Saturday, May 23, 2009

Non-Debate Between Godless Humanists and Religious Kooks

From an Episcopal Priest in Kansas-

This week, National Public Radio has been doing a series of stories about “the Science of Spirituality.” The stories focus on the ways that our brains work in regard to such things as spiritual visions, near-death experiences and the impact of prayer on health and well-being. Emphasis is put on the fact that our brains are electro-chemical organs that are the very basis of human experience. But the stories have been intentional about not dismissing the real possibility of God. Instead, the journalists present the idea that perhaps the electro-chemical processes are what make it possible for us to comprehend and connect to something more than ourselves.

As an Episcopal priest, I find such stories interesting because they address issues that I deal with directly within my vocation. They also appeal to me because as an Episcopalian, I come from the Anglican branch of Christianity that buried Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton front and center within the confines of one of our most sacred shrines, Westminster Abbey. I appreciate such an approach because my religious belief is based upon the notion of balancing Scripture, Tradition and Reason, especially when it may force me from my own comfort zones and into a deeper encounter with God.

But recently I have come to appreciate such an approach to science and religion because of the mostly non-fruitful and downright derogatory ways that a few scientists and religious apologists have carried on in the public forum. Unfortunately, where science and religion are concerned, real dialogue is usually bypassed in favor of posted agendas.

All too often scientific method is used to justify an academic skepticism that degrades into a belittlement of all things having to do with faith and spirituality. While in the other camp, religion is often used in both silly and tragic ways to justify forms of ignorance about, and prejudice towards, the reality of the human condition and the cosmos as a whole.

More here-

LOUISIANA: Bishop Jenkins calls for better case management for Hurricane Katrina’s most vulnerable victims

From Episcopal Life Online-

During a May 22 hearing on Capitol Hill, Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana Charles E. Jenkins urged state and government agencies to employ better case management strategies to solve lingering post-Hurricane Katrina housing problems in Louisiana.

Jenkins was part of a four-person panel addressing the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which is chaired by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Other panel members were David Garratt, acting deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Fred Tombar III, senior advisor to the Secretary for Disaster and Recovery Programs, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and Paul Rainwater, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

The purpose of the three-hour hearing, titled, “Still Post-Katrina: How FEMA Decides When Housing Responsibilities End,” was to receive testimony on the status of housing assistance provided after the August 29, 2005, hurricane hit the Gulf Coast.

Of particular concern were FEMA’s thrice-extended Katrina Housing Program, which formally ended on May 1, and HUD’s Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), also extended, which ended in March and will cease making rental payments to participants on August 31.

The rest is here-

Grand Jury returns 20-count indictment of felony theft charges against Rev. Armstrong

More news from Colorado Springs-

A Fourth Judicial District grand jury Wednesday indicted the Rev. Donald Armstrong on 20 felony counts of theft charges, concluding a months-long investigation by Colorado Springs police and the Pueblo District Attorney's Office into Armstrong's financial conduct while he was rector of Grace Church & St. Stephen's parish.

Armstrong, who ministers to about 600 people a week, surrendered to police Thursday and was jailed at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center until posting $20,000 bail later in the day.

If convicted on all 20 felony counts, Armstrong, 60, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Each count comes with a possible prison sentence of four to 12 years, said Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. Fines against Armstrong could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The DA's office did not provide a breakdown of the 20 counts. But in a search warrant executed by police in November on Grace Church & St. Stephen's, Colorado Springs police Detective Michael Flynn sought evidence suggesting Armstrong had funneled money from the church to pay for his two children's college educations.

On Friday, Armstrong was upbeat about the indictment, saying it was expected and that he is confident he will be cleared of the charges.

"I will, after years of unbridled false accusations, have my day in court, so this is a good step in that direction," said Armstrong, whose Anglican parish is now called St. George's Anglican Church.

Much more-

Episcopal bishop to visit the Gulf Coast

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is no stranger to headlines.

The first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, she has shepherded the United States' branch of the Anglican Communion during days of controversy.

Chief pastor of the Episcopal Church's 2.4 million members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses, she's also the author of "A Wing and a Prayer" and former bishop of Nevada.

Still, many may know Jefferts Schori simply as a name. Perhaps a photograph. Maybe a statement.

Next weekend, Gulf Coast residents will have the opportunity to get to know her as a person.

Invited by Bishop Philip M. Duncan II of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast,

Jefferts Schori is visiting diocesan agencies and parishes May 29-31.

"She's coming down just to get to know our people and for our people to get to know her," said the Rev. Albert Kennington, coordinator for the presiding bishop's visit here.

"She is not coming here to deal with national and international issues. That's not what this visit is about," Kennington said.

"What I hope will come out of this is that number one, people will get to know her better, she gets to know us better. That we become human beings to each other in a way that it's all title and photographs now," he said.

"And I would also hope that when we get back into the next controversy -- whatever it's about, it will come -- that maybe there's a memory that this is a disagreement among real people and real friends and not its and images."

More here-

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cardinal Cormac: 'Atheism the greatest of evils.'

The outgoing Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, made a contribution at the end of Archbishop Vincent Nichols' installation that was at once touching, funny, serious and extreme. He said, rather controversially perhaps, that a lack of faith is 'the greatest of evils.' He blamed atheism for war and destruction, and implied it was a greater evil even than sin itself. Read the report running as a page lead in today's paper. Bess Twiston-Davies wrote a nice At Your Service for online.

One of the first people to criticise Archbishop Nichols after his installation was, as we report, none other than another Catholic bishop! What times we live in. The Right Rev Diarmuid Martin of Dublin issued his unprecedented public rebuke to Nichols through the pages of the Irish Independent. Even the loyal Catholic, Madeleine Bunting of The Guardian, wonders whether the Irish scandal is 'an abuse too far' and believes Nichols' response 'beggars belief.' Incidentally, Archbishop Nichols was himself educated by the Christian Brothers in Crosby.

You can read our early online report here of why the abuse story has threatened to engulf the installation ceremony. Archbishop Nichols praised the courage of those priests in the wake of the Irish child abuse scandal who had owned up to the abuse - even though none actually have. Instead, and quite incredibly, they managed to secure protection from the Government against their identities actually being known - even the dead ones. Nichols also urged us not to forget, in the rucus, the 'good' they had done.

Archbishop Nichols also defended faith against the rise of secularism. In his homily he said: 'Faith in God is not, as some would portray it today, a narrowing of the human mind or spirit. It is precisely the opposite. Faith in God is the gift that takes us beyond our limited self, with all its incessant demands....Some today propose that faith and reason are crudely opposed, with the fervour of faith replacing good reason. This reduction of both faith and reason inhibits not only our search for truth but also the possibility of real dialogue.'

More here-

Generous Gift Given to Trinity

Trinity School for Ministry is delighted to announce that an anonymous donor has made a gift of $500,000 to the School. Of these monies, $100,000 will go to the Trinity Annual Fund, and $400,000 will go directly into the student scholarship fund, available for immediate disbursement. As a result, we can now offer full-tuition scholarships to new full-time residential students who demonstrate financial need.

The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry, Trinity's Dean and President, remarked, "We are so thankful to this long-time member of the Board for this generous gift to the School. It is especially encouraging, in this current financial climate, to be affirmed in such a tangible way in our commitment to train and support gospel-centered ministers for the church."

Trinity School for Ministry is an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition that is com-mitted to forming Christian leaders for mission. Begun in 1976, and located 30 minutes from Pittsburgh, Trinity has trained over 900 students from throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Charles Wesley wrote 8,900 hymns

8900 ? Now that would be a hymnal!

Even though he wrote more than 8,900 hymns in his career, Charles Wesley (1707-1788) never heard them sung on Sunday morning. Charles was an Anglican minister (the Methodists, thoguh founded, did not split off from the Church of England until after his death), and the Anglican church did not allow "new hymns" in the service until the 1820s. Charles did hear his music sung at midweek gatherings, though. In his prolific career, he averaged 10 lines of verse a day for 56 years. Not only did he write, he wrote enduring hymns. In fact, the Methodist hymnal Hymns and Praises still contains 150 of his works. What makes his works so good?

One reason is that music ran in his family. His father wrote hymns, and all three sons wrote them. His daughter was a gifted poet, and his grandson Samuel Sebastian was recognized as the greatest English composer of the 1800s. Charles had a natural talent for verse and put it to use glorifying God. Add to his natural talent the fact that his endebted father insisted he attend Westminster for a classical education, and Charles received the best training available for his gift.

Also important for a Christian hymn writer, Charles had his mind steeped in Scripture. While at Westminster, he started memorizing the New Testament in Greek. God's word was so ingrained in Charles that it had to come out.

The rest is here-

Forrester vote count

If you're wondering how the vote by Bishops and Standing Committees is going on the Kevin Thew Forrester election in Northern Michigan, Stand Firm is keeping a tally which you can find here-

Diocese of Texas Faces $45-Million Lawsuit

The Diocese of Texas is a defendant in a $45-million class-action lawsuit which alleges that for more than 40 years, diocesan officials have tried to hide the fact that one of the priests on staff at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin sexually abused students at the residential school.

According to the transcript from a pre-trial hearing in 2008, James Lydell Tucker served as chaplain at St. Stephen’s from 1958 to1968. The diocese transferred him to another school in 1968 after receiving misconduct complaints about him. He retired from active ministry in 1994. He was deposed from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church in 2008.

“The world was a bizarre place,” said Bob Haslanger, as reported by the Houston Press. “Having to deal with this person who was perhaps the most popular faculty member on campus in public, who acted as though nothing was odd, and then once a month or more he would come into my room and molest me. Well, wow, that’s more than my little, young, teenage brain could handle.”

Mr. Haslanger first reported the sexual abuse in 1966 during a meeting with Allen Becker, the headmaster at St. Stephen’s. After a second student complained to Mr. Becker in 1968, the school announced that Mr. Tucker was leaving St. Stephen’s because of heart problems.

David Evert, one of the plaintiffs who complained to Mr. Becker in 1968, said that the headmaster ordered him and the other student, not to tell anyone about Mr. Tucker, not even their parents. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Becker did not object two years later when Mr. Tucker became rector of St. James’, Houston. Some of the plaintiffs to the class-action lawsuit claim that Mr. Tucker abused children at St. James’ as well.

The rest is here-

The Catholic church: faith and reason

From the London Guardian-

It should be the among the best of times to take over the leadership of the Catholic church in England and Wales. In the face of the collapse of establishment authority, both political and economic, there is an appetite for a conversation about ethics to which nearly all would accept that religious leaders might contribute. But by the time of his installation in the early afternoon yesterday, the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, must have been wondering if it was instead the worst of times. The enormity of the story detailed in the Ryan report about the years of abuse in Irish children's homes was a bleak backdrop to the service introducing the 11th archbishop. But that was all it was until he praised the "courage" of the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy for facing their past – and put himself smack into the heart of it.

The plea from both Westminster and Lambeth – Rowan Williams was a prominent guest yesterday – is for space for faith in the public discourse. In his homily, the new archbishop called for "respectful dialogue" and "creative conversation" conducted in a spirit of generosity. But although friends say he is a warm and compassionate individual, his recent record is that of a zealous defender of the status quo. No one can doubt his skill as a campaigner: he defeated the government on faith school quotas and wounded it on legislation allowing same-sex adoption. Lambeth's highbrow opacity was going to be translated into straightforward syntax by Westminster, however uncomfortable. For Vincent Nichols said from the start that he was not seeking to be friends with everyone.

More here-

Americans 'shopping for religion'

William Lobdell has followed four different religions. Now he's an atheist.

Raised Episcopalian, the 48-year-old Orange County, Calif. man switched to a non-denominational parish and then a Presbyterian one. After going through a year of Catholic conversion classes he eventually realized that he is “a reluctant atheist.”

“I wish I believed,” said the former Los Angeles Times reporter and author of the memoir “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America – And Found Unexpected Peace.” “I’d like to believe that someone is watching over me and protecting me, but I just don’t believe that.”

He may be an extreme example, but approximately half of Americans change religions at least once in their lives, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The forum recently released a report, "The U.S. Religious Landscape: Exploring Religion in America," based on surveys of 35,000 people.

Pew found that Catholicism has seen the sharpest decrease in membership among all religions in the U.S. About 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics, according to the survey. The Archdiocese of Chicago declined to interview for this article.

The Rest is here-

Bishops say rival group can’t represent churches

The Canadian house of bishops, at the end of its five-day spring meeting, issued a “Message to the Church,” reflecting on a range of topics including mission, the effects of the current economic crisis in their communities, residential schools, and, in the lead up to the 2010 General Synod, same-sex blessings.

The bishops also stated “with regret” that clergy and laity who are members of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) “should not be given permission to exercise a leadership role in the Cursillo movement of the Anglican Church of Canada.” (The ANiC includes clergy and laity who have left the Canadian Anglican church because of theological differences over sexuality and other issues.)

The bishops said they were responding to a “call for clarification” from the national Cursillo secretariat. “It was noted that diocesan bishops have the authority to decide who may serve on Cursillo teams,” they said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury “has stated in writing that his office and the Anglican Communion Office recognize one ecclesial body in Canada as a constitutive member of the communion, the Anglican Church of Canada,” they added. “We affirm this statement. We cherish our communion with the See of Canterbury and remain committed to the life and witness of the Anglican Communion in the service of the Gospel.”

The Rest

Anglican Episcopate reflects on 105 bishops

In case you're having trouble sleeping at night this might be just the thing-

“IT’S NOT A dream book for a publisher,” said Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, of his latest book, the fourth volume of The Anglican Episcopate in Canada.

Still, he acknowledged that the book, launched at the spring meeting of the House of Bishops, is one that will be invaluable to libraries, diocesan offices and researchers interested in hard archival data about Canadian Anglican bishops over the past 33 years.

Published by the Anglican Book Centre (ABC), the book provides details on 105 bishops elected into office between 1976 to 2008 and also includes what Archbishop Peers calls his observations on Episcopal ministry over a 27-year period, or from the time he became a bishop in 1977 up to his retirement as primate in 2004.

“I decided that I’m not qualified to write a theological reflection on Episcopal ministry. I’m not a theologian,” said Archbishop Peers. “I didn’t want to get into the business of too much interpretation of what was going on because, 25 years later, long after you’re dead, you’ll be sorry you wrote that. So I call them ‘observations’ because they are things I have seen over the passage of time.” And “they are fair,” he added, drawing laughter from the bishops at the launch held at the Mt. Carmel Spiritual Centre.

Most liberal Protestant clergy don’t support gay marriage

Mainline Protestantism is usually depicted in the news media as the politically liberal analogue to the conservative evangelical movement. But it’s more complicated than that.

For instance, mainliners split their support evenly between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004, a year when nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals pulled the lever for Bush. Last November, Obama got only 44 percent of the white nonevangelical Protestant vote—mainliners, mostly—the same share Kerry got.

And USA Today’s Cathy Lynn Grossman blogs about a new survey of mainline Protestant clergy, the most comprehensive ever conducted, that finds that most do not support legalizing same-sex marriage, even if they wouldn’t be required to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
This division helps to explain why mainline denominations like the Episcopal Church—and let’s not forget the Methodists and the Lutherans—have been so torn up by a disagreement over the biblical treatment—acceptance, condemnation or ambivalence—of homosexuality.

The study was performed by Public Religion Research. Here are some highlights:

More here-

Zimbabwe diocese breaks chains of dictatorship

For Anglicans in the Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, Holy Week and Eastertide have been a time of new beginnings, and interim Bishop Sebastian Bakare has a bag of chains in his office as proof.
The chains, now broken, once locked the doors to the Harare cathedral preventing Anglicans from worshipping in their church. Bakare led worship in the cathedral on Easter Sunday for the first time since coming to the diocese in December 2007. It was, he told Episcopal News Service, "our resurrection Sunday."

That feeling of new life continues to deepen in the embattled diocese that is recovering from the effects of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga's episcopacy and finding ways to minister in a country being ruined by a dictatorial president.

The Rev. Canon Chad Nicholas Gandiya, Africa regional desk officer for USPG: Anglicans in Mission, was elected May 2 to be the diocese's next bishop, and on May 26, the Zimbabwe high court will hear arguments in the long-standing dispute over who owns the diocese's assets.

Kunonga was deposed in 2007 after illegally separating from the Anglican Province of Central Africa and installing himself as archbishop of Zimbabwe. He had said that he left because the province failed to condemn the ordination of homosexual bishops, an excuse that Ruth Bakare called a "pretext" and a "gimmick."

Kunonga is an avid supporter of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who has let the country slide into ruin during his 28-year rule. Kunonga has also supported the intimidation and persecution of Anglicans in Zimbabwe for opposing his and Mugabe's leadership.

More here-

Thursday, May 21, 2009

At Your Service: Mass of Installation of the 11th Archbishop of Westminster

From the London Times-

On the stroke of 12, the West Door swings open, and for the first time, Vincent Gerard Nichols, soon to be installed as the 11th Archbishop of Westminster enters his Cathedral.

Small in size though large in numbers, Westminster is home to more than 400,000 of the estimated four and half million Catholics in England and Wales. Many are recent migrants from other parts of the Catholic world: amongst others the Philippines, Poland and Brasil. Their diversity is reflected among the 2,200 worshippers crammed today into the spacious neo-Byzantine Cathedral, to see Nichols formally installed as Archbishop.

While not the precise equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury in terms of leadership – the leader of England and Wales’s Roman Catholics is technically the President of the Bishops’ Conference, a title already bestowed upon Nichols – the Archbishop of Westminster is usually made a Cardinal and will often give the Roman Catholic view on matters of national import. This is reflected in the greeting given him by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“The Roman Catholic and Anglican communities in England and Wales have the God-given task… of making the Good News of Jesus compelling and attractive to a generation deeply in need of hope,” he says.

For inspiration, the new Archbishop has turned to St Paul, who illustrates, he explains in a homily delivered from a stone pulpit bedded in lilies, the “true nature of belief in God.”

“Paul was open to the things of God, ready to recognise the touch of the divine in the unexpected.” “Faith in God,” he explains “is not a narrowing of the human mind” but “precisely the opposite.”

He puts forth, in a few brief paragraphs, a blueprint for Faith’s place in the public square, drawing on St Paul’s attempts to evangelise the Greeks.

Much more-

Convention Plans Varied Lineup of Preachers

A wide-ranging lineup of clergy and laity has been scheduled to preach at the daily Eucharists celebrated during the General Convention, July 8-17, in Anaheim, Calif.

A bishop will serve as celebrant at each Eucharist, and preachers will be asked to address a theme designated for that day. The themes were developed by the Liturgy and Worship Subcommittee of the Planning and Arrangements Committee.

The schedule:

July 8—Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, celebrant and preacher at the opening Eucharist.

July 9—Bishop Jon J. Bruno of Los Angeles, celebrant. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will conduct a Bible study during the Eucharist on the theme “God’s People.”

July 10—Bishop Steven A. Miller of Milwaukee, co-celebrant with a member of the Moravian clergy. House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will preach on the theme “Unity.”

July 11—Bishop Frank Brookhart of Montana, celebrant, joined by a member of the Methodist clergy. Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for PBS’s “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” will preach on the theme “Hospitality.”

July 12—Bishop Jefferts Schori will be celebrant and preacher at the main convention Eucharist and Ingathering of the United Thank Offering.

July 13—Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester, celebrant. Courtney Cowart, director of advocacy and community affairs for the Office of Disaster Response in the Diocese of Louisiana will preach on the theme “Domestic Poverty.”

July 14—Bishop Robert O’Neill of Colorado, celebrant. Abagail Nelson, senior vice president of programs for Episcopal Relief & Development will preach of the theme “The Millennium Development Goals.”

July 15—Bishop Greg Rickel of Olympia, celebrant. Bishop Steven Charleston, former dean of Episcopal Divinity School will preach on the theme “Creation and the Environment.”

July 16—Bishop Wilfrido Ramos of Ecuador Central, celebrant. Brian McLaren, author and activist, will preach on the theme “Evangelism.”

July 17—Bishop Jefferts Schori, celebrant and preacher at the closing Eucharist.

Eucharists will be held daily at 11:30 a.m. (Pacific) except for the Sunday Eucharist, to be held at 10 a.m. Sermons will be available for viewing on the internet on the Episcopal Church website.

'Battle won, war not ended,' says Sri Lankan bishop

From the Anglican Journal in Canada. (And I thought the Hmong had great hats!)

Sri Lankan church leaders say the end of the country’s 26-year civil war announced by the government is a signal to address grievances and to ensure citizens from all ethnic and religious groups can feel proud of their nation.

The island nation's President Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 19 declared the end of the bloody and protracted civil war, in which fighters seeking autonomy for the country's minority Tamil population introduced to the world the concept of suicide bombers with explosives strapped to their bodies.

Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera said, “We must become a nation in which every woman, man and child, regardless of religion or ethnicity is made to feel equal, free and proud to call themselves Sri Lankan. Now is the time … to take prayerful, purposeful and collective steps towards an integrated, united and just Sri Lanka that has eluded us for decades.”

The process, Bishop Chickera said, "must begin with our children, and in our schools, [Buddhist] temples, kovils [Hindu temples], mosques and churches."

More here-

Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes new Archbishop of Westminster

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today given a greeting to Archbishop Vincent Nichols at his Installation Mass as the new Archbishop of Westminster.
Dr Williams’ full greeting given at Westminster Cathedral is below:

In recent years, the relations between the churches in this country have become closer and warmer than perhaps ever before. The fact that the Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops in England have been able to meet more than once for prayer and reflection, as well as for discussion of the challenges we share in witnessing to the Christian faith in our nation, is a welcome development, and a sign that we all recognise common challenges and a need to pray and act together.

The Roman Catholic and Anglican communities in England and Wales have the God-given task, along with all our other brothers and sisters in the faith, of making the Good News of Jesus compelling and attractive to a generation deeply in need of hope and meaning, in need of something they can trust with all their hearts.

Dear Vincent, I hope that as you join us as a co-president of the Churches Together in England we may work together at this task: as I had the privilege and delight of working with your predecessor, who was and is such a friend and example to us all.

May God give you the strength, the vision and the wisdom you need for the great responsibility he has laid upon you. Be sure of the love and prayers of all your colleagues in the churches of England and Wales as you take up the yoke of Christ in this fresh ministry. We give God thanks for you, and hope for many years of fruitful and exciting work together for Our Lord, in the service of his Kingdom and his justice.

Catholics, Anglicans sign covenant

THE signing of a covenant between the Anglican diocese of Brisbane and the Catholic dioceses of Brisbane and Toowoomba next Friday (May 29) will celebrate a Queensland relationship between the two Churches that goes back to this State’s foundation.

Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall, and Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane and Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba will be joint signatories to the covenant at a combined act of worship at St Stephen’s Cathedral starting 7.30pm.

Catholics throughout Brisbane archdiocese have been invited to the historical event known as “A Celebration of Our Common Sesquicentenary and a Signing of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Covenant” .

The event will also mark the 25th anniversary of Archbishop Francis Rush and Anglican Archbishop John Grindrod’s signing of a Common Declaration in support of ecumenical co-operation in St John’s Cathedral on the same date in 1984.

Dean of St Stephen’s Cathedral and member of the covenant’s organising committee Fr Ken Howell said he “vividly remembered being present at this ceremony”.

“All present were filled with hope and optimism for the greater working together of Anglicans and Catholics as a result of the agreement,” Fr Howell said.

“It also seems very appropriate to renew this agreement in the sesquicentenary year of both dioceses.”

Project officer for the archdiocese’s sesquicentenary celebrations Catherine Newell said heads of many major churches throughout Queensland, as well as public dignitaries, have been invited to “this significant ecumenical event which will take place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”.

More here-

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A statement by The Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, Bishop of Northern California

Regarding Consent to the Election of Kevin Thew Forrester
as Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan:

I have waited until very late in the consent process to finalize my decision. In part this is because it has been a complex and challenging matter, with many questions –procedural, canonical, theological, ecclesiastical, etc.— involved, and with many layers to each question. In addition, there has been considerable confusion as to just what the facts are; Kevin’s actual views and actions weighed heavily in the decision before me. And so I have utilized all of the time available to me to complete this decision, reading the relevant documents, consulting with fellow bishops, and discussing the matter with our Standing Committee –who, after our discussion on April 17, voted to withhold consent.

I sympathized with that decision but took additional time to speak with Kevin personally, to read some further material from him that he did not publish until the following week. Throughout this time, my constant prayer has been for right discernment for all involved.

I have great respect for Kevin, and great regard for the Diocese of Northern Michigan. It saddens me greatly, therefore, to tell you that I am unable to consent to this election. As I have said, many issues have been raised; I will name only one: Kevin’s revision of our liturgy of Holy Baptism.

More here-

Bishop Mouneer's Reflection on the ACC-14 Meeting in Jamaica, May 2009

With hope and anticipation we went to Jamaica to participate in the ACC 14 meeting. The Anglican Covenant was the most important item in our agenda. Its importance arises from fact that it is the only hope left to keep the unity of the Anglican Communion. It was very encouraging seeing the Archbishop of Canterbury, many other participants, and our ecumenical partners supporting the Covenant wholeheartedly. All that was required from the ACC was to agree to send the whole text of the Covenant to the Provinces for discussion and adoption.

In his first presidential address Archbishop Rowan Williams appealed to the ACC members by these words: "Before we say goodbye to each other we owe it to the Lord of the church to make that effort to have those conversations and take each other seriously in the gospel. My hope is that this report[1] will help us to do this." It is worth mentioning that the report of the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) has affirmed the importance of the Covenant, recommended the continuation of the moratoria, and the establishing of the pastoral form.

Strenuous opposition:

Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church in America (TEC) and a few other churches were strongly opposing the idea of the Covenant especially section 4[2]. Their excuse was that this section is new and has not been studied enough by the Provinces as the other sections have been. They have forgotten that this particular section of the Covenant is in fact the outcome of many deliberations and responses that came from dioceses as well as bishops who attended the Lambeth Conference in 2008. In addition to this, section 4 was already present in the commentary of the St. Andrews draft of the Covenant that was sent to the provinces after the Lambeth Conference. I personal believe that we will never have a perfect Covenant that could be accepted by all, even if we spend another 10 years working in it. TEC also described section 4 as "punitive." In response to this, it was clarified that the Covenant gives guidance to the Provinces which are responsible for making their own decisions. The Covenant also does not require any changes in the constitutions of the Provinces. In addition to this, section 4 allows Provinces to make amendments to the Covenant after it is accepted. In fact, it is because that section 4 is not strong enough many conservatives described the Covenant as very weak and useless.

Much more here-

A charity can't sell a pie? Ban jostles Pa. Legislature

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department. Pennsylvania Division.

The squeaky wheel gets the ... Crisco?

As the wrangling over ways to fill a $3 billion hole in the state budget gets under way in Harrisburg, some lawmakers are hoping to make a little noise about home-baked pies.

Lawmakers introduced bills in the House and Senate recently that would prevent Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspectors from citing churches and other community groups for serving food that was prepared in home kitchens, a practice against the law in Pennsylvania.

"If church members can't prepare a home-cooked meal or dessert and take it to the church for fellow members or the local community to enjoy, what's next?" said Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., a Republican representing portions of Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, who introduced the Senate bill.

A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Deberah Kula, a Democrat representing parts of Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

An Agriculture Department inspector fired the first salvo in the baked goods battle during Lent after spotting home-baked pies in St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Rochester. The church was told it's against the law to sell pies, cookies and cakes baked at home.

The rest is here-

Archbishop Tutu launches Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Solomon Islands

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has launched in Honiara a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Solomon Islands – which is modelled closely on the body he chaired in South Africa after the apartheid regime fell.

Solomon Islands collapsed into chaos and violence from 1997-2003, chiefly as a result of conflict between gangs from the islands of Malaita and Guadalcanal, during which it was widely dubbed a “failed state.”

More than 100 people were killed – including seven members of the Anglican Melanesian Brothers order - and 20,000 were displaced in the fighting.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) led by Australia then intervened, at the invitation of the fraught Solomons government. Australia is paying $A 500,000 towards the cost of the new commission.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Tutu flew in to Honiara in late April and launched the commission in front of an audience of thousands at the Lawson Tama stadium.

He said: “There are many places around the world where there is conflict, but after a while peace comes. We in South Africa just want to say to you, if it can happen in our country, it can and will happen here.”

The 77 year old Anglican bishop also spoke at a conference named Winds of Change that brought together former fighters from Malaita and Guadalcanal, the latter being the island of the capital, Honiara.

More here-

Anglican head, Akinola, seeks end to ‘creek war

THE Primate of the Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Peter Akinola, yesterday, in Lokoja warned against the continued aerial attacks by the Joint Task Force on the Niger Delta, saying that unless urgent steps are taken to remedy the situation, Nigeria’s democracy was heading for a doom.

The cleric said reports of renewed fighting in the last few days between the troops of the JTF and militants which has led to loss of lives and displaced many was capable of sending a wrong signal to the nation's democracy.

The Anglican primate was in Lokoja to attend the church's provincial economic empowerment seminar which has attracted over 150 bishops of the diocese from within and outside the country.

According to him, the situation in the Niger Delta is one that needed to be addressed very quickly and it is high time that government began to live to its billings by making good its promises to the people of the region by providing employment to the unemployed young men in the area.

Government, he said, must be able to do that to the people directly and not through some middlemen or through some bureaucratic civil servants.

It was also high time for the government to give the people of the region a sense of belonging because, as he put it, “a situation were somebody with a diploma holder on religious studies from somewhere is made a General Manager over someone with a first class degree in a related field in the oil industry is not acceptable."

Good Stuf in TEC: Oregon

He's hired hundreds, now let him help you find work

One day, while sitting inside St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in northeast Portland, George DeWitz was listening to people complain about the economy when he got an idea.

“I’m listening to what is being said, and nobody is doing anything about it,” said DeWitz, who will turn 82 this month. “They’re talking the talk, but they’re not walking the walk.”

With his job-training background, he knew he could - and should - do something.

"I have this experience and know-how, and I know how to make it work," he said. "I’ve hired people. I’ve trained people. I’ve been a very fortunate person. I’ve made my life very comfortable financially, so I thought, 'Well, you’ve got to do it.' "

What DeWitz did was design a seminar for people looking for work. The seminar, which is free and ongoing, will start Thursday, May 21, at the church, where he has been a member for 20 years.

The seminar will include information on how to look at the hiring process from the employer’s point of view, which DeWitz knows a lot about.

During his 40-year career, he owned an ad agency, two radio stations (KRDR, a country western station in Gresham, and KAAR, an FM country music station in Yakima, Wash.), trained potential job hunters and hired about 600 people.

The rest-

MINNESOTA: Native American, Hmong congregations seek to preserve cultural identities

From Episcopal Life Online. (Don't the Hmong have nice hats!)

Episcopal Church is committed to sharing "the good news of Jesus in ways people can understand and receive" within a variety of cultural contexts, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told gatherings of Native American and Hmong Episcopalians during a May 14-17 visit to the Diocese of Minnesota.

On Saturday, she toured the Prairie Island Indian Reservation and met with a group of about 25 clergy and lay leaders at the Messiah Episcopal Indian Mission in Welch, about 50 miles south of Minneapolis. Among other things, they asked about "the circle of advice that is being consulted for decisions in and about native ministries" as well as appropriate funding sources for it.

The Rev. Robert Two Bulls Jr., director of the diocesan Department of Indian Works, shared a document previously given to the Presiding Bishop which listed concerns from a dozen clergy working in 12 Native mission congregations and two specialized ministries, including All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis, where he serves as vicar.

More here-

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seek and ye shall find An interactive web database of Anglican clerics helps out historians and amateur genealogists

Ecclesiastical history is not, at first glance, a topic naturally associated with the web. Yet a pioneering web database is taking shape that whizzes church history smartly into the 21st century. The Clergy of the Church of England database (CCEd) aims to provide a constantly updated digital record of the identity and career of every Anglican clergy man in England and Wales over three centuries, from the Reformation to the start of the Victorian age.

The database, so far featuring over 105,000 "clerical CVs" and counting, is intended to establish the first clear picture of one of the most important professions, filling gaps in church history and providing a resource for academics, amateur historians and genealogists. Along the way, it is shining a light on a host of extraordinary individuals: characters to emerge include James Mayne, campaigning 19th-century curate of Bethnal Green and unlikely ancestor of the actor Patsy Kensit, and the less dutiful Richard Thursfield, vicar of Pattingham, who was reportedly "frequently seen lying in the roads in a state of intoxication".

The project, conceived 12 years ago, might seem an unlikely marriage of the latest technology and a somewhat stuffy subject, acknowledges Arthur Burns, history professor at King's College London and one of three historians collaborating on the scheme. "We have always been seen as the most traditional types of scholars, very archive-heavy historians," Burns admits cheerfully. "Ecclesiastical history is often seen as a musty, old-fashioned discipline. But this has helped bring out our non-tweediness."

More here-

Good Stuff in TEC: South Carolina

Special Camp For Kids

As we head into the summer months - many parents look for summer camps to send their children to while out of school..but for some families the cost of camp may not be an option - especially if one of the parents is incarcerated. Now there’s a camp that could give those kids a chance for some summer fun free of charge. Summer camp - it’s almost a rite of passage for a kid…but not every child has that opportunity. It can be especially difficult financially for kids who may need it the most…those who have a parent behind bars. “So often that’s not what’s part of their life story or situation and so they get a wonderful experience. We use a vacation bible school format and we have a lot of activities - it is a campground that is just wonderful.” The Reverend Cheryl Parris is talking about Kamp Phun - a one week summer getaway for children who have a parent incarcerated or recently released. “It doesn’t matter their class or color or story - if they’re between the ages of 9 and 12 - we have a camp for them.

It’s a camp dedicated to fun - not the home situation. Children get to sample things they may not otherwise experience. Best of all - it doesn’t cost the family a dime. “Churches in the Episcopal Diocese are giving us - they’re sponsoring children - they’re paying for the food - they’re paying for gifts for the kids,” says Rev. Parris. Held the last week in July at the Honey Creek Conference Center in Waverly - it’s open to 40 children from throughout the state of Georgia. Reverend Parris says last year no family from Savannah applied - she’s hoping that changes this summer.

More here-

Pittsburgh: Episcopal diocese rejects Buddhist bishop

Leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have unanimously voted against permitting a diocese in Michigan to consecrate a bishop who is also a practicing Zen Buddhist.

A spokesman for the diocese said the decision was not based on Bishop-elect Kevin Thew Forrester's Zen practices, but on changes he had made to the liturgy in his parish. It came from the Diocese of Pittsburgh that remains part of the Episcopal Church, not the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) that left the Episcopal Church in October because it believed the Episcopal Church no longer upheld biblical teaching.

In order to be consecrated by the Diocese of Northern Michigan, the bishop-elect must receive "consent" from the bishops and standing committees of a majority of 110 dioceses.

According to an unofficial count kept by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, as of Friday the standing committee vote was 39-15 against the bishop-elect.

The Pittsburgh vote was 8-0. Members said he had stripped the baptismal liturgy of references to divine redemption, emphasizing human action over God's grace.

"To change such a fundamental understanding of the sacrament, in which we share by water in the saving death of Jesus Christ ... makes Father Forrester unacceptable as a bishop," said the Rev. James Simons, president of the standing committee.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pittsburgh: Consent Withheld On Northern Michigan Bishop-Elect

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has unanimously withheld its consent of a candidate for Bishop in Michigan because of his questionable theology.

The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester is Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. But before he can be installed, a majority of Standing Committees and diocesan Bishops in the Episcopal Church must consent.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Standing Committee found fault primarily with Forrester’s liturgical innovations which deviate from the Book of Common Prayer.

Especially troubling were changes in the language for baptisms performed at Forrester’s parish. The prayers used at those services removed references to the sacrament as being a cleansing from sin and renunciation of evil. Throughout, the service appears to put an emphasis on human actions as opposed to divine redemption.

“To change such a fundamental understanding of the sacrament, in which we share by water in the saving death of Jesus Christ and confess our belief in a Triune God, makes Father Forrester unacceptable as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Dr. James Simons, reflecting the Standing Committee’s position.

The Committee’s decision will be the only vote on record for the Pittsburgh Diocese, since it currently does not have a Diocesan Bishop in office. Assisting Bishop Robert H. Johnson, who retired as Bishop of Western North Carolina in 2004, cannot vote. Still, Forrester’s case gives him pause.

”Generally I believe a diocesan election of a bishop should be honored unless there are serious obstacles,” said Bishop Johnson.

Pittsburgh joins a number of other dioceses who have withheld consent on Forrester, although an official tally has not been made public. Dioceses have until late in June to weigh in. If a major of Bishops and Standing Committees consent, the new Bishop of Northern Michigan is scheduled to be installed on October 17 of this year.

Motions Precede May 27 Pittsburgh Hearing

Well done by The Living Church-

With a May 27 court hearing drawing closer, lawyers for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church filed a motion on May 8, arguing that a 2005 stipulation order between the diocese and the rector and wardens of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, makes clear “that only a diocese that is part of The Episcopal Church may continue to hold and administer property.”

In a related development, lawyers representing The Episcopal Church filed a separate motion on May 12 arguing that all property is subject to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church and may only be used by it for mission.

The Episcopal Church was permitted to file its motion after it sought permission to be added to the case through complaint-in-intervention at a hearing April 17. At that same hearing the two sides agreed that the hearing on May 27 would proceed “assuming arguendo for the purposes of such hearing that the withdrawal of the Diocese was valid.” That issue will be considered later, if necessary.

Lawyers for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Southern Cone contend that the 2005 stipulation order only applied to the property of individual congregations which might seek to leave the diocese. If the Alleghany Court of Common Pleas finds as a result of the May 27 hearing that the stipulation order does apply to the diocese, then the Southern Cone diocese may be forced to turn over all diocesan endowments and property to the diocese affiliated with The Episcopal Church.

On the other hand, if the court finds that the stipulation order applies only to congregations, then the Southern Cone diocese will still need to respond to the May 12 complaint for declaratory judgment made by The Episcopal Church.

In other news from Pittsburgh, the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson has agreed to continue as an assisting bishop of the Episcopal diocese through the annual convention in the fall. Bishop Johnson originally planned to stay through July. He agreed to remain in Pittsburgh at least one week a month into autumn after being asked to do so by the diocesan standing committee.

“He has been extremely influential in bringing us together and helping us rebuild. We’re pleased to have his extraordinary pastoral presence for another three months,” said the Rev. James Simons, standing committee president.

The actual motion can be found here-

Sudan asks for Removal of Va. Missionary

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has requested the permanent removal of the Rev. Lauren Stanley, an appointed missionary from the Diocese of Virginia, whose comments in favor of legislation moving forward with same-sex blessings during the annual council meeting earlier this year “were deemed offensive.”

The May 13 issue of Virginia E-Communiqué, a weekly newsletter published by the Diocese of Virginia, included a statement from the bishop’s office that the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, Bishop of Virginia, had ordered Ms. Stanley to return to Virginia after receiving a request for her removal from the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop of Sudan. Ms. Stanley has been a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, where she taught theology, liturgy, and English and served as a chaplain.

The news was first reported by Mary Ailes, who maintains a blog about Anglican issues. In a May 13 entry, Ms. Ailes reports that during debate of a resolution on same-sex blessings at the annual council in January, Ms. Stanley defended an amendment to add that council “affirms the inherent integrity of and blessedness of committed Christian relationships,” to a resolution. After another delegate said the amendment would do irreparable harm to the mission relationship, Ms. Stanley reportedly told council that the amendment would not be a problem for the Sudan, because the issue is of minimal concern to the majority of its people. The amendment subsequently was approved and the resolution adopted.

“Lauren has served faithfully in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan, for nearly four years, receiving the widespread support among her students and the local community,” said Bishop Lee. “In addition, she has worked hard to spread the story of the gospel, and of the Church in the Sudan, in parishes in the United States. Lauren is now seeking a new mission placement for which she has the support of the bishops.”


Bishop calls for MPs to be sacked

The Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill spoke out as he joined fellow Church of England bishops to urge people to vote in the European elections.

He said he had been "absolutely scandalised" by some of the stories which had come out.
But he added most MPs had not been fiddling their expenses and people should not be put off from voting.

He said: "I've felt like I don't want to vote either, or at least I don't know how to vote.
"But then, when you step back a bit, you realise the vast majority of MPs have not been fiddling their expenses and we must be careful not to bring down the whole democratic system."
He urged people to keep using their vote "so we can insist that all the decent and honest MPs reform and clarify their expenses system".

The Lichfield diocese covers Staffordshire, most of Shropshire and part of the Black Country and West Midlands.

I'm not disturbed by my arraignment—Guobadia

FORMER chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC), Dr. Abel Guobadia, (pictured) declared weekend that his arraignment at a magistrate court in Benin City for alleged defamation against the Anglican Bishop of Benin Diocese, Rev. Peter Imasuen, was not an embarrassment to him.

He said that the situation could have been embarrassing if he had been convicted of the 4-count charge of defamation and publishing false information against the Anglican Bishop, just as he expressed his desire to ensure that the case got to its logical conclusion.
Guobadia, who spoke to newsmen at his GRA residence in Benin City, insisted that the Anglican Bishop was guilty of the allegation against him and said he was ready to go ahead with the suit as “ at the end of the day, the world will see that he is not supposed to be a Bishop in the first place”.

Dr. Guobadia traced the crisis in the church to the demand by the youths and elders of the church for the creation of an additional Diocese out of the present Benin Diocese in 2008.
He said that the Primate of Anglican Church in Nigeria , Rev. Peter Akinola, had visited Benin to mediate on the face off between the Bishop and the elders in which the bishop was made to apologise to the elders.

He stressed the need for the leadership of Anglican Church in the country to take an urgent decision on the crisis rocking the church in Edo state.
According to him, “ there are indications that more elders of the Anglican Church will be arrested in relation with the ongoing suit at the Benin Magistrate Court because, we as elders of the church must be on the side of the truth.

“ If you say you are a Bishop, why will you be arresting your members because of the truth? But we are not bothered because we believe that the leadership of the Anglican communion will find solution to the problem”.

Dr Guobadia was arraigned, alongside a prominent Benin-based lawyer, Mr. Samuel Urhoghide, in a Benin magistrate court last Wednesday for a four-count charge of defamation of the character of the Bishop of the Diocese.

More here-

Seafarer chaplaincy confronts piracy fears

From the Cristian Century a report which includes the Seaman's Church Institute- (I wonder if the Somalians wear the nifty hats?)

The recent dramatic high seas rescue of a merchant ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates stirred a public debate on whether cargo vessels should be armed. It also drew attention to the more than 1 million mariners who are essential in transporting 90 percent of the world's traded goods, including humanitarian aid to needy countries. And it gave voice to the little-noticed chaplains who provide hospitality to mariners at ports in 126 countries.

The U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama was headed April 8 to Kenya with relief shipments from USAID, the World Food Program and other relief agencies when the ship was boarded by four pirates some 300 miles off Somalia. The crisis ended days later when U.S. Navy sharpshooters killed three of the pirates.

At a U.S. Senate committee hearing April 30, the skipper, Captain Richard Phillips, said it is the U.S. government's responsibility to protect any ship flying an American flag. Phillips said an armed brigade of specially trained crew members might deter pirate attacks. But John Clancy, chair of the private shipping line, differed in his testimony, saying that arming and training crew officers would be too expensive and could escalate a deadly arms race with already well-armed pirates.

At the New York-based Seamen's Church Institute, the largest and most comprehensive of U.S. maritime ministries, the "consensus is that arming merchant ships is probably not the best solution," said Douglas Stevenson, director of the Center for Seafarers' Rights.

"There are no simple answers," he said, adding that both the Episcopal Church-related Seamen's Church Institute and the International Christian Maritime Association have studied the growing peril for years. Since 2003, more than 1,660 merchant mariners have been kidnapped or taken hostage, according to industry figures.

The rest-

Good Stuf in TEC: Colorado

Potatoes for the People

When the Basalt Episcopal Church decided to help feed families in need, members of the congregation decided against simply handing over a check or dry goods to a food bank. They wanted to grow what they give.

So members of St. Peter’s of the Valley plowed up the back yard of their church in Elk Run this spring, and on Sunday they planted 50 pounds of the Red McClure potato, a variety that nearly disappeared decades after being developed in the Carbondale area early in the 20th century.

Rev. Margaret Austin said the parish wanted to provide something that every family can use.

“What’s more basic and a staple than potatoes?” she asked.

Parish members Lynne Mace and Sissy Sutro, who share a love of gardening, coordinated the program. Sutro organized a community garden in the back yard of St. Peter’s last year and wanted to revive the effort this year. Mace, who recently joined the congregation, raised the prospect of using the plots to grow food for Roaring Fork families in need. Sutro and Austin loved the concept, and “Potatoes for the People” — as Mace dubbed it — was born.

More here-

Good Stuf in TEC: Texas

Nice story from Texas about a priest who is leaving his congregation after leading it through significant growth-

Come midday May 17, when the Reverend David Read utters the service’s last “Hallelujah!” and descends from the St. Helena’s Episcopal Church pulpit, the priest will leave a space vacant both literally and figuratively. He’s moving to a pastorate at St. Luke’s in central San Antonio.

Read has been rector at St. Helena’s for over a decade, and while cardboard boxes edge their way into his office, Read allows that it’s not exactly easy meeting the challenges that such a move brings.

“It’s overwhelming in the sense that it’s just a huge change, both here and for my family and for St. Luke’s where I’m going. We’ve been here a long time,” Read said.

As the past almost 11 years brought tremendous growth to Boerne, time has altered the face of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church as well.

“In 1998 St. Helena’s was a small congregation,” Read said. “There were 150 people on Sunday, most of them older and very faithful, very loving. We had less than five youth and very, very few children.” According to Read, youth activities involved “hit and miss” attention from church members, and Sunday School meant one combined class that pooled all the youngsters together.

The church campus consisted of the historic 1929 sanctuary and an educational building. “That was it,” Read said.

These days the congregation is represented by about 450 members who gather each Sunday. The church recently built a large multi-purpose building, and has over the years purchased and spread into adjacent houses that are used as office areas, youth space and meeting rooms.

The rest is here -

Losing religion?

From North Carolina-

Nearly three million Americans are now aligning themselves with other religious movements, such as New Age and Wicca. And the number of self-declared Muslims has doubled over the last two decades from .3 to .6 percent.

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina's Episcopal Diocese says America is going through a cultural change.

"I would argue that people are more profoundly religious and expressing it, but it's coming out in new ways," he said. "You hear it in language about 'spirituality.' You may not hear it as consistently in terms of institutional religion, but the spiritual quest (is there), the hunger."

To feed that hunger, the Episcopal Diocese has launched a new ad campaign to help attract worshippers, particularly younger ones.

Duke's Professor Chaves says the numbers should be kept in context.

"It doesn't mean that there are fewer people attending religious services, going to church," he said. "Religious attendance is only slightly down or stable over the same period of time. What's happening is that more people who were probably already religiously inactive but still says, 'I'm Catholic, or I'm Baptist, or I'm Methodist, more of those people are now say 'I'm nothing'."

At Durham's New Hope Church, there's no shortage of enthusiastic worshippers.

In seven years, the congregation has grown from just the pastor's immediate family to more than 1,500 who come for Sunday services. With its Christian rock music and stage lights, New Hope's style is non-traditional to say the least.

More here-

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Archdeacon Gets On His Bike For Epic Ride

From the "Because It's There" department.

An Archdeacon has begun an epic bike ride that will see him visit each of the 180 Anglican churches on his patch.

The Ven Hugh McCurdy, Archdeacon of Huntingdon and Wisbech, started the 500-mile marathon in the Huntingdon deanery two weeks ago at Great Gidding, having ridden from his home in Ely, and by Saturday evening had 40 churches under his belt.

The 70-miles-a-day slog resumed last Friday, when he visited the 15 churches in the St Neots deanery, followed by a similar number in the St Ives deanery, north of the river, on June 12.

June 17 and 18 will see him in the 25 churches of the Wisbech Lynne Marshland deanery, followed by the Fincham and Feltwell deanery on June 24 and 25.

He returns to churches in Sawtry and surrounding villages on June 29, concluding with the March and Ely areas in a saddle-sore July.

"Some people think I'm completely mad. Others want to join in," said the 51-year-old economist and former Vicar of Histon, who has been archdeacon since 2005.

But he is no stranger to long-distance cycling, having recently completed the coast-to-coast ride between Whitehaven in Cumbria and Whitby in north Yorkshire. "The fish and chips in Whitby were wonderful at the end of that ride but, if I accepted all the hospitality I've been offered this time, I would have difficulty getting on the bike."

The charity marathon, which covers the whole of north Cambridgeshire and parts of south Norfolk, is to celebrate Ely Cathedral's 900 years at the heart of the Christian community.

The Hunts Post caught up with him at Fenstanton Parish Church on Saturday, May 2, where he is pictured with, from left, sub-churchwarden Philip Blunt, church council member Jane Blunt, churchwarden Martyn Saunders and treasurer Joy Saunders.

Finding, sharing faith on Facebook

Welcome to the online church/synagogue/mosque of the 21st century.

Here you can follow congregants' "tweets" about sermons delivered at Westwinds Community Church by Michigan pastor John Voelz.

Log on to Texas pastor Laura Heikes' podcast sermons -- one posted recently when swine flu worries shut down worship at First United Methodist Church in New Braunfels.

And in this new spiritual landscape, it's easy to find out what Roanoke College Lutherans are doing. Just "friend" Virginia Synod Youth Programs Director David Delaney, who organizes events and posts announcements via Facebook from his Salem office.

"Facebook is now the primary mode of communication with young adults," according to Delaney, who said he has about 1,200 Facebook friends. "If I want to get something out to the college-aged crowd, the first thing I do is send out a message through Facebook."

E-mail, Delaney said, is now his second choice.

From prayer tweets to YouTube religious education videos, faith groups across the country and in the Roanoke and New River valleys are using online social networking in the millennia-old pursuit of evangelism and ministry.

And none of those tools has proven more powerful than Facebook.

Launched in 2004, today the site claims 200 million subscribers around the world, who can connect to friends, family and even strangers. Friends can then invite each other to events and parties, share interactive photo albums and video and audio files, even play a Facebook version of Scrabble.

more here-

Good Stuf in TEC: Colorado

Takin’ it to the street: Outdoor church services minister to the homeless

With his clerical collar peeking out from under his gray sweatshirt, the Rev. Marc Genty welcomes his modest-sized congregation, thanking its members for believing in “the crazy notion of having church on the street.”

“I have seen Jesus more clearly standing here in this park than I have ever in my life,” Genty told a crowd of more than 30 gathered May 8 at downtown Longmont’s Collyer Park.

Genty, a deacon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fort Collins, heads the Common Cathedral, an outdoor ecumenical church for the homeless in Longmont.

Each week, a small throng convenes to worship and eat, usually sack meals provided by Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement’s Soup Angels program.

But the May 8 service included cakes and burgers to mark Common Cathedral’s one-year anniversary.

Many who attend the weekly services are homeless, are in transitional housing or recently have left the streets, Genty said. Others are curious neighbors or people seeking an ecumenical spiritual experience, he said.

“Wherever we are, we just try to be incredibly good neighbors,” he said.

Give the poor padre a break

From the Pittsburgh Trib-

Father Alberto Cutie, the widely popular priest at St. Francis de Sales in Miami Beach, was photographed cavorting romantically on a Florida beach.

The good news: He was with a woman, thank God, not an altar boy.

Given the torrent of sordid revelations in recent years, the church should be positively giddy with relief that one of its rising stars was caught snuggling with a very adult-looking female.

No apparent felony was in progress while Cutie and his companion rolled in the sand, although he obviously wasn't administering one of the sacraments.

After the photos were published by a Spanish-language magazine, Cutie apologized for his actions and church authorities removed him from his post at St. Francis de Sales.

The decision has upset many parishioners and reopened the debate over the celibacy vow that Catholic priests still are required to take. No one knows how many wise and decent men have been deterred from pursuing the priesthood by the moldy rule -- imposed almost four centuries after Christ died -- that forbids sex or marriage.

Not surprisingly, the number of active priests has been shrinking precipitously for decades and the church is starved for novitiates. My late uncle was a priest who taught at a Washington seminary that had once been bustling; these days the dorms are nearly empty. The church won't attract many new candidates for the priesthood by punishing Cutie, one of its most charismatic and well-known young clerics.

That's not to say his judgment that morning on the beach was razor-sharp. A vow is a vow.

More Here-