Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday January 23 Backup (18:00 EST)

Here are all the January 23 posts as of 18:00 EST / 23:00 GMT

Bishop Lee Inhibits 21 Priests

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 5:42 pm

In a letter sent Jan. 22 to 21 priests under license in the Diocese of Virginia, the bishop and standing committee informed the group they had been inhibited for the next six months.

“Your association with a group of people that has abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church and rejected its authority and the authority of the Diocese of Virginia constitute your abandonment of the Communion of the Episcopal Church,” states a letter signed by Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee. “If, in the next six months, you retract your actions of abandonment, this inhibition may be lifted. But at the end of six months, if you have not retracted your actions, you may be released from the obligations of priesthood in this church and removed from the ordained ministry.”

Read it all.

Falconer refuses to exempt Catholics from new gay laws

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 5:35 pm

The Roman Catholic Church and other religious bodies cannot be exempted from new laws banning discrimination against gay people, Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, said yesterday.

He resisted attempts by Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, to water down the rules to enable Catholic adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples.

The Equality Act 2006, which comes into force in April, bans discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation.

Miss Kelly, a Catholic and a member of the Opus Dei sect, is under pressure from the Catholic Church to include an exemption for church-run adoption agencies.

Lord Falconer told BBC television’s Sunday AM programme: “We have introduced laws which prevent discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation; those laws should be given full effect.

“We do take the view in this country that you shouldn’t be discriminated against on that basis and think that applies to everybody, whatever your religion.”

Read it all.

New doctrine may lead to empty pews

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 5:30 pm

Galagan, who celebrated 50 years as a priest in December, said the church rift may be unavoidable and irreconcilable.

“It upsets me because I just see the church slowly being ripped apart,” he said. “I think what offends most of us is we have all this stuff we’re supposed to deal with from the pulpit when we should be preaching the Gospel and planting churches.”

Instead, the church chose to reject sound biblical doctrine and their own 500-year history to elect Schori, a woman priest who not only voted to confirm Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay clegyman who left his wife and two daughters to live with his gay lover, she also approved same-sex unions as biship of Nevada.

The San Joaquin Diocese was right to take a stand, for the biblical truths on which its church was build are absolute. Opinion-poll preaching may not offend, but neither does it satisfy. Episcopal leaders who adhere to such empty doctrine may one day fine themselves preaching to empty pews.

Read the whole thing.

Faith and work: Businesses see benefits of chaplains in the office

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 5:29 pm

As a single parent, receptionist Jan Farr has faced many challenges in rearing her daughter, now 23. But she hasn’t handled the problems alone. She has relied on Ralph Atkinson, who has sent cards of encouragement, paid hospital visits and sat beside her desk at work, listening attentively.

“Ralph knows on a personal level what’s going on with me and my family, day to day, week to week,” said Farr, 60. “He doesn’t have committees or budgets to worry about like a minister does, and he’s able to get to the heart of the matter. He has a great way of bringing each of us to a level of faith that tomorrow will be better.”

Atkinson is a minister with Chaplain Associates, one of several nonprofit businesses supplying chaplains to metro Atlanta companies, including the Suwanee-based Tibs company where Farr works. He’s been paying regular visits to Tibs and three other metro businesses for years, meeting and getting to know company employees. Low-key and affable, he becomes such a familiar presence that when something major happens —- birth, death, illness —- people count on his involvement. Trained in crisis management, he may even accompany the police and FBI into branches of Fidelity Bank, one of his clients, after a robbery to help employees cope with the experience.

“I can go along with someone for five years just saying ‘Hi,’ and then suddenly a grandchild is in the hospital, and I’m there,” said Atkinson, who worked in the electrical industry before attending seminary. “I see my job as returning people to wholeness. I help them make good decisions with the difficulties of life.”

Across the country, more businesses are including chaplaincy as an employee benefit, but it’s still not a common practice. Marketplace Chaplains, based in Dallas, and Corporate Chaplains of America, of Wake Forest, N.C., both report a marked increase in the number of their clients last year.

Read it all.

Higher calling anew

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 1:27 pm

Sitting at home with a young wife and newborn baby, the Rev. Dan Bernier of Portsmouth’s Christ Episcopal Church is far from the place where he decided to become a minister. He’s also far from the future he imagined a decade ago.

After working as a Roman Catholic priest for seven years, Bernier fell in love. He renounced his Catholic priesthood, feeling a call to marriage with his wife of five years, Leslie.

“I was so wrapped up in being a priest that it dominated my life for years,” Bernier said. “Then the other part of me began to surface. I needed to be in a relationship to ground me with the realities of life.”

Bernier and his wife met while he was the presiding priest in a Nashua parish. Leslie, who was raised Catholic, was then an undergraduate student at the University of New Hampshire. It wasn’t until years later they noticed their relationship was more than friendly. Bernier says it was the “farthest thing” from his mind when the couple first met. But somehow a relationship sparked.

“We connected at some point. I knew there was more to this,” Bernier said. The marriage recently resulted in bringing new life to the world. Bernier is the father of a 3-week-old baby, Katie, born on Christmas Day.

“I’ve always felt an infinity and love for children,” Bernier said.

However, his first love was the Catholic Church. From a young age, Bernier felt a connection to Christianity since he was raised in a Catholic household. But he didn’t decide to become a priest until after he had enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, following in his father’s military footsteps. There, he participated in the military parish and felt as though God was calling on him to serve.

“I knew this is what I was called to do,” he said.

While stationed in Germany, Bernier was put through war drills. He imagined what would happen if these war drills weren’t merely practice, but real.

“There’s a lot of time to think then. I kept imaging someone’s trying to get in the base. They have a family. We would have to shoot each other,” Bernier said. “I just kept thinking of Jesus’ message of peace and love. I wanted to break down barriers. I wanted to change a piece of the world.”

Read it all.

Jonathan Sacks: A gentle reminder that soft answers can turn away wrath

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 1:23 pm

Religion’s greatest strength and greatest weakness is that it creates communities of the like-minded. Members of a faith feel a kinship. They come to each other’s aid. They live the We as much as the I. Often they see themselves as an extended family. That is the good news.

The bad news is that communities distinguish sharply between insiders and outsiders, Us and Them, the saved and the damned, the children of light and the children of darkness. This is not a problem if you live among those who believe as you do, which is what tended to happen in rural communities. But cities were arenas of diversity. That is why they gave rise to an etiquette of civility.

Civility’s virtues — courtesy, restraint, respect for others, understatement — are not universal. They emerge at specific places and times. One of the first modern works on the subject, Adam Ferguson’s The History of Civil Society (1767), was set against a background of urbanisation, the division of labour and the growth of the market economy. It came from the same world as his fellow Scotsman Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.

Civility is an ethic across boundaries. It means respecting strangers. It is a way of saying that though we come from diverse backgrounds, we share a moral universe. Though we are different, we belong to something — the common good — that embraces us both. Without civility there is no society, merely the clamour of individuals and the clash of conflicting ghettos.

We are losing civility….

Read it all.

Sunni sheik declares war on the insurgency

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 1:20 pm

At 35, he is younger than many sheiks. And his Sunni Arab tribe is not one of the largest in Al Anbar province. But Sheik Sattar Bazeaa Fatikhan projects the aura of power and seriousness that comes to a man who has taken a stand.

After Sunni insurgents killed his father and four of his brothers last year, Fatikhan declared war against the insurgency.

He convened a summit of about a dozen prominent sheiks. From that meeting came a document called “The Awakening,” in which Fatikhan persuaded all but one sheik to join him in opposition to the insurgency.

The sheiks pledged to encourage young men to join the police force and even the Shiite-led army. The document states that killing an American is the same as killing a member of their tribes. Since the gathering, Fatikhan said, the sheiks have “eliminated” a number of insurgents.

U.S. officials regularly visit Fatikhan, seeking his counsel, showing him the kind of deference one might expect for a leading government official. When a British general visited recently, Fatikhan, the sheik of the Abo Resha tribe, noted that his great-grandfather had fought against the British in the early 1940s.

Still, he said, “The British respected the sheiks.”

In a two-hour interview in his large, carpeted meeting hall, a stream of underlings whispered to Fatikhan or handed him messages. He nodded or spoke a few words, and they hurried off. Later, he allowed himself to joke about the duties of being a sheik.

“They give me a headache,” he said through an interpreter.

Drinking tea and smoking Marlboros, Fatikhan listened to questions and then gave an unvarying response: The U.S. military and Iraqi tribes must unite to rid Sunni-dominated Al Anbar province of men who would “try to engineer our future with mortars and roadside bombs.”

For U.S. forces, Fatikhan’s stand is a significant boost in a bitter fight with insurgents who, until recently, controlled large segments of Ramadi, the provincial capital.

Army Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, credits Fatikhan and other sheiks for an increase in police enrollment, a decrease in insurgent recruitment and new courage among Iraqi forces.

Read it all.

New Hampshire Churches fear bill may ban ceremonies

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 11:04 am

Ellen Musinsky, a family law specialist and professor at Franklin Pierce Law Center, said the bill complicates an issue the constitution and state law have already staked out.

“This is really illogical to me. . . . For those religious groups that want to solemnize (same sex) unions, why would the state interfere?” she said.

“I’m not sure what the intent is other than to potentially interfere with the rights of churches and religious officials to make a decision about whose union they solemnize,” she said.

The Rev. Jed Rardin, pastor of South Congregational Church in Concord, said he thinks of the same-sex unions he presides over as marriages, even though they cannot be recognized that way.

“We . . . are really adopting the language of marriage,” he said. “This particular piece of legislation strikes me as particularly invasive of church and state separation.”

Pat McGee, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, said church officials haven’t closely examined the bill and couldn’t comment.

In the Episcopal Diocese, the decision to allow blessings of same-sex unions is left to individual churches, said the Rev. Tim Rich, assistant to Bishop Gene Robinson.

Although the bill would not affect priests who perform the blessings, Rich said he does not support it.

“This bill still marginalizes same-sex couples,” he said. “I don’t agree with the assumption that the state has the right to permit or deny clergy in the fulfillment of their pastoral responsibilities.”

Read it all.

Episcopal Church Encounters Opposition to Apartment Plan in Chelsea

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 10:58 am

Neighbors are vowing to fight the construction of a 15-story apartment tower in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on the campus of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, which says the building is needed to raise funds to keep the seminary operating in New York City.

The seminary has already scaled back its proposal to build a cooperative apartment tower, but some neighbors say the proposed housing complex is still too large and too contemporary to inhabit Chelsea’s historic district.

The 19th-century seminary has fallen into disrepair, and church officials say that selling their development rights will help fund building restoration and maintenance. If the institution fails to raise tens of millions of dollars in short order, the institution will have to leave Chelsea, the seminary’s dean, Ward Ewing, told about 250 people who came to last night’s Community Board 4 meeting at the Hudson Guild – Fulton Center on Ninth Avenue.

In what seminary officials are calling an effort to compromise with Chelsea residents who have spoken out against the residential project since it was first unveiled more than a year ago, the institution revised its plan. The 15-story height of the tower is reduced from the original 17 stories. The new plans also call for using more masonry and less glass than originally proposed.

Read it all.

Episcopal Church’s First Openly Gay Bishop Sees A Higher Purpose To The Debate

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 10:53 am

Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop at the center of the rift over homosexuality that has led some Virginia parishes to align themselves with the Anglican Church of Nigeria, stopped in Hartford Monday to deliver a message of reconciliation for the church and some news about himself.

“I believe with my whole heart that the Archbishop of Nigeria [Peter Akinola] and I are going to be in heaven together. And we’re going to get along together, because God won’t have it any other way. So we better start practicing now,” Robinson said at a luncheon attended by a dozen local church leaders at Real Art Ways.

He was responding to a plea from The Very Rev. Mark Pendleton, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, who told Robinson, “You’ve been demonized by so many. … How do you help me to not demonize others?”

Looking at ease in gray slacks and a blue fleece vest worn unzipped over a burgundy shirt, Robinson, 59, said he received 500 to 600 e-mails a day, both angry and supportive, after he was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the event that ignited revolts by some conservative parishes, including a group known as the Connecticut Six.

“I think everybody is doing the best we can. We’re all trying to figure life out,” Robinson said.

“The thing that has sustained me through all this is God has seemed so very close that prayer has seemed almost redundant. … Sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes God lets the storm rage, and calms the child.”

Personally, “I couldn’t be happier. I think that’s the best revenge,” he said.

Read it all.

Elaine Storkey: The extravagant Language of Jesus and the need for Perspective

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 9:56 am

Listen to it all from the BBC.

Jamaican Anglican Church wants to halt decline in membership

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:05 am

THE Anglican Church yesterday announced that it would be focusing its energies on revitalising its congregations which “are suffering a decline in membership”.

But in making the announcement, National President of the Brotherhood of St Andrew Oswald Seymour insisted that the slide was in no way linked to the split in the worldwide Anglican community over the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

According to Seymour, Robinson’s appointment which has sent the church body into a tailspin “has nothing to do with the diocese of Jamaica”. In fact, he said the split abroad has had “no impact” on the Anglican church in Jamaica.

Rather, he said that Jamaica’s dwindling congregations - especially in rural areas - was due in part to population shifts and urbanisation which have taken a toll on their membership.

Furthermore, Seymour said the Anglican church in Jamaica was not in support of the more radical stance being taken by its Episcopal counterparts in the United States and elsewhere.

Read it all.

American Episcopalians face searching questions in Cairo

January 23rd, 2007 posted by kendall at 5:59 am

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt welcomed this week a group of senior clergy from The Episcopal Church in America who visited Egypt to understand better this part of the Anglican Communion. They had a series of meetings in Cairo with Bishop Mouneer Anis, Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (the world’s hub for Sunni Muslims), the Grand Mufti, and a number of other senior Muslim theologians. During their meetings they were asked about their positions in regard to same sex marriage and practicing homosexuality. Dr. Ali Gomma, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, one of the country’s top Muslim cleric, stated that practicing homosexuality is viewed by all of the world’s great religions as sinful and not as a human right. Dr. Gomma added that efforts organized by small minorities in the West to add homosexuality to the list of universally recognized human rights threaten the important role that religious leaders must play in guarding and propagating respect for human rights generally around the world. He also stated that a tiny minority of people cannot be allowed to impose their own personal views on the vast majority of the world’s people who reject homosexual relations and same sex marriage.

Sheikh Umar al-Deeb, deputy to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the President of Al-Azhar’s Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions, asked the visiting delegation the same question. He was answered that the American church is struggling and in confusion over this issue, as it is torn by pressures from the surrounding culture on the one hand, and its desire to remain true to the faith, on the other. Sheikh al-Deeb followed up by asking members of the delegation if two people of the same sex came to their church and requested to be married would they personally bless the union. He was told that they would not.

Read it all.

Abortion Ruling Anniversary Marked

January 22nd, 2007 posted by kendall at 11:15 pm

Activists on both sides of the issue Monday were marking the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The annual March for Life will be held in Washington. President Bush will call in his support to the anti-abortion rally.

Abortion rights activists will hold a vigil at the Supreme Court and present political leaders with a petition signed by thousands of women who have said they have had abortions.

In contrast to recent years, when participants at the March for Life in Washington urged the Republican-controlled Congress to expand fetal rights and restrict abortions, activists are now discussing defensive strategies in the face of the Democratic takeover.

“Christ said we must be as clever as serpents and harmless as doves,” said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council. “With pro-choice leaders in the House and Senate, we may need to be downright snaky.”

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota was announcing its legislative agenda for the year Monday, while Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life was holding its annual March for Life and program on the front steps of the state Capitol.

Read it all.

Spud Allen Offers some Thoughts

January 22nd, 2007 posted by kendall at 11:12 pm

The first task in hand is to deal openly and honestly with the crisis in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. We have reached a point at which many of our parishioners feel they can no longer continue in the Episcopal Church, even in an orthodox parish in what has been a safe diocese, as the Episcopal Church continues to be formed by the spirit of the age, embracing new teachings and a form of life that carries it away from the Anglican Communion and far out of the mainstream of catholic Christianity. It now seems likely that following this month’s Primates Meeting in Tanzania there will be a Communion-provided alternative for traditional Anglicans in the Episcopal Church, which means we face a very live question, and difficult one – as the Episcopal Church moves away from the Anglican Communion and what we believe is the “faith once delivered” (Jude 3), will we go with it? My hope is that we will deal with the question in an open and honest manner, without prejudging the outcome. To help us with this task, on Sunday, February 4th, we will begin a “40 Days of Discernment” process of study, prayer, and discussion. This will involve Sunday morning sermons, my Sunday School class, individual guided study and prayer, corporate prayer each Wednesday evening, and other special fora with guests from outside the parish. I have written to Bishop Bauerschmidt and asked him to be fully a participant in this process.

Read it all.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jan 19, Afternoon backup (17:00 EST)

Nathaniel Pierce responds to Bonnie Anderson’s letter to the Panel of Reference

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:53 pm

With permission–KSH

I think the key paragraph of Bonnie Anderson’s letter is as follows:

“Thirty years ago, through our representative legislative process, we voted affirmatively to
allow the ordination of women. Generally at that time The Episcopal Church did not think the
1976 Canons were permissive or ambiguous. Nonetheless, to address any possible
misunderstanding, in 1997 General Convention, with the concurrence of both the House of
Bishops and the House of Deputies adopted additional Canons intended to put to rest the
question of whether a woman’s gender could be used to disqualify her from ordination. The
Episcopal Church is abundantly clear about its position regarding the ordination of women and
The Episcopal Church has been abundantly charitable towards those who do not fully embrace
that position.”

There is an apparent contradiction between her use of the word “allow” and “not … permissive
or ambiguous.” In any case, I do not believe that there can be any doubt that the statement,
“Generally at that time The Episcopal Church did not think the 1976 Canons were permissive
or ambiguous,” simply cannot be substantiated by the historical record. First, the issue was
specifically raised as part of the legislative process. In response, the Rev. George Regas,
speaking on behalf of the Coalition for the Ordination of Women, issued a public declaration
that the proposed canoncical change was permissive, not mandatory. The conscientious
convictions of those opposed would be respected, Regas stated.

Lest there be any confusion on the point, the 1977 meeting of the House of Bishops (speaking
only on behalf of itself), reaffirmed the same point: permissive, not mandatory.

In 1997 the previous public pledge was renounced and legislation was adopted to make it clear that
the 1976 canonical changes were now mandatory, contrary to what the 1988 Lambeth Conference
proclaimed as the norm. (I may have the wrong Lambeth Conference here; could have been 1978.)
Again, the GC legislative record is irrefutably clear on this point.

The question now raised by the Panel of Reference is rather simple and straightforward: permissive
or mandatory? Bonnie Anderson does not address this issue other than to note that our Ecclesiastical
Courts render final judgement on matters of interpretation. However, since there have been no
presentments, there has been no definitive ruling.

In an interesting way the Panel’s question is yet another attempt to understand the meaning of the
Windsor Report’s phrase “the proper constraints of the bonds of affection.” This has been an incredibly
difficult concept for the leadership of the American Church to understand. The response to date echoes
our response to the WR itself: this is how our polity works and that’s that. This does little to promote
any meaningful dialogue on this central issue.

–Mr. Nathaniel Pierce lives in Trappe, Maryland

Episcopal Church Flap keeps Mark Lawrence from assuming South Carolina bishop’s post

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:51 pm

Because [Mark] Lawrence was voted by a landslide of the clergy and laity of the South Carolina diocese, the holdup is a bitter pill to swallow.

“The South Carolina diocese has made a decision,” Harmon said, “and our decision is not being respected but re-evaluated. People here are getting their feelings hurt.”

The Rev. Haden McCormick, president of the Standing Committee at the South Carolina diocese, said the deadline for the process has been pushed back to March 9. By mid-March the diocese will know whether Lawrence is the next bishop of South Carolina.

“Mark will be in Bakersfield waiting for his consent process (to be completed),” McCormick said. “We wish everything was faster, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Claiming roots in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members. The Episcopal Church, whose members have dwindled to about 800,000, oversees more than 7,600 congregations and 111 dioceses.

Read it all. In terms of membership, the number 800,000 refers to average Sunday attendance, and the new figures are now below that number. In terms of the doctrine of Scripture, I do not like the word inerrancy and while I would not in any way speak for the bishop elect, I have doubts whether the article correctly describes his view. I prefer the term the entire trustworthiness of Scripture–KSH.

Presiding Bishop’s Statement Supporting Court Action and Not Negotiation in Virginia

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:40 pm


Following the Diocese of Virginia’s January 18 action authorizing Bishop Peter James Lee to “recover or secure” property of 11 congregations in which a majority of members and leaders have left the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has underscored the Church’s ongoing commitments to its mission of reconciliation, and a “fiduciary and moral duty” to preserve property for current and future ministries.

A full report on the January 18 actions of the Diocese of Virginia is online here. Among those decisions, the diocese’s Executive Board declared “abandoned” the property of the 11 Episcopal congregations where, as stated in a diocesan news report, “a majority of members –including the vestry and clergy — have left the Episcopal Church but have not relinquished Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese.”

The complete text of the Presiding Bishop’s January 19 statement follows.

Presiding Bishop’s statement following property decisions in Virginia

The Episcopal Church, in consultation with the Diocese of Virginia, regrets the recent votes by members of some congregations in Virginia to leave this Church. We wish to be clear, however, that while individuals have the right and privilege to depart or return at any time, congregations do not. Congregations exist because they are in communion with the bishop of a diocese, through recognition by diocesan governing bodies (diocesan synods, councils, or conventions). Congregations cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese. In addition, by canon law, property of all sorts held by parishes is held and must be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church through diocesan bishops and governing bodies. As a Church, we cannot abrogate our interest in such property, as it is a fiduciary and moral duty to preserve such property for generations to come and the ministries to be served both now and in the future.

The recent decisions by some members of congregations in Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church and ally with the Anglican Church of Nigeria have no cognizance in our polity. Ancient precedent (from as early as the fourth century) in the Church requires bishops to respect diocesan boundaries, and to refrain from crossing into or acting officially in dioceses other than their own. As a Church we cannot and will not work to subvert that ancient precedent by facilitating the establishment of congregations which are purportedly responsible to bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion within the diocesan boundaries of the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church continues to seek reconciliation with those who have decided to leave this Church, and reminds all parties that our doors are open to any who wish to return. Together with the Diocese of Virginia we seek to be clear about who we are as Episcopalians, and to continue to reach out in healing to this broken world. The overwhelming majority of the more than 7,600 congregations of the Episcopal Church are engaged in doing exactly that.

American Anglican Council Comments on Recent Developments in the Diocese of Virginia

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:27 pm

(Press Release)

The American Anglican Council (AAC) joins congregations in the newly formed Anglican District of Virginia in lamenting the lack of willingness on the part of the Diocese of Virginia to negotiate 11 churches’ properties, which the diocese declared “abandoned” in a news release yesterday. The decision on the properties, approved unanimously by the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia, also “authorizes the Bishop to take such steps as may be necessary to recover or secure such real and personal property.”

“I am deeply disappointed, though not surprised, at the Diocese of Virginia’s sudden resort to litigation after pledging to avoid court battles in a protocol agreed upon last fall,” said the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, AAC President and CEO. “The churches involved have indicated a clear willingness to negotiate a fair, amicable agreement regarding their properties, but the diocese has prematurely ended these discussions under the guise of concern for the diocese and national church, despite the fact that all options for an agreement have not been exhausted.”

The churches recently voted overwhelmingly to leave the Diocese of Virginia because of the national church’s continued departure from historic Anglicanism and biblical Christianity. Despite growing hostility and increased threats from diocesan and national leadership, the churches have maintained a spirit of Christian charity during the departure process.

“The AAC stands in strong support of these faithful churches in Virginia and urges Bishop Lee and the other diocesan leaders to halt the current course of destruction,” Canon Anderson said. He went on to note that peaceful terms regarding property have been reached between dioceses and departing parishes in other areas of the country, including recent agreements between Christ Church, Plano, and the Diocese of Dallas, and between two Puget Sound churches and the Diocese of Olympia.

“It is ironic that a diocese and national church which so pride themselves on ‘reconciliation’ should ignore the chance for peaceful negotiation and instead choose to spend precious resources on expensive legal battles,” Canon Anderson continued. “Negotiation is possible, but only with the willing cooperation from both sides. We pray that a reasonable, amicable agreement will emerge in Virginia despite recent indications otherwise.”

The Bishop of Georgia writes his Diocese

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:17 pm

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As many of you know, there have been on-going consultations between the Diocese and the clergy and lay leadership of Christ Church, Savannah. The first indication that many of you had about this was the letter sent out by our Diocesan Chancellor, Mr. James L. Elliott, to the Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Christ Church. Although there was an expressed mutual desire on the part of both Christ Church and me to resolve our issues in confidence with one another and without the specter of public debate, parts of the letter became the basis of a parish meeting at Christ Church. Our action in sending this letter out to parishioners and to diocesan clergy was in the interest of assuring that the full text be made available for all concerned. In the absence of a larger context and some background, this letter probably seemed to reflect a radical action taken with a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach, however this was not the intent. Suffice it to say that our Chancellor’s letter represents only part of a process that has being going on for the last few years.

In meetings over the last few years, and more recently, in meetings involving the President of the Standing Committee, the Chancellor, and the Canon to the Ordinary, I have met with the clergy and lay leadership of Christ Church to discuss these issues and their concerns. Our on-going conversation has covered a number of issues, with Christ Church’s financial support of the diocese (a canonical requirement of a parish) as only one of them. The issues have revolved around the question of whether the Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Christ Church desire to remain a part of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, and therefore, whether they are willing to acknowledge me as their bishop, and whether they can live into their responsibilities under the canons and constitution of the church. The actions and words of the clergy and lay leadership have indicated to me a desire to leave this part of Christ’s Church, but at our most recent meeting, which was subsequent to the publication of the chancellor’s letter, they have assured me that, at this time, they intend to be members of this diocese. We will continue to be in dialogue, seeking, with God’s help, a way forward for all of us.

I trust that many of you know how willing I am to understand the other side of issues that arise. Many of you also know that it grieves me deeply to take any actions that might bring great sadness or division. Yet, as your bishop, I believe I am doing the right thing. The Standing Committee has been kept fully apprised of the on-going dialogue, has participated in this journey with their prayers and counsel, and is unanimous in their support.

It has been my fervent prayer that we in the Diocese of Georgia be spared the difficulties some other dioceses are going through. I have worked, and will continue to work, to celebrate our diversity. I ask for your continued prayers for me, the clergy and the people Christ Church, Savannah, and the clergy and people of the Diocese of Georgia.

–(The Rt. Rev.) Henry I. Louttit is Bishop of Georgia

Anglican District of Virginia leaders urge Episcopal Bishop and Diocese to return to negotiating table

January 19th, 2007 posted by admin at 2:44 pm

[via e-mail and at Baby Blue]


Contact: Jim Pierobon

Anglican District of Virginia leaders urge Episcopal Bishop and Diocese to return to negotiating table

FAIRFAX and FALLS CHURCH, Va, Jan. 19 - Two leaders of the Anglican District of Virginia today urged the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, to cease both his divisive rhetoric and his march toward the courthouse and instead return to the negotiating table.

“It is still not too late for Bishop Lee and the leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to stand down from making any more threats against faithful Christians who followed the Diocese of Virginia’s protocol for departing congregations, and instead to return to the negotiating table,” said Tom Wilson, Senior Warden of The Falls Church and Chairman of the Anglican District. “I still have hope, even now, that we can sit down and reason together.”

The Anglican District of Virginia is a growing association of Anglican Churches in Virginia, consisting of 16 worshipping congregations and two emerging church plants. On a typical Sunday, almost 6000 people attend these churches, making Anglican District larger than almost half of the Episcopal dioceses in the United States.

“I am sorry that Bishop Lee seems to have forgotten the conclusions reached by his own Diocesan Reconciliation Commission as well as his own personally-appointed Special Committee led by the diocesan chancellor,” said Jim Oakes, Senior Warden of Truro Church and a member of the governing board of the Anglican District. Oakes noted that the Truro vestry had just met last week at the request of the Diocese to appoint its representatives to negotiate with the Diocese and gather information requested by the Diocese. Before the representatives could begin negotiations, the Diocese abruptly reversed its course and terminated negotiations

The Anglican District of Virginia parishes welcome all Episcopalians and others to worship. Following the Anglican tradition, this includes welcoming all baptized Christians to the Lord’s Table or Eucharist.

“Bishop Lee’s memory seems oddly selective and while that grieves me deeply, I still have hope that he will come to his senses and take seriously the recommendations of both the Reconciliation Commission and the Special Committee. There is still time,” Oakes added.

Both the reports from the Diocesan Reconciliation Commission as well as the Bishop’s Special Committee are still available for download from the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and have not yet been taken down. “I see that as a sign that as long as the reports are still available to the public there is hope for an amicable settlement,” said Oakes. “The facts and our history speak for themselves.”

Nathaniel Popper: When cantors were celebrities

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 1:12 pm

In early December, a bearded Hasidic Jewish man stood before a sold out crowd at Lincoln Center and delivered a concert of melodies that are normally heard only within the confines of a synagogue. The star of the show, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, is an Israeli who was recently given a lucrative contract by Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue to serve as the chief cantor–a role that condenses the power of the church organ and the delicacy of the church choir into one male voice.

Mr. Helfgot’s appearance at Lincoln Center recalled an earlier, mostly forgotten era of cantorial music, during the 1930s and ’40s, when cantors were the celebrities of Jewish life. A new documentary film, “A Cantor’s Tale,” warmly portrays a time when Broadway producers would try to lure big-name cantors out of the pulpit and into the footlights.

Mr. Helfgot’s concert and “A Cantor’s Tale” are two signs of a resurgent interest in the star turn taken by hazzanus, as cantorial music is known. But they are also a sort of reminder to Jews of a grand tradition that has largely been left behind, replaced by a new, more democratic, but decidedly less glamorous approach to Jewish music.

At the center of that lost world were men like Yossele Rosenblatt, Moshe Koussevitzky and Mordecai Hershman, tenors who were household names in Jewish Brooklyn. Hershman, like the other great cantors, began his life in Eastern Europe as an orphan in a Russian shtetl. From the Great Synagogue in Vilna, he was lured to America by Temple Beth El, in Brooklyn, which built a new synagogue to fit the crowds that came to hear him.

Read it all.

Hugh Mackay–Run with herd, live alone: our incredible shrinking households in Australia

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 12:30 pm

By 2026, more than 3 million Australians will be living alone and more than 6 million will be living with just one other person. The size of the average Australian household will by then have fallen from the current record low of 2.6 persons to a jaw-dropping 2.3 or even 2.2 persons per household.

At present, about 50 per cent of Australians live in what were once regarded as conventional family households - mum, dad and the kids. Twenty years ago, that’s how 60 per cent of us lived, but “couple with children” households are in statistical freefall: 20 years from now, a mere 40 per cent of us will be living in the traditional version of the family household. (All these figures come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics - one of our very few genuine national treasures, by the way.)

In the past 100 years, the Australian population has increased fivefold while the number of households has increased tenfold. We’ve reached the point where 50 per cent of all households contain just one or two people, and the single-person household is our fastest-growing household type, projected to account for 34 per cent of all households by 2026.

Changes in the size and structure of our households are one of the most revealing indicators of our social evolution. In tracking household shrinkage, we are also, inescapably, tracking fundamental changes in our patterns of marriage and divorce, the birthrate, the impact of longevity, the growing independence of women and, more recently, our openness to more diverse living arrangements. As a society, we are becoming more mobile, more flexible, more dynamic - and less judgemental of aloneness.

Read it all.

US bishop lashes Williams for coldness and contempt

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 11:03 am

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has come under fierce criticism from the Bishop of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Paul Marshall, for a perceived distancing of himself from the Episcopal Church in the United States.

While believing Dr Williams’s intentions to be good, and endorsing his reputation, the Bishop upbraids him, in a letter to fellow bishops, for spending more time talking to the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, Bishop Robert Duncan, than talking to “our entire House of Bishops, or even our Church gathered in Convention”.

The Episcopal Church, he protests, was following Dr Williams’s “own carefully thought-out teachings on sexuality, teaching that he only last year suddenly dismissed as a sin of his academic youth”. Before they get ready for life alone, says the Bishop, “We deserve to hear from him, in the room with us, an explanation of his distance and intentions.”

He writes of the intense pain of the “withdrawal of a human who was friend, teacher, and colleague to many in this Church, with no notice that either his opinions or commitment were in flux.”

He describes the relationship between the Episcopal Church and Dr Williams as “distant, confused, and multiply triangulated”. Reports that Dr Williams has been badly advised are not sufficient mitigation: “Leaders are leaders because they show up when it is not pleasant to do so.” The nadir in the Archbishop’s relationship with the US, Canadian, and perhaps the South African Churches has been “the appointment of a virtual lynch-mob to draft a Covenant which will by all reports attempt to turn a fellowship into a curial bureaucracy”.

The Bishop also expresses himself disheartened by the “procession of ‘second gentlemen’ from the Church of England” who addressed the House of Bishops in the Archbishop’s stead, “while over-insisting that they were not so doing”. The Communion leadership has overtly and adroitly “played us for chumps”, says the Bishop. “There is a kind of contempt for our intellect there whose sting almost matches the pain of the overall strategy of isolation.”

Read it all, although please note that the article is quite inaccurate in saying that Bethlehem is one of two Standing Committees who have rejected Mark Lawrence, there are more than two–KSH.

Update: Tony Clavier has more comments on Bishop Marshall’s piece here.

Another update: Andrew Gerns also has some reflections.

Kendall Harmon: God Inspired Dreamers Of Great Dreams

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 10:57 am

Ever have someone capture your imagination? Really grab a hold of you so you could not let what they said go?

I had a sports coach like that in high school once. “Make no little plans for there is no magic in them to stir people’s souls,” he insisted. Before long, he was challenging me to consider trying out for the varsity team at my high school. In this sport my school’s team had won the national championship a couple of years before. I thought he had lost his mind at first — but he hooked me. My life was really changed because he taught me to dream big dreams.

Jesus was the ultimate captivator of human beings and their imaginations. He talked of the Kingdom of God — nothing less than God’s reign in our midst. Living water, he said. The bread of life. By the time he was finished with one woman he met she had evangelized an entire village. Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did (and graciously loved me anyway). Wow!

All this was brought to mind recently when I was following my daily ritual, after completing morning devotions, of reading the New York Times (a paper in one hand and a Bible in the other, Karl Barth once said. I hope you discover the joy of doing both daily).

On this particular day a front-page story in the Times appeared about a plan to give a 150-dollar computer to all the children in the two-thirds world. This was the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, founding director of the M.I.T. media laboratory. The article went on to spell out how, in spite of opposition from Microsoft and Intel, as well as a number of educators, it just might happen. The machine can run just on sunlight. It doesn’t even have a hard drive. Holy cow!

Where are the disciples of Jesus with big ideas — ideas like this? If I look around I see Tim Keller seeking to engross New York, I watch Rick Warren trying to persuade America, and I read of Benedict XVI trying to captivate Europe. It is no accident that these figures are from evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism because at present the future of Christianity in the West lies there and only there.

Yet it is not too late for the mainline churches to participate in such a challenging and wonderful future. It can only happen when we are recaptured by our Lord and his gospel that seeks to bring the whole truth of God to every whole person throughout the whole world.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if some Anglicans produced a few shockingly big ideas instead of the stale, dry-as-dust humdrum that passes for being acceptable in so many of our parishes? By the grace of God may it be so.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and the convenor of this blog

Morning Backup: January 19, 2007: 08:30 EST

Bishop Salmon Goes to Heaven

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 8:06 am

Check it out.

Elves say: No! Please don’t panic, he didn’t die! Just click the link, it’s great!

Virginia Church dispute headed to court

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 7:55 am

Diocesan officials didn’t specify whether or when the congregations and their leadership are required to vacate the property, what the resulting consequences might be or how court action might affect that timeline.
“I think it’s premature in the process to know exactly what will happen next,” said Patrick Getlein, secretary of the diocese, in an e-mail to The Washington Times. “Today’s action by the Board was procedural, and I think that we will have to wait and see what exactly the next steps are in due course….”

“These churches are saddened, but, sadly, not surprised at what the diocese and what the national church have elected to do,” said Jim Pierobon, a spokesman for both congregations.
Though the congregations would like to settle the matter amicably out of court, they are prepared to handle a potential lawsuit, Mr. Pierobon said.
“We have absolutely no intention of leaving,” he said. “We are fully prepared to defend our rights in court and will protect our congregations’ property titles and rights to the full extent of the law.”
The titles of the property at Truro Church and the Falls Church list lay leaders — not clergy — as trustees on behalf of the congregations, Mr. Pierobon said.
“Our lawyers, after assessing the law, have concluded that the law in Virginia favors congregations — even within large denominations such as the Episcopal Church,” he said. “Denominational trusts in congregational property are not valid in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Read it all.

Update: An AP article is here also.

Atlanta Pastor’s Trial Rekindles Debates Over Noncelibate Gay Clergy

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 7:51 am

Unlike the other major U.S. Lutheran body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the 4.9 million-member ELCA allows openly gay clergy. Schmeling told both his bishop and congregation about his sexual orientation before he was chosen pastor.

ELCA spokesman John Brooks said that if a single, heterosexual pastor told his bishop that he was in a relationship outside of marriage and he refused to repent, he likely would face a similar disciplinary proceedings. When Warren announced in August that he was taking action against Schmeling, he said he wouldn’t comment until a verdict is rendered.

In 2005, delegates to an ELCA national meeting rejected a proposal to allow sexually active gays and lesbians to be ordained as pastors if they were in committed, long-term relationships. Opponents, including Schmeling, say the policy discriminates against gay clergy by forcing them to refrain from sex, while heterosexuals only have to wait for marriage.

“ELCA says it welcomes GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) people but that welcome stops at committed relationships,” said Phil Soucy, spokesman of Lutherans Concerned, a group fighting for full inclusion of gays in the church.

Schmeling’s disciplinary hearing, which will be closed to the public, is expected to run through the weekend. Afterward, the 12-person committee – comprising of both clergy and lay people, including two members chosen by Schmeling – will have a couple weeks to decide whether to take action, which could include a suspension or removal from ordained ministry.

Schmeling’s congregation doesn’t even like to consider where that would land them.

“We want Bradley to be our pastor and we want to remain in ELCA,” congregation president Laura Crawley said. “If he’s removed from the roster, he’ll continue as pastor.”

While that could lead to disciplinary actions against St. John’s, the married mother of two said she hopes the church will reform itself by understanding that “we want our pastors to live in the world with us.”

Read it all.

Beliefs embolden newly elected diocesan bishop

January 19th, 2007 posted by kendall at 7:50 am

“I’m still digesting a lot of it,” Lawrence said. “Each day, I live with the reality of this election, and like a new shoe, it gets a little more comfortable.”

But since the recent election and consecration of Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, rumbles of controversy have unsettled dioceses across the United States, many still smarting over the 2003 election of the Anglican Communion’s first openly gay bishop.

Lawrence says Jefferts Schori’s condoning of same-sex blessings while she was still bishop of the Nevada Diocese have compromised her ability to exercise her primatial authority. As a result, the Diocese of South Carolina, the San Joaquin Diocese and others have asked for primatial separation, which Lawrence says he supports.

Despite these issues, Lawrence says he’s ready to go forward, holding to the faith which has been understood historically by the church for hundreds of years. Within that context, he says he does not want to see the church take refuge in legalistic and doctrinal isolation, nor go the other extreme of being overly permissive to the point of being lax.

“This is no easy thing,” Lawrence said. “You don’t want to be narrow and confining to growth, but you don’t want to be so open to every wind of change that you lose yourself.”

Allison Lawrence, 53, has been married to Mark Lawrence for 33 years, and together they’ve raised five children. After about 25 years of supporting his work in the church, Allison says she knows there are storms ahead, but feels his election is part of a bigger plan.

“My husband has a part to play in the whole controversy,” Allison said. “I feel he’ll be a clear voice for an orthodox theology.”

Apart from doctrinal turmoil, Allison says she is excited at the prospect of moving and learning a new culture in Charleston, S.C., where some Anglican congregations date back to Revolutionary War times.

“I feel like I’m living someone else’s life, it’s been such a huge change,” Allison said. “I love Bakersfield and St. Paul’s church, but I take my happiness with me, I don’t expect the place to make me happy.”

At least part of her willing attitude comes, she says, from a deep commitment to follow God’s leading.

“I think God called us to go, and we said, ‘Yes,’” Allison said. “We’ve always viewed ministry as something we do together, with my husband in the front role. We follow Christ where he leads.”

Read the whole piece.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 18, 2007 Backup (18:30 EST)

Ok, T19 is getting hammered with traffic, so time to activate the backup again. Here are all of the January 18 posts currently on the Titusonenine main page. We'll post any new stories here tonight as individual entries. We know that is much easier to read.

Archbishop Gomez leads in search for a way forward for the Anglican Communion

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:07 pm

Speaking about the work of the CDG, which assembled here Monday and winds up its meeting tonight, Archbishop Gomez, who is also bishop of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, noted that its members would
approach their work with a focus on “unity within community.”

“This is important because… each province of the communion is an autonomous province within the worldwide communion. So while we want to come together and be united, we also have to protect the right of each entity to exercise its autonomy within the body,” Gomez explained. “So we will be looking at the theology of unity within diversity, how to hold the two together. Against that background, we will be dealing with what is traditionally called ‘Anglican comprehensives.’ That is, in Anglicanism, we, up to this point, have been able to hold together certain diverse theological views and still remain as one communion.”

Despite the focus on unity within community, Archbishop Gomez admits the grim outlook in some quarters of the Church.

“Some people are saying that a split is inevitable and our hope is that we can avoid a split,” he said. “Because if we end up with two kinds of, what I call, subgroups, the question is how do they relate with one another.”

Read the whole piece.

Breaking News from the Diocese of Virginia: Diocesan Leadership Declares Church Property ‘Abandoned’

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 5:15 pm

A News Release from the Communications Office of The Diocese of Virginia

Diocesan Leadership Declares Church Property ‘Abandoned’

For release: Thursday, January 18, 2007
Contact: Patrick Getlein 1-800 346-2373 x 30

Today, January 18, 2007, the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia took a step forward in preserving the mission and ministry of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church for current and future generations of Episcopalians and adopted a resolution concerning the property of 11 Episcopal Churches where a majority of members – including the vestry and clergy – have left The Episcopal Church but have not relinquished Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese.

Specifically, the Executive Board declared the property of those churches – real and personal – to be abandoned in accordance with the Canons of the Diocese.

“All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Church or Mission within this Diocese is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.” (Canon 15.1)

“No part of the real property of a Church, except abandoned property, shall be alienated, sold, exchanged, encumbered or otherwise transferred for any purpose without the consent of the congregation … [and] the Bishop, acting with the advice and consent of the Standing Committee of the Diocese.” (Canon 15.2)

Having declared the property abandoned for the purposes for which it is set aside, namely the mission of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, the Executive Board is required to protect the property, according to the Canons:

“[W]henever any property, real or personal, formerly owned or used by any congregation of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia for any purpose for which religious congregations are authorized to hold property under the provisions of the Code of Virginia or any amendment thereof, has ceased to be so occupied or used by such congregation, so that the same may be regarded as abandoned property by the Executive Board, which shall have the authority to declare such property abandoned and shall have the authority to take charge and custody thereof, the Executive Board shall take such steps as may be necessary to transfer the property to the Bishop…” (Canon 15.3)

The unanimous decision by the Executive Board also authorizes the Bishop to take such steps as may be necessary to recover or secure such real and personal property.

Read it all, including Bishop Lee’s letter to the diocese which follows.

For reference: The two posts on the Diocese of VA website are here and here.

Notable and Quotable

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:53 pm

Anti-sacramental, anti-ritual evangelicalism emphasizes a personal relationship with God, but tends to encourage what Anthony Giddens calls “pure relationship,” a relationship that is not tacked down with external anchors and supports. A live-in relationship, without benefit of the rites and legalities of marriage, is a pure relationship. Evangelicalism tends to encourage a live-in relationship with Jesus.

This is wrong, a departure from Christian tradition, and unbiblical. It also places unbearable burdens on the soul. Tempted by the devil, Luther slapped his forehead to remind himself of his baptism. His standing before God was anchored in Christ, to whom he had been joined by baptism.

For evangelicals, assurance cannot be grounded in anything so external and objective. Spontaneous enthusiasm is the test of sincerity, and the source of assurance. But eternal, self-scrutinizing vigilance is necessary to ensure that the enthusiasm is really spontaneous.

Enthusiasm was supposed to liberate the soul from all the dead forms, but it comes with its own set of chains.

–Peter J. Leithart, The Unbearable burden of Evangelicalism

A Recent ordination Sermon by Bishop Michael Ingham

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 4:50 pm

You know that religious fundamentalism is growing in every major faith tradition, including our own. Religious fundamentalism is based on fear – fear of change, fear of loss, fear of the future and what it means to personal or tribal identity. When people see all their anchors being pulled up, and the world they know set adrift upon uncertain seas, they re-assert old dogmas, old traditions, and insist that God demands all this to stem the tide of change.

In itself this is understandable. It is a natural human reaction. But it is a human reaction and should not be confused with God’s action. And one of the jobs of a priest is to know the difference between God’s action and human reaction, and to help people avoid the mistake of confusing one for the other.

Secular fundamentalism is quite different, but no less real. This is the distorted view that we are sufficient unto ourselves, that all we need is an effective marketplace where all our human problems can be resolved to everyone’s mutual profit. It is the view that everything important in human life can be measured, that everything significant can be quantified - by economic indicators, for example, or the expanse of our lawns - that the purpose of human life is to maximize individual well-being, and that people are to be valued by their success in the market place as the principal indicators of their human worth.

I would say this is the dominant religion of the West today. It’s the culture we live in, the air we breathe. So we have these two fundamentalisms – one religious, one secular; one based on fear, the other on pride: one that has tried to co-opt and capture God, and one that has tried to banish God – and in the midst of this our priests and leaders have to be not just pastors but also prophets, not just comforters but also sounders of the alarm. We need from our priests, and indeed from all the baptized and faithful members of our Church, the leadership and vision to set us free from captivity both to false religion and to false ideologies alike.

Fear and pride are the very opposite of biblical values. They are not what God wants nor what God offers us through Jesus Christ. Our Scriptures bear witness to a Son of God whose very incarnation sets us free from idolatry, free from false attachment to bad religion and to unsustainable economic systems. Genuine biblical spirituality opens us to truth from any source so long as it incarnates the compassionate grace and mercy of God who has created all people as inter-connected, members one of another; as St. Paul says, to be one with each other and with the earth that supports us.

Kenneth Leech, a great Anglican writer, says genuine Christian orthodoxy is subversive, not conformist, it overturns human convention in the name of divine wisdom, it is not dogmatic but transformative, it doesn’t fit into patterns of domination and exclusion but stands against them for a radical inclusion. Christian orthodoxy is not a tribal theology, a God-on-my-side sectarianism. It’s a global vision of a world united in its very plurality, a world at one in its respect for difference and its deep commitment to justice. This is not the narrow orthodoxy of fundamentalists and demagogues, nor even may we say of some archbishops and primates. It’s the radical orthodoxy of Jesus, grounded in his incarnation as the Son of God, who also lived in dangerous and polarized times and who refused all its temptations of avoidance and power.

Read it all.

Bella DePaulo: Single Americans are hardly flying solo

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 2:40 pm

You could hear the anxiety in the headlines: “Social Isolation Growing,” “It’s Lonely Out There” and “Turn to a Close Friend (If You Have Any).” The spate of stories followed the publication earlier this summer of “Social Isolation in America,” a study showing that Americans do not have the number of close confidants they once did. Asked to name people with whom they had discussed important matters, Americans in 1985 listed three. By 2004, the number was down to two.

As the “confidant crisis” was about to become little more than a ghost of headlines past, fear was roused again by new pronouncements from the Census Bureau. Peek in the window of any household, we learned, and you are more likely to see just one person living there than a family of mom, dad, and the kids. In fact, for the first time in the history of the country, households that included a married couple (with or without children) slipped into the minority.

The news could not be dismissed out of hand by the argument that the supposedly unmarried households included couples who were unmarried in name only. Cohabiting couples, including both heterosexual and same-sex, make up only 5.4 percent of all households, far below the 27 percent of households where a person lives singly and the 9.8 percent of households with single parents.

The growing number of unmarried households and solo dwellers, together with the declining number of confidants, could be troubling. Suppose, for instance, that the average of two confidants that Americans reported were the result of married people naming about four confidants and singles close to none. Isn’t that what we assume when we say that people who are single “don’t have anyone”? And wouldn’t those numbers also be consistent with our intuitive understanding of marriage as adding not just a spouse but links to friends and family of the spouse?

In fact, though, the number of confidants reported by married and single people was nearly identical — married people named just 0.2 more confidants than did single people. When people marry, they may well add a spouse to their confidant list, but they also seem to demote someone else.

The emotional sustenance provided by confidants is not all that we humans seek from each other. Often, we just want companionship. There are also times when we look for a ride or a loan, information about job possibilities or recommendations for a decent dentist. Other goals could never be reached with the help of just two confidants. To effect neighborhood improvement or social change, for instance, we need far reaching connections. We need a community or a movement, not just a collection of individuals.

When Americans are asked to name not just the people with whom they discuss important matters, but also the people they see often and approach for help, it turns out that they have far more than just two important people in their lives. A Pew study, “The Strength of Internet Ties,” found that Americans have a median of 35 people whom they consider to be more than just acquaintances. Solo dwelling Americans are not social isolates. They can sit at their computers and connect to people oceans away, or right next door. And, the Pew study showed that e-mail is not substituting for face time. People who e-mail more often have more in-person and phone contact with others, not less.

Read it all.

Michael Medved: The youthful candidate is passing with the years

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 2:36 pm

Voters tell pollsters that they crave a fresh start in Washington, with new ideas and, presumably, younger, more energetic leadership. Instead, what they’ve got is the most elderly Congress and one of the oldest crops of presidential candidates in history. No wonder so many members of the younger generation feel disenchanted with the political process!

According to the Congressional Research Service, the average age for senators just went up by nearly two years to 61.7. House members also got grayer — reaching an average age of 55.9 (for a job that’s open to all citizens 25 and older).

Among presidential candidates for 2008, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who just announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, stands alone not just because of his race, but because of his age. At the time of the inauguration, Obama will be 47 — older than four previous presidents but far younger than his prominent rivals. Nearly all leading competitors for the White House (Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Bill Richardson, among Democrats; Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, among Republicans) would be over 60 at the inauguration. Even the youthful-looking John Edwards would take office at 55 — making him older than the clear majority (23) of presidents who have won election.

The advanced age of current contenders contrasts with some of the most thrilling campaigns in American history. In 1960, John Kennedy triumphed at age 43, beating the 47-year-old Richard Nixon. Abraham Lincoln (despite the nickname “Old Abe”) won the White House at age 52, while Franklin Roosevelt was only 51.

More recently, Reagan, 69, and the first President Bush, 64, both won office at a time of life when people usually retire, but most other contemporary presidents represented a decidedly more youthful demographic. In the epic 2000 confrontation between Bush and Gore, the combatants were 54 and 53. Jimmy Carter won the White House as a one-term Georgia governor at 52, while Bill Clinton took the presidency at 46 (with running mate Al Gore, a mere lad of 44).

In 2008, a youthful outsider would have a tough time replicating those feats because of the crushing cost and fiercely competitive nature of today’s nomination battles. By and large, only veteran politicians, multimillionaires or celebrities can raise that kind of money and survive the brutal pre-convention struggle for attention. Current realities heavily favor politicians with strong name recognition and well-developed national followings — meaning older candidates who are well-established with the public.

Read it all.

Robert M. Ross: Not Familiar to Everyone

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 2:21 pm

Many pundits have offered solutions to counteract the declining membership of The Episcopal Church. I want to suggest that one of the solutions may be as simple as a page number.

When I arrived at the new clergy training in the Diocese of Virginia, I met a man who had been hand picked for the leadership position by Bishop Peter Lee because he possessed a great track record for accomplishing church growth. One of the cornerstones to church growth in his eyes was the officiant of the service announcing the page numbers in both the prayer book and hymnal.

His theology on this matter was quite clear. If we are to attract new members, we are going to have to make people feel welcome, not just by the ushers or the greeting committee, but also by the officiant. He reminded us that well before coffee hour a parish has had numerous chances to make a positive or negative impression on its newcomers or visitors. “What better way to show your newcomers they are welcomed,” our trainer told us, “than by helping them through our complicated prayer book.”

Read it all.

Joel Edwards: Let us not Miss the Imago Dei in Each person

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 12:30 pm

“…all my guilt-gongs went off yesterday when I heard that the Healthcare Commission were investigating cases of abuse against people with learning disabilities in residential care. It wasn’t just my mother: my wife works with people with learning disability.

Yesterday also, a senior doctor unveiled evidence of ‘distressing complications’ for some elderly patients in the NHS. She first stumbled on this evidence, not a consultant, but as a visiting relative.

In our increasingly defensive culture it’s hard to know where blame stops and accountability begins. But the Healthcare Commission said that the widespread abuse was due to a lack of training, awareness and leadership, acerbated by low morale.

But it’s not just the Health Service. Something else is going missing from our society. It’s the profound belief that people are to be respected not only because of their age or vulnerability but because they are made in the image of God.

As the medical scientist Gareth Jones puts it, ‘Whenever confronted by another human being,’ he says, ‘we are in the presence of images of God, who makes claims on us.’”

Read it all.

A Picture is worth 1000 words

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 12:05 pm

Read it all.

IRD Calls for Diocese and National Church to Work with Virginia Parishes, Not Against Them

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 12:01 pm

Read it all.

Bonnie Anderson’s Letter to the Panel of Reference

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 10:45 am

Read it carefully and read it all.

At Saint Stephen’s, for people on both sides of the divide, the path to salvation is no longer clear

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 8:24 am

Yet the fallout has been particularly acute in Heathsville, a tiny town on Virginia’s pastoral Northern Neck. Those who voted at St. Stephen’s to stay Episcopalian were a quarter of the membership, a much larger percentage than at the other churches, and that group has already voted itself new leadership as it plans to rebuild its congregation and reoccupy the building. Small groups of Episcopalians at the other churches are just starting to organize.

But in a town of 5,000 people, the effect of the vote is different from that of the bustling D.C. suburbs, where the other churches are. It has meant tense small talk in line at the Food Lion and friction between longtime friends.

Barbara Tricarico, who voted to stay Episcopalian, breaks into tears when she looks at the cracked wooden sign her husband pulled out of the bed of a pickup truck: “St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.” Tricarico just happened to see men removing it in the days after the vote, to replace it with a new sign: “St. Stephen’s (Anglican).”

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” she said, “and I don’t have a heart problem. I just started bawling.”

But it seems to make it worse, she says, when anyone says something about it.

“You know that expression ‘least said, quickest mended’? These are watermen, farmers, doctors who have to see each other for the rest of their lives, so they don’t say much,” said Sandy Kirkpatrick, who launched the youth group at St. Stephen’s and is now the senior warden of the Episcopal group. “Country people don’t talk about these things.”

So private and reserved were the St. Stephen’s parishioners about the controversy, even as it unfolded over months and years, that many said they didn’t even know who was on which side until the tally list was announced.

Kirkpatrick, who moved from Fairfax County to Heathsville 11 years ago, has had long conversations about the nuances of faith with Margaret Radcliffe, now senior warden of St. Stephen’s (Anglican), who moved from Richmond a few years earlier. In the past, the women would write each other lengthy e-mails, sometimes in the middle of the night, about their very different views of the Bible, and they met regularly up until a lunch a few weeks before the vote.

Today the women communicate in the realm of officialdom, writing letters from their respective church positions as the two groups hash out whether they can share space while negotiations — or litigation — unfold far above their heads. “Your sister in Christ,” Kirkpatrick’s letters end; “Faithfully,” end Radcliffe’s.

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Notable and Quotable

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 7:36 am

If you went to the airport, and there were no airplanes landing, and there were no airplanes taking off, you’d say, ‘There’s a problem!’ If you went to the train station, and there were no trains coming and no trains leaving, you’d say, ‘There’s a problem!’ So why is it that we can be a part of churches that go on year after year with almost no truly unchurched people coming to faith in Christ, and with very few people really becoming more Christlike, and yet think there’s no problem. Friends, if that describes your church, ‘There’s a problem.’”

–Mark Mittelberg and Bill Hybels, Building a Contagious Church: Revolutionizing the Way We View and Do Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p.24

(Hat tip: BD)

A Dying Church Allows for new Life

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:11 am

Midfield First Baptist Church, which had dwindled to about 40 mostly elderly, white worshippers, recently held its last service in the church building it had called home for nearly 50 years.

A week later, it handed over the keys —- and its $1.8 million property —- to a predominantly black Baptist church called New Beginnings in a property giveaway that gives new meaning to the church’s name.

“Somebody came up with the idea: Why don’t we just give them the building?” said the Rev. Eugene Nail, 78, pastor of Midfield First Baptist since 2000. “It was built with tithes and offerings, and it’s the Lord’s building anyway.”

As one church dies away and another is born, Nail called it an “old ending and a new beginning.”

“We’re going to turn it over to them —- the church and everything in it,” Nail said. “Midfield First Baptist will cease to exist. … The town needs ministering to. Our people are too old. They had to kiss reality in the mouth.”

Midfield First Baptist no longer had a choir, but it had a ladies’ praise ensemble made up of five women in their 70s.

“We wanted to close with dignity,” said Midfield music minister Gene Hayes. “Our people saw it was a good thing to continue our legacy through this group of people.”

Midfield First Baptist was founded in 1952 as a mission of another nearby Baptist church. The congregation held tent services before the education building went up in 1958. The 600-seat sanctuary was built in 1966.

Back then, Midfield First Baptist was thriving. “It’s always been blue-collar, U.S. Steel people,” Hayes said. “It’s always been a generous and missions-minded church.”

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The White House Seeks to Avoid an Iraq Showdown

January 18th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:09 am

A Democrat-driven resolution on Iraq that has attracted the support of at least two Republicans threatens to expose fissures within the GOP over the unpopular war.

Republicans are deeply divided on the war in Iraq and how Congress should react to President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to join the estimated 130,000 already there.

Ten Republicans met behind closed doors late Wednesday with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a bid to generate consensus on Iraq. The senators emerged from the meeting to announce that no deal had been reached.

“This is a very fluid situation,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

The meeting came after Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, both Republicans who have sparred with the administration on the war, announced that they would co-sponsor the resolution.

The resolution would put the Senate on record as opposed to sending more troops to Iraq. It also calls for the U.S. military mission to switch from major combat to training Iraqi troops, counterterrorism and keeping foreign fighters out of Iraq.

“It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq,” the resolution states.

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