Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vatican concedes it’s out of step with ordinary Catholics

From Canada-

The Vatican conceded Thursday that most Catholics reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant and officials pledged not to "close our eyes to anything" when it opens a two-year debate on some of the thorniest issues facing the church.

Core church doctrine on the nature of marriage, sexuality, abortion and divorce isn't expected to change as a result of the debate that opens in October. But Pope Francis is well aware that the church has lost much of its relevance and credibility in today's secular world and he is seeking to redirect his ministers to offer families, and even gays in civil unions, a "new language" that is welcoming and responds to their needs.

The Vatican on Thursday issued the working document for the synod discussions, which in itself marked a sharp change from past practice: The Vatican sent out a 39-point questionnaire seeking input from ordinary Catholics around the world about their understanding of, and adherence to, the church's teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, contraception, marriage and divorce.

Thousands of ordinary Catholics, clergy and academics responded, providing the Vatican with an unprecedented compilation of grass-root data to guide the discussion. Usually, such working papers are compiled by bishops alone.

More here-

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why Half of All Pastors Want to Quit Their Jobs

From Faith Street-

The pastoral vocation today is a sea of dead bodies. Consider these stats, which I’ve pulled from various surveys:

1,500 pastors leave the ministry for good each month, citing burnout or contention in their churches.

80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of pastors’ spouses) are discouraged in their roles.

Almost half of all pastors have seriously considered leaving ministry for good in the past three months.

For every 20 pastors who go into ministry, only one retires from the ministry.

50 percent of pastors say they are unable to meet the demands of their job and are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

When I share these statistics with pastors, they slowly, knowingly nod their heads.

More here-

Conflicts Halt EDS Review

From The Living Church-

Conflict at Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) has derailed a core piece of an incipient strategic review aimed at making the seminary sustainable for the long term.

A team of consultants canceled a governance assessment project in June in the wake of public protest from dissenting faculty, who said they were shut out of planning. The consultants’ decision to withdraw leaves EDS unable to launch the review, which was supposed to lead to a new business model at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, school.

Faculty are “trying to unravel the consultation and delay our going forward,” said the Very Rev. James Kowalski, chair of the EDS board of trustees and dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Consultants will not interview faculty and others this summer.

More here-

Meriam Ibrahim freed again but future still unsure

From The Church Times-

ON SUNDAY, Meriam Ibrahim was in jail in Khartoum, in Sudan, facing the death penalty for apostasy.

On Monday, she was free, after the Sudan court of appeal overturned her original sentence.

On Tuesday, however, she was detained at Khartoum airport by up to 40 agents from the Sudanese security service, as she tried to leave the country with her husband, Daniel Wani, and two children, for the United States, where Mr Wani has citizenship.

But, by Thursday, she had been freed again, and was safely ensconced in the US embassy in Khartoum.

More here-

Trial in S.C. Episcopal schism may be delayed

From South Carolina-

A state lawsuit to settle issues in the Episcopal schism in eastern South Carolina, including ownership of a half billion dollars in church property, may be delayed because of an appeal to the state Court of Appeals.

Parishes in the conservative Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina separated from the more liberal national church almost two years ago amid differences over a variety of theological issues, including the authority of Scripture and the ordination of gays.

The churches that left sued in state court to protect the use of the diocesan name and ownership of the property of the parishes. The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard by Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein next month in Dorchester County.

More here-

Thursday, June 26, 2014

St. Paul's Episcopal Church names interim rector

From Cleveland-

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights has named an internationally known priest as its interim rector during the search for a permanent rector.

The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis, recently retired from Calvary Church in Pittsburgh, will assume his duties Aug. 3.

St. Paul's former rector, the Rev. Alan M. Gates, ended his tenure June 1 after he was elected Bishop of Massachusetts in April.

Lewis, a native of Brooklyn, New York, holds a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and has distinguished himself as a scholar and an author.

More here-

Church Rethinks Development Plan; Legal Fight Ensues

From The New York Times-

Seven stained-glass windows more than a story high surround the apse of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 99th Street in Manhattan. The panels, created a century ago by Louis Comfort Tiffany, depict in vivid hues the celestial triumph of the archangel for whom the 206-year-old church is named.

On the far side of the church sits an empty lot overgrown with weeds, the only color coming from clover, thistle, candy wrappers and three white plastic pilings jutting a foot out of the ground. Yet on this barren 5,000-square-foot site on the corner of 100th Street, the church is celebrating another victory, though a terrestrial one.

More here-

Legal volley in Episcopal lawsuit continues with appeal

From South Carolina-

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the local diocese affiliated with The Episcopal Church, has filed an appeal in an effort to add four individuals as parties to an ongoing lawsuit that could determine who ultimately has control of church property and other assets.

It's the latest legal volley between The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, the group that left The Episcopal Church in December 2012 because of theological and administrative disagreements, including a dispute over human sexuality and acceptance of gay clergy. The appeal could cause the postponement of the trial, set to start July 7 in Dorchester County.

More here-

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Anglicans battle to clear Kunonga’s debt

From Zimbabwe-

The dethroned Anglican Church leader, who during his reign ran down church properties, left behind a huge bill that parishioners are struggling to settle.

Last Sunday, parishioners at the Anglican Cathedral were told to make contributions towards servicing the outstanding arrears.

“It was almost a $100 000 and we have now reduced it to about $80 000,” said Reverend Clifford Dzavo, secretary for Harare Diocese. “This includes properties only in direct control of the bishop. If we combine the whole arrears, it could run much higher.”

Chad Gandiya, the bishop of the Diocese of Harare, said they were trying to clear the bill.

“The lawyers have all the information above the exact amount that we are supposed to pay,” Gandiya said.

“But for now, we are paying the arrears in small amounts because since they (Kunonga faction) were using our name, we are supposed to pay. Legally, we are paying because they were using our name. However, with the current economic situation it is also difficult for us to make the payments.”

More here-

Druid couple finds Dreamland in Vermont

From USA Today- (slightly off topic (as if we had one))

According to an essay by Julius Caesar, the average ancient Celt generally had to train for two full decades in order to become a druid.

Several millennia later, people can complete a course at the Green Mountain School of Druidry in three years. They're even able to achieve this goal by email, though that's likely to take a bit longer.

Ivan McBeth and his wife Fearn Lickfield offer these lessons from their hilly 70-acre Worcester homestead, dubbed Dreamland. There, McBeth has assembled a circle of 13 standing stones for druidic purposes.

Last weekend, the couple conducted a summer solstice ceremony at another megalith that McBeth, now 61, created a few years ago: The Burlington Earth Clock in Oakledge Park. It consists of 13 granite stones, some 10 feet tall, donated and transported by the Rock of Ages Quarry in Barre. They're aligned like a compass, with a diameter of 43 feet. In the center, there's a sundial.

More here-

Pastor who performed son’s gay wedding is reinstated

From The Washington Times- (with video)

An appeals committee Tuesday reinstated a United Methodist pastor who had been defrocked for officiating his gay son’s wedding.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, 52, is once again a clergy member in the church, a resolution he said was important for his work as an LGBTQ advocate.

“It means so much for me to be a reverend again,” said the former pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. “I have vowed never to be silent again. Now I’m speaking with a different voice, a voice of leadership within the church, which is really great.”

The ruling overturns a previous decision made in November by a jury comprised of clergy members from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church.

More here-

For Once, A Manhattan Church Fights Not To Build Condos

From NYC-

St. Michael's Episcopal Church is bucking the trend. As opposed to sacrificing itself at the altar of lucrative real estate projects, as is the norm these days, the 206-year-old house of worship on the Upper West Side is actually trying to untangle itself from a 2008 agreement with developers. The Times details the church's love-hate relationship with real estate. The good news: in 2005, when the church's 1895-built Romanesque home needed repairs, megadeveloper Extell paid $12.5 million for 70,000 square feet of air rights, which instigated the construction the kinda hated, once-home-to-Hasselbacks Ariel West tower on Broadway.

More here-

Neighbors fight D.C. parish’s expansion plan

From The Washington Post-

For nearly 10 years, the leaders of St. Thomas’ Parish near Dupont Circle have had a recurring but elusive dream: to rebuild their 121-year-old English Gothic sanctuary, which was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1970.

When the Episcopal church struck a deal with a private developer recently to finance a reconstruction plan that would help its leaders erect a modern religious center, they thought they had taken a significant step toward creating a new home for their congregation.

But the vision of a gleaming new worship center in the middle of one of the city’s most congested neighborhoods has raised concerns from neighbors. To pay for the new church, parish leaders must sell part of their property — now a park — to a private developer, who wants to build a seven-story apartment building on the parcel.

More here-

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vicky Beeching: 'Same sex marriage should be celebrated'

From Christian Today-

Vicky Beeching has a varied portfolio these days – from Thought for the Day on Radio 4 to paper reviews on BBC and Sky, she's exploring a world quite different to that of leading worship in some of America's megachurches.

Her recent support of same-sex marriage has been unpopular with many of her evangelical followers (she talks about a barrage of criticism and abuse she has received online since beginning to speak up). But it has won her fans and friends in other places – she has recently been nominated for a National Diversity Award as 'Positive Role Model Award – Race/Faith/Religion', and become an ambassador for Accepting Evangelicals, alongside Steve Chalke.

In light of these recent developments Vicky caught up with Christian Today, sharing what she's been up to, her thoughts on evangelicalism and whether she thinks we'll see the Church fully accepting gay people in our lifetime.

More here-

Vatican cricket team set to play Anglican side and Royal Household XI

From The Guardian-

The Vatican’s new cricket team have announced that they will play both an Anglican team and a Royal Household’s XI on their “Light of Faith Tour” in September.

The Vatican formed its team last year, made up of largely Indian and Sri Lankan priests, deacons and seminarians studying in Rome. The idea was the brainchild of John McCarthy, Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, who had been to play an Anglican squad in England in a show of ecumenical good sportsmanship.

The match against the Anglican team, to be played on 19 September at Kent’s home ground in Canterbury, has been scheduled in order to forge closer ties between the Catholic and Anglican churches, which split in 1534 after King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment. Nearly 500 years later, the two churches remain divided on a host of issues, including female bishops.

More here-

On That Mormon Excommunication

From The American Conservative-

I know next to nothing about Mormon theology, so I don’t know whether or not this action by church leaders was justified. But in principle — which is not the same thing as “in fact” — I support the bishop’s decision. That’s because every church or religious community has the right to decide its own boundaries. Remember the Episcopal priest who decided several years ago that she was also a Muslim? Her bishop ultimately defrocked her:

It was an incredibly painful experience, said Redding.

“My priesthood has been so interwoven with my identity that to imagine not being able to exercise the privilege of being involved intimately in the lives of believing people — helping them sort through and understand their relationship and calling … It’s a huge loss,” she said.

Well, the Episcopal Church cannot have one of its priests trying to help people “sort through and understand their relationship and calling” by telling them that they can belong to another religion and yet affirm Christianity. I may be wrong, but I cannot imagine that the defrocked priest has much luck finding Muslim congregations who buy her shtick. She can call herself citizens of both the United States and Saudi Arabia, but the US and Saudi governments are the ones who ultimately make that call.

More here-

Brotherhood of St. Andrew expands prison ministry

From ENS-

A half-way house to help parolees adjust to modern society is being planned by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

A site in Texas has been selected and brothers meeting in Mississippi June 10-15 heard reports from the organization’s prison ministry volunteers who say such a facility is “sorely needed.”

The proposal was delivered to the brothers during the 134-year-old ministry’s annual national council meeting held this year at the Bishop Duncan Gray Camp and Conference Center, a 700-acre facility of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi.

Husband of Episcopal bishop killed in bicycle crash with car

From California-

The husband of Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, the first female Episcopal bishop in California, died Saturday after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle in Monterey County.

Michael William Reeves, 54, was riding on Saddle Road north of Padeo Del Sur when he was struck by a 2013 Toyota shortly after 2:30 p.m., according to the CHP and the Monterey County Coroner's Office. He was taken by helicopter to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The 83-year-old driver was not injured. The cause of the accident is under investigation by the CHP. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to have been a factor in the collision, the CHP said.

A celebration of the life of Michael William Reeves is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, located at 13601 Saratoga Avenue in Saratoga, according to the diocese website.

A reception will be held following the service.

More here-

Monday, June 23, 2014

Church of England tells same-sex married clergyman Canon Jeremy Pemberton to stop leading services

From The Independent UK-

The first British clergyman to enter into a gay marriage in defiance of the Church of England’s guidance has been told to stop leading services.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who earned plaudits from LGBT campaigners when he married his long-term partner in a civil ceremony in April, also warned of a backlash over the showdown. The ban means he will no longer be able to work as a priest in Nottinghamshire although he will continue his work as a hospital chaplain in Lincoln.

Mr Pemberton, a former missionary, declined to comment on the move.

The Rt Revd Richard Inwood, Acting Bishop for Southwell and Nottingham, announced the disciplinary move saying Anglican teaching required “modelling” by clergy in their lives.

More here-

Rowan Williams' anguish as an archbishop leading a communion riven with division is detailed by biographer

From Wales-

The strain faced by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams as his church was convulsed in controversy over women bishops and same-sex relationships is laid bare in the latest edition of his biography.

When the acclaimed theologian left his role as Archbishop of Wales to helm the Anglican communion he was seen by many as a liberal advocate of gay rights and a greater role for women in leadership.

Biographer Rupert Shortt describes in the new edition of Rowan’s Rule how he was tackled by a disappointed friend at the Hay Festival.

He writes: “A venerable Roman Catholic priest and scholar confronted Rowan after the ceremony for ‘letting us down’, by which he meant gay and pro-gay Catholics hoping for a lead from the Anglicans. Rowan clasped his head in his hands – a characteristic gesture – in apparent acknowledgement that his questioner (also an old friend) had a point.”

More here-

Anglican Church in North America selects new archbishop

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America have elected a Georgia-based bishop to succeed their founding archbishop, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the church announced today.

Bishop Foley Beach of the Diocese of the South, based in suburban Atlanta, was elected at the conclusion of a three-day conclave held by the bishops at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe.

He will officially take office as archbishop after the conclusion of the diocese's assembly being held this week in Latrobe. His term of office is five years, and he is eligible for re-election. He made his first public appearance as archbishop-elect this afternoon at a vespers service at Church of the Ascension in Oakland.

Read more:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Presbyterians vote to divest from Israel

From Detroit (AP)

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday became the most prominent religious group in the United States to endorse divestment as a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians, voting to sell church stock in three companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories.

The church’s General Assembly voted by a razor-thin margin of just seven votes to sell the church’s stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The final tally was 310-303, or 51 percent in favor and 49 percent against. Two years ago, the General Assembly rejected a similar divestment proposal by two votes.

More here-

65 years ago, Altoona was Billy Graham's crucible

From Altoona-

In the fall of 1949, the Rev. Billy Graham led an eight-week series of revival meetings in Los Angeles, drawing multitudes and making converts of celebrities and commoners. He rocketed into the headlines and hasn't left them since, even today at age 95 and in frail health.

But there almost was no Los Angeles, no epochal career preaching to hundreds of millions as the 20th century's dominant personality in evangelical Christianity.

Sixty-five years ago this month, before most people had ever heard of him, Rev. Graham's evangelistic career was nearly buried here in the Central Pennsylvania railroad hub of Altoona.

A look back at Billy Graham's 1949 revival in Altoona

Before Rev. Billy Graham's 1949 triumph in Los Angeles, he had to endure two difficult weeks with a revival in Altoona.

Read more: