Why the Episcopal Church?

The Acts 8 Movement has cast out another topic for conversation this week, in case bloggers didn't have enough to write about.

This week, the question was, "Why the Episcopal Church?"

An initial roundup of the responses is here and they are as varied as the spectrum of the church itself.

In one of them, Holli Powell writes,

...that’s exactly why the Episcopal Church, at least for this silly, frustrated soul. Because I care enough to keep slogging through this mess with these folks who all care just as much as I do, if not more, rather than separating from everyone and writing my own church creed with a cup of coffee in my hand in my back yard. Because all these arguments and disagreements mean that we are a family, bound together by the blood lines of liturgy and faith and reason, and even if you desperately want to run away from your family sometimes, you don’t get to. Because this institution has survived through hundreds of years in order to be just the thing I needed to remind me that I was a child of God, in order to remind me that everyone else is too. And it will survive hundreds of years more, God willing, in spite of ourselves, to be that for other Grumpy McFussypants just like me.

So, why the Episcopal Church for you?

Rockefellers join divestment movement

The heirs to the Rockefeller charities, valued at $860 million, have announced that they will join the movement to divest from fossil fuels, according to the NY Times.

The family of John D. Rockefeller, who made his money from Standard Oil, runs the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a philanthropic organization. They will announce the shift in investments today, to coincide with the opening of the United Nations Summit on Climate Change.

At the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, there is no equivocation but there is caution, said Stephen Heintz, its president. The fund has already eliminated investments involved in coal and tar sands entirely while increasing its investment in alternate energy sources.

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Unwinding other investments in a complex portfolio from the broader realm of fossil fuels will take longer. “We’re moving soberly, but with real commitment,” he said.

We need to talk about football

The approach of autumn in the United States is usually marked by the joyous frenzy of football's onset once again.

But this year, football's beginning was overshadowed by a horrific videotape of Ray Rice attacking his then-fiancée, followed by the arrest of Adrian Peterson for alleged child abuse, then the arrest of Jonathan Dwyer of the Cardinals for domestic violence as well.

While it's lingered in the background for a number of years now, never has the conversation about domestic violence and football been more prominent than this year, with the league commissioner under heavy fire for how he has handled these cases.

Professional football is the most profitable sport in the US, making $9.5 billion dollars a year. But what is it we are supporting with our money,exactly? Is football the fairytale we've always made it out to be? The questions are now coming, fast and hard.

In Salon.com, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes:

It’s hard to see the sublime transformation of a truly meritocratic enterprise at work when vulnerable kids are being used like employees with fewer regulations regarding their health. It looks, rather, like the pageantry of capitalism at work: the veneer of mobility circling a core of exploitation that leaves black kids and poor kids at special risk for getting used up and tossed aside. That’s life, you might say, and it is, but what other form of exploitation earns such ardent theological esteem?:

She points to the theological view often voiced by coaches and others that your body is temporary--your soul and your character is what matters. And if you need to risk your body to build your soul by helping your team, then so much the better.

The Rev. David Kendrick, in Springfield, MO, also ponders whether as faithful Christians, we do not align ourselves more with the Romans when we watch football.

I've always accepted that violence, so long as it was controlled. But that is exactly the point I'm afraid we may have reached with American football. Close to home, a young man is dead at 25, having played high school and college football. And he already was suffering from the dreaded CTE. At this point, the evidence seems clear to me that the prolonged period of violent collision inherent in the game greatly increases the chances of its players literally losing their minds in the years after they retire, when none of us are looking.

And the scandalous abuse cases in the NFL have exposed the fact that the rate of domestic abuse among NFL players is disturbingly high. Does the infliction of violence on the field of play make the infliction of violence off the field more likely? And given what we now know about the probable long term effects of the game, can we really distinguish between our cheering on of footballers and the Romans cheering on of the gladiators?

Meanwhile, over in Grantland, Louisa Thomas wonders if football isn't just inextricably intertwined with violence.

There are 1,696 active players in the NFL. Even if, as FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Morris found, NFL players are arrested on domestic assault charges at rates that are, relative to income level, “downright extraordinary,” very few of them will ever beat women. Most of them are good guys trying to do a job. Still, the job they do is part of a culture of aggression. Football is a pantomime of war, down to the pseudo-military tactics. But it is not a pantomime of violence. It is actual violence.

I’m not just talking about the injuries that players inflict on each other — the torn ligaments and compound fractures, or the smaller, persistent injuries that lead to chronic pain and pill addictions and make it hard for them just to sit on the floor and play with their kids. I’m not even talking about their head injuries, the repeated blows that are slowly deforming their brains, or the fact that even if no one dies, that doesn’t mean that death isn’t hastened. (Even the league is now admitting that one in three former players will have cognitive problems at “notably younger ages” than the average population. One symptom of CTE happens to be increased aggression.) The real problem is that infliction of pain is romanticized and ritualized. Hitting is the point. Inflicting injury is nominally avoided — but hurting the other team helps. “It’s a bully division,” Arizona’s general manager, Steve Keim, told Grantland’s Robert Mays earlier this year, “so we had to add our number of bullies to our defense.” He meant that as a good thing.

(You can read the whole Grantland piece here, and it is brilliant.)

How have you dealt with what's been happening in the NFL? Have you kept watching? Have you turned it off?

Taskforce on the Study of Marriage issues a new report

The Taskforce on the Study of Marriage, convened by action of General Convention 2012, has issued a new report on their progress this morning.
The Taskforce held an in-person consultation in June, in Kansas City, MO. The meeting was sponsored by the Standing Committee for Liturgy, and Music, and was focused around marriage in general, and pastoral issues surrounding same-sex marriage in particular.

The Rev. Brian Taylor, of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and chair of the committee, remarked on the meeting:

“Part of our charge is to consider the challenges and opportunities of the changing societal norms around marriage. So it was helpful to our task to come together for deep listening, as we continue to consider the primary question that shapes our work: ‘What might our church want to say to the world today about what it is that makes a marriage holy and particularly Christian?’”

"Pope Francis Effect" & Chicago's next archbishop

Pope Francis on Saturday named Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., who is closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing, to be the next archbishop of Chicago. Religion News Service notes "it is the pontiff’s most important U.S. appointment to date and one that could upend decades of conservative dominance of the American hierarchy." From RNS:

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Bp. Robert Wright: 'Jesus is not a member of the NRA'

Nothing in the Bible justifies deregulation of gun sales and ownership, according to a panel of religious activists who spoke this week at the Religion Newswriters Association's annual conference in Decatur, Ga. The panel included Rachel Laser from the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Christian ethicist David Gushee of Mercer University, Bryan Miller of Heeding God's Call, Atlanta Episcopal Diocese Bishop Robert Wright and Jim Winkler, the president of the National Council of Churches. Reporter Kay Campbell writes at AL.com:

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Face of Christianity has been co-opted, Marcus Borg writes

The face of Christianity in America has been co-opted by a faith that is individualistic, self-oriented, exclusivist and entrepreneurial, Marcus Borg writes at Patheos.com:

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for an end to the fossil fuel era

In a message uploaded to YouTube by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Desmond Tutu is calling for world leaders to help businesses and governments move beyond fossil fuels and protect marginalized populations adversely affected by climate change:

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Noah's dove and interfaith climate action

Rabbi Steve Gutow, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, reflects on the People's Climate March and interfaith cooperation acting as Noah's dove:

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Scottish Episcopal Church reacts to referendum

After a Scottish referendum for independence, the Scottish Episcopal College of Bishops urges reconciliation:

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Anglicans beat Vatican

The Church of England has beaten the representatives from the Vatican in the first cricket match between the two Christian denominations.

Canterbury Times:

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A step towards reconciliation

Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg of South Carolina has welcomed a returning member of the clergy back into good standing as a priest, hailing the reinstatement of the Rev. H. Dagnall Free, Jr. as an important day for The Episcopal Church and an encouraging step toward reconciliation in South Carolina.

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Pastoral message on climate change

The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have issued a joint pastoral message on climate change.

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The open secret of the Gospel in U2's music

This just in. U2 is a "semi-secret Christian band" that fills their lyrics with religious themes, makes no secret of how the members attempt to live their faith but does not aligns itself with a particular denomination or segment of the Church.

Jonathan Merritt is not surprised.

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Explaining racism

Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford, conducts important research on race and explains how racism works. She has just been named a MacArthur Fellow for 2014 for her work.

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Silence: The church, like the NFL, has little to say on domestic violence

Writing for Religions News Service, Autumn Miles reflects on the negative role the church played in her experience of domestic violence.

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Archbishop of Canterbury admits he sometimes doubts existence of God

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury told an interviewer that he has moments when he doubts the existence of God. John Bingham of the Telegraph writes:

Britain’s most senior churchman, who is effectively the leader of almost 80 million Anglicans worldwide, admitted that there are moments when he asks himself “Is there a God?” and “Where is God?

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Can Harry Potter change the world?

In the OpTalk section of The New York Times' website, Hanna Kozlowska writes:

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Prayers for our friends in Scotland

Prayers this evening for our friends in Scotland as they vote yes or no on independence from the UK Thursday September 18.

There are a variety of opinions on voting Yes or No.

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Time to remove national flag from sanctuary?

Benjamin L. Corey writing in his blog on Patheos thinks it's time to remove national flags from sanctuaries:

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Yale chaplain's resignation shows debate within churches over Israel/Palestine

"Episcopal chaplain at Yale University [seeming suggestion] that Jews were culpable for Israel’s actions against Palestinians and a related rise in global anti-Semitism, his comments not only led to his resignation but rekindled a debate within mainline Protestant churches about how to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," , writes Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Religion News Service:

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Presiding Bishop calls for "viriditas"

PB.jpgPreaching in Taiwan at the Fall Episcopal Church bishops' meeting the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori said:

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30 African Theologians & Scholars Back LGBT Equality

According to Thinking Anglicans 30 African theologians and scholars have written in support of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. From Mamba Online:

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Episcopal priest finalist for National Book Foundation poetry prize

New York Times reports that an Episcopal priest is among the finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards for poetry:

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Roman Catholic Bishop Tobin on changes for divorced people

Tobin-04-head-shot-cropped.jpgRoman Catholic Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence RI says "we've got to do something about those who have divorced and remarried."

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Civil Discourse in the US: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs notes an event on the topic of Civil Discourse in the US:

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Bishop's sainthood held up by bodily confusion

Bishop Fulton Sheen was the host of a very popular syndicated television show through the 1950s. His explanations of the faith made religion comprehensible and compelling for millions, as RNS explains.

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How then should we pray?

Andrew WK writes a spirituality advice column in the Village Voice, and he responded to a question on how to pray thusly:

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Churches in Ferguson, MO receive grant money

The Episcopal Church announced today that an additional $40,000 in grant money would go to the feeding programs in Ferguson, Missouri run by Episcopal parishes.

St. Stephen's (Ferguson), Ascension (Northwoods), and All Saints (Saint Louis City) have all been in the forefront of working with the community during the wave of protests and police crackdowns that followed the shooting of Michael Brown by police over a month ago.

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St. Mark's in Maryland acknowledges its historical links to slavery

St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Lappans, Maryland, dedicated two markers this past week.
According to the rector, the church was founded in 1849 by slaveholding families.

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Grace Callwood heals the sick

Grace Callwood, a nine year old cancer survivor from Bel Air, Maryland, is inspiring many other children and adults through We Cancerve:

When she first began receiving chemo in 2011, Grace put on a lot of weight and was unable to wear her brand new back-to-school clothes. When the little girl discovered that a homeless family in her neighborhood had two young girls of her own age, she decided to give them her clothes.

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Proper Christian womanhood and the Ray Rice story

As the Ray Rice story continues to unfold, Eric C. Miller reminds us that one in four women are victims of domestic violence and one in five are victims of rape. In American history, and in Church history, Miller makes the linkage between "Christian womanhood" and domestic violence:

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Pope Francis speaks out against "Third World War"

On Saturday in Italy, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Italian military memorial of Redipuglia. Remembering those who died in World War I, Pope Francis spoke out against the "madness of war" and both terrorists and arms merchants as responsible for perpetuating destruction:

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Can we learn to love our enemies, even ISIS?

Can we learn to love our enemies, even the evildoers who are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?The Rev. Philip DeVaull, rector of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Costa Mesa Calif., argues that with God's help, we can. He writes in the Orange County Register:

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Clergy and police team up in Rochester

From the Huffington Post:

The city of Rochester, New York will kick off a program on Saturday aimed at improving relations between community members and law enforcement -- and the timing could not be better.

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Elements of a sermon that works

What makes for a successful sermon? Keep it to eight minutes or less, and leave politics out, says the Rev. J. Perry Smith, a retired Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Florida. He writes in the Wall Street Journal:

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Hating Muslims is not Christian

The Rev. Jan Fuller is an Episcopal priest and the University Chaplain at Elon University.

Recently, I was forwarded a hateful email which characterized Muslims — all of them — as un-American, un-Godly and violent, among other unfounded negatives I refuse to repeat. Fortunately, the forwarder wanted my opinion on the claims in the unsigned, unattributed, and frequently re-forwarded email.

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How some churches support spousal abuse

Boz Tchividjian looks at how some churches support spousal abuse in both direct and indirect ways.


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Where it is still illegal to be homosexual

Dozens of countries still outlaw homosexuality and some punish gays and lesbians with death. This map from Equaldex shows the lay of the law around the world:

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The faithful who stop coming to church

When the conversation turns to "the decline of the church," especially among young adults, we tend to focus on program, technique and demography. But we seldom talk about the need for, and the difficulty of, church being a place of authentic relationship in community. While we tinker, we do not face the truth that many people--not just young adults-- are just "one Sunday brunch away from never returning.”

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LGBTQ folks scare me

Louie Clay (né Louie Crew), of the Diocese of Newark and a founder of Integrity, says that sometimes "LGBTQ folks scare me."

He writes:

LGBTQ folks scare me when we take our sexual orientation too seriously. A priest recently told me, "Homosexuality is the litmus test of spirituality in the church today."

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The death of adulthood, or just the exhaustion of the patriarchy?

A. O. Scott, the chief movie critic of The New York Times has written an intriguing essay for the paper's magazine, in which he suggests that the fates of various high profile television characters including Don Draper, Walter White and Tony Soprano reflect not only the exhaustion of the patriarchy, but also, perhaps, "the death of adulthood in American culture." You will want to read the whole thing to get a sense of what he is saying and what he isn't. But here is a taste:

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In churches: more diversity, more drums

Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service writes:

U. S. religious congregations are marching to their own drums now more than ever. The National Congregations Study’s latest look at the country’s churches, synagogues, and mosques — the third wave of studies that began in 1998 — finds more congregations:

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Further responses to the letter from TREC: one pro-ish, one con

The Rev. Keith Voets, who blogs at The Young Curmudgeon Priest has read the recent open letter from the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church and is hopeful about TREC's direction

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How do you observe the 9/11 anniversary?

Today is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that we now refer to simply as 9/11.
It is the sort of day that people want to commemorate, even if widely-practiced commemorative customs and rituals haven't quite fallen into place yet.

How do you mark 9/11?

I listen to this song, and, if the day permits, the entire album.

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Is the war against ISIL a "just war"?

Here is the full text of the speech in which President Obama outlines his plan "to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL."

"First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. ….

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. ….

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World Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, writes in The Huffington Post on how we can work end suicide. From his article:

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"American prosperity was built on slavery and torture"

Matthew Yglesias of Vox reviews Edward Baptist' new book: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. The article references the "...bizarre (and since retracted) Economist review that accused the book of being "advocacy" rather than "history" on the grounds of the author's anti-slaveholder bias" that has ironically brought the book welcomed attention.

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Vatican "secret" archives revealed

CRUX has a online picture album from inside the Vatican archives. It's not the stuff of Dan Brown, but still rather fascinating:

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Calling for genocide

Two publications published items this weekend calling for genocide against Muslims. One was a blog post in The Times of Israel and the other an item in Charisma Magazine. Patheos reports:
From The Times of Israel:

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