Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pope gives Christmas message

From North Dakota-

In his Christmas message to the world Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the slaughter in Syria and for more meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, while encouraging more religious freedom under China’s new leaders.

Delivering the traditional speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict also encouraged Arab spring nations, especially Egypt, to build just and respectful societies.

The pope prayed that China’s new leadership may “esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each other” to help build a “fraternal society for the benefit of that noble people.”

It was a clear reference to the Chinese government’s often harsh treatment of Catholics loyal to the pontiff instead of to the state-sanctioned church. Earlier this month, the Vatican refused to accept the decision by Chinese authorities to revoke the title of a Shanghai bishop, who had been appointed in a rare show of consensus between the Holy See and China.

More here-

Churches can't see beyond the mass appeal of sex

From Ireland-

Isn’t it remarkable how so much discussion in our churches these days centres on sex?

Mention the words “Catholic Church” anywhere these days and the immediate thought is “child sex abuse”, and/or “contraception/homosexuality/divorce/ abortion”. Mention “Anglican” and what springs to mind is probably either “gay clergy” or “women bishops”.

Maybe it is this very public wrestling with such issues by a generally older, mainly male clergy and a greying laity that has turned young people away. Our churches appear dominated by thinking that is resolutely stuck in the mid-20th century.

Signs of the times

The churches refuse to read the signs of the times. Who was it who said, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast’. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”? Oh, it was that chap Jesus, wasn’t it?. His, of course, was not an exhortation to become dedicated followers of fashion. Rather, it was encouragement to take on board the insights of the day.

More here-

Thanksgiving service hails new beginning for Anglicans

From Zimbabwe-

Anglicans in Harare are looking forward to a new year in their own church buildings after they were returned to them following a protracted legal battle.

St Mary and All Saints Cathedral and other properties had been occupied by Dr Nolbert Kunonga, a former bishop who was excommunicated from the Anglican Communion in 2007 over his support for Robert Mugabe.

The properties were finally returned to the Church of the Province of Central Africa after the Zimbabwean Supreme Court found in its favour.

The court victory was celebrated by a historic thanksgiving service in Harare attended by a thousand worshippers.

The Bishop of Harare, the Right Reverend Chad Gandiya said: “All those five years we were driven from our churches and went into exile, life was not easy but God was with us. We survived and found grace in exile.”

More here-

House of Bishops to revive hopes for women bishops

From The Church Times-

NEW legislation to enable women to become bishops will be presented to the General Synod in July, the House of Bishops announced on Tuesday, after a two-day meeting at Lambeth Palace.

The Archbishops will set up a working group, drawn from all three Houses of Synod, its membership to be announced before Christmas. This group will arrange "facilitated discussion with a wide range of people with a variety of views" in the week of 4 February, when the General Synod was to have met.

Immediately after these discussions, the House of Bishops will meet and the elements of a new legislative package are expected to be decided at its meeting in May, in readiness for the July sessions.

The Bishops reckon that, "for such proposals to command assent", they will need to offer "greater simplicity", but also a "clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans". There was also a need for a "broadly based measure of agreement about the shape of the legislation in advance of the beginning of the actual legislative process".

More here-

Bob Trask retires as Grace Episcopal pastor

From Michigan (Bob was a seminary classmate)

His lean runner’s frame gives a clue to what the Rev. Bob Trask plans for his retirement: Run even more and, if possible, find a cross country team to coach.

“I will continue to be a priest, filling in on Sundays, “ said Trask, 65, who is retiring as pastor of Grace Episcopal Church in Port Huron.

“My dream is to be a running coach, cross country at a local high school.”

Trask’s final service after nearly 15 years at Grace Episcopal will be at 10 a.m. Sunday. He and his wife, Margaret, will be moving to Wheaton, Ill., where they have family.

Trask came to the ministry later in life and has spent nearly 30 years as an Episcopalian priest.

“I taught horticulture in a vocational training program at a maximum security prison in Kansas,” he said. “We had a greenhouse, we did turf care, a variety of things.”

Working at the prison in Hutchinson, Kan., he said, prepared him for his vocation.

more here-

Friday, December 28, 2012

Confidential plan to sell Anglican churches

From Australia-

MORE than half of Newcastle’s Anglican churches could be sold off for commercial or residential development under a radical proposal to make over the Diocese.

A confidential draft report obtained by the Newcastle Herald reveals the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle could make nine of its 15 Newcastle and Newcastle West churches ‘‘redundant’’ as part of a future growth strategy.

Problems detailed in the report include falling congregation numbers, maintenance problems, lack of financial contributions, no on-site parking, fire risk issues and disconnect with community.

