parlors started coming forward," said the bishop in a recent interview with the Telegram & Gazette. "Looking into the matter further, I could see how these particular businesses could hurt our poor."


More here-

http://www.telegram.com/article/20130811/NEWS/308059523/1116

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What’s so uncool about cool churches?

From The Gospel Side-


I recently spent six-months doing a rotation as a hospital chaplain. One day I received a page (Yes, hospitals actually still use pagers). Chaplains are generally called to the rooms of people who look ill: People gray with kidney disease, or yellow with liver failure, discouraged amputees, nervous cancer patients. In this room, however, was a strikingly attractive 23 year-old young lady sitting up cheerfully in the hospital bed, holding her infant daughter and chatting with family and friends.

Confused, I stepped outside and asked her nurse, “Why did I get paged to her room?”

“Oh, she looks fabulous. She also feels great and is asking to go home,” the nurse said.

“…And you are calling me because?” I asked in confusion.

The nurse looked me directly in the eye and said: “Because we will be disconnecting her from life support in three days and you will be doing her funeral in four.”

The young lady had taken too much Tylenol. She looked and acted fine. She even felt fine, but she was in full-blown liver failure. She was dying and couldn’t bring herself to accept the diagnosis.

Today I have the sense that we are at the same place in the church. The church may look healthy on the outside, but it has swallowed the fatal pills. The evidence is stacking up: the church is dying and, for the most part, we are refusing the diagnosis.


More here-

http://thegospelside.com/2012/09/23/whats-so-uncool-about-cool-churches/

Syria refugees swell Christian community in Turkey

From The BBC-

Syria's Christians belong to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, but chased away by the threat of violence some are heading for neighbouring Turkey, where they have been greeted with considerable enthusiasm.

Driven by a deep and humble faith, Father Joaqim is a young man with a sense of destiny. He has returned from 11 years in Holland to revive his dying community, high on a remote escarpment in eastern Turkey.

We are standing together on the terrace of his newly restored monastery, high on a remote escarpment near Nusaybin, looking south over the Mesopotamian Plain.

"Thank God our community is alive again," he says, his face radiating out from the distinctive black cap of his Syriac Orthodox habit. "On Sundays our church is full with worshippers from the village."


More here-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23614968

Stained glass trolley tour draws crowd with art, stories, history

From North Carolina-

 Raemi Evans grew up admiring the colorful windows at Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church and shared their history Saturday during Salisbury’s first stained glass trolley tour.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea,” said Evans, who served as a volunteer docent. “It brings a degree of pride that my church was listed as one with some of the most beautiful stained glass.”


More than 50 people toured the windows at Soldiers Memorial, Haven Lutheran, St. John’s Lutheran, St. Luke’s Episcopal and Catawba College’s Omwake-Dearborn Chapel.

The event proved so popular that Center for Faith & the Arts ran out of seats on the trolley and added a van to carry the overflow crowd. But the demand for $20 tickets continued, and several latecomers were happy to follow the trolley in their own cars.


In 1904 or 1905, Evans’ grandparents purchased a large stained glass window for Soldiers Memorial. It bears their names — Prof. James and Rose Aggrey, given in honor of their infant daughter, Abna Azalea, who is Evans’ mother.


Her grandparents’ window at Soldiers Memorial, as well as each window at the other churches, tell a story. From familiar Bible verses to depictions of the life of Jesus Christ to representations of saints, each work of art offers a lesson, as well as decoration.



More here-


http://www.salisburypost.com/article/20130810/SP01/130819974/1016/stained-glass-trolley-tour-draws-crowd-with-art-stories-history

The work goes on in Haiti Hopital Albert Schweitzer has woven itself into the fabric of Haitian life, reports Rev. HAROLD T. LEWIS

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Riding shotgun in the front seat of the Land Rover was probably, in retrospect, not a good idea, as it gave me a much too up-close-and-personal view of the perilous terrain several hundred feet above Deschapelles in a remote area of Haiti some three hours to the northeast of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The steep, serpentine roads were rocky and narrow, and, as we discovered to our horror, two-way!

In the cabin behind me was a team of medical personnel -- a physician, two nurses, a prosthetist and two physical therapists visiting from Michigan. They had invited me to accompany them on what was for them a routine round of house calls to patients of Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti who were unable to make the long trek down to the hospital in the Artibonite Valley below.


At one home, a man in his 30s was suffering from a rare bone disorder, making it necessary for him to both wear a prosthesis and walk on crutches, at least temporarily. His prosthesis was examined, and it was determined that it had become misshapen as the foot became stronger and had to be replaced. The prosthetist took measurements and promised that the device would be replaced and delivered to the young man within two weeks, either by another team or by a social worker assigned to the region who made his rounds on a bicycle.



Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/the-work-goes-on-in-haiti-698908/#ixzz2bel2i9DC