A Year of Sex, Money and Politics (2013): The Church of England Newspaper, January 3, 2014 January 5, 2014Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church News, Church of England Newspaper.
Sex, money and politics dominated the news of the Anglican world outside of England last year.
Disputes over doctrine and discipline surrounding questions on human sexuality animated overseas church discussions in 2013. The political battles over gay marriage in England, France, New Zealand and a number of American states had their counterparts within the Anglican world.
Pressure by Western to liberalize sodomy laws in Africa and the West Indies prompted a back lash from the bishops of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, which denounced the sexual “colonialism” being forced upon them by London and Washington. The Church of Nigeria and bishops in Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and other African nations joined their governments in denouncing the linkage of foreign aid to reform of their constitutions and cultures to accommodate the new thinking on sex.
Not all the talk was about gay marriage, however. At year’s end, a U.S. federal court struck down portions of a Utah law banning polygamy, prompting one Episcopal priest to celebrate. The Rev. Danielle Tumminio, writing for CNN argued that “as a Christian, it makes sense to support healthy polygamous practices. It’s a natural extension for those Christians who support same-sex marriage on theological grounds. But even for those opposed to same-sex marriage, polygamy is documented in the Bible, thereby giving its existence warrant.”
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, also challenged the church’s doctrinal boundaries in a May sermon in when she denounced the Apostle Paul as a jealous bigot for not seeing the gifts of God at work in the slave girl whom he released from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34.
Salvation comes not from being cleansed of our sins by the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, the Presiding Bishop argued in her sermon, but through the divinization of humanity through the work of the human will.
Bishop Jefferts Schori offered an equally impassioned sermon in South Carolina in February, likening her opponents in the schism in that diocese to terrorists and murderers. “It’s not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage,” she said.
The Episcopal Church’s property wars saw an upswing of activity, while a local court in California ruled against a breakaway parish in favor of the Diocese of Los Angeles in one long-running case, and the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled against a breakaway parish in its dispute with a diocese, the Supreme Court of Texas and a local court in Illinois held there was no bar under civil or ecclesial law to a diocese withdrawing from the national Episcopal Church.
In South Carolina, the diocese won several early rounds in the fight with the national church in its bid to quit the Episcopal Church, while in Recife the breakaway diocese successfully appealed a lower court ruling that would have turned over its property to the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. Brazil also witnessed a schism from the left in 2013, as the largest Anglican Church in South America, St. Paul’s Cathedral in Brasilia, quit the province to resume its historical status as a Church of England chaplaincy.
Church splits in Central Africa were almost brought to a conclusion in 2013. At the Church of the Province of Central Africa’s synod in November, Archbishop Albert Chama reported the Kunonga schism had been successfully concluded with the country’s Supreme Court ruling against the bid by breakaway bishop Dr. Nolbert Kunonga to seize the property of the dioceses of Harare, Masvingo and Manicaland for his “Anglican Church of Zimbabwe”. While the cathedral in Harare and most of the province’s schools, churches, hospitals and other properties were restored to them by the courts, reports of Kunonga die-hards holding on to properties with the connivance of local police officials were reported at year’s end.
The provinces of Central Africa and Sudan voted against dividing into national churches in 2013. Delegates to the November synod meeting in Lusaka voted against spitting Central Africa into three provinces – Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, while the November synod meeting in Bor of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan voted against splitting the church into a northern and southern province. It did however vote to rename itself the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan.
Central Africa was the hold out, however, in a year that saw considerable gains for women clergy. While the Central African synod voted down a motion put forward by the Diocese of Harare to allow women clergy, women bishops were appointed and elected across the globe. The Church of Ireland appointed its first woman bishop, while the Anglican Church of Australia saw its first women diocesan bishop elected, as did the Church of South India. An English female priest was elected a bishop in New Zealand and two women took their place in the House of Bishops in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The Diocese of Ballarat, one of the last hold outs against allowing women clergy in Australia, ordained its first female priests at year’s end – while commentators predict a woman priest will be elected a bishop in Uganda.
Secular issues also animated the life and the work of the church in 2013. Bishops in the Church of Ceylon backed their government in a spat with the Commonwealth over human rights abuse claims – leading Archbishop Desmond Tutu to call for a boycott of the November CHOGM meeting in Colombo. Archbishop Tutu played a prominent role in the ceremonies marking the death of Nelson Mandela in December, while the Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis, played a prominent role in Egypt’s second Arab Spring.
Corruption remained a problem in parts of the Communion, the Churches of North and South India saw two bishops removed from office, and retired bishops arrested for fraud and corruption. Corruption allegations paralyzed the Diocese of Sabah, and led to police questioning of bishops in South Africa and Zambia, while the election of a new primate of Tanzania was marred by charges of vote buying.
Abuse investigations animated the secular press in Australia, as a Royal Commission investigated institutional responses to child abuse. Mishandling of Australian abuse claims led the Bishop of Grafton to resign, and saw church leaders admit before the commission that they did not follow the church’s published guidelines on abuse reporting.
Census reports and statistical studies published in 2013 painted a picture of a church in decline in some parts of the Communion. The Episcopal Church reported that while its losses appeared to have stabilized, over the past ten years there were 24 per cent fewer people in church on Sundays. New Zealand census figures reported an even steeper decline in that country, with Anglicans declining by 17 per cent in seven years.
Persecution was a constant factor in the life of Anglicans in Nigeria, the Sudan, Zanzibar, Pakistan and the Middle East in 2013. Over 105,000 Christians were killed because of their faith in 2012, an Italian sociologist reported in January, with reports from Africa, India and Asia showing a surge in anti-Christian persecution over the Christmas holidays.
The depredations of Boko Haram, which has vowed to drive out all Christians from Northern Nigeria – either by death or expulsion – has led to the deaths of hundreds of people, while the Taliban has ramped up its campaign in Pakistan against religious minorities – Christians, Shi’ites, Ahmadiya and Hindus.
Concerns over the global “war on Christians” were not restricted to church circles, however. In the United States Sen. Rand Paul – a conservative Republican leader – sounded the alarm, as did a Westminster Hall debate in November. “In virtually every country in and around the [Middle East], Christians report suffering either high, high to extreme, or extreme persecution,” MP Fiona Bruce warned, while other MPs reported on persecution facing Christians in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
“We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror that we feel about the atrocities towards Jews on Kristallnacht and on other occasions during the Second World War,” she said.
The Prince of Wales added his voice to the chorus of concern, telling an Advent gathering at Clarence House warning that Christianity may “disappear” in the Middle East because of a wave of “organised persecution.” Prince Charles said he was “deeply troubled” by the plight of our “brothers and sisters in Christ” and urged intensive inter-faith dialogue to stop the persecution.
However, the single largest gathering of overseas Anglicans, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) held in Nairobi in October, saw a new enthusiasm for mission, evangelism and renewal. The collapse of the authority and relevance of the existing instruments of unity for the Anglican Church – a point conceded by the Archbishop of Canterbury – since Lambeth 2008, and the retreat by Archbishop Justin Welby from the world scene, has seen a more aggressive overseas policy from the Episcopal Church and conservative global south Anglicans.
The old ways of the Anglican Communion were as “dead as the British Empire”, Dr Peter Jensen, the Gafcon general secretary said, at the start of the conference. The “future” of Anglicanism had “arrived” – and it was Gafcon, he observed.
Dr Jensen characterised the communion’s problem as a failure of commitment. “We have failed to make disciples through teaching the commands of Jesus found in the Bible at depth. That is why so much of the Church in the West has simply collapsed, capitulated, and compromised before a virulent, antagonistic secularism.”
Census reports 17% decline in 7 years for NZ Anglicans: The Church of England Newspaper, December 20, 2013 January 5, 2014Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Philip Richardson
The number of New Zealand Anglicans has fallen by 17 per cent over the past seven years, giving the Anglican Church of Aotearoa/Polynesia the distinction of being the fastest declining member of the Anglican Communion.
Census data on Religious Affiliation released on 10 Dec 2013 by Statistics New Zealand reported Anglicans had lost their top spot as the country’s largest denomination – a position held since census figures on religion were first tabulated in New Zealand — and are now second to the Roman Catholic Church in terms of membership.
The number of Catholics fell from 508,812 in the 2006 census to 491,421 in 2013, but this total left that church with approximately 40,000 more members than the Anglican Church. During the same period Anglicans in New Zealand declined from 554,925 to 459,771, or 17 per cent. The Episcopal Church of the USA, divided by schisms and litigation, declined on 12 per cent during the same period, from 2,154,572 to 1,894,181members.
The number of those reporting “no religion” remained the largest category of respondent with the 2006 number of 1.297 million rising to 1.635 million in 2013, climbing from 32.2 per cent to 38.6 per cent of the population. In 1956 more than 90 per cent of New Zealanders identified themselves as Christian.
In his Advent letter to the church, Archbishop Phillip Richardson wrote the census figures “contains few surprises. Not even the decline in Anglican affiliation should catch us unawares. These trends liberate us from notions of self-importance and turn us back to our fundamental calling.”
He added that “they also situate our Church more on the margins of our society, where we really belong.”
“My immediate response, then, is thankfulness to God that we are being refined, called to repentance and to a refocusing of our mission,” he said adding that “following Jesus has always been fundamentally counter-cultural. And the Church has always been most authentically the Body of Christ when it is salt and leaven rather than the ‘religious’ dimension of modern society.”
“Our Church may be smaller numerically, but we may also be more authentically Christ’s Church as we recover our saltiness and become real leaven,” Archbishop Richardson said.
Christian march on Parliament in Delhi broken up by police: The Church of England Newspaper, December 20, 2013 January 5, 2014Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India.
Tags: Alwin Masih, Dalits, Manmohan Singh
Police in New Delhi used water cannons and truncheons to stop a march on parliament in support of Dalit rights by Christian leaders last week.
After breaking the marchers’ line with jets of water on 11 Dec 2013 police wielding lathis (canes) waded into the crowed marching on Sansad Marg (Parliament Street) after they refused an order to disburse.
The march began at Jantar Mantar and headed towards Parliament House in defiance of a ban on protests along Parliament Street. Police arrested the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto, the General Secretary of the Church of North India Alwin Masih and a number of clergy, nuns and activists. Several clergy were injured in the attack.
The march had been organized by Christian leaders to call for an end to the statutory discrimination against Dalit Christians and Muslims. Under Indian law Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits, or Untouchables, are eligible for special government benefits and preferences. However, Christian and Muslim Dalits are not eligible for the subsidies as the government has held that once an Untouchable becomes a Christian or Muslim, he is freed from caste discrimination – a stance disputed by Christian and Muslim leaders.
After his release from jail Archbishop Couto said: “Government after government have been turning a deaf ear to the demand of Christians. Now they are going to the extent of brutally beating up our priests and nuns and now arresting us too.”
Fr Ajay Singh, a Catholic priest from Orissa who was present at the march told Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “The Prime Minister’s apology must be followed by action to end more than 60 years of injustice done to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, which is totally against the spirit of equality and secularism. He should not play politics with the millions of Indians deprived of their human rights. The police response to the protest shows how the state ignores the multiple layers of discrimination against the most vulnerable and marginalised minority communities”.
The CSW reported that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered his apologies for the police action and told march leaders their concerns would be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting.
Central Africa celebrates the end of the Kunonga era: The Church of England Newspaper, December 20, 2013 January 5, 2014Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Zimbabwe.
Tags: Albert Chama, Godfrey Tawonevzi, Nolbert Kunonga
The Church of the Province of Central Africa has postponed action to split the church into three national provinces, voting to put the Kunonga years behind them and work towards unity and healing .
Approximately 100 hundred bishops, clergy and lay delegates from Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe met in Lusaka from 27 Nov to 1 Dec 2013 gathered under the theme “Going Forward Together in Unity and Prayer” in the province’s first synod since 2007.
Speaking to ACNS before the start of the meeting, Archbishop Albert Chama stated: “The six turbulent years that we have gone through since the last Synod require us all to move on in solidarity and in a very prayerful manner. God has seen us this far and he will lead us through.”
The Sept 2007 session held in the southern Malawi town of Mangochi was marked by debates over homosexuality, the Episcopal Church of the USA, Robert Mugabe and the aspirations of the national churches. The province was also without an archbishop and a number of dioceses were without bishops.
The then bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, attempted to capitalize on the power vacuum within the church and sought to enlist the province as an ally of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Unable to force the subordination of the province to the government of Zimbabwe, Dr. Kunonga told the Harare Herald the province had been dissolved, initiating six years of litigation.
In his presidential address last week Archbishop Chama reported on the successful conclusion of the Kunonga schism, with the Zimbabwe courts returning all of the assets seized by Dr. Kunonga. However, the fight had damaged the church, burdening it with $200,000 of unpaid legal fees in the Diocese of Harare and $180,000 in the Diocese of Manicaland.
However the Bishop of Masvingo, the Rt. Rev. Godfrey Tawonevzi on 9 Dec 2013 told overseas supporters Dr. Kunonga’s allies had not halted their actions in his diocese. Kunonga loyalists with the help of local police and government officials were holding on to a number of churches and schools in defiance of the Harare court orders.
Debate over dividing the CPCA into national provinces at the Lusaka meeting of synod did not have the politically charged atmosphere of 2007, participants told The Church of England Newspaper.
While many Zambian delegates pushed for division, the parlous state of the church in Zimbabwe following the Kunonga schism, and the lack of a clear guidance from diocesan synods in Malawi prevented a consensus from being reached on division.
Delegates opted to follow the counsel of the archbishop and the theme of the meeting focus the efforts of the province on rebuilding institutions and fostering unity, sources told CEN.
Pope Francis: “ecumenism of blood” the new face of inter-Christian relations: The Church of England Newspaper, December 20, 2013 January 5, 2014Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: ecumenism, La Stampa, Pope Francis
The old ways of managing ecumenical relations among Christian churches is passing away, Pope Francis told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, with bureaucratic initiatives making way for a “ecumenism of blood”.
Speaking to Andrea Tornielli in an interview published on 14 Dec 2013, the pope was asked whether he saw Christian unity as a priority.
Francis responded: “Yes, for me ecumenism is a priority. Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians.
The pope said that while Christians are “united in blood”, Christians have “have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.”
Francis illustrated his convictions on the changing face of ecumenical relations with an anecdote of a “parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism. After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: ‘I will continue to deal with the cause, but both of their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s’.”
“This is what ecumenism of blood is,” the pope said.
“It still exists today; you just need to read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don’t ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptised in. We need to take these facts into consideration
Suit seeks to hold Bishop Lawrence personally liable for South Carolina’s secession: The Church of England Newspaper, December 13, 2013 December 18, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: Mark Lawrence
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the faction loyal to the national Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, has filed a motion in state court seeking to add Bishop Mark Lawrence and three other diocesan officials as parties in the lawsuit over the control of church properties. The new pleading seeks to hold the breakaway leaders personally liable for the secession of South Carolina from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
On 25 November 2013 loyalists filed a motion alleging 18 causes of action against the four, the bishop, his canon to the ordinary, the current and former president of the standing committee , “including breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conversion, trademark infringement and civil conspiracy.”
Supporters of the diocese have dismissed the motion as a last minute ploy to salvage the national church’s case against the breakaway diocese.
Canon lawyer Allan Haley, who has represented breakaway dioceses of Quincy and San Joaqui in their litigation with the national church, stated the pleadings were ridiculous.
“It should be obvious to almost anyone that priests who break their ordination vows, or who violate the Constitution and Canons of the Church or of one of its Dioceses, cannot be sued in the civil courts for those actions,” he said, “that is the entire purpose of Title IV (“Ecclesiastical Discipline”) of the Canons.”
“I fail to see, therefore, how the rump group could have authorized the motion to add additional parties to state any claim for breach of the Constitution and Canons — or indeed, for breach of any fiduciary duties owed to the Church whatsoever,” he said citing a recent decision by the California Fifth District Appellate Court that “such questions are ‘quintessentially ecclesiastical’ — they are issues ‘the First Amendment forbids us from adjudicating’.”
“I fail to see how this ‘Hail Mary’ pass has any chance of success in court,” he said.
However, the national church supporters said the motion was filed “because actions [Lawrence and the others] they took to ‘withdraw’ the diocese from [the Episcopal Church] were outside the scope of their legal authority and violated state law,” a press statement said.
Their actions amounted to a “conspiracy” to spirit away “the assets of the diocese and ‘deprive Episcopalians loyal to the Episcopal Church of their property rights’ by manipulating the corporate entity of the diocese,” the pleading alleged.
Sudan synod rejects call to divide: The Church of England Newspaper, December 13, 2013 December 18, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has rejected calls to divide the church along national lines, but has agreed to rename itself the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan to mark the 2011 independence of South Sudan from Khartoum.
Meeting from 27-30 Nov 2013 in the Jonglei state capital of Bor in South Sudan 35 bishops and delegates from the church’s 31 dioceses: 26 in South Sudan and 5 (Khartoum, Port Sudan, Wad Medani, Kadugli, and El Obeid) in Sudan, debated the structure of the 4.5 million member church at the 10th meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee (synod).
The Bishop of Lianya, the Rt. Rev. Peter Amidi, told the Sudan Tribune the tremendous growth of the church over the past generation, coupled with the 2011 independence of South Sudan had raised the question of division. A split would “not [be a] separation as such but an arrangement within the Anglican communion where you devolve power from the mother provincial authority to the area of clusters of dioceses”.
Sources in the Sudanese church told the Church of England Newspaper the delegates discussed creating an independent province and an internal province for the north led by its own archbishop. However, the lack of infrastructure and funds along with the desire to support the persecuted church in the north led the delegates to endorse the status quo.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports Christians in the north are harassed by the government, which seeks to deport them to South Sudan or convert them to Islam. In April 2013 Khartoum’s Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj al-Sir, told the country’s Parliament the government will not permit the construction of new Christian churches in the country. CSW reports there has also been a systematic targeting of African ethnic groups, particularly the Nuba, prompting fears of a government plan for the Islamisation and Arabisation of norther Sudan.
In their communique, the Sudanese church welcomed the “improvement in relations” between north and south Sudan, and urged the two governments to “tackle any outstanding issues in a peaceful way.”
The communique also called upon the government of South Sudan to stem the recent outbreaks of tribal violence and called upon the international community to maintain pressure on Khartoum to halt the violence in Darfur, the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains.
The synod also reaffirmed its support for the church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality, rejecting innovations in doctrine and disciple that would permit gay blessings. “We reaffirm our position rejecting same-sex relationship,” the communique said.
Tags: David Dingwell, Diocese of Easton
A bizarre church fire has left two dead including the rector of St Paul’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Ocean City, Maryland in an incident police describe as arson.
On 26 Nov 2013 a 56-year old man, subsequently identified as John Sterner, entered the church offices located in the ground floor of the parish rectory. Witnesses told police that Sterner’s clothing was on fire and he was screaming for help.
Sterner grabbed a church volunteer and set her clothing on fire. The fire spread then spread to the building. The volunteer was able to escape the building, but firefighters found parish rector the Rev. David Dingwell, apparently unconscious from smoke inhalation, inside the building. Sterner died at the scene of the fire and the two other victims were taken to hospital.
However, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, the Rt. Rev. James Shand, reported Mr. Dingwell died later that day from his injuries.
Police report Stern was unknown to the members of the church and are investigating how he came to be covered in an accelerant fluid. Suicide is suspected as the motive for the crime.
Time takes sides in India’s sex wars: Get Religion, December 13, 2013 December 13, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
Tags: India, Lionel Trilling, Pauline Kael, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, sodomy laws, The Hindu, Time Magazine
Time magazine reports India’s Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the nation’s colonial era “sodomy laws”, ruling there is no “right” under the constitution to same-sex carnal relations. The court ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code could be repealed but only by the legislature not judicial fiat.
Time is not too happy about this. The magazine’s editorial voice can be heard through out “Homosexuality is Criminal Again as India’s Top Court Reinstates Ban”. The lede states:
In a surprise move, India’s top court on Wednesday reversed a landmark judgment by a lower court decriminalizing homosexuality in the country. The court said that the law regarding homosexuality could only be changed by the government. “The legislature must consider deleting this provision (Section 377) from law as per the recommendations of the attorney general,” Justice GS Singhvi, the head of the two-judge Supreme Court bench said in Wednesday’s ruling.
In 2009, the Delhi High Court had overturned an archaic colonial law (section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) that made gay sex an offense punishable by up to life imprisonment. Wednesday’s decision shocked many because while anticipation was high not many expected India’s top court, which in the past upheld many progressive rights judgments often going against the government and popular discourse, to revoke such a forward looking judgment.
“Archaic” is also used in the subheading of the story to describe the law. The commentary in the second sentence of this paragraph is not quite accurate. The Attorney General of India had argued in favor of overturning the law — there is a hint of this in the quote from the court’s ruling, but nothing further.
The Hindu, one of India’s leading daily newspapers, noted the attorney general called the sodomy law a British import.
Mr. Vahanvati had said “the introduction of Section 377 in the IPC was not a reflection of existing Indian values and traditions, rather it was imposed upon Indian society by the colonisers due to their moral values. The Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the IPC had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at this time under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex.”
Time makes its views clear in this paragraph.
While activists vow to challenge the ruling, the decision to decriminalize homosexuality is now in the hands of New Delhi. And while the good news is that the government has recently changed its position on the issue, arguing for it in the court pointing out that the anti-gay law in the country was archaic and that Indian society has grown more tolerant towards homosexuality, the bad news is that the country is heading for general polls in a few months and a much embattled coalition government is striving hard to retain power. It is thus highly unlikely that gay rights will take center stage in Indian Parliament any time soon.
“Good news”? That does cross the line dividing news and commentary.
There is also a lack of balance. Time quotes the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, a “veteran LGBT activist” and other “[s]tunned LGBT activists”, but offers no voices in support of the decision, or an explanation of the legal principles offered by the court in its decision.
What then is going on in this story? Was there a breakdown in Time’s back office that permitted an ill-written story barely distinguishable from a press release making it through the editorial process?
It is not as if no voices in support of maintaining the law are present. When the Delhi court struck down the law in 2009, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian leaders held a joint press conference denouncing the decision. Times‘ argument that a general election campaign will see this issue disappear from the public eye due to its unpopularity implies politicians support keeping the law — and The Hindu reports some will even campaign on this point.
Is the attorney general correct in saying laws banning consensual same-sex carnal relations are un-Indian and merely a vestige of the Raj? Or does the near unanimous voice of opprobrium from India’s religions for homosexual acts and the political classes desire to campaign on this issue speak to an Indian cultural and religious aversion to gay sex?
Or, are we seeing the “new normal” of reporting on social issues? As my colleagues at Get Religion have shown, balance is not a requirement for many mainstream media outlets when reporting on social issues. Bill Keller of the New York Times has stated his paper strives to be impartial when covering politics, but does not feel this same need when reporting on social issues. As TMatt has wrote at Get Religion, Keller believes that:
When covering debates on politics, it’s crucial for Times journalists to be balanced and fair to stakeholders on both sides. But when it comes to matters of moral and social issues, Bill Keller argues that it’s only natural for scribes in the world’s most powerful newsroom to view events through what he considers a liberal, intellectual and tolerant lens.
There is nothing really new in Keller’s worldview. Sixty three years ago Lionel Trilling wrote in the preface to The Liberal Imagination “It is one of the tendencies of liberalism to simplify.”
In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation. This does not mean, of course, that there is no impulse to conservatism or to reaction. Such impulses are certainly very strong, perhaps even stronger than most of us know. But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.
The state of American intellectual life has changed little, and I fear it has worsened. Trilling believed there should be an interplay of ideas between left and right for “it is not conducive to the real strength of liberalism that it should occupy the intellectual field alone.”
Citing John Stuart Mill’s essay on Coleridge, Trilling wrote:
Mill, at odds with Coleridge all down the intellectual and political line [wrote Trilling], nevertheless urged all liberals to become acquainted with this powerful conservative mind. He said that the power of every true partisan of liberalism should be, “Lord, enlighten thou our enemies… ; sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers. We are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom: their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength.”…What Mill meant, of course, was that the intellectual pressure which an opponent like Coleridge could exert would force liberals to examine their position for its weaknesses and complacencies.
Time’s report on the court battle in India over Section 377 reflects the complacency that Trilling fought so hard, unsuccessfully, to halt in American letters. By not engaging with ideas uncongenial to its own thinking Time has become sloppy, stale and predictable — all but valueless as reporting and rather tepid, even insipid, as polemic.
Please hear what I am saying in this post — I am not discussing the merits of the court decision, but Time magazine’s reporting on the court decision. As journalism this story fails the test — unbalanced, excessive adjectives and adverbs, open support of one side of an argument, short of key facts, lacking context, and stylistically flat.
Now if the story had been presented as “liberal outrage over Indian court decision” essay or news analysis piece, my criticisms would not be as sharp. However, Time has packaged this story as a news piece. Sunk in their complacencies, Time and many other media outlets are small-minded and provincial. They serve as exemplars of the mindset ascribed to the late New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael: “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”
First printed in Get Religion.
AP reports he did have sexual relations with that woman: Get Religion, December 10, 2013 December 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Associated Press, Daily Mail, Legion of Christ, Thomas Williams
“Can a bad person be a good theologian,” asked Mark Oppenheimer in the lede of an October column on the scandals surrounding John Howard Yoder. Should private failings overshadow public achievement?
This question has been asked of prominent figures ranging from T.S. Eliot to Bill Clinton to Mike Tyson. Is the aesthetic value of the Wasteland diminished by Eliot’s anti-Semitism, or the former president’s accomplishments wiped away by his claim he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Does biting Evander Holyfield’s ear or being convicted of rape undo sporting achievements? Will Pete Rose ever be inducted into the baseball hall of fame?
Religious leaders are held to a different standard, Oppenheimer wrote:
All of us fall short of our ideals, of course. But there is a common-sense expectation that religious professionals should try to behave as they counsel others to behave. They may not be perfect, but they should not be louts or jerks.
By that standard, few have failed as egregiously as John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian. In his teaching at Notre Dame and elsewhere, and in books like “The Politics of Jesus,” published in 1972, Mr. Yoder, a Mennonite Christian, helped thousands formulate their opposition to violence. Yet, as he admitted before his death in 1997, he groped many women or pressured them to have physical contact, although never sexual intercourse.
Oppenheimer does not cast stones, but he pulls no punches in discussing Yoder’s flaws. He does not call him a hypocrite, but asks whether interpretations of his work should be colored by personal failings. This week MennoMedia, the publishing agency for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, announced it will add a disclaimer to new editions of Yoder’s books that speak to his history of sexual harassment and abuse.
These musings on celebrity right and wrong were prompted by an Associated Press article reporting on the marriage of a former Catholic priest who left the Legion of Christ under a cloud. The article begins:
Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child’s mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers.
The second paragraph notes Glendon’s position as President of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and names his wife to be — Elizabeth Lev. It then moves back to Williams.
Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier. At the time, Williams apologized for “this grave transgression” against his vows of celibacy and said he had stayed on as a priest because he hoped to move beyond “this sin in my past” to do good work for the church. …
Towards the end of the article the Legion of Christ scandals are recounted and Williams’ fall from grace is placed against the order’s larger problems. The article closes on a curious note, however.
The Legion said the numbers indicate that less than 1 percent of the 1,133 priests ordained in the 72-year history of the order had been found guilty by a church trial of abuse, and less than 4 percent had been abused. A Legion spokesman said he didn’t know what the percentage was for the current number of Legion priests.
One percent of priests are abusers and four percent have been the subject of abuse? And what is the unknown percentage, abusers or victims? Should “abused” in the second clause of the first sentence be “accused”, or is the AP setting the two numbers against each other?
That technical point aside, my discomfort with this story comes in the middle of the piece when it shifts style, moving from reporting to commentary.
Asked for comment Thursday, Lev confirmed the wedding plans in an email, adding: “We have no intention of ever discussing our personal life in this forum.”
She had initially denied an intimate relationship with Williams, though they frequently appeared together in American circles in Rome, particularly with visiting U.S. student and Catholic tour groups.
Their wedding closes a circle of sorts, even as it raises some uncomfortable questions: Who beyond Williams’ superior in the church knew about the child while the couple tried to cover it up? Was Williams already in a relationship with Lev when she became a regular contributor to the magazine he published? And did the family ties to Williams influence Glendon in her defense of the Legion and its disgraced founder despite credible reports that the founder was a pedophile?
Who is asking these questions? And for that matter, why the move to the “‘enquiring‘ minds want to know style”? While asking out loud these questions may titillate some readers, to me they speak to the reporter’s frustration of not being able to get past the “no comment” email.
There is no balance to this article. By that I do not mean a “yes he did, no he didn’t” exchange, but an appreciation of Williams’ work as a moral theologian. Was he a clerical hack and hypocrite, or did he produce valuable work? The article does not ask nor answer this question — leaving it the level of a “moral theologian” who was caught engaging in immoral practices.
The degree of vehemence in this piece may lead one to suspect personal animus. Why else would the AP omit the news that their child has Downs syndrome. The Daily Mail, which takes great delight in exposing the foibles of naughty clergy, found time in its piece to applaud Williams for having done the right thing in marrying the mother of his disabled child.
Yet the story the AP has reported is true. Where then is the line between a harsh but fair report and a hatchet job?
In this instance the back story of the scandals at the Legion of Christ do have a place, as does Williams’ personal fall. Yet a complete story would tell us about human failing and redemption.
There is no context in this story, only anger. Not moral outrage at a priest failing in his vows, but a cartoonish depiction of one man’s fall. There is no humanity, no decency in the tone and presentation of this story. It is a hatchet job.
First published in Get Religion
Church of Scotland urges restraint in legalizing same-sex marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, December 6, 2013 December 9, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Presbyterian/Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church.
Tags: same-sex marriage
The Church of Scotland has reaffirmed its opposition to same-sex marriage.
In a statement released last week following the vote in the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee to begin the process towards legalizing same-sex marriage, the church’s press office stated it “stands within the mainstream Christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
The Rev. Dr Alan Hamilton, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Legal Questions Committee, affirmed the church’s commitment to “care for all people, gay and straight”, but said “until any future General Assembly of the Church of Scotland decides otherwise, that remains our position.”
There was a “wide spread of public opinion” about the wisdom of legalizing gay marriage, Dr. Hamilton said, “and that spread of public opinion is reflected among members of our congregations across the country. One thing is very clear and that is there is not unanimous support for this legislation in Scotland.”
“As the bill progresses through Holyrood, The Church of Scotland will continue to be a constructive voice in the national debate about it. We would also seek robust and detailed legal assurances and protection for those who do not wish to conduct same sex marriages as a matter of conscience.”
“The Church is conducting a wide-ranging review of marriage but there are no plans on the table for the Church to stop conducting marriages,” he said.
When the Scottish government announced its intention in 2012 to begin a process that would lead to the creation of same-sex marriages the Scottish Episcopal Church said that “its General Synod expresses the mind of the Church through its Canons. The Canon on Marriage currently states that marriage is a ‘physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God’.”
The Rt Rev. Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness said: “The Church’s current position is that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and this clarity allows us the space to listen to the many differing views held by the members of our Church.”
Prayers for Glasgow helicopter crash victims: The Church of England Newspaper, December 6, 2013 December 9, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Disaster Relief, Scottish Episcopal Church.
Tags: Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway
The Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway has offered his condolences to the families of the victims of the Clutha helicopter crash of 29 Nov 2013, when a police helicopter crashed into a pub killing at least nine and injuring 32 people
The Rt Rev. Gregor Duncan stated: “On behalf of the Episcopal Church in Glasgow and across Scotland I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to all the families of those who have lost their lives and to those who have been injured in this terrible disaster.”
Approximately 120 patrons were inside the Glasgow pub last Friday evening when a police helicopter crashed into the roof of the building. Chief Constable Stephen House said the two officers and the civilian pilot aboard the chopper were killed, along with six people on the ground.
“We can now confirm that the number of fatalities involved in this incident has risen to eight,” the chief constable said, “fourteen people remain seriously injured in Glasgow hospitals and are being cared for by health colleagues there.”
Dr. Duncan offered thanks for the help provided to the emergency services by volunteers, offering the church’s “gratitude to the many citizens of Glasgow who have come to the help of the people caught up in this tragedy, and praise the exemplary work being done by all the emergency services and medical staff.”
“Our churches across Glasgow, and beyond, will be praying for all those affected by this tragedy and for the whole city of Glasgow,” the bishop said.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Consistory court offers guidance on burial plot allocation: The Church of England Newspaper, December 6, 2013 December 9, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Consistory Court, Diocese of Bath and Wells, grave yards
The Consistory Court of the Diocese of Bath & Wells has ruled that “informal agreements” to reserve burial plots in churchyards have no standing in ecclesiastical law.
In the case of Re The Churchyard of Wick St. Lawrence  Bath and Wells Const Ct, the diocesan chancellor offered guidelines for parish church councils on the rules governing allocation of burial plots. Where there is no legal right to burial at a particular parish, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1976 s6(2) empowers the minister, having taken the advice of the PCC, to permit an interment.
In the Wick case, informal permission had been given by the minister to a couple who wished to be buried in the churchyard, even though they had no legal right to claim burial. However, the vicar’s promise did not create a legal right for the couple’s children to have a spot reserved for them also.
The chancellor stated PCCs must adopt business-like practices in the management of churchyards and not make informal agreements or use spaces that have already been set aside for others. “The Parochial Church Council is entitled to have regard to the anticipated demands upon burial space arising from an increase in the population of the parish,” and may refuse to honour “informal agreements” made by the minister.
Tags: Diocese of Qu’Appelle
Police have recovered the bishop of Qu’Appelle’s crosier, stolen last month from St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Regina, Saskatchewan.
On 18 Nov 2013 Regina police reported they had recovered the five and a half foot long staff made in the 1880s in London for the first bishop of the Canadian diocese. Valued for insurance purposes at C$15,000, the crosier sported a silver head encrusted with semi-precious stones. Police report the crosier had been damaged as the thief appeared to have attempted to pry the jewels from the staff.
The police have declined to speak to the circumstances of the crosier’s recovery, though they have asked the public to assist them with their inquiries to catch the thief.
NZ Supreme Court permits demolition of Christchurch Cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, December 6, 2013 December 9, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Christchurch Cathedral, Victoria Matthews
New Zealand’s Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) which had asked the court to block the demolition of earthquake ravaged Christ Church Cathedral.
On 2 December 2013 the court held the GCBT had not shown the lower Court of Appeal decision permitting the cathedral’s demolition had been in error.
The underlying issues were of ”great general importance to the citizens of Christchurch” arising from the “history, function and iconic nature of the Cathedral. However, in this case nothing that has been raised on behalf of the applicant reaches the threshold of showing that the decisions of the courts below may be in error,” the court held. The New Zealand Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court decision allowing the Church Property Trustees (CPT) of the Diocese of Christchurch to demolish the earthquake damaged cathedral.
On 22 Feb 2011 a 6.3 magnitude earthquake toppled the 132 year old cathedral’s Gothic spire and collapsed part of the roof. Earthquakes in June and December caused further significant damage leaving the building in ruins. On 2 March 2012 the Rt Rev Victoria Matthews announced the cathedral would be demolished as rebuilding would cost NZ $50 million more than would be received from the proceeds of the insurance settlement.
The GCBT led by former MP Jim Anderton protested the decision and asked the High Court to cancel the demolition and order the church to rebuild the damaged cathedral. However High Court Justice Lester Chisholm ruled the church was entitled to deconstruct the cathedral, but only if it built a new cathedral on the same site. The GCBT challenged this decision in the Court of Appeal, and on 15 Nov 2012 the High Court issued an interim judgment halting demolition until Court of Appeal reviewed its findings. In July the Court of Appeal denied GCBT’s petition, prompting it to take its case to the Supreme Court.
Lord Carey’s doom warnings spark sharp debate: The Church of England Newspaper, December 6, 2013 December 9, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: George Carey
Lord Carey has warned the “Church of England could be one generation away from extinction”.
Speaking to the Shropshire Churches Conference 2013 on 17 Nov 2013, the retired archbishop observed the Church of England was viewed with “indifference — the rolled eyes of embarrassment, the yawn of boredom,” adding that may did not see “the average church as a place where great things happen.”
“To sit in a cold church looking at the back of other peoples’ heads is surely not the best place to meet exciting people and to hear prophetic words,” he said.
The archbishop offered a four point plan for evangelism that began with reimagining the church. Rather than focus on institutional preservation, Anglicans should emphasize the “transformative effects of Christianity … of prayer being answered … of sins being forgiven … of reconciliation taking place … of lives being touched.”
“What I am urging is a return to basics where our expectation is for transformed lives,” Lord Carey said. “This is not a cry for more gimmicks, but simply a cry to go deeper.”
To do this, Christians must “nurture fellow Christians to grow authentic disciples,” as well as serve as “agents of social transformation. “
“The time has come to ratchet up our commitment to serving our communities around us. Often the dirty word is the word relevance. Christians cry: ‘It is not our job to be relevant. Our job is to follow Christ’. I agree. But no one was more relevant than our Lord in serving others,” he said.
Lord Carey’s warnings sparked spirited controversy in the press. The Telegraph’s Cristina Odone endorsed the archbishop’s sentiments and applauded his work of recent years, but said his predictions were wrong. Also writing in the Telegraph, A.N. Wilson argued nothing could be done to save the Church of England.
There are two simple reasons for this, and there is nothing anyone can say that will make these reasons go away.
“The first is sex. Traditional Christianity taught that there is no permitted sexual act outside marriage. All but no one now – even Christians – really believes this. What used to be called ‘living in sin’ is absolutely normal. Nearly all young people, gay or straight, when they reach a certain moment in their relationship, try living together. The Churches can either back down and say that for 2,000 years they have been talking nonsense about sex; or they can dig in their heels. Either way, the Church is diminished.
“The second reason is a much bigger thing. That is the decline of belief itself. Most people simply cannot subscribe to the traditional creeds. No number of Alpha courses can make people believe that God took human form of a Virgin, or rose from the dead. They simply can’t swallow it. They see no reason, therefore, to listen to a Church that propounds these stories and then presumes to tell them how to behave in the bedroom.”
The Guardian’s Andrew Brown stated: “Like a hypochondriac told by the doctor that he really has got cancer, the former archbishop finds that the worries that have comforted him for years are suddenly, horribly frightening.”
He further argued the decline of the Church of England was Lord Carey’s fault. “If the CofE is doomed, as former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey insists, it’s down to the damage he did in office.”
Is the media missing out on African-American church news?: Get Religion, December 6, 2013 December 9, 2013Posted by geoconger in African Methodist Episcopal Church, Get Religion, Press criticism.
Tags: First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Times
Hell hath no fury like a reporter scorned, is my version of the traditional proverb.
Last night the Los Angeles Times had me going. A report on the lawsuits surrounding the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles — a major player in the city’s African-American community — in a story entitled “Judge dismisses defamation lawsuit filed by ex-First AME pastor” had me working the phones, calling lawyers and sources in California to track down news that was new to me. And for a reporter whose beat includes church law to be caught flat footed was quite a comeuppance.
Had I missed a major story? Here’s the lede:
A Los Angeles County judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit by the former pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church, who alleged he suffered emotional distress when he was removed from the helm of Los Angeles’ oldest black church.
Last December the paper reported the church filed suit against its former pastor the Rev. John Hunter, his wife and a group of other church officials and directors of affiliated corporations. It said:
Hunter has had a rocky tenure at the church. Since taking over First AME in 2004, Hunter has been sued for sexual harassment, a civil claim that was settled for an undisclosed amount. The Times reported in 2008 that an internal audit found he charged $122,000 in jewelry, family vacations and clothing to the church’s credit card. He later agreed to a nine-year repayment plan.
He earned a generous salary during his tenure, lived in a $2-million home and drove a Mercedes-Benz paid for by the church. His wife earned $147,000 a year running nonprofit organizations connected to the 19,000-member congregation. But over the last few years, the hilltop church in the West Adams district has fallen into debt. The church owes nearly $500,000 to creditors and some vendors say they have not been paid in more than a year.
The latest LA Times story reports on Hunter’s counter-suit, where he alleged First AME had:
“embarked upon a campaign to discredit and defame” him “by asserting maliciously false and inflammatory statements as well as taking steps to publicly humiliate him.”
This story is light on context. First AME has over 19,000 members and plays an active role in the community with numerous charitable and educational programs for at risk youth and the disadvantaged. Perhaps readers would have known this, but the importance of the church in the community was not spelled.
While the apparent disinterest by the LA Times was a point of concern, what set off my new news alarm was this statement in paragraph five.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig granted the church’s motion to dismiss the case brought by Hunter on grounds that a recent Supreme Court case limited the state’s action when dealing with religious affairs.
What court decision? Which Supreme Court? California or the U.S.? Covering the Episcopal Church has led me to write dozens upon dozens of stories on the litigation between it and conservative breakaway groups. Most of the cases have involved congregations seeking to withdraw from what they describe as “liberal” dioceses — including three cases in Los Angeles and Orange County, Cal., as well as dioceses seeking to leave the national Episcopal Church — including the Diocese of San Joaquin (covering California’s inland empire).
If the California Supreme Court had handed down a ruling that limited power of the courts to adjudicate church disputes this was major news. And quite an embarrassment for me. It is part of my job to follow these issues and not be surprised. Hence the flurry of emails and telephone calls to California from me asking to be let in on the secret.
One of my canon lawyer contacts responded:
I’m not sure what the case is to which the court had reference. If it’s the California Supreme Court, there are no “recent rulings” from it (of which I am aware) that could affect such a suit. Most likely the case meant is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hosannah-Tabor case — which does not affect any of the Episcopal withdrawal cases (though [the Episcopal Church's lawyers] would like it to).
In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 565 U.S. ___ (2012), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that federal discrimination laws do not apply to religious organizations’ selection of religious leaders. Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts held:
the Establishment Clause prevents the Government from appointing ministers, and the Free Exercise Clause prevents it from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own.
Nothing to do with church property disputes then. My professional crisis was averted and my ego assuaged. Perhaps I read too much into the Times‘ account, but its explanation of the court’s decision was inadequate. Hell hath no fury like a reporter scorned when he sees a major story slip away.
The pedant in me must point out that this phrase too is not quite right. The line is from William Congreve’s tragedy The Mourning Bride (1697), III, 8: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, / Nor Hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
But given the ink expended on the Episcopal Church cases by the LA Times over the past decade, it seems somewhat miserly to cover a story about a major African-American church (whose membership is comparable in size to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles) with such a paltry article.
Tell me Get Religion readers are the historically African-American churches under covered in the press? Are the mainline churches over exposed? Should the LA Times have put a bit more effort and information into its report?
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
First printed in GetReligion.
Anglican Unscripted Episode 87, December 5, 2013 December 5, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: National Cathedral, Pilling Report
Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.
00:00 Anglicans have lost the Mother Church
14:38 Piling onto Pilling Report with Peter Ould
33:14 IRS and Clergy Housing Allowances with AS Haley
41:51 The National Museum in Washington DC
48:37 Closing and Bloopers
Tags: Guardian, Metropolitan Seraphim
The essence of life, its meanings, symbols and motives, can be found in television; reporting on the condition of man is reducible to vignettes from Seinfeld and Yes Minister.
This profundity came to me late last night as I perused The Guardian‘s report on the political and civil debate over same-sex unions in Greece. As my colleagues at Get Religion have shown, balance is not a requirement for many mainstream media outlets when reporting on gay marriage. The article “Bishop threatens to excommunicate Greek MPs who vote for gay unions” is unbalanced with only one side of the debate presented.
That is a commonplace of European-style advocacy reporting and The Guardian is not shy in proclaiming its leftist credentials. However in this instance the reporter’s desire to preach overcame her news gathering skills. Presented with a golden opportunity of promoting the rightness of the cause of gay marriage in the face of intolerance, The Guardian neglected to do its home work. It did not ask basic questions that would have provided essential context.
But first, let us turn to the canon of journalistic scripture. Reading from episode 19, series 3 number 5, of Yes Minister, “The Bed of Nails” recounts Jim Hacker’s acceptance of the gift of “Transport Supremo” from the prime minister. Hacker is delighted to be offered the job of developing an “Integrated Transport”‘ policy for Britain. The episode recounts his discovery the Supremo post is fraught with peril and might end his career. Sir Humphrey and Bernard urge the minister to think through the implications of what he has been offered as danger lies ahead.
Hacker: Furthermore, Sir Mark thinks there may be votes in it, and if so, I don’t intend to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Sir Humphrey: I put it to you, Minister that you are looking a Trojan Horse in the mouth.
Hacker: You mean, if I look closely at this gift horse, I would find it’s full of Trojans?
Bernard: If you had looked the Trojan Horse in the mouth, Minister, you would have found Greeks inside.
Odd look from Hacker… Bernard: Well, the point is it was the Greeks who gave the Trojan Horse to the Trojans, so technically, it wasn’t a Trojan Horse at all, it was a Greek Horse. Hence the tag timeo Danaos et dona ferentes which you will recall, is usually and somewhat inaccurately translated as Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Or doubtless, you would have recalled, had you not attended the LSE.
Hacker: Yes well I’m sure Greek tags are all right in their way, but can we stick to the point, please?
Bernard: Sorry. Sorry, Greek tags?
Hacker: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. I suppose the EEC equivalent would be Beware of Greeks bearing an olive oil surplus!
Sir Humphrey: Excellent, Minister!
Bernard: Ah. Oh. Well, the point is minister, that just as the Trojan Horse was in fact Greek, what you describe as a Greek tag is in fact Latin. It’s obvious, really: the Greeks would never suggest bewaring of themselves, if one could use such a participle, ‘bewaring’, that is. And it’s clearly Latin, not because timeo ends in -o, because the Greek first person also ends in -o. Though actually, there is a Greek word ?????, meaning ‘I honour’. But the -os ending is a nominative singular termination of the second declension in Greek, and an accusative plural in Latin, of course. Though actually ‘Danaos’ is not only the Greek for Greek, its also the Latin for Greek, it’s very interesting really.
The moral of the story is that sometimes something that is too good to be true, is too good to be true. This can be seen in The Guardian story about Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus.
The Guardian reports:
A leading Greek bishop has warned lawmakers that they risk incurring the wrath of God – and will be excommunicated – if they vote in favour of legalising same-sex partnerships. In a letter lambasting homosexuality as “an insult to God and man”, the Metropolitan of Piraeus, Seraphim, pleaded with the country’s deputy prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos, not to condone gay unions.
The article discusses the content of a public letter released by Seraphim, whom The Guardian describes as a “57-year-old former monk, a prominent personality in Greece’s powerful Orthodox church” and offers a response from liberal critics. True to form, the article is one-sided. We hear from a spokesman for the Socialist Party, who likens the bishop to the Taliban, and from a gay activist. The Church of Greece is offered a chance to say they are against same-sex unions, but no argument is proffered against gay unions — save for Metropolitan Seraphim’s jeremiad.
The article then closes out with references to European court rulings endorsing gay unions and a slam at the country’s backward stance on gay issues. All rather predictable from The Guardian and pretty much as one would expect. But there is more to this story that The Guardian did not report, or did not know.
Who exactly is Seraphim? How influential is he? How should we weight his words? These questions are not asked nor answered — leaving the impression that Greece is a priest ridden small-minded country. A little research, or knowledge of the Greek religious scene, would reveal that Seraphim has form. In 2011 I reported:
Jews are to blame for a host of the world’s ills, from homosexuality to the Holocaust, a Greek Orthodox Church leader told an Athens television programme last month.
In a Dec 20 interview broadcast on the MEGA television network, Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus laid the blame for Greece’s financial meltdown on an international Zionist conspiracy and a cabal of Jewish bankers who sought to “enslave Greece and Christian Orthodoxy.”
I grant you The Church of England Newspaper is not a must read for journalists. Sadly the paper’s circulation has not changed in recent years. When it started in 1828 it numbered around 12,000 subscribers and I think its current numbers are about the same –perhaps we should prune the circulation list. Nonetheless Seraphim’s views on Jews, (he believes Hitler was a tool of a Zionist conspiracy), have been reported in the New York Times and other English-language outlets.
Would it have put Seraphim’s letter in context if readers knew of his fantasies about a Jewish world conspiracy? Would his views on Freemasons and the nefarious influence of secret societies seeking to create a new world order provide context to his views on civil unions?
Presented with a golden opportunity of a crazed cleric denouncing politicians who would support same-sex unions, The Guardian ran an advocacy story that boiled down to its essence said: “See how opponents of gay marriage think. You can dismiss all objections to gay marriage because the argument does not rise above Seraphim’s silliness.”
I am not seeking to address the question of the rights or wrongs of gay marriage in this post. What I am discussing is journalism. What a good newspaper should have done in this case it to note Seraphim’s other controversial views in its description of the cleric. Context is key and the omission of important information, whether through ignorance or editorial design, colors a story.
In short, readers you cannot trust The Guardian‘s account to give you a full and balanced picture. If you are looking to reinforce preexisting prejudices, you have something here that will do quite nicely. But it is not journalism.
Reporters — a story that is too good to be true, should be investigated — as it may well be too good to be true.
First printed in Get Religion.
Viva la Eurorévolution: Get Religion, December 3, 2013 December 3, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ukrainian Orthodox (Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate).
Tags: Guardian, Le Monde, Reuters, Ukraine
The events unfolding across the Ukraine — protests against the government’s move away from Europe towards Russia — are not faith stories as defined by editorial desks in London and New York, but the clash of nationalism and politics in Eastern Europe cannot be understood without reference to religion.
The Guardian‘s reporter in Kiev has described the scene on Monday morning:
Throngs of anti-government protesters remained in control of parts of central Kiev on Monday morning, as police kept their distance and Viktor Yanukovych’s government pondered its next move. After huge protests on Sunday, during which several hundred thousand people took to the streets of Kiev to call for the president’s removal, protesters erected makeshift barricades around Independence Square – the hub of the 2004 Orange Revolution. Nearby, the main City Hall building was taken over by protesters without police resistance on Sunday evening.
Many of the windows were smashed and “Revolution HQ” was daubed in black paint on its stone Stalinist facade. Inside, hundreds of people milled around receiving refreshments; many who had travelled from the regions to Kiev were sleeping on the floor.
The independent Eastern European press has characterized the street protests as a revolution. Lviv’s Vissoki Zamok, stated that nine years after the Orange Revolution, “the Eurorevolution” was underway.
It is symbolic that on December 1, the anniversary of the referendum in favor of independence that took place 22 years ago, Ukraine was once again the theater of mass demonstrations in support of its sovereignty, the rights of its citizens and its European future.
Why is this happening? Protestors have taken to the streets to denounce President Viktor Yanukovych for refusing to sign an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 29.
In a front page above-the-fold editorial on Monday the Parisian daily Le Monde stated:
Demonstrations of love for the European Union are sufficiently rare these days for them to be rather arresting. Absorbed by the debt crisis, the struggle for more growth and lower unemployment, the rise of populism and the management of its enlargement, the union has forgotten that it retains a formidable power of attraction. For people who do not benefit from the rule of law, Europe symbolizes the hope for freedom, democracy, and modernity.
This is the message sent to us by tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have been gathering day after day to protest on the squares of Kiev and the other cities of the country.
Reading Le Monde‘s editorial and related news coverage one might think les citoyens of Kiev were linked arm in arm marching to the seats of power singing La Marseillaise. But an American might well ask why a trade treaty would spark such an uproar. What is going on here?
It is in the secondary stories that we see glimpses of the religion ghosts. Reuters reports that when attacked by riot police, some protestors took refuge in an Orthodox cathedral and barricaded themselves inside a monastery.
Around 100 Ukrainian pro-EU protesters took refuge from police batons and biting cold on Saturday inside the walls of a central Kiev monastery. With a barricade of benches pushed up against a gate to keep police out, protesters – who had rallied against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject a pact with the European Union – checked their wounds in the pre-dawn light.
Some attended a 6 a.m. service in the lilac and gold St. Michael’s Cathedral on the monastery grounds after which a group of bearded, black-robed monks approached protesters to hear of their encounters with police and urge them not to seek revenge. “They gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil,” said Roman Tsado, 25, a native of Kiev, who said police beat him on his legs as they cleared the pro-EU rally.
Further down in the story Reuters tells us what sort of church it was that gave shelter to the protestors.
The Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral, where the faithful light candles before gilded icons of saints, was destroyed during the religious purges of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and rebuilt after independence.
What Reuters neglects to mention is which Ukrainian Orthodox church belongs to. St Michael’s belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate — not the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate.
What of it you might well ask. There are three principal churches in the Ukraine. One under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, or Moscow Patriarchate; an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church or the Kiev Patriarchate; and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
And the three churches have taken differing stands on the protests, with the Kiev Patriarchate and the Greek Catholics backing the country’s realignment towards Europe, while the Moscow Patriarchate backs the president’s alignment with Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow.
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington last month Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) was reported to have said:
[T]he Ukrainian Churches would benefit from an Association Agreement. For one thing, it would place the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) in a new situation. With Ukraine committed to Europe and continued independence, that Church would have to decide which side it was on – that of Russia, or that of the Ukrainian people. By siding with Russia, the UOC-MP would assume the role of a fifth column for a hostile state. If, on the other hand, it sided with the Ukrainians, it would be obligated to unite with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) into a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow.
Statements released by the three churches in the wake of the uprising illustrate these religio-political calculations. The Kiev Patriarchate and the Greek Catholic Church have lent their support to the demonstrations — and as Reuters reports opened its churches to protestors as a safe haven from the police. The Moscow Patriarchate in Kiev has backed President Yanukovich — and its call for calm echoes the president’s public statements to date.
By raising these religion points, I am not stating the Eurorevolution is being driven by religion. I am arguing that a well rounded news report should touch upon the religion angles in this story — provide the context for a Western reader to understand. Not all of the protestors are motivated by religious fervor — but religion lies close below the surface of national politics east of the Oder and a good reporter should relate this information to his readers.
First printed in Get Religion
Tags: Albert Camus, depression, France, Le Monde, prozac, secularism
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach, stanza 3, (1867)
More bad news for France.
The lede in the back cover story (page 22) in the Nov 26, 2013 issue of Le Monde reports: « La France a perdu un record. Mais personne ne s’en plaindra. » (France has lost a record, but no one will be complaining.)
The article entitled « La France n’est plus leader dans la consommation d’antidépresseurs » reports La belle France has lost its coveted status as Europe’s number one country for pill-popping.
Parmi les champions d’Europe de la consommation d’antidépresseurs en tout genre, le pays est maintenant largement distancé dans sa fringale de psychotropes. Selon le rapport 2013 de l’Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques (OCDE) sur la santé (« Health at a Glance 2013 ») publié le 21 novembre, l’Hexagone se situe même sous la moyenne des 23 pays du classement, ex aequo avec l’Allemagne ! Une prouesse au pays de la « sinistrose ».
Once among the European champions in the consumption of antidepressants, the country has lost ground in its consumption of psychotropic munchies. According to the 2013 report “Health at a Glance” from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published on Nov 21, l’Hexagone (France) is even below average of the 23 countries ranked, and is tied with the land of gloom, Germany. Quite a accomplishment!
The article reports that France is tied with Germany and Slovenia in 15th place in consuming 50 doses per 1000 people per day, while Iceland reigns supreme with 106 doses per day. The French are now less depressed than the Danes (4), Swedes (5), Portuguese (6), British (7), Belgians (9), Spanish (10), Norwegians (11), and Luxembourgers (12).
Greece did not turn in any data, the article adds, but notes the number of suicides in that country has risen 45 per cent from 2007 to 2011.
It is in its discussion of the “why” — why the increase in the use of antidepressants that this piece strays into Get Religion land. Quoting Gaétan Lafortune, the coordinator of the report, Le Monde writes:
La crise? « l’idée que la récession, le chômage ont plongé certains individus dans une profonde détres se », note M. Lafortune.
The crisis? “We can not rule out the idea that the recession and unemployment has plunged individuals into deep depression,” notes Mr. Lafortune.
However, he adds that in Germany where there is “almost full employment” the use of “antidepressants increased by 46 per cent between 2007 and 2011″, while the “lucky country” of Australia is second on the list of antidepressant consumers. Le Monde further muses on the apparent lack of correlation between economic well-being and consumption of antidepressants, finally coming to the conclusion the increase is due to the lack of stigma surrounding mental illness and over prescription of pills by physicians.
Perhaps, but is there not a religion ghost here as well? Could, or should, Le Monde have addressed the question whether the decline of religious faith, the moral ennui and entropy that has taken hold of Europe been considered? Would the discussion of the “why” been improved by a question or comment or two from psychologists or religious leaders addressing the issue of the meaning of life?
France is after all the land of Sartre, Camus and existentialism. Whether it was couched in faith, philosophy or psychology this story would have been stronger with a discussion of the “why” that moved beyond materialism.
“[F]or the world, which seems,” Matthew Arnold wrote in stanza four of Dover Beach,
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night
First posted in Get Religion.
Gov-Gen backs gay marriage/republic for Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2013 November 28, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
Tags: gay marriage, monarchy, Quentin Bryce
Governor-General Quentin Bryce has endorsed gay marriage and a republican form of government for Australia.
Appointed Australia’s first female governor-general in 2008 by then Labor Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mrs. Bryce, the former governor of Queensland, stated on 22 November 2013 in a lecture delivered in Sydney that she hoped Australia would become a nation were “people are free to love and marry whom they choose”.
“And where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state.”
The governor-general’s comments prompted some political leaders to call for her dismissal, while others endorsed her views.
NSW state MP David Elliott, who in 1999 led the “no republic” coalition that fought attempts to make Australia a republic and remove the Queen as head of state said: “If Quentin Bryce wants to debate policy and legislation she should run for parliament, not use her vice-regal position to pursue her own political agenda.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Associated Press she was pleased the governor general had spoken out. “To have the governor-general step forward and say this is something Australians care about, and as the governor-general, she believes that marriage equality is a human right … it’s hugely influential across all voter groups.”
However, Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbott – a staunch opponent of gay marriage a supporter of the monarchy — said he was not perturbed. “It’s more than appropriate for the governor-general approaching the end of her term to express a personal view.”
Mrs. Bryce is expected to step down in March, 2014.
“Cross does not save” says Australia’s first diocesan woman bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2013 November 28, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Women Priests.
Tags: Diocese of Grafton, Sara Macneil
The Diocese of Grafton has appointed Australia’s first diocesan woman bishop.
On 17 November 2013 a twelve member Nomination Board appointed by the diocesan synod selected the Rev. Dr. Sara Macneil to be the 11th bishop of the New South Wales diocese.
In a statement released on the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn website, Dr Macneil, the Senior Associate Priest at Holy Covenant in Jamison, ACT, said she was “surprised, overwhelmed, humbled” to be appointed Australia’s first female diocesan bishop.
“I am awed by the confidence placed in me by the [Grafton Diocese] appointment board and by their willingness to be trailblazers,” she said.
She told the ABC: “There’ll be lots of people for whom it’s unexpected that a woman has been elected. For some people for whom it will be unwelcome, I think there’ll be some scrutiny but there’ll also be, for a lot of people, a lot of excitement and joy.”
While women have been appointed assistant bishops in Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and Brisbane, none have been elected to the episcopate. While serving as Archdeacon of Canberra in 2008 she stood for election as bishop in that diocese, but was not elected.
In 2011 Dr. Macneil abruptly quit as Dean of Adelaide, telling the congregation of St. Peter’s Cathedral she was resigning as she could “no longer work with integrity at diocesan level.”A member of the liberal wing of the Australian church, Dr. Macneil rejects the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, journalist the Rev. David Ould reports, and has argued the “cross does not save” but it is “Jesus’ presence among us” that saves. The bishop-elect also has gone on record endorsing the ordination to the priesthood of candidates who are in same-sex relationships — a stance at odds with the church’s teachings.
A onetime member of the Australian diplomatic corps, Dr. Macneil declined to elaborate on the reason she was resigning less than two years after her appointment as South Australia’s first female Dean – and the first woman to be appointed to the post in an Australian capital city.
Unlike other Australian dioceses, where the choice of bishop is made by the synod, in the diocese of Grafton a 12 member committee composed of six clergy and six lay members is elected by the synod to select and then appoint the bishop.
The choice of a new bishop for Grafton fell to a 12 member committee Other women have been consecrated as assistant bishops within Australian Anglican dioceses and, overseas, women have been made diocesan bishops but this is a national first for Australia.
Dr. Macneil’s election comes at a difficult time for the diocese. Her predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Keith Slater, resigned in May 2013 in the wake of an abuse scandal involving the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore.
On 18 November 2013 a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began hearings on the diocese’s conduct in the North Coast Children’s Home affair.
However, Bishop-elect Macneil stated: “In recent times the Diocese of Grafton has faced financial difficulties and is now appearing before the Royal Commission… There is a determination among the people of the diocese to understand what has gone wrong in the past, to ensure that it does not happen again and to embrace the future with hope, trusting in God.”
Tags: Australia, Roy Morgan Research Ltd
Islam is not a religion of peace in the minds of the majority of Australians, a survey conducted on behalf of the Q Society of Australia reports. The survey undertaken by Roy Morgan Research Ltd shows indicates a majority of Australians believe the assimilation of Muslim immigrants is not working as 70 per cent believe the country is not a better place because of Islam.
The survey, completed in late October, found a majority (53 per cent) of Australians want full face coverings banned from public spaces and 50.2 per cent want Islamic sharia law banned all together.
Older Australians and those who voted for the governing Liberal/National parties coalition were helding harsher views of Islam than did Green party supporters or younger voters. However, only 15 per cent of Australians think Islam and terrorism are not related, while proposals by secularist and multi-cultural advocates to cancel state Christmas, Easter or ANZAC Day celebrations in order not to offend non-Christians is endorsed by only 3.5 per cent of those surveyed.
Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood said the poll results validate in their opinion the need for “new strategies and policies. While followers of most religions seem to get along well, Australian politicians must acknowledge Islam is not just another religion and the growing concern is not a fringe issue,” he said.
The Q Society of Australia is a civil rights advocacy group founded in 2010 whose members are “concerned about the socio-political problems associated with the rise of Islam and sharia law in Australia; as well as religiously-motivated human rights abuses against religious minorities in many OIC-member countries,” its website states.
Oxfordshire priest imprisoned for child abuse: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2013 November 28, 2013Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Christopher Tadman-Robins
A NSM priest in the Diocese of Oxford and former magistrate has been sentenced to prison for child abuse.
On 22 Nov 2013 the Rev. Christopher Tadman-Robins (66) was sentenced to two and half years imprisonment by the Luton Crown Court after having been convicted last month of five counts of sexually abusing a ten year old girl.
Ordained in 1989 Dr. Tadman-Robins had sat as a magistrate in Witney, and had taught music. He was also the former musical director of the Northern Ballet.
While his barrister pleaded with the court for his client to be spared a term of imprisonment as no other complaints of abuse had been made, Judge Philip Bartle QC said his past good deeds would not spare him.
“Your victim was aged from 10 to 12 and you were in your 50s. The impact on her of these offences has been devastating. She has suffered untold stress and has self-harmed.”
“Your actions took away her innocence which is something from which she will never recover,” the judge said as he handed down sentence.
Following his conviction last month, the Bishop of Dorchester noted Dr Tadman-Robins had served as a non-stipendiary curate in the Burford Benefice from 1989-1992. “Since then he has held no ecclesiastical office in the Diocese of Oxford, but used to take occasional services at the invitation of the parish clergy in West Oxfordshire. His permission to officiate was withdrawn as soon as he was arrested last year.”
“Any case like this is a matter of sorrow and regret for the Church of England. We recognise that the suffering of survivors of sexual abuse is profound and long lasting. The Church of England will not tolerate abusive behaviour in its clergy or anyone else for whom we have responsibility. We take allegations of offences such as these extremely seriously and always work closely with the statutory authorities to ensure abusers are brought to justice.”
“We would expect Dr Tadman-Robins to be referred for barring and prohibited from ever holding office in the Church of England again as a result of his conviction,” Bishop Colin Fletcher said.
Tags: CBS Evening News
I am reaching back a bit into my guilt file — stories I want to cover but for one reason or another have not touched. But the recent flurry of news stories about women priests and the Catholic clergy shortage led me to pull this item out of my bag.
The CBS Evening News reported earlier this year that there is a shortage of Roman Catholic priests in the United States. This may be news to some, I suppose, but the story has been getting a bit long in the tooth. However, the news “hook” CBS used in its segment was that the church was using Anglicans to plug the gap — hence the title: “Catholic Church turns to Anglicans to fill U.S. priest shortage.”
Yes, there is a shortage of Catholic priests in the United States.
No, the shortfall is not being met by using Anglicans.
Catholic dioceses in the U.S. and Europe are importing priests from India, Africa and Asia to meet pressing pastoral needs — this story has been told hundreds of times over the past few years in the secular press. A recent example of such stories is this well written piece in Der Spiegel reporting on an Indian priest’s acculturation to Germany.
The article begins with a recitation of the problem, profiling a Milwaukee priest who has the pastoral charge of seven congregations.
Sunday is anything but a day of rest for Father Tim Kitzke. On the Sunday we followed him, the priest said Mass at three different Milwaukee churches, held a luncheon for dozens of parishioners and baptized a baby. Kitzke and one other priest are in charge of seven churches in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. There used to be a time when 14 priests covered the seven churches. “It’s not only — maybe not the old model … but it’s the old reality,” he says.
The number of Roman Catholic priests in the United States has steadily dropped from nearly 59,000 in 1975 to just under 39,000 last year. But the number of Catholics in the United States has increased by 17 million. Asked if he worries, Kitzke says, “Definitely, yes, we obviously need more priests — that goes without saying, we need more vocations.”
The segment offers facts and figures on the priest shortage and then transitions to a former Episcopal priest who joined the Catholic Church and has since been ordained a Catholic priest.
Peer’s objections to central heating overruled by church court: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 25, 2013Posted by geoconger in Canon Law, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Diocese of Chichester, Lady Margaret Baldwin, Re Burwash Weald St. Philip  Chichester Const Ct
The Consistory Court of the Diocese of Chichester has overruled objections to the installation of a heating system for St. Philip’s Church in Burwash, holding the objections made by a nonegarian peer, while no doubt well intentioned, had “served in this instance only to obfuscate and delay the carrying out of the now long-overdue process of renewing the heating system”.
In Re Burwash Weald St. Philip  Chichester Const Ct, Chancellor Mark Hill QC, noted Lady Margaret Baldwin, a prominent member of the congregation, had made formal objections to the installation of a natural gas boiler and radiators to heat the church.
The chancellor wrote he had had “some difficulty in comprehending the nature of the objection advanced by Lady Baldwin,” which had been made in a “good number” of letters written in “dense text in a small font.”
“Their content strays considerably from relevant material – they are at times contradictory and at others repetitive.
“Lady Baldwin expresses herself to be animated by ‘habitual concern for the congregation’ – a worthy objective, but an intrusive and debilitating one if the concern is misplaced or rooted in a flawed understanding of the proposals.”
Chancellor Hill said the objections by Lady Baldwin, who was well into her 90’s, centered round fears the installation of central heating would damage the organ, which had been accidentally damaged during renovations in 1962.
The parochial council had engaged an “eminently qualified” architect to oversee the project had had raised the £51,000 necessary to undertake the project through a public appeal and a loan facilitated by the Diocesan Board of Finance.
He added: “As a dispassionate observer, I am saddened that Lady Baldwin’s ‘habitual concern for the congregation’ seems to have served in this instance only to obfuscate and delay the carrying out of the now long-overdue process of renewing the heating system.
“It has led to further faculty fees and may have increased the overall cost for the parish. That is much to be regretted,” the judge ruled in granting the faculty.
Westminster Hall debate highlights persecution of Christians in the Middle East: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 25, 2013Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Christians are in danger of being driven out of the Middle East, MP Fiona Bruce warned last week, urging the British government to aid the victims of the campaign of terror waged by militant Islamists.
In remarks made at a Westminster Hall Adjournment Debate on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Mrs. Bruce, the member for Congleton (Cons.) highlighted findings of a newly released report prepared by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The report, “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2011-2013”, found that intolerance had grown in 20 of the 30 countries surveyed.
“In virtually every country in and around the [Middle East], Christians report suffering either high, high to extreme, or extreme persecution,” she said.
Christians “have suffered from a domino effect of violence that began in Iraq, spread to Syria and overshadows Egypt, leaving the survival of the Church in jeopardy.”
“We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror that we feel about the atrocities towards Jews on Kristallnacht and on other occasions during the Second World War,” she said.
The member for Upper Bann, David Simpson (DUP) told the gathering ““Every hour, a Christian is tortured and murdered somewhere in the world.”
“Surely, in this day and age, something more can be done to protect people and their faith,” he said.
David Burrowes MP said: “The term ‘Christian persecution’ is sometimes bandied about carelessly… if there is Christian persecution in this country then at worst its victim is likely to be sued, but in the Middle East the victim will be killed. That is the stark reality that we are facing…”
The member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Tom Geatrex (Lab.) warned of problems facing Christians in Malaysia, where a court “has effectively outlawed the Bible, particularly in the eastern states of Malaysia”, after ruling that the word “Allah” may only be used in the context of the Muslim faith.
Other members of Parliament spoke of the persecution Christians faced in Iran, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Mrs. Bruce observed the problem of militant Islam was not confined to the Middle East. “Western Muslims are going to fight alongside jihadists in Syria… returning home to become potential jihadists themselves.”
“Western countries are not fully grappling with this problem,” she said.
Foreign Office Minister, Hugo Swire MP, said the government was aware of the problem and noted that “protecting human rights, including religious freedom, is an important part of British foreign policy.”
Ban on divorced/remarried Catholics from receiving Communion reaffirmed: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 25, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Marriage, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Robert Zollitsch
Divorced and remarried Roman Catholics may not receive Holy Communion, the Vatican has told the German Catholic church.
In letter dated Oct 21, 2013, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller directed the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau to retract its pastoral guidelines that permitted priests to “respect” the wishes of divorced and remarried Catholics who chose to receive the Sacraments.
The new policy introduced following the retirement of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch on 17 September 2013, said if divorced and remarried Catholics had made a “responsible moral decision” to receive Communion, their consciences should be respected.
The new policy was contrary to church teaching and “would cause confusion among the faithful about the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage,” Archbishop Müller wrote in his letter, published in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost on Nov 11, 2013.
However, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, told Die Tagespost Archbishop Müller’s letter was not the final word.
“The prefect of the Congregation cannot end the discussion,” Cardinal Marx said. “We will see that this is discussed further, but with what result, I do not know.”
Typhoon Haiyan rocks the Philippines: The Church of England Newspaper, November 18, 2013 November 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Disaster Relief, Episcopal Church of the Philippines.
Tags: Typhoon Haiyan
Church aid agencies have issue a call for help following the landfall of Typhoon Haiyan in the Central Philippines.
At least 10,000 people are feared dead around the city of Tacloban, 375 miles south-east of Manila and the death toll is expected to mount sharply after communications are restored to the south-eastern province of Leyte.
The head of the Philippines Red Cross described the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, renamed Yolanda in the Philippines, as “absolute pandemonium” while Philippine Consul General in London said “the world has never seen a storm like this before”. The Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council stated that approximately 4.28 million people have been affected by the storm, while UNICEF reports 405,000 children are in immediate need of food and shelter.
Oenone Chadburn, Tearfund’s Head of Disaster Management, reported: ‘We’ve been in emergency communication with our partners and their networks of churches, across the Philippines, all weekend.
“Together we’re initiating emergency food distributions and our church networks are planning emergency shelter-and-blanket distributions, as well as child-focused protection work. What we need now is the money to run these,” she said.
On 11 November 2013 the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said his “heart goes out to the people there. We are all deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of thousands of lives and of the suffering of millions as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.”
“Our prayers are with all who have lost loved ones and all those who are traumatised by the disaster and in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical attention. We pray for those who are most vulnerable in this crisis: children separated from their parents, the sick and injured, the disabled and the elderly.”
“As a Church, we will stand beside the people of the Philippines at this devastating time, offering all we can in practical and spiritual support as the scale of the disaster unfolds,” the archbishop said.
“May the victims of this terrible storm know God’s comfort and derive strength from their faith.”
Bishop of Wakefield to lead city church: The Church of England Newspaper, November 23, 2013 November 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: St Michael's Cornhill, Stephen Platten
The Bishop of London has appointed the Rt. Rev. Stephen Platten to be rector of the medieval church of St. Michael’s Cornhill in the City of London. Bishop Platten will take up his appointment following the merger of the Diocese of Wakefield into the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales on Easter Sunday 2014.
Bishop Platten said: “Eleven years is the longest I have ever served in one place and one puts down real roots so I shall be sad to say farewell to so many people and friendships in and well beyond the Church of England.
“I shall also miss all those familiar and beautiful views in the landscape of such a fascinating diocese – thanks to all who have given me so much!”
In addition to his parish post, Bishop Platten will serve as an honorary assistant Bishop in the Diocese of London. In January 2014 he will also assume the chairmanship of the Hymns Ancient and Modern charitable trust. He will also continue in his post as chairman of the governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome.
Born in London and educated at the Stationers’ Company’s School in Hornsey and the University of London, Bishop Platten trained for the ministry at Cuddesdon Theological College and Trinity College, Oxford.
He served as a priest in Oxford, Lincoln and Portsmouth dioceses and as Tutor of Ethics and Chaplain at Lincoln Theological College, before becoming the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs in 1990. In 1995, he became Dean of Norwich and was enthroned as the Bishop of Wakefield in July 2003.
Rochester vicar suspended for 8 years for sexual misconduct: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Diocese of Rochester, Paul Meier
A disciplinary tribunal has banned a Diocese of Rochester vicar from serving in the ministry of the Church of England for eight years.
In a decision handed down last week, the Rev. Paul Meier vicar of St Margaret’s Church in Horsmonden and youth missioner for the Storrington deanery in West Sussex for the Diocese of Rochester, had engaged in gross misconduct for having had an affair with an 18-year old girl.
Mr. Meier had been suspended in October 2012 from his benefice after a complaint was made that he had engaged in a sexual affair with an 18 year old girl who had attended his youth group.
The tribunal learned the 47-year old married father of two whom he had known the girl and her family for at least six years prior to the incident and that the girl was “unbalanced”.
The relationship began in 2007, the tribunal learned, and in 2008 Mr. Meier invited the girl, then 18, to move in to his family home.
Mr. Meier had “hoped for further sexual intimacy” with the girl, Judge John Lodge, the chairman of the tribunal, observed. However, in 2008 the girl’s parents had their daughter admitted to a psychiatric unit for evaluation and treatment.
Judge Lodge held: ”The complainant became mentally disturbed, as evidenced by attempts to self-harm, and she acted bizarrely.
“Mr Meier admits the complainant self-harmed and that she told him about it. Rather than cease his misconduct and provide her with the support she needed and deserved, he allowed things to continue unchanged.”
Mr. Meier’s actions were “inappropriate to the work of a clerk in Holy Orders,” the tribunal ruled, and suspended him from the ministry for eight years.
Episode 86: Anglican Unscripted, November 23, 2013 November 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican.TV, Church of England, GAFCON, Quincy, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: Justin Welby
Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.
Mau-mauing The Times of London: Get Religion, November 21, 2013 November 21, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
Tags: flack, flak, Justin Welby, public relations, Ruth Gledhill, The Times
The Archbishop of Canterbury has stated the Church of England was moving away from using faith as a criteria for admission to its church-supported schools, The Times of London reported last week.
And the newspaper caught hell for it. The Church of England’s press office said this was untrue — a “creative piece of writing.”
Was this a he said/she said (or wrote) dispute? The “he” being Justin Welby the archbishop of Canterbury and the “she” Ruth Gledhill, The Times‘ star religion reporter. Or was this a case of what the archbishop said was not exactly what he meant? Were his words taken out of context? Did The Times deserve the drubbing it was given?
At this point — a week after the story entitled “Church in ‘move away’ from school selection” (behind a paywall I’m afraid) — a newspaper reader is not likely to be any the wiser as to what happened. The Church of England’s press office and the Lambeth Palace press office have thrown up such a wall of flak round the interview that the archbishop’s original statement is moot. The content of the denials are now the story — or the official line from the church.
On Nov. 14, 2013 The Times reported:
Church of England faith schools are moving away from selecting pupils on the basis of their religion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said that selection was not necessarily the key to good results and believes that throwing open the doors to all-comers can help the Church achieve its mission to alleviate poverty.
Church of England schools are not analogous to Catholic parochial schools in the U.S. They are not private schools funded by tuition and supported by a sponsoring denomination. In England they are state funded. The Church of England explains:
The English system of education has been built in partnership with the Christian churches. The Churches were the first providers of schools, funding building and staff costs through voluntary donations. The State gradually became convinced that it had a duty to provide education and gradually assumed a larger part of the task. But Government has always recognised that Church schools are important partners in providing education for all. That partnership enables the State to use around 8,000 school buildings and sites owned by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church free of charge, but in return successive governments, irrespective of political party, have continued to provide financial support for church schools.
Some parents choose Church schools because they want to have their children educated in accordance with their Christian belief, others because it is the nearest school or because it is a school which takes spiritual as well as social, moral and cultural development seriously. Whatever the reason, Church of England schools are committed to offering high quality education to the whole community and are part of the Church’s commitment to serving the common good. Taxpayer’s money is therefore being used to provide high quality education for tax payer’s children.
Many Church of England schools, which educate a quarter of England’s primary school children, are over subscribed. Removing faith, or lessening its importance, from among the selection criteria for prospective students, would be a game changer in the admissions game.
Shortly after the story went live on The Times website, the archbishop’s interim press officer sent an email blast to religion reporters, saying the report was untrue.
In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement regarding selection criteria for church schools: “I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.” The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Director of Communications for the Church of England issued a further denial, which stated in part:
The (erroneous) story in today’s Times Newspaper claiming that the Church of England ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion was a creative piece of writing. So creative in fact that the Lambeth Palace issued a statement correcting the story which reads … The Archbishop himself douses the story in the Times with cold water …
The director of communications then went on to cite statistics about church schools and their roll in British education. These responses prompted confusion within the press as to what was said and what was important — other newspapers reported the change, the denials, both, or offered opinions as to why the change was a good idea.
Once a pejorative term, “flak” had its roots in the German word “fliegerabwehrkanone” — anti-aircraft gun. Its meaning as a noun has evolved over time to mean criticism: “I took a lot of flak over that statement”. And is also used an adjective to refer to a publicist who seeks to deflect adverse publicity.
“Flack”, the dictionaries tell me, has a close meaning but different history. Gene Flack, a 1930′s Hollywood press agent extraordinaire, is credited with being one source. Credit is also given to Tom Wolfe author of “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers” — “flack” being slang for “flak catcher”. Traditionally, a flack created flack (a publicist created publicity) while a flak deflected flak (press officer deflected criticisms). Now the words are all but interchangeable.
In The Times interview aftermath we see both sides of the trade — deflection of an unpopular story (church schools changing admissions policies) and creation of an alternative (church schools are the best schools in Britain). But what did the archbishop actually say?
Ruth Gledhill published the transcript of the interview, indicating the archbishop’s flaks/flacks doth protest too much.
What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good. There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests. They are not selective in terms of education. And they are focusing, particularly the new church academies – and you can see that in diocese after diocese – are focusing on the areas of highest deprivation where the Church school adds the most enormous value. … What is absolutely clear is home and family is essential. Really good school leadership is absolutely critical. It is not necessary to select to get a really good school. There are unbelievably brilliant schools that are entirely open to all applicants without selection criteria apart from residence, where you live, and which produce staggeringly good results.
Did Lambeth Palace and the Church of England press office mau-mau Ruth Gledhill? Did the flacks throw up a barrage of flak to deflect criticism and to offer an alternate interpretation of what the archbishop said? My sense of things is that Ruth Gledhill has been treated unfairly.
She reported what the archbishop said. Perhaps it was not what he meant to say?
First published in Get Religion.
Oh, those pagan Irish Anglicans?: Get Religion, November 18, 2013 November 19, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of Ireland, Get Religion, Press criticism.
Tags: Diocese of Cashell & Ossory, Fellowship of Isis, Olivia Durdin Robertson, paganism, syncretism
Was it a case of good manners?
Did the editors at The Irish Times print the obituary of Olivia Durdin Robertson, who it described as, “the self-styled ‘high priestess’ of a Co Carlow-based cult devoted to an ancient Egyptian goddess, [who] has died aged 96,” without any comment or further investigation to avoid a scandal in the Church of Ireland? Or were they unaware of what they had in front of them?
The Church of Ireland is in a delicate state in terms of its unity. Divided roughly along North/South lines over the culture war issues — homosexuality, abortion and the like — the church funeral of Olivia Durdin Robertson might tip the church over the edge.
This Irish Times story marks the passing of a generation: English aristocratic eccentrics (in this case Angl0-Irish) with oddball country house antics. While Miss Durdin Robertson appears not to have aspired to the cat suits of Dianna Rigg, the conversion of her ancestral home, Huntington Castle in the Irish village of Clonegal in County Carlow, into a temple dedicated to “the Goddess” would not have been out of place in an episode of the ’60s television show, The Avengers.
The Irish Times reported:
Ms Durdin Robertson came to international attention in the 1970s when she co-founded the “Fellowship of Isis” with her late brother Lawrence Alexander Durdin Robertson – a former Anglican clergyman — and his wife Pamela.
Her nephew David Durdin Robertson, a craftsman and sculptor who predeceased her in 2009, created an Egyptian temple for her in the dungeons of the castle. In recent years this has been opened to the public for tours at Halloween.
Her funeral on Wednesday will begin with “a private ceremony in the temple, organised by the Fellowship of Isis, by invitation only” followed by a public Church of Ireland service at St Fiacc’s in Clonegal.
And then closes with odds and ends about the Fellowship and the castle.
Well, “what of it?”, you might ask. Why would the obituary of the priestess of an Irish-Egyptian cult come across GetReligion’s radar? Titillation value?
No — the two funerals notice is the clue. Anglican churches have a difficult time as it is permitting Freemasons Christian burial. But a church burial for a leader of a pagan cult, even if she is the local squire, is contrary to canon law.
Canon 32, “The burial of the dead”, of the Church of Ireland states in part:
(2) A member of the clergy may however exercise discretion in refusing to read the burial service in full where the deceased died unbaptised or had committed some grievous or notorious sin and not repented of it or had been excluded from Holy Communion under Canon 16 and had not been readmitted thereto.
And in such circumstances:
(3) And where this is not reasonably practicable such member of the clergy shall report the matter to the [bishop] thereafter.
I wrote to the priest in charge of St Fiacc’s (which is part of a larger conglomeration of parishes) asking whether questions had been raised about the propriety of holding a church service, and via email he responded:
Re your query, I am as alarmed as you are at the turn of events. The Christian gospel is compromised. The woman deserted Christ for paganism years ago and a Christian Church is no place for her funeral. Alas I am not the Rector, Just his assistant. I have been away for the w’end and have no details other than what you know already. I understand the Bishop was informed and his advice sought. I take it he has given permission. …
And I wrote to the bishop — and he did not respond.
This funeral has all the makings of an ecclesiastical row. The bishop in question, the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, has led the charge in the Church of Ireland on liberalizing abortion laws in the Republic and on changing church teaching on homosexuality. (He is also the brother in law of the Archbishop of Dublin, but that wouldn’t influence things would it?) In 2011 the bishops of Northern Ireland refused to participate in a ceremony where the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory would be present, due to his allowing one of his priests to enter into a gay civil partnership. That crisis appears to have been smoothed over, but the hard feelings remain.
Will the bishop’s permission, or indifference, to the church funeral of a pagan priestess reignite the fires?
The moral of the story, from a journalistic point of view, is to pay attention and to have knowledge about the subject you are covering. It could well have been discretion that prompted the silence from the Irish Times on this oddball bit of news. But a religion reporter in Ireland would know that the Roman Catholic Church, and the principle Protestant Churches — Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist, would forbid a funeral under these circumstances. An analogy might well be reporting a marriage between two persons of the same-sex in Ireland, and not noting that such a marriage would be unlawful under civil and religious law.
The Church of Ireland’s standing committee meets this week, and I expect this issue will be raised (unofficially) amongst the bishops. Let’s wait and see what happens.
First printed in Get Religion.
Don’t mess with C.S. Lewis: Get Religion, November 15, 2013 November 16, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
Tags: Ayn Rand, C.S. Lewis, Religion News Service
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
Dorothy Parker in her review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957).
I cannot read Ayn Rand. I have tried. As a teenager, friends assured me I would love Atlas Shrugged. I didn’t.
The inimitable Whitaker Chambers spoke for me when he wrote in The National Review in 1957:
Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber — go!”
Yet among my circle of acquaintances are serious thoughtful individuals who number Rand among the great thinkers and writers of the 20th century. Her economic and philosophical theories are on the tip of their tongues — and passages of her fiction are committed to memory. I have learned over the years to be certain of my references to her life and work when she pops up in a story — for if I make a mistake I will hear from her legions.
Rand is one of a select group of authors who have maintained a devoted following. Monty Python, Star Trek, Karl Marx, and the Aubrey-Maturin naval adventures in literature, Bob Dylan in music, for example, have spawned fans who have memorized the canon of their classics.
C.S. Lewis is one such figure. In this week’s Crossroads podcast I spoke with Lutheran Public Radio host Todd Wilken about the perils of C.S. Lewis reporting, citing my GetReligion post “C.S. Lewis the occultist and other rather obvious errors”.
In that post, I recounted a series of unfortunate errors about C.S. Lewis’ life — mistakes that had nothing to do with the issue at hand, but ones that cropped up in the filler — background material about Lewis’ life and work used to round out the story. I noted the claim that Lewis was involved in the occult was untrue, and cited a portion of his autobiography. I wrote:
While Lewis, like his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkein, was devoted to the Norse sagas and mythology, he was not an occultist. While some Christian groups have denounced Lewis’ work, saying it glorifies witchcraft and magic, the only evidence of a personal interest in magic comes in this passage in Surprised by Joy where he recounts how a matron at his prep school dabbled in the occult. (citation follows in the original.)
And irony of ironies, I was caught out by one of GetReligion’s readers on this point. My correction of the original story was incomplete, Lori Pieper wrote.
George, you really should have kept reading in Surprised by Joy. There more about Lewis’ interest in magic and the occult in it than you think. In a later chapter, about his life just before he went to Oxford, he describes the attraction to these things that arose from reading Yeats (his prose more than his poetry) and Maeterlinck. He says “If there had been in the neighborhood some elder person who dabbled in dirt of the Magical kind (such have a good nose for potential disciples) I might now be a Satanist or a maniac.”
So he did read about the occult, though the journalist’s description is simplistic and overstated. And by misstating when the reading occurred, the mythology and the magic are lumped together as one, something that Lewis would never buy. He saw the effects of the mythology as beneficial, as an appeal to the imagination and as a pointer toward genuinely spiritual hope (those he misunderstood this for a long time), while he always at least dimly perceived the occult as evil.
I should have taken my own advice and boned up on Lewis a bit more.
While I have never taken to Ayn Rand, I have devoured C.S. Lewis’ works — his Narnia books, science fiction and his Christian apologetic works. Yet, working from my own knowledge, rather than going back to the original sources, I made the same sort of error that I criticized.
And — this is what I like about new media — its ability to be self-correcting. I advanced the ball and Lori Pieper moved it down the field for a touchdown.
Thank you Lori, and the other readers of GetReligion, who have added their specialized knowledge to stories my colleagues and I have posted to this site. Well done.
First printed in Get Religion.
Interview: Issues Etc., November 15, 2013 November 15, 2013Posted by geoconger in Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc, Press criticism.
Tags: C.S. Lewis, New York Times, Religion News Service
GetReligion contributor George Conger discusses an editorial by “The New York Times” on religious liberty and the Affordable Care Act and a Religion News Service story about C.S. Lewis
Episode 85: Anglican Unscripted, November 14, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, Disaster Relief, Property Litigation, Quincy, The Episcopal Church.
Published on Nov 14, 2013
Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.
St Peter’s relics to be placed on public display by the Vatican: Church of England Newspapaer, November 15, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: St Peter, Year of Faith
The Vatican will mark the conclusion of the “Year of Faith” with the first public exhibition of the the relics of St. Peter, the Apostle and first Bishop of Rome.
On 8 November 2013 Msgr. Rino Fisichella, president for the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, announced in an editorial published in the semi-official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano St. Peter’s relics will be removed from their grotto and placed on display to mark the close of the Year of Faith on 24 November.
The editorial did not offer further details, but announced the Year of Faith – a major evangelization initiative for the Roman Catholic Church – will conclude on Sunday the 24th with Pope Francis celebrating the Eucharist in St Peter’s Square.
Pensions Board asks for fossil fuels review: Church of England Newspaper, November 15, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Church of England Pensions Board
The Church of England Pensions Board has lent it support to a request by 70 global pension funds to the world’s major energy companies, asking them to investigate how the push to combat man-made climate change will impact the profitability of their businesses.
On 24 October 2013 the 70 pension funds published an open letter to the top 45 oil, gas, coal and electric companies asking them to complete the study by the end of the first quarter of 2014. Because the capital investments required to extract gas, oil and coal take years to recoup, the pension funds stated the risk of future regulations that would limit production or impose expensive pollution-control requirements could reduce the industry’s profitability.
The letter signed by the Church of England Pensions Board, Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, Rockefeller & Co., and the treasurers of half a dozen U.S. states, represents almost $3 trillion in investments.
“The underlying question here is the billions of dollars that are being invested” is prudent in light of the changing regulatory environment, the head of the California’s State Teachers’ Retirement System, Jack Ehnes, told the Associated Press.
Kenyan Anglican elected WCC moderator: Church of England Newspaper, November 15, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, WCC.
Tags: Agnes Aboum
A lay woman from the Anglican Church of Kenya, Dr. Agnes Aboum, has been elected moderator of the World Council of Churches.
The 150-member Central Committee of the Christian ecumenical organization elected Dr. Abuom last week at its 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea held from 30 October to 8 November 2013. She will be the first woman and first African to hold the post.
As moderator Dr. Abuom will lead the WCC’s highest government body. The administrative head of the WCC is its general secretary the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit of Norway.
“My open prayer is that we shall move forward together, in the next years, despite our diversities that have the potential to divide us,” Dr. Abuom said shortly after her election, “…and that the WCC will continue to remain an instrument for providing a safe space for all who can come and share their hopes, aspirations and visions, and prophetic voice.”
According to a press hand out from the WCC, Dr. Aboum said the prophetic voice is vital for “ecumenism in the 21st century and the church in our world today.”
As the first woman moderator of the worldwide body, Aboum says the model of consensus discernment “resonates very well with femine decision-making processes,” consultative and careful listening and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective.
Dr. Abuom has served on the WCC Executive Committee, representing the Anglican Church of Kenya. She is also a development consultant serving both Kenyan and international organizations coordinating social action programmes for religious and civil society across Africa.
Dr. Abuom was the Africa regional president for the WCC from 1999 to 2006. She has been associated with the All Africa Conference of Churches and WCC member churches in Africa. She is a co-president of the Religions for Peace and the National Council of Churches of Kenya.
Nigerian plea to keep politics out of church: Church of England Newspaper, November 15, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Politics.
Tags: Emmanuel Chukwuma, Holy Ghost Adoration Camp Ground
A stampede that killed 28 people at the close of a vigil at a Catholic festival in South Eastern Nigeria has led to calls from church leaders to ban politicians from canvassing voters at church services.
Details as to the cause of the sudden rush of the crowd at the Holy Ghost Adoration Camp Ground in Anambra State remain unclear. But at approximately 6:00 am on Saturday 2 November 2013 the crowd of 100,000 began to rush towards the exits, trampling scores of worshippers and killing 28.
The National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor , urged the Anambra governor Peter Obi to launch an inquiry into the tragedy. However, the chairman of CAN in South East Nigeria, the Anglican Bishop of Enugu,the Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, said the federal government should investigate the disaster.
Leaders of the governor’s political party have called for the arrest of opposition candidate in the forthcoming gubernatorial election, Senator Chris Ngigie saying his comments to the crowd had caused the stampede – a charge the senator has denied.
Speaking to reporters after the disaster, Bishop Chukwuma said: “It is my own duty as CAN chairman, South East to ban all politicians from attending our churches with their teams for campaigns. The church should also steer clear of partisan politics because there are different kinds of people in the church that belong to different political parties.”
“So it is wrong to come into the church and begin to talk about manifestos. It is not going to be acceptable any more because it causes commotion and disrespect for one another.
“We appeal to bishops, priests, pastors and clergymen to please avoid politicians coming to use churches as campaign arena. This does not augur well for our spiritual growth.
“We therefore urge the Federal Government to set up a probe panel to find out what actually happened because we feel very much worried. Since the state government is involved, I think there should be a neutral body for the investigation,” Bishop Chukwuma said on behalf of CAN.
Tutu calls for boycott of Commonwealth summit: Church of England Newspaper, November 15, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Desmond Tutu, Sri Lanka
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lent his support to the call by Tamil leaders for a boycott of next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
On 7 November 2013 the South African Nobel Laureate urged Commonwealth heads of government to skip the meeting in protest over “war crimes” committed by the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Approximately 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the Sri Lanka’s civil war, a 2009 U.N. report claimed, as government troops shelled rebel held territories in the north of the island. The U.N. report also accused the rebel Tamil Tigers of shooting civilians who attempted to flee the war zone. In the war’s aftermath the government has been accused of using violence to suppress political dissent and has jailed journalists for voicing critical views.
On 11 November the Indian government announced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would honor the boycott and skip the meeting, while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week said he would stay away in protest to Colombo’s treatment of the Tamils. Both governments will send lower level delegations to the 51-nation summit.
Prime Minister David Cameron stated he would attend, but will ask “serious questions” of Mr. Rajapakse after having viewed a “chilling documentary” detailing the closing months of the war.
“I will raise my concerns when I see president Rajapakse next week in Colombo,” Mr. Cameron said, “and I will tell him that if Sri Lanka doesn’t deliver an independent investigation, the world will need to ensure an international investigation is carried out instead.”
“If there are enough reasons to suggest that the Sri Lanka government have not been doing things with integrity, I think the world has to apply all the screws that it can,” Archbishop Tutu said. “And a boycott of the CHOGM could be one of them.”
The Boys from Buenos Aires?: Get Religion, November 14, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Judaism, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: anti-Semitism, Society of St Pius X, The Boys from Brazil
What is an ultra-conservative Catholic? A member of the Society of St Pius X? A faithful Sunday communicant? A Trappist monk? Or is it someone whose name appears on the subscription lists of both My Daily Visitor and The National Review?
There is nothing improper, from the perspective of good journalism, in describing someone as an ultra-conservative Catholic — newspapers make editorial assertions in their headlines and ledes all the time. It is what draws the reader into the story.
However, the main body of the story should define what the reporter means when labeling someone as an ultra-conservative Catholic. A report Tuesday in the Buenos Aires daily Clarín on disturbances at the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral illustrates the need to be precise with language and labels.
In an article entitled “Incidentes en la Catedral: un grupo ultracatólico quiso impedir un acto por el Holocausto judío”, a group of young people attempted to disrupt a service commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht — the night in 1938 when the Nazis burned destroyed hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish owned shops throughout Germany, arresting tens of thousands of Jews. The “night of broken glass” presaged what was to come in 1942 — the Holocaust.
Un grupo ultraconservador católico trató de impedir esta noche, a los gritos y con insultos, una ceremonia ecuménica en la Catedral metropolitana al cumplirse el 75º aniversario de la “Noche de los cristales rotos”, considerada el inicio del Holocausto judío perpetrado por el nazismo.
A group ultraconservative Catholic tonight tried to stop with shouts and insults, an ecumenical ceremony in the Metropolitan Cathedral to mark the 75th anniversary of the “Night of Broken Glass”, considered the beginning of the Jewish Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis.
Let’s start with the basics. Who: ultra-conservative Catholics; What: disrupted Kristallnacht ceremony; Where: Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral; When: Nov. 11, 2013, Why: That we do not know yet.
The story continues:
Según contaron testigos del episodio a la agencia oficial Télam, cuando el arzobispo de Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, intentó comenzar la liturgia de conmemoración, un grupo de feligreses se puso de pie y comenzó a rezar a los gritos para impedir el desarrollo de la ceremonia.
According to eyewitness testimony gathered by the official Télam news agency, when the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, tried to start the memorial service, a group of worshipers stood and began to pray and cry out in an attempt to stop the ceremony.
Los manifestantes también repartieron volantes con las leyendas “Fuera adoradores de dioses falsos del templo santo” y “Los pastores que llevan a los hombres a confundir el Dios verdadero con dioses falsos son lobos”.
The protesters also handed out fliers with the motto “Not worshipers of false gods holy temple” and “Pastors who lead men to confuse the true God with false gods are wolves”.
El accionar intolerante del grupo, compuesto en su mayoría por jóvenes, generó de inmediato el repudio de las autoridades diplomáticas, funcionarios y representantes de la comunidad judía presentes en la Catedral, así como de miembros de organizaciones de derechos humanos y de los credos cristianos.
The intolerant actions of the group, composed mostly of young people, were immediately repudiated by diplomats, civil servants and representatives of the Jewish community in the Cathedral, as well as by members of human rights organizations and Christian denominations.
The article continues with an account of the archbishop’s reaction to the protest, the content of the service, and background on Kristallnacht. What we do not learn is who these protesters were and why they did it.
The only description given is that they were ultra-conservative Catholics. May we assume these are members of the SSPX? Their anger appears not to be racial but theological. Their protests, as evidenced by the content of their banners as reported by Clarín and in their chants shown in the video above indicate they were opposed to the participation of Jews in worship held in a Catholic Church — not in Jews being Jews, per se. (As if that were an excuse.) Leaders of the SSPX have made the news in recent years through outbursts of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
But what if were not the SSPX but Roman Catholics giving voice to views once propounded by the inquisition? Suspicion and hatred of conversos or Marranos? (Descendants of Jews who had converted to Christianity but suspected of secret adherence to Judaism.)
Or, are the fair skinned and some light haired youthful protestors (Argentinians of European descent) pictured in the video Dr. Mengele’s children? Descendants of Nazi exiles to Argentina who have come out in the open? Preposterous as this sounds, if I were the editor of a British red top tabloid I would go with that explanation. Hitler and Nazis are tabloid gold in Britain.
If you are curious about this story, the Associated Press added this titbit:
The Rev. Christian Bouchacourt, the South America leader of the Society of Saint Pius X, said Wednesday that the protesters belong to his organization and that they have a right to feel outraged when rabbis preside over a ceremony in a cathedral. “I recognize the authority of the pope, but he is not infallible and in this case, does things we cannot accept,” Bouchacourt said in an interview with Radio La Red.
“This wasn’t a desire to make a rebellion, but to show our love to the Catholic Church, which was made for the Catholic faith,” Bouchacourt added. “A Mass isn’t celebrated in a synagogue, nor in a mosque. The Muslims don’t accept it. In the same way, we who are Catholics cannot accept the presence of another faith in our church.”
Would not this information been helpful — in fact necessary — for a reader to understand what was happening with this story? Using the catch all phrase “ultra-conservative” to describe what sort of Catholics were protesting tells the reader nothing.
First printed in Get Religion.
New York Times shilling for Obamacare: Get Religion, November 12, 2013 November 12, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Joe Friday, New York Times, ObamaCare, religious liberty
Religious liberty claims advanced in opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) are a cloak for bigotry, the editorial powers that be at The New York Times tell us.
In an editorial published on Nov. 7 under the name of the editorial board, the Times summarized the Nov. 1 decision handed down in Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Service by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. By a 2-1 vote, the court held ObamaCare violated the First Amendment to the Constitution by forcing business owners to purchase insurance that would provide contraception or abortifacients.
The court ruled wrongly, the Times believes, hoping the Supreme Court will overturn the decision.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide by Thanksgiving whether it will take up the issue. Its duty is to resolve the conflicting opinions by firmly rejecting the dangerous view that private employers can use their religious belief to discriminate against women.
One may not agree with the Times‘ reasoning, and reject its moral stance that religious liberty must be subordinated to the state. In its editorial the Times propounds the view that religion is a private activity that must not stray from the inside of churches or the human heart into the public square. Acting upon, or being true to the dictates of ones faith in civic life must take second place to the higher moral goods of abortion and contraception, the Times editorial team tells us.
This is, after all, an editorial.
Important for voicing one of the contending ethical and moral views in the healthcare debate — but it is merely one voice among many. Ignore it. Adore it. Do what you will. This is an opinion piece.
Where the GetReligion team has a problem — from the point of journalistic integrity — is when the editorial line overwhelms the news reporting. The Nov. 2 news article about the Gilardi decision is less strident and avoids the infelicitous language found in the editorial. But the attitudes to which the editorial gives voice are just as strong in the story “Court Rules Contraception Mandate Infringes on Religious Freedom.”
Let me show you how newspaper folks can rubbish a decision with which they disagree.
Start off with a neutral voice — channel Joe Friday. “Just the facts, ma’am.”
contraception infringed on individual religious liberty.’s mandate that employers provide free coverage for
The case, Gilardi v. the Department of Health and Human Services, was the latest setback for the Obama administration as it struggles to fix the crippled insurance enrollment website, HealthCare.gov. However, the fight over the mandate long preceded the law’s enactment and will most likely go to the Supreme Court.
The mandate “trammels the right of free exercise,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for a divided three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But, just as Joe Friday never actually said “Just the facts, ma’am” – to shade a story without being called out for its biases, a newspaper just gives the facts — but only some of them. We see this unfold in this article. Paragraph three gives the sole quote from the decision. Paragraphs four and five background, paragraphs six through eight offers commentary from lawyers opposed to the mandate coupled with paragraph 11′s “no comment” from the government. The article then trails off and ends with two paragraphs that could be cut from the story without harm. Filler.
The hook comes in paragraphs nine and 10 where the dissenting voice from the court is heard.
Judge Harry T. Edwards wrote a dissent to the main part of the ruling, calling the Gilardis’ claim that a requirement on their companies imposed a burden on their freedom of religion “specious.”
Judge Edwards continued, “It has been well understood since the founding of our nation that legislative restrictions may trump religious exercise.”
Why is this significant? More space is given to the dissent, which is in line with the Times‘ editorial policy than is given to the controlling decision. What we never learn from this story is why the court ruled against the government. It is not as if there were not some powerful lines in the majority ruling. The court held:
The contraceptive mandate demands that owners like the Gilardis meaningfully approve and endorse the inclusion of contraceptive coverage in their companies’ employer-provided plans, over whatever objections they may have. Such an endorsement—procured exclusively by regulatory ukase — is a “compelled affirmation of a repugnant belief.” That standing alone, is a cognizable burden on free exercise. And the burden becomes substantial because the government commands compliance by giving the Gilardis a Hobson’s choice. They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong. If that is not “substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs,” we fail to see how the standard could be met.
In this paragraph we have the “why”. Which leads me to ask why the Times chose to fill out its article with half a dozen subordinate paragraphs that offer opinions, forecasts, or non sequitors when it could have reported what actually happened.
Yet the Times felt it necessary to use the “specious” quote from Judge Edwards, but omitted Justice Brown’s statement: “The Framers of the Constitution embraced the philosophical insight that government coercion of moral agency is odious.”
Would not it have been better to balance “specious” with “odious”?
So what is going on here? Can this mistake be laid at the door of sloppy journalism? Perhaps, but this story passed through the hands of editors, whose job it is to ask questions. Why did they not ask the obvious (to me at any rate) question, “why did the court rule the way that it did?” Did the mistake happen here? Did an editorial hand slice out the court’s ruling in favor of filler?
Or are we seeing the Times engaged in the European advocacy model — in this case its news is written, unashamedly, from a a left-liberal point of view which espouses a liberal, even secularist line. Is this another case of Bill Keller syndrome, where there is no need for balance on a story about religion and culture?
Religion has no business in the public square most European newspapers and the Times believe. This argument is not confined to the salons of Manhattan. In the Proposition 8 case in California, Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker invalidated the California ballot initiative that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. Judge Walker held the “moral and religious views” behind Proposition 8 were not “rational,” hence it was unconstitutional.
President Barack Obama, a former law professor, has argued that “What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy demands is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.”
While individuals may demand this, the basic rules of journalism do not. Ignoring the religious arguments in public policy disputes, or dismissing them out of hand is an attack on freedom — religious freedom and democratic freedoms. It is also poor journalism as it omits one of the essential elements of the story. Voices on both sides of the debate should be accurately quoted.
The solution to this problem in Europe is to take more then one newspaper. Unfortunately in the U.S. newspaper market few if any newspapers acknowledge their biases, and two newspaper towns are few and far between. The consumer then must read with a jaundiced eye, aware that he is playing journalism’s version of the three card monte — and must open some newspapers with the foreknowledge that he is not getting the whole story, but what the particular newspaper he is reading believes to be important.
First printed in Get Religion.
Australian diocese warns it may opt out of marriage: Church of England Newspaper, November 8, 2013 November 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Diocese of North West Australia, Gary Nelson, gay marriage
The Bishop of North West Australia has warned that if the state or federal governments legalize same-sex marriage, Anglican clergy in his diocese would no longer serve as marriage registrars.
The statement by the Rt. Rev. Gary Nelson follows the decision last month by the Australian Capital Territory to legalize same-sex marriage – a move that has been challenged by the federal government as being unconstitutional.
Bishop Nelson told The Western Australian “If we were compelled as marriage celebrants to marry same-sex couples then, as far as this diocese is concerned, I would be withdrawing my approval for ministers to act as marriage celebrants.
The bishop said his clergy would be permitted to perform marriage services according to the rites of the Church, but couples married in the church would need to go to a civil registrar to have their marriage recognized by the state.
Australia was in the midst of a culture war between those holding a traditional Christian worldview and post-modernists.
“The post-war rise of deconstructionism impacted ethical thinking, suggesting that humans are free to create their own natures and decide upon their own purposes — so marriage could be regarded as one social construct among many,” he said.
“But in forming an ethical position, you have to decide if you are committed to a relative or absolute set of values. For us as Anglicans and Christians, we ask what is the Bible, as God’s disclosed word, saying on any issue.”
Bishop Nelson told The Western Australian he would be voting “no” at the 14 November 2013 provincial council meeting when the Diocese of Perth motion on same-sex marriage is reviewed.
The bishop said the Perth motion “seems benign, but the underlying perspective is not consistent with the official view of the Anglican Church held recently and historically.”
Keep guns out of church, pleads Kenya’s archbishop: Church of England Newspaper, November 8, 2013 November 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Eliud Wabukala, gun control
The Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya has denounced a call by Mombasa clergy that they be given guns to protect themselves from the depredations of criminals and Islamist militants.
“As church leaders, we should be on the forefront preaching for peace and reconciliation. Churches are places of worship and not a battlefield,” Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said on 1 November 2013.
On 20 October 2013 a pastor at a Pentecostal church in Mombasa was shot to death in his church’s sanctuary. At his funeral church leaders called upon the government to protect ministers – or give them the means to do so.
The call to arms received the cautious support of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), which last week issued a statement saying it supported the right of clergy to bear arms, if they complied with civil laws concerning the registration and use of guns.
However, Archbishop Wabukala told the congregation gathered at Bishop Hannington’s Teachers College in Mumias, guns were no guarantee of safety.
“AK47 rifle will never secure anyone’s security. I beg to differ with my fellow pastors because even if they are issued with guns, how will they protect themselves from a mob. They should ask Kenyans to repent and live in peace,” the archbishop said.
It was the responsibility of “government to provide security to all. No single person can protect himself. We need everyone to be protected regardless of their position in society.”
“The murder of the pastor was wrong; the attacks on churches should be stopped. All places of worship should be respected whether it’s a church, a mosque, a temple or even a traditional shrine. We should be tolerant with those who don’t believe in our religion because we are all Kenyans,” the archbishop said according to an account of his sermon printed in The Standard.
Episcopal Church sees 24% decline in 10 years: Church of England Newspaper, November 8, 2013 November 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
The number of Episcopalians at worship on Sundays in the United States has declined by 24 per cent over the last ten years, statistics released last week by the church’s national office in New York reveal.
The church’s Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) in 2012 for domestic and overseas dioceses was 679,923 – a decline of 2.6 per cent from 2011.
In 2002 the ASA for the domestic dioceses of the Episcopal Church was 846,640. In 2012 the domestic ASA was 640,142; a decline of 206,498 or 24 per cent over ten years. The secession of the Diocese of South Carolina last year is not reflected in these figures.
Baptized membership declined by 29,679 in 2012 to 2,066,710, the Episcopal Church reported on 31 October 2013, with growth in baptized membership reported in only 33 domestic dioceses. Twelve dioceses saw growth in their ASA in 2012. The Diocese of Nevada saw the greatest percentage and numeric growth in attendance of any diocese, 6.9 per cent or 165 people, while the Diocese of Ohio had the steepest decline: 1,150 or 14.4 per cent.
Perth archbishop vetoes same-sex marriage motion: Church of England Newspaper, November 8, 2013 November 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Diocese of Perth, gay marriage, Roger Herft
The Archbishop of Perth has withheld his consent to a synod motion affirming same-sex marriage.
On 28 October 2013, the Most. Rev. Roger Herft vetoed a motion put forward by the Rev. Chris Bedding that “acknowledge[s] that legal recognition of same-sex relationships may co-exist with legal recognition of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Mr. Bedding had brought the motion to the 2012 meeting of synod, where it passed on a majority vote. However, Archbishop Herft withheld his consent saying the motion could be construed as being contrary to church teaching on marriage.
Mr. Bedding brought the motion a second time to the 2013 Perth synod last month, where it received a two thirds majority from the clergy and laity. He told the AAP the motion sought to counteract negative comments on same-sex marriage voiced by some Christian groups.
“When they come out and say things like ‘it’s unnatural to be gay’ or ‘it’s against the bible’ or ‘all Christians reject homosexual behaviour’ … we want to say ‘that’s not the case’,” he said.
“And if the government … goes ahead with any kind of recognition, whether that’s something as simple as changes to superannuation laws or marriage equality, we’re comfortable with that,” Mr. Beddings said.
In his letter explaining his reasons for vetoing the motion, the archbishop stated the word “recognition” connotes “formal acceptance. The Church cannot formally accept certain behaviors. “
Archbishop Herft, who comes from the liberal Catholic tradition, noted the theology behind the motion was faulty. The first part of the motion which recognizes sexual diversity and differing theologies on sexuality in the diocese “gives our sexual identity and theology on sexuality a place of prominence that is not theologically sound.”
The motion could be construed as being a statement in support of same-sex marriage, he added, and this violated the Book of Common Prayer’s teaching on marriage. “The members of synod who passed the motion may not have intended to depart from the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Anglican Church of Australia,” but that is the “effect of the motion.”
Archbishop Herft stated that he had referred to the matter to a special meeting of the Western Australia Provincial Council on 14 November 2013 for adjudication of the dispute between bishop and synod.
GAFCON to be ‘an Anglican province’ in all but name: Church Times, October 31, 2013 November 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church Times, GAFCON.
THE Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) will effectively provide for Anglican traditionalists the fellowship and support that provinces give to dioceses, Dr Peter Jensen, a former Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, told the Church Times at the close of the GAFCON conference in Nairobi last week (News, 25 October).
The conference adopted by acclamation the Nairobi Commitment, pledging primatial support for an umbrella group for British traditionalists: the Anglican Mission in England. GAFCON would not legally be a province, Dr Jensen said, but “effectively, yes”.
In light of the impending release of the Pilling report, and of the expected endorsement by the Church of England’s General Synod of a Measure allowing women bishops, but offering no safeguards to those opposed to this, GAFCON decided to shift its energies from the US to the UK.
The Pilling report will not be released until later this year, but the view of many of those present at GAFCON was that, based on statements released so far, and the theological views of the Pilling panel, it would opt for rites for the pastoral blessings of gay civil partnerships.
The internal strength of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and its acceptance by most provinces of the Anglican Communion, gave GAFCON the opportunity to redeploy its energies to the UK.
The Vicar of St Martin de Gouray, Jersey, Canon Gavin Ashenden, said steps had to be taken now to prevent conservative Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics from fragmenting into half a dozen groups, should the crisis occur. A “non-geographic” province would be an ecclesial Velcro, gathering the diaspora, he said.
Adopted on the closing day of the conference with little public dissent, the conference statement received strong support from participants. The Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic diocese of ACNA, the Rt Revd Neil Lebhar, welcomed the statement, calling it a “unity” document that would gather other Anglicans into the GAFCON fold.
The Vicar of St Matthew’s, Elburton, and chairman of Reform, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said: “It sets a clear gospel priority for GAFCON. It is designed to carry forward the work of encouragement and faithfulness. . . I’m delighted.”
A multi-national committee composed of delegates from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, the Southern Cone, the US/Canada, and England produced the document from reports submitted by the nine “mini-conferences” that convened during the meeting. The committee chairman, the Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic diocese of ACNA, the Rt Revd John Guernsey, told delegates that the statement had not been pre-written, but was a product of the conference.
The conference received a draft copy of the statement last Friday, and was directed to break into national groups to offer substantive criticisms for review by the writing team. Over the course of the evening, eight revisions were produced, and the final document was presented for approval the next day.
Not all the delegates were pleased with it. The Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt Revd Jack Iker, said that it showed the strength of the “Sydney contingent” at the meeting. He was “concerned” about the deletion of points that were important to Anglo-Catholics, and noted that GAFCON treated Anglo-Catholics as poor relations to the conservative Evangelical majority.
Within the English section, a debate over the degree of thanks to be given to the Archbishop of Canterbury arose. While some praised the Archbishop for his seeming endorsement of GAFCON, others were concerned about what they perceived as his indecisiveness.
The director of Christian Concern, Andrea Minichiello Williams, read to the group a part of Archbishop Welby’s address in the Lords on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, arguing that his words had all but conceded the argument to those who supported gay marriage.
In the final document, words of commendation for the Archbishop became: “We appreciated that the Archbishop of Canterbury sent personal greetings via video, and gave us the assurance of his prayers, and we likewise pray for him.”
A behind-the-scenes fight over language describing the ministry of women also shaped the final document. It said: “We affirm the ministries of women and their vital contribution to the life of the Church: their call to the task of evangelism, discipling, and building strong marriages, families, churches, and communities. GAFCON 2013 upholds the Bible’s teaching that men and women are equally made in the image of God . . . excercising different gifts. We recognise that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership.”
Delegates from provinces that support women in episcopal leadership, however, fought for the inclusion of language in support of women bishops. The move was blocked by the dominant Nigerian bloc (almost 500 of the 1300 delegates), in alliance with conservative Evangelicals. When the final document was offered to the conference, a Ugandan woman clergy delegate voiced a lone “No” vote.
But the Nairobi Commitment was not a “Mosaic tablet”, Dr Ashenden said. It was “a fluid document,” produced by committee in a very short time, which addressed different audiences on different levels, while seeking also to express a vision for the future.
The confusion expressed in other areas was absent when addressing the situation in England. In the “Our Priorities” section, the document said GAFCON would continue to engage in cross-border support for Anglicans whom it believed were disowned by their ecclesial structures.
It stated: “In line with the Jerusalem Statement’s expectation that the Primates’ Council would intervene to provide ‘orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership’, the Primates’ Council will carefully consider working beyond existing structures as an obedient response to Jesus’s commission to take the gospel to all nations.”
The document spelled out where these cross-border actions might take place. “We commit ourselves to the support and defence of those who in standing for apostolic truth are marginalised or excluded from formal communion with other Anglicans in their dioceses. We have therefore recognised the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as an expression of authentic Anglicanism both for those within and outside the Church of England, and welcomed their intention to appoint a General Secretary of AMiE.”
Nevertheless, none of those questioned by the Church Times would say on the record who they thought would provide episcopal oversight for the AMiE, nor how it would be structured. But many, though not all, of the English conference participants agreed that GAFCON should focus on recognising that the problem existed, and that a solution needed to be reached before the crisis fragmented traditionalist Anglicans.
First printed in The Church Times.