Saturday, November 28, 2009

Misreading History: The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner

From The Living Church-

The Washington Post’s On Faith weblog recently published “A Christian Case for Same-Sex Marriage,” a column by Bishop John Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The occasion for the piece is a debate about a law that would legalize same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. But Bishop Chane’s main goal, as he tells us, is to “offer a short history of changing Christian understandings of the institution of marriage” that will counter traditional Christian arguments against same-sex partnerships.

Journalists, he worries, think that traditionalists speak for the church and for the Christian tradition. They speak for neither, according to the bishop. Given the high profile of the Post, and Bishop Chane’s standing as a bishop of a prominent (if recently beleaguered) Christian body, one should probably take his remarks seriously. Alas, as a short history his remarks cannot be taken seriously at all, but amount to a tissue of popular myths, used to promote a tired and unfounded historical perspective whose application now has a track record of political intolerance.

Bishop Chane first argues that traditionalists are inconsistent — maybe even hypocritical? — because Jesus was against divorce and traditionalists are not “demanding that the city council make divorce illegal.” Of course, Jesus did not proclaim all divorce wrong (cf. Matt. 9:9).More important, by begging his own question here — just what is the status of divorce, then? — Bishop Chane undercuts his case: the state’s accommodation of divorce has indeed encouraged and even created turmoil in social relations. If anything the failures of church and wider culture in this area are actually a good argument for restraint on further social confusion.

Second, Bishop Chane says that traditionalists are inconsistent in their defense of the centrality of heterosexual marriage because, after all, Paul thought marriage inferior to the celibate life. But, of course, the apostle Paul’s teaching does not claim that marriage is an inferior state, but rather that it is often an impractical one in comparison with celibacy. Bishop Chane’s disingenuous assumption that traditionalists ought to apply Paul’s teaching to all of human life was certainly not shared by other writers in the New Testament (or by Jesus), and such an attitude made only partial inroads into the Church’s practical life some centuries later. Most Christians, including Christian priests even in the Middle Ages, understood Paul’s teaching within a larger theological reading of the Scriptures that included a created sexual difference, the blessing of procreation, and the social responsibilities of church and state to nurture families. Within this reading, celibacy is a great gift, and an evangelical vocation for some, and it remains so.

More here-

Signs, signs every where signs #24

Not sure how I feel about that.

Church of England set to lose a tenth of its clergy in five years

From the London Times-

The Church of England is facing the loss of as many as one in ten paid clergy in the next five years and internal documents seen by The Times admit that the traditional model of a vicar in every parish is over.

The credit crunch and a pension funding crisis have left dioceses facing massive restructuring programmes. Church statistics show that between 2000 and 2013 stipendiary or paid clergy numbers will have fallen by nearly a quarter.

According to figures on the Church of England website, there will be an 8.3 per cent decrease in paid clergy in the next four years, from 8,400 this year to 7,700 in to 2013. This represents a 22.5 per cent decrease since 2000. If this trend continues in just over 50 years there will be no full-time paid clergy left in Britain’s 13,000 parishes serving 16,000 churches.

Jobs will instead be filled by unpaid part-timers, giving rise to fears about the quality of parish ministry. Combined with a big reduction in churchgoing, the figures will add weight to the campaign for disestablishment.

More here-

Exhibit at Erie cathedral explores St. Nicholas and Santa Claus

From Erie-

How did St. Nicholas go from a Christian bishop born in the third century and imprisoned for his faith to a red-suited jolly old bearded elf who climbs down chimneys with presents?

That answer and more about St. Nicholas are included in a traveling exhibit from the St. Nicholas Center in Michigan that's on display at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie. Titled "St. Nicholas: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus," the exhibit runs through Dec. 27.

"It represents different countries, different customs, different icons, art," said Sharon Downey, the cathedral's organist and choirmaster.

She and her husband, the Rev. John Downey, cathedral dean, attended an Episcopal Church convention in California at which Sharon Downey learned about the center and John Downey talked to a bishop who'd hosted a St. Nicholas exhibit.

What they heard fit with a new initiative at the Erie cathedral.

"We've been wanting to sort of branch out further in our connection to the arts," John Downey said.

The first attempt is a wall covered by 15 panels, each displaying pictures and information about St. Nicholas.

John Downey said cathedral officials would like to schedule a few exhibits a year, including the work of local people.

In the meantime, a special Advent Day, related to the first exhibit, is planned for preschoolers through fifth-graders Dec. 5, the day before St. Nicholas's feast day. Dec. 6 is his day because he's believed to have died on that date, possibly in 342, according to one of the panels.

The special event for children will feature St. Nicholas puzzles and paper bishops' miters, or hats. Children also will hear stories about St. Nicholas.

"It's amazing how he has captured the imagination," John Downey said.

More here-

20 years of serving others

From Vermont-

For the past 20 years, Mary Haas has volunteered at the weekly community dinner at Immanuel Episcopal Church for one reason: she hates to see people go hungry.

"It's disgusting," she said about the prospect of even one person going to bed without a meal. "I can't stand to have people hungry and as long as I can make it up and down those stairs I'll keep feeding people. And even if it gets to the point where I can't stand up, I'll find the way."
Haas, 83, helped start the Monday night Great Falls Community Kitchen and was there during that very first meal on Dec. 4, 1989.

