Thursday, September 21, 2017

In NYT Open Letter, Bishops Implore President, Congress not to end DACA

From The House of Bishops-

The letter shown below, signed by Bishops Dietsche, Shin and Glasspool, Presiding Bishop Curry and 130+ other bishops, appeared this morning on page 17 of the New York Times.

If this is difficult to read on your device, the text of the letter is reproduced lower down the page. Please click here to go directly to it.

For a pdf of the letter as submitted to the NYT for printing, click here.

More here-

Corruption: Anglican Primate Attacks Corrupt Officials

From Nigeria-

The Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Anglican Communion, the Most Reverend Nicholas D. Okoh has berated public officers who embezzle public funds, declaring them as real enemies of Nigeria.

Primate Okoh made this known on Wednesday in his opening address at the 12th general Synod of the Church in Port Harcourt which is ongoing.

He said, “Those who embezzle public funds are enemies of Nigeria, no matter what they say, their faith and the position they occupy.”

Stressing that stealing and corruption are signs of sinful nature of man and lack of fear of God, Most Reverend Okoh lamented that stealing of public funds has become commonplace in Nigeria because of those involved.

He said, “it is indisputable that many wealthy persons and political figures, especially in Africa, have been guilty of corruption, enlarging their business empire and perpetuating themselves in the office by unrighteousness and oppression.

“They defraud others by taking advantage of those who are unable to defend their rights or speak for themselves.”

More here-

Up to 6 primates set to miss meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury

From Premier-

Justin Welby has confirmed he's expecting up to six of the most senior Anglican church leaders to reject his invitation to Canterbury next month.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is set to host a meeting of the 39 primates from across the world.

It'll be the first meeting of its kind since the January 2016 meeting in which there was said to be much conflict on the issue of sexuality.

The Archbishops of Nigeria (pictured below) and Uganda have already confirmed that they won't attend because of their belief that not enough progress has been made on the subject since that meeting.

More here-

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby excited by prospect of “extraordinary” Primates’ Meeting

From ENS-

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been speaking of his excitement at the prospect of next month’s Primates’ Meeting. Justin Welby has invited primates and moderators from around the Anglican Communion to Canterbury for the Oct. 2-6 meeting.

The gathering gives Anglican leaders an opportunity to discuss major issues within their provinces, broader topics affecting the whole Communion and more general global matters.

“I am greatly looking forward to the primates meeting,” the archbishop told ACNS. “It’s an extraordinary feeling to have the leaders of all the provinces gathering together to pray, to encourage one another, to weep with one another, to celebrate with one another.”

The final agenda will be agreed by the primates themselves at the beginning of the meeting. But it is expected to include sessions on mission and evangelism; reconciliation and peace-building; climate change and environment; and migration and human trafficking.

More here-

Retired Indianapolis bishop nominated for Eastern Michigan provisional bishop role

From ENS-

The standing committee of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan has nominated the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, retired bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, as candidate for bishop provisional to be voted on at their 23rd diocesan convention from Oct. 20 to 21.

Eastern Michigan’s former bishop, the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, concluded his ministry in the diocese in June after accepting a call from the presiding bishop to serve on his staff as bishop for pastoral development.

In a letter to the diocese, the standing committee articulated its reasons for calling for a bishop provisional rather than calling for a search for a bishop diocesan, saying, “In most cases, a bishop departs their diocese through retirement. This allows the diocese to have some lead time to go through the search process, nominate a slate of candidates and vote to elect their next bishop before the exiting bishop departs. Because our bishop left for another position and not for retirement, we did not have that time. We do have the time and space to faithfully consider the issues and opportunities confronting our diocese – these are not limited to budget realities, decreasing and emerging populations, and cultural trends away from church-attendance and religious life. Like a congregation engaging an interim pastor, we hope, with a provisional bishop as a companion, to faithfully engage the entire diocese in this exciting conversation to discover where God is leading us in our life and ministry as the Episcopal Church in Eastern Michigan.”

More here-

Also here-

5 Reasons We Must Stop Doing Traditional Worship

From Patheos-

For those of you who are familiar with my work, that title might be a surprise. “Stop doing traditional worship?! Jonathan, for the love, what are you saying?” Please let me explain.

I am for historic worship; that is, following the liturgical tradition rooted in the New Testament church that has continued throughout the ages. I am for the work of the people. I am for I am for singing hymns, new and old, corporate prayer, Word and Sacrament. But I refuse to call this “traditional.” It’s just worship, at least it was before the evangelical church, fueled by the commercialization of American popular music, ushered in the era of preferentially-based worship.

From there, we have settled into a false dichotomy, in which we’re told that we each have a worship style imprinted on our hearts, and that it’s probably either traditional or contemporary. Thus, the stuff we used to do in worship has been labeled “traditional.”

I think that’s not only wrong, but it’s ultimately toxic. Here are a few reasons we must stop with our “traditional” worship.


Public Theology in Retreat

From The LA Review of Books-

WHERE IS THE Reinhold Niebuhr for today? What is theology good for? Such questions have become hallmarks in public commentary on the role, past and present, of Christian thought in politics and in the academy. The first has generated a whole subgenre unto itself — call it “O Niebuhr, Where Art Thou?” — marked by an understandable, but usually nostalgic yearning for the halcyon days when serious Christians commanded an audience by dint of their learning, eloquence, and pertinence to the national situation. The second question is less prominent, but no less well meaning: recognizing theology’s profound loss in social and intellectual stature, earnest essays recommend giving it another chance, at least as a sort of instrumental good; it may not be of much value in itself (at least to the unbelieving), but familiarity with theology may help one better understand the history of art, philosophy, and politics in the West, not to mention one’s church-attending neighbors next door.

That such questions must continually be asked, and such essays continually written, tells us all we need to know about the time in which we live. Obituaries, diagnoses, and genealogies have been offered in plenty, the most recent and profound of which is Alan Jacobs’s “The Watchmen” in Harper’s last year. There he chronicles the death of the Christian public intellectual in the United States. Although Jacobs recognizes the manifold external conditions that both gave and took away the possibility for thoughtful religious discourse to have a broad public in the United States, his argument comes at the issue from the inside: what actions on the part of Christians led to their marginalization? It turns out that Christians silenced themselves, at least in part. That is, just as society began to turn its attention away from the Church, the Church turned inward, began to talk primarily to itself; and when it turned outward, moreover, it increasingly and stubbornly used language unfamiliar to an unchurched polis.

More here-!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Everyone Can Sing: How to Stop the Non-Singer Epidemic in Our Churches

From Patheos-

Yes, you can. Everyone can sing.

Our culture is obsessed with musical superstars. We see American Idols high and lifted up as the pinnacle of vocal prowess. The commercial music industry has furthered the idea that those who can truly sing should be rewarded with recording contracts, while others are better off sitting and being spectators. Those who love to sing but feel they are lacking in talent will relegate themselves to singing along with the radio, or only sharing their voices with an audience of shampoo and conditioner bottles.

Sadly, instead of counteracting the myth that singing is something only a few are born to do, churches embrace this musical culture. We place a holy microphone in a few select hands, reducing the congregation to an inaudible, unnecessary backup group.


Kidnapped priest recounts harrowing 18-month ordeal

From Catholic Herald-

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was sitting in a room in an unknown location – one of several he had been relocated to during his 18-month imprisonment – when he received some unexpected news.

“Those who kept me came to where I slept [and said]: ‘I bring you good news. We are sending you home. If you need to go to the bathroom, go. Take a shower, but quickly!'” Fr Uzhunnalil told reporters at the Salesian headquarters in Rome.

The Salesian priest from India was kidnapped on March 4, 2016, from a home for the aged and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. On that day, four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack by uniformed gunmen.

Seeing a group of Missionaries of Charity Sisters seated at the news conference in Rome, Fr Uzhunnalil expressed his condolences. However, the memory of the four Sisters’ martyrdom still proved too difficult to bear.

More here-

MacDonald reflects on 10 years as national indigenous Anglican bishop

From ENS-

Every Sunday for the past decade, Canadian Anglicans have offered prayers for “our national indigenous bishop, Mark MacDonald.”

For some, perhaps, it is a name that conjures little—another in a list of diocesan and national figures who have little directly to do with their home parish. Others may know MacDonald for his involvement in reconciliation and Indigenous activism, or for his sermons on environmental justice, or his columns in the Anglican Journal—or even for his talent on the acoustic guitar at a gospel jamboree.

But MacDonald (and more importantly, the office he holds) is also the most visible example of structural change in a church still struggling to build a more equitable relationship with its First Nations, Inuit and Métis members.

“People recognize…that [MacDonald] has this position, and behind him is this big ministry for indigenous peoples,” says Donna Bomberry, who was co-ordinator for indigenous ministries for the Anglican Church of Canada when MacDonald was first appointed to the role in 2007. “He lends himself well to that, brings respect and dignity to that position for our people.”

More here-

Episcopal Diocese Of Texas College Ministry

From Texas-

The statistics are alarming. The trends are discouraging. This phase of life is laced with low expectations. Presumably, young adulthood is an odd place for the church to expend a great deal of resources. Unless it’s the perfect space. College is a time of self-exploration and growth. With this, comes the phase in life when one is least likely to attend church. Millennials, Digital Natives, and presumably subsequent generations are choosing not to affiliate with a religion, making for a discouraging trend.

For these reasons, and many more, this marginal space is precisely where we ought to be as the church. Jesus’ ministry always found the proverbial boundary and intentionally spent time with the people experiencing limitations. His ministry was constantly calling Him to the edges of what was expected, what was appropriate, and what was necessary. The phase of life one experiences while pursuing higher education is a marginal space. The work of self-exploration and growth is laced with discomfort, messiness, and a longing for roots. 

More here-

The savage Reformation

From History Extra-

Fierce fighting raged all day on 4 August 1549 in the fields and lanes outside the Devon village of Clyst St Mary. By evening, royal forces had driven the rebels from the streets, and taken the bridge over the river Clyst. But even in the moment of victory, 
the king’s commanders feared a counter-attack. The order was given for soldiers to 
kill any prisoner in their custody: perhaps 900 men were, in the words of a chronicler, “slain like beasts”.

This moment of shocking violence was 
an extreme but not anomalous occurrence 
in the course of England’s 16th-century Reformation. Recent scholarship on the changes taking place after Henry VIII’s break with the papacy tends to assert their relatively peaceful character, and points to continuities across the Reformation divide. Certainly, some important things didn’t change – most folk carried on worshipping in the same church, for example. It’s also true that England witnessed no slaughter on the 
scale of the German Peasants’ Rebellion of 1524–25 (when as many as 100,000 people were butchered), or the Wars of Religion breaking out in France after 1562 (in which as many as 4 million may have lost their lives).

More here-

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The return of clandestine marriage?

