Daily Archives: November 16, 2012

(WSJ) Allison Pond: The Mormon Missionary Revolution

It has been quite a year for Mormonism in America. Outside the faith, the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney sparked unprecedented levels of interest and attention. Meanwhile, church leaders have transformed how young Mormons start their adulthood, affecting everything from education to dating and marriage.

Though you might not know it from Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon,” 12% of Mormon missionaries are women””a number that is about to skyrocket thanks to an unexpected change in official Latter-day Saint policy. The church announced last month that Mormon women are now eligible to begin serving missions at age 19 instead of 21, and that Mormon men may serve at 18 instead of 19.

The response was immediate. Within two weeks, the number of missionary applications jumped an astonishing 471%, from the usual 700 per week to more than 4,000. Slightly more than half of these applicants were women.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Women

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia Concerning Blessing Same Sex Couples

Dear Friends in Christ,

Since the decision by our Church to offer a provisional rite for a Blessing of Same Sex couples this last July at our General Convention, I have been praying to God and listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I have also been listening to the voices of clergy and lay leaders around the Diocese of Georgia. The Holy Spirit also speaks through each of them. All this has been a healthy, holy experience for me. You have assured me of your prayers and you have convinced me that whatever divides us pales in comparison to that which unites us: our calling together as disciples of Jesus to proclaim and live out his Gospel of love, mercy, and redemption.

I want to first remind us all of some recent history. Earlier this year, anticipating General Convention, I wrote the Diocese explaining the challenges before us, as I understood them. I stated clearly that during the search process for the 10th Bishop of Georgia, I articulated my support for the Church establishing a Blessing Rite for same sex couples. That support remains and has not wavered. I stated after my consecration, however, that no Blessing Rite would be used in the Diocese of Georgia until the Church took formal action to authorize such a rite. My interpretation of past General Convention actions, prior to 2012, led me to conclude that such specific authorization had never truly occurred.
I also pointed out that my understanding of Holy Matrimony is that it can only be between a man and woman, regardless of what secular governments understand it to be. Secular understandings of marriage should not shape how the Church understands Holy Matrimony. Of course, we know that the culture does shape our thoughts, at least to some extent. It is nearly impossible to hermetically seal the Church off from cultural influences. Nevertheless, I must make decisions as free of cultural influences as possible and rather focus all discernment through the lens of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and his grace bestowed in the New Covenant. Thus, in my judgment, any Blessing Rite that is authorized in the Diocese of Georgia had to be plainly distinguished from Holy Matrimony in order to receive my approval.

The Rite approved by General Convention in July of this year failed, in my judgment, to plainly distinguish between Holy Matrimony and a Blessing. The enabling resolution for the Rite that was passed, however, provided Diocesan Bishops with the ability to “adapt” the Rite for use in their respective dioceses. I had hoped the language would have authorized something more expansive than “adaption,” but that did not happen. So, we must work within the structures of what the Church has decided. None of this is perfect. We all look “through a glass darkly,” as St Paul reminds us. I am unconcerned by what is politically, socially, or culturally expedient, or what will be the majority opinion. I am concerned with doing what is right in the eyes of God.

I have discerned that we in the Diocese of Georgia will offer a Rite of Blessing for our homosexual sisters and brothers using the adapted rite found in Appendix 1. This will be the only Rite authorized in the Diocese of Georgia. In Appendix 2, you will find criteria for how the Rite may be offered in the Diocese of Georgia. These criteria are not suggestions. They are expected provisions and guidelines required of clergy and lay leaders who discern within their congregation that they should offer the Rite.

It should go without saying, but I will say it here because uniformed people often create needless alarm. No congregation or priest is required to offer such a rite. The criteria in Appendix 2 requires formal discernment between the parochial priest in charge and the vestry before it may be offered in the congregation and that discernment must be first initiated by the parochial priest. That means I will not allow non-parochial priests (or any deacon) to preside at such a Blessing Rite disconnected from a pastoral cure in a congregation. They may, however, assist the Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge of the Congregation at the Rite.

Doubtless some may conclude from the requirements in Appendix 2 that I am requiring an unfairly high threshold of mutual consent that is not required of other rites of the Church. I certainly understand how some may reach such a conclusion and I am not unsympathetic to the claim. For some my decision will go too far. For others my decision will not go far enough. I understand. Nevertheless, as your Bishop I must lead us through this in the best way I can given the constraints present and the diversity of positions we respectively hold in the Diocese of Georgia.

My fervent hope, as we go forward together, is that we not stoop down to the secular political practice of creating winners and losers. Lord, we have enough of that. My hope and expectation is that we will continue as we have in this Diocese to love and respect one another even when we cannot always agree. I ask each of us to reach out to someone who we know disagrees with us on this, declare to them our unity in Christ, and our promise of love and support in the common bonds of the Gospel of Jesus. This will not negate whatever differences we have, but it will be a clear witness that we do not give only lip service to the unity of our faith, but that we practice amongst ourselves the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ.

–(The Rt. Rev.) Scott A. Benhase is Bishop of Georgia

(Via email–KSH).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Theology

George Pitcher–The new Archbishop of Canterbury is a better class of Etonian

At an uncongenial hour, I find myself on Radio 4’s excellent Sunday programme, telling Ed Stourton that I can’t imagine that Justin Welby has ever thrown a bread roll in a restaurant in his life. Others were discussing the new Archbishop of Canterbury’s churchmanship, but there isn’t a serious issue that I’m not prepared to overlook when I’m at the BBC ”“ just call me George “Entwistle” Pitcher.

What I was really trying to say is that Archbishop-elect Welby isn’t an Old Etonian in the Boris Johnson and David Cameron tradition. He’s about as far from the Bullingdon Club of Boorish Hoorays as it’s possible to be. Well, as far as Cambridge is from Oxford, anyway.

But it made me wonder, in the early hours of Sunday on national radio, if I was indulging in a gratuitous and offensive stereotype of Etonians.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

(The Australian) Priests 'can report child abuse': Anglican leader Phillip Aspinall

The spiritual leader of Australia’s 3.5 million Anglicans, Phillip Aspinall, believes that priests may be able to report child abuse revealed during the rite of confession without breaking the seal of the confessional, putting him at odds with Catholics.

The Anglican Primate says the sanctity of the confessional should be examined by the royal commission into child sexual abuse called this week by Julia Gillard, which he regards as being a decade overdue.

Dr Aspinall’s predecessor as Archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth – who lost his job as governor-general after a scandal erupted over his handling of sex-abuse cases in the diocese – also backed the inquiry.

Dr Hollingworth warned yesterday that the abuse of children was “more widespread than previously thought”, and welcomed the royal commission as an important national initiative and a means to help victims.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Australia / NZ, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(VOA) Tough Path Ahead for New Anglican Leader

The trouble, he said, is that the Anglican Communion, with its 80 million members, is at a complex and crucial point in its history.

Issues that have dogged the church for the past decade continue to threaten Anglican unity, dividing liberals, many in North America, and conservatives, many based in Africa.

The split between liberal and conservative regions set in after the United States consecrated its first openly gay bishop. Since then, disputes over homosexual priests and same-sex marriages have become a major stumbling block.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Broadway's Unholy Alliance with Religious Musicals

When ‘Scandalous,’ a musical about Canadian-born evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, opened on Broadway this week, it became the latest entry into the risky category of religious musicals.

With the exception of “The Book of Mormon,” which swept the Tonys in 2011 and continues to play to packed houses, many Broadway musicals with evangelical themes have had dubious track records in recent years.

Perhaps hoping to tap into audiences that loved “Godspell” or “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Leap of Faith,” based on the 1992 Steve Martin movie, ran only 19 performances at Broadway’s St. James Theatre. “Sister Act,” based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg movie, was more successful but didn’t break any records.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Music, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays

“Get connected to challenge stereotypes,” says Bishop of Birmingham for Inter Faith week

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, is issuing a community challenge for national Inter Faith week – to get connected with people of different faiths and ethnicities “to challenge our stereotypes and broaden our imagination”. He will be speaking at the launch of the Faithful Friends photographic exhibition tomorrow (Saturday November 17), which has striking images to celebrate relationships between people of different faiths.

Faithful Friends features 15 portraits of people who have met each other through the Near Neighbours programme – a Government-funded initiative which encourages people of different faith or ethnicity to meet each other, develop trusting relationships and work together to transform their local area. In Birmingham, Near Neighbours has funded 88 projects in 13 central wards bringing an estimated 3,000 people together.

Bishop David said: “Friendships that build bridges between people of different faiths and ethnicities are really good for us as individuals, enriching our lives, challenging our stereotypes and broadening our imagination.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Charleston (South Carolina) Mercury–Taking the pulse of a diocese in conflict

Lowcountry citizens of all spiritual stripes have been observing the drama related to the conflict between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Bishop Mark Lawrence. To set the stage, we have seen TEC behaving in ways unimaginable to the faithful a decade ago and earlier. The way they have treated the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina the last several years parallels the worst of power politics in the U.S. Congress. As all know TEC is using lawsuits around the country to grab the church properties of dioceses, even individual parishes.

The Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina has tried to negotiate a compromise by which the diocese can remain within TEC and yet continue its received communion with the gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation. TEC not only opposes such a resolution, but it also undermined the most recent attempt at compromise by concluding against such a compromise weeks before the final discussion took place, as written evidence shows. The result is that the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated with TEC and it continues to operate as it has since its founding and does so as The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Reconciler [Justin] Welby to take over in Canterbury

It is also possible that Bishop Welby’s age – he is 56 – worked in his favour. Early favourites, including the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, are in their early 60s, and thus would be close to retirement – or technically beyond it – by the time of the next Lambeth Conference, in 2018, which traditionally takes place at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop Welby, who worked in the financial branch of the oil industry for 11 years, until he sought ordination in 1988, was appointed to sit on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in July, after the Libor rate-fixing scandal….

He has strong links with the Church in Nigeria, first in the oil industry, but latterly working in reconciliation. He estimates that he has visited the country about 60 times since 2002, work begun as a Canon of Coventry Cathedral.

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

(CSM) What's the status of Egypt's Christians?

Q: How might the church’s political role change with the new pope?

In interviews after his selection, the new pope spoke of the church focusing on spiritual work. But Samia Sidhom, an editor at the Coptic newspaper Watani, says that until Christians are equal citizens in Egypt, it will be hard for the pope to remain apolitical. And indeed, in the days after he was chosen as the 118th leader of the church, he spoke out strongly on Egypt’s new constitution. Many secular and liberal Egyptians have complained that Islamists have controlled the drafting of the constitution and are using it to increase the influence of Islam on the state.

“A constitution that hints at imposing a religious state in Egypt is absolutely rejected,” the new pope said.

Q: How might the fate of Egypt’s Christians affect the region?

In the year after the revolution, attacks on Christians and churches rose sharply, though sectarian incidents had been rising during the last years of Mubarak’s reign. Churches were burned, clashes broke out, and last October, the Army attacked a mostly Christian protest, leaving more than two dozen people dead.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Defense, National Security, Military, Egypt, History, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Israel, Hamas militants' 3-hour "truce" for Egypt leader's visit fails; Reports of continued attacks

Israel said its air force bombed the house of a Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip after militants fired more than a dozen rockets toward southern Israel, trampling hopes for a three hour ceasefire during a brief visit by Egypt’s premier to the tiny stretch of land.

Israel had agreed to halt it’s three-day assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip if militants refrained from firing rockets at Israel. It would have been the first break in the escalating conflict….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Egypt, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence

(BBC Magazine) Has the Mormon mystique been lifted?

“Mitt Romney has opened doors. He has made Mormonism much more respectable,” says Charles Dunn, a professor at Regent University, and author of numerous books on politics and religion.

“He came out of this campaign as an honourable person, and that bodes well. He is the best missionary Mormons could have.”

At the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church) in Salt Lake City, Utah, there appears to be a similar mood of optimism. Although they have not given figures on whether membership numbers are up, enquiries certainly are. Mormons make up about 2% of Americans, but numbers are rising steadily.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2012

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Margaret of Scotland

O God, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give her zeal for thy church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; though Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, England / UK, Scotland, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty God, whose sovereign power none can make void: Give us faith to stand calm and undismayed amid the tumults of the world, knowing that all things work together for good to them that love thee; through thy beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

–James 1:16-20

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture