Daily Archives: March 24, 2015

Episcopal Clergy: Is This Any Longer a Church One Wants To Join?

A Plea to the Leaders of the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church (TEC) is experiencing a precipitous decline in Sunday morning attendance. Without addressing some of its institutional pathologies, TEC will render itself evermore irrelevant. Yet the current proposals to restructure the church ignore its basic problems. [1]

The present practices, or likely outcomes in the very near future, of TEC raise a number of questions. Here is a sample:
● A proposed modification of the Book of Common Prayer Marriage Rite wherein the rubrics are malleable and the Biblical and canonical warrants [2] are ignored or abandoned;
● The BCP definition of marriage is subverted without constitutional procedure; [3]
● Tens of millions of dollars, perhaps over $40 million, have been spent on litigation without any budget line accountability; [4]
● The rewriting of the Title IV canon gives the Presiding Bishop metropolitical authority vis-à-vis fellow Bishops, against the Constitution’s plain sense; [5]
● Bishops are disciplined for filing an amicus brief while other bishops and leaders file them with impunity with SCOTUS; [6]
● Bishops are declared to have renounced their Orders without ever doing so in the manner called for by canon; [7]
● The ”˜National Church,’ when it is urged by GC to move its offices, simply ignores the recommendation; [8] and
● Mandatory Diocesan giving is called for without any constitutional authority; [9]

This list is incomplete, but it is sufficient to indicate the state of lawlessness into which the church has moved , and to pose the questions: Is TEC any longer a church of constitutional and canonical order? Is this Church acting decently and in order? How can there be a hope of restoring a level of trust across differences of theological conviction when the good order that this Church constitutionally and canonically expects is simply ignored? [10]

”  If the BCP is to be changed, let it be done in accordance with the rules established to do that.
”  If money is being spent on litigation, let there be a public accounting of that.
”  If the Presiding Bishop is to be given new authorities, let the Constitution be altered in the manner required.
”  If it is not proper to file an amicus brief in one case, then it is not proper to file one in another case.
”  If Bishops are declared to have renounced their Orders, let it happen in the manner called for by the Constitution and Canons.
”  If we are uncertain, we cannot provide assurance to the members of the church and those who are seeking a church home?

It seems that these are reasonable and fair requests to put before the leaders of this church as they prepare to meet in General Convention this summer.

The Rev’d Dr. Chuck Alley, Richmond, Virginia
The Rev’d Frank Fuller, Corpus Christi, Texas
The Rev’d John Newton, St. Paul, Minnesota
The Rev’d Paul Minor, Belmont, Massachusetts
The Rev’d Cheryl Minor, Belmont, Massachusetts
The Rev’d Dr. Ephraim Radner, Diocese of Colorado, Professor at Wycliffe, Toronto
The Rev’d Canon Dr. Chris Seitz, Dallas, Texas
The Rev’d John Sheehan, Aldie, Virginia
The Rev’d Dr. Philip Turner , Austin, Texas
The Rev’d Stockton Williams, Kerrville, Texas

[1] The Task Force For Reimagining the Episcopal Church has produced a long report that is simply silent about theological conflict and its sources, that has so drained the church; or the litigation of the past decade or more, that has drained resources and the structural issues around this; or the need to reconcile with Evangelical members and ex-members, whose loss and alienation has so limited the church’s outreach.
[2] E.g., Genesis 1-2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5; BCP pp. 422, 423, 861; Canon I.18.Sec. 2(b)
[3] The first proposed resolution by the Convention’s Marriage Taskforce seeks a change in canon that renders the actual language and context of the BCP’s marriage service both semantically incoherent and without authority.
[4] Figures are hard to come by. A reputable, even if partisan, incomplete list of lawsuits can be found at http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.ca/2015/02/annual-litigation-survey-for-episcopal.html; Haley’s estimate is over $40 million, carefully detailed at http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.ca/2014/02/how-much-has-ecusa-spent-on-lawsuits.html.
[5] A full analysis of these changes, which was never properly rebutted, is given at http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2010/09/title-iv-revisions-unmasked/.
[6] The recent example is found at http://freemarry.3cdn.net/75b9529745f68b3d38_6xm6b3xfz.pdf; earlier, of course, http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-4th-circuit/1355788.html.
[7] See http://www.episcopalcafe.com/confusion_about_bishop_scriven_and_renunciation/; http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2009/01/is-the-renunciation-of-orders-routine/; An interesting commentary on the novel approach, can be found in the blog of AKM Adams, and in the comments.
[8] See http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/07/06/deputies-vote-to-sell-the-church-center-headquarters-in-new-york/; yet other resolutions enacted are treated as law.
[9] Cf. The TREC proposed Resolution A002.
[10] Bishop Sisk of New York: “Where then does that leave us? We are left with a situation in which the mind of this recent Convention appears to be to allow such services. However, The Constitution and The Book of Common Prayer still say something else …. It is my interpretation that the actions of this 2012 General Convention permit, perhaps even encourage, those of us who live in jurisdictions such as New York, to act on that conviction” (bold added). See http://www.livingchurch.org/full-marriage-equality

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Polity & Canons

David Brooks–How to Fight Anti-Semitism

In the Obama administration, there are people who know that the Iranians are anti-Semitic, but they don’t know what to do with that fact and put this mental derangement on a distant shelf. They negotiate with the Iranian leaders, as if anti-Semitism was some odd quirk, instead of what it is, a core element of their mental architecture.

There are others who see anti-Semitism as another form of bigotry. But these are different evils. Most bigotry is an assertion of inferiority and speaks the language of oppression. Anti-Semitism is an assertion of impurity and speaks the language of extermination. Anti-Semitism’s logical endpoint is violence.

Groups fighting anti-Semitism sponsor educational campaigns and do a lot of consciousness-raising. I doubt these things do anything to reduce active anti-Semitism. But they can help non-anti-Semites understand the different forms of the cancer in our midst. That’s a start.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Church of Scientology to refute damning accusations before debut of a new HBO documentary

The film,Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, is based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled book-length exposé and will premiere on March 29.

Since news emerged of the documentary, Scientologists have been trying to counter the film’s arguments which isn’t at all surprising considering Scientology’s notorious methods for dealing with its critics in the past.

The film, itself, covers one such stoush the Church had with the US Internal Revenue Service who was ready to rule that Scientology should pay tax because it isn’t a religion.

David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology, retaliated by persuading thousands of Scientologists to sue individual officials of the agency.

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

(Time) 75% of Americans garages are so full, homeowners cant park their cars inside

For middle-class Americans, it’s never been easier to feel consumed by consumption. Despite the recession, despite a brief interlude when savings rates shot up and credit-card debt went down, Americans arguably have more stuff now than any society in history. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. The rise of wholesalers and warehouse supermarkets has packed our pantries and refrigerators with bulk items that often overflow into a second fridge. One-click shopping and same-day delivery have driven purchasing to another level altogether, making conspicuous consumption almost too easy.

Our stuff has taken over. Most household moves outside the U.S. weigh from 2,500 lb. to 7,500 lb. (1,110 kg to 3,400 kg). The average weight of a move in the U.S. is 8,000 lb. (3,600 kg), the weight of a fully grown hippo. An entire industry has emerged to house our extra belongings”“self-storage, a $24 billion business so large that every American could fit inside its units simultaneously.

It would be one thing if all our possessions were making us happier, but the opposite seems to be occurring. At least one study shows that a home with too much stuff can actually lead to higher levels of anxiety. “These objects that we bring in the house are not inert,” says UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs, who led a decade-long study on hyperacquisition. “They have consequences.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Theology

(OC Register) Saddleback Church takes over Angel Stadium for its 35th anniversary celebration

The church started Jan. 25, 1980, as a small Bible study in Rick and Kay Warren’s Laguna Hills condo. Today, it includes 10 campuses in Southern California and four in other countries, averaging 27,000 weekly worshippers.

As part of Saturday’s celebration, Rick Warren shared a portion of the first sermon he preached at Saddleback 35 years ago, outlining his vision for the church. The pastor ”“ who delivered the invocation for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 ”“ choked up as he said he’s realized that vision and more, encouraging the crowd not to be afraid to aim high.

“I dare you to dream great dreams for God,” Warren said from the pitcher’s mound. “Whatever God asks you to do, do it, even if it’s at great risk.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, History, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology

CBS' 60 minutes–The terrible cost ISIS in inflicting on Iraq's Christians

The road from St. Matthew’s brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we’re told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.

Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn’t have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A Rowan Williams sermon on the life and ministry of Oscar Romero on Archbishop Romero’s Feast Day

And so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is ‘who do you really speak for?’ But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, ‘who do you really feel with?’ Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of ‘feeling with the Church’ could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ ”“ so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be ‘sad’ if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.

But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, ‘each of you will have to be God’s microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.’ Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole ”“ and the hope and radiance of the whole ”“ has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.

So Romero’s question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero’s day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero’s murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago [in 2010] by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --El Salvador, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Central America, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Oscar Romero

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, --El Salvador, Central America, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from W E Orchard

O God, who by the example of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ hast taught us the greatness of true humility, and dost call us to watch with him in his passion: Give us grace to serve one another in all lowliness, and to enter into the fellowship of his sufferings; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber.

–Psalm 121:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ESPN) Womens Basketball Top seed South Carolina rolls on to reach NCAA Sweet 16

Top-seeded South Carolina was determined not to get in another tight contest with feisty Syracuse. The Gamecocks will need a similar drive to reach NCAA tournament heights they haven’t before.

Tiffany Mitchell and Alaina Coates each scored 14 points and South Carolina (32-2) built a big first-half lead and cruised to its third Sweet 16 in four years with a 97-68 NCAA tournament victory over Syracuse on Sunday night.

It was a vast reversal from November’s Junkanoo Jam finals when the Orange led by double digits in the second half before falling 67-63. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said her players came out with a fire and focus apparent at Saturday’s practice and pre-game shoot around.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Education, Sports, Women, Young Adults

(Daily Beast) Philip Obaji Jr.–How I Escaped From Boko Haram

It was midnight when Babagana crept out of the Boko Haram hideout that had been his home for three days. Once he made his escape, he walked through the forest for hours before he found help. Like the other boys conscripted by the militants, he had been told that he would be hunted down and killed if he deserted.

“I didn’t leave with anything,” Babagana told me. “When the chance came to escape, I only had my pants on. I ran almost naked.”

Babagana was just 16 when militants invaded his town in northeastern Nigeria last May, butchering his parents as he watched, burning down his home, and forcing him to become one of thousands of Boko Haram soldiers.

Babagana still vividly recalls his involuntary induction into a world of misery. Boko Haram militants invaded the rural town of Gamboru in Borno State, burnt down houses and demanded that the local children be handed over to them. Parents who objected were killed, and a couple of children were forcefully taken.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Islam, Marriage & Family, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Violence

(CNN) Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers

The Shaughnessys celebrate Christmas, Harry says, for some of the same reasons other people do: “Because it’s a great time to get together, care for each other and have a party.”

“And who doesn’t want a tree with pretty lights in their house?” Charlotte chimes in.

Since they aren’t Christian anymore, the Shaughnessys shape their own holiday traditions. One year, they stretched Christmas across a week, with celebrations leading up to December 25. “That sounds so Jewish now,” Harry jokes. It was anticlimactic, Grace says. When Christmas came, they had nothing left to give, nowhere to go. The ritual was not repeated.

But the Flying Spaghetti Monster stuck.

The Church of the FSM, as “Pastafarians” call it, is a faux religion founded in 2005 to satirize creationism. It has since become a symbol for everything atheists find silly and superstitious about faith.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Kara Tippetts, a Christian voice against assisted Suicide, has died

Kara Tippetts, 38, has died. Metastatic breast cancer took her from her pastor husband, Jason, and their four children on Sunday (March 22).

But in her last years of life, her saga of accepting suffering became, in a quietly powerful way, a cultural force for another way of choosing death with dignity, one that refused to hasten death.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology