Saturday, April 28, 2018

A. Theodore Eastman, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, dies at 89

From The Washington Post-

A. Theodore Eastman, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland from 1986 until he retired in 1994 and whose moderate stances on social issues, including gay rights, made him a transitional figure within the church, died April 26 at a hospital in Arlington, Va. He was 89.

The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease, said a daughter, Anne Eastman Rosenbaum.

Bishop Eastman recognized that he presided at a time of difficulty for his church, noting in a 1993 interview that his leadership was marked by “fractious criticism, flagging confidence and fluctuating morale.”

He told the Baltimore Sun in 1994 that he viewed his role as being “a unifying force” in a diocese of more than 100 congregations and 23 schools in 10 counties in Western, Central and Southern Maryland. At the time, the Episcopal Church was struggling over internal debates about the acceptance of LGBT members and the ordination of gay and female priests, “so I felt tension of trying to hold people with different points of view together,” Bishop Eastman said.

More here-

The Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols has been elected the IX Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem

From The Diocese of Bethlehem-

The results of each ballot at the Special Electing Convention for the IX Bishop of Bethlehem

Results of the first ballot: The Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols has been elected the IX Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem

The Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols The Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley
Lay 47 45
Clergy 43 28

In the lay order, 92 ballots were accepted. The number of votes needed to elect in the lay order is 47.   Kevin Nichols received 47 votes.   Ruth Woodliff-Stanley received 45 votes.  

More here-

Friday, April 27, 2018

As EIC of Religion News Service is ousted, staff fears loss of editorial control

From CJR-

Early in the morning on Monday, April 23, members and followers of the “God beat” awoke to upsetting news. “I am no longer at @RNS, and that’s about all I can say,” tweeted Jerome Socolovsky, until then the editor in chief of Religion News Service. “It was an honor to lead such a dazzling news team.” 

His departure—later revealed to be a firing—seemed to come out of nowhere. But current and former staff members say it has, in fact, been a long time coming: the culmination of months of tension between Socolovsky and RNS Publisher Tom Gallagher, whom many believe has taken control over the newsroom.

“Jerome has seen the slow erosion of his duties as editor in chief at RNS since Mr. Gallagher was hired,” says Kimberly Winston, a contract reporter who covered atheism, secularism, and humanism for RNS. She resigned on Monday in protest. “I feel like journalism is a calling, and they crossed a line,” Winston tells CJR. “If you cross a line, it’s more than personal. It’s my calling. I just felt that I had to go.”

More here-

Clergy and laity doubt accuracy of letter to the States

From The Church Times-

THE accuracy of a letter sent by the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, to the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the lack of consultation and transparency accompanying it, have been criticised.

In a response to a consultation by the Episcopal Church on same-sex marriage (News, 20 April), Mr Nye said that there had not been time to consult the wider Church, and that it “reflects discussions among staff of the Church’s Archbishops’ Council only”. This raises questions of governance, says a letter to the Church Times, signed by more than 110 members of the clergy and laity, who say that they wish to “dissociate” themselves from Mr Nye’s response.

“Unless the content of the letter is tested synodically, he surely cannot claim to speak for the Church of England as a whole,” they write. “Mr Nye’s letter, written on Archbishops’ Council stationery, gives the impression that he was acting as an agent of the Council and its trustees and writing with its authority. But, as he acknowledges, his response is simply the fruit of conversations held among a small cadre of professional staff. As a governance matter, this will not, we think, do.”

More here-

Senior gay cleric Jeffrey John shortlisted to be bishop in Scottish Episcopal Church

From Christian Today-

Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans Cathedral, has been shortlisted as one of four possible candidates to be bishop of Brechin, in the Scottish Anglican church. Dr John has been passed over after having been shortlisted seven times over his career, with allegations that homophobia was behind some of the rejections.

The Scottish Episcopal Church changed its laws on marriage last year to allow same-sex couples to marry in church and allow gay priests to get married as well.

In a sign of its shift in stance since then, as well as John another gay cleric, Chris Newlands, vicar at Lancaster Priory, is also listed as a candidate to be bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane.

A conservative source in the Scottish Episcopal Church told Christian Today the decision to shortlist both John and Newlands was 'extraordinary'.

More here-

House chaplain, a Jesuit priest, was forced out by Speaker Paul Ryan

From American Magazine-

A Jesuit priest who served as chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011 was forced to resign by Republican Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this month, The Hill newspaper reported Thursday.

According to the report, Patrick Conroy, S.J., submitted his resignation earlier this month, and it included a reference that it was written at the request of Speaker Ryan, who is Catholic.

“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” the letter reads, according to The Hill.

Members of Congress from both parties expressed shock at the forced resignation, The Hill reports, with one congressional aide telling reporters that the speaker was dismayed by a prayer Father Conroy gave on the House floor that some may have interpreted as being critical of the G.O.P.-backed tax bill that passed last year.

More here-

Thursday, April 26, 2018

75 Days and Counting: Executive Council Opening Remarks

From The General Convention-

Good morning, and welcome to Austin! It’s 75 days until the first day of legislative business. Just in case you are keeping track. I am!

Since we met in January, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with and communicating with scores of deputies who are preparing for our time together at General Convention. Again this triennium, I am extraordinarily impressed with the commitment and focus of both new and returning deputies, and especially deputy legislative committee officers. As I announced when I appointed them in November, this group of officers is the youngest and most diverse ever to serve at General Convention. Forty-five percent are under the age of 50, 18% are people of color, and at least 15% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

This House of Deputies will be the first in history to be majority female, and 52% of our legislative committee leaders will be women. Forty-two percent of the 852 deputies are first-time deputies. Twenty-four percent will be deputies for the second time, meaning that two-thirds of the deputies–66%–are new or relatively new. Only 7% of deputies are senior deputies, meaning they have served at seven or more conventions. Twenty-four percent of all deputies are people of color, and 53% are female.

I’m also grateful for the collegial and supportive work of so many members of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. As deputies prepare for convention, we are seeking information and advice from many staff members, and I have been delighted to establish and reestablish such collaborative, collegial working relationships between deputies and staff members.

More here-

Anglicans must try again

From Barbados-

After an entire day of deliberations and four rounds of voting, the Anglican Church last night failed to elect a new bishop.

There were indications that a hard line was drawn between clergy and laity in the selection of a candidate, as ballot after ballot showed clergy leaning more heavily towards Dean Dr Jeffrey Gibson, while the laity maintained overwhelming support for the younger Rev John Rogers.

The elective synod, comprising Anglican priests who make up the House of Clergy, and members of the congregations who are called the House of Laity, began the process with a religious service at Christ Church Parish Church at 9:30 a.m.

Four candidates were nominated for election when the voting process started around 5 p.m. They were Gibson, Rogers, Dr Monrelle Williams and Canon Noel Burke.

More here-

and here-

We Went to “Beyoncé Mass” and It Was Glorious

From Mother Jones-

A San Francisco church held a worship service Wednesday night themed on the teachings of… Beyoncé.

Grace Cathedral, an historic episcopal church known for its commitment to social justice, hosted its “Beyonce Mass” as part of a weekly worship series intended to uplift the experiences of women and appeal to young worshippers. The unconventional service featured a sermon about liberation struggle, readings from a speech by civil rights leader Ella Baker, scripture readings by black women, a traditional communion, and of course, the singing of Beyoncé songs. A gospel soloist backed by a choir and live band performed Beyonce’s songs “Listen,” “Freedom,” “Flaws and All,” and “I Was Here,” as well as “Survivor,” a hit by Beyonce’s original girl group Destiny’s Child.

News of the planned service appeared in more than two dozen local and national news outlets—including the New York Times. Not surprisingly, the church was mobbed. Ushers estimated there were about 900 people in attendance—Grace’s Wednesday night service normally attracts 50 or so.

The sermon was delivered by Rev. Yolanda Norton, a professor at the San Francisco Theological Seminary who specializes in black feminist interpretations of the Bible, and who helped organize the service. The notion of a Beyoncé mass ruffled some feathers, with conservative Christian voices mocking the idea or claiming the church was deifying Beyoncé—as if she’s not been deified already.

More here-

Blue’s Clues: General Seminary, etc.

From Scott Gunn-

“This Committee concludes that the relationship between the General Convention and the General Theological Seminary is not mutually beneficial.”

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. I don’t think anyone expected they’d find something different, but it is worth the time to investigate and not assume a conclusion. Please do read the whole report for specifics about why the relationship is not beneficial, both from the perspective of GTS and from the perspective of General Convention. They also note some ways things could be better.

For what it’s worth, I think that unless General Convention is going to provide funding, it’s hardly fair to attempt to exercise oversight. Otherwise, what’s the benefit to the seminary to agree to come under authority? Right now, all the seminaries other than GTS are independent (more or less). We certainly could go the route of nearly every other denomination and fund theological education at the denominational level, which would then justify some oversight. But we’re not going to do that. We can barely afford evangelism after we pay for administration and governance, so we’re certainly not going to take on the additional and considerable expense of theological education. (Prove me wrong, bishops and deputies, please!)

More here-

New Jersey Ruling Could Reignite Battle Over Church-State Separation

From The New York Times-

The apex of the slate roof of the historic chapel of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown peeks over the trees lining the central green here, its chips and cracks visible from the ground. In need of repair, the church did what many other houses of worship in the area have done — turned for help to the county, which gave it more than $260,000 in 2013.

Since 2012, Morris County has provided more than $4.6 million to 12 churches in the form of historic preservation grants, a readily available source of money to fix facades, stained glass windows and aging roofs.

But a unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court found that public money could no longer be used by churches, citing a clause in the State Constitution expressly forbidding it, a decision that could reverberate beyond New Jersey and reignite a national debate over the separation of church and state.

The New Jersey decision last week came less than a year after the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in a case from Missouri that states must sometimes provide aid to religious groups even when their state constitutions prohibit the use of public funds for the benefit of houses of worship.

More here-

Reflecting on Barbara Bush and The Episcopal Church

From Texas-

The passage today, from John's gospel, has that one sentence that has been with me all week long, "I know my sheep, and my own know me." Yesterday I had the privilege of serving and giving the blessing at the funeral for Barbara Bush. The procession of Presidents, First Ladies, dignitaries, and national leaders was grand to be sure. The music was transcendent. The eulogies from people that I know, some of them well, were all touching in their own way. As the Rector said, it was indeed a good day for the Episcopal Church. There were many moments, as I thought about this last night, to be remembered. There was a lot of laughter and there were tears. There were moments that were funny and odd and there were some mistakes. There were some moments that were sad and there were some moments that were joyous.  And then there were tender moments. The body was received into the church, as it always is, when a body is present, and I sat there with my pastoral shepherd's crook, and watched as the ladies gathered around the coffin - some of whom were Barbara's friends; some were members of her church needlepoint group; some were Altar Guild - and they draped the funeral pall over the casket. And then I watched, as I have watched at many funerals before, as those Altar Guild ladies fussed over that funeral pall to get it just right, just as they always do. Like Altar Guilds all over the Episcopal Church, they did what we do for both First Ladies and for the least of our members, those who will go unknown. We do what we do for Barbara Bush, just as we have done for Carol Watson, Paulie Israel, or Don Morris, here in this congregation (All Saints’, Crockett).  It is what we do because we know our sheep and our sheep know us. 

More here-

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Task Force presents updated Safe Church Policies

From ENS-

The Episcopal Church’s decades-long process of refining its clergy discipline process will take a big logistical step forward this summer when an interactive website debuts. The site was developed with the hope of bringing a common understanding of the rules and helping clergy avoid getting into trouble and injuring others in the first place. 

The website is in the beta testing phase, and members of the church’s Executive Council have been invited to join that process. The site is designed to help Episcopalians navigate the church’s Title IV clergy disciplinary process (those canons can be found beginning on page 131 of the church’s Constitution and Canons here).

Council member Polly Getz, who has long-time experience as a chancellor at various levels of the church, explained to her colleagues April 21 that the website is the result of nearly two years of work by a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons.
The project drew praise from three of the church’s leaders after it was presented to the council.

More here-

Critical election for Anglican Church

From Barbados-

On Wednesday, the 14th Bishop of Barbados will be chosen by an Elective Synod of the Anglican Diocese at the Ivan Harewood Centre adjoining the Christ Church Parish. The successful candidate will succeed the Most Rev. Dr John Holder, who retired at the end of February as the Diocesan and Archbishop of the West Indies upon reaching the mandatory age of 70.

Dr Holder had been at the helm of the local diocese since 2000 and for the last eight years, he doubled as primate of the Province of the West Indies. It was in 2009 that regional bishops elevated him as the successor to the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, a Bahamian who was chosen by regional bishops in 1972 to fill the Barbados See.

Rev. Gomez [stepped into that role] after the Elective Synod failed to agree on a replacement to the late Lewis Evans when he retired as Bishop.

More here-

It's obvious who the king of America is

From WND-

Posted on the official U.S. Senate website is: “Chaplain’s Office – Throughout the years, the United States Senate has honored the historic separation of Church and State, but not the separation of God and State. The first Senate, meeting in New York City on April 25, 1789, elected the Right Reverend Samuel Provost, the Episcopal Bishop of New York, as its first chaplain. During the past two hundred and seven years, all sessions of the Senate have been opened with prayer, strongly affirming the Senate’s faith in God as Sovereign Lord of our Nation.”

This was a continuation of the practice of the Continental Congress during the Revolution, as Ben Franklin remarked in 1787: “In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection.”

With the Revolutionary War separating America from England, the Anglican Church of England in America began separating into the Episcopal Church in 1784. Samuel Provoost was the first Episcopal bishop of New York and the third presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. He was chaplain of the Continental Congress in 1785, and chosen as the first chaplain of the U.S. Senate in 1789.


Shelter Island priest tied up in home invasion laid to rest

From Long Island-

They honored his memory. They wished his soul peace and rest. But the mourners attending the funeral for the Rev. Paul Wancura Tuesday did not ignore the terrible, violent way he died.

Scores of people filled Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket to praise the priest, who was found tied up last month in his Shelter Island bedroom after a home invasion.

“Every one of us has been horrified by what has happened,” said Episcopalian Bishop of Long Island Lawrence Provenzano, who presided over the service.

More here-

and here-

Where do atheists get their values?

From The Irish Times-

John Gray is a self-described atheist who thinks that prominent advocates of atheism have made non-belief seem intolerant, uninspiring and dull. At the end of the first chapter of his new book, Seven Types of Atheism, he concludes that “the organised atheism of the present century is mostly a media phenomenon and best appreciated as a type of entertainment”.

He laughs when I remind him of this sick burn. “I wrote the book partly as a riposte to that kind of atheism,” he says. “There’s not much new in [new atheism] and what is in it is a tired recycled version of forms of atheism that were presented more interestingly in the 19th century. In the so-called new atheism people are [presented with] a binary option between atheism, as if there was only one kind, and religion, as if there was only one kind of religion. [It’s] historically illiterate.

More here-

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Executive Council wraps up its triennial work, looks to General Convention

From ENS-

Tying up loose ends, moving the mission and ministry of the church forward and saying good-bye to half of its members, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on April 23 wrapped up its triennial work.

In its last official act of the 2016-2018 triennium, council spent 45 minutes in executive session, reviewing its work during the last three years.

At a news conference after council adjourned, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said council concluded its work “with laughter, a sense of joy and a sense of accomplishment.

“We got some stuff done. We faced some difficult issues. We faced them, we figured them out, we said our prayers and did some pretty darn good work,” he said.

More here-

Monday, April 23, 2018

Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position

From Tablet-

Leo XIII’s remarks that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unity
One of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.”  

In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”

“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum. 

“This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!” 

More here-

Inside the Houston Church Barbara Bush Attended and Where Her Funeral Took Place

From Christian Post-

Barbara Bush's funeral Saturday put the church she attended in the international spotlight.

Bush, the wife and mother of presidents, was a cradle Episcopalian. Together with her husband, George H.W. Bush, she attended St. Martin's in Houston for decades.

The casual observer watching the funeral on television may have thought St. Martin's was a cathedral, perhaps because of the soaring architecture. While not a cathedral, it is the country's largest Episcopalian congregation.

Between having 9,100 communicants on the parish rolls and 12 clergymen working under its rector, the Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, it is comparable to an evangelical mega-church.

It's also one of the last vestiges of an era when the Episcopal Church was called, at least by some, the Republican Party at Prayer. Today, St. Martin's maintains church doctrine on the issue of marriage at a time when the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion has been engulfed in endless controversy and schisms over gay marriage and LGBTQ inclusion.

More here-

‘A Matter of Grave Consequence’

From The Living Church-

Seven responses from other Anglican provinces express a consensus that changing the Church’s historic doctrine of marriage is a serious matter.

The letters appear on General Convention’s website. They came in response to an inquiry by the Rev. Jordan Hylden, an appointed member of General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage and an associate editor of The Living Church.

Excerpts follow.

Archbishop Philip L. Freier
Anglican Church of Australia

There is little question that changing the doctrine of marriage is a matter of grave consequence, indeed a church-dividing matter.

… [After citing the Anglican church’s resolution expressing regrets the Scottish Episcopal Church had authorized same-sex marriage rites]: The proper response to changing community standards in particular contexts concerning marriage is, on this view, wrongly handled at a doctrinal level if it involves a redefinition of the doctrine of marriage but rightly developed with pastoral and liturgical resources.

More here-

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Protesting pastors arrested at Kinder Morgan facility in Burnaby

From British Columbia-

An Anglican priest and a Mennonite pastor were among those arrested after protesting with some 20 religious leaders outside Trans Mountain’s Westridge Marine terminal Friday.

Religious and faith leaders set up blockades at both entrances to the terminal, turning away workers and vehicles from 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, and stayed into the afternoon, protesting, singing and praying. The group responded to an invitation from Tsleil-Waututh Nation member Will George to religious leaders and “all people of faith and spirit” to oppose the project.

Burnaby RCMP informed the group they could face criminal charges for protesting. Justice Kenneth Affleck, who issued the injunction order, previously recommended that, due to the public nature of the breaches, demonstrators should face criminal sanctions.

Rev. Emelie Smith, the parish priest at St. Barnabus Anglican Church in New Westminster, was the first person arrested. She said she was protesting because she felt compelled by her faith to support local Indigenous peoples’ opposition to the pipeline.

More here-

American Anglicans would face 'consequences' over gender neutral wedding services

From Premier UK-

Anglicans in the US have been warned by the Church of England there would be "stringent consequences" if proposed gender neutral wedding service plans receive the go-ahead.

The Episcopal Church (TEC) has been warned its place within the international Anglican family could be placed in jeopardy if it departs from standard Anglican practise by replacing references to a "husband and wife" with "the union of two people".

In a letter seen by The Times, the Church of England's general secretary William Nye said "the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC in all manner of ways would increase".

The TEC clashed with conservative elements within the Anglican Communion in 2015 when it became the first Anglican church to allow same-sex weddings.

The Times reports a proposed new wording for marriage ceremonies conducted by TEC priests would also see the intention of marriage no longer "for the procreation of children" but with offering "the gift of children".

More here-

Tasmanian Anglican churches could be sold to fund abuse survivors redress

From Australia-

Tasmania's Anglican Diocese is proposing to sell more than 120 properties, including churches, halls, houses and vacant land, to fund redress for survivors of child sexual abuse.

The church said it would need to sell just under half of its Tasmanian properties to cover an estimated $8 million of liability in additional payments to survivors.

It has been lobbying for the State Government to sign up to the National Redress Scheme for survivors, due to start on July 1 as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Tasmanian Diocese also agreed to increase the payment cap for its own Pastoral Support and Assistance Scheme from $75,000 to $150,000 per claim.

More here-$8m-liabilty/9685222

Death and resurrection defines Christianity. The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that’s what the Christian church is currently experiencing

From Lancaster Online-

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a heavily tatted and sometimes profane Lutheran pastor. Her take on herself can be summed up this way: “All of the things that make me seem ‘not like a pastor’ are what allow me to be certain people’s pastor.”

Hard to argue with that. Clearly one size does not fit all. Polls show that while church membership is eroding, many people — especially younger people — consider themselves to be spiritual.
Bolz-Weber brings her unique view of ministry to Lampeter-Strasburg High School Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. Her visit is sponsored by the Parish Resource Center.

“She speaks to the changing church,” said Kate Good, PRC’s executive director. “She is seen as an authentic voice in Christianity.”

Bolz-Weber was involved in drugs and alcohol as a teenager and became sober at age 22. More than a decade later she graduated from college and divinity school and was ordained in the Lutheran church.
While Bolz-Weber’s approach appeals to many on the fringes of society, Good said PRC members, who are largely from mainline and Mennonite churches, were the catalysts who asked to bring Bolz-Weber to Lancaster.

More here-