The newSpin newsletter
October 8, 2014
Published weekly, usually by Tuesday
• TREC: Reimagining the Episcopal Church ... Our bishop provisional, Sean Rowe, is a member of TREC, the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church. Their work focuses specifically on our church's structure, administration, and governance. TREC recently had a meeting at Washington National Cathedral. For a recording of the webcast: here and here. At ten minutes in, you will find an inspiring address by Bishop Michael Curry. Find the TREC website here. 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.
• Avoid domesticating prophets ... [Parker Palmer] Avoid the bad habit of domesticating the prophet of your choice, turning him into a cheerleader for your way of thinking and way of life. See Parker Palmer's column below, under "SpiritSpin."
• Philadelphia archdiocese selling old Mary Immaculate Seminary ... [Morning Call via Philadelphia Inquirer] The Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Thursday said it will sell the 454-acre Mary Immaculate Center in Lehigh Township (near Northampton) for $5.5 million. The former seminary and retreat center on Cherryville Road has been closed since 2009. The buyer, David T. Davis, is "currently determining its future use," the archdiocese said in a statement. Read on.• The volatile story churning at General Seminary ... [Varia] The news broke on Sept. 26, Andrew Gerns posted on the Episcopal Café's Daily Episcopalian blog, that most of the faculty at the General Theological Seminary in New York City have decided to refrain from teaching classes, attending official seminary meetings, and attending Chapel services until they are able to sit down and have a conversation with the Board of Trustees. Despite a follow up letter from the faculty to the students describing in more detail what it going on, there is still some question as to what is going on ... As far as I can tell the real issues have to do with the leadership style of the dean and his tendency to "Lone Ranger" decisions--even correct ones, but also dubious ones--without debate, discussion or buy-in.
• Who said it? Karl Marx or Saint Pope John Paul II? ... [RNS Roundup] 1. “The church is aware that the bourgeois mentality and capitalism as a whole, with its materialist spirit, acutely contradict the Gospel.” 2. “Class struggle should gain strength in proportion to the resistance it faces from economically privileged classes. 3. “In a well-organized society, oriented to the common good, class conflicts are solved peacefully through reforms. But states that base their order on individualistic liberalism are not such societies. So when an exploited class fails to receive in a peaceful way the share of the common good it has a right to, it has to follow a different path. [Marx or Pope? Click here for answer.]
• Memo to Myself: Avoid domesticating our prophets ... [Parker Palmer, columnist, On Being] I once heard a politician who calls himself a Christian say, in effect, While Jesus encouraged personal acts of compassion for the poor, it doesn't follow that he wants us to use other people's money [i.e., tax revenues] to put an economic safety net under the poor. That's compassion on the cheap. I disagree with that politician on so many counts I can't enumerate them right now. Instead, I'll put a slight spin on a line from Anne Lamott: You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God agrees with your tax policy. But the politician in question is not alone in making this kind of intellectual and spiritual mistake. So here's a Memo to Myself: Avoid the bad habit of domesticating the prophet of your choice, turning him into a cheerleader for your way of thinking and way of life. Remember that all the great prophets were courageous and outrageous folks who railed against the powers-that-be, challenged self-satisfied piosity, threatened the prevailing social order, and would find you falling short in some significant ways. Read on.
• An Analogy for Grace ... [Jim Naughton, Episcopal Café] We take as a theological given that we don't deserve grace, but what we need to reckon with is the fact that we don't recognize it. It wears the wrong clothes and shows up in the wrong places at the wrong times. It comes in the guise of people we generally avoid. As a result, we fail to see it for what it is. We take the word of others--experts, advance teams--for what grace is and what it isn't, when we must pay attention and when we can walk on by. Perhaps we don't trust ourselves to recognize and respond to grace when we see it or hear it. Or perhaps life is constructed in such a way that grace needs references and a spot on our calendar before we can give it its due. Henry James once urged readers: "Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost." This is among the few spiritual disciplines that still make sense to me. Read on.
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.
• What does Monday’s Supreme Court decision mean for gay marriage? ... [Pew Research] A Fact Tank post explains. Also, "Gay Marriage Updates and Resources" from ReligionLink.
• Anyone remember that whole gay marriage battle thing? "That was so yesterday," David Gibson writes at RNS Roundup. "When the Supreme Court declined to hear a series of state challenges to gay marriage, it seemed to signal a quiet turning point — that the debate won’t go back the way the religious right wanted, at all. So what now for religious conservatives? Mark Kellner writes that they are dazed and confused, and may need to focus on gaining what religious freedom protections they can.
• D.C. rabbi's revelation and relief: 'I am a gay man' ... [WaPo, Michelle Boorstein] The leader of one of the Washington region’s most prominent synagogues on Monday came out as gay, telling his thousands of congregants in a brutally personal e-mail that a lifelong effort to deny his sexuality was over and that he and his wife of 20 years would be divorcing. Read on. Also "When Your Rabbi Comes Out as Gay" at The Atlantic.
• Discord between chuch teaching and U.S. Catholics ... [Pew Research] The Vatican's synod on the family began on Sunday. A Fact Tank post looks at the discord between church teaching and U.S. Catholics' views on divorce and birth control. [NCR] Preparations for the event, the first of two synods on the topic in 2014 and 2015, have raised expectations that some of the church's pastoral practices regarding family life might change, particularly about how the church cares for the divorced and remarried. Read on.
• Married couples are stealing the show at the synod ... [CRUX, John Allen] Although the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family may be primarily a gathering of prelates, during the opening two days of the meeting it’s largely been the laity who have stolen the show. Since this is a summit on family issues, the synod invited 12 married couples from around the world to be among a group of what’s known as “auditors,” meaning people who take part in discussions but don’t get a vote. So far, however, the lack of voting rights hasn’t prevented these couples from making an impression. To be fair, part of the reason that the comments loom large is because the Vatican hasn’t provided much in terms of what the bishops are saying, other than a list of who’s speaking every day, so there’s a natural tendency to play up whatever’s available. Even so, the couples have turned some heads. Read on.
• Stop saying it! ... [RNS Roundup, Lauren Markoe] “Living in sin.” Not a helpful phrase, says a prominent cardinal at the Vatican’s synod on the family, in that it alienates people who might think better of the Roman Catholic Church if it instead tried a “gradual” rapprochement with those who, er, cohabitate outside the holy bonds of matrimony.At that same synod, RNS's Josephine McKenna catches up with a long-married Wisconsin couple who tell the prelates that the church had better find more effective ways to address the collapse of the traditional family.
• Will to believe? ... [RNS Roundup] Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting is wrapping up his fascinating series of interviews with other distinguished philosophers about religion and science. This last one is titled, “Can Wanting to Believe Make Us Believers?”
• Diocesan Convention ... October 10-11, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. Convention webpage. Get more info and register here. [Jane Teter, Christmas at Sea] Once again we will be collecting knitted/crocheted items at our Convention in October. There will be a table in Sayre Hall where items may be dropped off. If you are not coming to Convention, perhaps your delegates will bring them for you. [Dorothy Shaw, ECW Project] In support of the ministry at St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center. The ECW encourages parishes to collect the following items and bring them to Diocesan convention on October 10 for collection. First Aid Supplies: adhesive bandages, gauze pads, tape. Personal Care items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, washcloths, bar soap, razors. Items for evacuation “Go Kits”: individual tissue packets, individually wrapped antibacterial hand wipes, emergency “space blankets.” rain ponchos. The Center is also in need of: single flat bed sheets and regular pillowcases, white socks, large plain sweatshirts, NRSV Bibles, children’s packets of activities and crayons, notes of encouragement to go in care kits, names and email address/telephone numbers of those willing to help at St. George’s. Questions, please contact Dorothy by email , 570-836-2049, or 570-301-7661 (cell)
• Audit Reports for 2008 and 2009
... [Libby House, chair, Audit Committee, for the members of the Audit Committee, Sept. 26, 2014] We are enclosing the final audit reports, summary reports, and communications letters regarding the financial statements of the Diocese of Bethlehem, years ending December 2008 and 2009. These reports represent the first, and to-date only, completed audits of the finances of the diocese of six financial audits (2008 – 2013) Bishop Sean and the Standing Committee hired the accounting firm of Campbell Rappold & Yurasits to undertake last March. Continue reading this cover letter. Also 2008 Financial Statement
... 2008 Communication with Governance
... 2008 Internal Control Letter ... 2009 Financial Statement ... 2009 Communication with Governance ... 2009 Internal Control Letter
• Listening, Prayer and Discernment ... [News release from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem] Two Episcopal Moment consultants, the Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Johnson, Jr., D.Min, and the Rev. Dr. Robert K. Myers, PhD, both priests based in the Chicago area, will facilitate a series of listening opportunities, to be held across the diocese beginning in fall, at which everyone will be invited to discuss the challeng•es facing the Episcopal Church in northeastern Pennsylvania, how the diocese has responded to these challenges, and where the Holy Spirit might be leading this diocesan community. The goal is for everyone who wishes to participate in this process to have a chance to be heard. Read on.
• Resources ... Here.
• St. Stephen's Whitehall ... [Archdeacon Stringfellow] For Bishop Sean I am delighted to announce that The Rev. H. Jonathan Mayo has accepted the Bishop's invitation to be the Vicar of St Stephen's Church in Whitehall. His ministry at St Stephen's begins October 1. This ministry complements his half-time position as Rector of St George's Church in Hellertown which began on August 1, 2010. Father Mayo was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, and was graduated from Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre and St Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York. He was ordained a deacon and a priest in the Orthodox Church in America. He was received into the Episcopal Church in 2004. He has also had a secular career in information systems. He is married to the former Hazel Pamela Pompey.
• Marketing Grants are still available ... [Kat Lehman] If you are interested in participating in the Diocese of Bethlehem’s “Marketing Initiative Grants to Parishes” program, at this time there are still funds available to assist with your marketing plans. All funds must be allotted before December 31st of this year, and receipts received no later than the end of January 2015. Please take advantage of this program now as it might not be available next year. These funds are available as matching grants for parishes to advertise ministries; their own or ministries they do in conjunction with other parishes, agencies, or ecumenical groups. The funds must be allocated by the end of 2014 and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis as application forms are completed and approved. The goal of this initiative is to fulfill our diocesan mission – Live God’s love; tell what you have seen and heard – by sharing with local communities the ministries that parishes are doing, solely or with others. We would like to again invite you to consider applying for one of our grants. Please contact Kat Lehman at firstname.lastname@example.org about your intent to participate and for information and assistance about this program. You can download the application from our web site.
• Subscribe to ECF Vital Practices ... [Episcopal Church Foundation] It's free. You may find ECF Vital Practices valuable to your ministry. Subscribe here. You may also connect with ECF on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation and think about sharing your great resources on Your Turn.
• The Vestry Resource Guide ... [Episcopal Church Foundation] is the ultimate companion to help vestry members.. The Vestry Resource Guide is distributed by Forward Movement and can be ordered by clicking here or calling 800-543-1813.
• At Trinity Easton ... The Allentown Band, Sunday, October 19. Read on.
• Resources ... Here.
Columns, Sermons, Reflections and other Spin
• The shocking un-truth about church budgets ... [American Baptist Press, Amy Butler] What we are now is mission outposts. We are islands in a world full of increasingly adrift people. We are places of solace and hope, community and hospitality for people who are too smart to believe in God and pretty convinced they don’t need the church — until they do ... All these things require substantial investment of resources that we have labeled as “administrative” — pastors, musicians, church staff, bulletins, air conditioning, janitorial services, capital repairs, instrument tuning — but all of these things are ministry. In fact, they’re frontline, on the ground, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road kind of ministry. How we go about being church in the world is changing radically. With that change, now more than ever, our whole life together in faith community is mission and ministry. And we’d better start seeing it that way soon, because the call to live “Jesus’ two Great Commandments” in this world is going to take a heck of a lot more than our church mission budget line. It’s going to take the full engagement of everything we have. Read on.
• When police violence gets personal ... [Bishop Gene Robinson] My younger daughter is dating a wonderful man, who happens to be black. He’s tall and lean, with handsome dreadlocks hanging down to the backs of his knees. He has a smile that lights up any room, an easy and comfortable way of going about who he is. And his spirit is gentle and kind. He just might (I know, parents are supposed to stay out of these things) become my son-in-law one day. And I fear for his life. Read on.
• We don't recognize grace ... [Jim Naughton] "We take as a theological given that we don't deserve grace, but what we need to reckon with is the fact that we don't recognize it." See "An Analogy for Grace," above, under SpiritSpin.
• The RC Church's gay obsession ... [Frank Bruni, NYTimes Sunday Review] Repeatedly over the last year and a half, I’ve written about teachers in Catholic schools and leaders in Catholic parishes who were dismissed from their posts because they were in same-sex relationships and — in many cases — had decided to marry. Every time, more than a few readers weighed in to tell me that these people had it coming. If you join a club, they argued, you play by its rules or you suffer the consequences. Oh really? Read on.
• The rise and fall of the American seminary ... [RNS, Tom Ehrich] Here.
• Memo to Myself: Avoid domesticating our prophets ... [Parker Palmer, columnist, On Being] Avoid the bad habit of domesticating the prophet of your choice, turning him into a cheerleader for your way of thinking and way of life. See above, under SpiritSpin.
People from our diocese and parishes in the media
Nothing to report.
• 2014-2015 Diocesan Youth Events ... Here.
• Resources ... Here.
• To whom much is given, much will be required ... [RNS Roundup] Unless you’re the well-to-do in the U.S., in which case you gave less to charity during the economic lean years of 2006-2012, the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds. Working-class and middle-class Americans, on the other hand, gave more. What was that other story, about the widow’s mite? Then again, the rich got richer, so even giving less, they gave more overall. So there’s that.
• Which states give the most to charity? ... The ones with church-goers.
• Resources ... Here.
Rest in Peace
Episcopal/Anglican (Beyond DioBeth)
• Homeless ministry at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Boston ... The St A decades-old soup kitchen at the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in Boston has evolved into a homeless ministry in which men and women learn leadership by taking responsibility for helping one another. Read on.
• Resources ... Here.
• Where do governments collect tax money for churches? ... [Pew Research] In about a dozen European countries, governments collect tax money for churches. Fact Tank post.
• Europe's last brewmaster nun ... [The Atlantic] For 45 years, Sister Doris Engelhard has dedicated her life to God and beer. Read on.
• If you ever have to gird your loins ... here's an illustrated guide.
• 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.
• Resources ... Here.
• Vatican puts Bishop Finn under investigation ... [Religion New Roundup] The Vatican has sent a Canadian archbishop to Kansas City to investigate Bishop Robert Finn, the first Catholic prelate to be found criminally guilty of shielding a priest in the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis. The National Catholic Reporter spoke to several of the more than a dozen people interviewed by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. They said the archbishop wanted to know if the bishop was still fit to serve.
• 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.
• Resources ... Here.
• The Good Lie ... [Jim Wallis, Sojurners] As the Washington, D.C., premiere of Warner Bros.’ new movie, The Good Lie, came to a close, I could barely see the credits through my tears, but the noise of the crowd around me erupting into cheers and the standing ovation was impossible to miss. This film really touched me. I knew I had to write about it.
The Good Lie is the story of some of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan — orphans of war, who walked hundreds of miles fleeing violence, only to spend a decade in a refugee camp before finally being resettled in America. But the film is much more than that. It is a story about the power of faith and regular people who do incredible things because there is no one else who can. It is the story of immigrants — a funny and heartbreaking insight into what it is like to be a stranger in America. And it's a story and performance made all the more real because the Sudanese characters are played by actors who were child refugees and child soldiers themselves.
It stars Reese Witherspoon, whose character and role encapsulate so much of why this movie works. She's the headline draw for Warner Bros., but the movie is not about her. She helps the Lost Boys, but as is so often the case when we respond to God's call to care for our neighbor, they probably help her more. No one saves the day in this movie, but they all help save each other.
The Good Lie opens in limited release on Oct. 3, with a nationwide release to follow soon after. You should go. You should take your friends and family. You should take your older children. You should let this movie touch your heart and inspire you with lessons you will not soon forget. Read on.
• A screening of the movie “Milk,” which chronicles the life of gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk ... [RNS Roundup] was scrapped at the Catholic University of America after administrators said showing the film violated a campus policy banning events that advocate for positions contrary to Catholic teaching. That position, I suppose, would equal rights for gays?
• Marilynne Robinson’s new novel Lila ... [RNS Roundup] returns to 1950s Iowa to look at Pastor Ames’ wife, Lila. LA Times critic David L. Ulin calls it a “profound and deeply rendered novel.”
• The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson ... [NYTimes Magazine, Wyatt Mason] “I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Marilynne Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations." Read on.
• God-awful ... [RNS Roundup] For those venturing to movie theaters, you may want to skip the apocalyptic Left Behind movie starring Nicolas Cage. According to The Daily Beast, it’s God-awful.
• 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]