Friday, October 16, 2009

'Vicar of Baghdad' visits Southeast Georgia

From Jacksonville FLA-

His parishioners are routinely slain and he lives under constant threat of death himself. Such is the lot of Baghdad's Anglican priest, the Rev. Canon Andrew White.

But White, known as the Vicar of Baghdad, said the good his church does in the region makes the danger worthwhile.

"I love it," he said in a heavy English accent of the good his St. George's Anglican Church does in Iraq.

White was in Southeast Georgia on Thursday to raise money for his church and the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which he leads. He said he also wants to praise the United States for what it has accomplished in Iraq.

"There's no mistake it was a wonderful act in history," White said.

Here's what else he told the Times-Union.

Tell us about your church.

Our church is not just a church. We employ four doctors, four dentists, pharmacists, a full clinic, a school, a kindergarten and we give all of our people food every week. And we have a congregation of 3,700 people.

Is the church part just for Westerners in Iraq?

We have the U.S. chapel, with military mainly and some diplomats. And we have the Iraqi church. But we consider ourselves as one. And every week we meet as one. It's a very real and substantive relationship.

More here-

Church of England bishops spend £1.3million in a year on travel

From The London Telegraph-

More than 10 per cent of the total covered overseas expenditure including air fares, despite high-profile campaigns by senior clergy urging people to fly less in order to save the environment.

Junior bishops also spent almost £50,000 on gardeners last year – more than MPs are now allowed to claim on their parliamentary expenses.

The 113 bishops of England’s established church have much of their costs covered by the Church Commissioners, who manage a £4.4billion portfolio of property and financial investments.
Figures published for 2008 that £16m was spent on staff salaries, office expenditure, legal costs and travel, up from £14.1m the previous year. More than £700,000 of the additional cost was a result of the once-a-decade gathering of senior Anglican clergy that took place in summer 2008, the Lambeth Conference.

In addition, the commissioners spent £5.1m on bishops’ pay and pensions, together with a further £7.3m on the upkeep of their historic see houses.

A detailed breakdown of the figures shows that bishops spent £1.32m on travel in 2008.
This included £114,193 on overseas travel, including “visits on ecumenical and Anglican Communion business by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his staff, the Archbishop of York and diocesan and suffragan bishops travelling at the request of the Archbishops and representing the Church of England”. This is a fall from the 2007 figure of £179,309, however.

More here-

Cost of Church of England bishops increases by £2 million

From The Times in London-

The running costs of the Church of England’s 113 bishops increased by £2 million, or 13.5 per cent, to £16 million last year at a time when the Church has been telling the nation to embrace a more lowly life.

The bishops spent £1.3 million on travel in a period when the Church’s own assets dropped from £5.67 billion to £4.36 billion during the credit crunch.

As many of the bishops’ own costs increased, in repeated Lent campaigns they urged worshippers to turn off televisions, lights and use charity shops to save both cash and climate.

In spite of having fewer responsibilities and a smaller staff, home and office to maintain, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, outspent Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in almost every area. Last year he spent four times more on office equipment, eight times more on office furnishings, double on an official car, £5,000 more on drivers, more on fuel, travel, heating, lighting and cleaning.

He spent less on training as he has fewer staff and managed to spend less on hospitality, but it still amounted to more than £14,000, compared with £21,000 for Dr Williams.

Dr Sentamu’s individual working costs, excluding office and staff, came to more than £106,000, up 20 per cent from nearly £88,500 in 2007 and about one fifth more than Dr Williams’s individual working costs of nearly £87,000.

More here-

A lesson in forgiveness from an unlikely source

From Ft. Worth-

The teenagers gathered quietly, not sure what to expect of their African guest.

"My niece was killed the very day she left my house," the Right Rev. John Rucyahana, a visiting Anglican bishop from Rwanda, said at a private school in Fort Worth.

"She was raped. Her neck was cut."

The Southwest Christian School teens stared in silence.

Then Rucyahana told how, even at the height of the slaughter of 800,000 people in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, he turned to words spoken 2,000 years ago from the cross.

"Father, forgive them."

Rwanda’s ongoing forgiveness and reconciliation have become the centerpiece of a 2008 theater documentary, As We Forgive, and a public radio series, Against the Odds.

As one of nine bishops in Rwanda, Rucyahana, 63, has led not only his church’s but also his nation’s forgiveness.

He has led Tutsi orphans to forgive the Hutus who slaughtered their parents, and in turn led tens of thousands of Hutus to ask forgiveness.

He founded a school for the orphans left by the genocide and came to Texas on Wednesday on a fundraising tour, hoping to raise $1.6 million to start a university.

He is also a controversial figure in the divided U.S. Episcopal Church; he tried to help an Arkansas congregation align with conservative Anglicans over what he called U.S. teachings that "disgrace the Gospel."

But his Fort Worth visit was less about politics and more about America and Rwanda.

He talked about the healing nature of President Bill Clinton’s 1998 apology for not intervening in the slaughter.

He said Rwandans felt abandoned as "just humans.  . . .  There is no oil. No diamonds. So the decision was, let it go. Is that moral?"

More here-

Rival Episcopal dioceses try to resolve large issues

From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette-

As the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh prepares to call a new bishop tomorrow, it hopes to resolve property and personnel issues with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican), which left the Episcopal Church last year.

The Episcopal diocesan convention comes 11 days after Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James ruled that the Episcopal diocese is entitled to centrally held diocesan property, such as endowments.

He did not rule on ownership of parish property. But a 2005 settlement between current Anglican leaders and opponents of the split says that Anglican parishes must apply to the Episcopal diocese and negotiate for property. Both sides agree that diocesan assets will be addressed first.

"The judge put a fairly tight deadline on getting things moving ... and to present some evidence of what the orderly transition would be. We intend to fully cooperate with that," said Rich Creehan, a spokesman for the Episcopal diocese.

Anglican leaders have asked their clergy to fast and pray this week over whether to appeal.

"We were dismayed and surprised by the decision," said the Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary of the Anglican diocese. "But there's a lot to consider in an appeal. Financial resources and energy resources are required, so we have to consider whether we want to be side-tracked from our mission, which has nothing to do with litigation."

The Episcopal trustees reported that in July the total endowment was worth about $17 million, although some of the funds were held for parishes that now belong to the Anglican diocese. The funds have been frozen due to the litigation.

Other matters have moved more quickly than the money.

Tomorrow in Trinity Cathedral, Downtown, the diocese is expected to approve Bishop Kenneth Price, currently second-in-command in Columbus, Ohio, as its "provisional bishop." He would take over authority from the standing committee than now runs the diocese, but would serve only about two years, until a permanent bishop can be elected.

The split occurred Oct. 4, 2008, when the diocesan convention voted to follow Archbishop Robert Duncan out of the Episcopal Church, saying that it had failed to uphold biblical doctrine. The Anglican diocese has 58 parishes -- including some outside its original boundaries -- while the Episcopal diocese has 28.

At the Anglican diocese, the Rev. Hays said that it's difficult to discuss parish property until a decision is made about whether to appeal. But if the diocese accepts the ruling, "we'll see how it goes, parish by parish, as each parish deals with the other diocese. But first we have to go through the procedure of transfer of resources from one diocese."

Some Anglican clergy worry that good faith parish property negotiations with local Episcopalians could be rejected by Episcopal leaders in New York.

But the Rev. James Simons, president of the standing committee that runs the Episcopal diocese, said that national leaders have taken a hands-off approach.

"We consult with the presiding bishop's chancellor on matters of canon law, but we have not been given any direction by the presiding bishop or her office on how we need to proceed, " he said.

No substantive conversations about parish property have yet taken place between church leaders in Pittsburgh and New York, he said. "Up to this point the presiding bishop's office has allowed us to organize and operate with autonomy. I have no reason to believe that that won't continue."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DUIN: An evangelist extravaganza

From The Washington Times-

The first one was in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. The second was in Manila in 1989. The third will be in Cape Town in 2010.

I'm talking about the massive worldwide conferences on evangelism that began as the brainchild of evangelist Billy Graham, along with British Anglican theologian John Stott and Australian Anglican Bishop Jack Dain. They have since taken on a life of their own. One year from this week, the Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization will take place from Oct. 16-25 in South Africa.

Its Web site,, says the event will draw 4,000 people from more than 200 countries, an intriguing goal as there are only 195 official independent countries in the world. The event will be translated into Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili.

The United States is providing 400 delegates and Canada is contributing 50.

I first heard of the conference when I got word this spring that U.S. organizers were looking for candidates. Some 1,322 applied to go. What made things a bit tricky is that organizers wanted 50 percent of the delegates to be under 50 years old. No doubt this is frustrating for top-tier American church leaders - most of whom are well past 50 - who weren't invited to the Manila conference 20 years ago because they were considered too young.

More here-

Nun's thigh, foot bones draw onlookers

From the Houston Belief-

Worshippers gathered at Westminster Cathedral in London to venerate the relics of a 19th-century nun who became a Roman Catholic saint.

The relics of St. Therese of Lisieux arrived at the cathedral Monday evening after a stop at London's Wormwood Scrubs prison.

Her three-day stop here marks the high point of a monthlong tour of the relics of venues including cathedrals, convents and the Anglican York Minster.

Bones from the saint's thigh and foot are displayed behind a glass window in a gold-trimmed hardwood casket that weighs almost 300 pounds.

Therese was a French Carmelite nun and 24 when she died of tuberculosis in 1897, after a life of devotion recorded in an autobiography. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Anglicans hit by $160m loss

From Australia

THE investment arm of the Anglican Church's Sydney diocese posted a $160 million loss for the year ending December 2008 after its highly geared share portfolio crashed amid the global downturn.

The scale of the loss was accentuated by the fact its investment body, the Glebe Administration Board, chose to put most of its money with one fund manager.

The chief executive of the board, Steve McKerihan, said board members chose to invest more than three-quarters of its $388 million of ''growth assets'' with index funds held by Barclays Global Investors.

The remainder was invested in listed real estate investment trusts through Vanguard, with a small amount in unlisted property trusts.

Mr McKerihan, a former chief financial officer at St George Bank, conceded it was unusual to put 80 per cent of the ''growth assets'' with one fund manager and agreed that many rival wealth managers chose to divide funds between several managers to spread the risk.

The Glebe board blamed the size of the loss on its use of gearing.

More here-

Va. Episcopal Church Dispute Headed Back to Court

From the Washington Post-

A years-long, multimillion-dollar land battle between the Episcopal Church in Virginia and conservatives who broke away from the denomination is headed back into court.

The Virginia Supreme Court said Wednesday that it would hear an appeal by the Episcopal diocese of Virginia and the national church, which lost in Fairfax Circuit Court last year.

A circuit court judge had sided with nine conservative Virginia congregations whose members were angry about the liberal approach the church takes toward several issues including whether the Bible can be read literally and whether gays and lesbians should be accorded the same rights as heterosexuals (in marriage and access to clerical positions, among other things). Conservative congregants voted to leave the Episcopal Church, take millions of dollars in real estate assets and join another, more like-minded branch of the Anglican Communion.

Religious denominations from Presbyterians to Conservative Jews are having similar disputes over human sexuality, and some have ended up in court pondering the question: Who gets to keep the property? The legal issues are not exactly the same as in the Virginia case, but a few rulings this summer have mostly gone in favor of the denomination. Last month in South Carolina, a court ruled that a 1745 deed gave property control to the congregation (as opposed to church officials).

More here-

S.W. Florida Reduces Parish Apportionment

From The Living Church-

The Diocese of Southwest Florida’s 41st annual convention restored voting rights to deacons, decreased the annual apportionment for parishes by 1 percent, and heard of the bishop’s hopes to move diocesan headquarters back to DaySpring Episcopal Conference Center.

Clergy and delegates, meeting on Oct. 9 and 10 in Punta Gorda, reduced the parish apportionment from 10 percent to 9 percent. They voted to strip any congregation of seat, voice and vote at the convention if it is in arrears in apportionment payments to the diocese.

The diocese’s budget for 2010 is $2.8 million. The diocesan office’s budget was reduced by $533,000.

The decision to restore voting rights to deacons reversed a policy that was enacted during the episcopacy of the Rt. Rev. John Lipscomb, who said deacons should be freed from the debates of church politics. Deacons may now vote again if they are canonically resident; have an assignment from the bishop to serve a congregation; have a written agreement with that congregation; and are not retired from active service.

The convention also received St. Andrew’s Church, Boca Grande, as a self-sustaining parish. The congregation had been a mission for the past 100 years.

The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, fifth bishop of the diocese, said discussions about moving the diocesan office to DaySpring are preliminary.

“DaySpring is important in the life of the diocese as a gathering space that is beautiful and central,” the bishop told clergy and delegates. “It is a place where multitudes meet Jesus and each other. Preliminary conversations have started with the Manatee County Planning Department. It is essential that we proceed with an approach that is thoughtful and responsible. I have no need or desire to rush things. I want the decisions to make sense for us and for generations to come.”

Jim DeLa, the diocese’s director of communications, has written an extensive convention report on the diocese’s website.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pastor Who Has Obama's Attention

From Washington Post-

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is long gone; Rick Warren, just an Inauguration Day memory. The hordes of ministers around town who were hoping they'd somehow wind up with the first family in their pews have (mostly) given up.

The president has been pastorless for quite a while now. Well, sort of.

Seventy miles from Washington's prying eyes, Barack Obama has been attending church from time to time at Camp David, where services are led by a 39-year-old Navy chaplain with a famous last name, a compelling life story and a fervent belief in a God who works miracles.

Carey Cash, the great-nephew of singer Johnny Cash and the younger brother of a former Miss America, sees the hand of God in every part of his journey: from the football fields where he once aspired to the NFL to the medical facilities where he learned he'd never play again; from the battered Humvee where he came under fire on the streets of Baghdad to the tiny chapel where he preaches to the country's commander in chief in the Western Maryland mountains.

More here-

Young people communicate God’s love through ice-cream, surfing and socks – Youth Evangelism Fund primes the pumps

From the Church of England-

Young people in Coventry Diocese are about to blend their love for God with their love of ice-cream by opening an ice-cream parlour, to give away ice-creams and host events for young people in the area who fancy a fun flavour of Church life.

Meanwhile, in Chester Diocese a Christian Union wants to run the Sock Project to communicate God’s love to their school using sock puppets, running events and film-based discussions, and performing random acts of kindness in the school lunch hour.

These are two of 84 ingenious new evangelistic projects to receive a pump-priming grant of up to £3,000 from the Church of England’s Youth Evangelism Fund (YEF) in 2009. The fund is supported by the Archbishops' Council (50 per cent), the Henry Smith Charity, the Laing Family Trusts, and the Jerusalem Trust.

Launched in 2006, the YEF grew out of a report presented to General Synod in 2002 entitled Good News for Young People: The Church of England’s National Youth Strategy, which included proposals for a Youth Evangelism Fund. It aims to enable more young people to connect with the Gospel and develop faith within the life of the Church by allowing the young to share faith with friends in ways that make sense to them. Each year for five years, eight to 10 dioceses are receiving YEF support to resource new ideas for mission.

“It’s for young people themselves,” explains the Archbishops’ Council’s Mission and Evangelism Associate Dr Rachel Jordan in the latest Church of England podcast, “to be able to express their Christian faith in a way that is engaging and will help to introduce their friends to the importance of Jesus Christ in their lives.”

More here-

Why does the Church of England recycle its sermons?

From The London Telegraph-

Before I go any further, I had better point out that I am fully aware that it’s a bit rich of me to criticise clergy for recycling sermons when I referred to their obsession with all things ecological in my last column for the Church of England Newspaper. But I can guarantee I won't do it again, whereas I doubt they could make the same promise.

Anyway, as I was saying, if you look at the website that lists all the press releases put out by Church House during 2009, the words climate (nine times) and environment (eight) crop up more times than God (six), Bible (four) or Jesus (two).

If they're not ordering you to count your carbon or urging you to pray for the planet, they're telling you much more than you ever wanted to know about compost toilets.
But why? I'm not suggesting that global warming isn't happening or that it isn't a good idea to consume less, I just don't believe these things should be the primary concern of our established church.

I first remember reading about threats to the environment 20 years ago in a junior version of The Independent and it's instructive to remember how different things were in those days - CFCs in fridges were burning a hole in the ozone layer, everyone put four-star petrol in their cars and you had to drive to a supermarket to find a bottle bank.

More here-

Dr Rowan Williams says climate crisis a chance to become human again

From the London Guardian-

People should use the climate change crisis as an opportunity to become human again, setting aside the addictive and self-destructive behaviour that has damaged their souls, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today.

Dr Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England and leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, told an audience at Southwark Cathedral that people had allowed themselves to become "addicted to fantasies about prosperity and growth, dreams of wealth without risk and profit without cost".

The consequences of such a lifestyle meant the human soul was "one of the foremost casualties of environmental degradation".

Small changes, such as setting up carbon reduction action groups, would help them reconnect with the world in addition to repairing some of the damage to the planet, because it was too much to expect the state to provide all the solutions.

"Many of the things which have moved us towards ecological disaster have been distortions of who and what we are and their overall effect has been to isolate us from the reality we're part of. Our response to this crisis needs to be, in the most basic sense, a reality check."

Williams added: "We need to keep up pressure on national governments; there are questions only they can answer about the investment of national resources. We need equally to keep up pressure on ourselves and to learn how to work better as civic agents."

More here-

N.T. Wright on the Common Cup

From News Week

Common Cup or Common Liability?
Q: Polls show a majority of Americans are concerned about the H1N1 virus (swine flu), but also about the safety and efficacy of the swine flu vaccine. Is it ethical to say no to this or any vaccine? Are there valid religious reasons to accept or decline a vaccine? Will you get a swine flu shot? Will your children?

I don't know about vaccines. We have similar questions in the UK. But I am fascinated (if I may use this question to raise a related matter) about the way churches here in the U.S. (where I am staying at the moment) have addressed the question of the common cup, the Peace, and so on.

In the UK we had a great panic a few months ago, and a decree went out from the highest authorities in the Church of England at least that it was better for the moment for everyone simply to receive Communion in one kind only. This has caused a considerable uproar, of people saying we're going back to mediaevalism and so on. But here in America I find the cup shared in the normal way. Indeed, the practice of 'intinction' seems to be dying out, too, as people realize that the chance of dipping a fingernail in the wine is quite high, and the chance of infection by that route higher than normal drinking. And in England we were encouraged to have a non-tactile 'peace' (not just 'air-kissing' but 'air-hugging' too!), which some arch-traditionalists have quietly celebrated (they never like the Peace anyway) but which, again, seems to be completely ignored here in the U.S.

I suspect all that this means is that England has become a society of neurotics, where every slight problem that arises brings new rules and regulations, driven not so much by real safety fears as by the desire not to be sued if something goes wrong... not that anyone in the U.S. thinks like that, do they?

Good Stuff in TEC: North Carolina

Church collects shoes for needy

Local residents are being invited to recycle their “gently worn” shoes beginning this weekend.
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is teaming up with nonprofit organization Soles4Souls to collect “gently worn” footwear and/or donations for people in need, whether they are victims of a natural disaster or subject to living in extreme poverty. It is estimated that Americans have 1.5 billion pairs of unused shoes lying in their closets. The charity can use each and every one of these pairs to make a tangible difference in someone’s life.

“We can use the shoes taking up space in your closet to change the world one pair at a time,” said Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of Soles4Souls. “We need our partners in the Rocky Mount area to step up and get behind our call for action. It’s one of the most simple yet profound gifts you can make, because it will greatly improve someone’s life in the most difficult of times,” he said.
All shoes can be dropped off at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays. A $1 contribution also is sought for each pair to help with shipping expenses. The shoe drive begins Sunday, with St. Andrew’s preschool and church families hosting a barefoot event, where participants will leave their shoes at the door as an act of worship and selflessness.

People and companies interested in donating can visit the organization’s Web site at and follow the instructions.

Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from private individuals and footwear companies and distributes the shoes free of charge to people in need. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away more than 5.5 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes to people in more than 125 countries.

You can see all of the "Good Stuff" posts by clicking on the tag below.

S.C. Episcopalians nearing vote Bishop discusses protest

From the Post and Courier in South Carolina-

In the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, concerns over the recent actions taken in July at the General Convention, and over matters of Scripture, polity and authority, have prompted diocese officials to call for a special Oct. 24 convention at which five resolutions will be considered.

Resolution No. 2 calls on Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Standing Committee "to begin withdrawing from all bodies of The Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them."

Opinions about this and other proposals and statements made by diocese officials vary. Some say the diocese doesn't go far enough; others say a withdrawal from the national church is unnecessary. Lawrence said any withdrawal that might be approved does not constitute a break from the church but, rather, a "protest of conscience." The Post and Courier's Adam Parker posed several questions in writing to Bishop Lawrence.

Here are the questions and answers:

Q: In a nutshell, what is your view of the relationship between the diocese and the Episcopal Church?

A: In a nutshell -- a strained detente!

Q: Resolution No. 2, one of five to be voted on at a special diocesan convention scheduled for Oct. 24, calls for a "withdrawal from all bodies of The Episcopal Church" that have failed to adhere to its canons, doctrines and historical practices. Is that the same as a call for disassociation from the national church? Or we could ask the question in another way: If the diocese votes to "withdraw from all bodies of the Episcopal Church," thereby refusing participation in the General Convention and governing bodies of the national church, does that signify a break?

A: No, this resolution is not "a call to disassociate from the national church." The diocese made a decision regarding that in 2006. This is a call for us to engage in more intrepid ways the radical trajectory the "National" Church has embraced. Flannery O'Connor once said in explanation of her odd characters and aberrant stories, "To the hard of hearing you must shout; to the near blind you draw large startling figures." That's what I see us called to do. The legislative and governing bodies of The Episcopal Church have grown nearly deaf and purblind -- I'm suggesting we speak in louder ways and draw figures that may actually be seen.

The rest is here-

Diocese moves into St. Luke’s

From the Glendale News-

A day after it gained control of St. Luke’s of the Mountains Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles initiated a major property makeover.

Landscape workers were busy early Tuesday, using a bulldozer to clear dead plants and tending to a garden that had fallen into poor condition in recent months, said the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese.

“It was sad for me yesterday when I saw how it had fallen into disarray,” said Bruno, who thought the grounds had not been well-managed as the diocese’s court-mandated date for taking over the church approached.

The property, at 2563 Foothill Blvd., was the home of St. Luke’s Anglican Church until its final service at the site Sunday, following a three-year legal battle for ownership.

The diocese prevailed in the lawsuit, which resulted in a court order for the Anglican congregation to move out Monday.

The Anglican congregation had been affiliated with the diocese until 2006, but broke away following the election of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

St. Luke’s Anglican Church will begin holding its services Sunday at Seventh Day Adventist Church on Vallejo Drive in Glendale, while the Episcopal church is scheduled to hold its first service at the reclaimed Foothill Boulevard site at 2 p.m. the same day.

The diocese hopes to make significant improvements to the property, which was once “the crown of the San Gabriel Valley and La Crescenta,” Bruno said.

More here-

Four Accused of Embezzling Tsunami Relief Funds

From the Living Church-

Police are seeking two former employees of the Church of South India (CSI) on charges of embezzling money given to the church for post-tsunami development. Police have arrested two other people — the daughter of the former employees and her nephew.

The charges of embezzling relate to about $1.6 million of nearly $3.8 million given to the CSI by Episcopal Relief & Development to help tsunami survivors in coastal Chennai.

“Two years ago, Episcopal Relief & Development raised concerns with the church authorities when CSI failed to complete the financial reporting and required audits outlined in our agreement,” ERD said in a statement issued late Monday afternoon. “Since then, we have suspended programs with CSI as we work to appropriately account for funds allocated in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.”

The four people are accused of embezzling nearly half of the money donated to help tsunami survivors. Police are seeking Dr. Pauline Sathiamurthy, former general secretary of the CSI, and her husband. Their daughter, Benatikta, and a relative, Robert Sunil, have both been arrested.

ERD’s statement added: “In keeping with board policy, we routinely hire international accounting and auditing firms to assess multi-year and long-term program partnerships. This audit process ensures the proper use of donated funds. In the case of CSI, we did not receive the required audits and as is our policy, we suspended programs immediately in order to gain clarity about the work completed. After two years, we were forced to pursue legal action. We expect our lawsuit to be filed in India within the next few days.”


One of my favorite Stories from Church History- He studied for a while at what is now Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was born in Lithuania in 1831, went to Germany to study for the rabbinate, there became a Christian, emigrated to America, trained for the priesthood, and in 1859 was sent by the Episcopal Church to China, where he devoted himself from 1862 to 1875 to translating the Bible into Mandarin Chinese. In 1877 he was elected Bishop of Shanghai, where he founded St. John's University, and began his translation of the Bible into Wenli (another Chinese dialect). He developed Parkinson's disease, was largely paralyzed, resigned his position as Bishop of Shanghai, and spent the rest of his life completing his Wenli Bible, the last 2000 pages of which he typed with the one finger that he could still move.

Four years before his death in 1906, he said: "I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pittsburgh’s ACNA clergy will not be defrocked

From Religious Intelligence-

Pittsburgh clergy who wish to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Church in North America will be permitted to leave the diocese without being deposed, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church affiliated Diocese of Pittsburgh have declared.

The Oct 5 decision by the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church” to allow clergy of the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican Communion)” the opportunity to withdraw from the church without legal sanction stands in contrast to the recent actions in the Dioceses of San Joaquin and Quincy, where clergy who seceded with the dioceses from the Episcopal Church have been defrocked.

In a letter from the loyalist Standing Committee clergy are asked to state whether they wish to remain active in the Episcopal Church or be released. “We’re doing this for pastoral reasons,” Standing Committee president, the Rev James Simons, said. “We do not want to see our priestly brothers and sisters deposed.”

In a statement released on the loyalist diocese’s website, the Standing Committee said it had “initiated the release on its own,” but consulted with Bishop Kenneth Price, who has been nominated to become the diocese’s provisional bishop.

Bishop Price stated: “As the Standing Committee worked through this necessary action, I was painfully aware that they were not just talking about a list of clergy, but friends of long standing. For this reason I am grateful the canons provide this ‘softer’ method of allowing those who wish to depart from the Episcopal Church to do so legally without us making a judgment on their ordination.”

“This does not affect your ordination, which you may register with whatever entity you choose,” the Standing Committee said.

In the Episcopal Church a deposition removes a priest or deacon from Holy Orders, while a release ends a clergyman’s licence to officiate in the Episcopal Church.

On Sept 22 the secessionist Diocese of Quincy denounced the decision by the loyalist faction of the central Illinois diocese under provisional Bishop John Buchanan to depose seven priests, and inhibit 34 others --- who will soon be deposed unless they recant their secession.

The president of the standing committee, Fr John Spencer said: “The supposed inhibitions and depositions of our clergy have no bearing on those clergy, or on their ministries, since our diocese is no longer under the authority of the Episcopal Church.”

In late August, Bishop Buchanan wrote to seven priests, including Fr Spencer, accepting their “renunciation of the ordained ministry” and declared they were deprived of all the authority conveyed in ordination.

“We did leave the Episcopal Church,” Fr Spencer said, “but we didn’t renounce our ordination vows, or abandon our ministries.”

Bishop Bennison’s Attorney Decries ‘Avenging Court’

From the Living Church-

The defense attorney for the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr., has expressed exasperation with the Episcopal Church’s Court for the Trial of a Bishop as he prepares to appeal his client’s conviction and sentencing.

Most recently the court rejected the bishop’s request for a new trial based on 200 personal letters, which his attorney, James Pabarue of Philadelphia, said conflicted with testimony given in court.

Mr. Pabarue believes the court misapplied Canon IV.14.4 because the case involved Bishop Bennison’s response to sexual misconduct by his brother and not any sexual misconduct by the bishop.

“The church has a way of playing more games than do secular courts,” Pabarue told The LivingChurch.

The court has engaged in “no discussion of remission of sins, absolution of sins or forgiveness,” he said. “This has been sort of an avenging court.”

The court found Bishop Bennison guilty in 2008 on two counts of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. It recommended that Bishop Bennison be deposed.

The court found that Bishop Bennison failed to report that his brother, the Rev. John Bennison, had engaged in sexual relations with a female member of the youth group at St. Mark’s Church, Upland, Calif., when Charles Bennison was rector there in the early 1970s. The court also found that he failed to protect the young woman from further sexual advances by his brother, or to provide adequate pastoral care to the young woman or her family.

“This isn’t just about his name,” Mr. Pabarue said in explaining Bishop Bennison’s repeated challenges of the court’s ruling. “He really believes in his calling, and he believes he’s being wrongly deprived of his calling.”

All that remains for the Court for the Trial of a Bishop is to complete a certified report of its findings and all briefs and evidence presented to the court. That certified report proceeds to the nine-member Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop.

Unlike the initial court, which includes two priests and two laywomen, the review court consists entirely of bishops. The review-court judges are bishops Michael Curry, North Carolina; Clifton Daniel, East Carolina, the presiding judge; Duncan Gray III, Mississippi; Mary Gray-Reeves, El Camino Real, Don Johnson, West Tennessee; Chilton Knudsen, Maine, resigned; Bruce MacPherson, Western Louisiana; Todd Ousley, Eastern Michigan; and Wayne Wright, Delaware.

The Feast of St. William of Mazeroski

Today is the 49th anniversary of what is arguably the most dramtic home run, if not moment, in World Series history. The Pirate's come from behind victory over the New York Yankees when, future Hall of Famer, Bill Mazeroski (with a lifetime 260. batting average) wins the game in the bottom of the ninth with a walk off home run off of Ralph Terry. We should all observe a moment of silence at 3:35 this afternoon.

For you soccer fans out there a walk off home run is one that wins the game and the batter walks off after rounding the bases.

Video is at the link but you have to provide your own sound effects.

Sentamu backs campaign against racism and fascism

From Inspire-

The Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has thrown his weight behind the Hope Not Hate campaign against racism, following the example of many other civil and faith groups.

Hope Not Hate was established by the anti-racist campaigning magazine Searchlight, which has a long history of exposing groups like the British National Party and its predecessors in the neo-fascist movement like the National Front.

Dr John Sentamu has spoken out strongly against racism, but around the time of the European elections he expressed concern about giving too much coverage to the BNP before denouncing them after encouragement from others in the churches.

The archbishop stressed that all people are "made in the image of God," irrespective of their ethnicity, and said he hoped Christians and others would get behind Hope Not Hate.

“It is an important campaign [...] What matters in this life is turning enemies into friends – not friends into enemies,” the prominent black Anglican leader added.

Dr Sentamu was speaking at the 100th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of Diocesan Church House in Deansgate, Manchester, on Thursday 8 October 2009.

In his message he quoted 1 Corinthians 13, from the New Testament, in which St Paul exhorts believers to practise faith, hope and love, the greatest of which is love, says the apostle.

“You cannot love through hate. Hate is driven by fear. Love banishes all hate. If you do not respect other people, you cannot fully respect yourself,” Dr Sentamu declared.

Obamas attend Episcopal church near White House

From AP-

President Barack Obama and his family attended Sunday services at St. John's Church, an Episcopal church on Lafayette Square just across the street from the White House.
Obama, first lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia listened to a sermon about how Christianity has consequences.

Mike Angell, a seminarian of the church, told the parishioners that the consequences vary, whether it's making a hard decision at work or deciding to give more time to God.

