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Gay marriage and golf: Get Religion, February 11, 2013 February 11, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Marriage, Multiculturalism.
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Little news of the gay marriage debate in the French National Assembly has made its way across the Atlantic into the American press. The lack of news coverage could be due to the perception that the outcome is not in doubt. The governing Socialist Party and their allies on the left hold a majority and have directed their members to vote in favor. Or France, being a very foreign country, the goings on way over there are of little concern to the American newspaper audience.

Whatever the reason, the lack of interest is a shame as the debate has been informative, lively and fun to watch. And, some of the arguments being proffered have not been laid before the American public. Let me digress for a moment and bring you up to speed as to where things stand as of this post’s publication.

The story so far — Following last year’s general election victory by the Socialist Party (PS) and its presidential candidate, François Hollande (I have shortened this from François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande), the party and its allies on the Left — the Radicals, Communists, etc., began the legislative implementation of their campaign promise to legalize gay marriage and permit gay couples to adopt children. The right has fought the move while social conservative groups — led by the Catholic Church — have mounted a vigorous public protest campaign, culminating in the largest public demonstrations last month in France in the last 30 years.

In the National Assembly, the right, led by the UMP party, proposed 4999 amendments to the bill. After 24 marathon sessions spread over ten days, with many sittings lasting until the small hours of the morning, the National Assembly concluded debate on Friday and a formal vote is scheduled for Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013.  The Senate will then take up the bill on 18 March.

Back to GetReligion — When I say the debate has been fun, I mean that it has been vigorous and pointed to a degree seldom seen in the U.S. Americans fed upon the pap of MSNBC or Fox commentators might find the French political debate indigestible — too spicy, too rich. Part of this lies in the stark polarization of French public life. In European eyes there is very little difference between the American Democrat and Republican Parties. While such an observation would baffle most Americans, from a French perspective the difference between the two American parties is miniscule compared to the spread of ideas between the Communists and the extreme Right in France.

And the place of religion in politics is very different in France — some right-wing French groups are ultra-montane Catholics while others are atheists — and there are Catholic Socialists on left (though no Catholic Communists I have found, though friends tell me a few of their seminary professors might qualify).

The right-wing news blog, 24 heures actu, which the Atlantico says

est un média impertinent de droite, radical (sans être extrême), et dans une France bâillonnée par le discours convenu de certaines élites, ça fait du bien !

is an impertinent radical right (though not extreme) publication, and with France gagged by the conventional chatter of its elites, its impertinence is a good thing.

has attacked gay marriage as racist.

Le mariage pour tous serait-il, à l’image du golf, un loisir réservé aux blancs et aux bourgeois ?

Will “marriage for all”, like golf, be a hobby reserved for whites and the bourgeoise?

N.b., “Marriage for all” or “mariage pour tous” is the French equivalent of America’s “marriage equality” — a slogan of the left that seeks to drive the direction of the debate through packaging. But again I digress. Calling “marriage for all” a liberal bourgeois preoccupation that is irrelevant to the lives of “les pauvres, les Noirs, les Arabes, les Asiatiques, les Juifs, les Latinos, les ouvriers et les chômeur”( it is more euphonious in French, but means, the poor, Blacks, Arabs, Asians, Jews, Latinos, and the unemployed), might be dismissed out of hand were it not for the revolt of the black (or should I say Franco-African) Socialist deputies from the Caribbean and Réunion who have broken with the PS and will vote no. The center-left Paris daily Libération reports that none of the black overseas members of the GDR (gauche démocrate et républicaine) of the Front de gauche (Left Front) will support the bill.

Libération cites a speech given to the National Assembly by Bruno-Nestor Azerot, a deputy from Martinique who said in overseas departments, almost all of our population is opposed to this project that “challenges all the customs, all the values” of French citizens. M. Azerot added that it was offensive to link the civil rights movement with the gay rights movement, noting in particular that black slaves could not marry or raise families recognized as legitimate by the state. Marriage for all, he argued would undermine the family and devalue the hard won social and legal rights of France’s former slave populations.

A white PS leader from Réunion (a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean) Jean-Claude Fruteau told Libération he had not received any “negative reaction” from his constituency but added that a demonstration in Saint-Denis-de-la-Réunion organized by the Catholic bishop of the island should not be taken as a sign of the strength of the opposition to the bill. Réunion was a “small department where the Catholic Church has a strong influence,” he said.

Libération explained to its readers why overseas Black deputies would opposed gay marriage by quoting the chairman of the Left Front Group in the National Assembly, Communist Deputy André Chassaigne. In overseas territories, i.e., in departments with a majority black population, the “cultural dimension of family values may be more pronounced, it has a more traditional look.” The overseas deputies were invoking a “family model that was more conservative than in France,” but were “imposing religious practices” and “local circumstances” onto the French national stage.

The Libération article is written from an advocacy perspective — it makes no pretense at being balanced or offering opposing commentary. It quotes the speeches of the black deputies, but offers explanation and interpretation only from the left. The article is framed in such a way to help the newspaper’s liberal readers understand the puzzling phenomena of why blacks, whose rights the Left has always championed, would not return this support on the issue of gay marriage.

Frankly, I would not have expected Libération to have addressed the issue any other way. French newspapers have different standards than American ones. Criticizing Libération for being something that it is not is a pointless exercise, though pointing out its biases to those unaware of the differences between American and European journalism is a necessary task.

My colleagues and I at GetReligion have written hundreds of articles detailing the creeping Europeanization of the American press — where the New York Times and other prominent media outlets engage in advocacy journalism. But unlike the French or British press, they do not admit to their biases. While I would not hold out the European model as the ideal, its unashamed partisanship does allow for a discussion of issues that would never be countenanced in the American press — gay marriage, race (and golf) is one such subject.

First published in GetReligion.

Probation for Episcopal Church’s Hip Hop Priest: Anglican Ink, February 9, 2013 February 9, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Crime, Hymnody/Liturgy, The Episcopal Church.
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A New Jersey court has sentenced the Episcopal Church’s “Hip-Hop” priest, the Rev. Timothy Holder, to two years’ probation for stealing more than $35,000 from his Atlantic City parish.

On 8 Feb 2013 Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson handed down the sentence to Mr. Holder (57) and ordered him to make restitution to his former parish, the Church of the Ascension. In December he pled guilty to third-degree theft by deception for writing checks on the church’s bank account while serving as rector between 2007 and 2009.

Before moving to the Church of the Ascension, Mr. Holder, who has been on administrative leave from his position as Associate Rector at Christ Church in Toms River, served as vicar of the South Bronx’s Trinity Episcopal Church of Morrisania, where he created the popular “Hip-Hop” services to serve the needs of the local community.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

A political puff piece on the Office of Faith-based Partnerships: Get Religion, February 8, 2013 February 9, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The New York Times has published a letter of reference for Joshua DuBois, President Barack Obama’s director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Unless I am much mistaken, the theme of  “White House Director of Faith-Based Office Is Leaving His Post” is to help the 30-year old Pentecostal minister launch his private sector career following his resignation from his White House post this week.

I would be hard pressed to describe the story on  page A17 of the 8 Feb 2013 New York edition as a news article. There is no balance, no curiosity, no context here. While political allies of DuBois sing his praises in the article, there is no voice questioning the wisdom of the transformation of the office to an adjunct to President Obama’s perpetual political campaign.

Let me say out the outset that I offer no criticism of Mr DuBois’ tenure at the White House. My concern is with the Times‘ coverage. The article opens with high praise, noting:

Mr. DuBois played a central role when Mr. Obama was making his first run for the presidency, cultivating relationships on his behalf with religious leaders of many faiths. Mr. DuBois, 30, has also served as an unofficial in-house pastor to Mr. Obama, sending the president an e-mail each morning with Bible passages intended to prompt reflection or prayer. At the prayer breakfast, the president called Mr. DuBois a “close friend of mine and yours” who “has been at my side — in work and in prayer — for years now.”

The article states that when President George W. Bush created the post in 2000, it “proved contentious because many critics said the office and its actions often violated the constitutional separation of church and state. But Mr. Obama preserved the office and appointed advisory councils that represented a broad range of religious leaders, including conservative evangelicals and openly gay ministers.”

The Times reports Mr. DuBois changed the focus of the Office from a White House-based agency that would help provide a level-playing field for religious groups in seeking federal social service grants to what Josh Good in the National Review called a community organizing focus.

Mr. DuBois, a black Pentecostal minister, steered the office toward engaging religious leaders to address broad social goals like reducing unwanted pregnancies, helping people cope with the economic downturn, encouraging fathers to take responsibility for their children and improving child and maternal health.

Two voices appear in the story: the omnipresent Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State who objects to the idea of a White House faith office and the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland:

a network of churches based in Longwood, Fla., [who] said that he observed significant changes in the faith-based office after Mr. Obama inherited it from Mr. Bush. “Before it was basically about which organizations got funded,” said Mr. Hunter, who served on the first faith-based advisory council appointed by Mr. Obama. He said that Mr. DuBois focused on connecting religious leaders with policy makers, adding, “What has resulted is this accessibility to policy conversations by faith communities that really wasn’t there before.”

An example of this change in orientation was Mr. DuBois’s bid to mobilize support amongst religious groups for the DREAM Act.

“This is a critical moment for the government, for our educational and military institutions, for the faith community, and most importantly for the young people all across our great nation,” says Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “Through the DREAM Act we are on the verge of bringing a greater degree of rationality and compassion to our nation’s immigration system and at the same time improving our economy as well.”

Among those participating in the DREAM Act conference call were the above mentioned Mr. Hunter, who told Charisma Magazine:

In terms of the larger immigration reform picture, Hunter says helping youth by passing the DREAM Act is the easiest and most sensible part of the challenge to address. As he sees it, it’s morally wrong to punish kids for something their parents did. The voice of any religion, he says, is to transfer people from the wrong path to the right one.

No voice is heard in this story that criticizes the transformation of the office into a political appendage of the administration to get out the vote, build coalitions and consensus among religious groups in support of its agenda. The National Review wrote about Mr. DuBois’ tenure:

The most marked departure from the Bush years is that the office has consistently tried to drum up overt support for the administration’s legislative priorities. It has done so in a way that I believe the press, and certainly Democrats, would have harshly criticized if the Bush administration had done it.

Tell me GetReligion readers, is this an example of cheer leading by the Times? Or do you see this as a fair account? Am I looking at this through partisan glasses, or are my criticisms that the story is a soft news puff piece correct? What say you?

First printed in GetReligion.

French icon vandalized at the Louvre: Anglican Ink, February 8, 2013 February 8, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Crime.
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The Louvre Museum in Paris today announced that it was temporarily closing its Louvre-Lens gallery after a visitor defaced Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People.

The French newspaper La Croix reported that on 7 Feb 2013 a 28 year old woman drew on the La Liberté guidant le peuple before she was apprehended by other patrons.

Read it all at Anglican Ink.

Ugandan bishop arrested in anti-corruption protest: Anglican Ink, February 7, 2013 February 8, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of the Province of Uganda, Corruption.
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A retired Ugandan bishop was arrested this week, accused of disturbing the peace and unlawful assembly for handing out pamphlets denouncing government corruption.

On 4 Feb 2013, Dr. Zac Niringiye, the former Assistant Bishop of Kampala, and seven other democracy activists were arrested by police at Makere University as they handed out leaflets documenting that called for action to combat corruption. After bail was posted the bishop was released from custody but ordered to return for a hearing before a magistrate on 14 Feb.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Legal win for breakaway American diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 6. February 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina scored a significant victory in its fight with the national Episcopal Church last week after a South Carolina court issued a Temporary Restraining Order forbidding the national church and its allies in South Carolina from using the name, symbols or seal of the diocese.

The 23 Jan 2013 order handed down by Judge Diane Goodstein of the First Judicial Circuit Court blocked the national church from holding a rump meeting of the diocese on 26 January, forcing loyalists to gather as the “Episcopal Church in South Carolina” rather than the “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley noted that Judge Goodstein’s order had been “granted ex parte as a matter of urgency, and holds in place only until the Court can hear argument on a preliminary injunction pending trial of the matter” and will expire on 1 Feb 2013.

Mr. Haley stated that he expected the national church’s attorneys to offer a vigorous challenge to the TRO at the 1 Feb hearing. “But it would appear that the court has already found most, if not all, of the case against them,” he added.

On 4 Jan 2013 the trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and 15 congregations filed suit against the national church alleging that its agents had committed identity theft by using its name, symbols and seal and by holding out the Presiding Bishop the “steering committee” of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina as the lawful diocesan ecclesiastical authority.  The complaint further alleged the national church had slandered the title to diocesan and congregational property by stating it held an interest in all church property in South Carolina.

An amended complaint filed on 22 Jan, which added 16 additional congregations as plaintiffs, also asked for a TRO from the court.  In its request for the TRO the diocese alleged that at the loyalists special convention Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her supporters “intended to make unauthorized corporate changes” to the diocesan constitution and canons, thereby causing the diocese harm.

The diocese stated by this order: “The judge effectively prevents TEC, a voluntary association, and the parishes who support it, from claiming to own or operate the Diocese of South Carolina, an entity that it insists it owns but whose very existence predates The Episcopal Church.”

Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, who was elected at the special convention to lead those Episcopalians in South Carolina who would remain with the national church, told the Church of England Newspaper: “Our intention is to carry out our duties on behalf of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina when we meet at the special convention, and at the same time, we intend to continue to take care in using language which might be offensive to others.”

However others in the loyalist faction called the judge’s decision “bizarre” and suggested improper influence may have been used to sway her decision. The diocese’s lawsuit to protect its name and assets was “unprecedented”, “vindictive” and “mean spirit[ed]” it said, adding that Bishop Lawrence was unfit to serve in the Christian ministry and denounced the majority factions as being “the anti-gay diocese.”

The loyalist faction turned their ire on the judge as well. “Andrew Platte, an attorney for several of the plaintiff congregations and the PECDSC Incorporated, is a recent law clerk for Judge Goodstein and has taken a important role in the recent legal attacks on Episcopalians in the Diocese. He is an associate in the firm of Speights and Runyon, which played a significant role in convincing parishes in the Diocese that the Episcopal Church might be preparing to take their property away.”

Bishop vonRosenberg, however, took an irenic approach to the conflict.  Speaking to the State newspaper, the provisional bishop-designate for loyalists in South Carolina said there was hope for reconciliation. “While we have diverged at this point in history on our paths, one day those paths will converge once again,” the bishop said.

Cry for justice for Ceylon: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013, p 6. February 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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Shirani Bandaranayake

Sunday February 3rd will be a “day of lament” for Sri Lanka, the Bishop of Colombo told his clergy last week.

In a 23 Jan 2013 pastoral letter, Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey said “it is with a heavy heart that I write it, the reason being that in the past few days we have seen the complete collapse of the rule of law in our nation. We no longer appear to be a constitutional democracy.”

Sri Lanka’s government and the judiciary have been on a collision course since President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling party filed an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on 6 Nov 2012. Last month a parliamentary panel found her guilty of irregularities after she ruled that a bill submitted by the president’s younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, proposing an 80-billion rupee (£400 million) development budget must be approved by nine provincial councils.

“If the impeachment motion is passed in parliament in defiance of decisions of the country’s judiciary, it will signal a massive breakdown in the rule of law and checks and balances,” warned Sam Zarifi, the International Commission of Jurists Asia director.

However, a government spokesman told reporters in Colombo the chief justice had politicised the judiciary and her actions were “very unbecoming of a chief justice.”

Bishop Canagasabey disagreed. “The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject. This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person, or group of persons and exercised arbitrarily.”

“The breakdown of such accountability is a process that has been building up for the past several years. It has now climaxed in the recent events that have seen both the Executive and the Legislature disregarding the provisions of the very Constitution which they swore to uphold and defend, giving the appearance of a country ruled on the principle that ‘Might is Right’.”

The bishop said that warnings from the church and “civil society bodies repeatedly issued have been ignored. There is currently a climate of fear and helplessness, where people remain silent rather than speak out against rampant injustice, intimidation, violence and falsehoods.”

Bishop Canagasabey asked members of the diocese to fast and wear white clothing on 3 Feb 2013 as a sign of their prayers and “to grieve over the state of our country today.”

Anti-Semitism inquiry launched by Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 6 February 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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John Mann MP

The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (APPGAS) has launched an inquiry into electoral conduct in the U.K.

The member for Bassetlaw, John Mann (Lab.) the chairman of the APPGAS said the group would “investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of existing lines of responsibility and accountability in managing elections and specifically, charges of misconduct during elections with a particular focus on racism and discrimination.”

The member for Northeast Derbyshire, Natascha Engel (Lab), will chair the all-party inquiry. “I am convinced that in both learning from existing good practice and bringing new ideas to the fore we can change electoral conduct for the better. In doing so, we will give confidence to constituents, clarity to candidates and we will establish a British model of electoral best practice.”

The vice-chair of the group, the member for Ealing Central and Acton, Angie Bray (Cons.) said:Maintaining best practice in electoral conduct by preventing racist and anti-Semitic campaigning and literature is a crucial aspect in the fight against intolerance and I look forward to working with colleagues across many parties in both Houses to see how best we can join together to provide sensible solutions to these problems.”

Britain has come under criticism in recent months from Jewish leaders and civil rights activists for the growing culture of public anti-Semitism. The member for Bradford East, David Ward was disciplined by the Liberal Democrat Party last week after posting comments about Jews and Israel on his website to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Ward wrote he had “signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day” and describes Auschwitz as “the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history”.

But he added: “Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”

The comments have subsequently been taken down. A party spokesman told the Telegraph: “This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable.”

The inquiry will not be restricted to anti-Semitism, however, and “will focus on discrimination more broadly and is being supported by the APPGs on Equalities and Race & Community,” the announcement said.

Rape and religion in Israel: Get Religion, February 6, 2014 February 6, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Religion Reporting.
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Here’s a proposition for GetReligion readers: The quality of a news article should be measured not by how well it is written, but by how well it is read. The reporter’s task is to provide facts, context, and balanced interpretation of an event. However, if the reader is not able to grasp the meaning or context of a story the work, while being technically proficient, is unsuccessful as journalism.

The reader, then, is as important as the writer in the evaluation of merit. Unless the reader is able to bring a level of knowledge to the encounter to make the story intelligible, the article can be said to have failed. But where does the fault lie for this failure? In the reader or the writer?

A story in Tuesday’s English-language edition of Israel Today entitled “Rabbis suspected of hampering child rape case investigation” prompted these thoughts. Israel Today or Israel HaYom is Israel’s largest daily circulation newspaper. Written from a conservative perspective, it has about a quarter of the Israeli daily newspaper market share. Owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson the newspaper has an online edition that competes with the Jerusalem Post for the English-language Israel-centered news niche.

(Self-disclosure: I was a London correspondent for the JPost for a number of years, but have not written for them in sometime.) (N.b., the article in question is on the top right of the page above.)

The article begins:

Judea and Samaria District Police suspect their investigation into the rape of a 5-year-old girl in the ultra-Orthodox city of Modiin Illit is being deliberately hampered by rabbis who ordered all involved parties, including the victim’s parents, not to cooperate with police. As a result, police have still not identified a suspect.

The article describes what the police have learned so far about the rape of the girl by a “haredi youth, apparently from an established family in the city,” and states the child’s school teacher alerted the parents and took her to a hospital. However, the rape has not been reported to the police, who only learned of the attack after a reporter contacted them for details.

We then have these statements:

neither the school nor the parents filed a complaint with police out of fear that the city’s rabbis would ostracise them.

And …

When investigators began looking into the incident, they were met with a wall of silence. Those few who did agree to speak told police that the girl had been taken to the emergency room of a hospital in central Israel, but refused to divulge her details. The law requires hospitals to report sexual assaults, and investigators sought a court order to force the hospital to give them the victim’s details. But the presiding judge denied the request and ordered the investigators to find the parents and get permission from them first. However, police cannot contact the parents as they do not know the identity of the victim.

The article closes with a paragraph describing the frustration of the police.

Police in Modiin Illit have compiled enough information to deduce the neighborhood in which they believe the incident took place. They have questioned numerous people in the community, but those questioned claimed to not know anything about the event.

From a reporter’s perspective, this is a nicely done story. He has been able to unearth cover up of a sex crime ostensibly committed by the son of one of the town’s leading citizens. But I suspect most GetReligion readers will be unsatisfied with the story, asking themselves, “why would rabbis cover us such a crime?”

The New York Times has run several stories on this issue, focusing on the ostracization parents of abuse victims face from their communities. Unlike this Israel Today story, the Times addresses the religion ghost — the religious roots of the cover up — in this 2012 article.

Their communities, headed by dynastic leaders called rebbes, strive to preserve their centuries-old customs by resisting the contaminating influences of the outside world. While some ultra-Orthodox rabbis now argue that a child molester should be reported to the police, others strictly adhere to an ancient prohibition against mesirah, the turning in of a Jew to non-Jewish authorities, and consider publicly airing allegations against fellow Jews to be chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name.

This may be the situation in Brooklyn, but do the ultra-Orthodox of Israel consider their government to be non-Jewish? The question why the haredi do not cooperate with the police is not asked in this story. But, would not the original audience, an Israeli audience, know the answer to that question based upon the context of their culture and country?

Is this a failure, then of the writer or the reader? In today’s Morning Jolt newsletter, National Review Online’s Jim Geraghty raises the issue of reader/audience response in a discussion of political satire. He argues that satire works only with an informed audience, with readers who have a common intellectual culture. “Tying this back to my earlier point about satire,” he writes:

think of the times we’ve seen Jay Leno make a joke about some story that’s big on the political blogs or back in Washington, and the studio audience just titters nervously. They didn’t hear about the story, and so they don’t get the joke; Leno usually pivots back to “boy, Americans are getting so fat” jokes.

Is the joke bad, or is the audience ignorant? Geraghty criticizes Leno earlier in his piece for the quality of his work, comparing it unfavorably to his earlier work — as well as noting the decline of political humor from its heights twenty years ago.

Looking back to the 1980s and early 1990s, this meant Saturday Night Live, particularly Dennis Miller behind the anchor desk. Spy magazine. Jay Leno’s monologue when he was guest-hosting for Johnny Carson – believe it or not, kids, there was a time when Leno was funny and very, very news-oriented, instead of the increasingly-chubby guy phoning in fat jokes. …  To get the jokes, you had to know what they were about – which spurred me to look at what was going on in the news.

Just as Geraghty had to prepare to understand Dennis Miller or Jay Leno to “get the joke”, more should be expected of a reader to “get the news”. This is not to excuse poor quality, biased or unintelligent writing — but to say that the reader must bring something to the text in order to make it work as a news article.

In his 1961 book, An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis applies this argument to literature, arguing there are no bad books, only bad readers. He writes that rather than judging a book, and then defining bad taste as a liking for a bad book:

Let us make our distinction between readers or types of reading the basis, and our distinction between books the corollary. Let us try to discover how far it might be plausible to define a good book as a book which is read in one way, and a bad book as a book which is read in another.

Tell me, GetReligion readers, should this standard Lewis brought to literature be brought to your newspaper? For Lewis reading is an important aspect of our humanity.

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and I am never more myself than when I do.

Is it too much to expect that the best journalism act upon the soul in the same way as “great literature”? If so, does that not impose upon us, the reader, the same obligation?  What say you?

First printed at GetReligion.

Martial law in Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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President Muhammad Mursi of Egypt declared a “state of emergency” for Port Said, Ismailia and Suez this week, placing the cities and their surrounding provinces under martial law.

The imposition of a curfew and suspension of civil laws on 27 Jan 2013 comes in the wake of violent riots in Port Said and four days of demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahir Square, with protesters marking the second anniversary of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime with calls for the repeal of the country’s new Sharia-law based constitution.

“Egypt is passing through a difficult moment because of the anniversary of the 25 January 2011 Revolution and the hearing of the verdict of the Port Said Football Massacre,” the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt said. “Please pray for our beloved country Egypt as many have been injured or killed in the last days because of these demonstrations, and because the country is still in a time of transition.

Clashes between police and protesters over the weekend left at least 50 dead and hundreds injured Western news agencies have reported.  The political tensions in the capital were inflamed on Saturday after a court in Port Said sentenced to death 21 men for their part in a football riot.

On 1 Feb 2012 a riot erupted in the stands of Port Said Stadium at the close of an Egyptian premier league match between the Al-Masry and Al-Ahly soccer clubs. More than 1000 people were injured and 79 killed after Al-Masry fans stormed the pitch after their 3-1 victory over Al-Ahly. The Al-Masry fans attacked the opposing side’s players and fans.

The 26 Jan 2013 death sentences sparked riots in Port Said and escalated to street battles between the security services and demonstrators.  In a nationally televised address on Sunday President Mursi said the Port Said rioters were counter revolutionaries. He had imposed martial law to prevent further violence.

“There is no room for hesitation, so that everybody knows the institution of the state is capable of protecting the citizens,” he said. “If I see that the homeland and its children are in danger, I will be forced to do more than that. For the sake of Egypt, I will.”

Hopes for a democratic transformation of Egypt following the fall of the Mubarak regime have been dashed, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports with the  same “brutal tactics being employed against pro-democracy protestors by the previous military” being used by the current regime to “enforce the status quo.”

The Christian community has also fared badly from the “Arab Spring”.  Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said: “The uprising in Tahrir Square on 25 Jan 2011 inspired the world as it saw Egyptians standing side-by-side in an effort to reclaim their national identity. There was hope for a new Egypt, one that could offer its people the freedom and responsibility of equal citizenship while no longer focusing on their religious or political stance.”

“It is unfortunate however, that two years down the line we have not seen sufficient signs of this transformation, and we still witness the marginalisation and alienation of many, Christians and Muslims alike, within Egyptian society, while repeatedly witnessing others committing crimes and not being brought to justice,” the bishop said.

Archbishop Adetiloye a foe of idolatry and corruption: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

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Spiritual and material corruption was eating away at the hearts of the Christian Churches of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said last week, warning that the failure of Church leaders to live up to their callings was emblematic of the failure of Nigerian civil society.

In his eulogy for the late Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye on 25 Jan 2013 at St Paul’s Church in Odo-Owa in Ekiti State, Archbishop Okoh told the mourners: “We are not here to help Archbishop Adetiloye but to help ourselves to see if we can realign with God and make a meaning of our life.”

Taking as his text 2 Timothy 4:7-8, the archbishop lambasted Prosperity Gospel preachers who taught false doctrine and used their ministries to enrich themselves.  “The church today is highly criticised because many of us who profess Christ are very poor images of Christ,” the archbishop said.

“It is a pity that we have become slaves to money; we have lost our dear moral values in the name of getting money,” he said, noting “teaching now centres around quick money, quick riches, and selfishness in the service of God.  People don’t want to serve, but to get reach quick through miracles,” he said.

The archbishop added that “rather than worshiping God, today most Christians worship money, and some other gods that are of no benefit to the growing of the Gospel and the spread of evangelism.”

The pursuit of wealth had even led to some Christians to “idol worshiping in the name of cultural reawakening,” he said.

The late Archbishop Adetiloye had lived an exemplary private life, Archbishop Okoh and had dedicated his ministry to growing the church and combating the infusion of pagan practices and secret societies into the life of the church.  Archbishop Adetiloye “waged war against augmenting the power of God with some other powers.”

Nigeria needed more men like Archbishop Adetiloye — a “courageous prophet of the church who was not afraid to speak the truth to the authorities and stood firm in it,” Archbishop Okoh said.

Voter apathy is the death of democracy Bahamian bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Gambling.
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The democratic process is more important to civil society than the outcome of any election, the Anglican Bishop in Nassau said on Sunday, as he urged Bahamians to go to the polls this week and make their voice heard in the country’s gambling referendum. The Rt. Rev. Laish Boyd, Bishop of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands, said that while the church opposed gambling, it would not tell people how to vote.

“At this junction it is not important to focus on who will vote ‘yes’ and who will note ‘no’, since persons are entitled to their considered position on the subject, and since people will form and hold their own opinions,” the bishop said.

The “issue now is citizen participation,” Bishop Boyd said. “I call on every registered voter to go out and to vote on Monday, January 28.”

Tourists are permitted to gamble in the island’s casinos, but no legal form of gambling is allowed for Bahamians. However, an illegal but widespread lottery known as the numbers or policy is popular across the islands. A common form of gambling in urban America before the legalization of state lotteries, in the numbers game a gambler places a bet with a bookie in a betting parlor (most often bars, barbershops and other semi-public venues)  hoping to select the winning three digit number drawn at random.

The bishop said the diocese “does not support the legalization of the numbers business. This remains our position since stated publicly in 2010 and before that.”

But he was also concerned about voter apathy. “Some people have concluded that they will stay out of the process,” Bishop Boyd said. “This is wrong because your vote is important.”

“We are blessed in this country with many freedoms, e.g., freedom of religion, association and expression, the freedom to hold and to express different opinions and the privilege of free and fair elections,” the bishop said.

“Make sure you fulfill your national responsibility by casting your ballot in the referendum.”

While a few prominent pastors have called for the legalization of the numbers game, the Bahamian Christian Council has urged the country to vote “no” to the proposal that supporters say would raise revenue for the government and take the numbers game out of the hands of criminals. Church leaders, including Bishop Boyd, have urged voters to say “no”, saying the financial rewards to the state of gambling are outweighed by the social and moral costs it imposes on the people.

Skeletal remains identified as those of Richard III: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2013, p 5. February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Scientists have identified a skeleton with battle wounds and curvature of the spine unearthed at an archaeological dig in Leicester the lost remains of Richard III.

It is “beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars on September 12th [2012] is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England,” Dr. Richard Buckley told a 4 Feb 2013 press conference.

The last of the Plantagenet kings, Richard III (1452-1485) ruled for two years until his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485.  After the battle he was interred in Grey Friars Church in in Leicester, but the location of the church and the grave were lost over time.

The modern hunt for Richard III’s final resting place began last August, when a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Buckley began excavating a Leicester City Council parking lot, the reputed location of the lost church.

Last year the University reported that it had “exhumed one fully articulated skeleton” in what was believed to have been the Choir of Grey Friars church. The skeleton “appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull which appears consistent with, although not certainly caused by, an injury received in battle. A bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull,” said Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University at a 12 Sept 2012 press conference, adding that a “barbed iron arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back.”

The skeleton should signs of “severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance.”

Unlike Shakespeare’s Richard III, “the man did not have the feature sometimes inappropriately known as a ‘hunchback’ and did not have a ‘withered arm’,” said Mr. Taylor.

At this week’s press conference, University of Leicester scientists reported that DNA and forensic evidence established the skeleton was that of Richard III. Dr. Jo Appleby stated the physical evidence was consistent with the historical accounts of Richard III.  The skeleton was of a man aged from his late 20’s to late 30’s with a slight feminine build and a curved spine. Ten wounds were inflicted at the time of death or shortly thereafter.  Death was likely caused by one of two sword strokes to the base of the skull, she said.

Geneticist Dr. Turi King stated that DNA extracted from a tooth of the skeleton was compared to that of Michael Ibsen, a Canadian who is a direct descendent of Richard’s sister Anne of York.  The DNA sequence of Mr. Ibsen and that of the man buried in Gray Friars Church showed they belonged to the same family, Dr. King reported.  The physical evidence, DNA results and archeological evidence all pointed to the body being that of Richard, the team concluded.

Sir Peter Soulsby, the mayor of Leicester, told the conference the remains will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral.

“On behalf of the Bishop and Acting Dean of Leicester I want to say how very thrilled we are to be part of this amazing day. We are delighted with today’s news. We at the Cathedral and Diocese share in the pride of serving such a great city as ours which still has the capacity to reveal such incredible stories,” Canon David Monteith said.

“I can confirm that the Cathedral have now received letters from both the City Council and Leicester University to further enact the requirements of the Licence which led to the exhumation of these human remains. This is a momentous day for our city and nation. We will now formally begin preparations and plans at Leicester Cathedral for an interment.”

“Meanwhile we will be praying that through God’s love, King Richard III with all the departed may rest in peace and rise in glory,” he said in a statement posted to the diocesan website.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The New York Times’ Conservative love affair: Get Religion, February 4, 2013 February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The New York Times may not love American conservatives, but they are certainly enamored with a British one, David Cameron. His push to introduce gay marriage in England, over the objections of the rank and file members of his party, has the paper swooning.

There does not seem to be a way to keep gay issues or advocacy out of the New York Times. The Gray Lady finds this angle in just about any story. Today’s example comes in an article that combines the news of the confirmation of election of the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby with the first vote in Parliament on the government’s gay marriage bill.

Unfortunately the article tries a little too hard to link these stories. Combining the two events may have seemed a good idea to an editor not familiar with the issues, but it does not work as a single piece. “New Archbishop of Canterbury Takes Office” has some factual errors, faulty assumptions, insufficient context and a lack of balance.

The article begins:

On the eve of a divisive vote in Parliament on the legalization of same-sex marriage, Justin Welby, the former bishop of Durham, on Monday took over formally as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, saying he shares the Church of England’s opposition to marriage among people of the same gender.

The lede is fairly straight forward, but I wondered why the author tortured the opening with such strained language — “marriage of people of the same gender”. Have I missed a new style directive to mimic “people of color” when describing gay issues?

And, how many Anglicans are there? The New York Times says 77 million. In the interview cited later in the story, the archbishop says 80 million — which includes 20 odd million Englishmen and women (when only a tenth of that number attend services). What is the source for this number? But I digress.

The article notes the new archbishop took office today replacing Dr. Rowan Williams, and then moves to a post-ceremony interview.

In an interview broadcast on the BBC after his inauguration, the new archbishop said he was not on a “collision course” with the government. But he endorsed the traditional view that while the church has no objection to civil partnerships between people of the same gender, it is, as a recent church statement put it, “committed to the traditional understanding of the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

This paragraph also struck me as odd. Not for what it reports about the new archbishop’s sentiments, but in its report of who reported what. The BBC story did not have the “collision course” phrase. That appears in an ITV story. The story broadcast by the BBC I saw cut the “collision course” phrase, while ITV ran the segment uncut. Perhaps there was a second BBC story that used the quote? I do not know. The Religion News Service printed at the Huffington Post account of the ceremony made this mistake as well, but it embedded both videos — BBC and ITV — with their story.

The article then moves to commentary.

His stance did not come as a surprise since he had made it clear at the time of his appointment in November, but the timing of his remarks was certain play into both the political and the ecclesiastical debate about the issue. The church has long been locked in debate over gender issues, including the consecration of female and gay bishops and same-sex marriage.

Now I understand the language of the lede — gender is the plat du jour for the Times allowing it to link the women bishops vote to the same-sex marriage vote in Parliament. (Wait, it is now same-sex marriage by paragraph six.) The article notes:

In December, the church voted narrowly to reject the notion of female bishops, despite support from senior clerics including Archbishop Welby. In January, the church followed up with a ruling admitting openly gay priests in civil partnerships to its ranks, provided that, unlike heterosexual bishops, they remained celibate.

Some more mistakes here. The women bishop’s vote took place in November, not December 2012. Clergy were permitted to register gay civil partnerships in 2005 not in January 2013. A condition of their being allowed to register these domestic partnerships was that they be celibate. Clergy may be “openly gay”, whatever that means, but may not engage in sexual relations outside of marriage (marriage being defined as being between a man and a woman). The question of how rigorously this is enforced is a separate matter.

In December 2012 the House of Bishops ended a ban imposed in 2011 that forbade clergy who had entered into a civil partnership from becoming a bishop. Heterosexuals may not contract civil partnerships in Britain, so the analogy offered by the Times is inexact. However all bishops — heterosexual and homosexual — who are unmarried must be celibate also. There have been homosexual bishops for quite some time — by homosexual I mean men whose dominant sexual attractions are to other men. However, these bishops do hold to the church’s teaching that to act upon these inclinations would be sinful, and are celibate.

Using the pivot of homosexuality, the article then moves to the House of Commons.

Parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage that has been championed by Prime Minster David Cameron. The issue, however, has inspired one of the most toxic and potentially embarrassing rebellions among Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party colleagues since he took office as the head of a coalition government in 2010.

British news reports have suggested that as many as 180 of the 303 Conservative Party members of Parliament might oppose Mr. Cameron or abstain from voting.

Here we have a “yes, but” situation. Yes, the Second Reading of the government’s bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and allow those in civil partnerships to convert them to marriages is set for tomorrow. However, the issue will not be decided tomorrow. Here is a link to Parliament’s web page describing what happens at a Second Reading. MPs will be given a chance to discuss the bill and vote on whether it should be sent to a committee or be kept before the House of Commons as a whole.

The leaders of the three main parties — Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour — support the bill. A vote to send it to committee where they appoint the members is a way to prevent the issue from being debated before Parliament as a whole. Voting to keep it before the House allows greater involvement from backbench MPs. There is an element of political gamesmanship here. While Labour is in favor of the bill, they are also in favor of allowing the Tories to do as much damage to themselves as possible. Keeping the bill before the whole House allows the Conservative rebels to give full voice to their displeasure with their party leader, weakening the prime minister.

The Times however quotes the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, but displays an acute lack of awareness of what really is going on.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Monday that he would be “voting for equal marriage in the House of Commons, and I’ll be doing so proudly.” He also said he would urge his 255 legislators in the 649-member body to vote with him. “I’ll be voting for equal marriage for a very simple reason: I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have,” Mr. Miliband said.

The Times neglects to mention the political calculus involved in the passage of the bill, which when it goes to committee is then subject to amendment before it goes to the House of Lords. If the Times wanted to tie the Church of England into this story more tightly it could have mentioned that all of the bishops who sit in the House of Lords will vote “no” and may offer wrecking amendments. And, Miliband’s urging his party’s MPs to vote for the bill is a recent change — Labour was going to make this a party line vote, requiring all its MPs to vote the same way, but senior leaders of that party refused to go along — changing Miliband’s song from must vote to should vote for gay marriage.

The article then closes out with two quotes from a government spokesman who dismisses the church’s objections to the bill — but offers no rejoinder from the Church of England, the Catholic Church (which by the way is also strongly opposed) or MPs who are opposed to the legislation.

So what do we have in this story. Minor points such as the BBC v. ITN. Larger mistakes such as dates of actions and the misstatement of actions. Omission of context and explanation — as written a casual reader would assume that gay marriage was about to be passed, when it has only just started its legislative journey. And a lack of balance coupled with the framing of the story in such a way as to make clear the Times‘ support for gay marriage.

Should we expect better of the Times? Is this story an example of carelessness or bias? What say you Get Religion readers?

First printed at GetReligion.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 64: February 3, 2013 February 4, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Church of England, Church of Nigeria, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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In this week’s episode of Anglican Unscripted your host discuss the adventure (misadventures) of Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori as she descended onto the city of Charleston last week. Allan Haley examines the legal details of the preemptive strike launched against TEC and Schori and how this battle was won. There is also much international news with stories on Egypt and Nigeria and no AU is complete without a story from Canterbury with Peter Ould – this time he talks about the coming wave of Same-Sex Marriage in England . Tweet #AU64 Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com

Mississippi diocese to offer gay blessings: Anglican Ink, February 2, 2013 February 3, 2013

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The Episcopal churches in Mississippi will be permitted to bless same-sex unions under a scheme put forward by Bishop Duncan M. Gray, III.

In his presidential address to the 186th annual meeting of the diocese on 1 Feb 2013, Bishop Gray said congregations could not offer gay marriages, and were not free to offer blessing of gay unions at will.

However congregational leaders “will be free to enter into a process of prayer and study on the matter. They will be asked to submit the design and results of their study and also to explain to the Bishop how the blessing of same gender unions would enhance the congregation’s missional efforts,” the diocesan website said.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

New York Times solves the problem of Sharia: Get Religion, February 1, 2013 February 2, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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This report on Thursday’s Cairo conference from the New York Times breaks the streak of great stories it has filed from Egypt over the past few months. Long on speculation and short on facts, “Rivals Across Egypt’s Political Spectrum Hold Rare Meeting, Urging Dialogue” on page A10 of the 1 Feb 2013 issue rambles on about what the Times thinks might happen rather than report what has happened. And, (I know you  will be surprised to hear this) the article omits the role religion and religious groups play in the news.

The background to this story is the clash between the Muslim Brotherhood aligned government of President Mohamed Mursi with moderate Muslims and secularist parties to the left, a split with salafist (even more hardline Islamist) parties to the right, coupled with the persecution of religious minorities — primarily Christians, but also Baha’is, Shia, and Ahmadiya Muslims.

The Times has done a great job in reporting on the unraveling of Egypt, but this article does not live up to the standard the Gray Lady has set in its reporting so far.

The article opens with:

With Egypt’s political elites warring and street violence taking on a life of its own, young revolutionaries on Thursday tried to step into the country’s leadership vacuum, organizing a rare meeting of political forces that, in Egypt’s polarized state, was a victory in itself.  The meeting, which included representatives of secular leftist and liberal groups as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, failed to resolve some of the most divisive issues facing the country, including whether Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, would agree to form a national unity government or amend the country’s newly approved constitution, as some opposition leaders have demanded.

The lede is framed in terms of a heroic attempt by “young revolutionaries” to bring the “warring” factions to the conference table, that must (alas) be deemed a noble failure as it did not achieve the immediate aims of “some opposition leaders” in forcing the president to change his government or revoke the new constitution. This political failure is coupled with a likely short term failure in halting the escalating violence in the streets.

Nor was there any assurance that the meeting’s principal call — to end the violence that has led to more than 50 deaths over the last week — would be heeded on the streets. Clashes during protests have become the latest polarizing issue in Egypt’s turbulent transition, with Mr. Morsi and members of his Muslim Brotherhood movement largely blaming shadowy instigators for the violence. Others, though, have faulted the country’s poorly trained security forces for a persistently heavy-handed response to protests.

The article then identifies the “organizers” of the meeting as:

a leader of the April 6th youth movement, three Brotherhood defectors and Wael Ghonim, a former Google executive who played a prominent role in the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. Group members said they met several days ago, “to look into ways of leading Egypt out of the crisis and to warn against the threats of being dragged into a cycle of violence.”

And it notes that leaders of the secularist National Salvation Front were present at the meeting along with senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders. A comment is offered by the leader of the National Salvation Front, Mohamed ElBaradei expressing boilerplate optimism, before the story moves back into a discussion of the parlous political state of the country.

At this point we get some hint that something else may be going on:

In another display of high-level concern, the talks on Thursday were held under the chairmanship of the country’s leading Muslim scholar, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of Al Azhar mosque and university.  After the meeting, he said that a national dialogue, “in which all the components of the Egyptian society participate without any exclusion” was “the only means to resolve any problems or disagreements.” He urged the participants to “commit to a peaceful competition for power” and to prohibit “all types of violence and coercion to achieve goals, demands and policies.”

And the story closes out with comments from a professor from Georgetown University who warns the situation is spiraling out of control. The problem with this story is that it downplays the role of Al-Azhar at the expense of the “young revolutionaries”, neglects to give details of the 10 point communique endorsed by the government and opposition, and omits the place of religious leaders in the negotiations.

A Reuters dispatch frames this same story in a very different way:

A leading Egyptian Islamic scholar brought together rival politicians on Thursday in a bid to ease a crisis that has triggered street violence, killing more than 50 people, saying dialogue was the only way to resolve differences. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the head of al-Azhar mosque and university, brought together members of the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group that propelled President Mohamed Morsi to power – with the president’s most vocal opponents, including liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei.

The emphasis in this story is the unprecedented intervention by the religious establishment into the political arena — bringing the parties to the negotiating table. The document signed by the participants was prepared by the “young revolutionaries” but it was the al-Azhar that provided the political clout to get everyone round the same table.

Egypt’s State Information Service opened its report in this way:

Political, partisan, and religious powers Thursday 31/01/2013 agreed on an al-Azhar document rejecting violence and encouraging dialogue. The document was proposed by revolution youths and drafted by al-Azhar in cooperation with all political powers that also agreed on forming a panel to draw up foundations and topics of the dialogue to restore security and stability to Egypt.

Note the reference here to “religious powers”. This can be seen again at the close of the government press bulletin which states:

Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Baradei stressed the need to renounce violence and achieve consensus among all political groups, with the involvement of Al-Azhar and the Church, to resolve disputes peacefully.

Reading these reports with a careful eye you can see the religious angle grow from being a venue for the New York Times to the convener of the meeting for Reuters and the Egyptian SIS, with the added mention of “Church”. And if you delve even further into this story in the Arabic press you will learn the Nour Party — Salafists to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood — have also called for a national unity government.

And you can read the ten point communique that renounces violence “in all its forms and manifestations” and respects the dignity of all Egyptians irrespective of religion or political views. The document calls upon the state to protect the lives of its all citizens, respect the human and legal rights of all Egyptians, and observe the distinction between legitimate political protest and treason. All parties agreed to refrain from and denounce the destruction of public and private property, honor the rights of all Egyptians for free and unfettered speech, worship and belief and engage in a national dialogue to resolve the political disputes dividing the country.

The problem then with the Times report is that it leaves out news that this meeting was not just a bilateral pow-wow between Mursi and his opponents on the left, but a meeting that brought to the table salafists, secularists, moderate Muslims, Nassirites, non-believers, and Christians. The meeting also sought to address the problem of Egypt’s growing religious intolerance — the persecution of Christians, minority religious groups and non-believers.

I must admit to having inside knowledge — the Anglican Bishop of Egypt was a participant in the talks (he is the fellow in the purple cassock in the foreground of the photo of the meeting posted above). Yet the role religion played in this meeting was not conveyed to me via the secret decoder ring supplied to the fraternity of right thinking Anglicans across the globe (we’re like Freemasons but dress better) — this angle was prominent in the domestic coverage, but failed to make its way across the Atlantic to the New York Times.

Why? Could the reporters or editors be cutting down the story for space? Could they be removing the bits that would not be of interest to the Times’ readers, or do not conform to the world view of the Times‘ editorial board? Whatever the cause this story is defective — and I’m sorry to say that the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian State Information Service, even with its problematic English syntax, did a better job with this story than the Gray Lady.

This article also neglects to ask the question why? Why is Egypt on the brink of anarchy? Many factors are at work — a collapsing economy, over population, food shortages, unrealized expectations in the wake of the fall of Mubarak. But the catalyst for the on-going political disputes is the imposition of a Sharia-law based constitution, with all that entails for moderate Muslims and non-Muslims. The Times appears shy of addressing this point, of confronting the issue of Sharia law.

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, how does the Times solve a problem like Sharia? They ignore it.

First printed in Get Religion.

Bishop of Liverpool to step down in August: The Church of England Newspaper, January 28, 2013 February 1, 2013

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The Queen has accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Liverpool. In a 28 Jan 2013 letter to his diocese, Bishop James Jones reported that he will retire from office on his 65th birthday this coming August.

While he was sad to leave the diocese after 15 years of service as bishop, it was with a “prayerful sense of rightness” that he step down Bishop Jones wrote.

“Throughout my time in Liverpool I have found the willingness of the parishes in the Diocese to rethink and to reshape our common life for the service of others has been inspiring. Our Diocese is growing and there is still huge opportunity locally to make a difference to our communities with the Gospel of Christ.”

“It has been a privilege as Bishop to serve the wider community not least in chairing the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The Diocese has recognised the rightness of me doing this which has given me great strength. The way the families and survivors have received the Panel’s report and the way truth is now opening up the path to justice affirms the worth of the Panel’s work,” the bishop wrote.

The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt. Rev. Richard Blackburn, will lead the diocese pending the appointment of a new bishop, he said. Bishop Blackburn stated the diocese had been “enormously blessed by his gifts and energy. I shall miss him as a wise colleague and a true Father in God”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly praised Bishop Jones’ ecumenical and pastoral work. “James was for me a Father in God, priest through, with and in Our Lord, and a bearer of the consolation who is the Holy Spirit,” the archbishop wrote following the announcement.

Bishop Jones will move to Yorkshire in his retirement, but will remain as adviser to the Home Secretary on Hillsborough, continue to write and broadcast and will be involved in a number of other national projects, the diocesan announcement said.

Al-Azhar meeting to head off civil war in Egypt: Anglican Ink, February 1, 2013 February 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Politics.
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Egypt’s warring political factions sat down with the country’s religious leaders on Thursday and endorsed a joint declaration pledging an end to the political violence that has left over sixty dead in the past week.

On 31 Jan 2013, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar University and the country’s leading Islamic scholar, convened a meeting of top officials of President Mohammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood party and the secularist opposition. Egypt’s leading religious and social leaders including the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis, attended the conference at the 1000-year old university in Cairo in a bid to halt Egypt’s slide toward anarchy.

Sheikh al-Tayyeb told the politicians that a national conversation “in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion, is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences.”

“Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law,” the sheikh said, according to Egyptian press accounts.

The unprecedented intervention by the al-Azhar follows two weeks of political tensions in the wake of the second anniversary of the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Last week President Mursi declared a “state of emergency” for Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, placing them under martial law.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Conservative Anglicans applaud recognition of Free Church orders: Anglican Ink, February 1, 2013 February 1, 2013

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Conservative Anglican leaders have welcomed the Church of England’s decision to recognize the validity of the orders of the Free Church of England. The 28 Jan 2013 announcement allows the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to license clergy from the Free Church for service in the Church of England without first re-ordaining them.

The recognition follows three years of contact between the bishops of the Free Church, the Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England.  Upon the recommendation of the Faith and Order Commission, the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops endorsed the recommendation leading to this week’s announcement the Archbishops of Canterbury and York had recognized the Free Church orders under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. The Measure gives the Archbishops authority to determine whether the Orders of any Church are ‘recognised and accepted’ by the Church of England.

The Times of London reported that women clergy activists denounced the move calling it a step backwards as the calvinistic Free Church does not ordain women to the ministry.

However, Dr. Gerald Bray of the Latimer Trust in Cambridge told Anglican Ink …

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

TEC attorneys will not contest South Carolina restraining order: Anglican Ink, January 31, 2013 January 31, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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A South Carolina court has made permanent the temporary restraining order entered on 23 Jan 2013 in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina case.  On 31 Jan 2013 Judge Diane Goodstein issued a Temporary Injunction that supplanted her Temporary Restraining Order which forbade any person or entity from claiming to be or using the name, symbols and seal of the diocese save for Bishop Mark Lawrence and the officers of the diocese.

Attorneys for the Episcopal Church declined to contest the TRO at the hearing scheduled for 1 Feb 2013.  The Temporary Injunction will stand until the litigation is concluded, however, either party may petition the court to modify or remove the ban.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Sahara seige highlights plight of Algeria’s Christians: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013 p 1. January 31, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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Last week’s attack by Islamic militants on a natural gas refinery in the Sahara desert underscores the precarious plight of Algeria’s Christian population, church leaders in North Africa tell The Church of England Newspaper.

Anti-conversion laws coupled with after effects of the civil war between the state and Islamist extremists that left an estimated 100,000 dead during the 1990’s have made the public profession of the Christian faith dangerous. But over the past twenty five years the rate of conversions from Islam to Christianity has grown sharply, especially among the Berber people in the Kabylie region, sources in North African report.

No official statistics on the number of Christian converts are published by the state, however the missionary St. Francis Magazine in its December 2006 issue estimated the numbers being anywhere from 7,000 to 100,000.

Last week, the “Masked Brigade” a militant group linked to al Qaeda founded by Algerian terrorist Moktar Belmoktar seized the Ain Amenas refinery in the Sahara desert owned by the state oil company Sonatrach and operated by BP and Norway’s Statoil.

Communications Minister Mohamed Said stated the militants had demanded the release of jailed comrades and a ransom. However, they also planned to “blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages,” he said.

On 19 Jan 2013 Algerian Special Forces stormed the plant, ending the four day. The Algerian state news agency APS reported that 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers had been freed, while 32 terrorists and 23 hostages died over the course of the siege. Seven hostages were executed by the militants during the final assault as troops tried to free them.

However, the Associated Press reported the death toll was expected to rise as 25 additional bodies, many burnt beyond recognition, had been discovered by soldiers searching the plant for explosives after the battle.

The Foreign Office reported that three Britons had been killed in the siege and three more were missing. Twenty-two British oil workers were rescued and have been flown back to the UK, the foreign secretary reported.

The family of a Plymouth man, Allen McCloud, told the BBC they were “relieved” to learn he was safe, but had harsh words for BP and the government saying they had failed to keep the families informed. “The lack of information from all the relevant sources was very poor. We were kept up to date from friends who worked in the oil and gas industry and the news.”

The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Rev. John Ford told the BBC Mr. McCloud’s release was a “fantastic piece of news” but “it has come at the cost of so much harrowing experience of those who were also held and those who also died.”

Prime Minister David Cameron noted “people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events.”

But in a statement to the House of Commons, Mr. Cameron said: “We need to be absolutely clear whose fault this is. It is the terrorists who are responsible for this attack and for the loss of life. The action of these extremists can never be justified. We will be resolute in our determination to fight terrorism and to stand with the Algerian Government, who have paid a heavy price over many years fighting against a savage terrorist campaign.”

Sir Tony Baldry, the second church estates commissioner noted the attack had been well planned. He asked the prime minister, “Does that not emphasise the need for us to work collaboratively with our friends in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to share intelligence to try to ensure that such groups have the greatest possible difficulty in accessing weaponry and that, as far as is possible, they are denied access to the international banking system? The international community is quite rightly imposing sanctions on countries such as Iran, but we also need to do everything we can, through the intelligence services and otherwise, to frustrate such non-state actors in trying to perpetrate acts of hostility against us and others.”

The prime minister said Sir Tony was “absolutely right”, and that British policy was to create as “little space as possible for terrorist organisations” to form, “whether in the banking system or in the availability of safe havens.”

But while international attention is focused on al Qaeda, the daily lives of Algerian Christians remain difficult. The Anglican Chaplain in Algiers, the Rev. Hamdy Doud told CEN: “We praise God for giving Algeria a spirit of religious freedom and respect the other faith. They help Christians and even ex Muslims to worship freely.”

“But on the other hand the work of Christian evangelism is not allowed outside churches,” he added.

Other sources in the country note that the official tolerance of the Christian religion has not been translated into tolerance of local Christians. In 2004, Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdellah Ghlamallah denounced Christian proselytizing, warning that it could lead to bloodshed. Several weeks later, in an about-face, he said that proselytizing posed no danger, and that “everyone is free to convert to the religion he finds right for him,” the MEMRI news service reported.

On 17 April 2006, the daily L’Expression reported that during a visit to the city of Constantine, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said: “We will not accept our children being turned away from their religion to Christianity under the pretext of democracy,” and that “Algerians will not accept another religion aside from Islam.”

In 2008 Algeria passed an anti-conversion law calling for heavy fines and two-to five years imprisonment for anyone convicted of urging a Muslim to convert. The law has been used to jail Evangelical pastors and to close house churches that have come to the notice of the police.

The crackdown has been especially harsh in the Kebyle. Numbering some 6 million out of Algeria’s population of 32 million, the Berbers are a non-Arab people and were the original inhabitants of the country prior to the Arab invasions of the 7th century.

Missionary activity by the Roman Catholic White Fathers during the French colonial period produced only a handful of converts, but following the expulsion of missionaries in the early 1970’s an underground Protestant church began to take root with some mission groups placing the number of Christians at 100,000.

While there is debate over the scope of conversion to Christianity among the Berber people, the issue has sparked concern amongst Muslim and government leaders, and frequent newspaper comment. The Algerian daily El-Shourouq El-Yawmi gas denounced Christmas celebrations featuring the arrival of Santa Claus as a sign of the “Christianization” of the region and as “the death arriving from the West.”

New guidelines for Heritage Fund Lottery grants: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013 p 7. January 31, 2013

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Churches will now be able to apply for grant money from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to construct toilets, kitchens and other improvement projects to allow historic buildings to be more “user friendly” to the community.

On 24 Dec 2012, the HLF said it would invest £30million in 2013 to “to help breathe new life” into Britain’s historic churches. The into places of worship across the UK.  

The HLF said it was ending its Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme, replacing it with a Grants for Places of Worship programme. While priority would still be given for structural repairs, the new programme welcomes applications that “will improve the functionality of listed places of worship making them fit for the future. Works could include the provision of toilets and kitchens, improvements to heating or electrical systems and measures to improve energy efficiency which will enable these special buildings to be used as community spaces.”

Listed places of worship in the UK of all denominations and faiths are eligible for grants from the HLF to support urgent repairs to the fabric of the building with a focus on projects costing less than £250,000. There is a two-stage application process with development funding available at Stage One to help work up proposals.  Under the new programme, applications can now be submitted for new capital works but these costs should cost no more than around 15 per cent of the total overall budget.

Established in 1994, the HLF grant in aid programme has invested more than £400million in over 3,700 places of worship across Britain and Northern Ireland.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, welcomed the new guidelines.  “I’m delighted that this vital programme for historic places of worship in urgent need of repair and improvement has been relaunched by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The new scheme responds clearly to the needs of 21st-century communities and puts important emphasis on extended use and sustainability.”

The Chief Executive of the HLF, Carole Souter, said the HLF knew that churches “need money for vital repairs, but we also know that much can be achieved with relatively modest investment to help these much-loved buildings reach out to new generations and become truly flexible places for communities to use in a wider variety of ways. Our new places of worship programme will help people to enjoy and revitalise these buildings, enabling them to become the bustling hubs they deserve to be for the future.”

Applications for assistance will be assessed four times a year, the HLF said, with the first application for assistance set for 28 Feb 2013 for England.

NHS exec to lead Welsh parochial reform commission: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013 p 7. January 31, 2013

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Helen Biggin

The Church in Wales has announced the formation of a committee tasked with reviewing proposals made by a commission chaired by Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, to reform the Welsh parochial system.

On 10 Jan 2013 the church announced that five mebers of the Governing Body, the church’s general synod, would “review the recommendations and the responses received to them, draw up a timetable of action, act as a liaison point and monitor progress.”

The director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, Helen Biggin, will chair the committee and will be joined by Bishop Andy John of Bangor, business consultant James Turner, market research professional Nigel King, and the Vicar of Haverfordwest the Rev. Paul Mackness on the committee.

On 14 Sept 2012 the Governing Body unanimously accepted a report for a commission chaired by Lord Harries that proposed an overhaul of the local organization of the church.

“The parish system is no longer sustainable,” Lord Harries said. “We have to radically rethink the way we look at our ministry, and begin with the concept of an area ministry.”

Amongst its 50 recommendations were the amalgamation of parishes into “ministry areas”; the employment of a full time youth worker in each archdeaconry;  “creative use” of church buildings to generate income and serve the wider community; training lay people for church leadership responsibilities; investing financial resources in youth work; adopting new forms of outreach akin to the Church of England’s “Fresh Expressions”; promote the doctrine of tithing; create three administrative centres to serve the church’s six diocese; reform the process for electing bishops; and designate the Diocese of Llandaff as the permanent archiepiscopal see of the Church in Wales.

Mrs. Biggin’s committee is to issue its first report to the February meeting of the Governing Body’s standing committee with a full report to be given to the next meeting of the Governing Body.

“This is a really exciting time for the Church in Wales,” Mrs. Biggin said, as the “Review Group has made some radical and challenging recommendations, which offer great opportunities. Together with an enthusiastic team, I am looking forward to helping meet these challenges and deliver the changes that will enable the Church to thrive as it serves communities throughout Wales.”

Crisis warning for care for the disabled: The Church of England Newspaper, January 24, 2013 January 31, 2013

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Britain’s social care services are in crisis, the Bishop of Carlisle has warned.

Speaking in support of the report The Other Care Crisis, published this week by Scope, Mencap, The National Autistic Society, Sense and Leonard Cheshire Disability, Bishop James Newcome said “the social care system is failing to meet the needs of disabled people of working age.”

He noted the reportdemonstrates how the social care system is failing to meet the needs of disabled people of working age.”

Much of the debate in government on social care policy had “centred on older people and the needs of an ageing population. But one-third of those who need care and support are under the age of 65, and the report shows how their lives have been affected by the care crisis.”

“Without support, disabled people find themselves unable to wash, dress, leave their house or communicate with others. This can leave them unable to work, study and contribute to society,” the bishop said, and “any solution to the current crisis must address their needs as well.”

Citing research from the London School of Economics, the charities have warned the government was underfunding social care support for the disabled under the age of 65 by £1.2 billion. They warned the social care system was “on the brink of collapse as a result of years of chronic underfunding by successive Governments” and that local councils were “in an impossible position of wanting to provide more support to the growing numbers of disabled people who require care, at a time when they are facing unprecedented cuts to their budgets.”

Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, stated “enough was enough.”

“This is shocking evidence of a system that has failed disabled people, effectively condemning them to a life without basic dignity and invisible to society. Times are tough for everyone but being able to eat, wash and leave your home is not a luxury. It is absolutely appalling that this is the sad reality of life for thousands of Britain’s disabled people,” he said.

Clare Pelham, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, added that “no-one in this day and age should be left without the help they need to take a bath or dress in the morning, and live an everyday life just like everyone else. This new research reveals for the first time how many people are living in the care ‘gap’ and it is a disgrace. No Government and no right-thinking person should allow this to continue in their street, their town, their country.”

The coalition government has not issued an official response to the report, but Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tyler of Enfield, has urged the government to act, notingFor the Liberal Democrats, putting social care on a sustainable footing would be a bold and lasting political legacy – and working age disabled people need to be at the heart of that debate.”

Continuing church priest arrested in Moscow: Anglican Ink, January 30, 2013 January 31, 2013

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A continuing Anglican priest has been arrested by customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, accused of smuggling cocaine into Russia.

State television broadcaster Rossiya 24 reported that Fr. Fabio Ricardo Rodriguez was arrested on 30 Jan 2013 after the priest’s behavior attracted the attention of Federal Drug Control Service officers.  After his arrival from Paris, Fr. Rodriguez appeared unwell and acted in a nervous manner.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.


No sex please, we’re Catholic: Get Religion, January 30, 2013 January 30, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Women Priests.
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The perils of re-writing another news outlet’s work were on full display this week in an article that appeared in the New York Daily News. Based upon a news story broadcast by Buffalo’s WGRZ-TV,Call him ‘The God Father’: Husband and dad will become Roman Catholic priest — and take vow of celibacy” reports that a former Episcopal priest who upon his re-ordination as a Catholic priest will begin a “sex-free life”, is filled with errors of fact and false assumptions about sacerdotal celibacy.

It is not clear at what point the errors entered into the food chain. Perhaps the subject of the story John Cornelius misspoke; perhaps WGRZ-TV misstated the quotes — or it may have be the fault of the Daily News. Whatever the reason, the only trustworthy fact that I would take away from this story is that former Episcopal priest John Cornelius will be re-ordained as a Roman Catholic priest on 26 Jan 2013. Beware of everything else.

Let’s start with the lede.

John Cornelius will be ordained a Roman Catholic priest this weekend — and with the blessing of his wife they’re giving up their sex life. Cornelius, a father of three, will become the first married Roman Catholic priest in New York — and Sharyl, his wife of 33-years, has agreed to the whole celibacy thing. “We have decided to do that voluntarily,” Cornelius told WGRZ-TV. “I have always had friends that are Roman Catholic priests and I appreciate what they’ve given up to serve God and the priesthood.”

The story continues:

Cornelius, 64, is a former Episcopalian priest who converted three years ago to Catholicism. He said his old church had gotten too liberal for him. “There was the ordination of the homosexual priest in New England,” he said. “Then it came time for women’s ordination. … It may have been okay for other people, but it was just too much for me.”The article reports Fr. Cornelius retired as an Episcopal priest in 2010 and “jumped at the chance after Pope Benedict issued a directive last year aimed at filling the depleted Catholic ranks with converted Episcopalian priests.”

It closes with the news that Fr. Cornelius will serve a “flock of other former Episcopalians at the Fellowship of Saint Alban” outside Rochester and speaks briefly of his faith journey. Let’s pick the low hanging fruit first and work towards the conceptual failures in this story. The chronology offered in the quote by Fr. Cornelius is incorrect.

Women priests were authorized in 1976 by the Episcopal Church (though a group had been illicitly ordained earlier). Non-closeted, non-celibate gay/lesbian clergy were first ordained in 1979 in New York city and by the early ’90s a number of dioceses were ordaining gay clergy. And the first “gay” Episcopal bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, was consecrated in New Hampshire in 2003. The chronology offered by Fr Cornelius is incorrect. And the suggestion that the Catholic Church is free from the controversies surrounding gay or women clergy is not so straight forward.

And no, John Cornelius will not be the first married RC priest in New York. That honor belongs to Fr. Scott Caton of the Diocese of Rochester who was ordained under the 1980 Pastoral Provision. Fr. Cornelius may be the first priest ordained in New York state for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

What is the difference between the pastoral provision and the ordinariate? The first has been around since 1980 and permits certain Protestant clergy who are married to be re-ordained as Catholic clergy. The second was created in 2011 as a home for Anglican communities (clergy and laity) who wish to seek full corporate unity with the Catholic church while retaining some Anglican liturgical forms and their own ecclesial structures.  The article does not do justice to these distinctions.

And, is it fair to say the re-ordination of ex-Episcopalians and Lutherans is a tool to fill the “depleted” ranks of the Catholic clergy?

And, is it fair  to say that by “giving up their sex life” Fr. Cornelius and his wife have “agreed to the whole celibacy thing”? Can abstinence from sexual relations with a spouse be considered celibacy — as understood by the Catholic Church? Is a “sex-free life” the definition of sacerdotal celibacy? Or is there a bit more to it than that?

The New Advent dictionary begins its definition of celibacy by writing:

Celibacy is the renunciation of marriage implicitly or explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders in any of the higher grades.

Are Fr. Cornelius and his wife practicing celibacy, abstinence or chastity? No questions are asked by the article about clerical celibacy, nor are comments or observations made by knowledgeable sources — a bishop, theologian, church spokesman, et al. Is this the norm for re-ordained Episcopal clergy? Is this renunciation of the marital state a spiritual discipline, a physical separation — what is going on here?

I don’t know. Do you?

Presiding Bishop denouces schismatics as terrorists and murderers: Anglican Ink, January 29, 2013 January 29, 2013

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A spokesman for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has denied suggestions that her sermon denouncing as terrorists and murderers those who did not share her views on the polity of the Episcopal Church was directed at Bishop Mark J. Lawrence or the members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Speaking to national church loyalists at a special convention held 26 Jan 2013 at Grace Church in Charleston, Bishop Jefferts Schori characterized her opponents as “wolves” and false shepherds.

She denounced the arbitrary use of power in church affairs, stating: “Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny, and corruption.  That’s why Jesus challenges us to think about how the shepherd acts.  The authentic ones don’t sneak over the wall in the dead of night.  They operate transparently, and they work cooperatively with the gate-keeper himself.”

The presiding bishop also shared a story of a glider pilot who had entered restricted airspace in South Carolina and found himself harassed by local officials – a situation not unlike the dispute between the diocese and the national church she observed.

“I tell you that story because it’s indicative of attitudes we’ve seen here and in many other places. Somebody decides he knows the law, and oversteps whatever authority he may have to dictate the fate of others who may in fact be obeying the law, and often a law for which this local tyrant is not the judge. It’s not too far from that kind of attitude to citizens’ militias deciding to patrol their towns or the Mexican border for unwelcome visitors. It’s not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage,” the presiding bishop said.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Ordinariate liturgical commission meets in London: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013, p 3. January 28, 2013

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The liturgical commission created by the Vatican to prepare a Catholic Book of Common Prayer for the Anglican Ordinariate met in London last week.

In 2012 the Vatican created the Subcommission on the Liturgy for the Anglican Ordinariates staffed by canon law experts, liturgists, and prelates.  The commission is to submit proposals in 2014 to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship on Anglican rites for the Eucharist, marriage, funerals and seasonal prayers that are in conformance to Catholic doctrine and discipline.

Shortly before the start of the 16-18 January 2013 meeting in London, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco – a member of the subcommission – told his diocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco there was “diversity among Anglican liturgies.  We’re trying to have a more unified form. They can always use the current form of the Roman Missal, but also they’ll have a more traditional form that’s Anglican.”

Last August, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter – the American branch of the ordinariate – stated the liturgy now in use was the “Book of Divine Worship Rite I”, while “those congregations that prefer a contemporary idiom, the Roman Missal 3rd edition could be used.”

However, the Latin mass was not to be used in ordinariate congregations. Clergy who “want to learn also how to celebrate” according to the traditional Latin mass were “certainly encouraged to do so” under the “supervision of the local bishop,” Msgr. Steenson said, so as to “assist in those stable communities that use the Extraordinary Form.”

The traditional Latin Mass, (the Extraordinary Form) “is not integral to the Anglican patrimony, it is not properly used in our communities,” he added.

Those elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony incorporated into the liturgical life of the Ordinariate sought to balance “two historic principles — that Christian prayer and proclamation should be offered in the vernacular and that the language of worship should be sacral,” Msgr. Steenson said.

Archbishop Cordileone said among the differences to be reconciled between the Anglican and Catholic liturgies were prayers said placement of the penitential rite before the offertory in the Anglican service and the use of “The Comfortable Words” recited by the priest or deacon to the congregation.

The archbishop added that within the Anglican Church there was a diversity of opinion over questions concerning the divinity of Christ, sexual morality and ordination.  “There weren’t Christians who, before the 1960s, didn’t believe Christ was divine, didn’t believe he rose bodily from the grave,” he said.

“It really wasn’t that much of an issue. Now that it has become, I think these more traditionally minded Anglicans lament that many of their fellow believers don’t hold to these traditional Christian beliefs and they see that the Catholic Church is. So they want to be in union with the Catholic Church because of those beliefs but they want to retain their Anglican worship and spirituality.”

Church of Ireland rejects abortion on demand: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013, p 3. January 28, 2013

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The Church of Ireland opposes abortion on demand, but believes exceptions based upon “undeniable medical necessity” should be permitted under law.

Last week the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Michael Jackson and Mr. Samuel Harper, Secretary of the Irish General Synod, testified before the Joint Committee on Health and Children of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) as part of three days of public hearings on the implementation of the Government decision following the publication of the Expert Group Report into matters relating to A, B & C v. Ireland.

The case of A, B & C v. Ireland before the European Court of Human Rights ECHR 2032 (2010) held there was no right for a women to have an abortion, although it held Ireland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide an accessible and effective procedure by which a woman can have established whether she qualified for a legal abortion under current Irish law.

In their prepared statement to the committee, the Church of Ireland leaders said they welcomed the government’s desire “to bring clarity” to the issue.

“This is a matter of almost indescribable complexity – both human and medical. We fully recognize that any decision which, in respect of a woman’s health, results in a termination is a terribly weighty one,” they said.

The Church of Ireland “stands with the notion of ‘real and substantial risk’ to the life of the mother in making decisions on terminations of pregnancies. Our statement flows from the Report of the Lambeth Conference 1958 which uses the similar phrase: ‘strict and undeniable medical necessity,’ as follows: ‘In the strongest terms, Christians reject the practice of induced abortion or infanticide, which involves the killing of a life already conceived (as well as a violation of the personality of the mother) save at the dictate of strict and undeniable medical necessity’.”

Following the hearing, Archbishop Jackson and Mr Harper said the “Church of Ireland opposes abortion but recognises that there are exceptional cases of strict and undeniable medical necessity. We believe the proposal to legislate and regulate in the area of abortion is overdue and welcome.

There was a variety of opinion within the Church of Ireland on what constituted “exceptional cases” they said, “but agreement that it includes circumstances where the continuation of the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.”

However, they stated the Church of Ireland “emphasises the right to life and this includes the equal right to life of the mother and of the unborn child.”

Finding gold in the religion reporting dross: Get Religion, January 25, 2013. January 26, 2013

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The newspaperman’s art of rubbishing someone, while appearing professional and even-handed was the principal object of my harrumphing in this week’s Issues Etc. podcast.  Host Todd Wilkin and I discussed two of my recent GetReligion posts concerning the BBC’s coverage of the anti-gay marriage march in Paris and the Sydney Morning Herald‘s coverage of the Australian government’s commitment to preserve religious freedoms for religious entities under a future Bill of Rights.

Todd opened the show with a question about media bias, asking how news organizations could spin stories to show their approval or disapprobation of a topic, while maintaining the appearance of fairness. I responded with an outline of my story about the game’s played by the BBC’s man in Paris, before turning to the hard left politics of the SMH.

To the casual listener the BBC’s report would appear measured, while the SMH’s story was over the top. But if one knew how the game was played — how to rubbish an issue, person or movement with selective polling, ridicule, framing the story against interests, omission of pertinent facts and context, unbalanced quotes and comments and misdirection of issues (asking questions not germane to a story) — it was quite clear the BBC took a hatchet to French anti-gay marriage marchers and sought to chop them down to size.

Twenty minutes later I came up for air, took a deep breath and my segment concluded. Radio appearances are a challenge. Television is easy. I am quick to pick up visual cues while I miss verbal ones. If I am going long or off topic on video I can usually tell by the expression on the host’s face or the frantic hand gestures of his producer (usually a hand passing rapidly across the throat then followed by outstretch hands with fingers splayed). This means five seconds or for God’s sake stop!

I don’t get that sort of feedback with radio. This leaves me worrying that my critique of the shortcomings of others comes off as  the Two-minute Daily Hate or priggishness.


An email from a listener to this episode of Issues Etc., brought this home.

I’m writing after listening to the broadcast on the BBC coverage with George Conger and am confused as to which media groups to trust.  I would like to ask your opinion as to what is a good source for news?  I am actually so discouraged in this regard, that I basically ignore secular media.

Thanks, Eric

Not all GetReligion columns are negative. Quite a number hold out a reporter’s work for applause — showing the craft at its best. I recently praised an AP story on Tibet as an example of great writing and reporting. But the majority of stories address problems with the media. And these criticisms prompt emails from readers asking who amongst the journalistic fraternity has not sinned?

All writers have fallen short. All have sinned. No one is perfect (though there are a few reporters who come close.) In answer to the question who then should a reader trust, they should trust themselves. Bring a critical eye to the reading of a newspaper story. Read some of the acknowledged great writers and reporters (if you have a literary turn start with George Orwell). In time you will be able to discern the good from the bad.

Second, there are no good or bad newspapers — tabloids and propaganda outlets excepted. A reader will find excellent reporting on the pages of the New York Times, Guardian and Le Figaro or in BBC broadcasts. And they will also be treated to some outrageous howlers. The more knowledge brought to a story by the reader, the easier it is to appreciate quality. In short, don’t give up on the mainstream press — just be aware that it is written by fallible human beings who when they make a mess of a story do so through ignorance and seldom through malice.

The third point I would commend to Eric is that when you read something you like, let the newspaper know. If an editor only sees letters from readers wanting more Paris Hilton stories, that is what he is going to push on his reporters. One of the mysteries of life is that people are very quick to complain but slow to praise. On this website the comments from readers on positive reviews are always a fraction of those of negative ones.

Write a letter to the editor when you see something well done — it will surprise the editor, be greatly appreciated by the author and encourage the publisher to invest in quality journalism. Be in conversation with a newspaper, magazine, blog or author — this dialogue improves their craft. Don’t be passive.

First printed in GetReligion.


Liberia cancels diocesan convention: Anglican Ink, January 21, 2013 January 25, 2013

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Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Jonathan Hart

The Bishop of Liberia, the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Hart, writes that diocese has cancelled its 83rd Diocesan Convention scheduled for 6 Feb 2013 in Harper, Maryland County in Liberia.

In a statement released by the diocese, Bishop Hart said a shortage of funds prevented the diocese from holding its convention.

Founded by freed American and West Indian slaves in the 1830’s, the Episcopal Church has had a presence in the country since 1836 and was part of the Episcopal Church until 1979, when it transferred to the Church of the Province of West Africa.

In 1980 the government of President William Tolbert was overthrown in a coup led by Sergeant Doe.  The coup ended the dominance of political and economic dominance of the Americo-Liberian minority – the descendants of the settlers of the 1830s who comprised only 5 per cent of the population – but ushered in a generation of turmoil.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Interview: Issues, Etc., January 22, 2013 January 25, 2013

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Here is a link to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 22 Jan 2013

4. The BBC’s Coverage of a Paris Marriage March & the Sydney Morning Herald’s Story “Anti-Gay Rights to Stay” – George Conger, 1/22/13

South Carolina loyalists defy ban on using diocesan name and shield: Anglican Ink, January 25, 2013 January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The loyalist faction within the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has unleashed a torrent of abuse against Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocesan leadership as well as Judge Diane Goodstein following her order of 23 Jan 2013 blocking them from using the name, symbols or seal of the diocese.

Compliance with the court’s order has also been spotty. On Wednesday, Bishop Charles vonRosenberg told Anglican Ink the loyalist group would comply with the court’s order, and a spokesman for the South Carolina steering committee, Holly Behre, told the Associated Press they would honor Judge Goodstein’s ruling and will adopt a name that will comply with the spirit of the court order until the matter is resolved.

However compliance with the Order, which went into effect at 5:11 pm on Wednesday has been slow. The group’s website www.episcopalofsc.org did not remove the shield or the claim to be the Episcopal Dicoese of South Carolina until later Thursday.

As of our going to press, the loyalists group’s fundraising site, scstewardship.com, continues to display the diocesan shield and holds itself out to be the true Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, in apparent disregard of Judge Goodstein’s order which stated in part: “No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Malicious prosecution warnings for Episcopal clergy: Anglican Ink, January 25, 2013 January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, Canon Law, The Episcopal Church.
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Michael Rehill

A bulk email offering assistance akin to a pre-paid legal services plan has refocused the Episcopal Church’s attention on flaws within the new Title IV Ecclesiastical Discipline canons.

A 17 January 2013 email from CanonLawyer, Inc., an organization set up by long-time General Convention deputy and the former chancellor of the Diocese of Newark, Michael Rehill, elicited a wave of chatter amongst the clergy of the Episcopal Church after it warned of the risks of malicious prosecution under the new code.

In the personally addressed email, Mr. Rehill states: “I am writing to you because you are a Member of the Clergy of the Episcopal Church, and you are at risk of facing a proceeding under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church.”

He states that “as a result of recent revisions to Title IV, many more Members of the Clergy are now facing ecclesiastical discipline,” adding “You need to be prepared before it happens to you.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

African outrage over civil partnership decision: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 7. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Howls of outrage and disbelief from the Anglican Churches of Africa and Asia have greeted last month’s decision by the House of Bishops to end the ban on clergy in gay civil partnerships from being appointed to the episcopate.

Archbishops representing a majority of the active members of the Anglican Communion have urged the Church of England to pull back, saying the bishops’ decision violates international Anglican accords, creates moral confusion over church doctrine and discipline, holds the church up to ridicule, and will provide Islamist extremists a further excuse to persecute Christian minorities.

The 12 Jan 2013 statement by the nine primates of the Global South Coalition follows critical responses from the Archbishops of Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.  Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said the bishops of his church had agreed to break with the Church of England should the English bishops’ decision be implemented.

“Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.”

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said the decision “to allow clergy in civil partnerships to be eligible to become Bishops is really no different from allowing gay Bishops.  This decision violates our Biblical faith and agreements within the Anglican Communion.”

The decision to permit partnered gay clergy to serve as bishops “only makes the brokenness of the Communion worse and is particularly disheartening coming from the Mother Church,” he argued.

The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr. Eliud Wabukala concurred, saying the announcement “will create further confusion about Anglican moral teaching and make restoring unity to the Communion an even greater challenge.”

The “proviso” that clergy in civil partnerships remain celibate is “clearly unworkable. It is common knowledge that active homosexuality on the part of Church of England clergy is invariably overlooked and in such circumstances it is very difficult to imagine anyone being brought to book,” the archbishop said on 6 Jan.

However, “the heart of the matter is not enforceability, but that bishops have a particular responsibility to be examples of godly living,” he argued.   “It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognised relationships which institutionalise and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of Scripture” and the teaching of the church.

“The weight of this moral teaching cannot be supported by a flimsy proviso,” Archbishop Wabukala said.

African objections were not to the appointment to the episcopate of men who had a same-sex sexual orientation, but to those clergy who had contracted a gay civil partnership being appointed to the episcopate. The proviso that such relationships were celibate only when they involved the clergy of the Church of England was preposterous, one African bishop explained.

The Global South archbishops added this decision was “wrong” and had been “taken without prior consultation or consensus with the rest of the Anglican Communion at a time when the Communion is still facing major challenges of disunity.”

“The Church, more than any time before, needs to stand firm for the faith once received from Jesus Christ through the Apostles and not yield to the pressures of the society,” the archbishops said.

Retired archbishop starts Yukon “street ministry”: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 6. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper.
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Old Log Rectory, Whitehorse, Yukon

On 13 January 2013 Archbishop Terry Buckle of British Columbia and the Yukon launched the “Street Hope Whitehorse” at a special service at Christ Church Cathedral in Whitehorse

The Bishop of the Yukon, the Rt. Rev. Larry Robertson, has given space to the street ministry in the town’s historic Old Log Rectory.  The rectory will serve as a base of operations for the volunteer team and will host twice weekly worship services.  The vision of the ministry, its website says, “is to reach out to people, ‘the up and out’ as well as ‘the down and out’ in a Holy Spirit enabled ministry of love and care.”

Archbishop Buckle explained they will be “reaching out to people on the streets, not just the down and out, but people, generally speaking, and merchants, just being a presence on the streets.”

“Since I’ve retired, I’ve given more thought and prayer to it and I really see a need of just going out and befriending people with acts of kindness and compassion,” Archbishop Buckle told the Whitehorse Star.

“We’re simply being there, and we can point people in right directions and help them where we can,” he said, adding “I just hope that in this whole approach to this kind of outreach ministry that people will sense the presence of God in their life and know the hope that our Lord gives and find the strength and help that they need to live out their lives.”

Sudanese bishop suspended: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 6. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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The Bishop of Yambio in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Rt Rev Peter Munde, has been placed on year’s administrative leave of absence.

On 28 December 2012 Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul stated Bishop Munde would be taking a sabbatical in Uganda for year. The decision to send the bishop away was taken to help defuse a split in the diocese that had seen a number of senior clergy withdraw from the church in protest at their bishop.

Archbishop Deng declined to state why the bishop had been sent on leave, but clergy sources in the Sudanese Church report the bishop had been accused of misappropriating funds, nepotism, and ordaining illiterates to the priesthood.

The Archbishop has appointed the Rev Samuel Borete as Vicar General for the diocese in the bishop’s absence and has asked the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Rev Justin Badi to exercise episcopal oversight for the coming year.

Diocese reviews plan to make redudant half its city parishes: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013, p 6. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Diocese of Newcastle (Australia) has begun a consultation on re-organizing the diocese, with one proposal making redundant nine of the city’s 15 Anglican churches.

A copy of the draft report leaked to the Newcastle Herald last month recommends closing the congregations due to falling attendance and rising costs.  Several of the congregations are in areas that have seen a shift in population with a flight to the suburbs.

Nine congregations would be closed, and the remaining seven reorganized into “tiers”. Tier-one churches are churches with a congregation of more than 450 and capable of sustaining a ministry and administration team, tier-two churches have a congregation of more than 250 people with two full-time staff and tier-three churches have more than 150 members and one staff member.

‘‘Churches falling below these benchmarks may not be sustainable in the longer term,’’ the report stated.  Only one parish, Christ Church Cathedral, with an average Sunday attendance of 250, would qualify as a tier one church under the scheme.

Selling redundant building and redeploying assets to serve middle class families with children was a more rational use of church assets, the report said. ‘‘The opportunity for the Deaneries lies in a consolidation of the wealth of resources to help tap into the emerging young professional class of families and couples.’’

However, the Assistance Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt. Rev. Peter Stuart, said the leak of the report was unfortunate as it gave the impression he proposals were diocesan policy. The report “does not represent the views of the Diocese but contains preliminary data which will be the subject of consultation in parishes beginning in January,’’ the bishop said.

In 2010 the diocese launched a five year plan to revitalize the diocese, updating the way it undertakes mission and ministry in the Twenty-first century.

Settlement reached in Episcopal misconduct cases: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 6. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Ecclesiastical Trials, Ecclesiology, Fort Worth, Quincy, The Episcopal Church.
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A settlement agreement has been reached in the disciplinary proceedings of 9 American bishops accused of misconduct for holding and propounding contrary views on church history and polity to those of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Last week representatives of the accusers: Bishops C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., and John Buchanan, met with representatives of the accused: Bishops Peter H. Beckwith, Maurice M. Benitez, John W. Howe, Paul E. Lambert, William H. Love, D. Bruce MacPherson, Daniel H. Martins, Edward L. Salmon, Jr, and James M. Stanton, three observers from the House of Bishops: Mary Gray-Reeves, Edward S. Little, Michael Milliken to sign a “conciliation” agreement.

The nine had been charged with fraud, financial misconduct, teaching false doctrine and failing to inform on their fellow bishops who held opinions on church order contrary to those advocated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  The form the misconduct took was in having endorsed an amicus brief filed in the Texas Supreme Court in the Diocese of Fort Worth case and signing an affidavit in the Diocese of Quincy case.

The text of the settlement agreement — mediated by Prof.  John Douglass of the University Of Richmond School of Law following a 8-9 Jan 2013 meeting — has not been released so far as it must be signed by all parties and received the imprimatur of Bishop Jefferts Schori.

A statement from the national church’s press office noted the proceedings were closed and no news bulletins would be released by the parties, however sources at the meeting report the final document is an “amicable” resolution to the dispute.

ACNA to review women’s orders: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 6 January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Women Priests.
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The College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has agreed to launch a Task Force examining the question of the Holy Orders of women clergy.  Meeting last week in Orlando, the ACNA bishops set down a five part protocol studying the question of women clergy in conjunction with the issues of Prayer Book reform, the creation of a Catechism for the church, and a review of its ecclesial structures.

In ordering their priorities, the bishops decided to begin with a study of Scripture and church traditions and them move to the creation of church policies.  One bishops told The Church of England Newspaper the ACNA bishops wanted to ground their actions in doctrine, rather than find a doctrine to support their actions.

The election and translation of five bishops were approved by the College of Bishops, while time was also spent seeking to heal the hurts caused by the break-up of the Anglican Mission in America last year.

The ACNA currently permits dioceses to ordain women to the diaconate and priesthood, but not to the episcopate.  However, Forward in Faith and the Anglo-Catholic Diocese of San Joaquin have urged the province to review its “two integrities” structure.

The bishops announced they had appointed a task force to study the doctrine of Holy Orders – not limiting their work to the question of women clergy – and would begin by with the Bible and then move to a study of doctrine and tradition.

At Phase 4 “the Task Force will discuss the arguments, pro and con, related to the ordination of women, considering the relevant Scriptural texts and historical arguments, and reviewing studies conducted within and without the Anglican tradition.”

The College of Bishops said that before final action is taken, their recommendations will be passed to the theological commission of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.  The conservative reform movement within the Anglican Communion is divided on the question of women clergy with Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda strongly in favor, while Singapore, Sydney and the Anglo-Catholic provinces of Africa are opposed.

A report on overlapping dioceses and episcopal jurisdictions was also presented to the College.  A communique from the meeting stated the ACNA sought to bring the church into conformity “with historic Anglican practice. The goal of the work is to organize each region for the long-term sustainability of the movement in recognizable, godly Anglican Church structures.”

The bishops received a map showing the location of each of the their 951 congregations, which enabled the bishops to identify “11 regions of overlapping mission work among the various jurisdictions of the Province.”

While no diocese or group was slated for elimination, the bishops’ communique stated the challenge of overlapping jurisdictions “will result in enhanced collaboration, responsive structures and ministry oversight, with better sharing of resources, clearer communication and more profound unity in the mission that we share.”

Is Christian Zionism off the radar for the NY Times?: Get Religion, January 24, 2013 January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Islam, Israel, Judaism.
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Comments given to an American church audience in 2011 by an Israeli rabbi, who stood for election this week to the Knesset on the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) ticket were a one-day wonder over the weekend in the Israeli press. Atlanta-native Jeremy Gimpel was lambasted by the liberal press in Israel for allegedly calling for the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim mosque built atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to be destroyed and replaced with a new Temple.

The controversy was also an example of the importance of fleshing out religious ghosts in a story. The American and Israeli press that picked up this issue focused on the political angle. If they had developed the religious elements of the story they would have turned a campaign “gotcha” story about one politician into a better story about the links between Christian Zionists in the U.S. and conservative religious political parties in Israel. Looking into the faith element would have made this a better political story.

Let’s run through the coverage first then ask the faith questions that were left unasked.

On Saturday Ha’aretz’s English language website ran a profile of Gimpel following a broadcast the previous day on Channel 2 of comments made by the rabbi in 2011 to a church in Florida.

The Times of Israel summarized the controversy this way:

Fending off a frenzy of political criticism over a 2011 speech in which he appeared to speak with relish of the theoretical prospect of the Dome of Rock being “blown up” and a new Jewish Temple being built in its stead, prospective MK Jeremy Gimpel claimed in a TV interview on Sunday that he had actually been telling a joke meant to “parody” the extremists who want to destroy the 1,300-year-old Muslim shrine.

Statements Gimpel has made in the past, examined by The Times of Israel, indeed show no record of him explicitly calling for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock. They do indicate that he considers the golden dome atop the Temple Mount an alien element which he wishes would be replaced by the third Jewish temple.

A candidate for the Orthodox, right-wing Jewish Home party, Gimpel also sports a long history of hard-line statements that would raise eyebrows in many circles in Israel and large parts of the Jewish world, including calling the Jewish outlook of non-Orthodox Jewish movements “nonsense” and questioning whether Israel is truly a democracy because it forbids freedom of Jewish worship on the Temple Mount.

The Israeli political left jumped on Gimpel, with former foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s  liberal Hatnua party calling for his disqualification from the election for allegedly having uttered hate speech. The Anti-Defamation League’s Israel office weighed in also, saying they were appalled a rabbi would condone terrorism, Forward reported.

The New York Times‘ Israel correspondent picked up the story and it appeared in Monday’s edition on page A9 under the headline: “Rightist Israeli Candidate’s Remarks Cause Stir”. I imagine the American angle — Gimpel is a dual Israeli-American citizen and the Florida setting of the speech — prompted the editors to give the story space. The Times‘ article repeated the basic facts of the story of the speech and fleshed out the Israeli political context. It also carried the incendiary quotes that raised the ire of the left.

During a November 2011 lecture about biblical prophecies at the Fellowship Church in Winter Springs, Fla., Jeremy Gimpel, who is now a Jewish Home candidate, told the audience: “Imagine today if the dome, the Golden Dome — I’m being recorded so I can’t say blown up — but let’s say the dome was blown up, right, and we laid the cornerstone of the temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine? I mean, none of you would be here, you’d all be like, I’m going to Israel, right? No one would be here. It would be incredible!”

After this mention of religion, the Times moves back into politics. This was unfortunate for if they had done some simple internet searching they would have learned some interesting things about the Florida church that calls into question Gimpel’s explanation.

A look through the website of the Fellowship Church in Winter Springs shows it to be a non-denominational Protestant Church that identifies itself as being part of the Christian Zionist movement. Among its outreach projects are the Temple Mount Faithful, whose mission according to its website is:

The goal of the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement is the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in our lifetime in accordance with the Word of G-d and all the Hebrew prophets and the liberation of the Temple Mount from Arab (Islamic) occupation so that it may be consecrated to the Name of G-d.

How credible is Gimpel’s explanation that he was making a joke that satirizes the views of those who want to destroy the Dome of the Rock and replace it with the Third Temple?

There are also questions that were left unasked as to what Gimpel meant when he told the Christian audience that if the Third Temple were rebuilt they would all “going to Israel.”

The question “why” a group of Central Florida Christians would go to Israel is not examined. Perhaps this statement from the Temple Mount Faithful website provides context for Gimpel’s words.

It is the view of the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful that the redemption will proceed in an orderly fashion according to G-d’s plan.

  • First is the foundation of the modern state of Israel and the miraculous victories that G-d gave the people of Israel in the wars against 22 Arab enemy states.
  • Second is the regathering of the people of Israel from all over the world to the Promised Land.
  • Third is the liberation and consecration of the Temple Mount and fourth is the building of the Third Temple.
  • The final step is the coming of the King of Israel, Messiah Ben David.

The existence of the state of Israel and the return of the people of G-d to the Promised Land is the biggest G-dly event and miracle in the history of mankind – ever. This was predicted by the prophets of Israel. We are calling all the nations to link arms in support of this people and the State of Israel to help her complete this process of redemption. We are not allowed to forget that the redemption of the people of Israel is a condition for the redemption of the earth. Also, we remember what G-d said over 4,000 years ago to Abraham, the father of the Israelites: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”.

The articles note that Gimpel states he was conducting a Bible study on prophecy — but again does not ask what prophecies and why they would be of interest to a non-Jewish audience? By not exploring the religious angle the Times is missing the story. Politicians say dumb things all the time. Leaving the story on that plane makes it old news the moment the it is printed. Exploring the faith angle opens up far more interesting and important questions.

Did the Times simply play follow my lead and not bother with the religion angle? Did they choose not to follow it, or just did not see it? And does the reason for the omission matter? Did ignoring the faith element in this political story leave this incomplete? What say you GetReligion readers?

First printed in GetReligion.

Abortion flap divides Zambian diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 7. January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa.
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The clergy and cathedral chapter of the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Ndola, have locked out Bishop Derek Kamukwamba of Central Zambia, accusing their bishop of misconduct.

Shortly before Christmas, the bishop found the door to his office at the Cathedral locked.  He was handed a copy of a letter written by the chapter to Archbishop Albert Chama of Central Africa calling for his resignation.  The letter accused the bishop of having unlawfully ordained his nephew to the diaconate over the objections of the congregation who had reservations about his fitness.

They accused the nephew, the Rev. Stubbs Kamukwamba, of having got with child an underage member of the cathedral youth group and then helping the mother procure an abortion. The objections were brought to Bishop Kamukwamba, but were ignored the chapter said.

The bishop has declined to comment on the allegations as the charges are under review by the province.

Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye of Nigeria dead at 82: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 7. January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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The man who oversaw the rapid growth of the Anglican Church in Nigeria that saw the West African church become the largest province in the Anglican Communion in the 1990’s has died. Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye died suddenly at his home on 14 Dec 2012, his family reports. He was 83.

Born on Christmas Day in 1929 on a small farm in Ekiti State, the future archbishop lost his father at the age of 3 and worked on the farm as a child to help support the family.  At the age of 8 he won a place at an Anglican mission school and began the training that led to his ordination as a priest and election as second Bishop of Ekiti in 1970.  In 1985 he was translated to Lagos and in 1988 he was elected the second Archbishop of Nigeria, retiring in 1999. At the 1998 Lambeth Conference Archbishop Adetiloye was the behind the scenes leader of the conservative coalition that codified the Anglican Communion’s views on human sexuality as expressed in Lambeth Resolution 1.10.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan observed: “Archbishop Adetiloye will be long remembered for his zeal and passion for evangelism and planting of churches and his interest in not only the spiritual life of church members but also their education, health and economic well-being.”

Former seminarian turns rebel leader in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 7. January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
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A former Anglican seminarian has emerged as the leader of a rebel militia in South Sudan allied with the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.

David Yau Yau, who attended theological college from 2004-2006 in Yei, has emerged as the head of rebel militia at war with South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM].

After being sent down from Emmanuel Christian College for failing to receive his Diploma in Theology, Yau Yau entered politics, but lost an election to the Jonglei State Assembly in April 2010 when South Sudan received its independence.  Yau Yau charged the vote was rigged and took his supporters into the bush.  The government offered Yau Yau a pardon in 2011 and a commission as a general in the SPLA.  However in April the South Sudan government announced Yau Yau had defected to Khartoum and had launched another rebellion in the Jonglei State.

Yau Yau’s former theological college principal, Bishop Ruben Akurdit Ngong of Bor Diocese, told the Sudan Tribune that as a seminarian, Yau Yau had asked for prayers to help his tribe, the “Murle to change their way of life.”

Now the champion of the Murle people had become their “enemy” the bishop said. “This self-promoted rebel general is killing people.”

Bill to give religious institutions presumptive charitable status presented to Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2013 January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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A Conservative MP has put forward a bill in Parliament seeking to expand religious freedom in Britain.

On 19 Dec 2012 Peter Bone, the member for Wellingborough, presented a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the House of Commons seeking leave to bring a bill to amend the Charities Act 2011 to “treat all religious institutions as charities”.

Writing on the Conservative Home website, Mr. Bone said the bill would clarify the law to give religious institutions a presumptive status as institutions providing a “public benefit”, therefore eligible for charitable status. The Charities Act 2006 introduced the requirement that all charities, including those advancing religion, education and the relief of poverty, should demonstrate public benefit.

The National Council for Voluntary Organizations, however, said it opposed Mr. Bone’s motion. It “risks downgrading religious charities in the public mind,” Elizabeth Chamberlain of the NCVO said. “Public benefit is what makes a charity a charity, and most are keen to demonstrate the value of their work.”

Mr. Bone said his motion would “not mean an automatic renewal of charitable status, but an acknowledgement of the role religious institutions play in our society.”

“The liberal, secular elite of the Charity Commission are on a very dangerous path of restricting religious freedom,” wrote the Conservative backbencher. “If this government truly believes in religious freedoms then respecting the advancement of religion as a public benefit should be acknowledged, as before, and the Charities Act 2011 amended.”

Mr. Bone cited the case of Preston Down Trust, a Plymouth Brethren congregation, as an example of the Charity Commission’s restricting religious freedom, after it declined to give the congregation charitable status.  On 18 Dec he delivered a letter signed by 113 MPs to 10 Downing Street to “express their deep concern at the Charity Commission’s current posture on registering religious institutions as charities.”

Bishop of Coventry joins House of Lords: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2013 January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
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The Rt. Rev. Christopher Cocksworth

The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Cocksworth joined the House of Lords this week.  On 15 January 2013 Dr. Cocksworth was introduced to the upper house by the Bishops of Birmingham and Exeter and becomes one of the 26 Lords Spiritual.

In a statement, Dr. Cocksworth said: “I greatly look forward to fulfilling the responsibilities of a member of the House of Lords and although my concern will be the good of the whole of society, I hope my contribution to the Lords will be of special value to the life of Coventry and Warwickshire.”

Court blocks loyalist convention for Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina: Anglican Ink, January 23, 2013 January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, South Carolina.
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Diane Goodstein

Judge Diane Goodstein

The First Judicial Circuit Court in South Carolina has issued a Temporary Restraining Order forbidding any “individual, organization, association or entity” from using the name, symbols or seal of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina – save for Bishop Mark J. Lawrence and the trustees of the diocese.

The 23 January 2013 order handed down by Judge Diane Goodstein effectively blocks the Episcopal Church and its allies from electing a bishop and standing committee for the minority faction loyal to the national church for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

However, canon lawyer Allan Haley notes the ruling does not prevent those in the diocese who wish to remain affiliated with the national Episcopal Church “from meeting, but they will have to adopt a different name.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Restraining Order filed against Episcopal Church in SC case: Anglican Ink, January 23, 2013 January 23, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The First Judicial Circuit Court in South Carolina has issued a Temporary Restraining Order banning Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her allies from using the name, symbols of identity of the “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

15 more parishes join lawsuit against the Episcopal Church January 23, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina reports that 15 further congregations have joined it in their 4 Jan 2013 lawsuit against the national Episcopal Church.

The 22 Jan statement reported that of the dioceses congregations, 31 had joined the lawsuit against the national church, 13 congregations were supporting Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocese against the national church but had not yet joined the litigation, nine missions and two parishes had not declared how they would act, while eight parishes and eight missions had indicated they would remain affiliated with the national Episcopal Church.

“We are saddened that legal action is necessary to protect our members from an organization that uses the threat of legal action as a cudgel to keep its parishes in line,” Bishop Lawrence said.

First printed in Anglican Ink.


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