Saturday, March 30, 2013

British Catholic legislators ask pope to relax priestly celibacy rule

From Catholic Sun-

Twenty-one Catholic members of Parliament have written to Pope Francis to ask him to relax the rule on priestly celibacy for Latin-rite priests.

The members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords said in a March 25 letter to the pope that the rule should be changed to allow married men to be ordained priests where pastoral needs required it.

They suggested that it was unfair to allow married former Anglican ministers to be ordained as Catholic priests in England, Wales and Scotland while the church insisted on the celibacy rule for Catholic candidates in those countries.

The letter did not suggest that serving priests should be given permission to marry, and the legislators proposed that the celibacy rule be retained for bishops, as in the Eastern Catholic Churches, which allow priests to marry.

They said retaining celibacy for bishops “would signal the continuing high regard we have for those who are able to live a genuinely celibate life.”

More here-

Ex-Anglican leader says Cameron alienating Christians

From Reuters UK-

Prime Minister David Cameron is alienating Christians by promoting gay marriage, an influential former leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans said on Saturday.

In a strongly worded article, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said Cameron's plan to legalise gay unions hid an "aggressive secularist" approach that threatened the link between church and state.

The comments echoed widespread concern about the policy among some Christians - and also highlighted the challenge facing Cameron whose efforts to modernise his Conservative Party have antagonised some traditional party voters.

"The danger I believe that the government is courting with its approach both to marriage and religious freedom, is the alienation of a large minority of people who only a few years ago would have been considered pillars of society," Carey wrote in the Daily Mail.

Carey's comments come at a bad time for Cameron, who as the economy flounders is attempting to woo right-leaning voters with tough talk on immigration and the European Union.

The former Anglican leader also condemned what he saw as a lack of government support for Christians who choose to wear a cross at work, a practice that has been challenged in the past due to rules on religious expression at the workplace.

He cited a survey by pollster ComRes saying more than two thirds of Christians in Britain felt they were a "persecuted minority" and that more than half who voted Conservative in 2010 would not do so in 2015.

More here-

Theological Seminary in Alexandria to Build New Entrance

From Patheos-

Virginia Theological Seminary is preparing to construct a new main campus entrance on Seminary Road as part of improvements that also include building a new chapel to replace one that burned in 2010.

The new entrance is part of the seminary’s campus improvements that include a “Worship and Welcome Quad.” The new Immanuel Chapel will be built near where the former chapel stood, and the seminary has completed a “Chapel for the Ages” capital campaign to raise $13 million for the construction.

The old chapel will be transformed into an outdoor sacred space.

Heather Zdancewicz, vice president of administration and finance for the seminary, said campus officials hope to begin utility work for the new entrance and chapel by July 1. The school is located at 3737 Seminary Rd.

“As part of the overall project in building a new chapel, we will move the entrance westward from its current location by approximately 50 feet,” Zdancewicz told Patch. “It will still be east of Fort Williams Parkway."

More here-

Jesus didn't live to make us comfortable

From Kansas-

On the first night of Religious Emphasis Week at a small state college, the auditorium was packed with the faithful. Of course, the “Animal House” types on fraternity row and other irreligious students stayed away; this was, after all, an occasion for religious insiders, for the truly Christian.

The speaker began by opening his Bible and reading a passage of scripture. Then he closed the book and suddenly flung it across the room and out an open window. The audience was stunned. Did he really throw the Bible out the window?

The speaker looked at his audience and said, “There goes your God,” and proceeded to give a challenging lecture on the difference between worshiping the Bible and worshiping God who is revealed to us through the Bible.

Jesus does something similarly shocking in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:21-32). When he finishes the reading, he sits down and makes this challenging statement: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

The congregation responds warmly, heads nod and people murmur their approval until it suddenly dawns on someone that if Isaiah 61:1-2 has been fulfilled today, how come nothing has happened in Nazareth? How come Jesus doesn’t perform any of those mighty works we’ve heard about at Capernaum?

More here-

How Pope Francis is reforming the priesthood

From Patheos-

In his first couple of weeks as Pope, as well as his 14 years in Buenos Aires, Francis has been charting out the trajectory of priestly reshaping. We can focus on seven aspects of this needed renewal.

The first is with regard to priestly simplicity.

Diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, but commit themselves to a simple lifestyle. In many places, this principle is given lip service, as members of the clergy drive fancy cars, frequent the finest restaurants and live in exquisite digs. Cardinal Bergoglio’s example of living in a small apartment rather than an episcopal palace, taking public transportation rather than a car with a driver and cooking for himself cannot help but lead priests to a sincere examination about the sincerity of their own spiritual poverty.

Second, throughout his time as archbishop, the future Pope spoke out forcefully against priests’ living a “double-life.” When he was asked in a 2010 book-length interview, El Jesuita, about the common saying in Argentina, “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in priests,” he replied, “Many of us priests do not deserve to have them believe in us.”

He wants to change that, by calling, helping and requiring priests to live with genuine priestly integrity.

More here-

Christian Church opens doors to Muslims

From The BBC-

On a bitterly cold and snowing afternoon in Aberdeen, the doors of St John's Episcopal Church are open to hundreds of Muslim worshippers, arriving for daily prayers.

The familiar sounds of Christian hymns have been replaced with Islamic prayer in the chapel this Friday lunchtime and the church priest with the imam from the neighbouring mosque.

Muslims from the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque next door share this church with Christian worshippers up to five times a day.

Church leaders believe this may be the only place in the country where Christian and Muslim worshippers pray side by side.

The rector at St John's has opened his doors to Muslims because there was not enough space for them to pray in their own mosque and many were forced to worship outside on the street.

The Reverend Isaac Poobalan, who grew up in Southern India surrounded by Islam, said he would not have been true to his faith if he did not help his neighbours.

More here-

Houston Church Performs Same-Sex Covenant Rite

From Houston-

Last year, the Episcopal Church instituted a new policy which would allow dioceses to perform blessings of same-sex unions.

Gay marriages aren’t legally recognized by the state of Texas, but Gary Patterson and Jeff Meadows decided to tie the knot in the eyes of God at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Montrose.

This is Reverend Lisa Hunt, who presided over the ceremony

"For Jeff and Gary to be one of the first couples in our diocese was really an important statement that I wanted to make to the people who have been working to bring this day forward."

Hunt says that for this ceremony, which is called a "Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant", to have happened in Texas sends a powerful message to the public about the future of gay rights and is optimistic about gay marriage being legal in the state in the near future.

The couple had the option to have a private ceremony but Patterson says that they chose to make it open to the public because they understand what this rite means for gay rights.

More here-

Friday, March 29, 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury: I don't listen to Thought for the Day

From The Guardian-

The new archbishop of Canterbury made his debut on Radio 4's religious slot Thought for the Day – and admitted he hardly ever listens to it.

Questioned by presenters on the Today programme after giving his address, the Most Rev Justin Welby said it was not "deliberate", but tuning in to the daily feature did not fit in with his morning schedule.

Told they could not let him go from his Good Friday appearance without asking him a question, Welby, who is spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican communion as well as head of the Church of England, replied: "Oh dear."

Asked if reports that he never listens to the religious slot were true, he said: "Yes, it's not deliberate. I've got nothing against you, I think you are wonderful, you are absolutely marvellous right across the Today programme, without exception.

"But, it just doesn't fit in with what I am doing in the morning. Never would be an exaggeration, but I do very occasionally, but it is very rare."

he new archbishop of Canterbury made his debut on Radio 4's religious slot Thought for the Day – and admitted he hardly ever listens to it.

More here-

Honoring Chicago’s Victims

From The Living Church-

About 1,400 people joined an evening prayer vigil and marched through downtown Chicago March 22 in honor of the city’s 806 young victims of gun violence since 2008.

CROSSwalk began in the evening at St. James Commons. The march included a large turnout of supportive police in squad cars, on foot, and on bicycles. Police stopped traffic as the procession completed a circuit through some of the busiest downtown streets of the city. Marchers drew curious stares and occasional calls of support from bystanders.

The vigil made intermediate stops at Daley Plaza and Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. At St. Patrick’s Julian Roman-Nunez, 11, read his somber account of the day in October 2010 when his older brother, Manuel, had been shot and killed.

The final stop was a park across the street from Stroger Hospital, where many victims of gun violence in Chicago are often treated.

There the Rev. Carol Reese, a recently ordained priest appointed to serve as chaplain of Stroger’s trauma department, praised the marchers’ grassroots campaign to change laws and a culture of violence.

More here-

'A New New Testament': Scholars Add 10 New Texts To The Christian Canon

From RNS-

Is the New Testament missing a few books? In a move that may seem heretical to some Christians, a group of scholars and religious leaders has added 10 new texts to the Christian canon.

The work, "A New New Testament," was released nationwide in March in an attempt to add a different historical and spiritual context to the Christian scripture.

Some of the 10 additional texts -- which have come to light over the past century -- date back to the earliest days of Christianity and include some works that were rejected by the early church.

The 19-member council that compiled the texts consisted of biblical scholars, leaders in several Christian denominations -- Episcopal, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Lutheran -- two rabbis and an expert in Eastern religions and yoga.

More here-

REFLECTION: Liturgy in the public square

From RNS-

We walked together, some carrying placards, some taking turns carrying the 5-foot-tall cedar cross. Not a large crowd — 25 or so. Enough to be intentional, enough to attract attention. I wore my collar and black cassock, signs of my ministry, signs of the church.

It was Good Friday, and we were walking the Way of the Cross through our town, Carrboro, N.C. This made church public — we felt a little timid and a little bold at the same time.

Somewhere between the fifth and sixth stations, a man rode by on his bicycle.

“F*** God!” he yelled, waving his fist in the air. “F*** religion!”

We walked on.

Good liturgy both expresses and shapes what we believe. That day, the people of my church understood a little better how it felt to publicly claim our identity as Christians, and how a God-made-flesh was vulnerable to the powers of this world.

My congregation, the Church of the Advocate, is a 21st-century mission of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Launched in 2003, we are rooted in the traditions and liturgies of the Episcopal Church and the Book of Common Prayer.

More here-

Pope appoints first bishop

From The Tablet UK-

Pope Francis has chosen Bishop Mario Aurelio Poli to succeed him as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in the first episcopal appointment of his fledgling pontificate.

The 65-year-old native of the Argentine capital was an auxiliary bishop under then-Cardinal Jorge Bergolio before being named ordinary of the Diocese of Santa Rosa in 2008.

Archbishop-elect Poli has degrees in law and social sciences and social service in addition to a doctorate in theology. He has been a theology professor and seminary formator, as well as a parish priest.

The appointment was officially announced today in Rome and Buenos Aires just two weeks after Francis's election as Bishop of Rome and only hours before the priests and people of Argentina's primatial see were to gather for the annual Chrism Mass.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

From ENS-

While college basketball fans are in the midst of March Madness, Christians can now relax after a nail-biting finish to Lent Madness 2013. In the final match-up, former Secretary of Labor
Frances Perkins worked her way past St. Luke to win the coveted Golden Halo.

Throughout the season of Lent thousands of voters have cast their ballots for their favorite saints through this engaging online devotional tool designed to help people learn about saints. There have been upsets and thrilling, come-from-behind victories as the field has been whittled down from 32 starters, to the Saintly Sixteen, the Elate Eight, the Faithful Four, and eventually the two finalists.

Frances Perkins became known as the architect of the New Deal while she served as Secretary of Labor in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. But she wasn’t merely a government bureaucrat. Perkins’ compassion came at least in part from her strong Christian faith. She was a regular worshiper in Episcopal churches and was added to the Episcopal Church calendar in 2009 for optional commemoration. She is the first American to win the Golden Halo. Previous winners were Mary Magdalene (2012), C. S. Lewis (2011), and George Herbert (2010).

More here-

Archbishop of Canterbury to present Classic FM breakfast show

From The Guardian-

The archbishop of Canterbury will play the theme tune from The Vicar of Dibley when he makes his radio presenting debut on Easter Sunday. The Most Rev Justin Welby will host the Classic FM breakfast programme as a one-off Easter special, playing a selection of classical favourites and music inspired by the Easter story.

As well as the theme from the hit BBC sitcom starring Dawn French, the playlist will include the composer Howard Goodall's setting of Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd. Goodall is currently composer-in-residence at Classic FM.

On the show, Welby, who is head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, will praise French's portrayal of clergy life. "As someone who has been a member of the clergy for over 20 years, I can't help but have a fondness for this piece of music," he will tell listeners. "I was a parish priest for 10 years, both in urban areas and in rural ones, and Dawn French's portrayal of life in the clergy is a mixture of enormously humorous and occasionally quite painfully close to the bone."

The Vicar of Dibley when he makes his radio presenting debut on Easter Sunday. The Most Rev Justin Welby will host the Classic FM breakfast programme as a one-off Easter special, playing a selection of classical favourites and music inspired by the Easter story.

More here-

Welby the pilgrim takes his turn in the Chair of Augustine

From The Church Times-

THE Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Portal Welby, was enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday of last week, in a service that combined tradition with modern reminders of his international position in the Anglican Communion.

Great emphasis was placed during the service on the relationship between the Anglican Church and its ecumenical partners. And, although the African element constituted only one element of the service, its colourful impact made it one of the most memorable.

The service, which was billed as "the inauguration of the ministry of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury" rather than an enthronement, was preceded by processions lasting 50 minutes. Among the congregation were the Prince of Wales, representing the Queen, and the Duchess of Cornwall. The Government was represented by the Prime Minister and other prominent figures such as the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling. The Leader of the Opposi-tion, Ed Miliband, also attended.

Civic dignitaries from the city and county were there in force, led by the Lord Lieutenant, Lord De L'Isle. The Lord Mayor of Canterbury was re- splendent in gold braid and feathered tricorn hat, as he processed behind the sword and mace of the city.

More here-

Russian Orthodox tell Archbishop of Canterbury: ordain women bishops and you can forget about unity

From The Telegraph-

There's a quaint Anglican concept of the universal Church known as the "branch theory". This claims that there are three main branches to apostolic Christianity: Roman, Orthodox and Anglican. It's much favoured by Church of England clerics who aren't very keen on "Romans", as they call Catholics, and convey their anti-Papist sentiment in pro-Orthodox code, forever banging on about the riches of Byzantine spirituality, the mystical power of icons, etc. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, is an example of this breed.

What these pro-Orthodox Anglicans don't stress is that ordaining women priests was just as great an obstacle to unity with Constantinople and Moscow and it was to unity with Rome. And women bishops? Metropolitan Hilarion, head of ecumenical relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, delivered a pretty blunt message to the new Archbishop of Canterbury last weekend (H/T Gillibrand):

The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow patriarchate recognising the church hierarchy of the Anglican church, the communications service of the Department of External Church Relations reported on Saturday.

More here-

2013 Standing Committee Bulletin - Day 3

From ACNS-

The final day of the Standing Committee (Tuesday) began with a presentation on the Anglican Alliance – Development, Relief and Advocacy’s new status as a charitable company. The committee was told that primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa Archbishop Albert Chama is to be the Chair of Trustees of the company. The list of trustees was unanimously approved by the committee.

Director for Unity, Faith and Order Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan then delivered a short report on the work of her department since November 2012. She said that, following a submission by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to the Anglican Consultative Council on the Instruments of Communion, “what we’ve heard from the ACC itself is that it was a fine piece of background, but not creative enough. Now we need to provoke IASCUFO to think more creatively about how the Communion can discern the work of the Spirit”.

A paper submitted to the Standing Committee by Dr Barnett-Cowan included a paragraph that read: “The Instruments all developed in particular contents in response to issues before the churches of the Anglican Communion. Their structures and ways of working reflected contemporary patterns of ways in which people meet and try to come to a common mind. What are the best models, now, of how Christians discern the leading of the Spirit? How might the Anglican Communion best incorporate these ways of working?”

Dr Barnett-Cowan said this would be a significant part of what IASCUFO would be considering at its next meeting with a likely outcome being a discussion paper for the Anglican Communion. She also reported on the appointments to international ecumenical bodies.

More here-

In New Jersey, a Resignation, Then a Search for Redemption

From The New York Times-

Maybe it’s the shallow, overly friendly filmmaking, or maybe it’s some kind of former politician’s curse, but “Fall to Grace,” a documentary about what James E. McGreevey has been doing since resigning the New Jersey governorship in 2004, never feels as if it got to the core of the man.

The film, Thursday night on HBO, shows us Mr. McGreevey as he studies for the Episcopal priesthood and works with female inmates in Hudson County, N.J., who are struggling with substance abuse. It lets him talk about his new life and the process of finding his way to it. Yet statements that ought to sound earnest and heartfelt — “I feel like I am called to help these women” — sound instead as if he were trying to convince us. The way a politician might try to convince us that he’s pro-environment or anti-taxes.

Mr. McGreevey, of course, resigned in August 2004 after acknowledging that he was gay, an admission that he said was forced by a former male aide’s threats. His divorce from his wife, Dina Matos, was tabloid fodder.

Religious leaders protest Obama drone policy

From CNN- (reverends?)

A group of rabbis, reverends and priests has a message for President Barack Obama: stop the drone war.

In a video produced by the Brave New Foundation, a group that uses video and social media to protest against drones, Jewish and Christian leaders describe the practice as "assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles.

“From a New Testament point of view, drones are completely appalling,” the Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl, the Episcopal rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told CNN. “The whole idea of killing a guy without giving the guy a chance to surrender is preemptive. That for me was completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

The video criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences.  The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions.

According to the religious leaders in the video, titled “Drones and Religion,” the drone program fails to meet several of these criteria.

More here-

Kansas Military School Ignored 'Dangerous and Disturbing Culture' of Brutality, Lawsuit Says

From Kansas-

A Kansas military school for teenage boys has fostered a "dangerous and disturbing culture" of abuse that includes students being beaten, bound, bones broken and skin branded, according to a federal lawsuit.

Eleven former cadets are suing the St. John's Military School in Salina, Kan., after they said they were forced to endure harassment and abuse perpetrated by older recruits. The suit claims that the staff at the 126-year-old, $29,500 per year boarding school ignored the abuse. The school serves students from grades 6 to 12.

"The school allows and encourages older students to abuse young students – physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually," the lawsuit said. "Students reporting abuse are 'RATS' subject to additional abuse by the school and students for their disloyalty."

The school has received 339 verbal and written complaints over the past five years, according to court documents.

Andy England, president of the Episcopal affiliated school, said the number of complaints shows that the school is serious about safety.

More here-

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Norwich Diocese hosts giant Easter egg hunt

From Christian Today-

Easter eggs have been hidden in 50 churches around the Diocese of Norwich in the run-up to Easter.

Members of the public are being invited to find the fairtrade Real Easter Eggs - the only Easter eggs on supermarket shelves to tell the Christian meaning of the season.

Speaking of the eggs, the Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James said: "It is encouraging to hear that many lives have been changed by people receiving a Real Easter Egg.

"It is proof that the events of Easter, including the death and resurrection of Jesus, have the power to open minds, change lives and offer real hope.

"It is also a boost for charitable giving, fairtrade and the work of trade justice. I hope individuals will hunt out a Real Easter Egg this year."

The eggs could be in any of the diocese's nearly 650 churches but the hunt has been made a little easier with a special online map showing participating churches -

More here-

Coventry Cathedral: Crypts found under ruins

From The BBC- (with video)

Restoration workers have discovered nine crypts hidden under the ruins of Coventry's bombed cathedral.

Work has been taking place after a crack appeared in part of the 14th Century ruins, in September 2011.

It was already known there were two crypts, which were last open to the public in the 1970s.

Dr Jonathan Foyle, the chief executive of the World Monuments Fund, which is overseeing the work, said it was like finding a "subterranean wonderland".

More here-

Justin Welby Reconciliation: Archbishop Of Canterbury Puts Focus On Bridging Differences

From RNS-

As the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby is spiritual leader to nearly 80 million Anglicans around the world. Now, after being officially enthroned on Thursday (March 21), the 57-year-old former oil executive faces a monumental challenge: helping the Anglican Communion stay together amid profound differences over theology, gender and sexuality.

"We are struggling with very, very significant divisions, different ways of looking at the world coming out of our context, coming out of our history," Welby said in an interview with the PBS television program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly."

"Learning how we deal with those differences -- which are of themselves valuable things -- is really significant.

The worldwide Anglican Communion has more than 40 separate branches, including the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and numerous churches across Africa, Asia and South America. Theological and cultural differences over a series of issues, including homosexuality, have threatened to tear the Communion apart.

In an interview before his installation, Welby said he intends to promote reconciliation as one of his top priorities.

More here-

Francis scheduled to visit Argentina, Chile and Uruguay next December

From South Atlantic News-

However the Vatican has confirmed that Francis will be visiting Brazil next July to participate in the World Youth Congress, which will become the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s first trip overseas as Pope. The event is scheduled to last from July 23 to 28.

The date picked to travel to Argentina is not without significance. It will be after the coming mid term elections in October in which President Cristina Fernandez future is to be decided since she can only have a chance of re-re-election if the constitution is modified and for this she needs the support of two thirds of the General Assembly.

Another pious and humble picture with the Pope just a few weeks before the crucial election would certainly have been ‘God’s hand gift’, but Cardinal Bergoglio is well aware of Argentine politics as not to commit such a clumsy move.

More here-

Episcopal, Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops wash feet of homeless people

From San Diego-

The second annual Interfaith Community Footwashing includes not only Bishop James Mathes, the Episcopal bishop, but also Bishop Cirilio Flores, the coadjutor Roman Catholic bishop and Bishop Murray Finck, the Lutheran bishop in washing the feet of homeless people on Thursday, March 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Episcopal Church Center, 2083 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., San Diego.

“This is an opportunity for the church to come together in unity and help people,” said the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. “We are all one in Christ; we are his body and this is what he commanded us to do the night before he died.”

All three bishops will wash the feet of homeless people and working poor families who attend.

“Foot washing is the ultimate act of servanthood,” said Canon Nancy Holland, director of the Episcopal Church Center and canon for Mission Enterprise. “We are doing what Christ did; we are looking into the eyes of the Other and seeing Christ. We are saying: ‘You are loved. You are cared for. You are part of us and we are part of you. We are all one in the body of Christ.’ We are so fortunate this year to be joined by the Lutheran and Catholic bishop on this day, and focusing on what we have in common.”

More here-

Episcopal priest gets 45 days for smuggling drugs into jail

From Maine-

An Episcopal priest from Augusta pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to misdemeanor possession of Suboxone and will serve 45 days in jail followed by one year of probation.

The Rev. Stephen Foote, 70, of Bremen, was sentenced to 364 days of incarceration, with all but 45 days suspended, and one year of probation, in an agreement with the office of the Maine Attorney General, according to Bill Stokes, deputy attorney general and chief of the office’s criminal division.

“We don’t see priests smuggling drugs into jails — that’s pretty uncommon,” Stokes said Tuesday. “And we understand Rev. Foote has no prior criminal record, but we really insisted that he do some jail time because we were more concerned that we send the message that you’re going to do jail time if you do this, even if you’re a priest.”

Stokes said Tuesday that the attorney general’s office agreed to the plea on the condition that the sentence include “a significant amount of community service” to include Foote spending time “talking about the error of his ways.”

More here-

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Last Taboo in Hollywood

From Patheos-

Ask my wife: I’ve been known to be a sucker for some fairly wooden programming on the likes of A&E, National Geographic, and the History Channel when they turn their attention to the Bible.
Proof of Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat? I’m in. The revolt at Masada? Fire up the popcorn.

If it’s possible to make a disclaimer, it would be that at least these programs—or at least the ones for which I have a soft spot—have been more in the documentary than dramatic vein, featuring noted scholars and talking heads over bad actors and talking godheads.

Reenactments in their basic cable mold tend to send me running for the hills of Judea.
That said, I’m a screenwriter who would love nothing more than to bring certain stories from the Scriptures to life on the big screen, in ways that would do justice rather than pay mere lip service to the source material’s epic complexity.

So with both curiosity and dread I tuned in to the recent premiere of The Bible, a ten-part dramatic miniseries on the History Channel produced by Mark Burnett, the force behind such artificial juggernauts of reality TV as Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Voice.

More here-

Diocese of Canterbury welcomes its new archbishop

From ENS-

Snow and ice hit Kent on the morning of March 23, the day the diocese welcomed its new archbishop at a special service at Canterbury Cathedral. Even with the bitter cold, hundreds filled the cathedral as a smiling Archbishop Justin Welby entered the West Door accompanied by the Very Rev. Robert Willis, cathedral dean, and Bishop of Dover the Trevor Willmott.

During the service, titled “Our Jouney into Holy Week,” several people offered testimonies of what the week ahead would mean for them. Welby said that Holy Week was a time “to journey together” and to “say yes to the invitation” to be “partners” in Christ’s mission and plan for the world. He also said that “How much God loves us is what makes us fit” for His service and that accepting Christ’s love and his call will mean our “being with Him forever.”

The new archbishop, who was inaugurated at the cathedral on March 21, said, “Jesus loves us and we must share that love.”

Speaking of mission, he said, “Our proclamation must be world-changing, that world that we dream of.” The 57-year-old primate said that we must “learn to love” one another, even when that can be “difficult,” adding that “the way we live together,” even in our diversity, is an important witness to the world, yes “even when we disagree.”

More here-

Austin seminary announces leadership transition

From Austin-

Douglas Travis, the dean and president of the Seminary of the Southwest, will retire May 31, and Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, the seminary’s academic dean, will succeed him, officials at the Episcopal institution in Austin announced Monday.

Kittredge, 55, will become the seminary’s eighth dean and president. She has been a faculty member since 1999 and academic dean since 2010. Her appointment was announced by the Rt. Rev. Dena Harrison, chair of the seminary’s board and bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Travis, 59, who has headed the seminary since 2007, expressed satisfaction at presiding during a time of robust growth in enrollment and financial support. The seminary raised $12.6 million through its capital campaign, most of which goes to endow faculty chairs, Travis said.

The bottom line is I accomplished what I came here to do, and I’m ready to move on to other things,” Travis said, adding that he planned to pursue a variety of interests.

The Seminary of the Southwest celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012. Enrollment grew from 81 students in 2008 to 135 in 2011, the largest in the history of the institution, according to Nancy Springer-Baldwin, the seminary’s vice president for communications.

More here-

Episcopal Churches March for Immigration Reform

From California- (with video)

For the second consecutive year, Episcopalians from the Dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego participated in "Called to the Wall," a one-day walk to the U.S.-Mexico border to demonstrate and stand in solidarity with immigrants.  

Church members united with immigrants Monday on a pilgrimage to the border at Playas Tijuana.

The processional began in Los Angeles at MacArthur Park on Wilshire Boulevard.

The pilgrimage included stops at the Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana and St. John's Episcopal Church in Chula Vista.

A mix of people attended including immigrants, church members, supporters and church leadership. The services were lead by Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles Diane Jargine Bruce and Bishop James Mathes of San Diego.

The desired outcome was "to have people aware of issues regarding immigration and to be more sensitive and loving to those affected," according to Bishop Bruce. The Bishop also stated that the issue was important because it affected many members of the Los Angeles Diocese.

More here-

The Rev. Douglas Fisher, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, marches in anti-violence procession in Washington, D.C.

From Massachusetts

 The Rev. Douglas John Fisher, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, joined 20 other bishops in Washington, D.C., Monday to rally support for tighter gun control laws.

Along with a group from Greater Springfield, Fisher marched in an Easter week procession on Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the U.S. Capitol to denounce gun violence that claims thousands of American lives each year.

“Today was a spiritual and political experience,” Fisher said later, adding that the procession marked the Stations of the Cross commemorating the suffering and death of Jesus.

“We remembered the death of Jesus - an innocent man killed violently by the Roman Empire. As we prayed in this city where we make laws for our country, I kept remembering the call of our president in his State of the Union Address,” he said.

“He kept naming the victims of massacres involving gun violence in the last few years and shouting “they deserve a vote. They deserve a vote.!” And they do. They really do,” he added. 

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Episcopal Church procession aimed against gun violence


Hundreds of Episcopalian bishops, clergy, and lay people challenged violence on Monday while praying the Stations of the Cross in Washington, D.C.

More than 20 Episcopal bishops from throughout the church led the procession along Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the U.S. Capitol to defy violence, especially the epidemic of gun violence that claims thousands of American lives each year.

During Monday’s procession, participants stopped in front of memorials, government buildings, and works of art, praying for an end to violence, the culture of violence, and the social and economic conditions that spawn violence.

“Walking the Way of the Cross invites us, compels us, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation,” Bishop Ian T. Douglass of Connecticut wrote on the church’s website.  The Stations of the Cross commemorate the ordeal of Jesus from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate. Worshipers metaphorically walk with Jesus, pausing to offer prayers.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Carry message of joy, pope urges

From The Post-Gazette-

As 250,000 people waved olive branches they had brought to St. Peter's Square for his Palm Sunday blessing, Pope Francis called on Roman Catholics, especially young ones, to bring joy to the world.

"Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement!" the 76-year-old pope said Sunday.

"Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but from having encountered a person, Jesus. [It comes] from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life's journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable ... [H]e accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours."

The newly elected Argentinian has brought joy to Catholics across the spectrum. Acts such as personally calling his newspaper carrier in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription have endeared him to common people. His first regular public Mass was the first Mass of Holy Week, Palm Sunday.

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Global Anglicanism

From The Living Church-

Titus Presler writes at Titus on Mission on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s inaugural sermon:

“We are an international church.” That’s a simple and obvious statement, but it contains a lot. It signifies that the Anglican Communion transcends national identities at the same time that its life must be expressed through the many particular cultures of the communion. Thereby it both celebrates the incarnational dimension of local expression and prophesies against normatizing, still less absolutizing, any particular ethnolinguistic identity or history.

The statement signifies that the rootedness of Anglican life in the history of the Church of England is now equaled and even surpassed by the vital diversity of Anglican life around the world. Practically, it also signifies that the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury involves balancing direct responsibility for the CofE and the Province of Canterbury with more diffused but equally important responsibility for the collaborative relationships among the 44 provinces of the communion.

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Clerics Appeal for Peace As Christians Observe Holy Week

From Nigeria-

Ven. Shola Igbari, an Anglican cleric, has appealed to Christians to maintain peace with their neighbours during the Holy Week this came also as Rev. Fr. Henry Kwasu, another Abuja-based priest, advised Nigerians to cultivate the habit of forgiving and praying in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Igbari, on Sunday, in Abuja said that the holy week was a "time for prayer, penance, reflection and spiritual works".

The holy week, the last week of Lent in the orthodox Christian calendar, begins with the Palm Sunday celebration, culminating with Easter Eve or Holy Saturday.

Igbari enjoined Christians to pray fervently for peace and security in Nigeria following the recent wave of terrorist killings in some parts of the country.

On the significance of the Palm Sunday celebrations, the cleric said it marked "victory for the nation over our challenges.

"It is the triumph of good over evil, and a wake-up call for Christians to work together and ensure lasting peace in the country."

Igbari, who is the Vicar of St Matthew's Anglican Church at Maitama in Abuja, also appealed to Christians to use the holy week to offer help and assistance to the less-privileged.

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Russian Church hopes new head of Anglican Church will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage

From Interfax-

The Moscow Patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and the church system.

"We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties co-exist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox Churches who attended his enthronement.

The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow Patriarchate recognizing the church hierarchy of the Anglican Church, the communications service of the Department for External Church Relations reported on Saturday.

"I would like you to know about that and take our opinion into account when this issue arises again," Metropolitan Hilarion said.

Metropolitan Hilarion also said he is hoping Justin Welby will firmly defend the traditional biblical understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman "to prevent secular society from forcing on the Church of England the recognition of some forms of cohabitation which were never considered marriage by Christian churches."

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Supreme Court reflects ‘modern marriage’

From The Washington Post (via Japan)

There’s a widow who was a pioneer of the “modern marriage,” and one who never wed. Two who have been divorced.

There is a husband who married relatively late in life and adopted two children. Another is a prolific procreator, with enough children to field a baseball team and enough grandchildren to form a basketball league.

One is in an interracial marriage, which would have been illegal in his state only 20 years before his wedding.

As the Supreme Court prepares to consider the American tradition of marriage, the justices themselves display a wide range of personal choices reflective of the modern experience.

In the court’s first full examination of same-sex marriage, the unifying theme of those defending traditional marriage is that government has an important interest in promoting marriage among heterosexual couples because of their reproductive ability.

But the issue comes before a court where four of the nine justices have never married or have had marriages that did not produce biological offspring.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 Standing Committee Bulletin - Day 1

From ACNS-

The morning of the first day was one of introductions. There are six new members of the Standing Committee (Mrs Helen Biggin, the Rt Revd Eraste Bigirimana, Professor Joanildo Burity, the Revd Dr Sarah Macneil, Ms Louisa Mojela, and Mr Samuel Mukunya) therefore much of the first session was given over to an orientation session. This consisted of an explanation of member’s roles and responsibilities.

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon then gave his address in which he reminded the Standing Committee that it had been a short period of time since the ACC-15 in November 2012 so the programmatic reports would not be a substantial as normal.

He then highlighted the fact that a major issue for the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) is a lack of funding. This, he said, meant that that for a “not negligible amount of time, staff are having to raise money for their own work.”

Canon Kearon made it clear that the work around theological education—that the Anglican Communion Office had facilitated in the past—currently had no funding whatsoever, and therefore no immediate future.

He explained that funding was also part of the thinking about the Anglican Communion’s presence in New York and Geneva for work with the United Nations and other Churches’ and non-governmental organisations’ representatives there.

His visit to Uruguay in January had been well received, as was his trip to the Diocese of Botswana in March for its anniversary celebrations and farewell to Bishop Trevor Mwamba.

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Opinion: N.J. houses of worship damaged in Hurricane Sandy should be eligible for FEMA aid

From New Jersey-

Superstorm Sandy caused close to $37 billion in damages in New Jersey. For days and weeks afterward, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples in New Jersey that were spared serious damage opened their doors to those left homeless by the storm. Their congregations did not ask those who were stranded about their religious affiliation.

They did not deny people food and shelter because they were not among their congregants.

Now, more than a dozen New Jersey houses of worship are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and rebuilding costs. The extensive damage ranges from flooded sanctuaries to stripped rooftops and toppled steeples. Some suffered a total loss, such as the Episcopal St. Elisabeth’s Chapel-by-the-Sea, in Ortley Beach, that was swept into the ocean.

FEMA has approved more than $780 million in disaster assistance to individuals, households, businesses, communities and nonprofit organizations in New Jersey since Sandy, but nothing for houses of worship.

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Somerset churches opening their doors for gun buyback program

From New Jersey-

Members of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens know about the culture of gun violence.

Several families have held funerals at the Franklin Township church for young people killed by guns and gang activity is prevalent in the surrounding region, making it difficult to both attract businesses to the neighborhood and encourage people to visit the church at night, the senior pastor said.

But when the church opens its doors early next month as part of Somerset County’s gun buyback program, the Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., said it will be sending the message that “we are participants in trying to solve the problem, rather than victims of the problem itself.”


In addition to the First Baptist Church, people will be able to turn in their weapons for cash at the Community Baptist Church in North Plainfield and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Somerville. The Community Service Center in Bernards Township will serve as a drop-off location as well.