Saturday, January 17, 2015

Canadian blasphemy trial a warning against smugness: Walkom

From Toronto-

That assumption was bolstered after last week’s attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by two Islamic terrorists.

The pair said they were avenging what they called Charlie Hebdo’s insults against Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.

What isn’t as well known is that blasphemy is also a crime in Canada. The penalties aren’t as severe as those meted out in, say, Saudi Arabia.

But in Canada, you can still go to jail for up to two years for expressing what the Criminal Code calls blasphemous libel.

At least one person has suffered that fate.

More here-

C of E's pre-Election publication warns of lose-lose situations for many towns and cities

From The Church Times-

THE Prime Minister has issued a firm rebuttal of the picture of Britain painted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in which "many cities are left feeling abandoned and hopeless".

It is suggested by Archbishop Welby that entire regions of the country are trapped in an apparently inescapable economic downward spiral. He refers to "a tale of two cities", and argues that turning the tide will come only through a commitment to solidarity.

"The hard truth is that [many cities and towns where there is long-term decline] are in what appear to be lose-lose situations," he says. "Already in decline, the road towards recovery and growth is made even more difficult. . . As the south-east grows, many cities are left feeling abandoned and hopeless."

More here-

Married, female and ordained: Rev Eileen Cremin is part of progress in Church of Ireland

From Ireland-

Despite a name that would sound at home in the Co Cork countryside that she now calls home, the Rev Eileen Cremin was born in Hackney, in east London. She is also the child of Antiguan immigrants, who arrived in England in the 1950s, alongside waves of Irish settlers.

Born Eileen Lake, and named after an Irish friend of her mother, she picked up the Cremin name when she married a man from Passage West, Co Cork. The couple now live in Fermoy, where she is rector of the union of parishes.

She was raised Anglican but felt like an outsider when first considering ministry in London. “My experience of priests at the time was that they were white, male and middle-class, and I was totally the opposite to that in all sorts of ways. My family background has been very much working class, so I went forward for selection not thinking that I would get through.”

More here-

Uganda: Two New Bishops for the Church of Uganda

From All Africa-

The Church of Uganda's House of Bishops have elected two new bishops on Thursday during its meeting at Lweza Training and Conference Centre.

The Revd Canon Eridard Kironde Nsubuga has been elected the 3rd Bishop of Luweero Diocese. He will be consecrated and enthroned as Bishop on 17th May 2015 at St. Mark's Cathedral, Luweero.

Canon Nsubuga received Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour and was born again on 16th January 1982 and has been serving as Archdeacon of Ndejje, Luweero Diocese, since 2013. Prior to that, he served as Provost of St. Mark's Cathedral, Luweero Diocese. He has also served as the Diocesan Secretary in Luweero Diocese, Vicar in St. Mark's Cathedral, Parish Priest, and assisted Vicars/Rectors of different Parishes in Gloucestershire and Birmingham in UK under placements by CMS-UK.

More here-

Former Bristol Pastor Aids Baltimore Episcopal Bishop Charged With Manslaughter

From Hartford CT-

An Episcopal bishop in Baltimore accused of killing a bicyclist while driving drunk and texting was released Thursday after posting $2.5 million bail using money provided by the former pastor of a Connecticut parish.

The bail was paid by a bondsman who received a $35,000 check from Mark H. Hansen, the former pastor of an Episcopal church in Bristol, Conn., who was removed from his parish nearly 10 years ago.

More here-

Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage

From San Francisco-

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, a step it refused to take less than two years ago when it let stand a federal ruling allowing those unions in California but declined to make marriages between gay and lesbian couples legal throughout the land.
Now that 36 states and the District of Columbia, holding about three-fourths of the country’s population, permit same-sex marriages, legal experts believe the high court is ready to settle the matter once and for all.

Faced with a split in the appellate courts, the justices will hear 2½ hours of oral arguments in April and issue a ruling before the court term ends in June.

More here-

Friday, January 16, 2015

Thoughts from a Md. Rector

From The Living Church - Maryland- (This is very thoughtful and contains some details on the Bishop Cook incident I had not seen before)-

The Rev. Anjel Scarborough, SCP, writes a pastoral letter to her congregation, Grace Church of Brunswick, Maryland (republished with her permission):

Dear beloved in Christ,

Until now, I have refrained from addressing the distressing news surrounding the automobile collision involving our Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook on December 27, 2014, which resulted in the death of Baltimore cyclist Thomas Palermo. In the wake of this collision, details have emerged over Heather Cook having a prior DUI in 2010 in Caroline County. In addition to the police investigation, the national church has launched its own investigation under Title IV of the Constitution and Canons, which may lead to Heather being put on trial in Ecclesiastical Court with the possibility of her being deposed. This morning at 11AM, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that Heather Cook has been charged with manslaughter, driving under the influence and texting while driving and a warrant has been issued for her immediate arrest.

