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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.

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Where’s the religion at Washington’s National Cathedral?: Get Religion, January 16, 2014 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, The Episcopal Church, Washington.
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The financial difficulties facing the Washington National Cathedral were the subject of a local news item in the Washington Post this week.

The basic story line is valid: “cathedral short of cash seeks creative ways to generate income.” But as  GetReligion editor tmatt observed in an an impromptu story conference, this piece had journalistic “holes you can drive a ’60s VW Microbus through… .”

The few errors in Anglican polity found in the story would likely distress only the perpetually aggrieved, but the real difficulty is that the Post declined to ask or explore the question: “why?”

It assumes the worldview of the liberal wing of mainline churches, making this the measure of all things religious. By not asking “why” this story could just as well be written about the troubles facing the local symphony orchestra or art museum.

I was hesitant in taking this story, however, as my theological sympathies are not with the cathedral’s leadership. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Diocese of Washington’s cathedral, last year told the Post he was a “non-theistic Christian.” The Aug 1, 2013 story in the Style section penned by Sally Quinn quoted him as saying:

Jesus doesn’t use the word God very much,” he says. “He talks about his Father.”

Hall explains: “Where I am now, how do I understand Jesus as a son of God that’s not magical? I’m trying to figure out Jesus as a son of God and a fully human being, if he has both fully human and a fully divine set of chromosomes. .?.?. He’s not some kind of superman coming down. God is present in all human beings. Jesus was an extraordinary human being. Jesus didn’t try to convert. He just had people at his table.”

It is the glory, or the curse, of Anglicanism that the ranks of its clergy contain men and women who think this way — and others who see this as nonsense.

The divide is not merely local or new — in 2009 I interviewed the Argentine leader of the Anglican churches in southern South America and he told me that meaningful debate between left and right was not possible. He and his conservative colleagues from Africa, India and Asia believed the leader of the American Episcopal church was “not a Christian” as they understood the term.

The disdain does not go one way. Liberal American and English Anglicans have described the theological and intellectual worldview of their third world confreres as being one step above witchcraft.

The split between left and right, liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists — none of these terms adequately describes the combatants — did not arise in 2003 with the election of a “gay” bishop in the Episcopal Church. While there have always been factions within the Anglican world for centuries — high/low, Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic — the latest Anglican wars began in the 30s and hit their stride in the 60s.

Fights over women clergy, premarital sex, abortion, euthanasia, contraception/family planning, divorce and remarriage, pacifism, the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, Vietnam and the civil rights movement and its various permutations of race, gender, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation have been debated ever since.

The temptation I faced was to cloak my criticisms of the underlying issues in the story with the cover of discussing proper journalism and write about bad religion rather than bad journalism. Hence, my reluctance to jump on this story.

What then is the GetReligion angle? What holes are there in this story through which I may drive my VW microbus? The lede states:

When Congress authorized the creation of Washington National Cathedral in 1893, it envisioned a national spiritual home. Decades later, it became a setting for presidential funerals, sermons by the likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and worship services for epic national tragedies such as Newtown and Sept. 11.

But would it have thought of tai chi and yoga mats?

The article describes a program of events and activities designed to bring people into the cathedral. The story then moves to context:

As mellow as it all sounds, the week-long public program — “Seeing Deeper” — is part of a highly orchestrated drive by the nation’s second-largest cathedral to remake itself and survive in an era when religious institutions are struggling. And what’s more institutional than a huge cathedral?

Washington National Cathedral, one of the Episcopal Church’s three major U.S. cathedrals, was already forced to halve its $27 million budget in the mid-2000s because of falling revenue before an earthquake in 2011 caused damage tallying an additional $26 million. Although it is now in the black, it must raise its roughly $13 million annual operating budget as well as the remaining $19 million for earthquake repairs.

And then moves to a discussion of the dean’s plans to raise income and attendance and to be a voice for progressive values in Washington.

What is missing from this story, though, is a nod to the reasons for the cash shortfall — apart from the occasional earthquake and economic downturn.

The article makes this assertion:

Experts say cathedrals across Europe and the United States have had to remake themselves as religious affiliation has become much looser and financial models built on membership have broken down.

But we do not hear from the experts. Is this true for all cathedrals, or just Episcopal ones? How is the Catholic cathedral in Washington doing? How are other Episcopal cathedrals handling the new faith environment Dean Hall describes in the piece? These questions should have been raised, or at least acknowledged.

