Category : Ministry of the Laity

Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, reports on last week’s South Carolina Diocesan Convention

From Rev. Todd Simonis, Senior Associate: I very much appreciated Bishop Lawrence calling local churches to have a mission mindset. It was great to have conversations about the changing demographics of the Lowcountry and how we, as the church, must be ready to reach out to those demographics. As always, it was an encouraging time to be with others from the diocese.
From Rion Salley, Senior Warden and Delegate: Bishop Lawrence shared how a little intentionality can go a long way for the Kingdom of God. First, as sowers of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ we can take more time to familiarize ourselves with the people in our community and build deeper relationships with those God has put in our midst by walking through life together as Jesus did.
From Rev. Chuck Pollak, Priest Associate: For me a highlight was the sermon by Bishop Lowenfield, who described his difficult decision to leave the Episcopal Church, and the joy he now feels as a member of ACNA. His journey is similar to one that many of us have experienced, and we know how wrecking that decision has been to us and to others as well. His message is one of hope.
From Jane Manos, Delegate: It was great to be with the Parish Church of St. Helena at the convention – a true honor! From Bishop Lawrence’s address, what stood out to me: “Uncertainty is WHY we need to sow the seed (of the Gospel).”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

Prayers requested for the historic diocese of South Carolina Diocesan Convention which meets beginning Friday

You can find an overview of information there, including links for the workshops and a schedule for both days.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Church Times) IICSA hearing likely to prompt more disclosures of abuse, C of E safeguarding officials say

The Church of England must be prepared for new revelations and disclosures of clerical sex abuse during, and in the wake of, a public hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), a spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has said.

Starting on Monday, the public hearing in London will consider the extent of any institutional failures to protect children from sexual abuse within the Anglican Church.

It will use the diocese of Chichester as a case study to examine the “culture of the Church” and whether its “behaviours, values, and beliefs inhibited or continued to inhibit the investigation, exposure, and prevention of child sexual abuse” (News, 2 February).

An NST spokesperson said on Tuesday: “High-profile cases that we have been involved with before, such as independent reviews, have led to more disclosures. We must assume that people will come forward for the first time: we would not want to rule that out.”

The public hearing is due to conclude on 23 March.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

Samuel Wells’ sermon from last Sunday–Investing in the Kingdom

Now the Church of England was largely established, and for many centuries run, on the benefactor model. Some decades ago the sums ceased to add up – not because of a decline in congregation size, but because of sociological changes like what constitutes reasonable provision for people in their retirement, how long retired clergy live, whether the noblesse feel as obliged as they used to, and the shift of the majority of the population to cities, where relationships of unspoken obligation are different from the abiding practice of the country. And so in the last two or three generations a church that depended on squirearchy has morphed into a church that rests on congregationalism. By congregationalism I mean the assumption that the basic unit of Christianity is the local church, that each local church should seek to be self-sufficient as regards the provision of its stipendiary ministry, building upkeep and administrative costs and liturgical requirements, and that such expenditure should be met almost entirely through the voluntary stewardship of members of its congregation. Congregationalism can be inspiring with the sense of a team achieving great things together, but it has two drawbacks: it shrinks the understanding of church to simply the regular attendees; and it tends to obscure the vision of mission almost altogether.

And so to chapter five, in which this all comes home to roost. At St Martin-in-the-Fields we worked on the benefactor model longer than most urban churches. In the 1980s we awakened to the fact that the sums didn’t add up. The costs of the building and the extensive outreach ministry far exceeded the potential of congregational stewardship. The answer was to create a commercial enterprise. Over the last 31 years we’ve steered a course between two poles. The first pole is to try to make the commercial enterprise the complete embodiment of all our aspirations for what it means to be a world-facing church. That sounds like a great idea, but it largely removes the profit that pays our bills, and leaves us back with external benefaction and congregational stewardship together facing an unassailable annual target. The alternative pole is to try to ensure the commercial enterprise makes so much profit that congregational stewardship becomes unnecessary. That sounds attractive, but it’s not the answer: if we succeeded it would end up so professionalising our life that it would eradicate the central role that voluntary discipleship plays in what it means for us to be a church.

The answer is to combine the four activities that make up our life. First, we strive to be a real church, where people find and grow in faith, care and receive care, participate in and lead worship, meet Christ in the stranger and the disadvantaged, seek to proclaim and advance God’s kingdom, and become one body. That’s what our congregational giving pays for. Second, we seek to be a place where we offer food, music, event spaces and commodities that people come here to find and are glad to pay for. That’s what our commercial business does, and in addition it offers good employment and pays for day-to-day maintenance costs. Third, we ask strangers to join with our longstanding mission to homeless people in London and around the UK. That’s what the Charity and the Connection do. Fourth, we invite wealthier people and foundations to invest in us as an institution and look to the long-term well-being of our fabric because they believe in where we’re going. That’s what the Trust does. Take stewardship away and we stop being a church, take business away and we lose our building, take homeless work away and we’ve lost our mission, take the Trust away and we’ve got no future. All four are vital, indispensable, and wonderful.

St Martin-in-the-Fields is a delicate balance between many things that occasionally seem very different and on the odd day can feel in tension. But most of the time it’s a miracle of divine initiative and human response, ordinary effort and sublime gifts, simple goodness and astonishing grace, and we all feel privileged to be a part of it. As a congregation we know it’s not all about us: we humbly recognise that lots of good things happen here, which we enjoy, participate in, and encourage; at the same time it’s not all down to us: we gratefully welcome others whose work, custom and kindness pay the majority of the bills. But if the careful ecology of St Martin’s is to continue to flourish, we as a congregation need to play our part, with our time and energy, absolutely; but also, crucially, with our money.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Stewardship

The Latest Enewsletter from the Diocese of South Carolina

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Adult Education, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

C of E releases Setting God’s People Free Resource for parishes

Setting God’s People Free (SGPF) is a programme of change to enable the whole people of God to live out the Good News of Jesus confidently in all of life, Monday to Saturday as well as Sunday….

—SGPF looks beyond and outside Church structures to the whole people of God at work in communities and wider society – not to ‘fixing’ the institutional Church.

—SGPF challenges a culture that over-emphasises a distinction between sacred and secular to a fuller vision of calling within the all-encompassing scope of the Gospel – not to limit vocation to church based roles.

Read it all download the whole booklet (16 page pdf).

Posted in England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Amid #MeToo, Evangelicals Grapple With Misconduct In Their Own Churches

In the Andy Savage case, Jules Woodson alleged in her blog post that the senior pastors in whom she had confided did not discipline Savage adequately or report him to the authorities and even threw a going away party for him when he moved to another community.

Kelly Rosati of Focus on the Family insists it’s important to separate the evangelical belief about distinctive gender roles in the church from the exploitation of power differentials between a pastor and his flock.

“What you saw in that [Andy Savage] incident was a conflating of those two issues,” she says, “and a failure to understand that what one person might describe as a sexual incident is really about those other things, power and abuse and violation.”

The reaction among evangelical women to the #MeToo movement, Rosati says, suggests it may be a watershed moment for them that will end up “shaking out the ground a little bit in the evangelical community.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(CEN) Andrew Carey–The problem of of defining ‘spiritual abuse’

Spiritual abuse is a thorny and difficult subject.

The recent case in Oxford Diocese was a clear-cut example of spiritual abuse. An Abingdon Vicar took an intense interest in mentoring a teenage boy to the extent of moving into the family home and ordering him to stop an adolescent relationship.

This kind of spiritual ‘mentoring’ in which a priest manipulated a young life under the guise of prayer and counselling resembles ‘heavy shepherding’ — one of the charismatic movement’s worst episodes. But even at the time this was not a very widespread phenomenon in Anglican circles and this kind of controlling behaviour has always been thought to be the preserve of new cults rather than established churches.

But according to an ‘online survey’ (two words that always raise alarm bells for me) conducted by academics from Bournemouth University on behalf of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) a very high number of Christians have personally experienced spiritual abuse.

Of 1,591 responses, 1,002 said they had personally experienced spiritual abuse. This is too high a number to be believable and there must be widespread caution about the survey. In fact, all it is really useful for is to make the point that more research would be extremely valuable with a wider and more representative sample of Christians.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) More than 1,000 churchgoers complain of spiritual abuse

[Some] Church-goers at mainstream churches have said they are being “spiritually abused” by leaders.

Research showed that more than 1,000 British Christians said they had experienced the abuse, which usually involves members invoking God’s will or religious texts in order to punish or control and coerce a worshipper.

Two thirds of respondents to the survey carried out by Dr Lisa Oakley of the National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work at Bournemouth University said they had experienced spiritual abuse in the past.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Atlantic) Low-Income Communities Are Struggling to Support Churches

If there is ever a competition for the title of Busiest Minister in America, the smart money will be on Yoan Mora, senior pastor of Primera Iglesia Cristiana, a small but vibrant Spanish-speaking congregation in San Antonio, Texas. The weeks are nuts: worship services, classes, and meetings on Sundays; a radio program on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; prayer service and Bible study on Tuesdays; house church meetings in the southern reaches of the city each Thursday; a job-training program hosted at the church on Saturdays, plus other meetings scattered through the weekend.

Those are just his top-level duties. He still has to find time to write sermons, oversee church-building maintenance, teach small groups, manage budgets, and, most of all, be with people in all the ways pastors need to be with people: births, deaths, sicknesses, celebrations, life events big, medium, and small. Being a pastor is a full-time job, and then some.

But being a pastor is not Mora’s full-time job. Most of Mora’s weekday hours are devoted to his work as an accountant at a health-care clinic in the northeast part of town. He’s also trying to finish a master’s degree in theology.

Mora believes he was placed on this earth to pastor, so that’s what he plans on doing. But for now, he can’t make a living as a pastor because the congregation he serves is in an extremely low-income neighborhood. Pastor salaries are drawn from church budgets, which are drawn from the household budgets of congregants. So in a low-income area, even when a church grows, its budget does not expand so much as stretch. Primera Iglesia Cristiana can’t pay Mora much for all his efforts, so for the foreseeable future, he’ll hustle.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Shropshire Star) Shropshire vicar and parish team to star in reality TV show

The Reverend Matthew Stafford is based at Holy Trinity Church in picturesque Much Wenlock.

He and the ministry team will be in the spotlight when the ups and downs of four vicars are aired in a new reality show.

Mr Stafford is taking part in the six-part religion series that goes behind the scenes of the lives of vicars in the heart of the countryside covered by Hereford Diocese, which takes in parts of Shropshire.

From opening summer fairs to taking wedding ceremonies for residents, vicars are knitted into the fabric of country life, also providing a pillar of support in times of crisis and personal sorrow. Mr Stafford previously served at Telford’s Wrockwardine Wood and Oakengates parish.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

The Latest Enewsletter from the Diocese of South Carolina

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Bishop of Clogher John McDowell’s Diocesan Synod Address

One of the principal tasks of a leader is to communicate reality to those who wish to take his or her lead, and the reality that I observe all around me, not just in Church but in every sphere of life, is a mood of impatience with other points of view, of an increasing narrowing of vision and of a drawing back from the sort of commitment that creates sustainable and worthwhile communities. It is hardly an exaggeration to call these developments the triumph of individualism and I sometimes think that the word “individual” should be banned from Christian conversations and replaced by a word like “person” to reflect the complexity and value which each of us has – what we share as much as what we need.

This individualism which is so prevalent in our world and sometimes in our parishes is the enemy of reasoned debate and very far from the spirit of Anglicanism. Over the past ten years or so a new and very revealing way of opening a conversation or a debate has entered into our way of talking. “Speaking as an X.” somebody will say, whatever X might be. Speaking say as a woman or speaking as a progressive or speaking as a traditionalist or speaking as a unionist or as a republican – whatever it might be. But the intention of that way of opening a conversation is not to engage in an equal conversation but to establish some sort of privileged position. “I am X and you are not, so you couldn’t possibly understand.” It is an attempt to set up a wall against questions and it turns conversations into an encounter about power. The winner of the argument won’t be the person who has the strongest reasons but the one who has the morally superior identity and can express the greatest outrage at being questioned.

The key word to look out for is “offended”. Other people’s arguments aren’t weak or illogical – they are offensive. What replaces argument is a series of taboos rather like in the old paganism where only a small number of people, like the Druids or the shamans, were permitted to speak on certain matters or do certain things but nobody else not of that caste could interfere. Propositions become pure or impure, not true or false. Ask any of your children who have been to university recently about the matters which people simply aren’t allowed to debate any more or the beliefs which are denigrated because they are outside a certain limited range of reference.

As you may have guessed by now I believe that the antidote to this strange perversion of the liberal spirit is the smallness and the diversity of the parish. It is what I meant when I said last year that the parish is the place where we create local significance in a globalised world.

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Posted in Church of Ireland, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

The Historic Diocese of South Carolina responds to the New TEC Diocese’s Motion on the Rehearing

Today The Episcopal Church (TEC) filed their reply, as requested by the Court, to the motions by the Diocese of South Carolina and 28 parish churches for recusal and rehearing in the South Carolina Supreme Court, regarding its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.

On behalf of the Diocese of South Carolina, Rev. Canon Jim Lewis issued the following statement:

“Today’s filing by The Episcopal Church argues in essence, that the Diocese and its parishes waived their right to recusal, by not requesting it earlier, and that the Constitutional issues raised in their motions are negligible or mistaken.  The facts in this ruling, as it presently stands however, will not yield to such arguments.  Justice Hearn’s bias and conflict of interest is clear to any impartial observer.  The Constitutional issues for Freedom of Religion remain.  As our petition for rehearing stated: “These are serious issues for Respondents, Appellants and for all religious organizations in South Carolina. This Court should grant a rehearing.”  That continues to be our hope and Constitutional expectation from the Court.”

The Diocese is also providing the following background information and details:

•    In 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina, along with 50 of its congregations voted by an 80% margin to disassociate from The Episcopal Church.  In a complicated and sharply divided ruling consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court appeared to rule on August 2 this year that parishes which had “acceded” to the national church are subject to a trust interest in their property by (TEC).

•    The Constitutional due process requirements of the 14th Amendment are clear.  No member of government should make decisions in matters in which they have a vested interest in the outcome.  The Justice in this ruling who provided the deciding vote is a member of a TEC parish, Diocese and its national church.  Under South Carolina law, that Justice is a legal party to this litigation.  The bodies to which this Justice belongs as a member would be the beneficiaries of a nearly $500 million property windfall if this ruling stands.  That is a massive conflict of interest.  And it is the responsibility of the judge, under the South Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, to reveal that issue, not for a party in the case to challenge the propriety of their actions.

•    The expert affidavit testimonies of Nathan M. Crystal, Professor and Adjunct Professor of Ethics at the University of South Carolina and NYU Schools of Law and Lawrence J. Fox, Professor of Ethics at Yale University are unanimous in their conclusions.  The due process rights of the Diocese of South Carolina have been violated by these actions and the only appropriate response is for this Justice to be recused from further participation in this case and their opinion vacated.  As Lawrence Fox observes in his analysis, “This is not a close case.”  The violations of due process here are not subtle.  They are profound….

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Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Christian Today) The things people say – snapshots from a parish priest

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry