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Respect minorities demands Malaysian Church: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia.
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The Malaysian Government’s silence in the face of Islamist extremism could destroy the harmony of the country’s multi-racial society. Speaking to reporters following his election last week as President of the Bible Society of Malaysia, the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt. Rev. Ng Moon Hing said that he was “really worried for the nation in the next 10 years, if nothing is done to stop” anti-Christian and anti-Chinese provocations. In January the government raided the warehouses of the Bible Society confiscating Iban and Malay language Bibles on the grounds that their use of the word Allah for God was an affront to Islam and a violation of civil law. On 6 May 2014 the president of the Islamic Society of Malaysia Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman said allowing Chinese migration to Malaya was “a mistake” that must be rectified. He added that the Chinese were intruders who had been brought to Malaya by the British to oppress Malays. Bishop Ng warned “If the fabric (of society) is torn to a position that it cannot be mended, I feel very sad for the next generation. My generation is retiring, your generation will be very difficult to mend… trust is difficult to mend.” He added religious faiths must promote the community. “It must promote harmonious living, living together and sharing, then only the religion can survive and the nation will have parallel benefits from it,” he said.

Church of Norway rejects gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway.
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The General Synod of the Church of Norway, the Kirkemøtet, has rejected a motion that would have permitted same-sex church weddings or the blessing by clergy of same-sex civil unions. However, the 8 April 2014 meeting in Kristiansand also voted not to affirm the church’s traditional stance that marriage is between one man and one woman. The vote against gay marriage was 64 votes to 51, while the vote rejecting the church’s traditional stance on marriage was 62 to 54. In 1993 Norway introduced same-sex civil partnerships and in 2008 amended its marriage laws to make them gender-neutral. Church of Norway priest, the Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjelstad – director of The Media Project in Washington – told The Church of England Newspaper the defeat of the gay marriage motion was “really a Pyrrhic victory for the more moderate/conservative group within the church.” He noted that some pro-gay marriage bishops after the vote urged patience saying: “With such a close race there is now much more liberty/freedom for us to conduct ceremonies for gays and lesbians. Stay in the church – don’t leave, we have more freedom now, and the situation is doomed to change within a few years.”

No one above the law, Church of Ireland states: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was arrested last week and held for question for four days by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972. Mrs. McConville was allegedly murdered by the IRA for being an informer. Mr. Adams has denied any involvement in the murder or that he was a member of the IRA. Upon his release he told reporters the allegations against him came from “enemies of the peace process.” In a statement given to the Church of England Newspaper, the Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt. Rev. Harold Miller, who serves as the chairman of the CoI’s Northern Ireland Community Relations Working Group, responded to Mr. Adams arrest by referring to the continued use week by week in many Church of Ireland parishes of the ‘Prayer of the Church Militant’ at Holy Communion, with the words that “those in authority ‘may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice,’ as a reflection of the Church’s stance.”

Gene Robinson to divorce: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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Bishop Gene Robinson has announced that he is divorcing his spouse Mark Andrew. In a column printed in the Daily Beast on 3 Mary 2014, Bishop Robinson stated: “Recently, my partner and husband of 25-plus years and I decided to get divorced. While the details of our situation will remain appropriately private, I am seeking to be as open and honest in the midst of this decision as I have been in other dramatic moments of my life—coming out in 1986, falling in love, and accepting the challenge of becoming Christendom’s first openly gay priest to be elected a Bishop in the historic succession of bishops stretching back to the apostles.” The Episcopal Church’s first “out” gay bishop, in 1986 Bishop Robinson divorced his wife and made public his sexual orientation. His election as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 precipitated the crack up of the Anglican Communion, leading to a majority of the church’s provinces to break or qualify their relationship with the Episcopal Church.  The bishop noted that there was “at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples. All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of “til death do us part.” But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us.”

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

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

Church of Ireland rejects gay marriage bill: The Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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The Church of Ireland’s Church and Society Commission has reaffirmed the church’s opposition to gay marriage. In a statement distributed to Members of the Legislative Assembly prior to the 29 April 2014 voted on the motion put forward by Sinn Féin, the commission stated the church’s teaching was that “marriage is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh … The Church of Ireland affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching that marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and life–long, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side … The Church of Ireland recognises for itself and of itself, no other understanding of marriage.” The Roman Catholic Church also opposed the bill, telling MLAs their opposition to the bill was based on “religious conviction” and “human reason”. The bill was defeated after the Democratic Unionist party and the Ulster Unionist party joined by some Catholic MLAs blocked the bill.

Episcopal approval for contraception law: The Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Philippines.
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The Supreme Court of the Philippines has struck down portions of the country’s new contraception law, reaffirming the ban on abortion, and introducing safeguards to protect the rights of parents and of health workers. The Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 was passed by Congress in 2012 over the vociferous opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, which objected to government sponsored birth control programs and sex education programs. However, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP) gave its support to the law. On 1 April 2011 the Prime Bishop of the ECP, the Most Rev. Edward Malecdan stated the 1958 Lambeth Conference affirmed the morality of contraception and stated that family planning was among the prudential choices given by God to man. The bill was pro-life, pro-women, pro-child, he argued, stating the state should “uphold and promote responsible parenthood. In its 25 April 2014 decision the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the law that defined the beginning of human life as the moment an embryo implants in the uterus—rather than the moment the ovum is fertilized. The Court also annulled rules requiring Catholic hospitals and health workers to endorse contraceptives with their patients and gave minors access to sexual and reproductive health services without parental consent.