On Monday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m. at the church, Haas and her crew of volunteers will be honored for their two decades of serving a meal to anyone who stops by.

Haas has seen her share of hungry and needy people over the 20 years, where she has missed only a handful of meals over the whole time.

But she points out that charity has nothing to do with it.
The weekly community meals are for the poor and the rich. Local residents and visitors alike are welcome.

No questions are asked.

"If you show up and you're hungry, we feed you," Haas said.

The Monday night dinners started after three students from Bellows Falls Union High School became concerned about a group of homeless men who were hanging around the village.

More here-

Episcopal bishop shares optimistic words with flock

From Reading PA-

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church has a few words she doesn't care for. Evangelism isn't one of them.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori highlighted "the dangerous 'E' word" in her message to members of the Diocese of Bethlehem in Lebanon earlier this month, admitting the word is toxic to most Episcopalians.

Her message during Evensong was less a sermon and more an optimistic report on the state of the denomination.

She called the attention of her flock, including a number from Berks, to the goals of "reconciling the world to God and working for a healed world." She said the church should be known as a Domestic and Foreign Mission Society and its members as agents of change.

Jefferts Schori offered a five-point message, doubled. She ticked off five marks of mission the church has adopted: proclaim the good news; teach, baptize and nurture its members; relieve human suffering; change the unjust structures of society; care for the Earth.

She also offered five different ways to implement the marks: to grow congregations in their ability to practice mission; identify and evangelize the community; emphasize education and formation for all ages; battle poverty and injustice in intentional ways; develop networks, partnerships and covenant relationships.

Regarding evangelism, the bishop said she hoped Episcopalians would feel as comfortable sharing the good news about Jesus as about a new restaurant they had discovered. On education, she suggested they use their brains, not just their ears.

More here-

Friday, November 27, 2009

Third phase of Catholic/Anglican dialogue to include cooperative investigation of 'divisive' issues

From Catholic News Agency-

An interview on Vatican Radio Wednesday morning revealed that the third phase of official dialogue between the the Catholic Church and the Anglican communion, to take place within the next year, will include what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams deemed last week to be 'divisive' issues.
Discussions will focus on the relationship between the universal church and the local church.

Interviewed for the radio report was Monsignor Mark Langham, responsible for advancing Catholic/Anglican dialogue at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Msgr. Langham said that the “starting point” of the talks between the two churches would be "the broader question of the relationship between the universal church and the local church." He explained that cooperative investigations into issues that have arisen in the Anglican church in recent years, particularly the ordinations of women and practicing homosexuals as well as same-sex marriage within the church's discipline, could be fruitful.

In a conference last week in Rome, Archbishop Williams noted that these “divisive” issues should be avoided. However, following talks between representatives from the two churches in recent days it appears that it will be precisely those issues that will be discussed in the third, and likely final, phase of ecumenical dialogue. Langham added that dialogue, intended to further cooperation "on all sorts of levels," is essential to the relationship, but that they would like to make headway beyond the meeting table.

ARCIC, the Anglican—Roman Catholic International Commission, is looking to promote a "wide range of possibilities for encounters," from the parish level all the way up to leadership within both communities. Despite criticism as to the validity of these dialogues, leaders from both churches are hoping for positive outcomes. The churches will complete their 40th year since the inauguration of the first phase of these ecumenical dialogues in 2010.

Vatican ban on offer to Anglicans

From The Age- (Australia)

THE Vatican has ordered a Victorian bishop to withdraw an offer to let Anglicans ordain deacons in a Catholic church tomorrow because four of the seven are women.

Bendigo Catholics and Anglicans have both expressed sadness at the decision, which comes a month after Pope Benedict XVI told Anglicans they were welcome to become Catholics and keep their Anglican identity.

Sandhurst Bishop Joe Grech offered Bendigo Anglican Bishop Andrew Curnow use of the city's oldest Catholic church for the celebratory service because the Anglican cathedral is closed for repairs.

Bishop Grech said yesterday that he had checked widely before offering St Kilian's, and had the approval of the Papal Nuncio (ambassador), Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.

But he was ordered to withdraw the offer by a Vatican department - he did not want to say which - after a Catholic complained to Rome about the planned service.

''It had wider ramifications, and the conclusion was it was better not to have it,'' Bishop Grech said.

''I was saddened, obviously. I was disappointed I couldn't help more, but there is tremendous rapport between us and the Anglicans. They know it's not a snub, it's the doctrine of the church.''

More here-

Court denies breakaway parishioners


Parishioners at Saint Mary's Anglican Church in Nanoose are relieved the B.C. Supreme Court ruled against Anglican dissidents who claimed they deserved to have control of four Vancouver churches.

The decision may be precedent-setting, which would make it difficult for the roughly 100 people who broke away from Saint Mary's in February to take possession of their former church.

Saint Mary's was reduced to just 14 people when the majority of parishioners, led by Rev. Guy Bellerby, split from the diocese and formed Christ's Church Oceanside. The breakaway group is among several across Canada that have left the Anglican diocese and joined the Anglican Network in Canada, which opposes same-sex marriage. Issues of same-sex blessings and how to interpret the Bible have led to a decades-long division in the worldwide Anglican communion.

While members of Saint Mary's are breathing a sigh of "humble relief," members of Christ's Church Oceanside hope to find a permanent place to worship.

"There's no sense of great, ostentatious celebration today. I think there's a quiet and humble thanksgiving," said Saint Mary's Rev. Ron Macluskie.

Wednesday's court decision stemmed from four breakway Anglican churches in Vancouver that argued they are not "departing" from the larger worldwide Anglican denomination and were the proper owners of the physical churches.

Macluskie said that considering the Vancouver case would likely be precedent-setting, members of his congregation, which has grown to about 50 people, were anxious about the result.

"We all had our thoughts. We wondered how it was going to work out and at this point it worked out favourably," he said, adding the mortgage on the building was paid off last month.

More here-

Vandalism at Food Pantry Shows Best and Worst of People

From The New York Times-

When the congregation of All Saints’ Episcopal Church on Chicago’s North Side convened for the early worship service on Sunday, photocopies of a column I had written, about a weekly food pantry at the church, were placed on an entryway table.

In the back of the sanctuary were a broken 3-inch-by-3-inch pane of stained glass and damp wooden floorboards.

The column discussed chagrin among some neighbors in the well-heeled area around the pantry, which now draws about 350 people each Tuesday night. It concluded that volunteering might keep “fellow citizens from drowning.”

At 8 a.m. the day after it was published, a carpenter working inside the church found a garden hose jammed through the broken window and several inches of water in the back of the sanctuary. The hose had been on for hours.

He called his boss, a contractor overseeing work on other stained-glass windows in the church. With the pastor out of town, nobody would have discovered the water damage for quite a while.

More here-

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Proclamation 2996 - Thanksgiving Day, 1952


In the cycle of the seasons, another year marked by the abundance of God’s gifts is nearing its end. At such a time we are wont to turn to Him and with humble hearts to offer thanks as a Nation for His manifold blessings.

We are moved by the inspiring autumnal beauty of our land, which uplifts the hearts of men. We are thankful for the natural and human resources which have enabled us not only to enjoy high material and spiritual standards ourselves but also to help others in the effort to achieve or protect their well-being.

We are grateful for the privileges and rights inherent in our way of life, and in particular for the basic freedoms, which our citizens can enjoy without fear. This year it is especially fitting that we offer a prayer of gratitude for the spirit of unity which binds together all parts of our country and makes us one Nation indivisible.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, HARRY S. TRUMAN, President of the United States of America, conforming to our hallowed custom, and in consonance with the joint resolution of Congress approved on December 26, 1941, do hereby call upon all our people to celebrate Thursday, November 27, 1952, as Thanksgiving Day. On that day let us, with a full awareness of our privileges and a deepening sense of the obligations which they entail, each in his own way, but together as a whole people, give due expression to our thanks, and let us humbly endeavor to follow the paths of righteousness in obedience to the will of Almighty God.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this eighth day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred fifty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-seventh.


The 'Manhattan Declaration': The Manifesto That's Shaking America

From Catholic Online-

It's been endorsed by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox leaders, united in defending life and the family. With the White House in the crosshairs.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the news passed almost without notice: the news about a strong public appeal in defense of life, of marriage, of religious freedom and objection of conscience, launched jointly – a rarity – by top-level representatives of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, and the Evangelical communities of the United States.

Among the religious leaders who presented the appeal to the public on Friday, November 20, at the National Press Club in Washington (in the photo), were the archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Washington, Donald W. Wuerl, and the bishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput.

And among the 52 first signatories of the appeal were 11 other Catholic archbishops and bishops of the United States: Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, Timothy Dolan of New York, John J. Myers of Newark, John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Richard J. Malone of Portland, and David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.

The 4700-word appeal is entitled "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," and takes its name from the area of New York in which its publication was discussed and decided last September.

The final drafting of the text was entrusted to Robert P. George, a Catholic professor of law at Princeton University, and to Evangelical Protestants Chuck Colson and Timothy George, the latter a professor at the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

More here-

Anglican diocese retains ownership of four disputed church properties

From Vancouver- (Full text of the decision is at the link below)

The Anglican diocese of the Lower Mainland will be able to retain ownership of four disputed parish properties worth more than $20 million, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled today.

Justice Stephen Kelleher decided against conservative Anglican dissidents who went to court claiming they deserve to have legal control of St. John's Shaughnessy Anglican Church in Vancouver -- one of the largest Anglican congregations in Canada -- as well as three other Lower Mainland church properties.

The clergy and trustees at the four conservative parishes left the 600,00-member Anglican Church of Canada last year and joined a smaller conservative breakaway Anglican organization called the Anglican Network in Canada, with about 3,500 members.

The bitter Lower Mainland court case over church property is the latest in a series of harsh confrontations in Canada and around the globe between liberal and conservative Anglicans. The issue of same-sex blessings and how to interpret the Bible have been focal points of a decades-long division in the worldwide Anglican communion, in which liberal Vancouver-area Bishop Michael Ingham has been a key player.

In addition to St. John's Shaughnessy Church, which is at the corner of Granville Street and Nanton Avenue in Vancouver's most expensive neighbourhood, the congregations affected by Wednesday's ruling are St. Matthew's Church in Abbotsford, St. Matthias and St. Luke Church on West 49th in Vancouver and Good Shepherd Church on East 19th in Vancouver.

Episcopal Church launches inclusive advertising campaign ShareThis Print

From Everyday Christian-

The Episcopal Church is launching a new advertising campaign portraying itself as an inclusive body welcoming of all Christians.

The denomination has become fractured in recent years over issues surrounding gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. Recently, the Catholic Church issued an unprecedented offer to let Anglican clergy join Catholic ranks, waiving celibacy requirements for clergy who are already married.

“We want to herald and share our welcoming message,” explained Anne Rudig, Episcopal Church Director of Communication. “We are bringing our identity, our core beliefs, and our heritage to life in a manner that invites all to share.”

The work uses the theme “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” with specific examples of the Church’s beliefs. Among others, they include:
• As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

• We uphold the Bible and worship with the Book of Common Prayer.

• We strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.
• We welcome men and women, married or celibate, to be ordained as bishops, priests, and deacons.
• We believe in amendment of life, the forgiveness of sin, and life everlasting.

• We affirm that committed relationships are lifelong and monogamous. Episcopalians also recognize that there is grace after divorce and do not deny the sacraments to those who have been divorced.

• We affirm that issues such as birth control are matters of personal informed conscience.

• We celebrate our unity in Christ while honoring our differences, always putting the work of love before uniformity of opinion.

• All are welcome to find a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New lawsuits face Church in USA

From Religious Intelligence-

The Episcopal Church’s legal wars continued unabated last week, with new lawsuits in Tennessee, and appeals filed in Pittsburgh, Georgia and San Joaquin.

The Diocese of Tennessee on Oct 30 filed suit against St Andrew’s Church in West Nashville, asking a state court to grant it control of the parish’s property. In 2006 the congregation quit the diocese to affiliate with the Diocese of Quincy and is now part of the Anglican Church of North America.

Tennessee caught many observers by surprise as it had been numbered among the conservative communion partners group, which had pledged to abide by the Windsor Report process, including the primates’ call for a halt to lawsuits.

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh announced last week that it would appeal against a lower court ruling granting control of the diocese’s assets to a loyalist faction aligned with the national church. “Our decision to appeal is for the purpose of protecting the mission of our 51 local congregations. Left uncontested, the award of all diocesan assets to the minority party, a group that comprises only a third of the parishes that were a part of our diocese when we withdrew from the Episcopal Church, would establish a precedent that we believe the minority would use to take steps to seize all the assets of all our local parishes,” the diocese said.

The loyalists’ bid to keep all of the assets of the diocese, “which is supported by the aggressive leadership of the Episcopal Church, is unfair, unreasonable, and unconscionable,” Pittsburgh said. On Oct 29, Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia, appealed a lower court’s ruling granting control of the oldest church in the state to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

“This is another step in what we knew would be a long process,” said the Rev Marcus Robertson, Rector of Christ Church. The parish’s lawyer Neil Creasy said he believed they would win on appeal. “The Supreme Court of South Carolina is the only state supreme court to have ruled in a case involving facts, law and issues similar to ours. It ruled in favour of the local congregation. We are confident of a similar result here,” he said.

In California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno, briefs were filed last week in the case of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin v the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. In June a lower court granted summary judgment to the Episcopal diocese in its bid to seize the assets of the Anglican diocese. The lower court declined to hear arguments proffered by the Anglican diocese on the question of whether a diocese may secede from the national church and issued an order granting relief to the Episcopal diocese --- the loyalist faction in San Joaquin.

Canon law commentator AS Haley noted the decision in the San Joaquin case would likely have an impact on the cases underway against Fort Worth, Quincy and Pittsburgh.

The “current leadership” of the Episcopal Church “is contending that once it joins the Church, a Diocese must forever remain a part of that organization. It has neither language nor logic on its side, but it still makes the argument,” he said, noting the Fresno appeals court will be the first “appellate court in any State to evaluate the merits of the Church's case.”

Chicago Diocese Welcomes Missions, Lectures Scouts

From The Living Church-

The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has welcomed three new missions with a collective membership of more than 800 people.

The diocese welcomed First Asian Church, Bloomingdale; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Chicago; and Sagrada Familia-Holy Family, Lake Villa, during its annual convention Nov. 20-21 in the western Chicago suburb of Lombard.

While speaking on the diocese’s mission, the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of Chicago, directed delegates’ attention to Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity.

“Notice how there is space for others, space for you and me,” Bishop Lee said. “The figures are oriented outward, their bodies turned toward us, inviting us to the table. To engage this icon is to encounter God’s invitation to all of us to sit down and eat. A friend of mine once said that’s really what the Christian message boils down to: You’re a sinner; God loves you anyway; dinner’s ready; sit down and eat. God will not rest until every man, woman and child who lives or dies has a place at that table, and knows it.”

In their voting, convention delegates:

• Commended the Boy Scouts of America on its centennial (in February 2010), and urged the organization to “allow membership to youth and adult leaders irrespective of their sexual orientation, with all due sensitivity toward persons of nontraditional gender identity and expression.”

• Rejected the tithe as the minimum standard of giving for Episcopalians. General Convention affirmed tithing in 1982 and reaffirmed it in 2009.

• Urged President Obama and Congress to “press the State of Israel to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip, thereby permitting free and uninhibited access for all humanitarian assistance, a return to normalized trade, and the lifting of the ban on building and educational materials.”

• Authorized continuing work by a diocesan youth ministry task force.