From The Living Church-

Both the reading the banns of marriage and the charge that “if any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace” (1979 BCP, p. 424) stem from the same concern that gives us the double-consent formula: a desire to avoid abuse. In the case of the banns, the concern was to avoid bigamy. In the case of double consent, it was to avoid forced marriages. In both cases, the desire was to prevent the strong from imposing their will on those with less power or a lower social standing.

What does this have to do with us today, in our culture of falling marriage rates, widespread cohabitation, and changing sexual mores? I submit it may be of interest because Episcopalians may be asked at the next General Convention to enshrine something very much like clandestine marriage.

In its latest report, the Task Force for the Study of Marriage proposes using The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship in two circumstances:

By mature couples who seek to form and formalize a special relationship with one another that is unconditional and lifelong, but is nevertheless something different than a marriage in that it does not include the merging of property, finances, or other civil legal encumbrances, in order to protect against personal and familial hardship.

By couples for whom the requirement to furnish identification to obtain a marriage license could result in civil or criminal legal penalties, including deportation, because of their immigration status.

More here-

Episcopalians struggle with history of Confederate symbols

From Philadelphia-

Just steps away from the Statehouse, the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is wrestling with Confederate ghosts. The South’s Gen. Wade Hampton and its poet laureate, Henry Timrod, are buried on the parish’s grounds. A plaque in its sanctuary honors members who died in the Civil War. However, the church doesn’t allow the display of Confederate flags, and the Very Rev. Dean Timothy Jones said Confederate flags recently placed on soldiers’ graves were removed.

“I care deeply about how historical symbols can create hurt and communicate a message of discrimination,” Jones said. “We believe in redressing the terrible wrongs of slavery and affirming the dignity of every human being.”

Several weeks after the church shootings, delegates to the national Episcopal church’s convention passed a resolution calling for the removal of Confederate battle flags from display. The call included not only taking down actual flags but also the removal of the images from iconography, like plaques and stained glass windows. Afterward, Washington National Cathedral, which is Episcopal, announced its plan to remove Confederate battle flags from two windows honoring Confederate generals Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, saying later it would remove the windows entirely and store them pending a future decision about their fate.

More here-

CATECHESIS FOR A SECULAR AGE What if the common good just might depend on conversions?

From Comment-

As we commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps it's fitting that our conversation with twenty‐first‐century pastor and author Tim Keller returned to themes that were central for the Reformers: the priesthood of all believers and the importance of catechesis. In this conversation with James Smith (read the first part of their conversation online here), Keller highlights the need to contextualize faith formation, attentive to the rival stories that vie for our mind and imagination—and that seep into us often unawares. But this emphasis on catechesis and formation isn't protectionist, a merely defensive strategy for "keeping our own." To the contrary, Keller goes on to emphasize the importance of evangelism, and even revival, for the church's mission today. 

More here-

Congregation once led by Robert E. Lee votes to remove his name from their Lexington church

 From the diocese of Southwestern Virginia-

 Leaders of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington voted Monday evening to change the parish’s name to Grace Episcopal Church — what it was originally called when the Confederate general moved to town after the Civil War and joined the congregation.

The decision concludes a quiet, two-year debate among congregants over whether it’s appropriate for a Christian institution that aims to welcome all to carry a name that memorializes a man best known for fighting a war to preserve the institution of slavery.

“It’s been a very divisive issue for two years,” said the Rev. Tom Crittenden, the church’s rector. “But Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point. Not that we have a different view of Lee historically in our church, but we have appreciation for our need to move on.”

More here-

Commission recommends merging Pittsburgh Catholic diocese's parishes into 48 groups

From Pittsburgh-

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh should merge its 188 parishes into 48 groups to address its declining attendance and number of priests, according to a report released by a diocesan commission.

The diocese's On Mission Commission said each group would “become one parish over time,” but no church buildings are scheduled to close when the groupings take effect in fall 2018.

A list of the proposed groupings can be found here.

Bob De Witt, a spokesman for the diocese, said the commission report is just a proposal. No final decisions will be made until next year, he said.

Bishop David Zubik is expected to announce a final decision on the groupings plan in April. No church mergers or closings would take place until 2019 at the earliest, De Witt said.

“Bishop Zubik has said the first step is helping people come together. We must develop our relationship with God and with people in our parishes, and get to know one another,” De Witt said.

More here-

Bp. Franklin to Retire in 2019

From The Living Church (North West PA and Western NY merger?)-

The Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin writes to the Diocese of Western New York to announce his plan to retire in April 2019:

When I left on sabbatical in April, I said to you that one of the things I would be doing during that time was praying and thinking about my retirement as Bishop of Western New York.

I want to share with you that I have made the decision to retire on April 3, 2019, which is the date required by the current Canons of the Episcopal Church.

I count it as one of the greatest privileges of my life that I serve you and the Church as the 11th Bishop of Western New York. It is a joy and pleasure to walk closely with each of your congregations and to see the Gospel of Christ manifested in so many places and in so many ways in our region.

Update and correction by the Diocese of Western New York: “With the consent of both Standing Committees, Bishops Franklin and [Sean] Rowe [of Northwestern Pennsylvania] discussed with clergy a plan for the two dioceses to consider the possibility of a shared future.”

More here-

Archbishop Justin Welby joins new UN advisory board on mediation


The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined 17 other global leaders and experts on a new United Nations High Level Advisory Board on Mediation. The board was established by António Guterres, nine months into his tenure as UN secretary-general. It is part of a “surge in diplomacy for peace” that Guterres has called for. The new board “brings together an unparalleled range of experience, skills, knowledge and contacts,” the UN said, and “will provide the secretary-general with advice on mediation initiatives and back specific mediation efforts around the world.”