Where are the facts and figures about the Washington National Cathedral’s attendance and income? They are easily found on the national Episcopal Church’s website. It reports “pledge and plate income”, the amount of money the cathedral (whose formal name is the Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul) collected from its parishioners has grown from $400,000 p.a. in 2002 to $2 million in $2012.

At the same time Sunday attendance grew over the last ten years. The figures for Dean Hall’s first year in office have not been published, but should not the story have spoken to these issues.

And, have the Anglican wars played a part in the cathedral’s financial problems? While the amount of money generated by those worshiping on site has grown, giving to support the cathedral from the wider Episcopal world has fallen off. Why?  The article states fundraising was easier for the cathedral when it sought to finish construction — an 82 year building campaign.

Could the cathedral’s whole-hearted adoption of the progressive religious and political agenda have anything to do with the little old ladies in Alabama cutting back on their gifts? The article does not ask this question.

As written, the article could have described the problems facing any graying urban institution. Swap out the names and you could recycle this as a story about an art museum, library, orchestra, ballet or other worthy cultural institution. Perhaps the real story here is that the Washington National Cathedral is not seen as a religious institution by the Post but as a temple of ethical culture?

First printed at Get Religion.

Washington National Cathedral chapels vandalized: The Church of England Newspaper, August 11, 2013 p 6. August 16, 2013

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A Chinese tourist was arrested last week by police in Washington for allegedly vandalizing two chapels in Washington’s National Cathedral. Jia M. Tian (58) was taken into custody after police found her in the cathedral on 29 July 2013 carrying a can of green paint and wearing paint-flecked clothing shortly after green paint was poured over woodwork in the Children’s Chapel and over the organ in the Bethlehem Chapel, the site of the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson.

Police are also questioning Ms. Tian, a Chinese national traveling on an expired U.S. visa, for green paint vandalism near the Smithsonian Castle, the Martin Luther statue at Thomas Circle in Northwest and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Cathedral’s newsletter reported that within twenty four hours, conservators had removed most of the green paint from the gilt wooden reredos in Children’s Chapel. Damage in Bethlehem Chapel centered on the pipe organ façade with paint damaging the keyboard, surrounding wood paneling, and the floor.

It stated “a team of conservators is busy carefully removing the paint while avoiding damage to the delicate wooden surfaces. Although the pipes themselves cleaned easily, the grain of the wood has soaked up the paint. Full removal will be slower and more painstaking than expected, likely resulting in higher restoration costs.”

Jane Holmes Dixon dead at 75: Anglican Ink, December 25, 2012 December 26, 2012

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The Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon

The Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde reports the former suffragan Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon died in her sleep during the night of December 24/25.

In a statement printed on the diocesan website, Bishop  Budde wrote:

“I write this Christmas Day with sad news. Bishop Jane Dixon died in her sleep early this morning after a spending a joyful Christmas Eve with her family. Her death comes as a shock to her beloved husband of 52 years, Dixie, to their children and grandchildren, and to all of us blessed to have known Jane as a friend, mentor, and colleague.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

America says farewell to Neil Armstrong: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012 p 7. September 24, 2012

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The Space Window at Washington’s National Cathedral

America honored the first man to walk on the moon this week, with a memorial service for Neil Armstrong at Washington’s National Cathedral on 13 Sept 2012.

Neil Armstrong “embodied all that is good and all that is great about America,” said Apollo 17 mission commander and last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan. He “can now finally put out [his] hand and touch the face of God,” Cernan told the cathedral congregation during the service.

Armstrong, who died on 25 August 2012 following heart surgery, was buried at sea on 14 Sept. On 29 July 1969, Armstrong and co-pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin of Apollo 11 landed on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Tranquility, becoming the first men to walk on the moon.

Michael Collins who remained in lunar orbit on Apollo 11 while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon, led prayers during the service with the Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde presiding. He thanked God “for your servant Neil Armstrong, who with courage and humility first set foot upon the moon. Following his example, save us from arrogance, lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you; and by the grace of your Holy Spirit, protect our travels beyond the reaches of the earth, that we may glory ever more in the wonder of your creation.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

$25 million bill for Washington’s National Cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 7, 2011 p 7. October 11, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Washington’s National Cathedral will need more than $25 million to repair the damage sustained in the 23 August earthquake, but will reopen in time for the 12 November consecration of the diocese’s new bishop, Dr Mariann Budde.

In a statement released on 4 October, the cathedral estimated the cost of repairs to be in the “tens of millions of dollars” and announced the launch of an “aggressive fundraising effort to raise at least $25 million to offset the costs of the early restoration work and to help support its operations through the end of 2012.”

“The short-term priorities are around stabilizing the building, re-opening the Cathedral, and continuing its operations and mission. The overall restoration of the Cathedral is expected to take numerous years, and the effort will seek contributions large and small from across the country,” a statement published on the cathedral’s website said.

Washington Bishop John Chane, who is serving as the cathedral’s interim dean, said “reopening is only the first step down a long path toward restoring the Cathedral to its previous state. We will reach the end of that path only through the support of this community and people across the nation.”

Engineers have determined the central and west front towers of the cathedral must be stabilized, and work has begun placing steel beams weighing a total of 70 tons in the central tower.

“The Cathedral has been entrusted to us as an important resource and national treasure to serve as the spiritual home for the nation,” said the Rev James Wind, chairman of the cathedral chapter.

“We take that trust very seriously and will do everything necessary to restore the building to the condition our national community of supporters has come to expect,” Dr Wind said.

Washington bishops in plea for prisoners’ release from Iran: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 23, 2011 September 28, 2011

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Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, © freethehikers.org

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal and Roman Catholic Bishops of Washington have travelled to Iran along with two American Muslim leaders to plead for the release of two American hikers imprisoned on espionage charges.

Bishop John Chane and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, along with the executive director,  Nihad Awad, and chairman, Larry Shaw, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had been invited to Tehran to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian media reported.

The four were quoted by the Iranian press as having “voiced hope that their request for the release of the two Americans materializes, so that they could effectively work for the release of Iranians imprisoned there upon their return to America.”

Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were arrested on July 31, 2009 after they strayed into Iran while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border in Kurdistan.  Shourd was released last year “on humanitarian and medical grounds” and President Ahmadinejad on Sept 13 said the two other hikers would be released upon posting bail of $500,000.

On August 21, Bauer and Fattal were each sentenced to eight years in prison by a revolutionary court in Tehran on charges of espionage and illegal entry.  Shourd was also convicted in absentia.

A report in the state-run FARS news agency indicated the hikers release may be conditional upon the release of Iranians jailed in the US.  FARS stated “more than 60 Iranian nationals are being held in US prisons, 11 of them on political grounds and without any proof or evidence.”

The Iranian news agency said that during their meeting with President Ahmadinejad “the four American religious leaders expressed the hope that the trend of developments would move in a way that they can push for the freedom of the Iranian inmates in the US.”

Iran’s judiciary has not given any timetable for the release of Fattal and Bauer, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week said Washington had received word through a number of sources that their release was imminent.

It was reported this morning that the two would be released on bail later today.

Baptists cry foul over 9/11 Cathedral ceremony: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 16, 2011 p 7. September 19, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The 9/11 memorial service scheduled last Sunday for Washington’s National Cathedral turned into an ecumenical free-for-all after Baptist and Catholic leaders took offense at their exclusion from the ceremony.

“A Call to Compassion,” an interfaith prayer vigil held on 11 September, was to include President Barack Obama and the dean of the Cathedral, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, a rabbi, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.

However, Fox News reported on 6 September that America’s largest Protestant denomination — the Southern Baptists — were incensed at their exclusion. “It’s not surprising,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.

“I think it would send a very strong and very positive signal to the left-wing extremists in our country that the president ought not show up,” said Mr Page.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox the speakers chosen to address the nation did not represent America.

“Three-quarters of the American people identify as Christian and nearly a third of them are evangelical Christian,” Perkins said. “And yet, there is not a single evangelical on the programme.”

Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, told Fox “the goal was to have interfaith representation.”

He explained that the “Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives,” adding that “diversity was first and foremost” a factor in the planning.

“We certainly aim to appeal to as many in the country as possible and feel that our events are not any one slice that could ever represent the entire country — but that we are doing our best commemorate the events as it fits with our mission,” Weinberg said.

Writing on his blog at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, Mgr Charles Pope stated the Episcopal Church’s decision to arrogate to itself the role as the representatives of Christendom was unwise. “If you ask me, and most churchgoing Catholics, if two clergy of a denomination that collectively supports abortions rights, homosexual marriage, and activity, euthanasia, and so forth can represent me, I’d say ‘No!’”

However, the hand of God appeared on 7 September to divert an ecumenical incident. A 500-ton crane removing rubble from the earthquake damaged cathedral fell over damaging three cars and two buildings. Herb Cottage, which houses the cathedral’s gift shop and Church House, an office block for diocesan officials were damaged in the accident.

The ceremony was subsequently moved to Washington’s Kennedy Center.

Repairs underway for Washington’s National Cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 9, 2011 p 6. September 11, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has kicked off an ecumenical fundraising campaign to restore the Washington National Cathedral with a gift of $25,000.

On 23 August the Episcopal cathedral was damaged by an earthquake, which cracked the cathedral’s flying buttresses, damaged the spires of the central tower, and caused damage extensive damage to the building’s ornate stonework.

The damage caused by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake is not covered by insurance and the repairs are expected to take years to complete, as much of the work must be done by master stonemasons.

Washington’s Hebrew Congregation has hosted the Episcopal congregation during the past two Sundays as engineers surveyed the damage as stonemasons and structural engineers implement measures to secure the Cathedral nave before it reopens on 9 September in preparation for the national memorial service commemorating the tenth anniversary of 11 September, 2001. President Barack Obama will address the nation from the Cathedral’s pulpit to mark the occasion.

“We are grateful to our neighbours of faith for their hospitality, generosity, and most importantly, their prayers, as we face the enormous challenge of restoring damaged areas of the Cathedral,” said Cathedral Dean Samuel Lloyd.

“This gift from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, a testimony to the fellowship that exists between people of different faiths, makes clear the bond we share. We are also grateful for the outpouring of support from faithful individuals across the country, who have given generously in the aftermath of the earthquake. It is a great comfort as we begin to gather financial support for this endeavour, which we expect to reach into the millions of dollars ,” the dean said.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl said “it was with both shock and sadness that I learned of the damage sustained by Washington National Cathedral.”

“The National Cathedral holds a special place in the hearts of all of us in Washington. So many recognize it as a national house of prayer, and indeed its magnificent Gothic towers are a reminder of our constant need to raise our hearts in prayer to God in the midst of all of our daily preoccupations,” said Washington’s Catholic archbishop.

Washington hit by earthquake: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 23, 2011 August 23, 2011

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The pinnacles atop Washington's National Cathedral central tower were damaged in Tuesday's earthquake. Photo tweeted by Jennifer Walker

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake has rocked the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, shaking buildings from Georgia to Massachusetts.  The Pentagon and other government offices in Washington were evacuated following the earthquake, while the central tower of Washington’s National Cathedral has been badly damaged.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck at 17:51:04 UTC (1:51 pm local time) on Tuesday, Aug 23.  The epicenter of the quake was located near Mineral, Virginia, approximately 84 miles south west of Washington, DC.

Reports of the earthquake quickly appeared on the internet.  The Pentagon, Washington’s public monuments and parts of the Capitol were evacuated.  Three of the four pinnacles on the central tower of Washington’s National Cathedral have been damaged, according to reports tweeted by onlookers.  The cathedrals flying buttresses have cracked in several places, and one tweet reports the central tower is leaning to one side.

The cathedral’s website reports the building has been evacuated and closed to visitors pending a structural examination.

Office workers from afar afield as New York City, Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia evacuated high rise buildings when the quake hit.  Airports across the east coast have closed, however no injuries or deaths have been reported so far.

Tuesday’s earthquake comes as the Eastern Seaboard prepares for the landfall of Hurricane Irene, a category 3 storm that has lashed the Bahamas and is expected to make landfall on the US mainland on Aug 25.

Second American parish joins the Ordinariate: The Church of England Newspaper, June 15, 2011 June 15, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A second Maryland parish has voted to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to join the Roman Catholic Church through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On 6 June, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington announced that St Luke’s Church in Bladensburg, Maryland, would enter the Roman Catholic Church with the “prayerful support of Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic Archbishop of Washington.”

On 24 October, 2010, the congregation of Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore became the first American parish to announce its intention to join the Anglican Ordinariate once it was formed.

Cardinal Wuerl, who will assume jurisdiction over the congregation of approximately 100 parishioners until the American branch of the Ordinariate is formed, stated that the Roman Catholic Church welcomed the congregation “into our family of faith.”

He added the Pope’s offer of an Anglican enclave in the Catholic Church provided “a path to unity, one that recognizes our shared beliefs on matters of faith while also recognizing and respecting the liturgical heritage of the Anglican Church.”

Bishop Chane noted the “transition” had been “achieved in a spirit of pastoral sensitivity and mutual respect.”

“Christians move from one church to another with far greater frequency than in the past, sometimes as individuals, sometimes as groups. I was glad to be able to meet the spiritual needs of the people and priest of St Luke’s in a way that respects the tradition and polity of both of our Churches.”

The congregation and the diocese have entered into a lease purchase agreement for the church property, and the former rector, the Rev Mark Lewis, has begun the process towards reception and ordination as a Roman Catholic priest.

“I am deeply grateful to Cardinal Wuerl and to Bishop Chane for their support throughout this discernment. We look forward to continuing to worship in the Anglican tradition, while at the same time being in full communion with the Holy See of Peter,” Mr Lewis said.

Turkey’s Gülen movement under criminal investigation in the US: The Church of England Newspaper, April 21, 2011 p 7. April 21, 2011

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Fethullah Gülen

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has commenced an investigation into the activities of Turkish Muslim leader Fethullah Gülen and his educational and charitable network.

Called the “world’s top public intellectual” in 2008 by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, Gülen is a controversial figure.  Considered an inspirational religious leader by millions of Turks and Muslim followers around the world, he has also been called the “world’s most dangerous Islamist” by US investigative journalist Paul Williams.

In 1998 Gülen left Turkey after the government sought to arrest him for seeking to overthrow the government.  He fled to the United States and currently lives in a 45-acre compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Over the past decade Gülen has built a network of schools across the world that allegedly call for the creation of a global caliphate.

In the United States, the Gülen movement has opened 125 schools that receive government assistance under the “charter school” system.  The federal investigation, according to the March 21 Philadelphia Inquirer report, is not linked to terrorism but to allegations that Gülen school employees, granted visas to enter the United States to teach at the schools, are forced to kick back 60 per cent of their salaries to the Hizmet, or Service, movement Gülen founded.  Prosecutors have declined to comment, however, as the investigation is on-going.

A spokesman for Gülen told the Inquirer the reclusive imam has no relationship to the schools, though he might have inspired the people who founded them.

Since his arrival in the United States, Gülen has cultivated media, religious and political leaders.  At a Jan 20, 2011 meeting hosted by the Rumi Forum, a Turkish think tank in Washington, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. John B. Chane praised Gülen as a “magnificent man.”

“In the 50 books he has written he has probably been one of our greatest voices. He is a scholar and communicator who has really addressed — not only the role of religion — but the place of religion as an antidote to violence throughout the world, stressing the importance of the need to come to the table for dialogue and conversation,” the bishop said.

The bishop added to his postprandial encomium saying “I really want to make a point in recognizing him and honoring him for the work he continues to do for global peace among all of God’s children.”

However, diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks and published in the Turkish newspaper Taraf on March 17 show US government officials in Washington and Ankara were concerned with the growing influence of the Gülen movement.

One 2005 cable said the Gülen community seems to espouse “moderate Islam,” but  as it had a global mission of fostering Islamism, it was an open question how the movement would act once it consolidated its hold on power.  “It is not possible to confirm the Turkish police are under the control of the Gülen community members, but we have not met anybody who denies it,” one cable said.

Turkish analysts in the West have also questioned the motives and methods of the Gülen movement.  On Dec 3, 2010, Dr. Sebastian Gorka of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies linked the Gülen movement to the “soft jihad” campaign waged by Islamists who seek to use Western institutions and liberties to bring about the mastery of the world by Islam in an interview with WABC’s John Batchelor Show.

Bishop Chane told The Church of England Newspaper he was “troubled by references that have been made about Gülen being a soft jihadist. Clearly the use of the word jihad demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of the term and a baffling use of the word soft.”

“If in fact there is an investigation underway that links Gülen to radical, religiously motivated terrorists then let the facts of the investigation be known,” the bishop said.

Gay marriage approved in Washington DC: The Church of England Newspaper, March 12, 2010 p 8. March 25, 2010

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

The Bishop of Washington has authorized his clergy to solemnize gay civil marriages.

“Through the grace of Holy Baptism, there are no second class members of the Body of Christ,” Bishop John Chane said on March 4. “We are of equal value in the eyes of God, and any one of us may be called by the Holy Spirit into holy relationships as well as Holy Orders.”

Bishop Chane’s statement came one day after gay marriages were legalized in the District of Columbia, and follow upon the Episcopal Church’s decision at its July General Convention to end the ban on gay bishops and blessings.

Resolution C056 from the July convention gave bishops “particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal,” the ability to “provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

No member of the clergy will be compelled to perform gay civil marriages, Bishop Chane said. Nor has a specific liturgy been selected. “I would prefer to work that out in consultation with the clergy who will be performing these services,” he explained.

Under its current Prayer Book the Episcopal Church’s “Order of Marriage” cannot be used for same-sex couples, however, a number of unofficial rites for the blessing of same-sex unions and marriages are in circulation in the United States and Canada. Washington becomes the fourth diocese after Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa to allow its clergy to perform gay marriages.

Summit urged to debate church persecution: CEN 3.05.10 p 7. March 16, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Ecumenical, Washington.
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Ayatollah Mostafa Damad

Washington’s National Cathedral played host this week to a closed door Christian-Muslim summit of religious leaders. The invitation of representatives of the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam prompted protests however from US conservatives who called for Muslim leaders to address the persecution of Christians across the Islamic world.

From March 1 to 3, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Professor Ahmad El Tayeb, president of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Bishop John Chane of Washington and Ayatollah Ahmad Iravani, president of the Center for the Study of Islam & the Middle East met for “for a candid discussion of matters affecting Christian-Muslim relations and peacemaking efforts worldwide,” a press statement from the summit said.

Organizers of the three day gathering, stated the meeting sought “to promote understanding and reconciliation between the two faith traditions, and to encourage religious leaders to use their influence with government leaders, and the community at large” to build peace.

The four religious leaders were joined by twenty additional representatives from the Sunni, Shia, Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, including Clare Amos of the staff of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Kaduna, Nigeria, Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Episcopal Churches in Europe, and Prof. Lamin Sanneh of Yale University.

Shortly before the start of the conference, the head of the Shia delegation, Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, professor of law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, notified the meeting he would be unable to attend.

The meeting prompted protests led by the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). The IRD’s Religious Liberty Director Faith McDonnell stated that what should have been on the agenda was the persecution of Christians.

“In many Christian-Muslim dialogues, Christians avoid anything contentious, but they have a moral obligation to those oppressed by Islam to talk about everything that is contentious,” she said, adding that the “two countries represented by the Muslim Principals, Egypt and Iran, commit egregious human rights violations against Christians, converts from Islam, outspoken democracy and free speech advocates, women, and gays.”

However, Ayatollah Damad, the former High Commissioner of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in Iran, has been a critic of the abuse of civil liberties in his country, while also supporting the government. In 2004 he told a Canadian government panel that “without democracy, we have no human rights at all.”

Damad argued that it was important for the West to approach the issue of human rights in Iran from the standpoint of benefits for the people of the country. If Western motives were perceived to be founded on self-interest, based on security or anti-terrorism fears, Western interests would be seen as attacking not assisting the pro-democracy movement in Iran.

“Civil society in every Muslim country needs help,” he argued in 2004, but to be received as genuine this help would have to avoid any self-serving political agenda in order to build long-term supporting partnerships that appreciate Iranians’ situation and concerns, Damad said.

Arab leaders urged to mediate: CEN 2.19.10 p 8. March 2, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Politics, Washington.
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The Rt. Rev. John B. Chane, Bishop of Washington

Arab leaders must take the lead in ending the cycle of violence in the Middle East, the Bishop of Washington told the seventh US-Islamic World Forum meeting in Qatar this week.

“Arab leaders have to condemn violence and terrorism and make clear it is not appropriate and not helping anybody to find a way to deal with the complexities of the world around them,” Bishop John Chane told the Gulf Times following his presentation of a paper on the “role of religious leaders and religious communities in diplomacy,” in a closed session of the Feb 13-16 conference in Doha.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Al Thani in addressing the forum, while US President Barak Obama delivered a videotaped message broadcast to the gathering sponsored by the Washington think-tank, the Brookings Institution, and Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

President Obama acknowledged that “the United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.” He called for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Building upon remakes made in his 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, President Obama stated the US was seeking to “promote education” exchanges, “broaden economic development”, “increase collaboration on science and technology” and “promote global health” within the Muslim majority nations of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In his address to the gathering, Bishop Chane argued that world leaders were wrong to ignore the religious dimensions of foreign policy issues, adding that religious leaders must be seen as equal partners in public diplomacy.

However, religious leaders also had a responsibility to speak out against violence and oppression in their own countries, and not foster sectarian interests, he said. The persecution of religious minorities must cease, and religious leaders should be at the forefront of those condemning attacks on ‘holy places’ as well as denouncing those who used religious passions to foment violence.

One area of particular concern for the religious communities was Gaza, Bishop Chane said. Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders should take the lead in working out equitable strategies to address the Israel-Palestinian dispute, which sixty years of political dialogue had so far failed to resolve.

Bishop of Washington wants US and Iran to embrace tolerance: CEN 5.30.08 p 6. May 31, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Islam, Washington.
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Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Washington has urged the US government and Iran to set aside its inflammatory rhetoric and “embrace tolerance and sincere dialogue.”

Writing for the Common Ground News Service on May 13, Bishop John Chane, who has traveled twice to Iran to meet with Shia leaders, argued that the time had come for “for religious leaders in both countries to take the initiative to find ways to seek peaceful solutions to the complex problems that have plagued US-Iranian relations for years.”

The Washington Bishop’s call for dialogue comes amidst heightened tensions between the US and Iran. On May 8, Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad likened Israel to a “stinking corpse.” In speech to Majlis members in Teheran, Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Israel was little better than “dead rats,” adding that that those who “assist the Zionist regime, they will burn in fire.”

Speculation that the US might strike Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases near the border with Iraq has been rife in the wake of accusations that Iran and Hisbullah have been training Iraqi insurgents. On April 25 the chairman of the joint chiefs-of-staff Admiral Michael Mullen confirmed the US was capable of taking military action against the Revolutionary Guard to curb Teheran’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq.

While war with Iran would be “disastrous,” US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on April 21, however “the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat.”

Bishop Chane said such “demonizing” rhetoric will not “ease the increasing tensions between our countries.” His experience with Shia leaders had produced “commonalities centred on issues of peace as well as the moral prohibition of developing and using weapons of mass destruction.”

“In addition to agreeing that politicians have been behaving childishly, my Iranian colleagues and I also think that the level of ignorance by Christians and Muslims about each other’s religions has been extremely unhelpful in extending positive dialogue between these two great monotheistic religions and our two nations,” the bishop said.

Religious dialogue, not power politics was the way forward, Bishop Chane argued.

“Members of the diplomatic corps on both sides need to acknowledge that they have been unable to broker a peaceful solution to the current crisis between our two countries and that it is time for some more creative solutions. A new 21st century understanding of Track II diplomacy, initiated through theological diplomacy, must go hand-in-hand with the formal diplomatic search for the peace that has always been at the centre of the Holy Books of both Christianity and Islam,” he said.

Mixed Reaction to Iran Meeting: CEN 10.26.07 p 5. October 27, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran, Washington.
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The Bishop of Washington and the former secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council traveled to Iran earlier this month in a bid to support interfaith dialogue between Islam and the West.

The trip has sparked harsh comments in the US, with one right-wing news service calling the freelance diplomacy “ill-advised” and harmful to the Anglican Church in Iran.

A spokesman for Bishop John Chane and Canon John L. Peterson told The Church of England Newspaper that no statement would be issued from Washington about the trip and it remains unclear whether Bishop Azad Marshall of Iran was briefed on their excursion.

However, Iranian news agencies have hailed the meetings as a sign of solidarity against Zionism.  Following a meeting in Qom with Canon Peterson and Bishop Chane,  Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi told the Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA) on Oct 10, that the “Zionist media are waging a negative propaganda campaign” against his country.

“The Zionists spread a negative picture of Islam among the Christians, and a negative picture of Christians among Muslims,” he added saying the visit by US Episcopalians helped counter this view.  “We should have more meetings to neutralize this negative campaign by the Zionists.”

Ayatollah Shirazi told the Mehrs News Agency that “clerics of divine religions should interact and meet with each other and push the world toward peace and security through joint thinking,” and pointed to the visit by the Bishop of Washington as a sign that religious leaders can help foster global peace.