Saturday, June 6, 2009

Good Stuff: St. Michael's Fair Today

The annual St. Michael's Country Fair is today Saturday, June 6, from 9 until 2. A tradition of the church for over fifty years there's lots to do. Rummage, used books, white elephant, horse rides, kids games, great music, and of course lots of good food. All the proceeds go to local charities. Pictured is Carol Fenton and me at set up last night with a hat and glasses found in rummage. Looks like I'm about to break into a chorus of "Crocodile Rock"!

Come and join us we're on Rt. 381 in Rector just three miles north of Ligonier, PA

Church property ruling expected soon

Valley Anglicans who left the Episcopal Church to reject homosexual clergy are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Will they lose the churches where they worship as a result of their split with the national church and Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin? The answer could come any day over the next two months.

The stakes are high after more than 40 churches from Lodi to Bakersfield and from the coast to the Nevada border left the Fresno-based diocese. They joined the Anglicans because of differences with the national Episcopal body over same-sex blessings, the ordination of a gay bishop and the authority of Scripture.

The local court case involving church property doesn't look good for the Anglicans after a Fresno judge's tentative ruling in early May favored the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, which remains with 19 Episcopal congregations. The final ruling must be made within 90 days or by Aug. 3.

"I was obviously disappointed in the tentative ruling," says Bill Atwood, of Bass Lake, an Anglican parishioner at Christ Church in Oakhurst. "I'm hopeful and prayerful the judge would give it some thought and be fair and correct -- and that he would rule in favor of the Anglicans who have departed."

More here-

Episcopal bishop appears headed for defeat

The election of an Episcopal bishop in Michigan who has practiced Buddhist meditation and changed traditional church prayers appears headed for defeat, according to an unofficial tally kept by a newspaper reporter.

The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester was elected bishop of the sparsely populated Diocese of Northern Michigan in February. Under Episcopal Church rules, a majority of bishops and 111 regional standing committees must vote to ratify his election before it is valid.

On Friday (June 5), the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has kept an unofficial running tally of the voting, reported that 56 standing committees—a majority—have voted to withhold their “consents.”

The official tally will not be known until at least late July, when all of the ballots are due.

Linda Piper, president of the Diocese of Northern Michigan’s standing committee, which keeps the official tally, would not confirm the report. But, she said, “Do I think this is probably the way it’s going to go? Unfortunately, I would not be surprised.”

Piper acknowledged it would be an “uphill climb,” for Thew Forrester to get the consents he needs.

Thew Forrester said, “My understanding is that the standing committees and diocesan bishops have 120 days to give consent, which means the process continues to unfold until the third week of July. Along with the Diocese of Northern Michigan, I recognize the integrity and wisdom of the consent process and wait until its conclusion.”

Thew Forrester is rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette, Mich. Soon after his election by the diocese, conservative church bloggers from across the country discovered that he practices Zen meditation and received “lay ordination” from a Buddhist community.

The rest is here-

Canada- Church lawsuit in court

A three-week trial is underway in Vancouver that will determine who gets the keys to St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Abbotsford – the Diocese of New Westminster, or the local congregation.

In February 2008 the church voted – by a majority of 186 to four – to break away from the Anglican Church of Canada over the issue of same-sex blessings.

Linda Seale of Abbotsford is a St. Matthew’s trustee, and was the only local person to testify.

Hearings began on May 25. Four churches are involved in the court proceedings, including St. John’s Shaughnessy Anglican Church, which is the largest and one of the wealthiest parishes in Canada, and St. Matthias and St. Luke, which are also in the Vancouver area.

Seale’s testimony surrounded differences that she was having with the diocese and Bishop Michael Ingham even before same-sex blessings began in 2002, as she saw the diocese “moving away from what we considered core Christian and Anglican values.”

She said the theological division came about over differences about “the authority of the Bible.”

The court will also be looking at who contributed to the church buildings and assets.

More here-

Several Episcopal churches in Fort Worth Diocese are outgrowing their spaces

Growing congregations are prompting some parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to seek bigger spaces for worship and Sunday school classes.

Three parishes that were displaced after some congregations realigned themselves with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in November have outgrown their temporary spaces, said Katie Sherrod, diocese spokeswoman.

On Sunday, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hurst will begin holding services at the Northeast Wedding Chapel, 1843 Precinct Line Road in Hurst. They had been meeting at the Oak Crest Woman’s Club in Hurst.

In Wichita Falls, All Saints Episcopal Church and the Church of the Good Shepherd, which had been meeting in a hospital chapel, will worship at the Arc, 3115 Buchanan St. in Wichita Falls.

In other news, the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick Jr. will extend an initial six-month term as provisional bishop for the Fort Worth Diocese at least until mid-November. Gulick divides his time between the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky and the Fort Worth Diocese.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Majority of standing committees oppose bishop-elect

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem decided today to withhold consent to the election of the Rev. Kevin G. Thew Forrester as bishop-elect of Northern Michigan.

The vote was confirmed this evening (June 4, 2009) by committee president Canon Robert Wilkins. The committee is preparing a statement explaining the vote and hopes to have it ready tomorrow.

Fifty-six standing committees have now decided to withhold consent, while 29 have given consent, according to a survey by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Roughly 16 committees, including seven based outside the United States, are still in the discernment process. Another 10 or so committees have voted, but are currently declining to reveal their vote.

Barring last-minute vote-switching by dioceses across the country, Thew Forrester will not be seated by the House of Bishops. He would be the first bishop-elect to be vetoed by a majority of the Episcopal Church’s 111 standing committees since at least the 1930s.

(The election of the bishop-elect of South Carolina, the Rev. Mark Lawrence, was declared “null-and void” in 2007 because of paperwork-related “canonical deficiencies” after Lawrence reportedly had received consent from a very narrow majority of the standing committees. Lawrence was elected on the second go-round.)

Thew Forrester, the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette, Mich., was overwhelmingly elected bishop by representatives of the Diocese of Northern Michigan on Feb. 21. Since then, he has been heavily criticized on theological and liturgical grounds. Critics said Thew Forrester altered the denomination’s baptismal covenant to make it more closely reflect his own personal theological views. He likewise rewrote the church’s Easter Vigil and reworked the Apostles’ Creed. Critics said the changes removed or obscured key Christian teachings about the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the problem of sin, the will of God and the identity of Jesus as the eternally divine and only-begotten Son of God.

More here-

Northern Michigan diocese, bishop-elect will 'respect' consent process

While some unofficial tallies show that Kevin Thew Forrester will not receive the canonically required consents to his ordination as bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, he said June 5 that he and the diocese will "respect" the entire 120-day consent period.

"I continue to respect that 120 days," Thew Forrester told ENS. "The process has a wisdom and integrity of its own. The diocese and I have respected that all the way through and will continue to do that. When the process concludes, I will have something more to say."

Thew Forrester, chosen during a special convention on February 21 to succeed James Kelsey who died in June, 2007, has come under intense scrutiny since his election.

Initially, concern centered on Thew Forrester's status as the only candidate at the convention and the question of whether his practice of Zen Buddhist meditation has diluted his commitment to the Christian faith, making him unsuitable to serve as a bishop. That attention led to the internet publication of some of Thew Forrester's sermons and writings along with a revision he made to the Episcopal Church's baptismal liturgy, raising further concern among some about his theology.

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.4 (a)) that apply for all episcopal elections, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to Thew Forrester's ordination as bishop within 120 days from the day after notice of his election was sent to them. In Thew Forrester's case, standing committees have until July 19 and bishops with jurisdiction have until July 25.

The Rev. Canon Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS that the consent process for a bishop-elect lasts the full 120 days as prescribed by the canons of the church, unless that person receives the required majority of consents before the period is over, at which time an announcement can be made. Until the required number of consents is received, or the 120 day period ends, bishops and standing committees are able to change their vote, he said.

Fifty-six diocesan standing committees and 52 bishops with jurisdiction must give their consents for Thew Forrester to be ordained. The lesser number of bishops is due to the fact that some diocesan sees are vacant or currently filled by assisting bishops who are not eligible to vote.

There are at least three unofficial running tallies of consent votes being updated on the internet. One is being compiled by Frank Lockwood, the religion editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, on his BibleBeltBlogger website. Another is on the Stand Firm in Faith website. Another, tallied by writer David Virtue is here.

more here-

Christians urged to pray for the environment

His call comes in the run up to crucial UN talks about t climate change later this year in Copenhagen.

The Archbishop said it was vital that Christians took the lead on this issue and that a new deal at the UN summit could directly improve the lives of the world’s poor.

He said: “Whilst it will be for governments meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree a successor to the Kyoto regime for global reductions in carbon emissions - and we all want those to be both ambitious and deliverable - we have a part to play.

“Governments need to know that people want them to be ambitious. They need a mandate. So what can we do? I think there are two things we can do. We can, and we should, pray.”

He went on to say that climate change was an ‘issue of justice’ and that generally the poorest are most likely to suffer.

Environment Sunday takes place each year and, before 2004, was called Conservation Sunday.

Christian Ecology Link has also endorsed the day.

It said: “With Species extinctions occurring at 1000 to 10,000 times the natural rate, fish stocks plummeting, climate change increasing and the world population still expanding, Care of the Environment for future generations is vital.

100 days of Patriarch Kirill

From the London telegraph. (The Orthodox always get the best hats!)

Patriarch Kirill was installed in office on February 1. His first 100 days have been marked by innovation not only in terms of style, but also in substance – much like the reign of Pope John Paul II.

“Today, the church and society are in fact one and the same thing,” a spokesman for Kirill said. “Our believers go to discotheques and rock concerts, and if there’s a chance to give some church tinge to such youth gatherings, if young people are glad to hear a few words from a priest, why shouldn’t he go there and say a few words?”

On March 8 in Moscow, Kirill showed the type of spirit that he is bringing to his pastoral task. He warned during a Sunday sermon not to trust radical Orthodox believers who are battling for the “purity of faith” and whose motto is “Orthodoxy or death!”

“When we meet a man who claims to be fighting for the purity of Orthodoxy, but his eyes are lit with the fire of anger… if we find someone who is ready to shake the foundation of church life to defend Orthodoxy… this is the first sign of that we have a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he said.
On March 17, during a ceremony at the Danilovsky Monastery marking the return of the church bells that had spent the past 80 years in safekeeping at Harvard University, Kirill told John Beyrle, the US ambassador to Russia, that the bells were a symbol of the improving relationship between the two countries.

On April 1, Kirill met Putin and said his goal was to make the churches that were opened during the reign of Alexy II flourish. In this way, Kirill hopes to bring benefit to Russian society by promoting Christian values.

More here-

Fund Loss Delays Some English Ordinations

The organization which manages the Church of England’s financial assets announced recently that its portfolio had declined by more than 20 percent, or $2.1 billion, during the recent economic downturn.

As a result of the loss, the church cannot guarantee employment for all of this year’s graduates from theological colleges. In the Church of England, graduates cannot be ordained until they have secured placement as a curate.

One theological college principal, who was interviewed by the Daily Mail, called the jobs crisis a “tragedy and a travesty,” and suggested that he and his colleagues would complain to the House of Bishops about the decision to cut funding for curates.

“The Church of England agrees these individuals are called to the priesthood,” said the Rev. Richard Turnbull of Oxford’s Wycliffe Hall. “It agrees that they have been fully and successfully trained. It says they are ready for ordination as priests. Then it just walks away.”

Fr. Turnbull said the church already had spent the equivalent of nearly $50,000 training each student. He said at least 11 graduates still had not found employment, and several others have accepted secular employment. Nearly all the unplaced students had trained at three evangelical colleges, according to Fr. Turnbull. He suggested that they had been denied employment because many English bishops do not approve of conservative theology.

A church spokesman told the Mail most students had found jobs and that attempts to find employment for the remainder were ongoing, but he added that at some point “dioceses must decide how many clergy they can afford.”

The Church Commissioners, who manage more than $9 billion of the church’s assets, contribute about 16 percent toward the Church of England’s annual operating expenses, mainly in the form of clergy salaries, retiree pensions, and upkeep of buildings. The organization recently said it will not be able to maintain the current level of contribution for much longer. Under new rules recently implemented, the church’s 44 dioceses will be expected to pay a larger proportion of clergy pensions.

More here-

Williams and Tutu attract large crowds at Hay Festival

IN RECENT YEARS, the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts has invited a number of critics of religion to speak. Writers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have railed against faith before largely approving audiences.

Peter Florence, the festival director, confessed that the event had become a “bastion of anti-theism”, to the extent that it had established a new orthodoxy.

This year, by way of redressing the balance, he invited the “brightest and best” that religion had to offer. As part of this project, the festival hosted the presentation of the Michael Ramsey Prize for Theo logical Writing (Books, 22 May), and on the day that it did so it was possible to find someone speaking about God or faith in every time-slot.

Hay’s new openness to people of faith began with a lecture from Andrew Mottram, the director of Ecclesiastical Property Solutions, on the part played by church buildings in the community today. But the first big crowd of the day — indeed, so big that the venue was switched — went to the Archbishop of Canter bury, who discussed his book on Dostoevsky with A. N. Wilson.
Dostoevsky was a “hairy maniac”, Dr Williams said, and described himself as a “polite Anglican” in comparison. But, Dr Williams went on, despite the Russian author’s personal religious dogmatism, his novels do not “load the dice” in favour of Christianity, but give serious credence to the view that faith is unnecessary and unhelpful. “The Devil gets some good tunes” in his books, even if he is convinced that religion will always be relevant.

Mr Wilson pointed out that Dr Williams’s ability to discuss liter ature was a historical rarity among Primates. But the Archbishop went on to say that words were not always the best tool for understanding God.

When asked what the Church would look like if it took God seriously, Dr Williams expressed frustration at having to deal with “institutional fire-fighting” rather than being able to concentrate on answers. When he had time to think about it, however, he began to real ise that the Church talked too much. If it could learn the value of silence, it would be closer to “getting God right” than when it was being endlessly chatty.

The rest is here-

Here Come the Churches

From the American Spectator-

The old Episcopal Church will itself convene in July with its triennial General Convention in Anaheim, California. Somewhat surprisingly, even after Bishop Robinson's election, the denomination has not formally ratified rites for same-sex unions. Reluctance to further offend the nearly 80 million member global Anglican Communion, most of which is now rooted among conservative Africans, is one factor. The 2006 General Convention, hoping to mollify the Communion, had even called for not electing new bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

Of course, some liberal Episcopal dioceses have unilaterally touted same-sex rites. But formal ratification by the General Convention, speaking for the whole denomination, would more directly provoke the Anglican Communion and still numerous conservative dioceses, local churches and individuals who remain in the Episcopal Church. The church's House of Bishops, pledged in 2007 "as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions." This pledge has not precluded some individual bishops from blessing same sex unions. Likely the General Convention will fall short of openly ratifying same sex rites, while permitting local dioceses to continue as they please.

More here-

Anglicans encouraged to envision their future this Sunday

From Canada-

This Sunday, June 7, is one of two Sundays this year suggested by the Anglican Church of Canada’s Vision 2019 committee as days for Anglicans across the country to ask themselves, “Where is your church now, and where do you think the Anglican Church of Canada should be in 2019?”

The ambitious project, launched earlier this year, aims to get input from all Canadian Anglicans to help shape a new, long-term strategic plan for the church that will be presented to General Synod when it meets in Halifax in June 2010. Parishes, groups and individuals can send their answers to the General Synod offices in Toronto in the format that best suits them – written letters, e-mails, voicemail or videos. Those responses will be gathered and analyzed by the committee, which is comprised of volunteers and a professional analyst. With the permission of the person or group submitting, the response will be posted on the Anglican Church of Canada’s Web site.

Responses can come in any time before Oct. 1, said Lisa Barry, senior producer at Anglican Video, who is head of a staff group in charge of the project, but she says June 7 and the fall date, Sept. 13, are dates chosen to help focus congregations’ attention and energies on the question and, judging by a surge of requests for materials such as videos, postcards and posters, she said there is a lot of interest.

Rev. Dan Graves of Holy Trinity in Thornhill, Ont. told the committee that his parish has plans to participate in a simple and low tech way. During the prayers of the people this Sunday, everyone will take a moment to write one prayer for the church and then drop it in the offering plate. “I wish I’d thought of that idea and promoted it,” said Ms. Barry. “It’s a great idea because one of the stumbling blocks we’re hearing about it is (people say) ‘That’s such a big question; I need time,’ and when you take time you know you don’t do it.” But she said it doesn’t have to be a daunting assignment. It can be a simple prayer or a thought that allows people to weigh in. “It’s just for the church to listen to and say this is a direction.”

More here-

Good Stuf in TEC: Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, Episcopalians minister to prisoners, work for parole reform

After serving two years in an Oklahoma state prison, Melissa Serrano was paroled, but not released. At least not until six months later.
For another prisoner, Noel (who asked that his real name be withheld), the wait between parole and release was longer, about four years.

While they wait, Episcopalians in Oklahoma minister to their needs, and advocate for changes in the parole system, which now causes paroled prisoners like Melissa and Noel to remain in prison while the state's governor approves the parole board's granting of parole. The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma passed a resolution at its 2008 convention calling for action to change the way the state deals with parole.

"I went to the parole board June 25, 2008 and so I was expecting to be released" soon afterwards, recalled Serrano, a 40-year-old disabled mother and grandmother with congestive heart failure, during a recent telephone interview from her Tulsa home.

But, since the state constitution requires that the governor approve every parole, pardon and commutation of sentence, Serrano was told it would take 30 days before her jacket, or case file, even reached Governor C. Brad Henry's desk.

"After 45 days, my mother started calling (Henry's office) and they kept saying he's reviewing it, that it could take anywhere from 60 to 90 days," recalled Serrano, who was a nonviolent offender at the minimum-to-medium security Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, about 140 miles east of Oklahoma City. "She called every other week, then every week. And then she called every day. And it was 100 days, and it just kept going and going."

