Daily Archives: October 30, 2007

Bishop Howe's Proposed Protocol for Diocese of Central Florida

From the November, 2007 Central Florida Episcopalian [emphasis as in the original]. An excerpt:

How we move forward will necessarily differ from one case to another. If an overwhelming majority of the members of a given congregation were to decide to leave, we might face a situation in which disposal of the property would eventually have to be considered.

I have shared the following proposed protocol with the clergy at our annual Clergy Conference at Canterbury, and it will be presented to the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee later this month. It has not yet been adopted, but I believe that it ”“ or something very like it ”“ must ensure that the spiritual needs of all the members of the Diocese will be protected. (This is more detail than most of you will want, but for everyone concerned we need to be as clear as possible.)

Vestry Vote and Special Meeting of the Members

The vote of a Rector (or Church Planter) and Vestry cannot control whether or not a congregation disaffiliates. This will only be considered after a vote of the members of the congregation. However, if the Rector and Vestry determine to disaffiliate from the Diocese by at least a 75% majority vote they shall immediately notify the Bishop of that fact. They are to furnish to the Bishop a plan outlining how they intend to provide for the ongoing nurture of all people, whether they are disaffiliating or not, and whether they will seek to negotiate for the real and personal property of the Parish. A copy of the plan submitted to the Bishop shall be given to every member of the congregation and the Rector and Vestry shall certify to the Bishop that this has been done.

The Bishop will call a Special Meeting of the congregation giving at least 15 days notice of that meeting and he or his designee will preside at that meeting. The Bishop and the Parish will provide a joint notice of this meeting. The Bishop may require the Parish to hold informational meetings for the congregation prior to the Special Meeting where a pastoral team appointed by the Bishop may participate and answer questions concerning disaffiliation.

Prior to the meeting the Bishop will appoint a committee of three members of the congregation who will make a recommendation to the Bishop as to the eligibility of any member to vote should a challenge arise, the Bishop being the final arbiter. This decision shall be based upon the canonical definition of a member in good standing, eligible to vote.

Congregational Vote

At the Special Meeting of the Congregation, after a suitable time for discussion as determined by the Bishop or his designee, the question shall be put before the meeting: “Do you wish to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church or not?” The vote tally shall be reported by the Bishop or his designee and the Bishop shall render within 7 days, on a case by case basis whether in his opinion a viable Episcopal congregation remains.

The Bishop will call a meeting of those members desiring to maintain their affiliation with The Episcopal Church in order to elect a new Vestry. The Bishop, or his designee, will preside at that meeting. Until a new Vestry is elected, the Bishop will appoint at least three of the members desiring to remain in The Episcopal Church as the Vestry and an interim Warden who shall take charge of the Parish and establish a plan for the future operation of the Parish.

Possible Sale of Real and Personal Property

If, in the judgment of the Bishop with the concurrence of the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee (if consecrated property is involved), the Parish and the Diocese are willing to sell the real and personal property held by the Parish, and the members desiring to disaffiliate with The Episcopal Church have formed a non-profit corporation, the Diocese will enter into negotiations with the new corporation to consider the purchase or lease of the property. A decision to sell parochial property is one that must be made by the continuing members of a congregation, not by those who have voted to leave it. The Diocese and the new corporation will select a qualified property appraiser to determine the fair market value of the real property. The cost of the property appraisal will be borne by the new corporation. The Diocese may require an audit of the financial affairs of the Parish by an independent accountant for the current year and the prior two years.

Upon receipt of the audit reports and the property appraisal, the Bishop, with the consent of the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee, shall be empowered to sell the real and personal property on behalf of the Parish on terms agreeable to the Bishop and the Board. These terms may include a mortgage amortized over a 30 year period with low (not to exceed prime) or no interest. The starting point for any such discussion will be the fair market value of the property for use as a church.

This is a very painful time for many of us. I feel a great sense of personal loss in contemplating these departures, but I want to reassure you that the Diocese of Central Florida remains steadfastly committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority and trustworthiness of God’s word written, and the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit. As your Bishop I am committed to proclaiming the Gospel, to strengthening existing churches and planting new ones, and to raising up the next generation as faithful followers of Christ. The painful loss of some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will not divert us from any of these commitments.