Guterres wants to strengthen the UN’s work in conflict prevention and mediation and the new board is expected to allow the UN “to work more effectively with regional organisations, non-governmental groups and others involved in mediation around the world,” the UN said.

Archbishop Justin Welby said that he was “honoured” to join the new board and was “praying for its contribution to global peace and reconciliation.”

More here-

Food Consumed At Church Functions Does Not Count Toward Daily Caloric Intake, Nutritionists Confirm

A little humor to begin the day-

Confirming an age-old rumor among churchgoers, world-class nutritionists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Food Research Institute announced Thursday that any and all food consumed on church grounds or at a church function is exempt from counting toward one’s caloric intake for the day.

“We’ve done numerous exhaustive studies on this and can now say without a doubt that calories consumed at church simply are not absorbed by the body,” UW Food Research Institute Lead Nutritionist Philip Reed said at a press event announcing the findings. “We have no scientific explanation for this at the moment—it seems to be some sort of miraculous event that takes place inside the body of a believer when he or she is consuming delicious baked goods in the house of God.”

More here-

Monday, September 18, 2017

Stop teaching our children lazy anti-Catholic myths

From Catholic Herald-

There’s something about the word “medieval” which makes some people behave very strangely. As Professor David Paton recently noted on the Catholic Herald website, GCSE textbooks are still repeating depressingly common misconceptions about the Middle Ages, painting it as a time of darkness, ignorance and superstition.

The BBC Bitesize website, for instance, informs students that in the medieval period “most peasants were extremely superstitious”, and that the medieval Church was responsible for “stagnation” in medical knowledge, mostly because of “its encouragement of prayer and superstition”. Supposedly the Church “discouraged progress” in science, “encouraging people to rely on prayers to the saints and superstition”, and telling people that “disease was a punishment from God”, a belief which “led to fatalism and prevented investigation into cures”.

This is a slanted and inaccurate picture of medieval learning, and the Bitesize website is not as exceptional as one might hope. An AQA-approved history textbook groups “superstition and religion” as a single phenomenon. A popular website,, claims: “Doctors had superstitious beliefs, saying magical words when treating patients and consulting stars.”

More here-

The Sea Change

From The Living Church-

But I was wrong. Repeatedly, I was advised that I was “too academic” and would need to play down my experience as a theological educator. And while some of my problems were of my own making, I’ve now spoken with enough scholar-priests on both sides of the Atlantic to know that my experience is a common one. Whatever benefits a solid theological formation provides, they increasingly do not excite search committees. Like the recipients of Sidonius’s letter, search committees are interested in qualities different from the old virtues.

I was reminded in all this of a conversation I once had with a bishop. We were discussing of which kind of learning ministerial formation should consist. I was advocating more engagement with Scripture and doctrine before introducing students to ministerial skills, especially the great obsession of the church today: reflective practice.

“I disagree,” he replied. “What I don’t want from my parish clergy is for them to be little theologians.” He then encouraged me to stress more the practice of ministry in my teaching.

More here-

Call a priest “priest”

From The Cafe-

Jesus said; “call no man father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).  Yet, in the Episcopal Church, which has ordained women as priests for more than 40 years – 40 years! – male priests are still often called “Father.”  As a result, the church has not developed forms of address that work for both male and female priests.

I, who have been a priest for more than forty years, have been in so many settings over those years, and still today, where the male clergy are addressed as “Father Tom” or “Father Smith” and I am addressed as “Flora”.  In truth, I prefer Flora, but just as much, I would want the men to be called Tom or Bob.  What is communicated when male priests are addressed as Father and female priests are called by their first names?

Before I was ordained, before women could be ordained, and even after, what drew so many of us to ministry was the vision of a transformed church: a church that was less hierarchical and more egalitarian, that not only respected the laity, but empowered them.  We prayed that, as women, we could help make those changes happen.

More here-

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton Champions the Cause of the “Dreamers”

From Maryland-

Recently, President Donald Trump decided to end the DACA program. Then, instead, he passed the buck onto the U.S. Congress, which has a Republican majority.

The rally was sponsored by the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation. One of the speakers was Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton of the Diocese of Maryland.

The Bishop, an African-American, traced his family’s history back to the days prior to the founding of the American Republic. He said his “forebears were brought to this country in 1619, to Jamestown, VA. The first peoples enslaved in America. We had no choice about coming here, they wanted our labor. We were treated as slaves. We were property.”

The Bishop was standing in front of a pedestal that had recently held a large monument – a tribute to the lost cause of the Confederacy. It was taken down a few weeks ago on the orders of Baltimore’s Mayor, Catherine Pugh.

More here-

Swords to Plowshares, Part I

From Plough-

A sculpture of a man beating a sword into a plowshare stands on the grounds of the United Nations in New York City. The UN was founded in October of 1945, after the carnage of the two world wars, and this sculpture was a testament to the hope that all nations would gather at one center, submit to a common law, and forswear armed conflict: as the prophet Isaiah said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks.”

Isaiah was an audacious man. He challenged the Israelites’ fascination with military power. There was something exhilarating about brandishing a sword or riding in a chariot, thereby enhancing one’s power and transcending one’s human limitations. One felt quasi-omnipotent. There was something intoxicating about shooting arrows or throwing spears, thereby projecting power over ever-greater distances. One felt quasi-omnipresent. There was something God-like about warfare.

But Isaiah derided the people of Israel for their trust in weapons and alliances. When the army of the Assyrian king Sennacherib marched toward Jerusalem, and Hezekiah sent his ambassadors to Egypt for help, Isaiah was outraged. The Lord had liberated the Israelites from the Egyptians, and now they willingly returned to Egypt. The Lord had once destroyed the Egyptian army, but now the Israelites were trusting in its power rather than the Lord’s. Isaiah confronted them with their foolishness:

More here-

Do you actually want to be our pastor?

From Christian Century-

Hank Pierce and Amy Quitman were neighbors on Rural Route 28. Their mailboxes shared a weathered post at the end of the gravel lane. This seemed fitting, since their families also shared a weathered pew at Granby Presbyterian Church. Hank and Amy—along with Tom, the tire salesman, and Luther, the county’s public defender—made up Granby’s Pastoral Search Committee. Though a thankless job, their assignment did mean that every Thursday night they’d sit in the church’s empty manse, drink Folgers, and enjoy a few minutes shooting the bull. Then they’d return to the pile of résumés that represented the fleeting hope for their beleaguered flock.

This night, though, after the coffee and the gossip, they sat quietly, staring at the stack. Over these last several months, they’d endured phone interviews with four candidates and visits from two more. After confirming the town’s modest population or seeing the church’s humble clapboard building, three candidates quickly exited the process. One candidate turned out to be an ex-con and abruptly stopped answering their calls. Last they heard, he was back preaching in the pen.

More here-

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Survey finds most people who call themselves Anglican never read the Bible

From Premier-

Most people who call themselves Church of England Christians never read the Bible. That is one of the findings of a survey commissioned by the Church of England to help revamp its evangelism efforts.

Figures show that 60 per cent of self-declared followers of the Church admit they never read the Bible. Meanwhile, 36 per cent say they never attend church and one in three says they never pray.

The figures from ComRes survey show that many who claim to be Christian do not actually take part in many of the activities normally associated with the faith.

While 51 per cent of those who took part in the survey said they were Christians, only six per cent of those polled read the Bible, prayed and attended church at least once a week. Those who said they were followers of the Church of England were the least observant.

Rachel Jordan, the Church's national mission and evangelism adviser told Premier the survey has given the Church a real sense of the scale of the task ahead.

More here

More ructions in Anglican church over same-sex marriage

From South Africa-

The furore over the Anglican church’s decision to reject same-sex marriage looks likely to intensify, with its Pretoria region the latest to voice its unhappiness with the decision.
The matter was an issue of heated debate among delegates during the three-day conference that began on Thursday. Pretoria region is among the biggest regions in South Africa.

Current political and economic crises in the country, including state capture and corruption, as well as social problems, were also raised at the conference.

The dissent by Pretoria comes almost a year after the Anglican Church of Southern Africa decided that it would not allow bishops to “provide prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions”. Following that resolution during a debate in Ekurhuleni, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba expressed his disappointment at the move, saying he was “deeply pained by the outcome of the debate”.

“I was glad I wear glasses or the synod would have seen tears. I wanted to be anywhere but in the synod hall - I wished I was quietly home in Magoebaskloof,” he said at the time.

More here-

St. Peter's bones? Maintenance worker makes surprising discovery

From Catholic News Agency-

During routine restoration of a nearly 1000 year-old church, a worker discovered bone fragments in clay pots – which may belong to St. Peter, three other popes, and four early Church martyrs.

“There were two clay pots which were inscribed with the names of early popes – Peter, Felix, Callixtus and Cornelius,” the worker told Italian television channel Rai Uno, according to the Telegraph.

“I'm not an archaeologist but I understood immediately that they

The existence of the bone fragments has been known for centuries, but they had never been found. Inside the church of Santa Maria in Cappella, a stone inscription recorded the remains, indicating that the relics where kept alongside a piece of fabric taken from the dress of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

were very old. Looking at them, I felt very emotional.”

More here-

Episcopal Relief & Development Responds to Urgent Needs in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma

From Relief Web-

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting emergency relief efforts in Culebra and Vieques, two islands in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Irma. In partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico, the organization is providing approximately 600 people with temporary housing, medical care, food and meal delivery, clothing, home repairs, water and first aid supplies.

“These islands are among the most highly impacted by Hurricane Irma,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “We’re very concerned about the most vulnerable people, especially the older population, and families with small children.”

The island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from Irma. However, thousands are still without power, and this may continue in the weeks and months ahead, particularly in more remote areas. Culebra and Vieques, located off the east coast of Puerto Rico, were the hardest hit; the governor of Puerto Rico has declared both islands as disaster areas. Roughly 30 to 35 homes were badly damaged and destroyed in Culebra, which has an estimated population of 1,800. Many families live in wooden or partially wooden homes, which left them most vulnerable to the powerful winds and rains of the storm. Power systems as well as cell and internet services are down. Most of the population remains without running water and with limited food supplies.

More here-

Shape of Indigenous church on the table at Pinawa meeting

From Anglican Journal-

About 70 Anglicans from across Canada are gathering in Pinawa, Man., this weekend for a major consultation on the nature of the planned Indigenous Anglican church.

In what Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has said will likely be a “challenging but fascinating conversation,” about 60 Canadian Anglicans, clergy and lay, plus about 10 staff from the office of General Synod, are meeting for a series of talks September 15-17. There is a roughly equal number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants; all have been chosen for the interest they’ve shown over the years in the Indigenous church, says co-chair and Council of General Synod (CoGS) member Randall Fairey.

The meeting is both for looking back on progress that has been made so far toward an Indigenous Anglican church and for discussing in more detail what such a church would look like, Fairey says.

More here-

Friday, September 15, 2017

How Many Churches Does America Have? More Than Expected

From Christianity Today-

An estimated 30,000 congregations shut their doors in the United States from 2006 to 2012. Yet a recent study finds good news for churches overall—including the lowest closure rate of any American institution.

According to a recent paper published by sociologist Simon Brauer in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the number of religious congregations in the United States has increased by almost 50,000 since 1998. A key reason: growth in nondenominational churches.

Using the National Congregations Study (NCS) conducted in 2006 and 2012, he estimates the number of congregations in the US increased from 336,000 in 1998 to a peak of 414,000 in 2006, but then leveled off at 384,000 in 2012.

Brauer’s estimate is more reliable—statistically speaking—than previous estimates that used other methodology; however, his model “relies on samples of individuals and not the organizations themselves,” so there is still a range of variation around the “best bets,” he told CT. Thus, the loss of 30,000 churches is not statistically significant (as it falls within the model’s confidence interval of 95%).

More here-

Massachusetts Catholic, Episcopal bishops urge Congress to act on DACA reform

From Massachusetts-

Catholic and Episcopal bishops in Massachusetts issued separate statements calling on Congress to remedy President Donald Trump's recent move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The program, instituted by executive order under President Barack Obama in 2012, allows some 800,000 young people brought to the United States illegally as children to remain here without fear of deportation and be able to work and pursue an education. Trump announced Sept. 5 he will end the program unless Congress agrees to enact it into law within six months.

The president met with Democrattic leaders on Wednesday night to craft a deal.

In a letter issued Wednesday, the commonwealth's Catholic bishops called the DACA program "successful since its inception" and said its "children and young adults are innocent of any wrongdoing" and "should not be punished for living in the United States of America."

More here-

Marriage Rites: Extend, Adopt, or Punt

From The Living Church-

The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has reported on its latest meeting.

The Task Force on the Study of Marriage, meeting August 28-30 in Salt Lake City, UT, continued its work as directed by the 2015 General Convention. The Task Force reviewed the work completed to date, made decisions for completing work needing additional attention, and planned its final report to the 79th General Convention, due December 1.

The task force is shifting into the portions of its mandate to “report and make recommendations to the 79th General Convention” and “provide educational and pastoral resources for congregational use on these matters that represents the spectrum of understandings on these matters in our Church.”

The task force is drafting resolutions for the consideration of the 79th General Convention, including the following:

More here-

Thursday, September 14, 2017

GAFCON accuses church official of 'provocative, inaccurate and misleading' comments

From Premier-

GACFON, the worldwide conservative group of Anglicans, has hit back at the secretary general of the Anglican Communion after he claimed the Archbishop of Nigeria had reneged on his decision to "walk together" with other Primates who he disagrees with on the issue of sexuality.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon was speaking after Archbishop Nicholas Okah said he would not be attending the upcoming Primate Conference because of his perceived lack of progress on the subject.

Archbishop Josiah said he was saddened by the actions of the Nigerian church leader.

Next month, leaders from the 39 Anglican provinces will meet in Canterbury at the request of Justin Welby (pictured above, left).

It'll be the first meeting of its kind since the January 2016 meeting where the US Episcopal Church was disciplined over its decision to allow clergy to conduct same-sex marriages.

More here-

Christians beat FEMA, and in so doing, tame Big Government

From The Washington Post-

Faith-based groups — Christian nonprofits, specifically — have been busy bees of late, providing more aid to hurricane victims than even FEMA, the federal agency that’s supposed to swoop to the scenes of natural disasters, assess the situation and speed the recovery and rebuilding process.

Just goes to show: Where charity exists, government is not needed.

Look at this, from the Daily Caller: “Faith-based relief groups are responsible for providing nearly 80 percent of the aid delivered thus far to communities with homes devastated by the recent hurricanes.”

The piece cited USA Today, which ran a headline: “Faith groups provide the bulk of disaster recovery, in coordination with FEMA.”

Imagine that. When disaster strikes, it’s Americans — specifically, Americans of faith — who lend the quickest hands, who provide the most assistance.

More here-

Faith Groups Provide the Bulk of Disaster Recovery, in Coordination with FEMA

From Sojourners-

If you donate bottles of water, diapers, clothing, or any other materials to hurricane victims in Texas or Florida, your donation will likely pass through the hands of the Seventh-day Adventists before it gets to a storm victim. That’s because the Adventists, over several decades, have established a unique expertise in disaster “warehousing” collecting, logging, organizing, and distributing relief supplies, in cooperation with government disaster response agencies.

Likewise, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is known for its expertise in “case management.” After the initial cleanup — where the Methodists have work crews helping pull mud out of houses — the church sends trained volunteers into the wreckage to help families navigate the maze of FEMA assistance, state aid programs, and private insurance to help them rebuild their lives. UMCOR also trains other non-profits to send their own case managers into the disaster zone.

In a disaster, churches don’t just hold bake sales to raise money or collect clothes to send to victims; faith-based organizations are integral partners in state and federal disaster relief efforts. They have specific roles and a sophisticated communication and coordination network to make sure their efforts don’t overlap or get in each others’ way.

More here-

After Montana church vandalized with swastika, parish responds with pink hearts, messages of love

From ENS-

Hate symbols showed up seemingly overnight as graffiti on the sign in front of St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman, Montana. By the next morning, on Sept. 10, parishioners had reclaimed their sign with messages of love.

The center of the sign, where someone scribbled a swastika in black, is now covered with hope-filled words scrawled on pink paper hearts that were stuck to the sign as the congregation poured out of the Sunday service at St. James.

“We respond to hate with love,” St. James Episcopal Church proclaimed in a Facebook post on Sept. 10 that shows the sign blanketed with the hearts.

More here-

Is The Apocalypse Coming? No, It Isn't!

From NPR-

The Sign, a documentary directed, shot and produced by Josh Turnbow and Robert Dvoran and set to air Thursday, addresses whether the end of days is coming this month, as some biblical literalists predict.

The "sign" in the title refers to an alignment in the sky peaking on Sept. 23, whereby Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will be around the constellations of Virgo and Leo, together with the sun and moon. Sept. 23 is when Jupiter leaves Virgo after being there for a while.

According to Revelation 12, some say, this is when the end comes, after much turmoil and destruction:

"A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who "will rule all the nations with an iron scepter." And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

More here-

Damnation, American style: How American preachers reinvented hell

From Salon-

Among the many congratulatory letters George Washington received after assuming the presidency was one from “the Convention of the Universal Church, assembled in Philadelphia.” “SIR,” it began, “Permit us, in the name of the society which we represent, to concur in the numerous congratulations which have been offered to you.” The letter reassured the president that “the peculiar doctrine which we hold, is not less friendly to the order and happiness of society, than it is essential to the perfection of the Deity.” One of its signers, Universalist minister John Murray, had known Washington since serving as a chaplain in the Revolutionary War. The minister and his second wife, Judith Sargent Murray, had even stopped to dine with the Washingtons on their way to the Convention. Thanks in large part to their efforts, universal salvation was no longer an obscure creed espoused by a scattered few. Now the Convention sought to establish Universalism as a recognized, socially responsible faith.

Washington responded favorably. “GENTLEMEN,” he began, thanking them for their well-wishes, “It gives me the most sensible pleasure to find, that in our nation, however different are the sentiments of citizens on religious doctrines, they generally concur in one thing: for their political professions and practices, are almost universally friendly to the order and happiness of our civil institutions. I am also happy in finding this disposition particularly evinced by your society.” Such affirmation of the Universalists’ civic friendliness, from none other than the first president of the newly United States, must have gratified the Convention. They were well aware that other Protestant clergy, especially the Calvinists, disdained their “peculiar doctrine.”

More here-

Hipster Priest Consecrates Fresh Batch Of Seasonal Pumpkin Spice Eucharist

A little humor to start the day-

Just in time for the start of Fall, local hipster priest Fr. Kale Adams announced this morning that he has consecrated his first batch of Pumpkin Spice Eucharist.

Although the seasonal pumpkin flavor of Jesus’ body has been condemned by the Vatican, Fr. Adams has told his parishioners that they’re not sheep, but rather, “free souls that can’t be contained by the man or the Vatican.”

“Pumpkin Spice Eucharist allows me to express myself and my love for JC in ways you wouldn’t believe,” Adams told EOTT as he sat down to finish knitting a cover for his iPad. “And listen, to all those establishment bishops in Rome,  I was consecrating before it was cool. And that’s why my parishioners dig me and why so many of them have returned to the Church in the first place. You gotta give them what they want. And what they want is Jesus…Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, with a flawless blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger.”

At press time, Fr. Kale Adams is trying on his brand new hemp vestments.

More here-

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Priest caught using a dead parishioner’s Blue Badge for parking

From I News-

A priest who was caught fraudulently using a dead parishioner’s Blue Badge has been fined and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. Father William Haymaker, 63, of Suffolk Road in Bexhill was given a 12-month community order with a requirement to carry out the unpaid work and ordered to pay £3,700 in costs after a hearing at Hove Crown Court on Monday. Haymaker, who is part of St Paul’s Anglican Parish in Bexhill, was caught in December 2015 parking his car in a disabled bay in the town using a Blue Badge belonging to a woman who had died two months earlier. The priest, who appeared at court with his official clerical dog The Venerable Mr Piddles, had been found guilty of the offence in March although sentencing was delayed for several months.

Read more at:

A Puzzling Editorial

From The Living Church-

As committed ecumenists, we would like to thank The Living Church for its attention to the proposed full communion agreement between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church [“Slightly Less than Full Communion,” June 18]. Faith and Order ecumenism is a part of our churches’ lives that continues in obscurity most of the time, but then becomes prominent when a particular fruit of the work reaches the time for harvest. As noted in your editorial, formal discussions between Episcopalians and Methodists have been in process for over 50 years. The timing of this agreement has nothing to do with theological struggles going on in either church, but rather with the maturity of the discussion into its final documentary and emerging relational form.

Some have questioned if the timing is proper, considering how our denominational bodies currently have different policies regarding LGBTQ inclusion. It bears remembering that at the time Called to Common Mission was agreed with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), our churches were in different places with respect to LGBTQ inclusion. Others have worried about what the United Methodist Church may look like after a 2019 special convention on these matters. Yet if the churches were to wait for a time in which neither was facing a matter of division or conflict — and this is the case with all ecumenical conversations between and across churches — no movement forward into shared life of any kind would be possible.

More here-

‘Christian America’ Dwindling, Including White Evangelicals, Study Shows

From Sojourners-

The future of religion in America is young, non-Christian, and technicolor.

Almost every Christian denomination in the U.S. shows signs of growing diversity as white Christians, once the majority in most mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations, give way to younger members, who tend to be of different races, according to a study released Sept. 6 by the Public Religion Research Institute.

And American evangelicals — once seemingly immune to the decline experienced by their Catholic and mainline Protestant neighbors — are losing numbers and losing them quickly.

Americans are also continuing to move away from organized religion altogether, as atheists, agnostics, and those who say they do not identify with any particular religion — the group known as the “nones” — hold steady at about one-quarter [24 percent] of the population.

More here-

A Reflection from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

From The Episcopal Church- (with video)

The Presiding Bishop’s reflection follows:

Whether it is the pain of the events of August 12 in Charlottesville, or Hurricane Harvey, or Hurricane Irma, or wildfires in the West, or an earthquake in Mexico, there’s been a lot of pain, a lot of suffering and hardship. In times like these, it’s easy to grow weary. It’s easy to be tired.  And it’s easy to be downcast, and to give up. What can I do?

There’s a passage in the Book of Hebrews, in the Tenth Chapter, which says this:

Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and sometimes persecution, and sometimes just being partners with those who were so treated. For you had compassion . . . so do not abandon your confidence; it brings great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

More here-

Priests-in-training to be given glossaries because they struggle to understand the Book of Common Prayer

From The Telegraph-

Priests-in-training are to be given glossaries to help them understand the Book of Common Prayer for the first time because they struggle to decipher the language.

The Prayer Book Society, which gives out free copies of the 17th century book to first-year students in theological colleges, will this year also include a key to some of its more old-fashioned words and phrases.

The list includes definitions for words such as "eschew" meaning abstain from, "concord", for an agreement between people, and "froward", meaning perverse or contrary. 

Some of the included words could cause confusion to young ordinands due to more modern definitions, such as magnify - which in a 17th century sense means not to make something appear larger than it is, but to glorify or praise greatly.

"Meet" means not to encounter someone, but rather "appropriate or fitting".

More here-

Harvey, Irma, Jose … and Noah

From The New York Times-

Is there anything we can learn from hurricanes, storms and floods?

People have been asking that question for thousands of years, and telling stories that try to make sense of natural disasters. These flood myths are remarkably similar to one another.

A researcher named John D. Morris collected more than 200 of them, from ancient China, India, Native American cultures and beyond. He calculates that in 88 percent of the tales there is a favored family. In 70 percent, they survive the flood in a boat. In 67 percent, the animals are also saved in the boat. In 66 percent, the flood is due to the wickedness of man, and in 57 percent the boat comes to rest on a mountain top.

The authors of these myths are trying to make sense of vast and powerful forces. They are trying to figure out what sort of world they live in. Is it a capricious world, where cities are destroyed for no reason? Or perhaps it’s a just but merciless world, where civilizations are wiped out for their iniquity?

More here-

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Could Father Mychal Judge Be the First Gay Saint?

From Slate-

Nearly three decades later, Judge is best known as the fire department chaplain who died on Sept. 11, 2001, after rushing into the north tower of the World Trade Center to help. His life quickly took on an almost mythic stature. A documentary crew’s camera found him praying in the lobby of the north tower, wearing a white helmet reading “F.D.N.Y. Chaplain.” (Firefighters would later present the helmet to Pope John Paul II.) A story spread that he had died not just in the north tower but while administering the last rites to a firefighter who was hit by a jumper. A striking Reuters photo of first responders carrying Judge’s body out of the dust has been referred to as a “modern Pietà” and has been turned into sculptures in crystal and bronze. By 2002, New York City had renamed his stretch of West 31st Street “Father Mychal F. Judge Street” and christened a public ferry the Father Mychal Judge. In New York, hundreds of firefighters and others participate each September in a Stations of the Cross–style procession that retraces Judge’s journey between the Church of St. Francis on West 31st Street and the World Trade Center. Speaking at Judge’s funeral on Sept. 15, 2001, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said simply: “He was a saint.”

More here-

‘Engendering opposition is a sign of being effective.’

From Time (with video)-

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, spending lots of time in the mountains and the islands in Puget Sound just fascinated with the wonders of creation. I was quite convinced that I wanted to be a scientist. Having a sense of the wonder of the world around us and the great diversity and the health that diversity signals translates into human communities as well. Being formed as a scientist prepared me in an unusual way to work in human community; being willing to have a hypothesis and test it and not assume that I know the answer going in has been very helpful.

The Bible says many things about women’s roles. And the reality is, everybody cherry-picks. We all look for the pieces that affirm what we already believe. If we’re faithful, we keep looking and hopefully we encounter things that confront us, that challenge us and that might transform our view of the role of every human being.

More here-

A Letter from Dean Kelly Brown Douglas

From EDS-

It is with excitement that I join you as dean as we begin this new season of our life together as EDS at Union. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve this historic institution that has given so much to seminary education, the church and the world. The EDS legacy is strong, and we are all thankful for those whose sacrifices of labor and love have made it possible for us to carry forth this educational mission of ministry.

Today, visionary and transformative theological education is more important than ever before. The nation, the world and indeed the church, need leaders who embody the kind of priestly humility, prophetic vision and principled witness that can address the complicated social and moral challenges of our day. EDS at Union will be a place that nurtures this kind of leadership, and I commit to you that our seminary will be the institution that is really taking on the work of social justice and dismantling racism at the core of the Jesus Movement that our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry urges us to embrace.

More here-