Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fruit of the vine, drinks for the soul Two ministers help people explore theology, philosophy in everyday life

"In vino veritas," quoted the Rev. Steven Peay, senior minister at First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa. It's an old Latin proverb that means, "In wine there is wisdom."

That's not to discount beer. Peay said Martin Luther preferred theological discussion over a cold one - er, stein.

In that same tradition, Peay has joined the Rev. Gary Manning, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church, in offering spiritual dialogue to all comers at Village wine bar Vino 100, 1442 Underwood Ave.

The two pastors started the sessions, dubbed Theology Uncorked, earlier this summer as a way to share their mutual fascination with theology and philosophy. The monthly program, held at 7 p.m. every third Wednesday, is part of an ongoing collaboration between First Congregational and Trinity Episcopal.

Looking for 'common good'
About 35 people gathered Aug. 19, a rainy Wednesday evening, for the most recent installment of Theology Uncorked. Most arrived a few minutes early, purchasing a glass of wine before finding a seat with a few others at the bar's small tables.

Manning opened the evening with an Episcopal prayer, asking God to use people to erase hate and divisions, and to crumble barriers.

The two pastors then set up the night's discussion with a brief presentation before Manning asked: "Is there a common good, and if there is, what does it look like? How would you describe it?"

The group responded by chatting with their table-mates while the pastors wandered the room, listening and sometimes contributing to the conversations.

After about 20 minutes, Manning and Peay stopped the discussions for a short group talk before making a few points and asking more questions. Then the table conversations picked back up.

Lutherans lift barrier for gay clergy

From the LA Times- (and others see below)

The nation's largest Lutheran denomination Friday reversed a long-standing ban on the appointment of non-celibate gays to the clergy, becoming the second major Christian group in a month to liberalize policies governing who may minister the faith.

Leaders of the 4.6-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, gave local congregations the authority to choose ministers or lay leaders who may be in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."

The decision follows a similar action last month by officers of the Episcopal Church, who lifted a de facto ban on the consecration of partnered gay bishops.

Theologians and church analysts said both votes could influence other Protestant denominations -- including Presbyterians and United Methodists -- that are struggling to reconcile conflicts over homosexuality and the Bible.

One scholar characterized the move by the two groups as a "watershed moment in American Christianity" that could further divide churches already laboring to stem the flight of traditionalists.

"Those who have been actively campaigning for a change of this sort in the other mainline denominations will see this as a sign that they should intensify their efforts," Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, said in an e-mail. "For those of us who have opposed this on biblical grounds, it is bound to reinforce the sense that we are no longer welcome in the mainline."

Conservatives in the Lutheran church condemned the decisions by the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, saying the actions on gay and lesbian clergy run counter to Biblical teachings about marriage.

More here-

From the AP

And Philly-

Washington Post-


Friday, August 21, 2009

Church of England Urged to Mull Ties with New Anglican Body in America

From Christian Post-

The legislative body of the Church of England, the General Synod, will be asked to decide whether it wants to be in communion with the newly founded Anglican Church of North America.

A Private Members Motion (PMM) was tabled last Friday by lay member Lorna Ashworth calling for recognition of ACNA, which unites into a single church some 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes that have severed ties with The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada over their liberal shift.

The PMM invites the Synod to "express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America."

Because the PMM received 126 members' signatures at the York General Synod, the business committee of the Church of England's General Synod will have to set a date for a debate when it meets in September.

The Bishops of Winchester, Ely, Europe, Rochester and Blackburn have all expressed public support for the PMM, as well as the Suffragan Bishops of Willesden, Beverley and Burnley.

In commenting on the PMM, Ashworth said, “This motion is about wanting to stand in solidarity with our orthodox Anglican brothers and sisters in North America. This indicates that a substantial number of synod members want to declare their common faith and common fellowship with them.”

The Rev. Paul Perkin, a member of the General Synod and chair of the steering committee of the orthodox Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, said the issue of expressing solidarity with ACNA had assumed “further urgency” following TEC’s rejection this week of the Communion-wide moratorium on consecrating bishops in same-sex relationships.

The PMM, he said, “therefore needs to be considered by the Synod at the earliest opportunity, namely in the February sessions in 2010.”

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

CORKSCREW ADDICTS from around the world will gather in Bow Church, east London, on Monday to honour the Revd Samuel Henshall, Rector from 1802-1807, and inventor of what he called the “piratical screwmaker”.

Professor Henshall, an Oxford academic in the field of Anglo-Saxon, died in 1807, and is buried in the chancel of the 700-year-old church.

He described his new inven tion in a letter to the Birmingham metal smith, Matthew Boulton, as “a new Mode of applying the Screw, and a Mode which every Person who sees it will be surprised that he himself did not find out”.

Boulton, who worked on early steam-engine design with James Watt, manufactured the corkscrew for Professor Henshall in one of his factories. A circular cap at the base of the worm (i.e. screw) prevents it from going too deep into the cork, and also forces the cork to turn, thus breaking any seal it has formed with the bottle neck. Professor Henshall boasted that it would have the power to extract “the hardest, tightest or most decayed Cork”, and would rapidly supersede its rivals.

