Saturday, January 11, 2020

Religious Questions: Why do we sit in pews?

From Chattanooga-

If you think pews are uncomfortable, just be thankful there is at least something to sit on. Until the Middle Ages, churchgoers had to stand for the service. This practice had a theological background, according to a history by St. Nicholas Church in Connecticut. Faith is intended to be an active practice and Christians are taught to stand in the presence of their master, rather than sit like an audience.

The few people who had seats brought their own, though the tradition of lengthy services was not common, according to an 1844 argument by John Coke Fowler about abolishing pews.

The feudal system of the time bled into the religious landscape. Wealthy people who paid for church buildings were given prominent places in the church to sit and passes those seats down to their children, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

More here-

Holy Smoke podcast: has the Church of England surrendered to ‘soft socialism’?

From Holy Smoke (with video)-

Just before Christmas, Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former Chaplain to the Queen, converted to Catholicism. But that’s not the main subject of my interview with him in the first Holy Smoke episode of 2020. In it, he deplores the Church of England’s surrender to secularism under Archbishop Justin Welby, who won’t enjoy his former colleague’s assessment of his talents.

Dr Ashenden may not be Anglican any more, but he does think that the Established Church has a historic mission – and that its ‘middle managers’ have betrayed it in favour of ‘soft socialism’. To which I reply that Pope Francis is busy hoisting the white flag, or perhaps a red one, on the other side of the Tiber. At which point our conversation takes an unexpected turn. Don’t miss it!

Friday, January 10, 2020

How American Anglicans Went Mainstream

From Philip Jenkins-

But what strikes me most forcefully is the absolutely normal and mainstream way in which people describe this affiliation. This is interesting for me because I have in a sense lived through this story over the past twenty years or so, and I am still used to the earlier idea of American Anglicanism as something new, breakaway, experimental, even radical…. whatever word you like. Back in 2005 (say) if you were talking with American Anglicans, they were very conscious of the novelty of their enterprise, and were keen to talk about the causes and issues motivating them. Today, there’s nothing of the sort. “I’m an Anglican” has exactly the same weight as declaring membership of any other established tradition – Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopalian, whatever. It’s just part of the religious landscape.

Equally fascinating for me is the lack of any obvious sense that things were ever different. If you are an Anglican younger than forty or so, there seems to be little sense of how recent or novel or daring that whole project is, or how and why that split came with the Episcopal church. Or even, dare I say, that such a split or breakaway ever occurred. I base that remark on anecdote and impression, rather than a sophisticated scientific survey, but I think it’s fair. As in other denominations, people don’t seem that interested in how that church or group got there, or indeed what was the passionate point of principle that led to the group being founded in the first place.

More here-

Anglican Primates gather in Jordan for “very strategic meeting” ahead of Lambeth Conference

From ACNS-

The leaders of 36 of the Anglican Communion’s 40 member churches will gather in the Middle East next week for what has been described as “a very strategic meeting.” The chief pastors of the Communion – the senior archbishops, moderators and presiding bishops of the Anglican provinces – will meet from Monday 13 January to Wednesday 15 January in formal session. A preliminary meeting will be held on Sunday 12 January for new Primates, elected or appointed to their position since the previous Primates’ Meeting in October 2017.
On Thursday 16 January, the primates will take part in separate pilgrimages, beginning together at the site of Jesus’ baptism with a Eucharist and reaffirmation of baptism vows, before one group heads to Salt and Mount Nebo while another crosses to the west bank of the River Jordan for visits to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, is hosting the meeting in his diocese which includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

More here-

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Program helping Lackawanna County inmates coming to Scranton church

From Scranton-

A church in Lackawanna County is looking at starting a re-entry program for inmates.
Its goal is to teach lessons useful for life after prison. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Scranton is more than a place of worship. It’s also a place of healing.

“What we’re looking to do is offer a program that will give folks a chance to get back on their feet in society,” Reverend Rebecca Barnes of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church said.

Barnes is working to bring Cypress House Bakery to her church. Using the tools she has now, an industrial kitchen will be a temporary place for current and recently released inmates to make and sell sandwiches for take-out, while earning $15 an hour.

“Because of the level of incarceration in our county, there is a great need for programs when people come out of the prison system,” Barnes said.

More here-

Sandy Springs’ Highpoint Episcopal church to close; property’s future unclear

From Atlanta-

Highpoint Episcopal Community Church is closing after serving more than a half-century as a place of worship and a community center for Sandy Springs’ High Point neighborhood.

In the wake of failed, four-year effort to rebrand and resurrect the former Church of the Atonement amid a dwindling congregation, the church will hold its final Sunday service on Jan. 12. The future of the 7.5-acre property at 4945 High Point Road is said to be unclear beyond that.

Officials with the church and the Buckhead-based Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta did not immediately respond to comment requests about the closure, which was announced on the church website. But Duffy Hickey, a longtime parishioner whose wife Robin served in various leadership roles, said it came down to some simple calculations.

“We didn’t have enough fannies in the seats and enough money in the coffers,” said Hickey.

More here-

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future?

From Get Religion-

It’s the Methodist question I have heard the most from GetReligion readers (and even locals here in East Tennessee) over the weekend.

I will paraphrase: If the conservatives have been winning the big votes at United Methodist conferences for the past couple of decades, then why are news reports saying that the traditionalists have agreed to “leave the United Methodist Church”?

This is the response that popped into my head a few hours ago after round of news reports, Twitter and online buzz: Basically, I think conservative Methodists have been visited by the Ghost of the Episcopal Future. 

Methodist traditionalists are not interested in 50 years of hand-to-hand legal conflict with the entrenched United Methodist principalities and powers. Hold that thought. Meanwhile, I will admit that it’s hard to see the logic of this statement in any one news report. Let’s start with some math from the Associated Press:

More here-

Settlement reached in St. Paul’s Darien, Connecticut, cases

From ENS-

On Dec. 10, 2019, the Episcopal Church in Connecticut settled three legal cases involving the former wardens and vestry members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien. The settlement will result in a withdrawal of all pending litigation, bringing to a close a period in which the former wardens and vestry members filed five different lawsuits against ECCT since 2005.

The most recent litigation began in late 2017 when the former wardens and vestry members refused to adhere to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church with respect to church governance and attempted to remove their duly chosen rector, the Rev. George I. Kovoor. When bishop diocesan of ECCT, the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, chose to support Kovoor and enforce the canons of The Episcopal Church, the former wardens and vestry members sued to have their rector removed. 

Further, when the former wardens and vestry members refused to participate in church ordered reconciliation efforts, the ECCT Annual Convention unanimously changed the status of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church putting it directly under the supervision, direction and control of the bishop in October, 2018. This occasioned a second lawsuit by the former wardens and vestry members seeking control of the church and its property. Both of these lawsuits were heard in Stamford Superior Court in late 2018 and early 2019 and were dismissed by the court in the spring of 2019. The former wardens and vestry members had appealed these decisions.

More here-

Candidates for the 10th Bishop of ECMN

From Minnesota-

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota is pleased to announce a final slate of five candidates for the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. These candidates will stand for election on Saturday, January 25th, 2020.


The Rev. Deborah Brown, President, ECMN Standing Committee

More here-

Monday, January 6, 2020

United Methodist Church announces plan to split over same-sex marriage

From The Washington Post-

The United Methodist Church is expected to split into two denominations in an attempt to end a years-long, contentious fight over same-sex marriage, church leaders announced Friday. The historic schism would divide the nation’s third-largest religious denomination.

Leaders of the church said they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.

The plan would need to be approved in May at the denomination’s worldwide conference.
The writers of the plan called the division “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.”

The United Methodist Church is the United States’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. The church has fought bitterly about LGBT inclusion for years, and leaders often feared the fight would lead to a schism.

More here-

Some churches get creative with downsizing issues

From Florida-

But one church is sitting on several billions of real estate – Trinity Wall Street.
The Episcopal church founded in 1696 in New York City was gifted in 1705 with 215 acres from Queen Anne. Once farmland in Lower Manhattan, it is now some of the highest-priced real estate in the country.
Most of the land was sold over the centuries, but the congregation is still one of the largest landowners in the city with 14 acres valued in 2015 at $3.5 billion. The holdings include 5.5 million square feet of commercial space in Hudson Square that in 2011 brought the church $158 million in revenue and $38 million in net income.

Though the value of the property has waxed and waned over the centuries, Trinity is credited with a recent revival of the Hudson Square area as a creative hub. That caught the eye of the Walt Disney Company, which has signed a 99-year lease with the church for its new headquarters. The deal is valued at $650 million.

More here-

St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church members feed the hungry in lay ministry

From South Carolina-

A thin man wearing hospital clothes sits at a small table inside St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

“I haven’t eaten in two days,” he said after answering questions from Jean Brown, an intake volunteer who fills out paperwork.

The man is one of about 20 people waiting in line at any given time on a Tuesday morning in the fall outside the Waters Avenue church across from Daffin Park.

The people can work, but most people receiving food have to make a tough choice: Pay bills or buy food, according to church food ministry director Judy Berube.

“We’re meeting that need they have so they can pay bills,” Berube said.

‘Content with anything’

Some people in line look polished, like they are dressed for church service. Others wear worn clothes, and around noon at least three people wait using walkers.

More here-