Four of the churches being considered for sale are heritage listed.

The report, put together by consultants NBRS+Partners, has created a storm among parishioners who have labelled it a ‘‘disgraceful cash grab’’.

Many fear the recommendations will be pushed through before the appointment of a new bishop following the retirement of Dr Brian Farran as Bishop of Newcastle earlier this month.

Administrator of the Diocese, Bishop Peter Stuart, said yesterday he was ‘‘disappointed’’ that the confidential document had been leaked to the Herald.

More here-

Trinity Episcopal's parish hall is 'structurally sound,' says rector

From Alabama-

Trinity Episcopal Church’s parish hall is structurally sound, despite losing its front wall, according to the Rev. Bailey Norman, rector of the church that was severely damaged by a Christmas Day tornado.

Irving Hall served as a temporary sanctuary when the church underwent significant renovations in 2010, members said Wednesday as they gathered to survey the damage.

In a report on the church’s website, Norman said that engineers would be coming today to evaluate the sanctuary area, which lost part of the roof and had a bulge in the east wall. “We will then make an assessment of what we need to do in terms of repairs,” he said.

Trinity was established in 1845 as Mobile’s second Episcopalian church and today has a membership of about 300. The current structure was moved brick by brick to Dauphin Street from a downtown location in 1945 in order to preserve its Gothic Revival architecture.

More here-

Texas Supreme Court wades into Episcopal dispute

From Austin-

Wading into the tricky legal waters where religion and government meet, the Texas Supreme Court will decide who owns 52 Fort Worth-area churches — the national Episcopal Church or the diocese that broke away in protest of the consecration of a gay bishop, the ordination of women and other liberal policies.

The properties at stake are worth more than $100 million, making this the largest church-property dispute in Texas history, and probably in U.S. history as well, lawyers say.

What’s more, the court decision will affect the way Texas handles future church disputes by further pinning down a moving legal target: the dividing line between the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and state laws affecting property, nonprofits and related areas.
“It’s not the amount of money that makes the case important,” Scott Brister, a lawyer for the breakaway diocese, told the court during oral arguments in October. “Churches are, of course, an important part of this state. After all, what does it profit a state to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?”

Led by conservative Bishop Jack Iker, members of the Fort Worth diocese overwhelmingly voted to leave the national church in 2008, joining an exodus involving dozens of individual congregations and three other U.S. dioceses, which are regional collections of churches.

More here-

Jane Holmes Dixon, second female bishop in Episcopal Church, dies at 75

From The Washington Post-

Jane Holmes Dixon, a stay-at-home Bethesda mom who became a priest in her 40s and later became the second female bishop in the Episcopal Church, died in her sleep early Christmas morning at her home in Washington. She was 75 and died of heart disease, her family said.

Bishop Dixon was seen as a warm, empathetic mentor, particularly to female lay leaders and clergy in the Episcopal Church, which has wrestled in recent decades with rifts over gender roles, sexuality and biblical literacy.

Her 17-month temporary term as bishop pro tempore of the Washington Diocese in 2001 and 2002 was dominated by a standoff with a rural parish in Prince George’s County whose rector, the Rev. Samuel L. Edwards, refused to recognize female authority.

The issue wound up in the headlines, including a scene of Bishop Dixon preaching on the church basketball court after church members refused to admit her to the sanctuary. Bishop Dixon filed a federal lawsuit, charging that Edwards had been improperly hired by the church, without her approval and in violation of canonical law.

More here-

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Groups call for prayer to end fiscal cliff gridlock

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Two Pittsburgh bishops whose rival dioceses are at loggerheads over other issues have identical concerns about the fiscal cliff.

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is the son of a high-ranking Air Force general who often brought members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to dinner during the Vietnam era.

"It was a common thing for them to take each other to task in the strongest terms on the floor of the Senate. Then they would come to our home and show each other pictures of their grandchildren. There was neutral ground in the sense that they were mutually committed to the common good. I am praying for a restoration of that view," he said.

"There is a spiritual illness that we are afflicted with, a deep polarization in this country that is worse than at any time I can remember. We need to be praying for our Congress and our Senate and our president, that God will literally turn their hearts to each other."

Read more:

N.Z. quake city puts faith in cardboard cathedral

From New Zealand-

 When Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed a new cathedral in earthquake-devastated Christchurch, he chose the most unlikely of materials -- cardboard -- for the landmark project.

The New Zealand city's magnificent Gothic revival cathedral hewn from local basalt was irreparably damaged in the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that claimed 185 lives on February 22 last year.

Urgently needing a temporary replacement, the Anglican Church commissioned Ban -- who donated his services gratis -- to draw up plans for a place of worship to house Christchurch's faithful.

The result is the so-called cardboard cathedral now taking shape on the quake-scarred city's skyline.

Built from 600-millimeter diameter cardboard tubes coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants, it will be a simple A-frame structure that can hold 700 people.

"It will be a huge milestone towards recovery for Christchurch," project manager Johnny McFarlane said.

More here-

Remembering a great woman and role model

From The National Catholic Reporter-

When I first met Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, we had an informal lunch and talked about her groundbreaking role as the first woman Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., and the second woman bishop in the United States, following Bishop Barbara Harris of Massachusetts.
We talked about the fact that women can’t even be deacons in the Catholic church (yet), but she pointed out that no struggles for gender equality are easy. Catholic women, she believed, would eventually be accepted into all levels of the priesthood.

Jane understood well her own pioneer role, saying at a press conference on the day of her consecration in 1992, “I am a symbol of the inclusiveness of God.”

Those were the days when women could become bishops in the Episcopal Church, but were not yet universally accepted. Jane had to deal with a couple recalcitrant parishes that refused to welcome her, situations which she handled with grace, courage and conviction.

More here-

Episcopal bishop coming to survey damage at Trinity church

From Alabama- (Episcopals? Really?)

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast was on his way this morning to survey the Christmas storm damage to Trinity Episcopal Church, said the Rev. Bailey Norman, rector at Trinity.

Once the Rt. Rev. Philip Duncan is here, and the building is secured, a decision can be made about what to do next about the church, which suffered a direct hit, losing part of a wall and roof, he said.

“The building will have to be secured this afternoon. Then we’ll look at what repairs are needed,” said Rev. Norman, who has been rector for about a year. “It will be significant, whatever it is.”

He said several congregations, including Episcopals, Lutherans and Catholics, had offered to help or house services.

A small group of church members and neighborhood residents gathered Wednesday morning outside the church on Dauphin Street to see for themselves what they had only heard about last night. Some hugged and shed tears. Others snapped pictures.

More here-

Texas Supreme Court to Decide Property Dispute Between Episcopal Church, Breakaway Diocese

From Christian Post-

The Texas Supreme Court will determine whether or not a diocese that broke away from The Episcopal Church four years ago holds the right to the 52 church properties in its territory.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, led by conservative bishop Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, appealed a lower court decision giving them 30 days to give the disputed property to The Episcopal Church.
Arguments for the case were heard in October and presently both the departed diocese and its continuing Episcopal counterpart await the court's decision.

After leaving The Episcopal Church, the Fort Worth Diocese joined the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a newer and more conservative member of the global Anglican Communion.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury says Anglican church wounded, not dead

From New Zealand-

The leader of the Church of England today said a vote last month that struck down proposals to allow women to become bishops had been "deeply painful", but that Christianity was still relevant in Britain despite falling numbers of believers.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who leads the global 80-million-strong Anglican Communion, said in his Christmas day sermon that the answer to the question of whether Christianity had "had its day" was a "resounding no".

The Church of England narrowly voted against allowing women bishops last month - to the dismay of Williams and Prime Minister David Cameron - in a move its leaders said risked undermining its role as the established church in society with clerics in parliament's upper chamber.

The media, many politicians and some members of the public have criticised the Church of England for failing to allow women bishops and for failing to back government plans for gay marriage at a time when it is under pressure to modernise.

More here-

Lingering mystery of Boxing Day, even among British expats

From Philadelphia-

On Dec. 26, an inch over from the biggest holiday on the Christian calendar, there it is: Boxing Day, usually followed by parentheses containing the letters U.K.

Those who follow British culture and sports have heard the day referenced obliquely in period dramas and by soccer commentators. It popped up Saturday morning on a live telecast of a Tottenham-Stoke City match being shown in a Society Hill pub.

"There's a lot of soccer that day, but I don't know what the significance of it is," said Danny Hayde, 27, from Elizabethtown, Pa., as he watched the game in Cav's Dark Horse on Second Street.

"I think it's something to do with packing up your stuff," he said.

Across Britain and much of the Commonwealth - countries including Canada and New Zealand - Boxing Day is a public holiday that has become synonymous with shopping and a daylong schedule of sporting events.

But its origins are a mystery even to many of the British expatriates who call the Philadelphia region home.

More here-

As bells toll, clergy push Congress on gun control

From Christian Century-

As bells tolled across the country on Friday (Dec. 21) in memory of lives lost in Newtown, Conn., religious leaders gathered outside the Washington National Cathedral to push congregants and Congress to prevent further gun violence.

