Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chaplain to ward off hospital ghost

From the London Guardian and another candidate for the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up' Department.

A hospital has called in a priest to talk to spooked staff who have allegedly spotted a ghost, it was revealed today.

Derby city general hospital managers spoke of a ghostly goings on in an email to employees after clerical staff claimed they saw a cloaked figure dressed in black.

But the hospital today denied reports in the Sun that the sightings at the new hospital had prompted NHS bosses to summon an exorcist.

Senior manager Debbie Butler sent an email to staff, informing them of a plan to bring in a priest to rid the hospital of paranormal activity.

She wrote: "I'm not sure how many of you are aware that some members of staff have reported seeing a ghost.

"I'm taking it seriously as it is affecting some members of staff and the last thing I want is staff feeling uneasy at work.

"I don't want to scare anyone any more than necessary, but felt it was best I made you all aware of the situation and what we are doing about it.

Good Stuff TEC: New York

New City church raises money on Super Bowl Sunday

Most people will spend part of tomorrow eating chicken wings and nachos while watching television.

Others will spend part of the day collecting money to make sure that the needy don't go hungry any day of the year.

Youngsters at St. John's Episcopal Church in New City will be taking part in the Souper Bowl of Caring. The nationwide movement seeks to mobilize youth to fight hunger and poverty in their communities.

"We want our youth to look outside their own comfort zone and recognize that there is a need in their own community," said Margaret Gillespie, youth leader at St. John's.

After services tomorrow morning, members of the youth group will carry a big soup kettle around the church and collect donations.

This will be the fifth year that the church has taken part in the Souper Bowl, Gillespie said.

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

Executive Council reiterates commitment to covenant talks, lists concerns with current draft

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Episcopal Church's Executive Council said January 30 that the church "remains committed to the Communion-wide process of conversation towards an Anglican covenant."

"At the same time, TEC wants to emphasize that matters of moral authority and interdependence amongst churches result from mutuality, not regulation," the council wrote its response to the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed covenant.

"Care needs to be taken that our conversations around an Anglican covenant do not draw us necessarily toward a hierarchical model of a church union or even the perception of Anglicanism as a singular global church," the response said.

Council's response came on the second day of its three-day meeting in the city that houses the temporary offices of the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

To Add Members, Church Subtracts Pews

From the New York Time-

By rearranging furniture, wearing name tags and warmly greeting visitors, the members of St. Bart’s are on the right track, said the Rev. Nicholas Lang, the rector at St. Paul’s on the Green in Norwalk, Conn., whose congregation has grown to 450 members from 50 in 15 years.

“The Episcopal Church is facing problems nationally, but changes have to be made on a local level, because that’s where people connect to a church,” he said of his advisory visits last year to St. Bart’s and six similarly struggling churches in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Those sticking it out at St. Bart’s say Mr. de Leeuw’s initiatives have begun to attract some younger families, bringing the weekly Sunday school and nursery program attendance up to a dozen this year. At their annual meeting last week, church members listened attentively to the rector’s requests for creative ideas to raise the church’s profile, ranging from potluck suppers to starting a motorcycle gang.

More details on Gulick and reorganization of Fort Worth Episcopal Diocese

From the Dallas Morning News-

Below is a press release that includes more biographical information on Bishop Gulick, as well as details about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's schedule in Fort Worth:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori recommends provisional bishop
for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has recommended the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick Jr., bishop of Kentucky, to be the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. If elected by the special meeting of the convention of the diocese, Bp. Gulick will be installed during the meeting. Bishop Gulick will serve part time as he continues to serve as bishop of Diocese of Kentucky.

The special meeting of the convention of the diocese has been called for Saturday, Feb. 7, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive S., Fort Worth, 76109, because the former bishop and some diocesan leaders have left the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

The rest is here-

Friday, January 30, 2009

Presiding Bishop recommends Ted Gulick to serve as Provisional Bishop for Ft. Worth

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has recommended the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick Jr., bishop of Kentucky, be the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. If elected by the special meeting of the convention of the diocese, Bp. Gulick will be installed during the meeting. Gulick will serve approximately two weeks out of each month. Bp. Gulick will serve part time as he continues to serve as bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky. Because of previous commitments, Bp. Gulick may serve only until mid year, at which time another provisional bishop may be elected to serve until the diocese is ready to elect a bishop, most likely in one to two years.

Anglicans Set to Consider Rival North American Church

Conservative Anglicans say they do not expect their new North American church to receive official approval from Anglican archbishops who will convene next week (Feb. 1-5) in Alexandria, Egypt.

"We do expect that our situation will be discussed," said the Rev.
Peter Frank, a spokesman for the newly established Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). "At the same time, it would be very surprising if there was some kind of quick, game-changing action."

After years of disagreeing with the liberal majorities in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, conservatives broke off and formed a rival church last December. Conservatives hope the fledgling province will ultimately be recognized as the official Anglican franchise in North America.

Before the new province can assume full membership in the communion, it will need approval from both the Anglican Consultative Council and two-thirds of the world's 38 Anglican primates, or leading archbishops.

Conservatives say they must be patient with the slow pace of change in the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members and is the world's third-largest body of churches.

"When it comes to the international situation and politics in the Anglican Communion, we're realistic about the speed in which things move," said Frank.

To date, only five primates, most from Africa, where Anglicans lean conservative on sexual issues, have publicly sanctioned the new North American church.

Primates to meet in Egypt behind closed doors

From The Church Times (England)-

THE PRIMATES of the Anglican Communion will meet in Egypt from Sunday to Thurs day, behind closed doors. They will use a format largely modelled on the Lambeth Conference.

It will be the first time that the Archbishops who were at Lambeth will be together with those who boycotted the event, although some acceptances had still not been received this week. On Wednesday, the secretary of the Primates’ Meeting, Canon Kenneth Kearon, put that down to “personal dis organ isation” on the part of some.


Canon Kearon confirmed on Wednesday that no paper had so far been received from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates concerning the pro posed Anglican Province in North America. A report in The Living Church this week said: “Bishop Duncan said the GAFCON Primates will present a paper and make the case of an alternative province.”

Canon Kearon emphasised that the agenda was a draft, that it was in the hands of the Primates, and was often rearranged. “We haven’t received a paper,” he said. “If it’s an application by the new entity in the US to join [the Communion] we would deal with [put ting it on to the agenda] in a business session if appropriate, but they might decide other wise if we haven’t been notified of it.”

‘Really weird’, but Scriven bears no ill will on orders

From The Church Times (England)-

THE Rt Revd Henry Scriven, former Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Pittsburgh, says he bears no ill-will towards the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, after she appeared to interpret his resignation from the US House of Bishops as a voluntary renunciation of his orders.

Bishop Scriven, who is British, has returned to the UK this month, where he is to be director of the South American Mission Society (SAMS), soon to be affiliated to the Church Mission Society, He accepted an invitation to be an honorary bishop in the diocese of Oxford, and wrote to Dr Jefferts Schori in October last year, resigning from the House of Bishops. He considered himself to be under the episcopal authority of the Bishop of Oxford as soon as he moved, which was scheduled to be just after Christmas.

Dr Jefferts Schori responded on 12 November 2008: “I understand your request to resign as a member of the House of Bishops to mean that you will become a bishop of the Church of England, serving as assistant to the Bishop of Oxford.”

Executive Council begins three-day meeting

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Episcopal Church's 2010-2012 budget and a response to the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant topped the agenda January 29 as the church's Executive Council convened a three day meeting in Stockton, California.

The meeting is taking place in the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, a move made by the council to show its support for the diocese's efforts at reorganization since the former leadership and a majority of its members joined the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Council members are scheduled to spend time on January 30 hearing about the progress made by the diocese.

Council began its meeting January 29 with an organizational plenary session, followed by private conversation. Council members, Episcopal Church Center staff and visitors celebrated Eucharist at midday. Members also devoted another hour to Council's on-going effort to participate in the church's anti-racism training effort.

Bill pushed by Corsicana Episcopal congregation would alter law on church land disputes

From the Dallas News-

A small congregation south of Dallas is causing a stir within its denomination and beyond by trying to rewrite Texas law regarding certain church property disputes.

Leaders of St. John's Episcopal Church in Corsicana enlisted state Rep. Byron Cook, a Republican from that town, to introduce legislation that would strengthen the hand of congregations that leave a denomination in a doctrinal dispute and then end up in court with the denomination over who owns the local church property.

