Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kenya's Crackdown on Fake Pastors Stymied by Real Ones

From Christianity Today-

One of Africa’s boldest attempts to prevent bad behavior within its mushrooming churches has been abandoned.

In 2014, Kenya’s attorney general, Githu Muigai, banned new churches amid a “miracle-faking” spree. Muigai began 2016 by proposing a lengthy list of new reporting requirements, including minimum theological education for pastors, annual membership thresholds, and churches joining an umbrella organization.

At the same time, the Communications Authority of Kenya announced a new policy that banned radio and television preachers from asking listeners to send in money or get saved at the end of their broadcasts.

The changes were welcomed by the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). “Horrible things are happening in the church today,” bishop Beneah Salah told The Standard, a Nairobi newspaper. “There is a lot of commercialization of the gospel.”

More here-

Archbishop: Anti-Semitism 'embedded' in British culture

From Canterbury (via Salt Lake)-

Anti-Semitism is “deeply embedded” in British culture, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said.

“We’ve seen a very sharp rise over the last year or so in anti-Semitic expression. It is absolutely intolerable,” Welby told a gathering of Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim leaders at his Lambeth Palace residence in London on Thursday (May 19).

“It’s deeply imbedded in so much of our culture in this country, as is racism,” added the archbishop, who is the spiritual leader of the world’s 75 million Anglicans.

Welby said he was “not looking at any political party.” But his comments follow harsh criticism of the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, over anti-Semitic remarks by some of its members. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and member of parliament Naz Shah were suspended from the party for making statements that attacked Jews.

More here-

Anglican Church rejects grazing reserves across Nigeria, warns of ‘civil war’

From Nigeria-

The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, has warned the Federal Government to avoid what it described as a possible second civil war, by dismissing the plan to create grazing reserves for Fulani Herdsmen across the country.

The warning was given by the Primate of the Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, while delivering a keynote address, with the theme: “The poverty of riches”, during the third session of the 9th synod of Anglican Bishops in Nigeria, Friday.

According to the church, the intended approach would mean an “unwarranted special preference”, which could only spell evil in time to come.

The church said the plan by the government may be misconceived as making Fulani Herdsmen indigenes of every part of the country.

More here-

When God Is Strange and Awful

From Christianity Today-

God is strange. At times, he is awful.

There’s no getting around these excruciating facts after reading Victor Lee Austin’s memoir, Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away (Brazos).

At age 38, Susan Austin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Due to the marvels of modern medicine, she healed. But the cancer treatments brought about the condition that ultimately ended her life—something called white-matter disease. Victor, Susan, and their two children initially felt relieved, only to discover a slow deterioration under way in Susan’s brain.

Readers will admire Victor’s fidelity to his wife and longsuffering, but his years caring for Susan were marked by second-guessing, uncertainty, and doubts. As a husband and a father, a theologian and an Episcopal priest, he limped his way through the fog of maintaining a home, teaching ethics, and leading church members through prayers his wife could no longer pray.

More here-

Cuomo set to change Sunday blue laws

From New York-

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced  a proposal earlier this week to update New York's 80-year-old liquor laws, a move that would benefit the state's craft beverage industry. If passed, the legislation would permit the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants and bars before noon on Sundays.

The state's blue laws, or laws set in place to enforce religious practices, prohibit the sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars from 4 a.m. until noon on Sundays. With the governor's proposed legislation, alcoholic beverages could be served between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon on Sundays.

The Rev. Eileen Weglarz, of Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson, questions if these changes will enhance life in New York, especially for those struggling with alcoholism.

"I'm not wild about the idea," she said. "We have become such a secular country. People don't think about it [religion] anymore."

More here-

Anglican Church of Kenya's new Archbishop elected

From Kenya-

The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) has elected a new archbishop who will serve as the sixth head of the church.

The Right Reverend Jackson Ole Sapit of the Kericho diocese was elected archbishop of the ACK at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi by an electoral college of 191 delegates from the 38 episcopal dioceses from across the country representing about five million Kenyan Anglicans.

He was nominated along with five other candidates – Julius Wanyoike (Thika Diocese), Joel Waweru (Nairobi Diocese), Moses Masamba (Mbeere Diocese), James Ochiel (Southern Nyanza Diocese), and Lawrence Dena (Malindi Diocese).

There were no women candidates, as the Anglican Church in Kenya only allows women up to the archdeacon level.

Sapit, who will also serve as the bishop of the All Saints Cathedral Diocese, succeeds outgoing Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, who is due to leave office in June.

More here-

also here-

Friday, May 20, 2016


From First Things-

When Pope Francis announced his willingness to appoint a commission to study whether women can serve as deacons in the Catholic Church, my first thought was: Here we go!

And sure enough, FutureChurch, the liberal Catholic organization that has subtly pushed for the ordination of women to the hitherto all-male Catholic priesthood, not only praised Francis for his statement but announced its intention to set up a website, sponsor a retreat for women feeling the “call” to become deacons, and, clearly most important of all, lobby the U.S. bishops to start pestering Rome about opening the diaconate to the female sex. The less subtle Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) faulted Francis for not going all the way and opening the priesthood to women, but it did offer him some limited praise: “WOC advocates that a new commission on the diaconate include discussions on priestly ordination for women in the Roman Catholic Church.”

The “discussions” WOC has in mind seem to be historical in nature. In its press statement, WOC invokes “historical evidence” of the existence of “several women deacons” in the early Church and asserts that, in ordaining women deacons, the Vatican would merely be “recognizing its own history.”

More here-

Thousands join Archbishop Welby for online Bible study

From Anglican News-

The Archbishop of Canterbury was joined by thousands of Christians around the world today for his first live Bible study on Facebook. Archbishop Justin Welby discussed John 1:35-42 with the Revd Chris Russell, the archbishop's advisor for evengalism and witness, and answered questions from viewers.

The event was watched live in countries including the UK, USA, South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Australia, the Seychelles and Japan. It is still available to view on Facebook as a video.

In the passage, the disciples have their first encounter with Jesus, which is a life-changing experience – they are given a new identity in Jesus Christ. During the discussion the Archbishop answered questions posted on Facebook, including one on how relevant this encounter with Jesus is to the lives of young people today.

More here-

New chapter for anglican church

From Kenya-

The church acquired a notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s when its leaders, such as David Gitari, Henry Okullu and Alexander Muge rubbed the political establishment up the wrong way

The Anglican Church of Kenya will be having a new archbishop by this weekend to replace the outgoing Eliud Wabukala. All eyes are trained on the premier protestant congregation and the man it will choose to lead it to the next decade.

So far, bishops James Ochiel (South Nyanza), Moses Masaba (Mbeere), Joseph ole Sapit (Kericho), Joel Waweru (Nairobi) and Lawrence Dena (Malindi) have thrown their hats into the ring. Any one of them will be handed the archbishopric crosier to lead the Kenyan Anglicans.

ACK has been a political hotbed for many years and as such, its elections attract lots of interest among the political class. Already there are talks that both Cord and Jubilee power brokers are circling overhead looking to plant a man favourable to their causes to head the church, a claim the church leadership denies.

More here-

Bruce Caldwell to be provisional bishop of Lexington

From ENS-

The Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell will serve the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington as its provisional bishop following affirmation from the clergy and laity attending a Special Convention on May 14 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester, Kentucky.

Caldwell served the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming as bishop for 13 years, ending his tenure in 2010. Since then, Caldwell has served as the interim spiritual leader of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his family.

Since March 9, the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington has been under the ecclesiastical authority of the Standing Committee, an elected body of clergy and lay leaders, following the suspension of Doug Hahn as the bishop of Lexington. Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, working through the canonical disciplinary and pastoral processes of the church, took this action after learning that Hahn had a sexual relationship with an adult female parishioner and intentionally withheld this information when seeking the position of bishop.

More here-

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Archbishops’ ‘wave of prayer’ rolls across the country

From The Church Times-

FROM paper aeroplanes inscribed with prayers suspended from the ceiling of St Paul’s, Leamington Priors, to an evening prayer-walk around Kirkham, in Preston, to the beating of the bounds in Sloane Square, in London, parishes across the country have responded creatively to the Archbishops’ Pentecost summons to prayer.

The call for a “great wave of prayer” for the evangelisation of the country was issued in February, when the Archbishops wrote to every serving parish priest in the Church of England (News, 5 February). Under the banner “Thy Kingdom Come”, events are being held across the country over a nine-day period, culminating in services at six cathedrals this weekend.

Among the partner-organisations is 24-7 Prayer. Asked about the take-up of the initiative, its founder, Pete Greig, said on Tuesday that he had been delighted by the “overwhelming” response.

More here-

On Augustine by Rowan Williams, Augustine by Robin Lane Fox review – the theologian, with and without sex

From The Guardian-

These two new books on Augustine of Hippo, the towering figure of late-antique Latin theology, could not be more different, but that will hardly come as a surprise. Robin Lane Fox is an ancient historian who once wrote a book (The Unauthorised Version, 1991) announcing his own atheism and his intention to expose the historical contradictions underlying the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Rowan Williams retired as archbishop of Canterbury in 2012 – while in the role he repeatedly defended the rights of the religious to resist secularism. Lane Fox writes with a historian’s gift for exposing the strangeness of a different culture; Williams immerses himself in the theological subtleties of one of antiquity’s most ambitious thinkers.

Williams’s book, a collection of revised articles (and one sermon) written for different audiences, has all the trappings of academia: sophisticated, challenging prose, German titles in the footnotes, sometimes even untranslated Latin (not all of it, I am bound to say as a classicist, reproduced perfectly). But for all that, it is less a critical study than an attempt to enlist the ancient writer as an ally for the modern theologian. For Williams, Augustine matters as the thinker who elevated doubt, questioning and self-consciousness – gathered up in the idea of “confessions”, which became the title of his most famous work – to a spiritual state. The underlying message is that if we, in our secular world, feel paralysed by the moral complexity around us, that should lead us not to postmodern relativism and ennui, but to acknowledging that our own limitations and weaknesses are what make us human, and – more importantly – that true knowledge and wisdom are dependent on our philosophical acceptance of God within the community of Christian believers.

More here-

‘The Church Might Divide’: Nation’s Third Largest Faith Group Makes Key Decision in Bitter Battle Over Gay Marriage

From The Blaze-

As the United Method Church meets for its General Conference in Portland, Oregon — an event that is held once every four years — church leaders continue to deal with a contentious issue that threatens to splinter the denomination: homosexuality.

In a narrow vote of 428-405 on Wednesday, the Council of Bishops — the top policy arm of the nation’s third largest faith group — voted to assess and review current church law on sexuality, the Associated Press reported.

The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which outlines church regulations, is explicit in noting that marriage is confined to one man and one woman. The official church rules on matrimony read, “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman,” with pastors falling under strict guidelines.

More here-

Episcopal clergy support Methodists working for full inclusion of LGBTQ members

From Oregon-

Currently, and through May 20, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church is meeting at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. They are currently and will be struggling with the same issues of inclusion for LGBTQ persons that we in The Episcopal Church have struggled with. For this we offer a statement of support:

Statement of Support for The United Methodist General Conference

Clergy and members of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Oregon welcome our brothers and sisters in The United Methodist Church as you gather in Portland for your 2016 General Conference. As your denomination gathers to celebrate and discern God’s will for you, particularly around questions of human sexuality, we will be holding you in prayer. Episcopalians in Oregon are eager to share our experience of extending a full and unequivocal welcome to those who experience gender and sexual diversity. Our conversations around gender and sexuality – like yours – have not been without much pain and struggle, but we believe that the Spirit of God has brought us to a holy place in which the gifts of all people are being utilized by the church in creative and exciting ways.

More here-

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Top United Methodist bishop disputes reports of a split in church

From Pittsburgh-

A top United Methodist bishop Tuesday acknowledged the denomination’s severe divisions over the role of gays and lesbians, as well as despair over the church’s falling American membership — but he refuted reports that the denomination’s leadership was preparing a proposal to split the church and its assets.

Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops for the United Methodist Church, speaking to delegates at the church’s legislative gathering in Portland, Ore., did acknowledge high-level meetings at which church leaders across the theological spectrum have “risked exploring what many would consider radical new ideas to organize the United Methodist Church.”

But, he added, the council is “committed to maintain the unity of the United Methodist Church, not a superficial unity to serve as a veneer over our disunity, but an authentic unity born of the Holy Spirit.”

More here-

Episcopal Church can't seize breakaway diocese's funds - and it must pay their legal fees, too

From Quincy-

An Illinois appeals panel has upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Episcopal Church must pay penance, by picking up the tab for the legal fees of a breakaway downstate diocese fighting a frivolous suit by the church and further refraining from making any further claims on the diocese’s $3.6 million treasury.

The May 13 ruling was delivered in Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court in Springfield by Justice M. Carol Pope, with concurrence from justices Lisa Holder White and James Knecht. The decision favored the Episcopal Church’s former Quincy Diocese. Quincy is in Adams County in western Illinois.

More here-

Six months in, new Episcopal church leader reflects on church challenges

From PBS- (with video)

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Most Reverend Michael Curry became presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church last November, becoming the head of one of the United States’ oldest denominations at a time of conflict and change.

The church, like most mainline Protestant denominations, has been facing declines in membership for decades.

Judy Woodruff sat down with Bishop Curry to learn how he is leading a church facing these challenges.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Bishop Michael Curry, thank you for talking to us.

THE MOST REVEREND MICHAEL CURRY, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And congratulations on your position.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you first, how would you describe the place that the Episcopal Church occupies in the broad religious profile that we have the United States now?

More here-

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The good news of God’s wrath

From The Living Church-

Almighty God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all men:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
which we from time to time most grievously have committed,
by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty,
provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.

I pray this confession of sin nearly every day, and yet I find the language of God’s “wrath and indignation” somewhat alien. I bet you do, too.

Why does speaking of God’s wrath or anger or indignation seem strange, or even suspect? For example, the modern hymn “In Christ Alone” has provoked controversy with its lyric “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.”

The problem is the picture this language seems to suggest: “that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger,” as one critic put it. This picture (which is only a clumsy caricature of the so-called satisfaction theory of the Atonement) is rightly to be rejected as false and misleading — but, then, scattering a strawman doesn’t really accomplish much.

More here-

Anglican-Catholic dialogue hammering out the ‘tough difficulties’

From Catholic Register-

After nearly 50 years of discourse between the Catholic and Anglican communions, the official dialogue body wants to fine-tune how it studies the differences and similarities between two churches which both call themselves Catholic.

“ARCIC III hasn’t proved itself yet,” Sir David Moxon, Anglican co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, told The Catholic Register following an ecumenical evensong on Pentecost Sunday.

This third stage of the dialogue has been meeting since 2011, but has yet to publish a major document. It is currently studying how the Church arrives at moral teaching.

The official dialogue sponsored by the Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury is meeting in Toronto until May 18, when a concluding communique is expected from the meeting of 22 bishops, theologians and support staff. It is the first time the body has met in Canada and, to the knowledge of the participants, the first time in 50 years that ARCIC has met during Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first revealed the global unity of the Christian message expressed in the diversity of languages from around the world.

More here-


From Religion Dispatches-

The recent flurry of headlines over the possibility of women deacons in the Catholic church may be good for news, but it’s also good for a question: what does women’s ordination really mean today, at a time when more and more Americans are moving away from belonging to Christian denominations?

In light of the fact that some American Christian denominations have ordained women for over a hundred years (Antoinette Brown was ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1852, and Julia Foote was ordained a deacon in the AME Zion church in 1894), some conservative pundits’ claim that women’s ordination will drive people away from the Catholic church bears examination.

As of today, among Protestant denominations, women are ordained in the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist Church, American Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America. Women are also ordained in Buddhism as well as in Reform and Conservative Judaism.

More here-

Monday, May 16, 2016

Don't be evil! Church of England invests millions in Google despite promising to confront companies accused of tax avoidance

From The Daily Mail-

The Church of England is investing millions of pounds in Google despite its promise to confront companies accused of tax avoidance, it emerged last night.

Details of the finances of the Church, which is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, were revealed in a report yesterday.

In the report, Alphabet Inc, Google's parent company, is listed among the Church's '20 most valuable equity holdings', although the size of the investment is not specified.

In 2011 the Church's investment in Google - whose motto is 'Don't be evil' - was listed as £15.7million, The Times reported.

Archbishop Justin Welby has been among the most vociferous critics of multinational firms, like Google, who cut their tax bill through complicated accounting methods

More here-

Christ Church Cathedral announcement due this week

From New Zealand-

A long-awaited announcement on plans to break deadlock over the Christ Church Cathedral is expected this week.

The Anglican cathedral has been sitting damaged in Christchurch's city centre for more than five years, with no clear decision on its possible fate.

The Government last year appointed mediator Miriam Dean, QC, in an attempt to break deadlock over the building.

Anglican leaders had decided to demolish the cathedral and replace it with a modern building, but those plans were caught up in legal challenges.

Church leaders and the Government announced in December that reinstating the cathedral was being considered.

More here-

Miraculous church celebrates 150 years

From Central PA-

Iris Reigle’s life changed when she was 9 years old.

So did the daily life of the church her family attended.

It was after Holy Week’s Wednesday evening prayer service on April 6, 1977 when her mother asked Iris, now Iris Chowka, if she had seen anything on the tabernacle cloth on the main altar.

"I said I saw Jesus," Chowka, 48, of Coal Township, said during Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s open house on Sunday. "It confirmed what she saw. It just confirmed what other people thought they saw."

Her mother told her to go and tell her grandmother in the parish hall in the next room. When news of the image spread, the number of visitors began to grow. On Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 1979, people claimed to have seen a second image of Jesus with outstretched arms, which sparked a renewed interest for a brief time. Then Guideposts magazine published a story in June of 1981 of a Holy Trinity parishioner dying from cancer who went into the church for his last communion, recalled William Hazzard, the church’s senior warden. The man claimed to feel a powerful presence from the veil and later was found to be free of cancer.

More here-

Can the Christian Left Be a Real Political Force?

From Slate-

In late November of 1973, about 50 evangelical leaders convened at a shabby YMCA hotel in Chicago for what they hoped would be a generation-defining gathering. Attendees at the Thanksgiving Workshop of Evangelical Social Concern got to work assembling a document that would serve as a manifesto for the future of their movement. They condemned institutionalized racism, unfettered capitalism, and the Vietnam War, and they proclaimed that “God lays total claim upon the lives of his people.” The stakes were high, and they knew it. “For better or for worse,” activist Ron Sider predicted, American evangelicals “will exercise the dominant religious influence in the next decade.”

As we now know, Sider was right—just not exactly as he hoped. A few years later, Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell and other leaders began to coalesce around a right-wing political agenda very different from the one laid out at the Thanksgiving Workshop. Since then, conservative evangelicals have dominated election narratives and policy battles and prompted cultural skirmishes over things like Kim Davis’ visit with the pope. If you read only the headlines on religion in America, it would be easy to assume that Christians are a unified mob of anti-gay, anti-government caricatures—as President Obama uncharitably put it back in 2008, those clinging to their guns or their religion.

More here-

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Methodists not alone facing LGBT split

From Columbus-

In a divide over LGBT issues that’s been called painful and destructive, some have started to lose hope that a Protestant denomination that claims “united” in its very name will remain that way.

Across the United Methodist Church, there’s a lack of faith that common ground will be found, and it comes from both sides of the aisle — from those who advocate for same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy, and from those who are adamant that such actions fly in the face of the Scripture.

The United Methodist Church will continue its decades-old debate at its General Conference in Portland, Oregon, this week, but it’s far from the first group to struggle to navigate this massive chasm.

More here-