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Hiatus June 2, 2015

Posted by geoconger in Uncategorized.
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I have fallen behind in my posting on my archive — six months to be exact. I have several thousand older stories to post as well as new stories. The mix of my work has changed however.

As rector of a fast growing congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida I have had to cut back on my output. I’ve said goodbye to GetReligion and the Media Project after a happy five year run and pulled back from freelance work. I am focusing my writing energies on Anglican Ink, The Church of England Newspaper, and Anglican Unscripted. Everything else is devoted to one of the fastest growing, and most spirit filled congregation in the Episcopal Church: Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Lecanto.

Hezbollah and PCUSA: The Media Project, December 12, 2014 December 12, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Press criticism, The Media Project.
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Nowhere has it surfaced in mainstream American press that an Israeli civil rights organization filed a whistleblower complaint with the IRS, accusing the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) of violating its tax-exempt status through overt political lobbying, and by violating US anti-terror laws through links with Hezbollah.

Reports have been printed in the religious press (Jewish and Christian), but save for English-language stories in Israeli press, Arutz Sheva 7 and the Jerusalem Post, this story has not captured the interests of editors. Perhaps the extensive coverage of the Catholic Church and conservative Protestant lobbying against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or the Houston sermon scandal has satiated the editors’ appetites for First Amendment church/state stories. But it remains odd nonetheless that no one else is discussing a politics-and-religion story that has arisen this time from the “left”.

What has been written is pretty good, however. The Jerusalem Post story is a well crafted piece that shows how one writes a story when one side will not play ball, the reporter has limited information, and is working within space and deadline constraints.

(As an aside, I wrote for the Jerusalem Post for a number of years as one of their London correspondents, but am not now affiliated with the newspaper and do not know the author of the article in question.)

The kernel of the various stories comes from the same, not very well written, press release.

Where the Jerusalem Post stands out is in the value it added to the press release. It begins its story in a matter-of-fact tone.

Shurat Hadin (the Israel Law Center) has filed a legal complaint against the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), alleging violations of the US tax code for unlawful political lobbying and contact with Hezbollah, a US-designated terrorist organization.

The second sentence fills out the who/what/where and when questions before taking a quote from the press release that explains why.

The Tel Aviv-based organization publicized the submission of its 38-page complaint with the US Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday.

“It is high time the IRS took a long look at the Presbyterian Church and investigated its meeting with the designated- terrorist organization Hezbollah, its lobbying activities, and its anti-Israel divestment policies,” said Shurat Hadin spokesman attorney Robert Tolchin.

“The PCUSA is obsessed with attacking the Jewish state and has moved far from the activities which it presented to the IRS to secure its tax-free status in the United States.”

The article lays out the charges as articulated in the press release that Shurat Hadin had given the US government:

“documentary and video evidence showing PCUSA delegates meeting with the US-designated terrorist group Hezbollah, publishing anti-Semitic materials, enacting a racist policy to divest from American companies doing business with Israel, lobbying the US Congress, and distributing political advocacy materials in violation of its tax-exempt status as a religious organization.”

And then, it offered the PCUSA a chance to respond, which it did by declining to respond to the accusations. (I, too, sent a query to the PCUSA about the story but did not get a response.)

At this point the JPost adds value to the article, offering a perspective from an expert on this issue, Yitzhak Santis of NGO Monitor in Jerusalem. Perhaps the JPost could be faulted for not offering a talking head from the other side – one of the myriad of organizations in favor of boycotting or divesting from Israel.

However, the expert the JPost does cite in its story speaks directly to the issues and concerns raised in the Shurat HaDin lawsuit, providing context and background missing from most Western news outlets covering Israel.

Were this a magazine piece, a contrary voice from an expert opposed to NGO Monitor would be essential, especially in light of the PCUSA’s silence. Yet given the space parameters under which the author had to work, I think this story does the job. The first story on an issue is not always the final word.

As the PCUSA will one day decide it wants to say something about the charge that it is in bed with Hezbollah, there is ample opportunity to offer a different perspective on the issue. I hope to read that article, too.

First printed in The Media Project

The Huffington Post on Clerical Celibacy: The Media Project, December 9, 2014 December 10, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Roman Catholic Church, The Media Project.
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Without looking – who would you suppose would do a better job in reporting on the gay subculture among Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland? The Belfast Telegraph or the Huffington Post?

One was named the Best Regional Newspaper of the Year in 2012 by the Society of Editors and has print run of approximately 100,000. The other is an online news aggregator and blog that also runs additional news content. One is steeped in the traditions of Anglo-American journalism while the other pursues an advocacy approach to news – with the dividing line between opinion and reporting sometimes blurred.

An observer of the Ulster newspaper scene might hesitate before awarding the prize to the Belfast Telegraph, for it along with the News Letter are “Unionist” newspapers, while the third daily, the Irish News, is a “Nationalist” newspaper. Perhaps a residual anti-Catholic sentiment might creep into the Belfast Telegraph’s reporting?

The two outlets treatment of the same story may surprise some, for in its coverage of a recent book on clerical celibacy in the Irish Catholic Church, the Huffington Post is less shrill, more nuanced, and finely balanced.

Authors are not responsible for the titles placed on their stories, but the titles of these two pieces fairly summarize the tone of the two pieces. “Hell’s bells: Nine priests spotted in Irish gay bar” in the Belfast Telegraph conveys the over-the-top tone to its report.  The Huffington Post’s story has the more measured title: “New Book on Irish Priests Reveals Struggles with Celibacy, Trips to Gay Clubs.”

The lede of the Belfast Telegraph’s story opens with:

Ground-breaking new research into the sexual lives of Irish Catholic priests has revealed many of them are or have been sexually active, that the bishops are aware of the situation, and that there is a gay scene within the church.

Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity publishes new analysis of priests’ views from a series of interviews conducted by Dr John Weafer, a former seminarian who is now married with children.

The article summarizes some of the books findings focusing on one of the 33 priests –Fr. L. who is in a long term gay relationship.

Fr. L. is quoted as saying there is a “strong clerical gay scene in Ireland”.

He believes that there are “quite a lot of gay guys in the priesthood” and on one occasion when he went into a gay bar in Dublin, he recognised at least nine priests in the bar.

The article then offers this comment from the author of the book followed by its own editorial viewpoint.

Dr Weafer said he did not think that the Irish hierarchy would be shocked by the revelations in the book as the interviews showed that the “hierarchy are aware” of what is going on. “As long as priests don’t go public and don’t flaunt those actions that don’t correspond with being a celibate priest” they turn a blind eye, he claimed. This will shock many as the official church’s attitude on homosexuality deems it as intrinsically disordered. According to Dr Weafer: “If a priest was to say in the morning ‘I am gay’, he would be fired. Priests have learned to keep their heads down”.

The Belfast Telegraph offers no voice from the Catholic hierarchy who might care to dispute the suggestion that the Church is packed with closeted gay clergy and led by hypocrites who practice an Irish form of “don’t ask don’t tell”. The tone of this article is one of outrage tinged with disgust. Though it does not descend to the level of overt sectarian nastiness, there is nonetheless a disquieting undercurrent to the report.

Compared to the Huffington Post, it also falls short as journalism. The Huffington Post story opens with:

When sociologist and former seminarian Dr. John Weafer started looking for studies on the personal lives of Catholic priests there were only a few. Those that did exist only began to approach what the researcher imagined was a much richer and more complex story beneath the surface. Weafer took matters into his own hands by embarking on an in-depth study on Irish priests, using contacts he had from his seminary days nearly 30 years ago. The resulting book, Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity, explores the personal lives of a range of priests, often going into what Weafer called “graphic detail” about romantic relationships, abuse allegations and daily struggles with clerical life.

It, too, focuses its attention on Fr. L., but it does not stop once his story is told. It asks questions of the author, Dr. Weafer, and includes quotes from the archbishop of Dublin who concedes that struggles with celibacy are among the challenges facing Catholic clergy.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin addressed the subject in a recent interview with Irish Independent. When asked if he had read Weafer’s book, Martin said he had not but acknowledged that celibacy is a challenge for many. “I know what is going on with my priests. I know good priests and I know priests who struggle – I support all of them. I don’t think if people fail that you abolish celibacy.”

By asking Dr. Weafer questions, the Huffington Post puts this story into context. Not all Catholic clergy are closeted homosexuals, nor is sex the first topic of conversation among priests.

Of the 33 interviews Weafer conducted, all of which he said lasted for more than an hour, not all of them touched on issues of sexuality. Some of the priests discussed their experience in gay or straight relationships, but others discussed challenges beyond celibacy, delving into disputes with bishops, false allegations of abuse and the struggle of working long past retirement age. “They wanted to get across a message ‘this is what my life is like as a priest,'” Weafer said. “They’ve been called by God, and they live out their lives in ways they see fit. They’re very much human beings.”

In reporting on the release of a controversial book, the Huffington Post has done a better job. It offers the same facts as the Belfast Telegraph, but offers context and avoids shrillness and cant. Well done, Huffington Post.

First printed by The Media Project.

Wabukala shames bishops who put dialogue above doctrine: Church of England Newspaper, December 5, 2014 December 5, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper.
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The chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has urged Africa’s bishops to repudiate a dialogue initiated by the Anglican Church of Canada and backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In an Advent letter dated 27 Nov 2014 Archbishop Eliud Wabukala rejected the work of Bishops in Consultation initiative which has brought American, Canadian and African bishops together to discus ways of promoting institutional unity while permitting a degree of latitude of doctrinal positions on issues ranging from sexual ethics, Christology, universalism and soteriology. Archbishop Wabukala wrote: the dialogue “claimed that we must maintain visible unity despite everything because ‘now we see through a glass, darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). In other words, things will only become clear in heaven. This is a bad mistake. It is true that there is much about our future state that we do not yet understand, but God has given us the inspired Scriptures as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps.119:105). Our future hope cannot be turned into an excuse for compromise or silence when Scripture is clear. For Anglicans the collegial mind of the Communion on sexuality and Scripture remains the orthodox position as strongly reaffirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference which continues to call us to obedience and pastoral responsibility. Dialogue is no substitute for doctrine.”

Illinois Supreme Court rules against TEC: Church of England Newspaper, December 5, 2014 December 5, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Illinois Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of the Episcopal Church in its lawsuit with the Diocese of Quincy, upholding a lower court ruling that found the diocese may secede from the national church. The 26 Nov 2014 decision affirms the Fourth District Appellate Court’s finding the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church of the USA do not forbid dioceses from withdrawing from the national church. The national church may appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or ask the Illinois Supreme Court for reconsideration. The Illinois ruling is likely to influence other state courts, said canon lawyer Allan Haley – an advisor to the Diocese of Quincy. “The decision will come as a very useful precedent for the courts in the other pending diocesan withdrawal cases — which present a unique question that the Illinois court is now the first to have definitively decided. Watch for the withdrawing dioceses to cite the case to the courts in Texas (Ft. Worth), California (San Joaquin) and South Carolina,” he said.

Welby makes 37th provincial visit to Scotland: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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Nicola Sturgeon with David Chillingworth and Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has concluded his 18-month round the Communion tour this week with a visit to the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Most Rev. Justin Welby began his visit on 24 November 2014 with a meeting at Bute House with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. He spoke with representatives from other Scottish Churches, “before meeting with the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) to discuss the Church’s role in society and a range of matters within the world-wide Anglican Communion,” a statement from the SEC press office said. The following day the archbishop toured a new Church Army project in Dundee, met with local clergy and concluded the day with worship at St Columba’s Church, Aberdour. The Primus, the Most Rev David Chillingworth said the SEC was “delighted to welcome Archbishop Justin Welby and his wife Caroline to Scotland.” He added that Archbishop Welby “has established reconciliation as one of his priorities in ministry. He is seeking ways in which churches which live in an extraordinary diversity of contexts – geographical, economic, social and cultural – can express visible unity in Christ. We look forward to sharing with Archbishop Justin some of the vitality and distinctiveness of the Scottish Episcopal Church in its ministry in Scotland today.”

Christian Aid reaches out to Ebola survivors: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper.
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Christian Aid has joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to distribute  essential household items to Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone. “Solidarity kits” consisting of food, household items and hygiene supplies were distributed to households in the Bo and Western Area districts to help survivors rebuild their lives. The NGO reported that some survivors returning home from treatment centres have found their homes burned to the ground or doused with chlorine by neighbors or government officials, fearful their huts and property were sources of infection. Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid Country Manager for Sierra Leone, said: “Those fortunate enough to have survived the Ebola virus are left with next to nothing. The joy of surviving the devastating virus is quickly overshadowed by the pain of having everything they own destroyed during the decontamination process.” She added that “those living hand–to–mouth simply cannot afford to replace all their belongings – particularly in homes where the main breadwinner has died from the virus. That’s why Christian Aid is pleased to partner with UNDP on this initiative, so that together we can ensure that Ebola survivors, who have already suffered so much, can start afresh without the added anxiety of having no clothes, bedding, cooking utensils or food.”

Anglican Diocese of Quebec on verge of extinction: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper.
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St Paul's Cumberland QuebecSecularism combined with rural flight may lead to the extinction of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Quebec with 64 per cent of congregations closing or amalgamating with other parishes in the next five years. In a reflection recently published on the diocese’s website, Nancy Clark writes the demographic sustainability of the province’s English-speaking communities are in doubt, and with it the future of the diocese. “Like the exodus of English-speaking youth from rural villages, youth are moving away from religion, feeding their needs and emotions with the dream of material things, things only cities and stuff can give you.  These are looming facts, and we can’t deny them.” Statistics published in a report released earlier this year by the Task Force on Mission Ministry and Management reports the diocese has 3000 members in 52 parishes with 87 congregations. The report stated “42% of congregations have fewer than 10 regular services a year and 76% have fewer than 25 participants at services. In 31% of the congregations the age range begins at 50 and in 13% at 70.” The report further reported that a “staggering 83%” reported minimal or no activity outside of worship. The collapse of institutional Anglicanism in Quebec may be inevitable, Ms. Clark wrote, but it also represented an opportunity. “Let’s imagine starting with a clean slate. … This is our chance to let go, stop struggling, and focus on what is important: living in a way that Christians are meant to and sharing that with the next generations,” she said.

Court action promised in Pakistani blasphemy murders: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
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The Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take immediate steps to investigate the 4 Nov 2014 murders of a Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama Masih, who were burnt alive by a Muslim mob for allegedly desecrating a page from the Koran. The Court further asked the government to enumerate the actions it had taken in response to a June 2014 Supreme Court order directing the state to establish a National Council for the Rights of Minorities and a task force to protect Christian places of worship. Church of Pakistan leaders have welcomed the court action, telling the Church of England NeShahzad_Masih_Shama_Bibiwspaper they hoped government pressure would end local persecution and discrimination of Christians. However, the Fides News Agency reports the family of the murdered Christian couple — whose death the Church of Pakistan reports, was orchestrated by an unscrupulous debt collector who used religious fervor to exact revenge — are under severe pressure from local Muslim leaders to abandon their campaign for justice. Fides reported: “ Even the Christians of surrounding villages are under threat. A Christian from the village of Bhail said that the tension in the area is strong and great hostility of Muslims towards Christians has developed after the raid and arrests carried out by the police in Muslim houses.”

Al-Shabaab kill 28 Christians in Kenya bus massacre: Church of England Newspaper, November, 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the murder of 28 Christians in Kenya last Saturday, saying the killings were payback for police raids on four mosques in Mombasa.  On the morning of 22 Nov 2014, a bus carrying 60 passengers to Nairobi was ambushed by gunmen approximately 31 miles south of the town of Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia. “They asked how many times I pray in a day, asked me to recite a Qur’an verse and also greeted one in Islamic,” a survivor told the Daily Nation. “If one failed to answer these questions, then you’d be asked to lie on a muddy patch of the road facing down.” Christian primary school teacher Douglas Ochwodo survived the attack. He told Reuters two killers went along the line of bodies, beginning at each end moving towards the middle, shooting their prone victims in the head. Ochwodo lay in the center and covered with blood from other victims, was overlooked by the killers. Nineteen men and nine women, identified as Christians, were shot dead. In September 2013 al-Shabaab terrorists assaulted Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, killing 67 people. The Islamist terror group has claimed responsibility for other attacks that have have left 90 dead this year. including the assault on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall in September 2013 in which 67 people were killed. Al-Shabaab said it was responsible for other attacks on Kenya’s coast earlier this year which killed at least 90 people. Earlier this month Kenyan police closed four mosques in Mombasa after police raids discovered weapons and explosives caches in the buildings.Speaking to reporters after services at an Anglican Church outside of Nairobi on Sunday Deputy President William Ruto told reporters on Sunday that security force jets and helicopters had attacked a camp in Somalia linked to the perpetrators of the bus massacre, killing as many as 100 terrorists. “We shall continue to deal with all the terrorists and bandits in the same way because it is the only language they understand,” he said. “If you kill any Kenyan you will also be killed.”

New leader for German protestants elected: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EKD.
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Heinrich Bedford-StrohmThe Rt. Rev. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria has been elected head of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD). On 11 Nov 2014 the EKD council meeting in Dresden elected Bishop Bedford-Strohm on the first ballot. The Bavarian bishop received 106 of the 125 votes cast. He succeeds Nikolaus Schneider, president of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR), who served as acting president following the resignation of Bishop Margot Käßmann in 2010 following her arrest for driving while intoxicated. The President of the EKD Synod, Irmgard Schwaetzer, welcomed the election stating the new bishop would unite the church in the face of challenges from Germany’s growing secular culture. “Heinrich Bedford-Strohm now has a clear mandate to bring the remaining tasks of this council term to their conclusion.” She added the council can give now give its full attention to “the preparations for the 2017 Reformation anniversary”. Born in Memmingen in 1960,  Bedford-Strohm  has been the Lutheran bishop of Bavaria since 2011 and previously served as Professor for Systematic Theology and Contemporary Theological Issues at the University of Bamberg, following positions in pastoral and diaconal work.

Archbishop Beach urges caution on taking the marriage pledge: The Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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Two leading American clergy, the Rev. Prof. Ephraim Radner and the Rev. Prof. Christopher Seitz have released a manifesto published on the website of First Things magazine, urging clergy to refuse to perform civil marriages in light of the changing definitions of marriage made by the federal and state government. The Marriage Pledge states: “The new definition of marriage no longer coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman. Our biblical faith is committed to upholding, celebrating, and furthering this understanding, which is stated many times within the Scriptures and has been repeatedly restated in our wedding ceremonies, church laws, and doctrinal standards for centuries. To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage.” It encourages clergy to sign the pledge and “commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.” The call for clergy to stand aside as agents of the state has not received universal support from conservatives. The Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach, urged restraint, writing: “It would be best for us to take counsel together before taking further action. Therefore I ask that you do not sign this pledge until as bishops, clergy, and lay leaders we have had more opportunities to pray about and discuss the legal, theological, and sociological ramifications of signing such a statement.”

Presiding Bishop backs Obama immigration plan: Church of England Newspaper, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Immigration, The Episcopal Church.
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The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, has applauded President Barak Obama’s executive order giving amnesty to over 5 million illegal aliens in the United States, but warns the president’s actions are not enough to resolve the problem. “Too many families have lived for too long continually worried about parents being separated from children, wage-earners and caregivers from those who depend on them, and unable to participate fully in their communities and the nation’s economy,” she wrote, adding that “Permanent and comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system through congressional action is still urgently needed, but the President’s action is a constructive step toward a system that honors the dignity and intrinsic value of every human being.” She said she will use her office to work with the government to  “press for implementation of the President’s plan as quickly, fairly, and inclusively as possible.  The President’s plan is not perfect.  Some deserving persons and families are excluded, meaning that additional work lies ahead.,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said. The amnesty announced by the president will not take effect until next year. Republicans in Congress have vowed to stop the order, stating they will block funding for its implementation.

Post-Zionism Baffles Washington Post: The Media Project, November 28, 2014 November 28, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Islam, Israel, Judaism, Press criticism.
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Soldiers_Western_Wall_1967It comes as no surprise that Jordanian officials believe that Israel bears responsibility for tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But is it proper for the Washington Post to believe it, too?

The Post is well within its rights to make this assertion on its editorial page. I may disagree with its arguments, but opinion journalism is designed to offer these arguments. The classical model of Anglo-American journalism, however, mandates a news story offer both sides of a story equal time.

I have my doubts about a recent article by the Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief entitled “Relationship between Israel and Jordan grows warier amid tensions in Jerusalem”. My reading of this piece leaves me wondering if it is unbalanced, incurious, incomplete, or lacking in context. Could it have been written from a mindset that blames Israel first?

Or is there something more at work here? The Post appears to be ignorant of the change of religious Zionist sentiment in Israel. Could the Temple Mount be a flashpoint between Muslim Arab and Israeli Jews in 2014 because Judaism has changed?

The story with a dateline of Amman opens with the Jordanian perspective on the recent clashes over the Temple Mount. The lede states:

Jordan’s king and his people are bristling with anger over Israeli actions at a sacred site for Muslims in Jerusalem, threatening to turn a cold peace between Israel and Jordan into a deep freeze.

After defining the issue from the Jordanian perspective, the second sentence states why this is of consequence.

The rising animosity between Jordan and Israel, whose governments are tethered by a peace treaty, could undermine U.S.-led efforts to fight Islamist extremists. It also threatens a multibillion-dollar natural gas deal that is important to both countries.

The story continues with analysis, ending with the line: “A king who cannot protect the mosque or that delicate arrangement may lose the support of his people.”

A quotation from a Jordanian official closes out this section, placing the blame on the changing “status quo” on the Israelis.

“The Israeli extremists are playing with fire.”

A counterpoint from unidentified Israeli officials is offered that serves to identify the actions in question.

Israeli officials say they were forced to temporarily restrict access to the mosque in response to rioting, after a Palestinian’s recent attempt to assassinate a prominent activist who agitates for Jews to have the right to pray at the site. The first and second Jewish temples once stood at the site, a spot considered the holiest in Judaism.

If the article ended at this point, the lack of balance would not be as problematic. Written from Amman, the parameters of the piece could have been set as the view from that country. However, at this stage of the story we are only a third of the way into the piece, and the article now opens up with further commentary and analysis from the Jordanian perspective.

The problem for the Jordanians — and from the tone of the story up to this point for theWashington Post, too — is the Israeli response to terrorist attacks launched by Palestinians against Jews who seek to pray at the Temple Mount.

Half a dozen descriptive paragraphs follow developing these arguments before we hear an Israeli voice — who speaks not to the issues raised by the Jordanians, or to the cause of the alleged change of the status quo — but to the problems instability brings to the region. This is followed — 23 paragraphs into the story — by a denial by the Israelis of any change in the status of the Temple Mount.

Immediately afterward, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel had no intention of changing a delicate “status quo” agreement that grants Abdullah custodial rights over al-Aqsa and other holy sites in Jerusalem, most prominently the raised esplanade known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The next day, Israeli police lifted age restrictions and allowed all Muslim men to attend Friday prayers at the mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

The article closes out with further Jordanian claims. A reader unencumbered with knowledge of the region or the religions involved, might well scratch his head and ask “what was all the fuss about?”

A terrorist attack led to the short term closing of the Noble Sanctuary. It has since been reopened and the Israeli government has reaffirmed the status quo. Why are the Palestinians and Jordanians so exercised about this?

If all one knew was what one read in the Post, it would not be unreasonable to conclude the Jordanians and Palestinians are a childish excitable people — full of bluster, quick to take offense, and slow to reason.

The story dances round the religious element in this story that provides the necessary context. There has been a shift in Israeli sentiment about the Temple Mount in recent years. As a detailed article in Ha’aretz pointed out last week, religious Zionists have a new attitude about the Temple Mount.

[B]efore 1967 – and afterward – all the leading poskim (rabbis who issue halakhic rulings), both ultra-Orthodox and from the religious-Zionist movement, decreed as one voice that it is forbidden to visit the Temple Mount, for the same halakhic reasons. … Indeed, in January 1991, Rabbi Menachem Froman could still allay the fears of the Palestinians by informing them (in the form of an article he published in Haaretz, “To Wait in Silence for Grace”) that, “In the perception of the national-religious public [… there is] opposition to any ascent to the walls of the Temple Mount… The attitude of sanctity toward the Temple Mount is expressed not by bursting into it but by abstinence from it.”

Ha’aretz reports that in 2014 this school has lost ground.

No longer. If in the past, yearning for the Temple Mount was the preserve of a marginal, ostracized minority within the religious-Zionist public, today it has become one of the most significant voices within that movement. In a survey conducted this past May among the religious-Zionist public, 75.4 percent said they favor “the ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount,” compared to only 24.6 percent against. In addition, 19.6 percent said they had already visited the site and 35.7 percent that they had not yet gone there, but intended to visit.

The growing number of visits to the mount by the religious-Zionist public signifies not only a turning away from the state-oriented approach of Rabbi Kook, but also active rebellion against the tradition of the halakha. We are witnessing a tremendous transformation among sections of this public: Before our eyes they are becoming post-Kook-ist and post-Orthodox. Ethnic nationalism is supplanting not only mamlakhtiyut (state consciousness) but faithfulness to the halakha. Their identity is now based more on mythic ethnocentrism than on Torah study, and the Temple Mount serves them, … as an exalted totem embodying the essence of sovereignty over the Land of Israel.

The religious element is missing from the Post’s report. Could not an awareness of the change in Israeli society, a shifting center of religious-Zionism from halakha to ethnic-nationalism which if successful would see the restoration of Jewish worship on the Temple Mount motivate Muslim fears?

Without the context of religion to explain these currents, the article leaves itself open to charges of paternalism. By not rising above a parochial American mindset, the paints Arabs (Jordanians and Palestinians) as an immature and excitable people that cannot be held accountable for their actions.

Even if the Post is allergic to mentioning the topic of religion, there is the problem of context. The article tells us little about the Israeli side of the story. Why is the Temple Mount a source of controversy now? Since Israel defeated Jordan Arabs in the 1967 Six-Day War and took possession of the Noble Sanctuary, as it is called by Muslims, what has changed?

The answer given by Jordan, and unquestioned by the Post, is that some Israeli officials are thuggish bully boys, engaged in loutish behavior for short term political gain. I have no doubt that some politicians fit the bill, but as an explanation for recent events, it is unconvincing.

First printed at The Media Project

Fox Tries Its Hand at Vatican Watching: The Media Project, November 25, 2014 November 25, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Roman Catholic Church, The Media Project.
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15628942159_e5e178ae8f_kFox News has waded into the murky waters of Catholic news analysis, seeking to explain to its viewers (and readers on its website) the church’s battles over liberalizing its moral teachings.

It is encouraging to see a secular news outfit address these issues. Fox understands that these issues are of interest to its viewers. The conservative demographic that is the core of its viewership is also likely to find favor with the opinions proffered. Yet, the fulcrum of the argument in this piece is based upon an erroneous supposition.

The story entitled “Cardinal’s demotion helps Pope Francis quell ‘conservative backlash’ — for now” is founded on the notion that Cardinal Raymond Burke was dismissed from his post as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura as a consequence of his vocal opposition to calls for a change in church teaching backed by Pope Francis at the recent Synod on the Family. Fox posits a cause and effect, but its theory is not supported by the facts.

Burke was on the way out before the Synod met. His demotion was not a consequence of his activism at the gathering.

The lede sets the story’s parameters:

Pope Francis is drawing rock star raves for softening the Vatican’s image on such issues as homosexuality, capitalism and divorce, but his celebrated tolerance doesn’t seem to extend to dissenters within the church, whose conservative revolt came to a halt when the pontiff exiled their de facto leader to obscurity.

The first half of this opening sentence is not that controversial — and has been the topic of numerous postings at the Media Project and its sister site, GetReligion. The second half of the sentence sets forth the author’s argument — that conservative opposition to the liberalizing moves of Francis’ curia has been stifled.

The article continues:

A recent meeting of bishops unleashed what one Vatican watcher called “a tsunami of conservative backlash” against the pope when it followed an agenda that sought to revisit long-held doctrine on controversial social issues. The most vocal critic was American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who described the Church under Francis as like “a ship without a rudder.”

But as conservative bishops and lower-level clergy in the U.S. began to signal their agreement, Burke quickly found himself demoted from his powerful Vatican post to a purely ceremonial role.

The move sent a chill through the ranks of American conservative bishops, nearly two dozen of whom declined comment when contacted by FoxNews.com, despite many having previously expressed strong doubts about the church’s leftward swerve under Francis, who assumed the papacy in 2013.

The article offers comments and observations offered by respected Catholic commentators such as John Allen of the Boston Globe and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. But these comments speak not to the cause and effect argument — that Burke’s demotion silenced conservatives — but to the general state of unrest within the hierarchy.

The article takes these opinions and uses them as a foundation for its discussion of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, noting the conservatives led by Burke were in “near mutiny”.

It then slides in comments American bishops made shortly after the synod that were critical of Francis.

“Pope Francis is fond of creating a mess,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, wrote in a blog post. “Mission accomplished.” Said Archbishop Charles Chaput, a leading conservative bishop: “Confusion is of the devil.”

But the demotion of Burke silenced these critics, Fox argues:

But both Tobin and Chaput declined comment, following the stunning demotion of Burke, who blasted Francis for allowing Kasper to exercise such powerful influence over the Church’s direction. … Cardinal Raymond Burke’s stunning demotion seems to have stopped a conservative revolt against Pope Francis, at least for the time being.

The announcement of Burke’s demotion may have been made public around the time of the synod, but reports of his departure proceeded the synod by over a month — and it was no secret that Burke was a “lame duck” in the curia when he spoke at the synod.

The article also appears unaware of last week’s Colloquium on the Complementarity of Men and Women — an event of equal significance to the Extraordinary Synod, I would argue. At that meeting Francis reinforced the church’s unequivocal opposition to gay marriage, while in a speech to Italian doctors last week the pope also denounced in no uncertain terms abortion and euthanasia.

The point of my critique is not to take issue with, or support, the argument offered by Fox News. Rather my aim is to address the reporting upon which the article bases its arguments. The analysis Fox offered may well be true, but the particular facts they cite do not advance their argument.

First printed at The Media Project.

Gay marriage comments spark exodus from Church of Finland: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland.
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A potential vote on gay marriage in future sessions of the General Synod of the Church of Finland has enlivened elections for trustees and parish councillors held on 9 Nov 2014 for the state Lutheran Church with approximately 19,300 candidates contested 9,300 seats for election. Parish councillors and trustees have powers to set church tax rates, which vary between one and two percent, as well as dictate parish financial matters, and decide on construction projects and humanitarian activities. Parish councillors also elect delegates to the church’s general synod and should a law permitting homosexual marriage be adopted by parliament during the next term, synod members will decide whether to allow church unions between same-sex couples. In 2010 17 per cent of the church’s 3.5 million registered members turned out to vote, the highest turnout in almost 30 years. Conservative groups have sought to mobilize lay members of the church to block calls made by some bishops to support gay marriage, and hope to achieve a majority to block proposals to follow the Church of Sweden in solemnizing gay marriages.

Problem of crime is a problem of morals, says West Indian bishop: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Crime.
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Claude BerkleyA return to “old-fashioned” moral values is the only lasting solution to the Caribbean’s epidemic of crime, the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago said last week. In an interview with the Trinidad Express published on 17 Nov 2014, the Rt. Rev. Claude Berkley said society must not rely solely on the police. Individuals had to take responsibility for their culture. His comments came in the wake of a string of highly publicized murders in the West Indian nation, including the abduction and murder of an 18-month old child. The bishop told the Express the murders “brings us back to the need for communities to take responsibility for its members. The community has to be responsible for its members. … We have to return to looking after the health and well-being of family members.” He added: “It is frightening. We can’t expect the police to do everything. We have to organise ourselves and try to manage our lives.”

Poverty no explanation for Boko Haram, archbishop writes: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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The Archbishop of Jos, the Most Rev. Benjamin Kwashi has written to The Times stating that claims the insurgency in Northern Nigeria “ is fueled more by poverty than by Islamic extremism” were naive. Those who peddle this myth, the archbishop wrote were blinded by political correctness that was “unwilling to face the connected and organized global jihadist network we face today. “Poverty does not explain the death by suicide bomb of 40 school children- Muslim children- in Potiksum yesterday,” he said nor does it explain “the abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage of some 200 girls in Chibok. To say that this is the result of poverty and corruption is to play down the evil of Boko Haram, and their form of Islam.” Archbishop Kwashi acknowledged the “poverty and corruption” plaguing was “real”, “[b]ut so is the global terror ideology of which Boko Haram is a practitioner, and the global terror network of which it is a part. It is both untrue and unhelpful to conflate and confuse these issues.”

Washington National Cathedral hosts Jumu’ah: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Islam, The Episcopal Church, Washington.
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Washington’s National Cathedral played host to a media event last week, holding its first Islamic prayer service in cooperation with Washington-area Muslim groups. The invitation only Friday prayer service was held in the Cathedral’s north transept, a part of the cathedral where there are no Christian symbols. Following the recitation of the prayers, the audience, segregated into areas for men and women listed to Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim who serves as South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. Rasool stated Muslims “come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world. The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.” The cathedral was closed to visitors on Friday morning save for the press and Muslim invitees, but one woman stood during the service and objected to the proceedings, stating “America was founded on Christian principles. . . . Leave our church alone!” She was escorted from the building and the service continued. Since 1980 the cathedral has played host to inter-faith services, but Friday’s 11:30 service was the first Muslim ceremony held in the cathedral, which prides itself on its avant garde approach to religious and social issues.

Sultan returns confiscated Bibles to Archbishop Lapok: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia.
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Bolly LapokThe Sultan of Selangor has returned Bibles and religious literature confiscated by the State Islamic Affairs Department on 2 Jan 2014 for using the world “Allah” in Malay and Iban language versions of Scripture to the Archbishop of South East Asia, the Most Rev. Bolly Lapok, Bishop of Kuching. On 14 Nov 2014, on behalf of the government the Sultan returned the Bibles to Archbishop Lapok, who is also chairman of the Christian Association of Sarawak, on the condition that they be distributed in Borneo, not in Malaya. A statement released by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council said the Sultan had ordered the Bibles be returned after state prosecutors declined to Bible Society officials arrested in the January raid on charges of proselytizing Muslims. Archbishop Lapok thanked the Sultan for his intervention in the dispute. “It would not have been proper to allow these Bibles to be stored indefinitely or destroyed. In this manner, the Bibles are being delivered to the ACS for distribution in Sarawak,” he said.

The Independent vs. Complementarity: The Media Project, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Roman Catholic Church, The Media Project.
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Nicholas Okoh with Pope FrancisPope Francis’ luster has begun to fade outside the Catholic Church. While the papal honeymoon with the secular media has not quite ended, some newspapers have discovered the pope remains Catholic.

An example of this shift comes in an article in this week’s Independent from London. It is written in a tone of suffused anger, disappointed that Francis is not the man they thought him to be.

Entitled “Pope Francis declares union between man and woman ‘at root of marriage’ in blow to gay rights,” the story is written in an advocacy style. The author presents an argument, and then the facts are marshalled in support. The lede opens with this proposition:

Pope Francis has apparently spoken out in defence of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, hurting the hopes of those who see him as a liberal driving force in the Catholic Church.

Note the “apparently” offered in a “can you believe this” tone. The following sentence indicates what the Independent thought the pope was doing.

Last month the Pope warned Catholics not to fear change following an angry synod backlash against a softening of the Church’s stance towards homosexuality.

But the Independent admits it may have been wrong as the pope appears to have changed course (in its view).

But in his address at the opening of a three-day conference on traditional marriage hosted at the Vatican yesterday, Francis called family “an anthropological fact… that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history”.

The Humanum Colloquium on the Complementarity of Men and Women appears to be the best kept secret in religion reporting. The media hype (really hysteria) that surrounding the Synod on the Family is all but absent this time round. While not a gathering of specially invited bishops, this gathering has equal significance in that it, too, will advise the pope on the contentious issues of divorce, remarriage, same-sex marriage, civil unions and the like.

The Synod on the Family saw a push by some to bring the church’s moral teachings in line with the liberal or secular worldview on marriage and the family. The Humanum conference saw the traditionalists — supported by non-Catholic scholars from a variety of denominations and faiths — reaffirm existing moral teaching.

The Independent notes that at this conference, Pope Francis made his views on gay marriage clear.

And though he did not refer to gay unions directly, the Pope said: “It is fitting that you have gathered here to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.”

Francis said: “Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. Today marriage and the family are in crisis,” he continued. “We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. The revolution in mores and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

In the pope’s emphasis on the necessity of a mother and father and in his rejection of the “revolution in mores and morals,” the Independent saw a “declaration in support of traditional marriage”. And the Independent found this to be utterly appalling.

The balance of the article consisted of comments from outraged gay activists, and it closes with the Independent’s view of what happened in Rome.

Francis’ comments seem to represent a shift towards placating conservatives in the Church from a Pope who once asked “who am I to judge gay people” and whom Elton John described as “my hero”. In March, Cardinal Timothy Dolan reportedly claimed that the pontiff had paved the way for support of civil partnerships at some point in the future, saying it was time the Church studied same-sex unions “rather than condemning them”. But in October the Vatican was forced to backtrack on liberal new guidelines of openness toward gay people by the intransigence of a majority of bishops.

Judging by the standards of traditional journalism, this story comes up short. Only one side of the story is presented. No supporters of traditional marriage appear in the article, apart from Pope Francis. There is no balance of views. Instead we get shallow slogans from the supporters of change, but no intelligent arguments in support of or opposition to these moves. Emotion and narcissism are offered as reason enough.

Nor does the article tell us anything about the Humanum Colloquium. Why does the colloquium matter? What is its relevance to the debate? From a theological or sociological perspective the Independent appears confused over the term “complementarity”. It may think it understands what the word means, but from what little it has written on this point, it appears to be speaking in ignorance.

In short, as a traditional news story this piece is unbalanced, lacks context, makes unverified assumptions as to the meaning of words, and is short on facts. An editor could rescue this piece however, by altering it to a story about the reaction of gay activists to the pope’s words.

Rearranging the story’s paragraphs by placing the comments and responses at the top might make this piece work. It would also allow the Independent to discuss openly the issue at the heart of this piece: “Who is Pope Francis and what does he believe?”

However, if you are seeking actual information on what happened at the Nov 17-19 Humanum Colloquium in Rome – what was said, who said it, and why it matters – then you are better off looking elsewhere.

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The Aftenposten and Abortion in Norway: The Media Project, November 14, 2014 November 14, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Press criticism, The Media Project.
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“All the News That’s Fit to Print” first appeared on the cover of the New York Times on October 25, 1896. The newspaper’s publisher Adolph Ochs adopted the slogan for professional and business reasons.

Ochs wanted to set the Times apart from its more sensationalist competitors, filling the market niche of New York’s quality newspaper. Pursuing high quality journalism not only was a moral good, it could make money also, he believed.

The business model adopted by Ochs and other “quality” newspapers at the start of the Twentieth Century guided the empirical practices of the mainstream press for most of the last century, though tabloids in the US and the “red tops” in the UK have never followed this code.

Over the last twenty-five years the Ochs model has been challenged by the advocacy press approach, where a newspaper reports on a story from an openly avowed ideological perspective. A French newspaper reader knows that when he reads about the same issue in Liberation, Le Monde, Le Figaro, La Croix and L’Humanite he will be presented with left, center left, center right, Catholic and Communist perspectives of an issue.

In and of itself, such an advocacy approach is not a bad thing. Seeing a story from a variety of perspectives often allows the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the issues than that presented by a traditional newspaper following the “All the News That’s Fit to Print” model. So long as falsehoods are not presented, reading different “spins” or interpretations of the same event can enlighten readers by presenting to them different ways of thinking about an issue.

These musings on the nature of truth, cranks and newspaper reporting were prompted by an item that caught my eye in a story from News in English.no — a website that carries English-language news stories from Norway. Its headline stated: “Abortion opponent disrupted bishop’s ceremony” and the article reported:

Anti-abortion activist Per Kørner demonstrated his views during Sunday’s ceremony in Tromsø consecrating the newest bishop of the Norwegian Church, Olav Øygard. Kørner was eventually seized by two civilian clad police who firmly escorted him out of the ceremony.

… Kørner disrupted the ceremony when he strode forth in the cathedral, sitting down close to the king until he was literally carried out, involuntarily, by the two policemen. Then the ceremony continued as normal. Kørner told newspaper Aftenposten afterwards that he wanted “to challenge the church to fight on behalf of the most helpless members of society,” in his view, unborn children.

Intrigued I went to Aftenposten — Norway’s largest “quality” newspaper. Struggling manfully through the article entitled “Abortmotstander kastet ut av kongens sikkerhetsvakter” with dictionary in hand, I found Aftenposten was telling a different story.

In roughly the same number of words as the News in English.no article, I learned that Kørner was a 78-year-old former priest of the Church of Norway. And after the incident Kørner received a free ride to a police station, but was not charged with any crime. It further noted that the five years ago a similar protest took place at the consecration of another Norwegian bishop. The article ends by stating Kørner was one of three Church of Norway priests who in 1991 founded a breakaway group from the Church of Norway.

The addition of this background material made the story far more understandable to a reader not familiar with Norwegian ecclesiastical politics. But the two articles also differed on what happened. For the News in English.no, Kørner “disrupted the ceremony”.  A reader of Aftenposten would conclude it was the police who disrupted the ceremony. TheAftenposten reported:

Med en refleksvest full av bibelsitater gikk Per Kørner opp til alteret i Tromsø domkirke under innsettelse av ny biskop og gjorde seg klar til å be. …

Wearing a reflective safety vest covered in Bible quotes, Per Kørner went up to the altar in Tromsø Cathedral during the inauguration of the new bishop and prepared himself to pray. …

Kong Harald satt ikke langt fra alteret, men ingen ting tyder på at aksjonistpresten forsøkte å komme i kontakt med kongen. Håndfast geleidet sikkerhetsvaktene Kørner ut en sidedør til Tromsø domkirke.

King Harald sat not far from the altar, but there was no hint the activist priest attempted to approach the King. Assertive security guards then escorted Kørner out of a side door of Tromsø Cathedral.

Why the disparity in accounts? What happened at Tromsø Cathedral? If a 78-year old gay activist had approached the altar rail adorned with a vest or ornaments promoting his agenda, would the police have acted in the same way?

Aftenposten does not ask this question, but sticks to a reporting of events. News in English.no treats Kørner as a crank, and by adopting the position at the start of the story that what Kørner did was improper, the reporter should have placed his actions in the context of similar actions — allowing the reader to decide if this fellow is the villain of the piece.

Now, this approach would be what a traditional newspaper would do. If News in English.no is an advocacy site, then it begins with the premise anti-abortion protestors are cranks and supplies the details to support its argument.

Was “all the news that was fit to print” included in this story? Further detail and analysis can always be added, but Aftenposten did the better job, allowing the events to tell the story, rather than allowing perceptions of the sanity of Kørner to drive the telling.

Some philosophers tell us that no perspective is free from bias. The issue then becomes whether that bias is acknowledged or understood. One man’s crank may be another’s saint.

First printed in The Media Project.

Asahi Shimbun and the Making of Saints: The Media Project, November 12, 2014 November 12, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Roman Catholic Church, The Media Project.
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The Asahi Shimbun (朝日新聞), one of Japan’s five national newspapers with a circulation of roughly 8 million, ran a story this week that could serve as an example of how to report on religion for an audience unfamiliar with the topic.
The article entitled “Vatican to beatify Christian warlord Takayama Ukon” reports that the Catholic Church is expected to recognize as “blessed” a Sixteenth Century warlord who converted to Christianity. Writing for a Japanese, and presumably highly secular audience, the Asahi Shimbun’s correspondent Hiroshi Ishida has crafted a lovely little story that succinctly tells, the who, what, when, where and why — and leaves out any editorializing, preaching or “snark”.

The article opens:

VATICAN CITY–A Japanese feudal warlord who was expelled from his country 400 years ago because of his Christian faith is set to be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as “beatus” (blessed), the second highest canonization next to sainthood. Angelo Amato, a Vatican cardinal and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told a Japanese pilgrim band on Oct. 21 that Takayama Ukon (1552-1615) is likely be accorded the title of beatus next year, the 400th anniversary of his death.

The article relates the story of Ukon and his expulsion from Japan after Christianity was made illegal in 1614, and offers a quote from a high ranking cleric on why this man is worthy of this accolade.

“Ukon consistently set his faith above his desires for career success and wealth whenever he was forced to choose,” said Yoshinao Otsuka, a bishop of the Catholic Kyoto Diocese who serves as the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan’s committee to recommend canonization candidates. “There is a lesson for people today, who live in a highly competitive society, from his courage to set aside his competitive instincts for his faith.”

The story then outlines the beatification protocols followed by the Catholic Church and outlines where Ukon stands in this process.

The requirement for beatification includes that the deceased was killed due to hatred of their faith or that he or she is evidenced to have conducted miracles such as curing people’s ailments. The Japanese authority has recommended that Ukon be beatified as a martyr.

Why pick this story for praise? Because it is simple and clean. There are no extraneous bits here — no agenda other than telling the story as known to the Asahi Shimbun.

After relating the news of the canonization process for Ukon, the article provides historical context, an informed and succinct quote from a church leader explaining why this issue is important to Japanese Catholics, and then outlines what happens next.

It may well be that unfamiliarity with the workings of a minority religion in Japan led the newspaper to ask the basic questions about the sainthood process — and coming to the issue without preconceived notions, it was able to describe what happens and in fewer words, but with more detail and understanding than most Western newspapers.

All in all, a job well done.

First printed at the Media Project.

Abortion Blinds The Guardian: The Media Project, November 5, 2014 November 5, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Press criticism, The Media Project.
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Advocacy journalism succeeds when a reader does not perceive he is being led. The best writers of this genre, like George Orwell, do not disguise their opinions. They win over readers by persuasion, not by compulsion. A blistering screed may excite those predisposed to support the author’s point of view, but they seldom convert the undecided.

An article in The Guardian on the forthcoming Tennessee vote on Amendment 1, which if adopted would toughen the state’s abortion laws, comes to its topic from the point of view that legal restrictions on abortion are wrongheaded. It takes the editorial line that Tennessee voters should reject the amendment.

That The Guardian would oppose Amendment 1 is no surprise. But the way in which the article pushes the pro-abortion agenda does not advance or explain the story. Nor does article even seem aware of the story it has in hand. Its relentless cheerleading in support of abortion deafens it to the subtlety of the arguments offered by pro-abortion supporters, who are seeking to turn the arguments of anti-abortion advocates against themselves. However, all of this is lost, drowned by the continuous howl of The Guardian in favor of abortion at any time, for any woman, for any reason, anywhere in the world.

The news “hook” the article takes is presenting the issue through the lens of religion. The lede begins:

The Reverend Dr Judy Cummings likes to say she speaks for the underclass – for the African Americans locked in poverty in Buena Vista, a neighbourhood cut off from the rest of this prospering city by a ribbon of freeways, industrial blight and neglect.

It’s for them Cummings has become one of the leading voices of opposition to Amendment 1, a ballot initiative that would overturn Tennessee’s powerful protections for abortion rights, enshrined since a 2000 court decision. The proposal’s passage would hurt not just poor women and their children in Nashville, she believes. It also would affect thousands of women living beyond Tennessee’s borders who have come to rely on abortion providers in Nashville for services they can’t get in their home states.

The article lays out Tennessee’s stance as an outlier on abortion in the middle South with court imposed laws that exceeds the requirements of federal law turning the state into an abortion hub. Or, to borrow the New York Times’ phrasing, Tennessee is the “abortion capital of the Bible Belt.” The article illustrates these arguments with quotes and views from pro-abortion advocates.

“This issue right here is not about whether we believe in abortion or not,” Cummings said at a rally of liberal ministers earlier this month. “It’s a justice issue. When politicians try to take away the voice of the people, that’s an injustice. And we’re called on to do justice.”

The article quotes spokesmen for the Tennessee Right to Life Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union on the bill, but the religious voices we hear in this story all come from one side — the pro abortion side.

If one comes to this story with no knowledge of the religious and cultural landscape of Tennessee, like most Guardian readers — they might conclude that religious voices in Tennessee are behind the pro-abortion vote.

We do have one nod to reality when the article states Republicans and religious conservatives control the state legislature. But the picture painted by The Guardian is one where the pro-abortion argument is the moral and theological choice.

Conveying that message to Tennesseans has been a delicate task. While commentators in other parts of the country tend to place access to abortion among other women’s rights or even argue it’s a social good, Vote No on 1 campaigners more often attack the amendment on libertarian, pragmatic or even theological grounds.

Ministers such as Cummings argue the amendment will interfere with their ability to counsel congregants who have gone through abortions. Were abortion illegal, they argue – with repurposed pro-life claims that developing foetuses are able to suffer pain –then those foetuses with birth defects would needlessly suffer in utero were abortion illegal.

No religious voices are heard in this story that address these sorts of claims. The article is illustrated with two photos of anti-abortion buttons and posters in Catholic settings, butThe Guardian chose not to offer arguments from morality or theology that counter the pro-abortion moral and theological arguments.

Setting aside the issue of abortion entirely, The Guardian appears not to have done its homework about the political issues in this fight. Tennessee’s abortion laws are the result of an activist state Supreme Court nullifying the will of the people on this topic. Yet The Guardian places at the top of this story a quote that says:

“It’s a justice issue. When politicians try to take away the voice of the people, that’s an injustice. And we’re called on to do justice.”

Politicians have not taken away the voice of the people, judges have — supporters of the amendment have been saying. Could it be The Guardian’s reporter is so tone deaf or ignorant of the issues in this race that they misunderstood the significance of this quote?

Might not the liberal minister be altering one of the oppositions slogans to voice her own views? Should not The Guardian have asked? Should not it even have been aware of what was going on?

And, what sort of minister is the person to whom they have given so much space in their story? What church? What denomination? Is she a parish minister or a chaplain? What is the stance of her denomination on this issue? Is she a Christian minister or something else?

This story is a mess. An example of how not to report a contentious issue. It is unbalanced, incurious, strident and grossly unaware of the political, religious and cultural context of the story. It is a screed — and apart from the true believer, I doubt anyone will listen.

First printed at The Media Project.

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

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

Primus urges caution in Scottish independence vote: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. David Chillingworth has urged Scotland to consider issues beyond the economic viability of an independent Scotland when considering the forthcoming referendum.  There was more to national identity than wealth, he argued. “Clearly there has to be an economic dimension to it, would an independent Scotland be viable, but I think what I expected was that the debate would be about whether people who live in Scotland feel a shared sense of being Scottish, whatever that means, to justify independent constitutional arrangements and independent governance, it hasn’t really been about those kind of identity questions.” The Primus noted that he was Irish by birth and was “very aware that the debate about identity often becomes negative imaging of the others, so I do absolutely understand that. But on the other hand, I’ve found the debate limited in its scope. It’s been about these economic issues, it’s been about the advantage of decisions made in Scotland over against them being made as part of a larger unit. I think the average person finds it hard to make a judgement about the force of those arguments either way. I certainly do.”

Bernard Mizeki festival draws 30,000 pilgrims: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Zimbabwe.
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Over 30,000 Anglican pilgrims gathered in Marondera outside of Harare last weekend to commemorate the feast day of Bernard Mizeki, missionary, catechist and martyr. Born in Portuguese East Africa around 1861, as a young man Mizeki traveled to Cape Town to take service as a servant with a European family. There he attended an Anglican mission school and was baptized taking the name Bernard. After training as a catechist, he volunteered in 1891 to serve as a missionary in Mashonaland, in present day Zimbabwe. During the 1896 Mashona rebellion, Mizeki was singled out for death in reprisal for his mission work.  On June 17, Mizeki was attacked and left for dead. He crawled to a nearby hillside and after bandaging him, his wife sought aid. Returning with another woman they reported being frightened by an unearthly sound, “like many wings of great birds”, and by a dazzling light that moved toward the spot where Bernard lay. When they summoned the courage to go to the place where Bernard lay, his body had disappeared. His body was never found, and the exact site of his burial is unknown. The martyr’s feast, held on the Saturday closest to June 18, draws pilgrims from across Central and Southern Africa. The bishops of Central Zimbabwe, Masvingo, Manicaland, Northern Zambia, Eastern Zambia, Bulawayo and Harare were joined by pilgrims from South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, along with a delegation from the Diocese of Rochester in the day long services.

World Cup adds anger archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Church leaders have denounced the use of images of Rio de Janeiro’s Cristo Redentor statue to promote betting on the World Cup. Last week the ad agency McCann Copenhagen pulled a commercial entitled “Iconic Celebration” created for Ladbrokes after the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro threatened legal action. The ad featured the Cristo Redentor statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro wearing a red Ladbrokes football shirt over its head as if celebrating a goal. The archbishop has also filed suit against the Italian broadcaster RAI for a similar ad, claiming violation of copyright. The Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Rev Jeffrey Driver last week told The Australian newspaper that the use of a 46m high Cristo Redentor balloon with Christ wearing a green and gold Austrian soccer jersey emblazoned with the slogan “Keep the Faith” that floated above the skies of Adelaide was troubling. The use of the image was a question of taste, but “much more offensive is that it’s being used to promote betting and I think that’s deeply worrying because Australia does have a problem with gambling,” Dr. Driver said.

Malaysia on the edge warns archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 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 criticized the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, for his silence over the government’s seizure of Malay language Bibles for using the word “Allah” for God. “I am inclined to think that he is conveying that the whole charade is not worthy of his comment. To do otherwise is to dignify what is plainly wicked,” Archbishop Lapok told reporters in Kuching on 20 June 2014. The prime minister’s refusal to speak out in support of the rights of Christians to practice their faith and condemn militant Islam was “poisoning inter-religious tolerance.” Last week Malaysia’s Attorney General ordered Bibles seized by the government’s Islamic Religious Department in Selangor (JAIS) to be returned to the Bible Society of Malaysia. However, JAIS has refused to comply with the Attorney-General’s order saying the use of the word “Allah” in Malay language Bibles violates the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Act 1988. “Unless nipped in the bud, we have a perfect recipe that can cause Malaysia to descend into anarchy,” the archbishop said, bemoaning the spirit of tolerance that had “traditionally characterized Malay society.” Archbisohop Lapok warned:  “When unscrupulous individuals are allowed to behave and make reckless utterances with impunity for the sake of political exigency, I dread to think of the consequences on the minds of Malaysia’s plural society.”

Allah ban upheld: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia.
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The Federal Court of Malaysia has upheld a ban on the use of the word “Allah” by a Catholic newspaper, the Herald. The Christian Federation of Malaysia voiced disappointment at the ruling, but noted the decision “relates solely to the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Herald newspaper. Therefore we ask the government and the judiciary to publicly remember that the decision of the Federal Court is limited to the specific circumstances of the case and for Malaysian Christians to continue to have the right to use the word ‘Allah’ in the Bible, in religious functions and gatherings.” In 2009 the Ministry of the Interior banned the Catholic newspaper from using “Allah” stating the word could only be used in connection to Islam. The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur filed a lawsuit challenging the ruling, and prevailed at trial. However the Court of Appeal reversed the decision in October 2013, and by a vote of 4 to 3 the Federal Court last week upheld the Appeal Court decision.”We continue to support that the decision of the Court of Appeal, upheld by the Federal Court, is seriously flawed in many respects. According to Justice, many erroneous and inaccurate observations had to be corrected. Now there will be serious negative consequences for the religious freedom of Christians in Malaysia,” the statement said.

ACNA grows 13%: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper.
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Statistics released before the start of the Anglican Church in North America’s synod this week report the breakaway Anglican group has grown by 13 per cent to 112,504 members since 2009, while its average Sunday attendance has grown by 16 per cent to 80,471 during the same period. Membership in the Episcopal Church of the USA declined between 2009 and 2012 – the most recent year of published statistics. Membership for its domestic dioceses fell from 2,006,343 to 1,894,181 while Sunday attendance declined from 682,963 to 640,142. The Anglican Church of Canada does not publish its membership statistics.

In releasing statistics, the ACNA officials note that 74 percent of congregations completed reports. In an attempt to provide a complete picture, the denomination provides two statistical totals: “reported” figures and “projected” figures that substitute median averages for congregations that did not report. In the Episcopal Church, officials roll over previously reported statistics for non-reporting parishes until new ones are received. In the case of both the “reported” and “projected” figures, ACNA posts growth, which is strongest with the “reported” figures.

Foley Beach elected ACNA Archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

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The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has elected the Rt. Rev. Foley Beach as its second archbishop in succession to the Most Rev. Robert Duncan. Meeting in a private conclave at St Vincent College in LaTrobe, Pennsylvania on 22 June 2014 ACNA’s elected Bishop Beach to a five year term of office after three days of deliberations. A native of Atlanta, Dr. Beach was educated at Georgia State University, trained for the ministry at the University of the South and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He served in the Diocese of Atlanta from 1992 to 2004, when he withdrew from the Episcopal Church following the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. In 2004 Bishop Beach founded Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Georgia and on 9 October 2010 he was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South. The Archbishop of Sydney, who had participated in the ACNA’s conclave, welcomed the news of Dr. Beach’s election. The Most Rev. Glenn Davies wrote: “Bishop Foley will be a strong conservative voice within this newly formed province, among the GAFCON Primates and throughout the Anglican Communion. He is a man who has stood firm for the gospel in difficult circumstances, and has not been afraid to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.”

Anglican Unscripted Episode 102: July 9, 2014 July 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Church of North America, Anglican.TV.
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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. Please donate athttp://anglican.tv/donate

Story Index
00:00 New Archbishop for Anglican Church in North America
10:54 News From Australia with David Ould

Anglican Unscripted Episode 101: July 7, 2014 July 7, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican.TV, Property Litigation, San Joaquin, South Carolina.
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Published on Jul 7, 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

00:00 Australia Dumps Seal of Confession
05:52 Breaking News from South Carolina with AS Haley

Parliamentary service a “sacred legacy” archbishop tells MPs: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies.
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The Primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, the Most Rev. John Holder, Bishop of Barbados, called upon members his nation’s parliament to put aside party differences and work for the good of the country. On 15 June 2014 Barbados celebrated the 375th anniversary of the creation of its Parliament, the oldest continuous Parliament of an independent Commonwealth country outside the British Isles, with a memorial service at St Mary’s Anglican Church in Bridgetown. In his sermon, Dr. Holder urged MPs “to move beyond the restrictions of party and take necessary political risks for the sake of country. You need sometimes to put the next elections out of your mind for a while, and think country instead of party. Just remember that this country is far bigger than all of the parliamentarians and all the members of the political parties together.” He told MPs they had “inherited what others have laboured and have died for. You have stepped into a stream that goes back some 375 years. There is a sacred legacy,” and as such they must put country before party. The thirty-member House of Assembly is divided 16 to 14 between the Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party.

Londonderry peace plea: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The Catholic and Anglican bishops of Londonderry have released a joint appeal for Ulster to set aside its sectarian divisions and suspicions and work towards a united socity. On 16 June 2014 the Rt. Rev. Ken Good, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and the Most Rev. Donal McKeown, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry, marked Community Relations Week with call to the community to “strive tirelessly to heal the wounds caused by our violent conflict. It is also to ensure that such conflict never happens again. We can best do this by journeying towards reconciliation, so that a cycle of historic division is broken once and for all in this land.” The bishops wrote: “Differences whether of history, race, religion or politics do not define who our neighbour is. Christ teaches us that every person is our ‘neighbour’ and that we are to find practical ways to ‘love’ them. We renew our Christian commitment to loving our neighbour in this city, whoever that neighbour may be,” they said.

Aspinall to step down as primate: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, has announced that it is his intention to step down from his post this month before the church’s 16th General Synod set for 29 June to 4 July 2014 at St Peter’s College in Adelaide. Dr. Aspinall (54) will remain Archbishop of Brisbane and Metropolitan of the Province of Queensland, but announced he was resigning now in order for a new primate to be elected by the August visit to Australia of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Chosen by a Panel of Electors, comprised of 12 clergy and 12 lay members chosen by General Synod, and the members of the House of Bishops, the primate of the ACA is selected from among the church’s diocesan bishops by a simple majority vote. Traditionally, the office has fallen to one of the five metropolitan archbishops in Australia. The office of primate in Australia does not confer metropolitan powers over the church on its office holder and is largely a ceremonial position.

Church peace plan for South Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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The Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng of Juba, has published an open letter on behalf of the church and the leading civic groups detailing the steps needed towards reaching a last peace in South Sudan. What began in December as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar has evolved into a tribal war between the Nuer and Dinka that has left several thousand dead and driven over one million people from their homes.  Meeting in talks brokered by Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister of Ethiopia, on 10 June 2014 the two sides agreed to a cease fire and pledged to form a unity government within sixty days. However, past deals to end the violence have been not held. In his 6 June 2014 Open Letter, Archbishop Deng stated it was essential that there be an “independent voice for peace and reconciliation” within the country independent of tribe, urging the warring parties to lay down their arms and “listen”. “We have to show we have a common goal no matter what tribe we belong to, what part of the country we come from or what position we have in society. Our independent actions must find unity in our collective aspiration to end war, heal our nation and build momentum for peace, security and development,” the archbishop said.

Apostolic succession extended to Methodist Church: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The Church of Ireland has extended apostolic succession of the episcopal ministry to the Methodist Church of Ireland. On 11 June 2014 the Archbishop of Dublin and Bishop of Down and Dromore took part in the installation of the new President of the Methodist Church of Ireland, the Rev. Peter Murray, the superintendent of the North West Methodist circuit in Londonderry. Last month the Church of Ireland’s General Synod approved an agreement signed with the Methodist Church that provided for the interchangeability of clergy, allowing an ordained minister of either church to come under the discipline and oversight of the other. Methodist ministers may henceforth be considered for clerical positions within the Church of Ireland and the church’s presidents will be eligible for election as Church of Ireland bishops. The agreement states that the Methodist president, who is elected to an annual term, is recognised as an “episcopal minister” in the Church of Ireland. The agreement further recognizes past holders of the office as episcopal ministers also. In future, Church of Ireland bishops will take part in the installation ceremony of a Methodist president, and the Methodist president will take part in the consecration of a Church of Ireland bishop. The Irish Times reports there are an estimated 38,000 Methodists in Northern Ireland and 12,000 in the Republic of Ireland.

Church of England calls for the release of Meriam Ibrahim : The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The Second Church Estates Commissioner has assured Parliament that the Church of England supports the international call for clemency for Meriam Ibrahim. Sentenced to death for apostasy from Islam by a civil court in Khartoum last month, Mrs. Ibrahim has refused to recant her Christian faith despite assurances that she will be freed from prison if she accepts Islam. On 12 June 2014 the members for Bury North, David Nuttall (Cons.) and Pendle, Andrew Stephenson (Cons.) asked Sir Tony Baldry what “representations the Church of England” had made on behalf of Mrs. Ibrahim. Sir Tony responded the “Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England wholeheartedly supported the call from the Christian Muslim Forum for the death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim to be dropped. The Church of England will continue to support the Archbishop of Sudan on this issue.” He urged MPs to support “early-day motion 71, tabled in my name, which has support from Members in all parts of the House,” calling for her release. Sudan’s apostasy laws were “clearly incompatible” with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said, adding that “In international law, fundamental universal UN human rights must prevail.”

SEC says no to assisted suicide: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The Faith and Order Board of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has voiced its opposition to the Assisted Suicide Bill pending before the Scottish Parliament. In a submission dated 6 June 2014, the board stated that while there were a range of views about assisted suicide held by its members, the Scottish Episcopal Church upheld “the sanctity of human life, and this, alongside compassion, are our primary considerations when thinking about Assisted Suicide.” The SEC had “sympathy” with arguments that “compassion is in some circumstances a higher good than the preservation of life.” However, the church was concerned with the application of the law as well as issues of compassion, dignity and the spiritual and moral issues these entailed had so far not been addressed by the bill’s supporters.  From a medical perspective the “art of dying” dealt with “pain relief”. But the “art of dying is a spiritual art, learned emotionally and communally, and found in all religions and traditions. … We want to explore compassion beyond the giving of drugs and legality of choosing death” the board said.

Vicar of Baghdad cries for help: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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The “Vicar of Baghdad”, the Rev. Canon Andrew White, has issued a plea for Anglicans to come to the aid of the people of Iraq, after Sunni Muslim extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control large swathes of the country. “Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been. The Islamic terrorists have taken control of the whole of Mosul which is Nineveh the main Christian stronghold. The army have even fled. We urgently need help and support,” Canon White wrote. “Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS, a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS. The area is the heartland of the Christian community. Most of our people come from Nineveh and still see that as their home. It is there that they return to regularly. Many Christian’s fled from back to Nineveh from Baghdad, as things got so bad there. Now the Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. The ISIS militants are now moving towards Kirkuk, major areas to the Oil fields that provide the lifeblood of Iraq. We are faced with total war that all the Iraqi military have now retreated from. People have fled in their hundreds of thousands to Kurdistan still in Iraq for safety. The Kurds have even closed the border, preventing entry of the masses. The crisis is so huge it is almost impossible to consider what is really happening.” Money was needed to care for refugees streaming into Baghdad, Canon White said. “We need your help.” http://frrme.org/canon-andrews-blog/

Welby pays pastoral call in Lagos: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid a pastoral call on President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to “express his personal pain and condolence about the ongoing terrorism affecting parts of North Nigeria,” the Lambeth Palace press office reports. On 4 June 2014, Archbishop Welby, President Jonathan and the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, discussed the terror campaign waged by Boko Haram and “then prayed privately together,” the statement said. Along with other church and political leaders, Archbishop Welby has condemned the kidnapping of over 200 school girls by Boko Haram, calling it an “atrocious and inexcusable act.” Speaking to reporters outside the Presidential Villa, the archbishop condemned the recent terror bombings in Jos saying “I came to pray with His Excellency and express our condolence for the losses. God is faithful. In one of the letters that Paul wrote to the church, he talked about the sufferings they were going through being known throughout the world and that is certainly true here because the suffering in Nigeria is known throughout the world … And like many, I am deeply grieved by what is happening but God is faithful. He is always faithful to us and as Christians, in Jesus Christ we believe in His faithfulness and we can trust Him for the future.”

Bishop of Gippsland dies suddenly: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Bishop of Gippsland of the Anglican Church of Australia has died following a brief illness. The Rt. Rev. John McIntyre died on 6 June 2014 at Monash Hospital in Clayton of a respiratory infection. He was 62. Ordained the 11th Bishop of Gippsland in February 2006, Bishop McIntyre gained an international reputation within Anglican circles as an outspoken maverick, calling for a coal mining ban in Australia due to its safety and environmental hazards as well as his support for changing the church’s teachings on homosexuality. In 2012 the bishop said he would not conform to the Australian House of Bishops protocol banning the licencing or ordination of gay clergy, arguing that science had shown the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexuality to be wrong-headed. At the 2014 House of Bishop’s meeting Bishop McIntyre’s motion to change church discipline on gay clergy was rejected and a new protocol introduced that reaffirmed the church’s traditional teachings on sexual conduct of the clergy.

Place for Christians in the new Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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The new president of Egypt Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi was has reaffirmed the equal place of Christians in society, lauding their contributions to the country’s culture and national unity. In his inauguration speech broadcast to the nation on 8 June 2014 from the el-Quba Palace, al-Sisi laid out an ambitious plan of economic and social renewal promising to build 26 new tourist resorts, eight new airports and 22 industrial estates.  And he promised “there will no exclusion of any Egyptian from our march.” Egypt’s Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, the Anglican Bishop of Egypt the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis and other Christian leaders have given the new president their wholehearted support. The president responded in his speech by singling out the contributions of Christians to the life of the country, and added that he would not tolerate their oppression. “As for those who shed the blood of the innocents, there will be no place for them in this path,” al-Sisi said in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. “And I say it loud and clear, there will be no soft stand with anyone who resorts to violence or whoever wants to delay our march towards the future that we want for our children.”

Plea for help from Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of South India.
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The Bishop in Jaffna, the Rt. Rev. Daniel S. Thiagarajah has called upon the Indian government to come to the aid of Tamils left destitute by the civil war in Sri Lanka. Speaking to the Times of India last week, Bishop Thiagarajah said the Church of South India has set up a relief centre in Jaffna to assist in the resettlement of refugees and to support widows and orphans, but private NGOs could not shoulder the entire burden. The Christian churches in Sri Lanka sought to foster ethnic reconciliation, reuniting Tamils and Sinhalese into a single nation.  “We are all one people. Ahead of us is a challenging task of rehabilitation of our people who have gone through the darkest period in our history,” the bishop said.

Pakistani priest assaulted: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
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A legal aid society in Pakistan reports that on 3 June 2014 five suspected members of the Pakistani Taliban ransacked the home of the Rev. David Hanook, pastor of the Church of Pakistan congregation in a majority Christian village near Okara in the Diocese of Lahore, holding the priest and his family hostage for four hours. LEAD (Legal Evangelical Association Development) director Sardar Mushtaq Gill reports a watchman heard the cries of the family and roused the village to defend their pastor. Five men were taken into custody by police. However, relatives of the arrested men have threatened to burn down the village unless Mr. Hanook withdraws the charges. “My family is not safe now in that village and I have requested the Rt. Rev. Irfan Jamil Bishop of Lahore to transfer me some other Church congregation” Mr Hanook said. “We have seen death very near to us because the robbers opened firing at us but Our Lord Jesus saved us,” he said. The former pastor of the church, the Rev. Azmat Nadeem explained “this is a Christian village and other Muslim villages are very jealous and prejudice with this village, that’s why they often attack on Church and Priest and on other Christian villagers.”

Franklin Huntress abuse charges reinstated: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Massachusetts, The Episcopal Church.
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The Supreme Court of New Hampshire has reinstated criminal charges brought against an Episcopal priest for child abuse. On 30 May 2014 the Supreme Court ruled the trial court did not have the authority to dismiss charges against the Rev. Franklin L. Huntress and ordered the matter for trial. First arrested by Lincolnshire Police in 1994 for child abuse, Huntress was arrested in July 2011 following a grand jury indictment for having sexually assaulted a child under the age of 13 in January 1984 and April 1985. Claims the then 77-year-old priest molested a child in 1974 prompted an investigation by the Diocese of Massachusetts that revealed Huntress had been arrested by police for abusing a child in 1994 while service as vicar of St Matthew’s Church in Skegness. However, the Diocese of Massachusetts said it had not been “contacted by either civil or Church authorities in England regarding the 1994 charges there.” The Diocese of Lincoln confirmed Huntress had been arrested, but the “charges were dropped and the detail and the circumstances were unclear.” Huntress’ file “had been destroyed as part of a previous archive policy” at the time Massachusetts had requested “further information”, a spokesman said. Ordained in 1962, Huntress served parishes in the US and from 1965 to 1967 at St Mary’s, Chester, from 1967-1971 at Waltham Abbey in Essex, from 1975 to 1979 at St Gabriel’s Abbey in Leicester, and from 1991 to 1994 at St Matthew’s in Skegness.

New Primate for the Philippines: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Philippines.
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Bishop Renato Abibico of Northern Luzon has been elected the 5th Prime Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines at the 9th meeting of the Regular Synod of the ECP held at Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City on 14 May 2014. Educated at Trinity College in Quezon City and the University of Edinburgh, Bishop Abibico trained for the ministry at St Andrews Theological Seminary in the Philippines and succeeds the Most Rev. Edward Malacdon as primate.

Interview: Issues Etc., June 18, 2014 June 23, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc, Russian Orthodox.
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3. Media Coverage of the Religion in Russia and Poland – George Conger, 6/18/14

George Conger of GetReligion.org

 

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