Saturday, December 30, 2006

Humility lacking

Tom Ehrich:
In telling of Messiah's birth, the author of Luke made a point of locating it in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem. That is, in the smaller, weaker and less significant locale.

Luke's even larger point, however, was how the news was told. Angels didn't go to the inn to tell cheerful revelers that they should be glad that something wonderful was happening out back. Angels didn't go to Jerusalem to tell the custodians of religion that their moment of victory had come.

Angels didn't go to the inhabitants of Britain or Gaul and tell them to prepare for faith-based mayhem. Or to the future suburbs of Virginia to cheer on the righteous and condemn everyone else to hell.

In Luke's narrative, angels went to the road running between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, to dark hillsides, to shepherds who resided in neither "city of David." They were the audience. Not rich suburbanites, not religious leaders, and not any of the arrogant and bullying who have turned Christianity into a mockery of what Jesus intended. Those who first heard were outsiders, toiling in darkness at work that no one else would do. Why would we think that God has suddenly changed direction and now wants the "good news of great joy" to be heard only by self-proclaimed champions of "orthodoxy" and "tradition"?

If Christianity is struggling in America, it isn't because our doctrine is flawed, or our ordination practices are too liberal. It is because, after all this time, we haven't developed a capacity for shame, humility or self-denial.

• Tom Ehrich is a writer, consultant and an Episcopal priest. He lives in Durham, N.C. His Web site is

Friday, December 29, 2006

Susan Jacobs :: On Faith

Atheism and secularism are still largely excluded from public dialogue about the proper role of religion in American politics--an omission that I consider much more important than pointless debates between believers and nonbelievers about the existence of God.

I have written NBC's Tim Russert several times about the lack of secular representation on his many Meet the Press panels concerning the relationship between religion and politics. Mr. Russert has never responded to my letters. This subject was discussed once again on the show on Christmas Eve and, once again, there was no secular voice to be heard.

When the influence of religion on politics is analyzed in the press, the dialogue usually ranges from religious conservatism to religious liberalism. No secularists or atheists need apply.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

He said it

In 1975, [John Frizzell] quit the diocese's standing committee to protest the committee's refusal to recognize the ordination of women as priests. "The issue is the same issue we have been involved in for a long time," he said. "Did God make inferior persons? . . . The Gospel says no, He didn't."

Diocese of Georgia takes another path

Via titusonenine:
You have asked Bishop Louttit and the Diocese of Georgia for time and continued accommodation in making a proportionate financial contribution to the program and administrative costs of the Diocese as required of all parishes by the canons of this diocese. ...

After much thought, prayer and consultation with the leadership of the Diocese, your Bishop has concluded that the Diocese cannot allow this situation to continue for as long as you have asked. ...

However, the Diocese is willing to allow you until June 30, 2007 for you to choose your path so long as we agree on certain conditions in exchange for this continued accommodation. Those conditions are as follows. ...
. . .
Should you not accept this proposal, we will make arrangements for your peaceful and orderly withdrawal from the Episcopal Church. This would include, at a minimum

1. Renunciation of holy orders by all ordained clergy leaving the Episcopal Church;
2. Vacation of the church premises by all who cannot remain faithful to the Episcopal Church;
3. Relinquishing to the Diocese all bank accounts, financial records and books and all other property of the church including all signs and symbols of the church.

The Diocese of Georgia will then carry on the ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church with those parishioners at Christ Church wishing to remain faithful to the Episcopal Church.

Please let me have your response by December 8, 2006.


James L. Elliott
Chancellor, Diocese of Georgia

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Goode line from Graham: "the statements by Virgil Goode do not represent the best of who we are as a nation"

Senator Lindsay Graham has it right:
Appearing on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized comments perceived by many as "anti-Muslim" made by a Republican Congressman, but agreed that there was an urgent need for immigration reform.
. . .
On Sunday, Senator Graham said that he doesn't think that's "the appropriate line for a congressman to take when it comes time for another congressman to take the oath."

Graham told Stephanopoulos, "Why would you swear allegiance to a document outside your faith? In our legal system, people can take the oath in a variety of ways. Religious diversity is a strength, not a weakness in this country. We need immigration reform, but not for the reasons that Mr. Goode cited. What would happen in this country if a Christian were elected in Lebanon and he had to swear allegiance to the Koran when it came time for them to take office? There'd be an outcry in this country. So I embrace religious diversity. I welcome this new member of Congress. I'm glad he's swearing allegiance to a document that is consistent with his faith."

"And what I would like America to do in 2007 is understand that the war on terror is about intolerance, that Syria is a dictatorship that has no interest in seeing a representative democracy in Iraq, that Iran, the president of Iran hosted a conference denying the holocaust in December 2006, has vowed to destroy the state of Israel," Graham continued. "We don't need to be talking to these people, we need to be standing up to their agendas and bringing them in line with the world, a world of tolerance."

Graham added that "Iran and Syria are not tolerant states and the statements by Virgil Goode do not represent the best of who we are as a nation."

Graham gave the right answer to an obvious question.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Virginia Schism - more links

Via titusonenine:
And some of my own:
  • Pat Buchanan - "Traditionalists have had it with the hierarchy, and the in-your-face elevation of a green and trendy liberal prelate to lead them broke it. Not only have the nine parishes severed ties, with more considering secession, seven of 111 Episcopal dioceses have rejected Schori's authority."
  • WSJ op-ed - "Let's start with those nice Episcopalians."
  • Bible Belt Blogger - "So why is Virginia the Episcopal Fort Sumter? Simple. Under Virginia code, when a church splits, the majority keeps the property. The law, on the book for decades, is a powerful trump card for conservatives and may explain why the battle has been joined in the southern suburbs of Washington, D.C."
BBB is a journalist, with a law degree and a Harvard bachelor's degree. Is he right? That's TBD. From reading his blog it appears to be more wishful thinking on his part.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Great human browser

As readers of this modest blog will know I get much of my Episcopal material via titusonenine. This is not because I share the point of view at titusonenine. Rather it is because it is such a timely and complete source -- the slant at titusonenine does not extend to a slant on the information provided.

This morning I commend to you this link via titusonenine. An extract:
In 1977 a meeting of those who wished to leave TEC was convened in St. Louis. Before the meeting was over a group created a church which intended to ask the Roman Catholic Church for uniate status. Another group elected a bishop and formed the Diocese of the Holy Trinity. Soon after the meeting ended another group met to create a non-geographical Diocese of Christ the King. These last two dioceses were in a body entitled the "Anglican Church in North America."Over the next year, as the leaders of this new body sought to find Anglican bishops to consecrate their bishops-elect, conflicts arose over what we used to call churchmanship, with Low Church people electing a safe bishop whose connections abroad might produce an Asian Anglican bishop willing to consecrate the three bishops-elect. The leadership of ACNA also fought about Constitutions and Canons and whether dioceses should be geographical or not.

Once the consecrations were over- a bishop of the Philippine Independent National Church joined an Episcopal retired bishop to consecrate one of the three men, and then he joined in the consecration of the other two - the internal tensions snapped and within a year ACNA had split three ways into the Anglican Catholic Church, the Diocese of Christ the King and the Low Church "United Episcopal Church".

From 1979 onwards the membership of the conservative lobby in TEC dwindled while the number of continuing churches multiplied. They spent a great deal of time denying the validity of the orders of other continuing churches, and gossipping about each other. Parishes and clergy played musical chairs, leaving one group in a huff to join another, or founding yet another group. More and more these groups defined themselves over against each other rather than over against TEC.
I've added Fr. Tony Clavier to my blogroll.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Virginia and religious freedom

Letter written by Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) in response to constituents commenting on Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) using a Koran to take the oath of office:

Thank you for your recent communication.

When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand.

I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.

I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts.
I guess he's not heir to the Jefferson-Madison tradition.

Letters from the Land of CANA

Bishop Minns:
My Dear Friends,
Welcome to your new home in the Anglican District of Virginia as part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. ...
Letter of Greeting from Archbishop Peter Akinola:
Bishop Martyn Minns has informed me of your courageous decision to separate yourselves from The Episcopal Church and become part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

This action demonstrates your desire to stay faithful to the Gospel of Christ and to remain firmly connected to the world-wide Anglican Communion through this Convocation, a mission initiative of the Church of Nigeria. I welcome you to our family. ...
Both letters address the treatment of homosexuals.

Via titusonenine where the debate in the comments appear to reinforce recurring accusations about CANA, untrue or not.

The Nation op-ed:
Holy Homophobia
Akinola endorsed the legislation saying, "The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality." In another declaration made in September, Akinola said, "The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values."

Given these statements, the attempts by Akinola's supporters to distance themselves (and him) from his previous support of this draconian legislation ring false. ...

Bishops weigh in on Virginia schism

The Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, bishop, East Tennessee:
I do offer a word of caution to those who wish to avoid the challenges current in our country, by aligning with religious hierarchies in other countries: You may find issues there which are still more uncomfortable for you - for example, an imperial church, an undemocratic means of government with little regard for lay people and attitudes toward some members (especially women) that Americans may find offensive.
The Rt. Rev. Neff Powell, bishop, Southwestern Virginia:
What distresses me the most about the actions in the Diocese of Virginia is that the priests involved have twice taken public vows to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church. They signed these vows when they were ordained deacons and again when they were ordained priests. Integrity would seem to demand that if they felt that the Episcopal Church was so completely wrong, they would simply renounce their vows, depart, and go with God.

I presume Powell's message is an email (it is addressed "Dear Colleagues"). My source is titusonenine, here. titusonenine was also my source for vonRosenberg.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reverso world in the Episcopal Church

Episcopal Diocese of Springfield:
In October, the vestry, or lay board, of the 200-member St. Andrew's Episcopal Church accused Bishop Peter H. Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Ill., of refusing to provide pastoral care over the past year. It asked Beckwith to allow them to seek another bishop to provide them with pastoral oversight, such as George Wayne Smith, bishop of the Diocese of Missouri.
. . .
In 2005, Beckwith, a theological conservative, refused to confirm a lesbian and, later, anyone at all at St. Andrew's. Two of the church's eucharistic ministers — lay people who help the priest during communion — subsequently refused to accept the Eucharist from Beckwith, who then stripped all 15 of St. Andrew's eucharistic ministers of their authority.


Washinton Post op-ed by Harold Myerson:
Whether it was the thought of a woman presiding over God's own country club or of gays snuggling under its eaves, it was all too much for a distinct minority of Episcopalians. The dissident parishes in the Virginia diocese contain only about 5 percent of the state's parishioners. But it's the church the defectors have latched on to that makes this schism news.

In slamming the door on their American co-religionists, the two largest parishes, which are in Fairfax City and Falls Church, also announced their affiliation with the Episcopal Church of Nigeria. The presiding Nigerian archbishop, Peter Akinola, promotes legislation in his country that would forbid gays and lesbians to form organizations or to eat together in restaurants and that would send them to jail for indulging in same-gender sexual activity. Akinola's agenda so touched the hearts of the Northern Virginia faithful that they anointed him, rather than Jefferts Schori, as their bishop.

Peer pressure played a role, too. Explaining the decision to leave the American church, Vicki Robb, a Fairfax parishioner and Alexandria public relations exec, told The Post's Bill Turque and Michelle Boorstein that the church's leftward drift has made it "kind of embarrassing when you tell people that you're Episcopal." It must be a relief to finally have an archbishop who doesn't pussyfoot around when gays threaten to dine in public.
. . .
Fully two-thirds of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were active or (like Washington) nominal Anglicans, and, having repudiated the political authority of the king of England, they could scarcely have gone on affirming his ecclesiastical authority.

The founders of the church believed, within the context of their time, that all men were created equal. Today's defectors have thought it over in the context of our own time, and decided that they're not.

The founders believed equality did not extend to blacks, native Americans, and women. We know now that they were wrong. Shamefully, the Episcopal Church played a role in holding up equal treatment of those groups, and even used scripture to do so.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Episcolypse Now :: Comedy Central

Farkers found the segment lame.

The PB :: "Reconciliation is the mission"

The Episcopal Church continues to focus on its mission of reconciling the world, particularly as it cares for the least, the lost, and the left out.

While the Episcopal Church laments the recent votes by some persons in Virginia congregations to leave this Church, we are clear that individuals may depart, but congregations do not. Congregations are created and recognized by the diocese in which they exist, and can only be closed by action of the bishop and diocesan governing bodies. Even if a large percentage of a congregation departs, the remaining people will be assisted by the diocese and the larger Church to reconstitute their congregation and continue in mission and ministry in that place. ...
There are a mix of comments. Via titusonenine where the comments are not so mixed.

Did taxpayers pay for Truro? The Falls Church?

In Virginia, the American Revolution led to the disestablishment of the Anglican Church, which had been tied closely to the royal government. Then the question arose as to whether the new state should continue to impose taxes to be used for the support of all recognized churches. The proposal had a number of supporters who, even if they no longer accepted an established church, still believed that religion should be supported by the public purse....

[On the other side,] Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both of whom would later be president of the United States, argued that religious beliefs should be solely matters of individual conscience and completely immune from any interference by the state. Moreover, religious activity of any sort should be wholly voluntary. Not only did they oppose taxing people to support an established church, but they also objected to forcing people to pay taxes even for their own church.

Truro History:
After the [Civil] war, the Zion Church was rebuilt on the site of the original church and was consecrated in 1878. the parish hall was built (1953), the present church building was built (1957), and the education building was added (1966).
The Falls Church history:
After the "disestablishment" of the Anglican Church in 1784, the building was virtually abandoned. After the "disestablishment" of the Anglican Church in 1784, the building was virtually abandoned. Those whose leadership helped to once again open the doors of the church for worship in the early 1800's included Francis Scott Key, who was a lay reader, and Henry Fairfax, who used his own funds to restore the building. Several of the early students and faculty members of the Virginia Theological Seminary, which was established in 1829, traveled to The Falls Church to hold services.

Farkers have much to say about Episcopal schism

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Press Releases

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The 15 churches above represent just over 7% of the churches in the Diocese. In terms of membership numbers, the 15 churches represent 11% of baptized membership and 18% of the diocesan average Sunday attendance of 32,000 as reported in annual parochial reports. In terms of financial support for the Diocese, in 2006 the 15 churches pledged $41,000 to the diocesan operating budget, nearly half of which came from one church, All Saints’, Dale City.

Church of the Word press release

Truro press release (pdf)

The Falls Church press release (same as Truro)

St. Margaret's, Woodbridge letter from Rector

Christ the Redeemer, Centerville - see news scroll

DOV forms Property Committee:
The Executive Board, Standing Committee and Bishop also established a Property Commission charged with addressing matters of real and personal property on behalf of the Diocese.
. . .
The Property Commission will meet with departing members to discuss real and personal property matters on a case-by-case basis and will make recommendations to the Standing Committee, Executive Board and Bishop for their consideration.

"As I have said previously, our polity maintains that all real and personal property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese," said Bishop Lee. "As stewards of this historic trust, we fully intend to assert the Church’s canonical and legal rights over these properties. The members of the Property Commission are charged with addressing those matters on behalf of the Diocese on a case by case basis."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Today's count = seven :: NYT

Into Africa.

Two large and influential Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted overwhelmingly today to leave the Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, a leader in a church-wide fight against homosexuality.
. . .
Five smaller churches in Virginia also announced today that they had voted to secede, joining four others that already left and three more that are expected to announce their decisions soon. Some affiliated with archbishops in Uganda and other parts of Africa.
The Bishop Lee quotations in the NYT article come from his press release.

Bishop Lee's statement of December 17, 2006

Full statement here.

Some extracts:
This is not the future of the Episcopal Church envisioned by our forebears.
. . .
I have asked the leadership of these now Nigerian and Ugandan congregations occupying Episcopal churches to keep the spiritual needs of all concerned uppermost in their minds at this difficult moment in our Church history, especially continuing Episcopalians.
. . .
Our polity maintains that all real and personal property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. As stewards of this historic trust, we fully intend to assert the Church's canonical and legal rights over these properties.

AP: The Falls Church, Truro vote to leave

High Church, Low Church, Bye Church, No Church? :: Inactivist Blog

Inactivist rarely blogs on the Episcopal Church. Today he has.

Some extracts:

The point of this little history lesson is that the Episcopal Church in the U.S. has from its very beginnings been both “conservative” and “liberal.” Ironically, it is unique among all other Protestant denominations in the U.S. in that there was no schism within the Episcopal Church resulting from the Civil War. By long standing custom, tradition and temperament, it has managed to finesse its internal differences over everything from liturgics to politics. In the last fifty years the Church has weathered a number of crises from the infamous “reparations” General Convention in the 1960s through a major revision to the Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women in the 1970s. Many conservatives and traditionalists have argued that these upheavals were responsible for the continuing, steep decline in membership in the last half century, but they have for the most part nonetheless themselves remained within the denomination. Until now.
. . .
the decision by an increasing number of parish churches within the U.S. to disassociate from the Episcopal Church, on the one hand, while creating some sort of new Anglican presence in America, on the other, is likely to result in a number of fascinating court battles. Generally speaking, the real property of parish churches – the land and buildings – are legally “owned” by the diocesan bishops, but only in trust for the membership. It is settled law that if a single parish congregation chooses to leave its diocese it will typically lose the land and buildings to the diocese regardless of the fact that the congregation bought and paid for it. It is far less settled law (and property law varies significantly from state to state) what will happen if a mass exodus constituting a schism within the denomination occurs and even less clear what happens if an entire diocese chooses to disassociate from the national denomination.

Like most mainline Protestant denominations, the Episcopal Church is land rich and cash poor. In its traditionally ham-handed manner, the national church organization in New York, controlled for decades now by the progressive, politically activist element of the denomination, has established a “war chest” to help pay litigation costs of diocesan bishops who seek to confiscate the real property from departing congregations. Ironically, even if they win this battle, they will lose the war. . . .
Has the Episcopal Church established a war chest? In what sense is a war chest a war chest? Are funds earmarked? Are commitments to use the war chest made, and are they binding? You build and use a war chest if you want to maintain a reputation for upholding the property ownership precedents.

Some canons are meant to be broken of course. Witness the ordination of Bishop Robinson.

Falls Church results

BabyBlue has the breaking news. 90% to sever, 96% to retain property.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Exodus :: Washington Times

Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee, head of the nation's largest Episcopal diocese, could lose almost 10 percent of his flock tomorrow if several conservative parishes carry out their threats to leave the church. He is denying reports that pressure from denominational leaders in New York is forcing him to take a hard line with the nine churches that want to leave the denomination....

"The diocese owns their property," he said in an interview with The Washington Times. "It was developed by generations of people who were faithful Episcopalians and who are buried with these churches. We have a fiduciary responsibility not to let a current generation of leaders -- who are mistaken -- to take away the property of the church."

The loss to the 90,000-member Virginia diocese would be greater than the defections suffered at once by any U.S. Episcopal diocese. . . .

Although the bishop struck a deal with All Saints in Dale City, the vestries, or governing boards, of the other eight churches received a threatening letter from him on Dec. 1, reminding them they could be sued. The letter shocked conservatives, who said the diocese had secretly agreed over the past year to let them depart under the guidelines of a "protocol" whereby they buy their way out of the diocese.
. . . .
"I met the wardens and rectors of the Falls Church and Truro on Oct. 16 and told them I supported the so-called protocol and, at the same time, said it did not exhaust the consequences of their decisions," he said.

"I have not changed at all. I have for the last three years tried to accommodate and listen," going so far as to allow former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey into the diocese for confirmation services "when they would not receive me.

"So they got the impression I would not live up to my responsibilities and that I would not protect the wider church. But I have sworn to uphold the canons of the church."
The article mentions lots of numbers, but it does not mention that these churches have withheld their financial contribution to the diocese for several for years.

I've not heard the argument made before of a duty to the faithful departed Episcopalians. Many are probably rolling in their graves -- some aligned with the diocese and some with the current membership of these churches.

Speaking of faithful departed, there are also living faithful departed. Episcopalians tend to self select into congregations that fit them. Some congregations become concentrated with conservatives, others with liberals. Others have a large group in the middle.

UPDATE: Sunday's NYT has an article, too. Some extracts:
the secession effort in Virginia is being closely watched by Anglicans around the world because so many churches are poised to depart simultaneously. Virginia has become a central stage, both for those pushing for secession and for those trying to prevent it.

The Diocese of Virginia is led by Bishop Peter James Lee, the longest-serving Episcopal bishop and a centrist who, both sides agree, has been gracious to the disaffected churches and worked to keep them in the fold.

Bishop Lee has made concessions other bishops would not. He has allowed the churches to keep their seats in diocesan councils, even though they stopped contributing to the diocesan budget in protest. When some of the churches refused to have Bishop Lee perform confirmations in their parishes, he flew in the former archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. George Carey, a conservative evangelical, to take his place.
My emphasis.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fundamentalists, Islamists, Christianists, and Atheists



But ever heard of fundamentalist atheists (click for google search)? I have, now, thanks to this NPR story. They sound like a thin-skinned, intolerant group quick to claim victimization. They're learning.

George Washington, church hopper?

Was George Washington a boomer-like church hopper?

Mark Johnson asks:
Just out of curiosity — how many Episcopal churches in Northern Virginia did George Washington serve as a vestry member? I can think of three that boast that claim — was he constantly church hopping? Or, my guess is, he belonged to one church as a vestry member and that church sponsored the formation of the others? Anyone know?
Russ Randle explains:
Regarding Mark Johnson’s question (#11) concerning George Washington’s vestry service, I believe he was elected but did not serve on the vestry of Fairfax parish, which is where the claims from my parish (Christ Church, Alexandria), the Falls Church, and Truro all come from. At that time, the actual church buildings at Christ Church and the Falls Church (constructed on the same plan) were chapels of ease in the same parish. The Fairfax parish boundaries reportedly changed after his election and before his service. I think he then served on the Pohick vestry.

Who is faking: women, or men? :: An Economist in Paradise

Faseer Sheik Rahem writes:
Bryan Caplan points to a fascinating survey by Rodney Stark and Alan Miller on the difference between men and women in their religious beliefs. Two striking facts emerge : (1) across all cultures, women are more religious than men, (2) in the least traditional cultures (i.e. those who approve of single motherhood, have with a high abortion rate, low fertility, and high female labor force participation) the gap between men and women is wider. How can this be explained?
Read all of Rahem's post to get a possible answer. It does have to do with faking.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Models of disassociation and property settlement

From The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia Press Release, December 2006:

Step 1 - "In October 2004, members of St. Charles’ and St. Stephen’s voted overwhelmingly to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. To remain in the Anglican Communion, St. Charles’ and St. Stephen’s came under the ecclesial oversight of the Diocese of Recife in Brazil. The two congregations are also aligned with the Anglican Communion Network which represents over one thousand congregations in North America. Members of St. Stephen’s who did not agree with that decision chose to continue the ministry of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Oak Harbor community and have been holding services in homes."

Step 2 - "The two-day mediation sessions that took place this past July 5-6 [2006] in Seattle were facilitated by the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little, II, Bishop of Northern Indiana, and Judge Terrence Carroll, retired Washington State Superior Court Judge and a member of the Judicial Dispute Resolution Center in Seattle. Part of the mediation agreement included the acceptance of the terms by the governing bodies of the three churches and the Diocese of Olympia. The final agreed-upon covenant is the result of work that continued in the months since July."

Step 3 - "A covenant agreement between the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and three congregations will allow St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Oak Harbor, Wash. and St. Charles’ Anglican Church in Poulsbo, Wash. to maintain their ongoing ministries in their current, respective locations. In addition, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church ministry will return to the Oak Harbor facility in a mutually agreed-upon relationship with the Anglican congregation. In effect until June 30, 2014, the agreement means St. Charles’ Anglican Church and St. Stephen’s Anglican Church will continue to use the existing church properties for a 7.5-year period. Additionally, the St. Stephen’s Episcopal congregation will have use of the Oak Harbor church building for Sunday worship and other programs on terms spelled out in the agreement."

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, example A:

Step 1 - November 9, 2006, Diocese of Virginia, All Saints’ Church Agree on Disposition of Property . . . Today, the Bishop of Virginia, the diocesan Standing Committee, the diocesan Executive Board and the Vestry of All Saints’ Church, Dale City announce that they have reached an agreement on the disposition of real and personal property in the event that the congregation of All Saints’ Church votes to end its affiliation with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia when it holds a congregational meeting in early December. . . . Though details of the agreement are not public, the general provisions provide for the transfer of title to the consecrated property on Saratoga Lane – the church building where the congregation currently worships -- from trustees for the congregation to the Diocese. The Saratoga Lane property is subject to a mortgage of about $188,000 from the Diocesan Missionary Society which the Diocese has agreed to assume. The Diocese will lease the property to the congregation for five years at $1 rent per year while All Saints’ proceeds with a building program on other property. The congregation will bear responsibility for all costs associated with use of the Saratoga Lane property, including utilities, insurance, routine maintenance and capital repair. In addition, the Diocese has agreed to release its claim to a piece of unimproved, unconsecrated property on Gideon Drive in Dale City which the congregation purchased in 2001 with the expectation of building a new church. The congregation carries about $2.6 million in debt on the property.

Step 2 - December 11, 2006; disaffiliation vote.

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, example B:

Step 1 - Truro, Falls Church, and several other churches voting to leave the Episcopal Church.

Step 2 - To be determined.


Read it all in "The Good Book Business" in The New Yorker. Some topics:

-Numbers sold in the US per year, percentage as gifts
-The Good News translation
-niche marketing
-functional equivalence in translation
-Bibles are expensive to produce
-Phyllis Tickle and the "progressive emergent church"
-providing the color commentary for
“Understandest thou what thou readest?”
The Ethiopian answered, “How can I, except some man should guide me?”

MORE: Bible for Porn Stars (very safe for work).

Both links via Marginal Revolution.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Does Akinola support jailing gays?

Yes, according to Raising Kaine:
Jailing gays? Jailing gays?! Later, the article elaborates that Akinola "supported a new Nigerian law that penalizes gay activity, whether private or 'a public show of same sex amorous relationship,' with jail time."
No, according to Bishop Minns, priest-in-charge at Truro:
A Statement of Clarification

In a recent Washington Post article, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola was characterized as “an advocate of jailing gays.” That is not true.

Archbishop Akinola believes that all people—whatever their manner of life or sexual orientation—are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with respect. “We are all broken and need the transforming love of God,” Archbishop Akinola said to me during a recent conversation.

Archbishop Akinola also said, “Jesus Christ is our example for this. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery instead he said. ‘Go now and sin no more.’ That is an essential part of the message of the Gospel and the teaching of our congregations.”

Your brother in Christ,

Perhaps the Archbishop disagrees with part of the Nigerian law.

Or perhaps he uses reason to interpret scripture:
Rom 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural,
Rom 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
Rom 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.
Rom 1:29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips,
Rom 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Rom 1:32 Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.
Rom 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
Rom 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things.
Rom 2:3 Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?

Voting procedures questioned :: Washington Times

Russ Randle, the former head of the diocesan standing committee, which advises Bishop Lee, questioned whether diocesan canon law allows for multiple days of voting.

"While I am sympathetic to the difficulties of voting in a large congregation," he wrote in an e-mail, "it would appear that the voting procedures adopted are facially invalid and any vote taken by this means open to serious procedural challenge. I have called this deficiency to the attention of some in leadership at one of these parishes, but no correction has been made."

Jim Pierobon, spokesman for both the Falls Church and Truro, said both churches are conducting their votes legally within the confines of a parish meeting, which can be called and recessed throughout the week.

Here is Truro's "The Vote electronic resource center."

Monday, December 11, 2006

All Saints' Dale City disaffiliates

From the ASDC homepage: "carried with 402 votes in favor and 6 against."

Homepage needs updating: Name of church is listed as "All Saints' Episcopal Church." By contrast Truro is calling itself Truro Church on its website.

Via ENS.

Washington Times:
All Saints' vote ratified an agreement its leaders had struck last month with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to cede their property to the diocese, then rent it back for five years until the church completes a new 800-seat sanctuary near Potomac Mills Shopping Center in Prince William County.

The Dennis Canon

Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; Title 1 Canon 7:
Sec. 4. All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any
Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and
the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is
located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the
power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise
existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission
or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its
Constitution and Canons.
The Living Church, Dec 10 2006:
“The letter was an effort by Bishop Lee to make sure that those making these very serious decisions had a complete understanding of the canonical and legal picture of what the consequences might be,” said Patrick Getlein, secretary of the diocese. “We have heard that the rank and file has been told that this is nothing more than taking a vote and changing the name on the sign out front. The Presiding Bishop is weighing seriously what steps she might take in retaining real and personal property.”

In friend of the court filings in other diocesan property disputes, the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor has successfully argued that under the so-called Dennis Canon of the General Convention, all property is held in trust for the diocese and the national church. That theory was rejected again on appeal Dec. 7 by a California judge who dismissed claims against three congregations that voted to withdraw in 2004 from the Diocese of Los Angeles. Instead of deferring to internal church bylaws, California and a handful of other states apply neutral principles of law in property disputes. The senior wardens at the two parishes responded in a joint letter the following day to Bishop Lee, noting that Virginia law does not recognize express or implied trust claims in favor of the denomination in the event of a split.

“Given this plain rule of law, it is our position that the Diocese does not have a valid claim to ownership of our property under a theory of express or implied trust,” the letter stated. “Any attempt by the Episcopal Church or the Diocese to interfere with our interests, including any further attempt to interfere with our discernment process or our congregational vote, will be met with the strongest possible response, including legal defense.”
Then there is this (which also appeared in The Living Church):
Clergy and dioceses certainly appear to be bound by this rule, the plain meaning of which is that the Episcopal Church owns all church assets. Civil courts, which might be enlisted to enforce canonical arrangements, have consistently favored property rights of superior governing bodies over those of individual congregations in hierarchically organized churches such as ours, even in the absence of provisions as explicit as the Dennis canon. [2006 example]

The American Anglican Council and its allies have asserted that General Convention actions violated the preamble of the Church’s constitution, thereby justifying extralegal responses, possibly including the departure of intact parishes from a wayward church. Not surprisingly, the constitution does not allow a bishop, diocese, priest, or vestry to second-guess decisions of General Convention. Some have argued that it is “defective” for not establishing a “supreme court” to adjudicate constitutionality, but this failure cannot justify the unilateral assumption of judicial powers by individuals or groups.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Church of the Day - December 10, 2006

St. John the Baptist, Episcopal, Lodi, California

More images here.

Schism within a schism

Fresno Bee reports:
Holy Family Church in northeast Fresno and two other parishes will remain with the Episcopal Church USA, despite a recent vote by the Valley’s Episcopal diocese to start breaking away from the national church.

It’s a schism within a schism for the Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno. Holy Family, St. Anne’s Church in Stockton and St. John the Baptist Church in Lodi have taken official positions not to split.

The Rev. Van McCalister, spokesman for the diocese, did not return telephone calls from The Bee.
Via titusonenine.

Oh, Christmas Tree

The Port [airport] allowed "holiday" decorations to remain but decided to take down all the Christmas trees after a Jewish religious leader complained they were offensive.

"It's a Christmas tree! It's not like they were displaying crucifixes or menorahs or anything religious, but Christmas trees that have been around here for years," said an employee who asked not to be identified.

The Port of Seattle says it had little choice. It says a Seattle rabbi with the Central Organization for Jewish Learning hired an attorney and threatened to sue if the airport did not erect an eight-foot menorah to balance the message of the Christmas trees.
Here's what Farkers are saying.

I figure Seattle Ports saw itself on the proverbial slippery slope where all faiths would have to be accomodated.

Ding dong merrily Dubai

AS Britain’s manic PC brigade try to take the fun out of Christmas . . . MUSLIM Dubai shows how to celebrate properly.

Shoppers at the posh Wafi mall in the Arab state are greeted by a massive Christmas tree, covered with dazzling lights and decorations.

And despite being non-Christians locals delight in the “Winter” wonderland...
The picture says it all.

Here's what commenters at Secret Dubai are saying.

My comment? Two words. Dubai, Inc. It's all about making a profit.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bums in pews are often just that :: Times of London

Churches in Britain are a “toxic cocktail” of bullying and terror, as parish priests struggle to lead congregations dominated by neurotic worshippers who spread havoc with gossip and manipulation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is among the contributors to the report, The Future of the Parish System: Shaping the Church of England for the 21st Century.

One of the authors, Sara Savage, a psychology and religion researcher at the University of Cambridge, reports how increasing numbers of ministers are going down with a new illness, irritable clergy syndrome.
One difficulty is how to motivate the “settled blancmange” of the softly acquiescent majority, described by Dr Savage as “social loafers”. “Bums on pews are often just that,” she reports.

Dr Savage says one of the problems is that churches are hierarchical systems, with all the attendant echoes of feudal society. Thus they elicit bad behaviour such as status seeking, fawning, bullying, passivity, blaming others and gossiping.

Here's what Farkers are saying.

Nigerians to the left of me, Nigerians to the rights of me

1. Hillary Clinton's putated-in-law-to-be "traveled to Nigeria numerous times and ultimately lost more than $3 million as a victim of the scammers." He was so interested in becoming instantly wealthy he scammed his own mother-in-law.

2. "The leadership of Truro Church continues to advance extremely dubious claims as it urges members of their congregation to move the parish into the Church of Nigeria."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Editing Eisenhower's Statement

The original:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

The portions in red do not appear on the abbreviated version posted at the National WWII Memorial in Washington.

Interesting that "Great Crusade" made it, but prayers of freedom-loving people and blessing of Almighty God did not.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

State of the Episcopal Church :: Diana Butler Bass

As noted below, Diana Butler Bass did an online Q&A at WaPo today. One really should just go read the whole Q&A. I give these quotes to encourage you to do so:
I can identify five distinct groups of Episcopalians.

Yes, there are two parties in tension: Old-line liberals and radicalized conservatives. This is the fight we most often read about in the media. However, you point out a third possibility, a centrist party that is trying to navigate between the two extremes (Bishop Peter Lee in VA would represent the centrists). From my own research, you are right. The extremes aren't the whole story.

However, there are two additional groups, and these two are far less noticed. I refer to these groups (they don't have a clear "party" identity) as "progressive pilgrims" and "emergent conservatives." These two groups tend to see "issues" like this one as secondary concerns to the practice of Christian faith and are more concerned with things like the practice of hospitality, living forgiveness, practicing reconciliation, learning to pray, feeding the hungry, caring for the environment, and maintaining the Anglican practice of comprehensiveness (being a church of the "middle way"). They may lean slightly left on slighty right on "issues," but reject partisan solutions to theological problems. Both progressive pilgrims and emergent conservatives are far more interested in unity than uniformity; and they appreciate diversity in their congregations as a sign of God's dream for humanity to live in peace.
. . .
The exact same parishes and dioceses who are stressed by +Gene's election were also extremely upset about the ordination of women in the 1970s.
. . .
I know that it may well be difficult for "old line liberals" to see that their views have had a hardening effect on the church. But, and I say this as someone who is deeply sympathetic with their position, I think that some policies and attitudes of my liberal friends have helped to make this situation worse than it may otherwise have been.

Liberalism does have the fundamental position that individuals should make up their own minds. But, on occasion, liberal enthusiasm (hubris, perhaps?) seems to others that people are free mostly to agree with liberals...

I think liberals need to examine this shortfall in their own spirituality honestly.

My favorite question:
Washington, D.C.: Ms. Bass,

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that Jesus covered all of this with one simple command: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." When I saw other denominations using theology to justify their bigotry, I was disgusted. Now when I see Episcopal churches doing the same I am truly saddened. It amazes me that there are Christians who really believe that if Jesus reappeared today and gave a sermon where he listed all the things that are wrong with our society, that gay bishops and priests would be No. 1 on his list.

Bob Dannals drops out :: Living Church

In a letter to Karen Patterson, the president of the diocesan standing committee, Fr. Dannals said he and his wife, Valerie, decided not to continue the process in Southwest Florida after the Dec. 1 walkabout.

“Valerie and I came to Venice this past week confident that we would affirm your invitation to be in the election and we went away equally confident that we should not remain in the process,” the letter said.

Fr. Dannals continues to be a finalist in the search for a coadjutor in the Diocese of Virginia, which will hold its election Jan. 26 in Richmond.
UPDATE: OldSmee's memory is tweaked and he remembers this:
After making the hurdles all the way just prior to public announcement, one of the finalists in the Diocese of Tennessee episcopal showdown slated for March 2006, suddenly withdrew his candidacy. In the interest of the electorate and of the Diocese as a whole, COVENANT asked Why.
The balance of the article in Covenant was the candidate's response.

WaPo carries live discussion on "The State of the Episcopal Church

Religious historian "Diana Butler Bass will be online Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. to discuss the reasons behind the split and the possible outcomes for the church. Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion".

Here's more about DBB.

Newsbusters also has this on Diana Butler Bass. I think their point is fair enough. The WaPo article cited by Newsbusters (and, indeed, the promo for the live discussion) should say she is not someone who puts herself in the conservative camp. I suspect that will come out in the live discussion.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Taking care of those on your list ...

Your post-rapture card mailing list.

Truro and Falls Church to Vote on Departure

Two of the country's largest and most historic Episcopal congregations -- both in Fairfax County -- will vote next week on whether to leave the U.S. church on ideological grounds and affiliate instead with a controversial Nigerian archbishop. The decision could lead to a bitter court battle and the loss of $25 million in property.

Many members of The Falls Church and Truro Church, as well as some conservative leaders around the country, hope a split will establish a legal structure that would make it easier for dozens more like-minded congregations to also depart the national denomination.
. . .
Three other churches in the 193-congregation Virginia diocese -- the nation's largest -- are also voting this month.
. . .
If the votes at The Falls Church and Truro succeed, as their leaders predict, the 3,000 active members of the two churches would join a new, Fairfax-based organization that answers to Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, leader of the 17 million-member Nigerian church and an advocate of jailing gays. The new group hopes to become a U.S.-based denomination for orthodox Episcopalians.

How many congregations will take this route is unknown, with the likelihood of costly litigation over historic, valuable properties and bitterness infecting a holy space. Even church centrists estimate that 15 percent of U.S. Episcopalians would leave the national church if their congregations could keep their church buildings and remain in the Communion.

The Falls Church and Truro alone are worth more than $25 million in real estate, according to county records, not to mention the powerful sentimental value of churches that were formed in the 1700s -- before the U.S. denomination even existed -- when they were still part of the Church of England. George Washington was a member of the vestry at The Falls Church.
Thanks to Scott of Hybla for the link.

UPDATE: Bringing us "just an update on the beliefs of some" Episcopalians (for now) in Virginia, Andrew Sullivan observes the Nigerian archbishop they seem to prefer answering to
believes that gays should be incarcerated for the crime of adult consensual sex and that their free speech should be controlled.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Let that be a sign unto you

News report:
ATLANTIC CITY — In the end, plans by a controversial religious group to disrupt Saturday's funeral of a local man killed while serving in Iraq were done in by an act of God.

Severe weather in Chicago forced the cancellation of a flight to Philadelphia for members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas congregation that believes U.S. casualties in Iraq are God's way of punishing America for tolerating gays and lesbians.

Church attorney Shirley Phelps-Roper said that while it was God's will that church members protest at the funeral of U.S. Army Spc. Eric Rivera, God also controls the weather.

“Once you get to the airport, and you can't get on a plane, that pretty much does it for you,” she said.

Don't you really wish God would stop sending mixed messages?

Actually there is no mixed message: The message is love. You figure it out from there. The Bible gives examples; it's not a codification of the law. I seem to remember about the end of the law.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bishop Lee's letter to churches in 40 Days of Discernment

Extract from December 1st news release by Diocese of Virginia:

On Friday, Dec. 1, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Peter James Lee, sent a letter to the rectors, vestries and wardens of congregations known to have engaged in a “40 Days of Discernment” [TM] program to consider their place in The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. Some of those congregations have chosen to conclude that program with votes, to be held this month, to determine their future affiliation with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia

In his letter, Bishop Lee highlighted that the members of those congregations are cherished members of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church, and that he and the Standing Committee hope they will decide to continue to worship as one, unified family.
. . .
The letter also explained some of the potential legal and canonical consequences of a decision to separate from the Episcopal Church, addressing issues of property and personal liability.

“Along with the damaging effects any split would have on the Diocese as a whole and these churches in particular, we are concerned that these congregations may not fully understand the potential legal consequences of their actions,” said Russell Palmore, chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia. “The decision to leave the Diocese should be a fully informed one.”
Extract from the Bishop's Letter:
I remind you that absent a negotiated settlement of property, an attempt to place your congregation and its real and personal property under the authority of any ecclesial body other than the Diocese of Virginia and the bodies authorized by its canons to hold church property will have repercussions and possible civil liability for individual vestry members.
. . .
Consistent with these trust canons are Canon I.7.3 of the Episcopal Church and Canon 15.2 of the Diocese of Virginia. These canons forbid vestries from alienating, selling, exchanging, encumbering or otherwise transferring any real property, including but not limited to consecrated property for any Church or Chapel which has been used solely for divine services, without the written consent of the Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese. Neither the Standing Committee nor I has been asked to consent, or consented, to any proposed property transfer by [your] Church.
. . .
The decision of a congregation to leave the Episcopal Church places its clergy in a difficult position. Clergy who are affiliated with such a congregation risk a finding by the Standing Committee that they have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. If the Bishop agrees with that finding, he may inhibit the cleric from officiating in any Episcopal Church, and if the cleric does not recant within six months, the cleric may be released from the obligations of ministry and removed therefrom. The cleric would thereafter be ineligible to earn further credited service towards a pension from the Church Pension Fund and the employing church could not pay pension assessments. (The cleric would be credited for service prior to his removal and upon reaching retirement age, would receive a pension calculated on his credited service in the Episcopal Church.)

The cleric, and lay employees of the parish, would no longer participate in the diocesan health insurance plan and the departing parish could not participate in property and casualty insurance plans sponsored by the affiliates of the Church Pension Fund.
. . .
I am bound, just as you and your vestry members are, to adhere to and to enforce the Church’s canon law. My obligation to uphold the canon law derives from the oath I took when I was ordained and consecrated Bishop. Your obligation, which continues even now, derives from the promises and commitments you made. In the case of the Rector, those promises were made at his ordination and at his installation as your Rector by one of the Bishops of Virginia.

The principles reflected in the Church’s canon law as it relates to parish property have been enforced by many courts throughout the United States in cases involving hierarchical churches such as the Episcopal Church. Those cases include cases decided by Virginia courts.
Read the whole thing here.

'"40 Days of Discernment" and the "40 Days of Discernment" logo are trademarks and service marks of The Falls Church and Truro Church.' Or, perhaps not. Even intangible property is property. Just kidding.

UPDATE: The Falls Church and Truro Church respond. And, Washington Times coverage also from VirtueOnline.

UPDATE 2: Titusonenine has posted the Wash Times article and is generating lots of comment.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Does God need Viagra?

I don't think so, but some people seem to think she does:
STRASBURG — Motorists on Interstate 81 near Strasburg will soon see more than mountains in the distance.

Three crosses, the tallest reaching 150 feet, will be built on property just west of town where The Church of the Valley's new, 20,000-square-foot building is also being built. The crosses will be visible from both directions of I-81 and will be lit at night, said Pastor Jay Ahlemann, who leads the church.

Construction will begin within a few days, and the church hopes to have the crosses finished in time for Christmas, Ahlemann said.

"We just wanted to be highly visible and wanted to be a strong testimony to everyone that travels through the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah County," Ahlemann said of the reasoning behind the crosses' height. "We have a wonderful location, and this is also a great location to put the crosses ... [which] are a very visual symbol of faith in Christ."

The Shenandoah County Planning Commission unanimously approved the project, but county officials are now working on an ordinance to limit the height of such structures in the future, code official Geary Showman said.

Episcopalians reach out to conservatives :: AP

NEW YORK — Episcopal leaders offered conservatives more independence from the national church Thursday, as a California diocese quietly backed down from its threat of a swift break with the denomination.

The Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, made the change as it came under pressure from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her advisers to ease off a proposal to leave.
. . .
The proposal would create a leadership position called a "primatial vicar." The vicar would work with conservative dioceses, performing functions that normally fall to Jefferts Schori, including consecrating local bishops.

A representative of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, would have a role on a panel of church leaders supervising the appointee. However, the vicar would ultimately be under the authority of Jefferts Schori. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member Anglican family.

Virginia Bishop Peter Lee, a leader in developing the proposal, said the group that worked on the idea was "conscious of the need to respond quickly to the needs of parishes and dioceses." The Diocese of San Joaquin had been set to vote on a split at its convention, which runs through Saturday.
. . .
Canon Kendall Harmon, a conservative leader from the Diocese of South Carolina, said he was encouraged that Lee and others acknowledged the urgency of the situation. But he said the proposal failed to address underlying theological differences and their impact on the church.

"It's as if at the last minute they pulled a feather out of their hat and said, 'Here,'" Harmon said.
Episcopal News Service:
The Primatial Vicar, accountable to the Presiding Bishop, would report to an advisory panel that would include the designees of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, and a bishop of the Episcopal Church selected by the dioceses petitioning for pastoral care by the Primatial Vicar.

The response makes clear that the arrangement does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The response also specifies that the Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
Over at titusonenine the text of the response by the Archbishop Bishop of Canterbury is given and there's plenty of comments.

Have a relativist Christmas :: Charleston Daily Mail

Melinda Ashby of Sissonville visited the display last weekend with her husband, Albert, and their children, Jordan 15, Destiny, 11, and Taylor, 6.

Ashby, 35, called the scene one of the dumbest she's ever seen in her life.

"I asked ‘where is the baby Jesus?' I was told that it is a desert scene and to use my imagination," she said. "I would be less offended if the manger scene had not been there at all. Jesus is the reason for the season."

She added that festival officials told her there was no baby Jesus due to separation of church and state.

Officials have never had a nativity scene in order to avoid complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union, Cunningham [superintendent of St. Albans City Park] said. He said the purpose of the festival is to allow people to enjoy the lights and not to stir controversy.
Next up, St. Albans will change its name.

Actually, using your imagination is a very good suggestion.