The newSpin newsletter
October 22, 2014
• Letter from Bishop Sean's about diocesan staff ...
Friday, October 17, 2012
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
I am grateful to everyone who made last weekend’s diocesan convention such a spirited success. Your enthusiasm is a blessing to our church and a great gift to me as your bishop. As I said in my sermon at the convention Eucharist, we have some difficult work ahead of us if we are to become a more spiritually vital, financially sustainable diocese that manifests God’s love in word and deed, but together we have made an excellent start.
Part of that difficult work is to reduce the size of the diocesan staff so that more of the money contributed by the people of the diocese can be devoted to mission and ministry on the local level. In these quickly changing times, adaptability is essential, and we can no longer maintain the large staff we now have. Today, then, I am eliminating four staff positions and, regretfully, ending the employment of four full-time staff members who have given faithful service to our diocese.
Departing staff members whose positions are being eliminated include Rosie Hummel, administrative assistant for programs and database; Kat Lehman, director of communication and information technology; and the Rev. Andrew Reinholz, staff liaison for congregational renewal. As you may know, Ellyn Siftar has resigned as youth and young adult minister and will finish her work with us in mid-November. Ellyn is returning to college, and that position will also be eliminated after she departs.
In addition, we are no longer able to afford the costs associated with the full-time position of archdeacon. The Venerable Howard Stringfellow will end his service in that job at the end of the month. Howard has helped to lead this diocese for the past nine years, and I am grateful to him for his faithful service, his liturgical wisdom and his support of the episcopate.
When I spoke at our convention about the need to make staff cuts, I promised to work extra hard to treat people with dignity and respect. Departing staff members will receive a generous severance that includes career counseling and job placement services or diocesan assistance in seeking a new position in the church.
I want to emphasize that each of our departing staff members made important contributions to the life of the diocese, and I am eager for them to find new and fulfilling employment. Please keep them in your prayers.
Reducing the size of the diocesan staff and the budget required to support diocesan operations is the first step—but only the first step—in creating the vital congregations we all want. I will be in touch in the coming weeks to tell you more about our new and evolving staff structure and help make sure you can direct the concerns you once shared with these former staff members to the proper person. If you have questions in the meantime, please call the diocesan office at 610 691 5655.
Once again, please join me in thanking our departing employees for their service, and remember to keep them in your prayers.
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe
• Bishop Mark Dyer ... [Bill] I've begun to write a tribute to Bishop Mark, and may be able to include something you remember. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org anything you remember Mark saying or doing that impressed you. Word has been received from Amy Dyer through the Bishops' Spouse Network that Bishop Mark Dyer, who served as bishop in the Diocese of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995, is in the last days of his earthly journey. Mark, 84, has been suffering from multiple myeloma. Amy has requested prayers for Mark. He has been serving since 1996 as professor of Systematic Theology and director of Spiritual Formation at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. Mark had also served in several ways as a worldwide consultant for the Archbishop of Canterbury.
• TREC: Reimagining the Episcopal Church ... A one-minute video re-cap of the meeting, including a sound bite from Bishop Sean Rowe. For a recording of the webcast of TREC's recent meeting at Washington National Cathedral: here and here. At ten minutes in, you will find an inspiring address by Bishop Michael Curry. TREC's website: reimaginetec.org. Read the ENS story of TREC's last face-to-face meeting before proposing structural changes. A message from TREC following the churchwide meeting.
• GTS faculty returning to work ... [From their letter to Bishop Sisk, chair of the Board of Trustees] We accept your offer of reinstatement to our positions, and the salaries and benefits outlined in our contracts in effect prior to September 25, 2014. We look forward to being able to do this as soon as possible. Read on. For continuing news, visit SafeSeminary, the website of the GTS8, and their Facebook group, GTS8 SafeSpace, as well as Episcopal Café (scroll down through the many articles back to late September).
• 7 lessons from the Vatican’s wild and crazy Synod on the Family ... [RNS, David Gibson] 1. Hard-liners won the battle 2. Reformers may win the war 3. Change is hard 4. Catholicism is ‘flirting with an Anglican moment’ 5. Speech is free 6. Talk is cheap 7. Francis is the “Pope of Process” Read on.
• A prayer from your personality type ... [RNS Roundup] Take a look. Just for fun.
• On [proof] texting ... [Tobias Stanislas Haller BSC] In Matthew 19, Jesus cites texts from Genesis 1 and 2 ("male and female he made them" and "for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife") in order to show that "what God has joined together no one should separate." In other words, this is his response to the question about if and when divorce is appropriate. However, in current discussions, this text is more likely to be applied as an effort against marriage equality; sometimes even within traditions and by people who do not hold fast to the opposition to divorce which appears to have been the point of Jesus' teaching. This assertion of a subtext, removing the prooftext from its context, strikes me as a pretext. In a Godward Direction.
RNS: The “Left Behind” books series has sold more than 60 million copies. What do you think when you hear that so many have been influenced by that brand of eschatological thought?
SH: My reaction to the “Left Behind” series is one of amusement and pathos. Pathos because so many people have misunderstood Christian eschatological convictions and turned them into speculative accounts of the so-called “rapture.” I take it to be a judgment against the church that that kind of speculation has gained a foothold.- See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/07/07/stanley-hauerwas-reflects-end-times-end-life/#sthash.ClyfFU6i.dpuf
• Resources ... Here.
• A tip of the hat to the calendar girls at Episcopal House ... [Morning Call] When it came to raising money for their high-rise home, more than a dozen women at Episcopal House in Allentown rallied around an idea. They agreed to be calendar girls. Read on, where you will also find photos and video.
• Physcian-assisted suicide ... Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, has gone public with plans to take her own life via Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law. Americans are divided over laws allowing physician-assisted suicide, and younger adults are no more likely than others to support them, a Fact Tank post explains.
• The plural of the word “anecdote” ... is not “data.”
• DioBeth Listening Process begins ... See above, under TopSpin.
• Resources ... Here.
• Customized Liturgical Calendars – Free ... For several years, Jenifer Gamber, director of Christian Formation at St. Anne's Trexlertown, has been creating liturgical calendars customized for churches by name Churches just need to download the pdf file and print copies either in-house or a local printer. There is no cost for the pdf file.. More info here. There is also a version in Spanish.
• My Faith My Life ... There's a new edition of My Faith My Life by Jenifer Gamber that incorporates the Five Marks of Mission, updates Episcopal History with greater detail of fuller inclusion of LGBTQ in the life of the church and blessings of unions. The Leader Guide is now offered in print, with outlines for class sessions. Read on.
• Your Faith Your Life: An Invitation to the Episcopal Church ... by Jenifer Gamber with Bill Lewellis, published in 2009, continues to be a best seller. Read on. Free downloadable leader's guide for parish study groups. Discounted hard copy as well as Kindle edition at Amazon.
• Mental illness: What is the role of the church, temple, mosque? ... The latest issue of ReligionLink covers a sensitive topic too often overlooked in houses of worship.
• Resources ... Here.
Columns, Sermons, Reflections and other Spin
• Five ways churches can help stop the Ebola hysteria ... [RNS, Tom Ehrich] Here.
• A wedding anniversary when you're the only one still still standing ... [Caroline Cavett] Can you celebrate (with great joy) a wedding anniversary even though you’re the only one of the couple in question still standing? Caroline Cavett's answer is a definite yes. Read on.
People from our diocese and parishes in the media
Nothing to report.
• 2014-2015 Diocesan Youth Events ... Here.
• Resources ... Here.
• However tough things are, think of this ... [RNS Roundup] “A person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens.” The rest of a new report on the global economy here.
Rest in Peace
• Ben Bradlee, 93 ... He steered The Washington Post through some of the most trying and triumphant episodes in the paper’s history. His legacy includes the publishing of the Pentagon Papers and the coverage of the Watergate scandal. See stories at The Atlantic, WaPo and The New Yorker. WaPo obituary here.
• M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, 69 ... monk and, for 20 years, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, died on Oct. 17 in the care of his SSJE brothers at Emery House in West Newbury, Massachusetts. Read on. Also, Boston Globe: Soft-spoken and clad in a subdued black robe of his monastic order, the Right Rev. M. Thomas Shaw seemed an unlikely choice in 1994 to lead one of the largest Episcopal dioceses in the nation. Yet his unswerving devotion to spirituality and his unwillingness to avoid political controversy turned him into one of the most visible and vocal religious leaders of his time. Read on.
Episcopal/Anglican (Beyond DioBeth)
• Resources ... Here.
• Ubi or ubi sunt meum sububi? ... [WaPo] For years, the Mormon Church's undergarments have been mocked and misunderstood, which is why the Church has come forward to explain one of its most sacred Mormon mysteries. Read on.
• Mechanical Intervention ... [Joe Jackloski] An old friend told me this story: A small Roman Catholic parish in a Chicago suburb was living in the shadow of a more prosperous, newer edifice. It was in peril of being consolidated out of existence. Although the membership had declined, the old guard deftly played the game and kept the doors open. It had staved off closure by band aid finances, will, cajoling, and promises of restoration.
The Diocese did not have the stomach to oppose a few monied people who valued this "personal chapel" who were willing to fight for it, so the Church remained open, but on a path paved by attrition. A few days ago, there was a massive intervention, the ancient steam boiler had gasped its last, and after an inspection by contractors, found it would take more than $40,000.00 to restore this heating system because it was not only the boiler, but ancillary systems which had to be brought up to code.
Sensing the Diocese would use this as a means to an end, the people in the Church appealed to the bolier insurer only to find they were covered for catastrophic failure, not failure due to age. They attempted to secure a commercial bridge loan but the lenders looked at the Church income and the condition of collateral and declined. So this uneconomic Church, propped up by a few who seemed to confuse the edifice with the Church is facing the fate they had worked so hard to avoid. Reality sometimes intervenes when the heart leads people astray.
• The journalist A.J. Liebling ... [The Writer's Almanac] born in New York City, 1904, got kicked out of Dartmouth for missing too many chapel services, so he became a reporter. He was a WWII correspondent for The New Yorker, and he ignored politics and combat strategy and just wrote about day-to-day life among the soldiers and the civilians. He also wrote about gourmet food, and one of his most famous books is Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (1959). He said, "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." And he said, "An Englishman teaching an American about food is like the blind leading the one-eyed."
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.
Ecumenism and Interfaith
• Exploration of Full Communion Agreements ... [Canon Maria Tjeltveit] Tom Ferguson, former Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church and blog author of Crusty Old Dean, always gives you a lot to think about with a good dose of humor. He will be the Plenary Speaker at the "Witness in Common: An Exploration of Full Communion Agreements", on Nov. 10, 9:30-3:30, at Trinity Lutheran Church, Camp Hill, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Council of Churches. Get a copy of the brochure here. You can get a copy of the brochure here. For more information or to register, call (717) 545-4761 or go to www.pachurches.org and click on the conference link.
Full communion is when two denominations develop a relationship based on a common confessing of the Christian faith and a mutual recognition of Baptism and sharing of the Lord’s Supper, while also respecting differences. Join us for this day of plenary and panel presentations, worship, discussion, and fellowship to learn why these agreements are vitally important to the missional church in the 21st century. Learn from those who are putting these agreements into practice in local contexts, and bring your questions, hopes, and dreams to the table.
Evangelical Lutheran Church
• Resources ... Here.
• Jesus+Paul ... John Dominic Crossan will give the 5th annual Irene E. Marold Lectures on Biblical Studies on Nov. 7 (9:00 to 12:30) in Prossor Auditorium. Free. Professor emeritus, religious studies, De Paul University, Crossan is one of the leading New Testament scholars of our time. Lecture 1: Jesus and the Kingdom of God. How did Israel’s covenantal expectations, John’s Baptism movement, and Jesus’ Kingdom vision challenge Rome’s imperial designs for the Jewish homeland at the start of the first century CE? Lecture 2. Paul & the Challenge of Equality. How did Paul take Jesus’ Kingdom vision out across the eastern Roman Empire in language that explicitly confronted its imperial theology with titles and attributed that forced a choice between Christ and Caesar? More info about the event here. More info about the speaker here. Also here.
• Resources ... Here.
United Methodist Church
• Resources ... Here.
Presbyterian Church USA
• Resources ... Here.
• The Greatest non-story ever told ... [NCR, Ken Briggs] In all my years covering and writing about religion I've never seen a story more mangled than last week's news about the Synod summary about treatment of homosexuals.The summary of the torrent of television and print stories might go like this: "In a reversal as profound as any in its long history, the Roman Catholic Church followed Pope Francis' lead by welcoming homosexuality wholeheartedly into the church, wiping out centuries of condemnation and abuse."As anyone familiar with the Church's history of same-sexuality is grimly aware, the erroneous assumptions and the utter lack of context behind the coverage of the report are glaringly obvious.First, of course, the basis of this breaking news wasn't an official document that changed anything. It was the equivalent of a recording secretary's notes of a sub-committee meeting. Read on. [Bill: Ken Briggs, onetime religion reporter for NewsDay and the NYTimes, once maintained an office at Trinity Easton.]
• Chicago’s new archbishop to ditch the mansion? ... [RNS Roundup] Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich was seen as a personal Pope Francis pick when he was tapped to succeed Cardinal Francis George in Chicago, and he may be following Francis’ lead by ditching the nineteen-chimney, 125-year-old mansion that has traditionally been home to Chicago archbishops. Instead, reports the NBC affiliate, Cupich may live in the cathedral rectory downtown. What to do with the mansion, valued at $14 million?
• U.S. Catholics already are overwhelmingly accepting of homosexuality ... a Fact Tank post explains.
• However dramatic, the Synod of Bishops 2014 was just the beginning ... Crux: Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the tumultuous Synod of Bishops on the family, conclusions are in the air as to what it all meant. America: Five things the synod just did
• Yes, it's time for your Flu shot ... Info from the CDC Here and Here. I got mine, high-test, Oct. 1. A lot of good info also at flu.gov.
• Health Insurance for Children ... Every state in the nation has a health insurance program for infants, children, and teens. Your child or teen may qualify for free or low-cost health insurance coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). To find out if your children may be eligible, visit the website of your state’s Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669) for more information. For more information on children's health insurance plans, visit Insure Kids Now.• Resources ... Here.
• We Make the Road by Walking ... That's the title of Brian McLaren's latest book, an overview of the biblical story and a fresh introduction or re-orientation to Christian faith. Each chapter is written to be read aloud in ten to twelve minutes, and is accompanied by a set of Scripture readings, reflection/discussion questions, and liturgical resources - so the book can be useful in a variety of ways for classes, small groups, new faith communities, and churches. And of course, it's an inspiring and formative read for individuals too.
The title comes from one of Brian's heroes, Brazilian educator/activist Paolo Freire. Freire may have derived the quote from the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado: "Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road-- Only wakes upon the sea."
The title suggests that Christian faith is still "in the making" (as Dr. John Cobb has put it). It continues to grow, evolve, learn, change, emerge, and mature ... in and through us. What we will be as Christians in the 21st century, for better or worse, will surely change what Christian faith will be in the 22nd century and beyond.
You can view the Preface, Introduction, and first three chapters (including dialogue questions) here.
Getting a happiness boost ... Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the powerhouse couple who wrote Half the Sky about the oppression of women, have a new book out. In “A Path Appears”, they show that ordinary people can make a difference helping others and that neuroscience demonstrates that the happiness boost people get from those efforts exceeds what they get from helping themselves.
• Resources ... Here.
As soon as the newSpin newsletter is completed, usually by Tuesday, it is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,200 addresses. Many recipients often forward it to others. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee or the Archdeacon as an official communication. If you're wondering why you haven't seen something related to your parish or agency here, it's probably because no one has sent relevant info. If you think something about your parish or agency merits inclusion, send email to Bill. Comments are welcome at the newSpin blog. Click there in the right hand column on the title of the current newsletter. Then, make your comment below.
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
Blog , Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]