More here-

Go forth and multiply

From The Economist-

WHEN Jodi and Steve Luke decided to move from Surrey to Brighton to help revive St Peter’s, then a mouldering Victorian church, everything seemed set against them. Their house sat on the market for six months; their daughter did not get in to the school they wanted. Despairing, they fasted and prayed for two days. “I had such a headache for the lack of caffeine,” remembers Mrs Luke. But her trials have been worthwhile. Since the couple moved to St Peter’s in 2009 along with 30 other Christians, the congregation has swelled from 15 to almost 1,000 people.

More here-

Bishop Cook bailed out by her companion, an ex-Episcopal priest

More from Baltimore-

Bishop Heather Cook was bailed out today by a person she has described as her “steady companion,” Mark H. Hansen, a former Episcopal priest who was defrocked in 2005 for his opposition to the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

Hansen posted $35,000 of collateral and signed a $215,000 promissory note to meet the 10% requirement of the $2.5 million bail for Bishop Cook, who was jailed last Friday on manslaughter and drunk driving charges stemming from a car crash that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo.

Reached this afternoon, Hansen said, “I’m not talking to the press, OK? We have an attorney.”

Only one condition is required of Bishop Cook under the terms of today’s bail: “Do not drive while pending trial.”

More here-

Washington Post -

Baltimore Sun-

Pope Francis in Manila urges leaders to end corruption

From The BBC-

Pope Francis has called on leaders to fight corruption and end "scandalous" social inequalities, on the first full day of his visit to the Philippines.

The Pope was speaking at a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace hosted by President Benigno Aquino.

He then went on to celebrate Mass in the capital's Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The pontiff was greeted by huge crowds as he arrived in the overwhelmingly Catholic country on Thursday.

More here-

Thursday, January 15, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Bishop Heather Cook makes bail

From Baltimore-

Heather Elizabeth Cook, the Episcopal bishop charged with manslaughter and drunk driving, has posted $2.5 million in bail and is in the process of being released from the Baltimore City Detention Center.

On-line court documents show that Aaron Mossman, of the local bail-bond surety company Lexington National, has guaranteed the full bail amount for Cook, 58, who has been held in jail since Friday.

At Cook’s Monday bail review, attorney Jose A. Molina said the cleric could not post bail and asked a district court judge to lower the amount to $500,000.

More here-

Primates on Reform, Renewal

From The Living Church-

The first batch of papers for the February 2015 meeting of the General Synod will be available to download from the Church of England website on Friday 16th January.

Due to the range and volume of material being issued in relation to the various Task Group reports there will be a daily release of key documents this week ahead of the general distribution of papers.

The first paper below is from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, giving an overview of the programme for reform and renewal represented by the work of the task groups and the materials on Discipleship.

More here-

Timeline: Church attacks on the state

From The Telegraph-

Britain's two most senior Church of England clerics have launched an astonishing attack on the state of Britain under the Coalition - but it's hardly the first time.

Since David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, issues such as gay marriage, food banks and benefit cuts have repeatedly driven a wedge between Church and State.

Read on to see just how deep the rift has become :

More here-

Crook Steals Copper From Manchester Church

From Connecticut- (with video)

Manchester police are searching for the person who stole copper from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Park Street around Christmas.

According to police, the crook climbed on up on the church roof multiple times, pilfering from copper flashing and downspouts.

“Apparently it was a crime of opportunity,” explained Manchester police Capt. Christopher Davis. “He saw there was value in the materials.”

According to Rev. Paul Briggs, the absence of such items allowed a wave or water to pour from the ceiling during one of the church services. Although the service continued, members of the congregation had to grab buckets and mops to clean the mess.

More here-

Episcopal church to review how bishop now in jail was elected

From The Baltimore Sun-

National Episcopal officials will reassess the process by which the church elected a bishop now accused in the hit-and-run death of a prominent local bicyclist, the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland wrote in a letter to members Tuesday.

"A disciplinary process is underway to consider consequences for [Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook] as well as review the process that resulted in her election," Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton wrote in the letter posted online.

More here-

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bishop Sutton reports colleague’s comforting words about Cook’s fatal hit-and-run crash: “It’s not your fault”

From Baltimore- Link to the Diocesan Statement at bottom of the post-

With Bishop Heather Cook in a Baltimore jail cell on charges of manslaughter, drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, the man who presided during her hiring says he didn’t realize how burdened he was by the incident until “a bishop colleague” spoke with him.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton – Cook’s Episcopal Diocese of Maryland boss, who has acknowledged diocesan officials knew about Cook’s 2010 drunk driving and drug arrest but did not disclose it to the people who elected her – recounted the colleague’s words of solace in a “pastoral letter” published today.

“Eugene, I am the child of an alcoholic and I’ve spent many years dealing with that and coming to understand the hold that alcohol has on someone who is addicted to it,” the colleague said, according to Sutton’s account.

More here-

Diocesan Statement-

Don't use religion as a weapon of war, Pope Francis insists

From Catholic News Agency-

 In an oft-repeated message to interreligious groups, Pope Francis stressed again that believers must unite in condemning violence and insist that religion never be used to justify warfare.

“For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war,” the Pope told Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian leaders during his Jan. 12-15 trip to Sri Lanka.

“We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.”

More here-

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Five years after devastating earthquake, Haiti shows signs of recovery

From ENS-

Students filled the primary and secondary school classrooms at Trinity Cathedral complex in Port-au-Prince, a new trade school is under construction, music students continue training in what was a convent, and a covered, temporary worship space has been constructed on the grounds, all signs of life noted by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori when she visited the cathedral during a mid-December visit to Haiti.

“The Episcopal Church in Haiti continues to play a major and essential role in this renaissance.  The cathedral church in Port-au-Prince was long seen as the spiritual and cultural soul of Haiti.  Today, its bells are quiet (in storage), its world-renowned murals largely destroyed (three have been preserved for reuse), and its naked altar platform awaits the cathedral’s rebuilding,” said Jefferts Schori in a statement released by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs on Jan. 8.

More here-

Bishop charged in fatal crash to remain in jail

From The Baltimore Sun-

Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook, who has been accused of killing a bicyclist while driving drunk and texting, is expected to remain jailed after a judge on Monday upheld her $2.5 million bail — an amount her attorney says she cannot post.

District Court Judge Nicole Pastore Klein rejected a request from prosecutors to deny bail, but also disagreed with Cook's attorney that her bail should be lowered. Klein said the allegations against Cook show a "reckless and careless indifference to life."

More here-

Monday, January 12, 2015

Called flight risk, Bishop Heather Cook denied bail reduction

From Baltimore Brew-

Calling her a danger to the community and potential flight risk, a Baltimore District Court judge refused to lower Bishop Heather E. Cook’s $2.5 million bail this afternoon.

“To me she represents a grave danger to the community,” said Judge Nicole Pastore Klein at a bailing hearing at the John R. Hargrove Sr. District Court Building on Patapsco Avenue.

“I cannot trust her judgement. . . She showed a reckless and careless indifference to life.”

The judge rejected a request by defense attorney Jose A. Molina to reduce Cook’s bail to $500,000 and allow her to return to an alcohol treatment program she had entered on December 28, the day after she hit bicyclist Tom Palermo, then fled the scene as he lay dying of massive head trauma.

More here-

In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions

From Christian Science Monitor-

There’s nothing secret about Chongyi Church, one of the largest in China. Its lighted steeple and giant cross penetrate the night sky of Hangzhou, the capital of coastal Zhejiang Province. Nearly everything at the church is conspicuously open: the front gate, the front door, the sanctuary, the people, the clergy. Chinese or not, you are welcome seven days a week. No layers of security guards or police exist. Walk right in. Join up. People are nice; they give you water, chat. Do you have spiritual needs? Visit their offices, 9 to 5.

For China, it is a stunning feeling. Most of the society exists behind closed doors and is tough, driven, material, hierarchical. The country values wealth, power, and secrecy – not to mention that both government and schools officially, at least, promote atheism.

More here-

Vicar of Dibley: I rather fancy becoming Archbishop

From The Telegraph-

So there we are, finally. The stained-glass ceiling has been shattered. You, Lord, must also have seen that front-page photograph of the woman in tears at the Synod’s vote this week, as it at last made way for the consecration of women as bishops in the Church of England. I got a little teary, too, once I’d dismissed unworthy concerns about water-proof mascara. It’s been like bishops in chess, hasn’t it? Two steps forward, one step sideways… But we’ve made it. It’s Geraldine here, Lord. Your long-serving and much-loved Vicar of Dibley.

And thank you, Father, for sending us the boy-Archbishop Welby to shake some sense into them all. It needed someone from outside the firm, a deal-making City-lad unstifled by the dead weight of tradition, to bang their heads together. How illogical was the situation, after all? Women priests have been around for a generation, more Synod against than sinning. One third of the clergy we now number, and we’re making, might I say, a jolly good fist of it.

More here-

Episcopal Church council meets amid bishop's arrest

From Baltimore-

The executive council of the Episcopal Church met in Linthicum Heights this weekend to discuss topics that included its presence in Cuba, initiatives to address racism and an upcoming national conference in Salt Lake City.

However, the council didn't discuss a high-ranking Maryland bishop who was recently charged with manslaughter in the death of a bicyclist last month.

The three-day meeting of 70 of the church's bishops, priests, deacons, laypersons and staff coincides with the latest developments involving the death of bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, a married father of two, who was killed Dec. 27 in a crash on Roland Avenue in Baltimore. Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook was identified as the driver. Cook, 58, left the scene of the crash in the 5700 block of Roland Ave. but returned shortly after, police said.

More here-

Sunday, January 11, 2015

“It’s Not a Matter of Obeying the Bible”: 8 Questions for Walter Brueggemann

From Faith Street-

Dr. Walter Brueggemann is one of the most influential contemporary theologians. His dozens of books and hundreds of articles have shaped American sermons, as Brueggemann’s work — especially on the Old Testament and the Psalms — has been widely utilized by seminaries and pastors across the country.

Recently, I caught up with Dr. Brueggemann during a lectureship series sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Findlay.

What’s your main message for young church leaders today?
We in the United States live in a deathly social context that’s marked by consumerism and militarism and the loss of the common good. Younger people that are committed to the gospel have to think carefully about how to critique that dominant system of military consumerism and how to imagine alternative forms of life that are not defined by those corrosive pressures.

More here-

Saint Roberto?

From Pittsburgh-

Richard Rossi thinks a case can be made on behalf of the Pirates’ late right fielder, Roberto Clemente.

Mr. Rossi, who directed and played a scout in the recent movie “Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories,” is seeking to document miracles in his pitch to have Mr. Clemente canonized as a saint.

On Friday, Mr. Rossi received a letter from the Vatican through the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., that informs him the authority to begin the process rests with the archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mr. Clemente, who played 18 seasons with the Pirates and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, died on New Year’s Eve, 1972, when the plane in which he was carrying earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua crashed off the coast of San Juan.

More here-

The ultimate proof that women have made it to the top of the Church: Dawn French's TV vicar is consecrated as the Bishop of Dibley

From The Daily Mail-

She is surely Britain’s best-known clergywoman and now – if she has her way – she is set to become one of the first female bishops in the Church of England. Even if she is fictional.

Geraldine Granger, better known as the Vicar of Dibley, is to return to TV screens for a one-off episode of the hit comedy inspired by the Church’s historic decision to allow women bishops.
Dawn French has dusted down her dog collar and has spent the past few days filming a ‘Bishop of Dibley’ BBC special in Central London locations, including the Inner Temple.

In the show, to be broadcast as part of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day on March 13, Granger faces competition for the bishop’s job – with some of Britain’s biggest female comedy stars cast as her rivals.

More here-

Clerics On Limits Of Church’s Involvement In Politics

From Nigeria-

While the Constitution of the Federal Republic has made attempts to separate the State from religious groups, the line that ought to detach the two is thinning. For instance, politicians go to religious bodies to seek prayers and political support. In turn, religious men offer their opinions on how the state should be governed. Sometimes, it gets messy, as it is today. What should be the relationship between the Church and the State; should men of God who are supposed to be neutral take sides in political matters without restraints; where should the romance between the church and politics stop? Some clerics believe that though it is good to tell politicians the truth, men of God should not get too involved because of the dangers it portends, as put together by CHRIS IREKAMBA.

More here-

Churches ruthlessly exploit insecurities

From South Africa-

Charismatic and evangelical African churches and “pastors” have become astonishingly profitable businesses, cashing in from ordinary Africans’ disillusionment with the mainstream churches, politics and traditional institutions.

Charismatic and evangelical church leaders such as Nigeria’s TB Joshua are cleverly exploiting a deep sense of “existential insecurity”, the pervasive, deep-seated and persistent feelings of anxiety or angst, insecurity and vulnerability felt by many ordinary Africans across the continent.

Such deep-seated angst comes from several sources. One is the continued legacy of the terrifying, destabilising impact of slavery, colonialism and apartheid, which destroyed the “familiar and trusted social benchmarks” that anchored individuals, communities and societies and gave individuals a sense of self-worth.

More here-