Members of the International Corres pondence of Corkscrew Addicts (ICCA) will visit his grave and present a plaque in his memory. The ICCA, whose membership is strictly limited to 50, held its first meeting at the Guinness Brewery in 1974, organised by Dr Bernard Watney, its first Chief Corres­pondent. A Californian monk, Timothy Diener, who made wine for the Christian Brothers, was its first chaplain.

Applicants to the closely knit group must specify “size and nature of collection, number of years collecting, how addiction was developed, and any research done”, as well as supplying biographical information.

The Rector of Bow, the Revd Michael Peet, will dedicate the plaque at 10 a.m. on Monday, the exact anniversary of the granting of the patent in 1795. “This must surely be a unique event in the 700-year history of the church,” he suggested. “I hope the ‘Addicts’ bring a couple of Henshall cork screws with them so that we can raise a glass to my illustrious pre decessor.”

SCOTLAND: Primus respects decision to release Lockerbie bomber

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Scottish Government's decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds has been hailed as "a brave political choice" by the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Megrahi, 57, who has terminal prostate cancer, returned to Libya August 20 to live out his final days.

Megrahi was jailed in January 2001 for 27 years when a bomb he had planted exploded aboard Pan American Flight 103 over the southern Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. The terrorist attack killed 270 people, including 180 Americans.

Chillingworth acknowledged that the decision to release Megrahi was taken in the face of strong pressure from outside Scotland.

The Scottish government had been under intense pressure from the U.S. government to keep Megrahi behind bars. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said his release would be "absolutely wrong."

But Chillingworth, bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, said he respected and honored the courage that the Scottish government has shown. "On one side of the balance is the suffering caused by this appalling act of terrorism and the need to sustain public confidence in our system of justice," he said. "On the other side is the need to consider whether, in circumstances such as these, justice should be tempered with mercy and compassion. This decision sends to the world an important and positive message about our values."

The Rev. Ian Galloway of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland also supported the decision which, he said, sends "a message to the world about what it is to be Scottish."

More here-

Lutherans May Permit Noncelibate Gay Pastors

New York Times-

Leaders of the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination began a civil but tense debate here on Thursday on whether to ordain gay men and lesbians, an issue that is likely to come to a vote on Friday.

The denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is considering lifting a ban on noncelibate gay and lesbian pastors, permitting the ordination of people in committed same-sex relationships.

At issue is how the Bible should inform policy, how the denomination can best serve its mission, and how a vote to ordain gay men and lesbians would affect the church’s relationships with the broader Christian community. Fears of a schism have been fueled by recent turmoil in the Episcopal Church, which voted in July to permit the ordination of openly gay bishops. The issue has cost the Episcopal Church about 100,000 members, who have left to join a new, more conservative entity called the Anglican Church in North America.

Although an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America task force proposed a “structured flexibility” clause that ultimately would leave gay ordination up to each congregation, a sense of division looms. Some delegates here are cloaked in shawls distributed by a Lutheran organization endorsing gay ordination, while others are wearing buttons from an opposing Lutheran organization.

“It feels like a high school football rivalry, where you’ve got two camps like that,” said Chelsea Mathis, a delegate from Monroe, Mich.

The scriptural framework of the debate only feeds those divisions, Ms. Mathis said. “There are dueling Bible verses when the microphone is open to people,” she said.

Ms. Mathis said she had friends who were “at their wits’ ends with the church” and might leave if it does not accept gay ministers, but she is also aware that, “for some people, it’s almost too much to be able to acknowledge that there is homosexuality.” Bridging that gap among 1,045 delegates and the 65 synods they represent can feel impossible, she said.

More here-

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Malawi elects Bishops

From Anglican Communion News Service-

Northern Malawi

The Electoral College which sat at St Peter’s, Lilongwe, Malawi on Saturday 1st August 2009 elected the Revd Canon Fr Leslie Richard Mtekateka as the Bishop of Northern Malawi. The See fell vacant after Bishop Christopher Boyle resigned to take up a new post of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Leicester in the UK.

Canon Mtekateka is presently serving as a parish priest in Karonga District, Malawi. He is one of the long serving priests in the Diocese having worked with the first Bishop of the Diocese Jack Biggers as his Chaplain, Diocesan Secretary and Archdeacon. He also served under Bishop Christopher Boyle.

Lake Malawi

The Venerable Fr Francis Kaulanda, Archdeacon of Lilongwe, was elected as Bishop to the vacant See of Lake Malawi by the Electoral College that met at St Peter’s, Lilongwe, Malawi on Saturday 1st August 2009.

The Diocese has been vacant since the passing on of Bishop Peter Nyanja in March 2005.
Fr Francis is a graduate of Zomba Theological College and Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Kitwe, Zambia. He is married with six children. He is currently serving as a Diocesan Youth Coordinator, Priest in Charge at Biwi and Archdeacon of Lilongwe.

ELCA validates 'chaste' same-sex relationships

From the Star Tribune-

One vote. That was the margin Wednesday by which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America churchwide assembly approved a social statement that, among other things, acknowledges the validity of same-sex relationships that are "chaste, monogamous and lifelong."

