Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Mennonite pastor is suspended and a denomination is splintered

From RNS-

The Virginia Mennonite Conference suspended a pastor’s ministerial credentials Wednesday (May 25) because he officiated at a same-sex wedding.

The Rev. Isaac Villegas of the Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship and my pastor, is “at variance” with the conference, which belongs to the Mennonite Church USA. The denomination, with some 100,000 members, holds that marriage is “a covenant between one man and one woman for life.”

The conference was aware of Villegas’ plan to officiate the wedding well in advance, as the congregation has been in dialogue with it for years over the matter of fully welcoming LGBT people in the congregation.

More here-

Marysville church's Catholic priest brings along his wife

From Washington State-

When the Rev. Tom McMichael arrived at St. Mary Catholic Church in January, he had already introduced himself in a “Pastor's Page” letter on the parish website. In his note, he wrote of looking forward “with joy and hope” to serving at the church. And he added a surprising detail: “I am a Catholic priest and I am married.”

In his office at the Marysville parish, the 55-year-old McMichael talked Thursday about his journey, from serving 17 years as a Lutheran pastor to a time of deep spiritual discernment. That led him, along with his Lutheran wife, Karin McMichael, to convert to Roman Catholicism. On Jan. 10, 2009, he was ordained as a Catholic priest at St. James Cathedral in Seattle.

“I attribute it to the Holy Spirit,” McMichael said. “I truly felt a call to the priesthood.”

Greg Magnoni is a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle, which oversees all of Western Washington's Catholic parishes. He said it's not unprecedented for married men to serve as priests. In the past, Magnoni said, several widowers have been ordained.

More here-

Episcopal clergy go orange against gun violence

From Salt Lake City-

Orange isn’t a traditional liturgical color in the Episcopal Church.

But on Sunday, June 5, Episcopal clergy across the country are planning to wear orange stoles in a stand against gun violence, inspired by the Wear Orange campaign.

“Everybody has some story somewhere where gun violence has touched their lives or the lives of their congregation that has made them say, ‘Yes, we know this problem is there, and we know that we have a call to address it,'” said the Rev. Rosalind Hughes, rector of Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio.

The idea came when the Rev. C. Eric Funston, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Medina, Ohio, posted on Facebook back in April about Wear Orange, which asks people to wear the color for National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2.

More here-

also here-

Friday, May 27, 2016

I want my church job back — ACK bishop fired over homosexuality allegations tells court

From Standard Digital (Kenya)

As an archdeacon of the Anglican Church of Kenya Mt Kenya West Diocese, John Njogu Gachau was a very popular and revered man in the diocese. He was fondly referred to as father and was a mentor to the lay members and some of the young clergy.

He was a man who practised what he preached, literally. He followed the Bible as his guiding light and abided by each and every teaching.

Among the verses he is familiar with is Leviticus Chapter 18 verse 22 which clearly states “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” and continues in Chapter 20 verse 13 to say “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination...”

More here-

Uganda: Ntagali Condemns Kadaga Shrine Visit

From All Africa (Uganda)

The visit by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to a shrine at Nhendha hill in Iganga District is facing more scrutiny with the Anglican Church saying "it's confusing" and for a leader of her calibre "it might cause others to stumble."

In a statement, Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali said: "We value our ancestors because we are connected to them. But, we must always trust only in God. We no longer need to go through the spirits of the dead because Jesus is our hope and protector."

"The Church of Uganda condemns syncretism and urges her bishops and clergy to use this opportunity to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ crucified to meet all our needs, and to work pastorally with Christians to apply this glorious truth practically in their lives," he added.

More here-

also here-

Dollars, demograpic decline and the gospel (or Gospel) of new Washington Cathedral dean

From Get Religion-

Talk about candor. From the get-go, the recent Washington Post story about the selection of a new dean at Washington National Cathedral is very upfront about the fact that this highly visible Episcopal Church landmark faces a crisis of dollars and demographics. And then there was that earthquake thing, literally.

Consider the headline, for example: "Needing to raise ten of millions, Washington National Cathedral picks a fundraiser for its new dean."

Now, I realize that college and university presidents are frequently hailed as great fundraisers. However, I don't know of many pastors, preachers or priests who have welcomed that label. In this case the Rev. Randy Hollerith – for some reason the Post editors drop "the Rev." or even "Father" on the first reference – makes it clear that this isn't his label of choice, either.

More here-

Among M.Div. graduates, a new crop of transgender students

From Colorado (via RNS)-

Like other graduates of Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, Adam Plant walked onstage earlier this month to accept a diploma and a hug from Dean Gail O’Day.

Unlike them, his journey to the Master of Divinity degree took a significant detour.

Three years ago when he began his studies, Adam was a North Carolina woman with a desire to plumb the intersection of faith and sexuality. By the time of the graduation ceremony, Plant had found acceptance and peace as a man.

More here-

Being people of God together in mutual relationship

From ENS-

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Lilla Watson, an aboriginal elder, activist and educator, from Australia is credited with these words, spoken by her and others in the early 1970s at a time when white Australians were becoming aware of the effects of racism and colonialism on the country’s indigenous people. These words were not only meant to challenge people working toward social justice, but reflected the frustration felt by the Aborigine toward the efforts of whites who in their offers of assistance, further perpetuated colonial perceptions and attitudes.

The words, used to provoke discussion in a small group session during last week’s 21st annual Global Episcopal Mission Network conference in Puerto Rico, resonated with Rachel McDaniel, a Young Adult Service Corps missionary serving her second year in Brazil.

More here-

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thomas Becket relic arrives at Westminster Abbey as pilgrimage continues

From Irish News-

A relic of Thomas Becket, returning to England for the first time in 800 years, arrived at Westminster Abbey as a week-long commemoration of the martyr continues.

The fragment of bone, believed to come from the murdered archbishop's arm, was held by the Basilica of Esztergom in Hungary.

At the start of a seven-day "pilgrimage" to Canterbury Cathedral, where he was murdered in 1170, Becket's relic was received at Westminster Cathedral in London by Cardinal Vincent Nichols before mass was celebrated.

Throughout the week, senior clerics from the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have been conducting a series of services.

More here-

Pioneering Episcopal priest, Joan Grimm Fraser dies at 68

From Religous News Service-

The Rev. Joan P. Grimm Fraser, an Episcopal priest and leading spokesperson on women’s issues in church and society has died.

Mother Joan recently represented the Episcopal Church and the International Atlantic Province of the Episcopal Church on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The province includes six dioceses in New York, two dioceses in New Jersey and the off-shore dioceses of Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. About the UNCSW she had said, “It is an opportunity to give a voice to women here and abroad who don’t have a voice” about health, poverty and justice.

More here-

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Anglican Leader Says Archbishop Welby 'Half-Right' Telling Christians Not to Talk About Faith

From Christian Post-

A conservative Anglican leader is defending Justin Welby's comment that Christians shouldn't talk about their faith in public by explaining that the archbishop's statement is "half-right."

At an interfaith event held in London earlier this month, the head of the 88 million-member Anglican Communion drew a line between evangelism and proselytizing by saying: "I draw the line in terms of respect for the other; in starting by listening before you speak; in terms of love that is unconditional and not conditional to one iota, to one single element on how the person responds to your own declaration of faith; and of not speaking about faith unless you are asked about faith," said Welby, according to the Telegraph.

Read more at-

Could religion help you live longer?

From CBS-

Women who frequently attend religious services have a lower risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, than those who do not, new research suggests.

The study, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, does not prove a cause and effect relationship, but the researchers say the association appears to be strong.

"The results suggest that there is perhaps something about the communal religious experience that is very powerful," study author Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public, told CBS News.

For the analysis, VanderWeele and colleagues pulled data from a long-running national health study of female nurses to examine attendance at religious services and subsequent death in women.

More here-


From First Things-

Cardinal Robert Sarah is one of the adornments of the Catholic Church, although it’s very unlikely that this man of faith, humor, intelligence, and profound humility would appreciate my putting it that way. His 2015 book, God or Nothing, is selling all over the world, currently available in twelve languages with more to come. 

The book tells his story, that of a contemporary confessor of the faith who accepted episcopal ordination knowing that he might well be killed for his witness to Christ by the madcap Marxist dictator who then ran his West African country, Guinea. But the point of God or Nothing is not to advertise the virtues of Robert Sarah: The book is an invitation to faith, addressed to everyone, but with special urgency to those parts of the world dying from a suffocating indifference to the things of the spirit.

More here-

No, You Can’t Have a Sip

From Huffington-

My mother, by her own admission, pretends to be an alcoholic every Sunday. She contemplated converting to Catholicism, not because Pope Francis was such an inspiring faith leader, but because forgoing the wine during communion is much more commonplace in the Catholic church, as opposed to the Episcopal. Why is she not so inconspicuously shooing it away in the first place? Germs.

Growing up, my mother forced me and my brother to dip our communion wafer in the wine, rather than take a full sip, hoping this would somehow cut down on the transference of germs. During flu season, she would tell us to “just pretend” to dip. Basically, my brother and I were encouraged to be deceitful while in the midst of taking the sacrament of communion.

More here-

Desmond Tutu’s daughter married a woman, and was forced out of the South African clergy

From The Washington Post-

In a country still deeply riven by division over differences — in race, class, political affiliation and more — it is Mpho Tutu's "sameness" to her new wife that has created a stir.

Tutu (now Tutu-Van Furth) is the daughter of South Africa's first black archbishop and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and is really only the "same" as her wife in one way — they are both women. But in almost every other imaginable way, they are different. Tutu is black, South African, a devout priest and, as she puts it, "vertically challenged." Marceline Tutu-Van Furth is lanky, Dutch, atheist and a professor of pediatric diseases in Amsterdam.

More here-

Episcopal diocese fund-raiser to help children in Syria

From Western Massachusetts-

The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts' Christ Church Cathedral is sponsoring an inter-faith fund-raiser to aid children in war-torn Syria.

The June 5th event, from 5 to 8 p.m., at The Cedars, 419 Island Pond Road, is being organized by cathedral to benefit the New Hampshire-based nonprofit, NuDay Syria, a member of the American Relief Coalition for Syria.

"As a church community we feel a strong need to respond to the overwhelming crisis in Syria. Through other members of our greater church we found out about this organization located near us, doing amazing work," said Steve Abdow, the diocese's canon for mission resources.

More here-

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

People of no religion outnumber Christians in England and Wales – study

From The Guardian-

The number of people who say they have no religion is rapidly escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, according to new analysis.

The proportion of the population who identify as having no religion – referred to as “nones” – reached 48.5% in 2014, almost double the figure of 25% in the 2011 census. Those who define themselves as Christian – Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations – made up 43.8% of the population.

“The striking thing is the clear sense of the growth of ‘no religion’ as a proportion of the population,” said Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary’s Catholic University in Twickenham, who analysed data collected through British Social Attitudes surveys over three decades.

More here-

Bishops issue post-General Conference letter to the church

From The United Methodist Reporter-

Reviving a tradition that is more than a century old, the United Methodist Council of Bishops sent this letter today to the people of The United Methodist Church following the 2016 General Conference, held in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20. The letter reads as follows:

“To the people of The United Methodist Church:

The Council of Bishops brings you greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has called us to be servant leaders of the church. In 1812, Bishop Francis Asbury, Bishop William McKendree and General Conference Secretary Daniel Hitt sent the first letter to churches following General Conference. This letter seeks to revive that tradition. Many bishops will also be communicating individually in their own areas.

Hundreds of lay and clergy delegates from around the world gathered in Portland, Oregon, along with bishops and pastors, church members and staff, volunteers and visitors, to engage in Christian conferencing, to make decisions for our church’s future, to affirm our global connection, to worship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

More here-

Episcopal priest pleads guilty, avoids jail for video incident with woman

From Albany-

An Episcopal priest from Bethlehem will be sentenced to probation for three years after pleading guilty Monday to attempted unlawful surveillance for trying to film a woman getting dressed in a Salvation Army Thrift store last year.

The plea deal on the misdemeanor that the Rev. Adam Egan agreed to in Colonie Town Court with his attorney, Steve Coffey, by his side also includes a stay away-order of protection for the victim. After his arrest, Egan was placed on administrative leave as pastor at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Delmar

Outside court, Coffey said he doesn't believe Egan is still affiliated with the church in Delmar and is receiving professional help.

More here-

St. James's Episcopal Church rector named dean of Washington National Cathedral

From Richmond-

When President Theodore Roosevelt laid the foundation stone at the Washington National Cathedral on Sept. 27, 1907, the Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith’s great-grandmother was in the audience.

More than a century later, Hollerith, 52, is set to become dean of the cathedral, taking him from Richmond and his family’s deep ties to the Episcopal church in Virginia.

Church officials announced Monday that Hollerith, the rector at St. James’s Episcopal Church, will advance to one of the nation’s most prominent houses of worship, where costly repairs are continuing after the 2011 earthquake that was felt across the East Coast. While Hollerith, known as Randy, is grounded in the foundations of his faith, his skill as a fundraiser was also seen as an attribute in the move to Washington.

More here-

Monday, May 23, 2016

Relic of murdered archbishop Thomas Becket on England 'pilgrimage'

From The Daily Mail-

A relic of Thomas Becket is to be returned to England for the first time in 800 years in a week-long commemoration of the murdered archbishop.

The fragment of bone, believed to come from Becket's arm, is held by the Basilica of Esztergom in Hungary.

It will travel from his birthplace in London to Canterbury Cathedral, where he was murdered in 1170, as part of a seven-day "pilgrimage".

More here-

Tutu's daughter leaves Anglican Church after marrying a woman

From South Africa-

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's daughter has confirmed she has quit preaching in the Anglican Church after marrying a woman.

Reverend Mpho Tutu-Van Furth says her licence to preach is being revoked.

She and her partner, Marceline van Furth, are on honeymoon in Bali after tying the knot at Franschhoek in the Boland.

Tutu-Van Furth says she has decided to surrender her ministerial duties because the South African Anglican Church does not recognise same-sex marriages.

More here-

Presbyterian leaders try to make sense of dwindling membership

From Pittsburgh-

Yes, the Rev. Sheldon Sorge has seen his share of dwindling Presbyterian congregations shutting their doors in declining neighborhoods or communities. And just last week, he saw yet another congregation leave for a more conservative denomination.

But as the general minister of the Pittsburgh Presbytery travels around Allegheny County, Rev. Sorge says he sees plenty of vibrant Presbyterian congregations that seem to defy the bleak picture depicted by the denomination’s own numbers.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lost 6 percent of its membership in 2015, and that came after three consecutive years of 5 percent declines. Current membership is just under 1.6 million. The Pittsburgh Presbytery, still one of the nation’s largest, saw a 7 percent decline to 28,518 last year.

More here-

My Turn: Saving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A sacred part of our collective story

From Alaska-

I have never been to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and yet, it is a part of me, and I a part of it. I have been an Alaskan since 1972 when my husband and I packed our earthly belongings into our VW bus sporting a sign declaring, “Alaska or Bust!” and headed west. I am captivated by Alaska’s vast natural beauty and rich history, and have written four books about my adopted home.

As a member of the Episcopal Church, I am in communion with Christians from many walks of life, including many of the Gwich’in people, whose ancestral land lies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Nine out of ten Gwich’in people are not only my fellow Alaskans, but they are also my brothers and sisters in Christ as part of the Episcopal Church.

More here-