Monday, July 13, 2020

Washington's 'Church of Presidents' etched in history again

From Arkansas-

The Rev. John C. Harper had been rector at the historic St. John's Episcopal Church for less than a year when the 1963 March on Washington began taking shape. A lay leader in the congregation urged him to steer clear of it -- but instead he embraced it. 

Harper held a service the morning of the march, welcoming a diverse crowd of more than 700 people at the church across from the White House. Black Episcopal choir members sang alongside the St. John's choir, and the service ended with worshippers holding hands to sing the iconic civil rights movement song "We Shall Overcome."

"The church has too long been silent on this important issue," Harper wrote to church members that month. "Now at long last Christians like ourselves are aroused by the injustice of discrimination in any form and by any kind of segregation on the basis of a man's color."

More here-

Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation holds first public service since March

From Long Island-

It is said that Jesus prepares a place for the faithful, the Very Rev. Michael Sniffen noted during his sermon Sunday.

But he conceded his flock probably wasn’t expecting that place to be a marked circle under a tent outside their church, the stunning Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, as congregants gathered in person for the first time since March. The church had been hosting only interactive online services since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“It is such a joy — and although you can’t see me smiling, I’m smiling — to be in your physical presence after all of these months,” Sniffen said.

More here-

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

'I was horrified': Witnesses injured by police testify about Trump's photo op at Lafayette Square

From USA Today-

Members of Congress heard from a series of witnesses, including several who were injured in the forcible clearing of protesters before President Donald Trump's controversial walk this month to St. John's Church for a photo opportunity.

The House Natural Resources Committee held its first hearing Monday on the incident June 1, in which protesters were removed from the park by authorities using chemical irritants, rubber bullets, shields and horses. Trump, who posed with a Bible in front of the historic church along with members of his administration, drew wide condemnation for the force used on demonstrators. 

House Democrats pressed the Trump administration for information on its response to the protesters, who were cleared roughly a half-hour before a 7 p.m. curfew in Washington. The Interior Department's inspector general's office opened an investigation.

More here-

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria officially inaugurated as 41st Province of the Anglican Communion

From Anglican News-

The former Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa has completed its transition into an autonomous Province of the Anglican Communion. The approval for the move was given by the Primates of the Anglican Communion when they met in Jordan in January. The Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council had already given the new Province the go-ahead.

The General Synod of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East approved the request from the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East to secede from its province. Under its constitution, the diocese fell under the temporary Metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who signed a Dead of Relinquishment legally inaugurating the new Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria.

The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria will serve 10 countries as the official Anglican Communion presence: Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, Mauritania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. It is named after the north Egyptian city which was home to one of the earliest branches of the Christian Church.

Announcing the development, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said: “In recent years we have seen enormous growth in what was the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, particularly – but not only – in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. It was one of the largest and most diverse dioceses in the Anglican Communion and also one of the fastest growing regions.

More here-

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Archdiocese of Toronto modifies Eucharist rite to observe safety protocols

From Canada-

For the past three months, the Archdiocese of Toronto has worked on different ways to serve its parishioners safely when the time came for Ontario to reopen.

But the Eucharist, one of the most important sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church, remains a difficult rite to navigate.

It traditionally involves a priest placing a wafer of bread on a congregant's tongue or in their hand, then serving them with sacramental wine from a communal goblet.

Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto, said the organization wanted to make sure the ritual could be performed safely.

"It would be difficult for someone to look at (the Archdiocese's safety protocols) and say, 'These guys aren't concerned about this,"' MacCarthy said in an interview.

More here-

Was Jesus Black Or White? How One Church Leader Just Changed The Debate

From Forbes-

What race was Jesus of Nazareth, one of the most consequential figures in the history of the world? Nobody can say for certain, but based on recent comments by the head of the Church of England, it is time to revisit whether or not Jesus should be portrayed as a white man.

In an interview with the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addressed the question of how the western church portrays Jesus’s race. When asked by the interviewer if the way Jesus is represented through imagery, and whether it is time to “reimagine” the physical presentation, the Archbishop was candid.

"Yes, of course it does," Welby said, noting that in many locations of the Anglican church Jesus was already represented other than as a white man.

More here-

Saturday, June 27, 2020

First Woman To Lead The Episcopal Diocese Of Alabama

From Alabama-

The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama will consecrate a new bishop on Saturday, and for the first time that bishop is a woman. Rev. Glenda Curry will serve beside the current bishop until becoming the sole leader of the diocese in January. In an interview with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager, Curry said it’s an important step for women in the church.

Using her experience as the first woman president of an Alabama four-year university:

I have the experience of being the first woman in a room that’s usually occupied by men. I imagine [there will be] some of the same challenges, but at the same time it’s been a number of years, so I think our culture has become more accepting of women in leadership roles. I’m looking forward to it and I’m not anxious.

More here-

Friday, June 26, 2020

Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson ordained as bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Mo

From Missouri-

The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson was ordained as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, representing more than 10,000 worshipers from 42 parishes throughout the eastern half of the state. He is the first black, openly gay bishop in the diocese’s 179-year history.

“To find ourselves in this moment, the ancestor of a slave, to be called to be the Bishop of Missouri – God is good!” said Bishop Johnson during his ordination service. “To the people of Missouri, we have a whole new story to tell and a whole new boldness to tell it with. So, I look forward to the adventure.”

Before two dozen worshipers and Episcopal clerics at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis, Johnson was consecrated as the spiritual leader of eastern Missouri’s congregants during a service that was livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page.

More here-

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Here’s why a fence went up around St. John’s Church at Black Lives Matter Plaza

From D.C.-

The Metropolitan Police Department has opened the entirety of Black Lives Matter Plaza back up to protesters. However, people who visit the site may notice one big change.

A fence now surrounds St. John’s Episcopal Church at the corner of 16th and H Streets NW. The parish is also now guarded by MPD officers and concrete barriers.

Crowds have gathered around the church, next to Lafayette Square, over the course of this summer’s protests. It has been a site for vigils and rallies. On a few occasions, it has also been vandalized.

Ultimately, the new fence around the church was set up at the direction of District leaders. Kevin Donahue, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, released the following statement.

“The District of Columbia Government coordinated the fence on the public space around St John’s Episcopal Church to protect the buildings from any further damage. We will continue to be in communication with the immediate neighbors of the site to minimize any inconvenience.”

More here-

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A call for moral leadership

From RNS-

Six divinity school deans and seminary presidents release a joint statement on the state of our national leadership

Joint Public Statement

America is facing three immense and immediate crises. Each has a critical moral dimension that has been notably neglected from much of our national leadership.

The first of these crises is the health crisis created by COVID-19 that has sickened more than 2 million Americans and killed 118,000 to date and counting. For many of us, these are not statistics, but members of our families, houses of worship, and cherished friends.

The second is the economic crisis brought on in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease. The necessary shelter-in-place orders under which we have all lived have led to an economic disruption that has caused more than 40 million Americans to file for unemployment since mid-March, taking the unemployment rate from its lowest level in half a century to a level unprecedented since the Great Depression. These are not simply numbers released weekly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are people struggling to keep their homes.

More here-

St. John’s Church in Washington vandalized again

From ENS-

St. John’s Episcopal Church, the “church of presidents” in Washington, D.C., that has become a major flashpoint during weeks of unrest related to systemic racism and police brutality, was vandalized again on June 22 during another night of clashes between police and protesters in front of the White House.

“BHAZ” was spray-painted on the 204-year-old church’s columns, The Washington Post reported. The acronym was also spray-painted on a piece of plywood nearby, accompanied by “Black House Autonomous Zone,” an apparent take on the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, Washington. That area, also called the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, is comprised of several blocks that were taken over by protesters and abandoned by police on June 8. One person was killed and two were injured in shootings there this past weekend.

More here- 

and here-

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

‘Seek repentance’: Clergy group calls on Mississippi to remove Confederate symbol from state flag

From Mississippi-

Episcopal Bishop Brian Seage of the Diocese of Mississippi told Episcopal News Services that he believes the flag “belongs in museums and in archives and in history books.”

“When we see the Confederate battle flag, yes, it represents history, but it also represents a painful period for folks — a really painful period for many of our African American brothers and sisters, of injustice and an intention to not really see their full humanity," said Seage.

The Rev. Jason Coker of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi expressed his support for removing the Confederate symbol from the state flag at the press conference.

“Jesus said love God and love your neighbor,” stated Coker, as reported by local media outlet WLBT. “And I think we can do this if it’s an act of love to neighbor.”

More here-

SC judge rules breakaway Diocese in Episcopal split can keep properties

From South Carolina-

A South Carolina circuit judge ruled Friday congregations that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2012 can keep their properties, a decision likely to setup another legal skirmish in the multi-year dispute. 