The margin was so close that Bishop Mark Hanson, the ELCA leader who presided over the vote, hesitated before announcing the outcome. Rules required the social statement to pass by a two-thirds vote; the final result was 66.67 percent.

"I thought it was going to be close, but I doubted very much that it would come out at exactly two-thirds," said the Rev. Peter Strommen, chairman of the task force that drew up the social statement and pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Prior Lake.

Close as it was, the vote bodes well for a proposal to repeal a ban on gay and lesbian ministers from leading churches unless they promise to be celibate. That motion, which is to come up for a vote Friday afternoon, requires only a simple majority to pass.

More here-

It's not the sex, it's the Bible: Lutherans debate ministry rules

From USA Today-

Sex isn't everything at the Evangelical Lutheran Church's governing meeting this week. The Bible is.

They'll talk about a malaria initiative, evangelization, world hunger, world peace and more at the Minneapolis meeting. But the unquestionable hot topic will be the looming vote on ministry policies, currently scheduled for Friday. It will decide whether openly gay ministers may be permitted in ministry or, as current rules say, they must be celibate to serve.

What does Scripture say on this? And what does Scripture mean on this?

Those are not the same question. No matter how the ELCA votes Wednesday on a social statement on sexuality or Friday on ministry rules, it's always about the Bible. The Lutherans, after all, take their name from the man who rallied the Reformation under the cry of Solo Scriptura (the Bible alone) in his break from the Catholic Church.

Washington Post reporter Jacqueline Salmon's coverage today has a pointed quote on this from Phil Soucy of Lutherans Concerned, which pushes for gay rights in the Church:

... The very idea that questioning someone else's interpretation of Scripture constitutes an assault on the authority of Scripture is nonsense.

Is it?

More here-

New church homosexuality debate Lutherans weigh allowing practicing gays to be clerics

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The largest U.S. Lutheran denomination opened debate this week about a proposal to allow practicing gays and lesbians to serve in the clergy.

Leaders of the 4.6 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are expected to decide during their weeklong Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis whether to alter their existing policy, which requires gays and lesbians in ministry to remain celibate.

Similar efforts to change that policy have failed five times over the past 12 years, according to church analysts.

The governing body's 1,045 voting members also will consider a long-anticipated social statement on human sexuality that, among other things, says Christian tradition recognizes marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. Such statements are intended to guide church policy. Heterosexual clergy are allowed to have sex within marriage.

Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson on Monday dismissed suggestions that the clergy measure could lead to a schism, saying the unfolding discussions had prompted "very thoughtful engagements" in a church that has long struggled to reconcile the role of practicing gays and lesbians with biblical authority.

"I do not believe that human sexuality for us as Lutherans defines the church," Bishop Hanson said at a news conference in Minneapolis that was broadcast live on the denomination's Web site. "Therefore, human sexuality should not be the occasion to divide the church."

More here-

Family Feud Who cares about the arcane battles of Episcopal Church?

From Newsweek-

The annual convention of the Episcopal Church ended last month in Anaheim, Calif., with a whimper, despite these rather staggering announcements: it would, after years of internal battling, continue to elevate gay priests to bishops, and it would consider blessing same-sex unions in the states that allow gays and lesbians to marry. The convention—and these announcements—received a fair amount of obligatory coverage, but the news cycle quickly moved on. In the wake of that coverage I received the following e-mail from an editor: "I've been following this story and trying, without success, to think of an interesting line of argument. It's been in the news a lot lately." Right. It's hard to think of an interesting story about the Episcopal Church in America because what happens within the Episcopal Church is—frankly, and with deep apologies to all my Episcopalian friends—just not that interesting.

After years of dominance, Episcopalians have become a minority religion in America. There are just 2.4 million Episcopalians in the United States, down from 3.5 million in 2001—a 31 percent falloff. (The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide church that has 80 million members.) By comparison, there are 8 million nondenominational Christians (a low estimate), up from 2.5 million—an explosion of 220 percent over the same period. Thanks to the Great Awakenings and the waves of immigration over the past hundred years there are exponentially more Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists in America than Episcopalians. There are also—surprisingly—more Mormons, more Pentecostals, and slightly more Jews. (This last is especially interesting because at the height of 20th-century anti-Semitism, American Jews who wanted access to the highest levels of status and power would sometimes become Episcopalian. One wonders whether they would have done so had they known that they were switching from one shrinking minority religion to another.) According to the latest data from the American Religious Identification Survey, more people belong to cults and emerging religions than to the Episcopal Church.

More here-

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

TEC Joins Healthcare Lobbying Effort

From the Living Church-

In an effort to mobilize supporters of healthcare reform, representatives from a number of Christian denominations and others are organizing a national call-in webcast that will feature President Barack Obama. The program will begin at 5:00 p.m. EDT this evening.

The “40 Minutes for Health Reform” webcast is being organized by the advocacy group Faith in Public Life. That group consists of representatives from the Episcopal Church, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches in Christ, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, according to a release on the event.

“We believe there is a silent majority that has seen family and friends struggle,” said Kristin Williams, media relations associate for Faith in Public Life. “Those people are not the loud protestors at town hall meetings.”

Ms. Williams declined to provide the names of faith leaders who will e participating in the call-in. She said the group is focusing its lobbying efforts on Democratic senators in states with strong Christian bases who have “waffled publicly” on healthcare reform.

Maureen Shea, director of government relations with the Episcopal Public Policy Network lobbying group, said the healthcare debate has been fraught with misinformation.

“Many people don't seem to understand that Medicare is a government program,” Ms. Shea said. “The two things that have ignited people are that they don’t want government in their health care—which it already is—and misunderstanding and misinformation about the voluntary discussion with doctors of the end of life provisions.”

Matthew Ellis, executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries, agreed, saying “people are worked up about ‘death panels,’ based on perception. It’s unfortunate that people are purposely playing on their fears.

“A loud voice is purposely skewing the argument so that a reasonable and informed discussion is not possible,” Mr. Ellis continued. “Politics is still often a win-at-any-cost kind of game, and unfortunately people still view it that way.”

Lutheran Church Passes Homosexual Clergy Hurdle

What would Martin Luther say?

In a move to further liberalize the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), delegates meeting in Minneapolis yesterday rejected the opposition’s proposal to require a two-thirds supermajority rather than a simple majority when the measure to allow homosexual clergy is voted for on Friday.

In addition to voting on whether to allow practicing homosexual clergy members, the ELCA is also considering a broader statement on human sexuality. Just such a statement in the 1990s, on abortion, led many of the church’s pastors to leave the ELCA and led others to convert to Catholicism.

In 2003, the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop, causing a schism within the Anglican Communion worldwide.

Both the ELCA and the Episcopal Church have witnessed significant declines in their membership over the past several years. Over the past 15 years, the ELCA has lost more than 400,000 members. Membership in the Anglican Church continues to drop by 2% per year.

How I became an agnostic

From The London Guardian-

When I was made the paper's religious affairs correspondent by the editor in early 2000, on my return from a five year posting as the paper's European affairs editor in Brussels, I accepted the job reluctantly, as a demotion.

Stupidly, I could not see the job as much of a story for a paper like the Guardian. I retained vestiges of my religious upbringing, as a Roman Catholic, but for various reasons, I had become largely unobservant – unlike my wife, a charismatic evangelical Anglican, and my children, being brought up in the evangelical tradition in defiance of Catholic teaching, because my wife is more devout than I am.

I am the son and grandson of mixed marriages and could remember my father going off to his church services in the local parish church (and yet still being a good man) while my mother dragged me and my brother and sister off to mass, where we could pray for the conversion of our "separated brethren", such as my dad and the reconversion of England, which was clearly what God and the Virgin Mary, who saw the country as her dowry, would want.

The sense of a separate, slightly beleaguered and isolated identity was even a little thrilling back in the late 1960s, especially as I was taken out of prayers at my (Anglican) grammar school for a period until the notion of contamination by heresy came to seem too absurd and I fell in with all the rest.

Even our church services were virtually identical, as my father pointed out when he attended mass occasionally. My mother though was markedly less keen about attending Anglican services and after she died when I was 28, my faith started dying too. My resentment about the Catholic church's authoritarianism grew and my attendance dropped off.

The church didn't seem to have much to say about why a good woman like my mother should die a long, lingering, horrible death from cancer, or why it should subsequently hound into outer darkness the able and deeply caring parish priest, who had ministered devotedly to her, because he wanted to get married, to a former nun, as it happened.

More here-

Episcopal clergyman criticized

From Bethlehem (PA)

The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem moved one step closer to defrocking Gregory Malia, a priest who holds a residency in Laflin and runs a Pittston business.

Malia first ran afoul of the diocese in December when articles in the New York Daily News described him as “a big spending, champagne swilling, club-hopping priest from the coal fields of Pennsylvania” who frequents trendy Manhattan clubs “in the wee hours and spends thousands on top shelf liquors, doling out five-figure tips like silver dollars.”

When those articles appeared, Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall “inhibited” Malia – barring him from ministering as a priest. Marshall said that, if true, the actions depicted in the newspaper “constitute a serious violation of ordination vows to be a wholesome example to a priest’s people.”

The issue then went before the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem, a body that investigated the claims.

On Monday, the diocese issued a statement noting Marshall had received a formal letter of complaint from the Standing Committee saying Malia “has by certain publicly known actions and failures to act, abandoned the Discipline and Worship of this Church.”

The bishop then issued a new inhibition that bars Malia from conducting priestly ministries or presenting himself as a priest. The renewed restrictions come with a deadline: Malia has six months “to make matters completely right according to the Church’s canon law.”

More here-

Taiwan congregation's generosity builds churches in Philippines, Tanzania

From Episcopal Life Online-

When parishioners at St. James' Episcopal Church in Taichung, Taiwan heard about a group of Filipinos holding services under a mango tree, they were inspired to raise funds so that the community could worship in a building of its own.
That was in 1998 and the congregation's generosity saw the dedication of Christ the King in Sandeline, Diocese of the Central Philippines, the following year. But that was only the beginning. Eleven years later, St. James has funded the construction of 10 churches in the Philippines and one in Central Tanganyika, Tanzania.

