Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye, 2008; Hello, 2009

Boston Globe lists the top ten religious stories of 2008 and the schism is again number 4 (see posts below) and lumped in with Jeremiah Wright.

4. Mainline Protestant denominations continued to be roiled by debates over homosexuality, and continued to grapple with declining participation and aging congregations. The split in the global Anglican Communion since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire began to formalize in 2008, as conservatives announced that they were establishing a separate North American province that would compete with the existing Episcopal Church in the U.S. and Canada. African American Protestant churches reflected on the state of black liberation theology after the incendiary preaching by Jeremiah Wright (a pastor in the mainline United Church of Christ) called attention to the risks of rhetoric in the age of Youtube.

Pa. priest denies impropriety for NYC club outings

The "party priest" responds in the Philadelphia Inquirer. See the first post of the day if you haven't been following the story -

A part-time Episcopal priest said allegations of extravagant night-clubbing that led to his ouster from a northeastern Pennsylvania church have been greatly exaggerated.

The Rev. Gregory Malia defended himself against a pair of stories published earlier this week in the New York Daily News. The newspaper, relying on unidentified club workers, depicted Malia as a denizen of Manhattan's hottest clubs and a big spender on top-shelf liquors who leaves five-figure tips.

"I think the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion and misconstrued," Malia told the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader in a story posted Wednesday on its Web site. "It's so twisted."

The Daily News stories raised enough concerns that Malia has been inhibited from performing his priestly duties by Bishop Paul V. Marshall of the Bethlehem diocese.

Marshall posted a note on the diocese Web site saying that the allegations, if true, "constitute a serious violation of ordination vows to be 'a wholesome example' to a priest's people."

"If true, they may also violate other canonical provisions and certainly portray an unacceptable idea of Christian stewardship," Marshall wrote.

Requiem for Roberto

Today is the 36th anniversary of the death of Roberto Clemente. I have fond memories of going to Forbes Field and later Three Rivers Stadium to watch the best right fielder to ever play the game. This is the Jan. 15th Time Magazine article about his tragic death.

Then there were the endless demands for public appearances that "I just couldn't say no to." Among other charitable projects, Clemente last week led Puerto Rico's efforts to aid earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua, a city where he had coached and played with Puerto Rican teams during the offseason. Not satisfied with merely lending his name to the mercy mission, Clemente insisted on going along to Managua to see that some 26 tons of food and $150,000 in relief money were properly distributed.

Minutes after takeoff from San Juan international airport, the cargo plane developed engine trouble and crashed into heavy seas one mile off the coast.

Rescue boats and helicopters combed the crash area, but by dawn only bits of debris had been recovered. Clemente, three crew members and another passenger had perished. Governor-elect Rafael Hernandez Colon immediately canceled the formal ball that was to have followed his inauguration last week, and three days of mourning were declared. "Roberto died serving his fellow man," Colon said. "Our youth loses an idol. Our people lose one of their glories.",9171,906761,00.html

Top 10 religion news stories of 2008

Scripps lists their top ten religous stories for 2008. The schism is number 6 here

6. Backed by Anglican traditionalists in Africa, Asia and Latin America, conservatives alienated from the U.S. Episcopal Church appeal to the Anglican Communion to create a parallel jurisdiction -- the Anglican Church in North America. This open split follows decades of doctrinal fighting in the Episcopal Church, including the consecration of a noncelibate gay priest as a bishop five years ago.

The other nine are here-

Ten for the History Books from 2008

A Southern Baptist lists the 10 most important news stories (not just religous ones) of 2008. The schism is number 4 here too. (See below for the Catholic take)

4. Controversy in the Episcopal Church leads to schism. Pressures in the Episcopal Church USA reached a breaking point as more congregations and dioceses voted to leave the denomination over its actions and policy positions on homosexuality -- most centrally the election of an openly homosexual bishop in 2003. Several churches had taken refuge under Anglican churches in Africa and the Southern Cone of South America, but as the year came to a close a new Anglican Church in North America had been declared. Court battles over church property continued, but conservatives won a major decision in Virginia in late December.

They're all here-

Good Stuff in TEC: Vermont

Church hosts prayer service tonight

This year's First Night Ecumenical Prayer for World Peace will take place this evening at the Cathedral of St. Paul (Episcopal) at the intersection of Battery and Cherry streets in Burlington.

The service, from 6 to 6:45 p.m., consists of Scripture, reflection, congregational singing accompanied by harp and chants from the Taize Community.

Pax Christi Burlington, the First United Methodist Church and the Cathedral of St. Paul are sponsoring the event with other area churches and The Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community.

No First Night Burlington button is required. Call for more information at 862-0068.

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

Top 5 News Stories That Will Keep Making News

Top five stories for the year according to American Catholic. The schism in the Episcopal church is #4

4) The on-going divisions within the Episcopal Church illustrate a much-discussed dynamic in recent years: Denominational differences are less indicative of voting behavior than ideological differences. That is, a conservative Catholic and a conservative evangelical are more likely to have the same outlook than a conservative Catholic and a liberal one. This dynamic must become the focus of sustained attention by the Catholic hierarchy if we are to avoid the kinds of schisms the Episcopalians are witnessing. Unlike most Protestant denominations, the Episcopal Church did not split apart during the Civil War, but they are splitting now. Ecclesiology must be given renewed prominence if we are to keep the differences of opinion, often legitimate differences, within the Church from breaking it apart.

The rest are here-

Pennsylvania Priest Ousted for Partying at New York City Nightclubs

Follow up on a story I posted Sunday which can be found here-

An Episcopal priest at a rural northeastern Pennsylvania parish has been ousted from priestly ministry for flamboyant partying at New York City nightclubs.

When a New York newspaper reported on his lavish lifestyle, the Rev. Gregory Malia told the Daily News: "I work hard. I make good money. How I spend it — that is my business."

The paper reported Sunday that Malia was a fixture in fashionable nightclubs, spending thousands of dollars on liquor and tips.

The Right Rev. Paul Marshall says the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem took the action because priests are supposed to observe "normal standards of modest living."

Malia is a businessman who served part-time in the clergy, most recently at St. James Episcopal Church in Susquehanna County.,2933,474344,00.html

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good Stuff in TEC: Kentucky

Warming shelter ministry set

Pastors of five Murray-Calloway County churches are planning to open a warming shelter ministry for local residents needing temporary shelter, food and other necessities inside the First United Methodist Church Christian Life Center.

The Rev. Richard Smith, pastor of First Methodist, said following a meeting of organizers late last week that the effort is the translation of Christian ministry from Bible teaching to service of those in need in Christ's name.

“In the love of Christ to provide warmth, shelter, food, and a caring experience for those who are homeless or who find themselves without functioning utilities on extremely cold nights,” Smith said. “It is a cooperative plan of defined churches, community resources, and dedicated volunteers.”

Smith said the ministry is based on the words of Christ in New Testament book of Matthew; Chapter 25.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing,” Smith quoted in a news release to the Murray Ledger & Times. “I was sick and you took care of me...Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me.”

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

Women bishops demonstrate the Anglican tradition of compromise

From the London Telegraph-

The second link is to a story in the Guardian.

The week between Christmas Day and the New Year is traditionally when the clergy take a break after the rigours of Advent and the great feast. It's a hiatus in the life of the Church, a kind of Pinteresque pause: a time for reflection and the re-charging of spiritual batteries.

Not this year. Last Sunday, five English bishops independently told the Sunday Telegraph how dissatisfied they were with the Government's economic policies. The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, went so far as to call Gordon Brown's regime "morally corrupt" for encouraging instant gratification through the racking up of personal debt.

Then, hardly a day later, the Church of England let it be known that it intends to press ahead with the introduction of women bishops , while providing "complementary" male bishops for those clergy who are opposed to the change.

The Guardian

Good Stuff in TEC: Florida

Resale shop for a good cause

Whether it's traditional jewelry, fine china or collectible soft drink bottles with the beverage still inside, the St. Edward's French Boutique offers both antique and modern items at fair prices.

Located behind St. Edward's Episcopal Church, the boutique features upscale items donated for resale for interested collectors or someone looking to redecorate their home, said church senior warden Sandy Morgan.

"Whether people are looking for colorful jewelry or something to place in their kitchen, it's literally an assortment of valuable and semi-valuable items for them to choose from," Morgan said.

Church parishioners and local residents donated all of the items for sale in the boutique, she said. Even local antique stores and businesses drop off items from their larger shipments.

The church is looking at the boutique to house items that are both precious and valuable to someone.

"All of the items here are too good to throw out or give away," she said. "We want to know that everything available here will find a good home somewhere and not be destroyed. The right person has to want it."

Sale proceeds from the boutique fund the church's outreach programs.

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

EPISCOPALIANS: Pressing on after a split in the local church

Update on the TEC diocese in Fort Worth from the local paper- The Star Telegram. (I guess that's where Santa goes to unwind. That hat doesn't fool me)

North Texas Episcopalians and those observing recent activities in our diocese can be forgiven for some confusion.

A quick update is that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is alive and well and doing ministry and mission everywhere from Gainesville to Wichita Falls to Brownwood to Hillsboro and back.


While those who have gathered themselves around Iker still insist they are the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, it is simply not possible to leave the Episcopal Church and then claim to be still part of it. And while they still occupy property that belongs to the Episcopal Church, they have no legal rights to it, according to the church’s canons.

All this will in due course be sorted out, most likely in the courts.

Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth continues its ministry as an integral part of the Episcopal Church.

Married Man to be Ordained to Priesthood in Texas

Well here's another way to go. From Catholic Online News Service.

Where's Waldo? Probably in church. Another married man, a convert, is about to become a priest.

The local paper in San Angelo, Texas, has the scoop on a cleric named Waldo:

"Waldo Emerson "Knick" Knickerbocker, a married former Episcopalian minister, will be ordained as a Roman Catholic deacon at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at St. Theresa Church in Junction. The ceremony will be conducted by Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI .

A month later, on Jan. 28 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in San Angelo, Knickerbocker will be ordained a priest for the Catholic Church.

Knickerbocker will be the first married man to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Angelo, according to a news release.

In 1993-94, Knickerbocker and his wife, Sandie, became members of the Roman Catholic Church. After review and prayer, Knickerbocker asked to become a Roman Catholic priest in September 2005. Knickerbocker taught church history and Christian spirituality for 32 years on the faculty of the Memphis Theological Seminary, a Cumberland Presbyterian school in Memphis, Tenn.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bishops put forward as solution to Church of England row over women clergy

From the London Telegraph.

The priests, known as complementary bishops, will be allowed to hold church services including Holy Communion, conduct baptisms and consecrate burial grounds in parishes that do not want the controversial innovation of female bishops.

However the compromise move is unlikely to win over those who are strongly against the historic reform.

Complementary bishops must be male and must agree not to take part in ceremonies to make women priests or bishops. Parishes or individuals can "petition" to have a complementary bishop provide services and pastoral care for them if either they cannot accept women priests or bishops under any circumstances, or if they just do not want female clergy in their local churches.

The arrangements are described in a new Code of Practice drawn up by a Church committee, in order to prevent a mass exodus of Anglo-Catholic and conservative evangelical clergy and worshippers who believe that scripture and tradition hold that bishops must be male.
More than 500 clergy left the Church, with many converting to Rome because of its complete ban on female ministers, after the first women priests were ordained in 1994.

Lemming Pledge #14

For all of you who have asked where the Lemmings have gone.

Women Reach for Bishops' Chairs in Church of England as last barriers fall

From the London Times. (Hear Me Roar ?)

When traditionalists mutter that dark forces are plotting to undermine the tradition of men-only bishops in the Church in England, they are closer to the truth than they know.

The first woman bishop is likely to be drawn from a group of senior Anglican women priests that goes by the name of Darc - deans, archdeacons and residentiary canons - and meets twice a year to offer mutual support.

Since women were first ordained in 1994, about 4,000 have been priested. Of those, nearly 3,000 are still active in the ministry, representing about a third of the total number of serving priests. Women priests are likely to outnumber men within a few years.

To these women, and many of the worshippers who have experienced their ministry, an episcopacy without women is unthinkable. One by one, the provinces of the Anglican Communion are succumbing. In 1988 the first women bishops were elected in the United States and New Zealand. Barbara Harris, the American bishop, turned up to that year's Lambeth Conference.

Chritian Leaders Speak out About Gaza

Christian leaders are starting to speak out on the situation in Gaza, where Israeli forces, retaliating for rocket attacks against Israel, today attacked Hamas targets for the third day in a row, bringing the death toll in Gaza to over 300.

On Saturday I posted comments from Jewish leaders here; on Sunday I posted comments from Muslim organizations (updated this morning) here. Today comes the following statement from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

"Yesterday afternoon in New York, outside the Episcopal Church Center, a demonstration took place in front of the Israeli consulate. The demonstrators included orthodox Jews. All were calling for an immediate end to the attacks in Gaza. I join my voice to theirs and those of many others around the world, challenging the Israeli government to call a halt to this wholly disproportionate escalation of violence. I challenge the Palestinian forces to end their rocket attacks on Israelis.

I further urge the United States government to use its influence to get these parties back to the negotiating table and end this senseless killing. President-elect Obama needs to be part of this initiative, which demands his attention now and is likely to do so through his early months in office. I urge a comprehensive response to these attacks. Innocent lives are being lost throughout the land we all call Holy, and as Christians remember the coming of the Prince of Peace, we ache for the absence of peace in the land of his birth.

Immediate attention should focus on vital humanitarian assistance to the suffocating people of Gaza. In March of this year, I spent a day in Gaza visiting religious and community leaders and the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Since that visit, the situation, which was already devastating, has only worsened, with supplies of food, fuel, power, and medical supplies either cut off or indefinitely delayed. Our hospital must now try to treat the wounded under the most impossible circumstances.

I ask all people of faith to join with the Episcopalians in Jerusalem who this Sunday dispensed with their usual worship services and spent their time in prayer for those who are the objects of this violence. I pray for leaders who will seek a just peace for all in the Middle East, knowing that its achievement will only come when they have the courage to act boldly. But they must do so now, before the violence escalates further. It is only through a just and lasting peace that the hope of the ages can be fulfilled, that hope which we mark in the birth of a babe in Bethlehem."

Now That's a Hat !

Some of you have noticed that one of the running jokes on 3RE has to do with hats. I'm struck by how many funny ones there are out there, especially worn by clergy and royalty. A friend sent this picture to me today. The couple is Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Actually her hat is something too.

Good Stuff in TEC: South Dakota

Cornerstone filling more needs than food, housing

Emmanuel Episcopal Church members served the meal Sunday night at the mission, and member Karen Psiaki read from the Bible, sang a hymn and prayed with the people gathered.