• Appointed a task force to study “the complicity of the Diocese of Chicago and its predecessor, the Diocese of Illinois, in the institution of slavery and in the subsequent history of segregation and discrimination and the current practices of segregation and discrimination.”

Uganda's anti-gay bill causes Commonwealth uproar

From the Globe and Mail-

The Commonwealth convenes for a summit this week amid growing furor over a proposed law that would impose life imprisonment on homosexuals in Uganda, whose President is chairing the gathering.

The law, proceeding through Uganda's Parliament and supported by some of its top leaders, would imprison anyone who knows of the existence of a gay or lesbian and fails to inform the police within 24 hours. It requires the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as any sexual act between gays or lesbians in which one person has the HIV virus.

The controversy is growing because Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is the chairman of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, which opens on Friday with Stephen Harper joining the leaders of 52 other countries.

If it is raised at the summit, the issue has the potential to divide Commonwealth leaders, who hold deeply polarized views on homosexuality. A number of Commonwealth countries, including Canada and Britain, have liberal views on the subject, but many African and Caribbean nations are socially conservative and maintain laws on their books that criminalize homosexuality.

Activists are urging the Commonwealth to make it clear that it will suspend Uganda's membership if the law passes.

More here-

Bishop raises spectre of Anglican civil war

From Religous Intelligence-

The spectre of civil war breaking out among traditionalist Anglicans has been dramatically raised by a "flying bishop". But hostilities must be resisted and Anglo-Catholics need to "mutually help each other," pleads the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Rev Martyn Jarrett.

He delivers the earnest call in a new edition, out this week, of the "Beverley Bulletin," an occasional paper distributed to traditionalist clergy and others in the 14 dioceses of the York province. The bulletin appears in the wake of the Pope's blueprint - details of which were released last week - providing for the creation of a section within the Roman Catholic Church for Anglicans wishing to retain parts of their heritage.

Bishop Jarrett dubs the pontiff's offer as "generous and gracious" but warns that there may now be a three-way split among Anglicans unable to accept women bishops and possibly considering going over to Rome. Some Anglicans, no matter what now happens within the Church of England, "have come to believe that there is no longer any real choice than to move into immediate full communion with the Holy Father," he says.

For others, a move into communion with Rome "would create theological difficulties perhaps as large as the difficulties they have with the prospect of women bishops."
Then there are those Anglicans "who still believe there could be some theological integrity in remaining members of the Church of England," the bishop says. Bishop Jarrett, who is careful in the Bulletin not to reveal into which category he himself falls, admits: "There are no easy solutions. I only wish there were." The 65-year-old provincial episcopal visitor then warns: "We must resist, in the meanwhile, any kind of civil war breaking out within our ranks.

All three responses - and probably a number more - to my mind are honourable positions that can be held with integrity."
The bishop adds: "I suspect that as each of us grapples with our present context, several of us will find ourselves moving in and out of the various groupings and even, for a while, not being quite sure as to where it is we should be. "This is a time for mutually helping each other - and not for point-scoring or for trying to take the moral high ground."

Church Fights for Assets, Members and Legitimacy

From the Wall Street Journal-

When the members of St. Luke's of the Mountains Church in La Crescenta, Calif., voted in 2006 to leave the Episcopal Church, they never meant they wanted to leave their church.

But last month, they got notice they were being evicted from the 80-year-old stone structure that had been their spiritual home.

The congregants lost a long legal fight for their building when a court ruled that the national Episcopal Church, which represents the world-wide Anglican Communion in the U.S., and the local diocese were the rightful owners of the property -- not the breakaway leaders.

"For many of us, leaving here will be one of the most difficult things we have ever done for God," Rev. Rob Holman said in his last sermon in the building before renting the Seventh Day Adventist Church nearby.

In the past few years, individual parishes and four dioceses in the U.S. have voted to split from the Episcopal Church, which had about two million members before the split. In June, some of these groups officially founded a rival province, the Anglican Church in North America, which includes some 742 parishes.

The schism reflects arguments over church doctrine, such as the ordination of women priests and the elevation of an openly gay bishop in 2003. Each side argues it best embodies the values and beliefs of the Anglican Communion. The breakaway groups say they are holding true to the Anglican understanding of theology, as the U.S. Episcopal Church moves to the left. The national body says its positions may change over time, but the tenets of the denomination guide those actions.

More here-

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vatican official explains that Anglican conversions are fruit of authentic ecumenism

From Catholic News Agency-

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, explained last week that the entrance of Anglicans into the Catholic Church is the fruit of authentic ecumenism inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

On the eve of a scheduled meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the leader of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Cardinal Kasper commented on the openness of the Catholic Church to Anglicans who asked to be admitted into full communion.

Ecumenism is not an “option” that the Church can accept or reject but is rather “a sacred duty,” he said.

“Ecumenism is not an appendix of our pastoral obligations or a luxury. The principles of the Vatican II decree ‘Unitatis redintegratio,’ that is, ecumenism in truth and love, are also valid for the future. This decree is the magna carta of our ecumenical journey towards the future,” the cardinal said.

The decree "Unitatis redintegratio” states that “promoting the restoration of unity between all Christians is one of the main ends proposed by the sacrosanct Vatican Council II,” he added.

Cardinal Kasper added that the effort to reach out to Anglicans is in complete conformity with the decree, “which distinguishes between conversions and ecumenism as dialogue with the other churches for the purpose of full communion.”

He reiterated that the decree does not represent “a new ecumenism,” but rather the fruit of the ecumenical dialogue of recent decades, “a strong drive to move ahead in our ecumenical commitment.”

More here-

Episcopal group denounces anti-gay law in Uganda

From Religious News Service-

A U.S.-based group that includes several Episcopal bishops is challenging Anglican leaders to denounce a proposed bill in Uganda that would severely criminalize homosexuality.

"The Anglican Communion has committed itself to the pastoral care of gay and lesbian people," said the Rev. Lowell Grisham, co-convener of the Chicago Consultation. "At a time like this, we implore its leaders to speak out."

The Chicago Consultation, which includes several Episcopal bishops on its steering committee, is dedicated to the "full inclusion" of gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual individuals in the Anglican Communion and its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church.

The consultation asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Uganda's Anglican leader Archbishop Henry Orombi, to speak out against the bill.

Numerous human rights groups have denounced the proposed bill, which was introduced last month (Oct.). The bill would punish "aggravated homosexuality" by death and homosexual contact with life in prison, while outlawing groups that work with gays and lesbians. Under current Ugandan law, "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" is punishable by seven years in prison, according to Human Rights Watch.

Earlier this month, the Anglican Church of Canada condemned the proposed bill, saying it would impede human rights in Uganda and "impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction."

In a Nov. 6 statement the Anglican Church of Uganda said it "cannot support the death penalty," but that "homosexual behavior is immoral and should not be promoted, supported, or condoned in any way." The church also said it was studying the legislation and "therefore, does not yet have an official position on the bill."

The Anglican Communion is sharply divided on homosexuality, leading some national churches, including the Church of Uganda, to break ties with the Episcopal Church, which allows same-sex blessings, and the ordination of gays and lesbians as bishops.

More than 30 former Episcopal congregations have left the Episcopal Church to join the Church of Uganda.

Pope’s bid to win over Anglicans bruised my ego, says Archbishop

From The London Times-

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that the Pope’s offer for disaffected Anglicans to convert to Rome left him with a “sore ego” and put him in an “awkward position”.

But after meeting the Pope at the Vatican this weekend, Dr Rowan Williams insisted that relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches were back on track.

Dr Williams told the Pope of his embarrassment at the way the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced an Apostolic Constitution to set up Anglican Ordinariates for those who refuse to accept women priests and bishops. He had had only a few days’ notice, and made a late-night telephone call to the cardinal who heads the Council for Christian Unity, to find out what was going on.

Speaking to Vatican Radio yesterday, Dr Williams said: “Clearly many Anglicans, myself included, felt that it put us in an awkward position for a time – not the content [of the constitution] so much as some of the messages that were given out. I needed to share with the Pope some of those concerns. I think those were expressed and heard in a very friendly spirit.”

More here-

At 150, Darwin's 'Origin' Stirs Even More Debate

From NPR-

One hundred fifty years ago, a book appeared in England that changed the world.

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species has been called the most important book ever written. Introducing the theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin's book fundamentally altered how scientists look at the natural world, and continues to frame biological research today.

Since the day it appeared, the book has been controversial. But surprisingly, it may be more controversial today than when it first appeared. That's because by 1859, there had been several books on evolution published in Britain.

"The most famous example being a book that came out in Victorian Britain in 1844 — an anonymous best-seller," says Jim Endersby. "It was called The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation."

Endersby is a professor of the history of science at the University of Sussex and the author of an introduction to a commemorative edition of On the Origins of Species published by Cambridge University.

He says The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation may have captured the popular imagination, but it was lambasted by scientists for its multiple factual errors, and by the clergy for its affront to religious dogma. Darwin's book got a much more positive reception.

"What really impressed people with Darwin's work was not so much the idea itself, but the book," says Endersby. "It was the fact that there was so much detail, so much evidence."

More here-

Executive Council members call for special meeting on Uganda legislation

From ENS-

A teleconference meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council will take place on Dec. 7 to discuss a possible statement on Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country's anti-homosexuality laws.
Sixteen members of the council requested the meeting with a handwritten petition that said a motion would be offered at the meeting "regarding the urgent human rights situation in Uganda."

Homosexuality in the African nation currently carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. If passed, the proposed bill would extend prison sentences for homosexuals up to and including life imprisonment and introduce the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," which includes assault against people under the age of 18 and those with disabilities. It also would give Ugandan courts jurisdiction over Ugandan citizens who violate the law "partly outside or partly in Uganda."

The Executive Council, an elected group of clergy, laity and bishops that carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a), normally meets three to four times a year. The next meeting is set for Feb. 19-22.

However, the Presiding Bishop as president of the council may call a special meeting and a minimum of nine council members may petition in writing for such a meeting under Canon I.4 (4)(a).

The last special meeting occurred April 13, 2005 when then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called a one-day meeting in Mundelein, Illinois near Chicago to formulate a response to a request of the Anglican Communion's primates that the Episcopal Church voluntarily withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council until the next meeting of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The minutes of that meeting are here and the response is here.

More here-

Episcopal Diocese Wants $205K From Lawyers

From New York-

The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island wants law firms to repay the $205,000 in legal fees that "dissident" parishioners allegedly paid out of church coffers after trying unsuccessfully to take over a church. The squabble erupted after the consecration of the church's first openly gay bishop, in 2003.

The Diocese says the dissidents voted to disaffiliate St. James Church of Elmhurst in 2005, then used church money to pay their legal fees as they sought control of the parish's 304-year-old property.

Citing "theological and moral decline," the St. James' dissidents fled the Diocese and affiliated with the Anglican Church of America, according to news reports at the time.

The Jakubik Law Firm and Silber Law Firm represented them in an action seeking control of the church's property, which was held in a trust created in 1871, but a court dismissed their claim in April 2008.

During the legal battle, the dissidents appointed an "unauthorized priest" and formed the St. James Anglican Church, according to the complaint. The Diocese says the dissidents wrote checks against the parish's bank and stock accounts to pay $205,000 in legal fees.

The church and diocese sued Mark Jakubik, Meyer Silber and their law firms, alleging unjust enrichment and conversion. They are represented by Jennifer McLaughlin with Cullen & Dykman of Garden City.$205K_From_Lawyers.htm

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bode George - Conviction Good for Nation - Bishop

From Nigeria-

Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egbu, Prof. Emmanuel Iheagwam has said the conviction of a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode George, was a healthy development for Nigeria.

This is as he urged Nigerians not to despair over the present state of the nation, but to hope that the country would begin to experience changes for the better.

Prof. Iheagwam stated this Eucharistic Services of confirmation, admission and induction for Umuohiagu/Logara and Obike parishes both in Ngor Okpala local government council area.

The Bishop who lauded the ruling of Justice Joseph Oyewole of Lagos High Court, Ikeja, in sentencing George and five others to 28 years in prison which will run concurrently, said Nigeria was at the threshold of combating corruption in the land.

He commended the exemplary courage, boldness and firmness exhibited by Justice Oyewole and recommended that the trend be sustained.

He said with this development, Nigeria would have a new beginning, as rays of a better tomorrow were already manifesting, albeit at a very slow rate. He urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to dust up the financial records of government ministries and parastatals and treat all those 'bigmen' who had plundered the nation's wealth the way George was treated since he, he was not alone in the crime of plundering the nation's resources.

More here-

Pope Meets Head of Anglican Church

From CBS-

Pope Benedict XVI met with Archbishop Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican communion, at the Vatican Saturday. Everything was polite for the benefit of the cameras, but the growing rift between the two shows no sign of narrowing, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar.

There were handshakes in public, but at a moment of increased tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches, the pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury spent barely 20 minutes in private conversation.

Rowan Williams presides over the worldwide congregation of Anglicans, about 80 million people, including more than two million Episcopalians in the United States.

His church is divided over issues of homosexuality and gender.

Some Anglicans object to the ordination of women and gay men as priests and recently their election as bishops.

Last month Pope Benedict offered disaffected Anglicans the opportunity to convert to Catholicism while still retaining some of their own traditions. For example, married priests can remain married under the pope's offer.

The Vatican has been accused of "poaching." Vatican officials insist the pope is merely "reaching out."

More here-

What if the Archbishop of Canterbury tried evangelising Belle de Jour?

From The Telegraph-

The Archbishop of Canterbury, God love him, doesn't do showdowns. But he did, in his Anglican way, register a mild sense of grievance about the Vatican's decree making it easier for Anglo-Catholic communities to convert to Rome when he met Pope Benedict this weekend. "I wanted to express some of the concerns about the way in which the announcement had been handled, because clearly many Anglicans, myself included, felt that it put us in an awkward position for a time," Dr Williams said.

Well, if that's as near as we get to reliving the Reformation, I think we can breathe again, don't you? Mind you, in a speech before the event, Dr Williams did say the Catholic Church is not treating all baptised Christians equally by not ordaining women. That could have created a stir, but the Archbishop's knack for obfuscation means that it takes a while for his most inflammatory remarks to register. Anyway the meeting with the Pope was conducted "in a friendly spirit" and lasted all of 20 minutes, possibly because Pope Benedict was rushing off to meet some of the hundreds of artists he'd invited to the Sistine Chapel to talk about religion and art.

All fine and dandy; but I couldn't help contrasting this encounter with another meeting in Rome last week, presided over by our friend Colonel Gaddafi. He was there for a summit and got his minders to summon 500 "beautiful Italian girls" from an escort agency called Hostessweb for a reception. Not any old girls, either. They had to be aged 18-35 and no less than 5ft 7in – girls too short were turned away. What they got, instead of a few salty nibbles and a drink, was a lecture from Muammar Gaddafi about the merits of Islam and the deficiencies of Catholicism. Then they were sent off with a copy of the Koran and Muammar's Green Book of political thought.

More here-

Catholics set up a task force for huge Anglican exodus

From The Daily Mail-

The Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have set up a task force to help the possible exodus of tens of thousands of disaffected Anglicans into their church.

The move was announced as Anglican leader Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, protested to the Pope in the Vatican over its plans to receive Anglican converts en masse.

Pope Benedict XVI was last month accused of attempting to poach Anglicans unhappy about decisions taken in their church to ordain women and sexually-active homosexuals as priests and bishops.

In response to requests from about 30 Anglican bishops around the world for 'corporate reunion' with the Catholic Church, he has permitted vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions - including married priests.
In a 20-minute meeting on Saturday, Dr Williams complained to the Pope about the 'lack of consultation' over the move, saying it had left him in an 'awkward position'. But the pair failed to issue a joint statement.

Read more:

Church picks up the pieces

From Los Angeles-

The sanctuary at St. Luke’s of the Mountains Church in recent years regularly hosted around 100 worshipers for weekly services, but a change in congregations has left the site with a lot of room for growth.

Fourteen visitors came to the church for a brief service early Sunday, a month after the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles retook the property from the renamed St. Luke’s Anglican Church, which broke from the diocese three years ago.

While the turnout was light, with some members traveling ahead of Thanksgiving, the congregation is hoping to slowly grow and rebuild in a place with more than 80 years of history as a home for La Crescenta followers, the Rev. Bryan Jones said.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s an exciting opportunity,” Jones said.

Between 20 and 25 visitors have attended weekly services since the changeover, Jones said.

The church hopes to build a strong group of core members before it begins holding full Sunday services at 10 a.m., rather than its current 8 a.m. Eucharist, he said.

Although the new congregation has started small, its following of energetic members interested in shaping a new parish will be important in laying a foundation for the church, he said.

“The folks here are the folks who are really going to build the congregation,” he said.

Some visitors Sunday were new to the church, but others had been regular visitors at St. Luke’s long before its members voted to break with the Episcopal Diocese because of concerns about the appointment of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

When the congregation made its decision to split from the Episcopal Church, many members left and went to other churches, said La Crescenta resident John Breckow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trust donates 5 tons of food to area pantries

From Florida-

An early-morning delivery had volunteers scrambling to unload $5,000 worth of groceries designated for a food pantry at Grace Episcopal Church.

For the second consecutive year, members of the Port Orange Family Days Community Trust presented church officials with approximately 11,000 pounds of boxed and canned food that will help provide meals for residents in need during the holiday season.

The groceries were purchased at cost from the Walmart Supercenter on Dunlawton Avenue with money generated by Family Days, an annual event that takes place at City Center Circle.

"The food we're giving today came from the nearly 70,000 people who turned out for the 2009 Family Days festival," John Evans, president of the Family Days organization, said Monday. "They made these contributions possible, and we want them to know that it is because of them that others in the community can get a helping hand in these hard times."

Members of Grace Episcopal Church, 4110 S. Ridgewood Ave., maintain the food pantry as part of its participation with Halifax Urban Ministries, which was started in 1980 by the Halifax Area Ministerial Association to assist the hungry, homeless and low-income people in Volusia and Flagler counties.

With a 2009 goal of providing 350 tons of food to qualified recipients, the food drive is supported by congregations and members from about 40 area churches, along with civic and veterans organizations.

More here-

Investigation exposes influence of Religious Right on homophobia in Africa

From Ekklesia-

Sexual minorities in Africa have become 'collateral damage' in church conflicts as US conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay priests, ministers and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans, a groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) has suggested.

Globalising the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia, a new report by PRA Project Director Reverend Kapya Kaoma, examines the US Right’s promotion of an agenda in Africa which aims to criminalise homosexuality and infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilising African clerics in US 'culture war' battles.

The report comes as Christian church leaders in the UK are also being criticised for not speaking out about a proposed new law in Uganda which would introduce the death penalty for certain homosexual activity between consenting adults.

US social conservatives, who are in the minority in mainline churches, depend on African religious leaders to legitimise their positions as their growing numbers make African Christians more influential globally. The report says these partnerships have succeeded in slowing the mainline Protestant churches’ recognition of the full equality of LGBT people.

In the United States, Kaoma focuses on “renewal” groups in The Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church USA, and Presbyterian Church USA; US conservative evangelicals and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a neoconservative think tank that has "sought to undermine Protestant denominations’ tradition of progressive social justice work for decades".

In Africa, Kaoma investigates the ties which US conservatives have established with religious leaders in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya and the impact of homophobia exported from the United States to these Anglophone countries.

More here-

Episcopal convention delegates review missionary progress

From Missouri-

Delegates at the 170th convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri learned on Friday afternoon that one of the mission churches in Lake St. Louis had become a parish. About 75 members of the Church of the Transfiguration were on hand to provide a presentation of the mission's history and the work it took to become a parish.

"We started out with about a dozen members," said Mary Ruth, a longtime member of the newly established parish. "It moved from place to place, meeting room to meeting room, until we finally settled on our present building. Now we've added on rooms for Sunday school and meetings."

Building up missions was a large part of convention business as 300 delegates met to discuss and review the church's progress on missionary work, not only in Africa but also in Missouri. It was the ongoing theme emphasized by both Bishop George Wayne Smith, 10th bishop of Missouri, and the keynote speaker of the weekend, Dr. Dwight Zscheile.

During his homily at Mass Friday evening, Zscheile, an assistant professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., touched on the issues of the Episcopal Church.

"God calls us out of our doors to participate in healing and reconciliation," he said. The Episcopal Church cannot expect people to join the church, sing the songs and just stay. Members have to work at the mission at hand, promoting healing and peace by working with each other. We are confused by the idea of mission, we think it's somewhere else, but it's right on our doorsteps."

Christ Episcopal Church of Cape Girardeau was one of six congregations asked by the bishop to engage in an experiment of missional living.

"I have asked them to refocus their life around God's mission and to make it an organizing principle in their common life, not an afterthought or the thing to do after everything else is in order," Smith said.

More here-