The congregation at Christ the King are Igorot, an ethnic group from the Cordillera region on the Philippines island of Luzon that had moved from the mountainous provinces looking for land and work.

"The thought of that small Christian community worshiping week after week under a mango tree moved me to want to help them," said the Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, former rector of St. James' Church.

The congregation at St. James raised $6000 to build the church and a further $3,000 to connect a permanent water supply to serve the whole community.

Formerly a Spanish colony, the Philippines was predominantly Roman Catholic until Americans colonized the country in 1898 and Anglican missionary work began in the north and among Muslim populations in the south. Four Anglican dioceses were established by 1971 and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines became an autonomous province in 1990.

More here

Christ Church members wrestle with new Episcopal policies

From San Antonio-

Hundreds of members of Christ Episcopal Church, one of the largest and most influential Episcopal churches in South Texas, filled their parish hall Tuesday evening to meet with their bishop, Gary Lillibridge, and ask him this: Is there room in the Episcopal Church USA for their long-standing, conservative beliefs?

At the Episcopal Church's annual meeting last month, its leaders voted to open the door to ordaining gay clergy in committed relationships and blessing same-sex unions.

The decision has sparked much discussion among the 90 parishes in the Diocese of West Texas, a district with about 30,000 members that spans much of South and Central Texas. Lillibridge voted against the new policies at last month's convention, saying restraint at this unstable time is best for dealing with this controversial matter.

“At this point, it's going to take all of us working together with God's wisdom as a very diverse diocese to come up with a response,” he said after the meeting at Christ Church, the largest donor to the West Texas Diocese and its largest church with up to 800 people at weekly services.

But the new policies of the national Episcopal body have upset the worldwide Anglican Communion, which generally opposes homosexuality as conflicting with Scripture. The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion, made up of provinces around the world with an estimated 74 million members.

Already, four convervative dioceses in the Episcopal Church and dozens of churches have severed ties, opting to construct new organizations with ties to conservative Anglican jurisdictions outside the United States. Christ Church, disappointed by the Episcopal Church's liberal direction, has developed ties with conservative Anglican bishops.

“What happened at the general convention really pushed the buttons for us in terms of us wanting to protect the heritage we feel we have as Anglicans and Episcopalians,” said Father Chuck Collins, rector of Christ Church. “For us, it's not a sexuality issue. It never has been. For us, it's an authority of Scripture issue.”

More here-

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

S.C. Bishop Weighs Future Amid Liberal Episcopal Actions

From Christian Today-

In a long and, to many, confusing address to Episcopal clergy in the Diocese of South Carolina, the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence proposed withdrawing from all governing bodies of The Episcopal Church "that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture."

The South Carolina bishop insisted, "This is not a flight into isolation; nor is it an abandonment of duty, but the protest of conscience," during his address last Thursday.

The main protest is against the denomination's controversial decisions last month at the General Convention to approve resolutions that some believe open the ordination process to practicing homosexuals and move the national church closer to the blessing of same-sex unions.

But Lawrence also highlighted the "multitude of false teachings" that has threatened The Episcopal Church for decades.

The core doctrines of their faith that are being "systematically deconstructed" include the trinity, the uniqueness of Christ, scriptural authority, baptismal theology, human sexuality, and the constitution and canons of the church.

He called it the "gospel of indiscriminate inclusion" and contended it is inevitable. This new gospel, he argued, is a movement not only within the church but also within the larger European and North American culture.

Thus, leaving The Episcopal Church would not free any parish or diocese from engaging the challenge, he said.

Supporting neither a "hasty departure" nor a "paralyzed passivity," Lawrence said there is still a need for dynamism and provisionality.

"It is an increasingly fluid landscape in which we are called to do our work and at times seems to change from week to week as developments take place on several fronts. While our principles may stay consistent our strategy must be dynamic and provisional."

More here-

Anglicans challenged to find unity in diversity

From Religious Intelligence-

The challenge within the fractured Anglican Communion is to find ways of "being together despite - and even because of - our diversity," according to a USPG: Anglicans in World Mission boss.

Member-churches of the Anglican family are "not clones," says the Rev Elfed Hughes, director of the Britain and Ireland Relations Team of USPG, one of the oldest Anglican mission agencies.

"There is richness, depth and variety in our personalities and ways of thinking," insists Mr Hughes, in an upbeat message in the autumn issue of Transmission, the quarterly of the body whose patron is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

He claims: "So what is needed is an approach to dialogue that will enable us to discuss and hold different points of view - while remaining in harmony." Optimistically, he adds: "I think there is room for a 'theology of debate'." Mr Hughes, in a four-point blueprint for such a debate calls for: :: Recognition that people "on the fringes" have always been important in the history of the church and its mission;

:: Recognition that "we can learn from each other" and rather than searching for institutional "purity," there should be a turning of debate into conversation;

:: There should be no fear of change. "It is often stated we must hold on to tradition, but this suggests a misunderstanding of the meaning of tradition; the concept of 'tradition' conveys the idea of handing on from generation to generation, but it is also about proclaiming our faith anew in every generation and in a new context";
:: No setting by member-churches of their "own agenda" - having "a fixed view" of what the church and mission should be or should become denies "the possibility of discovering something new and wonderful about God." Mr Hughes, who was ordained in 1977, declares: "In a word, a 'theology of debate' means being 'open' - open to God, to other people, to new ideas and to change."