At the end, she asked for prayer requests, and several hands waved in the air, asking for continued sobriety, reduced bail for a family member, and healing from a sickness. One man asked for prayers for his daughter and pressed his fingers to his eyes to catch tears before they came.

Some volunteers at Cornerstone focus primarily on just that - the spiritual needs of the people coming for help.

Sunday service supervisor Ben Holstlaw was up at 4 a.m. Sunday, his mind reeling with scripture to add to his weekly message. He has been volunteering at the mission for almost a decade, ministering to those in need and giving a sermon Sunday mornings to a packed cafeteria.

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

Good Stuff in TEC: Wyomng

St. John’s Episcopal Church members raised almost 5 tons of food for a local food bank, the church’s rector said.

Church raises 5 tons for valley food bank

The Rev. Ken Asel challenged the membership to raise one ton of food to restock the Jackson Cupboard, which has seen a run on its resources since the valley’s economy has taken a downturn. He said he had hoped to reach the mark by early 2009, but the congregation surpassed that in eight days.

In the two weeks of the drive, Dec. 7 through 21, the congregation raised 9,435 pounds, almost 5 tons.

Others in the community have also contributed thousands of dollars to purchase fresh food items.

Jackson Cupboard is an independent agency that started through the St. John’s ministry and is still located on the church campus.

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Canadian Church ‘approves’ Anglican Covenant

Missed this earlier in the week. Looks like the Anglican Covenant isn't dead after all (even on Canada). Oh Canada.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod (CoGS) has given its cautious approval to the principle of an Anglican Covenant, but has reserved judgment pending a review of the final text.

At its Fall meeting in Toronto last week, CoGS, the Canadian church’s governing body between meetings of the triennial General Synod gave an affirmative response to the question posed by the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committee whether it cold “give an ‘in principle’ commitment to the covenant process at this time, without committing itself to the details of any text.”

The 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion have been asked to respond to the current “St Andrew's Draft” of the covenant by March. The Covenant Design Group is scheduled to hold its final meeting in London next April and issue a final revision for presentation to the May meeting of the ACC in Jamaica.

Though retired as Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies will continue as chairman of the Covenant Design Group through the March meeting. Organizers hope the April draft of the Covenant will be approved by the ACC and released to the Communion for approval soon after.

In hard times, residents seek solace at Boston churches

A report from Bston about the church meeting the stress of the financial crisis in people's lives.

Across religious lines, clergy are preparing to meet new spiritual needs in 2009 as their flocks lose their jobs, watch their savings disappear and struggle to pay for basics including food and heat.

“We all know God is at His most faithful when people are in need,” said the Right Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. “The gospel tells us that we’re supposed to come to God when we’re burdened and heavy-laden and God will give us refreshment.”

Clergy from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths said they see anecdotal evidence that more people are showing up for worship as new support programs are starting for followers hurt and isolated by the financial crisis.

Episcopal property dispute heads to Va. Supreme Court

A long-awaited property- settlement decision in Fairfax Circuit Court apparently will not be the end of a two-year-long conflict between a minority group of conservative congregations in the Episcopal Church that broke away from the church to join the Anglican District of Virginia.
On Dec. 19, Fairfax Judge Randy Bellows upheld the long-debated Division Statute, which was the backbone of the Anglican Church's case.

The break-away congregations include several from Fairfax and Loudoun counties. They had decided to break off from the parent organization after determining that church leadership was not following a proper reading of Scripture, particularly on the issue of homosexuality.
The Civil-War-era statute is the key factor in determining the property dispute over the ownership of The Falls Church. The statute governs the ownership of property held in trust for the congregation.

An appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court is being prepared by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Both sides have spent so far about $2 million each in court costs.

Episcopal priest makes a name for himself in New York City nightclubs

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department. In the New York Post.

The mystery man whose bottomless pockets have made him a legend in clubland is a young Episcopal priest from northeastern Pennsylvania.

"I work hard. I make good money. How I spend it - that is my business," the Rev. Gregory Malia, 43, told the Daily News. "I haven't done anything inappropriate."

There's no suggestion that Malia - a hemophiliac who owns a specialty pharmacy dedicated to blood disorders - has done anything wrong on his visits to the city.

Still, the clergyman's free-spending ways boggle the mind, even at Manhattan hot spots where staffers are used to seeing hundreds thrown down.

"All the waitresses in the clubs know who he is and smile and scream, 'Father Greg!' when he walks in the door because he's such a good tipper," one club waitress said. "He'll overtip ... on top of an automatic 20% gratuity."

Pink Elephant on W. 27th St. is a favorite haunt, but he also has spread the wealth at the Flatiron lounge Citrine and other pricey party spots.

Churches cutting back as donations dwindle

From this morning's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (Front page)

Water from the leaking roof of the Door of Hope Community Church in Lawrenceville has damaged plaster on some interior walls, but the cost of repairing the slate and tin roof is beyond the church's means.

"I don't know what we can do, or how we're going to get it fixed. We need a miracle," said the Rev. Steve Ramsier, pastor. The church was built in 1881, destroyed by fire in 1908 and rebuilt in 1918.

In addition to a roof, the church's wish list includes a copier, storage containers, projector, laptop computer and a 144-square-foot tent. But donations are down at Door of Hope, and at churches across the country, a study shows.

Americans are passing on their financial pain to churches and other nonprofits by cutting back substantially on giving during the fourth quarter, according to the study by Barna Group, a California-based company that tracks church trends.

During the past three months, one of every five households, or 20 percent, has decreased its giving to churches, Barna said.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Boxing Day was yesterday. here's Time Magazine reflecting on its possible origin.

King Wencelas didn't start Boxing Day, but the Church of England might have. During Advent, Anglican parishes displayed a box into which churchgoers donated money. On the day after Christmas, the boxes were broken open and their contents distributed among the poor, thus giving rise to the term "Boxing Day." Maybe.

But wait: there's another possible story about the holiday's origin. The day after Christmas was also the traditional day on which the aristocracy distributed presents (boxes) to servants and employees — a sort of institutionalized Christmas bonus party. The servents returned home, opened their boxes, and had a second Christmas on what became known as Boxing Day.

So which version is correct? Well, both. Or neither. No one, it seems, is really sure. Both the church boxes and the servant presents definitely existed, although historians disagree on which practice inspired the holiday. But Boxing Day's origins aren't especially important to modern day Brits — Britain isn't known for its religious fervor and few people can afford to have servants anymore, anyway. Today's Boxing Day festivities have very little to do with charity — instead, they revolve around food, football (soccer), visits from friends, food and drinking at the pub.,8599,1868711,00.html?imw=Y

Religion's Big and Unprecedented Role in '08 Politics

From the Washington Post-

Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, and John McCain turned to Sarah Palin, but in the end the most sought-after running mate in the 2008 campaign never appeared on a single ballot.

God, it seems, couldn't be entirely wooed by either party.

The unprecedented and extraordinary prominence of religion in the 2008 election was easily the year's top religion story. Both parties battled hard for religious voters, and both were forced to distance themselves from outspoken clergy whose fiery rhetoric threatened to become a political liability.

In the end, the top prize went to Obama, the son of a Muslim-born father and an atheist mother, who spent much of the campaign fighting off persistent -- and untrue -- rumors that he was a closet Muslim. His party, after years of consistently losing churchgoers to Republicans, decisively won Catholics, Jews and black Protestants, and made small but significant inroads among some evangelicals.

Literary seminary professor found spiritual insight in Walker Percy

This is the area I did my Doctoral Studies in, although I used short stories instead of novels. I used Percy's reflections on writing in my thesis. If you haven't read Walker Percy you should. The Thantos Syndrome is probably his best.

I first encountered the Rev. Charlie Cook as a teacher. I had signed up for a night class on theology and the novels of the late Walker Percy at the Seminary of the Southwest. As someone who majored in English and minored in philosophy, this would be an ideal continuing-education course for me. And I had always meant to read Percy.

But it was like no English or philosophy class I had taken before. Cook, a longtime pastoral theology professor at the Episcopal seminary just north of the University of Texas, explored unexpected theological depths, pulling back the curtain on Percy's own spiritual struggle alongside an analysis of the various stages and ultimate "leap of faith" Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard argues is essential to accepting Christianity.

The class consisted mostly of gray-haired ladies from local Episcopal parishes, and Cook also challenged us to examine our own spiritual lives in light of Percy and his existentialist philosophy. I might not be able quote Percy or Kierkegaard, but I can tell you I knew a lot more about myself after completing that course.

Grace Episcopal leader steps down as trial approaches

Further developments in the Grace Church Colorado Springs saga.

If ever a church needed a strong leader, it was Grace & St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

The congregation had been exiled from its home in the majestic stone structure on North Tejon Street, after a conservative faction that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado remained in the building.

On Oct. 5, 2007, the diocese tapped the Rev. Michael O'Donnell to be priest in charge of a church that had no permanent home. His Episcopalian flock found a temporary place to hold services, first at Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus, and then at First Christian Church downtown.
Everything seemed to be going fine, and then, without warning, O'Donnell resigned in October.

There's nothing sinister going on. O'Donnell told me he wants to try something else, though he's not sure what that might be.


A social conservative, O'Donnell learned a lot leading a predominantly liberal Episcopal parish.

"It's easy to love people who are like you, but not so easy to love those who are against what you hold dear," O'Donnell said. "That would have derailed me before in a relationship. But I learned that different views are actually a good thing."

The Episcopal Church still united

Reflection on the state of the church from the warden at St. Mark's Chapel in Beaufort South Carolina. He puts things in perspective.

Since I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church as a pre-teen, I have followed the problems and progress of my denomination and seen firsthand when a group disagrees with and leaves the organized national church. Despite the occasional disagreements, I always have been proud to be a member of this fellowship that follows scripture, tradition and reason as doctrinal foundation.

The Gazette reported about the current disagreement on the front page of its Faith section Dec. 13: "The Episcopal Church divided? Despite divisions nationally, local split unlikely." The article could leave the impression that there are many more malcontents than actually exist, and does not mention that although four bishops have left the national Episcopal Church, the vast majority of about 100 bishops remain. Even in South Carolina, there are two dioceses, not just one as the article implies: the Diocese of South Carolina, essentially south of Columbia, under Bishop Mark Lawrence, and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Columbia and north.

To my knowledge, there is no move afoot within the upper diocese to hold discussions with the break-away group attempting to form a new Anglican province. Your article suggests, however, that our bishop has participated in such discussions even though Lawrence said he has no plans to leave. The quote from the rector of St. Helena's Episcopal Church that "there have been no plans to leave" also was encouraging. However, he does point out that there are "a lot of issues" on which there is disagreement with the national Episcopal Church.

Episcopal bishop visits Pentagon, 9/11 memorial

From USA Today-

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori paid her first visit to the Pentagon on Tuesday, leading services with fellow Episcopalians and praying at the new memorial for those killed there in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"It's powerful," she said of the memorial to 184 people who died when terrorists flew an airliner into the west side of the Pentagon. "It's a remarkable design that speaks about new life in the midst of death."

Jefferts Schori, who was an oceanographer before she pursued ordained ministry, particularly admired the trees and the running water that are part of the memorial's design. Maple trees are planted amid memorial stainless-steel benches that are inscribed with the names of each of the victims.

The presiding bishop recited a prayer from the church's Prayer Book for the Armed Services, which also was used by Episcopal chaplains in New York after terrorists struck the World Trade Center.

After visiting the memorial, Jefferts Schori led services for members of the Episcopal Church who work at the Pentagon. Prior to the service, Jefferts Schori said she would speak about John the Baptist and "how we use our voices."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Passings 2008

What do Bo Diddley, William Buckley, Charleston Heston, and Bettie Page have in Common?

Christmas carol had its origin in a Phila. church

There is a Christmas story that every new member of the Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square learns soon after joining.

It is about two friends in 1868 - a rector and his organist - and the inspiration that grew from procrastination.

Yesterday afternoon, as church volunteers arranged sprays of red flowers around the altar and children put on costumes for the Christmas pageant, the story of the carol that put the 150-year-old church on the Christmas map was recalled by members.

"It's our claim to fame," said Soozung Rankin, a member for three years, whose 10-week-old son, Robert, was about to debut as Baby Jesus in the manger tableau.

The story begins with a trip to the Holy Land by the church's vicar, the Rev. Phillips Brooks. It was 1865, and Brooks was so moved by what he saw that he penned a poem.

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie.

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by.

Division Weakens the Body of Christ

The Dean of the National Cathedral reflects on the damage being done with the recent schism in the Episcopal Church.

"Should conservative Episcopalians who disagree with U.S. church leaders about homosexuality, women's ordination, biblical literalism and other issues leave and form a separate denomination?"

It's a sad thing to behold--that within a community of Christians called by their Lord to love each other, a group would consider leaving to form a separate denomination, or, as is currently happening, would seek to create a separate province of the theologically like-minded within the Anglican Communion. We in the Episcopal Church have been disagreeing deeply for some time--about human sexuality and about how we read scripture. And an array of cultural and global forces have been at work driving a wedge between the sides.

But unity is at the core of what it means to be Christian. We are members all of one Body, St. Paul wrote. We are part of an interdependent community that needs all its parts. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you, nor the head to the feet, I have no need of you,'' Paul argued. All the parts need each other, even when they may at the moment be alienated. Liberals need conservatives to keep them rooted in the ancient teaching; conservatives need liberals to keep them looking for the new things God is doing in the world. God's truth is bigger than any one part can claim.

That is why the endless divisions within the Christian church through the centuries have been so tragic. The church has held to a set of core beliefs articulated most clearly in its creeds. When serious conflicts have arisen, many have persisted in the church out of the conviction that it is better to stay together and bear witness to the truth than to leave for the sake of theological purity. Schism, they believed, is worse than heresy because it undermines the essential Christian call to love one another. As Jesus said, the night before he was killed, "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Christ himself saw our capacity to love across our differences as the surest sign of God's purpose for our world and something essential we have to give.

There have been actions and words on both sides that have been arrogant and dismissive. And as in any long-term marriage, both sides can point to hurtful things said and done. But the decision to form a new province, or perhaps even to leave the denomination, diminishes all Episcopalians and Anglicans and tragically weakens the one gift the world most needs from the church - a vision of a love that is deeper than all the issues that divide the human race.

Reach out to someone

The Bishop of Barbados reflects on Christmas. (It's overcast and 3o degrees here. Barbados is looking pretty good right now!)

We see in all of this all the traces of what it is to be human. We can identify with all the characters in the story. They are like us; frail mortal and human.

It is this acknowledgment that helps us to understand Christmas as God's greatest act of reaching out to humanity. And the mixture of human characteristics reflected in the Christmas story does not scare God away.

He becomes all wrapped up in our humanity with all its elements of frailty.

Christmas is a celebration of God's response to these difficult and sometimes frustrating human challenges. We too with His grace, can respond to all the challenges that we may be facing at this time in our lives.

But most of all let us reach out and help someone who may be dealing with a difficult challenge in their life at this time. Reach out and help. This may be the greatest gift you can offer them this Christmas. May God grant you a blessed Christmas and may His grace be with you each and every day of the coming year.

Church leaders offer comfort but little joy in lessons on economy

From the London Telegraph. Christmas messages from the Pope, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Queen. (Hang on to your hat, like she doesn't have another one.)

Christian leaders used their pulpits this Christmas to draw moral lessons from the economic downturn, preaching traditional values of helping the poor and attempting to offer spiritual solace at a time of material crisis.

The Queen also began her traditional Christmas message with reference to the economy. “Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many,” she said.

She, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury all emphasised how in such a climate salvation could be found through helping others. The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, said: “Over the years those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives; the kind of people who are generous with their talents or their time.”

Good Stuff in TEC: Tennessee

Thriving Thistle Farms helps women recove

Cynthia Foster thought prostitution and shoplifting were the closest she'd come to a legitimate job, years ago when she was in the grips of addiction.

Now she earns her living by carefully measuring out sea salt and oils, and supervising the floor where 20 women make handmade bath and body products. She's part of a nonprofit company called Thistle Farms, where sales are growing and the brand is thriving despite a recession.

That success could mean more women recovering from lives of addiction and prostitution have a place to detox, grow spiritually and earn an income. The Thistle Farms products support the operation of the nonprofit Magdalene House, a two-year residential recovery program where women come from hundreds of miles to get a second chance, and being part of Thistle Farms helps the women gain job skills.

And the products allow their message to spread throughout the country: that prostitution leaves a trail of victims. Thistle Farms is in the process of setting up a contract with Whole Foods Body stores, a retailer that could help them double their reach and give jobs to several more women.

"We have graduates who have made their way, got other jobs and lost them," said Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest who runs the Magdalene House. "We have a work force that's dying to work, and we have the product in place."

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

Soggy Church Vestibule Cleaned in Time for Christmas Eve Services

Gid was a seminary classmate. God really does redeem disasters.

One of the most prominent and historic churches in the Washington region went through a trial by water yesterday before it managed to open for Christmas Eve services.

Water from a break in a fire-suppression system cascaded from the steeple of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis on Tuesday night and rose in a vestibule.

"We had a waterfall," said the Rev. Gid Montjoy, the priest at St. Anne's, which traces its origins to the 1690s.

The current building, which is 149 years old, is the church's third on its site in the center of historic Annapolis. And when the water began to gush, so did the dirt and soot that had built up in the steeple since 1859, Montjoy said.

We need peace urgently, say Holy Land leaders

CHRISTIAN LEADERS in the Holy Land have asked for worldwide prayers for peace in the Middle East. In particular, they ask for international assistance in finding a solution to the crisis in the Holy Land itself.

In a Christmas message, 13 Patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem — including the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani — speak of there being even more than the usual “darkness, conflict, and despair in the world around us”.

They say that they needed “the light of Christ to shine on this land to enable us to work more realistically for a two-state solution which would end the burden of restrictions arising out of [Israeli] occupation”.

The Jerusalem church dignitaries add that they were praying that the US President-elect, Barack Obama, and other heads of state and other world leaders would “see the urgent need for peace in the Middle East, and not least in this land”.

The 13 signatories also call the world’s attention to the Gaza Strip, where one-and-a-half million Palestinians have been living under an Israeli blockade for many weeks. Christians, the church leaders say, need “to see the situation in which many are suffering” in Gaza, and make “a determined effort to bring them urgent relief”.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 1But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Changing the world starts close to home: Anglican leader

Report on Rowan's Christmas message. Apparently he is not to be outdone in the Christmas hat department.

The world's ills will not be solved by "larger-than-life heroes" but by people making small gestures to help those in distress, the archbishop of Canterbury will say in his Christmas message.

In his sermon on Thursday, Rowan Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican church, will say that people's ability to make a difference to those around them is particularly important during an economic downturn.
"The gospel tells us something hard to hear -- that there is not going to be a single charismatic leader or a dedicated political campaign or a war to end all wars that will bring the golden age," he will say at Canterbury Cathedral according to remarks released in advance.

But Williams says Christians can emulate Jesus through "small and local gestures, the unique difference made in some particular corner of the world."

He cites a community theatre project run by local churches in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, which was "working to deepen the confidence and the hope of those living in the middle of some of the worst destitution even Zimbabwe can show."

In times of economic difficulty, believers could also put Jesus' teachings into effect by helping those around them who are struggling.

"In the months ahead it will mean in our own country asking repeatedly what is asked of us locally to care for those who bear the heaviest burdens in the wake of our economic crisis -- without waiting for the magical solution, let alone the return of the good times," Williams will say.

Pope's remarks on sexuality 'will widen Anglican rift'

From the Guardian. With that hat it looks like he's working Santa's side of the street!

To the fury of homosexual groups the Pontiff said that the defence of heterosexual relationships was as important to humanity as preventing the destruction of rainforests.

In a Christmas address to prelates in the Vatican the Pope, known as God's rottweiler because of his hardline views, said that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself". He urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman".

As homosexual groups condemned the Pope, his remarks drew applause from conservative Anglican groups in Britain. They welcomed the "clarity" of the Pope's thinking which they contrasted with Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams is battling to prevent a schism in the Anglican church as many of his own clergy are in openly gay relationships in defiance of church policy.

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".

Episcopal property dispute may head to Va. Supreme Court

A long-awaited property- settlement decision in Fairfax Circuit Court apparently will not be the end of a two-year-long conflict between a minority group of conservative congregations in the Episcopal Church that broke away from the church to join the Anglican District of Virginia.
On Dec. 19, Fairfax Judge Randy Bellows upheld the long-debated Division Statute, which was the backbone of the Anglican Church's case.

The break-away congregations include several from Fairfax and Loudoun counties. They decided to break off from the Episcopal Church after determining that church leadership was not following a proper reading of Scripture, particularly on the issue of homosexuality.
The Civil-War-era Division Statute is the key factor in determining the legal ownership of the breakaway churches, including Truro and The Falls Church.

An appeal of Bellow's decision to the Virginia Supreme Court is being prepared by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

Both sides have already spent about $2 million each in court costs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Whole Bird Christianity"

An interesting piece by E.J. Dionne about how the face of evangelicalism is changing from single issues and theological purity to a more integrated engagement with the world. He uses Rick Warren and the inaugural as the spring board.

Mr. Warren wouldn't back down and offered ABC News a delightful explanation for his political apostasy. "I'm a pastor, not a politician," he said. "People always say, 'Rick, are you right wing or left wing?' I say 'I'm for the whole bird.' "

Many liberals hope -- and a lot of conservative fear -- that the rise of "whole bird" Christianity will break up right-wing dominance in the white evangelical community.

Mr. Obama never forgot what Mr. Warren did for him and brought the episode up last week in explaining why he had asked the pastor to pray at his inauguration. "A couple of years ago," Mr. Obama recalled, "I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion."

One need not be too pious about any of this. Both Mr. Warren and Mr. Obama are shrewd leaders who sense where the political winds are blowing.

Mr. Warren understands that a new generation of evangelicals has tired of an excessively partisan approach to religion. Evangelical Christianity's reach will be limited if the tradition is seen as little more than an extension of the politics of George Bush, Karl Rove and Sarah Palin.

An opening to Mr. Obama is the right move for this moment, and Mr. Warren appears to be genuinely interested in broadening evangelical Christianity's public agenda.

In Hard Times, Houses of God Turn to Chapter 11 in Book of Bankruptcy

This is from the Wall Street Journal and focuses on a Conservative break away Anglican Congregation which after 17 years of struggling finally had to file for bankruptcy. The first link below is to the article the second to the church's web site. I can't tell if they are affiliated with one of the Common Cause partners or not.

St. Andrew, the recently auctioned Maryland church, opened 17 years ago in a former sporting-goods store in downtown Easton. The town of historic colonial mansions and sprawling farms was once home to Frederick Douglass. More recently, the town has become a retreat for Washington's elite.

Bats in the Belfry
The rector of St. Andrew, Bishop Johnson, attracted like-minded conservatives who disliked Episcopal innovations, such as ordaining female priests. In 2005, the church borrowed $850,000 to buy a much larger space that had once belonged to a Roman Catholic parish.

The 1868 Gothic revival structure was large for Bishop Johnson's congregation of 50 people. But the gregarious Midwesterner, who once raised money for a ballet troupe and orchestra, said he was confident his ministry and donations would grow. "I'm well liked, I'm a lucky man," he says he felt at the time. He wooed real-estate agents, bankers and well-heeled locals -- some of whom didn't even attend the church -- and received pledges worth $200,000.

Food Pantry
Some donors said they were impressed with the bishop's generous food pantry and help given to local Hispanics. For a time, Bishop Johnson said Mass in Spanish on Friday nights for workers at a crabmeat processor, and the parish also offered English classes.

"He served a part of this community that often times does not get served well," says Lee Denny, president of the local General Motors dealership. Mr. Denny, an elder in Easton's Presbyterian Church, donated $10,000.

But expenses mounted. There were mice in the basement and bats in the belfry. It cost about $45,000 to stanch creeping black mold. Once the local Catholic parish began saying Mass in Spanish, it drew off most of St. Andrew's immigrant members. Weekly donations dropped to about $600 from $1,425 three years ago, says Bishop Johnson. And many of those who had pledged $200,000 toward the mortgage payments told the bishop they needed to delay their gifts, saying their stock portfolios were down.

The rest is here-

St. Andrew's web site here.