"Is the need for sensible gun control a religious issue?" asked Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. "Indeed it is, for our worship of guns is a form of idolatry."

Saperstein was among 20 faith leaders who gathered outside the Washington landmark Friday to mark the one-week anniversary of the mass killing at the Newtown elementary school. They paused as the cathedral's funeral bell tolled 28 times in memory of the 26 children and adults from Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as the gunman and gunman's mother, who also died.

Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde said prayer alone was not a sufficient response to the massacre.

"Now is also a time for us to show up in ways that will prevent such deaths in the future," she said. "If we only pray and offer comfort now, and do not act, we are complicit in perpetuating the conditions that allow these crimes to occur."

More here-

Members of church honor police officer killed nearby

From Wisconsin-

The Wauwatosa community is trying to cope with murder of Officer Jennifer Sebena.  Her body was found not far from Trinity Episcopal Church.

At Trinity Episcopal Church, parishioners are doing more than singing songs of praise this Christmas. They're praying for 30-year-old officer Jennifer Sebena and her family.

“In his hand are the living and the dead. We give you thanks for Jennifer Sebena," Father Gary Manning said in prayer.

Sebena was found murdered early Christmas Eve near the church.

She was shot multiple times.  Her killer is still on the loose.

"This is just so, so, close to home and plus being a police officer it's really just so upsetting,” Jill Paradowski says. Paradowski has been a parishioner at the church for 55 years.

More here-

Some staying with national Episcopal Church in S.C. start again

From South Carolina-

Beyond the headlines, the story of the Diocese of South Carolina’s split from the national Episcopal church is the story of people such as Rebecca Lovelace.

For most of her 64 years, she worshipped at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in this quiet farming town and bedroom community about a dozen miles from the high-rise condominiums of Myrtle Beach. That was until about two months ago.

That’s when Lovelace and a small group of St. Paul’s parishioners decided they could not stay in their church of 500 members as it followed the Diocese of South Carolina in breaking ties with the national church over ordination of gays and other issues.

Lovelace met with the priests where she attended church her entire life to tell them she could not stay.
“I really truly felt like there was a death in the family,” she said.

More here-

Historic Trinity Episcopal 'likely a total loss,' after tonight's tornado

From Alabama-

The roof to the sanctuary at Trinity Episcopal Church on Dauphin Street in Midtown Mobile completely ripped off during tonight’s tornado, according to witnesses.

It's "likely a total loss," the Rev. Bailey Norman posted on the church's website.

"We have been told by the fire department to stay away from the building as it has severe structural damage. We will return in the morning to survey the damage," Norman wrote. "We are so thankful that (so far) no one has been injured that we know of.

"We must soak all that has happened, but I believe in God's grace to overcome any obstacle and I believe in the good folks at Trinity who will band together to face what is to come. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts, prayers, and concerns. I will keep you updated."

More here-

Land battle between Episcopal Church, Fort Worth diocese headed to Texas Supreme Court

From Ft. Worth-

The Texas Supreme Court will decide who owns 52 Fort Worth-area church properties valued at more than $100 million in one of the largest church property disputes in state and U.S. history.

The disagreement erupted about five years ago after the Fort Worth Episcopal Diocese broke away from the national church in protest of the consecration of a gay bishop, ordination of women and other policies it perceived as too liberal.

The Fort Worth Diocese said it owned the churches and other properties, but in 2009 the national church sued, arguing the breakaway group could not take the buildings and land.

Attorneys believe the Supreme Court’s decision could determine how Texas handles similar disputes, cases that often require a balance between the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and state laws on property rights and nonprofits.

“It’s not the amount of money that makes the case important,” said Scott Brister, an attorney for the Fort Worth Diocese.

The Fort Worth Diocese is led by conservative Bishop Jack Iker. When he led his group’s split, Iker said his diocese held the deeds to all church properties, including the 48 congregations that joined him and the eight that remained loyal to the national church.

More here-

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2012

David Cameron cites Gospel of John in Christmas message

From The Guardian-

David Cameron has issued one of the most overtly religious Christmas messages of any recent British prime minister, citing in it the Gospel of John.

Cameron, who famously said in 2008 that his Anglicanism "sort of comes and goes", said the gospel tells the world that Jesus Christ was "the light of all mankind".

In his message, the prime minister says: "Christmas … gives us the opportunity to remember the Christmas story – the story about the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that he brings to the countless millions who follow him.

"The Gospel of John tells us that in this man was life, and that his life was the light of all mankind, and that he came with grace, truth and love. Indeed, God's word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace."

Cameron stops short of quoting from the Gospel of John. But it says in Chapter 3, vs 16-17: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

More here-

Christmas hope: Churches offer faith to those battered by Hurricane Sandy, Connecticut shootings

From New Jersey-

There are those battered by Hurricane Sandy, others saddened by the tragedy in Connecticut, questioning life and, perhaps, faith.

But the weary are called to rejoice, as the Rev. Canon Sandye A. Wilson puts it. Christians are called to celebrate — to find peace — in a seemingly broken world. Her followers see it around them.

It’s "a world desperate for love," said Joann Douds, who has worshipped at the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew & Holy Communion in South Orange since Wilson started preaching there. She was helping prepare decorations there yesterday as a choir practiced holiday hymns.

"There is violence on the streets," Douds said. "There is despair amongst the people."

And that’s why Christmas is such a perfect time to find hope, says Wilson, the church’s rector.

More here-

Suspicious Fire Chars Part of Brooklyn Church

From New York-

A fire badly damaged a Romanesque Episcopal church in Brooklyn early Sunday, and investigators were looking into the possibility that the blaze was the work of an arsonist.

Flames and heavy smoke erupted around 4 a.m. at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, which is nestled between brownstones on Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill.

The Rev. Christopher Ballard, the church’s curate, said the flames had caused “significant damage,” burning the wooden doors of two entrances and charring the foyer. The sanctuary, he said, remained largely unscathed. No one was injured.

Though the police said the cause remained under investigation, Father Ballard said the fire had been fueled by a pair of gasoline containers donated to Occupy Sandy volunteers, who had used the church as a staging area for hurricane relief efforts. The gasoline was intended to be used in a generator for a Christmas party in the Rockaways on Sunday night. Father Ballard said the containers had been put outside when the church was cleared of most donated materials to make way for Christmas services.

More here-

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anglican Leader Backs Gun Control in the US

From ABC-

The spiritual leader of the world's 80 million-strong Anglican Communion threw his support behind stricter gun laws in the U.S. on Saturday, saying the easy availability of powerful weapons drew vulnerable people toward violence.

Rowan Williams, who is stepping down from his role as the archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year, referred to the recent massacre of 26 children and staff at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Williams said it was hard to get into the spirit of Christmas given the "lives cut so brutally short and of the unimaginable loss and trauma suffered by parents." He made the comments on BBC radio program "Thought for the Day," a slot devoted to religious perspectives on life and current affairs.

Williams acknowledged that gun control was a sensitive issue in the U.S., but said the firepower that weapons manufacturers were putting at Americans' disposal made such massacres more likely.

More here-

Where Our Favorite Christmas Carols Come From

From Huffington (several Episcopal connections here)

I was six when I fell in love with Christmas carols, especially American Christmas songs. That year, the nuns in the Philadelphia orphanage where I lived took me to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The crowded chapel, the altar crèche, the scent of balsam trees--it was intoxicating!

But something else thrilled me even more: the music--soaring, majestic religious carols filled me with peace, joy and hope. It was a feeling, a deep spiritual warmth, I'd never experienced, living as I did, without a family, without a sense of belonging.

That night, I felt part of something--something much bigger than me. Where did such beautiful music come from? The question stayed with me all my life.

Finally, in my sixties, I needed an answer. I decided to travel 4,000 miles, across seven states in nine days, to find the true stories behind those songs that held such deep meaning for me. I'd collected rare recordings of carols for decades--even compiling them into three richly illustrated book/CD boxed collections.

"I'm going to ask you the biggest favor of my life," I said to my wife, Renate, one September night after dinner. She knew better than anyone the influence Christmas carols had on me.

More here-

Refugees from Myanmar settle in for first Christmas in Wichita

From Kansas-

Waking up with his wife and baby in south Wichita, Saw Moe can feel time passing and the worry nibbling at him under all his good fortune. Soon it will be Christmas, and he is a Christian and an ethnic Karen refugee from Myanmar, also known as Burma, and mentions God in daily life.

“With love there is no burden,” he says. “And God is love.”

The Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry is settling him and his family into Wichita. They plan to make sure there is a Christmas stocking stuffed for them before Christmas.

He has found no work yet. He is 32; his wife, Naw, is 29. They have a new country and a new baby and they want to do right by both; they want to work, save, pay taxes, help the community.

He and Naw greet visitors with hot jasmine tea and small bowls of beans, cabbage, olive oil, tea leaf, sesame seed, chile, tomato salad and tangy spices. “Yu-zan-al-ephet,” he calls it. A bean snack.

Read more here: