Saturday, February 1, 2014

Uganda church rejects anti-gay criticism

From Aljazeera-

The head of the Anglican Church in Uganda has criticised the position of UK archbishops on homosexuality, saying "homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture".

Stanley Ntagaali was reacting to a letter written by archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu, leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, in which the clergymen said that "victimisation or diminishment of human beings ... is anathema" to the Church of England and that the church was committed to "pastoral support and care of gay people".

The clergymen addressed their letter to primates of the Anglican Communion, and to the presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, saying it was in response to questions raised about the Church of England's attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalise gay people.

Sentamu, the archbishop of York, is originally from Uganda, whose parliament has passed an anti-homosexuality bill that still awaits presidential endorsement before it becomes law.

Last month, Nigeria enacted anti-gay legislation amid condemnation from rights groups.

More here-

Nautilus Design On St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral Church In Boston Sparks Controversy

From Boston-

The pediment of The Cathedral Church Of St. Paul in Boston has stood empty for 190 years, as the builders of the impressive Greek Revival structure ran out of money during the initial construction phase. It was finally completed in May of 2013, but since then it's come under fire for its unusual design, which features a backlit nautilus sculpture.

Though the original plans for the Episcopal church called for a classical relief of St. Paul preaching to King Agrippa, the current design is absent of traditional Christian iconography, featuring instead the clean lines of a seashell's interior which allude to Oliver Wendell Holme's poem "The Chambered Nautilus," writes The Living Church in a review.

Reverend and Dean of St. Paul's, Jep Streit, told Radio Boston that the nautilus was "the perfect metaphor for a spiritual journey." He elaborated, "The nautilus is evocative of so much more than the church. It creates its shell by outgrowing each previous compartment. It’s always moving into a new, bigger space, and it can never go back."

Father Tim Schenck, an Episcopal priest, explained in a post on his Clergy Family Confidential blog why he finds the choice of a nautilus as a spiritual symbol to be "contrived" and "empty." He wrote, "I’m still not sure why Paul was pushed aside for a seashell."

More here-

Friday, January 31, 2014

Church of England’s call for dialogue on gays rebuffed in Africa

From The Washington Post-

Ahead of his five-day visit to Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a statement reminding Anglicans of the commitment the Church of England made eight years ago to the pastoral care and support of everyone, including gays and lesbians.

So far, the archbishop’s statement has not convinced African leaders.

On Wednesday (Jan. 29), Anglican leaders in Africa rejected a proposal by the English College of Bishops for two-year “facilitated conversations” to address the differences over homosexuality within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Kenya’s Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, chairman of the Global African Future Conference Primates’ Council, said the move would project the Church of England’s problems onto the communion as a whole.

More here-

Pentagon Denies Bias Against Military Chaplains

From Charisma News-

Lawmakers peppered Pentagon officials on Wednesday about claims that military chaplains have faced discrimination for their beliefs, and time and again, chaplains and personnel officials said they were unaware of any bias.

Virginia Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, told the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel that she could not cite specific instances where chaplains had to preach a sermon or oversee a ceremony that conflicted with their beliefs.

“There’s absolutely nothing in policy or code that prohibits a chaplain from praying according to the dictates of their faith,” she said.

In recent years conservative activists have complained that some military chaplains have been restricted in fully preaching their beliefs or have been muzzled or forced to follow policies they disagree with.

More here-

Pilling report: Bishops accept recommendations

From The Church Times-

THE College of Bishops has accepted the recommendations of the Pilling report, but has warned that the Church of England may never agree on the issue of sexuality.

In a statement released on Monday after a day of discussing the report, the College of Bishops said that a series of "facilitated conversations" on homosexuality needed to take place within the Anglican Communion.

"This should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. These conversations should set the discussion of sexuality within the wider context of human flourishing," it said.

More here-

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Welby flies to Africa telling Anglicans to treat gay people as ‘children of God’

From The Telegraph-

The Archbishop of Canterbury is on a collision course with Anglican leaders in Africa as he sets off on a five-day trip to the continent while denouncing new laws persecuting gay people.

The Most Rev Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, issued a joint letter to the heads of Anglican churches around the world urging them to “demonstrate the love of Christ” to same-sex couples.

It comes just days after the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan – with the approval of many Christians – signed harsh new laws making homosexual acts offences punishable with 14 years in prison and with 10 years even for public displays of affection.

The Ugandan parliament also recently passed new laws increasing the punishment for gay sex and making speaking about homosexuality without condemning it an imprisonable offence.
President Yoweri Museveni has so far refused to sign the bill into law.

More here-

Statement from England's College of Bishops

From ACNS-

The College of Bishops met on 27th January, 2014 to begin a process of reflection on the issues raised by the Pilling Report (GS 1929). The College expressed appreciation to Sir Joseph Pilling and to all members of the working party for the work they have done on behalf of the Church.

We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained.  We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.

We are united in seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church and in seeking to make a loving, compassionate and respectful response to gay men and women within Church and society.

We recognise the very significant change in social attitudes to sexuality in the United Kingdom in recent years.

More here-

Church considering IRS parsonage-exemption court case

From ENS-

In the wake of the U.S government’s decision to appeal a federal district judge’s decision that the Internal Revenue Service’s clergy parsonage exemption is unconstitutional, members of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, in collaboration with the Presiding Bishop’s Office, are considering whether the church should lend its voice to the appeal and, if so, how that might best be done.

It is expected that a number of religious groups will file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Episcopal Church staff members will be discerning which of those briefs, if any, most strongly presents the voice of the religious community on the issue, Office of Government Affairs Director Alex Baumgarten told ENS. They will also consider how other denominations and inter-denominational organizations plan to respond, and they will consult the bishop and chancellor of the Diocese of Milwaukee in which the case arose, he said.

Meanwhile, the Church Pension Group has posted a statement on its website saying that it is monitoring the case and noting that U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb specified in her Nov. 21 ruling that the decision would not be effective until all appeals were resolved in favor of the plaintiffs.

More here-

From Baptist preacher to Episcopal priest

From Alabama-

Spiritually and professionally, Malcolm Marler’s transition from Baptist preacher to Episcopal priest was neither easy nor quick.

It’s taken time to adjust to everything from saying formed prayers and making the sign of the Cross to wearing a collar and being called “father” by some lay people.

“This has not been a sudden turn-around,” said Marler, 58, a chaplain and director of pastoral care at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital.

But the switch may have struck some people as sudden, he said, after news reports detailing his Jan. 15 ordination at the hospital as an Episcopal minister.

However the rite followed about six years of sometimes difficult self-examination. And sometimes it’s still tough.

“I’m in Alabama, and there are times when I get different kinds of reactions,” he said. “We’re strongly in the Bible Belt and of course they say 60 percent of people in Alabama are Baptist — and some of them make certain assumptions.”

More here-

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There are lots of left wing Anglicans too!

From Christian Today-

"Many Christians are active on the left of the political spectrum, including Church of England members," says Christians on the Left.

The group, formerly the Christian Socialist Movement, was responding to yesterday's coverage of the Theos report "Voting and values in Britain: does religion count?".

The report's finding reinforced the stereotype of the Church of England being "the Tory Party at prayer" by finding that more Anglicans vote Conservative.

Christians on the Left said in its response that despite this finding, there is still significant leftist sympathy and activism in the church.

Christians on the Left director, Andy Flannagan said: "This is a fascinating report which needs to be read together with other studies."

More here-

Anglican head to visit violence-hit African region

From Uganda-

The archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican church, says he will visit Africa's violence-prone Great Lakes region later this week.

A statement from his official residence said Monday that Archbishop Justin Welby will on Thursday start a five-day visit to South Sudan, Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. He will meet primates of the Anglican church.

The statement said the trip will satisfy his "desire is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the primates' work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years."

South Sudan is the scene of violence sparked by a power struggle between the country's president and his former deputy, while eastern Congo remains prey to attacks by Congolese, Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian rebels.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Nigeria: Anglicans Support Govt, Oppose Gay Marriages

From Nigeria-

DELTA State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, commended the Nigeria Anglican Church for opposing gay marriages.

He urged leaders of other religious movements to preach against such practices.

“I urge our religious leaders that if it is possible, it should be a theme for preaching at all times,” he said at Onicha-Olona, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State during a memorial thanksgiving service in honour of Donald and Juliet Ochei, parents of the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei.

He said the signing of the anti-gay law by President Goodluck Jonathan was not the end of the “struggle” and urged religious leaders in the country not to relent in the fight against gay relationship and marriage.

According to the Governor, serious pressure was still being mounted on the Federal Government to rescind the law. Some countries in the West have expressed concern at President Goodluck Jonathan assenting to a bill outlawing gay marriages.

More here-

COMMENTARY: The Church’s Role In, and Against, Homophobia Across Africa

From RNS-

In the last month, many Westerners watched in horror as Uganda, and then Nigeria, enacted laws that are brutally repressive to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The fate of a bill passed by the Ugandan parliament remains uncertain after President Yoweri Museveni refused to sign it, but news reports from Nigeria indicate that there have been mass arrests of gay men following President Goodluck Jonathan’s signing of the National Assembly’s anti-gay bill.

World leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have expressed their dismay. Many Christian leaders around the world, regrettably, have been largely unwilling to criticize Christian leaders in Africa who cheered the passage of these punitive laws.

The Anglican primates of Uganda and Nigeria enthusiastically support anti-gay legislation in their countries. I, like them, am a member of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide body of more than 80 million Christians. I am troubled and saddened that fellow Anglicans could support legislation that fails to recognize that every human being is created in the image of God.

More here-

With New Focus, Episcopal Church Of Louisiana Addressing A History Of Racism

From Louisiana-

The Episcopal Church of Louisiana spent the past year making plans for a new ministry, aiming to address its history of racism, as well as other forms of racism in society.

Last week, the Washington, D.C.-based leader of the Episcopal Church came to New Orleans for a special service. At Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest Episcopal congregation in New Orleans, worshippers committed to racial healing and racial justice. 

Louisiana Bishop Reverend Morris K. Thompson declared 2013 as a year of reconciliation for the Episcopal Church. Over Martin Luther King Day weekend, the church inaugurated a year of increased activism. Bishop Thompson says this starts with awareness.

"This isn’t a service that I want people, and nor is it an intention to make people feel guilty, but to raise the awareness of who we are," says Bishop Thompson. "I don’t apologize for being a white male — I am by birth. It wasn’t a choice, but to not be aware of the benefit of that, I think is to live in my ancestors’ heads."

More here-

Utah’s Catholic and Episcopal bishops swap pulpits

From Utah-

It wasn’t what he said that made Bishop John C. Wester’s Jan. 19 sermon on unity stand out — it was where he said it.

Wester, leader of Utah’s 300,000 Catholics, was preaching at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City rather than in his own church’s sanctuary.

To visually underscore the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Wester and his Utah Episcopal counterpart, Bishop Scott Hayashi, decided to switch pulpits for a day.

Hayashi will be preaching Feb. 9 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.
The two leaders decided that appearing in others’ churches was "one way to publicly display their belief that Christians of various denominations share witness and fellowship, and can work together," according to a story in the Intermountain Catholic.

"Christians, by their very nature, ‘are called to be one as God is one, made in his image,’ " the paper quoted Wester as saying. "However, despite great strides being made in Christian unity, some issues remain."

More here-

5 churchy phrases that are scaring off millennials

From On Faith-

The statistics are in. The millennials are leaving the church, and nobody seems quite sure what to do about it.

I am one of them. Born in 1983, I belong to the wispy beginnings of the new generation. I turned 30 this year, and I’m raising two small boys. I hold within me both cynicism and hope. I left the church. I came back.

Here is what I can tell you about millennials: We grew up on easy answers, catchphrases and cliché, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that things are almost always more complicated than that.

When I returned to church, it wasn’t because of great programs, alluring events or a really cool “café” set up in the foyer. I went back not because of what the church was doing, but rather in spite of it. I went back because I needed community, and because, thanks to a steady dose of medication and therapy, I was finally well enough to root through the cliché to find it.

More here-

Monday, January 27, 2014

Archbishop Welby to visit South Sudan and Great Lakes region this week

From Ekklesia-

It has been announced that the Archbishop of Canterbury will visit South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet Primates (heads) of the Anglican churches there.

The visit by Archbishop Justin Welby, who is the spiritual head of the 78 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, will take the form of a five-day visit to the region starting on Thursday 30 January 2014.

During his first 18 months in office, the Archbishop plans to visit all of his fellow Archbishops around the Anglican Communion.

His desire, Lambeth Palace said today, "is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the Primates’ work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years."

The latest visit comes in the face of the struggle for peace amidst severe tensions and violence in South Sudan, other regional problems, and continuing disagreements among Anglicans and other Christians about issues of sexual morality and the interpretation of scripture and tradition.

Archbishop Justin Welby has a background in conflict transformation and resolution, as well as commercial and church experience.

More here-

Tory Party at prayer? Anglicans more likely to vote Conservative

From Christian Today-

"The Tory Party at prayer" is an association proving hard to shift as a new study reveals that Anglicans are more likely to vote Conservative.

That is one of the findings in a new study by Theos, entitled "Voting and Values in Britain: Does religion count?", in which the link between religious affiliation and voting from 1950 to the present day is put under the microscope.

"For too long, the precise relationship between religious (and non-religious) commitment and political identity and values in Britain has been under-researched, the subject of claim, counter-claim and hyperbole," say the study's authors Ben Clements and Nick Spencer.

The study points out that the UK never developed a tradition of Christian Democracy of the kind seen in Europe because "by the time this happened in Europe, it already had three – Anglican Tory, Nonconformist Liberal, and Nonconformist and Catholic Labour."

More here-

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pope Francis Says Women Should Have Bigger Presence, But Not A Lead Church

From Huffington-

Pope Francis on Saturday lauded women for their sensitivity toward the society's weak and "gifts" like intuition, insisting they take on greater responsibilities in the Catholic church, as well as in professional and public spheres.

Francis was full of praise about female talent and untapped potential in a speech at the Vatican to an Italian women's group. But the pope gave no sign that the Vatican glass ceiling against ordaining women for the priesthood might see some cracks during his papacy.

From day one of his papacy in March, Francis has been trying to make the Catholic church more welcoming, but it forbids women from becoming priests, arguing among other things, that Jesus and his apostles were men.

Francis made clear back in November, in an extensive document laying out his priorities as head of the 1.2-billion-member Catholic church, that the ban against women's ordination would stand. Then, and in his speech on Saturday, he did go out of his way to urge a greater role for women in making decisions and holding responsibilities in the church.

More here-

Merseyside's 'Cyber Priest': 'Thou shalt not drink wine in church’

From The Telegraph-

He goes by the name “Cyber Priest” and is known for his energy and enthusiasm.

So when Father Simon Tibbs arrived in his new middle-class parish he set about trying to breathe new life into it.

Innovations included a “pet blessing” for children, and fresh attempts to welcome more teenagers and young families into his flock.

But not all his changes went down well in the conservative Merseyside parish of St Faith’s.
The final straw came when Fr Tibbs, 41, described by those who know him as liberal and “Left-leaning”, tried to put a stop to what he regarded as the excessive drinking taking place at social functions hosted by the church.

More here-

Festivities to go on; Episcopal Bishop to reschedule visit

From Conn.-

UPDATE: The Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church had to postpone her visit to St. Mark’s, scheduled as part of the parish’s 250th anniversary celebration. A family member of the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is ill, according to the church.

Sunday’s church festivities will go on as planned Sunday. Jeff Fager, Chairman of CBS News, is going to step in and speak at the Sunday morning forum at 9 a.m.

Bishop Schori plans to reschedule her visit to New Canaan in the coming month, according to St. Mark’s.

SATURDAY — St. Mark’s Episcopal Church will host a visit from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, on Sunday, Jan. 26, to kick off the celebration of its 250th year.

“We are excited and honored to have the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church with us at the start of the celebration of our 250th year here at St. Mark’s,” said The Rev. Peter Walsh, Rector of the church. “The Presiding Bishop represents the presence of the whole church for us. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is a great inspiration.”

More here-