Saturday, October 27, 2018

'You Are Safe Now': Matthew Shepard Laid To Rest At National Cathedral

From NPR-

Matthew Shepard, the young gay man brutally killed on a chilly night in Wyoming 20 years ago this month, was finally laid to rest at Washington National Cathedral on Friday. A reflective, music-filled service offered stark contrast to the anti-gay protests that marred his funeral two decades ago. 

The public remembrance at the filled 4,000-seat cathedral was led by the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington, and the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church. After, his ashes were interred at the cathedral's crypt in a private family ceremony.

Robinson was emotional throughout the public ceremony, tearfully addressing the large crowd. "For Matthew to come back to church," he said, "is a remarkable step forward." 

He extended a particular welcome to attendees who are LGBT, saying, "Many of you have been hurt by your own religious communities, and I want to welcome you back." 

More here-

Western New York, Northwestern Pennsylvania ratify partnership

From ENS-

The Episcopal Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York voted Oct. 26 to share a bishop and a staff for the next five years as they explore a deeper relationship focused on creating new opportunities for mission.

The move was formalized when Western New York elected the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, for a five-year term as its provisional bishop. Rowe will assume the office upon the retirement of Bishop William Franklin in early April.
“History will judge us as to the right and wrong of the choice,” said Rowe, in a brief address before the vote was taken. “God? God will bless us in our faithfulness to the Gospel call—no matter our choice. And that’s all that matters.”

During the first three years of the partnership, the two dioceses will work together to deepen relationships and develop shared mission priorities. In October 2021, they will re-evaluate the partnership and in October 2024, decide whether to continue it.

More here-

Boko Haram Put a Bounty on My Head

From The Wall Street Journal-

I received a phone call several years ago saying that someone had found my wallet, and I could pick it up at an abandoned racetrack. I don’t carry a wallet. Shortly thereafter, while investigating a story about a massacre of Christians in the Middle Belt of Nigeria, I saw a charcoal message emblazoned on a wall: “Hassan, we know about you and will meet you one day.” A Muslim friend confirmed that Boko Haram had put a bounty of $700 on my head. Such is life for a pastor in modern Nigeria.
Nigerian Christianity is under siege from radical Islam. The country’s importance to Africa, and to Christianity as a whole, makes this siege particularly noteworthy. With a population of nearly 200 million—about 50% Christian, 40% Muslim and 10% animist—by 2050 Nigeria will become the third most populous country in the world, the United Nations estimates. No wonder Nigeria has been a strategic target for radical Islamists for several decades.
More here-

Friday, October 26, 2018

Vicar abused teen who wanted to deepen her faith in Christianity

From The UK-

When a ‘vulnerable’ teenage girl in Lancashire, UK, developed an interest in the church and expressed the wish to deepen her faith and interest in Christianity, she soon became the victim of sexual abuse.

Her abuser was a married Church of England vicar – Simon Marsh, 59 – who is now looking for an alternative vocation.

March was sacked from his role of vicar of St Michael and All Angels Church in Bramhall, Stockport, after a hearing of the Bishop’s disciplinary tribunal for the Diocese of Chester found that:

"Increasingly he used force, anger and pressure, physical, emotional, and even theological, to compel her to submit to his increasing sexual demands and gratification. He attempted to justify his demands by telling her it was fine with God that he had sexual relations with her. "

More here-

Trendy new churches poach worshippers from stuffy ones

From The Economist-

HELD WITHIN the blackened walls of a disused department store, the evening service at Portsmouth’s Harbour Church resembles a gig in a trendy nightclub. Guitars take the place of a church organ; hymn books have been swapped for plasma screens displaying song lyrics. Alex Wood, the vicar, favours skinny black jeans rather than a clerical robe. Swathed in blue light, his congregation of teenagers and 20-somethings sing their way through a playlist of uplifting Christian rock.

Churchgoing has plummeted in Britain. Only 740,000 worshippers regularly make it to Anglican churches on Sundays, half as many as in 1970. To halt this decline, the Church of England has launched an evangelism drive. Part of its strategy is to attract young agnostics by “planting” churches, an American model where members of a healthy church set up a new one elsewhere. Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), a thriving evangelical church in west London, has been planting churches since the 1980s. Now the clergy’s top brass want to emulate its success. According to Ric Thorpe, the Bishop of Islington and a former HTB man, 2,400 church plants are planned by 2030.

More here-

Evangelical bishops seek to reassure GAFCON in another letter

From The Church Times-

THIRTEEN Evangelical bishops have written to GAFCON expressing sympathy with much of its analysis of the Anglican Communion and a desire to “build bridges . . . in order to further the work of the gospel in England”.

The letter, signed by the diocesan bishops of Peterborough, Durham, Winchester, Blackburn, Carlisle, Guildford, and Southwell & Nottingham is a response to the Letter to the Churches issued at the end of GAFCON’s gathering in Jerusalem in June (News, 22 June).

Four of them — Blackburn, Carlisle, Durham, and Peterborough — were also signatories to a letter earlier this month warning of a possible split over teaching on marriage (News, 19 October).

“We, too, see our task, as set out in the scriptures and in the ordinal, to be shepherds of the flock, to guard the gospel and to teach the faith,” the 13 write: there was nothing in section one of the letter (“Proclaiming God’s Gospel”) with which they would disagree.

Among the assertions made in this section is that “Secularism seeks to exclude God from all public discourse and to dismantle the Christian heritage of many nations. This has been most obvious in the redefinition of what it means to be human, especially in the areas of gender, sexuality, and marriage. . . Tragically, there has been a failure of leadership in our churches to address these threats to the gospel of God.”

More here-

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Clergy Housing Tax Break Lands in Seventh Circuit

From Chicago-

Churches and the IRS joined forces Wednesday before a sympathetic Seventh Circuit panel to argue that a 65-year-old income tax housing exemption for clergy members does not violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

“The court has to take history into account,” said attorney Luke Goodrich of the nonprofit law firm Becket, a public-interest firm representing the churches and pastors. “Tax exemptions for parsonages predate the founding [of the U.S.].”

The U.S. tax code grants “ministers of the Gospel” an exemption on income tax for the portion of their wages spent on housing.

26 U.S.C. § 107(2) allows for a payment separate from a pastor’s salary that is used for paying mortgages, utility bills and other housing-related expenses to be excluded from gross income on tax returns.

The IRS has interpreted the 1954 law to apply to religious leaders of all faiths, not just Christian ministers.

More here-

Religious leaders 'deeply disturbed' by corruption, service delivery failures

From South Africa-

While government has made progress in providing resources to the poor and "asserting constitutional democracy", religious leaders have expressed concern about the high levels of corruption, service delivery failures and land issues that plague the country. 

The group of 24 religious leaders includes Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, representatives from the South African Council of Churches, the Muslim Judicial Council and the Roman Catholic Church. The leaders met under the banner of the National Church Leaders' Consultation (NCLC) this week for their annual meeting. 

In a statement, the leaders said they were "deeply disturbed" by corruption, the weakening of state institutions, the mismanagement of state-owned enterprises and "increasing evidence of the plundering of public resources as so far revealed in the commissions and reports addressing [state] capture". 

More here-

Disciplinary action abandoned as Newcastle bishop criticised by royal commission dies

From Australia-

Disciplinary proceedings against a former Anglican bishop in New South Wales have been discontinued in the wake of his death.

Alfred Charles Holland was Newcastle's bishop between 1978 and 1992.

The royal commission made adverse findings against him, and he was referred by the diocese to the Australian Anglican Church's Episcopal Standards Commission.

The current bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, Peter Stuart, said Bishop Holland died earlier this month, and that proceedings have been scrapped.

"Noting that Bishop Alfred Holland died on 8 October, 2018, the Episcopal Standards Commission resolved to take no further action to investigate matters arising from the information it has received in respect of the late Bishop," he said.

More here-

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

$210K for Deputies’ President

From The Living Church-

At its first meeting after the General Convention in Austin, Executive Council voted to provide compensation to the president of the House of Deputies in the amount of $210,000 per year.

At first glance, this appears to be in line with other four top officers of the Episcopal Church, whose salaries are disclosed by canonical mandate on the church website. But Jane Cisluycis of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, who led the subcommittee that researched the compensation issue, said the president will be paid as an independent contractor and will not receive an employee benefits package that includes healthcare coverage and retirement accounts. As a rule of thumb, benefits are valued at about a third of base salary.

The position had always been uncompensated, but the responsibilities of the office have grown steadily over recent decades, and it now is a demanding job. The incumbent, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of Ohio, was re-elected to a third and final three-year term in July.

The Vatican lays groundwork for formal debate on married Catholic priests

From Pittsburgh (AP)-

As the Vatican copes with the growing clergy sex abuse scandal and declining number of priests worldwide, it is laying the groundwork to open formal debate on an issue that has long been taboo: opening up the priesthood to married men in parts of the world where clergy are scarce.

Pope Francis has convened a meeting of South American bishops next year focusing on the plight of the church in the Amazon, a vast territory served by far too few priests. During that synod, the question of ordaining married men of proven virtue — so-called “viri probati” — is expected to figure on the agenda.

This week, a two-hour documentary on Italian television is likely to contribute to the conversation. “The Choice: Priests and Love” profiles more than a dozen men in four European countries who are either living clandestinely with women, have created their own unsanctioned church communities where married priests preside at Mass, or left the Catholic priesthood altogether to marry.

More here-

Bishop Kagunda, three clerics to settle gay case out of court

From Kenya-

A defamation case on homosexuality, involving Anglican Church Bishop Joseph Kagunda and three clerics, will now be resolved outside court by a mediator.

Justice Abigail Mshilla, of the High Court in Nyeri, on Wednesday summoned two lead lawyers in the dispute to her chambers and advised them to try the alternative dispute resolution mechanism.


Reverend Paul Warui, Archdeacon John Gachau and Reverend James Maigua filed a defamation suit in 2015 against the bishop of the Mt Kenya West Diocese..

They had been suspended over allegations of engaging in homosexuality three years ago but were exonerated by the court.

They filed the suit arguing they suffered psychological trauma following their ex-communication from church and the claims about their sexuality.

More here-

'No-brainer': Sydney Anglicans vote in support of allowing domestic violence survivors to remarry

From Australia-

In a historic moment for the Sydney Anglican Church, and the latest in a series of small victories for Christian survivors of domestic violence, the synod has for the first time voted in favour of allowing divorced survivors of abuse to remarry.

In a secret ballot held on Tuesday night the diocesan synod voted 325-161 in favour of a motion requesting that bishops consider "approving the remarriage of a divorced person, where that person has been abused physically or emotionally by their former spouse".

It was first put to a vote on voices but, because it was too close to call, a ballot was collected — the results of which revealing more support for the motion than synod members had been prepared to show in public.

It had taken 34 years of deliberation.

More here-

Fighting hunger is a community endeavor

From Western NC-

Every Tuesday, by 9 a.m., volunteers have gathered in the St. James Episcopal Church common room where they put up chairs and tables covered with cheery checked tablecloths. The big Bounty & Soul truck has dropped off boxes of produce and we begin to sort through it all, putting fruits and vegetables into baskets to be set out on the tables.

In the kitchen, the coffee pot is on and there is fresh bread, jam and slices of fruit. The talk is animated as produce is packaged into containers and passed out to be put on the tables. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, melons and cabbages all are boxed and wrapped.
Those that don't pass muster are put into five-gallon buckets and become compost, which along with others, are hauled away by another volunteer with a truck.

Out in the hall, bushel baskets filled with squash, potatoes, onions, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes are set on the tables. On another table, boxes of salad greens are stacked, bags of kale and collards are lined up. Next comes the fruit table with bananas, oranges, lemons, limes, berries, apples and often exotic fruit--kiwi, mangoes, pomegranates.

More here-

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Sydney Anglicans ban same-sex marriage on hundreds of church properties

From Australia-

As a row of purple-clad gay and lesbian churchgoers sat quietly watching in the public gallery, the Sydney Anglican Synod on Monday night voted in favour of a policy that will prevent same-sex marriages, parties or events that might advocate "expressions of human sexuality contrary to our doctrine of marriage" on about a thousand church-owned properties.

The policy will apply to all future leases to tenants on church property, all parishes, church halls, Anglican schools, counselling services nursing homes and Anglican corporations, and all members of the boards of those bodies will be expected to uphold a "Christian ethos" that hews to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality.

In the face of strong opposition to the proposed policy over the weekend, several amendments were made and the mover of the bill, Bishop Michael Stead, apologised to Indigenous Australians for failing to properly consult with them on smoking ceremonies, to LGBTQI people for failing to spell out that different points of view could still be aired, and to transgender people who "heard they were not welcome in our churches".

More here-

Former WSU campus ministry director elected first woman Episcopal bishop of Kansas

From Kansas-

Rev. Cathleen Bascom has broken ground as a woman in the Episcopal church many times over the last three decades. She was the first woman to go through the entire lengthy and taxing process of ordination to the priesthood in Kansas in the 1980’s. Now Bascom will be consecrated as the first ever woman bishop of the Diocese of Kansas.

Bascom, from the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, was in charge of campus ministries at Wichita State and Kansas State from 1993-2001. She was elected Friday as the tenth bishop to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas — making her the first woman to fill the role since the formation of the diocese in 1859.  

Women have been allowed ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church since 1976, but the first woman was not elected as bishop until 1988. When Bascom was ordained in the Diocese of Kansas, women’s ordination was relatively new and those early days could be lonely and difficult for female clergy. 

More here-

Episcopal Diocese of Arizona elects VI Bishop

From Arizona-

The Rev. Jennifer Anne Reddall was chosen VI Bishop of the Diocese of Arizona during the 58th Annual Diocesan Convention held at All Saints’ Episcopal Church & Day School in Phoenix.
The first woman to be elected bishop in the Diocese of Arizona, Reddall is currently the Rector of Church of the Epiphany in New York, NY, the Diocese of New York, and was one of three candidates.

In order to be elected, a candidate needed to receive a simple majority of votes from both the clergy and the lay delegates, voting separately as orders in the same balloting round. Reddall was elected on the first ballot, receiving 75 of 136clergy votes and 172 of 304 lay votes.
The other two nominees were:
  • The Rev. Dr. Dena Marcel Cleaver-Bartholomew, Rector of Christ Church, Manlius, NY in the Diocese of Central New York
  • The Rev. Andrew Wallace Walter, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, MD in the Diocese of Washington
More here-

Mark Edington elected bishop for Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

From ENS-

The Rev. Mark D.W. Edington was elected bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe on Oct. 20.

He will become the second elected bishop of the convocation, after Bishop Pierre Whalon. Edington currently is rector of Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Newtonville, Massachusetts, and director of the Amherst College Press.

“I begin to work with you from a position of learning and posture of humility,” Edington told the assembled delegates at the Convocation’s convention in Waterloo, Belgium, via cellphone. “I come to you as a person eager to learn, eager to be a disciple.”

The other nominees were the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, president of CARAVAN, an international peace-building nonprofit; the Rev. Steven D. Paulikas, rector of All Saints’ Church in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, New York, and the Very Rev. Benjamin Shambaugh, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Portland, Maine.

More here-

Episcopate Transition

From San Diego-

We are well on our way to prayerfully selecting our fifth diocesan bishop. We appreciate your prayers as we walk this path, continually listening for God’s voice in this process.

Nominee Slate

Upon the recommendation of the Bishop Nominating Committee and nomination by the Standing Committee, one priest stands for election as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of San Diego at the upcoming electing convention on Saturday, February 2 at St. Bartholomew’s, Poway.

The Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook

The Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook is the canon for church growth and development in the Diocese of Oklahoma. In this role, Susan guides ministries of evangelism, church growth, church planting, and new mission development, and consults with congregations on growth and development plans. She grew up as the daughter of an Army officer, living all over the world. After graduating from Rice University with a degree in English and Managerial Studies, she continued at Rice and received her master’s in business administration and master’s in accountancy. After a ten-year career as a certified public accountant, she was called into ministry in the Episcopal Church. She served for several years in lay ministry, as the director of Christian education and then the director of lay ministries at a church in Arizona, before attending seminary. She received her master’s in divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2003, and was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Arizona.

 More here-

and here-

Eugene Peterson Has Completed His Long Obedience

From Christianity Today-

Eugene Peterson has completed his “long obedience in the same direction.”

The Presbyterian pastor, best known for authoring The Message Bible, died today at age 85, a week after entering hospice care for complications related to heart failure and dementia.

Author Winn Collier first shared the news on Twitter. “My dear friend and pastor Eugene Peterson has died this morning,” he wrote. “The lantern is out, but the joy he carried with him to his final breaths endures. Eugene is now with the Triune God he has loved his entire life. Memory eternal.”

NavPress, publishers of The Message, confirmed Peterson’s death. His family released a statement on his final, joyful days earthside.

“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” they stated. “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.

More here-

Monday, October 22, 2018

Church of England: Transgender People Should Get Gender Recognition Easily

From England-

The Church of England has confirmed that in addition to allowing transgender people to marry in church, it supports making the legal process of their gender recognition easier.

The Rev. Malcolm Brown, the church body's director of mission and public affairs, said that he consulted with the archbishops of Canterbury and York, before declaring:

"Trans people with gender recognition are already able to marry in our churches. Being transgender does not prevent someone offering themselves for ordained ministry and we have transgender clergy as well as laity."

Speaking with The Times on Saturday about the U.K. government's plans to make the process of gender recognition easier, Brown affirmed the church's position:

More here-

Abused clergy wife's message to the church: I'm still struggling to survive

From Australia-

A year ago, several women walked into the annual Synod of the Sydney Anglican Diocese, shuffled through the rows of the public gallery in Pitt Street's Wesley Theatre, and sat down nervously.
All of them were victims of domestic abuse, there to listen as the Diocese's domestic violence taskforce presented its draft policy for responding to abuse in the church which, as ABC News would only weeks later reveal, was being perpetrated not just against parishioners, but against the wives of clergy — including me.

It's been quite a year.

Last week, several hundred Sydney Anglicans returned to the same spot for the taskforce's unveiling of the final version of the policy, having spent months consulting with experts and survivors. 

More here-

Sydney Anglicans back down on proposal to ban Indigenous smoking ceremonies

From Australia-

The Sydney Anglican Diocese has backed down on a controversial policy banning smoking ceremonies on any property owned by the church following outrage from Indigenous leaders, school principals and priests who work closely with First Nations communities. 

ABC reports of the proposal, due to be debated on Monday night at the annual gathering of the Diocesan synod in Sydney's CBD, were greeted with anger by Indigenous leaders who likened the decision to assimilation. 

The reports have also shocked principals who have regularly held smoking ceremonies on school grounds and infuriated local ministers who told ABC News that there had been no consultation and that it would be deeply embarrassing and offensive to Indigenous friends and parishioners.

More here-

From royal wedding to Pittsfield, Episcopal bishop preaches 'power of love'

From Western Mass.

The Episcopalian priest who left spellbound nobles, royals, celebrities and millions of television viewers during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May also captivated a large Berkshire gathering Sunday afternoon with the same message: Love thy neighbor.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke to the power of love during a revival service staged by the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. The service was held at the First United Methodist Church on Fenn Street to accommodate the more than 1,000 people in attendance.

Curry relied on a mix of biblical passages, humor and the words of Jimi Hendrix to get his point across that love is all you need to start making the world a better place.

"God is love. We were made by love, made to love, made to be loved," said the man dubbed "Royal wedding Preacher." "Dr. Phil would charge you five commercials for [this advice.]"

More here-,553786

'Fire of faith': 7 parishes headed for merger celebrate first Mass in Lawrence County

From Western PA.

Susie Parran, a member of SS. John and Paul Parish in Franklin Park, regularly attended her church for years in large part because of the Rev. Joseph McCaffrey.

Now, amid church restructuring, Father McCaffrey, like many others, is being shifted elsewhere.
Ms. Parran, though, realized that the sacrifice Father McCaffrey was making by leaving SS. John and Paul meant he could go to the aid of others who need him more.

“I wasn’t sure how I would feel, but I got tears in my eyes because I was watching him do his thing,” she said Saturday evening shortly after watching Father McCaffrey lead the first Mass for newly merged Lawrence County parishes. “There’s just magic in him, there’s just the Holy Spirit. And to watch other people get that, I can almost say ‘OK now, he gets to help [more] people. We’re OK.’”

More here-

Three types of Episcopalians?

From The Cafe-

A recently-released report by the Pew Research Center details seven major “religious typologies” among Americans. Researchers discovered these typologies by using a statistical analysis of 16 different questions in a nationally representative telephone survey. These typologies include “Sunday Stalwarts,” “Relaxed Religious,” “Diversely Devout,” “Religion Resisters,” and “Solidly Secular.”

Using survey results from the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Survey, I used the same statistical analysis to analyze different types of religious typologies* among self-described Episcopalians. Belonging to a denomination that has preserved traditional liturgies and practices while being on the forefront of social, theological, and political modernization, Episcopalians are an interesting case study. What types of worshipers would be found in this type of denomination?

The analysis revealed three primary groups of Episcopalians:

More here-

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bibles and brews part of Theology Pub Bible Studies

From Oklahoma-

Wednesday evenings at The Rail Taproom have featured readings from the Psalms and the Gospels for some customers.

Grace Episcopal Church has conducted Theology Pub Bible Studies at the nightspot since September.
"We wanted to take the church outside the walls and into the community," said the Rev. Bob Wickizer, rector at Grace. "We always have done Wednesday Bible studies within the doors of the church. We just changed the venue."

The Bible studies began last August at the Pecan Creek Winery, which Wickizer co-owns and operates. The studies moved to The Rail Taproom in September and early October. Late October and November sessions will be at Station 1, Wickizer said.

More here-

Diocese of Easton commemorates Founders’ Day

From Easton-

As part of the diocese’s yearlong anniversary observances, the Bishop of Easton, the Right Rev. Dr. Santosh Marray led a “Diocesan Founders’ Day” tribute on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the grave of Bishop Henry C. Lay, first bishop (1869-1885) and second bishop, William Forbes Adams (1869-1920), in Easton’s Springhill Cemetery and at Trinity Easton Cathedral on Goldsborough Street.

The Episcopal Diocese of Easton turns 150 this year. The diocese was carved out of the Diocese of Maryland as a free-standing diocese in November 1868. Christian presence and witness were introduced to the state of Maryland in 1631 with the founding of the first Anglican/Episcopal congregation, Christ Church, Kent Island.

Lay (1823-1885) began his episcopacy as the Episcopal Missionary Bishop for the Southwest in 1859, an area that encompassed Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

More here-

Church uses stories to foster racial harmony

From Ohio-

Race and reconciliation aren’t new areas of concern for the Episcopal Church, but they have attracted considerable attention in recent years under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, whom non-Episcopalians might recall from his sermon at the springtime wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor, England.

Installed as the head of the church in 2015, Bishop Curry is the first black bishop to serve the predominantly white Episcopal Church. The denomination is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is rooted in the Church of England. In part reflecting a history of evangelization through colonization, the Anglican Communion today counts a membership that’s heavily African.

More here-