Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lutherans struggle with membership decline

From California-

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It’s been a time of good news and not-so-good news.

First, the good news: These Lutherans just installed their first female bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, of Cleveland. Her selection this summer came as something of a surprise. Most people expected the 12-year incumbent, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, to be selected again.

Nobody will call it a palace coup, but some observers got the feeling church members were ready for a change at the top. This is where the not-so-good news kicks in.

More here-

Faith and Values: Pope Francis engages an atheist

From PA-

Eugenio Scalfari, an outspoken atheist, is the founder of Rome's La Repubblica newspaper. He recently sought an interview with Pope Francis.

Francis agreed, with an impromptu telephone call.

They joked during the interview about converting each other.

"Convert you?" Francis said. "Proselytism is solemn nonsense. You have to meet people and listen to them."

I love this Pope. Eight popes have spanned my life in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches. I've given all appropriate respect. I loved three, and Francis is now at the top of that trinity. The other two are John XXIII and John Paul I.

A quote from the interview: "Those most affected by narcissism — actually a kind of mental disorder — are people who have a lot of power," Francis said. "Heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers."

More here-,0,4442500.story

St. Mary's challenges its congregation to read the Bible in one year

From Florida-

Do you know why Moses was not allowed to cross over and see the Promised Land or how many wives Solomon had? Did you know that David sinned against two of the Ten Commandments and still found forgiveness?

Have you wanted answers to some of the bible’s most intriguing questions such as if a man dies, will he live again or if we neglect salvation, will we be able to escape the wrath of God? Or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Well, the answers to these questions and a fountain of information about things you never knew but should about biblical characters, places and themes are available by reading every book, chapter and verse through participation in “The Bible Challenge.”

More here-

Friday, October 11, 2013

Online Communion? Methodist Church Debates Offering Virtual Service

From Huffington-

As online worship becomes more common in some churches, leaders within the United Methodist Church are debating whether the denomination should condone online Communion.

About 30 denominational leaders met last week after Central United Methodist Church in Concord, N.C., announced plans to launch an online campus that potentially would offer online Communion. Some nondenominational churches already offer online Communion, according to United Methodist News Service, but leaders urged the denomination’s bishops to call for a moratorium on the practice and do further study of online ministries.

The majority of the leaders agreed with the statement that Communion “entails the actual tactile sharing of bread and wine in a service that involves people corporeally together in the same place.” Not everyone, however, agreed that congregants must be in the same place.

More here-

How my sins struck terror into the heart of a priest

From The Telegraph-

Remember when you were little and did something really bad? Whacked a soaring boundary through your next-door-neighbour’s greenhouse, or borrowed your big sister’s best dress without asking and spilt Ribena down it?

If not, congratulations. Your name is obviously Fotherington-Thomas, the preternaturally saintly schoolboy cherub of Willans and Searle’s immortal Molesworth books, who greets Nigel Molesworth’s cruel classroom taunts with a gentle riposte of: “I forgive you Molesworth for those uncouth words.” Either that or you have no conscience at all, like Mr ------ and various other public figures whom the Telegraph’s libel lawyers unfortunately forbid me to mention.

You know that feeling of a stone resting on your heart, when you are waiting to be found out? Turns out that it is more than the oppression of a fevered imagination. The experiments of Prof Ramona Bobocel, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, and her Princeton colleague, Martin Day, have shown that the mental strain of a guilty conscience translates into a physical sensation of carrying a

More here-

Anglicans could lose new igloo church in Canadian Arctic

From Alaska-

Officials from the Anglican diocese of the Arctic say they are in a financial crisis after receivers for a bankrupt contractor asked for the outstanding bills on the new cathedral in Iqaluit, the capital city of Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, to be paid.

“We risk losing our cathedral for the second time in a decade because Dowland’s receiver is asking for a payment of outstanding Dowland bills,” Bishop David Parsons at a press conference on Monday.

The new St. Jude’s cathedral, which opened last year, replaced a church destroyed by a deliberately-set fire in 2005.

More here-

Anglican diocese accounts frozen

From Australia-

The Commonwealth Bank has frozen several of the Bathurst Anglican diocese’s accounts as it moves to recover as much of the $36 million debt owed as possible.

The sale of the Orange Anglican Grammar School and the Macquarie Anglican Grammar School in Dubbo, finalised last Monday, “crystallised” the amount of debt hanging over the head of the troubled diocese, according to Bishop Ian Palmer, but has left it in a “very difficult place”.

 “I am unable to see clearly what the diocese may look like in the future,” Bishop Palmer said in a letter read out to parishes across the diocese.

“[The debt] is large and we cannot repay the bank in full.”

More here-

The clergy ask for help with stress

From The Church Times-

MORE than three-quarters of the clergy questioned in a survey about their mental health would welcome help with managing stress.

The survey of 492 clergy was conducted for St Luke's Healthcare for the Clergy, in preparation for a conference next week on clergy stress, to be attended by representatives from every English diocese.

More than half the clergy polled (53 per cent) reported that they had received no training about stress. The 45-54 age-band appears to be the most stressful. Only 10.5 per cent said that they would decline help with stress, against the average across all ages of 22.6 per cent. Male clergy were more resistant to help than women: 24.4 per cent as opposed to 18 per cent.

The questionnaire also asked about clergy well-being. Given four options, 37.4 per cent of respondents agreed that they were "positive and energised"; 50.4 per cent said that they had "more good days than bad"; 11 per cent said that they were "struggling"; and 1.2 per cent (six people in the sample) opted for "barely coping, if I'm honest".

More here-

An aging maverick, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has no regrets

From RNS-

At 82, retired and enjoying life, Bishop John Shelby Spong doesn’t have to be the liberal enfant terrible whose pronouncements for gay rights and against traditional dogmas once scandalized Christendom.

Indeed, many of the views that once turned the former Episcopal bishop of Newark into a lightning rod are now regarded as so matter-of-fact that they barely occasion much notice: ordaining gay clergy and blessing same-sex marriages, for example, or having a female presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman elected to lead a national church in the Anglican Communion.

“I can remember when getting a woman as a rector was the hardest thing you ever did,” Spong said with a gratified smile as he relaxed on a sofa in the suburban New Jersey home he shares with his wife, Christine. (“I was told to put a collar on. I haven’t worn one in a long time.”)

More here-

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Abp Welby welcomes Amnesty report on 'unprecedented' violence against Christians

From ACNS-

The Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed a new Amnesty International report calling on Egypt to prevent ‘deeply disturbing’ attacks on Christians in the country.

The report describes an ‘unprecedented level' of attacks against Coptic Christians following the dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo on 14 August.

More than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged in 'deeply sectarian attacks' against Coptic and other Christian denominations, the report says.

Speaking to The Times last night, Archbishop Justin said: ‘I welcome this timely report from Amnesty International. Attacks on any community are deplorable and any state has the responsibility to protect its citizens. The appalling attacks in August on the Christian community in Egypt highlight the need for all citizens to be duly protected.'

More here-

'Catholic' confession is good for the soul - says Archbishop of Canterbury

From The Telegraph-

The Most Rev Justin Welby advised churchgoers that it could be an “enormously powerful” experience to unburden themselves to a confessor, even if it was not always a “bunch of laughs”.

His comments came as he addressed the heads of other churches – including the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols – about divisions between Christians.

Although Archbishop Welby comes from the evangelical wing of Anglicanism, his personal spiritual director is a Swiss Roman Catholic priest, Fr Nicolas Buttet, and he is a strong advocate of Catholic worship styles.

He spoke of being part of a wider “catholic tradition”, adding: “I’ve learnt over the last 10 years about the great sacrament of reconciliation: confession.

“It is enormously powerful and hideously painful when it’s done properly … it’s really horrible when you go to see your confessor – I doubt you wake up in the morning and think, this is going to be a bunch of laughs.

More here-

Episcopal Church Files Motion to Lift Ban on Using Departing Diocese's Name

From Christian Post-

A group loyal to the national Episcopal Church has filed a motion in a South Carolina court to have an injunction that stops them from using a departing diocese's name and seal lifted.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) made the motion with regards to the name and marks of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, whose leadership left the national church last year.

A hearing is scheduled for the motion before Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein on Friday, which will focus on the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) put against TECSC.

In their motion, TECSC argued that the TRO "was improperly granted" since the proceedings earlier this year allegedly did not allow for them to present their case.

More here-

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Police arrest at least 100 at immigration rally in D.C.

From Washington-

Religious leaders played a prominent role in Tuesday’s rally. Several dozen who attended have worked for years on revising immigration legislation.

“I think there is a sense of urgency. If we don’t pass something now, we won’t get a vote until after the next election,” said the Rev. Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church and the mother of an adopted son from Colombia.

Dozens of the clergy and faith advocates went to the Capitol, where they said they planned to give lawmakers Bibles and Torahs with sections about the migrant underlined.

More here-

Dispute creates factions at Hedgesville church

From West Virginia-

The Mt. Zion Episcopal Church in Hedgesville is being attacked by changes after almost 300 years of purity.

Church members who have been members of this church their entire lives as well as their families have left the church, some voluntarily out of disgust, some not so voluntarily.

The old members who have maintained this church for decades, following in the steps of generations of their ancestors, have been pushed out by a few faces of Mt. Zion.

The bottom line is money is the root of all evil.

In January of 1994, Hilda Lingamfelter revised her will after her sister Georgeanna Seibert passed away. Both of these women loved Mt. Zion Church and wanted it to be preserved forever, since their ancestors had helped to build this church

More here-

Slaying galvanizes Episcopal Church

From Boston-

Jorge Fuentes did things his own way. “If you’re not being yourself, you’re not having fun,” he would say, flashing a smile.

As a contrarian kid, he sometimes drove his mother and teachers and pastors crazy. But by his late teens, he was a standout counselor at his church’s youth programs. He traveled everywhere on mission trips, doing farm work in Virginia, feeding poor people in New York. He planned to join the Marines.

Then, just over a year ago, came the stray shot, fired from a stranger’s gun, that hit the 19-year-old in the head as he walked his dog across the street from his family’s home in Dorchester.

The death of Fuentes was a loss of incalculable proportions, not only for his close-knit family, but for Episcopalians across Eastern Massachusetts. A thousand people came to his calling hours and a candlelight vigil that followed at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the South End. The following spring, more than 650 marched in his name at the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Last month, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, just back from treatment for brain cancer, came to Beacon Hill to tell Jorge’s story and demand changes to gun laws.

More here-

An Inspiring Respite

From Vanity Fair-

Finally, a self-described “urban sanctuary” that lives up to its billing. Though located in the most hopping part of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, the new High Line Hotel sits within the tranquil, cloistered grounds of the General Theological Seminary, a venerable Episcopal institution that dates from 1817 and occupies a prime block fronting 10th Avenue. 

Formerly an apple orchard, the property was part of a vast estate that stretched from what is now Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River and belonged to Clement Clarke Moore, a wealthy gentleman who in 1822 penned the Yuletide classic “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” A few years ago, the seminary sold a few of the red-brick, English Gothic–style buildings on its campus. What were once dormitories are now the High Line Hotel. While retaining handsome original features such as stained glass and elaborate fireplace mantels, the design firm Roman and Williams came up with a look for the property’s 60 rooms that blends eclectic Americana with European style. 

Little of the vintage furniture matches. All rooms are equipped with terrariums and Model 202 rotary phones manufactured by Western Electric in the 1930s (now updated with digital technology). There is a bar-cafĂ© in the cozy lobby, and while the hotel lacks a restaurant, its soaring, ornately paneled 3,300-square-foot refectory seems destined to become Manhattan’s next buzzy event space. “Former seminarians and priests have been popping in and pointing out the rooms where they used to party,” says Tyler Morse, a co-developer. “You have to remember, these are Episcopalians. It’s a much more liberal situation than with, say, the Catholics.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cathedral Of Saint John The Divine In New York Selects Brodsky Organization To Build 428 Apartments Beside Their Church

From Jewish Business News-

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York has made a deal with New York real estate developers, the Brodsky Organization, to develop a vacant portion of the north side of its cathedral property for the building of 330,000 square feet of new apartment buildings.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine is one of the world’s largest churches and it sits in the Morningside Heights neighbourhood of upper Manhattan, beside Columbia University. Its full name is actually the “Cathedral Church of Saint John: The Great Divine in the City and Diocese of New York”, and it is the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, the American version of the Anglican communion.

Building of the cathedral commenced in 1892 after the head of the Diocese at the time, one Bishop Henry Potter, called for a building to rival that of the Catholic St. Patricks Cathedral. It then took decades to complete, not actually opening end-to-end until 1941 in the week before Pearl Harbour. It rivals Liverpool Cathedral for the title of the largest Anglican church in the world, even though it is even now still not entirely complete as portions remains unfinished.

More here-

Episcopal Priest Writes Handbook 'All the Places in the Bible'

From Book World-

The Bible is the most read book in history, but how much does the average citizen know about the physical locations mentioned in the Bible?

Father Richard Losch has written a biblical guidebook called "All the Places in the Bible". He believes that it's crucial for Christians to understand places referenced in the holy book.

"Knowledge of history, culture and values gives insight into well known biblical stories," Losch said. "It's important to be aware of both culture and events during ancient times so that popular biblical tales are not misinterpreted."

More here-

Newtown, Conn., Episcopal priest speaks on gun violence

From The Boston Globe-

The small, quiet town in Fairfield County is a world away from the streets of Dorchester, but the two communities are, in a sense, linked: Both mourn the innocent children they have lost to gun violence.

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, saw that connection when he and his staff were putting together a day of workshops aimed at helping church members — including many small-town dwellers and suburbanites — find ways to help end violence, part of the B-PEACE for Jorge campaign.

“When Newtown happened, it was three months after Jorge’s death, and it was so clear to all of us that this was not something that just happens in the city,” Shaw said in an interview in his office last month. “This happens everywhere.”

He was sitting next to the Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, whom he had invited to speak at the diocese’s “Resource Day,” which brought more than 350 Episcopalians from across Eastern Massachusetts to Roxbury Community College. Its aim was to give people concrete things to do — help a school, support traumatized families, campaign for stricter gun control laws.

More here-

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Promise and Peril of Pope Francis

From The New York Times-

TO understand Pope Francis — his purpose, his program and its potential pitfalls — it’s useful to think about what’s been happening to New York City’s Jews.

From the 1950s on, New York’s Jewish population declined, amid suburbanization and assimilation. But over the last 10 years, the numbers began to rise again, climbing 10 percent between 2002 and 2011.

But this growth was almost all among Orthodox Jews. The city’s Reform and Conservative populations continued to drop, as did Jewish religious observance over all.

As a result, New York’s Jewish community is increasingly polarized, with more Jews at the most traditional end of the theological spectrum, more Jews entirely detached from the institutions of their ancestral faith — and ever-fewer observant Jews anywhere in the middle. What’s happened in New York is happening nationally: a recent Pew study found a similar pattern of growth among the Orthodox and a similar waning of religious practice and affiliation in the rest of the American Jewish population.

More here-

Perth Anglicans vote to recognise same-sex relationships

From Australia-

Anglicans in Perth have voted to have same-sex relationships recognised.

The church synod voted by a two-thirds majority to call for legal acknowledgment of civil unions between people of the same sex.

Rector of Darlington-Bellevue Anglican parish, the Reverend Chris Bedding, presented the motion to the synod.

"We presented a motion saying that the Anglican Church and the Diocese of Perth would like to acknowledge that legal recognition of same-sex relations can coexist with legal recognition of marriage between a man and a woman," he said.

"That had already come last year, it had essentially been vetoed by the Archbishop and it came back this year and the bar was set even higher.

More here-

Mormon Leader Calls Gay Marriage 'Immoral'

From Huffington-

More states and nations may legalize same-sex marriage, but human laws cannot "make moral what God has declared immoral," a top Mormon leader said Sunday.

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, in an address at the Mormon church's biannual general conference in Salt Lake City, said the faith's stance against same-sex marriage might be misunderstood or prompt accusations of bigotry.

But he urged members to remember that their first priority is to serve God, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' policies are based on God's decrees, The Salt Lake Tribune reported ( ).

An LDS eternal perspective does not allow members "to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them," Oaks said. "And unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared to be unchangeable."

More here-

Pope provokes people to examine themselves, priorities

From Nashville-

Pope Francis says it's not necessary to talk about abortion, contraception and gay marriage all the time. He mourns that the world doesn't care whether children are dying of hunger and urges the sacrifice of personal comfort for the greater good.

And that's just from interviews with religious and secular media that came out in the past two weeks.

Messages from a man Catholics consider a successor to the biblical Apostle Peter and recognized as the leader of the world's largest Christian denomination are reverberating around the world. In Middle Tennessee, one Vanderbilt University religion professor called the reaction a phenomenon. Christian rock band Jars of Clay's guitarist, Stephen Mason, put it more casually — "I've got a pope crush," he wrote on Facebook, linking to an article about Pope Francis bemoaning the world's obsession with money.

More here-

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Memos from the pope's mechanic

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

TO: His Holiness Pope Francis <>


Your Most Blessed Holiness,

Greetings from your most humble servant. I am so thrilled that you chose my modest garage for your car needs. AND you're taking advantage of our customer email service -- not many 76-year-old customers are so high-tech!

I was surprised by your choice of car (a 29-year-old Renault 4L for il Pape?), and even more surprised that you chose Luigi's for your service needs. Thank you for this honor. It has 186,000 miles?! A miracle!

Read more:

Five myths about Jesus

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Perhaps no historical figure is more deeply mired in legend and myth than Jesus of Nazareth. Outside of the Gospels -- which are not so much factual accounts of Jesus but arguments about his religious significance -- there is almost no trace of this simple Galilean peasant who inspired the world's largest religion. But there's enough biblical scholarship about the historical Jesus to raise questions about some of the myths that have formed around him over the past 2,000 years.

Read more: