Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yes, you too can "Knit your own Rowan"

Yes, now you too can knit your own Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, along with all the the other fine cast and characters of the upcoming Royal Wedding - including a corgi or two (or three).  Pour a cup of tea and put on your best Laura Ashley frock or your tophat and tails and watch:

Get your book from Amazon here.  Just don't tell Madame Defarge.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Did Facebook kill the Church?

From here:
Is the church of 2010 much different from the church of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, or '90s? I don't think so. So, yes, the church is screwed up. Always has been. The church has been a depressing constant over the generations. So the change isn't with the church. The change is with the Millennials. If so, in what way and how has this change related to the church?

The most obvious change is in mobile and Web 2.0 connectivity. Generation X didn't have cell phones. Nor did they have Facebook or text messaging. And you can't tell me that Millennials see the church any differently than Generation X saw it. Look to the right at cell phone subscriptions plotted by decade. Most have Generation X as birth dates between 1961 to 1981. Which has Gen X as college students in the years 1979 to 1999. As you can see, most Gen X'ers didn't have cellphones. And based on the sociological evidence Gen X was much more cynical and anti-establishment when compared to the Millennials. So you can't tell me Gen X'ers didn't see the church as judgmental, hypocritical, or sold-out. They did.

So what happened? Why didn't Gen X leave the church while the Millennials are leaving in droves?

The difference between Generations X and Y isn't in their views of the church. It's about those cellphones. It's about relationships and connectivity. Most Gen X'ers didn't have cell phones, text messaging or Facebook. These things were creeping in during their college years but the explosive onset of mobile devices and social computing had yet to truly take off.

So why has mobile social computing affected church attendance? Well, if church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans ("Let's get together for dinner this week!"). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it. Particularly with the loss of "third places" in America.

But Millennials are in a different social situation. They don't need physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been effectively replaced. You don't need to go to church to stay connected or in touch. You have an iPhone.

Sure, Millennials will report that the "reason" they are leaving the church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!

The pushback here will be that all this Millennial social computing, all this Facebooking, isn't real, authentic relationship. I'd disagree with that assessment. It goes to the point I made earlier: Most of our Facebook interactions are with people we know, love, and are in daily contact with. Facebook isn't replacing "real" relationships with "virtual" relationships. It's simply connecting us to our real friends. And if you can do this without getting up early on Sunday morning why go to church? Particularly if the church is hypocritical and shallow? Why mess with it?

Why are Millennials leaving the church? It's simple. Mobile social computing has replaced the main draw of the traditional church: Social connection and affiliation.

Basically, Facebook killed the church. May it Rest in Peace.
Read it all here. Read more from a Roman Catholic's point of view here.

BB NOTE:  One of the observations I have over the past five years of seeing the social media revolution take off is that over and over again, as people get close through social media technology, there is still a desire to "meet up" in person.  Social media does not replace the in-person contact, it is a new portal that encourages it.  Why is that?  Why is it, that even with the technology bringing people together by affinities and generation and other types of groupings, still there seems to be a desire to meet in person?  Why is that?

What seems to be changing is the old fashioned "Front Door."  There was a time a church could set up shop, open the front door, and people would come in.  It became harder when GenX rolled onto the horizon, as this article acknowledges.  But still, the compelling invitation that one could come to church and make friends was promoted, that church was a safe third space to meet others and make friends and yes, learn more about God.  

However, one of the things much of the church appears to be getting backwards is that the church starts with itself and then goes to Facebook (FB) or other social media spots to promote itself.  That is all backward.  We see it even on FB when an organization creates a page and begins to list activities going on at the church, like it's a bulletin board.  But those pages are flat.  There is no interaction.  No one has a personal relationship with an organization, we have personal relationships with people.  What works best is when an individual posts about something they are doing with a personal touch.  Then other friends respond.  Then those friends respond.  And pretty soon you have a conversation going, branching off into other conversations.  These conversations can get quite deep when other types of social media is introduced.  Many people really do come to care and often, care deeply for each other.

Where I have seen this take off has been in the world of Harry Potter fans.  I have learned more about social media from that amazing phenomenon then anywhere else.  Here is this extraordinary book series.  All these millennials read the book and since it was a seven-part mystery, they wanted to discuss it with others who loved the books as much as they did  - and since the books were such a hit, many of these people came from all over the world.

So online discussion boards were setup where discussions would breakout over topics such as the infamous "Harry/Hermione vs Hermione/Ron" relationship wars which fascinated the youth and adults alike (and Jo Rowling's later dismissive view that it was all so obvious nearly caused a fanwide meltdown), questions over whether Snape is good or evil, or will Harry have to die, or for me - is J.K. Rowling a latter-day Inkling?  Hours were spent writing essays and having conversations about these topics.  After a while, many of the regular posters would start to have sidebar conversations and out of those sidebars and online posting, friendships would develop.  I became friends with the author John Granger this way.

Later those discussion boards gave way to podcasts, where website owners would have weekly podcasts discussing the mysteries in Harry Potter and offer news and discussions.  They became so popular that they go the attention of the publishers and studios who finally decided to stop banning the posting of their media online by these fan website and embrace the new social networks.  That turned out to be a an extremely smart move.  Even J.K. Rowling herself got into the fray, handing out website awards from her own website and making appearances on Pottercast, the podcast sponsored by the fansite, The Leaky Cauldron.

From the Podcasts, which were recorded in advanced and uploaded to iTunes, came live webcasting through such media as UStream and YouTube.  Now fans could text and participate live while the podcast was being recordered, tweeting through twitter their questions and reactions that ran as a sidebar to the UStream live blogcast during the recording of the podcast.  Questions could be asked and answered live.

This takes on another level when you move into the virtual worlds, with the additions not just of people texting with screen names, but also participating in 3-D with avatars, as live webcasts offer texting as well as participation in avatar-driven sims environments that add more dimension to the interaction of individuals not only within your own country, but with individuals from countries around the world.

And yet, as could be seen in the Harry Potter phenomenon - even with all this social media technology there was still a desire amongst the fans to sponsor meet ups, to have events (like partnering with Borders Bookstores and hosting midnight events when each new book in the Harry Potter series was released), as well as hosting podcasts from other cities around the United States and sponsoring national and international conferences.  Now all these fans, who had become friends through the social media outlets, could now meet in person and hang out.  The desire to come together in person was not diminished by online socializing, it was indeed increased.

With the opening of the new Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, Harry Potter fans now have a center place to gather together, where they can organize meetups and conferences and spend time together discussing their favorite books, offering creative expressions that demonstrate their love for this series, come together and enjoy that interest together as a group - and oh, by the way, have a lot of fun.  There is a major one being planned this summer that coincides with the opening of the final film in the Harry Potter series in July.  Fans that have belonged to "rival" websites and groups are all coming together for this massive conference - a who's who in "potter fandom."  For some, those friendship span from childhood, where many of the leading players who originally designed the websites like The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet are all grown up now.  But the friendships endure.

So the social media is a portal through which people still want to meet in person.  It doesn't replace it, it actually encourages it.

Oh there are many who use social media to hide.  But there are many who use the church to hide as well. That being said, one of the landmark changes that Facebook introduced to the Social Media phenomenon was the fact that it came from the university campuses where - in order to sign up for an acount on Facebook - you had to have an authorized university email address.  In other words, you had to be yourself.  Unlike AOL or Compuserve, the early e-mail giants where you created a username, Facebook required that you reveal your real self, your real name.  That changed everything - and for the church, it changes things for the better.

Now there is a confidence that you know who you are talking to.  We can learn more about person (for better or for worse) through Facebook than a dozen church dinners could ever produce.  If you want to hide, Facebook is not the place to go, unless you want to have an empty profile and lurk instead of post.  But of course, we have that in the church too, don't we?

A church that can harness the enthusiasm for connection that can be found in the texts and the tweets, that grasps that in those texts and videos and photos there are people, real people, who want to know and be known, to be that space where people can gather to worship and learn and grow into a deeper relationship with God, now that is a church that is going to "the ends of the earth" with the love and Good News of Christ, even if it means beginning one text at a time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Serving up a slice of American Pie

Been watching the videos from the The Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) soiree in Atlanta sponsored by the erstwhile Arcus Foundation (so much for actually having an open "conversation" - this political action event turned out to be overwhelmingly segregated, but then Maryland found that out recently as well).

Watching the videos from the SCLM is a  bit like watching a house on fire and the fire fighters have finally given up, just letting it burn to the ground.

As I watched the press conference, this classic song came to mind:

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play.

Here is the SCLM Press Conference:

The self-congratulatory attitude of the speakers - not one holding a divergent view that perhaps the Episcopal Church is taking a careening turn over the theological cliff is given voice, speaks volumes.  So much for robust conversations.  This isn't a conversation, it's a political strategic action, but they are not alone.

Theo Hobson, writing in the Guardian focuses his attention on the rise of a liberal self righteous subculture, quite evident in TEC.  But even as we reflect on this, the warning the writer makes to liberals is worth soberly reflecting for other well-meaning groups as well.

Segregation by affinity, masked as inclusive conversations (and they are masks) appears so often to lead to a kind of cultic separatism, a kind of self-inflicted ghetto. I saw this happen in the charasmatic movement in the 80s, as well as the prolife movement in the 90s.  Even as we look on these videos from TEC, should we not also pause to consider whether other responses are just as segregated? Are we so confident in our position, that we fail to realize that humility has left the building?

If we truly resist encouraging robust conversations that are not just political techniques to move a particular agenda forward (whatever that issue may be) does this not signal that we are no longer confident that the Truth really does set us free?  It is for freedom Christ came to set us free - do we truly believe this is so?  What may sometimes feel like doubting does not mean that we are no longer are confident in Christ (in fact, Oswald Chambers wrote that doubt means we are thinking, and certainly doubt led to my conversion) but rather than we are humble to recognize that we don't actually know everything.  Daring to doubt means we are listening.

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast ...

Imagine if we gathered not because we are strong, but because we are weak.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Episcopal Church marches forward on developing rites for same gender marriages

Former Integrity president Susan Russell makes presentation.
The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music gathered about 200 deputies in Atlanta to prepare the way forward for The Episcopal Church to formally approve rites for same gender marriages, as outline in CO56 at the Anaheim General Convention in 2009. That resolution reads:

Liturgies for Blessings

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources, and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further

Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort.
You can see the web broadcasts of the plenaries here of the campaign to formally authorize same gender marriages (the word "blessing" is just a euphemism - these are not pet blessing we're talking about, it's marriage, make no mistake about it). Of note is the the third plenary which is worth taking the time to watch - Anglicans and Episcopalians.  If you want to see how to conduct a political campaign, this is how it's done.  The campaign is quite brilliant and puts those who may want to uphold the biblical view of marriage on the defensive.  There is a lot to learn in how this presentation is being done - it's jubilant, it's positive, it appears to be collaborative, it appears transparent - and, friends, make no mistake about it -  it is assumed it is all a done deal.  A very sobering event to watch, indeed. 

Here it is:

See it all here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Anglicans in the Southwest seek to form a diocese

Episcopal priest faces defrocking for giving up Christian identity for Islam rituals for Lent

From here:
The Rev. Steve Lawler
The Rev. Steve Lawler should have just given up chocolate or television for Lent.

Instead, Lawler, the part-time rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, decided to adopt the rituals of Islam for 40 days to gain a deeper understanding of the faith.

Two days after it began, he faced being defrocked if he continued in those endeavors.

"He can't be both a Christian and a Muslim," said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. "If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church."

Lawler didn't foresee such problems when he came up with the idea. He merely wanted to learn more about Islam, he said, especially in light of the ongoing congressional hearings on the radicalization of the faith.

On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, he began performing "salah" five times a day, by facing east, toward Mecca, and praying to Allah. He also started studying the Quran and following Islamic dietary restrictions by abstaining from alcohol and pork.

During Holy Week, he planned to fast from dawn to sunset as Muslims do during Ramadan.

But in Smith's eyes, the exercise amounts to "playing" at someone else's religion and could be viewed as disrespectful.

Plus, he said, "One of the ways (Lawler) remains responsible as a Christian leader is to exercise Christianity and to do it with clarity and not with ways that are confusing."

It's not the first time the Episcopal Church has confronted a priest over dabbling in Islam; in 2009, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding was defrocked two years after she embraced Islam because, her bishop said, "a priest of the church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim."

Smith said Lawler would face punitive actions if he continued with the rituals.

Read it all here and here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wiki Wacks: 815 staffer "revises" PB's online bio?

Click to enlarge.

A section of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church's bio on Wikipedia has gone missing.  This section was removed from the PB's bio on Wiki suddenly last month:
It was later discovered that the information provided by the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop described in its summary of her career the position of Dean of the "Good Samaritan School of Theology" in Corvallis, Oregon, from 1994–2000,Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, [ "Profiles of Nominees for the Office of Presiding Bishop"] though there is no school of theology with this name, nor any corresponding school of theology in Corvallis. The Presiding Bishop later described the choice of these words for her profile as having been motivated by her having been in charge of the "then-rector's term for all adult education programs" of the church where she had been a pastoral associate.[ "New top Episcopal bishop. challenged on her resume"], World Net Daily

The edited notes by a user called  "Matisse412" includes this statement, "I work in the Communication Office at the Episcopal Church Center. Edits made per Bishop Jefferts Schori's suggestion." 

The section deals with the controversy following Bishop Schori's election as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006.  In Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's official biography presented to General Convention and the Episcopal House of Bishop when she was a candidate for Presiding Bishop, her employment in ministry includes this item:

Pastoral Associate & Dean,
Good Samaritan School of Theology
Corvallis, OR 1994– 2000

Following her election as Presiding Bishop at the Episcopal General Convention in 2006, it was discovered that there was no evidence that a Good Samaritan "School of Theology" existed.  Bishop Schori later admitted that it was actually a Corvallis parish's adult education program where she served as an associate.  

You can read the original document here.

You can contrast and compare here

Tip of the tinfoil to SiFC.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Archbishop of the Anglican Communion in Japan releases statement on the massive earthquake

From here. Statement from The Most Revd Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, the Archbishop of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Communion in Japan:

14 March, 2011

On the 11th of March at 2:46pm, the biggest earthquake ever to hit Japan struck just off the coast of the Tohoku region. This caused a tsunami and fires that brought massive devastation to a very wide area. This unimaginably strong earthquake triggered an explosion at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear reactor. The people living in the area around that and the No. 2 reactor have been evacuated. The stories and images constantly broadcast by the media have left people lost for words, unable to describe the sheer scale of the unbelievable devastation caused by the earthquake, tsunami and fires.

We see homes devastated, whole towns that were swallowed by the tsunami, and houses that continue to burn because fire fighters are unable to reach both the properties and the people who were the victims of this catastrophe. With hearts filled with grief and helplessness we see people who are mourning their lost loved ones and others who search tirelessly for missing family members. There are so many who have lost their homes and possessions. Towns and villages were obliterated by the tsunami, everything was gone in a second.

Since the earthquake the Provincial office has worked very hard to find out about the people and the churches in Tohoku diocese. However, we could neither contact them by phone nor email. Only yesterday were we able to start to see a picture of the devastation in the affected areas. I had been most concerned that I could not contact the Bishop of Tohoku diocese [The Rt Revd John Hiromichi Kato], but on Saturday he rang me and I was able to find out more about what had happened to the churches in Sendai City.

Bp Kato explained that he himself had not been able to find out much about the other churches in the diocese of Tohoku. This was largely due to the fact that neither power supplies nor telephone lines had been restored in areas most badly hit by the tsunami. There is particular concern for two churches: Isoyama St Peter’s Church in Fukushima Prefecture and Kamaishi Shinai Church and the kindergarten in Iwate that were close to the sea. Priests have been frantically trying to confirm that their parishioners are safe. We also know that it is not only Tohoku diocese that has been affected, some churches in Kita Kanto diocese have been reported to have been damaged also.

Sendai Christchurch (the Cathedral church) is badly damaged and yesterday, while there were still so many aftershocks, the church carried out their first Sunday after Lent service in the diocesan office.

In many affected areas there are roadblocks but as for Tohoku diocese the church is planning to establish an emergency relief centre within the diocesan building. Bishop Kato will lead the efforts to respond to the crisis.

At a Provincial level I am working to establish a structure for responding to this unprecedented natural disaster as soon as possible. This will include providing relief and sourcing volunteers and funding to help with the restoration of the affected areas. I am also trying to find more accurate information about our church family and the relief efforts, and to communicate that information as quickly as possible.

What we can do right now, however, is pray. Prayer has power. I hope and request that you pray for the people who are affected, for those who have died and for their families. Pray for the people involved with the rescue efforts, and in particular pray for Tohoku and Kita Kanto dioceses and their priests and parishioners during this time of Lent.

I am grateful for all the many prayers and messages of support from throughout the world; from the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Churches.

Read it all here

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Late Night at the Cafe: Life Goes On ...

Matt Maher and friends, take it away ...

Late Night at the Cafe: Getting a Shot

A must-watch - but please, get the Jumbo-size Kleenex before you push play:

From Wiki: McElwain completed his GED courses and plans to go to college, and has a part-time job at Wegmans Food Markets in Greece, New York. Occasionally, customers recognize him and ask for an autograph. McElwain also travels across the United States to help raise funds for autism research or to make another media appearance about his twenty-point game. With all the activity that is going on his life, Jason admitted that he hasn't been playing as much basketball, but says that, "Occasionally, I'll go and shoot baskets at the YMCA."

Friday, March 11, 2011

URGENT PRAYER - Pray for the people of Japan

Live Stream 8.9 Earthquake and Tsunami Hit Japan

Prayers lifted now for the people of Japan as they face a massive earthquake. Also prayers for the people of Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific as they are under a Tsunami warning now.
MOST glorious and gracious Lord God, who dwellest in heaven, but beholdest all things below; Look down, we beseech thee, and hear us, calling out of the depth of misery, and out of the jaws of this death, which is now ready to swallow us up: Save, Lord, or else we perish. The living, the living shall praise thee. O send thy word of command to rebuke the raging winds and the roaring sea; that we, being delivered from this distress, may live to serve thee, and to glorify thy Name all the days of our life. Hear, Lord, and save us, for the infinite merits of our blessed Saviour, thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It's that time again! The 5th Annual CafeAnonsBall!

Yes, friends - if it's Shrove Tuesday then it's time again for all of us to celebrate our "CafeAnons" - all of you who drop by, drop in, and drop out of the cafe all year long and we never learn your name.  This is our fifth year celebrating all ya'all who hang out and sometimes wipe out while spooning up the pudding and dodging flying pies.

Here are links to the CafeAnonsBalls from the last four years:
So pull up a chair and find your favorite table and let's celebrate that you are welcome - those we know and those we don't know - or don't know that we do know!  You know - and of course, so does Someone Else.

To start off the celebration, we'll begin with the classic by U2 - for sometimes it's not just the people but also the streets that have no name.

And since it's the last day before Lent, it's time to get all our Hallelujahs in before sundown! To help the cause - well, must be seen!


6 egg yolks
1/3 c. buttermilk pancake mix
1/3 c. dairy sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
6 egg whites

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Fold in pancake mix, sour cream and salt until well blended. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Carefully fold into yolk mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls or more onto hot, well greased griddle until golden brown both sides. Makes 6 servings.

And to close out the evening:

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Call to Prayer in Pittsburgh

From here:
An Open Letter to the Clergy and People of The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and to The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church USA
As we prepare to enter into good-faith negotiations, we ask the people of our two dioceses, and all Christian people in our communities, to pray that these negotiations will lead to fair and godly outcomes that will enable the mission of our churches to thrive.
We hope and pray that in the coming days the leaders and people in both our dioceses will find a way to seek blessing on one another. Specifically, we offer the following overarching principles in the hope that they might characterize the spirit of our efforts to resolve our differences:
1) Mutual Recognition: that the members of each diocese may be able to recognize the other as seeking to be faithful to their Christian call as they perceive it, and to their conscience.
2) Mutual Forgiveness: that the members of each diocese will work to forgive perceived wrongs and failures of charity.
3) Mutual Blessing and Release: that anticipated settlements would not seek to damage the health and future of one another’s ministries.
It is our prayerful goal that our negotiations:
1) Assure that all the parishes and each diocese can survive and thrive;
2) Enable us all to move past litigation and focus on our respective missions;
3) Demonstrate our commitment to be at God’s best as we work to resolve our differences, mindful of the public and private impact of our disagreements.
Signed by clergy & lay leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh gathered for a meeting at St. Martin’s, Monroeville on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island Geralyn Wolf announces her retirement late next year

From here:
The Right Rev. Geralyn Wolf, a convert from Judaism who stepped into the history books 15 years ago by becoming only the second woman in U.S. Episcopal Church history to be ordained a diocesan bishop, is planning to retire as Rhode Island’s Episcopal bishop late in 2012.

Wolf, who turns 64 next month, broke the news to some of her staff Thursday, her first day back after undergoing knee replacement surgery on Jan. 31.

She made a more public disclosure on Saturday at the close of an evangelism convocation attended by priests and lay people at the Providence Marriott.

Although she limps a bit, and is using a cane, the bishop said the repairs to her knee, which have temporarily kept her from climbing the stairs to her second-floor bishop’s office, had nothing to do with her planned retirement.

Rather, she said, it was a sense of time.

“To tell you the truth, I thought about it several times over the last few years, but I either felt it was a little too soon or I was too young.”

After her marriage four years ago to businessman Thomas Charles Bair Jr. in a colorful ceremony in April 2007 in Providence’s Cathedral of St. John, Bishop Wolf says she thought about it again but decided that wasn’t a good time either.

“But now I’ll be at the age that most people retire. It would be nice to see what other things could be in store on the other side of 65, though I don’t know what that may be.

“As long as I have the energy and vitality, I might as well say to the Lord, ‘What will you have me do now?”’

Even after 15 years on the job, the bishop admits she still doesn’t know the number of Episcopalians in Rhode Island.

“Some surveys say there are 35,000 Episcopalians. That’s not true. Another says there are 17,000. We know that’s not true.”

The real number, she said, could be as low as 7,000, with about half of them attending church on any given week.

The dwindling number of churchgoers, along with a decline in the number of congregations — from 64 parishes and missions in 1996 to 55 today — has also led to a financial shortfall that she wants to address before a new bishop takes over.

“Just like the City of Providence and State of Rhode Island, we are in very difficult times. We are merging churches, closing churches. We have lost income and anticipate losing more income. That means we have to right-size the budget for these times.”
 Read it all here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Property dispute allegations lead Israel to deny Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem's residency visa

A dispute that has remained out of the public eye until recently has now led to a lawsuit being filed against the government of Israel by the current Anglican bishop of Jerusalem.

According to the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), "The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev'd Suheil Dawani has been denied the renewal of his 'Temporary Residency Status' in Jerusalem. This action was taken when the A-5 permits held by himself, his wife and youngest daughter were revoked by the government of Israel, effective 24 September 2010."

The Guardian reports that Bishop Sawani denies the accusations raised to him in a letter from the Israeli interior ministry that he was "acting with the Palestinian authority in transferring lands owned by the Jewish people to the Palestinians and also [helping] to register lands of the Jewish people in the name of the church." 

The ACNS also reports that "there were further allegations that documents were forged by the Bishop. The letter stated that Bishop Dawani and his family should leave the country immediately."

Bishop Dawani has now initiated legal action against the Israeli government objecting to their denial of the residency visa for the city for him, for his wife and their daughter.

This action also follows an ongoing dispute between Bishop Dawani and his predecessor, The Rt. Rev'd Riah Abu el-Assal, over the diocese's ownership of a church school in the former bishop's hometown of Nazareth, the Guardian reports,

The ACNS offers some background on the standing issue:
Bishop Dawani was elected in 2007 as Bishop of the Diocese and was recognized by the State of Israel as the head of the Episcopal Diocese in accordance with the decision by the State of Israel in 1970 which acknowledged the Diocese as one of the thirteen recognized churches in Israel. All Anglican Bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem who have not held Israeli citizenship have been granted residency permits (A5) to allow them to live in Jerusalem where the Bishop's residence, diocesan offices and cathedral are located.

Bishop Dawani, his wife and daughters had successfully renewed this permit, as required, in 2008 and 2009. On 24 August 2010, Bishop Dawani went to renew the permit with the Ministry of the Interior and was informed in writing that permits for himself, his wife and daughter would not be renewed because of allegations pending against the Bishop. 
"Israel is not interested in any unnecessary delays but the allegations are still under official review," an Israeli embassy spokesman in London told the Guardian. "We understand it is causing damage as long as it remains unresolved."

The Archbishop of Canterbury received assurances that the situation would be resolved promptly, according to the ACNS.  "Other Anglican leaders, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington DC and the Primates of the Anglican Communion representing Anglicans throughout the world, have all used their influence individually and collectively with Israeli authorities without success to date."

"I have been concerned about this matter since learning of it last August," TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Jefferts Schori said today. "Overtures through our own State Department, with the Israeli ambassador, and directly to Mr. Netanyahu, have thus far proved fruitless. The situation Bishop Dawani and his family are in remains untenable. We seek an immediate regularization of the bishop’s residency status, and continue to express our concern about his treatment and the repeated failure to address this matter directly."

While Bishop Dawani and his family have lived next to Jerusalem's Victorian St George's cathedral, his jurisdiction also includes the rest of Israel, Lebanon and Jordan.

Late last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Bishop Dawani were received by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, the Episcopal News Service reports from an Earth Times report on the February 2011 meeting.

King Abdullah, a Muslim, told Dr. Williams and Bishop Dawani at the meeting that "Christians need to "intensify efforts to force Israel to stop its unilateral measures that threaten the Christian and Islamic holy places and seek emptying the holy city of its Arab inhabitants, both Muslims and Christians," the ENS reported.

Pressure on Israel by supporters of Bishop Dawani has continued since Bishop Dawani was requested to leave the country last September. "The Archbishop of Canterbury, as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion and church representative of the Queen of England, has been in contact with the office of the Prime Minister of Israel and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amer to resolve this issue. In addition, Bishop Dawani met personally with the Chief Rabbi, who is a good friend of both Bishop Dawani and the Anglican Church, who took immediate action to try to restore the Bishop's residency rights," the ACNS reports.

In addition to these efforts, a letter regarding Bishop Dawani's status was sent from the Anglican Primates Meeting in Ireland went to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January.

Other Anglican leaders, says the ACNS, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington DC and the Primates of the Anglican Communion representing Anglicans throughout the world, have all used their influence individually and collectively with Israeli authorities without success to date.

Bishop Dawani's office told the Guardian that the bishop has now chosen to take legal action against the government of Israel.  "The lack of resolution, despite all the efforts, required [him] to seek legal counsel," reports the Guardian,  "upon the recommendation ... he has chosen to take the case to court, seeking redress through the Israeli legal system," said the spokesman.

The Israeli Ministry of the Interior responded to a request for a statement from ENI News.  "We are talking about a sensitive issue that was presented in front of the Interior Minister and our detailed answer will be delivered in the court, in the frame of the petition that was served," Israeli Ministry of the Interior to ENI News. 

An unidentified Israeli official told ENI News and reported by ENS that the legal issues involved in the case were 'very serious' and would need to go to court as well.

"No one is trying to kick [Dawani] out of Jerusalem," said the Israeli official, according to ENI. "He has been offered to be allowed to stay in Jerusalem under a different status, as someone with a work permit, but he rejected that."

Read more about it here and here and here and here

GAFCON watchers may remember that Bishop Dawani had issued statements that opposed the GAFCON pilgrimage in Jerusalem in 2008 saying that such a gathering emphasizing the major divisions in the Anglican Communion would have a negative impact on the work of the Christian churches in Jerusalem.  After meeting with GAFCON organizers, Bishop Dawani did attend a GAFCON gathering at St. George's Cathedral, though he was accompanied by The Episcopal Church's emissary, the Rt. Rev'd Robert O'Neil, Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado (TEC).

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Anglican District of Virginia announces two candidates for Bishop of new Anglican diocese

The Anglican District of Virginia announced today that The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey and Archdeacon Julian Dobbs have been proposed for bishop have been proposed by the ADV nominations committee established by the 2009 ADV Synod.

The ADV Synod Council has called a Constitutional Convention for May 20 and 21, 2011, where the Synod will consider the proposed governing constitution and canons for a new diocese in the Anglican Church in North America. With the expected approval of the governing documents, there will immediately follow the election of the new bishop as established in the governing documents.

Following the election of a new bishop, the ADV will formally submit an application at the end of May to establish a new diocese in the Anglican Church in North America.

Currently, the Anglican District of Virginia numbers of 40 congregations with almost 7000 people actively worshiping in church each Sunday

The Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey is currently the bishop of the non-geographic Diocese of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church in North America.  The Venerable Julian Dobbs currently serves as the archdeacon for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).