The rest is here-

Name gay study group, say activists

From the Church Times in England-

THERE have been calls this week for the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the US to identify members of a group set up to undertake a theological study of same-sex relationships in the life of the Church.

The group is described as “a diverse and balanced panel of theologians”, and has already begun its work, having been appointed by the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee. It has been designed “to be a contribution to the listening process of the Anglican Communion”.

The Chicago Consultation is calling on the Bishops to name the scholars on the new panel. The Consultation’s co-convener, Ruth Meyers, Professor of Liturgics at Seabury Western Theological Seminary, said it was “saddened that the House of Bishops Theology Committee has chosen to begin this important scholarly work without making public the names . . .

“Such important work deserves to be no less than a model of the transparent governance that the Episcopal Church has upheld for centuries. As theologians, priests, bishops, and lay people . . . we call upon the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee to release at once the names.”

Louie Crew, founder of the pro-gay Integrity network, described the decision to keep the group anonymous as “an abomination”.

However, the Rt Revd Henry Parsley, Jr., who chairs the Theological Committee, said on Wednesday that to keep the names secret was the best way of ensuring that the subject was fully discussed.

In his response to the calls for openness, posted on the diocese of Washington’s Episcopal Café blog, he said that the panel “very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.

The rest is here-

Church awaits court decision on possible eviction.

After a lengthy legal battle with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles over the St. Luke’s of the Mountains Anglican Church on Foothill Boulevard, the more than 200-member congregation is bracing for word from a state appeals court on its potential eviction.

A decision from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, based in San Diego, is expected this summer, after oral arguments in the appeal to the July 2007 Los Angeles Superior Court ruling upholding the church’s eviction ended in May.

Since then, the congregation has been waiting for a court decision that could force them out of the historic church property.

“We are waiting in expectation to see what God has in store for us next,” said Debbie Kollgaard, St. Luke’s senior warden.

The legal battle began when St. Luke’s parishioners voted to split from the Episcopal Church in February 2006, citing theological differences. They then joined the Anglican Province of Uganda, triggering a lawsuit from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, which claimed that the church property was owned by the Episcopal Church.

St. Luke’s vestry, a 12-member governing body, argued that the property and 83-year-old church building belonged to its congregation.

More here-

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rare copy of 'contract with God' to fetch an unholy price

A RARE copy of one of the most important documents in Scottish history is expected to fetch thousands when it is auctioned in Edinburgh.

A copy of the National Covenant, a "contract with God" created in Edinburgh in 1638, will go up for sale at Lyon & Turnbull Auctioneers on Friday.

It is a chance to own a genuine record of a time of great political and religious strife in Scotland. The document was created after King Charles I, (pictured in a nifty hat) who saw himself as the "Godly Prince", attempted to introduce an Anglican prayer book into the Scottish Kirk, sparking fierce opposition.

A group of Scottish nobles got together at Greyfriars Kirkyard and drew up the National Covenant, which affirmed Scotland's opposition to interference in their reformed church.

The contract was then copied and dispatched to every shire, presbytery and parish of Scotland for signature.

"It's not known how many copies of the National Covenant were made," said Alex Dove, book specialist at Lyon & Turnbull Auctioneers.

"Frequent audits have been done throughout the 20th century and each time they're done they uncover more and more of them, so we think there are at least 100 still around. The copy we have for sale was sent to and signed by the people of Renfrewshire.

"It was purchased in the 1950s from a bookseller by a private collector of manuscripts for £100, a not inconsiderable sum at the time but by all accounts the collector was extremely happy with the price he paid.

The rest is here-


Book Review

This is the biography of Eglantyne Jebb, the woman who with her youngest sister co-founded the Save the Children Fund. Her parents, Anglican Conservatives in Shropshire, instilled into all their six children a strong social conscience and a commitment to public service. Following an idyllic childhood, she came to Oxford in 1895, just after her 19th birthday, to study history at Lady Margaret Hall. She threw herself into university life, spending part of her Easter break in the second year in Bethnal Green.

After graduation, she decided to teach in an under-funded school for working-class girls, where she found the classes of 60 something of a trial. She realised she had no natural talent for teaching, but persevered in an easier school in Wiltshire, before finally giving up because of ill-health, declaring ironically in her diary: “I don’t care for children.” The book continues with accounts of Eglantyne’s two major love affairs, her interest in spiritualism, her relief work in the Balkans, and public arrest in Trafalgar Square in 1919 for distributing “starving baby” leaflets, printed to publicise the claim that German children were starving as a direct result of British post-war economic policy.

Her subsequent trial for distributing seditious leaflets, an offence defined by the Defence of the Realm Act, was a massive PR coup for her and was followed by a public meeting in an overflowing Albert Hall, where a spontaneous collection was taken: the Save the Children fund had been started.
The rest of this account describes the development and successes of the Fund, Eglantyne’s other humanitarian work, and her involvement in the development of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1923, but yet to be realised worldwide
More here-

Orombi: End child sacrifice

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi yesterday asked all parents to tell their children to write a petition to President Museveni to hammer home the urgency needed in checking child sacrifice.

At the Anglican service to celebrate Martyrs Day, Bishop Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu of Mityana, who was the main celebrant, asked that all activities of traditional herbalists and witches be stopped and challenged parliamentarians to take the lead in the fight against the vice.

“Those children who are sacrificed daily; remember their eyes are looking at you because they are crying,” he said.
“Let us ask Parliament to help have these witchdoctors chased away instead of debating laws that will protect them,” the bishop told the congregation.

Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was in the congregation, while Minister without Portfolio Dorothy Hyuha represented the government.

Archbishop Orombi said because very many children have lost their lives in suspected cases of ritual sacrifice, all parents had been asked to tell their children to write a petition to the President and him (Orombi).

“The trend of ungodliness has come to our country. We believe it is a social evil that must be stopped. Children should write their concerns and forward them to me and I will deliver their voices to the President,” he said.

Uganda commemorates martyrs' day

THOUSANDS of Christians yesterday braved the scorching sun and later an afternoon downpour to pay homage to the Christian martyrs in Namugongo.

