Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tanzania: Islamic Persecutors Target Christian Pastors

From The Christian Broadcast Network-

For many years Christians in Tanzania have felt safe worshipping, given the country's Christian majorities.

Now, their security is quickly evaporating following a wave of persecution threatening churches and targeting pastors. Tanzanian churches are growing and witnessing a new unity, but Christians have paid a painful price.

Persecution of Pastors

Generosa Kachila told CBN News she burst into tears when her neighbor stormed in with the nightmarish news,"I shouted, my Jesus, my Jesus, why have you forsaken me?"

February 11, 2013, a Muslim mob brandishing machetes murdered Generosa's husband, Tanzania Assemblies of God Pastor Mathayo Kachila. The brutal attack occurred as the pastor walked to the home of a friend.

The motive? Anger grew after Christians began butchering and selling meat. The lucrative business traditionally belonged to Muslims, who prepare it in their religious way known as halal.

More here-

Freedom for the captives

From The Economist-

HOW happily can groups motivated by faith co-operate with secular ones to achieve a common goal or defeat a common enemy? On the face of things, this should work best when the foe (be it a disease or a social problem) is so manifestly bad that everybody wants to thwart it. One such enemy, you might think, is human trafficking, especially of minors. But Richard Flory, research director at the University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture, told me that global religious bodies, operating in poor countries, sometimes get the problem of trafficking wrong. By concentrating on rescuing individuals, they fail, in his view, to grasp the social and economic forces that drive people into prostitution.

On the other hand, successful examples of secular-religious co-operation certainly exist. I asked Sara Pomeroy what prompted her to start a small NGO that campaigns against human trafficking in the American state of Virginia, and she cited the Book of Isaiah, especially chapter 61 in which the prophet proclaims that he was sent by the Lord to "bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners..."

More here-

More Zimbabwean Anglicans back from exile

From ACNS-

Report by the Revd Fr Abel Joseph Waziweyi, Rector of Mufudzi Wakanaka Parish in the city of Mutare. Fr. Waziweyi and Communication Officer of the diocese of Manicaland.

On the April 6, 2013, all roads in the Zimbabwean city of Mutare led to the cathedral of St John the Baptist in the center of the city, as over 3,000 Christians marched to witness the cleansing and rededication of the cathedral after years of defilement and abuse by the excommunicated bishop Mr Elson Madhodha Jakazi.

Anglicans from all over the diocese came to witness this memorable event. Some came from as far as Nyamaropa, a town which is over two hundred kilometers north of Mutare. Others came from churches dotted around the city. It was a marvel to watch the sea of blue, white and black which is the trademark Mothers’ Union uniform walking up Mutare’s main thoroughfare Herbert Chitepo street.

The rededication service started with an early morning procession at 6am, from the Meikles Park up Herbert Chitepo Street to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. There was however a lighter moment to the procession as the police tried to stop the procession forgetting that they had granted the church permission to undertake the procession.

More here-

Hope and Light for Boston

From The Living Church-

Fewer than 24 hours after bombs wrought havoc on the Boston Marathon, the downtown Cathedral Church of St. Paul opened its doors for prayer and Eucharist in the heart of a heartbroken city.

“Being a church of the community, a place for the homeless, a place where people come to pray during the week … we knew we had to respond” to the bombings, said the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts. “To a moment of great sorrow, we needed to provide some sense of hope and light.”

More than 100 worshipers turned out for the 12:15 p.m. vigil on Tuesday. Some were Episcopalians in town for the marathon. Others were Bostonians or visitors from various faith backgrounds. For all, it was a time to seek God — through silence, prayer, hymns, proclamation and sacrament — even as police searched for clues just steps away in what had become a cordoned-off, 15-block crime scene.

More here-

Va. Supreme Court Rules Against Departing Congregation in Property Dispute

From Christian Post

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of The Episcopal Church against a congregation that voted to leave the denomination over its liberal theological views.

In a decision issued Thursday, the Court decided that The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia owned the property of the Falls Church, rather than the approximately 3,000-strong departing Falls Church Anglican congregation.

In the majority opinion written by Justice Cleo E. Powell, the Court stated that while the property belongs to The Episcopal Church and its Diocese, ownership of the funds tied to the property is still undecided.

George Ward, Senior Warden for Falls Church Anglican and spokesman for the congregation, told The Christian Post that the decision was "not the one we had hoped for, but we praise and thank God for his faithfulness to us."

"Our faith and our future do not depend on court decisions. It is difficult to face the prospect of losing things that are precious to us, but ultimately we do not place our hope in land, buildings, or money," said Ward.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Episcopal Church wins Virginia Supreme Court ruling

From The Washington Post-

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled for the Episcopal Church on Thursday in a bitter, multi­million-dollar property dispute with a conservative congregation that had left the denomination amid controversies over homosexuality and other issues.

The panel affirmed a lower court’s decision that the 3,000-member congregation, which voted in 2006 to leave the Episcopal Church, did not have the right to keep the sprawling property known as the Falls Church.

The Falls Church property is one of the country’s largest Episcopal churches and is a central landmark in downtown Falls Church.

The breakaway congregation, now called the Falls Church Anglican, has been worshiping in the Bishop O’Connell High School auditorium in Arlington County while it sought to overturn the Fairfax County Circuit Court decision from last year.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court affirmed that the property was rightly given to the mainline denomination but said some of the nearly $3 million in church coffers belongs to the Falls Church Anglican congregation.

More here-

Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Decision Conveying Falls Church Property to Diocese

From Falls Church News-

A 42-page ruling issued by the Virginia Supreme Court this morning upholds the ruling of the Fairfax Circuit Court that conveyed the property of the historic Falls Church in downtown Falls Church to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its congregation of Episcopalians who did not defect from that church in 2006. The Supreme Court decision awarded about $300,000 in funds raised by the breakaway group between its formal split and the court’s ruling in 2012 back to the breakaway group.

The Supreme Court’s conclusion included the following quote: “We will affirm the trial court’s order requiring that The Falls Church convey the property to TEC and the Diocese. With regard to the disposition of personal property acquired by The Falls Church after the vote to disaffiliate, we will reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The opinion was authored by Supreme Court Judge Cleo E. Powell, with a concurring opinion by Judge McClanahan.

Following the release of the ruling the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia issued the following statement:

“In a dispute over the ownership of The Falls Church, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled today in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The decision affirms an earlier ruling returning Episcopalians to their church home at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. The Falls Church Anglican had sought to overturn the lower court’s ruling in favor of the Diocese. The court also remanded a portion of the case back to the Fairfax Circuit Court for a decision to determine a minor fractional difference in funds owed to the Diocese of Virginia.

More here-

Committee member writes alternative marriage paper

From The Church Times-

EXTENDING marriage to same-sex couples might be a "redemptive step", a member of the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) has said, in an article regarded by some as a minority report to the Commission's much-criticised paper on marriage, Men and Women in Marriage, which was published on Wednesday of last week ( News, Leader Comment, 12 April).

The article by the Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen, a lecturer in church history at the University of Glasgow, entitled "Marriage: one man and one woman?", was published on the Open Democracy website last Friday.

After a survey of the biblical and historical understanding of marriage, including observations about polygamy, the submission of women, and inequality, Dr Methuen writes: "I recognise that the Faith and Order Commission's document offers one theological justification for the Church of England's current position on marriage, but I cannot see marriage simply and uncritically as part of the 'goods' of creation. . .

"One of the flaws of our current conception of marriage may be precisely the emphasis on 'one man and one woman', which seems consistently to imply expectations about the role of women and men which tend to be biologically determinist, and which reach beyond the question of who is biologically capable of bearing children."

More here-

Anglican Leader Upholds Traditional Marriage After Meeting With Gay Rights Activist

From Christian Post-

The much awaited discussion on homosexuality between the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell on Thursday at Lambeth Palace in England ended with both men still convinced in their principles.

"It was a very constructive, engaging meeting. But also quite frank with a number of disagreements," Tatchell said, according to Pink News. "We agreed same-sex relationships can be of extraordinary quality and great moral character. But the archbishop's stumbling block is he couldn't make the further step of acknowledging that justified marriage equality."

The Australian-born British political campaigner continued: "Quite clearly Justin Welby is struggling with how he reconciles Christ's gospel of love and compassion with the church's current position which is to oppose marriage equality. I think he took on board my point that discrimination is not a Christian value."



From Virginia-

The Virginia Theological Seminary shook up the usual routine over the weekend, hosting a Christian rock festival in hopes of giving adherents and attendees a different view of the Episcopal Church.

Though the seminary is better known for hosting lectures and convocations, the Rev. Ian Markham, the dean and president of the seminary, said event organizers believe the rock concert will remind attendees that Christianity can be attractive and interesting.

“We’re trying to promote the vitality and relevance of faith,” Markham said.

While the Episcopal Church is typically cast as being very formal, he said, his wish is that people will see a different side.

“The hope is an event of this nature will make people think, ‘OK, the Episcopal Church is that way, and tradition can be good and sublime,’” Markham said. “But the Episcopal Church is also something where you can listen to rock music and you can do something very alternative.”
The free event was open to people of all faiths and ages, but Markham looked to strengthen the relationship between the church and young people.

More here-

Episcopal bishop joins other clergy in opposing Worcester slots parlor

From Massachusetts-

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, which includes Worcester and surrounding communities, said today that he is against the proposal to locate at $200 million slots parlor on the former Wyman-Gordon Co. parcel in Green Island.

"For those who have little, the illusory chance that they can gain much, even in a game stacked against them, is tempting and ultimately destructive," said Bishop Douglas J. Fisher. "Our churches stand with the economically poor of our society, and that always means taking a stand against gambling establishments in our cities."

Bishop Fisher is the latest prominent church leader to take a stand against the proposal.

Neil G. Bluhm, a Chicago billionaire who has built a number of gambling establishments across the country, wants to construct a complex featuring slots on a 14-acre parcel off Madison Street and near Kelley Square. The facility would be built in conjunction with a marquee hotel somewhere downtown.

More here-

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Churches review stance on same sex marriage

From New Zealand-

Presbyterian and Anglican churches are considering their stance on marrying gay couples after MPs voted to legalise same sex marriage, but the Catholic Church is not reviewing its position.

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament in a 77 to 44 vote on Wednesday night.

The legalisation amends the Marriage Act so that two people - regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity - can marry.

The bill will be in force by the end of August, four months after it receives Royal Assent.
The Anglican Church says gay couples will not be able to marry in their churches until the General Synod meets next May, when it will consider the issue.

The Presbyterian Church says at this stage its position on marriage is that it is between a man and a woman, however the Right Reverend Ray Coster says it will have a clearer position when its General Assembly meets in October 2014.

The Catholic Church has said it will not marry gay couples and is not reviewing that stance.

More here-

Anglican Head Justin Welby to Discuss Christianity, Homophobia With Gay Rights Leader

From Christian Post-

Archbishop of Canterbury the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby is set to meet on Thursday with gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who insists that Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage are homophobic.

"I applaud the Archbishop's willingness to engage in dialogue – all the more so because he comes from the conservative evangelical wing of the church," Tatchell said, according to San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. "I hope our meeting is not mere window-dressing and good PR for the church. I'm expecting more than tea and sympathy."

In response to a letter by Tatchell accusing the Anglican leader of being homophobic for supporting traditional marriage, Archbishop Welby replied: "Dear Mr Tatchell, Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It requires much thought and the points it makes are powerful. I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return."

More here-

Sudan: Christian Proselytizing Activities in Sudan Are Limited, Says Minister

From Sudan-

Sudan's minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-sir, downplayed the existence of Christian proselytizing activities in the country while announcing that no new licenses for building churches will be issued.

The official, who spoke before the parliament on Wednesday, pointed out that no new churches have been established since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 due to lack of worshipers and the growing number of abandoned churches.

He went on to say that there will be no need for new churches as the existing ones can accommodate worshipers but stressed that the freedom to worship is guaranteed in Sudan.

Since early 2013, Sudanese authorities have started scrutinizing the activities of Christian organizations in the country.

Following the detention of a recent convert to Christianity and several Coptic Church representatives in December 2012, authorities have reportedly destroyed several churches in and around the Khartoum area.

More here-

Pope Francis: “A Church that does not go out of itself…sickens from the stale air of closed rooms”

From Patheos-

Pastoral ministry should always be missionary and its ministers must be courageous evangelizers not afraid to go out ‘into the deep’, the outskirts of existence, to bring the ‘sweet and comforting joy’ of faith to people today.

This is Pope Francis’ message to his brother Argentinian bishops who are gathered in the city of Pilar for their Plenary Assembly, an assembly he was to have led as President of the Episcopal Conference, before his election to the papacy.

In a letter sent to the group, who will remain in closed session until April 20, the Pope begins by ‘apologizing’ for his absence noting that ‘recent commitments’ have impeded his attending. He then urges them to reflect on the theme ‘Into the Deep’ in light of the great missionary document of Aparecida, launched following the V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. A document the then Cardinal Bergoglio helped draft.

More here-

Religious leaders call for unity and compassion in wake of bombing

From New Hampshire-

New Hampshire religious leaders this week urge their congregations to remember God's peace, healing and justice are profoundly more powerful than any terrorist bombs as they prayed for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and their families.

"People have been talking about how easy it is for one act of evil to do so much harm, and is there anything we can do to fight it," said Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett of Temple Beth Abraham, a conservative congregation in Nashua.

"We have to believe that the power of our goodness is stronger than even that and . not become so distracted or demoralized that we would lose an opportunity to show goodness or love," Spira-Savett said Wednesday.

Citing Psalms 3, the Rev. Dr. Paul R. Berube of Grace Fellowship Church in Nashua reminded his congregation "to not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me."

Rather, Berube encouraged his congregation during a special prayer meeting Tuesday night to turn to God as their shield against violence and fear.

More here-

Washington County church property dispute lands in appeals court

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A state appeals court heard a Presbyterian church property dispute from Washington County on Wednesday that could impact other Pennsylvania churches that have split.

In 2007, members of the Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church voted 207-26 to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The congregation had earlier dropped out of a Washington Presbytery process to decide whether and how the property could be taken into a different denomination.

Washington Presbytery later declared that a minority loyal to the Presbyterian Church (USA) was the "true church," with a right to the property. In 2009, however, Washington Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky ruled that the majority owned the property because the deed, charter and other legal papers had no trust clause giving ownership to the denomination.

Read more:

F.C. Churches Poised for Supreme Court Ruling

From Falls Church-

The New Press has learned that leaders of the Falls Church Episcopal Church and their colleagues at the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, on one side, and the breakaway congregation of former Episcopal Church members now identified as Falls Church Anglicans, are expecting tomorrow a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court of an appeal of the January 2012 ruling by the Fairfax Circuit Court establishing the Diocese as the rightful owner of the historic Falls Church church property in downtown Falls Church. The ruling may also address tertiary property issues, such as funds held in trusts and adjacent church-owned properties.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Martin Luther King's advocacy also helped enrich the lives of white people

From New Orleans-

If I had read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in April of 1963, I would probably have agreed with the eight clergy he was addressing. Two of them were Episcopal bishops from Alabama: the Rt. Rev. C. C. J. Carpenter and the Rt. Rev. George Murray. The eight clergy counseled Dr. King and movement leaders to go slow, to make their case in the courts, to rely on the eventual good will of white Birmingham--at all costs to avoid stirring up the black community, which, they feared, could become violent.

At that time, I had not yet had my turn-around experience on racial matters, which for me occurred during the summer of 1966. I was an Episcopal seminary student that summer assigned to work in a black Episcopal mission in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. It was only after I experienced the terrible poverty, similar to that of failed African countries, that I knew beyond doubt that "necessary segregation, God's will" -- what I had heard all of my growing-up years -- was the demon in the culture that had raised me with so much love.

More here-

St Luke's Anglican School in Merced to close after 45 years

From California-

St. Luke’s Anglican School, a fixture in Merced, is closing in June.

The private Christian school serving 50 children from preschool through first grade will wind up 45 years on June 5, according to the Rev. Ron Parry, rector of St. Luke’s Anglican Church.

Parry said the church’s nine-member governing body, the Vestry, decided to close the school on Yosemite Avenue. Eight teachers and aides will be affected by the closure, which Parry announced to parishioners on Palm Sunday.

The school was founded more than four decades ago when the church was located in downtown Merced.

The combination of a poor economy, declining enrollment and ongoing litigation against the Diocese of the Episcopal Church led to the Vestry’s closure of the school, Parry said.

“It was a hard decision,” Parry said. “A lot of kids came through the school. I have a grandson in the school. We will plan a celebration of our 45 years at the end of the year and the community is invited.”

Read more here:

Reconcile to resolve Okinawa bases tension: Episcopal leader

From Ecumenical News-

The head of the U.S. Episcopal Church emphasized the role of reconciliation between all parties involved as a key to resolving tensions arising from controversial U.S. bases located in residential areas of Okinawa, Japan.

The Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori made a keynote presentation Monday at the Second Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference in Okinawa entitled "The question of US military bases in Okinawa – The role of Anglican-Episcopal church."

She began by putting the specific situation in Okinawa within a larger context.

"I want to challenge us all to consider similar situations around the world, and the roles that our respective churches, and the Anglican Communion, might play in reconciliation and peace-making in the face of violence, military force, and war," she began.

"It is only together as the Body of Christ that we can hope to find healing, reconciliation, and genuine and lasting peace."

More here-

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jackie Robinson’s faith missing from ’42′ movie

From RNS-

A new film about Jackie Robinson, titled “42″ — the number he wore during his historic career — tells the triumphant story of how the Civil Rights icon integrated professional baseball by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But there’s a mysterious hole at the center of this otherwise worthy film.

The man who chose Robinson for his role, and masterminded the whole affair, was Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford. In their initial meeting, the cigar-chomping Rickey makes it clear that whoever will be the first African American in major league baseball will be viciously attacked, verbally and physically. So Rickey famously says he’s looking for a man “with guts enough not to fight back.” He needs someone who will resist the temptation to retaliate. Robinson agrees to go along with it.

But where did Rickey get that crazy idea and why did Robinson agree? The film doesn’t tell us, but the answers to these questions lie in the devout Christian faith of both men.

Why Robinson was chosen

For starters, Rickey himself was a “Bible-thumping Methodist” who refused to attend games on Sunday. He sincerely believed it was God’s will that he integrate baseball and saw it as an opportunity to intervene in the moral history of the nation, as Lincoln had done.

And Rickey chose Robinson because of the young man’s faith and moral character. There were numerous other Negro Leagues players to consider, but Rickey knew integrating the racist world of professional sports would take more than athletic ability. The attacks would be ugly, and the press would fuel the fire. If the player chosen were goaded into retaliating, the grand experiment would be set back a decade or more.

More here-

“Letter From Birmingham Jail” (Fifty Years)

April 16, 1963


While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern /annotated_letter_from_birminghamChristian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

More here-

Prayers for Victims in Boston

From The Living Church-

From the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

Gracious God, you walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. We pray that the suffering and terrorized be surrounded by the incarnate presence of the crucified and risen one. May every human being be reminded of the precious gift of life you entered to share with us. May our hearts be pierced with compassion for those who suffer, and for those who have inflicted this violence, for your love is the only healing balm we know. May the dead be received into your enfolding arms, and may your friends show the grieving they are not alone as they walk this vale of tears. All this we pray in the name of the one who walked the road to Calvary.

From the Rt. Rev. Jacob Owensby, Bishop of Western Louisiana

The following is an initial pastoral letter to the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana and to anyone seeking a word of hope and consolation.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Like you I am reeling from the news coming from Boston. Innocent people have been killed and many more have been injured by bombs timed to explode as the Boston Marathon was coming to a close. First responders reacted with heroic speed, and now medical personnel apply their skilled hands to saving and healing those who survived. Families, friends, the country, and much of the world watch and pray tonight.

Let us join them in prayer. Prayers for those who have entered into eternal life and for those fighting to recover. Prayers for the first responders and medical teams. Prayers for those who wait anxiously for word that their loved one is okay. Prayers for those whose hearts are rent by grief.

Earlier today I shared prayers on Facebook from Unapologetically Episcopalian. I share these rich Anglican prayers with you now and ask you to join me in lifting them to the Lord:

More here-

Palestinian Christians dwindling in number due to political situation

From The Irish Times-

Since the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948 at least 35 per cent of Palestinian Christians had left the Holy Land, a senior Palestinian churchman said in Dublin yesterday. “It has been the greatest de-Christianising influence there since the Ottomans,” Fr Peter Madros of the Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarchate of Jerusalem said yesterday.

“In 1945 there were 32,000 Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, now it’s 10,000 to 11,000,” said Rev Dr Naim Stifan Ateek, Canon Emeritus of St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem.

Archbishop of Sebastia,Theodosios Atallah Hanna, of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchiate of Jerusalem, pointed out “we are different [Christian] denominations but all Palestinians. We’ve suffered a loss of freedom and injustice that has led to the exile of many Palestinians.”

He described the decline of the Palestinian Christian community to between 1 and 2 per cent of the population as “a disaster not only for Palestinian Christians but for all Palestinians.” The three churchmen are members of a delegation that arrived in Ireland a week ago on a trip sponsored by the Sadaka group. It supports “a peaceful settlement in Palestine/Israel based on the principles of democracy and justice, be that in two states or in one state.”

More here-

Zimbabwe Anglicans celebrate return to churches

From Christian Today-

A Godalming curate was in Zimbabwe earlier in the month to join Anglicans celebrating the return to their churches after five years in exile.

Anglicans in the eastern Diocese of Manicaland were finally able to return to their churches and cathedral after being barred from places of worship for the last five years.

They were forced from their buildings when two renegade bishops in Manicaland and Harare attempted to take control of diocesan properties.

Even as they worshipped outside, they faced violence and harassment. All the while, priests were not funded and church assets were stolen.

The hardship only came to an end when Zimbabwe's Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Anglican Church and legally restored their ownership of the buildings.

The focus of the weekend's celebrations was on forgiveness. Joining them was the Reverend Kate Wyles, whose father's family were missionaries in Manicaland.

She represented the Bishop of Guildford at the celebrations.  Over 3,000 worshipers danced and sang their way back into Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Mutare, and St Augustine's Mission, Penhalonga.

More here-

Education a key theme for 2013 Anglican synod

From England-

TOMORROW, the Anglican Synod, which takes place every three years, begins. This year it takes place in Grahamstown, at St Andrew’s College.

While the synod is usually held in East London, “with its large venues and good facilities”, Dean of Grahamstown, the very reverend Andrew Hunter, says the choice of venue is based on historical reasons, with 2013 being the 160th anniversary of the founding of the diocese of Grahamstown, and St Andrew’s College being “one of our significant church schools”.

At every synod, key themes are addressed, the outcomes of which determine church policy for the next three years.

Hunter said that this year, “the issues are sharper than three years ago. We are part of a country full of hope and expectation, but also a country and a province with serious issues around service delivery, corruption, and abuse of power, wealth and privilege. We as the Anglican Church have a voice, and concerns to raise about these matters”.

Historically, Hunter said, the church had played a key role in investing in education, through the establishment of schools by the church.

“There are strong appeals from many quarters for the church to regain its place at the heart of education, and to provide the moral and spiritual life that our schools need.”

More here-

Retired bishop to lecture on Flannery O'Connor

From North Carolina-

A retired Episcopal bishop and a disabled Catholic woman from Georgia who's been dead for half a century might seem an odd couple. For the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley Jr., it's a match made in heaven.

Parsley, the retired bishop of Atlanta, will speak on “Encounters with Grace” (the lecture's title) in the fiction of Flannery O'Connor at 7 p.m. Friday in the St. James Great Hall at 25 S. Third St. Admission is free.

“Her stories, in a way, are parables,” said Parsley, who has been vacationing at a family-owned cottage at Wrightsville Beach. “Her fiction is transformative.”

O'Connor (1925-1964), who died of complications from lupus before the age of 40, received a posthumous National Book Award for her collected stories. Parsley chuckled as he recalled one of O'Connor's favorite remarks: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.”

More here-

Another Episcopal Church Property Dispute

From First Things-

This time it’s in South Carolina. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required)  on litigation between two rival factions in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. One faction, representing the leadership and about two-thirds of the membership, broke away from the national Episcopal Church in November over the national body’s liberal approach to sexuality and other issues. The minority faction has remained loyal to the national body. Both factions assert ownership of the diocese’s property, including St. Michael’s Church in Charleston (left). In total, the diocese’s church buildings, grounds, and cemeteries are worth around $500 million.

Church property disputes have become increasingly common in America, as local congregations distance themselves from more liberal national church bodies. In the Episcopal Church alone, there have been a dozen such disputes in the past few decades. Human nature being what it is, each side in such a dispute thinks of itself as the true depository of the faith, with a moral, and legal, right to church property.

More here-

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bishop fears funeral cost 'mistake'

From Belfast-

The Anglican bishop of Baroness Thatcher's home town has described the scale and cost of her funeral as a "mistake" which may play into the hands of extremists.

The Bishop of Grantham, The Rt Revd Dr Tim Ellis, said the ceremonial event, costing up to £10 million, was "asking for trouble" amid divisions about the late prime minister's legacy.

In an interview with BBC Radio Lincolnshire, the bishop was asked whether the organisers of the funeral had "got it right" given criticism of its cost to the public purse.

Dr Ellis replied: "I personally don't think that they have. I think that in a context where there is manifestly great ill-feeling about her tenure and about her legacy, to then actually have a situation where we seem to be expecting the nation to glorify that with a £10 million funeral... I think any sensible person would say that that is asking for trouble.

More here-

Cardinal Wuerl delivers outstanding homily in support of embattled Newman Center chaplain

From Patheos- (Wurel was formerly the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh)-

Tonight I was proud to witness Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl deliver an outstanding defense of Father Greg Shaffer, the George Washington University Newman Center chaplain whom gay-rights activists are seeking to have removed for upholding Catholic teaching on homosexual acts.

The defense came within a homily at a 7:30 p.m. student Mass that Wuerl concelebrated with Father Greg (as everyone calls him) and two former GW Newman Center chaplains at Washington, D.C.’s St. Stephen Martyr in Washington, D.C., the chaplaincy’s parent parish. The pews were packed with hundreds of students, the most I have ever seen at a campus Mass anywhere.

I hope Cardinal Wuerl posts the homily on his blog. In the meantime, I will share here what I can remember of it (adding references in parenthesis where they are relevant). It was a real keeper.
In speaking about the effort to remove Father Greg, the cardinal wasn’t detracting from his episcopal duty to preach on the Sunday readings. Just the opposite, in fact: as he noted, the universal Church’s readings for this Third Sunday of Easter seemed divinely chosen for the occasion.

More here-

Stained reputation: St. Philip's Episcopal Church's stained glass one of a kind

From Delmarva-

 It is the most unlikely of places to find a plump, silky, hungry muskrat.

Yet there he is, all but nibbling the leather soles of the Rev. Thomas Bray’s shoes in a stained glass window at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. On the other side of the sanctuary, filled with art in glass images of Jesus, St. John the Baptist, St. Philip and the three wise men, is a transom panel sporting a white chicken. The oven-stuffer candidate stands proudly in the center of a cornucopia that includes crabs, a peach, corn, butterflies, peppers and a Baltimore Oriole.

“We have something in our church that you won’t find in any other church in the world: a stained glass window with a muskrat,” said a smiling and proud Father Nathaniel Pierce. “About 60 years ago, a Roman Catholic bishop in Wilmington said it was OK to eat muskrat during Lent, so annual muskrat dinners were held here to raise money for churches.”

More here-

Church Fight Heads to Court

From The Wall Street Journal-

Episcopalians along the South Carolina coast are battling in court to determine which of two factions owns an estimated $500 million in church buildings, grounds and cemeteries, following an acrimonious split last year over social issues.

The leadership and about two-thirds of the members of the Diocese of South Carolina, based in Charleston, broke away from the national Episcopal Church last November over its blessing of same-sex unions, ordination of gay clergy and its liberal approach to other social and theological issues. The breakaway faction then filed a state lawsuit to assert ownership of 35 parishes, including many of the church's wealthiest in the state. The group says it shouldn't have to turn property over to a church that it believes has drifted from Biblical principles.

"The essential issue here is freedom of religion," said the Rev. James B. Lewis, a top assistant to the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, the breakaway group's bishop. "We have the freedom to remove ourselves."

More here-

Sunday, April 14, 2013

First dedicated harness racing clergyman

From "The You Can't Make This Stuff Up" department - Australia-

'Sydney father-of-five Gary Bennetts becomes the world's very first dedicated harness racing clergyman with his appointment as the inaugural racecourse chaplain to Sydney's Bankstown Paceway,' Bankstown Paceway director Megan Lavender has announced.

‘As the son of a horse trainer and the local church pastor at St Martin’s Georges Hall in Sydney’s south west, the Reverend Bennetts shares a passion for both the ministry and all things equine – and, last November, he hosted the first ever Harness Racing Spring Carnival Church Service prior to the Group 1 M. H. Treuer Memorial at his Georges Hall Anglican church,’ Ms Lavender told Harnesslink.