The 56-year-old former Welsh vicar adds: "And there is no better place to put this into practice than in a global community which, in all its diversity, is seeking to live out God's call to mission."

Good Stuff in TEC: Iowa

Mission is a success for St. Anne's Church

St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Ankeny sent members on a mission trip from July 23 to Aug. 1 at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Kyle, S.D. The group took part in offering a vacation Bible school to about 140 Lakota youths.

The St. Anne mission team members were: Winnie Lejukole, Fr. Bob Kem, Philip Hedges, Joel and Andi Baker, Debra Carlson, Hanna Hagen, Jennifer Hedges, Ali Hedges, Ranzi Bete, Paige Carlson, Melissa Canova, Aljon Bacdayan, Komuri Lejukole, Alli Wittick, and Michael Waddell.

Quotes from students who have returned from mission work:

Lejukole, a college intern at the church, said: "I made great friends, met new Lakota kids and it made me feel good that I am helping others. Every year this trip makes me a better person, growing up as a young adult. It builds me up to be a more mature person."

"The day we gave the kids their backpacks we also said our goodbyes, which made me cry," said Alli Wittick. "Seeing the children and some of the lifestyles they live made me very thankful for what I have. This was my fourth year and I enjoyed the experience very much. I am looking forward to coming back again soon.''

More here-

Obama, faith leaders to discuss health care reform

From Episcopal Life Online-

Leaders of some U.S. faith groups -- including The Episcopal Church -- believe that somewhere in the shadows behind the voices condemning President Barack Obama's administration and other backers of affordable health care reform lurks a silent majority of Christians who support reforming the nation's healthcare system.
In an effort to mobilize and give rise to that voice, faith leaders have come together under the banner of "40 Minutes for Health Reform" to sponsor a national call-in and audio webcast August 19 at 5 p.m. EDT on health care reform, featuring Obama and faith leaders from across the country.

The phone call is part of the larger, faith-based 40 Days of Health Reform initiative.

"We believe there is a silent majority that has seen family and friends struggle; those people are not the loud protestors at town hall meetings. It's an unprecedented opportunity for the faith community to band together," said Kristin Williams, media relations associate for Faith in Public Life, whose mission it is to advance faith in public life as a positive and unifying force for justice, compassion and the common good.

Led by Faith in Public Life, 40 Days for Health Reform is an effort organized by the faith community – including the Episcopal Church, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches in Christ, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good -- to make clear to Congress that quality, affordable health care for every American family is a moral priority for millions of people of faith.

As of August 17, the roster of faith leaders scheduled to participate in the call was unavailable, but Williams said that the effort was focused on reaching "blue dog Democrat" senators in states like Indiana, Arkansas and Nebraska, with strong Christian bases and who have "waffled publicly" on health care reform, Williams said.

More here-

Lutherans to Vote on Sexually Active Gay Clergy

From the Washington Post-

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country, will decide this week whether to allow gay people in relationships to serve as clergy.

Currently, sexually active gay people are not permitted to serve in the clergy, but celibate gay people are. By Friday, church delegates meeting in Minneapolis are expected to vote on a proposal that would permit congregations to let gay men and lesbians in committed, monogamous relationships serve as clergy.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the latest major denomination to wrestle with the question of gay clergy. The issue has divided the Episcopal Church, which last month voted to make gay people eligible for any ordained ministry, further threatening to split the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which it is a branch. And earlier this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted against accepting openly gay pastors, although the margin narrowed compared with a 2001 vote.

The issue has also roiled the United Methodists, which, after an emotional debate last year, voted to retain its policy of prohibiting "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained as clergy.

More here-

The LA Times is here-,0,5525824.story

Monday, August 17, 2009

Debt is a modern form of slavery, claims bishop

From Ekklesia-

Peter Selby’s groundbreaking book, Grace and Mortgage, originally published in the late 1990s in support of the millennium debt campaigns, has been reissued in relation to the current credit crunch and recession.

Dr Selby, the former Anglican Bishop of Worcester, demonstrates how over-reliance on credit brings about a power relationship through the bond between debtor and creditor that can be cripplingly unequal and constraining.

Debt, the author suggests, is now a modern form of slavery.

Dr Selby, now President of the National Council for Independent Monitoring Boards for prisons, says that whether we are talking about personal debt, communities in Britain with a significant debt problem, or the international debt crisis, the root issues of money, power and accountability have to be tackled.

The book, published in the UK by Darton, Longman and Todd, also provides an acute theological analysis of debt and money in the modern world, drawing upon biblical traditions of thought about the relationship between resources, human community, obligation and gift-giving.

The central argument of Grace and Mortgage is that redoing economics is crucial to the creation of just societies and also to the kind of 'household' the church is seeking to be.

Unique status for Taranaki cathedral

From "Stuff"

A top-ranked Anglican church leader, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury, is headed to New Plymouth for an historic celebration in March.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable John Sentamu and his wife Margaret will be the guests of honour when St Mary's Pro-Cathedral becomes the church's newest full cathedral.

The cathedral will be unique in the Anglican world and that's one reason a person of Dr Sentamu's seniority is making the trip.

Bishop of Taranaki Philip Richardson said it was a tremendous honour to have someone of Dr Sentamu's standing, courage and character to share the big occasion.

Dr Sentamu was a high court judge in Uganda but fled the murderous Idi Amin's military dictatorship after being involved in a case where one of Amin's cousins was imprisoned.

He was appointed Archbishop of York in 2005, becoming Britain's foremost black church leader.

Bishop Richardson informed the St Mary's congregation yesterday that the church's promotion to becoming a full cathedral had been confirmed and that Dr Sentamu would be a guest at the ceremony, officiated by former archbishop and New Zealand governor-general Sir Paul Reeves.

St Mary's will be the seat of a separate Taranaki bishopric, while remaining part of the Waikato Diocese.

It's an arrangement that will see the diocese have two full bishops and two cathedrals, St Mary's in New Plymouth and the Cathedral Church of St Peter in Hamilton.

The arrangement is a first for the Anglican Church.

More here-

Churches must make disciples, says bishop

From Christian Today-

The Rev Canon Mark Rylands said the “number one priority” of churches was to demonstrate the Good News of Jesus Christ in their communities and share the faith “naturally”.

He said that the task of growing the church and the Kingdom was not restricted to the clergy.

“We need to continually encourage lay ministers, youth workers, church wardens and the whole people of God to set about this task,” he said.

Rev Rylands said “extra red tape” had made the role of bishop more complicated but added that he aimed to “keep it simple and concentrate on the basics”.

“It seems that where the parish clergy are having to become more episcopal now in overseeing more churches and helping people to discover their gifts, bishops need to become more apostolic, helping to share the faith, and make and grow new disciples,” he said.

Rev Rylands said he hoped to bring his passion for rural mission to his new post and see small churches grow and make a difference.

“We have so much where we can work together in mission,” he said.

“We want to see God’s Kingdom reign here in north Shropshire and we want the churches to be a beacon of that Kingdom.

“We need to concentrate on making new disciples and growing mature disciples so we can become Christians who make a difference in our communities.”

Rev Rylands will be consecrated at Westminster Abbey on 28 October and installed at Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday 1 November. A service to welcome him to Shrewsbury will be held in Shrewsbury Abbey on Monday 2 November.

He succeeds the Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, who has become Bishop of St Albans.

Lutherans prepare for big decision on gay clergy

From The AP

The Rev. Dave Glesne stood before the members of Redeemer Lutheran Church a few weeks ago and told them there might be some painful decisions in the near future.

Glesne is against letting people in same-sex relationships serve as pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and he says his congregation is behind him. They're worried this suburban Minneapolis church could find itself on the losing side as leaders of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination vote on whether to take that step at their biennial national convention, which starts Monday in Minneapolis.

"Of course the question was asked: What will we do, Pastor Dave, if this goes?" Glesne said. "The conversation we had left me no doubt that we will definitely have a discussion about leaving the ELCA."

Avoiding such divisions was a main goal of an ELCA task force that prepared recommendations for debate by the 1,045 voting members at the convention. One is a revision of ministry standards that would let individual congregations employ gay and lesbian people in committed relationships as clergy. The other is a broader statement on human sexuality, a 34-page document that tries to craft a theological framework for differing views on homosexuality — but which critics say would simply liberalize the ELCA's attitudes.

At 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations in the United States, the ELCA would be one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations yet to take a more gay-friendly stance on clergy.

In 2003, the 2 million-member Episcopal Church of the United States consecrated its first openly gay bishop, deepening a long-running rift in the worldwide Anglican Communion about homosexuality and Scripture.

More here-

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Predecessor Gives Bishop’s Critique Highest Marks

From The Living Church-

After the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, delivered a detailed theological critique of The Episcopal Church at an August 13 diocesan clergy day, one of his predecessors praised his analysis as “the finest thing that any living bishop could possibly have done.”

The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, 12th bishop of the diocese, said he was disappointed that clergy did not greet Bishop Lawrence’s paper with greater enthusiasm.

“No living bishop that I know, in my opinion, is capable of having the faith, the scholarship, the courage, the wisdom to put out this paper,” Bishop Allison said. His remarks, and a sustained ovation that followed, are available in an audio file on the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon’s weblog, TitusOneNine.

Bishop Allison “got a huge ovation, and it was the crescendo of the day,” said Canon Harmon, who is the diocese’s canon theologian. He said Bishop Allison's praise for Bishop Lawrence is noteworthy because of Bishop Allison’s involvement in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA). Both of those bodies have broken all ties to The Episcopal Church, which is more than Bishop Lawrence and the standing committee have recommended.

