Daily Archives: October 19, 2007

Paul Harvey: The evolution of an American musical tradition

If the success of a fledgling cable channel can be predicted by cute tchotchkes and dancing fuzzy robots, then God is likely to keep blessing the three-year-old Gospel Music Channel (or GMC). When I received publicity materials from GMC, what drew my attention immediately was a lamb wearing a choir robe and cross necklace. Upon pressing his hoof, the channel’s stuffed icon exhorts listeners to “put your hands together, let’s have a Holy Ghost party,” as a gospel choir backs him up and the lamb waves his arms and sways like the backup singers for Ray Charles. Thelonious the Gospel Lamb (so I dubbed him) entertained the house cats until his battery ran out–unlike GMC, which has been broadcasting 24/7 since October 2004 and now reaches more than 20 million households.

GMC sprang from the inspiration of Charley Humbard, best known as the son of Rex Humbard, the pioneering Pentecostal television evangelist who died last month at age 88. It boasts of being the “first-ever advertiser-supported music channel dedicated to the broad spectrum of gospel and Christian music.”

Those who do not follow gospel may be puzzled by the GMC’s capacious slogan: “Rock, Pop, Country, Soul. It’s All Gospel.” Weeknights, prime time on GMC is divided by genre, and implicitly by race. Monday is “Country and Southern Night,” Wednesday features “Soul,” and Friday is “Pop, Rock, and Hip Hop.” Primetime artists range from Ricky Skaggs (a bluegrass gospel performer) to Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams (well-known contemporary black gospel singers). This motley medley of musical forms, so rarely heard on genre-specific radio formats, is true to the biracial heritage of gospel music in America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Religion & Culture

The Rector and Vestry of Saint Stephen’s Sewickley Write the Parish

To the Members of St Stephens Church, Sewickley

A Letter about Denominational Realignment

From your Rector and Vestry

October 12, 2007

Dear Friends in Christ,

I write to you as your pastor and brother in Christ in a season of great importance concerning our future, and I write with the unanimous support of our Vestry. For decades under multiple generations of leaders this parish has been filled with glad followers of Jesus Christ, working for the mission of his Gospel, and laboring for the reform and renewal of the Episcopal Church -under Holy Scripture and through the Holy Spirit. At St Stephens we have been deeply thankful for this call upon our lives; we love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we love this Church.

As we enter the latter part of this decade, it is now evident that differences of faith and practice have torn the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, probably beyond mending. The challenges we face are rooted in longstanding developments inside western culture that are spreading worldwide. These challenges cannot be avoided, for we face them everywhere. I thank God for your endurance, your courage, and your clarity in this important struggle.

We have come to a moment of decision. After years of effort and much personal anguish, I now believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified and hardened its opposition to the historic and biblical Christian faith to such an extent that we cannot pursue our gospel mission fruitfully while remaining under its authority. Your Vestry concurs. For the sake of our health and future mission, we believe that we must now partner with our diocese to realign our congregation and affiliate with a different Province of the Anglican Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Parishes

A Press Release About a Recent meeting in the Diocese of Central Florida

On Thursday, October 18, 2007, the Rectors and Senior Wardens of seven parishes of the Diocese of Central Florida and two church planters met with Bishop John W. Howe and representatives of the Diocese to discuss the possible scenarios by which all or part of the congregations may disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church.

Each parish will now enter a process of conversation and negotiation with the Diocese based on its particular circumstances. Bishop Howe reiterated his commitment to provide pastoral care both to those who leave and to those who wish to remain.

All parties agreed to enter into these negotiations in good faith using Biblical principles in an effort to avoid litigation and scandal to the Church of Christ.

The parishes are:

Cocoa, Gloria Dei Church
The Reverend Paul Young, Rector
Frank Travassos, Senior Warden

Crystal River, St. Anne’s Church
The Reverend Kevin Holsapple, Rector
Victor Hernandez, Senior Warden

Maitland, Church of the Good Shepherd
The Reverend John P. Nyhan, Rector
George C. Madill, Senior Warden

Mount Dora, St. Edward’s Church
The Reverend Woodleigh Volland, Rector
Charles Cronebaugh, Senior Warden

Ocala, Grace Church
The Reverend Donald J. Curran, Jr., Rector
Dr. Jim Wilkerson, Senior Warden

Vero Beach, Trinity Church
The Reverend D. Lorne Coyle, Rector
Mrs. Nancy N. Reichardt, Senior Warden

Winter Haven, Holy Cross Church
The Reverend Andrew S. Doan, Rector
Bill Johnson, Senior Warden

The church planters are from:

Lake Nona, St. Philip’s
The Reverend Paul Jagoe, Church Planter
Melinda Tedder, Lay Representative

Poinciana, St. Nicholas
The Reverend Geoffrey Boland, Church Planter
Charles Secord, Lay Representative

Media contacts:

Mr. Joe Thoma, Communications Officer , Diocese of Central Florida
The Reverend Donald Curran, Rector, Grace Church, Ocala

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

CEN: Porvoo meeting Overshadowed by Crisis over Homosexuality

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, met in Dublin last week with the leaders of the Porvoo Communion of Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches for private talks. However Dr Williams’ Irish excursion did not bring him a change of scene as the vexing issue of gay clergy followed him to Dublin. While a spokesman for the Church of Ireland told The Church of England Newspaper there would be no formal statement of the gathering of Anglican and Lutheran bishops, sources familiar with the deliberations, held every two years, tell CEN that issues of common national and ecclesial concern were raised at the gathering.

The Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Group: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are sharply divided over the Swedish church’s decision to authorise rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. The Swedish move has opened a split within the Lutheran World Federation akin the divide in Anglicanism, with the Lutheran Churches of the Global South threatening to break with their Northern counterparts over the issue of gay blessings and clergy. The controversy intensified last week when on Oct 2 by a vote of six to five, the Church of Norway’s Bishops’ Conference voted to recommend to the church’s general synod that non-celibate homosexuals be permitted to serve as bishops, priests and deacons.

The moderator of the Norwegian Bishop’s Conference, Bishop Olav Skjevesland of Agder and Telemark, who attended the Dublin meeting, voted to reject the licensing of gay clergy.

The Church of Norway has three openly gay ministers serving in parochial ministry under the licence of their bishops. The issue will now go before the Church’s Nov 12-17 meeting of General Synod for resolution. In 1995 and 1997 the Norwegian Synod stated that people in registered same-sex partnerships could hold lay positions in the Church, but could not be ordained as clergy.

On Sept 13 the Church’s National Council stated that it believed the consensus within the church over gay clergy had shifted in the past 10 years. It recommended that Synod revise the church’s canons, allowing bishops the local option of whether or not to ordain and licence gay clergy.

The National Council encouraged dialogue saying that ”˜many members of the church are touched directly by this issue and that there are many who feel that their place in the church is at stake’. “Church leaders should work continuously on attitudes and forms of communication, so that fellowship in the church is felt to be open, clear and inclusive,” it said.

–This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper edition of October 19, 2007, on page 8

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Lutheran, Other Churches

Church Times: Harare Anglicans are urged to stand up to Kunonga

ANGLICANS in Harare run the risk of excommunication by default, if they agree meekly to be banished from the province of Central Africa, Robert Stumbles, Chancellor of the diocese of Harare and Deputy Chancellor of the province, has warned.

His wake-up call includes urgent advice that a “special synod” that the discredited Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, has hastily planned for tomorrow cannot legitimately be held without 90 days’ notice. The meeting follows the Bishop’s announcement last month that his synod had “unanimously mandated” him at its August meeting to withdraw the diocese from the province of Central Africa, supposedly because the province held liberal views on homosexuality (News, 21 September).

The Bishop, an apologist for Robert Mugabe, lives on a white farm from which he evicted black workers. He is still answerable to the Church on 38 serious charges, including incitement to murder, following a farcical non-trial in September 2005 and closure of the case by the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Bernard Malango (News, 25 November 2005).

After the move to form his own province, he is now being pursued by lawyers for the province of Central Africa for the return of assets, including three vehicles, and for surrender of his authority as signatory to two bank accounts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Central Africa

Alan Webber; From afar, America resembles a 2nd-rate power

A not-so-funny thing happened last month while I was on a business trip to Austria and Sweden: My country started to resemble a second-rate power. I saw it in three different places ”” at an international conference at the Benedictine Abbey at Melk in Austria, at a quiet public square in Stockholm and at the Los Angeles International Airport, when I got home.

At the Austria gathering, the Waldzell Institute held its annual meeting aimed at the spiritual development of society. The theme on the stage with the Dalai Lama was legacy, but the conversation among participants during breaks turned to America. The questions came not as accusations, but as laments: “What’s the matter with your country?”

The Europeans who come to this conference are worldly people who track what’s happening globally with an impartial eye. To them, China’s growth and dynamism is the most compelling story of the 21st century. “Dynamism” was the sort of word people once used when talking about the United States. Now, they watch us like rubberneckers driving past a car wreck. “You used to be such a great country,” they say. “Not even a country. What happened to the great idea that once defined America?”

It’s more than a fair question, and one that you can appreciate only when you are outside the bubble that passes for media and public discourse in the USA today. Because when you’re outside the bubble, only then do you realize how far the United States has drifted from its promise, how large the gap is between what we profess and what we do. What is important is how far short we are falling and, in some important ways, falling apart. From afar, you see how closed our once-open society has become; how diminished our economic superiority has become; and how worn our once impeccable image has become.

The Danish have a saying that translates into “home blind,” which is a malady that appears to be striking Americans.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Globalization

'There will be no outcasts in this Church,' Presiding Bishop tells live webcast audience

“We met intentionally in New Orleans, as an act of solidarity with the people of Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf coast, so that we might represent the prayers and concern of the whole church, and offer a small contribution to the rebuilding effort,” Jefferts Schori said in her opening remarks of the one-hour webcast, anchored by the Rev. Jan Nunley, executive editor of Episcopal Life Media. “We were told that 100,000 housing units were lost during Katrina and its aftermath, displacing nearly 250,000 people. Of those housing units, only about 4,000 have been made habitable once again.”

Many of the bishops, their spouses, “as well as a number of our Anglican Communion visitors,” Jefferts Schori said, “participated in various rebuilding efforts on one day of meeting.”

“We pounded nails, placed dry wall, distributed sandwiches, and listened to the stories of despair and hope,” she said. “Faith communities, including the Episcopal Church, are the backbone of ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts, and it appears that their primary role will continue to be vital.”

She described the first part of the meeting as “an opportunity for the bishops to hear from our Anglican Communion visitors, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to share our own joys and concerns with them.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop

Was it a Black Swan Day?

Today is the 20th Anniversary of Black Monday. Joe Nocera had some interesting thoughts on this here, including this:

Having watched the way investors have behaved since the Crash of ’87, I’ve come to believe that most human beings are simply not hard-wired to be good investors. In the 1990s, a new kind of economics arose, called behavioral economics, which tried to show that investors weren’t so rational after all. So I can’t deny that one of the reasons I like Mr. Zweig’s book so much is he provides, at last, a scientific basis for this theory. It turns out that there is a new discipline called neuroeconomics, which combines biology, psychology and economics and tries to understand why we make the often foolish financial decisions we make.

The central finding, as Mr. Zweig put it, is that ”the brain is not an optimal tool for making financial decisions.” The part of our brain that tells us to act like rational investors tends to be completely overtaken by much more powerful emotional impulses — impulses, Mr. Zweig writes, ”that make us human.”

He’s got a million examples. ”Humans,” he writes, ”have a phenomenal ability to detect and interpret simple patterns. That’s what helped our ancestors survive the hazardous primeval world, enabling them to evade predators, find food and shelter and eventually to plant crops in the right place at the right time of year.” But, he adds, ”when it comes to investing, our incorrigible search for patterns leads us to assume that order exists where it often doesn’t.”

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Montreal Anglicans to Vote on Whether to recommend Same Sex Blessings

The Montreal branch of the Anglican Church will vote tonight on whether parishes in the diocese can formally bless same-sex civil unions, if they so choose.

The vote, to take place at their annual meeting, or synod, comes a week after the Ottawa diocese voted 177-97 in favour of a similar motion.

The result of the vote is only a recommendation. If Montreal Anglicans vote to follow their Ottawa brethren, Bishop Barry Clarke, head of the Montreal diocese, can choose to accept or reject their choice.

This week, Clarke said he had not made up his mind about the controversial issue, but he would be listening to what the 240 voting clergy and laity at the synod have to say.

The issue of homosexuality has ripped apart the worldwide Anglican community in recent years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

John Burwell Profiled in the Local Paper

Burwell eventually attended seminary in Pittsburgh, served a church in Orangeburg for three years, then returned to Charleston and the Church of the Holy Cross.

“There was a struggling little place with very little future,” he says.

Burwell encountered a vestry averse to change. The church, itself, had been the same size for about 30 years.

Burwell wanted Holy Cross to grow, to seek out new members and create new services, and maintain tradition. The vestry saw matters differently.

One member told him, “Burwell, the only reason I’m on this vestry is to make sure you don’t get what you want.”

Burwell shakes his head. “Those were strange days.”

So he prayed, and eventually won over the church. Membership doubled in three years’ time. Old attitudes, hearts changed.

Holy Cross built a new parish hall, and the church added worship services and opened a branch on Daniel Island. Tent services are held in I’On in Mount Pleasant. Construction on a facility there is slated to begin before 2008.

In short, the church is thriving.

Now married for 31 years and the father of two daughters, Burwell still pulls from the old days. He dips into pop culture during his sermons, connecting with his parishioners just as he did with his listeners. Sometimes, he even finds time to pop into his home studio to record a few snippets.

“It’s been an amazing 20 years,” he says, “and I have a feeling we’re just getting started.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry

Charles V. Willie: The Proposed Anglican covenant is unworkable if it abandons justice for all

The contentious relationship between the Episcopal Church based in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion is appropriately called a “civil war over homosexuality” by The New York Times. I, also, think it is an event of civil stress about love and justice. In 1966, Joseph Fletcher, an Episcopal priest on the faculty of the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote a book titled Situation Ethics in which he declared that “love is the boss principle of life” and “justice is love distributed.”

“God is love” is a fact of life some of us learned in Sunday school. We also learned that covenants, creeds, doctrines and traditions may pass away, but love endures. How, then, can a church with a responsibility of promoting love and justice adopt a policy of discrimination that prohibits homosexual people from being elected and consecrated as bishops? There is no evidence that such people cannot “love and be loved in return.” If love is the boss principle of life, arbitrary and capricious acts of discrimination against all sorts and conditions of people, including male and female people, heterosexual and homosexual people, is unjust and should cease and desist.

While other institutional systems in society — like government, the economy and education — identify principles other than love that are central to their mission, certainly love is the foundational principle of religion — all religions. It is our religious responsibility in society to remind other institutions to do what they are called to do in loving and just ways.

It is a shocking experience to see a religious institution like the Anglican Communion refuse to support gay couples and lesbian couples who wish to marry and homosexual people who wish to make a sacrificial offering of their leadership skills to serve the church as priests and bishops. It is regrettable that the church rejects such people, as if they were engaged in a demonized activity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

The Roman Catholic Church and Social Justice

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.’

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist’. They’re the words of the great Brazilian theologian Dom Helder Camara, but they might just as well have been aimed at Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, who says the Catholic church’s criticism of the government’s WorkChoices legislation is ‘socialism masquerading as justice’.

In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs, Mr Abbott said that the churches should butt out of politics, and that if they spent more time encouraging virtue in individual believers, and less time demanding virtue from governments we’d have a better society.

Well Tony Abbott has often been critical of Catholic social justice agencies like the St Vincent de Paul Society, and in recent times of Bishop Kevin Manning of Parramatta who says the Howard government’s IR laws are immoral. But the Minister says Industrial Relations isn’t a moral or religious issue at all. In fact he says a political argument isn’t transformed into a moral argument simply because it’s delivered with an enormous dollop of sanctimony.

Well not surprisingly, Australia’s church leaders have hit back. The Reverend Tim Costello has described Mr Abbott as ‘displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus and Catholic teaching’. And Archbishop Peter Jensen says he ‘defines virtue too narrowly, as though it’s merely about personal morality’.

Well in a few moments we’ll hear from leading Catholic historian and social justice advocate, Bruce Duncan, but first to Tony Abbott himself. And in this interview, recorded yesterday, Mr Abbott says if people are doing it tough in Australia, it’s their own fault because of the unfortunate personal choices they’ve made, or it’s God’s fault, but it’s not the fault of the Howard government.

Mr Abbott, thanks for your time today. In the late 19th century when Pope Leo XIII advocated on behalf of the rights and conditions of working people, he was labelled a socialist, and he responded that his opponents didn’t understand the difference between socialism and Christianity. Do you understand the difference?

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Alessandra Stanley: Singing in the Casino? That’s a Gamble

“Viva Laughlin” on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television?

It certainly comes close in a category that includes “Beverly Hills Buntz” in 1987 (Dennis Franz in a short-lived spinoff of “Hill Street Blues”), the self-explanatory “Manimal” in 1983 or last year’s one-episode wonder, “Emily’s Reasons Why Not.” “Viva Laughlin” is not even in the same league as “Cop Rock,” a 1990 experimental series created by Steven Bochco that leavened a gritty police drama with Broadway musical moments: cops and criminals breaking into song and dance. “Viva Laughlin” also features musical outbursts and is far worse.

It may be just me, but I don’t think she liked the show. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

Ottawa synod followed process, says primate

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he believes that “due process was followed” by the diocese of Ottawa when a majority of its synod members approved on Oct. 13 a motion asking its bishop to allow local parishes to bless civil marriages between same-sex couples.

“I believe due process was followed with respect to the handling of this resolution. The outcome of the resolution is a reflection of the mind of the church local in this matter,” Archbishop Hiltz told the Anglican Journal.

He also described diocesan bishop John Chapman’s statement that he would conduct wide-ranging consultations with the Canadian house of bishops, the diocese, and other Anglicans both at the national and international level before arriving at a decision as “entirely appropriate.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

J. Longstaff Offers Food for Thought

Sir, There seems to be a shortage of joy in the church if recent correspondence is a reliable guide.

The gospel teaches the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life for those who truly repent and receive God’s grace through Christ.

I understood that living in God’s kingdom starts in the here and now with the assurance of heaven hereafter. That assurance should be evidenced by widespread joy and confident proclamation of such
good news. Recent letters on the question of praying for the dead have not indicated widespread assurance of salvation. It is not surprising then that when I talk with people outside the church they have little idea of the distinctive message of the Christian gospel.

We must have confidence in what Christ has achieved and promised ”” it has the power to redeem individuals and change the world.

–J Longstaff, of Woodford Green in Essex in a letter to the editor to this week’s Church of England Newspaper, page 10

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary