Daily Archives: October 9, 2011

(Christian Today) Strong church growth in London

The first decade of the century for the church in the capital has been one of strong growth in membership and giving, reports the Diocese of London.

A new report out this week, Another Capital Idea, said giving to churches had risen in real terms by 50 per cent over the past decade despite slightly tailing off in the recession.

As well as an increase in the overall income from giving, the number of “tax efficient planned givers” – people who register their donations for tax purposes – rose from 21,000 in 2000 to 26,300 in 2009.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Urban/City Life and Issues

(BBC) Egypt troops dead after Coptic church protest in Cairo

At least 17 people have been killed and scores injured after a protest in Cairo against an attack on a Coptic church.

Egyptian TV showed protesters clashing with security forces, with army vehicles burning outside the state television building.

Christian Copts blame Muslim radicals for the partial demolition of a Coptic church in Aswan province last week.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

UK chaplains in Afghanistan: ordinary priests with an extraordinary flock

The Rev James Francis was travelling in an armoured vehicle north of the Bowri desert in Afghanistan, accompanying the Brigade Reconnaissance Force during the stopping and searching of vehicles for insurgents, when a Royal Marine interrupted his chat with a gunner to ask if it was right to kill.

“That was a direct question,” says the padre for 30 Commando, “but it’s quite normal for these things to occur to people out here and it’s vital that when difficult decisions are being made we have direct answers, that as Christians we don’t retreat into some kind of holy huddle.”

Francis is the archetypal Church of England priest ”“ cheerful, polite, with James Herriot DVDs and a lavish tea collection ”“ but his congregation is extraordinary: British forces who on Friday will have been engaged in operations in Afghanistan for 10 years in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Archbishop of Canterbury on 'healing' Zimbabwe trip

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has delivered a sermon in Zimbabwe as part of an African tour to try to heal divisions within the Anglican Church.

Dr Williams urged those at a Eucharist in Harare’s National Sports Stadium to shun violence and intimidation.

Nolbert Kunonga, a renegade bishop who backs President Robert Mugabe, has been accused of inciting violence against Anglicans who do not support him.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury, Zimbabwe

Archbishop Rowan Williams's sermon to the Anglicans in Zimbabwe this Morning

The message we want to send from this Eucharistic celebration is that we do not have to live like that ”“ in terror, in bloodshed. God has given us another way. He has opened a door of possibility that no-one can shut. He has announced that he will welcome all to the marriage feast of his Son ”“ and so we see that all, even our bitterest enemies, still have a place in his peace if they will only turn and be saved. Did you hear what St Paul said in today’s epistle? ‘Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable.’ We need to feed ourselves and most especially to feed our young people with such things, to hold before us that great new possibility opened up by God for our minds to be transformed, to be excited not by the false thrills of violence and bloody conflict, by the overheated language of party conflict, but by the hope of joy and reconciliation.

And this also lays upon us the duty to keep alive our own concern for those lest able to help themselves. The Church of God is ”“ or should be ”“ the great hope of the poor; not just as a source of material help, important as that is, but as a source of hope and a guarantee of human dignity. The Church could not exist with any integrity if it forgot that every person is of immeasurable value in God’s eyes and so immeasurably worthy of our attention and service. In this country in recent years, you, our Anglican brothers and sisters, have been more and more active and courageous in this practical service, and in reminding the whole society of the universal dignity that the gospel implies. You have also been faithful to those who suffer from the HIV pandemic, which has ravaged a whole generation; and, like Christians elsewhere in Africa, you have been at the forefront of challenging the stigma that can make the suffering so much more bitter and can prevent people from facing the problem honestly. You know that the truth will make you free. To tell the truth about the sufferings and fears people endure, but also to tell the truth about their value in the sight of God ”“ this is the most effective way of banishing stigma and prejudice and superstition.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Zimbabwe

In Southern California, Grace Anglican grand opening scheduled for Sunday

“I think the key is to see this worshipping community come together with such joy and such inspiration —- the journey they’ve been on has given them perseverance, a sense of being safe on the road,” said the congregation’s rector, the Rev. Joe Rees. “This is what it means to overcome.

“It’s not so much about the four walls as it is the journey,” he added.

Father Rees’ congregation left the Episcopal Church USA in 2006, citing numerous theological and practical grievances, and last year lost the subsequent lawsuit with the Diocese of San Diego over the use of the original St. Anne’s property at 701 West St., near Coast Highway.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Diego

(CNN) Archbishop wants to meet with Mugabe over Anglican persecution allegations

Archbishop Rowan Williams has accused Kunonga of using state resources to intimidate the loyal Anglican congregation, often with violence. Williams has requested a meeting with Mugabe on Monday to discuss the issue and is due to deliver a sermon in the capital Sunday.

But Kunonga said the archbishop is politicizing divisions within the church by wanting to meet with Mugabe.

It is not yet clear whether Williams will meet with Mugabe on Monday, as requested, said Williams’ press offer Marie Papworth on Saturday.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury, Zimbabwe

NBC names Summerville, South Carolina, an 'All-American' town

The segment, “An All-American Homecoming” will air at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, during “Sunday Night Football,” the pregame show for the Atlanta Falcons-Green Bay Packers match-up.

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Posted in * South Carolina

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Spirit of the living God, who dost sanctify the lives of thy people, and dost build them up into a holy temple for thy habitation: Grant us so to know thy indwelling presence that we may be set free from lesser desires, and by thy grace may be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

–Luke 7:36-50

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Look Back to a 2006 Mark Lawrence Address– “Who are these birds that can sing in the dark?"

We meet this morning in this lovely city of Charleston. Inside the walls of this great old historic edifice””we can only hope the wisdom of the years might seep into our minds that we might rightly appreciate the present, and more importantly imagine an even greater future for tomorrow. It is of course serious stuff we do here today.

Our beloved Episcopal Church has entered into a time of crisis quite unique in her history. And this flagship diocese of South Carolina has to negotiate right in the midst of the narrow strait and stormy seas the finding of a new helmsman. Like Magellan’s crew continuing their circumnavigation of the globe after their captain is gone. No easy task. All just a little nerve-racking. Serious business, I tell you. Serious business. A man could lose his footing; a diocese could lose its bearings. My wife suggested to me that you all might be under a lot of stress”¦. I told her, “Well I’m under a little stress myself!”
I have among my bookshelves in my office at the church a small book written by Michael Henshall, Bishop of Warrington, England. It’s made up of letters he wrote to his newly ordained son, Nicholas. In one of the letters the bishop mentions some counsel Archbishop Michael Ramsey gave to him at his ordination in 1956””“Always pay your bills on time. Always answer your mail on time.” Bishop Henshall said he thought at the time the advice was pretty banal. Later he grew to see how often we fail because of small procrastinations. It reminded me as I read it of my ordination to the priesthood 25 years ago. I was full of idealism; having, so I thought, a deep commitment to prayer, study, servanthood, sacrifice, and ministry in the Holy Spirit. I didn’t get to pick the preacher as many do today. I didn’t think at the time it was all that good of a sermon. I still don’t. But the preacher said something that stuck with me because it seemed to me at the time so trite. He said, “Don’t be a grumpy priest. Don’t forget to smile.” Now at 56, and two and a half decades after my ordination, it doesn’t seem so trite a charge. So facetious a warning. It is a constant with me””I have to watch out for grumpiness. It would be the gravest mistake if we who profess and call ourselves Christians allow our difficulties, struggles, and spiritual battles to cause us to lose our joy. G. K. Chesterton called joy, “the gigantic secret of the Christian.” Well why not. The Gospel begins with joy and ends with joy.

I was hiking one day on Mt. Desert Isand in Maine when I came across a Ladyslipper on the side of the trail. I knelt down to study it. I thought, “What a beautifully formed wildflower.” It brought me joy. And when I got up to hike there was a new lilt in my step. But it was a serendipitous, happenstance joy. Too many Christians seem to think that this is how our joy should be, just something we come across as we go through life. But Christian joy is a cultivated flower, planted, nurtured and water in cooperation with God’s grace. So I remind you of the joy of Christmas, even on this morning in September. “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior who is Christ the Lord.” Read next the resurrection appearances and you’ll see this same joy everywhere between the lines of the narrative. The Road to Emmaus disciples run back to Jerusalem and discover Peter too has seen the Lord. They all share their stories and Luke writes, “While they disbelieved for joy”¦.”

One of the staggering things, though, about John’s Gospel is that the closer Jesus gets to the cross the more he talks to his disciples about his joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” He prays to his Father, “But I am coming to thee; and these things I spoke in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Then to his disciples again, “I will see you again and your hearts shall rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”¦ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

The French spiritual writer, Louis Evely has written, “Our sadness measures exactly our attachment to ourselves. The place we give to joy is the place we give to God. We believe no more in him than in joy.” Is our religion only a religion of the cross? Of sacrifice? Of denial? Of spiritual battles? Is there no place for the empty tomb, the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore, a charcoal fire, and the risen Christ with fish on the shoreline in the morning mist as the sun rises above the Galilean hills””and a voice calls out, “Children have you caught any fish?” “No.” “Cast the net on the right side of the boat”¦.” (He wasn’t talking politics when he said “right side.” Nothing here about theology). No maybe I’d better put it”¦ “starboard side of the boat and you’ll get a catch.” Joy you see runs right through the gospels from beginning to end.

The late bishop, Festo Kivengere, Anglican bishop in Uganda and well-known evangelist related how one day he was coming from the cathedral feeling very good that he had preached a fine sermon. (You can often tell how a preacher feels about the morning sermon by his gait as he goes to his car after the service when nobody is watching). Then a dear lady, 70 years old, illiterate, but a real saint, took his hand and thanked him for the message. Then, very quietly she said, “Bishop, what’s wrong? You seemed rather dry.” There was no despising or criticism, he said, just redeeming love. Before he could answer, she said, “Just take it to the Lord.” So bishop Kivengere went home and got down on his face. “I took it to Him””and it was the beginning of blessing. I’m learning we need to be in a blessable posture in our hearts in order not to hinder the stream of the Spirit.” So each of us needs to be in a blessable posture this morning so the Holy Spirit can move among and upon us.

Sure there are many concerns in the larger church. Struggles aplenty. This is serious business. So serious we dare not do it without joy of the Gospel. There’s no reason to let our concerns, ours struggles, our worries””our battles steal our joy. My grandmother used to have songbirds in her kitchen. She kept them in a cage. And they would sing to her throughout the day. Sometimes they’d make too much noise during one of her soap operas that she’d put a veil over it and they’d grow quiet. “Grandma” I asked, “why do you put that towel over their cage?” She said, “Mark, birds can’t sing in a darkened cage.” Yet you will remember Paul and Silas. Arrested in Philippi. Beaten with rods and put into stocks in the Philippian jail. Still there in the darkened prison that night they sang songs of praise to God. The jailer and prisons must have thought to themselves, “Who are these birds that can sing in a darkened cage?” May they say of this Diocese of South Carolina, in these stressful, troubling and sometimes-dark days, “Who are these birds””that can sing in a darkened cage? Surely the joy of the Lord must be their strength!”

(Hat tip to a blog reader and Lent and Beyond.)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology

Zimbabwe Church row as Archbishop of Canterbury visits: meet the child orphans who are its victims

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, arrives in Zimbabwe on Sunday in a bid to heal a growing rift in the country’s church. Aislinn Laing visited an orphanage where 80 unhappy children are among its victims.

For decades it provided a secure if shabby home to up to 80 orphaned children, and the three Anglican sisters who helped to run it gave all the love and encouragement they could to their vulnerable young charges.

But last month the Shearly Cripps Home in Mashonaland East, 35 miles northeast of Harare, became the latest victim of the debilitating feud that has torn the church apart in Zimbabwe over the past four years.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Zimbabwe

(AP) Special Ops, CIA first in, last out of Afghanistan

They were the first Americans into Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and will probably be the last U.S. forces to leave.

As most American troops prepare to withdraw in 2014, the CIA and military special operations forces to be left behind are girding for the next great pivot of the campaign, one that could stretch their war up to another decade.

The war’s 10th anniversary Friday recalled the beginnings of a conflict that drove the Taliban from power and lasted far longer than was imagined.

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

Vacuum Is Feared as U.S. Quits Iraq, but Iran’s Deep Influence May Not Fill It

As the United States draws down its forces in Iraq, fears abound that Iran will simply move into the vacuum and extend its already substantial political influence more deeply through the soft powers of culture and commerce. But here, in this region that is a center of Shiite Islam, some officials say that Iran wore out its welcome long ago.

Surely, Iran has emerged empowered in Iraq over the last eight years, and it has a sympathetic Shiite-dominated government to show for it, as well as close ties to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr. But for what so far are rather obscure reasons ”” perhaps the struggling Iranian economy and mistrust toward Iranians that has been nurtured for centuries ”” it has been unable to extend its reach.

In fact, a host of countries led by Turkey ”” but not including the United States ”” have made the biggest inroads, much to the chagrin of people here in Najaf like the governor.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Iran, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Politics in General