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.


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