I have said repeatedly that it is my desire to remain both an Episcopalian and an Anglican. In that regard, let me share something with you that the Archbishop of Canterbury has written to me just this past month: “Any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such”¦. I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ”˜National Church.’”

We have a great and faithful Diocese, and with the help of the Lord himself, I am committed to making it even better. During this time of transition, I urge all of us to treat each other with great care and compassion. I ask your prayers for wisdom for all who will be involved in these discussions.

With warmest regards in our Lord,

+ John W. Howe, Bishop

The full article is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Central Florida, TEC Departing Parishes, TEC Polity & Canons

Death Penalty Tests a Church as It Mourns

The United Methodist Church here is the kind of politically active place where parishioners take to the pulpit to discuss poverty in El Salvador and refugees living in Meriden. But few issues engage its passions as much as the death penalty.

The last three pastors were opponents of capital punishment. Church-sponsored adult education classes promote the idea of “restorative justice,” advocating rehabilitation over punishment. Two years ago, congregants attended midnight vigils outside the prison where Connecticut executed a prisoner for the first time in 45 years.

So it might have been expected that United Methodist congregants would speak out forcefully when a brutal triple murder here in July led to tough new policies against violent criminals across the state and a pledge from prosecutors to seek capital punishment against the defendants.

But the congregation has been largely quiet, not out of indifference, but anguish: the victims were popular and active members of the church ”” Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. On July 23, two men broke into the family’s home. Mrs. Hawke-Petit was strangled and her daughters died in a fire that the police say was set by the intruders.

The killings have not just stunned the congregation, they have spurred quiet debate about how it should respond to the crime and whether it should publicly oppose the punishment that may follow. It has also caused a few to reassess how they feel about the punishment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Capital Punishment, Methodist, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

GodTube pushes new-time religion

First, the upstart Christian video site became the nation’s fastest-growing Web property for August, according to ComScore’s Media Metrix. Its 1.7 million unique visitors represented a 973 percent increase in traffic over the previous month. In September, the number of visitors leveled off, but the length of the average user’s stay nearly doubled to 7.7 minutes, ComScore said.

Then last week, GodTube became the first religious Web site to offer the hot-ticket social media trinity: user-generated video (a la YouTube), social networking (a la MySpace and Facebook) and live Webcasting (a la Stickam.com). GodTube’s claim that it has become the most-trafficked Christian Web site is trumped only by a second boast: that by the sheer volume of video watched by its users – 1.5 million hours last month – it is now the world’s largest broadcaster of Christian video.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture

In South Carolina Obama Seeks a Spiritual Reawakening

As a man not only of God but of politics, the Rev. Joe Darby is an outspoken observer of the campaign scene. Reclining in his cluttered office at Morris Brown AME Church here, he witnesses the union between the pulpit and the polls.

“Politics does come down to some degree of emotion . . . ,” says Darby, one of this state’s most prominent African American preachers, whose church is a magnet for Democratic presidential hopefuls. “The Democratic Party is just catching up to that. It’s been nauseatingly safe in recent years.”

As if from Darby’s mouth to Sen. Barack Obama’s ears, the Democratic presidential candidate from Illinois — hoping his campaign can recapture some of that old-time religious fervor — launched a three-city gospel concert series over the weekend across the state, in North Charleston, Greenwood and Columbia. Although Obama did not attend the “Embrace the Change” series in person (instead campaigning in Iowa), he was here in spirit, appearing by video screen and sending out his surrogates, such as pastor Hezekiah Walker and singer Beverly Crawford.

Obama’s campaign could certainly use reenergizing. Since he announced his intention to run for the presidency, Obama — and the powerful ebb that surrounded him wherever he woke, spoke, ate and sat — seems to have withered beneath the supernova that is the Clinton campaign. Today, the senator from New York carries with her a fortified sense of inevitability, laughing off controversies while appearing on Sunday morning shows, showing no wounds from questions about fundraising, absorbing Obama’s criticism over the weekend regarding Social Security. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Obama by more than 20 percent, with a lead of 13 percent among African American voters.

Those numbers mirror polling results in South Carolina, where any candidate hoping to capture this early primary state needs much of the African American vote. But Obama cannot presume such support as he tries to catch Clinton, who has been embraced by many black voters.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

2006 Episcopal Church Data Released

According to the churchwide Parochial Report data, membership in all 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church totaled 2,320,506 in 2006, down 2.2%, or 51,502, from 2,372,008 in 2005. Average Sunday attendance for 2006 was reported at 804,688, down 2.6%, or 21,856, from 826,544 in 2005.

Read it all.

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Update: For those of you who want to play with the data, we’ve updated the Excel spreadsheet for 2005-2006 which we created a few weeks ago. You can find it here: ECUSA_2005-2006_revised.xls

Please note the domestic vs. overseas data is rough since exact diocesan data for 2006 is not yet available. (We used 2006 data for Province 9, and 2005 data for the 5 overseas dioceses in Provinces 1-8). We’ll update this again when more complete data is available. For the data purists (or data geeks!) among our readers, it might be worth noting that the 2005 data cited in the ENS article and linked worksheets differs slightly from previously published Redbook data for 2005. The spreadsheet contains the revised data as cited in the ENS article above.

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

Ontario priest disciplined for marrying same-sex couple

A priest in the diocese of Ontario has been disciplined and had his licence to marry cancelled after officiating at the wedding of a same-sex couple last August in a church in rural Ontario, where he is the incumbent.

Rev. Michael Bury, rector of St. John the Evangelist church, in Stirling, Ont., a small village located about 190 km east of Toronto, confirmed in an interview that his licence to perform marriages has been cancelled.

In an interview at the house of bishops meeting in London, Ont., diocesan bishop George Bruce said the cancellation is effective until further notice. “I had issued a directive in 2003 that we would not bless same-sex relationships nor conduct marriages. There was no canonical permission to do it. There are consequences (to such an action),” he said.

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

Court Says Stem Cell Question OK for N.J. Ballot

A state appeals court has ruled that a Nov. 6 ballot question on a $450 million stem cell research program may not be perfectly worded, but it adequately and fairly tells voters about the plan.

With the ruling, the three-judge panel turned back abortion foes’ efforts to kill the measure, which they argued doesn’t mention cloning or describe the plan’s fiscal impact.

The court said it is unnecessary and indeed impossible to fairly summarize all views in a brief statement. Instead, such statements are meant to summarize questions in simple language.

“The religious and moral wisdom of the act cannot be encapsulated in an interpreted statement that would be both fair and balanced and still fit within the four corners of the ballot. … It does not matter that a better, more informative statement could possibly be crafted,” Judge Clarkson Fisher wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Theology

In Canada “Progressive” Anglicans urge bishops to allow gay marriage

A group of Canadian Anglicans on the liberal, or “progressive,” side of issues concerning homosexuality and the church have urged Anglican bishops to “proceed to (the) full inclusion (of gay and lesbian people) by providing access to all sacraments and sacramental rites of the church,” including marriage.

The letter was addressed to the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, who are holding their fall meeting here from Oct. 25 to 30.

The group issuing the letter met at a conference called The Widening Circle on Oct. 25 and 26 at Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church in London, diocese of Huron. About 50 clergy and laypeople attended from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.

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

Bakersfield Californian: Pastor named bishop after long struggle

“We’re of course delighted and looking forward to Mark’s leadership in our diocese and glad to be able to get on with our mission, which is very simply to spread the Gospel and make disciples,” said the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, president of the standing committee of the Diocese of South Carolina. McCormick headed up the process of seeking and gathering consents from the standing committees.

McCormick described the 56 majority consent votes received so far as “solid” and “certified by the national chancellor,” and said other consents were forthcoming. The validity of the standing committees’ majority consent is unquestionable, he said.

“I think there’s a sense of relief in the diocese because it’s been a long, hard slog for a lot of faithful people,” said [Kendall] Harmon, who added that “there’s a sense of sobriety” around the complicated election process.

“It’s a serious matter when someone as gifted and highly qualified as Mark takes this much work to confirm,” he said. “It simply is one more manifestation of a church that is in a very serious state of struggle at this time.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

From the Local Paper: Episcopal Diocese's bishop approved

“This has really become in many ways a convoluted situation by many who misrepresented my views in the first place,” [Mark] Lawrence said. “I said I was willing to abide by the consecration vows of a bishop. They asked me what would I do to keep the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church. I said I will work at least as hard to keep the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church as my brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church work to keep the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. There is a mutual accountability we all have.”

The Episcopal Church USA is the American branch of worldwide Anglican Communion and has its roots in the Church of England.

“We’ve got a wonderful man coming in,” [Edward] Salmon said. “This is the only diocese in the Episcopal Church that has outgrown the population. He’s coming in at an exciting time.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of Utah

In the end, we issued our response to the Questions and Concerns raised by our Anglican Communion Partners. This document (see Internet reference 2 below) has met with acceptance by most of our visitors; however, it did not satisfy the very conservative primates or bishops in our church and the larger Communion. They are working to set up their own Anglican body. The liberals were not happy with it either, even though on the critical issues of giving consent to the election of partnered gay bishops and blessing same sex unions, we said little more than was said at the General Convention of 2006. The writing team worked on endless drafts of our report to accommodate the views and phrases to which the majority of the House could agree. Our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said more than once, “No one is going to get everything they want.”

Two further elements in our response did ease the way for many of us. One was the expression of our “fervent hope” that the Archbishop of Canterbury would find a way to invite Bishop Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference next summer and to assure his full participation. Also, with our Presiding Bishop’s appointment of Episcopal visitors to dioceses not willing to receive her, we called for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. We have not heard any response from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For myself, I found the spirit of the Community of Bishops (as we call ourselves) much diminished since our meeting last spring. From that meeting we issued a statement profoundly descriptive of who we understand ourselves to be, absent the pressures of ‘compliance’ to the demands of the newly rising structures of authority and the doctrinal positions newly called the “standards of teaching” of the Anglican Communion. What we did in March was much like what our own deputation did in response to the Dar es Salam Communiqué, that is to say it was proactive and declarative, not defensive or reactive.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

An Associated Press Story on the Mark Lawrence Election Consents

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Dollar and oil hit new records

Yuck.

Posted in Uncategorized

Trapped on the front line, the Christians who fled Baghdad for safety

Persecuted under Saddam Hussein for being Kurdish, then chased from Baghdad because they are Christian, families in a village on Iraq’s border with Turkey find themselves on a new front incursion.

The tiny Christian enclave of Dash Ta Takhe in the Khameer mountains has been shaken by Turkish shelling in recent weeks, forcing two thirds of its 150 population to flee to safer areas.

Some locals, however, mainly the men, are staying put, either because they refuse to evacuate or because they cannot afford to go anywhere else. “Even if we all die we will not leave the village,” Gurial Warda, the mayor, whose wife and children have fled to Zakho, the nearest large town, said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Iraq War, Religion & Culture

The God Delusion and Alister E McGrath

Stephen Crittenden: Let’s talk about some of the specific arguments in The God Delusion, that you’ve been refuting. The key idea is Dawkins’ view that the natural sciences lead to atheism, that they make belief in God impossible. You say science leads not to atheism but to agnosticism.

Alister E. McGrath: That’s right. If it leads anywhere; and the point I try to make is actually the natural sciences can be interpreted in an atheist way and certainly Dawkins gives that perspective. But of course there are many, many scientists who are Christians, people like Owen Gingerich, who’s Professor of Astronomy at Harvard, or Francis Collins, who directs the Human Genome Project. And my real concern is that Dawkins seems to be wanting to say that if you’re a real scientist, you cannot be a religious believer for that reason. That there is this fundamental tension between science and faith. And I want to say that the history of the thing just doesn’t back him up on this point.

Stephen Crittenden: Indeed, is that one of the biggest weaknesses in Dawkins’ book, that he doesn’t acknowledge the role of the churches and religious believers in the history of science: the Jesuits in astronomy and seismology, and medicine, for instance; or the fact that the Big Bang theory was first proposed by a Belgian priest. And of course the general public doesn’t know all that much about this history either.

Alister E. McGrath: Well that’s right. I mean Dawkins has this very simplistic idea that science and religion have always been at war with each other, and he says only one can win, and let’s face it, it’s going to be science. But the history just doesn’t take into that place. The history suggests that at times there has been conflict, but at times there has been great synergy between science and religion and many would say that at this moment, there are some very exciting things happening in the dialogue between science and religion. What Dawkins is offering is a very simplistic, slick spin on a very complex phenomenon. It’s one that clearly he expects to appeal to his readers, but the reality is simply not like that at all.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology