Daily Archives: November 4, 2007

Partnered Lesbian Episcopal ministers race for ratings on tonight's episode of 'The Amazing Race'

“We’re happy to offer ourselves up to show people that Christians come in many different stripes,” said [Kate] Lewis, a minister at St. Cross Episcopal Church in Hermosa Beach. “Some of us are progressive and inclusive.”

The potential for a million-dollar cash prize, along with a globe-spanning adventure, didn’t hurt, either.

“We are very serious about our relationship with God, and we are very serious about winning this race,” Hendrickson said. “We’re not afraid to have a good time, either. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun.”

The pair certainly stand out among this season’s lineup of two-person teams. Amid the cast of brothers and sisters, co-workers and heterosexual couples, Lewis and Hendrickson are the first lesbian team to compete on the show. The fact that they are both ordained ministers adds to their mystique.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

The Sunday (London) Times: Serious success in Iraq is not being recognised as it should be

Is no news good news or bad news? In Iraq, it seems good news is deemed no news. There has been striking success in the past few months in the attempt to improve security, defeat al-Qaeda sympathisers and create the political conditions in which a settlement between the Shia and the Sunni communities can be reached. This has not been an accident but the consequence of a strategy overseen by General David Petraeus in the past several months. While summarised by the single word “surge” his efforts have not just been about putting more troops on the ground but also employing them in a more sophisticated manner. This drive has effectively broken whatever alliances might have been struck in the past by terrorist factions and aggrieved Sunnis. Cities such as Fallujah, once notorious centres of slaughter, have been transformed in a remarkable time.

Indeed, on every relevant measure, the shape of the Petraeus curve is profoundly encouraging. It is not only the number of coalition deaths and injuries that has fallen sharply (October was the best month for 18 months and the second-best in almost four years), but the number of fatalities among Iraqi civilians has also tumbled similarly. This process started outside Baghdad but now even the capital itself has a sense of being much less violent and more viable. As we report today, something akin to a normal nightlife is beginning to re-emerge in the city. As the pace of reconstruction quickens, the prospects for economic recovery will be enhanced yet further. With oil at record high prices, Iraq should be an extremely prosperous nation and in a position to start planning for its future with confidence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

Central Florida Episcopalians rebel over approval of new practices

The long-simmering dispute over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church, USA, which has threatened to tear the denomination apart, is now roiling the Diocese of Central Florida.

Six traditionalist congregations here, together with two new congregations in the process of being established, are planning to leave the diocese and the denomination.

They oppose ordaining openly gay clergy and blessing same-sex unions and were outraged at the 2003 consecration of openly gay Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

“I believe all of the efforts we have made to change the direction of the church have failed,” said the Rev. Donald J. Curran of Grace Episcopal Church in Ocala, one of the dissident congregations.

Read it all.

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

Rafel Medoff: Does the Anglican Church have an Israel problem?

Rallies accusing Israel of practicing apartheid may be old hat, but the involvement of Episcopal church leaders gave last weekend’s conference in Boston more stature than such gatherings might ordinarily enjoy. The Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, was a featured speaker at the “Israel-Apartheid” conference, and the Episcopal Divinity School, which trains the church’s future leaders, co-sponsored the event.

Some may see this antipathy to the Jewish state and apparent indifference to the suffering Israel has endured as analogous to the Holocaust years, when most Episcopal church leaders were largely indifferent to the suffering of the Jews in Hitler’s Europe. But it is important to remember that then, as now, there were also prominent Episcopalians who stood up for the Jews.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Israel, Middle East, TEC Bishops

Connecticut Church Fight Heats Up

According to the lawsuit against Trinity, the property in Bristol is held in trust for the diocese and does not belong to the parish. When Trinity chose to align itself with the Anglican convocation, the lawsuit says, its members lost their rights to control the property.

Trinity parishioners and Helmandollar, who was removed from ministry by Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith in June, insist they have the right to continue worshiping at the Bristol church.

Attorney Howard M. Wood III, who is representing Trinity, said the national church’s decision to intervene in this case is “consistent with the national [church’s] policy of looking over the shoulder of local counsel to insure that the national’s policy of no compromise and no selling the buildings to churches … is followed through.”

He also accused the national church of using the “strategy of intimidation and punishment of local church leaders” by canceling their liability insurance and suing them personally.

“It is the massive resources of the national church and the liberal diocese against the small weekly offerings of the local church, with the result that the reason the local church was consecrated – the ministry of the Gospel – suffers,” Wood said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut

One strike, Iran could be out

My aim in writing the column was not to soothsay but to alert readers to the seriousness of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program — and to persuade them that the United States should do something to stop it. True, after all that has gone wrong in Iraq, Americans are scarcely eager for another preventive war to stop another rogue regime from owning yet more weapons of mass destruction that don’t currently exist. It’s easy to imagine the international uproar that would ensue in the event of U.S. air strikes. It’s also easy to imagine the havoc that might be wreaked by Iranian-sponsored terrorists in Iraq by way of retaliation. So it’s very tempting to hope for a purely diplomatic solution.

Yet the reality is that the chances of such an outcome are dwindling fast, precisely because other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are ruling out the use of force — and without the threat of force, diplomacy seldom works. Six days ago, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin went to Iran for an amicable meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Putin says he sees “no evidence” that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. On his return to Moscow, he explicitly repudiated what he called “a policy of threats, various sanctions or power politics.”

The new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, also seems less likely to support American preemption than his predecessor was in the case of Iraq. That leaves China, which remains an enigma on the Iranian question, and France, whose hawkish new president finds himself distracted by the worst kind of domestic crisis: a divorce.

By contrast, Washington’s most reliable ally in the Middle East, Israel, recently demonstrated the ease with which a modern air force can destroy a suspected nuclear facility. Not only was last month’s attack on a site in northeastern Syria carried out without Israeli losses, there was no retaliation on the part of Damascus. Memo from Ehud Olmert to George W. Bush: You can do this, and do it with impunity.

The big question of 2007 therefore remains: Will he do it?

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

Brian McLaren Reviews Robert Wuthnow's After the Baby Boomers

A wise friend of mine says, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” Robert Wuthnow would agree. He brings the eye of the sociologist to the life of the church and gives us insights that sometimes confirm but often confound our anecdotes. In After the Baby Boomers, he examines data about adults between the ages of 21 and 45 and concludes, “If I were a religious leader, I would be troubled by the facts and figures currently describing the lives of young Americans, their involvement in congregations, and their spiritual practices.”

As he conveys large doses of data (along with a few anecdotes), Wuthnow keeps reminding readers not to hastily draw conclusions “from where the action is” but rather to reach their conclusions on the basis of “a full consideration of where the action is not.” He goes on to say that “social reality is . . . complicated,” and “we need a more sophisticated view of society if we are going to understand why American religion is patterned as it is.”

I recently completed 24 rewarding and challenging years of leading what Wuthnow would describe as a youthful congregation. Over the past several years I’ve also been traveling extensively in North America and around the world, trying to understand the sweeping changes in our culture and world and to articulate what they mean for the church. What I’ve seen in hundreds of churches in dozens of denominations often causes me to wonder whether congregations as we know them can survive.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Religious Groups Push Climate Aid for Poor

An alliance of religious groups is vowing a relentless push to restore a key provision to assist the international poor in America’s Climate Security Act, the first greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill with a realistic chance of passage in the Senate.

In a press conference today, top faith leaders from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, and the Union of Reform Judaism emphasized the need for U.S. funding of adaptation efforts in the world’s poorest countries, which emit relatively little carbon dioxide but may be hardest hit by global warming because of their locale and lack of infrastructure and money.

“As always, poor and working-class people need advocates, and that is what the faith community traditionally does,” Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, told U.S. News before the press conference. “We plan to be sending out materials to delegations and making phone calls. The single most striking thing about us and this issue is the degree of unity across the ideological spectrum. We see this as an extension of our traditional concern for the international and domestic poor.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture

Saudi Arabia is hub of world terror

It was an occasion for tears and celebration as the Knights of Martyrdom proclaimed on video: “Our brother Turki fell during the rays of dawn, covered in blood after he was hit by the bullets of the infidels, following in the path of his brother.” The flowery language could not disguise the brutal truth that a Saudi family had lost two sons fighting for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The elder brother, Khaled, had been a deputy commander of a crack jihadist “special forces” unit. After his “glorious” death, Turki took his place.

“He was deeply affected by the martyrdom of his brother,” the Knights said. “He became more ambitious and more passionate about defending the land of Islam and dying as a martyr, like his brother.”

Turki’s fervent wish was granted earlier this year, but another Saudi national who travelled to Iraq had second thoughts. He was a graduate from a respectable family of teachers and professors who was recruited in a Saudi Arabian mosque and sent to Iraq with $1,000 in travel expenses and the telephone number of a smuggler who could get him across the Syrian border.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

Vulcan Hammer: Another Baptismal Certificate

Take a look.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Church History, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Out of Ur: Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."

Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels’ office hangs a poster that says: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?” Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry””church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage””has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?…

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Jonathan Wynne-Jones: Breathing Space?

Almost hidden from view in the middle of a huddle of bishops all laying their hands on him, Gene Robinson emerged as the Bishop of New Hampshire. ”˜’It’s not about me; it’s about so many other people who find themselves at the margins,” he said at the time.

Exactly four years on from the historic day he now stands firmly at the centre of life in the Episcopal Church, but is also the axis around which the Anglican Communion continues to spin out of control. If the whirl of rapture and condemnation that met his consecration may have calmed, slowly but surely the warring factions are sounding the drums.

Reform has indicated that it is preparing to look to overseas bishops for leadership, and the potential election of the communion’s first [partnered] lesbian bishop looms on the horizon. And the battle will be played out in Kent ”” the garden of England ”” at next year’s Lambeth Conference.

As long as everyone shows up that is. The Bishop of Rochester has become the latest bishop to warn that he will boycott the conference and last month the Council of Anglican Primates in Africa called
for it to be postponed.

That won’t happen: the Archbishop said as much in New Orleans, but when it goes ahead and the Americans turn up, there remains one carrot that should tempt the traditionalists along ”” the
Anglican Covenant. All the provinces will have given their responses to the draft document by the
end of the year, and a revised text will be submitted at the conference.

Liberals have responded to this like a wriggling baby strapped in a high-chair, which one would have thought would be enough to convince the traditionalists to stop throwing their toys out of the pram. One prelate who was at last month’s House of Bishops said that the meeting was very tense, with old divisions resurfacing over whether they should be signing up to a draft, and particularly given
that they will not get to see it before it is submitted.

Much of the paper’s language would not be to their liking. It talks about ”˜the positive function of the exercise of discipline,’ and ”˜repentance,’ and ”˜properly authorized schemes of pastoral oversight.’

“The indications now are that many see it as a contract, a means of ensuring a uniform view on human sexuality enforceable by the threat of exclusion from the Communion if one does not conform,” the Most Rev Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, has said. Crucially, however, the bishops’ paper
also acknowledges that the Covenant’s current proposal for the Primates to offer direction is not just unlikely, but “unlawful” ”” according to the Church of England’s lawyers.

So, in the battle to balance the autonomy of individual provinces and the catholic spirit of the Anglican Church with the need for a more federal style of communion that is armed with powers of discipline, there is no doubt as to which side the scales come down on.

“The original intention of a covenant to affirm the bonds of affection, was good,” said Dr Morgan.

In reality, that is exactly what it will be. To get 38 provinces to sign up to a Covenant that is anything more than a warm, friendly statement of chumminess is as likely as getting the European countries
to agree to a common language for the EU. But, in the meantime, it keeps everyone talking, makes the traditionalists think they’re being listened to and just about keeps the liberals in check with the threat of having to stand on the naughty step if they misbehave again. More importantly, it gives Rowan a little
bit of breathing room, but it’s a chance for him to remind the country why his appointment was initially met with suchenthusiasm.

There have been glimpses of his ability to capture the news agenda: in 2004 he debated religion with Philip Pullman and more recently he has gone on the offensive against atheists such as Richard
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and led the calls for a reform of abortion law.

But there has been far too little connection with popular culture.

There are signs that the Church is trying and in some areas it is succeeding ””its campaigns to increase the number of church weddings and Back to Church Sunday are two notable examples. And in addressing Halloween it has picked a relevant topic, but sadly it has ended up embarrassingly misguided. The Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Rev David Gillett, has done well in getting supermarkets
to take seriously his concerns about stocking alternatives to horror masks, but to say that it is leading kids to become obsessed with the Occult makes it sound like an alarmist killjoy. And if you’re going to criticise something you need to have something equally as exciting to offer.

But what has the Church come up with? Wholesome “Lite-night” parties, substituting quizzes and sing-songs for horror stories and trick-or-treating, not to forget the bishops handing out apples carrying a sticker inviting people to visit a website and make “Halloween Treat” donations. It doesn’t take a Professor of child psychology to work out what young people are more likely to opt for.

If the Church is to speak to modern culture successfully it needs to find a voice that provides a genuine alternative to the mixture of fun and fear offered outside of its walls.

–Jonathan Wynne-Jones is the Religious Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph; this article appears in the November 2nd, 2007, edition of the Church of England Newspaper on page 24

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

Press statement by the The Rt. Rev. Dr. David L. Moyer

It is indeed a very serious thing in the life of the Church when a bishop or priest is inhibited from his ministry. Charles Bennison is in my prayers that this situation brings him to repentance, and back to the faith and order of the Church Catholic.

It is ironic that Charles Bennison will be put in trial before the Church for a pastoral failure to report his brother’s sexual misconduct and to protect a young teenage girl and others from his brother where Bishop Bennison denied me a Church trial as I sought to report his theological misconduct and protect my people and others from him.

The Presentment shows the same pattern of conduct of the concealing of evidence that my attorneys discovered occurred in his actions against me.

Whatever happens to Charles Bennison in church proceedings, my litigation will continue unless resolved with a satisfactory settlement.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons

Christopher Howse: Why should abortion be thought wrong?

In Britain abortions are running at 200,000 a year, more than a quarter of the number of live births.

Yet Dawn Primarolo, the Health Minister, told the select committee last week that the Government believed that the 1967 Abortion Act “works as intended and doesn’t require further amendment”.

Works as intended? Remember that there is no “social clause” in the Act.

Decisions are meant to be made on the grounds of the mother’s health or damage to the unborn child. In reality abortion is a back-up to contraception, and mothers may be left seriously depressed and anguished by it, their lives blighted for years.

How extraordinary it is that abortion on this huge scale has become a regular part of the British way of life, for the morality of abortion, one might think, was pretty obvious.

Here is a human being that is killed, either in the womb or after induced birth.

It sounds like murder. Of course, once a moral philosopher gets to work on any bad act, the grounds of its badness prove hard to establish.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Life Ethics

A Special Edition of the Economist: In God's name

THE four-hour journey through the bush from Kano to Jos in northern Nigeria features many of the staples of African life: checkpoints with greedy soldiers, huge potholes, scrawny children in football shirts drying rice on the road. But it is also a journey along a front-line.

Nigeria, evenly split between Christians and Muslims, is a country where people identify themselves by their religion first and as Nigerians second (see chart 1). Around 20,000 have been killed in God’s name since 1990, estimates Shehu Sani, a local chronicler of religious violence. Kano, the centre of the Islamic north, introduced sharia law seven years ago. Many of the Christians who fled ended up in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, where the Christian south begins. The road between the two towns is dotted with competing churches and mosques.

This is one of many religious battlefields in this part of Africa. Evangelical Christians, backed by American collection-plate money, are surging northwards, clashing with Islamic fundamentalists, backed by Saudi petrodollars, surging southwards. And the Christian-Muslim split is only one form of religious competition in northern Nigeria. Events in Iraq have set Sunnis, who make up most of Nigeria’s Muslims, against the better-organised Shias; about 50 people have died in intra-Muslim violence, reckons Mr Sani. On the Christian side, Catholics are in a more peaceful battle with Protestant evangelists, whose signs promising immediate redemption dominate the roadside. By the time you reach Jos and see a poster proclaiming “the ABC of nourishment”, you are surprised to discover it is for chocolate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Globalization, Religion & Culture