Saturday, March 17, 2018

A model settlement: The wise resolution of a church property dispute

From Pittsburgh-

This week the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and nine churches that broke away from the diocese in 2008 finally settled their differences over property rights, and they did so in a refreshingly evenhanded way.

Pittsburgh was the center of a national debate about orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church that had been brewing for years. When the national church named an openly gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire in 2004, the Pittsburgh diocese and many of its members objected and began the process of splitting into two separate dioceses. 

The agreement that the Episcopalians and the breakaway Anglican Church of North America announced allows the nine churches to continue their ministry in the buildings they currently occupy. The parishes continue as title holders to their property, while the Episcopal Diocese retains its role as legal beneficiary. The nine will pay annual fees to the Episcopal Diocese for the use of the properties and will not be able to sell their properties without approval.

More here-

Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor

From World-

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A private Turkish media outlet reported the news Tuesday after getting a look at the indictment. Prosecutors must win approval from a court before they can pursue the case. Andrew Brunson, who has pastored a church in Turkey for 23 years, has been jailed since October 2016. The indictment reportedly charges Brunson with being a member of and leading a terror organization. Turkish government officials accuse him of having ties to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in Pennsylvania. U.S. officials have denied Turkish requests to extradite Gulen, who denies involvement in the failed coup. 

Brunson also denies any involvement in the coup, as well as any links to Gulen. Erdogan has offered to free Brunson in exchange for Gulen. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the indictment, urging the Trump administration to redouble its efforts to secure Brunson’s freedom. “No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American,” USCIRF Vice Chairwomen Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga said in a statement. “We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.”

More here-

Friday, March 16, 2018

National Council of Churches Announces April 4th A.C.T. to End Racism Rally on National Mall

From PRN-

Today, the National Council of Churches (NCC) announced plans to hold a rally to end racism on the National Mall on April 4. The A.C.T. to End Racism Rally is the starting point of a multi-year effort, launched by NCC, to remove racism from the nation's social fabric and bring the country together.

In remembrance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who inspired and challenged America to confront and put an end to racism, the rally will take place on the day the nation marks 50 years since his assassination. "We have for too long lived under the scourge of racism in our society. To begin the process of healing our nation, we as Christians must join with people of all faiths in holding ourselves accountable for our complicity, and commit to righting the wrongs," said Jim Winkler, president of NCC.

NCC and its coalition of over 50 partners recognize that the faith community and those of moral conscience have a specific responsibility to address and eliminate racism, but also unique gifts that enable them to do so. "As we look at our society today, it is painfully evident that the soul of our nation needs healing. We must not only pray, but take concrete action to realize and achieve racial and social justice, and we cannot possibly put an end to racism unless we commit to change at all levels — including within the faith community," said  Bishop W. Darin Moore, chair of the Governing Board for NCC.

More here-

Lambeth Conference 2020 theme unveiled

From ACNS-

The theme for the Lambeth Conference in 2020 is to be “God’s Church for God’s World: walking, listening and witnessing together”. Details have been announced on a new webpage which went live today. A more detailed website is being designed and will go live later this year.

The Lambeth Conference will take place from 24 July to 3 August in 2020 at the University of Kent in Canterbury. More than 900 bishops from around the world will be invited to attend, along with their spouses.

Conference CEO Phil George said the new webpage was a sign that momentum was building.

More here-

Jacob and the angel, as told by the angel

From Christian Century-

In the beginning, when I was first making appearances to mortals, most of them died before I could speak the first word of truth. Just from the sight of me—they fell right over. Great burly men and women too, not like the kind you see nowadays. I mean, real antediluvian hulks with chests the size of wine barrels and legs like cedar trunks. Their consciences would seize right up; they were that certain I’d come to find them out. And they’d give up the ghost—practically flung the ghost right at me—rather than listen to a word of what I had to say.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and the distribution and installation of wisdom is the task with which all powers and principalities have been charged, not excepting myself. Fear being the operative word, and not panic, which is why most of us have learned to start each incident log with a command like “Fear not,” or “Dread not,” or “Be thou not dismayed,” or some other variation thereof; most people are full of the beginning of wisdom already, and appearing before them without some form of reassurance is liable to result in total system overload, followed shortly by shutdown.

More here-

Difficult But Necessary Work: A Lay Leader’s #metoo Reflection

From The House of Deputies-

My #metoo Lenten reflection begins before I became Episcopalian. My father is from Mexico and my mother is European-American. I was raised by my mother’s family, a large working class Catholic family, in the Archdiocese of Chicago in the 1980’s. My home parish was affected by the sexual abuse of priests as well as the school principal. Perhaps because of this context, from a very young age while I deeply loved the church, I also knew that it was not always a safe place. Regardless, I was committed to my church and as involved as they would allow me to be. I was an altar girl, pre-school Sunday school teacher, and I took my first paid job working in the parish office. At the age of 15, I gave birth to a baby that I placed for adoption, an open adoption that continues to this day. At the very moment he took his first breath and stretched out his tiny newborn hand, I was stuck with a powerful spiritual experience that I can only liken to Saul on the road to Damascus. Over the next several decades, until the writing of this very reflection, I would begin to hide the nature of this event by simply calling it a “spiritual awakening.”

This event, or spiritual awakening, led me to look for Jesus outside of my home church. I spent a brief few years as a born-again Evangelical Christian with a strong testimony in my pregnancy and birth story. During this time I was accepted into a prestigious Christian faith-based college where I just knew that God had amazing things planned for me. Through my unbridled excitement, I allowed myself to become naive enough to believe that I would be safe among my peers.

More here-

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Christian leaders in US oppose plan to tax church-owned property in Jerusalem

From CWR-

Prominent Christian leaders in America co-signed a letter Tuesday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat asking them to reconsider a proposed plan to tax church-owned properties in the city.

Currently, properties owned by churches are not taxed.

In the March 13 letter, the leaders warned that the policies would “severely inhibit” the work of the churches in and around Jerusalem, and would disrupt the Status Quo policy.

“If enacted, these measures would have the effect of creating a situation that jeopardizes the very survival of the Christian community in the Holy Land,” they said.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

More here-


From The Tablet-

The Church of England was “naive and uncritical” when in came to abuses of power by clergy, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

On day eight of a three-week hearing on the Anglican church as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Lord Williams of Oystermouth said that a mindset in which the authority of an ordained minister was thought to be “beyond criticism” was a “definitely a problem” when it came to preventing abuse.

“So much of this turns on how we understand the exercise of power in the Church, in which we have often been in the past — myself included — na├»ve and uncritical,” he admitted. “It did take us an unconscionably long time for us to really focus on the need of the complainant and the proper care,” he told the inquiry.

He added that this “top down model of authority” leaves “little mental or spiritual space for a victim to speak out in the confidence that they will be heard”.

Even when the Church did begin to act, such as in a review of past cases a decade ago, it only “skimmed the surface”, and failed to do justice to the perspective of victims, he said.

More here-

also here-

Outrage as a crucified Star Wars Stormtrooper hangs in an Anglican church for an art display about the fight 'against the dark side'

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department-

A crucified Star Wars Stormtrooper on display at a historic London church has been granted a stay of execution after it caused a stir among parishioners.

Artist Ryan Callanan created the ‘controversial’ statue, which shows a fictional Star Wars soldier hanging on a life-sized cross.

It was due to be unveiled today as the centrepiece of the Art Below’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ exhibition held inside the London-based church.

A priest arrived yesterday to decide whether to tear down the statue, after parishioners attending St Stephen Walbrook church in Central London complained to the rector, Reverend Jonathan Evens.
Read more:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

'We beg forgiveness'‚ says Archbishop Makgoba as SA author accuses priests of abuse

From South Africa-

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said on Tuesday that he took responsibility for cases of abuse within the Anglican Church‚ even when it happened under the watch of his predecessors.

He was speaking after award-winning author Ishtiyaq Shukri issued a statement earlier this month that detailed years of abuse at the hands of priests in Kimberley.

Shukri’s revelation came in the wake of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s resignation as an ambassador for Oxfam amid a sex scandal that has rocked the international aid organisation.

Shukri said this resignation was hypocritical because Tutu had been silent on sex scandals in the church.

More here-

Do these images prove that early Christianity had FEMALE priests? Vatican unveils frescoes hinting that women held power in the early Church

From The Daily Mail-

Newly restored Italian frescoes have revealed what could have been women priests in the early Christian Church.

The frescoes, dating back to between 230 to 240 AD, are housed inside the Catacombs of Priscilla of Rome and were unveiled by the Vatican this week.

Proponents of a female priesthood have said that the frescoes prove there were women priests in early Christianity. 

The Vatican, however, has responded by saying that such assertions are sensationalist 'fairy tales'.

Dug out from the second to fifth centuries, the Catacombs of Priscilla are a complex labyrinth of underground burial chambers stretching eight miles beneath the northern half of the city.

More here-

What the Museum of the Bible Conveys about Biblical Scholarship Behind Church Doors

From Religion and Politics-

In spite of these critiques, representatives of the museum continue to insist that the MOTB is neutral—an enterprise that promotes study of the Bible in a merely educational, if entertaining, way. When asked how the MOTB reconciles its relationship with CTS in light of its own identification as religiously unaffiliated, MOTB Director of Communications Jeremy Burton stated, “These promotional opportunities have not changed the mission or the non-sectarian approach of the museum.”

What I observed at Southern Hills Baptist Church, though, was a public event that betrayed a private purpose. I had made my way to the church that morning out of curiosity, sparked by a local news article. I wondered: What would MOTB officials say when they thought no one else was listening? What I saw was an attempt to define, appropriate, and paradoxically combat my academic field of inquiry—biblical studies—the very field that the MOTB has claimed its aims are consistent with and some of whose eminent participants the MOTB has managed to recruit as paid advisors and consultants.

I suspect that those scholars would recoil at the way in which McAfee, followed by Johnston, framed the MOTB and the academic guild of biblical studies.

More here-


From Erik Parker-

“You give us hope for the future.”

The first time I heard those words, I was 23 years old and in seminary. A group of us had travelled 7 hours, from the prairies to the mountains, to attend a study conference for pastors and other church professionals. We were a group of 20 and 30 somethings, all Masters of Divinity students already having bachelor’s degrees and work experience, but compared to the average age of pastors in the mainline, we may as well have been teenagers. So we probably seemed like a group of disruptive students crashing a conference for older folks.

But instead of being grumpy with us or giving us glares (as church folk can sometimes be guilty of doing with young noise makers), we were heartily welcomed by our future colleagues. Our relative energy and enthusiasm seemed to bring them some life and excitement.

And that is when it started happening. Sometimes one or more elder colleagues would sidle up to us and say things like, “You all give me hope for the church’s future” or “You make me feel better about the future.”

More here-

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trusted accountant stole thousands from congregation

From Bethlehem-

Authorities have launched an investigation after a parishioner at a local church admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from the congregation, according to the priest in charge.

Officials at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral at 35 S. Franklin St. on Sunday handed out letters to the congregation informing members about the theft, the Rev. Brian Pavlac said Monday.

The parishioner is a certified public accountant who was responsible for handling donations to the church, he said.

“We trusted him to be part of our financial system,” the Rev. Pavlac said.

Instead, the accountant has admitted to church officials that he stole at least $10,000 — and “probably more,” he said. The Rev. Pavlac said the accountant told him why he stole the money but the priest declined to publicly announce the reason.

More here-

Abp Hiltz: “There will always be a relationship between the Church of Canada and Cuba”

From ACNS-

The Anglican Church of Canada will continue to have some sort of a relationship with the church in Cuba even if – as appears likely – it becomes a diocese of the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC), says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

TEC’s General Convention is expected to vote this July on a resolution to reintegrate the Episcopal Church in Cuba after the Cuban church voted to return to TEC three years ago. The resolution, drafted by a task force on reintegration set up by TEC and composed of members both of the Episcopal and the Cuban church, seems likely to pass, Hiltz said in an interview on Monday (5 March).

“I think all the indicators are that the task force . . . are supporting – and wholeheartedly supporting – the reintegration, and the resolution that they’ve drafted, which has several parts, speaks very clearly of wanting to move ahead with this,” said Hiltz, who attended the Cuban church’s annual synod in February. “Like any resolution, there’s never a guarantee that it’s going to pass; I’m anticipating it will pass.”

More here-

Blue’s Clues: Blogging my way through General Convention resolutions

From Scott Gunn-

If you are a church geek, I have good news. This blog is about to begin an epic exploration of resolutions proposed for action by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, set to take place in Austin, TX this July. As long-time readers will know, this is not my first time at this particular rodeo (hey, I’m trying to enjoy the Texas milieu).

As you may know, the official reports of official committees and such are put in a book colloquially called the Blue Book. In the past, it has not always been blue. More recently, it’s not always clear it’s going to be a book. This time, I believe it will be both blue and a book. You can also read everything online. (This page has links to various General Convention resources, including the online resolutions.)

In 2012, my series was titled simply, “Blogging Blue.” Last General Convention, in 2015, my series was called “Tangled Up in Blue.” This time, I crowdsourced the name on Facebook. A couple of people suggested “Blue’s Clues,” a name I had already been thinking about. Lisa Barrowclough was the first to suggest it, so email me, and you can collect a prize. I’ll send Lisa a copy of the newly published book I co-authored with Melody Wilson Shobe, Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices.

More here-

Paedophile priests continued to lead services amid poor monitoring, hearing told

From Premier-

"Toothless" monitoring of convicted paedophile priests meant they were able to continue leading Anglican Church services even after being banned from doing so, an inquiry heard.

Bishop Wallace Parke Benn told the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse the Rev Roy Cotton was restricted from public ministry to avoid contact with children but it was "difficult" to enforce.

Fiona Scolding QC, the lead lawyer for the Anglican strand of the inquiry, is examining how the Church of England handled allegations of sexual misconduct stretching back to the 1950s, first focusing on the Diocese of Chichester.

She questioned the former Bishop of Lewes at the public hearing in London on Monday over paedophile priests Roy Cotton, his friend Colin Pritchard, Gordon Rideout, Jonathan Graves and Robert Coles - who all operated in the Diocese.

Ms Golding described the sanctions imposed on them as a "stern telling off" rather than anything more substantial.

Bishop Benn, who served from 1997 to 2012, said he had "inherited" a paedophile ring when he took his role in East Sussex and that "hindsight was a blessed thing" when questioned before chairman Alexis Jay and her panel.

More here-

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Church of George Washington and Robert E. Lee Struggles With History

From Christian Post-

The suburban Washington church known for its historical ties to George Washington and Robert E. Lee made headlines last year when it decided to remove monuments of the country's first president and the controversial Confederate general.

Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, sits prominently a block off King Street, the main thoroughfare, on Washington Street (how appropriate!) in the city's Old Town district. Nearby you find a mixture of colonial and faux colonial architecture intermixed with 19th century townhomes and some modern edifices. The architectural styles vary, but brick is predominant.

This gives the city a charming appearance, much like Georgetown but with slightly more affordable real estate and considerably better public schools than the nation's capital.

Designed by the architect James Wren, of no relation to the considerably more famous Sir Christopher Wren, Christ Church was built between 1765 and 1773. Back then it was a parish of the Church of England, when the established church of the mother country was also established in Virginia and some of the other original 13 colonies.

As such, it epitomizes the stereotype that many have of the Episcopal Church — you know, the church of presidents and the establishment. While that was true once upon a time, Episcopalians today are increasingly uncomfortable with their history, particularly against the intersectionality that dominates Mainline Protestant denominations.

More here-

Neighboring congregations support exiled church’s return to Newport Beach campus

From Orange County-

Members of neighboring Episcopal congregations said during an emotional public forum Saturday morningMarch 10, in Laguna Hills that they would like to see St. James the Great Episcopal Church return to the building on Via Lido in Newport Beach.

Members of the 72-year-old Newport Beach congregation have managed to stay and worship together in the last three years, since June 2015, when they were evicted by then-Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who determined the church wasn’t financially viable, and decided to sell that piece of prime real estate to a developer who wanted to build luxury condominiums on it.

But, that sale fell through and Bruno was disciplined by the national church last year following a misconduct hearing where he faced allegations that his conduct with regard to St. James was “unbecoming of a member of the clergy.”

Bruno retired in November and was succeeded by the Most Rev. John Taylor, who presided over Saturday’s public hearing — the goal of which was to get input from other Episcopal churches in the area about reinstating St. James as a congregation within the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, and to find out if there really is a need for one more Episcopal church in that part of Orange County.

At the hearing were also members of the diocese’s Standing Committee, who are set to make a recommendation after their March 21 meeting regarding whether St. James congregants should return to their home church in Newport Beach.

More here-

Sunday, March 11, 2018

So You Want Millennials In Your Church?

From Dallas-

1) Take your liturgy seriously

If Millennials do not get the idea that the Holy Eucharist on Sunday morning is the source and summit of Christian worship on earth, they won’t be coming back, especially since we spend so much time on it! The “main event” in our service is not preaching, nor music, nor fellowship, crucial as these are.

I was recently having a conversation with a Millennial who told me he wanted to leave his church, and I asked him why. “Our priest is way too casual about the service, “ he said. “It just seemed like he didn’t care about the ritual and tried way too hard to dumb it down and make it ‘user friendly.’” He said it felt disrespectful, dishonoring to Jesus.

The holy sacrifice of the Eucharist joins us to the worship of heaven, with angels and archangels. If our altar party isn’t there to offer God their selves, souls, and bodies, Millennials will know, and they won’t put up with it. If your preaching has no urgency, if you’re cavalier about your music, if your chalice bearers are wearing purple flip flops…you’re guaranteeing Millennial disinterest.

Our generation was raised to believe that we could create ourselves ex nihilo, that we are the sum of our desires, ambitions, and deepest longings. That our projections on social media have metaphysical significance. Liturgy is the wake-up call, the antidote, theno. It reminds us that we aren't "self-made men," and it connects us to the Transcendent. Our tradition can do for Millennials what the big box megachurches could never do. Lean into it.

2) Don’t assume that making the Church “contemporary” (whatever that means) will automatically attract Millennials.

More here-

Thinking about ordination? Think again.

From The Word Made Fresh-

Dear person who is feeling a call to pastor,

If you’re seriously considering becoming a pastor, think again.

Entering this ministry will be one of the hardest things you will ever do. You are signing up for the possibility of working incredibly long hours and will need to develop and maintain safe boundaries both for yourself and your community. If you’re lucky you’ll be paid. If you’re really lucky you’ll be paid enough to support yourself and your family (if you have one). You will have to manage unrealistic expectations from every direction, including within, and you will have to say “no” sometimes. You will encounter incredibly difficult personalities who will project onto you every grievance they have towards God. You will think about quitting once a month and at some point it might become a weekly consideration. 

You’ll encounter the shadow side of the Church – the place where sexism, classism, racism, homophobia, and general human brokenness lurk (to varying degrees depending on where you serve). You’ll be tempted towards snark over vulnerability and stubbornness over conversion. You will have your strength and patience tested far beyond anything you have faced. You will have the button of your deepest insecurity pressed over and over again. You’ll be made to feel insignificant by the shear size of it all. You will feel a deep sense of loneliness sometimes. You will have friends who will walk away from you… and it will hurt. You will disappoint people. You will disappoint yourself. You will feel constrained by the vows you take upon yourself. You will give your life to it and wonder if it makes any difference at all. You will encounter unspeakable pain and you will cry many tears.

More here-

The Last Temptation How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory

From Atlantic-

One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.

Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.

More here-

Spring 2018 House of Bishops, Day 4

From Dan Martins-

... and another one is in the books. Here I am with my table mates. We've been together since the meeting right here at Camp Allen two years ago, and will remain together through General Convention, after which we will get shuffled and re-dealt.

This meeting is a day shorter than has been the case for several years--four full days instead of five. The compressed schedule is more demanding, to be sure, with less down time for rest or recreation. But, on balance, I prefer it. I am especially grateful not to be here over a Sunday.

The Eucharist this morning (straight Rite II, Prayer C) was celebrated by the Presiding Bishop. The preacher was Jeff Fisher, Bishop Suffragan of Texas. He did a fine job. I always enjoy hearing other bishops preach to bishops. They invariably bring their lives and ministries to the task in ways that their hearers can readily identify with.

More here-