The bill has prompted comment on blogs that follow turmoil within the Episcopal Church, which has seen churches and even dioceses, including the one based in Fort Worth, vote to leave over such controversies as the denomination's acceptance of an openly gay bishop.

Some Episcopal Church officials are weighing in negatively on the bill.

"Our [Episcopal] Church strives for unity, and this bill is divisive," said the Rev. Andy Doyle, bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which covers the Houston area.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Traditional Anglicans 'to be offered personal prelature by Pope'

Ready to swim the Tiber? From the London Telegraph-

The Pope is preparing to offer the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group of half a million dissident Anglicans, its own personal prelature by Rome, according to reports this morning.

"History may be in the making", reports The Record. "It appears Rome is on the brink of welcoming close to half a million members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into membership of the Roman Catholic Church. Such a move would be the most historic development in Anglican-Catholic relations in the last 500 years. But it may also be a prelude to a much greater influx of Anglicans waiting on the sidelines, pushed too far by the controversy surrounding the consecration of practising homosexual bishops, women clergy and a host of other issues."

Here is Anthony Barich's report in full. My guess is that, if this happens, Anglo-Catholics in the C of E will move to Rome in unprecedented numbers under a similar arrangement. More on this later. Also, see American Catholic, which broke the story on the web.

Plans for new province in US opposed by senior Anglican

From the London Times-

A senior Anglican Archbishop from the UK has condemned plans by conservative Anglicans to form a new province in the US.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said he would oppose a new province “with every fibre of my being.”

He warned that if the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion allow traditionalists to set up a new province to exist as a parallel jurisdiction to the US Episcopal Church, no province would be safe and the worldwide Anglican Church would splinter into many fragments.

Dr Morgan is one of 39 Anglican Primates who will attend next week’s meeting of the heads of 38 provinces worldwide in Alexandria, Egypt.

The Archbishops are to debate the damaging effects of the row over homosexuality at the meeting and discuss how to get their churches back on track.

Although it is not on the official agenda, it is understood that one of the conservative Primates will present the draft canons and constitutions of a new traditionalist province in the US, headed by the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh, Bob Duncan.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Morgan said the concept of a new province in the US “makes no ecclesiological or theological sense.”

Good Stuff in TEC: Maryland

Struggles, selflessness in economic recession

In a normal week, 40 or 50 people come to the Upper Marlboro Food Bank in Trinity Episcopal Church. But the normal weeks ended sometime in September, according to Martha Bonwitt, the church's pastor.

Now the food bank feeds about 60 people a week, she said. But unlike most charitable organizations in recent months, donations to the food bank have increased even as the church's overall budget became uncertain, highlighting a combination of dwindling resources and increased giving many church leaders say is a common trend.

"The outpouring has been incredible – we have more mouths to feed, but the donations have increased," Bonwitt said, although she could not confirm the exact increase.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anglican primates to meet in Eygpt

From the London Times-

The Archbishops of the Anglican church worldwide are to debate the damaging effects of the row over homosexuality at a meeting in Egypt next week.

The 39 Primates who head the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion are meeting at Alexandria from Sunday where they will discuss how to get their churches back on track after a series of damaging disputes that have taken them to the brink of schism.

A new traditionalist grouping from North America, led by deposed Pittsburgh bishop Bob Duncan who now styles himself as their Archbishop, will also present a new constitution and canons to the Primates in an attempt to secure recognition as the 39th province of the 77-million strong Church.

One senior primate who heads a small but respected province has warned Anglicans that he will oppose “with every fibre of my being” the recognition of a new traditionalist province, to exist in parallel jurisdiction to The Episcopal Church in the US.

The Primates of the US Episcopal Church, Canada, Uganda, Pakistan and South Africa will address the other Primates on the effects of the row, which has led to depositions in the US, expensive law suits as both sides fight to retain valuable property, and defections to rival provinces of laity, clergy, bishops and even entire dioceses.

An atheist returns to Christ

An interesting piece on Anne Rice's return to the faith-

If you've ever wondered how people make the journey from Christianity to atheism and back again, Anne Rice offers some insights based on her own experience. She also has some powerful and moving things to say about what it means to be a Christian in her most recent book, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (Knopf, 2008).
Interesting piece on Anne Rice's return to the faith-

Probably most famous for writing about vampires, these days she is still a writer, but her subject matter has changed.

Rice was raised in New Orleans as a Roman Catholic, and during her childhood often thought of becoming a nun. She attended Catholic schools and recounts vivid memories of religious observances during her childhood. But the modern world beckoned, and during her first year in college she lost her faith.

"I harbored too many profane ambitions," she recalls, and stopped feeling entitled to talk to God. Because she "failed to see Him as a Person of Infinite Compassion," she never put the problem before Him in prayer. Her religious sensibilities were authoritarian, by her own description, and she believed she'd lost the right to pray.

John Updike, 1932 - 2009

From PBS - Religion and Ethics-

After 21 novels and countless short stories, John Updike still creates characters who behave in the usual Updikean fashion, embarking on ribald sexual escapades and wrestling with spiritual and moral angst.

His latest book, VILLAGES, published in October to mixed reviews, returns to the themes — first mined to full effect in the 1960s in works such as RABBIT, RUN and COUPLES — of mortality, salvation, and lots of sex. John Updike the man, however, seems to have mellowed with age, reaching peace after his own professed search for existential comfort.

At a talk on religion in his work Thursday evening (Nov. 18) at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, Updike told the audience of 300 that his Christian faith had “solidified in ways less important to me than when I was 30, when the existential predicament was realer to me than now. … I worked a lot of it through and arrived at a sort of safe harbor in my life.”
While much of his earlier work contains traces of Updike’s furious immersion in Christian theology, he said he looked more to the congregation of his hometown Massachusetts church as the rock of his faith today.

Good Stuff In TEC: New York (Binghamton)

Congregation's helping hands augment artistry at church

St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Chenango Bridge is an unpretentious edifice, a barebones sort of building that suits its congregation just fine.

When an artsy altar was installed a few years ago - a wooden affair shaped like a boat with images of Jesus and the disciples carved into it- the placid waters of the congregation saw a few tumultuous waves.

They calmed again, though, and now defenders of the one-of-a-kind altar, which was made by a nun in Windsor, would never opt for a merely geometric replacement, says Pastor Mark Giroux.

The 50-plus-year-old church has seen other changes, too, and each of those renovations has also been touched by hands of love. The ample balcony and other professional work was tenderly finished by congregants, he explains.

Such are the people of St. Mark's.

The windows of the church are noteworthy only in their plainness - or at least that was true until last year.

Costs to make and install stained-glass windows would run to the tens of thousands, and quite possibly more. Thinking aloud, Pastor Mark had said to a few in the church, "Maybe we could make them ourselves."

With no more prompting than that, over the ensuing months a handful of church members became stained-glass artisans of high caliber.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pittsburgh Standing Committee Statement Regarding Bishop Henry Scriven

An article that appeared on Episcopal Life Online on January 23, 2009 reported that Bishop Henry Scriven, the former Assistant Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, had renounced his orders and that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had accepted that renunciation. Although the article may suggest otherwise, the Standing Committee understands that this action was not in any sense a disciplinary action or an action taken because of Bishop Scriven’s support for the attempt to realign the Diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Before he relocated to England, Bishop Scriven had submitted his resignation as a member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, inasmuch as he was planning to return to England and serve as Assistant to the Bishop of Oxford. In order to permit that, the Canons required that he be released from his orders in the Episcopal Church for reasons not affecting his moral character, which is what occurred. This is a routine way of permitting Bishop Scriven to continue his ministry. Orders in the Church themselves are indelible, but licensing is required to exercise them.

The Standing Committee gives thanks for the gracious way in which Bishop Scriven exercised his ministry in the Episcopal Church while he served here as Assistant Bishop and we hope he and his wife Catherine will visit us in the future.

'Faith, Hope and Love are not the property of one denomination'

N.T. Wright preaches at the Metropolitan Cathedral & Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham. From the Independent Catholic.

Bishop Wright emphasised: "Tonight's reading from 1 Corinthians 15 summarizes not only the significance of Paul's conversion, but also the shape of his whole theology. First, it is a faith rooted in history, in actual events of the past: 'Christ died for our sins . . . was buried, and was raised on the third day'.

