Daily Archives: December 14, 2012

Susan Beebe: Lo, the Humble Christmas Pageant

We’re not the first to yearn for a fresh take on the familiar. Medieval dramas grew increasingly, well, dramatic””and moved outside the church. Some scholars contend that the performances were kicked out for venturing too far from biblical texts.

Consider “The Second Shepherd’s Play,” staged in the later Middle Ages in Wakefield, England. It’s the tale of a hungry husband and wife who steal a lamb from nearby herdsmen and disguise it as their own infant to throw the shepherds off. The play concludes with the requisite worship of the Christ child, but the road to Bethlehem was paved with slapstick humor and bawdy jokes.

Yet perhaps there’s more going on, then and now, than boredom and questionable taste. As the story of the incarnation has been passed down, maybe we’ve worn away the rough edges and arrived at a manger scene that looks more like a royal chamber or a page from the Pottery Barn Kids catalog than a cave for smelly animals. The average Madonna and child on our Christmas cards don’t resemble the exhausted mothers and purplish, screaming newborns of real life. It’s all a bit too tidy to be credible.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture, Theology

Trinity Episcopal Church in Redlands, Calif., offers a service of comfort for those suffering loss

Trinity Episcopal Church will hold its annual Blue Christmas service Sunday at 4 p.m. This is an observance that serves as a shelter and safe refuge for those in the community who are suffering from loss. Trinity’s gift of reflection provides an hour to recognize the holy season of Christmas in a sacred space created especially for those people living through dark times.

The Blue Christmas service, held close to Dec. 21 – the longest night of the year – gives to those who are weighed down by these feelings an opportunity to offer up their pain, loneliness, and sad and dark memories as authentic rather than feeling the need to suppress them. At the same time the quiet hour allows for those suffering to renew their spirits with hope and peace. According to Father Michael Fincher, Associate Rector, “The service is designed to be non-denominational so as to be of comfort and meaning to anyone, regardless of church affiliation. We offer this service as a gift to the community, to those truly in need of the hope and promise that this season is meant to provide.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(CEN) South Carolina schism descending into farce

Canonical legerdemain and unlawful usurpation of authority by the presiding bishop in the aim of a political agenda were a sad commentary on the moral state of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence observed.

The presiding bishop would go to any lengths to exterminate dissent and would twist words to achieve her purposes. “She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address” to the South Carolina special convention, he said.

But Bishop Lawrence reported that he was “heartened” by the support he had received by the “vast majority” within the diocese and from the “majority of Anglicans around the world” who have “expressed in so many ways that they consider me an Anglican Bishop in good standing and consider this Diocese of South Carolina to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. “

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

(Church Times) House of Bishops to revive hopes for women bishops

New legislation to enable women to become bishops will be presented to the General Synod in July, the House of Bishops announced on Tuesday, after a two-day meeting at Lambeth Palace.

The Archbishops will set up a working group, drawn from all three Houses of Synod, its membership to be announced before Christmas. This group will arrange “facilitated discussion with a wide range of people with a variety of views” in the week of 4 February, when the General Synod was to have met.

Immediately after these discussions, the House of Bishops will meet and the elements of a new legislative package are expected to be decided at its meeting in May, in readiness for the July sessions.

Read it all.

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

Archbishop Williams’ sermon at a Service of Thanksgiving for 80 Years of the BBC World Service

In other words, real freedom of speech, the kind that is morally important and politically essential, involves two things ”“ freedom to stand back from any particular loyalty in the name of loyalty to the truth, and freedom to speak truths that the powerful want hidden or ignored. It is not simply a matter of the liberty to spread random or trivial information, certainly not the liberty of expressing abusive or demeaning opinions. And no-one can be complacent about the levels of hurt and distress experienced by those who have been at the receiving end of intrusive and insensitive investigation in the name of this debased version of liberty. It is about sharing the reality of painful and difficult human experience so that others may know it for what it is and so that they may have no excuse for ignoring it. This kind of truthtelling is always radical because it demands that we identify with the situations of those very unlike us and recognise that they share the same world and the same human challenges. Truth is not likely to be found where people are told never to ask questions or where those who are backed by force have the right to dictate what counts as news, so that the human reality and human cost of injustice or disaster can be swept out of sight and mind.

Our readings today reinforce this strongly. St Paul’s words in his letter to the Philippians take it for granted that what is true is bound up with justice and honour among human beings: to think about what is true is to be committed to pursuing justice and honour, trust, fairness, all that is positive and in tune with people’s deepest longings and feelings.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Resolutions passed by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles' Convention

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Middle East, Parish Ministry, Pensions, Personal Finance, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Erie-based Episcopal diocese to allow blessing of same-sex unions

“I support blessing same-sex unions, but some of my faithful fellow Episcopalians do not,” Rowe said in a statement. “The Episcopal Church in northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where people of good conscience can disagree charitably about such matters. We respect and love each other, and we are united in the hope and healing of Jesus Christ.”

Read it all and see the diocesan guidelines there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Gen. Con. 2012, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Theology

(C of E) Bishop of Peterborough to chair Council for Christian Unity

he Archbishops of Canterbury and York have appointed the Rt Rev Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough to succeed the Rt Rev Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, as Chair of the Council for Christian Unity. Bishop Christopher will be stepping down at the end of June 2013 after a five-year term of office. The Bishop of Peterborough has been a member of the Council since 2006.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecumenical Relations, Theology

(CSM) Shaping the world of 2030

The “Global Trends 2030” report is generally upbeat about the future. It foresees more individual empowerment, a growing middle class, better health care, and a world order in which the United States learns to better share power (assuming China plays along). It sees Islamic terrorism fading away.

Like many forecasts of global trends, it focuses strongly on material conditions more than the advance of ideas. It sees worrisome urbanization, with nearly 60 percent of the world’s population living in cities by 2030. Demand for “food, water, and energy will grow by approximately 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively,” the report states with presumed precision. “Many countries probably won’t have the wherewithal to avoid food and water shortages without massive help from outside.” At least 15 countries are “at high risk of state failure” by 2030.

These quadrennial reports are useful, up to a point, if they are constantly revised with new information. Most of all, they rely too heavily on experts without also tapping into the wider wisdom within society.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Education, Globalization, History, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology

A Prayer for the (Provisional) Feast Day of John of the Cross

Judge eternal, throned in splendor, who gavest Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed thy light on all who love thee, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Spain, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Gracious God and most merciful Father, who has vouchsafed us the rich and precious jewel of thy holy Word: Assist us with thy Spirit that it may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to thine own image, to build us up into the perfect building of thy Christ, and to increase us in all heavenly virtues. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the same Jesus Christ’s sake.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, “Thou art my God.” My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors! Let thy face shine on thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love!

–Psalm 31:15-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Reuters) Germany passes law to protect circumcision after outcry

The new law passed by an overwhelming majority in Bundestag lower house said the operation could be carried out, as long as parents were informed about the risks.

Jewish groups welcomed the move.

“This vote and the strong commitment shown … to protect this most integral practice of the Jewish religion is a strong message to our community for the continuation and flourishing of Jewish life in Germany,” said Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Europe, Germany, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Reuters) British Same-sex marriage safeguards may not work, experts say

Britain looks set to legalize same-sex marriages in the next year or two but legal safeguards it will add to protect the Church of England from having to conduct them may not survive the expected court challenges to them.

Presenting the government’s proposals on Tuesday, Culture Secretary Maria Miller promised that a “quadruple lock” of legal safeguards would bar any judge from forcing the Church to perform the gay nuptials that its leadership opposes.

“The chance of a successful legal challenge through domestic or European courts is negligible” under a bill being drawn up, she told parliament, calling the planned safeguards “iron-clad”.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Telegraph) Fraser Nelson–The British culture war over Same-sex marriage is dividing the nation

I suspect that, by now, even [David] Cameron is wondering if this has not all spun out of control. It’s perfectly easy to see his original logic. As a matter of principle, he believes in marriage and would like it to be accessible to everyone. If the Unitarian Church and certain strands of Judaism want to marry gay couples on their premises, then why should government stand in their way? For the record, I quite agree. Religious freedom in Britain ought to be universal, extended to the handful of churches or synagogues who want same-sex marriage. To lift the ban ought to be a technical issue, an amendment to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 requiring no fanfare.

But this time, there has been not just a fanfare, but the drumbeat of war. Nick Clegg released the text of a speech in which he regretted the fact that economic turmoil “gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda”. He later withdrew the b-word, but his point was made: that Britain is now divided into two camps. You have the Liberal Democrats, friends of equality. And on the other side, the “bigots” ”“ a group that presumably includes followers of every mainstream religion. A former adviser to Clegg resurfaced to say that his boss ought to have stuck to his word, because such people are indeed bigots.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality