Monthly Archives: January 2012

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–The World’s Biggest Congregation

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: There are big churches, and then there’s the Yoido Full Gospel Church here in Seoul, South Korea. It’s the mother of megachurches, with the largest congregation in the world. On a typical day 200,000 will attend one of seven services along with another two or three hundred thousand watching them on TV in adjoining buildings or satellite branches. While some other churches may be losing members, this one just keeps growing. The main sanctuary here holds 21,000 worshipers packed to the rafters seven times every Sunday. Each service has its own orchestra, its own choir, its own pastor. There are hundreds of assistants. There need to be. Each service is translated into 16 different languages for visitors. Karen Kim is a pastor with the church’s international division. She says she was shocked when she first moved here from Australia.

KAREN KIM: I think when you’ve got people this size, like you have to have structure, and you have to have organization, because otherwise people would be getting killed. Like you can’t just let it all just take care of itself. Like there has to be like organized rosters of volunteers and things like that to get people in and out of the service, or these people will literally die and get crushed….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Parish Ministry, South Korea

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O thou who sendest forth the light, createst the morning, and makest the sun to rise on the good and the evil: Enlighten the blindness of our minds with the knowledge of the truth; lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, that in thy light we may see light, and, at the last, in the light of grace the light of glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

— Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

–Hebrews 11:1-6

Posted in Uncategorized

(New Statesman) Nelson Jones–Is there a religion for atheists?

Alain de Botton, probably the closest thing Britain has to a celebrity philosopher, has a Big Idea. Religion, he asserts, isn’t “true”, but its lack of truth is the least interesting thing about it. Instead of indulging in the dogmatic anti-theism associated with the likes of Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, why shouldn’t atheists just “enjoy the best bits”, as the publicity for his new book Religion For Atheists has it?

Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach’s cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism. Think of all those wonderful cathedrals, mosques and temples. Religion’s power to transport the human spirit, to offer consolation and hope, to create a sense of belonging and inspire ethical conduct is undeniable even if you don’t subscribe to the doctrines of a particular belief system. So let’s work out precisely what gives religions their strength, “steal” it, bottle it and create a kind of transcendent secular humanism that will speak to people as deeply as religion does. Only without all that embarrassing dogma, not to mention the baggage of misogyny, homophobia, parochialism and intolerance with which most bona fide religions tend to come lumbered.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(NC Reporter) John Allen–Vatican denies corruption charges attributed to U.S. nuncio

The Vatican this…[week]dismissed as “biased and banal” a broadcast on Italian television yesterday evening suggesting that a senior church official, who is today the pope’s ambassador in the United States, issued a blunt warning to Benedict XVI in March 2011 about financial corruption in the Vatican.

A Vatican spokesperson also appeared to threaten legal action against the broadcast, which named a handful of senior officials and financial advisors in the Vatican as involved in alleged mismanagement and lack of adequate financial controls.

The broadcast, which appeared on one of Italy’s leading commercial networks, focused on Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, named in October as Benedict’s new nuncio to the United States. Prior to that position, Viganò had served as the number two official in the government of the Vatican city-state, where he earned a reputation as a financial reformer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Italy, Media, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NY Times) Caitlin Flanagan–Hysteria and the Teenage Girl

Pubescent girls, it seems, are manifestly more likely to exhibit extreme and bizarre psychological symptoms than are teenage boys….

Female adolescence is ”” universally ”” an emotionally and psychologically intense period. It is during this time that girls become aware of the emergence of womanhood, with both the great joy and promise that come with it, and also the threat of danger. Much on their minds is their new potential for childbearing, an event that for most of human history has been fraught with physical peril. Furthermore, their emergence as sexual creatures brings with it heady excitement and increased physical vulnerability. They are also sharply aware that soon they will have to leave home forever, and at the very moment when they are most keenly desirous of its comforts and protections.

What girls need during this time is a stable and supportive space in which to work out all of this drama. In many respects a teenage girl’s home is more important to her than at any time since she was a small child. She also needs emotional support and protection from the most corrosive cultural forces that seek to exploit her when she is least able to resist….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Women

(Sheffield Telegraph) Fall in church attendance

Church attendances in the Sheffield Anglican diocese have dropped slightly, according to the latest figures.

Sunday attendances were down 2% to an average of 15,900 between 2009 and 2010 and, over the week, there was a 3% fall to 21,000.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Don't legalise gay marriage, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu warns David Cameron

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr John Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, tells ministers they should not overrule the Bible and tradition by allowing same-sex marriage.

The Government will open a consultation on the issue in March and the Prime Minister has indicated that he wants it to be a defining part of his premiership. But the Archbishop says it is not the role of the state to redefine marriage, threatening a new row between the Church and state just days after bishops in the House of Lords led a successful rebellion over plans to cap benefits.

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.

Read it all and take the time to watch the accompanying video.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Beacon Journal) Ohio Anglican congregations moving forward after losing church buildings

The Holy Spirit congregation is among five Northeast Ohio parishes that were displaced after a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge ruled that the church properties they occupied belonged to the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.

The five congregations ”” Holy Spirit; St. Luke’s, Fairlawn; St. Barnabas, Bay Village; St. Anne in the Fields, Madison; and Church of the Transfiguration, Cleveland ”” left the Episcopal Church in 2003 and realigned with the Anglican Communion.

The split grew from disagreements over biblical teaching on salvation and other issues, including homosexuality….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

Rejoicing 175 years: Lowcountry S.C. black Catholics marking historic anniversary of St. Patrick’s

Before the American Revolution, when South Carolina and Eastern Georgia were still Colonies subject to the king and Church of England, Catholics were not much welcomed, and black Catholics were the most unusual of aberrations.

“(A)ll Christians which now are, or hereafter may be, in the province (Papists only excepted), shall enjoy the full, free, and undisturbed liberty of their consciences,” states a colonial act of 1696-97.

But Catholicism could not be shut out, and a minority of blacks soon embraced it.

Read it all from the Faith and Values section of the local paper.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, History, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Samuel Freedman–Cultural Conflicts, Playing Out on the Football Field

After his team was routed by the New England Patriots this month, driving the Denver Broncos out of the N.F.L. playoffs, Tim Tebow jogged off the field. Camera crews and photographers surrounded him, waiting for Mr. Tebow, the quarterback, to drop to one knee and bow his head in prayer, his famous and controversial signature gesture.

This time, Mr. Tebow did not oblige the media and the game’s tens of millions of viewers. As he vanished into the stadium tunnel, he seemingly took the polarizing issue of public religiosity away with him. The clamorous national conversation, depicting Mr. Tebow either as role model or object of ridicule, rapidly subsided.

It was a mistake all along, though, to think that Mr. Tebow was the issue. It was a case of confusing the lightning rod with the lightning. With the Super Bowl game one week away, instead of asking ourselves, “What is it about Tim Tebow?” we might better ask, “What is it about football?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Sports

(BBC) Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal in Australian Open final

Novak Djokovic cemented his place at the top of men’s tennis by outlasting Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic to retain his Australian Open title.

The world number one edged a gripping battle with the second seed 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 in five hours 53 minutes to win his fifth Grand Slam.

Djokovic, who also beat the Spaniard in their previous six meetings, has now triumphed at the last three majors.

But this might be the sweetest of them all for so many reasons….

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Another Website with which to be Familiar–Abbreviations Dot Com

Check it out.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

(Living Church) Sue Careless–Merry Times at Mere Anglicanism

It was particularly symbolic when the Most Rev. Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of the Province of Jos, Nigeria, climbed the winding staircase to the second-story pulpit [of Saint Philip’s, Charleston] to preach. Two centuries earlier most black Africans in Charleston would have been house or plantation slaves. If they had entered this church, they would have been consigned to its balconies. Now a West African bishop preached to a predominantly white congregation, at the conference’s invitation.

The escalating violence endured by Christians like Kwashi in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria remains high. The day before the archbishop spoke, two bombs had been thrown at two churches in Bauchi, while in Kano at least 166 people were killed in eight violent attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram, an Islamist sect. The archbishop and his wife, Gloria, have shared in the suffering of persecuted Christians.

Although Gloria Kwashi did not attend the conference, her presence was felt. In many ways she represents the persecuted Church that does not retaliate but continues to serve others. A few years ago, a violent mob, intent on killing her husband, brutally assaulted her, leaving her blind for six months until treatment in America restored her sight.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Theology

(Lcweekly) An Interview with John McCardell

ME: Dr. McCardell, you’re a lifelong Episcopalian, a scholar of the American South, and the new Vice Chancellor of Sewanee, a university founded in the mid 19th century by the Episcopal Church. You also have a second home here in Beaufort, where you attend the Parish Church of St. Helena when you’re in town. It’s an understatement to say you seem uniquely qualified to talk about the history of the Church here in Beaufort. Your first lecture will focus on St. Helena’s Parish ”“ founded in 1712 ”“ during the Colonial period. Is there anything you can tell our readers about the church during this era that might whet their appetite to learn more?

JM: Where to begin?! This is, above all, a story of courage and faithfulness through good times and bad, and a story of perseverance in the faith often at moments of extraordinary external challenge.
Beaufort, founded in 1711, as many of your readers know, is the second oldest town in South Carolina. Under the terms of the Church Act of 1706, Anglican parishes in South Carolina were to be the units of government as well as centers of worship. Thus, within a year, by 1712, the Anglican Parish of St. Helena was created to serve this dual purpose for Beaufort and the Sea Islands. The Vestry of St. Helena’s thus had broad powers to tax, to hold elections, for example, as well as to conduct regular worship services.
The Rev. William Guy served as the first minister at St. Helena’s. Technically he was a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The assignment to this, “the most remote Parish in the country,” as he described it, posed considerable challenges. In his first report back to the SPG in 1714, Rev. Guy noted that he had fourteen communicants, while there were also “several dissenters” in Beaufort. “As to the heathen and Infidels,” he added, “the number being in my Parish are 270.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Church History, Education, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes, Theology

(Not Another Episcopal Church Blog) Pearls From Mere Anglicanism 2012

January’s “Mere Anglicanism 2012” provided an excellent opportunity for clergy and laity from all over the world to meet, greet, and learn a bit about “The Once and Future Church.”

For a lay person, there are always pearls to take home from such a conference. Papers are presented, things that are not commonly discussed such as Anglican history are given ample time and detail, and being in a prayerful community makes one eager to learn more in order to move forward in our walk with Christ….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Theology

(AP) In Romney's tax returns, details on Mormon tithe

Mitt Romney’s newly released tax returns provide more than an accounting of the Republican presidential candidate’s remarkable personal wealth. The documents also give a rare glimpse into tithing to the Mormon church by one its most prominent members.

Romney reports he will give a total of $4.13 million to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over two years as part of his overall charitable donations. The former Massachusetts governor reported income of about $43 million for the two years. Separately, over the past decade, Romney and his wife, Ann, have given more than $4.7 million to the denomination through the Tyler Charitable Foundation, a multimillion-dollar trust the couple leads.

The LDS church famously seeks a high level of commitment from its members – in prayer, study, service to others and charity. A lifelong Mormon, Romney served as a missionary in France as a young man and as a top Latter-day Saint leader in the Boston area.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Mormons, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Stewardship

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning; who abidest steadfast as the stars of heaven: Give me grace to rest upon thy eternal changelessness, and in thy faithfulness find peace; through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

–Psalm 24:-7-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Jobless record shows European dream has forsaken the young

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. After six decades of peace, Europe should be basking in a golden age of prosperity. Instead its young are being ravaged by unemployment, with a record 5.6 million under-25s out of work.

Just over a million of the young unemployed are in Britain, the worst level in the country since figures began to be collected by Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, in 1983.

Bleak as Britain’s young jobless rate of 22.3 per cent is, the picture is far worse in eurozone countries enforcing deep austerity measures. As Spain’s jobless count broke the 5 million barrier yesterday, unemployment for those aged 16 to 24 was put at 51.4 per cent, meaning that for the first time in a modern European country a majority of the young are out of work.

In Greece the young jobless figure is 46.6 per cent, and in Portugal 30.7 per cent, according to Eurostat.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Europe, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Young Adults

(Chicago Tribune) Illinois couple implants frozen embryos, gets second set of twins

A month after Anabella and Matteus Potter were born in 2009, their parents, Adriana and Robert, agreed to disagree on what to do with two other embryos created in the same petri dish as their twins.

Grateful for the in vitro fertilization that enabled the Elmhurst, Ill., couple to become parents, Adriana Potter, 38, believed donating the embryos to advance reproductive technology or treat debilitating diseases would be the most life-affirming choice. Robert Potter, 44, imagined having more children or donating the embryos for another couple to do the same.

Anabella and Matteus made up their parents’ minds. Watching the brother and sister blossom into beautiful toddlers compelled them to have both embryos implanted last November.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

(LA Times) Twitter's new censorship plan stirs global furor

Twitter has promoted itself as a beacon of free speech, and that image was burnished when revolutionaries used the social media service to organize protests during last year’s Arab Spring uprising.

But in what many view as an about-face, Twitter now says it has the power to block tweets in a specific country if the government legally requires it to do so, triggering outrage around the world, especially in Arab countries.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization

A.S. Haley on TEC's Executive Council and the Massive Challenges they face that Cannot be Escaped

Both the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies made opening remarks to the Council, along with CEO Bishop Sauls. (Bishop Jefferts Schori’s remarks were not made from a prepared text, but are summarized in this ENS article.) Reading between the lines of each, and translating the Presiding Bishop’s earlier prepared remarks about coming changes in structure, which may be viewed here, it is clear that the heads of the Church are not of one mind about how to deal with the challenges which it faces in the twenty-first century.

And those challenges are significant and substantial. They are summarized graphically in a presentation to the Council (zip file download is at this link) by Kirk Hadaway, who is the church official in charge of congregational research, and by Matthew Price, of the Church Pension Fund. Among other facts shown, 72% of Episcopal congregations were in financial stress as of 2010 (compared to 58% of other denominations for the same year) — the highest level in the past decade, by far.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

(ENS) Executive Council challenged to engage in adaptive change

Three Episcopal Church leaders challenged members of the church’s Executive Council Jan. 27 to engage in “adaptive change” in response to what they said are changing church and societal environments.

That challenge began immediately as the members received two different budget scenarios developed by council’s Executive Committee upon which to begin formulating a draft 2013-2015 budget. One scenario calls for asking dioceses to contribute 19 percent of their income and the other calls for dioceses contributing 15 percent. The larger income would be $103.6 million and the 15 percent-asking budget would be reduced by approximately $13.5 million, according to Treasurer Kurt Barnes.

In an emailed memo to Episcopal Church Center staff after the scenarios were presented to council, Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls noted that the 19-percent version plans on a $5.9 million decrease in income from the current triennium. The 15-percent version’s reduced revenue amounts to $19.3 million less than the current triennium.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Executive Council, House of Deputies President, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

Kirk Hadaway and Matthew Price's presentation made to TEC's Executive Council Yesterday

Broader Measures of Church Vitality

To get a broad-based sense of congregational vitality, we have used a number of measurements including church school enrollment, marriages, funerals, child baptisms, adult baptisms, and confirmations. These speak to a parish’s integration in the community and the possibility for future growth:

Change in church school enrollment: -33%
Change in number of marriages performed: -41%
Change in number of burials/funerals: -21%
Change in the number of child baptisms: -36%
Change in the number of adult baptisms: -40%
Change in the number of confirmations: -32%

While these numbers may not capture the totality of what is happening in the Church, we do not have a measure that is moving in a positive direction.

Do take the time to read and consider it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Executive Council, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Data, TEC Parishes

Article in The Tennessean on the Continuing AMIA Fracas–Former Episcopalians face more upheaval

For the second time in a decade, the Rev. Thomas McKenzie has found himself in an ugly church fight.

Back in 2004, it was over sexuality and salvation in the Episcopal Church.

Now it’s over power and money, the spat between leaders of the Anglican Mission in the Americas ”” made up mostly of former Episcopalians like McKenzie ”” and the overseas Anglican group that adopted them.

“It’s sinful, it’s ugly, it’s wrong,” said McKenzie, pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Nashville and a former Episcopal priest. “And it doesn’t bring honor to the name of Christ.”

Read it all.

Update: Please note–this link no longer works for me but I found it over here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Continuum, Anglican Provinces, Church of Rwanda, Episcopal Church (TEC), Global South Churches & Primates, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology

Why You need to know about the Association of Religion Data Archives Website

As an example consider these available religion quiz topics:

Pet ministries and the spiritual growth of congregations
Investing for sustainability
Congregational conflict in changing times
The church in rural America

It is a goldmine–check it out.

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

Recent Statistics for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

(Note that I decided to research these numbers based on the preceding post about the diocese–KSH).

According to the U.S.Census Bureau’s figures, Roanoke, the see city of the diocese, has grown in population from 94,911 in 2000 to 97,032 in 2010. This represents a population growth of approximately 2.2% in this time frame.

According to Episcopal Church statistics, the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia went from Average Sunday Attendance (or ASA) of 5,311 in 2000 to 4,266 in 2010. This represents a decline of 19.7% during this decade.

Please note that if you go to the link toward the end of this sentence and enter “Southwestern Virginia” as the name of the diocese and then “View Diocese Chart” underneath on the left you can see in pictorial form some of the data from 2000-2010.

Posted in Uncategorized

Southwestern Virginia Episcopal Bishop says it's time for him to retire

“I feel it’s a good decision, and it’s a tender decision,” [Bishop Neff] Powell said. “I love this diocese, and it’s going to mean saying goodbye to it.”

Powell, 64, is leaving as he nears retirement age and as the diocese – like the Episcopal Church itself – is grappling with slowly declining membership, attendance and revenues. A committee is presenting over the weekend a proposal that would partially decentralize resources to the parishes.

“Rather than me staying for these changes, I think it’s time to call for a new bishop,” Powell said.

Read it all.

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

Northern California Episcopal Church to close Feb. 12

The closing of the church is a result of an aging congregation and others who have moved. There are no longer enough
remaining members to maintain its services or care for the building and grounds.

The congregation is saddened by its inability to do so, however, feeling that the closing of the doors will surely open God’s work elsewhere in the community.

Read it all.

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