"As Pope Benedict emphasized during the Synod, we do not hold a form of Gnosticism, a 'faith' which is only about our own religious feelings, but one which is grounded in things that actually happened. That historically anchored faith is then, second, the ground of our hope: not a vague, disembodied 'heaven', but the solid 'new heavens and new earth', when all God's creation is rescued from corruption and death as Jesus' own body was.

"With that faith behind us, and that hope before us, Christian love takes its particular shape and gains its particular energy. When love looks at a world out of joint, it goes to work for justice; when it looks at a world full of ugliness, it goes to work for beauty. When the church is doing these things, it can speak powerfully of Jesus as the one who rescues and restores God's whole creation, and ourselves within it.

Bishop Wright concluded: "This faith, this hope and this love are not the property of one denomination. They are common to all Christians. My prayer in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is that we will rediscover this vision, and be able to work together, study together and pray together, as we are doing tonight, to find - perhaps to our own surprise - the new paths towards unity which God has in store for us."

Good Stuff in TEC: Connecticut

Transitioners using churches to hunt for jobs

Some churches, such as St. Luke's Episcopal in Darien, which holds meetings open to the public, also conduct workshops only for parishioners who have lost jobs. The most recent was Jan. 12.

"These workshops are to provide a bridge for members who are out of work and don't have a plan," said Arthur Brown, a congregant active in the workshops. The church also provides space for monthly meetings of the Darien Professionals Networking Group.

What goes around comes around

This is not the first time in Fairfield County that churches and synagogues have worked to help people in finding corporate jobs. In the late '80s and early '90s, several religious groups held job-hunting meetings, including New Canaan CaTS (Career Transition Support), sponsored by First Presbyterian and St. Mark's Episcopal churches; Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport; the Ridgefield Job Networking group, which held sessions at several religious institutions; and Christ Church in Greenwich, according to Marion McConnon, a volunteer who led the Trinity group for 12 years.

But with the surge in unemployment, some wonder why the job counseling groups are not seeing more participants.

"In the early '90s, we drew 75 to 80 people" recalled Jim Riehl, a volunteer leader at New Canaan CaTS. He said the group is now drawing about 20 people. Part of the reason may be that the "transitioners" are still adjusting to their new status.

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

Church asks Calif. justices to clarify a recent ruling

While several national leaders of religious denominations hailed a recent California Supreme Court ruling, one church that broke away from its leadership has asked the court to clarify its ruling.

The parish of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, Calif., filed a petition on Friday with the high court asking for a rehearing of its Jan. 5 decision that blocked the church from keeping its physical location since breaking with the denomination.

Despite most of the financial support for the churches stemming from local donations, three Southern California Episcopal churches in California that split from the national Episcopal church will have to return their houses of worship following the court's ruling.

"When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it," Associate Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin wrote in the unanimous ruling.

But an attorney for St. James Church said the organization owns the deed to the building "free and clear." The most recent court action fulfills his pledge to continue the legal fight.

Episcopal Diocese forms new church: Takes over building of group that left

From The Buffalo News-

One friend told her, “Run away and run quickly.”

But the Rev. Sarah E. Gordy decided not to retreat from the intriguing task of establishing a new Episcopal congregation in the church building of her youth — a sanctuary that a thriving congregation packed up and left slightly more than a month ago.

On Sunday, Gordy, an Episcopal priest, will celebrate her first liturgy as vicar of Holy Apostle Episcopal Church in the Town of Tonawanda.

The mission parish was created by the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York following last month’s departure of most members of the former St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, a large, conservative congregation that had been at odds for years with the direction of the national church.

The church split from the diocese, which owns the church property, and relocated into a former synagogue less than a mile away, calling itself St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church.

Now Gordy has the job of trying to pick up the pieces for the Episcopal Diocese.

She begins with a parish of four people and a determination to get past the past.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Top Anglican calls for BBC to air Gaza appeal

The BBC on Sunday faced more pressure to broadcast a charity appeal for funds for people in Gaza, as the Archbishop of Canterbury joined the row and more than 50 MPs signed a motion condemning the move.

The publicly-funded British broadcaster is refusing to air an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee, made up of charities including the British Red Cross and Oxfam, because it says it could compromise the BBC's impartiality.

The BBC also questions whether aid can be delivered efficiently in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians say over 1,300 died during Israel's 22-day offensive, despite ministers saying this is not an issue.

The decision drew fierce criticism from the government of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Saturday, while thousands protested in central London over the move.

The leader of Anglicans worldwide, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said on Sunday: "My feeling is that the BBC should broadcast an appeal."

Religious Allusions, not Illusions

Martin Marty on Religion and the inauguration-

The Inauguration ceremony, the prayer service on Monday, and several other pre-and-post inaugural events went on without much religious controversy. Most of the conflict had occurred weeks before, over the choice of clerics who would pray. There was a flap over Pastor Rick Warren's closing his prayer with a heavy accent on Jesus, and Jesus Christ was invoked, quite naturally, by Christians in the National Cathedral, which is an Episcopal site, but one gets the impression that the Jesus-in or Jesus-out controversy is in its own way irresolvable and we are likely to live with it and move on to discuss what is in the prayers, not so much how to end them..

Happily, to people of my outlook, the days were not used to fire up the "culture wars." I did not hear or see all the events and may not have paid perfect attention, but in the parts I did see and hear, notably the swearing-in ceremony, we did not hear words like "abortion" or "same-sex marriage" or the couple of other incendiary terms for issues and, sometimes, non-issues. That meant that religious references came naturally or allusively when they came at all.

In some respects, most of the main ritual, as always, reflected the biblical ethos and language of the U.S. majorities. No one stomped out or seemed fired up when the President included references which, I presume, came naturally for him, as a literate citizen, and didn't have to be wedged in by speech writers. They reference provided nuances, not occasions for the president's "gaining points" among constituencies.

Good Stuff in TEC: Tennessee

Church calls for Christians to help care for Iraqi refugees

Iraqis displaced by the war in their homeland are coming to the United States by the thousands. And Christians have a responsibility to care for them, faith leaders say.

A Nashville congregation will host a forum on Iraqi refugees on Saturday, hoping to draw attention to the plight of millions of Iraqis who have fled their homes since 2003.

The Saturday morning forum at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Nashville will feature a report from activist and journalist Kelly Hayes-Raitt, who worked with refugees in Iraq for several months in 2008. Organizers hope the event will rally support for the plight of refugees.

"The mandate for Christians is found in Matthew 25 — 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat … I was a stranger and you invited me in,'" said the Rev. Bob Abstein, a retired Episcopal priest and former pastor of St. George's Episcopal Church in Nashville.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced during the war in Iraq. More than 2 million of those have fled to countries like Syria and Jordan. Others have gone to Europe or the U.S.

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

Good Stuff in TEC: Alabama

Special dogs receive special blessings

Thirteen highly trained helping dogs and their trainers were blessed by the Rev. John C. Coleman, rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in a special service Sunday morning.

The animals entered and exited the church with the choir and the ministers.

The dogs, who are affiliated with Easter Seals Alabama Therapy, go through a rigorous training process before they can be registered nationally with Therapy Dog Inc.

The dogs at Sunday's service are ready for volunteer comfort care or more specialized work with children with disabilities, character education and disaster relief.

The dogs also serve the elderly at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, visit disabled veterans in veterans' hospitals, and provide on-call service to hospices care.

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

Episcopal Church wins in property disputes

The Christian Century on the California decision-

Episcopal bishop J. Jon Bruno of the large Los Angeles diocese was "overjoyed" at the recent California Supreme Court ruling that said breakaway congregations cannot take possession of their properties, which are held in trust for a larger church body.

Through her New York office, Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the January 5 decision was a "ringing endorsement" for the rights of parent denominations. She added that she hoped the ruling's "unequivocal reasoning" would bring remaining property disputes in the 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church to a speedy conclusion.

Just about as happy, if not exultant, are officials of other connectional church bodies such as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church, some of whose dissident congregations are leaving over issues of biblical interpretation and gay rights.

The California decision "is a clear win for the national Episcopal church—along with PCUSA and many other denominations," according to an analysis written by a consulting attorney for the Pres byterian synod that oversees congregations in southern California and Hawaii. A copy of the analysis was obtained by the Century.