The function marked 123 years since 45 Christian converts, 22 Catholics and 23 Anglicans, were killed at the orders of the Kabaka of Buganda, Basamula Mwanga II, after they refused to denounce their faith.

The majority of martyrs were burnt to death while others were beheaded and castrated in 1886. The 22 Catholic martyrs were canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

In addition to the 22 catholics killed by Mwanga, 2 other martyrs, Gildo Irwa and Daudi Okello who died in northern Uganda in the early 1900s and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002 are also on the list.

At the shrine of the Catholic martyrs, MPs from western Uganda, including NRM secretary general Amama Mbabazi and Henry Banyenzaki, excited the crowd when they joined in to perform the kitagururo, a traditional Bakiga dance.

The two have been at loggerheads over the Temangalo land issue, while Banyenzaki is on the NRM list of so-called ‘rebel MPs’.

Pilgrims travelled from as far as Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, the DR Congo and Burundi, some on foot, while others flew in from the US, Europe, Zambia and Nigeria. This year’s celebrations were led by Kabale diocese, with Bishop Callist Rubaramira as chief celebrant. He was assisted by the archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.

President Yoweri Museveni attended the Catholic celebrations, along with the widow of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, cabinet ministers, opposition leaders and MPs. Among the opposition leaders were Kizza Besigye (FDC), Ssebaana Kizito (DP), Miria Obote (UPC) and Ken Lukyamuzi (CP).

“Consider the short time the martyrs had known faith. Within six years, they became committed to Jesus and were ready to die for him. They could not be compromised in the evils of their time. They walked to their deaths singing hymns,” Rubaramira said in his sermon.

He decried Christians who indulge in evil practices such as corruption, intolerance, ritual murder, abortion and witchcraft. President Museveni, who greeted the congregation in about seven languages, quoted the parable of the talents, decrying Ugandans who do not use their talents.

More here-

Repairing 8 Years of Flawed U.S. Policy: BY John Chane

What do you hope to hear from President Obama in his "major speech to the Muslim world" on June 4? How do you feel about his choosing Egypt as the location for such an address?

There is much riding on President Obama's speech to the Muslim world which will take place in Egypt when he visits Cairo University June 4th. It is no secret that relationships need to be repaired after 8 years of flawed U.S. Foreign Policy. This visit and what is offered by the president will determine what the next 4 years of Middle East U.S. Foreign Policy will look like.

As for priorities, this very first visit by the President must assure leaders such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Hosmi Mubarak of Egypt that the United States seeks a new cooperative, respectful relationship that will serve the interests of all 3 countries, especially as those interests attempt to seek a two state solution that is fair and equitable to both Palestine and Israel.

The second is to encourage a much stronger, collective leadership from the Muslim countries of the Middle East and their leadership in accomplishing this objective.

The third is to be clear that Iran is a significant and emerging power in the Middle East. This will not be an easy sell given Iran's current isolation from its neighbors and the United States. Iran is a key player in eliminating the destructive influence of the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Iran's interests are similar to those of the United States and should be a common objective of other Middle Eastern countries.

The rest is here-

Good Stuf in TEC: North Carolina

Bring your soles for souls

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 107 Deerfield Drive in Hampstead, is participating in the second annual Barefoot Sunday on June 7th, a grassroots campaign launched by international shoe charity Soles4Souls, Inc. Soles4Souls has a simple mission -- to collect new and 'gently worn' shoes to donate to victims of natural disasters and those living in extreme poverty.

Last year, the church collected almost 100 pairs of shoes so they decided to try for larger numbers this year.

On Barefoot Sunday, the church invites its people to leave their shoes at the altar and walk out of worship services barefoot.

Community members who wish to donate shoes may drop them off at the church located behind Port City Java in Hampstead.

Good Stuf in TEC: Illinois

Evening at Grace Episcopal Churc

Celebrate both the past and the present this coming Sunday evening when Grace Episcopal Church hosts An Evening at Grace Church. The church as a worshipping community has been around nearly as long as the village of Hinsdale. Over the course of its 130-plus years, the physical church, much like the village, has changed and evolved quite a bit.

The Sunday evening community event celebrates that change -- including a new entry, expanded parking and a 21st century rectory -- with a Choral Evensong, blessing of the church's new entry, grounds and rectory and a picnic cookout. The cost of admission, in keeping with one of the church's outreach projects, is a food or cash donation for the Hinsdale Food Pantry, according to the Rev. Peter Floyd, assistant rector.

Evensong is a sung form of evening prayer, according to Floyd, that is tied into the Anglican choral tradition.

"Occasionally we try to have that type of service because it is very beautiful," he said.

And, indeed for anyone who has not experienced an Episcopal Church service, the musical form of one is particularly moving as Mark Reynertson, Grace Church's music director and organist, is a talented musician and choir leader.

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'Father Oprah' is big news in Hispanic community

It has the makings of a telenovela: A handsome Cuban-American priest and TV personality caught cavorting with his girlfriend on a Florida beach. After much soul-searching, he decides to leave the Catholic Church for his love.

Even as many Americans scratch their heads and ask "Father who?" the saga of the Rev. Alberto Cutie has become a media sensation in the Hispanic community, both here and in Latin America.

"It's in all the papers in my country," said Costa Rican masseuse Karla Nolee, herself the daughter of a former Roman Catholic priest. "He is so famous internationally, it's touched people."

Around office watercoolers and over afternoon coffee, people are talking about "Padre Alberto," even those who barely knew of him before the scandal.

Cutie — dubbed "Father Oprah" by the English-language media for his relationship advice — long exerted influence from his church pulpit in the heart of Miami Beach. The bilingual priest offered frank messages on faith and relationships delivered through syndicated columns, radio programs, television shows and a book.

His striking blue eyes, black hair and penchant for attending high-profile events — often at the latest South Beach hot spots — only added to his celebrity.

Then, last month, a Spanish-language magazine published photos of him and his girlfriend. Rather than be outraged, hundreds of parishioners demonstrated in support of him.

'Everyone just agreed to walk away' from Grace Church dispute

Litigation over the Grace Church property downtown seemed destined to drag on for years.

But all that changed Tuesday.

In a marathon mediation session, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado agreed to drop its lawsuit against 18 Anglican parish members being sued for damages. Also several motions, including an appeal of the March 24 court decision upholding the diocese's ownership of the Tejon Street church property, were quashed.

"Everyone just agreed to walk away," said Bruce Wright, who represented 17 of the 18 Anglican parish members being sued by the diocese. "It is all over."

"The diocese believed it would be good to agree to end this," said Martin Nussbaum, lead attorney for the diocese in the legal battle for the $17 million church. "All Grace Church property interests will remain with the diocese."

Tuesday's mediation ended a property dispute that began in March 2007, when the vestry of Grace Church & St. Stephen's voted to leave the Episcopal Church, join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and name Episcopal priest Donald Armstrong as its rector. The CANA parish continued to meet in Grace Church, resulting in lawsuits being filed to determine if the diocese or the CANA parish owned the property.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

FORT WORTH: Gulick to extend term as provisional bishop till November

The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick Jr. will extend his initial six-month term as provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth by about five months, until at least mid-November, according to a statement released by the diocese.
"It is very wonderful that the Holy Spirit and the people of Fort Worth have entrusted me with such an important ministry at such a significant time," Gulick said in a June 3 press release that also noted the recent appointment of an assistant diocesan chancellor and growth among some displaced diocesan congregations.

"My visitations to Episcopal parishes here have been some of the most fulfilling of my episcopacy," added Gulick, who was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky in 1994. Since February 2009, when he was unanimously elected provisional bishop of the reconstituted Fort Worth diocese, he has divided his time between the two. Initially, he intended to stay long enough to represent both dioceses at the July 8-17 General Convention in Anaheim.

"I am moved and energized by the clarity, the passion for the Gospel, and the profound commitment to the mission of the Episcopal Church that is evident in all our parishes and faith communities," said Gulick. He will continue to serve until after the November 13-14 diocesan convention.

The Diocese of Kentucky's standing committee supported the extension at an April meeting, according to the Rev. Dr. William J. Watson III, standing committee president and rector of Grace Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

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Minister wants joint martyrs celebration

ETHICS and integrity state minister James Nsaba Buturo has criticised the Catholic and Anglican churches for holding different Martyrs’ Day celebrations.

He said whilst Christians served the same God, they betrayed the spirit of brotherhood by having different celebrations.

Whilst both faiths commemorate the day, the Catholic celebrations are more pronounced.

“Christianity is supposed to unite us. I want to see Anglicans and Catholics having one big celebration for Martyrs’ Day,” Buturo said.

However, the Bishop of Mukono Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Paul Luzinda, said Buturo “should revise his books regarding the different celebrations”.

The Anglican Church seceded from the Catholic Church due to irreconcilable differences in the early 1800s, he said.

“The secession is all about the church’s history. Buturo is a Christian and I expect him to know this. More so, separate missionaries introduced the two religions in Uganda,” he said.

June 3 every year is Martyrs’ Day, a day when Christians celebrate the 45 Christians, who were killed by Kabaka Mwanga for refusing to denounce their faith.

The Martyrs had converted to Christianity, a foreign religion imported by two missionaries, Fr. Lourdel Mon Pere, nicknamed Mapeera, and Br. Amons in 1789.

Mwanga had vehemently opposed Christianity and accused the 45 of worshipping a God they had never seen.

Some historians say Christianity was a tool used by Britain to colonise Africa.

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Historic covenant signed by leaders

HUNDREDS of Catholic and Anglican clergy and parishioners as well as leaders from other Christian Churches gathered in St Stephen’s Cathedral to celebrate the signing of a new Covenant of Understanding between the two Churches.

Speaking after the May 29 event, Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane said “the signing of the covenant will bring our two Communions closer together in the future”.

“We live in a secular culture and the more Christians from different Communions bind together to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ so much the better.”

Archbishop Bathersby, Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba and Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane were joint signatories to the covenant at a combined act of worship.

The Celebration of Common Sesquicentenary and Signing of Anglican-Roman Catholic Covenant was celebrated on the 25th anniversary of Catholic 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 in Brisbane.

Archbishop Aspinall, in his homily at the May 29 event, said it “is a real joy for me to speak on this historic occasion”.

He thanked Archbishop Bathersby for the invitation to do so, continuing “tonight we celebrate a long, patient and very significant movement of God’s spirit in our two traditions and commit ourselves to move further together”.

The signing of the covenant by Archbishops Bathersby and Aspinall and Bishop Morris was a highlight of the ceremony.

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MIDDLE EAST: Jerusalem diocese receives $250,000 grant for healthcare training program

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is undertaking a training program in neurosurgery made possible by a US$250,000 grant from the TATWEER Association, a non-governmental development center based in Ramallah, with funding coming from the World Bank.
Under the direction of Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and his coordinator for healthcare institutions and services, Dr. Hisham Nassar, the project is providing three months of specialized neurosurgery training for two doctors and nine nurses from St. Luke's Hospital in Nablus. St. Luke's is one of two hospitals run by the diocese, the other being the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

"The field of neurosurgery was prioritized by the Palestinian Health ministry," according to a news release from the Jerusalem diocese.

For the training, two medical centers have been chosen -- the Palestine Hospital in Amman and the ein Karem Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. The program will include training in emergency room services, intensive care, and orthopedic units.

After the completion of the three-month program, the trainees will return to St. Luke's Hospital, which recently employed two new neurosurgery specialists.

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Facing Six-Figure Deficit, CDSP Cuts Staff

Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) has announced that five full-time staff positions would be eliminated as part of “a response to mounting financial pressures and changes in the educational needs of The Episcopal Church.” The restructuring does not affect the number of faculty positions at the Berkeley, Calif., seminary.

“In the past two days CDSP has said goodbye to five good and faithful staff members,” said Donn Morgan, president and dean, on May 29. “They are leaving not of their own volition, nor because of performance issues, but because of our school’s need to bring its budget into a more realistic place, to try to get closer to matching revenues with expenses.”

Elizabeth Drescher, CDSP’s director of the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL), said the seminary does not usually make public its financial statements, but that prior to the staff cuts the budget, which begins July 1, had a six-figure deficit. Enrollment during the past year also declined about 10 percent, she noted.

Ms. Drescher said the staff reductions were part of a restructuring which involves reorganizing faculty and staff into a number of cross-functional teams that will encourage greater sharing of expertise and broader involvement in the full range of work performed by all seminary faculty and staff members.

“On the one hand, this was a difficult and painful process because there was tremendous pressure to balance the budget,” she said. “The good news is that we continue to prepare for the future. We see this as part of an overall repositioning of the seminary to serve the church better.”

CDSP announced two new faculty hires. The Rev. Ruth Meyers will replace the Rev. Louis Weil as professor of liturgics for the fall 2009 term, and the Rev. Flora Keshgegian will become the new professor of pastoral theology and women in ministry beginning with the spring 2010 term.

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G-20 Itinerary difficult to come by

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

As the city readies itself for the G-20 summit Sept. 24 and 25, those lusting for a piece of the action during Pittsburgh's two days in the international spotlight would be well-advised to remember this line from the Robert Altman movie about Hollywood, titled, tellingly, "The Player":

Nobody knows anything.


Harold Lewis, Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside, said he would invite President Barack Obama and his wife to visit his church, he told parishioners on Sunday.

Reached yesterday, though, Mr. Lewis declined to elaborate on his plans. "I wouldn't want to comment before issuing an invitation," he said. "But it never hurts to ask."

Would Judy Davenport, wife of broadcasting executive Ron Davenport and whose son, Ron Jr., attended Harvard Law School with Michelle Obama, like to host a party for the First Couple?

"Oh, I'm not going to go there," Ms. Davenport said with a laugh, while insisting she knew of no plans for any social events involving the president and his wife. "But of course we're thrilled and happy for Pittsburgh."

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LONG ISLAND: Bishop Walker begins leave of absence

Bishop Orris Walker, Jr. is taking a leave of absence from the Diocese of Long Island until November 14, the day his resignation takes effect, the Garden City, New York-based diocese announced. The leave started on June 1.

Walker appointed retired Bishop David Joslin as assisting bishop and has delegated to him all administrative and pastoral duties during the interim period. Joslin said in an interview that Walker is coping with health issues. Joslin added that he is looking forward to his work in Long Island. "It is a very, very exciting diocese with a wonderful social ministry and exciting things going on in its parishes," he said.

Walker, who has been bishop of the diocese since 1991, will be succeeded this fall by bishop-elect Lawrence Provenzano, who was elected bishop co-adjutor (bishop with right of succession) on March 21. Provenzano's service of consecration is scheduled to take place September 19.

Joslin is the former diocesan bishop of Central New York and has served as assisting bishop in the dioceses of New Jersey and Rhode Island. He lives in Westerly, Rhode Island, will be in the diocesan offices at least two days per week and also work online and by telephone, he said.

The diocese said that Walker will represent the Diocese of Long Island in the House of Bishops at General Convention (July 8-17 in Anaheim, California) to introduce Provenzano to the bishops. "Assuming the receipt of canonical consents to our election, [Walker] will be a co-consecrator at the ordination and consecration of Fr. Provenzano in September, and will preside at the diocesan convention in November until he bids the diocese farewell and turns authority over to the new bishop," the diocesan announcement said.

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Holy Twitter! They're tweeting from the pews

When Kevin Joyce, the 29-year-old pastor of the nondenominational Imagine Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas, looks out at his congregation during his Sunday sermons, he sees “a lot of illuminated faces.”

But it’s not the word of God that’s lighting them up. It’s their smartphone screens.

“We hold our service in a movie theater and keep it dark so we can protect the screen,” says Joyce, who not only encourages his congregation to use Twitter and "tweet" in church, but projects the live Twitter stream on a giant screen during services. “When I look out, I’ll see a lot of people texting and the screens on their phones light up their faces.”

Welcome to the 3G(od) network, where social media have become as vital a communication tool for clergy and congregations as the traditional post-sermon coffee hour. While not all churches have gone as far as to incorporate real-time Twitter streams into their Sunday services, many are using Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn and other social networking sites to get the word (or, rather, “the Word”) out there.

In April, interactive marketing firm Sojo, Inc. surveyed 145 churches with memberships between 500 and 25,000 and found that 32 percent of them said they use Facebook, 16 percent are on MySpace and 10 percent are on Twitter, with many more chomping at the bit to sign up for the popular micro-blogging site.

Last month, Wall Street's Trinity Church used Twitter to perform the Passion Play on Good Friday, with congregation members using Twitter names such as "Pontius_Pilate," "ServingGirl," "Mary_Mother_Of" and "_JesusChrist."

Even the Vatican threw its large hat into the ring recently with a special YouTube channel, Facebook application and the newly launched Web portal "Pope2You."

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Dispute over Colo. Springs church property settled

The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado says a legal dispute with 1,200 former members over church property has been resolved.
Diocese officials said Tuesday both sides agreed to uphold an El Paso County District judge's ruling that gave the property to the diocese in March.

"This has been a long, difficult and distressing dispute and we believe that this settlement is the first step towards reconciliation and healing," Lawrence R. Hitt II, chancellor of the diocese, said in a written statement.

The dispute began in 2007 after some members of the Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish in Colorado Springs broke away from the Episcopal Church. They joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a missionary diocese of the Church of Nigeria.


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Father Alberto Cutie Isn't the First to Change Religions

Last Thursday, TV personality, beach canoodler, and sometime Catholic priest Alberto Cutié joined the Episcopal Church. His official reason: He had "searched [his] soul and sought God's guidance."

Of course, the fact that Episcopalian priests are allowed to marry (and, we assume, canoodle) had absolutely nothing to do with his decision, you blasphemer.

But let's say it did. Cutié would not be the first public figure to demand a holy trade in order to get his righteous grind on. Behold, our Holy Trinity of denominational journeymen:

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Bishops Prepare for General Convention

Thirty-seven bishops, including five Canadians, one from Scotland, and one from Ireland, recently joined six episcopal faculty members and 10 guest instructors in North Carolina for a College for Bishops’ residency program.

The three-year Living Our Vows program is designed to support the spiritual health and personal development of new bishops. A series of three residential retreats is complemented by peer coaching with an experienced bishop, according to a news release.

The bishops, grouped in three classes according to the date of their consecration, attended sessions May 18-22 in media training and a “holistic approach to communications strategies” for the July General Convention. David Booth Beers, chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, led a study of the polity of The Episcopal Church, and Sally Johnson, chancellor for the president of the House of Deputies, focused on proposed revisions to the church’s disciplinary canons.

“The episcopacy is a unique and demanding vocation with a steep learning curve,” said the Rev. Margaret Ann Faeth, associate professor at Virginia Theological Seminary and one of the retreat speakers. “Over the past two years, I have been impressed with the commitment of the new bishops and their eagerness and receptivity to the program.”

Full communion with Moravians proposed

Deepening relationships between the Episcopal Church and its ecumenical partners, including a proposal for full communion with the Moravian Church, will be the focus of draft legislation presented to General Convention when it meets July 8-17 in Anaheim, California.

General Convention also will welcome ecumenical and interfaith guests to participate, observe and learn about the Episcopal Church and its governance.

The Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations spent the last triennium working on recommendations concerning interchurch cooperation and interreligious dialogue and action.

"All our ecumenical dialogues are important as we patiently seek to restore the wholeness of the visible body of Christ," said commission Vice Chair Roderick B. Dugliss, a lay deputy from the Diocese of California. "We know from long experience that the fractured church confounds our efforts to 'proclaim by word and example the Good News.'"

Among the standing commission's proposals are a resolution to begin formal dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden with the ultimate goal of reaching full communion.

"Our history with the Church of Sweden goes back to the first moments of the Episcopal Church's existence as an autonomous Anglican church," said Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. "It is our oldest ecumenical
relationship. For various reasons, we have never entered into an official full communion partnership with this great church, even though they put several 'Old Swedes' churches under our jurisdiction back in the 18th century."

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Uganda- Bishops speak out

THE bishops of the three main Christian churches have asked the Government to create an independent body to review the emoluments paid to public officials and MPs.

In a statement at the end of a two-day meeting on Friday, the clerics said the independent body was one way of fostering good governance and proper resource utilisation.

They appealed to the Government and the public to “join hands in the observation of human rights and the fight against corruption.”

The meeting was attended by the Archbishops of the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as other clergy and laity from across the country.

The clerics, under the Uganda Joint Christian Council, urged their secretariat to ensure that civic and voter education started early, ahead of the general elections in 2011.

The clerics appealed to the Government to ensure that, “candidates implicated in election malpractices are disqualified from vying for any political positions for five years,”

On homosexuality, they agreed that people should form family-based groups to expose the dangers of the “evil act.”

They also recommended that religious clubs be formed in schools to campaign against homosexuality, adding that religious education should be made compulsory in schools.

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Nigeria: Anglican Diocese Wants Justice On Niger Delta Crisis

The Diocese of Lagos Mainland (Anglican Communion) has called on all parties to the Niger Delta crises to show greater sensitivity for the sanctity of human life by embracing peaceful options in pursuing their aims.

Rising from the 3rd Session of their 1st Synod, which ended Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Jude, the diocese urged the federal government and other organs to practise without pretence equity and justice with regard to fair distribution of resources so as to intensify efforts at developing the region.

In a communiqué signed by the Diocesan Bishop, Rt. Rev Adebayo Akinde and the Synod Secretary, Ven Luyi Akinwande, the Synod also called on the federal and state governments to pass Freedom of Information legislation as a necessary tool for national development.

It said that timely, adequate, and accurate information dissemination were crucial to sustainable socio-economic development and called on governments at all levels to accord information a pride of place, "by shunning information hoarding which only promotes rumour mongering, falsehood and causes disaffection."

The Synod, which drew its theme from Psalm 97: 10, You That Love God, Hate Evil, called on all Christians to show their love for God in their thoughts, utterances and actions by shunning evil, represented in idolatry, materialism, worldliness, intolerance, hatred, tribalism, corruption and parochialism.

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New Archbishop in Melanesia

THE Anglican Church of Melanesia enthroned its new Archbishop Right Reverend David Vunagi at the Saint Barnabas Cathedral in Honiara yesterday.

Senior Bishop Rt Reverend Charles Koete enthroned him in front of more five thousand Anglican Christians.

Among guests attending are Governor General Sir Nathaniel Waena, Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua, members of the diplomatic corps and all representative clergies from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Speaking after his enthronement Rt Reverend David Vunagi said he feels humble for the trust vested on him, adding he will always seek God’s wisdom for help.

He said as a new leader of the church he will do his best to serve the interest of all church members in partnership with the government.

“I’m willing to work in partnership with the government because the church and the government serve the same people,” he said.

Rev Vunagi said he is glad to join and work together with all head of churches.

Rev Vunagi was elected to the highest Episcopal position within the Anglican Church by the Provincial electoral Board on March 4 at Tetete Ni Kolivuti, headquarters of the Sisters of the Church, east of Honiara.

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Religious leaders urge Obama on in Middle East peace efforts

As President Barack Obama's efforts towards a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine continue, religious leaders in the region and in the US are urging him to press for a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders representing the US-based National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) have written commending Obama's decision to make Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace "a high priority from the start of his presidency."

The letter was sent in anticipation of several key meetings between President Obama and Palestinian and Israeli leaders on the eve of the White House summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The President was also in conversation with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month (May 2009).

Hardliners on both sides are continuing to resist a two-state solution, but analysts say the momentum is moving in that direction.

"Despite the challenges and discouraging developments, there remains a window of hope to achieve both a viable two-state solution, acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians, and a final comprehensive peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbours," said the NILI leaders last month.

Following a 14-15 May 2009 peace conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani (pictured) joined other global Christian leaders in supporting President Obama's commitment to Middle East peace issues, while calling for Gaza's borders to be opened immediately.

Chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, the conference, entitled 'Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land,' welcomed leaders from The Kairos Project, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the World Council of Churches.

Dawani was the only participant in the group from Jerusalem's Palestinian Christian community, according to a press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

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