Angell told the worshippers they don't face these consequences alone. "We are given each other as a source of boldness," he said.

The Obamas shook hands with those around them as the parishioners were told to show each other a sign of peace. The worshippers prayed for all people, including "Barack, our president, the leaders of Congress, the Supreme Court and all who are in authority."
The family took a quick ride to the services, but opted to stroll back together to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Obama, who also worshipped at the pale yellow church on Easter Sunday and on Inauguration Day, hasn't settled on a new permanent congregation for the first family since the Obamas came to Washington.

St. John's is a popular pick for presidents — both because it's near the White House and because it's familiar to the Secret Service.

A pew nine rows back from the altar carries a small brass plaque designating it as "The President's Pew." Former President George W. Bush often attended services, and church history claims that every president since James Madison, the nation's fourth chief executive, has visited.
The first service in the landmark church was held in 1816 and many former presidents have worshipped there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Plan for women bishops put on ice to avoid defections from Church of England

From the London Times-

Plans to consecrate women bishops in the Church of England have been delayed by at least four years in an attempt to avoid mass defections by opponents of women’s ordination.

Church legislators have backtracked on a decision made by the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, last year to consecrate women bishops with minimal concessions to opponents.

The Church will now be asked again to approve the plans for “super bishops”, which were rejected in July last year and which will create a new class of bishop, operating in traditionalist zones “untainted” by the spectre of women bishops.

But the revisions are expected to be strongly contested by supporters of women’s ordination.

When the debate on women bishops began, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, had indicated that he would like to see women bishops ordained by 2010. The legislation is unlikely now to go through before 2014 at the earliest.

The debate has aroused strong passions in the Church, with an unusually large number of worshippers writing to the revision committee of the synod to argue that a mere code of practice to protect traditionalists was not enough.

More here-

Crowds flock to see shrine at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

From the Liverpool-

AROUND 1,000 people visited Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to see an image of the famous shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The event on Saturday was arranged after young people from Liverpool went on a pilgrimage to the ancient shrine in Norfolk and wanted to introduce their friends to the experience.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Liverpool said: “The Walsingham day was a first for the cathedral and there was a huge turnout. We estimate that at least 1,000 people would have come to the Cathedral during the day. The Lady Chapel, where some of the lectures took place, was full and at least 400 celebrated communion at midday.”

He added: “The shrine at Walsingham has become an important place of pilgrimage for many Anglicans. The day at Liverpool Cathedral was an opportunity for many to experience the spiritual benefits of a trip to Walsingham.”

The day also included music and talks.

Former Anglican Bishop Arrested In Prostitution Sting

From Southern Ohio-

A former bishop in the Anglican Church of Nigeria was arrested in a prostitution bust Tuesday in Over-the-Rhine.

Benjamin Omosebi, 60, is charged with solicitation. Police said Omosebi offered $15 to have sex with Mickey McConnal, who was also arrested in the sting.
View Mugshots

The Communications Director for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Ohio, Richelle Thompson, said Omosebi is a visiting clergy with limited privileges in the church. She said he would only fill in for ministers when they were sick or on vacation, but could not say when the last time he officiated was.

Thompson said Omosebi will not officiate in the church while his case goes through the legal system. "We take any allegation like this very seriously," she said.

Thompson said the church was providing pastoral support to Omosebi's family, including his wife.

A representative of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, CANA, said Omosebi left the church in 1998 for unknown reasons.

Omosebi was one of 14 people arrested in the prostitution sting. He was next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 16.

Editorial: Amen, Pittsburgh

From the Living Church- (The third paragraph from the end has an editorial strike through that you'll have to go to the site to see)

The Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Pittsburgh achieved something extraordinary on Oct. 5: It showed grace to more than 100 clergy who have followed their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, out of the Episcopal Church and into what is now the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

The diocese’s eight-member standing committee has offered these priests and deacons the option of renouncing their ministry rather than being deposed. Further, the standing committee clarified that these renunciations applied only to ministry within the Episcopal Church. In the most important sentence of a two-page letter to their former brothers and sisters in ministry, members of the standing committee wrote this: “This does not affect your ordination, which you may register with whatever entity you choose.”

In writing this, the standing committee addressed the primary concern of clergy who must consider the terms of Canon III.9.8: A lack of clarity about whether they are renouncing the entirety of their holy orders or merely acknowledging that they no longer wish to be clergy of the Episcopal Church.

No wonder the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Price, who awaits the diocesan convention’s affirmation as provisional bishop, found this decision moving. “As the standing committee worked through this necessary action,” he said, “I was painfully aware that they were not just talking about a list of clergy, but friends of long standing.”

Reflection on a theology of holy orders should prompt many Episcopalians to greet Pittsburgh’s decision with Amen or Alleluia. The Episcopal Church ordains clergy on the understanding that they join the great stream of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Episcopal clergy are neither mere franchise owners nor institutional drones. They are individuals with free will whom God has called to serve in one corner of the vineyard that is the Church.

Over time, some clergy conclude they are driven by God, by conscience or by a changing theology to serve in other corners of the vineyard. Those corners may be our mother churches of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, our sister churches of Lutheranism or Methodism — or, in the case of ACNA, a sometimes brash younger sibling with grand, global ambitions. Greeting such choices with anger and threats suggests a failure to understand God’s comprehensive work in this world, even amid human sins that further fracture the Church.

The actions of Pittsburgh’s standing committee speak to a weakness in Canon III.9.8. The canon has a lingering odor of punishing the wayward. Consider these words, and two suggestions on how they might be made more pastoral:

The Bishop … may pronounce that such renunciation is accepted, and that the Priest is released from the obligations of the Ministerial office, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred in Ordination of this Church.

We will leave our editorial tinkering at that. Pittsburgh’s standing committee found a godly path through this thicket. The same path is now open to other bishops and standing committees with hearts of flesh.

Regardless of how many priests and deacons accept this offer, there is an inherent beauty in it. May all Episcopalians who are serious about including the Other and spreading reconciliation attend to the wisdom shown in Pittsburgh.

A final sermon boosts spirits before parish relocates

From the LA Times-

The marquee outside St. Luke's Anglican Church in La Crescenta was a bit sardonic in its scripture from the Book of Hebrews: "You joyfully accepted confiscation of your property." That was the message delivered Sunday by the Rev. Rob Holman, in his last sermon at the Foothill Boulevard church that has been entangled in a legal dispute with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. "Next Sunday, as many of you know, we will be worshiping in a different building," Holman said.

"All because we have chosen to stand for the gospel and the authority of God's word over our lives."
Today, St. Luke's leaders will hand over the church's keys to the diocese after losing a lengthy battle to practice its conservative brand of Christian theology and hold onto the church.

The congregation voted in 2006 to leave the diocese and the national Episcopal Church over theological differences, including the consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. The diocese in turn sued to retain the church building with its stone facade and red-tile roof. Earlier this month, a judge ordered the congregation off the site by Oct. 12.

More here-,0,7696439.story

Churches don't want flocks to be touched by swine flu

From The Pittsburgh Tribune Review- Front page above the fold.

In Pittsburgh's Catholic churches, parishioners can greet each other during services with bows, nods or winks instead of the traditional handshakes and hugs because of the threat of growing influenza pandemic.

In Greensburg, they won't take communion from a common cup while flu season lasts.

In St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carnegie, small bottles of hand sanitizer sit on pews, ready for church members to use after they greet each other with the sign of peace.

"Someone suggested we eliminate the (sign of) peace, but a lot of people look forward to it, especially the young people," said the Rev. Bruce Nordeen, pastor at St. John's.

These are among the steps churches across the country are taking to try to keep the H1N1 flu out of their pews.

"With concern this year over the epidemic potential of the 'swine flu' virus, we are called to be particularly vigilant," Bishop David A. Zubik wrote to Pittsburgh diocesan priests Oct. 2. "Liturgical practices are one of many encounters throughout the day that are capable of transmitting viruses."

Some churches stopped offering communion during flu season, but Zubik left that decision up to parishioners.

"Those uncomfortable receiving from the cup during the flu season should not feel obligated to do so," he wrote.

More here-

Sunday, October 11, 2009

St. John's Episcopal Church advocates 'ScreamFree' philosophy for life

From Memphis-

Father John Sewell wants people in Memphis to stop screaming.

From St. John's Episcopal Church, where he is rector, he is spreading a message that Central Avenue motorists can see.

In front of the church, a sign reads "ScreamFree Zone."

Screaming is not always about people raising their voice, Sewell said, "Sometimes they scream by drinking, sometimes they scream by getting depressed. It's really about how we relate to one another."

The aim of "ScreamFree Living" is to teach people how to stay calm before reacting, he said.

"How would the city of Memphis change if we did that?" Sewell said.

To get there, the rector has been handing out copies of the book "ScreamFree Parenting" by Hal Edward Runkel.

The author runs the Georgia-based ScreamFree Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on ScreamFree Living, and trains people to break the habit of reacting from unchecked emotions and instead create relationships based on calm interaction.

More here-

Letter from Bishop of Virginia

From The Bishop of Virginia-

October 9, 2009

Dear Diocesan Family,

A panel of the Virginia Supreme Court will hear our petition for appeal on October 21 and, while it is unfortunate that these legal proceedings were necessary, I trust that this hearing will bring us one step closer to resolution.

I am proud that the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church have chosen the path consistently to defend loyal Episcopalians, and to safeguard and to protect the Church’s legacy and the Church from unwarranted governmental and legislative interference. It is with the same determination to stand by the people, traditions and legacy of our diocese that I look toward our appeal.

For nearly 225 years, the Episcopal Church has had the freedom to govern itself according to its beliefs. But that freedom is under direct attack here in our diocese in the form of a Virginia law that allows the government to interfere with the faith, polity and structure of our Church and other hierarchical churches in the Commonwealth.

I believe that this law is unconstitutional and that there is too much at stake to let it remain in effect. The legal struggle to secure our right to organize as we choose and safeguard our churches from those seeking to seize them has not been easy. This journey has been a long one, but now more than ever we must all gather around those who need us most at this difficult time.

Loyal Episcopalians have been exiled from their Episcopal homes for too long and I ask you to keep all of them in your prayers. This includes St. Stephen’s, Heathsville; St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; Epiphany, Oak Hill; and The Falls Church, Falls Church. These parishioners have been denied the ability to worship as they wish at the very same churches where they were married, where they baptized their children and where they buried their loved ones. I view this next hearing with great hope for the day when I will join these faith-filled Episcopalians as they return to their church homes to celebrate and worship together.

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
Bishop of Virginia