First Circuit Judge Edgar W. Dickson granted the motion by the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina asking for clarification on a 2017 ruling involving the schism between the Diocese and the defendants, The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 

The ruling, which involves 36 properties from the Grand Strand to the Lowcountry and valued at $500 million, orders the plaintiff parishes be “affirmed as the title owners in fee simple absolute of their respective parish real properties.”

More here-

Coronavirus Outbreak Linked To West Virginia Church Grows To Over 40 Cases

From West Virginia-

A coronavirus outbreak linked to a church in southern West Virginia has grown to at least 41 cases, officials said Monday.

The caseload connected to the Graystone Baptist Church in Lewisburg increased after several tests came back positive over the weekend, Greenbrier County health officials said in a statement.

The state has seen multiple outbreaks this month connected to church services and tourism travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Health officials are urging residents to wear face masks and follow safety precautions.

Preston County has reported at least 26 cases stemming from trips to Myrtle Beach. Cabell and Kanawha counties have also reported spikes after residents traveled to the popular beach getaway.

More here-

Monday, June 22, 2020

From Tennessee-

According to research from the university, the men who founded Sewanee: The University of the South for the Episcopal Church in 1857 did so to maintain slave-holding society.

Practically every church in the South that was erected before the Civil War has symbols of the Confederacy or complicated histories with race, said the Rev. Claire Brown, associate rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. During the war, many churches supported the Confederacy and believed God was on their side.

In Brown's own church — the congregation of which was established in 1852 — there still hang portraits of Episcopal bishops who were slave owners, she said.

"Race as a social category was created to justify that exploitation and it was within the same breath that people were saying that it was God-ordained that some groups of people would be inferior to others," she said. "And it got twisted pretty much immediately to be unto the glory of God."

More here-

Get to church or synagogue early; houses of worship open in Phase 2 at 25% capacity

From New York-

The Episcopal Diocese of New York will open its churches on July 1, according to

After July 1, state guidelines will determine the number of people allowed to gather for in-person worship. Masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing will be required at houses of worship, according to the website.

It’s recommended you check your individual house of worship for guidelines.

More here-

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely claims 'insurance reasons' prevented him from entering St. John's Church

From CNN-

More than two weeks after his controversial photo-op outside a Washington, DC, church, President Donald Trump offered a new explanation last week for why he didn't enter St. John's Episcopal Church. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday Trump said there were "a lot of insurance reasons" for why he couldn't go in.

That isn't true.
Facts First: "There were no insurance reasons" why Trump could not have entered St. John's Church, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington told CNN on Friday. She said only a small room in the basement of the church, a nursery, had been damaged in a fire the day prior, and "the main sanctuary was not harmed at all."
Trump has faced criticism not only because police used force to clear peaceful protesters out of the way before the photo-op but because he merely brandished the Bible without opening it, offering a prayer, or going into the building.
More here-

Saturday, June 20, 2020

‘COVID-19 has provided us opportunity to make fresh start’

From Nigeria-

Archbishop Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba, the 5th Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), told journalists, including NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE, that Nigeria’s political class has fueled corruption, insecurity and crisis in the country.

How do you see you’re taking over the leadership of the Anglican Communion at a time the country and the world are witnessing a major health crisis? 

THE context in which we took over the leadership of the church was very challenging, being the time of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown, which was later relaxed.

Before then, we have had issues of banditry, insecurity, kidnapping and other security issues. Apart from that, there is also an economic dimension, but on every side, our nation, Nigeria, and the world are facing a very difficult time. 

More here-

South Carolina judge issues ruling contrary to state Supreme Court decision in church property case

From ENS-

South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson, tasked in November 2017 by the South Carolina Supreme Court with a remittitur to enforce the final judgment of the Supreme Court, which ruled in August 2017 that the diocesan property and 29 parishes should be returned to the parties affiliated with The Episcopal Church, issued an order on June 19 that seems to be contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision.

In his order, he ruled that the properties instead belong to each congregation, using the application of the neutral principles of law. His order indicates that the historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has no interest in the properties of the breakaway congregations that left the historic diocese and The Episcopal Church.

While the August 2017 final judgement of the South Carolina Supreme Court was based on a finding that these specific diocesan properties had acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon, Dickson found no explicit accession existed. As noted in the order, the 1979 Dennis Canon states the following:

More here-

Friday, June 19, 2020

For less than the price of an average house in St Thomas, you can buy a house of God

From Canada-

For less than the price of an average house in St Thomas, you can buy an historic house of God.

Built in 1877, Trinity Anglican Church is one of the city's oldest congregations and on Thursday the 143-year-old house of God will go up for sale on the province's Multiple Listings Service. 

Faced with mounting bills and a declining membership, Trinity Anglican Church made a decision to sell 18 month ago, once it secured a merger with St. John's Anglican Church on Flora Street, to become the St Thomas Anglican Church. 

The merger and the forthcoming sale is part of a larger trend, as churches test their ability to hang on amid changing demographics, rising real estate prices and developers looking to pay top dollar for prime land.

Given the mutual benefits, it makes the prospect of selling too tempting an option to turn down for some churches. 

More here-

Financially Hit by COVID-19, Washington National Cathedral Lays Off Staff

From RNS-

The Washington National Cathedral announced a 15% reduction in full-time staff on Tuesday (June 16) due to the financial impact of coronavirus. Starting July 1, the cathedral — located in Washington, D.C. — will eliminate 13 full-time positions and 13 part-time ones and will furlough another 12 full-time positions.

The cathedral’s doors have been closed since March 12, preventing tourists and worshippers from visiting during what is usually the 113-year-old neo-Gothic landmark’s busiest time of year. In an email to Religion News Service, Chief Communications Officer Kevin Eckstrom said that while donor support has remained strong despite holding only online services, the cathedral has been unable to rent its buildings and grounds for events, which normally helps underwrite operations.

Supporters of the cathedral, an Episcopal parish as well as the seat of the church’s bishop of Washington, can still contribute to Sunday morning offerings virtually, and the cathedral has expanded the ways people can give, but these contributions haven’t been able to compensate for the lack of funding available during the cathedral’s closure.

More here-

Zoom tribunal for US Bishop of Albany

From The Church Times-

A BISHOP in the Episcopal Church in the United States faced a disciplinary panel over Zoom last Friday for his refusal to allow clergy in his diocese to officiate at same-sex marriages. The hearing had been due to take place on 21 April (News, 4 October 2019).

The ministry of the Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd William Love, was restricted in January 2019 after he wrote an open letter to his flock challenging the authority and legality of a recent General Convention resolution (News, 18 January 2019). The resolution requires that all bishops permit churches in their dioceses to solemnise same-sex marriages where it is legal under civil law.

Parishioners at St Andrew’s, Albany, burned copies of the Bishop’s letter on the church steps in outrage.

The Episcopal Church argues that the letter amounts to breaking ordination vows to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church”.

More here-

Thursday, June 18, 2020

‘I Absolutely Have No Excuse to Give Up'

From Sojourners-

The Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D. is Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and Canon Theologian at Washington National Cathedral .“The Legacy of the White Lion,” an article by Douglas on reparations and the church, appears in the July issue of Sojourners magazine. Douglas spoke with editorial assistant, Hannah Conklin, about her vocational journey, the task of faith communities today, and the inspiration she finds in her family tree. 

The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Hannah Conklin, Sojourners: As a priest, educator, and theologian, you find yourself at the unique vocational intersection of ministry and scholarship. How did your journey begin? 

Kelly Brown Douglas: When I was about 7 years old, I remember riding with my parents through the inner city of my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. It was a cold, rainy evening. I looked out the window and noticed a little girl and boy crossing the street. They were about my age, and Black like me. I presumed them to be sister and brother. They were a bit disheveled and not properly dressed for the bad weather. And, from my young-girl perspective, they looked poor and hungry. Tears filled my eyes as I imagined for them a life of struggle. In the midst of those tears, I made a silent vow that one day I would come back and rescue those two children from the blight of Dayton’s inner city.

More here-

Episcopal Church holds hearing for bishop who refused to allow gay marriages in diocese

From Christian Post-

The Episcopal Church held a hearing in the case of a bishop who refused to allow for the blessing of same-sex marriages in his diocese.

Bishop William Love of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany was punished last year with a restriction on his ministerial duties after refusing to allow gay marriages in his diocese.

His case was brought before a Title IV Hearing Panel, which focuses on issues of ecclesiastical discipline whenever a clergyman is accused of misconduct.

Originally scheduled for April 21 before the shutdowns over coronavirus concerns, the hearing was held via Zoom teleconference on June 12 and posted on social media.

The teleconference hearing did not address the theological validity of Love’s views, but rather focused on whether the bishop’s actions violated Episcopal Church law.

More here-

West Virginia sees coronavirus outbreaks in churches

From West Virginia-

Less than a month after President Trump urged churches to reopen, West Virginia has reported a significant number of coronavirus outbreaks linked to houses of worship. According to the state’s public health office, a total of five churches have seen outbreaks.

Those churches are scattered across the rugged, mountainous state. The affected churches are in Jefferson County on the border with Maryland; Boone County, in the state’s southwestern coalfields, not far from the Kentucky border; Hampshire County, also near the Maryland border; and Marshall County, in a narrow swath of the state squeezed between Ohio and Pennsylvania known as the Northern Panhandle.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Resources announced the five-church outbreak in a Saturday press release about a house of worship in Greenbrier County, where it said “at least 17 cases have been identified.” It did not name the Greenbrier church, or the churches in the other four counties, to “protect the possibility of identifying individuals.”

More here-

Monday, June 15, 2020

'It was a significant miscalculation' | DC faith leaders frustrated over President Trump's June 1 photo op at St. John's Church

 From D.C.-

Two weeks after President Donald Trump posed for a photo op in front of St. John's Church, Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde invited other interfaith leaders to hold a joint prayer vigil at the church Sunday. 

Bishop Budde felt the way the President went about the picture was a "crime."
“The crime was the dispersal of a peaceful crowd, with all of the symbolism of the American government and military," she said.

Previous WUSA9 reporting shows that law enforcement deployed flash bangs and gas, similar to -- if not -- tear gas, to clear out protesters before President Trump posed in front of the church.

More here-

Faith leaders working ‘slowly, carefully and deliberately’ to bring congregations back into houses of worship, though hybrid virtual and live services could continue

From Chicago-

Many houses of worship continue to hold virtual services and are proceeding with a gradual return to in-person services.  However, while churches and other houses of worship are now free to hold public, in-person gatherings, faith leaders appear to be easing into it – or even staying remote, for now.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, in Barrington, has continued to hold all services online, said the Rev. Jesse Perkins.  The Episcopal denomination’s bishop is permitting clergy to return to work in the building, so the church began Saturday to live-stream services from inside the church, rather than producing worship videos from their homes. 

Perkins said his church is looking forward to the implementation, likely later this summer, of Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan where public gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted.  

More here-

Sunday, June 14, 2020

'Weird Christianity' and why young people are embracing orthodoxy online and in church

From Australia-

Gregorian chants, renaissance choral music and incense wafting from a metallic censer. 

In an era when Kanye West runs gospel-inspired services, and megachurches, like Hillsong, release chart-topping hits, these ancient Christian traditions are, unexpectedly, having a moment. 

And they're not just resonating with older generations, either. 

Younger people are flocking to late-night Latin Mass — at least they were pre-COVID — and embracing Christian orthodoxy in online spaces. 

So says Tara Isabella Burton, America-based author of the forthcoming book Strange Rites and a member of the self-proclaimed "Weird Christian" movement.

"The term is often applied to young, online Christians who embrace the elements of their faith that might be considered weird by the modern world," Burton explains.

More here-

Secret Service admits using pepper spray to clear protesters for Trump photo op

From NY Daily News-

The Secret Service finally admitted Saturday that it used pepper spray to clear protesters from outside the White House so President Trump could hold a photo op.

After nearly two weeks of adamant denials, the federal agency conceded that it did use chemicals to move peaceful protesters.

The statement added that the pepper spray was used “in response to an assaultive (sic) individual” without offering any evidence to back up the account.

Heavily armed federal personal from federal agencies violently cleared peaceful racial justice protesters from the area around St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Live TV footage showed troops firing rubber bullets and tear gas as they charged into the crowd of several thousand demonstrators.

More here-

Missouri makes history with first black, openly-gay bishop ordination

From Missouri (with video)-

The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has a new leader and it's a choice that's making history.

Reverend Deon K. Johnson was ordained Saturday as the 11th Episcopal Bishop of Missouri.

He is the first black, openly-gay bishop in the diocese's 179-year history.

“To find ourselves in this moment, the ancestor of a slave, to be called to be the Bishop of Missouri – God is good!” Johnson said during his ordination service. “To the people of Missouri, we have a whole new story to tell and a whole new boldness to tell it with. So I look forward to the adventure.”

More here-