Daily Archives: September 21, 2009

Living Church: Trio of Bishops Seek to Strengthen Communion Ties

The initial meeting between Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of the Diocese of El Camino Real and Bishop Michael Perham of Gloucester, England, at the 2008 Lambeth Conference was an auspicious one. When a protester jumped up and called Bishop Gray-Reeves “a whore of the church,” Bishop Perham stepped in to help his new American acquaintance around the protesters and on to safety.

This frightening encounter brought together two parts of what has become a trio of bishops ”” the third is Bishop Gerard Mpango of the Western Tanganyika Diocese in Tanzania ”” who have linked up as companion dioceses. The combination of American, British and African dioceses is intentional. The three locations encompass three regions of discontent in the Anglican Communion. By meeting, talking and working together, the three bishops hope to show that people of different cultures, and these three cultures in particular, can maintain civil relations and look for answers to divisive issues.

“We want to hold together when the Communion is threatened,” Bishop Perham said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Tanzania, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lambeth 2008, TEC Bishops

A Spanish Roman Catholic Bishop Composes A Test; Do you Appreciate Your Priest?

“Do we appreciate the priesthood and love our priests?” the bishop asked in a posting on the Web site of his dioceses.

To answer this question, the bishop composed — “with a bit of humor” — the following test titled “Priestly Appreciation.” The test is complete with instructions to evaluate your answers and your level of appreciation for the priesthood.

Check it out.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic, Spain, Theology

Religious Intelligence: Muslim mob attacks Pakistani Christians for a fourth time

A Muslim mob torched a church and the homes of a number of Christians in the Punjab last week, following claims that local Christians had committed blasphemy by desecrating the Koran.

The Sept 11 attack in the village of Sambrial, approximately 20 miles west of the city of Sialkot near Pakistan’s border with Kashmir, marks the fourth time in two months that Muslim mobs have attacked Christian neighbourhoods over alleged insults to the Koran, reports Aftab Mughal of Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have condemned the attack and have asked Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to investigate the incident. Press reports from Pakistan report that President Zardari has called for calm, and promised the government would rebuild the church.

Reed it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Pakistan, Religion & Culture, Violence

The Bishop of Mississippi Writes his Clergy

From here:

2) Several of you have begun to hear whispers of the financial challenge that the diocesan ministries will be facing in the year ahead. The impact of our nation’s economy has impacted all of us and will contribute to a significant tightening of all of our budgets.

The unique challenge facing our diocesan ministries are twofold:

First, 30% of the diocesan budget is funded by investment income. We have been able to develop new and innovative ministries during the times of growth in our investment portfolio. These, as we all know, are difficult times for such income resources. Our income will be greatly reduced.

Secondly, the diocese took out a sizeable loan to buy properties on the gulf coast for the rebuilding of the congregations following Hurricane Katrina. When the original beach front properties are sold the loan will be repaid. Until such sale we are liable for a substantial interest payment. Until now, we have been able to pay the interest from contributions for post-Katrina recovery. Those funds are now depleted.

I have made the decision, and will ask the Executive Committee to concur, that to be “one church” means that we are willing to bear one another’s burdens. To ask any of these three churches to assume their share of the indirect payment would be to crush them as they seek to recover and rebuild. Thus, I am prepared to make the necessary sacrifices within our common life and ministries to give these congregations relief from the unsustainable debt burden until their properties are sold.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Hurricane Katrina, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

Protesters March In Pittsburgh Ahead Of G-20 Summit

Several hundred people have been marching through Pittsburgh’s predominantly black Hill District demanding jobs in a protest ahead of the Group of 20 economic summit meeting in the city this week.

Marchers held signs demanding “Jobs not jail” and calling for “economic justice.” The “Bail Out The People Movement” organizers are also calling for an end to foreclosures and evictions….

One reverend said churches in America need to speak up for the unemployed.

Friar Luis Barrios, of the Episcopal Church in New York, said, “If the church keeps silent in front of this reality, it is not fair.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Gavin Dunbar: Truth, Unity and Witness

The history and constitution of the Episcopal Church commits it to historic Faith and Order as set forth in the classical Prayer Book ”“ which is to say, the teaching of Scripture, as received in the tradition of the Church, and held in common by the churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Over the last thirty five years or so, however, the General Convention has established a dangerous habit of ignoring its fundamental commitments of Truth and Unity, and thereby compromised both its witness and worship. In the face of these broken commitments to Truth and Unity, we cannot remain silent. We must bear witness.

The Commitment to Truth. Christian life begins in hearing the Word of God, and receiving it for what it is, the life-giving word of truth. This word is not something we just naturally know, or that the world teaches us: it is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, and communicated to us by his Spirit, through the witness of the Apostles, recorded in the New Testament. Such faith in the Word of God is not opposed to reason: indeed, faith seeks to understand what it believes, to grasp its meaning and implications, and therefore reason is indispensable to faith. Nor is such faith opposed to the Church’s tradition: for it is only in the company of the saints, that we can truly understand what the Word of God is saying.
For Episcopalians, the wisdom of Scripture and the saints, is embodied above all in the historic Prayer Book. It is no accident that when the historic prayer book was jettisoned in 1979 a tide of false teaching, moral relativism, and cultural conformity rushed in. Episcopalians still read the Bible in their services, recite the Creed, profess faith, and refer to the Church’s tradition: but as a church they do not pay much attention to them. The controversies in the church about its ordained ministry and about marriage are just two examples of this deaf ear. There may be many good reasons to ignore the scriptural distinction of sex in marriage and ordained ministry. But no one has yet demonstrated that these reasons are in accord with the Word of God. This will not do. If we are serious about being Christians and being a Church, we must not be silent in the face of this broken commitment to the Truth. We must bear witness.

The Commitment to Unity. Those who believe the word of God are called to love one another, and accept the constraints of love binding them together in the unity of the Church’s fellowship. The current controversy in the Episcopal Church makes clear that this challenge to love one another and to maintain the bond of unity is not just a local effort, but a global one. Unity in the Body of Christ means that local or national churches do not have the moral right to make decisions about matters that affect the faith a global church holds in common. As the Archbishop of Canterbury recently reminded the Episcopal Church, “What affects the communion of all should be decided by all”. When churches make unilateral decisions about matters of faith, in the words of the Windsor Report, they are breaking the “proper constraints of the bonds of affection”. They sin against charity.

In this regard, the recent record of the Episcopal Church is nothing short of disgraceful. At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the bishops of the Anglican Communion overwhelming reaffirmed traditional teaching about sexuality in Resolution 1.10. The Episcopal Church has chosen to ignore and reject this consensus, at times by direct defiance, and at other times through deliberate ambiguity – saying one thing and doing another. Instead of engaging honestly in the “dialogue” about which it so often speaks, it has sought to intimidate its critics by litigation, and to subvert them by bureaucratic manoeuvre and financial incentive. This is not the act of the Church, but of a schismatic sect. In the face of this broken commitment to Unity, we cannot be silent. We must bear witness.

The Commitment to Witness. As the lessons for this Sunday teach us, the Word of God not only opens our deaf ears to hear the truth: it also releases our tongues to sing his praise in worship and in witness, making us, who are not “sufficient in ourselves to think any of ourselves”, to be “able ministers of the new testament” ”“ effective witnesses to the judgment and mercy of God in Christ.

Structural reforms of the Church are no doubt in order. But what is primary is the work of witness, just as it was for Christ and his Apostles. In a world where the political and religious authorities were alike opposed to God, their primary work was that of witness. As Christ said before Pilate, “to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:37). Nor did he keep his head down and his criticism private. “I spake openly in the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple”¦and in secret have I said nothing” (John 18:20). It is not witness, unless it is public. “Pray for me” says the Apostle, in prison for the sake of the gospel, “that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make know the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18, 19).

Dear friends in Christ, the time has come for us to speak boldly. I do not mean stridently, or bitterly, or harshly, or self-righteously. Our principle must be that of the Apostle ”“ “speaking the truth in love”. But speak the truth we must. It is my hope that the Statement of the Clergy, Wardens and Vestry (August 30th) will indeed find wide dissemination, and that it will indeed provoke comment. Some of that will come to the clergy, some to the vestry, some to parishioners. We must not see such comment as threat but as opportunity: an opportunity to speak with clarity and charity and conviction about what matters critically to being the Church, and being a Christian. We may not always find agreement: but I suspect we shall often find respect: more importantly, we shall be bearing witness to the hope that is in us.

For such mission, such witness, such testimony is always an act of hope in God: it is God’s to vindicate, when and as he chooses. But the Scripture assures us that God most certainly does vindicate true witness. And it is in vindicating true witness that God’s plan for his Church and people is carried out. I doubt that any of us will have to die for our faith, or suffer gravely for it. But there will be no reform of the Church, if we keep our heads down, and our mouths shut. In the face of our Church’s broken commitments to Truth and Unity, we cannot remain silent. We must bear witness. May the Lord who does all things well, who makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak, open our ears to his Word of truth, and our mouths to his praise. Amen.

—-The Rev. Gavin Dunbar is rector of Saint John’s, Savannah, Georgia; this is a shortened form of a sermon Father Dunbar gave toward the end of August

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop Kenneth Stevenson: Rootless, isolated, and churched out

Yes, bishops have to learn to watch what they say (although preferably not all the time), and not shoot their mouths off publicly at every oppor­tunity. But there is a difference between being carefully prepared and believing that everything you say is going to be of earth-shattering importance.

“Bishop-itis” can get out of hand, and resemble what Clement Attlee once condemned in leaders as “the continual beating of the breast and airing of agonies in public”. This is what a fellow-bishop once described to me as “the high apophatic angst”, a dynamic that can ensure that discussions go round in circles, just in case a decision might be reached.

Bishops perhaps need to take themselves ”” and the Church ”” less seriously than they often do, because, in the end, it is God’s Church, not ours, and he is the one continually re-shaping it. Perhaps that is why bishoping is such a huge privilege, especially when assisted by good colleagues, as I have been.

For all the tight corners I have known in 14 years in post, I can still leave it profoundly thankful.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Parish Ministry

Stephen Prothero: Will Americans accept Islam?

This new Pew survey gathered much useful data, but it wasted time and money in determining that roughly two-thirds of Americans see Islam as either “somewhat different” or “very different” from their own religions. The question isn’t whether Christianity and Islam are similar or different. The question is whether religious (and non-religious) people can find common ground. On this point, Patel is unequivocal. “Religions are different,” he says, “but they have shared values.” The challenge is “to identify shared values such as mercy, compassion and service,” and then to advance from there to shared projects.

In his public pronouncements on religion, Obama has repeatedly invoked the Golden Rule as common ground. But like Patel, he does not pretend that all religions are the same, and like his predecessor he does not shy away from speaking as a “committed Christian.” At Notre Dame, he denounced “outworn prejudice” as “rooted in original sin.” In Obama’s view, there is not just something wrong but something un-Christian about discrimination against Muslims, or against any other religious (or non-religious) group.

Unfortunately, this study did not ask Americans what they think of anti-Muslim discrimination. Do those who see discrimination against Muslims want it to end? Or would they like to see more of it? According to Patel, that is the $1 million question ”” “not who faces bigotry, but who would stand up against it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Sacramento Bee–Going Broke: State's a wreck ”“ can it be fixed?

Three inarguable facts dominate California’s system of financing state government:

”¢ It’s a mess.

”¢ It’s currently a mess in large part due to the deepest and most pervasive global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

”¢ It’s been a mess for much of the past three decades because the combination of an out-of date tax system, reckless spending and fickle voters has made state government extremely vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of the economy.

While there’s not much the state’s elected leaders can do about the worldwide economic woes, they have tried for decades ”“ mostly unsuccessfully ”“ to wrestle with the triple threat of taxes, spending and ballot-box budgeting.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict “will likely result in failure,” according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.

McChrystal concludes the document’s five-page Commander’s Summary on a note of muted optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, War in Afghanistan

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou who leadest Joseph like a flock! Thou who art enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before E’phraim and Benjamin and Manas’seh! Stir up thy might, and come to save us!

–Psalm 80:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for Saint Matthew

We thank thee, heavenly Father, for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,now and for ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

The First Medal of Honor Recipient under President Obama profiled

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Thoroughly inspiring–a real leader, very sorry to lose him. Watch it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, War in Afghanistan

NPR–At 85, Sam Rivers Creates A Scene In Orlando

The room has a computer with music software on it, but Rivers still composes most of his tunes by hand. And at 85, he still practices two hours a day. He says that in central Florida, he’s experiencing the most creative time in his life.

“I’m getting more ideas now ”” I think I’m far more mentally inspired creatively than I was when I was like 50 or maybe even 40,” Rivers insists. “I have so many more ideas. I have so much more knowledge. It’s great, it’s sort of like the universe: The more you see out there, the more there is. I don’t expect to ever reach my full achievement. I don’t expect to ever have that. Until I pass there’s gonna be, like there’s always more, you know?”

Sam Rivers is happy to spend most of his time in Florida. But he wants to squeeze in one last international tour. And Rivers is also looking for some institution to give a home to his life’s work of more than 300 compositions ”” before they overwhelm the shelves and filing cabinets that have begun to spread beyond his music room.

I caught this one this morning on the way to worship. What a great attitude–the man is an inspiration. Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Music

Pastor looks back on rewarding faith journey

When the Rev. Ruth Strang gives her last sermon next Sunday, she’ll do so knowing she finally answered God’s calling.

Strang, who started as a pastor with St. John’s Episcopal Church in Howell in 1994, will step down officially Oct. 1 after 15 years of what she called a “fantastic spiritual journey.”

More than any single memory or feeling at the church, Strang said she’d remember the journey ”” of her and her congregation ”” the most.

“I think it’s been a journey in which there were so many moments we’ve developed as a caring family,” Strang said. “God called me to do this, and I took a long time to answer. Now, it’s time for me to do something else.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes