Saturday, December 14, 2013

Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn't Make You a Homophobe

From Atlantic-

Does being against gay marriage make someone anti-gay?

The question resurfaced last week when Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, claimed on Meet the Press that the Catholic Church is unfairly “caricatured” as anti-gay. The Huffington Post’s Paul Raushenbush quickly wrote up a response, saying that “The hard reality that Cardinal Dolan and all Christians need to face up to is that the Catholic Church along with every other church whether Orthodox, Protestant or Catholic has been horrifically, persistently and vehemently anti-gay for almost all of its history.”

Then Raushenbush hauled out a familiar argument: “Let's just be very clear here —if you are against marriage equality you are anti-gay. Done.”

As a gay man, I found myself disappointed with this definition—that anyone with any sort of moral reservations about gay marriage is by definition anti-gay. If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay. That’s despite the fact that while some religious people don’t support gay marriage in a sacramental sense, many of them are in favor of same-sex civil unions and full rights for the parties involved. To be sure, most gay people, myself included, won’t be satisfied until our loving, monogamous relationships are graced with the word “marriage.” But it’s important to recall that many religious individuals do support strong civil rights for the gay members of their communities.

More here-

Christians no longer a majority in New Zealand

From Christian Post-

For the first time in over a century, less than half of New Zealanders call themselves Christians.

According to details of the 2013 census released recently, Christians now only make up approximately 47% of the four million-strong population who gave details of their religion (1.93 million people), dropping from 56% in 2006 (2.03 million).

Within the statistics, the most troubling data set is that of the Anglicans. The numbers show them as having lost almost 100,000 members in the space of six years, down from 0.55 million in 2006 to 0.46 million in 2013.

Anglicans have attributed this in large part to age, but have admitted that does not tell the full story.

"Last census there were 41,000 Anglicans over the age of 80, only slightly less than those under 10," said Peter Lineham, Professor of History at Massey University, according to

More here-

6 Anglican priests axed

From Zambia-

ANGLICAN Diocese of Lusaka Bishop Right Reverend David Njovu has dismissed six priests from the church after they refused to sign and endorse the revised conditions of service of service.
Five of the priests are Lusaka based while the other one is based in Choma.

The Lusaka-based priest yesterday stormed Daily Mail offices to narrate their ordeal and vowed not to bow down.

Speaking on behalf of other priests, Clement Mackenzi of St Peters Anglican Parish in Libala said Bishop Njovu wanted to replace the conditions of service which were enacted in 2001.

“When we received copies of new conditions of service, we read through them with a lot of care and we observed that they were not in good taste because they were not improving at all…In short, they were bad conditions of service,” Father Mackenzie said.

He said as senior and responsible clergy in the diocese, they refused to endorse the conditions of service and instead wrote Bishop Njovu seeking clarifications on pertinent issues.

Fr Makenzi said in response, Bishop Njovu told them the conditions of service had been attested by the Labour Commissioner and that he was not prepared to change them.

He ordered the priests to accept them.

More here-

Episcopal food programs fear being overwhelmed if feds cut food assistance

From Kansas-

If food stamps and other government assistance to people in need are cut, local volunteer efforts to provide commodities to those families will be “overwhelmed,” according to the Rev. Lavonne Seifert, newly appointed pastor of Clay Center’s St. Paul Episcopal Church which has organized and conducted food distribution programs over the past five years.

Recipients of food from the Mobile Food Pantry program in Clay Center are sending a stack of 87 paper plates to U. S. Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, each inscribed with a message from recipients about why food programs pending with the Farm Bill and federal budget should be fully funded not cut.

The “pantry patrons” wrote their messages after the December distribution explaining why food programs in the pending farm bill and federal budget should be fully funded, not cut, Seifert told those gathered at the regular Wednesday Chamber forum.

More here-

Friday, December 13, 2013

School children weep as vicar tells them Santa's not real and will turn them into ham

From The "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department-

Anglican Canon Simon Tatton-Brown also told a gruesome tale of the real Santa’s role in a plot to butcher kids and turn them into ham.

Furious parents at the school, have accused him of ruining their children’s Christmas.

And several have vowed to boycott a Christmas Carol concert at his church.

Linzi Merritt, whose son Levi, nine, attends the school in Chippenham, Wilts, said: “We wouldn’t just walk into the church during one of his services and tell everyone that Jesus isn’t real.”

Canon Tatton-Brown upset dozens of children at Charter Primary School when they were called in for assembly.

He said a pre-planned talk had to be scrapped because of technical difficulties and spoke about the festive season instead.

And he reduced youngsters to tears as he revealed that Santa was a fictional character based on the 4th Century St Nicholas.

More here-

Can You Catch a Cold at Communion?

From The Daily Beast-

Nothing is sacred to thy neighbor’s germs, but millions take part in the cup-sharing religious rite. Why passing on the sacrament may be forgivable during cold and flu season.
Christmas is second only to Easter as the holiday most likely to attract churchgoers. In the coming weeks, more people than usual will be filing into churches big and small, and many of those parishioners will be taking Communion.

The overlap of the religious rite with cold and flu season raises an uncomfortable question: Is receiving Communion sanitary?

Many Communion practices fly in the face of the day-to-day precautions most educated adults ordinarily take to prevent illness. A recent New Yorker article chronicled how hand sanitizer has become one of the fastest growing industries in America, thanks to increased awareness and concern about the spread of germs.

More here-

Episcopal Church of the Philippines issues disaster response report

From ENS-

The Philippines is “the most-exposed  country in the world to tropical cyclo0nes or typhoons.” There are accordingly around 19 typhoons that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility in a typical year and 6 to 9 of these usually make landfall.

It is said that it is in times of sorrow and disaster that the best in the Filipino is manifested and practiced. If there is any bright spot to the catastrophic landscape brought about by the destructive typhoons, it is the immediate response of the Filipino people, even those directly affected, wanting to help fellow Filipinos. Donations from all over the country usually come pouring in, not only from the coffers of rich corporations or institutions or enclaves of the rich but more so from millions of simple folks sharing a peso or a kilo of rice just to be able to save or feed others. Volunteerism for rescue and relief operations remain strong, with many volunteers risking and a few even losing their lives to bring much needed assistance to people clutching on the straw of life.

More here-

Welby talks to energy firms

From The Church Times-

EXECUTIVES from energy companies met the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday, two months after he called on such firms to be "conscious of their social obligations", given the "severe" impact of energy price rises.

A statement from Lambeth Palace said that the senior representatives met to talk about "their perspectives on social responsibility around the energy-supply sector". This was "one of a number of private meetings hosted by Archbishop Justin in order to draw on the experience of people from different areas of national life".

Utility Week reported on Tuesday that the chief executives of British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, and Npower were expected to attend the meet-ing.

A spokesman from Npower told the publication: "We would always want to try and engage with the issue [of fuel poverty]. We want to talk about that with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with any important stakeholder who has got a stake in these things. While energy is not the usual territory for religious leaders, it is important from a poverty point of view, which is certainly their territory, so it is right to talk."

More here-

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The splendour of the English carol

From The Spectator UK-

The most celebrated Christmas carol, ‘Silent Night’, belongs to Austria. Father Joseph Mohr, the priest at Oberndorf, a small village near Salzburg, wrote it in 1818. Set to music by Franz Xaver Gruber, it was sung on Christmas Eve at the church of St Nicholas: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht. It is the most celebrated carol for it captures the stillness of a winter night, the wonder of Christ’s birth, and the hope of all mankind for peace.

But when it comes to the celebration of that birth nothing surpasses the English tradition. On Christmas Eve millions of people all over the world will tune in not to Oberndorf but to King’s College, Cambridge, where the choristers take us, as they have since 1918, through the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. For many of those watching on television, and listening on the radio, it will be the highlight of the season.

More here-

Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation by Robert Bartlett – review

From The Guardian-

My favourite definition of a saint is someone who has not been researched enough, which shows that I am a child of the Enlightenment – relativist and rational – or perhaps a Northern European Protestant, much the same thing. Enlightenment Protestants find it entertaining but uncomfortable to return to the world described in Robert Bartlett's fine book, because in our neck of the woods, it's long gone, 500 years ago, give or take the odd folk custom and the decorous observances of the Anglican Prayer Book.

But throughout much of Christianity, particularly in Latin America and Africa, the saints flourish with all their old power, and their numbers steadily increase. Not that far away, indeed: in countries no more than an hour or two from Heathrow. It is no coincidence that the first Polish Pope, John Paul II, made more saints in his quarter-century pontificate than all his predecessors in the last half-millennium. The Bishops of Rome have cornered much of the market in saint-making – Bartlett describes how they did it – but they don't have a monopoly. Orthodox churches and the ancient Churches of the East beyond Orthodoxy have their own ideas about sainthood, and above all, it's the business of the Christian in the street to recognise sanctity where he or she stumbles across it. At John Paul II's funeral, there were enthusiastic shouts from the crowd of Santo subito! – "Whaddawe want? Sainthood! Whendawe want it? Now!" The Roman Catholic church's bureaucracy was uncharacteristically quick on this occasion to listen to the opinions of its laity (some laity at least) and the Polish Pope is due to take his place among the saints this coming spring, less than a decade after his departure from this earthly life.

More here-

Anglican priest ordained to Catholic priesthood in Savannah

From Georgia-

In a first for the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer ordained an Anglican priest to the Catholic priesthood Wednesday.

The Rev. Lucien Lindsey was ordained a Catholic priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah and incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a structure, similar to a diocese, that was created by the Vatican in 2012 for former Anglican communities and clergy seeking to become Catholic.

It was established by Pope Benedict XVI for those of the Anglican heritage who enter full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining distinctive elements of their theological, spiritual and liturgical patrimony.

Wednesday’s ordination was the 49th since the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was created, according to Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, Ordinary of the Chair of St. Peter, who traveled from Houston to participate in Wednesday’s ceremony.

More here-

Why a Pink Candle in the Advent Wreath?

 From Missouri-

In my parish, we use three purple candles with a pink candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent. This is the traditional practice in most, by by no means all, liturgical churches. We don’t do this for aesthetics — we’re not trying to prep out by getting our Talbots on (yes, I live in Hingham, Massachusetts, home of Talbots). Nor is it because the males among us need to demonstrate just how secure we are in our masculinity. No, that third candle is pink (or technically rose-colored) because it’s Gaudete Sunday. Huh?

Okay, let me back up and do some explaining here. First of all, we refer to the Third Sunday in Advent as Gaudete Sunday because the introit for the mass begins “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete” meaning “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say rejoice.” While much of the penitential nature of the season has been lost in favor of hopeful expectation, some of the readings still do sound this note. The Third Sunday has traditionally been a respite from the penitential themes of Advent emphasizing instead the joy of the coming of the Lord.

Read more:

TREC issues letter to the Episcopal Church

From ENS-

 The Taskforce for Re-Imagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued a letter to the Episcopal Church.

TREC Letter to the Church: December 10, 2013

In the last several months, the members of the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church have been on a listening tour – in person and virtually. We have spoken with youth groups and bishops, the Executive Council and councils of local leaders; at provinces, at dioceses, parishes, and religious communities. We have asked people what their hopes and dreams are for our Church; what aspects of the Church they hope we cherish and strengthen; and what they wish we could be brave enough to let go of in order to make our Church more vibrant and mission-focused.

Our listening to the Church is an ongoing process. What we have heard is a deep, abiding love for our Church and its unique way of creating Christ-centered community and mission. The Book of Common Prayer and the beauty and mystery of our liturgy bind us together across ages, geographies and politics. We deeply love the intellectual as well as the spiritual life that is cultivated in our members (“you don’t need to leave your mind at the door”).

More here-

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Biden to lead memorial service for Mandela at Washington National Cathedral

From The Washington Post-

Vice President Biden and the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, are slated to lead a national memorial service for Nelson Mandela on Wednesday morning at the Washington National Cathedral.

The service, held in conjunction with the South African Embassy, is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and feature a host of dignitaries, elected officials, and civil rights leaders.

The ceremony will be streamed live at the Cathedral’s Web site. Mandela, the statesman and former president of South Africa, died Thursday at age 95.

After massive mourning events in South Africa on Tuesday, Mandela’s body is lying in state in the capital, Pretoria, until Sunday, when he will be buried in his ancestral village.

More here-

Small Rectories Imperiled

From The Living Church-

Small congregations and their clergy would be hit hardest if high courts affirm a landmark November ruling that deemed clergy housing allowances and their unique tax benefits unconstitutional.

That’s according to Thomas Moore III, executive director of the Society for the Increase of the Ministry, a Hartford-based organization that raises money for Episcopal seminarian scholarships.

“The fact that that [a housing] allowance has favorable tax treatment for a profession that pays modestly is a huge benefit” that most clergy utilize, Moore said. If that benefit goes away, he added, “it will definitely have an effect.”

Moore offered thoughts in the wake of a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in a case brought from the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. The ruling could be appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.

More here-

England: House of Bishops welcomes female ‘participant observers’

From England- (ENS)

The House of Bishops of the Church of England met for two days in York Dec. 9 and 10. This meeting was the first at which 8 female regional representatives attended the meeting as participant observers with the same rights as Provincial Episcopal Visitors.

Over its meeting the house covered a wide range of business including discussion of women in the episcopate, the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality, the approval of experimental liturgy for Baptism, changes to legislative approaches on Safeguarding and discussion of the Anglican-Methodist covenant.

As part of their discussion on women in the episcopate, the house heard from members of the steering committee on women bishops on suggestions for the next steps in the process. The house agreed the text of a draft declaration and regulations for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure for debate at General Synod in February 2014. The house also agreed to begin at the February Synod the process for rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod so that all the elements of the new package could be agreed by the synod in July 2014.

More here-

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New York elects Allen K. Shin bishop suffragan

From ENS-

On Dec. 7, at a special election convention held at Manhattan’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Rev. Allen K. Shin was declared the bishop suffragan-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The new bishop suffragan will replace Bishop Catherine Roskam, who retired at the end of 2011, and will work alongside the diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche.

Shin, who is currently rector of St. John’s Church, Huntington, Long Island, NY was elected on the 4th round of balloting by a majority of the active clergy who participated in the election AND by a majority of the lay delegates who participated in the election. A brief biography of the bishop elect may be found here (where you will also find information on the other nominees and videos of all).

More here-

Bishop trio attend remarkable ordination in Sarasota

From Florida-

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, preached Monday during the ordination to the Sacred Order of Priests of Charleston David Wilson, Jason Andrew Murbarger and David Stuart Bumsted.

The ceremony at the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, included Rev. Dabney Smith, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, as principal celebrant for the ordination.

Bumsted of Orlando was ordained by the Rev. Gregory Brewer, bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida.

Wilson and Murbarger were ordained by the Rev. Daniel Hayden Martins, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., where Wilson spent time last spring as a candidate for holy orders. The Rev. Edward Salmon Jr., president and dean of Nashotah House and the 13th bishop (retired) of the Diocese of South Carolina, presented for Wilson.

Read more here:

St. Barnabas Episcopal begins building a new hall

From Maryland-

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church has good news to share. On All Saint's Sunday, Nov. 3, the Sykesville parish broke ground on a new hall, designed to accommodate growth and better serve the community. Interim Rector Carol Bustard-Burnside kicked off the project by blessing the newly broken ground. Barnabas Hall, as the addition is called, will be ready for use in spring of 2014.

Although St. Barnabas began as an offshoot of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Eldersburg, it ultimately replaced that parish and has operated continuously since 1850. Originally, it served Sykesville mill workers who did not have the means to travel three miles to the Eldersburg location. In fact, town founder James Sykes, a Holy Trinity parishioner, sold the land for St. Barnabas for the token amount of $5. Today, the church continues to serve worshipers from both Howard and Carroll county sides of the Patapsco River.

In January, the church sold its previous parish hall, which it had occupied for nearly 70 years. This building began life as a fire hall shortly after the Civil War and thus possesses great historical value, but it could no longer accommodate a growing membership. The parish is very excited to realize its dream of a larger, more modern facility for fellowship and Christian education activities.

Read more:,0,439897.story#ixzz2n4aM5o7R

Breakaway Diocese Files Legal Response to The Episcopal Church Over Property Dispute

From Christian Post-

A Texas diocese that opted to break away from The Episcopal Church over theological differences has filed a legal response before the state supreme court.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth filed Friday in response to TEC's motion for a rehearing regarding the legal dispute over the name and property of the diocese. In the 17-page document, the breakaway diocesan leadership argued that TEC's lawsuit over the property should be dismissed.

"TEC has no more control over Appellants' property or affairs than Royal Dutch Shell has over the property or affairs of ExxonMobil," reads the response in part. "The Court noted probable jurisdiction of this direct appeal two years ago. By May 2014, it will have been on this Court's docket for three years. It is time to dispose of it."

The breakaway Fort Worth Diocese argued that it has the right to the diocesan church property via "Neutral Principles", which involves determining property ownership by looking at the language of the paperwork associated with said property.

More here-

Monday, December 9, 2013

Theology Wasn't Always so Dull and Pointless

From Christianity Today-

In my first sermon, I wanted to aim high. So I plagiarized from Knowing God, by J. I. Packer.

I was to preach for the first time to my home church in northern Ontario, having returned from a year of Bible school. I wanted to make good in the eyes of those who had discipled me, so I drew on the best book of theology I had ever read—which, of course, meant the best of about a dozen.

And by "drew on," of course, I mean "stole shamelessly from." In fact, I tried to summarize J. I. Packer's 35-page chapter on our adoption by God, perhaps one of the best treatments ever of that subject and itself a model of concision. My attempt to compress the already pithy certainly failed, and my plagiarism is inexcusable, but you have to admit: I had good theological taste already, even at the tender age of 17.

Forty years after its publication in 1973, Knowing God continues to bless readers around the world. It continues to inspire authors, too, as it does what very few books have been able to do: present page after page of carefully nuanced Christian doctrine in a style that people actually enjoy reading.

More here-

Did the Romans Invent Christmas?

From History Today-

It was a public holiday celebrated around December 25th in the family home. A time for feasting, goodwill, generosity to the poor, the exchange of gifts and the decoration of trees. But it wasn’t Christmas. This was Saturnalia, the pagan Roman winter solstice festival. But was Christmas, Western Christianity’s most popular festival, derived from the pagan Saturnalia?
The first-century AD poet Gaius Valerius Catullus described Saturnalia as ‘the best of times’: dress codes were relaxed, small gifts such as dolls, candles and caged birds were exchanged.

Saturnalia saw the inversion of social roles. The wealthy were expected to pay the month’s rent for those who couldn’t afford it, masters and slaves to swap clothes. Family households threw dice to determine who would become the temporary Saturnalian monarch. The poet Lucian of Samosata (AD 120-180) has the god Cronos (Saturn) say in his poem, Saturnalia:

‘During my week the serious is barred: no business allowed. Drinking and being drunk, noise and games of dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping … an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water – such are the functions over which I preside.’

More here-

Anglican leader pays tribute to Mandela

From London-

The leader of the world's Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, paid tribute to Nelson Mandela's courage on Sunday at a special church service for the anti-apartheid icon in London.

"Great injustice is overcome only by great courage. Evil can never be placated, it must be defeated. That means struggle, and struggles demand courage," Welby said in a sermon at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square.

"Nelson Mandela showed his courage by his determination in the face of evil and by his humanity in the experience of victory. What is more, such courage and humanity were learned and demonstrated in the midst of conflict and suffering.

"He was that rarest of leaders, those who learn from terrible events so as to exhaust all their lessons, rather than being shaped by them into bitterness and hatred," Welby said.

More here-

Cathedral in the Night refuge for many

From  Massachusetts

It's an unorthodox way to worship that's gaining popularity across the country and right here in western Massachusetts.

If you walk by the corner of Center and Main Streets in Northampton, you don't need reason to stop by the Cathedral in the Night.

“It's different in that of course it's outside. So, people that may be intimidated going inside a traditional church will feel comfortable coming and staying,” said seminary student Lance Humprey.

Humphrey is one of the practicing ministers at Cathedral in the Night.  The outdoor service has become a refuge for many, from college students to those experiencing homelessness.

“It just makes you think tomorrow I'll wake up and it'll be another day,” said 20-year-old Southampton native Mitchell Strojni of what the service means to him.  He’s been homeless for over a year.

Strojni says it’s also a place free of judgment, where you can get a hot meal every Sunday.  For the last three years, rain shine or blistering cold, the front stoop of Northampton’s First Church is transformed. It's no longer an entrance but a place of worship. 

More here

Providing relief in the Philippines

From Christian Today-

The Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) has been on the ground in the Philippines assessing the damage and supporting the relief provided in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

ABM staff member, Lina Magallanes has just returned from the Philippines where she met with staff of ABM’s partners, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP) and Independent Philippines Iglesia (IFI) who are contributing to the relief effort.

Lina said the relief effort is large and multi-faceted, with locals clearly devastated yet those who can are still helping to volunteer and support those people who have lost their loved ones, their properties and their sources of income.

“The mobilisation of volunteers to pack emergency relief goods is a massive undertaking in itself. The ECP, as part of its own emergency relief activities, is putting together relief packs in the national cathedral compound where there is sufficient space for the packing activities and goods are being loaded into trucks,” she said.

More here-

Body found in a vehicle parked at Grace Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach

South East Florida- (with video)

Police say a body was found in a vehicle just outside Grace Episcopal Church at 3600 Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach on Sunday morning.

Church officials arrived early to set up for a service and discovered the body in the vehicle. They called 911 and police arrived shortly before 8 a.m.

Capt. David Bernhardt of the West Palm Beach Police Department confirmed that they are working with multiple agencies in South Florida because there's a strong probability that the victim is either from Broward or Miami Dade counties.

The investigation is ongoing.

Read more:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Francis gives other denominations a case of ‘pope envy’

From The Boston Globe-

POPE FRANCIS (real name: Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has shaken up the Catholic church with some plain speaking about faith and about life in the 21st century. He has had an impact on other faiths, as well. Welcome to “pope envy.”

I first encountered the term in an essay by Jana Riess, a liberal Mormon writer. “I’ve delighted in seeing this beautiful revitalization of hope in the Catholic Church,” Riess wrote, “but I’ve also felt twinges of (an admittedly un-Christian) envy.”

Why wouldn’t a Mormon, or anyone for that matter, envy the un-self-conscious spiritual leadership of a prelate who warns nuns that there is more to the monastic life than just smiling for God, and who sneaks out of the Vatican, disguised as a parish priest, to minister to the homeless?

Furthermore, as Riess notes, Francis is very much out there in the real world. The Mormons’ “Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” 86-year-old Thomas Monson, chosen by seniority rather than by merit, “is unusual in his distance from the public, the media, and his own followers,” she writes. In Monson’s rare appearances, “almost nothing was unscripted. He does not do press conferences, and seldom fields unexpected questions.”

More here-

Presbytery gives nod to 3 departing churches, welcomes new one

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

The Pittsburgh Presbytery on Saturday acquiesced to the departure of three area Allegheny County congregations to a more conservative denomination after reaching settlements in which the churches will keep their properties and make parting financial payments to the presbytery.

But the presbytery also added a member Saturday, formally recognizing a start-up congregation that has been growing in Squirrel Hill since its 2008 launch.

The three departing congregations took varied procedural routes to the exit doors, but all three are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The latter, and other conservative Presbyterian bodies, have drawn scores of congregations in recent years, several of them in southwestern Pennsylvania, amid liberal trends in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), such as a 2011 constitutional change allowing non-celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Read more:

Young people can save us: they're being trained to survive the apocalypse

From The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette

Like many of today’s teens, I was excited for the release of “Catching Fire,” the newest film in “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Like many of today’s teens, I’ve read and loved every book in the series. The difference is that I’m not a teen. Having grown up in the 1960s and 1970s, I’m a bit more “chronologically enhanced.”

I first became interested in these novels when my daughters became interested in them. I wanted to screen what they were reading. It began with the Harry Potter series, which surprisingly captured me much as “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” did when I was a teen.

I then read “The Hunger Games” trilogy, followed by the first four books in the yet-to-be completed seven-part Lorien series. A movie version (filmed in the Murrysville area) of the first book, “I Am Number Four,” was released in 2011. I then read the books of the Divergent series, the first film of which will be released in March.

Read more: