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Rochdale vicar enters guilty plea in immigration fraud trial: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 7. December 31, 2011

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Patrick Magumba

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Manchester vicar is facing imprisonment after pleading guilty to charges of having committed immigration fraud.

On 12 December 2011 the Rev Canon Patrick Magumba entered a guilty plea before the Bolton Crown Court to one count of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law and to two counts of theft.

Canon Magumba, a Ugandan immigrant and the former Team Vicar for the South Rochdale Team Ministry of St Peter’s, Newbold, St Luke’s Deeplish, and St Mary’s, Balderstone, was charged with having conducted 21 fraudulent marriages at St Peter’s and 10 at St Luke’s between April 2008 and February 2011.

On 13 March 2011, the Archdeacon of Rochdale told the congregation of St Peter’s Church that Canon Magumba had been arrested and the rectory and church searched by officers of the UK Border Agency in connection with an investigation of sham marriages in the North West.

A spokesman for the diocese confirmed Canon Magumba had been “questioned by the immigration crime team over irregularities in relation to weddings” and “following proper procedures,” Manchester Bishop Nigel McCulloch suspended Canon Magumba’s “licence to operate as a minister of religion” pending the outcome of the investigation.

The police investigation found the vicar had also pocketed wedding and funeral fees, diverting £5,400 from St Peter’s and £2,908 from St Luke’s. It is not known whether these fees were the proceeds of the fraudulent weddings.

After the plea was entered, Judge Thomas Teague told the cleric that “he must expect to lose his liberty for some time.”

Canon Magumba will be sentenced at Bolton Crown Court on 19 January 2012.

Bethlehem Broom Brawl: Get Religion, December 30, 2011 December 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Armenian Apostolic, Get Religion, Greek Orthodox, Press criticism.
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Wednesday’s broom fight between Greek and Armenian clergy at the Church of the Nativity has come as a god-send to the editors manning the desks of news rooms this Christmas. With the year-in-review pieces done and the boss away until Tuesday, the junior editors ruling the roost have been handed a fun item with which to play.

The general outline of the story as reported by the wire services was that fist fight erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic clergy at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. A six century church built on the purported site of Christ’s birth, the Church of the Nativity is jointly administered by the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and the Franciscan Order of the Roman Catholic Church. Each has their own portion of the building under their administration, the newspapers report, with the turf jealously guarded against encroachment.

While cleaning the building following the Catholic Christmas services on Dec 25 in preparation for the Orthodox (Jan 7) and Armenian (Jan 6) Christmas services, the dividing line between territories was breached.  This led to a shoving, swinging of brooms and fisticuffs. Palestinian Authority Police, evidently prepared for just such an outbreak of violence, quickly broke up the fight — which took place before a tourist group and was recorded on video. No injuries were reported or arrests made, the news services reported.

Several of the longer news pieces noted that brawls between rival churches over their rights and responsibilities at the Church of the Nativity had taken place for centuries. Last year the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran a story about a dispute that led to tourists being trapped in the grotto under the church — the traditional place of Jesus’ birth — a priest took a shortcut and trespassed on Armenian space.

In 2002 Palestinian terrorists damaged the building when they seized the building, holding a number of monks and nuns hostage.

The best report on the incident I’ve seen was in the Daily Mail. It provided the facts, context and an overview of what was behind the dispute.

The Sun has had the best — meaning worst — headline so far. “Affray in a Manger”.  The New York Post comes a close second with “Brawl is mano amen-o” with the Mirror coming third with “Rival Monks in Broomstick Brawl in Bethlehem Church”.

Not given the freehand of their tabloid brethren, many of the “quality” press turned to alliteration with some form of “Clerics Clash” (Reuters, The Independent, USA Today; “Clergymen  Clash” (CBS, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Time); or “Brawl in Bethlehem” (Irish Independent, BBC).

Other outlets mined phrases from popular culture for headlines: “Monks gone wild at the Church of the Nativity” Global Post, or “Bethlehem Rings in Christmas With Annual Priestly Broom Fight” in The Atlantic.

Commentary about the fight was all over the place. One European news agency (MINA) quipped:

Nothing says Christmas as the annual fight between Armenian and Greek priests in Bethlehem. Just like in previous years, both groups continued their tradition and fought over “territory” and who has the right to be at the church which in Christianity is believed was the birthplace of Jesus.

Both groups attempted to clean the Church, to signify the birth of Jesus when a scuffle erupted. Although the place was crawling with police, they still didn’t manage to prevent the annual priest fight, which hopefully Spike TV will air later tonight.

This is perhaps what’s wrong with priests in general, unlike shaolin monks who can actually fight. Our hats off to Greek and Armenian priests… true believers should always fight each other … in Church.

The National Review and the Guardian drew very different lessons from the fracas (imagine that!)

David Pryce-Jones notes that:

Rivalry between Christians was one reason why the Holy Land of the Crusaders was lost to Islam. The bigotry remains as primitive and destructive as the Sunni–Shia divide is to Islam, and when there are no more Christians in any Muslim country it will be too late for regrets.

The fealty given by Christian Arabs to their Muslim rulers will do them no good, Pryce-Jones argues.

Bethlehem used to be at least three-quarters Christian, but that figure is down to about a quarter as its inhabitants emigrate to escape the PLO. Christmas is of course the high point of the town’s calendar. Victor Batarseh, the mayor, is a distinguished medical specialist, aged 76, and Roman Catholic.  He marked this Christmas with a speech calling for a complete boycott of Israel. This would be suicide. The day the Christians are at the exclusive mercy of the PLO, and never mind their Hamas compatriots, is when this church would become a mosque. An omen: Ayia Sofia, once the Byzantine cathedral of Istanbul, was converted into a mosque, then a museum, and under rising Islamism is now a mosque again.

Giles Fraser — the Church of England clergyman whose invitation to the Occupy LSX movement led to the on-going mess at St Paul’s Cathedral — noted that the Nativity brawl was a sign for some people that the church had lost its way.

Church buildings have become a fetish, admired by secular aesthetes and those who want an impressive stage set in which to celebrate life’s big events, but a drain on the resources and moral imagination of the church. What we need is another dose of healthy iconoclasm to remind us that the message of the gospel is not to be confused with bricks and mortar.

While he had sympathy with this view, he believed that:

Christianity is not some esoteric philosophy. It is rooted in time and place. It begins on the streets before it points to the stars. And church buildings are an expression of the rootedness of the incarnation. Where it all goes wrong is when those who are so caught up in the running of church buildings forget about the purpose for which the place was built, and come to believe that the stones matter in and of themselves. When that happens Christianity becomes petty and narrow, all about who cleans a few metres of floor, rather than a means of imagining human life from the context of all eternity.

A few news outlets managed to mangle the story. CNN appeared not to have read TMatt’s recent post and referred to the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches as “sects”. Wrong word, of course. TMatt explains why.

And the Washington Post has over egged the pudding.

At one of oldest churches in the world, built over the cave that tradition marks as the place Jesus was born, Franciscan, Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests have brawled annually around Christmas Day for more than a century.

This year was no different.

This year was different in that they did brawl. They do not brawl every year.

They have, of course brawled frequently. Karl Marx, writing in the New York Herald-Tribune on 15 April 1854 took the churches to task for their unedifying conduct.

… the common worship of the Christians at the Holy Places resolves itself into a continuance of desperate Irish rows between the diverse sections of the faithful; [however] these sacred rows merely conceal a profane battle, not only of nations but of races …

Marx did note the appointment of an Anglican bishop in Jerusalem was “the first and only cause of a union between all the religions at Jerusalem” who were united in their common dislike of the Church of England. Reading Israeli press  reports shows that little has changed.

First published in GetReligion.

Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea backs Anglican Covenant: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 7. December 30, 2011

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Bishop Peter Ramsden of Port Moresby

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The provincial council of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea (ACPNG) has endorsed the Anglican Covenant.

Last week’s announcement by the ACPNG marks the fourth province to endorse or subscribe to the Covenant.  The West Indies, Mexico, and Myanmar have already backed the covenant, while the bishops of the Philippine Episcopal Church have rejected it, and Australia, New Zealand and the United States are likely to oppose the agreement in its current form.

The press office of the Anglican Consultative Council last week reported that the Bishop of Port Moresby, the Rt. Rev. Peter Ramsden, had written to Canon Kenneth Kearon informing him the premise of the covenant was in line with the ACPNG’s self-understanding of its mission and its Anglican heritage.

“Anglican” was one of the styles of Christianity brought to this land and people near the end of the nineteenth century”, Bishop Ramsden said.

Anglicanism has “never pretended to be the only form of Christianity, but it did reflect how one part of the Christian family had developed, built on the importance of scripture, creeds, sacraments and episcopal order,” the bishop said.

In Papua New Guinea the church sought to combine its “Anglo-Catholic theological heritage and personal discipleship to the Lord Jesus in the way we witness to the five marks of mission with our ecumenical partners in PNG and our Anglican partners overseas.”

The bishop stated that the ACPNG’s understanding of “communion” was that it described a close relationship that “ensures autonomy and requires responsibility.”

It was an “expression of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” and also required “mutual respect, open communication and patience in dealing with issues that threaten it.”

He added that the innovations in doctrine and discipline concerning the ordination of women clergy and issues in human sexuality had strained the church’s communion.

In recent decades we have been saddened by the apparent lack of these things in the controversies concerning the ordination of women and issues of human sexuality. Anglicans were nonetheless “called to live a particular style of Christian witness which, because it is less juridical and confessional than that of some others, clearly requires a high level of mutual concern and respect.”

The ACPNG was “proud to belong to the Anglican Communion,” Bishop Ramsden said.

“As bishops we attended the 2008 Lambeth Conference, supported the three moratoria, endorsed the covenant process and value the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury to promote our unity. The Covenant might not have been proposed if some Anglican Provinces had not acted in the way they did, but recent history has produced it and we believe it deserves our support as a contribution to shaping and strengthening a future Anglican Communion, faithful to our calling to be ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’.”

Soft-peddling the Savior: Get Religion, December 29, 2011 December 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Russell Powell — late of the ABC and now head of media relations for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney — suggested I take a look at the coverage given by the BBC to the Queen’s Christmas message.

In the pages of this blog I have been critical of the BBC’s coverage of religion. I have argued the corporation has at times displayed bias or disdain for religion and the faith component of news stories. My initial response to Russell’s suggestion was one of glee. Here was an opportunity to write a quick post that conformed to the narrative I had established in my previous posts.

Then I read the BBC article and found my assumptions were unfounded. The article entitled “Queen speaks of hope in 2011 Christmas Day message” was a workman-like piece of reporting that displayed none of the cant to which I had objected in other reports. Nevertheless I found the story to be off. I re-read the queen’s message, watched the video again, and attempted to shed my skin – hearing the queen’s words from a perspective outside my own worldview.

I have come to believe this report is unfaithful to the meaning of Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message. To quote the Captain played by Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”

What the Queen was saying about God appears not to have been understood by the BBC. Hence the Christian element of this profoundly Christian message was buried at the back of the story.

The British monarch has spoken to her subjects each Christmas since 1932. Wikipedia has a good summary of the practice, noting that the first message read by George V was written by Rudyard Kipling. This year’s message was written by Queen Elizabeth and taped on 9 Dec 2011.  The Duke of Edinburgh was hospitalized over Christmas with heart trouble and his brush with illness is not touched upon.

This year’s message speaks to the value of family in times of adversity – and begins with a discussion of the queen’s family. She then broadens the concept of family through the successive paragraphs of the speech, expanding the discussion to Britain, the Commonwealth and to the family of man. She then pulls back the focus on the family, recounting the marriage of two of her grandchildren and the sadness of those British families who have sons and daughters serving in Afghanistan.

So far, so good … a standard Christmas greeting that touches upon the highpoints of the year …  a royal version of the newsletter some stuff into their Christmas cards. But then the speech takes a turn.

the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival.

Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

‘For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.

God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer: O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

At little less than 750-words, the queen’s message offers a solid statement on Christian belief and hope. I find it outshines the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas homily and is clear, concise and powerful. A pedestrian Christmas greeting with commonplace sentiments becomes a lovely statement of Queen Elizabeth’s Christian faith.

What does the BBC do with this? It reports the speech in linear form, working through each section in turn and starts off with:

The Queen has used her annual Christmas Day broadcast to speak of courage and hope in adversity. … The Queen also spoke of “the importance of family”, and called the Commonwealth a family “in the truest sense”.

In her message, recorded on 9 December, the Queen said the Royal Family had been inspired by the courage shown in Britain, the Commonwealth and around the world.

She noted the resilience of communities in New Zealand after earthquakes, Australia after flooding and Wales after the mining disaster at Gleision Colliery.

The article notes Prince Phillip’s illness and her Christmas Day activities, offers quotes from the first half of the message on family, friends and communities, and then discusses the Queen’s dress, Royal Family news and related tattle.

The Queen’s Christian mediation comes at the close of the story, and is encapsulated in these phrases:

“Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas,” she said.

“Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’.”

The monarch also said: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.”

I cannot fault the BBC for omitting anything from their account of the Christmas message. But I do believe  it is a mistake to lead with the friends and family motif over against the power of her statement that Jesus Christ is not merely a wise man or moral exemplar, but God.  And it is through this God that we the families, communities and nations that are suffering can be reconciled and find peace.

In the ears of a Christian, the queen offers a meditation of God’s purpose in having his son become incarnate. In the ears of the BBC the Queen offers a Rodney King-speech — “Why can’t we just get along” – with a touch of Bill Cosby-like family sentiment.

Now is this fair on my part? Could it not be argued that in addressing a post-Christian audience, the BBC must use tropes that its listeners will understand? Would leading with platitudes and cliches familiar to its audience opens the door for mention of faith?

Or, as I have argued, leading with the principle statement of the message — faith in Christ is the way towards establishing peace on earth — is the better way to report this story. Even if such a message will seem foreign to many of its listeners.

There was no ambiguity in the queen’s speech. No half statements or hedged bets. These faults are found in the coverage.

What say you GetReligion readers? Am I being too hard?

Christians targeted in Christmas bombing campaign in Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 7. December 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Islam, Persecution.
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Archbishop Ben Kwashi

Islamist militants are suspected of being behind a pre-Christmas terror campaign in the Northern Nigerian city of Jos.  Boko Haram – a militant Muslim group that has pledged to convert all of Nigeria to Islam – has threatened to disrupt the Christmas holidays, the Nigerian media reports.

On 10 Dec 2011, three bombs exploded as crowds gathered to watch a Real Madrid – Barcelona football match at a public television viewing centre.  One man was killed and 11 injured, while a fourth bomb was defused by police.

In the early hours of the following morning, a woman was killed and two others were wounded when gunmen attacked a Christian village in Kagora.

Speaking on the persecution of Christians in Nigeria at a conference sponsored by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos observed that sectarian violence was unknown in the city until 1987.

In that year a Hausa militant group was organized and the administration of the city divided in two, with a Muslim majority area created for the north of the city.  By 1997 tensions between the majority Christian population and the Muslim minority – who wielded political power through the support of the military government – began to erupt and fighting ensued.

Over 2000 people were killed in sectarian fighting in 2001, the archbishop said, and 2010 saw a “huge massacre” of Christians at the hands of Islamist militants.  The Boko Haram insurrection saw the introduction of terror bombings of Christian sites in the city, with the first attack launched over Christmas 2010.

Archbishop Kwashi stated there has “never been an arrest” in the attacks on Christians in Jos, while the results of government investigations into the violence have been kept secret.

“If the killing of Christians is not called by its name,” he told the CSW meeting, this “crime will continue to go on under the name of religion.”

“If it is declared criminal” by the government, the “persecution will be reduced,” he said.

Speaking in response to last week’s bombings, CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “The security situation in both Plateau and Kaduna States are of great concern. Security services must remain vigilant regarding threats to disrupt Christmas celebrations in Jos, and take proactive steps to secure areas in both Plateau and Kaduna States where attacks are likely to occur. ”

Bermuda sees steep drop in Anglican numbers: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 5. December 28, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Preliminary results from the 2010 census of Bermuda report the Anglican Church has seen a 28 per cent decline in its members over the past ten years.

With the exception of the Roman Catholic Church and Seventh Day Adventists, the island’s main religious groups have all seen a sharp decline.  However, Bishop Patrick White told the Bermuda Sun the census report does not correlate with the experience of congregations, which have not reported a precipitous drop in attendance. However, “the bottom line is it’s not terribly encouraging on the face of it and it means we have to do some serious thinking about what we can do to try and this around.”

The Church of England in Bermuda, the country’s largest denomination declined from 14,000 self-identified members in 2000 to 10,138 in 2010.  The Roman Catholic Church rose from 9,275 to 9,340 people during the same period, while the third largest denomination, the African Methodist Episcopalian fell by 19 per cent.

The number of people who listed no church affiliation rose by 34 per cent, from 8,560 to 11,466.

Dr White told the Sun, “The figures are saying we need to pay attention. There’s something significant going on here and we need to address it.”

However, the numbers may also reveal that “people might be more honest,” the bishop said.  “They have said they’re Anglicans in the past and have just admitted they have no real connection to the church or moved to one of the other churches which are growing.”

The Census is conducted under the authority of the Statistics Act, 2002, which requires everyone to respond – Bermudian and non-Bermudian, and is held every ten years. The final report is expected to be released early next year.

The Roman Catholic vicar general of Bermuda, Fr Paul Voisin, credited his church’s strength to a sustained emphasis on religious education for young people and favourable demographic trends.  “We have a programme which is maybe a bit more intensive and we hope that’s planting down firm roots.”

The recent influx of Portuguese and Filipino immigrants had also bolstered Catholic numbers.  “Filipinos have brought life to our parishes and that’s a positive — they are great contributors to parish life in a range of different activities.”

Kunonga priest jailed for rape: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 6. December 27, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, has been castigated by a Zimbabwe criminal court judge for providing a false alibi for a priest convicted of rape.

On 12 December 2011 magistrate Simon Kachambwa sentenced the Rev. Thomas Muchadeyi to a term of 10 years imprisonment for the 2006 rape of a 13-year old parishioner.

Mr. Muchadeyi was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl from his congregation whom he had been counseling after the death of her mother.  The abuse was discovered when the girl reported sick to the nurse at her school, who reported evidence of abuse to school officials.

The clergyman told the court he was innocent of the charges, and that the victim’s father had concocted the charges.  However, the judge rejected priest’s claims saying the prosecution’s case “was never shaken and all the essential elements of the offence were proved beyond a reasonable doubt, pointing the accused as a perpetrator.”

According to local press accounts, the magistrate also took the Anglican Church to task for providing a false alibi for Mr. Muchadeyi.  “In my view, it was all intended to promote and baptise evil, what a shameful act by the church,” he said.

However, an account of the trial printed by the government-backed Harare Herald that said Mr. Muchadeyi had the support of Bishop Chad Gandiya and the Anglican Diocese of Harare was false, Bishop Gandiya told The Church of England Newspaper, as were suggestions by other newspapers the trial was politically motivated.

“We don’t think the judgment was in anyway politically motivated,” Bishop Gandiya said, noting the reports were “very misleading in not specifying which Anglican Church corroborated his alibi.”

The rape took place in 2006, when Dr. Kunonga was still the Anglican Bishop of Harare.  “It is Kunonga or his people who corroborated his alibi. This, Thomas [Muchadeyi] told me himself. So it is not our Anglican church. We did not interfere at all,” he said.

“We are very sad and disturbed that this happened and we pray for Fr Muchadeyi and his family as well as the victim and her family,” Bishop Gandiya said.

Sudan breaks with the Episcopal Church: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 6. December 26, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The American Episcopal Church’s support for gay bishops and blessings has led the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) to ban Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from visiting the church.  The dis-invitation to Bishop Jefferts Schori follows a vote by the ECS House of Bishops last month to swap its recognition of the Episcopal Church for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the legitimate expression of Anglicanism in the United States.

In a letter dated 15 December 2011, Archbishop Daniel Deng, writing on behalf of the House of Bishops stated that while the ECS acknowledged Bishop Jefferts Schori’s “personal efforts” to support the ECS, “it remains difficult for us to invite you when elements of your church continue to flagrantly disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality.”

At the 14-16 November 2011 meeting of the ECS General Synod, the church’s House of Bishops adopted a statement reaffirming the stance taken at the 2008 Lambeth Conference which rejected “homosexual practice as contrary to Biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS.”

The bishops said they were “deeply disappointed” by the Episcopal Church’s rejection of the counsel of the wider Anglican Communion on these issues, and for its consecration of a second “gay” bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.

“We are not happy” with the Episcopal Church’s “acts of continuing ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as priests and bishops as well as blessing same sex relations in the church by some dioceses in TEC; it has pushed itself away from God’s Word and from Anglican Communion. TEC is not concerned for the unity of the Communion.”

As such, the ECS had no choice but to recognize the ACNA as a “true faithful orthodox Church.”  While breaking with the Episcopal Church as a national institution, the ECS said it would continue to “work with those parishes and dioceses in TEC who are Evangelical orthodox churches and faithful to God.”

The break with the Episcopal Church over its stance on human sexuality by the Sudanese church follows the 2009 expulsion of an American missionary, a lecturer at a theological college in Renk, who had claimed the ECS was not opposed to the innovations of doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church.  The Sudanese House of Bishops has consistently rejected gay bishops and blessings, and at the 2008 Lambeth Conference Archbishop Deng called upon New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson to resign.

Korea on high alert following death of Kim Jong-il: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011, p 6. December 24, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Communist tyrant Kim Jong-il is dead, North Korea’s state media reports.

On 19 December 2011 a black-clad newsreader informed North Korea their “dear leader” had died following a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 69. The official KCNA news agency attributed Kim’s death to physical and mental overwork. “It is the biggest loss for the party, and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness,” the weeping newsreader said, adding the nation must yet “change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.”

Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, has been named the “Great Successor”, KCNA reported. The state media has called upon workers, peasants and soldiers to “faithfully revere” the new leader, broadcasts monitored by wire services in South Korea have report.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Kim Jong-il presided over a vicious police state with “one of the worst human rights records in the world. The country has a system of prison camps with an estimated 200,000 people jailed in desperate conditions and subjected to the worst forms of torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Summary executions are common.

“The practice of ‘guilt by association’ often means that entire families are often imprisoned, and punished for the crimes of family members up to the third generation. North Korea has no religious freedom, and Christians are jailed and sometimes executed for their beliefs.”

Speculation is rife as to what steps the regime will take to consolidate its hold over power. Last year, at the age of 26, Kim Jong-un was made a full General in the North Korean Army and on 28 September 2010 he was named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and appointed to the Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party. His birthday, 1 January, was declared a national holiday by his father, the AFP news service reported last year. But it is unclear whether the army will back Kim Jong-un, the third generation of his family to rule North Korea since his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, was installed by Soviet troops in1945.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak has called for calm in the wake of Kim’s death, but the government has been placed in “emergency mode.”

“President Lee urged the public to go about their usual economic activities without turbulence,” a senior presidential aide told a televised news conference.

The South Korean government spokesman said President Lee and US President Barack Obama had conferred by telephone following the news of Kim’s death, and the “two leaders agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together.” The South Korean army and the 28,000 US troops stationed on the peninsula have also been placed on high alert.

The vice-president of the Korean Mission Partnership of the Church of England, Bishop Robert Ladds, said the death of Kim Jong-il was a time for prayer.

“Christians in South Korea are deeply aware of the difficulties in general faced by those in the North and especially by their fellow Christians under a totalitarian regime.  Many in the South have family and extended family members in the North, which is an extra personal anxiety.  There is always a very delicate, complex and moving political balance across the Korean peninsula and any change of leadership is bound to add to uncertainties,” he told The Church of England Newspaper.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said the death of Kim provided an opportunity to “change direction, end its isolation, stop the brutal oppression of its own people and open up to the world.”

CSW called upon the new leaders of North Korea to “take the initiative at this unique moment in time in order to introduce fundamental changes and close the prison camps, end torture, slave labour and summary executions, respect religious freedom and release all prisoners of conscience. The international community should seize the moment to press for these changes.”

However, the chairman of the Korean Mission Partnership, the Rev Luke Lee, was less sanguine about the prospects for change. He told CEN the North Korean communist regime was “unique.”

“The leader of the country was regarded as a semi-god and no one is allowed to challenge his authority. As this is a system that has been built over many years, I don’t think it will collapse overnight because of Kim Jung-il’s sudden death,” he said.

“The Christians in North Korea have been persecuted because they believe in God as the supreme authority and no other gods. As long as the North Korean Communist regime remains as it is now there will be no change in their policy on persecuting Christians,” Fr Lee said.

Acceptable lies and the New York Times: Get Religion, December 23, 2011 December 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Islam, Israel, Press criticism.
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The New York Times has an extraordinary article that extols the virtues of lying and doublespeak in a recent “Memo from Jerusalem.” Well, you might ask, what of it? How does a dodgy story on the Arab-Israeli conflict fall within the ambit of GetReligion? What is the religion/journalism hook you ask?

To which I respond: lying is a sin or bad manners or ethically challenged behavior from a Western perspective. Lying is not always a sin in Islam — that is to say lying to non-Muslims is not a sin, bad manners or ethically challenged behavior. The Times ties itself in knots trying to excuse lying by the Palestinians, even going so far as to raise instances of Israelis behaving badly. However, the moral equivalence argument expressed in the Times-patented insouciant world-weary tone, which holds that as both sides are dissemblers we should not cast aspersions, does not work here.

Ignorance of Islamic moral standards, or perhaps the reluctance to raise the precept of taqiyya has placed the Times in the position of endorsing cant.

Take a look at this 20 Dec 2011 article entitled “Finding Fault in the Palestinian Messages That Aren’t So Public.” The editorial voice of the story states that news agencies that translate into English the statements made in Arabic by Palestinian leaders are doing a disservice to the cause of peace.

The Times argues that statements in English that are tailored to a Western audience by Palestinian leaders that speak of peace and reconciliation should not be juxtaposed against by statements made in Arabic by the same Palestinian leaders to their constituencies that call for the destruction of Israel and death to Jews.

The article begins by observing that:

A new book by an Israeli watchdog group catalogs dozens of examples of messages broadcast by the Palestinian Authority for its domestic audience that would seem at odds with the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution.

This claim is “not new” the Times notes. As:

For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language — as opposed to English-language statements tailored to opinion in the rest of the world — is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs. This has had the effect of further entrenching the sides to the conflict and undermining confidence that it can ever be resolved.

Let’s stop and think about what the Times has just said. It is true, the article concedes, that Palestinian political leaders are saying one thing to the West and another to their own people. The lede sentence in the story soft peddles the results of this lying: it “would seem at odds” with the peace process. However, the follow up sentence states this explicitly: it has had “the effect of further entrenching” Palestinian revanchist views.

The article quotes one of the lead authors of the study on Palestinian media doublespeak on why this is problematic, but the story then pivots with a sentence that sets the theme and context of the article.

Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.

The article offers examples of this doublespeak, but then introduces contrary Israeli and Palestinian voices that criticize the book. This criticism, however, is not that the results of the study are untrue, but that these truths are inconvenient to the political agenda of the Israeli left, which the Times also conflates as being co-equal to the cause of peace.

The Times then offers its critque.

Some of the examples publicized by the Israeli monitoring group are old ones that have been repeated over the years, and some of its interpretations are arguable.

A Palestinian critique is offered.

“This is not a serious attempt to solve the problem of incitement,” said Ghassan Khatib, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank. Mr. Khatib said that the authority had significantly reduced the level of incitement on the Palestinian side in recent years. “The question is,” he said, “are the Israelis improving or reversing in this regard?”

And the story concludes with voices from the Israeli left.

“There is peace making and there is peace building,” said Itamar Rabinovich, who served as Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria and as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, explaining why the contentious messages in Arabic are so damaging. The lack of peace building, he said, is part of the failure of the Oslo peace process that began with accords signed in 1993 but has not yet produced a Palestinian state.

In one of the most egregious examples of Palestinian doublespeak, Yasir Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa in May 1994, only months after the signing of the Oslo accords, and called on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”

As the ambassador to Washington at the time, Mr. Rabinovich said he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain to anyone who would listen that jihad, usually translated as holy war, could also mean a spiritual struggle, in order to justify continuing the peace process.

Still, he said, it is not by chance that those focusing on Palestinian incitement and publicizing it are “rightist groups who use it as ammunition.”

Where is the religion hook then? It comes in the form of a religion ghost — meaning that there is a religion element to this story that is omitted. And this omission is crucial, I believe, in understanding the story.

As it is written, the Times piece is a defense of sophistry and comes across as being morally dubious at best. By excusing the doublespeak the Times engages in the “soft bigotry of low expectations” — to quote a favorite of its editorial board, President George W. Bush. It belittles those who expose this duplicity by arguing that truth telling will block a two-state solution.

Are the Palestinians masters of moral duplicity then, as the Times would have us believe? Or are they acting according to the lights of their own moral and ethical system?

Writing in the Winter edition of the Middle East Quarterly, Raymond Ibrahim discusses the concept of dissimulation [taqiyya] in Shia and Sunni ethics.

While the Qur’an is against believers deceiving other believers—for “surely God guides not him who is prodigal and a liar”— deception directed at non-Muslims, generally known in Arabic as taqiyya, also has Qur’anic support and falls within the legal category of things that are permissible for Muslims.

Ibrahim explains that Shia communities living as minorities in Sunni areas were permitted to dissemble about their religion in order to avoid persecution. But among the Sunni community,

… far from suffering persecution have, whenever capability allowed, waged jihad against the realm of unbelief; and it is here that they have deployed taqiyya—not as dissimulation but as active deceit. In fact, deceit, which is doctrinally grounded in Islam, is often depicted as being equal—sometimes superior—to other universal military virtues, such as courage, fortitude, or self-sacrifice.

Palestinian leaders have used taqiyya in their war with Israel. In an incident dismissed in the Times article as being “old” news, Ibrahim reports on a speech by Yasser Arafat that offers an example of this strategy.

More recently, and of great significance for Western leaders advocating cooperation with Islamists, Yasser Arafat, soon after negotiating a peace treaty criticized as conceding too much to Israel, addressed an assembly of Muslims in a mosque in Johannesburg where he justified his actions: “I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh in Mecca.”  In other words, like Muhammad, Arafat gave his word only to annul it once “something better” came along—that is, once the Palestinians became strong enough to renew the offensive and continue on the road to Jerusalem.

The implications of this way of thinking offend Western sensibilities, Ibrahim writes.

Yet most Westerners continue to think that Muslim mores, laws, and ethical constraints are near identical to those of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Naively or arrogantly, today’s multiculturalist leaders project their own worldview onto Islamists, thinking a handshake and smiles across a cup of coffee, as well as numerous concessions, are enough to dismantle the power of God’s word and centuries of unchanging tradition. The fact remains: Right and wrong in Islam have little to do with universal standards but only with what Islam itself teaches—much of which is antithetical to Western norms.

What then are we to make of this story about Palestinian doublespeak? The Times concedes it exists, but down plays its importance and gives prominence of place in its article to those who see the exposure of lies as being harmful to the cause of peace.

Would ascribing all divergence between what the Palestinian leaders say to the West and what they tell their own people to taqiyya answer the questions raised in this story? Or does cant play a role in any of this? What say you GetReligion readers?

But where ever the line may be found between lying to advance the faith and cant, the omission of this religion element to the story by the Times does a disservice to its readers.

First printed in GetReligion.

Arab Spring a security threat to Britain, Defence Chief warns: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 6. December 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Al Qaeda, British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Islam.
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General Sir David Richards

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Arab Spring could lead to outbreaks of Islamist unrest in Britain, the Chief of the Defence Staff has warned.

In a lecture given to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on 14 December 2011,General Sir David Richards said radicalization born of the regime changes across the Middle East might well pose a domestic security threat for the U.K.

However, the collapse of the euro was Britain’s most immediate danger.  “I am clear that the single biggest strategic risk facing the UK today is economic rather than military,” Sir David said.

“This is why the eurozone crisis is of such huge importance,” he said, as “no country can defend itself if bankrupt.”

In his year in review address to the RUSI, the defence chief highlighted Britain’s strategic risks and opportunities.  The United States’ new strategic focus on Asia had lead to a refinement of the special relationship between the U.S. and U.K.  “I know this does not mean it will turn its back on Europe and NATO but countries this side of the pond need to think through what this means to us,” he said.

“NATO is the bedrock of our security,” Sir David said, and had “guaranteed peace in Europe for 60 years and, as Libya and Afghanistan demonstrate, enables us to project power efficiently in concert with others to pursue our national interests.”

But a changing world will see “new groupings” emerge.  “The most obvious is our alliance with the French,” he said, adding that military ties were now stronger than the “Entente Cordiale of a century ago.”

The military alliance with France was a “vehicle for joint action.  Libya sealed this for us and demonstrated the benefits to Britain, Europe and NATO of having a solid Franco-British core.”

He added that the UK “will require other carefully chosen alliances over the coming decade through which to influence the strategic landscape and help determine the outcome of fast moving crises, all at minimum cost. “

The nature of the risks facing Britain was also changing. “What is happening in Syria is in many experts view becoming a proxy conflict between Shia Iranians and Sunni Arabs,” Sir David said.

There was also the “risk that the Arab awakening leads to fissures and internal conflict that could be exported, including militant Islamism,” he said.

Departing from his prepared speech the general added that militant Islam and the Arab world have “diasporas reaching back to this country, as does Pakistan and other states struggling with instability.”

Anglican Unscripted Episode 22, December 22, 2011 December 22, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Korea, Anglican.TV, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Pittsburgh, Quincy.
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This last week of Advent Kevin and George bring news from Sudan, North Korea and Pittsburgh. Allan Haley brings good news from Quincy in our legal segment, And, Episode 22 includes some videos to bring a little perspective to Christmas.

Court victory for Quincy in church property dispute: Anglican Ink, December 21, 2011 December 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, Quincy.
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Bishop Alberto Morales of Quincy

An Illinois court has dismissed the claim that as a “matter of law” the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical with dioceses being subordinate to the national church, rejecting a motion for summary judgment brought by the national church against the breakaway Diocese of Quincy.

The 16 Dec 2011 decision by Judge Thomas Ortbal of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Adams County, Ill., now sends the dispute between the Diocese of Quincy and the national church and its allies to trial.  The court also concluded that even if the church is hierarchical, that would not end the matter because a “neutral principles of law” approach should be applied to resolving the property ownership dispute.

Judge Ortbal’s decision – which cannot be challenged on appeal at this stage of the proceeding without his permission – may well be a legal blow to the national church’s litigation strategy in its fight with other breakaway dioceses as it cuts the legs out from under the national church’s chief legal argument.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Southern Cone backs Anglican Covenant: Anglican Ink, December 20, 2011 December 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Covenant, Anglican Ink, La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.
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Bishop Frank Lyons

La Provincia Anglicana del Cono Sur – the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone – has endorsed the Anglican Covenant.

Meeting in Asunción, Paraguay from 3-11 November 2011, the provincial executive committee and the province’s House of Bishops endorsed the inter-Anglican agreement that sets the parameters of doctrine and discipline for the Anglican Communion.

In a statement released on 20 Dec 2011, Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia stated the province believed the covenant was a “way forward” in the midst of a difficult time when “certain provinces” were proposing “novel ways of Christian living” that rejected “Biblical norms.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

AMiA bishops quit Rwanda: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 p 6. December 20, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Church of England Newspaper.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The American bishops of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) have quit the Church of the Anglican Province of Rwanda (PEAR), rejecting its discipline and oversight.

In a letter dated 5 Dec 2011, Bishop Chuck Murphy announced that the Lord “is now doing” a “new thing” and that he and all but two of the AMiA’s bishops were withdrawing from PEAR.

It is unlikely the bulk of the AMiA’s 152 congregations and its clergy will follow the bishops out of the church.  On 9 Dec Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje appointed the two loyal American bishops, the Rt. Rev. Thad Barnum and the Rt. Rev. Terrell Glenn, to oversee those who wish to remain within the Anglican Communion.

In letter dated 30 Nov Archbishop Rwaje chastised Bishop Murphy for disobedience, writing: “you have constantly disregarded the decisions and counsels of the House of Bishops” and have “misused the authority given to you by the Archbishop in advancing your new missionary society interests.”

At the Sept House of Bishops meeting, Bishop Murphy proposed changing the oversight of the AMiA from PEAR to a council of three archbishops that he would select.  The Rwandans objected to this plan and directed him to halt work until the bishops were of one mind.  However, Bishop Murphy carried on with the work announcing that the proposal would be presented to the 21 Dec meeting of the PEAR bishops for approval.

The PEAR bishops also requested a detailed accounting of funds sent to Rwanda as a tithe of the AMiA’s income after reports reached them that portions of the tithe were being spent on Rwandan related projects that had not been approved by the province.

The AMiA has responded that those portions of the funds not contributed directly to the PEAR central fund had been spent on projects authorized by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.   A summary was provided by the AMiA after the split, but no formal accounting of the funds has yet appeared.

However, the PEAR canons do not allow the archbishop to approve off the books transactions.  Title IV Article 17 vests control of “all accounts” of the province with three commissioners elected by the synod.”

Title I.6.10 of the Rwandan canons further obligates Bishop Murphy to “make a report” to the primate on the AMiA’s status “according to the manner established by the House of Bishops or Provincial Synod of the Province.”  His failure to comply violated the canons and was an act of disobedience the Rwandan bishops argued.

In his letter of resignation, Bishop Murphy said the AMiA was under no obligation to PEAR as there was “no covenant from the Anglican Mission to the Province.” He enumerated several areas of displeasure with the conduct of the archbishop, and added that he had come to the belief that it was God’s plan for the AMiA to quit the Anglican Communion and venture out on its own.

“I now see a parallel between the Exodus story and the present situation” with Rwanda and the AMiA.

“Things have now been made very clear to me, and I am thankful for the clarity that I now have,” he wrote, adding that “we actually see the Lord’s hand in all of this, and we are, therefore, at peace with this change and with this new reality.”

According to a statement released on behalf of the faction allied with Rwanda, the resignation will not affect the AMiA’s churches or clergy.

It is “neither an ordaining body nor a place of canonical residence. The orders of AMiA clergy are held in Rwanda. Likewise, all congregations affiliated with AMiA are resident in Rwanda.”

“The bishops who resigned from Rwandan oversight no longer have any authority over churches and clergy which are canonically resident in Rwanda. Clergy and churches may choose to disaffiliate with the Church of Rwanda, just as the resigning bishops did. But unless they do so, they remain under the oversight and spiritual care of Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje,” the statement said.

Have a merry pagan Christmas: Get Religion, December 19, 2011 December 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism, Religion Reporting.
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The Daily Mail loves its crazy American stories — articles that show the quirky (I’m being polite) or bizarre (a little more true to life) aspects of American culture — or the lack there of.  Today’s installment is entitled: “Families shockedto find ‘hate mail’ claiming their Christmas lights honour ‘Pagan Sun-God.”

Yes, the guy who delights in shouting “you kids get off my lawn” has been stuffing mailboxes in Hudsonville, Mich. with flyers denouncing those who have decorated their homes with Christmas lights.

A group homeowners on one street with Christmas decorations have received an anonymous note saying the lights honour the ‘Pagan Sun-God.’

The residents in Hudsonville, Michigan, were baffled by the notes which were attached to their mailboxes on Wednesday night.

The note said the lights have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, according to ABC News affiliate WZZM.

The letters begin on a warm note by saying ‘Hi neighbour, you have a nice display of lights.’

But it swiftly become serious by talking of how the ‘pagan tradition’ of putting up lights began.

The article quotes an offended homeowner, who found the note ridiculous. (Question. Would the Scrooge of Hudsonville have written Hi neighbour? Adding in the “u”. Just asking.) The Daily Mail’s stage American displays outrage, independence, Christian piety — and a hint of ignorance.

Miss Hoekman added: ‘It’s a sin to judge other people and to tell people that if they have Christmas lights they are Pagans.

‘We’re not Pagans, we go to church regularly, my kids go to the Christian school.

A “Miss” whose kids go to the Christian school? That would be news. It is a silly story of course. But it does reflect a meme often found in Christmas related stories that December 25 is a Christianized pagan holiday.

Here’s how a Dec 15 piece in the Huffington Post puts it:

Because early Christians didn’t have a specific date in scripture, they chose one with metaphorical significance that also coincided with two preexisting Roman celebrations. December 25th was the date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar — the shortest day of the year. Sunlight grows stronger and longer each day following the solstice. Picking a day that represented the transition from dark to light would have been an appropriate symbol for those who saw in Jesus the birth of a man who would lead them to salvation. The Bible abounds in symbolic language of Jesus represented as light, a metaphor found for the divine in every other major religion as well.

The choice of December 25th also worked for the early Christians because it corresponded with two Roman celebrations centered on the winter solstice. Saturnalia, an ancient Roman celebration that originated two centuries before Christ, began on December 17th and ended on the 23rd. Saturnalia was a celebration of the god Saturn and was marked by feasts, merriment, the hanging of evergreen cuttings, the lighting of candles, and gift giving. … Many Romans in the fourth century also celebrated the birth of the sun god, Sol Invictus, on December 25th, marking the occasion with a festival. As Christianity began to spread throughout the Roman Empire, the Christian tradition of Christmas naturally absorbed elements of these popular pagan celebrations.

This bit of conventional wisdom does not stand up to scrutiny. It will disappoint the crank of Hudsonville no doubt, but he (and the Huffington Post) have it backwards. As Prof. William Tighe wrote in Touchstone magazine a few years ago:

… the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date [Dec 25] in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians.

In other words, it was the pagan Emporer Aurelian who sought to paganize the Dec 25 holiday of the Christians, not the Christians who sought to Christianize the Roman pagan holiday. For those who are interested in this topic I urge you to read Prof. Tighe’s popular treatment of the subject — or the scholarly study The Origins of the Liturgical Year by Thomas Talley.

I do not doubt that some will dispute Prof. Tighe’s conclusions on this point and reject his scholarship. However, from the perspective of journalism an unthinking acceptance of the conventional wisdom — and not checking sources — is a mistake.

Photos: the holiday home is courtesy of Shutterstock and the disc of Sol Invictus is from the British Museum courtesy of Wikipedia.

First printed in GetReligion.

Christchurch cathedral in media storm: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 p 6. December 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Dean Beck and Bishop Matthews at the service of deconsecration

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Reports of the Bishop and Dean of Christchurch have fallen out over the future of the city’s earthquake ravaged cathedral are overblown, Bishop Victoria Matthews tells The Church of England Newspaper.

On 11 Dec 2011, the Press newspaper reported that relations between Bishop Matthews and Dean Peter Beck of Christ Church Cathedral “had become strained, to the point where Beck had taken advice from an employment lawyer.”  It further stated the dean had announced on 7 Dec that he would be resigning after nine years in office to enter politics, running for a vacant seat on the Christchurch City Council.

The Press reported the bishop and dean “disagreed on the vexed and complex issue of what to do about the severely damaged cathedral” with the bishop favouring “demolishing the cathedral and building a new church, either on the same site or elsewhere” while the dean “wants to repair the cathedral and restore it to its former glory.”

On 22 Feb the city of Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island was badly damaged by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.  The cathedral’s tower collapsed and the walls and masonry were badly damaged, while the rose window above the altar was destroyed in a June aftershock.

At a 28 Oct press conference the bishop and dean announced the cathedral would be deconsecrated in preparation for rebuilding.  Bishop Matthews said the new cathedral would never look “exactly as it used to”, but would be a “mix of old and new”.

The demolition work would “gives us time to explore further options about what we’ll be doing to build a new cathedral – as the bishop says, a mix of old and new,” Dean Beck told reporters.

However, the Press reported relations have since soured.  In a 9 Dec letter to the Press, a canon almoner at the cathedral, Mr. Haydn Rawstron accused Bishop Matthews of “flying in the face of public opinion” over the rebuilding plans and suggested she step down over her “serious errors of judgment.”

Bishop Matthews told CEN the controversy had turned into a “media mess.”

“I returned home on the weekend from Seoul South Korea and the meeting of the Inter Anglican Commission on Unity Faith and Order, to find that the Press newspaper and others were into an extraordinary misrepresentation of what is happening in the diocese,” Bishop Matthews said.

She noted that the “reports in the local media suggest the dean and I disagree totally about what the new cathedral should look like.  We do not disagree about this, and I think it is fair to say that we are both open to various possibilities.”

She added the dean, “who has always had a lively political interest and voice, and who has previously considered entering local politics, now has resigned to run in a by election for a city council seat.”

Dean Beck “has my gratitude for his time” as leader of the cathedral, she said.  But his resignation should not be construed as being a result of an internal conflict as “he had already said that he would not be dean to see the new cathedral completed due to his age.”

Diocesan press officer Philip Baldwin told the Press that those who believe the bishop wants to demolish the cathedral were mistaken. “They have not listened to what the bishop has said. She has said over and over again that we are going to proceed very slowly, very cautiously with any demolition work.”

UFO committee meets in Seoul: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 p 6 December 18, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Korea, Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, Global South.
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UFO Committee members in Seoul

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The representatives from the Global South coalition of Anglican provinces have boycotted the December meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order.

The absence of Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, the Southern Cone and South East Asia and the presence of the Episcopal Church’s member at the 2 – 9 Dec 2011 UFO meeting in Seoul, South Korea will damage the commission’s credibility in a sharply divided Anglican Communion.

In a statement released at the close of the meeting, the UFO commission voiced its regret at the absence.  “Aware of our mandate to promote the deepening of communion between the churches of the Anglican Communion, we emphasised the importance of being a fully representative group, and we greatly regret that some of our members were not present,” the communiqué said.

The UFO committee, under the chairmanship of the Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi was tasked by Dr Rowan Williams in 2009 to promote the “deepening of Communion” with other ecclesial entities and offer advice on questions of “faith and order”.

IASCUFO carries on the work of IASCER and IATDC—the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission.

Its third meeting focused on the preparation for the 2012 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand.

The communiqué stated the commission reflected “critically on the Instruments of Communion and the relationships among them”; studied the “definition and recognition of churches”; discussed ways of promoting the Anglican Covenant; assisted the Anglican Communion in its “engagement with the complex processes involved in reception,” though it did not define what this meant; and considered the “question of transitivity” in light of “regional ecumenical agreements between churches which are members of different global communions in one geographical area affect or extend to other parts of the Communions.”

The commission reviewed regional ecumenical agreements endorsed by members of the Anglican Communion and prepared draft guidelines “articulating expectations of Anglican participants in ecumenical dialogues.”

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for September 2012.

BBC Double Standards on Abuse: Get Religion, December 16, 2011. December 17, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Get Religion, Islam, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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There are times when the BBC is beyond parody. It is so relentlessly awful, biased and reflexively p.c. that many viewers become inured to its excesses. Yet Orla Guerin’s report from Pakistan is quite extraordinary — even for the BBC.

Take a look at the video and story entitled “Pakistan police free chained students in Karachi” and see if you see what I see.

The print version of the story from the BBC website begins:

About 50 students have been freed from a religious school in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, where some were being kept in chains, officials say.

The male students, some as young as 12, were reportedly beaten, deprived of food and kept in what police say amounted to a torture chamber.

Some parents paid for their children to attend the school known as the “jail madrassa” because their sons were addicted to drugs or involved in crime.

What type of religious school was it? We don’t know yet. Should we assume that being Pakistan, it is a Muslim school? No. The country’s leading private schools — the institutions where the elite educate their children are run by the Catholic Church and the Church of Pakistan. One can find Christian schools all across Pakistan, many with no Christian students. However, the next sentence gives us some hints:

At least two people helping run the madrassa have been arrested, but the head escaped, police said.

Ah, its a madrassa — you know what that is don’t you? Is it a Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Unitarian, Quaker madrassa? The story continues:

Students have described the brutal regime inside the seminary – some spoke to the media while still wearing their chains.

O.K., its a seminary. I went to one of those. Perhaps these are particularly strict Episcopalians. I was once punished by the dean for wearing golf spikes to prayers — there was a foursome ahead of me that would not allow me to play through. But while I was admonished for my gaucherie, the students at this seminary were “beaten 200 times” while others were told they would be “sent to join the jihad.” Perhaps that’s another clue.

The article states:

But the discovery of chained students of a religious seminary who claim they were being motivated to join the ranks of Taliban has come as a shock. These claims are still being verified as there seems to be no evidence of any weapons training being given there.

The words madrassa and seminary are used throughout the rest of the story, but it is not until the penultimate line that we are treated to the word “Islamic.”

The video report is even worse — it makes no mention of the world Islam or Muslim at all.  When Guerin covered the Middle East for the BBC she was often pilloried for her biased reporting. Burying the Muslim angle of the story is shoddy reporting. Can you imagine a story about abuse at a Catholic school from the BBC not mentioning the world “Catholic” until the very end of the story? Compare the handling of religion in the Pakistan story to this one broadcast three days later entitled “Institutional Dutch Catholic abuse ‘affected thousands’.

Tens of thousands of children have suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions since 1945, a report says.

The report by an independent commission said Catholic officials had failed to tackle the widespread abuse at schools, seminaries and orphanages.

I find the BBC’s handling of the Pakistan abuse allegations troubling as well. While it reports the abuse, it juggles the facts of the abuse with their explanation, so that the explanation is given prominence of place. It gets the last word.

Many parents had left their children at the madrassa for treatment, believing that the harsh regime would aid rehabilitation – some of these parents told the BBC they were happy with the result. They say they were chained to prevent them for escaping.

“If a child has issues such as bad company, smoking and drugs then we have no choice but to get him admitted in such places,” Mohammed Qasim, the father of one student, told the BBC.

In her broadcast report, Guerin follows this pattern. She begins her story by saying there were “disturbing” reports of children as young as 8 being beaten, and notes that a local education official states the basement where the students were kept resembled a “torture cell.” But she then responds to a question from the newsreader by reporting that locals called the school the “jail madrassa”.  She adds that this was one of its “attractions” for some parents, who “paid for the privilege” of sending their troubled sons to the school and “some of these parents even provided the chains.”

How does she know the mind of the parents? Was this a reform school or a seminary? Were no unhappy parents to be found? The arrangement of the arguments and lack of contrary voices gives the impression the BBC is explaining away the abuse. If the parents aren’t bothered, why should we be? The abuse was one of the attractions of the school after all, the BBC reports.

Nor am I arguing that the BBC should omit mention of the Catholic angle to the Dutch abuse article. It is an important component to the story. I am saying the BBC appears to have two standards when it comes to reporting religion related abuse. Play up the Catholic theme – play down the Muslim theme.

There are different reporters, different editors, different departments of the BBC involved such that it is not possible to have a one to one comparison. However, the way in which religion was handled in this Pakistani abuse case gives every appearance of a double standard.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Anglican “no” to gay marriage in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 December 17, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican leaders have called for the rejection of the legalization of gay marriage in Australia.

Statements made by the primate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, and Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney follow upon the 3 Dec 2011 vote by delegates to the Australian Labor Party’s national conference to support gay marriage.

However, the conference also endorsed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s call to allow ALP MP’s a free vote when amendments to the federal Marriage Act come before parliament next year.  While the governing ALP and the Greens support gay marriage, the opposition has instructed its members to vote against the change, while a number of Right Labor MPs have voiced opposition to the change.

In a statement released last week, Dr. Aspinall said that while the Anglican Church “acknowledges and continues to participate” in the national debate over gay marriage, it does so from the position of “commitment to the present definition of marriage in the federal Marriage Act.”

He noted the 2010 General Synod had expressed its “commitment to the present definition of Marriage under Commonwealth Law: that marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

Dr. Aspinall added that while many Anglicans supported state recognition of same-sex civil unions, “changing the definition of ‘marriage’ away from the exclusivity of male and female is not consistent with the Church’s current view.”

The Archbishop of Sydney rejected the philosophical and ethical premise behind the push for gay marriage.  In a 3 Dec 2011 statement, he said the ALP had a “proud history” of supporting equality, “so it is disappointing to see it divided over the false rhetoric of ‘equality’ surrounding same-sex marriage.”

The definition of marriage under law “is not a denial of rights,” he said, noting that “issues of inequity regarding the financial and legal status of same-sex relationships have already been addressed by the Parliament and I have supported these changes.”

But the ALP must consider the cost of tinkering with marriage.  “Redefining marriage will have unintended and unwelcome consequences for the meaning of parenthood, our openness to other forms of marriage, sex education and our commitment to religious freedom,” Dr. Jensen said.

Tattoos, sin and Sneetches: Get Religion, December 15, 2011 December 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The Life Style section of the Washington Post  has an interesting and well crafted story entitled “Rethinking the ink: Laser Tattoo removal gains popularity,” that reports on the flourishing tattoo removal industry. It discusses the current rage for tattoos among the American middle classes. What sets this story apart are the vignettes from those undergoing the painful and expensive procedure to have their body art removed.

And alongside stories of buyer’s remorse and shifting style we hear snippets of faith. The article does a nice job incorporating them into the narrative. But it stops short. We hear the language of faith, but no explanation as to why faith matters.

The article opens nicely. The first sentence is ambiguous, a teaser of sorts. In the second sentence the topic of tattoo removal is offered. In the third we have a confession and the fourth offers the Post’s editorial voice.

She arrives quietly, coming in from the rain after work. She lies down on her stomach atop a sleek, white reclining chair. She lifts her shirt and tugs down her jeans slightly.

It’s enough to unveil a large pink flower tattoo with fat, webby green leaves, which she’s here to have lasered off her lower back. She wants to become a mother someday, and she doesn’t want her children to see this. The process could take up to 10 sessions, she says. She pauses. Then she starts crying.

“I was only 18. It was a homemade tattoo done at a party,” says Lizeth Pleitez, 30, who quickly dries her eyes. Her voice is shaking. “I wasn’t thinking about what it meant, you know? Little did I know it meant something else — like people calling it a ‘tramp stamp.’ I’m a Pentecostal, and the body is a temple. And I felt really ashamed.”

If tattoos are the marks of an era — declarations of love, of loss, of triumph, of youthful exuberance or youthful foolishness — then tattoo removals are about regret, confessions that those landmarks are in the past. They’re about the realization that whatever you believed in with such force that you wanted it eternally branded on your skin is now foreign to you.

The article offers a discussion of the tattoo removal industry, focusing on two Washington DC area firms and then moves back to first person narratives that do a fine job of illustrating the theme of the story. The thesis of the article comes with this line:

Part of what made tattooing cool was its outlaw vibe: the Harley biker, the heavy-metal drummer, the ex-con. Part of what makes tattooing uncool is its ubiquity. Newman recently went to Rehoboth Beach, Del., for the weekend, and “every Tom, Dick and Harry had a tattoo, and it looked ridiculous. I started the removal sessions right after that.”

There are strong religious overtones to several of the confessions.

Then the burly, tattoo-faced Wayne Stokes, 34, arrives. He’s on his sixth session of a removal that might take up to 25.

He has tattoos on his face, neck, hands and chest. Both eyes are encircled by a black leopardlike Maori-inspired design, which is based on the tattoo sported by boxer Mike Tyson. The tops of his hands spell out S-U-F-F-E-R-I-N-G when he holds them side by side. The left side of his neck says “Life,” the back of his neck says “Is,” and the right side says “Pain.”

He started getting tattoos when he was 16. He says he grew up in rough neighborhoods in Baltimore, suffered abuse at the hands of his father and was threatened outside his home, too: by drugs, by peers on the streets.

“Subconsciously I was creating an image to keep people at bay and away from me. I wanted to look tough,” he says. “People ask me every day, ‘Why did you do it? Why did you put yourself through that pain of tattooing your entire face?’ I’ve realized I don’t have to keep that trauma on my body.”

He’s gone through a lot of therapy. He works as a cook, but when the tattoos are off, he wants to mentor abused kids.

Now that the painful decision to get rid of the tattoos is over, the physical pain begins. He prays in the bathroom for strength. He gets into the chair and squeezes a ball as the laser hits his skin, turning parts of it red and then frosted white as the ink crystallizes into smaller particles that will be removed by his body’s immune system over the next few weeks. The laser emits a green light, and the room smells a little bit like burned hair. “I want to look in the mirror and see myself again.”

While characters in this story from first to last couch their thoughts in religous terms, the article declines to go deeper. It appears comfortable speculating about the vagaries of style but is shy of belief. The style argument is cleverly made by reference to the Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches.

“Belly stars are no longer in style”, said McBean.

“What you need is a trip through my Star-Off Machine.
This wondrous contraption will take OFF your stars
so you won’t look like Sneetches that have them on thars.”
And that handy machine working very precisely
Removed all the stars from their tummies quite nicely.

Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about.
And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout,
“We know who is who! Now there Isn’t a doubt.
The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without!”

But while Dr. Seuss used his tale as a cautionary word against prejudice, the Post plays upon the fantastical tattoo on / tattoo off business of Sylvester McMonkey McBean. However the wit and insight brought to the question of style is lacking on the faith issues. When the young woman who identifies herself as a Pentecostal states “the body is a temple” there is no explanation that she is referring to the Bible.

The Apostle Paul argued that our bodies are not ours to do with or defile as we please. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-21)

Her words and tears may mean that she believes that by having a tattoo she has defiled her body. Her tattoo is a sign of her sin. The man who is having his face tattoos removed states he prays for strength before the procedures. The tattoos may have been his flight from reality and from God. By removing them he will be cleansed and “see myself again.”

There is not a strict prohibition on tattooing in Christianity, but it is discouraged in some quarters.  The Old Testament forbids tattooing. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, neither shall you tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28)

Orthodox Judaism thus prohibits tattooing. The injunction is so explicit that it has not been softened in the halakhic literature. A tattoo for a Jew is tantamount to rejecting orthodoxy — and was part of the dehumanization the Nazis inflicted upon the Jews at Auschwitz.

For Sunni Muslims, tattooing is haram — forbidden.  The Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari states: May Allah curse the women who do tattoos and those for whom tattoos are done, those who pluck their eyebrows and those who file their teeth for the purpose of beautification and alter the creation of Allah. (al-Bukhari, al-Libaas, 5587; Muslim, al-Libaas, 5538), while The Prophet cursed the one who does tattoos, the one who has a tattoo done, the one who consumes riba (usury or interest) and the one who pays it, and he forbade the price of a dog and the earnings of a prostitute, and he cursed the image-makers.  (al-Bukhari, 5032).

I offer these passages from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian Scriptures not as some sort of proof texting to establish the proposition that tattooing is a sin, but to demonstrate the topic has strong religious overtones. This is seen by the explicit language used by some of those interviewed by the Post.

The absence of context for the characters’ statements leaves this article incomplete and prevents a good article from being great.

Tattooing photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Kashmir priest arrested to placate Muslim extremists, report finds: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 p 7. December 15, 2011

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The Rev. C.M. Khanna

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Fears of an anti-government rising by Muslim extremists prompted the imprisonment of an Anglican priest in Kashmir, an investigation by the All India Christian Council has found.

In an 8000-word report paper released on 5 Dec 2011, the All India Christian Council stated that the Rev. C.M. Khanna, the vicar of All Saints Church in Srinigar, was arrested to placate Muslim leaders, angered by his baptism of seven young Muslim men.  The baptismal liturgy’s call to renounce Satan and all his works and make amendment for one’s past life was “blasphemous,” local mullahs charged.

On 19 Nov, police arrested Mr. Khanna and charged him with “fomenting communal strife.”  The arrest followed the circulation of a mobile phone video of a baptismal service he conducted for seven Muslim men.  The priest has since been released from prison on bail on 1 Dec, and warned neither to leave the state nor to baptize any more Muslims.

According to the All India Christian Council report, Mr. Khanna had been wary of baptizing Muslims for fear of an agent provocateur seeking to discredit the church.  He had also turned away those who sought financial assistance and offered to convert to Christianity in return for cash.  While Kashmir has no anti-conversion laws, the small Christian community in Srinigar (300 Anglicans and 100 Roman Catholics) has sought to avoid confrontation with the Muslim majority.

However, the seven young men had been attending the church for ten months and displayed “great piety,” Mr. Khanna told investigators. “He was convinced of their motives. But even then, he questioned them and explained the difficulties they could face. They were firm in their new faith and insisted that he baptise them.”

After watching a video of the baptism, the Chief Mufti of Srinigar, Bashir-u-din ordered Mr. Khanna to appear before a Sharia court on 28 Oct.  He interrogated Mr Khanna for six hours and then released, warning him not to baptise anyone else.

The Chief Mufti told the fact finding mission that he had summoned the priest before the court after having received complaints.  “He said by calling their converts’ previous life in Islam in the same breath as shaitan or devil, Rev Khanna had also insulted Islam and had committed a blasphemy to add to the crime of apostasy of the people he had baptized,” the report said.

The mufti waived away the fact finding mission’s observation that religious courts had no legal standing, stating that “the court is a reality and has jurisdiction in the valley, if not in the entire Jammu and Kashmir State.”

“And yet the State government had taken no notice of this development which could have serious repercussions for the state and its religious minorities,” the report noted.

Mr. Khanna’s mistreatment continued after his arrest, as local newspapers printed false stories saying he had paid the young men to convert, and fabricated quotes from the priest that served to inflame public sentiment.  None of the city’s lawyers would agree to act as his counsel, the report noted, and while he was held in jail crowds gathered outside the prison calling for Islamic justice.

While the police stated they had treated Mr. Khanna well and that he had not been tortured, the seven converts were arrested and beaten by the police, who sought confessions that they had been paid to become Christians.  They have since fled the area in fear for their lives.

“We met two of them in Jammu where they are in hiding,” the report said, and “their names are being kept secret because it is feared they may be targeted by both the police and the Islamic groups.”

One of the converts said he “had turned to Christianity after the miraculous healing of his pregnant wife. Both said they had become Christians without any allurement and without any threats, of their own free will, and fully knowing the repercussions of their action.”

The report noted that the “most recent tension against Christians has been brewing since Autumn. Many people told us that some extremist groups and vested interests were planning to use the Christian issue of alleged conversions” as an “issue in their political confrontations with the state government and political parties on the one hand, and with other Islamic groups, specially the moderates, on the other.”

The report said that Islamist extremists were seeking to supplant the traditional Sufi Islam of the region and “were perpetually looking to score political points against each other, and any excuse was good enough to foment trouble, stoning on the roads and widespread riots.”

“This is why the government was jittery and would go to any extreme to ward off trouble from the Islamic groups. The arrest of the pastor had to be seen in this light,” the report said, noting the “writ of the government ran only superficially in the Kashmir valley” and Islamic groups could “mobilise the people in highly emotionally charged demonstrations and riots.”

The All India Christian Council called upon the police to drop all charges against Mr. Khanna and to “follow the law, and not allow themselves to be coerced by mobs.”

They also urged the federal government to intervene and “show its commitment to secularism in all parts of the country by acting with alacrity.”

At the same time, “in a hostile environment such as the Kashmir valley, Christian priests, pastors, NGOs and religious workers must tread cautiously les they infringe unwritten rules and cross invisible lines in social interaction.”

Scottish Episcopal Church says ‘no’ to same-sex marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 p 6. December 14, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Scottish Episcopal Church does not support the Scottish Government’s proposals to permit civil or religious same-sex marriages.

In a submission filed by its Faith and Order Board on 6 Dec 2011, the SEC said that while there were a wide variety of views on the question of gay marriage within the church, the mind of the church was expressed in its canons.  And the Canon on Marriage currently states that marriage is a “physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.”

As such, the SEC could not endorse same-sex marriage, nor permit its facilities to be used to solemnize same-sex marriages. “We do not agree with the introduction of same sex marriage whether religious or civil. The Canon draws no distinction between civil and religious marriage in that respect,” it said.

The issue of same-sex civil partnerships was different, however, as legislation on this point was a “matter for the civil authorities.”  However, the SEC stated that under its canons a civil partnership could not be registered through a religious ceremony, nor could clergy serve as registrars for same-sex unions as the “current authorised services include liturgies for marriage but not for same sex unions.”

“If the Parliament passed legislation so that civil partnerships could be registered through religious ceremonies, the Church would require safeguards to ensure such legislation did not require it or its clergy to perform such religious ceremonies,” the SEC said.

Bishop Mark Strange of Moray, Ross & Caithness, the convener of the Faith & Order Board’s working group on the consultation noted the canon on marriage was “clear in its wording” and this had guided the church’s response.

However, the “general issues raised by the consultation document are matters which are already the subject of ongoing discussion within both the Anglican and Porvoo Communions.”

The SEC paper had been presented “in the knowledge of these ongoing discussions” but also has sought to “indicate our canonical position without pre-empting any debate we as a Church are or could be engaged in.”

“The working group thanks those who offered advice and those who offered prayer and I thank the working party for the generous way we worked with each other.”

Fort Worth parish ordinariate bound: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 9, 2011 p 6. December 14, 2011

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The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Fort Worth mission congregation will ask its members to ratify the request of its vicar and parish council to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On 2 December, Bishop Jack Iker announced that the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth will hold a meeting after services on 11 December to discuss the petition of the vestry and its vicar, the Rev Christopher Stainbrook, SSC to enter the Ordinariate.  A parish vote will take place the following Sunday.

Fr Stainbrook told The Church of England Newspaper he expected his parish would support the move. “We don’t think there will be any remnant which wishes to remain a part of the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth.”

Two US congregations have already been received into the new Ordinariate.  In September an independent congregation in Fort Worth joined, followed last month by the members of the Diocese of Washington’s St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.

While a number of Fort Worth clergy and lay members of the diocese have been received into the Roman Catholic Church in recent years – including the former canon to the ordinary the Rev Charles Hough – St Timothy’s is the first full parish to act upon the offer of the Ordinariate. By tradition an Anglo-Papalist congregation, St Timothy’s is the only congregation in Fort Worth expected to join the Ordinariate.

Late last month Fr Stainbrook and the Bishop’s committee informed Bishop Iker of their intentions to go over to Rome.  While details have yet to be worked out for the pastoral care of those who remain within the diocese and the use of the property, the transition appears to be running smoothly.

“We are grateful to Bishop Iker and the diocesan officials who are working with us on the best way to move forward,” Fr Stainbrook said, adding that as Bishop Iker “graciously put it in an email to me Wednesday morning, ‘I am grateful for the tone of last night’s meeting.  People of good will can accomplish anything they set their hearts to doing’.”

Bishop Iker said: “While we regret that many members of St Timothy’s feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”

Anglican Unscripted, December 12, 2011 December 13, 2011

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Kevin and George discuss the interesting responses coming from South Carolina, TECs meddling into the Anglican Ordinariate, and your Hosts briefly talk about the situation with AMiA and the Province of Rwanda.

Bishop defends intervention in benefits debate: The Church of England Newspaper, December 11, 2011 p 7. December 13, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, Youth/Children.
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Bishop John Packer

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and a Conservative MP have exchanged sharp words over a letter criticizing the government’s welfare reforms.

The member for Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith, told the Ripon Gazette that Bishop John Packer was ignorant of economic reality and out of touch with ordinary people. Bishops should stay out of politics, Mr Smith said, and focus on topics with which they were familiar.

On 20 November 2011 the Observerprinted a letter signed by Bishop Packer and 17 other bishops calling for amendments to the welfare reform bill before Parliament that would cut aid to families with children.

The bishops said they were “compelled to speak for children” in response to a planned £500-a-week benefits cap for families. Such a reduction was “profoundly unjust” and would result in children facing “severe poverty and potentially homelessness.”

Mr Smith said he was “stunned” by the bishops’ intervention into the welfare reform debate. “It shows a complete disconnection with the reality of how hard people and businesses are having to work at the moment to pay the taxes that fund the benefit system and how popular the Government’s decision to cap benefits has been amongst the majority of voters,” he said.

A £2,000 a month cap on benefits was “not only reasonable but generous,” he argued, adding that this was the “third high-profile interference by the Church of England into politics in the past year. It is time democratically elected Government Ministers are left to run the country and church bishops stop these political forays which just don’t represent the facts on the ground.”

Criticism of government policy was well within the Church’s competence, Bishop Packer said. “Politics is concerned with the welfare of people, and the Church is concerned with the welfare of people. So it is important the Church is involved in political debates that could affect the welfare of thousands of children in this country.

“It is the care of children which is particularly important to me in this whole debate about welfare and the way in which people are treated in our society,” the Bishop said, adding: “we hope the Government will listen to the concerns that we, and indeed many others, are voicing, and act for the sake of some of the most vulnerable in our society.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has added his voice to the chorus of criticism of the proposed benefit cap. “I hope the Government will listen to the concerns that are being raised regarding the Welfare Reform Bill,” Dr Sentamu tweeted last week.

“The Government must ensure that children, especially the most vulnerable, are protected from cuts to family benefits,” the Archbishop said.

Sudan Synod plea to stop the fighting: The Church of England Newspaper, December 11, 2011, p 6. December 13, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The General Synod of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) has called for an end to the government campaign of terror waged against civilians.

Meeting at All Saints Cathedral in Juba from 13-16 November 2011, the ECS Ninth General Synod denounced the war along the border between north and south Sudan as well as the guerrilla war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony in the country’s Western Equatoria State along the border with Uganda, the Congo and the Central African Republic.

“We strongly condemn the persistent aerial bombardment of civilian territories, summary executions of innocents, and combat in civilian areas” in the border regions, the 16 November statement said.

“The bombs that fall are indiscriminate; they kill and maim young and old, man and woman, Christian and Muslim. In short, innocent civilians have become a target and their suffering has become political currency” in the hands of the government of President Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed National Congress Party in Khartoum.

The ECS “categorically” denounced these “crimes against humanity” and called for the governments in Juba and Khartoum to “return to the negotiating table and discuss national issues in a way amenable to peace and stability. We urge both governments to resolve any differences peacefully and not to resort to war and killing of the innocent civilians who yearn for peace.”

The Church also called attention to the ravages of the LRA. Driven from their bases in Uganda, the LRA has retreated into the bush terrorizing villagers in the Sudan. The “cancer of Western Equatoria State, namely the Lord’s Resistance Army, persists and requires immediate and committed international mediation for the most equitable solution for peace.”

The Church called for “peaceful methods of engagement” to be used to end the fighting – which has seen the deployment of 100 US soldiers to Uganda to coordinate operations against the rebels.

While the Sudan had been divided into two countries — north and south – the ECS would remain one and continue to work for peace, the statement said.

“In the area of advocacy for peace and reconciliation, the ECS will remain committed to its national and international partners but particularly to the Government of South Sudan, the relevant state governments and the United Nations in order to collectively implement a peace process throughout Sudan and South Sudan.”

It pledged to continue to “proclaim the gospel” and “continue its efforts of high-level political and grassroots evangelisation in order to reach all the communities of the Sudan and South Sudan. The ECS will also continue to adhere to the traditions of the Anglican Communion through use of the Prayer Book and training to new and existing pastors on the meaning of Anglicanism.”

The Economist on birth control for nuns: Get Religion, December 12, 2011 December 12, 2011

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He believed, he said, in birth-control. Pickerbaugh answered with theology, violence, and the example of his own eight beauties.

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis (1924)

Christmas comes but once a year, but reporters don’t always have to wait until December 25 for their presents. Great stories, items that seem to write themselves, can appear at any time of the year. A report in the British medical journal, The Lancet, released on December 8 and entitled “The plight of nuns: hazards of nulliparity” is just such an early Christmas gift for reporters on a short deadline.

The Telegraph and the Guardian provide good examples of the first day coverage — smart and concise summaries of the claims made by the article.  Religious Affairs Editor Martin Beckford of the Telegraph (one of the best religion writers in the UK) has a wonderful lede sentence for his story entitled: “Nuns should go on the Pill, says Lancet study.”

A paper in The Lancet claims that Roman Catholic nuns pay a “terrible price for their chastity”, as not having babies puts them at greater risk of breast, ovarian and uterine tumours.

Health Editor Sarah Boseley of the Guardian covered the story equally well and opened with:

Nuns should be given the contraceptive pill to reduce the high death rates from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer that result from their childlessness, say scientists.

Each gives a straight forward, uncluttered summary of The Lancet article’s claims. Both have strong pull quotes, and their stories could well be swapped between papers. Martin writes:

“Although Humanae Vitae never mentions nuns, they should be free the use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity [never giving birth] since the document states that ‘the Church in no way regards as unlawful therapeutic means considered necessary to cure organic diseases, even though they also have a contraceptive effect’.

“If the Catholic church could make the contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the ovary and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves.” … It goes on: “Today, the world’s 94,790 nuns still pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity.”

The second day stories fleshed out the issues, offering scientific critiques of the research and alternative voices. A story from the Catholic News Agency that a number of other sources drew upon  cited one oncologist who said the study had more political significance than scientific value. The CNA led with this critique.

Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life International, said the argument was so poorly made that she initially thought the article was a parody.

“It’s that bad,” she told CNA on Dec. 8, adding that the claims were not only outlandish but unsupported by the evidence presented in the analysis.

However, the best of the second day stories was Katie Moisse’s piece for ABC News, “Should Nuns Take the Pill for Health Reasons?” In addition to giving a crisp recounting of the article, she did that extraordinary thing of asking a nun what she thought of all this. And by concentrating on the basics of reporting, came up with a superior story.

…  according to Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, nuns have the same access to medical care as any other woman – and that includes access to the pill.

“They’re presuming the church has some kind of authority over the medical care of nuns, which it doesn’t,” Walsh told ABC News. “A nun goes to a doctor for her medical care, and if that medical care requires a certain kind of medicine then that medicine is prescribed.”

Oral contraceptives can increase the risk of blood clots, a risk thought to be higher in some newer versions of the pill.

“The suggestion that all nuns should take contraception is rather sweeping and almost irresponsible,” said Walsh. “There are risks with the pill just as there are risks with doing nothing with regard to uterine and ovarian cancer.”

Walsh said the benefits of the pill in reducing cancer risk must be weighed against the side effects.

“A nun’s decision needs to be worked out between the nun and her doctor,” she said.

This is a great rejoinder to The Lancet piece as Sr. Mary Ann Walsh challenges several premises of the article — that the Vatican micromanages nuns’ health care choices or that nuns are forbidden to take the pill. It further raises the question whether the pill is a contraceptive device if it is taken by those living under a vow of celibacy.

I would contrast the ABC story with the treatment by The Economist. That story, entitled “Nuns and contraception: Praying for the Pill,” strikes me as having an adolescent tone. While the Telegraph and Guardian avoided commentary and reported on the facts and ABC provided context, The Economist story seemed un-serious. It is little more than a bilious anti-Catholic rant.

It opens with a discussion of contraception, turns to politics, and opines on whether the church will give nuns the pill.

The Catholic church condemns all forms of contraception, a policy that Paul VI laid out in detail in Humanae Vitae in 1968. Over the subsequent decades it has had various brawls with secular authorities over the use of birth control pills. Most recently, America’s bishops have fought to keep Barack Obama’s health law from providing contraception free. The church has already won an exemption for women who work for a church, but it also wants to keep coverage from women who work for any Catholic institution, even if the women in question are not Catholics and the institution has a secular purpose, such as a school, say, or hospital. Given all this, it would seem unlikely that the church would want to give the Pill to its nuns.

It recounts the arguments of The Lancet story and closes with a smirk.

The Pill can help to counteract [the risks of cancer]. The overall mortality in women who use, or have used, oral contraception, is 12% lower than among those who do not. The effect on ovarian and endometrial cancer is greater: the risk of such cancers plummets by about 50%. Drs Britt and Short make a compelling medical case. But it is unlikely to sway the Church.

What was that about the Vatican not micromanaging the health care of nuns?

Yes, birth-control and the Catholic Church is a controversial issue, and the church should not be above criticism for its views. However, if you are advancing an argument supported by an attitude of condescension towards your target you had better be right. Otherwise you come off the fool — as The Economist appears to have done in this story.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Bishop Murphy under threat of discipline: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 p 7. December 12, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Church of England Newspaper.
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Bishop Chuck Murphy - Photo: AMiA

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The head of the Anglican Mission in America has been threatened with ecclesiastical discipline for contumacy.

In letter to Bishop Chuck Murphy dated 30 November 2011 under the signature of all of the members of the Rwandan House of Bishops, the AMiA leader was chastised for disobedience.

“You have constantly disregarded the decisions and counsels of the House of Bishops” and have “misused the authority given to you by the Archbishop in advancing your new missionary society interests,” the Rwandan bishops said.

At a September meeting of the Rwandan House of Bishops, Bishop Murphy proposed reorganising the AMiA – a mission outreach of the Rwandan Church to the US. Bishop Murphy proposed keeping the AMiA part of the Rwandan Church, but moving the oversight of the Pawleys Island, South Carolina, group from the archbishop to a three-man college of consultors. Bishop Murphy proposed retired archbishops Emmanuel Kolini, Moses Tay and Yong Ping Church as the first college of consultors.

The Rwandan bishops objected to the reorganization and asked Bishop Murphy to halt work on the new structure until the bishops were of one mind on the topic. However, in meetings with AMiA clergy in October, Bishop Murphy said the project was four-fifths complete, and would be presented to the 21 December 2011 meeting of the Rwandan bishops for approval.

The Rwandan bishops repeated their request to halt work on the project, and in the 30 November letter gave the US bishop an ultimatum — repent of your disobedience or go.

The letter stated Bishop Murphy had ignored two requests to halt the reorganization of the AMiA into a missionary society, and had “insulted” members of the House of Bishops “using abusive language.”

He had also “dogged questions of financial transparency” and had not yet complied with a commitment given to the Rwandan bishops in September to provide an accounting of the group’s finances.

The Rwandan bishops asked Bishop Murphy to apologize for his actions, end his moves to re-organize the AMiA, and confirm his “commitment to refocus on AMiA.”

Unless he complied with this request within seven days, the Rwanda House of Bishops would assume that he had “made a ‘de facto’ choice to withdraw as primatial vicar” of the AMiA.

A spokesman for Bishop Murphy told The Church of England Newspaper, the American leader would honour the Rwandan request.

The reorganization debate “required the [AMiA] and the Province of Rwanda to engage in substantive dialogues, and we seek to ensure that our unique cultures are in clear communication with each other,” the spokesman said.

“It has required that we listen carefully to one another in our attempts to fully understand all of the issues involved from one another’s cultural perspectives,” she noted, adding the 30 November letter was “part of that yet unfinished dialogue and it will be addressed as our Archbishop has required.”

Dr Sentamu to lead Jamaica independence celebrations: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 p 5. December 12, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has been asked by the Government of Jamaica to kick off a year of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of independence for the West Indian country.

Dr Sentamu is scheduled to visit the island from 21 – 31 January 2012, the Jamaican tourist board reports, and will be a guest of the government and the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

The Archbishop led celebrations in 2007 marking the anniversary of the end of slavery and was warmly received across Jamaica. The intervening years have not been kind to the island nation, however, which has seen a continued rise in violent crime and political corruption.

A poll released last July reported that 50 years after independence, 60 per cent of Jamaicans said they would be better off having remained a British colony. Most Jamaicans believe they would be better off if they were still ruled by Britain, a poll shows.

Only 17 per cent of those surveyed said they would be worse off if they had remained a colony. In an editorial printed under the headline “Give Us The Queen!”, the Daily Gleaner said most Jamaicans longed for the stability of colonial rule and had become “disillusioned” by the country’s corrupt political culture and high crime.

VisitJamaica.com, a website for the state tourist board reports Dr Sentamu will lead an ecumenical independence service in Montego Bay, an Anglican service at Spanish Town Cathedral, and the National Jamaica 50 Ecumenical Service at Emancipation Park in Kingston.

PNG bishop robbed after his consecration: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 December 10, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bandits ransacked the home of the Bishop of Popondetta in New Guinea’s Northern Province last month, one day after he was consecrated to the episcopate.

On the evening of 28 Nov 2011, an armed gang entered Bishop Lindsley Ihove’s home in Popondetta and holding the bishop and his family at gunpoint stole all of the gifts and offerings presented to him at his consecration the day before.

The New Guinea Post-Courier stated that police believed the gang that robbed the bishop was responsible for an arson attack earlier in the evening which burned the home of a local government official to the ground.

A series of natural disasters – typhoons, tidal waves and earthquakes – has rocked the Northern Province in recent months.  Criminal gangs have taken advantage of the chaos to impose their will on the populace, prompting a strong police response.  A police spokesman told the Post-Courier the bandits who robbed the bishop were “lower than animals” and “unfit to cohabit among humans.”

At its October meeting of the General Synod, the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea (ACPNG) elected the Fr. Ihove to the episcopate in succession to Archbishop Joe Kopapa.

Fr. Ihove was the Director of Mission and Evangelism for the Diocese of Popondetta at the time of his election and was consecrated bishop of the northern New Guinea diocese on 27 November 2011 at the Church of the Resurrection in Popondetta.

Under the terms of the reorganization of the ACPNG approved at the October synod meeting, the archbishop of the province will no longer serve as a diocesan bishop, but will oversee the church as metropolitan working from the provincial office in Lae.

Pacific bishop rejects govt charges of bribery: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 December 10, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Melanesia, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican Bishop of Vanuatu, the Rt Rev James Ligo, has rejected charges levelled by government officials that the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) had bribed MPs to reject ratification of a treaty committing the country to membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Bishop Ligo, the chairman of the VCC, told reporters that it was irresponsible to accuse the churches of promoting the sin of bribery and government corruption. He called upon the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the bribery allegations, adding that he was confident the VCC would be exonerated.

Membership in the WTO has divided the Pacific nation – the former Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides — with the country’s churches leading the charge against ratification. The government has condemned the churches’ campaign, with public utilities minister Harry Iauko telling reporters the role of the church was to prepare the souls for heaven and not to preach against the WTO.

Joining the WTO, the VCC has argued, could lead to the commercial exploitation of the country by foreign capital. The country’s indigenous peoples were at risk of losing their land to speculators and foreign mining and timber corporations, the Bishop said, which would devastate Vanuatu’s cultural heritage.

Land ownership is a politically fraught issue in Vanuatu, and was one of the principal issues in the run-up to independence from the UK and France in 1980, with native groups calling for the confiscation of colonial plantations.

Demonstrations in opposition to ratification of treaty organized by the VCC were blocked by the government last month on public order grounds. Prime Minister Sato Kilman then accused Bishop Ligo and the VCC of bribery after it paid allowances to opposition MPs at an anti-WTO workshop.

The minister of internal affairs, George Wells, told Radio New Zealand International that it was wrong to claim that under WTO rules foreigners would buy up the country’s land as the constitution adopted at independence in 1980 continued to be in force and permitted land ownership only by Vanuatu’s “indigenous custom owners” – the country’s native peoples.

Normalizing nihilism – Euthanasia in Holland: Get Religion, December 9, 2011. December 10, 2011

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It has been almost ten years since the Dutch parliament voted to legalize euthanasia.  While the Netherlands became the first country to grant state sanction to a mercy killing, doctors the world over have long quietly colluded in the “good death” of the terminally ill or those in extreme suffering.  The BBC reported that the 1 April 2002 — April Fool’s Day — law set the following parameters for Dutch mercy killings:

Patients must face a future of unbearable, interminable suffering

Request to die must be voluntary and well-considered

Doctor and patient must be convinced there is no other solution

A second medical opinion must be obtained and life must be ended in a medically appropriate way

The patient facing incapacitation may leave a written agreement to their death

However, the march of progress has not stopped here.  Last month the Daily Caller reported that the Dutch Medical Association sought to “expand the definition of who may qualify for assisted suicide — including for the first time such nonmedical factors as loneliness and financial struggles.”  The article entitled “Netherlands looks to expand euthanasia grounds to include lonely, poor” printed by Washington-based news website stated:

“Many older people have various afflictions that are not actually life-threatening but do make them vulnerable,” wrote the KNMG in a ten-year study report published in October.

“Vulnerability stems not only from health problems and the ensuing limitations, but also the measure in which people have social skills, financial resources and a social network. Vulnerability has an impact on quality of life and on prospects for recovery, and can lead to unbearable and lasting suffering.”

Prior to publishing the study results, the KNMG polled its members online. More than 68 percent agreed with the statement that doctors should be “permitted to factor in vulnerability, loss of function, confinement to bed, loneliness, humiliation and loss of dignity” when determining whether a patient is a good candidate for euthanasia.

This was followed by an article in the 7 Dec 2011 issue of the Telegraph that reported the Dutch government was considering allowing doctors to kill patients in their homes. The article entitled “Mobile euthanasia teams being considered by Dutch government” reported:

In a written answer to questions from Christian Union MPs [Health Minister Edith Schippers] said that mobile units “for patients who meet the criteria for euthanasia but whose doctors are unwilling to carry it out” was worthy of consideration.

“If the patient thinks it desirable, the doctor can refer him or her to a mobile team or clinic,” the minister wrote.

In her written answer Ms Schippers suggested that “extra expertise” could be summoned in complicated cases involving mental health problems or an inability to consent to euthanasia because of dementia.

In the space given to the story, the Telegraph’s reporter does a nice job in raising the moral issues, providing comments from anti-euthanasia activists as well as a government promise that euthanasia will not be abused. It is disquieting though to read:

Dutch medics have been accused of practising euthanasia on demand.

A total of 21 people diagnosed as having early-stage dementia died at the hands of their doctors last year, according to the 2010 annual report on euthanasia.

The figures from last year also showed another year-on-year rise in cases with about 2,700 people choosing death by injection compared to 2,636 the year before.

This is extraordinary. A patient at home whose doctor will not kill him, will be sent another doctor by the government to put them down — and if the patient has dementia and therefore is incapable of meeting the second Dutch death criteria, the request to die must be voluntary and well-considered — an expert will decide. Added to this the Dutch doctors demand that they be allowed to kill those who are unhappy, poor or lonely — I’m very tempted to play the Nazi card.

One of the unofficial rules I have picked up over the years is that whoever plays the Nazi or Hitler card looses the argument. They are no longer making a reasonable argument but making an appeal to sentiment and horror. And when the topic is euthanasia, the murders by Nazi doctors of 75,000 people including 5000 children deemed racially, mentally or physically unfit, is apt to arise. However, I think playing the Nazi card is wrong in this case too, as it detracts from the moral issue at hand — the problem of euthanasia is not that it might be abused, but that it will be used.

By allowing the killing of people who are not considered fit to live, we are adopting a view of humanity that reduces existence to the balancing of pain and pleasure. Life is worth living when pleasure is greater than pain. This view of life makes irrelevant many of the traits and characteristics of our humanity.  Virtue, duty, courage, honor and even love play no part in this animalistic calculus. It is moral nihilism.

What struck me as I read the Daily Caller and Telegraph articles was that although the story arc and tone of the pieces evidenced a dislike of the Dutch way of death — there was little attempt at raising moral or faith objections. It was as if these issues were irrelevant to the story. I am loathe to fault these two stories for this gap in their coverage as I believe Western society is fast reaching the point where moral nihilism is the norm.

These two pieces bring to mind P.D. James 1991 novel The Children of Men — which describes a world where no children have been born for 25 years because men have become infertile. It brings home the terrible implications of this world where mankind has no future.  Violence increases as life grows meaningless. “Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from boredom,” these are the goals of life. Euthanasia is achieved through a paid incentive program and to the sound of violins, the aged and infirm board ferries that sink in the sea.

How did mankind come to such a place? The protagonist, Theo Faron, writes in his journal:

Much of this I can trace to the early 1990s: the search for alternative medicine, the perfumed oils, the massage, the stroking and anointing, the crystal-holding, the non-penetrative sex. Pornography and sexual violence on film, on television, in books, in life, had increased and became more explicit but less and less in the West we made love and bred children. It seemed at the time a welcome development in a world grossly polluted by over-population. As a historian I see it as the beginning of the end.

And what does  religion say to this sterile world? Faron writes:

During the mid-1990s the recognized churches, particularly the Church of England, moved from the theology of sin and redemption to a less uncompromising doctrine: corporate social responsibility coupled with a sentimental humanism. [The Churches] virtually abolished the Second Person of the Trinity together with His cross, substituting a golden orb of the sun in glory .. Even to unbelievers like myself, the cross, stigma of the barbarism of officialdom and of man’s ineluctable cruelty, has never been a comfortable symbol.

No, I am not asking for a treatment of the problem of pain from the Telegraph. I am bemoaning the state of our culture such that the world painted in James’ dystopian novel appears to be quite like our own — and that the killing of the aged, unfit and infirm by the state has become regrettable, but unremarkable.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Crunching the numbers from Pawleys Island: Anglican Ink, December 9, 2011 December 10, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican Ink.
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Swans guarding Dromantine Abbey

The AMiA press office appears to have shot itself in the foot once more.  On Dec 9, 2011 – some eleven months after Bishop Alexis Bilindibagabo requested Bishop Chuck Murphy provide an explanation for the discrepancy between the amount of money the AMiA reported as sending to Rwanda as a tithe, and the amount of money received by Rwanda (approximately $1.2 million) – the AMiA released data on the tithe to Rwanda for the years 2004 to 2010.

During this period, a total of $1.9 million was made in tithe gifts.  The funds were distributed in three categories: direct payments to the central fund of the Province of Rwanda totaling $1.11 million; $487,000 in travel expenses; and $312,000 in designated gifts.

The $312,000 is further divided in a third chart provided by the press office.  And here things become rather interesting.  Eleven line items are listed, and of these the names of four individuals are appended to the amounts.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but the four names listed are of three Rwandan bishops who have called for an accounting – and me.  I am listed as having received $6692 for a White Paper written for the province.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Construction starts on Rio Grande conference center: Anglican Ink, December 9, 2011. December 10, 2011

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First printed in Anglican Ink.

Construction begins next week on the renovation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande’s Bosque Center in Albuquerque.  The diocese will invest $1.5 million to renovate the former Spiritual Renewal Center it purchased on January 30, 2011 and will house the diocesan offices, a state-of-the-art conference center and a 45-room retreat house at the new facility.

Built in 2004 by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’Ricci, the sisters turned the five acre facility over to a trust in 2009 to manage due to their dwindling numbers and declining health.

The Bosque Conference Center will be a “focal point” for the Diocese of the Rio Grande, the Rt. Rev. Michael Vono said earlier this year “because our diocese is the whole state.”

“Centered in the heart of Albuquerque, it will become the diocese’s heartbeat, giving new life and growth to evangelism in this third millennium and inspiring reconciliation in Christ,” Bishop Vono said.

The New Mexico Business Weekly stated that diocesan officials believe the project will infuse over $5 million into the local economy and will hire local contractors, architects and construction workers to build the center.

Debate doctrine, not sex say Irish evangelicals: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 p 7. December 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical leaders in the Church of Ireland have questioned the parameters of the church’s forthcoming debate on human sexuality, warning that beginning the debate on this point might provide a political solution to a theological problem.

In a 29 Nov 2011 letter written under the signature of the Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship, the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, New Wine Ireland and Reform Ireland, Irish evangelicals took the bishops to task for their passive approach to the divisions that appear set to tear the church apart.

The bishops’ response to one of their colleague’s approval of the same-sex civil partnership ceremony contracted by a senior clergyman “could convey the impression that the bishops are simply responding to issues that are not, in part, of their own making.”

In July the Dean of Leighlin registered a same-sex civil union with his partner, apparently with the tacit approval of the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory.  When news of the event broke, it caused an outcry in the Irish Church and on 5 October 2011 the bishops released a pastoral letter calling for a moratorium on clergy entering into same-sex civil partnerships.  They also asked critics of gay civil unions to moderate their language too while the Church begins debate.

The bishops said they had been planning on reviewing their 2003 statement on human sexuality, however, “recent well–publicised events within the Church of Ireland concerning the issue of serving clergy and civil partnerships have caused considerable hurt and confusion to many. Others saw what had happened as a positive development. In the Church of Ireland as a whole, in consequence, this has led to a painful experience of disunity.”

The bishops stated they would organise “a major conference in spring 2012” to discuss the issue, but noted the meeting “is not envisaged to be an end in itself” and would not settle the issue.

However, the bishops must realize that their indecision played a key part in “allowing the debate to unravel as it has,” the Irish evangelicals said.

“There has been a failure to engage in any process following the 2003 statement,” the evangelicals said, and this coupled with the “perception” that the gay union was contracted with the “foreknowledge and/or approval of a serving bishop” created an environment “not conducive to facilitating constructive dialogue.”

“We would seek a greater acknowledgment by the bishops of their own role in not building upon the letter of 2003 and, either individually or collegially, overseeing the present situation that has caused considerable hurt and confusion to many,” the said.

While they endorsed the call for debate, they stated that beginning the conversation with a discussion on human sexuality was the proper course.  “The defining issue is our vision of God, and what it means for His people to represent Him in His mission of love to redeem His world. If we start with the ethics of human sexuality the danger is that we will end up with rather legalistic and regulated forms of wording as to what is or is not acceptable, with potentially some very hurtful and divisive dialogue along the way.”

But if the debate began with a discussion of “our vision of God we might just end up with a renewed confidence in what it means to be a redeemed and transformed people,” the evangelical leaders said.

Student walk-out in protest of Dr Kunonga: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 7. December 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Education, Zimbabwe.
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St David's Girls High School in Bonda, Zimbabwe

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Several hundred students from St David’s Girls High School in Bonda, in the Diocese of Manicaland, went on strike last week in protest to the mismanagement of their school by the breakaway bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga.

However, Dr Kunonga has defended his stewardship of church schools, saying they remain the best performing academic institutions in Zimbabwe.

St David’s Girls High School was founded in 1961 by the sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete – an Anglican order with a mother house at St Hilda’s Priory, Sneaton Castle, Whitby. In 1977 the school was turned over to the diocese and is the largest church-affiliated school in north-eastern Zimbabwe. However, the management of the school has been taken over by the former Bishop of Manicaland, Elson Jakazi – an ally of Dr Kunonga.

Bishop Jakazi and his supporters are alleged to have diverted funds and used the school’s assets for their own use, critics in Zimbabwe tell The Church of England Newspaper. Bishop Jakazi did not respond to a request for comments.

NewsDay reported that a large portion of the school’s 950 students walked out on 21 November 2011 in protest to the school’s overcrowded dormitories and “plummeting [academic] standards.” They had planned to walk 40 kilometres to the home of a former headmaster to “air their grievances that included alleged poor quality of food, sexual harassment and interference by Kunonga’s faction in the school’s affairs.”

They got as far as the Nyamadzi River before buses sent by the school fetched the girls home.

On 9 November 2011 Dr Kunonga released a statement defending his management of church schools. Anglican Mission schools “have always been among the best performing schools in Zimbabwe,” he said.

The breakaway bishop rejected claims that standards had fallen, noting that Anglican schools have “always maintained high pass rates” and that institutions like St David’s in Bonda “are always envied by parents for their academic excellence. We challenge the [Church of the Province of Central Africa] or any other interested parties, to desist from making wild claims for the purposes of tarnishing other people’s images.”

He dismissed claims that he had appointed unqualified teachers and administrators, noting they were under the oversight of the Ministry of Education. “In the event that teachers violate Mission statutes, they cannot in any way be dismissed by the Church, as the Church is not their employer. They are referred back to the Ministry of Education. There is, therefore, nothing sinister about the Church referring back to the Ministry teachers who refuse to work together with the responsible authority for the development of the school.”

Dr Kunonga added that he does “not appoint teachers or headmasters” but only makes recommendations to the Ministry of Education. The claim that he had appointed his “stooges to be teachers and or headmasters only make sense to those who are not familiar with policies of the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe.”

Threat of lawsuit blocks ordinariate vote: Anglican Ink, December 8, 2011 December 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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An ACNA congregation in Fort Worth has been blocked by the threat of litigation from holding a parish vote on whether it would accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On 8 Dec 2011, Bishop Jack Iker announced that scheduled vote by the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth had been cancelled following the intervention of the national Episcopal Church.

Bishop Iker stated that on 6 Dec “lawyers for the Episcopal Church parties delivered a letter to our legal team inquiring about the situation at St. Timothy and commenting that the proposed use of the St. Timothy property by a body from another denomination would not be a ‘normal course of business use’ in compliance with the order of the 141st District Court signed Oct. 20, 2011.”

The diocese’s lawyers were asked “to explain how the situation would be handled to be in compliance with the order to avoid a hearing before the court, or the TEC lawyers indicated they would proceed to bring the matter to the court’s attention.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Lord Carey in Mynamar: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 December 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England Newspaper.
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Lord Carey with the Burmese bishops

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Hillary Clinton, the President of Belarus, the tooth of the Buddha and Lord Carey were among four high-level visitors to Burma last week.

The visit by the US Secretary of State paired with the visit of one of the military government’s few political allies, coupled with the opening towards religion may mark a softening in the regime’s heavy-handed rule.

Myanmar is officially a socialist but not atheist country ruled by a military junta. Approximately 80 per cent of the population is Buddhist, followed in size by the Christian minority. Lord Carey’s visit to Burma, sources tell The Church of England Newspaper, is viewed as being part of a larger campaign by the government to improve its image in the West and avoid economic and political isolation.

A press statement from Lambeth Palace reports that Lord Carey, accompanied by Lady Carey and Canon Roger Symon paid a pastoral visit on behalf of Dr Rowan Williams to the Southeast Asian nation from 16-30 November 2011.

Accompanied by Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo, Lord Carey visited the strife-torn Dioceses of Taungoo and Myitkyina in the northeastern Kachin State – the scene of a low-level civil war between the government and separatist groups.

The retired archbishop also led retreats for the Provincial Council and the Yangon (Rangoon) council and visited church-affiliated schools, daycare centres and health and social services agencies.

Lord Carey paid a call on the government’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Buddhist, Muslim and Roman Catholic leaders as well as pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Sources in Myanmar tell CEN the government’s permission to meet with the Nobel peace prize laureate indicates a softening of the government’s hard-line approach towards Christianity – scene as a potential source of political dissent in the Myanmar.

The source, who asked not to be named, noted the Anglican visit will be followed on 8 December 2011 by a ceremony at Yangon’s Roman Catholic cathedral. Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, the Pope’s special envoy to Myanmar, will mark the centenary of its construction. Mrs Suu Kyi, a Buddhist, will attend the mass, as will the minister for religious affairs.

The wisdom tooth of the Buddha is also in the midst of a 48-day tour of Myanmar. After visiting Rangoon and Mandalay, the tooth — encased in a golden reliquary and escorted by attendants dressed in gold silk uniforms — travelled by special plane to country’s new capital Naypyidaw and was paraded through the streets of the capital by elephant before being installed at the Uppatasanti Temple.

The Asia Times notes that the “lead Myanmar story in the world’s press” is the “Westward tilt of the quasi-civilian regime.”

The “backstory” however, involves the regime’s efforts “to make nice with the United States and the democratic opposition, while still quietly cleaving to the authoritarian regimes that still provide the most reliable guarantee of its survival.”

A post-Schiavo world: Get Religion, December 7, 2011 December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Product placement and packaging — these are the first tasks of a freelance author who has a story to write. Who will publish this article? What pitch will win over the editor? An experienced author knows the interests and quirks of the publications to whom he markets his work. In addition to the question of content — no poultry breeding articles for Car & Driver — an author must be conversant with the style sense and audience of an outlet. Do they like it hip or heavy? AP or Times of London style book? The definitive New Yorker treatment or a Peoplemagazine popular summary?

A recent article in the New York Times magazine entitled “A Drug that Wakes the Near Dead” speaks to the freelancer’s task — and its limitations. Jeneen Interlandi has done an extraordinary job. Her style is light but it conveys medical and scientific concepts clearly. The portraits she paints of the characters in her story are wonderfully done — real people, facing real problems — neither stick figures nor flat archetypes.

Yet her article on the struggles of families caring for those who have passed “beyond a vegetative state, to a hazy realm known as minimal consciousness” following traumatic brain injuries bears the heavy hand of a New York Times magazine story. While the material and emotional dimensions of her characters are portrayed in detail, the religion angle is entirely absent.

That’s not quite correct. In the 4500+ word article there is one line that touches upon the faith and moral issues at play. “It’s an instinct reinforced by religious edicts that forbid the withholding of basic sustenance but allow, for example, unplugging artificial respirators.”

That’s it. The editorial hand, I am making an assumption here, that guided this work appears not to be aware that we live in a post-Terry Schiavo world. I am not dismissing the story as bad. But it is incomplete — and given its excellence on one level, it is a disappointment to see it fall flat here.

The article recounts the experiences of Chris Cox, and his parents, Wayne and Judy. Chris suffered a near fatal drug overdose that left him in a persistent vegetative state that his doctors believed would quickly lead to his death. However, he survived and has progressed to a state of minimal consciousness. The story hook that moves this beyond the human interest level is the medical news that some patients with this condition have been brought out of the twilight.

This paragraph provides the pivot of the story.

Convinced that the son they know and love is still “in there,” Chris’s parents have spent the past three years searching for a way to bring him back out. So far, their best hope has come from an unlikely source: Ambien. A growing body of case reports suggests that the popular sleep aid can have a profound — and paradoxical — effect on patients like Chris. Rather than put them to sleep, both Ambien and its generic twin, zolpidem, appear to awaken at least some of them. The early reports were so pronounced that until recently, doctors had a hard time believing them. Only now, more than a decade after the initial discovery, are they taking a closer look.

The article recounts the partial medical breakthroughs taking place — it works for some, but not others — which neuroscientists are seeking to explain. The article then moves into the realm of medical ethics.

“Once a patient progresses to minimal consciousness, we can’t predict what’s going to happen,” says Dr. Joseph J. Fins, chief of medical ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College and author of a coming book, “Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics and the Struggle for Consciousness.” Some patients have recovered full consciousness, but many more remain stuck in limbo. The only way to know the outcome is to give the patient time.

But offering time is a complex proposition. “Early on, when families have the option to pull the plug, it’s almost impossible to tell what the long-term prognosis will be,” says Dr. Soojin Park, a neurointensivist at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, and an investigator on the zolpidem trial. “And then later, when we have the certainty — that this is as good as it’s going to get — that option is gone. Because by then, the patient is breathing on their own. There’s no more plug to pull.” At that point, families who want to end a loved one’s suffering must either have the feeding tube removed, or agree to let the next bacterial infection win out, unhindered by antibiotics. Many families find choosing these deaths much more difficult than turning off a ventilator. It’s an instinct reinforced by religious edicts that forbid the withholding of basic sustenance but allow, for example, unplugging artificial respirators.

And here that conversation stops and we return to the experiences and hopes of the Cox family — an editorial decision that diminishes the power of this story. In some ways this story serves as a bookend to a 2010 article my colleague Mollie Ziegler Hemingway discussed in GetReligion.

The Chicago Tribune story began:

If ever Carol Gaetjens becomes unconscious with no hope of awakening, even if she could live for years in that state, she says she wants her loved ones to discontinue all forms of artificial life support.

But now there’s a catch for this churchgoing Catholic woman. U.S. bishops have decided that it is not permissible to remove a feeding tube from someone who is unconscious but not dying, except in a few circumstances.

People in a persistent vegetative state, the bishops say, must be given food and water indefinitely by natural or artificial means as long as they are otherwise healthy. The new directive, which is more definitive than previous church teachings, also appears to apply broadly to any patient with a chronic illness who has lost the ability to eat or drink, including victims of strokes and people with advanced dementia. …

Gaetjens, 65, said she did not know of the bishops’ position until recently and finds it difficult to accept.

“It seems very authoritarian,” said the Evanston resident. “I believe people’s autonomy to make decisions about their own health care should be respected.”

Mollie wrote that the Tribune story went on to explain this directive from the bishops and how it would affect Catholic hospitals. But she noted there was “something rather significant that was missing from this story,” which was that “nowhere in the Tribune piece is the news from last week mentioned, much less any indication that people diagnosed as being in persistent vegetative states might be aware, intentional and desiring communication. That omission really hurts the article.”

I am not setting this up to say that while the Tribune story lacked science, the Times story lacked religion. The issue is one of balance. For an audience that believes there is nothing more to the human experience than the material, the Times story works. For those who believes that men and women are physical and spiritual beings, the Times story is incomplete.

A slew of religion questions were neither asked nor answered in this article. The problem of pain and suffering. The meaning of a life lived in a vegetative state. Defining human dignity … the questions that animated the Terry Schiavo debate in 2005. Even if a discussion of morality, which is derived from philosophical first principles, is off limits in a New York Times magazine story, there should have been a discussion of decency.

Decency is a matter of custom and general acceptance, and its standards change to meet the realities of the age in which we live. The advances in medical science of the past generation can keep alive in a twilight consciousness some who would have died from their conditions. This article asks what is happening to these people. But it does not ask whether it is moral or decent.

Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.

Christianity Today picks up the AMiA story: Anglican Ink, December 7, 2011 December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican Ink, Press criticism.
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Bobby Ross, Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr., has written a great story of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).  The article at Christianity Today entitled “Leaving Rwanda: Breakaway Anglicans Break Away Again” is rather clever.  It draws upon the imagery of “Out of Africa” as well as offering an amusing play on “breakaway – break away”.

He also takes the story forward, reporting that Bishop Murphy and his faction of the AMiA will seek another Anglican Province to serve as its sponsor.  They’re out of Rwanda but hopefully not out of Africa — and the Anglican Communion.

I did not envy Bobby when I learned he had been commissioned by CT to do this story.  Explaining intramural Anglican affairs is difficult enough to an audience that self-identifies as being Anglican/Episcopal, but making sense of the story for the wider Protestant world (CT’s audience) is harder still.

Yet, he does a great job summarizing the reasons for the split – and he is the first to report in print what the Bishop Murphy’s plans are now that he has cast off the heavy hand of Pharaoh.  (For those looking to take offense at my reporting on this issue I offer this one to you as a freebee – it is a reference to Bishop Murphy’s use of the analogy of Moses and the children of Israel leaving Egypt to describe his decision to withdraw from Rwanda and take his followers with him.)

Bobby quotes me in the story, pairing my observations with those of Cynthia Brust the AMiA’s press officer.

Line one:  “It’s just a sad, sad case all around,” Conger said. “There are no doctrinal or theological issues. It’s not about women priests or homosexuality or race. It’s entirely about egos.”

Line two: “It’s a dispute of personalities,” Conger said of the recent turmoil. “Archbishop Kolini had a very strong, good relationship with Bishop Murphy and essentially let Bishop Murphy do what he wanted to do.”

The CT story brings Bishop Murphy’s spokesman on board with a response to the concerns raised by Bishop Alex Bilindibagabo that funds the AMiA claims to have given to Rwanda did not make it into the province’s bank account.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Mission schools returned by state govts in Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011, p 6. December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Education.
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Archbishop Christian Efobi

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Governor of Nigeria’s Anambra State has returned the mission schools nationalized by the government to their former owners.  The announcement follows upon decisions in the Delta State and other southern states to return mission schools to the country’s churches as government seeks new solutions to the crisis of education in Nigeria.

On 20 November 2011, Governor Peter Obi, accompanied by the Anglican Archbishop of the Province of the Niger and Bishop of Aguata, the Most Rev. Christian Efobi, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, the Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, made the announcement at a press conference in Awka.

“The collapse of education in the state is directly connected with the takeover of schools owned by the missionaries, churches and voluntary organisations in 1970. That singular exercise signaled the disappearance of morality and building of character from our school system. This can no longer be allowed,’’ the governor said.

The state would also contribute N6b (£24 million) over the next 15 months to the state’s churches for the maintenance of the schools.

The two archbishops thanked the governor for his decision, with Archbishop Okeke stating: “You have written your name in gold and you have wiped the tears of our people. You have rectified anomalies of the civil war and the fault of our past leaders. With this action, the church has forgiven them for forcefully taking over our schools.”

In 1942, 97 per cent of Nigerian students were enrolled in Christian mission schools and up through the mid-1960’s mission schools continued to educate the majority of children in the majority Christian Igbo (Southeast) and Yoruba (Southwest) dominated sections of the country.

A desire to foster a common Nigerian identity following independence prompted the first wave of school nationalizations.  The tempo increased rapidly however, following the Biafra Civil War (1967-1970) when state governments began nationalizing church owned schools and hospitals in a move to combat tribalism.

In an editorial printed earlier this month, This Day, a Lagos newspaper endorsed the return of mission schools.  It noted that it was “concerns about national cohesion” that prompted the “summary usurpation of proprietary rights over private schools by government” in the 1970s.

However, “whatever goodwill” the government expected from seizing the schools was lost by its “failure to compensate the original owners of the schools, or treat them with respect during the take-over process.”

Nationalization also saw a “collapse of values of discipline and staff integrity” and a “precipitous decline of academic standards.”

This Day called “for the return of schools to their original owners” as a way to stem the collapse, but urged the government not to wash its hands of education, and called for a uniform system of school inspections to ensure quality education for all Nigerians.

Text message ban for Pakistan questioned: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011, p 6. December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has retreated from its proposal to ban obscene words and phrases offensive to Islam from text messages. A PTA spokesman told Agence France-Presse that it would review its proposed list of 1600 forbidden words that include “Jesus Christ” before issuing the ban.

Last week the PTA informed SMS providers in Pakistan that they would be required to block text messages that contained words or phrases that appeared on the forbidden list of 1100 English and 500 Urdu words.  While the overwhelming majority of words were obscene or scatological, the list also included religion related phrases such as “Jesus Christ” and “Satan” as well as words that do not appear to have an immediate offensive meaning such as “athlete’s foot.”

Church leaders in Pakistan cried foul upon hearing of the proposed ban.  The Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Lahore, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Malik released a statement on 23 Nov saying that “Jesus” was a sacred word and its inclusion in a ban on obscene words was “tantamount to blasphemy.”

The secretary of the Roman Catholic Commission for Social Communications, Fr. Nadeem John Shakir told the Fides News Agency the Catholic Church “will put pressure on the government to eliminate the name of Christ from the prohibited list.”

“We understand the desire to protect the minds of young people but why include the name of Christ? What is obscene? Banning it is a violation of our right to evangelize and hurts the feelings of Christians,” Fr Shakir said on 21 Nov.

“If the ban is confirmed, it would be a black page for the country, a further act of discrimination against Christians and an open violation of Pakistan’s constitution,” he said.

The PTA has the authority to restrict speech under Article 19 of the Pakistani constitution.  While the law permits free speech, it is also “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by the law, in the interest of the glory of Islam.”

Questions as to the feasibility of the ban are misplaced, internet consultant Kevin Kallsen told The Church of England Newspaper.  “For a cellular operator, even in a developing country, filtering SMS messages is not a problem.  It does not slow delivery or effect normal network performance.”

“ However, If the operator had to notify you the message you sent was filtered; or the receiver that an incoming message was blocked that would slow down the system,” said Mr. Kallsen, the founder of Anglican TV.

“The issue in Pakistan is with the amount of words to be filtered. As comedian George Carlin said, there are only 11 ‘dirty’ words banned from commercial broadcasting in the U.S.  Taking 1600 words out of any language is beyond reason,” he argued.

Prayer as the Congo goes to the polls: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011 p 7. December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of the Congo, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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Bishop Sylvestre Bahati Balibusane of Bukavu

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Bukavu has asked for the prayer of the Anglican Communion for the people of the Congo as voters in Africa’s largest nation go to the polls this week.

While the country’s civil war officially came to a close in 2003, the Congo has yet to witness the dividends of peace as rebel troops and rival militias “have caused death of many people and have plunged the country in poverty due to a great insecurity,” wrote Bishop Sylvester Bahati Balibusane.

On 28 Nov 2011 the Congo’s 32 million voters were asked to choose from among 18,500 candidates competing for 500 seats in parliament.  President Joseph Kabila is also seeking reelection and is facing 10 rival candidates.

In the capital of Kinshasa, heavily armed police patrolled the streets on Sunday night in a bid to forestall partisan violence.  While the 2006 elections were generally viewed as free and fair, they were marked by gun battles between rival political groups.  UN Peacekeepers along with and helicopters from Angola and South Africa have ferried ballots to the 60,000 polling stations across the country.

The chairman of the electoral commission, Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, told Reuters the election was “going to be a celebration of democracy. The Congolese people are going to take the second step in the consolidation of their democracy. We have kept our promise.”

Bishop Balibusane wrote the five years since the last election has seen a “transformation of peace” in the Congo, with pockets of “insecurity from the militias” in the “east of the country.”

“The mandate of the current government is at the end. Congolese people are going to new presidential and legislative elections,” he wrote, but “as we know, elections in Africa are often a cause of war if the candidates cannot agree with the results.”

“Therefore, we require prayer assistance so that the elections in D.R. Congo may take place in peace with results contributing to the peace establishment everywhere in the country,” the bishop said.

Provisional results from the elections are expected to be released by 6 December 2011.

Charges dismissed in Lawrence case: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011 p 7. December 7, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops has dismissed charges of abandoning the communion of the Episcopal Church levelled against Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina.

The 22 November 2011 decision avoids a constitutional crisis in the Episcopal Church, canon lawyers tell The Church of England Newspaper, as it removes an immediate threat for conservative bishops of being dismissed from the Church if they do not kowtow to the will of the majority.

On 28 November 2011, Bishop Dorsey Henderson, the president of the board, released a statement saying the disciplinary board was “unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Church” at their meeting last week.

On 5 October Bishop Lawrence and the president of the South Carolina standing committee released a statement saying they had received a communication from Bishop Henderson stating that “serious charges” had been lodged against the bishop in the form of a 12-count, 63-page indictment brought by unnamed accusers from his diocese.

Independent canon lawyers questioned the propriety of bringing charges of abandoning the Episcopal Church against Bishop Lawrence. The Anglican Communion Institute criticised the fast-track investigation, noting the canons did not allow the board to dispense with the rules of procedure in the interests of a speedy resolution.

In an interview with Anglican TV, canon lawyer Allan Haley stated the prosecution of the case presented problems for the national Church. The Episcopal Church “has no constitutional court to decide this issue” of a conflict of laws and should it take action against Bishop Lawrence and South Carolina, it could not enforce its decisions through the civil courts, he said.

In his statement explaining the reasons for dismissing the charges, Bishop Henderson stated the abandonment canon under which the Bishop had been charged, could be used only in three situations. “By an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church”; “by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with” the Church; and, “by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church …”

“Applied strictly,” Bishop Henderson said, “none of these three provisions was deemed applicable by a majority of the Board” in the case of Bishop Lawrence.

The board also addressed the question of whether actions of a diocesan convention, that could be construed as an abandonment of the Episcopal Church and its discipline, was grounds for taking legal action against a bishop. “A majority of the members of the Board was unable to conclude that they do,” he said.

Bishop Lawrence had “repeatedly stated” that he was not leaving the Episcopal Church, nor did he want South Carolina to quit the Church. He sought only a “safe place within the Church to live the Christian faith as that diocese perceives it.”

In his view, Bishop Henderson stated that: “I presently take [Bishop Lawrence] at his word,” and added that he hoped the bishop would grant dissenters in his diocese the degree of latitude Bishop Lawrence hoped to receive from the national Church.

AMiA bishops break with Rwanda December 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican Ink.
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Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje

Bishop Chuck Murphy has rejected the godly admonition of Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje and he and the members of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) House of Bishops have broken with the Church of Rwanda.

In a letter dated 5 Dec 2011, Bishop Murphy and the AMiA House of Bishops announced that the Lord “is now doing” a “new thing” and that its bishops had decided to reject the discipline and oversight of Anglican Church of Rwanda .

Whether the clergy and congregations of the AMiA will follow their bishops into schism and out of the Anglican Communion is not known at this time.  However by this second secession in eleven years along with the adoption of a distinct Roman Catholic ecclesiology and sacramental theology, the AMiA appears to have given up its claim of being Anglican in order to follow its leader, Bishop Murphy.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Recant or resign, Rwanda tells Chuck Murphy: Anglican Ink, December 5, 2011 December 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican Ink.
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Bishop Chuck Murphy Photo : AMiA

The head of the Anglican Mission in America has been threatened with ecclesiastical discipline for contumacy.  Unless Bishop Chuck Murphy repents of his disobedience and apologizes for his offensive statements within seven days, the Rwanda House of Bishops will assume that he has “made a de facto choice to withdraw as primatial vicar” of the AMiA.

In letter from the Rwandan House of Bishops to Bishop Murphy dated 30 Nov 2011, the AMiA leader was chastised for disobedience and abuse of office.

“You have constantly disregarded the decisions and counsels of the House of Bishops” and have “misused the authority given to you by the Archbishop in advancing your new missionary society interests,” said the letter signed by the Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje and the Rwandan bishops.

The censure follows a 17 Nov 2011 meeting in Washington between Bishop Murphy and Archbishop Rwaje, which sources described as having had a full and frank exchange of views.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

No left behind fears in Fort Worth: Anglican Ink, December 5, 2011 December 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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St Timothy's Fort Worth

The vicar of the Fort Worth congregation that is set to depart for Rome believes his entire congregation will accept the pope’s offer of the Anglican Ordinariate.

The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC told Anglican Ink “we don’t think there will be any remnant which wishes to remain a part of the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth.”

On 2 December 2011 the Rt. Rev. Jack. L. Iker announced that the vicar and bishops’ committee – the term for a vestry in a mission congregation supported by a diocese – had petitioned the Vatican for the congregation of St Timothy’s to be received en masse into the Roman Catholic Church under the provisions of the Anglican Ordinariate.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted, December 5, 2011 December 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican.TV, Church of North India, Persecution, South Carolina.
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Kevin and George discuss the very latest news from the Province of Rwanda and its relationship with AMiA.  They also talk about interpreting Church Canons and the miracle from the Diocese of South Carolina.  Peter Ould discusses the dirty little secret of the Church of England — don’t worry, we have the same secret here in America.  And, finally AS Haley talks about another Bishop being deposed last week.

Adelaide rejects archbishop’s claim of abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011 p 7. December 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church, Traditional Anglican Communion.
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Archbishop John Hepworth

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide has rejected claims of rape leveled against a senior priest put forward by the primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), Archbishop John Hepworth.  On 28 Nov 2011, Archbishop David Wilson said an internal investigation concluded there was “no substance to the allegation” that Archbishop Hepworth was a raped by a priest in the early 1960s.

However, Archbishop Hepworth denounced the investigation as a farce, and has taken his complaint to the police.  He told The Australian “no victim in the world will be safe after this type of attack.”

In a September interview with the Weekend Australian, Archbishop Hepworth detailed 12 years of sexual abuse from the age of 15 at the hands of two priests and one seminary student while he was a student and priest in the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Ordained in 1968, Archbishop Hepworth said he took his concerns to diocesan officials in Adelaide, but they took no action. Auxiliary Bishop Philip Kennedy told the young priest that if he persisted in his complaints, he would “destroy” him, while Archbishop James Gleeson told Hepworth he would have to leave the diocese, if he persisted in pressing his accusations.

The archbishop said he “fled” to England after the diocese refused to act, and in 1972 took up work as a truck driver for Boots the Chemist. In 1976 Hepworth returned to Australia and was received by the Anglican Diocese of Ballarat, where he served until 1992 when he left to join what would become the Traditional Anglican Communion, becoming a bishop in 1996 and rising to primate in 2002.

In 2008, Archbishop Hepworth wrote to the Catholic Archbishops of Melbourne and Adelaide detailing the abuse he suffered. In August Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart reported that a formal inquiry had substantiated the TAC primate’s charges.

“We cannot change what has happened … You may never be rid of the memories or the hurt … On behalf of the Catholic Church and personally, I apologise to you and to those around you for the wrongs and hurt you have suffered,” Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart wrote.

However, Adelaide Archbishop Wilson released a statement on 28 Nov 2011 saying an independent inquiry into the allegations by Michael Abbott QC had found there was no truth in Archbishop Hepworth’s claims. “Based on the findings made in the report, and the evidence upon which it is based, I intend to accept the findings in full,” he said in a statement given to the press.

Archbishop Hepworth was not surprised by the outcome has he declined to cooperate with Adelaide investigation “because I was not permitted to see the terms of reference or scope of the inquiry”.

“I was told I would have to bear the costs of bringing witnesses before the inquiry, which I could not afford and I was also told that no witnesses would be indemnified,” he told The Australian.

“I am formally requesting the police to examine the matter,” Archbishop Hepworth said. “It was never my intention to go beyond the processes of the Church. I very much regret that I’m having to do that.”

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