Saturday, September 30, 2017

Farewell receptions and gala fundraising dinner planned for suspended Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno

From Orange County-

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, who was sanctioned in August by a national panel for misconduct and ordered suspended for three years, will soon say goodbye to Southern California congregations during specially planned events in Laguna Hills, Riverside, Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles.

The farewell sessions will begin Saturday, Sept. 30 in Orange County and culminate Saturday, Nov. 4 with a gala Bishop’s Dinner fundraiser at St. John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles. Tickets for the dinner are $250 per person and church officials say proceeds will benefit 44 mission congregations.

Bruno will retire Dec. 1 when he hands over the reins to his successor, the Rev. John Taylor.

Bruno was in the center of controversy when he evicted members of the St. James the Great congregation in Newport Beach in June 2015 after determining that the church was no longer financially viable. Bruno then entered into an agreement with a developer to build luxury condominiums on the property, but that deal fell through.

More here-

Hope and Trust in God

From ACNS-

The Diocese of Kajo-Keji is one of several South Sudanese dioceses operating in exile in Uganda while civil war continues to rage in their homeland. Here, the Bishop of Kajo-Keji, Emmanuel Murye Modi, reflects on the situation in the camps following a recent visit with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

The Lord has led us to make pastoral visits to the camps. We recently encouraged the refugees in the camps in Moyo, Yumbe, and Adjumani districts and the IDPs in Liwolo in Kajo-Keji. Our message was Hope and Trust in God. . . that people should accept the situation with the hope that God will one day restore and gather his people and take them back to South Sudan as He took the Israelites (internally displaced people in Egypt) back to their ancestral land.

More here-

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bishop Search in Europe

From The Living Church-

The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe plans to commission a search committee for its next bishop when the convocation meets Oct. 19-22.

The Rt. Rev. Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation since 2001, has announced his plans to retire in July 2019.

The convocation explains on a webpage devoted to the search:

The Episcopal Church is one of 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion and has episcopal jurisdictions in sixteen countries around the world.

The Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, a suffragan bishop to the Presiding Bishop, is based at The American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris. There are congregations in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria.

The Episcopal Church has been present in Europe since 1815. The Convocation was created by a Canon of General Convention in 1859, and Bishops in Charge were appointed by the Presiding Bishop. Some were diocesan Bishops or recently retired Bishops, who exercised oversight on a part-time basis. Bishops in Charge have been resident in Europe since 1960.

More here-

The New Atheists Should Get Out More

From Context-

One of the more astonishing claims made over and over by Richard Dawkins (you can start with his bestseller, The God Delusion) is that Christian faith is simply incompatible with reason, with natural science being viewed as the paragon of rationality.

True, Dawkins admits to being acquainted with a handful of indisputably accomplished scientists who are also Christians, but he clearly finds it impossible to explain these few absurdities—as if he has happened to have come across several unicorns.

In the face, however, of polls showing that a great many scientists are believers in the Christian God—and many more in the almost-equally indefensible versions of God held by Jews and Muslims—other atheists have suggested more recently that human beings generally are wired to believe in explanations that aren’t true. And that trait explains religious belief.

The argument goes something like this. Our ancestors were more likely to survive (and thus procreate—the main concern of Darwinist evolutionary theory) if they spotted dangers before they were harmed by them. Spotting dangers means noticing patterns: that patch of bush over there seemed to move all at once, as if it were a body; that set of sounds is rhythmic, thus making me think of breaths or footfalls.

More here-

Scottish Anglican church faces sanctions over vote to allow same-sex marriage

From The Guardian-

The Anglican church in Scotland is to face de facto sanctions imposed by global church leaders next week for its acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Leaders of the global Anglican communion, meeting for five days in Canterbury, are expected to impose “consequences” on the Scottish Episcopal church along the lines of the punitive measures dished out to the US Episcopal church last year for its embrace of LGBTI equality.

The measures include a bar on membership of representational bodies and an exclusion from decisions on policy.

Scottish Anglicans voted overwhelmingly in June in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry in church, setting the church on a collision course with the Anglican communion. The Anglican church in Canada is expected to follow suit.

More here-

Presiding Bishop at Nashotah House praises seminary for making ministers for Jesus Movement

From The Episcopal Church-

 “It is good to be here.”

A throwaway cliché in most speeches, but spoken Sept. 28 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as the fall sun was setting at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, there was reason enough for his audience of 150 or so people to believe he was being sincere.

For starters, Curry was in Nashotah to receive the seminary’s Ramsey Award, named after Arthur Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974. Bishop Daniel Martins of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, who serves as Nashotah House’s board chairman, presented the award to Curry for “his eloquent, inspiring preaching to refocus church discourse in a Christo-centric manner.”

Martins also noted Curry’s “tireless efforts seeking reconciliation in Christ’s broken body from his first days of ordained ministry all the way to his service now as presiding bishop,” adding that Curry’s “work to promote growth in racial equality, educational development, social justice and humanitarian outreach are equally noteworthy.”

More here-

‘Consequences’ for Scottish Episcopal Church in the offing when Primates meet, after gay marriage vote

From The Church Times-

NEXT week’s Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury is likely to impose the same “consequences” for the Scot­tish Episcopal Church (SEC) for endors­ing same-sex marriage as those set out for the Episcopal Church in the United States last year.

After the meeting in January 2016 in Canterbury, the Primates agreed that US Episcopalians should not take part in decision-making on doctrine or polity in the Com­­munion for three years (News, 15 January 2016). They were also prohibited from representing the Anglican Communion at ecumen­ical and interfaith talks.

Imposing the same sanctions, which the Archbishop of Canter­bury has insisted did not amount to punishment, on the SEC is likely to be agreed by the 34 Primates.

While some conservative voices in the Communion questioned whether the consequences had any teeth after last year’s Anglican Consultative Council meeting — in which delegates from the US played a full part — sanctions on the Scots are expected to mean that the new Primus will be unable to follow his predecessor in leading the Anglican dialogue with the Reformed Churches.

More here-

Therese of Lisieux: Is the Little Flower the most dangerous of saints?

From Aletetia-

What words would you use to describe Saint Therese? Gentle. Innocent. Child-like. Trusting. Loving. Passionate. Hidden. Little. These and many words like them come to mind.

May I suggest another word to describe her? It’s a word you might not expect, a word you may well find to be surprising, even jarring, perhaps disturbing. I would describe Saint Therese as “dangerous.”

Dangerous?!? The Little Flower? How could this be? How could the apostle of spiritual childhood be dangerous? Who could find her threatening?

Therese is a danger to those who’ve resigned themselves to spiritual mediocrity. She’s a threat to every soul that will not dare to aspire to holiness. She’s the mortal enemy of the lukewarm.

Therese takes away every excuse, dismissing every good reason we can give for not being holy, for not at least striving after sanctity. She’s proof that great holiness is possible for every soul, and so our lack of sanctity is a matter of our own will, rather than our luck or our circumstances. In other words, Therese’s message is this:  If we’re not holy it’s because we don’t want to be.

More here-

The Scottish Episcopal Church and the upcoming Primates’ Meeting

From Scotland-

There’s been a little flurry of articles in the press this week about the Scottish Episcopal Church.




And so on.

The only awkward thing about all these articles is that the Primates’ Meeting hasn’t happened yet. No-one has condemned anything and no-one really knows what is going to happen.

This press interest seems to have started in London in the middle of the week when someone gave a briefing to the likes of the BBC, the Telegraph and the Guardian. All three had identical stories which didn’t reference anyone in Scotland at all. It isn’t rocket science to come to the conclusion that someone in either Lambeth Palace or the Anglican Communion Office was briefing journalists against the Scottish Episcopal Church.

More here-

Evangelicals urge more action from Trump against 'alt-right'

From CNN-

A group of prominent evangelical Christians are calling on President Donald Trump to take further steps to condemn white supremacists -- specifically those in the alt-right -- following the August white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead.

A letter that has been circulating privately among a coalition of pastors notes Trump's efforts to denounce the white supremacists, but urges the President to go further in condemning the alt-right "by name."

"This movement has escaped your disapproval," the letter, obtained exclusively by CNN, reads. "We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists. This movement gained public prominence during your candidacy for President of the United States. Supporters of the movement have claimed that you share their vision for our country. These same supporters have sought to use the political and cultural concerns of people of goodwill for their prejudiced political agendas. It concerned many of us when three people associated with the alt-right movement were given jobs in the White House."

More here-

The True God and the Real World

From Via Media News-

So last week I saw this editorial from the “Scientific American”. [The New Science of Sex and Gender – Scientific American]( It is not itself a piece of science, but I was moved on reading it to tweet this: “The real world is complex, and we find out more about it each moment. However it is, Christians believe God made it”

And as I thought more about it I found myself thinking about fear and love, and the true God and the real world. And this is what I thought:

Our confidence is in God, whom we believe to be the true God. When Elisha’s servant was intimidated by the armies of Aram, the prophet was calm: “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” (2Kings 6:16) The writer of 1 John shared the same confidence, “for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

This true God, the God revealed in Christ, the God who is Christlike and in whom there is no un-Christlikeness at all, this true God made and loves the world. The world God made and loves is the real world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

More here-

Alaskan Episcopalians eager to worship in Native language with Book of Common Prayer translation

From The Living Church-

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, in the business center of the Interior region’s largest city, is distinctly Alaskan in its wood and its words.

Log buildings are ubiquitous Alaskan structures, both the homes and churches – from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the small town of Nenana to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in the Interior village of Venetie. And in Fairbanks, St. Matthew’s presents a familiar facade to the worshippers who enter the log church on First Avenue.

What sets St. Matthew’s apart from churches in the Lower 48 is what is said inside: Every Sunday, the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer and doxology in Gwich’in, the Native language most common in the region. The congregation, a mix of white and Native families, doesn’t offer a full service in modern Gwich’in, however, because official services in the language don’t exist in the Episcopal Church – at least not yet.

“I would love it,” said Irene Roberts, who serves as an usher at St. Matthew’s.
On Sept. 24, she greeted dozens of Episcopal bishops and their spouses as they filled her church’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday service, at the midpoint of the six-day House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks. “It only took me 83 years to see this many ginkhii ch’oo,” Roberts said, using the Gwich’in term for bishops.

More here-

Thursday, September 28, 2017

When White Supremacists Ruled Washington

From The New York Times-

Southerners who rose to federal office after the Civil War achieved something the Confederate Army had not: They seized control of Washington and bent it to their will. The Washington National Cathedral illuminated the era of white supremacist domination this month when it dismantled ornate stained-glass windows that portrayed the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as saintly figures.

The windows, installed in 1953, contained the Confederate flag and were the handiwork of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an activist group of well-heeled Southern ladies that was at the height of its influence in the early 20th century, when it raised prodigious amounts for monuments.

The clergy at the National Cathedral began to see the windows differently two years ago, after the white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston, S.C. The victims were still being buried when the Very Rev. Gary Hall — then the cathedral’s dean — preached a moving sermon calling for the windows to be dismantled because they celebrated “a cause whose primary reason for being was the preservation and extension of slavery in America.”

More here-

Legacy ministries to dying churches give congregations a way to end well

From Faith and Leadership-

After the funeral for yet another member of Richfield United Methodist Church earlier this year, nine of the 12 remaining members of this rural 111-year-old church (the other three are homebound) got together to discuss their future.

By many metrics, the church was still vibrant. It had a healthy $90,000 balance in its treasury; it regularly contributed to the local community, collecting food and school supplies; it was proud of its near-perfect attendance record. Unless someone was sick or in a nursing home, every member could be counted on to be at church on Sunday mornings.

But the colonial brick building in the central region of North Carolina had not drawn new members in more than a decade. The two textile mills in nearby Albemarle had long closed, and a mill in the town of Richfield had shuttered. With no industry and few jobs, the small community of 600-plus residents was unlikely to grow.

Scottish church faces 'consequences' over vote to allow same-sex marriage

From The Telegraph-

The Scottish Episcopal Church is likely to face "consequences" for its vote to allow same-sex marriage, the Daily Telegraph understands.

Next week Anglican leaders will decide how to respond to the church's vote to change its Canon on Marriage to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The most likely outcome is that they will decide to restrict the organisation from representing the group at interfaith meetings and from voting on decisions about policy or teaching.

The measures, which are effectively sanctions, would restrict the church from taking part in these key roles for three years. 

More here-

also here-

200 years that shaped Judaism, Jesus, and all that followed

From Christian Century (Philip Jenkins)-

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of a man sowing good seed in a field. In the night, an enemy sows tares (weeds) among the wheat, and the two kinds of plants grow up together. The farmer tells his servants not to try purging the tares immediately, lest they damage the wheat. Jesus explains his meaning:

He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. . . . The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matt. 13:37–43, KJV)

The rigorous determinism of this passage—the implication that humans are born good or wicked, with no ability to change their destiny—together with its hellfire imagery, makes it unpopular among modern-day Christian preachers.

More here-

Holy Land Christians condemn wave of church desecrations

From Catholic Herald-

Christians in the Holy Land, including Catholic leaders, have expressed frustration with lack of legal action against cases of desecration and vandalism of sacred places.

Even as the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a statement condemning the September 20 desecration and vandalism of a Catholic shrine in Israel, some people criticized the statement’s “weak language” and asked, “How long will we be tolerant?”

“Unfortunately, in these situations we feel how vulnerable we are,” one person wrote on Facebook.

The latest incident took place on September 19 at St Stephen Church inside the Beit Jamal Salesian monastery west of Jerusalem. The monastery is open for visitors and generally has good relations with its Jewish neighbours, including the residents of an ultra-Orthodox town, said Salesian Father Antonio Scudu, caretaker of the church. Pilgrims to the church discovered the vandalism, which included a shattered statue of Mary, broken faces of figures on the stained-glass windows, and a destroyed cross.

More here-

A Temple Called Alaska

From The Living Church-

Soon after he became the eighth Bishop of Alaska in 2010, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime began lobbying to host one of the semi-annual meetings of the House of Bishops.

A new presiding bishop took office in 2015, and Lattime told TLC how thrilled he was when, “as soon as Michael Curry was elected, not long after that, he said, ‘You know what? We’re going to come to Alaska.’”

About 115 bishops from all corners of the church gathered in Fairbanks Sept. 21-26 to bless the land, visit far-flung churches, and conduct the business of the church. Many brought their spouses.

The twin themes of the meeting were racial reconciliation and the environment, and Lattime told Episcopal News Service that Alaska was the perfect location: “This is your laboratory to experience that and see that.”

More here-

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dubai bucks church decline trend

From Premier-

A double ordination at a church in Dubai has highlighted how the oil-rich city is bucking a trend of congregation decline seen in other developed countries.

Two clergy members were welcomed into new ministry positions at Christ Church in Jebal Ali during a service also said to confirm "warm" ties between authorities and the Anglican Church.

Charlotte Lloyd-Evans and Hin Lai Ching were ordained as a deacon and a priest respectively, in the presence of Minister of State for Tolerance, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi.

Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf Rt Rev Michael Lewis told the Anglican Communion News Service the presence of Sheikha Lubna "is further evidence of, the warm relationship and mutual respect that exists between the authorities in the UAE and the Anglican church."

Church leaders say the growing clergy team at Christ Church reflects expansion of the Church throughout the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

More here-

When Dorothy Day took a knee

From American Magazine-

Ammon Hennacy, a courageous activist who joined the Catholic Worker in the 1950s, said he was inspired to become a Catholic by the example of Dorothy Day. Specifically, he referred to an occasion during Mass when the organist began to play “The Star Spangled Banner.” As everyone else stood up, Dorothy dropped to her knees in prayer. Dorothy did not like that story; she did not think that was the right reason to become a Catholic. But she did not dispute Ammon’s account. In his view, Dorothy’s action represented a courageous repudiation of the blurring of cross and flag (and sword) that went all the way back to Constantine.

I thought of Dorothy when I saw images of N.F.L. players “taking a knee” in protest during pre-game renditions of the national anthem this past weekend. Of course, the context is very different. Possibly, the players, who were protesting racism and making a gesture of defiance against a president’s provocative appeals to white nationalist grievance, did not exactly think that they were “praying.” But the symbolism of dropping to a knee in the midst of a patriotic ceremony would not be lost on Dorothy. Though not really a football fan, she would surely have understood and honored their protest.

More here-

The Mainliner Who Made Me More Evangelical

From Christianity Today-

Years ago, I found myself sitting at the dinner table of one of my literary heroes, Wendell Berry, on his farm in Henry County, Kentucky.

At the end of the evening, Berry made it clear it was time for me to go by saying something along the lines of, “Well, it’s been good to have you.” I couldn’t leave, though, without telling the agrarian novelist and poet how much his writing had meant to me—while attempting to sound like a Christian academic rather than a giddy fanboy. His response was less a thank-you than a benediction.

“Isn’t it something, how we get what we need at just the right time?” he said. “The right book comes along at just the right time. The right friend comes along at just the right time. The right conversation comes along at just the right time. It’s grace.”

His words left me bursting with gratitude, but not only—or even primarily—for Berry. As I left his farm, I couldn’t help thinking of two authors who came along right when I needed them: C. S. Lewis and Frederick Buechner.

More here-

Bishops close meeting in Alaska with letter urging ‘prayerful listening’ on race, environment, poverty

From ENS-

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops approved a letter to the church on Sept. 26 invoking the bishops’ experiences in Alaska listening to the stories of the state’s indigenous people, and they called on Episcopalians to join them in working toward environmental and racial justice.
The letter was the capstone of the bishops’ six-day fall meeting, held in Fairbanks but incorporating a weekend of travel far beyond this small city. Across Alaska’s vast Interior, groups of bishops visited Native communities that are struggling to preserve the subsistence way of life they have followed for thousands of years.

The threats to that way of life are many, though Native residents specifically voiced concerns to the bishops about climate change and the impact of the resource-extraction industry.
“The bishops of the Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the Earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness,” the message. Alluding to Ephesians 2:19,  the message continues, “The residents of Interior Alaska whom we met not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.”

More here-

2017 Fall House of Bishops, Day 6

From Bishop Martins-

No dramatic or particularly compelling photo ops today. What you're looking at here is a fuzzy shot of the Rev. Robert Williams of the United Methodist Church, who flew all the way out from Philadelphia to advocate for the emerging full-communion agreement between the UMC and the Episcopal Church. This matter won't come before General Convention until 2021, but its proponents are doing all they can to get it on everyone's radar.

I'm of a double mind on this. I have a deep personal commitment to ecumenism. Reconciliation and unity are of the essence of the gospel. The way the proposal is being framed is that we are being asked to recognize one another as churches, and hence, one another's members and ministries. There is no assertion that we are to agree on every point of faith and practice. That said, I stumble over the Methodists' use of grape juice rather than wine in the Eucharist. That may seem like a picayunish detail, but it's not, particularly in view of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral's articulation of the use of "the elements ordained by [Christ]" when it lays out the benchmarks for Anglican ecumenical discussions.

More here-

On the making of prayer books

From The Living Church-

One of my favorite things about the Anglican prayer book tradition, at least as it appears today, is the relative freedom of its texts. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer exists in officially authorized forms, of course, thanks to the oversight of the Custodian. But the texts may be freely and licitly copied, adapted, reprinted, set to music, or what have you, without any fear of copyright infringement or unofficial censure by the liturgical mafia. I do not know if this has always been the case, or if it is simply more visibly the case in this age of digital media. In comparison, the Roman Catholic liturgical world is plagued by copyright issues on official text translations, leaving the impression, especially regarding music, that anyone wishing to make creative offerings for the liturgy must submit to the governing intelligentsia.

The free availability of texts, however, does not mean that texts are freely available in useful forms. Church Publishing, the official book production arm of the Episcopal Church, does an excellent job of making prayer books and hymnals. This would be sufficient, perhaps, in an earlier age of prayer book use, but it falls short in the post-1979 liturgical scene. Earlier prayer books, like the American 1928 book, contained almost everything needed for a normal Sunday or feast day liturgy. Most importantly, the lections of the day were printed with the other propers. The 1979 book, with its sprawling devotion to new resources (including the sacred triduum, a triumph of the Oxford Movement if there ever was one), cut these out in the interest of space. What remains is a liturgical resource more than a Book of Common Prayer proper; to use the 1979 prayer book requires other books in almost every instance.

More here-

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Conservatives accuse the Pope of spreading heresy

From CNN-

Several dozen conservative Catholic scholars and clergy have charged Pope Francis with spreading heresy, a bold but perhaps futile salvo against Francis and his reform-minded papacy.

The widely publicized, theologically dense letter was delivered to the Pope with 40 signatures on August 11, according to its organizers. It has since gained 22 more signatures and was released to the public on Saturday. In a press release, the organizers say they speak for "a large number" of clergy and lay Catholics who "lack freedom of speech."

The letter does not accuse the Pope himself of being a heretic, but of supporting "heretical positions" on "marriage, the moral life and the Eucharist."

Francis has not responded to the letter publicly and the Vatican declined to comment.

More here-

Special message from Bishop Rafael Morales of Puerto Rico

From Puerto Rico via the Cafe-

No text just video.

Alaska Native villages struggling to preserve way of life offer warm welcome to Episcopal bishops

From ENS-

Sunrise in Fairbanks was 7:40 a.m. on Sept. 23, but Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime had an unnegotiable command for his fellow bishops: Don’t be late.

They weren’t. Beating the sun by 10 minutes, they boarded the bus for the airport at 7:30 a.m. sharp, bringing with them their rochets and chimeres, their boxes of food to give to the villagers they were to meet and their personal expectations for what awaited them in Alaska’s northern Interior.

Bishop Prince Singh of the Diocese of Rochester in New York was in good spirits on the bus. Some of his thoughts turned to his previous missionary work in the poor southern region of India. His group of bishops was headed this day for Arctic Village, where families of Native Alaskans on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge still survive largely on hunting and fishing.

At the airport office of Northern Alaska Tour Company and Arctic Air, Bishop Greg Brewer of the Diocese of Central Florida took his turn as the bishops placed their travel bags on a scale to be weighed: a five-pound backpack here, a 10-pound duffel there.

More here-

Church used unemployment scam to stoke funds, ex-members say

From AP (North Carolina)-

When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.

To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue contributing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”

Fields and 10 other former congregants told The Associated Press that they and dozens of employees who were church members filed bogus claims at Word of Faith Fellowship leaders’ direction, and said they had been interviewed at length about the false claims by investigators with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

More here-

The Body in Early Monasticism

From Church Life-

Many critics of early Church monasticism will point to Manichean and dualistic tendencies in the teachings and practices of these desert fathers and mothers. The shift from eremitic to cenobitic monasticism after the time of Antony, initiated by figures like Pachomios and Basil, could be seen as a reaction against these dualistic tendencies. Meanwhile, others may view this shift as part of a continuous process of refinement and clarification of the ever-present tension between body and soul. Still, others will insist that the phenomenon of voluntary celibacy as a whole is inconsistent with the Gospel’s anthropology. Contemporary writers continue to attempt to reconcile the at times conflicting relationship between the body and soul, and its implications for the relationship between marriage and celibacy, prayer and work, and Church and world. This essay will consider the development of Christian asceticism in the early Church and will evaluate its consistency with the moral implications of the Incarnation.

More here-

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Case For "The Case For Christ" And Other Christian-Themed Films

From Forbes-

Movie review web sites are an important tool for my family in deciding whether a film is worth the time and money to watch. But this strategy has its limits. Take the example of Christian-themed films. If I visit a film review site and the critics’ reviews are somewhere around 30% positive, but the reviews from people who actually watched the film are in the vicinity of 80% or more positive, the pattern is clear: The film is conservative and/or Christian, and I can’t really trust the negative reviews. God's Not Dead got a critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 19%, but an audience rating of 76%.  I've seen God's Not Dead and it doesn't remotely deserve the trashing that it got from critics.

This pattern of bias makes it all the more impressive that The Case for Christ has a Rotten Tomatoes score of almost 55%: That means that it was good enough to overcome the cultural biases of the movie mandarin class. And the film deserves its high critic and audience scores. It's theologically informative without being didactic, which is to say that it is a story which carries a message, instead of being a message with a story wrapped around it for delivery purposes. The story and the message are both true to life as well as true to Life. It tells the story of Lee Strobel, investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune and angry atheist. At least, he became angry after his wife converted to Christianity. He set out to de-convert her by disproving the story of the resurrection of Jesus. What Strobel found as he systematically combed through the forensic and eyewitness evidence, was that the deeper in he got, the more plausible the story became. When he was done, he was forced, reluctantly, to acknowledge that according to the evidence the Resurrection actually occurred. He concluded that Jesus had indeed come back to life.

More here-

110 Anglican churches closed in Wales in 10 years

From Wales-

More than 10 Anglican churches a year are closing Wales, figures have shown.

Data from the Church in Wales showed 115 churches have closed over a 10-year period, about 8% of the total, with 1,319 still in use.

There are currently 11 properties advertised for sale on the church's website.

The Church in Wales said closures were a "significant issue" and while the sale rate had stayed steady, it was unlikely to slow down.

Head of property, Alex Glanville, said there was a move to take a regional look at churches rather than let each one deal with the issue on its own.

More here-

2017 Fall House of Bishops, Day 4

From Dan Martins-

This being the Lord's Day, the morning was dedicated to worship. The visiting bishops and spouses were divided between (read: crammed into) three churches in the greater Fairbanks area. I was part of the group that attended St Matthew's, which was walking distance from the hotel, and which observed its patronal feast day today. The Presiding Bishop preached and the Bishop of Alaska celebrated. We were welcomed with over-the-top hospitality, and the entire occasion was altogether lively.

Shortly thereafter, we boarded buses and rode south and west on the highway toward Anchorage for about an hour, ending up at the village of Nenana, one of the 42 native villages in the interior of Alaska, and among those in which the Episcopal Church has been the major ecclesial presence and influence. There we were treated to a traditional potlatch, as the guests of honor. Feeding a couple of hundred guests in a room (the tribal hall) not designed to accommodate nearly that many was a feat of true logistical legerdemain. We were asked to remain seated--just in chairs, not at tables--while the young people of the community served a multi-course meal, the centerpiece of which was roast moose. (We were told that three animals were harvested for this occasion.) There were speeches galore by all sorts of tribal and ecclesiastical dignitaries, and lots of traditional singing and dancing, to the compelling beat of drums.

More here-

An Apology for theology

From The Living Church-

As a discipline, theology is under pressure from just about every direction. Some of those pressures — the most obvious and certainly the most understandable — come from beyond the Christian community. For the majority of nonreligious women and men, theology is an irrelevant, though perhaps otherwise innocuous, preoccupation of the pious. It may have a place in a church or monastery, but it is best left out of public discourse and institutions. Once the “Queen of the Sciences” — locating all the other subjects in relation to their divine origin and final purpose — theology has largely been replaced by a more modest program of religious studies in universities and otherwise sequestered to Sunday schools and seminaries.

For atheists of a more militant persuasion, theology is not only irrelevant but harmful to one’s health. It is the ideological underpinning to humanity’s greatest captivity. By it, human beings rob themselves of their best attributes, ascribing them to some remote deity rather than to themselves. “To enrich God, man must become poor; that God may be all, man must be nothing.”[1] The atheist of this school thus recommends a cynical inversion of John the Baptist’s confession (John 3:30); God must decrease that we might increase.

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bishops visit Alaska, bless land, people

From Fairbanks-

Prayers were offered to bless Alaska, its people and wildlife, Saturday afternoon at the site of the ramshackle gold dredge near Chatanika Lodge.

More than 25 Episcopal bishops, clad in vibrant red chimeres and white rochets, stood in a half moon formation facing the dredge as they recited their prayers. The bishops had come from all corners of the U.S. and their wives were in attendance too.

Among them was Bishop Arthur Williams, of the Ohio Diocese, from Cleveland.

“These days we use the word ‘awesome’ a lot,” Williams said. “I have a deeper understanding of the awesomeness of God and his creations after driving from Anchorage and seeing Denali.”

Williams explained how twice a year the Episcopal bishops gather for missionary work, often going to “far flung” areas of the country. Different groups of bishops also performed blessings in Eagle, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Arctic Village, Beaver, Allakaket and Huslia. 

More here-

US Episcopal Church Loses Nearly 35,000 Members in 1 Year

From Christian Post-

The Episcopal Church in the U.S. lost nearly 35,000 members last year, according to figures released this week by the denomination which has been on a decline for about a decade.

The number of active members of TEC decreased by 34,179 in 2016, according to the statistics released. In 2015, the denomination lost 37,669 members. The average Sunday worship attendance also decreased by 9,327 last year.

"The 2016 data reflects a continuation of recent trends, although rates of decline in such key figures as Average Sunday Attendance have decreased," Canon Michael Barlowe, executive officer of TEC's general convention, says in the report.

However, the figures note that the rate of decline is slowing, and, "Overall, congregational income through pledges and other offerings has remained constant."

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Bishops visit Alaska, bless land, people

From Alaska-

Prayers were offered to bless Alaska, its people and wildlife, Saturday afternoon at the site of the ramshackle gold dredge near Chatanika Lodge.

More than 25 Episcopal bishops, clad in vibrant red chimeres and white rochets, stood in a half moon formation facing the dredge as they recited their prayers. The bishops had come from all corners of the U.S. and their wives were in attendance too.

Among them was Bishop Arthur Williams, of the Ohio Diocese, from Cleveland.

“These days we use the word ‘awesome’ a lot,” Williams said. “I have a deeper understanding of the awesomeness of God and his creations after driving from Anchorage and seeing Denali.”

Williams explained how twice a year the Episcopal bishops gather for missionary work, often going to “far flung” areas of the country. Different groups of bishops also performed blessings in Eagle, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Arctic Village, Beaver, Allakaket and Huslia. 

More here-

I’m a Christian, but I’m Not Interested in Living “Biblically”

From Patheos-

For those of us who were raised in Christianity, growing up we were often taught the importance of developing a “biblical” worldview and living “biblically.” Even as our childhoods come to a close, we’re often told that we should go to specific Christian schools or colleges so that we can prepare for the workforce while also solidifying that “biblical” world view we’re supposed to carry with us through life.

I see and hear the term every day in a variety of contexts.


It’s as if the term “biblical” is some code-word that signifies rightness, correctness, or purity, in a way that nothing else can. It’s as if there is no higher authority, that the “name above all names” to distinguish right from wrong, is “biblical.”


2017 Fall House of Bishops, Day 3

From Bishop Martins-

Here's the lovely Lady Brenda, along with Alaska's own Bishop Mark Lattime, boarding our principal mode of transportation today. It took us, along with the Presiding Bishop and his right-hand man Canon Michael Hunn, the Bishop of Wyoming and his wife, and the Bishop of Vermont and his wife, to the village of Fort Yukon, a little more than an hour north from Fairbanks by air (and well inside the Arctic Circle). This was but one piece of a large "apostolic progression" of bishops into several communities in the interior of Alaska. (Bishop Lattime, by the way, travels this way all the time; most of the places he visits can't be driven to.)

A word about the history of Christianity in Alaska is in order. The gospel was first brought to this part of the world by Russian Orthodox missionaries in the eighteenth century. But they tended to concentrate on the coastal areas and not pay much attention to the interior. It was other mainline churches--generally Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican--that were hugely successful in evangelizing the native peoples of the interior in the nineteenth century. But since, in that era, churches were expected to take responsibility for hospitals and schools, the churches prudently decided not to compete with one another, and divvied up the territory. The sprawling plain known as the Yukon Flats became an Episcopalian enclave.

More here-