Saturday, March 14, 2009

Atheists call for 'debaptism'

I guess there'll always be an England-

Mr Hunt was sent to Sunday school at St Jude's and later to confirmation classes, but he decided early on that he had no place in what he felt was a hypocritical organisation.

He recalls that his mother had to get lunch ready early for him to attend the classes.
"One Sunday I came back home and said 'Mum, you needn't get lunch early next Sunday because I'm not going to the class any more'. And she decided not to argue."

Now Mr Hunt has become the pioneer in a rejuvenated campaign for a way of cancelling baptisms given to children too young to decide for themselves whether they wanted this formal initiation into Christianity.

However, baptism is proving a difficult thing to undo.

The local Anglican diocese, Southwark, refused to amend the baptismal roll as Mr Hunt had wanted, on the grounds that it was a historical record.

"You can't remove from the record something that actually happened," said the Bishop of Croydon, the Right Reverend Nick Baines.

The latest hate speech from the Church of Nigeria

From the Guardian in London-

If ever you think the Anglican church of Nigeria cannot get more incoherently bigoted about gay people, you're wrong. The latest proof comes in a position paper (pdf)

submitted by the church to a parliamentary committee which is planning a law against gay marriage. Homosexuality is already illegal in Nigeria, of course, as is gay marriage. But the proposed law would provide three years in jail for gay couples who got married, and five years for any witnesses. Earlier drafts have proposed long jail sentences, also, for anyone who argues in favour of gay marriage.

If ever a law were a simple incitement to hate, this is it, and here is Archbishop Akinola of the Church of Nigeria cheering them on:

Same sex marriage, apart from being ungodly, is unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian. It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this country. It is also capable of existincting [sic] mankind and as such should never be allowed to take root in Nigeria. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation. The need for doing this is urgent, compelling, and imperative.

His statement also suggests that the penalties in the law be changed around, so that the happy couple be sentenced to up five years in jail, and individual witnesses to up to three years. If witnesses were to be charged collectively, the archbishop suggests, there should be a mandatory sentence for all of them of one year in jail.

More here-

Why the Via Dolorosa can be a powerful experience

From the London Times-

The Stations of the Cross is a traditional popular Christian devotion. Participants walk between and pray at 14 representations of specific moments in Jesus’s final journey from His sentencing to death to His grave. Most Roman Catholic churches and many Anglican ones have a series of stations round the walls of the church. The Stations are meant to encourage people to meditate on the Passion in order to bring home to them their own great value to God who went through this painful and humiliating death for them.

My impression is that the Stations are now unfashionable. There seem to be two reasons for this. One is that it is seen as morbid or unhealthy to “brood” on physical suffering. For people who find it too gruesome it is worth remembering that the Stations grew out of the same spiritual movement as the crib scene, which offers another “take” on the divine generosity. Both the Nativity crib and the Stations of the Cross were made popular in the 14th century by the Franciscans, who wanted to bring a deeply human embodied Jesus into the consciousness of illiterate communities. Christians of earlier generations wanted a strong sense that Jesus was fully human and freely endured the same sort of pain as everyone else. Nonetheless, in the face of this modern objection, it has become common to add a 15th Station to the end of the sequence, representing the Resurrection.

The rest is here-

Signs, signs, everywhere signs #11

I think a lot of us are in trouble !

Irish Protestants: St. Patrick's Day admirers from afar

From Savannah-

Still, Stewart says he's grateful for St. Patrick himself for introducing Christian faith to his homeland.

So does, the Rev. Liam Collins who regards St. Patrick as more than just a cultural icon.

Collins recalls joyful religious traditions on St. Patrick's Day in his native Tipperary, Ireland, where he grew up in a Catholic family.
From the Celtic Cross Ceremony to Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Roman Catholics have a stamp on nearly everything related to St. Patrick's Day in Savannah.

But all Irish-American Christians have the patron saint to thank for introducing the faith to their ancestors more than 1,500 years ago.

So where are the Irish Protestants in this cultural and religious celebration?


Since becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church about 30 years ago, he has let go of his St. Patrick's Day observances, but still regards the day as special.

St. Patrick, he said, is a model of religious and cultural cooperation.

"There are no martyrs in the Celtic church, because when St. Patrick came, the principle of how he worked was the principle of dialogue in a conversation," said Collins, who leads "Celtic Mass" on Sunday evenings at St. Paul the Apostle Church.

"There was no animosity created between what he was bringing in terms of his message and what he found there, which was the ancient druid, pagan practices. He created a great conversation within that culture."

How will faith groups cope as recession digs into them?

As the bill comes due for the boom-time spending that we financed on credit, more is at stake than just family finances.

The great story of the post-war American economy was the vast expansion of the middle class. But one card at a time, that house is collapsing. Real incomes for the middle class began declining more than a decade ago. Much of the credit mania of recent years wasn't profligacy, but a desire to maintain a middle-class lifestyle in the face of growing odds.

As unemployment surges past 8 percent, certain markers of middle-class status are vanishing, including ready access to health care, mortgages and private education. Cadres who rose into the middle class by serving the wealthy suddenly find their shops and services no longer needed. The two pillars of long-term security -- retirement benefits and real estate investments -- look shaky for many.

All classes are hurting, but it is the middle class's radical downsizing of personal horizons that could prove most traumatic.

Can you think of an economic sector that didn't ride the rising expectations of the middle class?
Faith communities were no exception.

The rest is here-

Friday, March 13, 2009

Priest who formed new Anglican entity over purity issues accused of Assault

Apparently in Africa these issues bring people to blows - literally.

The CPCA group entered the church premises on the strength of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri's affidavit, denying ever ordering his subordinates to stop CPCA services in the Diocese Of Harare in defiance of Justice Rita Makarau judgement.

Justice Makarau last year ruled that the two feuding factions should share church facilities until the issue of who owns church property has been resolved through the courts.

Bishop Kunonga pulled out of the main Anglican Church: Province of Central Africa to form the less popular Anglican Church of Zimbabwe citing lack of a firm stand against homosexuality by the worldwide Anglican Communion.

He failed to convince the majority of the Anglicans and priests in the Diocese of Harare to pull out with him, so he formed the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe largely backed by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and appointed himself Archbishop in direct contravention of the Anglican Church canons.

Kunonga, who openly campaigned for Zanu PF in the March 29, 2008 elections, was later excommunicated by the Anglican communion and he together with his followers are no longer considered as members of the Anglican Church worldwide.

He also presided over President Mugabe’s swearing in ceremony soon after the later had won the violent presidential run off election in which his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had pulled out at the last minute citing an increase in state sponsored violence on his party.

Good Stuff in TEC: Connecticut

This is the second church in the diocese I've found doing this.

Prom gowns to be collected Saturday to help less fortunate

The Wilton Woman’s Club PROMises committee is seeking donations of gently worn prom gowns for a giveaway event April 3 to 5 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport to benefit girls who might otherwise be unable to attend their prom.

In 2008, more than 300 gowns were collected at drop off days in Ridgefield, Westport, Wilton and New Canaan.

The Ridgefield Recreation Center has donated space for a collection day on Saturday, March 14, from 9 to noon.

Current styled gowns in all sizes will be accepted along with shoes, purses and jewelry.

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

Church apology set via prayer service

From this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will hold a prayer service April 7 to apologize to anyone who has ever been hurt by someone acting in the name of the Catholic Church.

"If you have been harmed by the church in any way, I invite you to come. There will be nothing expected of you but your willingness to pray with me. No one will bother you," Bishop Zubik wrote in his column in the Pittsburgh Catholic. The service will be held at 7 p.m. in St. Paul Cathedral on Tuesday of Holy Week.

Although most publicity about people hurt in the Catholic Church has centered on those who suffered sexual abuse, many other concerns also will be addressed in the prayer service. Bishop Zubik's column mentioned people who have been spoken to harshly by church leaders, who felt they were unjustly let go from a church position or felt picked on by a teacher in a religious education class.

He spoke of a man who approached him recently who was upset that the bishop had not responded to a letter he had written.

"I had no recollection of the matter nor any recollection that the letter ever arrived. But that really didn't matter as much as the fact that the writer was hurt. He felt ignored, even rejected," the bishop wrote.

"Unfortunately, I am sure there were times where my actions or words were the cause of hurt."

Don’t blame only the bankers — Williams

RESPONSIBILITY for the present financial crisis does not rest solely with bankers, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a lecture in Cardiff on Saturday.

“It is a little too easy to blame the present situation on an accumulation of individual greed, exemplified by bankers or brokers, and to lose sight of the fact that governments committed to deregulation and to the encouragement of speculation and high personal bor rowing were elected repeatedly in Britain and the United States for a crucial couple of decades. . . We are left with the question of what it was that skewed the judgement of a whole society, as well as of financial profes­sionals.”

In his lecture, Dr Williams dis man tled capitalism into its constituent parts, finding an element of ethical purpose at its centre in the way it sought to limit risk and share wealth. Present-day capitalism, however, had lost sight of these principles, not least the links between money and labour, and power and powerlessness.

Successive governments colluded with the concept of reducing financial risk for the people and increasing choice: “Government rests its legitimacy upon its capacity to satisfy consumer demands and maximise choices.”

Two essential elements of capitalism — the handling of risk, and the husbanding of finite resources — had been forgotten in recent years, Dr Williams suggested. Investments in financial services helped to “foster the illusion that the money market is effectively risk-free”.

Icons: an Evangelical Anglican perspective

The word ‘icon’ has been popularised through it use in modern computers. We understand the phrase, ‘click on the icon’. Apple Macintosh developed this way of highlighting the meaning of a computer application by focusing on an ‘icon’, which is a recognisable pictorial symbol of it, and provides access to it. Currently, we see adverts for the iPhone which feature the screen of the phone ablaze with icons. An interesting secular echo, perhaps, in word and image, of the screen across the sanctuary of an Eastern Orthodox church, the iconostasis, on which the icons are positioned…?

Church icons are, of course, different from computer icons – they are personal rather than impersonal – but they are still vitally symbolic and, for many, provide some sort of intriguing access. Traditionally, evangelical Anglicans have been wary of icons, though many now appreciate them for prayer. The second of the ten commandments, warning against idols and the consequent concern about veneration turning into something akin to worship, are all taken seriously.

‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them’ states the second commandment (Exodus 20:4).

Bishop Bennison appeals ecclesiastical court's decision

The decision by an ecclesiastical trial court that found Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison guilty of two charges of conduct unbecoming a cleric and recommended that he be deposed from ordained ministry will now go before a higher appeals court of the church.

James Parabue, legal counsel for the bishop, said Bennison had exercised his right of appeal after the original trial court last month rejected a request to modify its sentence. The notice of appeal filed by the bishop's legal counsel cites 19 reasons, including the sentence of deposition, which it says is against the weight of the evidence and contrary to applicable law.

The Court for the Trial of a Bishop upheld its decision of Sept. 30, 2008, that deposition was appropriate "in recognition of the nature of the offense and because [Bennison] has failed to demonstrate that he comprehends and takes responsibility for the harm that he has caused."

Bennison has been inhibited, or barred from exercising his ordained ministry, since October 2007, when he was first ordered to strand trial on a presentment, the church's equivalent of an indictment.

Shunned for 3 Years, Bishop Bane Joins ACNA

After a long and fruitless search for an opportunity to continue active ministry within The Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. David C. Bane, Bishop of Southern Virginia from 1998-2006, has “joyfully and gratefully” accepted an invitation from Archbishop Gregory Venables to be received as a bishop in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. He will serve in the Anglican Church of North America as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Long-simmering divisions in the Diocese of Southern Virginia culminated in Bishop Bane’s decision to resign in 2006. In a March 9 letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Bane said he believed that his “remaining as bishop would prevent the diocese from healing and moving forward as so much of the blame and animosity continued to be focused on me personally.” He said his decision to resign also was predicated on assurances that there would still be opportunities for him to exercise his vocation within The Episcopal Church. The Living Church received a copy of Bishop Bane’s letter.

Before he and his wife, Alice, relocated to the Diocese of East Carolina and joined an Episcopal parish near their new residence, Bishop Bane said he contacted that diocese’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel. He said he had to contact Bishop Daniel three times before he was able to arrange a meeting and that since then, Bishop Daniel has initiated no contact, nor has he returned his phone calls or letters. Bishop Daniel also has refused to include him on the clergy mailing list. Bishop Bane said he learned second hand that Bishop Daniel had intervened to remove his name from consideration as an interim at a nearby parish.

“I assume that Bishop Daniel does not trust me nor see me as a helpful colleague, but that is a guess at this point as I have not heard from him,” Bishop Bane wrote. Bishop Daniel was en route to the House of Bishops’ spring retreat and was unavailable to comment, according to a member of the diocese’s staff.

Episcopal Church report addresses U.S. poverty with model for development initiatives

A groundbreaking report released on March 12 calls on The Episcopal Church to address the issues and concerns of the poor in the United States, focusing initially on the needs of Native American communities through its proposed "Model for Domestic Poverty Alleviation."

The report, titled Faith in the Balance: A Call to Action, is based on the outcomes of the 2008 Presiding Bishop's Summit on Domestic Poverty. The innovative model outlined in the report will work in tandem with the Episcopal Church's global poverty initiatives of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"The Episcopal Church focus on the Millennium Development Goals has raised consciousness in our own faith communities and the broader culture about the need to address abject poverty in developing nations," explained Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "This work has increased mission fervor and deepened spirituality. We need to bring the same passion, organization, and accountability to our work on domestic poverty – in the poorest regions of the United States. Social statistics and the conditions of life are quite similar in the poorest areas, both in the U.S. and abroad, but the MDGs are addressed solely to poverty in the developing world. We need to use both lenses (international and domestic; distance and near vision) to see the least among us and around us."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

ACI, Communion Partner Bishops Mull Petition in Pittsburgh

A friend-of-the-court petition filed in the ongoing litigation in Pittsburgh by the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor represents a new, serious challenge to the long-standing polity of The Episcopal Church, according to a joint statement to be issued March 12 by the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) and the Communion Partner bishops.

“The historic episcopate has long been recognized as an essential, non-negotiable element of Anglican identity,” the statement notes. “The polity of The Episcopal Church, clearly expressed in its name, its constitution and its history, is that of dioceses and bishops meeting in a general convention as equals. The Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council are the agents, not the superiors of dioceses.”

The statement is signed by Communion Partner bishops D. Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana and John Howe of Central Florida and by the Rev. Canon Christopher Seitz, the Rev. Philip Turner, the Rev. Ephraim Radner and Mark McCall of the ACI. According to Fr. Seitz, the statement presages a longer, more scholarly paper that will flesh out the two organizations’ concerns. He said leaders of the two organizations have not ruled out the possibility of filing a friend-of-the-court petition of their own.

Last October clergy and lay deputies to the annual convention in the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to realign with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. Members of the diocese who did not wish to leave The Episcopal Church filed a plea in January to recover assets it says rightfully belong to The Episcopal Church. Lawyers for The Episcopal Church filed a friend-of-the-court petition in February. If leaders for the ACI and Communion Partner bishops were to file a friend-of-the-court petition, it would be to ask the court to deny the pleas by the reorganizing diocese and The Episcopal Church, Fr. Turner said.

“We have made it very clear that we will not choose sides in the fight between Bishop [Robert] Duncan [of Pittsburgh] and the Presiding Bishop,” he said. “We seek only to preserve the historic polity of The Episcopal Church from interference by the civil courts and a Presiding Bishop acting beyond her constitutional authority.”

Are Muslim radicals trying to provoke a civil war in Britain?

The shameful protests by a group of Muslim extremists demonstrating against the return of British soldiers serving in Basra are wrong on so many levels.

Let's set aside for the moment the gross insult of those who claim to be British citizens hurling abuse at those who have risked their lives to defend our liberties. The Muslims who shouted abuse at the homecoming march by 2nd Battalion, the Royal Anglican Regiment, such as "Baby Killers" and "Terrorists" forget that they would not enjoy this right if it were not for the bravery of the British service men and women who fight to protect the British way of life.

Certainly such freedoms would not exist if the Muslim radicals demonstrating yesterday had their way and created an Islamic state in Britain, where public demonstrations of dissent would be punishable by death.

Nor do the Muslim demonstrators seem to have no understanding of what British forces are doing in Basra. They are not there to murder innocent women and children - they are there to protect innocent Iraqi civilians from extremist Muslim groups that want to take over the country and crush Iraq's attempts to establish itself as a functioning, Western-style democracy.

On the Lasting Evangelical Survival

From Cristianity Today-

The Internet is abuzz with the latest prognostications about "the coming evangelical collapse." This is the substance of three blog posts over at Internet Monk (a.k.a. Michael Spencer), who predicts said collapse in ten years. When his thoughts got picked up and condensed by the Christian Science Monitor and then the Drudge Report — well, you can just imagine the electronic excitement.

The title of Spencer's posts spoils the ending; still, many of the details are interesting. I've made many of the same observations in this column. For example, Spencer writes, "Expect evangelicalism as a whole to look more and more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth-oriented megachurches that have defined success. The determination to follow in the methodological steps of numerically successful churches will be greater than ever. The result will be, in the main, a departure from doctrine to more and more emphasis on relevance, motivation and personal success." My only caveat here is to wonder if this is a future or present reality.

SUDAN: Interfaith consultation explores deeper engagement between Christians and Muslims

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan's (ECS) Commission for Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations held its first consultation February 23-27 in Juba to address the goal "that Sudanese communities of different faiths understand, respect and live in harmony (co-existence) with each other," said a report from the Rt. Rev. Michael Jackson, bishop of the Church of Ireland's Diocese of Clogher, who attended the meeting.
The consultation included presentations and discussions about ecumenical dialogue with Muslim partners; the relationship between Sudanese churches and the national government; a review of provision for Christian teaching and curriculum in schools; devising an interfaith curriculum in theological institutions; issues concerning the safety and dignity of women and children; and increased local interaction between Christians and Muslims to develop mutual understanding and respect, and to safeguard permanent prosperity.

The consultation was organized by Sudanese bishops Andudu Adam Elnail of Kadugli, chairperson of the commission, and Ezekiel Diing of Bor, vice chairperson. It was facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Johnson Mbillah, general adviser to the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa, and Jackson, chairperson of the Anglican Communion's Network for Interfaith Concerns management group. Participants included bishops, clergy and lay people, both men and women, of ECS along with representatives from the Sudan Council of Churches, Church Mission Society and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The primate of ECS, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, was represented throughout the consultation by Bishop Justin Badi Arama of Maridi. Also present was the Rev. Canon Enock Tombe, provincial secretary of ECS.

Grace church trial is over, but decision won't come for 4 weeks

After four weeks and dozens of witnesses, the trial to determine who owns a $17 million Gothic church and other property at 601 N. Tejon St. ended Wednesday as attorneys presented their closing arguments.

But Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Larry Schwartz is not expected to issue his decision for at least four weeks.

The trial, which started Feb. 10, pitted two entities that had once been united: the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and Grace Church & St. Stephen's, which broke its affiliation with the Episcopal Church in 2007, but has continued to worship in the building. The group that stayed with the Episcopal Church, Grace & St. Stephen's Episcopal, has been worshiping in another downtown building.

The breakaway parish - the plaintiff in the case - maintains that it is a separate corporation from the diocese and therefore has legal rights to the property.

The diocese argues that Grace Church is subject to Episcopal law and legal precedent that gives title of the property to the diocese.

In closing remarks in a packed courtroom Wednesday Grace Church & St. Stephen's attorney Gregory Walta characterized the church as an independent corporation since 1973 that bought and sold property without approval from the diocese. Grace's Articles of Incorporation, moreover, make no mention of the diocese or the Episcopal Church, further evidence that it is an independent entity, Walta said.

Yet the diocese expects Grace parish to "give up the property it fought and bled for to some national corporation," Walta said.

Diocese attorney Martin Nussbaum, meanwhile, spoke of the "symphony of vows and affirmations" Grace Church has made to the diocese for decades, suggesting a deeper relationship between the entities than the breakaway congregation has acknowledged.

Report from Denver here-

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Students forge ties in wake of schism

When the students of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke University speak about their community, they often speak of friendship and pain in the same sentence.
At the AEHS, part of Duke Divinity School, future church leaders pray together, take communion together, share classes and meals and conversation. Most are preparing for ordination as deacons or priests.

Yet despite their common goals, recent controversies in the Episcopal Church have complicated their sense of unity, particularly about the role of gay clergy and some dioceses' decision to bless same-sex marriages.

Director Jo Bailey Wells recalls a friendship between two students that highlights the conflict. Lauren Kilbourn and Andrew Rowell had sought each other out at AEHS, hoping to better understand each other's opinions. Kilbourn, a lesbian in a committed relationship, supports the ordination of gay clergy. Rowell adheres to conservative views of homosexuality. For a year they met weekly for coffee and prayer.

"Each of them at times during the year shared with me how much it meant to them and how much they respected the other," Wells said. "At the same time each of them during the year shared with me how completely painful it was and how they didn't want the other to see how much they cried in light of some of their conversations."

Good Stuff In TEC: Texas

Youth group raises money for missions

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church’s Episcopal Youth Community raised $3,050 at their Feb. 15 Feast of St. Cocoa fundraiser for Holy Cross Anglican School in Belize, the site of their 2008 and 2009 mission trips. The youth group entertained about 200 people with songs, skits and instrumental pieces, and provided an array of homemade chocolate desserts in honor of “St. Cocoa.”

The following day, Director of Youth Ministries Nancy Schorr presented a check to Bishop Philip Wright, of Belize, to hand-deliver to the school in its third year of operation and directed by Anglican missionaries from the United States.

Twenty-two Senior EYC members, along with nine adults, traveled to Belize last summer to construct a library/computer lab for the school, which serves 512 of the poorest of the poor on the island of Ambergris Caye. They also took with them 1,500 pounds of children’s books and school supplies donated by the Good Shepherd congregation. The high school group will return to the school in June 2009.

Middle school students in Junior EYC will do Hurricane Ike home repair in Texas City for their 2009 mission trip.

In addition to games, fun get-togethers, topical discussions and Bible study, Good Shepherd’s youth groups maintain a steady schedule of outreach activities, from preparing breakfast for the street community at Lord of the Streets Episcopal Church in midtown Houston to collecting and delivering Christmas gifts to the International Seafarers’ Center at the Port of Houston.

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

Bishop's mansion for sale

Front page of Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

If you want to buy the Gilded Age mansion in Oakland that has been the home of five Pittsburgh bishops, you'll need $2.5 million and enough extra cash to update a large kitchen and six bathrooms.

Sitting atop Morewood Heights on a street called Warwick Terrace, the Edwardian Tudor home was officially put up for sale two weeks ago by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Inside the massive wrought-iron gates at the main entrance, Bishop Donald Wuerl received President George W. Bush, and Cardinal Giovanni Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI, visited Cardinal John Dearden. After he was appointed bishop of Pittsburgh in 2007, David Zubik lived there for two weeks before moving to a two-room apartment at St. Paul's Seminary in Crafton. The house is for sale because Bishop Zubik did not wish to live there, said the Rev. Ron Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman.

"Each bishop has to decide how his lifestyle is going to influence ministry in the church," said the Rev. James Wehner, pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Bethel Park.

Father Wehner lived in the house from 1996 through 1998 and several summers afterward when he assisted Bishop Wuerl. He also wrote a history of the house and its valuable furnishings, all of which have been removed. He said church leaders had to ask themselves:

"Is there a real, practical use for that house that benefits the church? The conclusion was there really isn't."

Leaders say economic uplift will come soul by soul

Holy jeremiad! The Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Benedict XVI both unloaded this week on the human sinful side of the worldwide economic crisis.

Ruth Gledhill's Articles of Faith in The Times of London blog details recent comments by the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams, on the "perils of greed and unbridled consumerism. The market became God, and even many clerics seemed beguiled by its apparent indefatigability. But now it has been shown to be a false God, literally fool's gold."

She summarizes Williams' conclusions:

Just as God keeps promises, "human beings need to to as well, including in their financial dealings.

Humanity, for all its God-created talents, must be more humbly aware of its limits -- "without resentment or fantasy."

The ideal human community looks to everyone's welfare.
What is good in God's eyes for human beings not something that is altered by differences in culture or income; we can't say that what is unwelcome or evil for us is tolerable for others.

Archbishop of Canterbury to visit US General Convention

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams will travel to the United States in July and attend two days of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Anaheim, California.

A spokesman for Lambeth Palace told that Dr Williams will visit the US General Convention from July 7-9 before returning for the start of General Synod in York. The Episcopal News Service has reported that Dr Williams will participate in Bible Studies at the triennial meeting of the Church’s synod and will be a keynote speaker at a global economic forum on July 8.

This will be Dr Williams’ first visit to the US General Convention. However in 2007 he attended the New Orleans meeting of the US House of Bishops, garnering mixed reviews. While many bishops praised his efforts at stabilizing the communion, others on the left, Bishop M Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts, and the right, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, expressed their disappointment with Dr Williams’ leadership.

On Sept 20, 2007 after addressing the American bishops in private sessions, Dr Williams heard concerns and complaints from some two dozen bishops. Anglo-Catholic Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy told Dr Williams that the changes of doctrine and discipline made over the past 20 years in the Episcopal Church no longer made it recognizably part of the catholic church.

Good Stuff in TEC: Kansas

Food bank, crisis center see growing need

The Graham Area Food Bank, in conjunction with the Crisis Center, has growing numbers of people in need of food. From mid-October, the number of citizens receiving food from the food bank has significantly increased every month. Since the numbers have escalated, the food bank now feeds approximately 800 people each month.

"This is the highest number of people we’ve ever had," said Don Oldfield, director of the Graham Area Food Bank. "The poverty level of Graham is currently at 17 percent, and that was during the census of 2000. That’s a pretty good chunk of the population. I’m estimating that the poverty level of this year’s census will increase to 20 percent."

The food bank purchases and brings in 3,000 to 3,500 pounds of food every week from the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank. By the end of the week, all of the food is used.
"The increase in food recipients is most likely due to people getting laid off," he said.
The food bank is open Tuesday and Thursday and is staffed by a different church each time. Contributions are also made from different organizations. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated.

"Offerings are taken every Sunday at the church to contribute to the food bank’s surplus," said Gillie Sebastian of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. "The food bank’s number of recipients are up and there are homeless people in Graham."

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

NORTHERN MICHIGAN: Bishop-elect, election process scrutinized

The process used to elect a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan and the bishop-elect's meditation practice have come under scrutiny as diocesan bishops and standing committees are being asked to consent to the election.

Blogs, emails, open letters and news articles -- including one in the London Times -- are taking issue with the fact that the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, Northern Michigan's bishop-elect, was the single candidate presented to a special diocesan convention and that he devoutly practices Zen Buddhist meditation.

Delegates on February 21 overwhelmingly elected Thew Forrester as bishop on the first ballot. The delegates also created what is being called an Episcopal Ministry Support Team of up to 10-12 people, including the bishop. Team members will share responsibility for oversight of the diocese.

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.16.4 (a)), a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to Thew Forrester's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of his election.

The Northern Michigan convention concluded more than a year of discernment based on the Mutual Ministry model in use in congregations in Northern Michigan for more than 20 years. Other dioceses, including Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming among others, use the model.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pastoral visitors plan ‘is too little, too late’

American Church leaders claimed this week that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new group of Pastoral Visitors is ‘too little, too late’. As the number of lawsuits between the Episcopal Church (TEC) and breakaway conservative groups approaches 60, some say the initiative – intended to help repair the torn fabric of the Anglican Communion – lacks integrity.

The names of the bishops who will act as ‘mediators’ were announced this week by Lambeth Palace. The statement said that the bishops had attended a meeting at Virginia Theological Seminary in the USA from February 25 – 28. The purpose of the new group is to assist in healing the current tensions in the Anglican Communion by holding ‘face to face’ meetings with church leaders in both the new American provinces and TEC.

But the Rev Philip Ashey, Chief Operating Officer for the American Anglican Council, a grouping of conservative Anglicanism, was deeply concerned about Lambeth’s response. Speaking from Atlanta, Georgia, he said: “Every pastoral visitor programme suggested so far has admitted the participation of the parties who have been aggrieved, those people who have left TEC.”

He continued: “Still no contact has been made by any Pastoral Visitors so we have no reason to believe that a seminar they attended at Virginia Theological Seminary by the people who are, in part, the leadership of TEC, will make much difference.”

Ashey went on to say: “We have no confidence that the process is going anywhere.”

In addition he said that the timing proved troublesome as both Archbishops Venables and Orombi had hoped that the visitor process would have been completed before the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meets in Jamaica this May; this now seems unlikely. Ashey said: “We are deeply concerned that the Pastoral Visitor scheme is too little, too late.”

Good Stuff in TEC: Mississippi

Group out to rebuild home in one week

When Marvin Miller lost his home to 13-feet of Hurricane Katrina's floodwater, he never thought he'd live to see it rebuilt.

A crew of 60 volunteers from various parts of the country was banging hammers Sunday, vowing to rebuild the Northrop Grumman retiree's Orange Grove home in less than a week.

"I'm overwhelmed that so many people I don't even know would want to assist me," Miller said.

This is the third speed build project the Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi has organized since the 2005 storm ravaged Jackson County, leaving thousands in temporary government housing.

When the two-story, elevator accessible, home on Sam Road is finished Saturday, Miller will finally be able to move from his Mississippi Emergency Management Agency cottage.

"I'm thankful that they are willing to do this," said the disabled 67-year-old Miller, who has since left the property and will not return until the build is completed Saturday.

"I would not have had any way to complete my home without their assistance."

Carla Poole, case management director with the Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi, has been working with Miller for more than a year, planning and developing financing for the project.

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

Americans becoming less religious, study shows

Several Stories on the same subject- LA Times

Americans are becoming less religious, increasingly turning away from many denominations that once served as their spiritual homes, according to a major national survey released Monday.

The percentage of people who do not claim a religious identity has nearly doubled since 1990, growing to 15% of Americans last year, researchers with the American Religious Identification Survey found.

Mainline Christian denominations, once bulwarks of the religious landscape, have suffered most from the drift.

Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians are among the denominations that have seen their ranks decline.

Although 86% of Americans identified as Christians in 1990, just 76% said the same last year, the result of onetime adherents rejecting organized religion, the survey con- cluded.

The broad falloff has occurred as some groups, including Catholics, have seen their overall numbers rise.

But despite growing by 11 million new members since 1990, Catholics now account for a smaller percentage of the U.S. population than they did then -- 25% compared with 26%.

The survey's principal investigator, sociologist Barry A. Kosmin of Trinity College in Connecticut, described the overall trend as an erosion of the "religious middle ground.",0,2852705.story

London Telegraph-

ABC News


Clerics vie to make history

It's a long shot, but it might happen.

Two Anglican women priests from Windsor are vying to become the first female bishop for the Huron diocese. They are among 10 candidates who are in the running. Four are women.

Rev. Kimberly Van Allen of All Saints' Anglican Church downtown and Rev. Jane Humphreys of St. Mary's in old Walkerville were nominated, and have agreed to run.

Both, however, maintain if they are unsuccessful, they are "quite content" to remain serving their own parishes. The reason is there's more than enough work for them in this city dealing with a population that has been hit hard by sudden plant closings and thousands of job losses.
"These are tough times," said Van Allen, who believes more than ever the church must step forward to aid families broken and hurt by the severe economic downturn.

"We have to respond, because downtown where I am, every day we see people looking for help and we have to respect them and listen to their needs," she said.

The 'emergent church' – growing but hard to define

New ways of "being church" that developed in the past couple of decades are gathered under the term "emergent church."
It's also called a conversation, a movement, a phenomenon – and defining it is "like chasing mercury around a chemistry lab table," said Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why.

Although their emphasis on Scripture, the sacraments and their relationship to the established church vary widely, emergent churches are linked by their dedication to worship and ministry in the context of their location.

"A community in rural Iowa is going to be very different from the ones I've been involved with in Manhattan and Harlem because the places attract people with different stories and sensibilities in different environments," said Bowie Snodgrass, co-founder of New York's Faith House, described on its website as "an interdependent community." She recalled an Easter evening when more than 200 people attended a worship service honoring Mary Magdalene in a Manhattan club. She and a musician friend had developed the service with sex workers and artists who lived and worked in the neighborhood.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thieves Steal Hope from Detroit Congregation

For a number of years, the leaders of St. Philip and St. Stephen’s Church on Detroit’s east-side sought to match its limited resources with the ministry needs of the church’s immediate neighborhood. Members attended church-growth seminars and tried to apply the urban ministry strategies they were taught in the hope that the struggling inner-city church would rebound one day.

Finances for the dozen or so faithful members of the church have been precarious for a number of years, according to The Record, the Diocese of Michigan’s newspaper, but even a $3,000 heating and utility bill in January could not destroy the confidence of the congregation. All that changed in mid-February, when what remained of the congregation’s hope and confidence was stolen along with virtually everything else not nailed down. The congregation voted soon after to close.

Thieves stole office equipment and cleaned out the church’s supply of emergency food, diapers and infant formula.

“They took everything that could be sold,” said Jane Johnson, a member for 22 years and one of the organizer’s of Trudy’s LovingCenter, a safe haven and resource for neighborhood families and at-risk mothers which opened in 2005. Last fall the center added an after-school program attended by 19 neighborhood children. In an interview with a reporter for The Record, Ms. Johnson said that the break- in was the final straw.

“[It] said to me, ‘We’ll never be protected’. It would cost $2,400 for bars on the windows, but this time, they crow-barred the door,” she said.

Good Stuff In TEC: Western Louisiana

Time for Joy is "the place to be"

The Episcopal Church Women will sponsor their annual spring retreat, a Time for Joy, on April 24-26, 2009 at Camp Hardtner. The Joy weekend is for young women and promises to be fun, relaxing and an event even better than the one before. It's an awesome weekend, and the staff focus and work hard to make it a very special weekend for each guest.

Time For Joy was conceived by Bishop Hargrove several years ago as a time for young women to be away from the demands of work and family and a time to renew or revive their relationship with Jesus Christ. Bishop MacPherson is an important part of the weekend, and he and Susan MacPherson allocate quality time to the young women in attendance. He's a lot of fun, and it's interesting to get to know the Bishop and Susan, on a personal level in an informal and relaxed setting.

The central concept of the Time For Joy (Jesus, Others, Yourself) weekend centers on providing young women with a time to get away from the pressures of an over-busy life. Once at Camp Hardtner, the message of taking time for oneself and making time for a relationship with God is emphasized.

The weekend is joyful and carefree, with the message that life is our gift from God and that He meant for us to enjoy it! It is a "stop and smell the roses" type of weekend. There are fun activities that have no message, but equally important are the activities that stress the importance of slowing down and enjoying life, and sharing a personal relation with God.

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

Media CEO creates London bus signs affirming God

The head of a London-based Russian television station plans to counter a recent atheist poster campaign on London buses by funding even larger placards proclaiming the existence of God.

Public transport is becoming a popular vehicle worldwide for the devout faithful and atheists to proclaim their beliefs. Nonbelievers are seeking to proclaim their atheism on Toronto buses, but in Zurich a similar effort was blocked due to local transit regulations.

"People like me are naturally guarded when they see atheist [movements] like this, since we know what atheism did to Russia, almost destroying our country's essence," Alexander Korobko, director of the Russian Hour satellite channel, said in an interview.

The 38-year-old entrepreneur was speaking during preparations for the March 1 launch of the London campaign promoting God. These follow the January campaign by atheist Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, which featured placards with the slogan, "There's probably no God: Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Said Korobko: "When I saw the atheist campaign, it obviously surprised me— not because it was atheist, but because it was completely illogical." As he put it, "To presume or imply you can only enjoy life and stop worrying if you don't believe in God is an oxymoron. In reality, people who believe in God tend to worry less and be far more optimistic."

Attendance and Giving for TEC

More people say they have no religion

A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people said they have no religion at all.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region, with Vermont reporting the highest share of those claiming no religion, at 34 percent. Still, the study found that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state.

"No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state," the study's authors said.

In the Northeast, self-identified Catholics made up 36 percent of adults last year, down from 43 percent in 1990. At the same time, however, Catholics grew to about one-third of the adult population in California and

Texas, and one-quarter of Floridians, largely due to Latino immigration, according to the research.

Nationally, Catholics remain the largest religious group, with 57 million people saying they belong to the church. The tradition gained 11 million followers since 1990, but its share of the population fell by about a percentage point to 25 percent.

Christians who aren't Catholic also are a declining segment of the country.

Sudan Primate calls on UK and US to step up fight against LRA

The Primate of the Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Deng of Juba (pictured), has called upon Britain and the United States to intervene in the conflict in East Africa and end the depredations of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Speaking to the BBC last week, Archbishop Deng said the governments of South Sudan, Uganda, the Congo and the Central African Republic appeared unable to end the 20-year reign of terror of the LRA. International support from the West was needed to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony and “bring him to book.”

On Dec 14 elements of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan armies, supported by Ugandan jet aircraft, launched operation ‘Lightning Thunder’, attacking LRA base camps in the Garamba forest of the Bas Uélé district of the Congo. The strikes came after Kony failed to appear at a Nov 29 meeting to sign a final peace agreement.

The US Army’s African Command seconded 17 military advisers to the Ugandan People’s Defence Force for ‘Lightning Thunder’ according to a report in the New York Times, and also provided equipment, satellite intelligence and the jet fuel for the Ugandan air force. Last month Israel’s Ambassador Jacob Keidar told the Kampala Monitor that his government also would offer military or intelligence support to defeat the LRA.

Pledges of unity follow Northern Ireland attack

Catholic and Protestant congregations in Antrim walked at midday from their churches to the scene of the killing.

Ministers from the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches took turns praying for the dead and wounded, for the IRA dissidents to give up, and for their leaders to stay on a path to reconciliation. The crowd reached several hundred.

In Washington, a spokesman for Obama condemned the attack. "Those who perpetrated these cowardly acts do not represent the will of the people of Northern Ireland, who have chosen a path of peace and reconciliation," said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council.

On Saturday night, scores of Corps of Royal Engineers soldiers based at Massereene ordered pizzas - a final meal before boarding a flight to Afghanistan for a six-month tour. The four soldiers were already wearing their desert camouflage fatigues when they met the two delivery men.

Police Chief Superintendent Derek Williamson said all six were believed wounded during the initial volley of bullets, then the gunmen got out of their vehicle and shot their victims again as they lay on the ground.

Williamson said the two fatal victims were royal engineers in their early 20s but did not give their names. Their unit departed yesterday for Afghanistan after giving statements to police.

Good Stuff in TEC: South Carolina

Habitat completes 73rd Aiken home

Shameco Butler had cut the ribbon to her new Habitat for Humanity home Sunday.

She had formally received the keys to the residence in the Kennedy Kolony area of Aiken and had accepted a Bible as a gift.

It was her turn to speak to a cheering crowd of family, friends and volunteers, but Butler was immediately overcome by tears. She could only express her gratitude to Habitat, the sponsoring Aiken Board of Realtors, the Realtor Habitat Committee chair, Lyvia May, Kay and Joe Buggy and St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church.

A few minutes later, Butler would describe how she had become so worried about the neighborhood where she had once lived with her three young children - Dystiny Lawrence, 9, Dashawna Hicks, 8, and Shawn Hicks, 6. She moved in with family members and dreamed about her own home. She applied for Habitat and was accepted.

"Everyone made me feel so comfortable," Butler said. "They had such confidence in me and were so dedicated to help me build my house. It's just a blessing."

Ron Pope, the 2008 Realtors Board president, had approached May in 2008 about sponsoring a Habitat home. In tough economic times and a difficult market, May responded, "Are you crazy?," but she also said yes.

May acknowledged she was consumed primarily at first by raising the funds and actually building the home. But even before the sponsors came through and the house began to take shape, something else happened to May.

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

Good Stuff In TEC: New York

During a recession, Westchester County presents exceptionally sharp contrasts

In the months since the economy began to tumble, Pepi Powell has heard people apologize for taking the free bread, coffee, tea and other staples spread out on the tables at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Ossining.

They are not used to relying on charity, but they can no longer afford everything they need.

"They may even own their own homes," she said. "People are losing jobs, so they are unable to pay their rent or meet their mortgage."

Powell is among the volunteers at the Ossining Food Pantry. They arrive at the church on South Highland Avenue every Thursday night and Friday morning to distribute food among the people waiting for the doors to open.

Aileen Hunt helped to found the pantry in 1987 with a grant of about $8,000 from the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It quickly outgrew the four participating churches, she said, and today the budget for the nonprofit organization is about $300,000.

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

Faith: U.S. Episcopal Church leader will visit Peoria

The presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church is scheduled to visit Peoria next month.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will open a special meeting of the Synod of the Diocese of Quincy, to be held April 4 at St. Paul's Cathedral. This will be the first time an Episcopal presiding bishop has visited the diocese, according to a diocese news release.

Schori called for the special meeting to elect new diocesan leadership.

Leaders of the diocese had voted late last year to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church and join the more conservative, Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The U.S. church no longer recognizes the authority of the Quincy diocese's former leadership.

Schori also will preside over Palm Sunday services April 5 at All Saints Church in Moline. The church was formed last month by parishioners who didn't want to join the Southern Cone province.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Signs, signs everywhere signs #10

I wouldn't even hazard a guess !

Clergyman defends his Zen Buddhist practices

An Anglican clergyman elected as a bishop has defended his right to use the practices of Zen Buddhism to deepen his Christian faith.

Conservatives in The Episcopal Church of the US are demanding that Rev Kevin Thew Forrester, a priest in the diocese of Northern Michigan, be barred from the episcopate because he received a "lay ordination" from a Buddhist group.

For his election to be ratified, Dr Forrester will need the consent of a majority of bishops in The Episcopal Church as well as of diocesan standing committees.

Conservatives in the US, who have so far failed to unseat the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, have already begun an internet lobbying campaign in an attempt to undermine support for Dr Forrester by claiming he is a fully-fledged Buddhist.

They are also citing two other recent cases. In 2004, the Rev Bill Melnyk was inhibited by the Bishop of Pennsylvania for proclaiming that he was a practicing Druid as well as an Episcopal priest. In 2007, the Rev Ann Holmes-Redding was inhibited by the Bishop of Rhode Island being a practising Muslim as well a priest.

But in an interview with The Times, Dr Forrester said he was neither a Buddhist nor a Bhuddist priest and that he used Zen meditation simply to deepen his relationship with Christ. It was also a means to deepen understanding of the mystery of suffering, he explained.

A bishop and his campaign for the poor

Dinners in the Johnson household have always been noisy affairs, full of debates about God or curfew time for the kids.

But they begin in silence. Complete silence.

"My wife is a Quaker," explains Toronto Anglican Bishop Colin Johnson of his spouse, Ellen.

"She was, and still is, an active member of the Society of Friends."

Like Anglicanism, the Society of Friends – as Quakers are officially known – is a product of the Reformation, but it took the message of developing a personal relationship with the faith many steps further. It stresses silence over ceremony, and inner reflection over pomp and circumstance.

Learning to accommodate his wife's beliefs goes back to when Johnson and Ellen Smith first met as students at the University of Western Ontario. For a young man newly committed to his Christianity but tempted from the United Church of his youth by the "beauty" he saw in Anglican tradition, it was a difficult time of reflection. Further complicating things was the love blooming with Ellen.

They met in their first week of classes while lining up to audition for the choir. After dating off and on for two years, the two got engaged. But then they called things off because of their religious differences.

"We like to say now that we had our divorce before we got married," laughs Johnson, who has three grown children with his wife. The couple will celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary in July.