Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sorry Giles, the virgin birth is central to Christmas

From Premier Christianity-

After Giles Fraser questioned the virgin birth on his Guardian blog, Ian Paul responds on why we abandon this central Christian truth at our peril.

I really don’t know what goes through the mind of people who argue that they know much better than the gospel writers what Christianity is all about. Do they think the evangelists were stupid, ignorant, or just a little bit slow on the uptake? And how did Christian tradition make such egregious errors until this enlightened modern mind came along to set us all straight?

Such were my thoughts when reading Giles Fraser’s latest piece, pointing out how the virgin birth doesn’t really fit with Christian belief:

The idea that Jesus was born of “pure virgin” could well have been a reaction to insults [that Jesus was illegitimate]. That Mary’s womb was “spotless” was perhaps a cover story designed by Jesus’s supporters to explain a more God-like nature for his arrival.

More here-

Pushed out of church, parishioners mark Christmas Eve under the stars

From Los Angeles-

After days of wet weather leading up to Christmas Eve, parishioners of St. James the Great Episcopal Church were relieved with a forecast of drier conditions Thursday.

For the first time, the congregation celebrated Christmas Eve under the night sky at Lido Park, across from the closed church building in Newport Beach.

"At first, we were so sad that we would not be able to worship in our church, but then we looked at what we will have, an opportunity to demonstrate how much we love being in our Lido community on this very special night," said the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, pastor of St. James the Great.

The celebration marked the end of a challenging year for St. James.

More here-

Episcopal priest from Bethlehem accused of filming woman in dressing room

From Albany-

An Episcopal priest from Bethlehem was arrested and jailed without bail for allegedly videotaping a woman who was getting dressed in the Salvation Army on Troy-Schenectady Road, according to police.

Adam Egan, 35, was charged with unlawful surveillance and tampering with evidence, both felonies, following the incident at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Colonie Detective Sgt. Michael Franze.

More here-

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christ Church Cathedral: why all the fuss?

From New Zealand-

A major announcement was made in Christchurch today about the future of the Christ Church Cathedral.  What is all the fuss about?

Why is this cathedral significant?

The Anglican Christ Church Cathedral is a category 1 heritage building in the centre of Christchurch's Cathedral Square. The city is named after it, its image has been widely used to promote the city to tourists, and ratepayers have for many years contributed towards its upkeep. The cathedral was regularly used for community events including Christmas carols, a floral festival and annual pet ceremonies.

More here-

One key word missing in Detroit News sermon on behalf of gay Catholic couple

From Get Religion-

You pretty much know, when you read a headline that says "How a married gay Catholic couple lives their faith," that the story under that statement is going to be a sermon on behalf of progressive Catholics who want to modernize the teachings of their ancient church.

So the contents of this Detroit Free Press story didn't surprise me, especially since the Religion News Service picked it up, as well. So bah, humbug, to all of you pro-Catechism Catholics out there.

More here-

As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of solidarity

From Newsday-

Last week, three female religious leaders — a Jewish rabbi, an Episcopal vicar and a Unitarian reverend — and a male imam, or Muslim prayer leader, walked into the sacred space in front of the ornately-tiled minbar, or pulpit, at the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City, Utah. The women were smiling widely, their hair covered with swaths of bright scarves, to support “Wear a Hijab” day.

The Salt Lake Tribune published a photo of fresh-faced teenage girls, who were not Muslim, in the audience at the mosque, their hair covered with long scarves. KSL TV later reported: “The hijab — or headscarf — is a symbol of modesty and dignity. When Muslim women wear headscarves, they are readily identified as followers of Islam.”

More here-

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Image of a cross found in pine tree trunk at Modesto church

From California-

A drought-stricken pine tree has left this world but continues to give a spiritual lift through a message at its literal core.

A gracefully flowing cross shows plainly on the trunk of a tree cut down beside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Modesto. The cross-section discovered two weeks ago was shellacked and stationed temporarily in the church foyer last week.

“It's beautiful. We put it on display because it was just so cool!” said Allison Cox, church office manager.

The tree, which a ring count puts at 39 years old, soared beside the church on Oakdale Road until branches endangered the flat roof of the structure and it was determined several trees by the church were dying.

Read more here:

Zero news coverage? Episcopal Church's new leader cleans house (including a possible spy)

From Get Religion-

Let's play a journalism game for a minute, one that we have played before here at GetReligion (for an example, click here). We call it the mirror-image game.

Let's assume, for a second, that the Southern Baptist Convention elected a new president. Then, shortly thereafter, three of the convention's top leaders were purged – perhaps the phrase would be "placed on administrative leave" – because of accusations of misconduct while on the job.

Oh, and there were some really strange and shady things in the recent past, like reports of top Southern Baptist leaders spying on each other – literally.

More here-

Episcopal Church Launches Investigation Amid Suspension of 3 Officials

From Christian Today-

The Episcopal Church has announced that there will be an independent investigation conducted of the denomination following the suspension of three senior management officials.

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry released a statement Friday noting that a firm was selected to conduct the investigation.

"I have today engaged a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the concerns that led me to place three members of senior management on administrative leave last week," Curry said.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Beer & Hymns? Really? Really.

From South Carolina-

When guitarist Tom Hanlon, of the Paul Grimshaw Band (shameless plug) first told me that his pastor, Jason Lee of the St. Phillip Lutheran Church, was organizing Beer & Hymns, a sing-a-long of hymns and carols, accompanied by beer, to be held at Liberty Brewery & Grill, I was intrigued. Though unable to personally attend the inaugural Beer & Hymns event, reports were that the occasion was an unmitigated success – some 80 in attendance. Beer & Hymns? Really? Really.

“For generations the church has been saying, ‘Here we are, come to us,’” said Pastor Lee, 34. “Now we’re going out into the public every few weeks and inviting everybody, all ages and creeds to join us for beer & hymns. No agenda, no preaching, we take up an offering to tip the musicians, but there’s no bait & switch, the only agenda is beer and hymns.” Lee is a native South Carolinian, and has been pastoring St. Phillip in Myrtle Beach for about two years.

Read more here:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Urban parishes in Diocese of Pittsburgh struggle to make ends meet

From The Greensburg Tribune-

Almost half of 200 parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh are losing money, even as some churches in suburban and gentrified urban areas grow so rapidly that they struggle to accommodate members amid a shortage of priests.

Old ethnic churches and cash-strapped parishes in economically depressed areas such as the Monongahela Valley's once-thriving mill towns are in the most dire financial straits.

“We've got to take a look at, realistically, what has to happen in those areas,” Bishop David Zubik told the Tribune-Review. “There's a lot of studying to be done.”

Read more:

U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good

From The New York Times-

Suspicious neighbors and landlords pry into their private lives. Blackmailers hunt for victims on the social media sites they use to meet other men. Police officers routinely stop them to search for incriminating images and chats on their cellphones.

After an anti-gay law went into effect last year, many gay Nigerians say they have been subjected to new levels of harassment, even violence.

They blame the law, the authorities and broad social intolerance for their troubles. But they also blame an unwavering supporter whose commitment to their cause has been unquestioned and overt across Africa: the United States government.

“The U.S. support is making matters worse,” said Mike, 24, a university student studying biology in Minna, a town in central Nigeria who asked that his full name not be used for safety reasons. “There’s more resistance now. It’s triggered people’s defense mechanism.”

More here-

Lifelong journey leads woman of privilege back to Memphis, priesthood and the poor

From Memphis-

The South American nation of Uruguay ordained its first female priest last month.

Christmas morning, she will preach at Calvary Episcopal Church here in her hometown.

"It's a long story," said Rev. Audrey Taylor Gonzalez, 76.

I'll shorten it for you.

Audrey Taylor grew up in the cotton-insulated, culturally isolated world of Old Memphis.

More here-

Religion is good for families and kids

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

It’s a message we hear more and more: Religion is bad.

And certainly recent headlines — from terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris and San Bernardino to the strange brew of warped Christian fundamentalism that appeared to motivate alleged shooter Robert Dear at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs — feeds the idea that religion is a force for ill in the world.

But in “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason,” renowned atheist Sam Harris not only asserts that the “greatest problem confronting civilization” is religious extremism, he further waxes that it’s also “the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself.”

More here-