Canon Harmon believes the bishop is helping move the diocese from a passive and parish-based identity toward a collegial and collaborative practice.

“To turn a diocese, unlike a parish, is like turning an ocean liner,” Canon Harmon said. “It’s a herculean task.”

The Rev. Henry M. Cheves, associate rector at Trinity Church, Edisto Island, expressed mild disappointment that Bishop Lawrence suggested withdrawing from the decision-making bodies of The Episcopal Church.

“My feeling is that when you're part of something, you participate,” Fr. Cheves said. Nevertheless, Fr. Cheves said, “I'm encouraged by his leadership.”

The Rev. Charlie Sturm, who assists at St. George's, Summerville, and is a leader in the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, does not agree with Bishop Lawrence’s critique of The Episcopal Church. Still he said he “found there was a strong consensus among the people there that this was a good talk and where we need to be.”

Fr. Sturm, who served in the Diocese of Michigan and in the Caribbean before moving to South Carolina to be near family, said that living in the theological minority gives him frequent practice in “honoring the dignity of every human being, with God's help.

“It's really done a lot for my prayer life,” he said.

Lutherans strive to avoid split on gay issue

From Minneapolis-

Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America arrive in Minneapolis on Monday to tackle the most-divisive subject in 21st century religion -- the appointment of gay clergy.

What 1,045 voting members decide by the end of the week could determine the future of the 4.8 million member ELCA, which includes more than 830,000 Minnesotans.

At issue is a proposal to repeal the ban on gay and lesbian ministers from leading churches unless they promise to be celibate.

A task force spent months working out a compromise that would allow the installation of gay pastors but leave that decision up to individual congregations and synods. People on both sides say the looming vote is too close to call.

With the Episcopalians headed toward a likely split over the appointing of gay bishops, ELCA leaders are well aware of the risks. Bishop Mark Hanson, the Twin Cities native who leads the ELCA, said that no matter how the vote comes out, he's intent on keeping the losers from rebellion.

More here-

A Response to Bishop Lawrences Remarks to the Clergy of South Carolina

From Randall Foster-

Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, one of the most stalwart orthodox bishops left inside TEC, has addressed his clergy and called for a special convention to discuss responses to GenCon 09. His remarks may be found here. Please read them all carefully. They are important, though not nearly as strong as I would have hoped.

I freely admit that this is a powerful statement from a faithful shepherd. He is a good and godly man, trying his best to serve God and his people. I certainly mean no disrespect to the worthy bishop by what follows here, but I just don’t see any proposal in these remarks to take much more than a few symbolic protest actions. As a “strongly worded letter of protest” at what TEC has been up to, the bishop's remarks are superb. But we have seen many such fine protest letters defending the true Faith over the last six years, haven’t we? What concrete actions does the bishop of South Carolina envision? What is DioSC actually going to do differently now that GenCon 09 has made the course of TEC clear? I see five things in these remarks:

1. Action will soon be taken to clarify that ordinands in South Carolina won’t be taking oaths to support recent, illegitimate actions by TEC when they are ordained. This is a good thing as a symbol, but of little practical importance as far as I can see.

2. DioSC will apparently be taking steps to formally endorse the Ridley draft of the Covenant individually, and we all know national TEC will not ever do so. This diocesan endorsement of the Covenant may one day have some significance if ABC Williams’ prediction of “two tracks” in the world-wide Communion ever comes to pass. But in practical terms such an endorsement by DioSC will matter little for years to come, if ever. This looks to me like just another symbolic action, at least until TEC definitively rejects the Covenant. (Will that final rejection come six years from now at GenCon 2015? You know TEC will stall as long as possible in making a final decision that might result in consequences from Lambeth Palace.).

More here-

Sudanese churches urge peace parties to settle differences over referendum

Sudanese churches appealed on the two signatories of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to resolve their difference over the referendum law n order to organize it in due time.

The call which is released on August 14 is signed by Catholic Church of Sudan; Episcopal Church of Sudan; Presbyterian Church of Sudan; Coptic Orthodox Church; Sudan Interior Church; African Inland Church; Sudanese Church of Christ; Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church; Sudan Pentecostal Church; Greek Orthodox Church; and Greek Catholic Church.

In call issued at the close of its 17th General Assembly in Khartoum, the Sudan Council of Churches appealed to the CPA signatories, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), "to seriously and urgently work to resolve their differences to pave the way for the referendum law to be passed in time for the required process to follow."

The appeal after the stalled talks between the two parties over the required percentage of votes to declare it favoring independence, the population allowed to vote, determining the post-referendum process and the share of Sudan’s debts the South would carry with it if it secedes.

However, the Sudanese First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayadrit Kiir speaking from the Blue Nile State on Wednesday said that both parties will overcome their differences and approve a draft bill of the referendum law.

The joint appeal also urged the Government of Southern Sudan to improve security in the South, "particularly in regard to the LRA incursions." And to bring charges against those involved in corruption and malpractice.

More here-