‘As part of Australia’s six billion dollar equine industry, Bankstown Paceway acknowledges and recognises that we owe a duty of care and compassion to our hardworking industry participants and stakeholders – the men and women of harness racing – who are people with many complex and diverse needs and issues some of which can range from substance abuse and gambling problems to loneliness and financial hardship,’ Ms Lavender said.

‘Accordingly, Bankstown Paceway is delighted to have, personified in Gary Bennetts, a man of both the cloth and the saddle cloth – and Gary’s role as our new racecourse chaplain, his faith and his message of salvation, we believe, can and will bring new life and hope to everyone,’ she said.

More here-

Archbishop of Canterbury 'should intervene in Dean dispute'

From The BBC

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been asked to help reconcile Jersey's Dean and the Diocese of Winchester.

The Dean, the Very Reverend Bob Key, was suspended by the Bishop of Winchester over his handling of a vulnerable adult's complaint he was abused by a churchwarden.

Archbishop Justin Welby said he would not intervene in the bishop's handling of the situation.

Senator Philip Bailhache said the move could hit island and church relations.

'Christians concerned'

The Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, withdrew Mr Key's commission in March.

It followed the publication of a diocesan report which found failures in the implementation of policies relating to a complaint by a vulnerable adult parishioner in 2008 about the alleged abusive behaviour of a churchwarden.

More here-

Margaret Thatcher's funeral: Maverick bishop's sermon will not be vetted by No 10

From The Independent-

Officially, there will be no political eulogy at Baroness Thatcher's funeral. But when the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, clambers up to the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral to deliver the sermon on Wednesday, there will be some who will be holding their breath to see what he comes out with.

For although, on the face of it, Dr Chartres is an archetypal establishment figure – a friend of Prince Charles and member of the Privy Council – he is also a maverick and a man of strong beliefs, some of them quite at odds with those of the late prime minister. Indeed, his name first entered public consciousness thanks to an altercation with Lady Thatcher. In 1982, as a junior chaplain to the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, he wrote the controversial sermon for the Falklands thanksgiving service.

The thrust of it was that although war may be the lesser of two evils, it was always, in a sense, a failure. Runcie asked the congregation to pray for the dead of both sides and for Argentine, as well as British, mothers. The then Prime Minister was livid, and the sermon triggered a furious row between Downing Street and Lambeth Palace. Asked about the episode, in an interview in 2000, Chartres said he felt the decision was right, and that society requires triumphalism and hubris to be tempered.

More here-

Margaret Thatcher: her unswerving faith shaped by her father

From The Telegraph-

Finkin Street Methodist chapel is quiet now: on its occasional Sunday services, 90 worshippers gather in a building built for 600.

For three years, the church was on the market, with the only potential buyer, a pizza chain, pulling out once it realised that the interiors were protected under its Grade II listed status.

But rewind to the Thirties and Finkin Street was a hub of activity, a thriving centre point for Grantham’s Wesleyan Methodist community. In the pews was a young Margaret Roberts, listening to her lay preacher father evangelise on the meaning of the Word.

Most people are aware that Baroness Thatcher was a product of a Methodist household and that her father was a lay preacher; most, however, probably think that Methodism was part of her childhood that dissipated later in life.

More here-

St. Luke’s Anglican Church goes lean and green

From Canada-

St. Luke’s parishioners are renovating their old stone and brick church to reduce energy consumption and maximize their use of the space after an energy audit discovered they were practically throwing money out the front door.

“It was a wake up call more to realize that of course this is a serious issue,” said the minister at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Rev. Gregor Sneddon. “Churches these days, which were at one time almost the fabric of culture and society, are now struggling for their existence and how they’re relevant and meaningful in a secular Western society. So the free lunch is kind of over and we’re wrestling with how do we be efficient and lean in our costs and how we operate.”

Last week the old door was replaced, which Sneddon described as leaking heat like a “loonie dispenser”. There are also plans to revamp the furnace, light fixtures and windows.

Creation Matters, the diocese’s environmental group, directed the appraisal as a pilot for the national program that works in “greening sacred spaces” throughout the Anglican Church of Canada.

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