Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mozambique: The Bishop Who Smashed Guns At the Altar

From All Africa-


The longest-serving Anglican bishop in the world, Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Lebombo, a church diocese which covers southern Mozambique, is to retire after nearly four decades ministry in that country.

Sengulane was consecrated as a bishop soon after Mozambique became independent from Portugal in 1975 and the ruling Frelimo party formed a one-party state. He led his diocese through the 15-year-long civil war which followed independence and played an important role in efforts which eventually brought about an end to the war. He was interviewed in late 2013 by John Allen.

More here-

Ruling's supporters react with celebration, opponents offer condemnation

From Michigan-

Many members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community celebrated Friday a judge’s ruling overturning a constitutional amendment in Michigan that defined marriage as legal only if it is a union between a man and a woman.

“I’m really happy that Michigan has now decided to join the ranks of more progressive states,” said Cass Varner, spokeswoman for Affirmations in Ferndale. “It’s good for us, it’s good for the family.”

The Rev. Deon Johnson, rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, said he thought many in his denomination “will be overjoyed this day has come” and likened the ruling to the success of the civil rights movement, which also was supported by some religious groups.

“I think it moves us one step closer to realizing God’s dream, but another step closer to justice,” he said.

But others said despite the judge’s ruling they will continue to oppose same-sex marriage.

The episcopal gadfly of the Church of England

From The Telegraph-

When Herbert Hensley Henson was named bishop of Hereford, the Archbishop of Canterbury considered resigning, and told him so.

That was in 1917. We may think bishops are a funny lot now, but, though Henson (1863-1947) was a bundle of eccentric contradictions, the biggest objection to his being consecrated was his inability to assent to the Virgin Birth of Jesus and his bodily Resurrection. He was consecrated (on the day the Bolsheviks confiscated all property of the orthodox Church), and the C of E did not fall apart.

It is unlikely today that such a figure would be made a bishop. His father had refused to send him to school. He was not baptised until 14. The Warden of All Souls called him the proudest man he’d known (and that was saying something). His colonialist brother was renowned as the rudest man in Calcutta.

The sequicentenary of his birth provoked a new biography, but I thought I’d read Owen Chadwick’s biography from 1983 first, and I’m glad I did. Chadwick writes beautifully and puts at least two interesting facts on each page. His judgments are so convincing that the risk is being won over entirely by his interpretation of a life that baffles by its lurches.

More here-

Priest dismissed from Episcopal Church after panel finds misuse of funds

From Akron-

Despite losing his orders as an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Brian S. Suntken is continuing his pastoral ministry.

Suntken, who said he resigned as pastor of Christ Church Hudson and renounced his orders from the Episcopal Church in December 2012, officially was “deposed and his ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church ended,” according to a church document dated Dec. 7, 2013.

The document, which was mailed anonymously to the Akron Beacon Journal, was signed by three members of a hearing panel of the Cleveland-based Episcopal Diocese of Ohio who found Suntken guilty of eight of nine allegations against him, including misuse of church funds and dishonesty.
Pastor ‘moving on’

“I didn’t participate in the [hearing] process, so it’s a one-sided deal,” said Suntken, who currently serves as pastor of the nondenominational Community of St. John in Hudson. “I’ve been out of the Episcopal Church for more than a year now and I’m moving on.”

More here-

Friday, March 21, 2014

Justin Welby makes great strides, but his greatest challenge is yet to come

From The Telegraph-

It could have been like one of those moments in a country parish where a trendy new vicar rolls up with plans to rip out the Victorian pews to make way for a drum-kit and an overhead projector. The arrival of Justin Welby, a former businessman whose brand of Christianity is marked with the zeal of the convert, as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury had the potential to ruffle more than a few feathers in the established Church.

Within months of his enthronement, a year ago today, he seemed on course to do just that. He had overhauled his staff, with a series of new appointments. He had persuaded rival factions to take part in something akin to drama therapy sessions to confront their differences over women bishops, and he had delivered a blistering address to the General Synod on how it needed to face up to a sexual “revolution”.

But a year into the job – which combines the work of a medieval prelate, a FTSE chief executive and a world-weary inner-city rector – he has scored a series of successes that would have seemed unthinkable in the past. After decades of argument and years of tortuous legislative twists and turns, the Church of England is on the brink of finally approving the admission of women into the episcopate.

More here-

Church is 'running out of men to be bishops'

From The Daily Mail-

The Church of England is running out of male priests good enough to be bishops, a senior Labour MP said yesterday.

Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said the Anglican talent pool is drying up while the Church has a high number of women who would make first-class bishops.

He spoke during a Westminster debate in which MPs warned the Church of England not to delay any longer in its progress towards allowing women to be consecrated as bishops.

Mr Bradshaw said in a Westminster Hall debate that there were rumours that the Church had run out of credible candidates worthy of promotion.

He said: ‘We have a great bunch of bishops and they do a fantastic job in the House of Lords, but one does hear sort of rumours that we are getting to the end of our talent pool when it comes to male suffragans who we can promote up into diocesan bishops.

More here-

Bishops start quizzing their clergy

From The Church Times-

GAY clergy have this week been describing the ramifications of the pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage, issued by the House of Bishops last month. Bishops have begun meeting gay clergy, at least five of whom are reported to be planning to marry.

The Vicar of St Mary with All Souls', Kilburn, and St James's, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said on Tuesday that speaking publicly about his plans to marry his partner of 14 years ( News, 21 February) had resulted in an "uncomfortable" meeting with his bishop, the Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, on Wednesday last week.

"It was very uncomfortable for both of us," he said. "He was with HR, and I was with a union rep. That would not be normal for a meeting between a bishop and a priest. I could not honestly say it was particularly pastoral. It was awkward."

More here-

Fred Phelps' death may mean end of Westboro church

From USA Today- (with video)

With the death of Fred Phelps, the vitriol-spouting leader of Westboro Baptist Church who picketed military funerals and espoused hatred for gays, the future of his church is hazy.

Phelps, 84, died late Wednesday, according to online postings of his church. The cause of death was not reported.

"It's unclear whether this so-called church will survive the death of its founder," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has closely monitored the group. "In some ways, it was a cult of personality."

Phelps, who started the church in Topeka in 1955, would go on to launch a campaign to picket the funerals of gay men and lesbians with placards that read "God Hates F---." Congregants drew the harshest criticism for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. military personnel. Phelps said the deaths were God's way of punishing a country that enabled same-sex relationships.

More here-

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Religions unite over anti-slavery initiative

From CNN-

Major religious faiths around the world are joining forces to fight the scourge of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Australian billionaire and mining magnate Andrew Forrest has signed up major religious heavyweights –Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar mosque in Egypt, Islam's highest-ranking Sunni cleric.

This week their representatives gathered at the Vatican to sign on to Andrew Forrest’s initiative, the Global Freedom Network.

Forrest joined Amanpour in her London studio, along with Archbishop David Moxon of the Anglican Church and Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo of the Catholic Church.

More here-

Alban Institute, a resource for mainline institutions, to shutter

From RNS-

As mainline Protestant denominations continue decades of decline, one of the main institutions helping educate its leaders announced Wednesday (March 19) that it will shut its doors.

Since it was founded four decades ago, the Virginia-based Alban Institute has guided mostly mainline congregations through consulting and publishing. Its founder and former president, the Rev. Loren Mead, became well-known for his speaking and writing about the future of U.S. denominations and was one of the first to predict denominational decline.

“When I started as a parish pastor, I found there wasn’t much help or continuing education,” said Mead, a retired Episcopal priest. “I am glad I have been able to contribute to the church, but I have not been able to solve its turnaround.” 

More here-

Re-imagining task force making progress toward November deadline

From ENS-

The Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church is on track for reporting its recommendations and specific legislative proposals to the church this November, according to the group’s co-conveners.

“I think we’re where we need to be at this point,” said the Rev. Craig Loya, dean of the cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, who leads the task force with Katy George, a member of the Diocese of Newark. “I think we’re well on track to having a very thorough report that honors what our mandate was by the end of November.”

That mandate was set in General Convention Resolution C095, passed in July 2012, that called for a task force “to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the church’s structures, governance, and administration.”

Loya and George spoke to Episcopal News Service March 18, three days after TREC’s latest face-to-face meeting ended. The meeting, held at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, was conducted nearly exclusively in closed sessions (a copy of the agenda is here). Also on March 18, the group released a summary of the work it did during the March 13-15 meeting.

More here-

Conservatives Accuse Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Misconduct

From Religion Dispatches-

The conservative American Anglican news site Anglican Ink reported this week on a claim of misconduct filed in December 2013 against the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The claim was filed by the American Anglican Fellowship (AAF), a group formed in June of 2013 apparently for the purpose of going after Jefferts Schori much like disgruntled GOP legislators after Barack Obama. Through a long series of legal cases related to ownership of property and other assets after a congregation has parted with the national church, American Anglican churches have had roughly the same degree of success as Republican lawmakers have had in overturning the Affordable Care Act: not much.

As previously reported here, the Episcopal Church has prevailed in the majority of cases, with schismatic claimants pressing their cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2012 declined to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling awarding property from a church in Connecticut to the Episcopal Church. Days before the AAF released the full text of its ecclesiastical complaint, the U.S. Supreme Court again denied an appeal from a breakaway congregation in Falls Church, Virginia. Hard feelings, much?

More here-

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Anglican charity seeks justice for 35 seafarers jailed in India

From India-

Anglican agency The Mission to Seafarers is seeking justice for 35 men awaiting trial in Chennai, India, for the past five months.

The US-owned vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio – with a crew comprising Indians, Britons, Ukrainians and Estonians – was detained on 12 October by the Indian Coast Guard.

While the ship’s owner, AdvanFort, said the crew was involved in supporting anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, the Indian authorities said weapons and ammunition discovered on board had not been properly declared.

Those on board were refused bail and, five months on, the global maritime welfare charity, along with the families of the men, is now upping the pressure on governments both home and abroad.

More here-

Controversy over Seminary Speaker Invite Tempered by Student's Death

From Christianity Today-

A seminary student's request for the leader of The Episcopal Church (TEC) to come and witness unity between U.S. Anglican conservatives and progressives instead prompted a public wave of disunity—which has now been ironically (albeit tragically) tempered by the student's unexpected death.

Terry Star and two other students at Nashotah House, a theologically conservative Anglo-Catholic seminary in Wisconsin, had asked the seminary to invite Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to "come and see ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) and [TEC] in harmony" because she had once advised them not to attend the seminary, Nashotah dean Edward Salmon told the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).

The invitation to preach in Nashotah's historic chapel sparked a furious uproar among Anglican conservatives, including the resignations of a Nashotah trustee and an honorary board member as well as a call for Salmon's own resignation.

Bishop Jack Iker wrote in his resignation announcement that he "could not be associated with an institution that honors her," pointing to the lawsuits that Jefferts Schori has initiated against his diocese. Honorary board member Bishop William Wantland joined him, writing that he "will not take part in any functions at Nashotah" nor "give financial support to the House as long as the present administration remains."

More here-

Head of Southeast Michigan Episcopal Church backs same-sex marriage

From Michigan-

The head of the Episcopal Church in southeastern Michigan announced Tuesday that he strongly supports same-sex marriage, indicating to 70 churches that marrying people of the same in gender is in line with their denomination’s beliefs.

But the Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs stopped short of saying gay marriages could be performed immediately in local churches because the Episcopal Church technically still doesn’t formally approve of them, and they are illegal under Michigan law.

Noting that public opinion is shifting rapidly on the issue, Gibbs, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, said that “picking and choosing whose rights should be protected or which civil rights the church will support is neither American ‘justice for all’ nor supported by the God of salvation history.”

More here-

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anglican legal advisor named Queen's Chaplain

From ACNS-

The legal adviser to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and Provincial Registrar for the Archbishop of Canterbury has been appointed as a Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.

Canon John Rees said he was delighted to receive the accolade which is awarded for long and distinguished service as a member of UK clergy.

"It is a great honour to be appointed as one of Her Majesty The Queen’s Chaplains," he said. "The role is largely honorary, but I hope it will increase the opportunities I have from time to time to emphasise the importance of the Anglican Communion, and the immensely valuable work done by Anglican Churches around the world’.

Canon Rees is currently Registrar for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Diocesan Registrar for Oxford, Legal Adviser to the ACC (since 1995) and Senior Partner of Winckworth Sherwood – Vice-Chair of the Legal Advisory Commission of the C of E, an honorary Provincial Canon of Canterbury Cathedral.

More here-

Catholic and Anglican Churches unite for anti-slavery campaign

From The Telegraph-

An Australian jackaroo-turned-mining magnate brought together the Anglican Church and the Vatican on Monday in an ambitious plan to stamp out modern-day slavery, which affects an estimated 30 million people worldwide.

Andrew Forrest, known by his schoolboy nickname “Twiggy” in his home country, has pledged to use part of his £3 billion fortune to eradicate indentured labour, the trafficking of women and girls for sex and other forms of 21st century slavery by the year 2020.

The 52-year-old mining tycoon, who worked in his youth as a “jackaroo” or cowboy on a vast outback cattle station in the rugged Pilbara region of Western Australia, brought together the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in an unprecedented inter-faith effort to tackle the issue.

More here-

Caring for Caregivers

From The Living Church-

In a storefront office, steps from Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater in one direction and the Clinton Foundation in the other, the Rev. Gregory Johnson chats with Joel Rogers, who holds his year-old niece, Malia, while Malia’s mom seeks advice in an inner room. With life buzzing along outside on 125th Street, the community’s busiest commercial thoroughfare, Johnson is ministry in motion inside. Few people know Johnson is a minister.

Johnson’s “congregation” is one of the largest in the city, or anywhere else for that matter. Nationwide they number 65.7 million. Years ago they had no name, though they toiled long and hard. But for the last 13 years Johnson has made it his mission to shine a light on their identity. They are family caregivers, and Johnson wants employers, corporations, and most of all the caregivers themselves to recognize that identity and claim it. As he says repeatedly, they are “the backbone of the health care industry,” and it is his calling to see that their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs are met.

More here-

We can't wait any longer to move against gun violence

From New Jersey-

As a meeting on gun violence moved toward closure inside a Trinity Episcopal Cathedral community room known as Synod Hall, attendees struggled to form one circle ahead of a final benediction.

Chairs, tables, lecterns, and bodies made awkward a single human ring atop a wooden floor that added glow to the group’s first discussion on ending a scourge of gun violence that significantly contributed to a record number of murders, 37, in Trenton last year.

Just when the group had settled on holding hands in separate subsets, recently named New Jersey Bishop William Stokes, who had convened this special meeting that coincided with a national “Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath” event, made one alteration that made city history.

“Considering the nature of our mission, it may be best that we form one circle,” Bishop Stokes offered.

More here-

Monday, March 17, 2014

George Herbert's poetry: Christian calling, struggle and self-doubt

From The Guardian-

One of the things that is most striking about George Herbert's poetry, taken as a whole, is how unhappy he seems to have been for much of the time. The poems are full of tortured self-doubt, agonised examination of his motivations, and complaint. Usually these are resolved in a neat couplet at the end of the poem, recalling the poet to God's promises or presence, in typical psalmist style. Some of these neat resolutions are more convincing than others.

I suspect that this honesty about the struggles, fears and doubts of life as a Christian is a large part of Herbert's continued appeal as a poet. His doubts and agony about his vocation in life resonate even with many who do not share his faith. For those of us who do, it is refreshing and reassuring to know that we are not alone in finding being a faithful Christian difficult at times. As a member of the clergy, I take great comfort in knowing that even Herbert – the quintessential Anglican Divine – sometimes railed against and agonised about his vocation.

More here-

Alternative Spring Breaks: Staten Island, New York

From New York-

Light snow hit the front window of our recently decorated van as we drove to St. Simon’s Episcopal Church last Monday for our first day of Alternative Spring Breaks service. We would be working with the Episcopal Recovery Team of Staten Island to help rebuild a community still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Because our trip was a new ASB offering, none of us had any expectation of what our service would be like, but we were all excited to see what we would be doing.

Atop a small hill, Dane Miller, one of the interns at the Episcopal Recovery Team stood waiting for us. The organization is overseen by the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the Episcopal Relief and Development’s US Disaster Response Program. It was created in January 2013 to help restore Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012. The hurricane claimed the lives of 26 Staten Island residents—more than from any other New York City borough—and flooded an estimated 20 percent of the island, leaving thousands temporarily homeless.

More here-

Life Stories: Former Bishop Robert C. Johnson Jr. known for listening, action

From North Carolina-

About five or six times a year, the telephone rang in the Johnson household in the middle of the night, and Robert C. Johnson Jr. did his best to handle the needs of a stranger in crisis.

A career as an Episcopal priest armed him with the skills to counsel others, but his friends and family say Johnson had a particular gift for truly listening to people. It was a strength that helped in matters of life or death, such as when he worked with the local suicide-prevention hotline. For years he served as the emergency contact, called only when hotline workers found themselves in over their heads.

His wife of 54 years, Connie Johnson, remembers a call from a woman from their church who was fearful for her children and her own life at the hands of an abusive husband. Johnson picked them up and brought them back to his house. The next day, after the woman’s husband had sobered up and left for work, he drove her back to gather some belongings and then took her to refuge with a family member.

Read more here:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Most Popular and Fastest Growing Bible Translation Isn't What You Think It Is

From Christianity Today-

When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV), according to a new study advised by respected historian Mark Noll.

The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV). And the percentages drop into the single digits for competitors such as the New Revised Standard Version, New America Bible, and the Living Bible.

So concludes "The Bible in American Life," a lengthy report by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Funded by the Lilly Foundation, researchers asked questions on what David Briggs of the ARDA, which first reported the results, calls "two of the most highly respected data sources for American religion"—the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.

The numbers are surprising, given the strong sales of NIV translations in bookstores. The NIV has topped the CBA's bestselling Bible translation list for decades, and continued to sell robustly in 2013.

More here-

Diocese of South Carolina accepts provisional oversight from Global South primates

From South Carolina-

Local Anglicans who separated from the Episcopal Church in 2012 approved a resolution Saturday accepting a new provisional oversight that gives them a formal ecclesiastical connection to the global Anglican Communion.

The Diocese of South Carolina will join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, a worldwide network of theologically orthodox Anglican churches, and enter a relationship with primates from the Anglican Global South. The Global South comprises growing provinces in Africa, southeast Asia and South America.

"This will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest ecclesiastical body in the (Anglican) Communion," Bishop Mark Lawrence said in his address to the annual diocesan convention.

Lawrence and most local Episcopal parishes separated from the national church because of long-standing administrative and theological disputes. However, the Episcopal Church is a North American province of the Anglican Communion, so the separation left the diocese without a formal connection to the seat of global Anglicanism, the See of Canterbury.

More here-

Died: Terry Fullam, 82, renowned Episcopal pastor featured in 'Miracle at Darien'

From Christianity Today-

Everett L. "Terry" Fullam, who served as rector of St. Paul's, Darien, Conn., famous as tall steeple parish in the mainline Protestant renewal movement, died today. He was 82.

News of his passing came as a result of Bishop Gregory Brewer, Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, who tweeted this afternoon, "Just heard that Terry Fullam passed away. A generation ago he was a hero."

More here-