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Australian bishop to the forces arrested on abuse charges: The Church of England Newspaper, July 4, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Roman Catholic Bishop to the Forces in Australia has been arrested for child abuse. The Rt. Rev. Max Davis, bishop of the diocese for the armed forces, is accused of abusing a student at St Benedict’s College near Perth in 1969. The Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia said in a statement: “An allegation has been made to the police that in 1969 Bishop Max Davis abused a student at St. Benedict’s College in New Norcia,” adding that “at that time ― 45 years ago ― the bishop was not ordained. The bishop emphatically denies the allegation and the charge will be defended.” The Australian Defence Force: “Bishop Davis has stood aside from his office as Catholic bishop of the ADF and Catholic member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services.”

ARCIC III meets in Durban: The Church of England Newspaper, May 30, 2014 June 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in ARCIC, Church of England Newspaper.
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The fourth meeting of the third session of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) concluded last week in Durban, releasing a communique affirming the need for further talks between the two churches. According to a press released distrusted at the close of the 12-20 May 2014 meeting in Durban, South Africa: “A wide range of papers was prepared for the meeting and discussed, taking the Commission further towards its goal of producing an agreed statement. The mandate for this third phase of ARCIC is to explore: the Church as Communion, local and universal, and how in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching.” Following the Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey’s 1966 meeting with Pope Paul VI, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission was established to find ways of achieving a reunion of the churches. Beginning in 1970 the first round of talks focused on the authority of Scripture, producing in 1981 the report “Elucidations on Authority in the Church.” A second round of talks was held between 1983 and 2004, producing an agreed statement on Marian theology in 2004. Pope John Paul II terminated talks in the wake of the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. In 2011 Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI initiated a third round of talks designed to find common ground on moral teachings.

Probation for parish treasurer guilty of stealing £60,000: Church of England Newspaper, May 23, 2014 June 3, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Crime.
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The treasurer of a Londonderry parish has been given a suspended sentence after having pled guilty to 19 counts of theft. On 30 April 2014 the Londonderry Crown Court handed down an 18 month sentence suspended for three years to Lyndsey Bredin (27) who pled guilty 19 counts of theft from Christ Church, Culmore, Muff and St Peter’s in the city. Bredin admitted to stealing the funds between March 2010 and October 2011. A statement from the Diocese of Derry & Raphoe reported that the judge told the Bredin, “It is extremely disappointing that not a penny has been repaid,” and noted the “offending has adversely affected the financial future of the churches for a very long time into the future.”  A spokesman for the parish said, “the theft has been traumatic and painful for church members and we are continuing to work together to face both the financial loss and pastoral consequences of our former treasurer’s breach of trust. Jesus’ call to forgive and pray for those who have wronged us is difficult and challenging. We can only continue to pray for the strength to behave, as God would have us,” adding that “we look forward to reading the judge’s full ruling to understand the appropriateness of a suspended sentence for a theft of some £60,000.”

Court orders police to finish church fraud investigation: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Crime.
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The Bombay High Court has directed police to complete their fraud investigation of four Church of North India Bishops accused of selling church lands for their personal profit. In an order handed down last Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Anuja Prabhudesai complained that the initial complaint had been filed in 2008 and that it was “high time” for the “investigation officer completes the probe.” In 2012 the former Bishop in Pune, the Rt Rev Vijay Sathe was arrested on charges of fraud, forgery and breach of trust for allegedly seeking to sell the Afghan Memorial Church in Bombay to property developers and pocketing the proceeds. The former bishops of Bombay, Pune and Gujarat were also ordered arrested by the court. All have since been released on bail. In a report dated 18 April 2009, VR Patil, the Maharashtra State law and judiciary department’s legal adviser, found that a “bogus” corporation entitled the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Private Limited had been created to “grab the properties of genuine Christian trusts” — the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Limited (BDTA) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in the Diocese of Bombay. “The bogus trustees indulged in many illegal activities to grab the property of BDTA Ltd and SPG by taking advantage of the similarity in the name of the bogus trust with the complainant’s trust,” the Patil report said. In 2004 the fake trust sought to redevelop the Afghan Memorial Church – a former Church of Scotland church built to honour the dead of the First Afghan War – prompting lay members of the congregation to go to the police.

Episcopal Church’s ecclesiology incoherent, report finds: The Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in ARCIC, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The lack of an authoritative universal magisterium for Anglicans prevents Catholics and the Episcopal Church of the USA from holding a common moral theology and ecclesiology, a document prepared by the US Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue commission has concluded. Released on 22 April 2014 “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness, represented “the latest landmark in our journey together as churches, and is a valuable contribution to an important topic,” commission co-chairman Bishop John  Bauerschmidt said. However, the document concluded that future ecumenical progress was unlikely as the “absence of an authoritative universal magisterium among the churches of the Anglican Communion marks a signal difference in the structure of teaching authority. … Without such a universal teaching authority it is difficult to state definitively the teaching Anglicans hold on many specific matters, beyond the governing documents and prayer book of each particular church. This fact marks a signal difference in the structure of teaching authority from the Roman Catholic Church and helps to explain a significant tension in the relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.” In their conclusion the commission stated: “It is hard to see how our differences in moral theology and ecclesiology will be resolved, and it is not clear to many whether they should be.”

Archdeacon sued for fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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The Diocese of Brandon in the Anglican Church of Canada last month filed suit against its former archdeacon seeking to recover C$350,000 embezzled by the Ven. Noah Njegovan, (30). In May 2013 Mr. Njegovan was arrested on charges of having committed a fraud while serving as executive archdeacon of the diocese and assistant to his father, Bishop James Njegovan. Prosecutors allege that between March and September 2012 Mr. Njegovan used a diocesan credit card and made online transfers of funds sent by congregations to the diocese for his personal use. In his address to the October 2012 meeting diocesan Synod Bishop Njegovan stated that his son had resigned in September 2012 as executive archdeacon and was moving to Winnipeg to pursue other opportunities. A forensic audit of diocesan accounts uncovered the fraud in December 2012, which led to the archdeacon’s arrest.

Archbishop’s kidnappers arraigned: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Crime.
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Three men have been arraigned before a magistrate in Port Harcourt, charged with 17 counts of kidnapping, including the number two man in theChurch of Nigeria. In a statement released by the Department of State Security (DSS) Chibueze Nwaogba, Onyedikachi Emmanuel Okoro and Philip Chikaodiri Ogbuewu were charged with the Sept 2013 abduction of the Most Rev. Ignatius Kattey, Bishop of Niger Delta North, Archbishop of the Province of the Niger Delta and Dean of the Church of Nigeria and 20 other victims. The Niger Delta State Director of the DSS, Mr. Apok Nyam, said on 17 April 2014 the three have been bound over for trial and will appear before the courts on 1 September 2014. On 6 Sept 2013 while driving to Port Harcourt to attend a meeting of the Church of Nigeria’s Standing Committee, the archbishop’s car was stopped at a roadblock. The gang seized the archbishop and held him for a week.  The complaint filed against the gang said a ransom of N10 million (£35,000) was paid to the kidnappers for the release of the archbishop.

Anglican Ordinariate falling short: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Anglican Ordinariate has failed to live up to its expectations for growth, Mgr Keith Newton, the ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham said on 14 April 2014 at a Chrism Mass held at its central church, Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, London. Joined by over 70 clergy and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop, Antonio Mennini, told the congregation of that “the Ordinariate has not grown as much as we hoped it might. The vision has not been caught.” He urged its members to “communicate more widely and with more vigour and enthusiasm” its vision adding: “We cannot be mediocre or lukewarm in our response to God’s overflowing grace if we are going to be missionary disciples.” With 85 priests and approximately 1500 lay members the Anglican Ordinariate in England and Wales was created by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 to allow former Anglicans to enter en masse the Catholic Church.

Lawsuit demands bishop release spending figures: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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The parish council of St Andrews Vicarage Church, Ngangelizwe has filed a complaint in the Eastern Cape High Court seeking an order requiring the Rt. Rev. Sitembele Mzamane, Bishop of Mthatha in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to release the diocese’s income statements. The 1 April 2014 lawsuit further asks that the bishop’s salary and benefits be made public, along with the salaries of all other diocesan employees. Parish Council president Humphrey Lusu stated that although canon law requires the church’s financial statements be made public, the bishop had declined to do so. On 15 September 2009 the 49th session of the synod for the diocese, which had formerly been known as the Diocese of St John’s Kaffraria until 2006, saw protests from the clergy over alleged misconduct by Bishop Mzamane. A petition was circulated calling for his resignation and formal charges were laid before Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba for review. No action was taken, however. The bishop must file an answer to the lawsuit by 15 April 2014.

Lord Williams applauds Iran outreach to Baha’is: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Bahá’í, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
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The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams of Oystermouth has lauded the call by a leading Iranian Shiite ayatollah for peaceful co-existence between Muslims and the Baha’is of Iran. On 7 April 2014 Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani Ayatollah Tehrani posted to his website the announcement that he was creating an illuminated calligraphic rendering of several verses from Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-i-Aqdas, the “Most Holy Book” of the Baha’is. “I present this precious symbol – an expression of sympathy and care from me and on behalf of all my open-minded fellow citizens who respect others for their humanity and not for their religion or way of worship – to all the Baha’is of the world, particularly to the Baha’is of Iran who have suffered in manifold ways as a result of blind religious prejudice,” the ayatollah said. The gift was of “immense significance” Lord Williams noted as it “represents not only a personally gracious gesture but also a strand within the Islamic world at its best and most creative which is deeply appreciative of all that helps human beings to respond to God’s will for peace and understanding.” The Baha’i World News Service reported the lead bishop in the Lords on foreign policy the Bishop of Coventry the Rt. Rev. Christopher Cocksworth had also applauded the gesture. “Given the systemic and long standing suffering experienced by the Baha’i community in Iran, this is an imaginatively courageous step by a senior Iranian Islamic scholar,” said Dr. Cocksworth on 9 April.

Bishops’ plea to vote against the BJP: The Church of England Newspaper, April 25, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India, Politics.
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The Moderator of the Church of South India has endorsed a joint pastoral letter with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hyderabad calling upon Christians in Andhra Pradesh not to cast their votes in support of sectarian political parties in the forthcoming elections for the state assembly and India’s federal parliament, the Lok Sabha. In a letter read in the states’ churches on 13 April 2013, Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam and Archbishop Thumma Bala asked Christians to “elect leaders who are close to people and their needs, and only vote for those who uphold secular character and promote communal harmony.” Bishop Dyvasirvadam told the Times of India he had taken the unprecedented step of offering political advice to protect Christians. “We are worried about the communal carnage that happened in Kandhamal, Orrisa and what is happening now. There could be a repeat in the state, if the voters do not take an anti-communal stand. We need a strong government to protect us,” Bishop Dyvasirvadam said.

Stockport vicar arrested for rape: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Diocese of Chester has confirmed that the vicar of St Michael and All Angels Church Bramhall in Stockport, the Rev. Simon March (54) has been arrested by the Greater Manchester Police on suspicion of rape.

A spokesman for the diocese told CEN: “We are shocked and surprised at the arrest of the Vicar of Bramhall and the allegations he faces. We will cooperate fully with police enquiries. Simon Marsh will be suspended from his parish duties. A senior priest will be asked to stand in and provide pastoral and church services support.”

A GMP spokesman said: “Police are investigating a report of historic sexual abuse in Bramhall. The offences occurred between 2011 and 2013 when the woman was aged between 16 and 19-years-old. A 54-year-old man from Bramhall has been arrested on suspicion of rape. He has now been bailed pending further enquiries. Enquiries are ongoing.”

