Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tall, tattooed and forthright, can Nadia Bolz-Weber save evangelism?

From The Guardian-

A little over six feet tall, well-muscled and extravagantly tattooed, Nadia Bolz-Weber little resembles the Vicar of Dibley. Also, she recognised the ringtone on my phone, an intricate guitar passage cut from the middle of a 20-minute Grateful Dead improvisation. So of course I liked her. She’s a Lutheran pastor from Denver, Colorado and one of the stars of the younger generation of American evangelicals because she seems to have found a way out of the trenches of the culture wars so she can uphold tradition without being homophobic or nasty.

She has in some respects the classical evangelical salvation story: brought up good, went to the bad, found Jesus once again and turned out – not good, she says, but “so so”. She parodies the hymn Amazing Grace: “It’s not like ‘I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’.” She is an enemy of smugness.

More here-

Churchgoers want more youths in their ranks

From Connecticut

In moments of weakness, I am prone to complaining about a certain question that I am asked almost every time I meet a new person in a religious context: "Why are you in church?"

The wording may vary, but the basic query -- and the surprised tone in which it is stated -- remains the same.

Many of my fellow UConn students who grew up in the so-called "mainline" Protestant churches -- Congregational (like me) or Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, etc. -- seem to think there's something rather shocking about me attending church regularly at my age, and I am far too prone to growing defensive about it.

More here-

Feeding the Five Thousand

From The Living Church-

When I was a very young man I made a conscious decision to be a church musician. I loved playing the organ, singing, and making music any way I could. I liked the men and women around me who were leaders in church music and found real joy in my studies at New York’s Union Theological Seminary in the late 1960s. After nearly 60 years of active service in music ministry I have seen drastic changes in how laity and clergy perceive what I do. I have directed the music in 11 different churches, mostly Episcopal but also Presbyterian and Methodist, with some deputizing in Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches. Whenever I served for more than a year we saw substantial growth in choir membership and more participation in congregational singing.

More here-

Friday, September 5, 2014

How the sign of peace disturbs me

From Catholic Herald-  (Snog?)

Isn’t ironic that the bit of the Mass where we exchange a “sign of peace” is the least peaceful bit of all? Everyone gets up, shakes hands, says hello, gives hugs and sometimes kisses. I’ve even witnessed a full-blown snog. It breaks up the Mass and, when conveyed with zealotry, transforms it into something it’s really not supposed to be: part hippie love fest, part election campaign (there’s always one fellow who dashes through the pews, clasping hands like he’s chasing votes). I don’t like it. Sometimes I don’t do it at all – which can cause great offence that I instantly regret.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to kneel it out during a church service in Kent. When the time came for the peace, I got to my knees and started praying. I heard the “peace be with you” fluttering around my head, and opened one eye to see if the flesh-pressing was up. Unfortunately, I caught the gaze of a nice old man in front. He might’ve thought I was confused, or foreign, or both, and so extended a hand to me. “Peace be with you!” he boomed. It had been so long since I’d replied, that I forgot the words. So I answered: “You too!” Something about the way I said it communicated disdain. The poor man withdrew his hand, looking deeply upset. In another triumph for Catholic guilt, I left Mass feeling wretched.

More here-

Welby invokes Holocaust at vigil for Middle East minorities

From The Church Times-

CHRISTIANS in the Middle East have not been treated so badly since the invasion by Genghis Khan in 1259, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Wednesday. He later invoked the Holocaust when addressing an interfaith vigil at Westminster Abbey.

At a press conference at Lambeth Palace in the morning, the Archbishop said: "It took the barbarism of the jihadist militants to wake us up. But this . . . is a new thing. There has not been treatment of Christians in this region in this way since the invasion of Genghis Khan in 1259, 1260. . . I think we find it hard to believe that such horrors can happen."

More here-

Walsingham shrine in search of new leadership after Marist Fathers leave

From The Tablet-

The Catholic shrine at Walsingham is looking for a new director after the Marist Fathers announced they were leaving after almost 50 years.

Following the appointment of Marist father, Alan Williams as Bishop of Brentwood, the order, who have run the shrine since 1968, said they were “not in a position today” to replace him with a new director. It is understood that this is due to declining numbers of Marists.

A process has now been started to find a replacement from among the clergy of England and Wales. This decision was taken following discussions between the Bishop of East Anglia, Alan Hopes – in whose diocese the shrine is located – the Marists and Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

“Anglican” or “Episcopalian”? The answer depends on the value of tradition -

From Religion News Service- (Go to the link to see a larger version of the graph)

One question that pops up repeatedly about our graph of religion and politics is, “Where are the Episcopalians? Did you lump them in with Anglicans?”

The simple answer is that all Episcopalians are Anglicans. So, putting them in the same group is completely accurate. There are some break-away or new Anglican congregations that are not part of the Episcopalian Church, but they represent less than ten percent of Anglicans in the United States.

But I get the point of the question. There are some people who identify as “Anglican” and others who are proudly “Episcopalian.”

- See more at:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury offers monastic gap year at Lambeth Palace

From The Telegraph-

It has become an essential rite of passage for many young people and a chance to “find themselves” while trekking in the Andes or joining a Buddhist retreat.

But now the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, is making a surprise move into the gap year market by starting a new monastic community in Lambeth Palace for young people to experience a life of prayer and meditation.

In a major break with tradition, the Archbishop is inviting 16 young people to move into the 800-year-old palace by Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for a year.

More here-

TREC issues A Letter to The Episcopal Church

From The Episcopal Church-

The Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued A Word To The Episcopal Church.

TREC Letter to the Church: September, 2014

Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  (John 11:43–44)

As the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has progressed in our work, we have come to see the raising and unbinding of Lazarus as a helpful way of understanding this moment in the life of The Episcopal Church. We believe Jesus is calling our church to new life and vitality, but the church is held back by its bindings—old ways of working that no longer serve us well.

We write this as we begin the final months of our work, to give you an update about our thinking and emerging recommendations for your prayerful consideration and feedback. We will publish our final report and specific legislative proposals in December 2014.

More here-
From The "You Can't Make this stuff Up" Department-

AN UMPIRE who offered his services to the church for a friendly cricket match was stunned to be turned down – because an ancestor of his was a bishop two centuries ago.

Playwright and cricket buff Michael Claughton was out for a duck in the friendly between the Archbishop of Canterbury's XI and a Vatican XI because he is related to Thomas Claughton, Bishop of Rochester and of St Albans in the 19th century.

The Ashford Borough Council deputy leader was bowled out by the Church Times, which is organising this month's match with Kent County Cricket Club, as they feared he might be biased.

Father-of-one Mr Claughton said: "It's bonkers. This is church bureaucracy gone mad. They said to me 'we'll probably be looking for a Methodist or an atheist'. It's amazing."

More here-

Anglican ordinariate moves parish into Washington, DC

From Catholic Culture-

The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, established to serve the pastoral needs of former Anglicans in the US, is opening a parish community in Washington, DC.

St. Luke’s, an Episcopalian community that entered the Catholic Church in 2011, is moving from Bladensburg, Maryland, to the Immaculate Conception church in downtown Washington. The Vatican-approved liturgy of the ordinariate, incorporating elements of the Anglican liturgical tradition, will be celebrated daily there.

More here-

Milwaukee Episcopal bishop opens door to blessing same-sex unions

From Milwaukee-

Two years after the Episcopal Church voted to allow the blessings of same-sex unions, Milwaukee's bishop has opened the door for blessings to take place in his diocese.

But the new rite, created by Milwaukee Bishop Steven A. Miller, will be available only to those couples already married by civil authorities, and only in churches where the vestry, or parish council, signs off on its use.

The decision, outlined by Miller in a letter to clergy dated Aug. 29, appears to be a compromise between the personal convictions of the bishop, who has criticized the rite approved by the national church as deficient, and most of the clergy in the diocese, who had been pushing for him to allow its use locally.

More here-

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Response to the Bishop of Georgia’s E-Crozier Post on the Death of Robin Williams from an Openly Bipolar Cleric

From Unorthodox and Unhinged-

Introduction: After reading the Bishop of Georgia’s E-Crozier post on the death of Robin Williams (printed in its entirety below) I was dumbstruck. As a mental health evangelist I could not help but respond with the following words:

Bishop Benhase,

My name is the Rev. Joani Peacock. I have been 20 years ordained and 10 years bipolar and balanced. I consider myself a “mental health evangelist” and I advocate for mental health education for all. I serve at Emmanuel Russell Rd in Alexandria, VA. I also am on staff at the library at Virginia Seminary. I have sponsored mental health forums on campus and am working with the administration to bring Mental Health First Aid Training on campus in the spring for the VTS community. 20% of all of us live with a mental health issue.

More here-


From Bustle-

When it comes to gender equality, there’s one ladder that women can’t seem to climb — the one to the altar. For some Christian denominations, including Catholicism, that proverbial ladder is nonexistent, thanks to centuries-old doctrine; for others, women pastors are beginning to get their due on the altar. According to the Religion News Service, women pastors now lead three major Christian churches in New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, a landmark moment that could potentially open up the altar for more women pastors — and their voices.

More here-

Episcopal diocese 'Not Only With Our Lips' urges voting, advocacy, evaluation of politicans

From Western Massachusetts-

The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts has issued a document urging its members and others to vote, advocate for equality and justice, and evaluate political candidates and policies against those values.

"The gap between rich and power has never been greater," the document states. It adds, "Now more than ever the world needs an effective Christian social witness."

More here-

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pope at Santa Marta: The authority of Christian identity

Vatican Radio-

A Christian’s authority comes from the Holy Spirit, not from human wisdom or degrees in theology, said Pope Francis at morning Mass Tuesday, as he explained that Christian identity is having the Spirit of Christ, not the "spirit of the world”.

he people were astonished at Christ’s teaching because he spoke with authority. Inspired by the passage from the Gospel Pope dwelt on the nature of Our Lord’s authority and, as a consequence that of the Christian. He said that Jesus was “not a common preacher," because his "authority" comes from the '"special anointing of the Holy Spirit." Jesus, he said, is "the Son of God, anointed and sent" to "bring salvation, to bring freedom." And some, he noted, "were scandalized" by this style that belonged to Jesus, by its identity and freedom:

More here-

Massachusetts Bishop Gayle Harris makes history in Welsh cathedral

From ENS-

 As the Church in Wales prepares to enable women to become bishops, Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts became the first female Anglican bishop to preside and preach in a Welsh cathedral.

“The church is not just enriched by women’s ordination, it’s more enabled and empowered by women’s presence,” she told Episcopal News Service during a telephone interview from the U.K. as she prepared for her historic participation in the 11 a.m. Eucharist service on Aug. 31 at St. Asaph Cathedral in Denbighshire, North Wales. “I see women bringing to the fore the desire that all people sit at the table of leadership, that all share in the benefits of the life of God. Nobody should be ignored or left out.”

More here-

National Goals Still Murky After Zhejiang Church Razings

From The New York Times-

Crosses continue to be torn down, churches bulldozed and shrines of folk religions destroyed in a campaign that began last winter in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, but the implications for national religious policy in China remain unclear, a leading Protestant expert on religion in China said.

At least 150 crosses had been removed by early July, and many churches and local shrines have been pulled down by the provincial authorities, said Philip Wickeri, the adviser to the Anglican archbishop of Hong Kong for theological and historical studies. The provincial Communist Party secretary overseeing the policy, Xia Baolong, is an ally of President Xi Jinping, but there has not been any sign yet of similar campaigns in other provinces, Mr. Wickeri said.

More here-

Bugandan Prime Minister visits Anglican Church of Canada

From Anglican News-

The prime minister and a delegation of officials from the Kingdom of Buganda in Uganda visited the national offices of the Anglican Church of Canada in Toronto today [Aug 29], as a part of the Canadian leg of an international tour to the U.K., Sweden, Canada and the U.S.

Prime Minister Charles Peter Mayiga told the Anglican Journal that the tour is part of an effort by the kingdom to connect with the Bugandan diaspora and build support for various projects. He explained that the Kingdom of Buganda is a legal entity, recognized in the constitution. “Under [Ugandan] law, we can extend social services such as education and health, but we do not participate directly in politics,” he said.

More here-

Bishops advise, mostly, in Episcopal pastor selection

From North Carolina-

I’m the first to admit it. I’m just a little bit intimidated by bishops.

It’s all that beautiful, colorful clergy attire: albs, chasibles and copes, topped off with a red, white or gold mitre, said to be the most recognizable part of a bishop’s dress, not to mention the big ring and the pectoral cross.

Who doesn’t feel the heart skip a beat when Bishop Michael Curry of the N.C. Episcopal Diocese or Bishop William H. Willimon of the United Methodist Church come down the aisle at Duke Chapel in one of those long processions, accompanied by the booming voices of the congregation, the choir and the great organ. It’s awesome!

More here-
From AllAfrica-

In an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the county, the Episcopal Church of Liberia in conjunction with the Episcopal Relief Development Organization in New York, United States of America on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 handed over some preventive materials to the C. H. Rennie Hospital in Margibi County for the use in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in the county.

The donation included twenty-six Ebola buckets, 20 bags of rice, five cartons of Argo oil, PPE, among others.

More here-

Monday, September 1, 2014

Yale and the Causes of Anti-Semitism

From Commentary-

Last week, the New York Times published a series of letters in response to an op-ed by Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, entitled, “Why Jews are Worried,” which examined the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

One of the letters caught my eye. It blamed the rise of anti-Semitism on Israel and seemed to hint that Jews themselves are to blame for their support of Israel. Here is the letter in full:

More here-

Women Pastors In Prominent Churches Reveal Cracks In Stained-Glass Ceiling

From Huffington (RNS)-

Chicago. New York. Washington, D.C. In quick succession this year, three women have been chosen to lead historic tall-steeple churches in all these cities.

In May, the Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner became the first woman solo senior pastor at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. In June, the Rev. Amy Butler was elected senior pastor of New York City’s Riverside Church. And finally, in July, the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli began leading Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

“For women to speak in those pulpits and speak boldly as public voices in these very public buildings is very powerful,” said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, who recently hosted a dinner party with some of New York’s movers and shakers to welcome Butler to town.

More here-

Bishop Scott Benhase: suicide is "selfish"

A spirited discussion on Suicide over at the Cafe-

In his most recent eCrozier reflection published by The Living Church, “Robin Williams, My Friend, and the Selfishness of Suicide”, Bishop Scott Benhase of the Diocese of Georgia offers the following pastoral reflection:

I had a dear friend who committed suicide four years ago. Like Mr. Williams, he was brilliant. His brilliance, however, was in a different vocation. He was a palliative care physician. The irony of his life was that he could relieve everyone’s pain but his own (like Mr. Williams who brought so many people joy without finding joy himself). My friend knew he had many people who loved him dearly. I don’t know what was going through his mind and soul when he chose suicide. Clearly, he was in emotional and spiritual pain. Maybe he thought his suicide was an act of love and kindness to us who loved him? It was not. His act was neither loving nor was it kind. It was selfish. I know that sounds harsh, but I believe it to be true.

More here-

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Church lawsuit is latest spat over Lilly bequests

From Chicago and Indianapolis-

The church accuses JPMorgan, which was trustee over most of the Lilly gift until resigning in December, of “intentional mismanagement” and “self-dealing,” leading to $13 million in losses, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

JPMorgan has declined to comment. The bank is the successor via merger to American Fletcher National Bank and Indiana National Bank, which each received responsibility for managing one-third of Lilly’s gift. The other third originally went to Merchants National Bank, later known as National City Bank and now PNC Bank, which also gave up management around year-end. All the funds now are managed by the Christ Church Cathedral Foundation.

More here-