Mission consultation for Myanmar: The Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2014 June 2, 2014

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Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo of the Church of the Province of Myanmar (CPM) reports that 70 representatives from church aid agencies met in Yangon (Rangoon) on 25-26 February 2014 for a Development Partners Roundtable meeting.  The gathering discussed opportunities for local development in Myanmar following the relaxation of martial law last year and the country’s opening to overseas aid. Representatives from the American-based Anglican Relief and Development Fund noted the CPM had a “long history of sponsoring creative community development projects in areas such as education, economic empowerment, healthcare, and agriculture. Through organizations such as the Mother’s Union and the Development Desk, CPM has already improved the lives of thousands of everyday people in numerous cities and villages.” The goal set by the meeting, ARDF reported, was for the province to expand its “community development work and achieving financial self-sufficiency at every level.”

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

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

Georgia gun ban misfires: The Church of England Newspaper, May 9, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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An American bishop has banned the possession of firearms on all church properties following the enactment of a state law permitting churches to regulate handguns in churches. On 28 April 2014 the Bishop of Atlanta, the Rt. Rev. Robert Wright issued a pastoral directive to the diocese stating: “My judgment, charge and directive – as the ecclesiastical or governing authority, of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, is that with the exception of on-duty law enforcement officers, firearms are not permitted in church buildings or on church property.” Issued in response to a Georgia law which permits licensed gun owners to bring firearms into the state’s churches, provided that an individual place of worship allows it, the bishop’s letter extends the ban to all church property – including rectories.  Canon lawyers believe the bishop’s letter oversteps his authority. Allan Haley noted the statute makes the “governing authority of the place of worship the entity to decide whether guns shall be allowed.” However, the “governing authority of a parish is it’s rector and vestry, not the bishop. Even the cathedral is governed by its dean and not the bishop” under canon law, he noted. What the bishop has done here is assume authority that he does not have under the national canons, and which the statute does not grant him,” Mr. Haley said.

Politicians must share the pain, bishop declares: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies.
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The Jamaican government’s call for the country to make sacrifices to see the nation through the economic depression that has gripped the Caribbean, must also be borne by the nation’s leaders, the Bishop of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands told the 144th meeting of the diocese’s synod on 22 April 2014. The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory welcomed the recent statement by the Governor General, Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition that the country was in need of a moral reawakening, but Jamaica’s leaders must set an example. The situation facing the country was analogous to that Israeli faced with during the time of the Prophet Nehemiah, the bishop said.  “Nehemiah, having challenged the people to make sacrifices for the common good by redeeming their debt, recognised that he, too, had to send a positive signal as to what he was prepared to do on his part,” he said. “It was not enough for him to be the leader of this mission. So Nehemiah took the decision to forgo his allowance as governor because of the heavy tax burden which the people were already being asked to bear,” Dr. Gregory said, adding Jamaica’s “need to send a signal which says that they, too, are part of the sacrifice, part of the project – not from somewhere up there, but on the ground where it hurts.”

Gafcon call for moral clarity from the C of E: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Archbishops of the GAFCON movement have urged the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev. Justin Welby to clarify the “moral confussion” that has possessed the Church of England over gay marriage. In a statement released at the close of the 24-26 April 2014 meeting in London, the 11 archbishops – representing more than two thirds of the Anglican Communion’s active members — highlighted the problems facing their particular churches, but also spoke to recent actions taken by the Church of England’s House of Bishops. “Meeting shortly after the recognition in English law of same sex marriage, which we cannot recognise as compatible with the law of God, we look to the Church of England to give clear leadership as moral confusion about the status of marriage in this country deepens. The Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly noted that the decisions of the Church of England have a global impact and we urge that as a matter of simple integrity, its historic and biblical teaching should be articulated clearly.” The GAFCON primates council also expressed concern over the “state of lay and clerical discipline” in the Church of England, noting the pastoral guidelines adopted by the bishops were being flouted with impunity. “We pray for the recovery of a sense of confidence in the whole of the truth Anglicans are called to proclaim, including that compassionate call for repentance to which we all need to respond in our different ways,” the statement said.

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

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

Fort Worth court win: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas courts have handed the Episcopal Church of the USA a loss in its dispute with the Diocese of Fort Worth, rejecting its plea for a rehearing of its case that the diocese should not be allowed to quit the national church and returning a $100,000 bond to the diocese and lifting the requirement that it provide a monthly accounting to the national church. On 24 April 2014 the 141st District Court in Fort Worth agreed to move forward with a new trial in the property suit brought five years ago by the national church against the diocese five years ago. The attorney for Fort Worth Scott Brister, a retired Texas Supreme Court judge, noted, “The judge ruled with us. It’s time to move forward and finish this suit.” The Rt. Rev.  Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth commented that this as a “great encouragement to us, and we look forward to the day when all these legal proceedings are behind us and we can get on with the mission of the Church without the distraction of litigation.” In August the court will likely consider motions for summary judgment, which if granted, would resolve the dispute in favor of the diocese.

Archbishop urges Christians to see the Bible through a skeptical eye: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Archbishop of Wales has urged the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to cast a skeptical eye on the Biblical prohibitions, saying the authors of Scripture were ignorant of modern committed same-sex relationships. In his 23 April 2014 Presidential Address Dr. Barry Morgan stated the “few texts we have in the Bible about same-sex relationships are very negative. Yet, it can be argued that homosexual relationships as we understand them in terms of committed, faithful, monogamous, long lasting relationships, were unknown in biblical times and what the texts rail against is sexual promiscuity and experimentation.” Jesus did not speak to the issue of same-sex relationships the archbishop averred, adding that it was not impossible for the church’s teaching on gay marriage to evolve as it had on divorce and remarriage. “Will we, as a Church, eventually adopt the same approach as far as same-sex relationships are concerned, as we have done about re-marriage after divorce, or is gay marriage in a different category from the re-marriage of divorced people,” Dr. Morgan asked. The archbishop’s address kicks off a formal round of debate on gay marriage within the Church of Wales. No decisions were taken at the meeting, but Dr. Morgan asked the debate be respectful. “Whatever our viewpoints, I hope that our discussions can be charitable.”

Call to fasting and prayer for Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for a nationwide day of fasting and prayer in response to the escalating war with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram. On 25 April 2014 the national president of the country’s pan-Christian association, the Rev. Ayo Oristsejafor said that Nigeria’s hope lay in the Lord. Last week the militant group detonated a bomb at an Abuja commuter bus station killing and wounding several hundred people. In the Northeastern state of Borno near the border with Cameroon the group kidnapped 230 girls from a state boarding school and has fled into the bush with their hostages. Last year, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, but martial law has not halted attacks. Amnesty International estimates that at least 1,500 people — more than half of them civilians — died in the first three months of 2014. “The escalation of violence in northeastern Nigeria in 2014 has developed into a situation of non-international armed conflict in which all parties are violating international humanitarian law,” said Netsanet Belay, an official with that rights group. “Civilians are paying a heavy price as the cycle of violations and reprisals gather momentum.”

Personal holiness tops agenda of Ghana clergy conference: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa.
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Over 400 members of the Ghana Anglican Clergy Association have gathered at the Ofoase- Kokoben Pope John Paul II Formative and Retreat Centre in Bekwai Municipality to discuss the role of the church in Ghanian society. In his presidential address to the “Anglican Priests in the 21st century, Challenges and Prospects” conference on 25 April 2014 the Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, the Most Rev. Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, Archbishop of Ghana, urged priests to identify more closely with their people, by joining in their sorrows and joys. He urged priests to lives of personal holiness, and urged them to respond to the challenges of Pentecostalism by making worship innovative and alive. The five day gathering will examine clergy welfare and pension programmes, the health and future of Ghana’s 10 dioceses, and church-state cooperation in secondary education.

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

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

Supreme Court denies leave to appeal to St Aidan’s: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation.
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The Supreme Court of Canada has denied leave to appeal requested by the congregation of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in Windsor in its dispute with the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Huron over the ownership of the church’s building and assets. The decision lets stand a September 2013 decision b the Court of Appeal which upheld the ruling of the trial court granting ownership to the diocese and awarding the diocese C$100,000 in costs. Writing in the Anglican Network in Canada’s Newsletter, St Aidan’s rector the Rev.  Canon Tom Carman noted: “Yes, sadly the Supreme Court has decided not to grant us leave to appeal.  It’s not really surprising – not from a human standpoint – but we were hoping for a miracle.  Sometimes, though, God simply calls us to bear reproach for his name’s sake.  And we know that in the end our reward is with Him and in Him.  He will see us through this. Please do continue to keep us in your prayers.”

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

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

Edinburgh parishes quit Church of Scotland over gay ministers: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

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Two evangelical congregations have quit the Church of Scotland this week in protest to last year’s vote by the General Assembly permitting the ordination of gay clergy. The departure of St Catherine’s Argyle and New Restalrig, both in Edinburgh, will cost the Presbytery of Edinburgh over £315,000 in lost contributions. The minister of New Restalrig along with the majority of his 2000 member congregation have joined the Free Church of Scotland while the 700 member St Catherine’s and its clergy are currently in talks negotiating their withdrawal. The minister of St Catherine’s Argyle, the Rev. Robin Sydserff told The Herald “both our internal consultation over the past year and the Presbytery’s formal consultation have indicated that our decision has the backing of the vast majority of the active congregation.” The minister of New Restalrig, the Rev. David Court added “There is of course a real materialistic challenge leaving the Church of Scotland with the stipend and the manse, but I don’t regret my decision for a moment. … I am free to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is a wonderful experience to be supported both by my congregation and my colleagues in the Free Church.”

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

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

Sudan archbishop elected: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSSS) has elected the Rt. Rev. Ezekiel Kondo, Bishop of Khartoum as Archbishop for Sudan (north). On 4 April 2014 the church’s bishops elected Bishop Kondo to serve as the first archbishop for the newly created northern province of the ECSSS. At the November 2013 meeting of general synod, the ECSSS voted not to split the church into two national provinces in light of the independence of South Sudan, but two create two internal provinces: one for the Republic of South Sudan and one for the Islamic Republic of Sudan that would consist of the dioceses of Khartoum, Port Sudan, Wad Medani, Kadugli, and El Obeid. A native of the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, Bishop Kondo was elected Bishop of Khartoum in 2003 and has led the church through recurring bouts of persecution by the Islamist government in Khartoum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canterbury clarifies gay marriage remarks: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, has clarified remarks made last week to a radio audience linking gay marriage in the West to the murders of Christians in Africa. In an interview with Canada’s Anglican Journal given during a visit to Toronto last week the archbishop said his words had been misconstrued. There would be consequences to actions taken by the Church of England over gay marriage, but he declined to say whether this was reason enough not to act. “What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the church but around the world…And, this is not mere consequentialism; I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action.” The archbishop added: “What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world. Now that will be more true in some places than in others. It depends on your links. We need to learn to live as a global church in a local context and never to imagine that we’re just a local church. There is no such thing.”

Boko Haram forces closure of Nigerian diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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The Church of Nigeria has temporarily closed the Diocese of Damatura in Northeastern Nigeria’s Yobe State due to the terror campaign waged against Christians by Boko Haram. The Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh reports the Rt. Rev. Abiodun Ogunyemi has been evacuated to Jos and the “clergy are just being paid to keep it on.” The Islamist terror group has sought to drive Christians out of Northern Nigeria and in recent months has moved the war south. On 14 April 2014 over 200 people were killed when a bomb detonated at a commuter bus station outside Abuja. The previous day approximately 60 Christians were murdered in the Northeastern State of Borno. However “our church in Maiduguri is miraculously on but the churches are being attacked here and there,” Archbishop Okoh said. “The Bishop has escaped so many attacks, but he is still there; so what we are doing is to find a way to support the Bishop to support his members. The Bishop is there to ensure that the church does not die.” “Let me say that evil will not win this battle no matter how long it takes,” Archbishop Okoh said.

Genocide memorial service held in Kigali: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Rwanda, Church of England Newspaper.
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In a church school ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide held in Kigali last week, the Bishop of Shyira of the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda, the Rt. Rev. Laurent Mbanda, called upon the young to safeguard the nation from the evils of tribalism. “You should be happy that you live in times like these when Rwanda has good leadership. The current government stopped Genocide, brought peace and national unity-the kind of change this country needed. You have done very well to come and learn… Therefore be agents of change,” Dr. Mbanda said according to reports in the New Times. Over a 100-day period from 7 April 1994 to July, upwards of 1 million Rwanda Tutsis as well as Hutus who opposed the violence, were killed by Hutus. The genocide claimed the lives of 20 per cent of the country’s population and killed 70 per cent of Rwanda’s Tutsis.

Lord Williams delivers Dunning Lecture in Baltimore: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

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The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams delivered the 2014 Dunning Lecture at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore last week, speaking on the topic “Theology as a Way of Life”. In his 3 April 2014 address Lord Williams invited the capacity audience to engage in “theological behavior” that was unafraid of self-scrutiny, patient with life’s deepest mysteries, and hospitable to conversation. Theological living occurs in discrete moments of encounter, both individually and collectively. These encounters could include the classic conversion experience of an individual, or the awakening of an entire society was the case in Britain in 1807 upon the abolition of the slave trade. Such moments were not only experiences of liberation, he said, but steps into a “positive new identity.” Inviting hearers to reflect on moments of new possibility and on practices of prayer and contemplation, Lord Williams concluded that “what it all adds up to is joy.”

Trinity Wall Street’s Wal-Mart suit dismissed: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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A Federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parish of Trinity Wall Street against the Wal-Mart Corporation, which sought to compel the company to distribute proxy material at its 22 April 2014 shareholders meeting that called for the company’s board to regulate the sale of products that offend “family values.” The Episcopal parish in lower Manhattan, whose real estate assets and investments are valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, on 1 April filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Delaware asking the court to overturn Wal-Mart’s refusal to allow the proxy to come before the meeting. The church alleged that the sale of products by Wal-Mart such as ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds or music that endorses violence and sex harmed the company’s market value. On 11 April the judge ruled the Securities and Exchange Commission staff already had said Wal-Mart was not obligated to accept the parish’s proposal, and had not demonstrated the SEC ruling was erroneous.

Igloo Cathedral offer: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Diocese of the Arctic has offered C$2.65 million to the receivers of a construction company that went bankrupt while rebuilding St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit on Baffin Island. In 2005 the Arctic’s “Igloo Cathedral” – built in the shape of an Eskimo igloo was destroyed by arson. Through the proceeds of its insurance settlement and a Canada-wide fundraising appeal the diocese was able to pay C$5.5 million of the million rebuilding cost. The builder, Dowland Contracting Ltd, accepted a promissory note in 2011 for the balance due of C$3.94 million. However, in May 2013 Dowland was declared insolvent and the balance due from the diocese was assumed by the Royal Bank of Canada. The Rt. Rev. David Parsons, Bishop of the Arctic told a Nunavat newspaper on 10 April 2014 the diocese was awaiting a response from the receivers to its offer, which if accepted must be approved by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

Burmese religious freedom law under fire: The Church of England Newspaper, April 18, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England Newspaper.
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Burma’s proposed religious freedom law has drawn protests from Christian and civil society leaders, warning the bill submitted to Parliament by the government of Myanmar President  Thein Sein was a threat to religious liberty. Sponsored by the Buddhist nationalist group “Movement 969” the bill forbids the marriage of Buddhist women to non-Buddhist without state permission, and criminalizes Muslim and Christian proselytism of Buddhists. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairman of the opposition National League for Democracy, has criticized the bill saying it violates basic human rights. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Yangon, Mgr. Charles Maung Bo told the Fides News Agency he opposed the bill as it would “interfere with the individual right to choose one’s own religion.” The Anglican Church of Myanmar has not taken a formal stance on the proposed legislation, but a church source told the Church of England Newspaper the proposed law was part of a wider campaign of Burmese Buddhist nationalism that spelled trouble for the country’s religious and ethnic minorities.

Interview, Issues Etc., May 14, 2014 May 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc.
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Here is a link to an interview I gave to Lutheran Public Radio’s Issues, Etc., program on 14 May 2014.

1. Media Coverage of a Satanic Black Mass at Harvard – George Conger, 5/14/14

George Conger of GetReligion.org

GetReligion

Anglican Unscripted Episode 99, May 17, 2014 May 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, Serbian Orthodox, The Episcopal Church.
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Published on May 17, 2014

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. Please donate athttp://anglican.tv/donate

Story Index
00:00 Twitter Diplomacy
11:37 No More Religion Reporters
18:57 Jersey Shore Gate
36:37 The Greatest Lawsuit in History
43:00 The Evilest Bishop of All Time (so far)
49:16 Closing and Behind the Scenes

Anglican Unscripted Episode 98, May 10, 2014 May 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church News, Anglican.TV, Church of England, The Episcopal Church.
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Published on May 10, 2014

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. Please donate athttp://anglican.tv/donate

Story Index
00:00 Peace over Repentance
14:29 Symptoms vs. Disease
22:36 Submit or Die
28:30 Legal News with AS Haley
37:08 Peter Ould on the Anglican Communion
46:35 Closing and Bloopers

Anglican Unscripted Episode 97, April 25, 2014 May 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, The Episcopal Church.
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Published on Apr 25, 2014

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. Please donate athttp://anglican.tv/donate

STORY INDEX
00:00 Blame the Africans
11:07 Anglicans not swimming Tiber’s
16:42 the IRS and you
26:06 Radical Islam want’s you dead.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 96, April 7, 2014 May 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, The Episcopal Church.
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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.

STORY INDEX
00:00 Hard Choices
23:19 St Justin the Hesitant
32:00 Peter Ould
43:07 AS Haley
50:43 Closing and Bloopers

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

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

Bibles for the Ukraine: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

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The Ukraine Bible Society has responded to the street protests in Kiev and the unrest in the Crimea with a campaign to distribute Scriptures in Russian and Ukrainian. “We believe that only God can bring peace and reconciliation so, with clergy and church volunteers, we went out onto the streets, getting close to government forces and protesters. Local churches set up prayer tents all over Maidan (Kiev’s Independence Square, scene of the conflict between police and protestors), and together we provided food and drink, helped the injured to get medical help, and distributed more than 8,000 Scriptures. People responded so warmly that we completely ran out of free Scriptures to distribute”, reports Rostyslav Stasyuk of UkBS. “We pray that with God’s help, Ukraine will emerge renewed and re–devoted to Him,” he writes.

Allah is not a Muslim word, Archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia.
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The Primate of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, has warned Islamist extremists that Christians would not be silent in the face of demands that they be forbidden to use the word Allah. “Turning the other cheek to the provocateurs and extremists in political Islam that are relentlessly stoking the fire of hatred and bigotry is tantamount to sending a wrong message to them”, he said on 29 March 2014. Christians had lived in peace with Muslims in Southeast Asia, but in recent years Islamist extremists had hijacked the faith to further political ends. “The Bible reminds us that there is a time for war, and a time for peace. It seems like a paradox that we are called to be peacemakers,” he wrote,”yet at the same time we are also to brace ourselves for war.” Under pressure from Islamist extremists, Malaysia’s government has sought to ban the use of the word Allah in Christian newspapers, books and prayers. Last year the Court of Appeals held Christians had no right to use the word – a ruling the Archbishop said was a “travesty of our constitutional right for the church to manage its own affairs, including translation of our Holy Scriptures into Bahasa Malaysia and our native languages. This is the exclusive ecclesiastical authority of the church that neither the state nor the judiciary should trespass in accordance to settled international convention and law.”

Ma Whea Commission presents its findings: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Ma Whea Commission has presented 10 recommendations to guide the deliberations of the  Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia on the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of gay clergy. On 4 April 2014 the commission, whose full name is the Ma Whea?: Mei Fe Ki Fe?: Where To? Commission, chaired by former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand presented its findings to the church after two years of deliberations. I had been asked to “listen, read, discuss, and provide a description of possible options for a way forward” for the church on the contentious issue of homosexuality. The range of options presented included affirming the “traditional understanding” of marriage and sexuality, allowing a local option, adopting a “new understanding” on sexual ethics, accepting two contrary teachings, create flying bishops for those holding differing views, and dividing the church along doctrinal grounds. The church’s General Secretary, the Rev. Michael Hughes, noted the report did not offer any conclusions or recommendations. “This is a valuable resource with an analysis and critique of a wide spectrum of church views that now becomes part of the Church’s conversations and deliberations for our General Synod,” he said.

Cathedral development sparks protests: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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Protests over plans by Manhattan’s Cathedral of St John the Divine to build luxury flats on its precincts sparked a demonstration last week led by local political leaders, who charged developing the 11 acre site was sacrilegious, while community activists charged building a 430-flat tower block would drastically alter the community. “The cathedral’s being an atrocious neighbor,” said  State Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell. “They just want to make the most money possible, and if you just want to make the most money possible, you are a for-profit real estate developer and should be treated as such by the law.” U.S. Congressman Jerald Nadler (D. NY) it was an outrage that the cathedral would seek a short term solution that would negatively impact the neighborhood in its search for cash. “Can you imagine this happening beside the Notre Dame?” the congressman asked the New York Daily News. However, the Very Rev. James Kowalski, told the New York Times developing the property was necessary to help cover the shortfall in its $12 million annual budget. The question facing the cathedral chapter was “if the cathedral was not supposed to be like a Salisbury Cathedral in the middle of land but an urban cathedral with buildings that had been built and were deteriorating, what would be the best use of the land to advance the mission of the cathedral,” the dean said.

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

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

Bishop drops lawsuit against blogger: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Bishop of the Ontario-based Diocese of Niagara, the Rt. Rev. Michael Bird, has dropped his $400,000 defamation of character lawsuit against David Jenkins, after the conservative blogger agreed to partial payment of the bishop’s legal fees and an apology.  A first of its kind lawsuit that was closely watched by free speech activists, in February 2013 the bishop sued Mr. Jenkins claiming his blog had defamed him by describing him as an ineffectual leader, a thief, sexual pervert and atheist.  The bishop’s complaint further alleged that altered photos printed on the Anglican Samizdat of the bishop sporting underwear on his head, and of his face appearing atop the body of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. The bishop had sought to shut down the website, ban Mr. Jenkins from all further public comment, and pay $400,000 in damages plus costs. The bishop agreed to settle the suit after Mr. Jenkins countered with the offer of payment of partial legal costs and an apology.  Settling the lawsuit was the prudent course of action, the blogger wrote, noting “further financial haggling was infra dig, so I agreed to the terms.”

Church technical college launched in Zimbabwe: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Zimbabwe.
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The Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) has launched a $120 million dollar campaign to build a technical college outside of Harare. At a dinner held on 2 April 2014 at the Meikles Hotel, Dr. Chad Gandiya the Bishop of Harare, announced the start of a 25-year campaign to build a university for 8000 students in Chitungwiza, a town 25 miles south east of Harare.  “Among the several disciplines the university focus will be biomedical sciences and obviously this noble mission is a mammoth task but it is part of our mission to serve all members of our nation regardless of religious or political alignment or affiliation, and regardless of gender or age,” the bishop said according to a report of the launch printed by the Harare Herald.

English bishop for Riverina: The Church of England Newspaper, April 11, 2014 May 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The rector of Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, and St Saviour, Upper Chelsea, the Rev. Alan (Rob) Gillion, has been elected the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Riverina in the Anglican Church of Australia. A special meeting of the diocesan synod on 4 April 2014 elected Mr. Gillion to succeed the Rt. Rev. Douglas Stevens, who retired in 2012. Educated at the University of London, Mr. Gillion worked as an actor and director for 12 years before entering the ministry. After studies at the Theological College of Salisbury and Wells, the bishop-elect was ordained in 1983 in the Diocese of Norwich and served in the dioceses of Southwark and Hong Kong before taking up his current post in 1999.  Covering a third of New South Wales, the rural diocese of 23 parishes is based in Griffith and takes its name from the confluence of four rivers, the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Darling and Lachlan. The new bishop will be consecrated and enthroned on 15 August 2014 at Saint Alban’s Cathedral, Griffith.

Interview: Issues, Etc., April 7, 2014 May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc, Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ukrainian Orthodox (Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate).
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Here is a link to an interview I gave to Lutheran Public Radio’s Issues, Etc., program on 7 April 2014.

3. Media Coverage of the Crisis in the Ukraine & Gay Bishops in the Church of England – George Conger, 4/7/14

George Conger of GetReligion.org

GetReligion

Is Mehmet Ali Agca crazy or just a bad Catholic?: Get Religion, April 27, 2014 May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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The upcoming canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II have generated some very good press for the Roman Catholic Church. While a fewarticles have sought to punch holes in the reputations of the soon to be saints — a frequent criticism I have seen is that John Paul was negligent in disciplining the serial abuser Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ — most converge has been positive.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel published an in depth piece on the miracles associated with John Paul, that treated the issue with sympathy and empathy. It is too early to tell how outfits normally hostile to the papacy such as the BBC or the European leftist press will present this story. However, interest in the canonization outside of religious circles appears to be very high.

On Friday Vatican Radio reported that 93 nations will send official delegations to the April 27 canonization service, while two dozen heads of state and as many as 150 cardinals and 1,000 bishops will be present at the Mass.

One oddball item that caught me eye amongst the flurry of articles was an interview conducted by the Italian wire service ANSA with John Paul’s would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. Here the lede of the story that ran with the headline: “Foiled killer said sinful to ‘deify’ John Paul”:

Pope John Paul II is not a saint, because only God can be considered holy and attempts to “deify a human being” are sinful, Ali Agca, the man who tried to assassinate the pope in 1981, said Thursday in an interview with ANSA.

The article offers some background information on Agca, who in 1981 shot and nearly killed John Paul — a crime for which he served 20 years in an Italian prison, before being deported to Turkey, where he served a further ten years imprisonment for a 1979 murder. The article further notes Agca:

 has claimed at various times that his attempted murder of the pontiff was ordered by Ayatollah Rhollah Khomeini of Iran and the Soviet-era Bulgarian Secret Police.

The piece then offers an insight into the assassin’s mind, giving him space to speak.

Agca, who was released from jail in 2010, said that he “definitely wanted to kill” John Paul II so it’s a “miracle” the pontiff survived the St. Peter’s Square attack, which shocked the world. “I have seen with indisputable evidence that on May 13, 1981, God performed a miracle in St. Peter’s Square,” …

The Turkish national added that he feels no remorse because his act was part of a “divine plan”. “There’s an immeasurable difference between a divine miracle such as my assassination attempt and a psychopathic, unjustifiable crime,” said Ali Agca. “I’m extremely happy to have been at the center of a divine plan that’s cost me 30 hellish years in solitary confinement”.

Which leads me to ask, which God? Whose divine plan? Is Agca a Muslim, Christian or something else? Is he crazy?

Upon his release from prison in Turkey in 2010 Agca claimed he was “the Christ eternal” and the Messiah. Ten years in a Turkish prison are likely to addle most people’s brains and long-distance psychiatry is a risky business.

But as a point of journalism, when the subject of an interview begins to talk about god, divine plans and the like, should not the newspaper clarify the religious tradition or belief system being offered? ANSA offers background on Agca’s past and his prison history, but in a story that focuses on religion it is silent as to the subject’s own beliefs and chosen faith.

Or, is “30 hellish years in solitary confinement” excuse enough not to press too hard upon the mind of Mehmet Ali Agca?

IMAGE: The famous encounter in which Pope John Paul II offered forgiveness to his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca.

Buddhists boldly bully buzzed Brits: GetReligion, April 25, 2014 May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Buddhism, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The obnoxious Englishman abroad is a well loved story in the British press. The opprobrium once reserved for the British football hooligan abroad has now spread to his vacationing cousins. Cheap airfares and package holidays to the beaches of the Mediterranean, Florida and points East have given the Briton abroad a reputation for boorishness, lewdness, and alcohol-fueled vulgarity.

“They scream, they sing, they fall down, they take their clothes off, they cross-dress, they vomit,” the mayor of Malia, a popular Greek resort, told the New York Times in 2008. “It is only the British people – not the Germans or the French”.

Are the British the world’s worst behaved tourists? I think Americans can still give the Brits a run for their money. Let me note the annual horror of Spring Break here in Sunny Florida in defense of my claim of American exceptionalism. Aesthetically speaking the sunburnt, tattooed, shaven-headed, bandy-legged Briton abroad is an unpleasing sight. And the men are even worse!

The British government keeps track of the bad behavior of Englishman abroad, publishing an annual report on consular support given to jailed tourists, football hooligans and other assorted louts.The British press has a love hate relationship with yobos abroad. The Daily Mail and other popular newspapers will run stories bemoaning bad behavior and vulgarity with headlines like: “Beer-swilling Britishwomen are branded the ‘ugliest in the world’.” However, British television celebrates the bad behavior with documentaries and series like Channel 4‘s “What happens in Kavos” — an English version of the soft porn “Girls gone wild” films distributed in America.

The news that a British nurse vacationing in Sri Lanka is being deported from that country due to a Buddha tattoo that state officials find to be offensive to Buddhist sensibilities is being reported along these lines — the clueless tourist acting in a way that insults the locals. The Guardian‘s story came from the French wire service AFP, which stated:

Sri Lanka has detained a female British tourist for having a Buddha tattoo on her right arm and ordered her deportation, police said on Tuesday. The unidentified woman was arrested at the country’s main international airport on Monday and appeared before a magistrate, who ordered her deportation, police said in a statement.

The statement said she had an image of the Buddha seated on a lotus flower tattooed on her right arm. “She was taken before the Negombo magistrate, who ordered her to be detained prior to deportation,” it said, adding that she was arrested shortly after her arrival on a flight from neighbouring India.

It did not say what charges were brought against her, but Sri Lanka barred another British tourist from entering the island in March last year for showing disrespect to Buddhism by having a Buddha tattooed on his arm.

Subsequent stories in the Guardian and other Western news outlets reported the woman’s name and provided a photo of the tourist showing off her Buddha tattoo. The Guardian also ran an opinion piece noting that the Buddha tattoo was offensive to Sri Lankans arguing:

The arrest and pending deportation of a 37-year-old British nurse, Naomi Coleman, from Sri Lanka for sporting a tattoo of a meditating Buddha on her right arm has once again raised the issue of tourists being woefully unaware of religious and cultural sensitivities in places they visit.

While alcohol was absent from this incident, the photos of the tattoo and its wearer, coupled with statements that the tattoo was considered offensive by Buddhists, slots this story into the ugly Briton abroad category.

But … is this all there is to say on this story? Are Buddhists offended by tattoos of the Buddha? Why is this offensive?

Could this be political chauvinism disguised as religious piety?

The Western press appears to have accepted uncritically the argument that tattoos of Buddha are offensive on religious grounds. Yet no scholars of Buddhism are questioned on this point. In its opinion piece the Guardian cites a story in the Daily News of Colombo — one of Sri Lanka’s principle newspapers — in support of the offensive to Buddhist claims that also raises political questions. The Daily News article quotes a senior Buddhist monk demanding the government ban publications printing images of Buddha.

The Mahanayake Thera during a meeting with the President pointed out that the print media material bearing the images of The Buddha were even used as serviettes at eateries and also used to wrap various consumer goods by traders.

While noting the above, the Mahanayake Thera asserted that this amounted to an act of sacrilege.

Images of Buddha according to the senior monk must be protected from sacrilege. But again we do not have an explanation of why other than the monk’s assertion that this must be so.

In April of 2010, I wrote an article for the Church of England Newspaper reporting that:

Buddhist extremists have forced the cancellation of a concert tour in Sri Lanka by the pop singer Akon, after a mob ransacked the offices of his booking agent in Colombo for insulting the Buddha. … The protesters were offended by Akon’s latest video “Sexy Chick,” which shows bikini-clad women dancing at a pool party, while in the background stands a statue of the Buddha. Jathika Bhikku Sansadaya, a Buddhist monk organization affiliated with the Sinhala nationalist party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) demanded the government cancel the concert stating Akon had insulted Buddhism.

The government caved in to the demands of the rioters and refused to issue Akon a visa. The reason why the Church of Englan Newspaper ran the story was due to the intervention of the Anglican bishop in Colombo.

Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo upbraided the police for their inaction. “Reports that the police failed to prevent the attack and did not object to some of the perpetrators of this offense being released on bail the same day, are worrying,” he said. “Such behavior implies political patronage in the attack and political interference in the investigations. When some who frame the laws of the land and some of those responsible for the enforcement of the law disregard the law, the plight of the people is critical,” he said in a statement given to the media.

The bishop argued the motivation for the protests were not religious but political. Sri Lanka’s Buddhist monks have a long history of political activism and in recent years have used perceived insults to Buddhist imagery — t-shirts, tattoos, music videos, a parcel wrapped in a newspaper that displays an image of Buddha — as a stick to beat the government and rouse their supporters.

How then should the Western press have handled the story of Naomi Coleman? Was it wise to assume that Buddhism is akin to Sunni Islam where images of the prophet or the enlightened one are forbidden? Should the assertion that this is offensive be tested by reference to a scholar of Sri Lankan Buddhism or a political analyst? Should we trust as true the statements made by the police?

The deeper story here is not the social or aesthetic faux pas of an English tourist, but the political activism of militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Religious offense may be the issue trumpeted by the Sri Lankan government, but could it really be Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism at play?

Assad’s Easter and mysterious attacks on Syrian Christians: GetReligion, April 24, 2014 May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Antiochian Orthodox, Get Religion, Greek Orthodox, Islam, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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Why are Syrian Christians being targeted by Islamist rebels?

The Western press cannot agree on a reason, a review of recent reports from Syria reveals.

Can we credit the explanation given by the Wall Street Journal — that the rebels do not trust Christians — as a sufficient explanation? And if so, what does that mean? Are the reports of murders, kidnappings, rapes and overt persecution of Christians in Syria by Islamist rebels motivated by religion, politics, ethnicity, nationalism or is it a lack of trust?

Is the narrative put forward byITAR-TASS, the Russian wire service and successor to the Soviet TASS News Agency — that the rebels are fanatics bent on turning Syria into a Sunni Muslim state governed by Sharia law — the truth?

On this past Monday, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on its front page under this headline:

Christians of Homs Grieve as Battle for City Intensifies

That story examined the plight of Syria’s Christians. The Journal entered into the report by looking at the death of Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt, who had been murdered by members of an Islamist militia in the town of Homs.

The well-written article offers extensive quotes from a second Syrian Roman Catholic priest on this tragedy and notes the late priest’s attempt to bridge the divide between Christians and Muslims. In the 10th paragraph, the story opens up into a wider discussion of the plight of Syria’s Christians and recounts Assad’s Easter visit to a monastery — whether Catholic or some variety of Orthodox, that detail is left out.

While the fighting raged in Homs, President Bashar al-Assad showed up unexpectedly on Sunday in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, about 30 miles northeast of the capital Damascus. The town was overrun by Islamist rebels in September and reclaimed by the Syrian army a week ago.

State media released video footage of Mr. Assad surveying smashed icons at the town’s damaged monasteries and quoted him as saying that “no amount of terror can ever erase our history and civilization.”

The fight over Maaloula, like the killing of Father Frans, both reflect the quandary of Syria’s Christians. Many feel an affinity for Mr. Assad. His Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, dominates the regime while the majority of Syrians—and opposition supporters—are Sunni Muslims.

Most Christians have become all the more convinced that only the regime can protect them after some rebels came under the sway of Islamic extremists who have attacked and pillaged their communities and churches and targeted priests and nuns.

Some Christians still seek to build bridges with both sides of the civil war, as Father Frans did. But in a landscape where religious and sectarian affiliations often define and shape the struggle, they find themselves under fire from both sides.

Many rebels say they don’t fully trust Christians, while regime supporters see those who reach out to the opposition as naive or traitors. Father Frans found himself in that position, say some close to him

What are we to make of these assertions — “some rebels” are Islamists, or that “many rebels say they don’t fully trust Christians?” Is that a fair, suffient or accurate statement of affairs?

A look at the Financial Times report on President al-Assad’s visit to Maaloula on Easter Sunday makes the argument that the Assad regime is playing up the Islamist angle for his political benefit. But it assumes the persecution is real.

President Bashar al-Assad made an Easter visit on Sunday to a historic Christian town recaptured by the army, in a rare appearance outside the capital that shows his growing confidence in state control around Damascus.

The visit also aims to portray him as the protector of Syrian minorities against a rebel movement led by Islamist forces.

The wire service stories also connect Christian fear of the rebels with support for Assad. AFP’s account closes with the explanation:

Syria’s large Christian minority has sought neutrality throughout the three-year war, and has viewed the Sunni-led rebels with growing concern as jihadists have flocked to their ranks.

The Los Angeles Times opens its story on the Maaloula visit noting that both Assad and the rebel leadership are courting Syria’s Christians.

But Assad appears to be winning.

DAMASCUS, Syria — President Bashar  Assad made a symbolic Easter visit Sunday to the heavily damaged town of Maaloula, a Christian landmark  enclave recaptured from Islamist rebels last week by government forces. The president’s visit, broadcast on state television, underscored his efforts  to portray himself as a defender of Christians and other minorities as he  prepares for an expected reelection bid in the midst of a devastating war now in  its fourth year.

Maaloula and several of its historic churches sustained significant damage  during heavy fighting and bombardment. Church leaders say priceless icons were  looted or destroyed during the rebel occupation of Maaloula, famous for its  preservation of Aramaic, a version of the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

“No one, no matter the extent of their terrorism, is able to erase our human  and cultural history,” Assad declared in Maaloula while in the company of senior  Christian clerics. “Maaloula will remain steadfast … in the face of the  barbarity and darkness of all who target the homeland.”

Opposition groups seeking Assad’s ouster generally dismissed the trip as a  stunt or faked. The exile-based Syrian National Coalition sent Easter greetings  to Syria’s Christians “at a time when Assad destroyed the country because of a  people who are demanding freedom.”

Comparing the reporting by Peter Oborne of the Daily Telegraph on the plight of Syria’s Christians to the the Wall Street Journal reveals the shallowness of the WSJ’spiece. Reporting on his visit to Maaloula shortly after it was recapture by government forces, Oborne writes:

Below, the village itself appeared practically deserted; most of its 5,000-strong, mainly Christian, population have fled since it first came under rebel attack, on Sept 4 last year.

According to Samir, a soldier who said he had been born in Maaloula, and joined up to defend his village, the ancient religious centre “will not change hands again because most of the young men in the village have joined the military”.

His friend, Imad, said there had been 32 churches in Maaloula and claimed that “all of them have been destroyed” – although it was clear from the vantage point near the monastery that in fact churches were still standing, albeit with signs of damage and some burning.

Anger among regime supporters at what they claim are the excesses of the rebels – who include radical Islamist insurgent groups – was palpable. “I can’t describe my feelings because the terrorists are destroying the Christian religion,” said Imad, who said he had been an electrician in Maaloula before he joined the military and the rest of his family moved to Damsacus two years ago. Samir claimed that the rebels had behaved brutally to young men of the town when they first arrived, killing many.

However, there have been no documented massacres of Christian inhabitants under the rebels’ rule of Maaloula and a group of nuns who were released last month after being kidnapped by the Islamist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, said they had been treated well.

Oborne’s article allows both sides to speak, while offering facts that put the claims in context. The complexity of the war in Syria is better served by the balanced but nuanced approach taken by the Daily Telegraph, I believe, than the shy style adopted by the WSJ. While I have no firsthand knowledge of the events unfolding in Syria, Oborne’s story just feels right — it is a first-class example of the craft of reporting.

Where does the truth lay in all of this? The WSJ piece doesn’t feel right to me. I am not saying it is incorrect, but it is incomplete.

As a stand-alone piece on the murder of Father van der Lugt, the WSJ article is great. It seems to get into trouble, however, when it moves into a wider discussion of the causes and political-religious currents of Syria’s civil war. Frankly, I am not convinced it is telling the full story. It leaves me wonder why the WSJ is being shy in examining the persecution of Christians by Muslims?

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