SC accepts Global South supervision: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, GAFCON, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The 223rd annual convention of the Diocese of South Carolina has voted to accept an offer of temporary archiepiscopal oversight from the Global South Primates Steering Committee. On 15 March 2014 the delegates voted unanimously to accept the offer made in the February Cairo Communique of the GS Primates, while also aligning itself with the GAFCON movement. In his speech to the convention, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence said “this will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest Ecclesial entities within the Communion: one wihc includes Anglicans from a diverse body of believers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian Ocean and many, many others.” In 2012 the diocesan convention voted to quit the Episcopal Church in response to disputes over doctrine and disciple with the New York based national office, which led to moves to dismiss Bishop Lawrence from the ministry.

Death penalty for blasphemy for Lahore Christians: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.
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A Christian couple has been sentenced to death for blasphemy by a civil court in Lahore for sending blasphemous text messages. On 4 April 2014 a court in the Toba Tek Singh district ruled Shafaqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar were guilty of sending English-language text messages defaming Islam to two prominent Muslim activists. Lawyers for the accused noted the defendants were illiterate and further noted they did not speak English. The lawyers further noted that Mr. Emmanuel, who is disabled, and his wife, a waitress, were not the registered owners of the SIM card that was the source of the alleged message.  An appeal is planned. Their conviction follows the death sentence handed down last month to Christian sweeper Sawan Masih, who was also convicted of blasphemy. The NGO “World Vision in Progress” (WVIP), which has been supporting the couple, responded that “Kangaroo Justice is going on in this country called Pakistan.” They added that for the “last five months we [have been] yelling in front of the International community that all the victims of the Blasphemy Law will be awarded with the same punishment. … If a bold step [is not taken by] the Christian community soon, then it [will] become impossible for them to live in Pakistan.”

Francis links abortion with abuse, yet press doesn’t follow: GetReligion, April 16, 2014 May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Abuse, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Italian press has placed an interesting interpretation on Pope Francis’ Friday comments on the clergy abuse. It reports that in the pope’s mind clergy abuse of children is tied to the “abomination” of abortion. Look for this theme in the Anglo-American press and tell me if you can find it? I can’t.

Francis’ comments to the International Catholic Child Bureau meeting at the Vatican on April 11 received wide spread coverage. CNN reported:

Pope Francis made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church” who harm children.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the Pope said in remarks quoted by Vatican Radio.

As an aside, I chose CNN’s story over the others because of its aesthetic and journalist quality. It is really quite good. To my mind Daniel Burke is one of the most highly skilled writers covering religion and this article shows why he deserves that accolade. The language is tight, conveying the story in a minimum of words.  The story is told well with very little fluff or filler. The article is balanced — offering comments from abuse activists while also allowing Francis to speak. The author’s views on the issue can be discerned by the layout of the story — paragraph placement is one of the key elements in constructing an article — yet there is no preaching or bombast in a topic (clergy abuse of children) that is often spoilt by opinion masking as news. A great job all round.

Yet, Burke is back in America and must rely on material provided by others when reporting on Rome. Has he been given the full story by his stringers in Rome?

For on the same day as the pope spoke to the International Catholic Child Bureau, he addressed a pro-life group. For the Italian press, the messages Francis offered on the clergy abuse scandal and abortion were intertwined. The lede to the story ”Pedofilia, il Papa chiede perdono per gli abusi commessi dai sacerdoti” in the Milan-based Corriere della Sera makes this clear. (N.b. with a circulation of over 350,000 Corriere della Sera is one of Italy’s largest and most influential newspapers. It’s main competitors are the Rome’s la Repubblica and Turin’s La Stampa.) It states:

Pope Francis has asked “forgiveness” for the child abuse perpetrated by men of the Church. In unambiguous tones, Francis said: “I am called to this burden” to “ask for forgiveness”, and to assure you that we will not take any “step back” in addressing this problem and seeing that “penalties will be imposed.” Children should be protected and have a family, the pontiff said. “They have a right to grow up with a father and mother.” And before that children must be protected in the womb, he added, because “the unborn child is the innocent par excellence.” Drawing upon the words of the Second Vatican Council Francis added “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

The Corriere della Sera article gives a fuller picture of Francis’ views on the clergy abuse scandal than the CNN piece by stressing Francis’ argument that both are crimes against children and against God.

 

It could be argued that a pope condemning abortion is not news. However, Francis was the center of a media frenzy last year when in an interview the the Jesuit publicationAmerica, he said:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” …“The teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

This was interpreted by some media outlets as evidence that Francis would change, perhaps not the substance, but certainly the tone of church teachings. The New York Times lede to its September 19 story on the interview followed this line:

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

Why the silence from the Anglo-American press on the pope’s latest abortion comments? GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly has addressed the dichotomy between the coverage and reality of Francis’ views on abortion in other posts. Is there something in the mindset of American reporters that prevents them from making the link between abuse and abortion that the Corriere della Sera has made?

Vatican Radio and the Holy See Press Office / Vatican Information Service released reports on the addresses made by the pope, but these came out in separate stories. If all you had to work with were the press releases, connecting the dots may not have been obvious to US based reporters.

The “why” should also be examined in the context of “should”. Should CNN and other news outlets linked the abortion and abuse stories? Is this an editorial step too far byCorriere della Sera? Or have they offered the insight and context expected of quality newspapers?

My imperfect knowledge of the situation does not allow me to say CNN or the Corriere della Sera had it right. My instincts though tell me the Italian report gives a broader, and ultimately better, picture of what is actually happening in Rome.

So how many gay bishops are there in England?: GetReligion April 1, 2014  May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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Spinning a news story is not as easy as it seems. Too light a touch and an author fails to convince his audience of the merits of his cause. Too much can spin the ball out of the author’s control — touching upon so many issues and arguments that readers may become enamored with the “wrong” issue.

Take Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Aesthetically a beautiful film (and evil too), it fails as propaganda for any but the true believer because of its heavy hand.

(As an aside: Riefenstahl created the cinema-graphic technique of the long entrance. Hitler’s entrance to the rally builds and builds, tension and anticipation mount. The shots follow him through the bowels of the stadium and culminate in his entrance to the stage. Should you take delight in upsetting your political friends, compare the shots Riefenstahl used in Triumph of the Will to the staging of recent Democrat and Republican conventions — Bill Clinton followed Riefenstahl’s playbook almost scene by scene inside the convention halls.)

The key to good advocacy journalism, as it is in all things, is moderation. The best propaganda is subtle propaganda. Too many claims, too much hyperbole and you cheapen your story.

A line in a  piece published in the Daily Beast on gay clergy weddings for the Church of England illustrates the merits of moderation. Let me say at the outset that the story in the Daily Beast is an advocacy piece, published on an openly liberal website. As such, this is not normal GetReligion material. However, this is an opinion article cloaked in the mantle of a news story.

The tone, focus and editorial voice of the recent story “Meet the Gay Priest Getting Married” lauds the subject of the profile, a Church of England priest who has vowed to marry his gay partner despite being told such an act violated church rules.

But the plea for sympathy and support for the priest in his battle with a harsh and oppressive bureaucracy, was overshadowed by the article’s crucial claim that almost a third of the Church of England’s bishops are gay. The tabloids as well as the gayspecialty press picked up this statement and the issue de jour became hypocrisy on high — not the little guy fighting the good fight.

The Daily Beast reported:

The Church of England, which broke from the Vatican in 1534 so that Henry VIII could take a second wife, has often been celebrated for its accepting and open attitude. In fact, Cain estimated that a third of the clergy in London are gay. A clergyman, who did not wish to be named, claimed that at least 13 of the church’s 42 bishops were also gay, although they have not publicly acknowledged it. “Gay people have very often a heightened sensitivity to things of beauty and spirituality,” Cain suggested. “There are an awful lot of gay people in the church.”

Before I start on the gay bishop claim, let me say a word or two about the canard that England got a new church because Henry wanted a new wife. It didn’t quite work that way. Also, the Church of England does not see itself as having been founded in the 16th century. It is the same church that existed in those isles from the time of St Augustine of Canterbury (circa 6th century). But like the Orthodox some 400 years earlier, during the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I the Church of England declined to accept the universal authority of the Bishop of Rome in England.

And, the indigenous reform movement within the Church of England predated Henry’s divorce and remarriage to Ann Boleyn. Henry’s anger at the pope’s refusal to grant him an annulment (a refusal made on political grounds not theological) was the wedge political issue the English reformers were able to use to break free from the theological dictates of Rome. The English reformers were willing to disagree amongst themselves and with Rome over the theology of Eucharistic presence but were prepared to go to the stake over the issues of justification by faith, the Bible in the vernacular, the uniqueness of the death of Jesus and for the right to disagree over second order issues — the principle of adiaphora.

Once again, the frisson this article created, however, has not been over same-sex marriage and the clergy or even Henry VIII, it is the claim that a third of the Church of England’s bishops are gay.

Granted this appeared in the Daily Beast and the standards of attribution expected of traditional journalism is not the same as found in a mainstream newspaper. The expectations one would have of rigorous professionalism are not pertinent. But should it have printed this claim without further substantiation or explanation? Does not placing the claim into the mouth of an anonymous priest add to the impression that this is gossip?

The claim that 13 bishops are gay is not new. Changing Attitude, a gay advocacy group within the Church of England, has raised this issue over the years. However the definition of bishop in Changing Attitude’s tale is more expansive — it includes assistant and suffragan bishops and is not limited to diocesan bishops. In 1995 a gay rights group, Outrage! outed 10 Church of England bishops whom it claimed were gay, and demonstrators disrupted the consecration service of one of the 10, the Bishop of Durham, after he refused to come out of the closet.

The tale told by the Daily Beast about the Rev. Andrew Cain’s confrontation with his bishop was painful, and came close to being wicked. Towards the top of the article we read:

The priest, who oversees two parishes in North-West London, disclosed to The Daily Beast that he had been hauled in front of his bishop last week. Cain said he was summoned to the home of The Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton, along with a church human resources officer, and reprimanded for his open defiance of the ecclesiastical guidelines.

“He was offended about the fact that I was being public in my opposition to the bishops, and I said, ‘Well, actually I think you are wrong and I’m sorry but this is conscientious dissent,’” Cain said. “I’ve known him for 15 years—it was an extraordinarily awkward and difficult thing.”

Cain said the bishop tried to convince him to abandon his wedding plans and ordered him to stop criticizing the church’s position.

On the surface, this is merely a dressing down of Cain by his bishop. However, Bishop Wheatley is said to be one of the closeted 13.

The line that this was “an extraordinarily awkward and difficult thing” plunges home the knife of hypocrisy.

Which begs the questions behind this story: What is a gay man? Where does virtue lie? Is it someone who experiences same-sex attractions? Is it someone who experiences these attractions and acts upon them, but understands his actions to be sinful? Is it someone who experiences same-sex attractions, acts upon them, and believes these actions to be moral?

When questions were raised about his sexuality Wheatley told The Times he is “a celibate Christian living by Christian teachings.” If he is celibate does that make him gay?

Where do these 13 bishops whom the Daily Beast claims are gay stand? Are they celibate? Have they acted upon their sexual desires but believe that these actions are sinful and have repented? Do they believe homosexual acts are not sinful and feel free to act upon them so long as they keep quiet about it and not publicly contradict church teaching?

Precision in language is essential in these discussions about sexuality and marriage. The Daily Beast is what it is — an opinion journal. But that does not excuse it from fidelity to fact.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Propaganda vs. journalism in PBS Catholic abuse coverage: GetReligion, March 12, 2014 April 24, 2014

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Good Episcopalian that I am, I am ready to believe the worst about the Catholic Church.

Perhaps it was my upbringing, the culture in which I was formed, the schools where I was educated, my crowd. But accusations hurled against the Catholic Church of corruption, cruelty, mendacity — of being downright un-American –stick in the back of my mind. “Why not?”

I was also reared in Philadelphia and as a boy worshiped at the altar of the Eagles and Phillies. Longing and loss then were taught to me early on, as was support for the underdog.

Yet as much as I enjoy watching a good thrashing of the Vatican, I also am troubled by unfairness, foul play and sneakiness.

Which brings me to the documentary broadcast by PBS’s Frontline show entitled “Secrets of the Vatican“. This is an extraordinary film. It is beautifully made. I would not hesitate to say that the camera work, the musical scoring, the editing, and the writing are exquisite. Documentary film making does not get any better.

And yet, “Secrets of the Vatican” is also vile. Repulsive in that art and the extraordinary talent of its creators are put to malign purposes. It is propaganda — a film crafted to make arguments rather than to speak the truth.

At this point I must stop and respond to the cries of two competing choruses. My opening remarks about my own anti-Catholic bigotry are hyperbole designed to introduced the topic of bias. Nor am I claiming “Secrets of the Vatican” has suborned perjury from those whom it has presented on film.

It is, however, exaggerated, unbalanced, and seeks to inflame rather than inform. I do not expect a plaintiff’s attorney who specializes in clergy sexual abuse cases to present both sides of an argument in the documentary, but I would expect a film maker to do so, giving voice to the opposing side.

Catholic commentators have excoriated the film, accusing it of rehashing old stories and telling only half the tale. The popular conservative blogger Fr. Z wrote:

 The objectives of the show are to pin all responsibility for every case of clerical sexual abuse not just on local authorities but on “the Vatican”, to detach sexual abuse from homosexuality, to undermine a celibate clergy, and to convince you that there are more homosexual priests than there really are.  Finally, Pope Francis is the most wonderfullest Pope ehvurrr.

Let’s look at one vignette from the film — the claim that Catholic clergy are more likely to be child molesters than non-Catholic clergy — that illustrates my disquiet.

Frontline interviewed Dr. Martin Kafka, a Harvard University psychiatrist who has studied this issue. Kafka made the claim:

The number of Catholic clergy who are accused of or prosecuted for child and adolescent sexual abuse vastly outnumber the number of Protestant clergy.

Taken in isolation this statement could be construed to mean that reports of child abuse by Catholic clergy “vastly outnumber” reports of child abuse by Protestant clergy. That would be a statistic compiled by the FBI that would speak to reports of abuse.

However, in light of the surrounding comments, images and testimony offered by the film, the implication of Dr. Kafka’s statement is that Catholic clergy are more likely to offend than non-Catholic clergy.

 

The link comes in through the discussion of repressed sexuality and the film’s advocacy for allowing Catholic clergy to marry.

As a religion reporter I have covered the clergy abuse scandals for over a decade, but my reporting has focused on the Episcopal and Anglican churches. The Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the US, and the Anglican churches in Australia and Canada have seen their fair share of abuse cases. The scandal even touched the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who received into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church in Nevada a laicized Catholic priest who had been disciplined for abusing children while he was a choirmaster in Missouri and Minnesota — but did not tell the parish in Las Vegas where he had been assigned about his past.

But there has never been any evidence or study that I have read that substantiates claims that Catholic clergy are more likely to offend than Protestant clergy.

The Denver Post‘s Electa Draper addressed this issue in 2010 — and I have seen nothing that would challenge her reporting.

Draper states that while no studies comparing the rate of abuse between different denominations and faiths has been made that would substantiate the claim that Catholics are more likely to offend, the insurance companies who insure churches against abuse claims do not charge Catholics higher premiums than Protestants.

Wisconsin-based Church Mutual Insurance Co. has 100,000 client churches and has seen a steady filing of about five sexual molestation cases a week for more than a decade, even though its client base has grown. “It would be incorrect to call it a Catholic problem,” said Church Mutual’s risk control manager, Rick Schaber. “We do not see one denomination above another. It’s equal. It’s also equal among large metropolitan churches and small rural churches.”

Iowa-based Guide One Center for Risk Management, which insures more than 40,000 congregations, also said Catholic churches are not considered a greater risk or charged higher premiums. “Our claims experience shows this happens evenly across denominations,” said spokeswoman Melanie Stonewall.

She also reports that the:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President Ernie Allen said his organization has received more than 825,000 reports of child abuse and does not see any statistical indication the Catholic Church has a greater prevalence of cases than any other setting — after accounting for the size of the church, the largest Christian denomination in the U.S. and the world.

“There is a common denominator among those who abuse children,” Allen said. “They seek out situations where they have easy access and cover. It should surprise nobody that an abuser is a teacher, coach, youth leader, pediatrician, minister, priest or rabbi.”

This is what we call reporting. What we see in “Secrets of the Vatican” is called propaganda.

Carry on and Keep quiet when reporting on religion in China: GetReligion, March 9, 2014  April 24, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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“Why does the press soft pedal links between terrorism and Islam?” was the question under discussion in this week’s edition of Crossroads, a Get Religion podcast produced in conjunction with Lutheran Public Radio’s Issues Etc host Todd Wilken.

“I don’t know why, but it does” — pretty well sums up the show. Last week’s Kunming terror attack, which left 29 dead and almost 150 injured, was our point of entry into the debate. In the media coverage of the Kunming incident I argued it was possible to see two divergent themes. Chinese press outlets were quick to label the incident as a terrorist attack. State officials were quoted describing the attack as terrorism, while eyewitness accounts called the knife-wielding assailants as terrorists. Yet the hand of government censorship could be seen in the Chinese press accounts as no mention was made of religion or politics.

Several Western press outlets were squeamish about using the word terrorism to describe the attack — placing it in quotes or allowing it to appear only in the words of Chinese government officials. However, the Western press did shine a light (though rather dimly) on areas the Chinese government sought to keep dark. They identified the attackers as members of the Uighar minority group from Northwest China and noted the on-going ethnic tension in that part of the country between the Uighars and Han Chinese. The Western press was not as one in reporting on the Muslim faith of the Uighars. Some outlets like the New York Times mentioned Islam at the top of their stories. The Associated Press placed it in the middle of their story. CNN in the last paragraph, while the Telegraph made no mention of it at all.

The Chinese government’s silence about religious strife I observed was predictable as it reflected a long standing policy of state control/accommodation of the major religious faiths in support of the Communist Party’s official goal of promoting a harmonioussociety.

The silence about Islam and terrorism from the Western press I could not readily explain without resorting to facile nostrums of political correctness or ignorance. The specialist literature has noted the links between radical Islam and Uighar separatism, while the first day reports in the Western press described the unusual killing style adopted by the terrorists — using knives and swords they attempted to strike at the necks of their victims to decapitate them (a hallmark of Islamic terrorism).

 

Western reporting from China is a delicate business. If you look too closely into some corners you will lose your visa and have to leave the country. Though I have never reported from China I know several members of the trade who have. One conversation I had several years ago focused on the relative silence about the role of religion in Chinese life found in Western press reports. Save for the occasional specialist stories about the House Church movement, we did not hear much about religion. Was China like Japan, I asked? A country where religion plays a much smaller role in civic life than in the US?

The answer I received (admittedly given whilst chatting in an airport bar in Africa, an environment not calculated for the deepest ruminations on the craft of reporting and religion I admit) was that it was a mug’s game to try to work in the religion angle in stories from China. You were likely to displease your hosts jeopardizing your access to sources (and even the country itself) while your editors in London were uninterested in the religion angle anyway. Why go to all that bother? Stick to politics, economics — be bold about corruption but don’t pick a fight in a battle you were not likely to win — was the sage advice I received.

Over the past ten years the internet has changed the mechanics of reporting in ways I could not have predicted. Maybe the old ways of the Fleet Street hack have passed into oblivion. Perhaps, but in the Kunming affair my sense of the story is that disinterest from the Western press and hostility from the Chinese government have closed a profitable avenue of investigation. Self-censorship is not always a deliberate act.

Silence about terrorism and Islam in the Kunming attack: GetReligion, March 5, 2014  April 24, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Islam, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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What was it about the murder of 29 men, women and children on Saturday at the Kunming train station that does not qualify make it an act of terrorism? And why is the press so shy about connecting the dots on this incident to the wider campaign being waged by Islamist terrorists? Can the word terrorism no longer be used in polite company?

The first news story I saw came from the state-run Xinhua News Agency which announced that on the night of March 1, 2014 a gang invaded the central waiting room of the Kunming train station in China’s Yunnan province. Armed with knives the attackers attacked people waiting for their trains and police officers, killing 28 and in jured 113 (the numbers were later revised to 29 dead and 143 wounded.)

Police shot five of the assailants dead. The identity of the attackers was not given, but the incident was described as:

an organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack, according to the authorities.

The report stated the killers were dressed in black and attacked their victims with knives. Xinhua was able to quote eye witness accounts of the attack. saying:

Chen Guizhen, a 50-year-old woman, told Xinhua at the hospital that her husband Xiong Wenguang, 59, was killed in the attack. “Why are the terrorists so cruel? ” moaned Chen, holding her husband’s ID card in blood with her trembling hands.

So we have a group of black clad knife welding assailants rushing into a busy urban train station and randomly maiming and killing 172 people. The government describes it as a terrorist act and a witness calls the attackers terrorists. Let me go out on a limb and say the attackers were likely to have been terrorists.

Xinhua did not identify who the attackers were, but at the close of their story recounted two recent terrorist attacks. While not naming names, Xinhua implied the attack was the work of militants from northwest China’s Xinjiang province — the Muslim Uighar people.

In the first press reports many western news outlets were reticent in describing the attack as terrorism, or they placed the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” in quotes either in the title or in the body of the story.

The New York Times report described the attack in terms usually reserved for a clash between groups. A “group of assailants wielding knives stormed into a railway station” and proceeded to kill and injure scores of travelers. The NY Times identifies the “assailants” as Uighars, citing local government sources, and states:

The attack, in Yunnan Province, was far from Xinjiang, and if carried out by members of the largely Muslim Uighur minority could imply that the volatile tensions between them and the government might be spilling beyond that restive region.

But the language of the story shifts. “The violence erupted …”;  “the attack would be the worst …”; “The latest attack appears …”; “After the slashing attack, President Xi Jinping of China said …” — why the reticence in using the word terror, terrorism, terrorist?

CNN was equally shy,writing:

Members of a separatist group from Xinjiang, in northwest China, are believed to have carried out the assault, authorities said. The report referred to them as “terrorists.”

The mention of Islam is pushed to the last paragraph of the story while CNN plays the trick of having the Chinese government use the word terrorist.

The circumlocutions were such that the People’s Daily — the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper — denounced Western news reports as biased for failing to describe the attack as an act of terrorism.

The international community strongly condemned this cruel attack, but the coverage of the incident by a few Western media organizations, including CNN, Associated Press, The New York Times, and the Washington Post was dishonest and appeared to be directed by ulterior motives. Emanating from such loud advocates of “the fight against terrorism”, the coverage was insulting and has led to widespread resentment in China.

There was extensive evidence at the crime scene to leave no doubt that the Kunming Railway station attack was nothing other than a violent terrorist crime. But regardless of this evidence, some western media organizations were unwilling to use the word “terrorism” in their coverage. CNN’s report on March 3 put the word “terrorists” in quotation marks, and offered the view that “mass knife attacks” are “not unprecedented” in China. The intention here was to associate this terrorist incident with a number of attacks that occurred in 2010 and 2012, all the more disgusting because these attacks happened at schools, they were conducted by individuals who were clearly mentally disturbed, and their victims were children. None of the perpetrators had any political connections, or any political motives. The Associated Press report used the term “described by the authorities as” to qualify their use of the word “terrorists”. The New York Times and the Washington Post called the terrorists “attackers”.

The People’s Daily article is not above reproach, however. It ignores the religious aspect of the attack and argues that the relations between the majority Han Chinese and minority Uighars are good.

In their depictions of the background to the attack, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post all ignored the significant social progress that has been made in Xinjing, instead focusing on the problem of “relations between China’s ethnic groups”

Making an editorial decision to omit the t-word by Western press agencies has stirred up the Chinese government. But where is the religion ghost? Is the demographic fact that most Uighars are Muslims sufficient to start the Islamist terrorist theme for this story? No, that is not enough.

However there is evidence of an Islamist terror connection based on how the attack unfolded that many religion reporters would have picked up from the eyewitness accounts. The first day report from the Associated Press reported that one witness saw one of the killers slash at the neck of one victim. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported:

A 20-year-old university student, Wu Yuheng, says the attackers tried to target people’s heads. One had swiped his long knife and just nicked him on the scalp.

“I was terrified … they attacked us like crazy swordsmen, and mostly they went for the head and the shoulders, those parts of the body to kill,” he said, lying on a hospital bed.

In the Spring 2005 issue of the Middle East Quarterly Timothy Furnish published an article entitled “Beheading in the name of Islam”.

Decapitation has become the latest fashion. In many ways, it sends terrorism back to the future. Unlike hijackings and car bombs, ritual beheading has a long precedent in Islamic theology and history.

Furnish argues that decapitation is one of the hallmarks of modern Islamist terrorism. In investigating these attacks, should not reporters have pushed this envelope? In all of the press reports I have read I have not seen any questions about what the killers said when they were on the rampage. Where they silent? Where they screaming unintelligible words? Were they shouting “Allahu Akbar”?

Asking whether the past actions of separatist extremist groups with suspected links to militant Islam and the unique way in which this attack was carried out point to a religion motivation in the attacks?

Perhaps that is asking too much. If the Western press is uncomfortable describing such attacks as terrorism, how can they even begin to be even less politically incorrect and look to the links to militant Islam?

Sausage making and news reporting on Zanzibar: GetReligion, February 27, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Get Religion, Press criticism, Terrorism.
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Otto von Bismark’s reputed maxim: “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made …” could be applied to the crafting of a news story.

Most readers do not concern themselves with how a story came to be and accept the finished product of a news story as “the story.” In the age of the internet and declining standards and budgets for the once great news outlets this is not always a wise move.

Now approaching everything one reads with absolute skepticism is a tedious business. There will always be cranks who see the hidden hands of Freemasons, international Jewry or the vast right wing conspiracy lurking behind the text. Readers must balance their skepticism against the trust they have in the publication or author.

If Walter Cronkite said it, it had to be true. If it appears in the National Enquirer it has to be false.

But as history has shown us, the icons of of good and bad journalism, like the sayings everyone knows to be true because we’ve heard them so often, are not always so.Walter Cronkite in his broadcast of Feb 27, 1968 was wrong about the Tet Offensive, the National Enquirer was right about John Edwards in 2007, and Otto von Bismarknever said anything about laws and sausages.

These musings were prompted by a story in the Washington Post from the Religion News Service entitled “Bombs explode Zanzibar calm as religious tensions flare” where RNS bungles the lede.

In the classical Anglo-American style of reporting the lede sentence is where the voice of the author is heard. The lede lays down the tracks that sets the destination for the news train that follows. My instructors in the craft likened the process to organizing a goods train. While the lede gives the destination and names the passengers and freight, the paragraphs that follow are akin to freight cars — each with its own cargo.

Opinions are welcome, but they should be from identifiable third parties, as is analysis, but it should be identified as such. This differs from advocacy reporting where facts are interspersed with opinion throughout a story in order to convince the reader of the merits of the writer’s view.

The RNS story begins:

After months of calm in Zanzibar, two homemade bombs exploded Monday (Feb. 24) near St. Monica Anglican Cathedral and the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for tourists visiting the Indian Ocean archipelago.

No one was hurt, but one day earlier, four people were injured in another explosion, targeting an Assemblies of God church.

The article then proceeds to lay out the name of the suspected attackers, offer a comment from the Anglican bishop of the island, and then provide background on past attacks by Islamic militants on Christians and tourists in Zanzibar. These paragraphs are fine, but the lede I find problematic.

A disclaimer — I have visited the cathedral in Zanzibar and know its dean (the priest in charge). This having been said, the name of the cathedral is Christ Church Cathedral. St. Monica’s is the hostel next to the cathedral.

The dean emailed me shortly after the blast with news of the attack stating the bombs exploded at the entrance to the cathedral compound. In 2012 St Monica’s was damaged by a mob of Islamic militants — but this time round it was the cathedral that was attacked.

It might well be the case that the bishop quoted in the article said St Monica’s had been damaged in the blast and this was interpreted by the reporter to mean the cathedral. This is not a fatal error.

What concerns me more, however, is the opening phrase “after months of calm”. The article appears to contradict this assertion by noting an Assemblies of God church was attacked earlier in the week. But if the author means to imply that this attack came out of the blue — and broke a tranquility of the island, then he is seriously misinformed.

There has been an on-going campaign of aggression against native Christians in Zanzibar waged by the Islamic terror group named in the article. Western news sources pick up reports of European tourists, Catholic priests and Anglican cathedrals being attacked, but the harassment of the Christian minority is a daily fact of life.

Setting the direction of the story by implying the bombing of Christ Church Cathedral was an aberration that broke “months of calm” creates a false framework. While this is a wire service story and there is only so much context that can be given — it would have helped explain the story by noting there will be a referendum in April in Zanzibar on Tanzania’s new constitution. The militants want Zanzibar to secede from Tanzania and establish the island as an Islamic republic.

The story would have been improved had RNS tied the political to the religious aspects of this story.

Sausage making photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First published at GetReligion.

Sussex cleric banned for Life: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Diocese of Chichester has banned a retired clergyman imprisoned for child abuse in 2013, the Rev. Wilkie Denford from “ministerial practice for life.”

On 21 March 2014 the diocese released a statement saying: “Following the conclusion of criminal proceedings and a subsequent statutory disciplinary process under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, sentences of prohibition for life from exercising any functions of ordained ministry within the Church of England have been imposed upon the Reverend Keith (Wilkie) Denford. The sentences are imposed under Section 30 of the Clergy Discipline Measure following the respondents’ convictions and imprisonment for a series of indecent assaults, including offences against minors.”

In May 2013 Denford was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Hove Crown Court for sexually abusing two teenage boys.  “There can be no greater breach of trust than a man playing the role of a man of God, and as the spiritual adviser to the family concerned, to take advantage of that position to abuse small children,” Judge Paul Tain told Denford at his sentencing.

In a 9 May 2013 statement released after the sentence was handed down, the Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner, said “today will mark a milestone for the survivors who have had to live through this trial.  To them we offer an unreserved apology and an assurance that we have heard and we believe the terrible story they have had to tell.”

South African church back Thuli: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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Church leaders in South Africa have defended the country’s Public Protector – the top anti-corruption official – from attacks made by allies of President Jacob Zuma over corruption allegations. In a statement released on 18 March 2014, the Most Rev Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town said: “We in the churches deeply regret that certain clergy have ganged up against the Public Protector in the name of the Church. They have done so without adequate knowledge of her reports and their intervention only serves to undermine the fight against corruption.” On 19 March 2014 Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, reported that almost £24 million of public money had been spent to improve the private residence of President Jacob Zuma. The expenditures were not related to security but were luxurious upgrades to the country estate. “It is shameful to see the dirty tactics being employed” to smear the Public Protector the archbishop said.  The Rt. Rev. Rubin Philip of Natal along with other religious leaders of KwaZulu-Natal released a statement noting the Public Protector’s office is “a vital institution which should be given all the support that it deserves, rather than be undermined. If we are patriots with a genuine love for our beautiful country and willing to see it occupy its rightful place in the world of nations, then we have no option but to unreservedly stand in solidarity with it.”

South Carolina accepts archepiscopal oversight from Global South: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Global South, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The 223rd annual convention of the Diocese of South Carolina has voted to accept an offer of temporary archiepiscopal oversight from the Global South Primates Steering Committee. On 15 March 2014 the delegates voted unanimously to accept the offer made in the February Cairo Communique of the GS Primates, while also aligning itself with the GAFCON movement. In his speech to the convention, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence said “this will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest Ecclesial entities within the Communion: one wihc includes Anglicans from a diverse body of believers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian Ocean and many, many others.” In 2012 the diocesan convention voted to quit the Episcopal Church in response to disputes over doctrine and disciple with the New York based national office, which led to moves to dismiss Bishop Lawrence from the ministry.

Celibacy in marriage a sin, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa, Marriage.
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Celibacy in marriage is a sin, the Bishop of Sunyani told his diocesan Mothers Union last week. The Rt. Rev. Festus Yeboah-Asuamah to the MU that wives who withhold sexual congress from their husbands are sinning against God and their husbands, prompting their husbands to commit adultery.  “This does not mean men should also over-stretch their wives in sex,” he observed, but noted some wives placed church work above sex.  “Some women had engaged themselves with religious activities to the extent that they do not even have time to satisfied their husbands sexually. This habit, the Bishop said, was a contributory factor to sexual promiscuity by men, which had torn homes and families apart.” The bishop affirmed the church’s teaching that marriage was a lifelong union of a man and a woman and whose purposes as set forth in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer.  Mutual flourishing was based not on a mirrored set of responsibilities, but upon the complimentarity of man and woman. Husbands and wives had distinct rolls to fulfill in marriage, but it was a mistake to segregate the relationship into mens’ and women’s work. Each had a responsibility to raise the children, maintain the peace and purity of the marital home, and provide economic support, he said.

Gay rights are not human rights, Archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, March 21, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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Gay rights are not human rights as understood by the Christian tradition of natural law, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala told reporters on 9 March 2014 after services at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. His remarks came in response to demands made by MPs that the country’s colonial era sodomy laws be stiffened along the lines of recent reforms of Uganda’s criminal code. The archbishop said he did not support change stating it was unnecessary as “Kenya’s constitution clearly outlaws” gross indecency. From the Anglican Church’s perspective, “we are very clear when it comes to matters of relationship which should be between two opposite sexes,” he told The Star, adding it was a false anthropology, however, to conflate actions with individuals. A person was much more than his sexual appetites. It was also wrong to raise an action to the level of a human right. “Human rights and rights are different. Human rights have no values while rights have values,” he told said.

Zanzibar Cathedral attacked by terrorists: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Church of England Newspaper, Terrorism.
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Islamist militants have bombed Christ Church Cathedral in Zanzibar. The attack comes amidst a rise of political and anti-Christian agitation as the East African archipelago prepares to vote in an April referendum calling for independence from Tanzania.

On 24 February 2014 two explosions rocked the main entrance to Christ Church Cathedral and the Old Slave Market – the island’s largest tourist attraction. A tourist bar in Stone Town and a Pentecostal church were also attacked.

The Vicar General of Zanzibar told the Church of England Newspaper there were no fatalities in the blast. “We thank God there were no injuries,” he wrote in an email shortly after the attack.

“Police are investigating and have swept the compound. We are assessing the situation, in contact with multiple agencies and Western government officials. The British Consul was on site almost immediately and a tremendous help to us. The people here are obviously shaken.”
Zanzibar has been the scene of several attacks on native Christians and Western tourists. In October 2012 the cathedral was attacked after militant Islamists rioted in the wake of the disappearance of a leading Muslim cleric.

Anglican leaders were evacuated after Islamist militants issued death threats against Bishop Michael Hafidh and foreign clergy serving on the island. Built on the site of the former slave market of Zanzibar, the Nineteenth century cathedral is one of the island’s leading tourist attractions. It also hosted Dr. Rowan Williams and the primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007.

The Muslim Mobilization and Propagation Group (UAMSHO) has called for the dissolution of the United Republic of Tanzania and the creation of an Islamist state for the island of Zanzibar. UAMSHO cadres have also demanded the expulsion of Zanzibar’s Christians, saying they have no place on the island.
UAMSHO has also been suspected of involvement in a series of shootings and acid attacks on Christians, as well as arson attacks on rural churches on the island.

In August 2013 Islamist terrorists attacked two British teenagers, throwing acid on the girls as they were walking in the Shangani section of Stone Town, the island’s capital.

A Roman Catholic priest was severely injured last September after terrorists threw acid in his face while he was walking along a busy street in the town’s commercial district. A Catholic priest was shot to death while standing at the doorstep of his church in Zanzibar on 17 Feb 2013, while on Christmas Day gunmen shot and seriously wounded a Catholic priest as he was returning home from services.

 

Suffolk clergyman arrested for fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, March 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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A Suffolk clergyman has been suspended by the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich following his arrest last week on suspicion of fraud.

Last month the diocese placed the Rev Canon Ian Finn, the rector of St Mary the Virgin in Haverhill,  on extended leave after allegations of misappropriating wedding and funeral fees were raised.

The Suffolk Constabulary released a statement noting a “55 year old man from Haverhill who was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation on Tuesday (March 4), and taken to the Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre (PIC) for questioning, has been bailed to return to Bury PIC on April 2 pending further enquiries.”

A diocesan spokesman said confirmed Canon Finn had been suspended and but added the “police are investigating and it is therefore inappropriate for the Church to make any comment at this stage.”

Last month the diocese released a statement stating Canon Finn had explained the misappropriation of funds was “entirely the result of administrative and accounting mistakes, rather than any deliberate acts.

“He has already refunded to the diocese what he currently believes to be owing.”

“He has already cooperated fully over the matter and will continue to do so.”

Secret Cairo meeting yields dividends for Justin Welby: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Global South.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has bolstered his wavering support from overseas church leaders following a closed door meeting last week in Cairo with Asian, African and South American archbishops.

The day after the House of Bishops approved its Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, the Most Rev. Justin Welby met in private with the steering committee of the Global South Primates at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo to explain the Church of England’s stance on same-sex marriage and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Accompanied by his director of reconciliation, Canon David Porter, Dr. Welby alleviated fears the Church of England would be changing its teaching on the morality of homosexual practice by permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and allowing married gay clergy amongst its ranks.  The archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda had warned publicly the archbishop in recent months that they were prepared to break with Canterbury should the Church of England follow the British government’s lead on gay marriage.

Sources tell The Church of England Newspaper that while the overseas primates did not relent in their demands that Dr. Welby take action to discipline the Episcopal Church of the USA, they were pleased with the Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance and applauded the course taken by the Church of England and in a statement released on 20 Feb applauded the “faithfulness of the Church of England in this regard is a great encouragement to our Provinces, and indeed the rest of the Communion, especially those facing hardships and wars.”

The statement, which received the backing of all but the Church of Nigeria who abstained, withdraws pressure on Dr. Welby from the specter of the Anglican Mission in England – the shadow organization backed by the 2013 Gafcon meeting in Nairobi to support traditionalists should the Church of England slide into chaos.

The 14-15 Feb 2014 meeting was conducted in secrecy. Queried by the CEN as to the archbishop’s activities when Dr. Welby was spotted on the ground in Africa, Lambeth Palace declined to answer.  A spokesman for the archbishop later confirmed Dr. Welby had visited Cairo at the invitation of the Bishop of Egypt Dr. Mouneer to “hear from the Global South Steering Committee.”

However, the Lambeth Palace spokesman said this meeting was not out of the ordinary as “he is visiting all the Primates of the Anglican Communion to listen to their perspectives.”

In its statement the Global South group welcomed the “frank discussion, open sharing, and spirit of unity among us. We are also encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s emphases on renewal, mission and evangelism within the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion.”

However they asked Dr. Welby to convene a primates meeting in 2015, but at this meeting they requested the agenda focus on the “deteriorating situation facing the Anglican Communion.”

The Anglican Communion was not working, they said, and was “currently suffering from broken relations, a lack of trust, and dysfunctional ‘instruments of unity’.”

“We realize that the time has come to address the ecclesial deficit, the mutual accountability and re-shaping the instruments of unity by following through the recommendations mentioned in the Windsor Report (2004), the Primates Meetings in Dromantine (2005) and Dar es Salam (2007), and the Windsor Continuation Group report,” the Global South leaders said.

Church property cannot be used to compensate abuse victims says archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

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The Anglican Church of Australia has urged a Royal Commission investigating child abuse to distinguish between legal and moral responsibility for the crimes of abhorrent clergy and church workers, noting the national church is not liable for the actions of individuals.

Church lands and buildings thus cannot be sold to compensate victims of child abuse, the church argued.

submission made following investigations into the Diocese of Grafton’s handling of child abuse at a church run children’s home in Lismore stated, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall wrote “However, as the assets of all dioceses in Australia are usually held on charitable trusts the Commission should examine the terms upon which assets are held before concluding that they are available for a purpose such as paying compensation claims.”

The paper prepared by Dr. Aspinall, the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Secretary Martin Drevikovsky and the Diocese of Brisbane’s Professional Standards Director Rodney McLary came in response to a finding by the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, that the Diocese of Grafton had sufficient assets to settle abuse claims arising from the North Coast Children’s Home abuse cases.

In a harsh indictment of the diocese and its leaders, Mr. Beckett concluded the church had put its financial interests ahead of the good of the victims.  ”The evidence established that the diocese was able to liquidate a substantial number of assets in order to service the debt incurred from the Clarence Valley Anglican School,” Mr. Beckett wrote, “but did not do so for those claiming they had suffered from child sexual abuse.”

While not excusing the actions of the Bishop of Grafton and diocesan officials, Dr. Aspinall urged the commission to be more precise in its terms.

“The Anglican Diocese of Grafton was at all relevant times an unincorporated association with a fluctuating membership. At all relevant times prior to 1 January 1962 the Anglican Diocese of Grafton was part of the Church of England. The Anglican Church of Australia did not exist until 1962. It is submitted that the Commission needs to be explicit as to what is meant by the term ‘had responsibility’. If it is legal responsibility then that was with the particular Management Committee constituted from time to time. If it is ‘moral responsibility’ it raises a range of issues and circumstances in which individuals could, in good faith, reach different conclusions about what are the relevant moral principles and how they should they be applied,” the submission stated.

The question of compensation for abuse has arisen in a number of the cases examined by the commission, however under Australian law the charitable trust status of churches and some institutes is a legal bar to their being held liable for abuse.

Episcopal Church to put more money into the indaba project: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA has asked the church’s executive council to give an extra $312,000 to the Anglican Consultative Council to support the work of the continuing indaba process.

At its meeting last week, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori proposed increasing the three year grant approved by the 2012 General Convention from $700,000 to $1,012,000. Unless the grant were increased, the presiding bishop noted, the US church would only contribute $25,000 to the ACC in 2015, as it had budgeted giving $675,000 to the London-based organization for 2013 and 2014.

Organized by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, indaba is a project of facilitated conversations between the US and Canadian churches and the churches in the developing world. Organized and staffed by the Anglican Consultative Council in London, the project has come under fierce criticism from conservatives and has been denounced by the Gafcon movement for its perceived bias in favor of the progressive agenda.

While the proposal is likely to be approved by the October meeting of the executive council which will set the budget for 2015, the request highlights a growing split between the General Convention and the executive council over the limits of authority within the church.

The amount budgeted for the ACC was the subject of strong debate at the 2012 General Convention with many deputies to the meeting questioning the value for money provided by the ACC. Unilaterally raising the ACC budget by the executive council follows its rejection of the General Convention’s vote to sell the New York office building that houses the presiding bishop and her staff, and relocate to a cheaper and more centrally located facility.

 

Lifetime ban on 2 Chichester clergy imposed: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Two Chichester clergymen jailed for child abuse have been given a life-time ban on exercising any functions on ordained ministry.

On 14 February 2014 the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner said that in light of the conclusion of the criminal cases against the Revs Gordon Rideout and Robert Coles and their subsequent incarceration, the ban had been imposed under Section 30 of the Clergy Discipline Measure.

“A sentence of prohibition for life is the most severe sanction that can be imposed under the Clergy Discipline Measure and is a further indication of the gravity of the offences committed,” the bishop said.

“Whilst neither of the clergy in question has been permitted to function as clergy in the Diocese of Chichester since their respective arrests, the imposition of these sentences now concludes the Church’s disciplinary processes. I hope this announcement is of some comfort to the survivors of abuse, both within the Diocese of Chichester and more widely.”

In February 2013 Coles (72) was jailed for eight years Brighton Crown Court after he pled guilty on 14 Dec 2012 to 11 counts of child abuse committed between 1978 to 1984 in West Sussex, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Isle of Wight.

On 20 May 2013 the jury found Rideout (74) guilty of 31 incidents of abuse at the Barnardo’s children’s home — Ifield Hall in Crawley, West Sussex — and one in Barkingside, Essex between 1962 and 1968, and four indecent assaults at the Middle Wallop army base in Hampshire between 1971 and 1973 where he served as a chaplain. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Last month Rideout was taken from prison to a local hospital. He has since been returned to jail, but has petitioned the Ministry of Justice for an early release on compassionate grounds.

A spokesman for the ministry declined to speak to Rideout’s petition, but stated compassionate release could be granted if the prisoner had a terminal illness or was bedridden or otherwise permanently incapacitated and would prove to be no harm to society.

 

Nigerian church support for sodomy laws: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Faith leaders in Nigeria have unanimously applauded the revisions to the country’s sodomy law, and have denounced as imperialist, racist and condescending Western pressure to change the country’s attitude towards homosexuality.

Leaders of the Muslim community as well as the head of the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches applauded President Goodluck Jonathan for signing a law banning same-sex marriage, gay clubs and public displays of same-sex affection into law on 7 January 2014.

While overseas Catholic and Anglican leaders including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have expressed reservations about the new law, their Nigerian counterparts have endorsed the ban on gay marriage.

In an open letter written to President Jonathan published by the Catholic News Service of Nigeria, the press arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama called the new law “a bold and clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand up for the protection of the highest values ​​of the Nigerian and African cultures around the ‘ institution of marriage and the dignity of the human person, without giving in to international pressure to promote unethical practices of homosexual unions and other related vices. ”

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh stated his church also opposed the introduction of gay marriage into Nigeria. In a speech given at a banquet honouring retired Archbishop Peter Akinola, Archbishop Okoh was reported to have said the underlying issue was not homosexuality itself, but man’s rebellion against God’s law.

“Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the Scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.”

“In the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power. So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed,” he said according to Channels TV in Lagos.

The question for Nigeria was not merely government sanction for sexual sin, but the decision Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden to defy God, he argued.

The controversy over gay rights and gay marriage in Nigeria has also been played out in the national legislatures of Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon which are in the process of adopting laws banning gay marriage.

Both Nigerian prelates were sharply critical of overseas political pressure to adopt Western sexual mores.

Archbishop Kaigama  thanked President Jonathan for his “brave and wise decision” to sign the bill into law and prayed that God would protect his “administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent as a dumping ground for the promotion of all the unethical practices, that destroy God’s plan for man.”

Diocese found to have put money above justice in child abuse cover up: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Australia is expected to hand down a report that will accuse the Diocese of Grafton of withholding information from police and failing to exercise proper oversight of a church run children’s home.

Last week the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, released a report stating the church’s “legalistic and cumbersome” clergy disciplinary process allowed priests accused of child abuse to escape punishment if they retired or left the ministry.

Mr. Beckett further stated that he believed the Diocese of Grafton’s first priority in addressing child abuse claims was to minimize potential claims for compensation from victims and make the problem go away rather than seeing that justice was done.

In his report Mr. Beckett said the former Bishop of Grafton, the Rt. Rev. Keith Slater, failed to refer allegations of sexual abuse at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore to the church’s professional standards director. This failure to act had prevented police from investigating the claims, he concluded.

The report further stated that while the diocesan registrar was aware that one priest associated with the home had been convicted of sexual offences against a child, he failed to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the sex offender clergyman.

The report recommended the diocese initiate an investigation into two priests accused of abuse and “regularly review” its clergy disciplinary proceedings and keep its professional standards director appraised of all outstanding claims of sexual abuse. Final submissions arising from the November public hearings into abuse at the home closed on 24 Jan 2014.

In May 2013 Bishop Slater resigned in the wake of charges he had mishandled the Lismore abuse investigations. Last August the diocese released a statement saying it “apologises  unreservedly to children who, in the past, suffered from sexual abuse, harsh punishment or a lack of appropriate and nurturing care while resident at the North Coast Children’s Home, Lismore.

“We also apologise, and ask forgiveness, for the unacceptable manner in which those who in recent years reported their abuse were hindered by church leaders. Our Diocese acknowledges with sadness the serious and long term effects of such abuse. We are committed to assist in the provision of appropriate support and assistance for those who were harmed and who continue to suffer.”

Pakistan terror trial in danger of collapse: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Terrorism.
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The trial of two men accused of murdering a Pakistani government minister is in danger of collapsing, after key witnesses fled the country in fear for their lives.

The sole Christian cabinet minister in Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani’s government, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated outside his home in Islamabad in March 2011. Two gunmen sprayed the minister’s car with bullets and dropped pamphlets next to his body, denouncing him as a Christian infidel.

Islamabad police arrested Hammad Adil and Umer Abdullah, in September 2012 and charged them with the murder. The two men confessed to the police their guilt in the attack and are being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi

However, the complainant in the case, Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother Paul Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, has fled to Italy for safety.

“Punjabi Taliban dropped pamphlets at my office in Lahore and warned me of dire consequences for pursuing the murder case of my brother,” he told a Pakistani cable television channel on 8 Feb 2014. But added that: “I will not give up this case despite the threats.”

Mr. Bhatti said he had asked repeatedly for protection from the Interior Ministry and police, but they ignored his requests. His attorney Rana Abdul Hameed told Newsweek International that he too had been threatened for mounting the private prosecution against the killers.

Mr. Hameed also represented Rimsha Masih, the Pakistani Christian girl who had been arrested in 2012 for allegedly desecrating pages of the Koran – but was later found not guilty after police discovered an extremist mullah had fabricated the case — said: “Pamphlets are dropped in my office warning me to disassociate myself from the case.”

“They say you freed Rimsha, now you are trying to convict our comrades, you should be taught a lesson.”

He added: “Paul Bhatti is abroad. He cannot come to Pakistan. Our witness has been threatened. We are receiving constant threats. What can you then expect from the case? It won’t go anywhere.”

Camels and tigers and bears, oh my!: Get Religion, February 15, 2014 February 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The silly season is early this year. With editors and most top-tier reporters away in August on vacation (along with the subjects of their stories — need to set the proper precedence of seniority at the start of this story) the late summer is the time when the second team knocks out stories that leave readers asking: “what were they thinking?”

True — there are exceptions to this venerable custom. What would Easter or Christmas be without stories proclaiming what “the science” tells us about such events. Perhaps the massive snowstorms in the Northeast have kept the A-team in bed for some publications? Otherwise I would be hard pressed to explain the thinking behind the editorial line taken in a spat of stories reporting on a paper published by two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University.

The gist of the report in publications like the Huffington Post, IBT and the Fashion Times (yes the Fashion Times) among a score of others is that “No camels = No God.”

The absence of camel remains at an archeological site in Israel dated to the time of Abraham demonstrates the Bible is false — or as the Fashion Times headline tells us “Historical ERROR in Bible’s Old Testament, REVEALED: Radiocarbon Dating of Camel Bones Shows Inconsistency.”

I like the screaming ALL CAPS used for error and revealed — one need read no further to see where that story is headed.

The New York Daily News was a little more cautious in its story “Israeli archeologists’ discovery suggests the Bible is wrong about camels.” It reported:

New archeological evidence is throwing cold water on the biblical image of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph riding camels through the desert. A team of Israeli archaeologists has studied the oldest-known camel bones from this ancient period and the results are in — camels reportedly started plodding around the eastern Mediterranean region centuries after the Bible tells us they did.

After analyzing the facts from radioactive-carbon dating, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University claim the domesticated animal arrived on the biblical scene near the 10th century B.C. Scholars believe Abraham lived at least six centuries before that, Time reports.

Still, stories about the Jewish patriarchs contain more than 20 references to the domesticated camel, according to The New York Times. In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant traveled on his master’s camels.

I laughed out loud when I read this. Perhaps it was out of caution that its reporter might not have been able to verify the information the New York Daily News cites the New York Times for the flash news that there are camel references in Genesis.

Time does a much better job with this story. Reporter Elizabeth Dias lays out the facts and then proceeds to pour cold water on the hyperbole — taking as her target the New York Times’ account.

The New York Times, in a story about the finding today, announced, “There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place … these anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.” Behold, a mystery: the Case of the Bible’s Phantom Camels.

The discovery is actually far from new. William Foxwell Albright, the leading American archeologist and biblical scholar who confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, argued in the mid-1900s that camels were an anachronism. Historian Richard Bulliet of Columbia University explored the topic in his 1975 book, The Camel and the Wheel, and concluded that “the occasional mention of camels in patriarchal narratives does not mean that the domestic camels were common in the Holy Land at that period.” Biblical History 101 teaches that the texts themselves were often written centuries after the events they depict.

Time also puts this story in context, noting Biblical scholars have long been aware of apparent anomalies. It quotes a number of liberal Biblical scholars to flesh out the conundrum of Biblical history v. a Biblical faith.

The Bible has also never been a history book or a scientific textbook, explains Choon-Leong Seow, professor of Old Testament language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Interpreting the Bible is a little like studying Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, he says. Modern viewers do not consider the Christ figure in da Vinci’s painting an accurate portrait because we know it was painted centuries after the supper happened, but that does not take away from the artist’s spiritual message about Jesus’ last night with his disciples. “For us who believe that this is Scripture, Scripture is important as it has formative power, it forms the people, and it transforms,” Seow says. “It is poetic truth rather than literary truth.”

Understanding the Case of the Phantom Camel as a fight between archeological evidence and biblical narrative misses the entire spiritual point of the text, as far as scholars are concerned. Anachronisms and apocryphal elements do not mean the story is invalid, but instead give insight into the spiritual community in a given time and place. In this case, camels were a sign of wealth and developing trade routes, so it is likely that the biblical writer used the camel as a narrative device to point out power and status. “We needn’t understand these accounts as literally true, but they are very rich in meaning and interpretive power,” [Duke University's] Eric Meyers says.

I would have liked to have seen Time ask conservative Biblical scholars — say someone from the Dallas Theological Seminary — for their view on the camel controversy. It would have improved an otherwise great story.

Contradictions and difficulties with the historical veracity of the Pentateuch were a major news item at one time. That would have been in 1862 when the Anglican Bishop of Natal (South Africa) John William Colenso released the first of what became a seven part series of books examining the historicity of the first six books of the Old Testament.

Colenso, a one time mathematics teacher at Harrow and the author of the standard mathematics textbook for secondary schools in the mid-Nineteenth Century, demonstrated that some of the claims laid down in the Pentateuch were mathematically impossible. The battle has raged back and forth for the last 150 years, but some newspapers will always report the latest developments as breaking news that will shatter the foundations of faith.

It is a commonplace of the Jewish and Christian scholarly tradition that the Torah or Pentateuch was not written contemporaneously with the events it describes. Conservative scholars who follow the traditional teaching that Moses was the author of the Torah would not dispute the fact that he lived long after the events described in Genesis.

The author or authors of Genesis who transcribed the oral tradition of Abraham may have understood a word to have a meaning in their day that differed from its historical past.

Perhaps the word gamal was one such word. Could it have meant a beast of burden in Abraham’s time and by the time the stories were set down in writing a gamal came to be understood to mean the domesticated dromedary, the one-humped Camelus dromedarius?

As an aside, I find it amusing that some of the newspaper stories on this issue are assuming Abraham was a true historical figure, but the stories of camels in Genesis is a myth. Much of the historical critical Old Testament scholarship of the Twentieth century would believe the camels were real, but it was Abraham who was the myth.

Walter Beltz for example dismisses Abraham as mythical character akin to Aeneas.   … eine mythische Person… Die Gestalt Abrahams ist eine mythische Schopfung. (Walter Beltz, Gott und die Gotter: Biblische Mythologie, Aufbau-Verlag Berlin und Weimar, 1975, p. 109.) Or they have held that the accounts of Abraham’s life as portrayed in Genesis “is an inextricable tangle of history and myth.” (Manfred Barthel, Was Wirklich in der Bibel Steht, trans. by Mark Howson, What the Bible Really Says, Wings Books, 1992, p. 63.)

Time does the best job of all in presenting this story. But it too could have used a bit more balance. Better yet, read the original piece from Tel Aviv University and decide for yourself. You might be surprised in light of the press reports cited above to discover there is only one reference to the Old Testament in the paper when in the first paragraph the authors state the “Patriarchal narrative” had led some scholars to suggest an earlier date for the domestication of the camel in Israel than could be supported by their archeological finds. That’s it.

First published at Get Religion.

No charges for Bishop Ball: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The former Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt. Rev. Peter Ball, who was arrested in November 2012 on suspicion of child abuse, has not been charged following an 18 month investigation by detectives from Sussex Police.

On 28 Jan 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was still considering the case against Bishop Ball, who was arrested in his Somerset home in November 2012 as part of Operation Dunhill. The bishop was reported to have been taken ill following his arrest.

Sussex Police had initiated an investigation after the Church of England turned over the results of its internal review of Bishop Ball.

In 1993 Bishop Ball resigned after he was cautioned by the police for having committed an act of gross indecency against a teenager. The now 81 year old bishop was licenced to officiate at church services following his resignation, but has not had the licence renewed since 2010.

In 2012 a Sussex Police spokesman it had “received from Lambeth Palace two reports from a Church safeguarding consultant, which contain reviews of Church safeguarding files relating to historic issues in the Chichester Diocese. We have also received the files themselves.

“The reports and files relate to matters more than 20 years ago and we will review the contents in order to establish whether any police investigation of possible criminal offences would be merited.”

The late Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Eric Kemp, was skeptical of the veracity of the charges brought against Bishop Ball. In his 2006 memoirs, Shy But Not Retiring, Bishop Kemp stated: “Although it was not realized at the time, the circumstances which led to his early resignation were the work of mischief makers.”

Chichester priest arrested for abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2014 February 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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A retired Diocese of Chichester priest has been charged by police with a host of sex crimes dating back almost 40 years.

On 28 Jan 2014, the Sussex Police released a statement saying the Rev. Vickery House (68) had been charged with 8 counts of sexual assault “on the authority of the Crown Prosecution Service following an investigation by detectives from Sussex Police over the past 18 months”.

Mr. House of Handcross, West Sussex was arrested in November 2012 and has been on bail pending the outcome of the investigation.  He faces two charges of molesting a 15 year old boy in Devon between 1970 and 1971, two charges relating to a man in East Sussex between 1976 and 1978, and 1983 and 1985, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1978 and 1980, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1981 and 1984, one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986 and one charge relating to a man in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986.

The Diocese of Chichester released a statement last week saying it was “aware that a retired priest, previously arrested as part of Operation Dunhill in November 2012, has been charged today with eight counts of indecent assault.”

“As this case is under investigation no further comment will be made. The Diocese of Chichester has been assisting Sussex Police with the inquiries and continues to do so,” it reported.

Mr. House has been granted bail and is charged to appear before the Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 27 Feb 2014.

Schiavo Redux: Get Religion, January 21, 2014 January 30, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion.
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A French court has ordered a Reims hospital to provide nutrition and hydration to 38-year old quadriplegic Vincent Lambert, who has been in a state of minimal consciousness (en état de conscience minimale) for five years following a motorcycle accident.

Last Thursday a tribunal administratif overruled the wishes of the hospital, Lambert’s wife and some of his siblings who wanted to cut off intravenous feeding. The court sided with his parents and his other siblings, who as observant Catholics, objected to euthanizing him. Le Monde reports the Lambert case will reopen the contentious debate about euthanasia, the value of life and human dignity in France.

Have we not heard this before?

The Lambert case has a number of parallels with Terri Schiavo saga in America: a spouse ready to move on vs. Catholic parents not ready to let go; no clear statement of the patient’s wishes, conflicting medical terminology of persistent vegetative state v. minimal consciousness; political intervention by Congress and partisan debates in the French parliament; and a high profile role played by Catholic bishops. While it is early days yet, the most striking difference is the different decisions reached by the courts.

In Florida the courts came down on the side of death, even though the presumption of the law is in favor of life, while in France they have chosen life, even though euthanasia is legal.

The hospital authorities can now appeal against the decision before France’s Constitutional Council. The French press reports the Lambert case comes amidst a growing social and political debate over legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. President Francois Hollande this week entered into the fray, saying he favored the legalization of euthanasia, but covered his bases by saying it was appropriate only under strict government scrutiny.

A 2005 law permits passive euthanasia, where a person causes death by withholding or withdrawing treatment necessary to maintain life. According to Aujourd’hui en France the court ruled against death as Lambert’s condition was not terminal.

Le tribunal a notamment «jugé que la poursuite du traitement n’était ni inutile, ni disproportionnée et n’avait pas pour objectif le seul maintien artificiel de la vie et a donc suspendu la décision d’interrompre le traitement». La juridiction a par ailleurs estimé que «c’est à tort que le CHU de Reims avait considéré que M. Lambert pouvait être regardé comme ayant manifesté sa volonté d’interrompre ce traitement».

The court’s ruling “held that continuing treatment was neither unnecessary nor disproportionate and was not intended only for the artificial preservation of life and accordingly suspended the decision to stop treatment.” The court further held that “it is wrong for [the hospital] to have decided that Mr. Lambert could have been regarded as having expressed a desire to discontinue treatment.”

Le Figaro explained the court in Chalons-en-Champagne ruled against ending Lambert’s life as he was neither “sick nor at the end of life … “, « ni malade ni en fin de vie ».

The French newspapers I have seen have done an excellent job is covering this story. The Aujourd’hui en France story quotes doctors and family members on both sides of the debate, a spokesman for the French Episcopal Conference, and the politician who introduced the 2005 euthanasia law to parliament.

Le Figaro and Le Monde are equally even handed in the sourcing of their stories and in the description of Lambert’s condition and the court ruling.

How different the French reporting on Vincent Lambert has been so far compared to the job the American press did with the Terri Schiavo case. It will be fascinating to see if the New York Times and other outlets on this side of the Atlantic pick up the story, and whether they use the phrase “brain dead” — a legal not medical term the French press have so far avoided.

First printed in Get Religion.

Church of Norway clergy union backs gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, January 24, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The executive council of the Church of Norway’s clerical union has given its support to church gay marriage. At its December meeting, the union’s central board, the Presteforeningen, unanimously voted to ask the Church of Norway to prepare a rite for the blessing of gay marriages.

Founded in 1900, the Presteforeningen, or Priestly Union counts 2500 clergy and candidates for Holy Orders among its members. It serves as a trade union for the clergy in negotiating wages, conditions of work and other professional concerns.

In 2008 the Norwegian parliament was the first among the Scandinavian countries to revise revised its marriage laws to permit same-sex or gender neutral marriage, followed by Sweden 2008, Iceland 2010, and Denmark 2012.  While the Church of Sweden in 2009 authorized its clergy to perform same-sex the Church of Norway has so far declined to follow the government’s lead.

The executive committee’s vote has sparked dissent among clergy ranks, however. NTB reports that 50 clergy have quit the union in protest since the vote, including the former Bishop of Agder and Telemark, the Rt. Rev. Olav Skjevesland.

Central Africa says no to women priests: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Women Priests.
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The General Synod of the Church of the Province of Central Africa has voted down a proposal by the Diocese of Harare at their 27 November to 1 December 2013 meeting in Lusaka to permit the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Bishop Fanuel Magangani of Northern Malawi told The Church of England Newspaper the motion had been put forward by Bishop Chad Gandiya of the Diocese of Harare in response to motions adopted and put forward by a number of diocesan synods.

Bishop Magangani said he voted against the motion because it was contrary to tradition. “Some of us are happy to maintain our roots without the idea of thinking that we know better than those who have gone before us over the years of the Christian faith. I believe that the Church fathers down to the Apostles taught and reserved the faith I would like to uphold. I feel satisfied with the way I received the teaching of the Church and that there is everything I need for my salvation without diluting it with my ideas.”

The motion fell short of the necessary two-thirds vote in the House of Laity with 14 yes and 10 no votes, but was defeated in the House of Clergy, seven yes to 21 no, and in the House of Bishops six yes and nine no.

Chester priest pleads guilty to child porn charges: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

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A Merseyside vicar has plead guilty in the Liverpool Crown Court to 16 counts of possessing child pornography.

On 3 Jan 2014 the Rev. Ian Hughes, (46) former priest in charge of St. Luke’s Poulton and St. Paul’s Seacombe in Wirral in the Diocese of Chester admitted to possessing over 8000 images and films  depicting child pornography and bestiality. Following his arrest on 22 May 2013 the Diocese of Chester suspended Hughes from his benefice and he was stood down as governor of the Wallasey School Park Primary.

Judge David Aubrey QC adjourned sentencing until 28 January 2014 pending the submission of a pre-sentencing report. However he told Hughes he could face imprisonment as “all sentencing options were open to the court.”

Eastbourne priest arrested on child abuse charges: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

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A priest of the Diocese of Chichester was arrested by police last month on suspicion of having sexually abused a 12 year old boy in 1988. On 3 Dec 2013 the 56 year old man, identified as the Rev. Jonathan Graves by the BBC ,was arrested at his home in Eastbourne by Sussex Police and held on “suspicion of acts of indecency, indecent assault and cruelty against a boy known to him”.

Mr. Graves, who currently does not have permission to officiate in the diocese, was released on bail and ordered to appear before a magistrate in April.

The allegations of abuse were referred to detectives following the 2011 review of diocesan records conducted by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. Sussex Police stated the Diocese of Chichester were “co-operating fully” with the investigations, and further noted there were “currently no allegations of recent or current offending.”

SSJE executive jailed for theft: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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The former chief executive of the Fellowship of St John Trust has pled guilty to theft. On 9 January 2014 Geoffrey Hammond was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment by the Southwark Crown Court for stealing £99,493 between May 2012 and August 2013 while serving as the trust’s executive officer.

An internal audit found a substantial shortfall in the trust’s accounts last summer. When confronted Hammond admitted the theft. He was dismissed from his post on 5 Aug 2013 and the matter turned over to the police.

The Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE) was an Anglican religious order founded in 1866 at Cowley, Oxford, England, by Father Richard Meux Benson, and was the first permanent religious community for men established in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation.

In the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries the society expanded to America, Canada, Scotland, India, South Africa and Japan. It maintained a presence on Marston Street, Oxford from 1868 to 1980 and in 1905 opened St Edward’s House in Westminster. While the SSJE remains active in the United States, in 2012 the order was dissolved and Edward’s House sold.

Proceeds from the sale were placed with the Fellowship of St John Trust fund trust fund for care of retired members of the society in England.

A former Labour Councilor for the Higham Hill Ward of Waltham Forest, Hammond stated he took the money to meet his debts.  The trust has recovered all of the money stolen.

Indian bishop arrested/deposed: The Church of England Newspaper, January 10, 2014 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Corruption.
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The Church of North India has deposed the Bishop in Lucknow. Police also arrested Bishop Morris Edgar Dan on 15 December 2013 after the Allahabad High Court revoked the bishop’s bail on charges of forgery and fraud.

CNI general secretary Alwan Masih told The Church of England Newspaper Bishop Dan had “duly terminated by the  executive committee  of  the CNI synod  as of 25 November 2013” following an investigation into charges the bishop had sold church lands at below market prices to a syndicate which then resold the property, giving the bishop a kick back of the profits.

Shabnam Dan, the daughter of Bishop Dan, told CEN her father had been “framed”.  She accused an influential businessman with orchestrating a campaign to ruin her father after he refused to cooperate in a plan to defraud the diocese. The criminal case continues.

Akinola kidnapped: The Church of England Newspaper, January 10, 2014 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Crime.
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Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter Akinola was kidnapped on Christmas Eve by armed gunmen on Christmas Eve, but was released unharmed after he refused to pay a ransom.

At approximately 3:00 pm on 24 December 2013, the former Primate of All Nigeria was “carjacked” outside of the offices of the Peter Akinola Foundation Centre for Youth Industrial Training in Abeokuta, the capital of Western Nigeria’s Ogun State. Shortly after his driver pulled onto the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a car carrying four gunmen cut off the archbishop’s Toyota Primera and fired pistols into the air.

Their car was forced to the roadside and the gun forced the archbishop and his driver to lie face down on the floor of the back seat.  The car was driven west towards Nigeria’s border with Benin while the bandit who held the archbishop at gunpoint demanded a ransom payment. Archbishop Akinola told the bandits he was a retired clergyman and had not the means to pay ransom.

The kidnappers stopped in a deserted area near the Benin border and after stripping the archbishop and his driver of their clothes, released them into the bush unharmed.

In a Christmas Day interview with the Premium Times, Archbishop Akinola said after he wa released, he made his way through the bush to a road where he “saw a police vehicle coming and there were gunshots, and the police team later came to rescue me from the spot.”

The archbishop had high praise for the police and for Ogun Governor Ibikunle Amosun. “I have to praise them, and I appreciate the governor who left his work to the bush looking for us. It’s unprecedented for a governor to personally lead a team into the bush. He risked his life and yet he didn’t mind that. I’ am deeply touched and impressed,” he said.

Good Anglicanism defined by CDF: The Church of England Newspaper, January 10, 2014 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has defined the essentials of  Anglicanism that may be kept by converts entering the Anglican Ordinariate of the Catholic Church.

In an interview published in the December issue of The Portal, Msg. Steven Lopes of the CDF said the Vatican’s “working definition” of “Anglican patrimony” was “that which has nourished the Catholic Faith, within the Anglican tradition during the time of ecclesiastical separation, and has given rise to this new desire for full communion.”

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer will not be the sole source. The “Anglican liturgical patrimony is not just 1549 or 1662, nor is it just 1928 or 1976. We can’t go back to a specific period and say ‘this is it’, but you have to look at the whole Anglican experience to see how that faith was nourished’,” Mgr Lopes said.

In October 2013, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – the English branch of the Ordinariate — launched a new Mass text which included passages from Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.

TEC’s first gay bishop dies: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2013 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, The Episcopal Church, Utah.
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The Episcopal Church’s first “out” gay bishop has died.  The Rt. Rev. E. Otis Charles, retired Bishop of Utah and former Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., died on 26 December 2013 at a hospice in San Francisco. He was 87.

Ordained in 1951, Bishop Charles was elected Bishop of Utah in 1971 and held the post until his retirement in 1986. He served as Bishop of Navajoland for two years before accepting the post of Dean and President of EDS, retiring a second time in 1993.

A father of five, Bishop Charles told his wife he was gay in 1976. Upon his retirement from EDS he informed the House of Bishops of his sexual orientation and announced he and his wife Elvira were divorcing. In 1995 Bishop Charles wrote Breaking the Silence: Out in the Work Place, stating his support for changing church teaching on the morality of homosexual relations. In 2008 Bishop Charles took part in a civil same-sex marriage to his partner Felipe Sanchez-Paris, who predeceased him.

He remained an active member of the House of Bishops in retirement and took up residence in San Francisco, where he served as an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of California.

Francis the homophile: Get Religion, January 3, 2014 January 6, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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With but a few exceptions, the “Francis is nicer than Benedict” meme continues to entrance the Anglophone press.

It appears that many who were once hostile to the Catholic Church have been encouraged to see in the new pontiff a reflection of their own social and political desires. Some of these assertions about what the pope believes and what he will do as head of the Catholic Church have bordered on the fantastic.

In choosing the pope as its “person of the year”, Time magazine’s editor Nancy Gibb wrote Francis had:

done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.

The new pope was a kinder, gentler man, Time believed, who had rejected “church dogma.” He was teaching a softer, more inclusive Catholicism, noting his:

focus on compassion, along with a general aura of merriment not always associated with princes of the church, has made Francis something of a rock star.

This is rather mild compared to some liberal paeans to the pontiff. The Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland quipped “Francis could replace Obama as the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall.”

When the gay-lifestyle magazine, The Advocate, named Francis its “person of the year”, it explained its choice by stating:

Pope Francis’s stark change in rhetoric from his two predecessors — both who were at one time or another among The Advocate‘s annual Phobie Awards — makes what he’s done in 2013 all the more daring. First there’s Pope John Paul II, who gay rights activists protested during a highly publicized visit to the United States in 1987 because of what had become known as the “Rat Letter” — an unprecedented damning of homosexuality as “intrinsically evil.” It was written by one of his cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Since 1978, one of those two men had commanded the influence of the Vatican — until this year. …

The Advocate saw in Francis the potential for change in church teaching.

Francis’s view on how the Catholic Church should approach LGBT people was best explained in his own words during an in-depth interview with America magazine in September. He recalled, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

While these stories have focused on Francis in the context of feature or “people” stories, the meme has also made its way into straight news reporting. A story in Saturday’s  Independent illustrates the Francis effect on reporters. “Pope Francis tripled crowds at Vatican during 2013″  should have been a straightforward story. It begins with:

Pope Francis attracted over 6.6 million viewers to his audiences, Masses and other events in Vatican City in 2013. Since being elected for the position in March, the first Jesuit Pope attracted almost triple the number of visitors that gathered to watch former Pope Benedict XVI speak at Vatican City in the whole of 2012.

The story shifts as it then notes Francis had been named by Time and The Advocate as their “person of the year” with a quote used as a segue to what it sees as the pope’s contradictory statements on homosexuality.

However, his track-record as a champion for gay rights in the Catholic Church was marred after he apparently expressed “shock” at gay adoption in December 2013. The Bishop of Malta alleged that Pope Francis gave him his blessing to “speak out” against the Maltese Civil Unions Bill that aims to legalise gay adoption, in his Christmas Sermon.

The first half of the story prompts me to ask, so what? What does the rise in visitors to St Peter’s Square mean? Is this a gauge for something, if so what? What happened to the number of visitors to St Peter’s when Benedict became pope? Why is this news, and not a “fun fact”?

Should we assume, as The Independent does, that the changing tone on homosexuality has prompted a rise in the number of visitors to the Vatican? The Independent may think this to be the case, but from where does the evidence or authority for this assertion arise?

The second half of the story is bizarre. The Independent assumes Francis is a “champion for gay rights”. What does that mean? Is he pushing for a change in doctrine or discipline? When did this happen?  Or has The Independent confused style with substance?

The two parts to this piece, short as it is, do not hang together as a news story. There is no context, no balance, no sourcing to this piece. Though presented as a news story, it is an editorial making the argument that the church should get with the times and ditch its old fashioned teachings on human sexuality — “See how the people flock to Francis because he is a champion of gay rights!”

Should any news story make the assumptions The Independent makes about Pope Francis? Not if they want to practice quality journalism. It has confused fantasy with reality.

First printed in Get Religion.

WPost discovers the bleeding obvious about liturgy: Get Religion, December 27, 2013 January 5, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Hymnody/Liturgy, Press criticism.
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Basil Fawlty: Can’t we get you on Mastermind, Sybil? Next contestant: Mrs. Sybil Fawlty from Torquay. Specialist subject – the bleeding obvious.

Fawlty Towers: Basil the Rat (#2.6)” (1979)

The Washington Post reports some progressive Christians are unsatisfied with contemporary worship and are seeking more traditional ways to do church.

The article “Americans turning to ancient music, practices to experience their faith” highlights the sense of incompleteness, of liturgical inadequacy felt by some Christians this Christmas.

It begins:

In our of-the-minute culture, Santa seems old-fashioned. But Christians are exploring far older ways of observing the holiday.

In the living room this week along with the pile of presents, there’s more likely to be a wreath or calendar marking Advent, the month leading up to Christmas that symbolizes the waiting period before Jesus’s birth. Christmas services largely dominated by contemporary music are mixing in centuries-old chants and other a cappella sounds. Holiday sermons on topics such as prayer, meditation and finding a way to observe the Sabbath are becoming more common.

These early — some use the term “ancient” — spiritual practices are an effort to bring what feels to some like greater authenticity to perhaps the most thoroughly commercialized of religious holidays, say pastors, religious music experts and other worship-watchers.

I find this article problematic. On the surface a reader unacquainted with this topic might assume this is a balanced story reporting on a new trend in American religion.

It offers vignettes that illustrate the phenomena and offers four voices to flesh out the story: Ed Stetzer, Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber and a “man in the street,” or more precisely a lay Catholic woman from suburban Washington. A knowledgeable Washington Post reader might know that one of these voices is conservative: Stetzer, while McLaren and Bolz-Weber are progressive Christians.

As an aside, why does the Post omit “the Rev” before the names of the three clergy on first mention? And, is Brian McLaren an Evangelical? Is that the label he gives to himself, or is it a descriptor given him by the Post? But that is a battle for another day.

Adding Stetzer into the mix to balance McLaren and Bolz-Weber gives the impression of balance, and the pithy quotes offered by the three would lead one to believe that a cultural-religious trend is emerging in American religious life.

My concern is that this trend is about 175 years old. The article is written from a perspective that the progressive wing of the old main line churches is the fulcrum around which American religious life pivots.

“Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail” is an article that has been written several hundred times over the past fifty years, reporting on Christians from non-liturgical traditions entering the Episcopal Church due to its liturgy.

Episcopalians and other Protestants have been entering the Catholic Church since the time of John Henry Newman in large part because of a belief in the inadequacies of their tradition measured against the doctrine, discipline and worship of Rome.

And the Orthodox Churches in America over the past twenty five years  have seen an influx of ex-Protestants who are drawn to that tradition’s “ancient” liturgies and spiritual vigor.

All of what the Post describes about the dissatisfaction some are finding in their “seeker” friendly churches has been reported for decades.

Nor is this a phenomena of movement between faith traditions. Renewing the Catholic Church through the reform of its liturgy was one of, if not the greatest achievement of the papacy of Benedict XVI (from this Episcopalian’s perspective).

When he issued his Summorum Pontificum , allowing the older form of Mass t0 be used once more, Benedict restored to the church the liturgy that had shaped that church’s life for centuries — words that shaped Catholic culture, informed its teaching, instructed its arts and nourished its saints (and even a few sinners).

In a 2006 interview with Zenit, the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus spoke of the necessity of reforming modern Catholic worship:

Q: A major theme in your book is the importance of a revitalized liturgy for renewing Catholic life. How do you see that occurring?

Father Neuhaus: Don’t get me started. The banality of liturgical texts, the unsingability of music that is deservedly unsung, the hackneyed New American Bible prescribed for use in the lectionary, the stripped-down architecture devoted to absence rather than Presence, the homiletical shoddiness.

Where to begin? A “high church” Lutheran or Anglican – and I was the former – braces himself upon becoming a Catholic.

The heart of what went wrong, however, and the real need for a “reform of the reform” lies in the fatal misstep of constructing the liturgical action around our putatively amazing selves rather than around the surpassing wonder of what Christ is doing in the Eucharist.

The battle over liturgy and the aesthetics of worship recounted by Fr. Neuhaus is a live topic in many denominations.  But there is so much more to this than the latest liturgical spats.

Carved above the entrance way to a theological college I once attended was the phrase: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The phrase is often expanded to Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Lex Vivendi and interpreted to mean: “As we Worship, So we Believe, So we Live.” Worship reveals what we believe. It is who we are. It is the foundation of our Christian identity.

In an April 15, 2010 address to the Catholic bishops of Brazil gathered in Rome, Benedict said:

Worship, however, cannot come from our imagination: that would be a cry in the darkness or mere self-affirmation. True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him. … The Church lives in His presence and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world.

What the Post has picked up round the beltway — what Benedict told the Brazilian bishops — what Anglicans are seeking to find through the Book of Common Prayer, is the divine presence.

Was the Washington Post unaware of the wider context of liturgical renewal and reform? Or is its worldview so narrow that it cannot see anything? Have they only just now discovered, as Basil Fawlty would say, the “bleeding obvious” about liturgy and church life?

First printed in Get Religion.

Time’s betrayal of liberalism: Get Religion, December 23, 2013 January 5, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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Pod PeopleTime magazine’s exercise in gay agitprop was the focus of  Thursday’s Get Religion’s Crossroads podcast. This extraordinarily unprofessional and illiberal article violated just about all of the standards of professional journalism — without resorting to alliteration, I enumerated its failings in my story “Time takes sides in India’s sex wars” as:

unbalanced, excessive adjectives and adverbs, open support of one side of an argument, short of key facts, lacking context, and stylistically flat.

But Lutheran Public Radio’s Todd Wilken and I are likely to disappoint our audience as we did not discuss the underlying issue: decriminalizing same-sex carnal relations in India. We kept the focus of our discussion on journalism and political theory. I grant you a discussion of the importance of Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination to modern reporting will not set the SEO world aflame as would a talk about the moral rights and wrongs of sodomy, but for those who value journalism and its importance to culture — this is hot stuff.

Julia Duin – one of the stars of the religion beat at Washington Times for many years and now a professor of journalism — commented on the original post that the Time story would not have seen the light of day at the Washington Times. “It’s so depressing to see this” sort of story in a quality publication, she wrote.

 When I wrote for the Washington Times -a much more conservative place – reporters were not allowed to put their opinion into their work. Seems like the bias only leans one way. This for reporters, mind you, not for columnists. I see liberal reporters scoffing at conservative values. I never see the opposite.

Is this merely an ideological fracas? Am I throwing around words like “agitprop” out of political pique? Why is this bad reporting?

American journalism is founded upon a methodology best articulated by the German historian Leopold von Ranke. It is a scientific objective worldview that sees the task of the journalist (like the historian) to report what actually happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen). In this school of writing, the journalist must set aside his own views and present a story on its own terms, to establish what the facts are and let the facts dictate the story. In the Time piece we see ideology dictate the story.

Trilling called upon liberalism to examine its own pieties and commonplaces — good journalism does this too.

First printed in Get Religion.

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