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Churches remain relevant despite decline in membership

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The newSpin Newsletter, April 30, 2012
By Bill Lewellis

Published Monday, occasionally also on Thursday 

You know you grew up in the 50s if your parents thought it was perfectly alright for the neighbors to yell at you if you did something wrong and your parents were not there.

• Polls show changing attitudes on gay marriage
... [Episcopal Café, Andrew Gerns] The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has created a series of graphics shows how public opinion toward same-sex marriage has changed in Pew Research Center polls since 2001. The graphs show how much opinion varies by generation, religious group, gender, race and political party since 2001. n general attitudes same sex marriage: In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin. Today, the public is about evenly split, with 47% in favor and 43% opposed. Graphics here.

• On the Leadership Conference of Women Religious overhaul ... [NCR, John Allen, April 27] By far, the biggest Vatican story at the moment in the American media market is an announced overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main umbrella group for superiors of the roughly 400 women's orders in the States. The move has been presented by the Vatican as a "reform" but styled as a "crackdown" in most press coverage. More from NYTimes, Maureen Dowd and Nicholas Kristof. And LCWR Annual Assembly to go forward.

• The new user-friendly, useful and attractive DioBeth website ... A complete do-over. Explore a bit. You'll find it eminently user-friendly, useful and attractive. . As a retired communication minister, I'm so proud of Kat's work and the work of everyone who had a hand in putting this together. It will become, I'm confident, an effective tool for evangelism. I will not hesitate to refer it to anyone who expresses to me an interest in becoming an Episcopalian and a parishioner in the Diocese of Bethlehem.

• Diocesan Life, May/June ... Stories on St. Alban's, Sinking Springs, Family Promise at All Saints, birthday bags for the Nazareth Food Bank, our New Hope campaign update from Charlie Barebo, Vocare, Bishop's Day for Kids, the Whitehall Food Pantry, What is a deputy? (for General Convention) and more. Here.

• Charles N. Wible, 93,
father of The Rev. Terrence Wible, rector, St. Luke's Lebanon, died April 21. More here.

• Larry M. Alleman, 63, father of The Rev. Timothy Alleman, rector, Holy Cross Wilkes-Barre, died April 23. More here.

• Our new website ... See above, under TopSpin.

• High School Mission Trip ... Here.

• Diocesan Events for 2012 ... Here.

• Diocesan Life, May/June ... Here.

• DioBeth Website ... newSpin Blog ... Re:Create blog for youth and young adults ... Twitter.DioBeth ... Twitter.Kat Lehman ... Facebook.DioBeth ... Flickr, search under dio_beth

• Public news and info lists ... At the Diobeth website , enter your name and email in the "Get Connected" box. You are welcome to subscribe to any or all of these. "Bakery" is our diocesan interactive list.

• Dallas ... Prince of Peace Church searching for organist/choirmaster. Here.

• Lehighton ... Family Promise at All Saints. See Diocesan Life, page three.

• Nazareth ... Birthday bags at St. Brigid's. See Diocesan Life, page three.

• Sinking Spring ... Breaking ground at St. Alban's. See Diocesan Life, page one.

• West Pittston ... Continuing to rebound from last September's flooding. Trinity West Pittston will once again open our grounds to host our popular Giant Neighborhood Yard Sales. Held from 8 am to 3 pm on the first Saturday of each month from May through October, the yard sales have become part of the routine for many in West Pittston and surrounding communities.  Our October sale last year was cancelled out of consideration for the devastation of our town, but as we've worked and talked with our neighbors as part of our FLOODCare ministry, many have mentioned they visit the sale each month and that they are looking forward to visiting again this year to find some new treasures and enjoy hot dogs with our famous homemade chili sauce, wimpies and the delicious goodies at our bake sale.  Our first sale will be on May 5, and we invite all to come and join us to shop for a few bargains, enjoy some great homemade treats and see first-hand the resiliency of our West Pittston neighborhoods. Photo here.

• Note to parishes ... Please send news summaries and links to Bill.

Weekly eNewsletters from parishes
Allentown, Grace Church, April 26.
Bethlehem, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, April 27.
Dallas, Prince of Peace Church, April 27.
Easton, Trinity Church, April 27.

Trexlertown, St. Anne's Church here, click on "Weekly Calendar."
Wilkes-Barre, St. Stephen's, April 23.
There may be others. If so, please send me a link.

Monthly Newsletters from parishes ... Most parishes publish a monthly newsletter that is mailed to parishioners. Many, if not most, of those are available at the parish websites.

• Calendar of Events ...  Here 

General Convention 2012 in July 
• What is a deputy
... Diocese of Bethlehem deputation chair Anne Kitch recommends Cathy Bailey's new post on the GC Deputies Blog. "As we approach the 77th General Convention in July," Canon Kitch writes, "there will be more and more news about events and issues in the Episcopal Church. The deputies will be posting updates on the blog as our way of keeping you in the loop. As always, please feel free to contact any of the deputies with questions about General Convention. Deputies are available to meet with parish or regional groups. Our contact information is on the blog."

• The Blue Book ... information and resolutions for GC2012 is available for downloading. Here.

• May 9: Live webcast to address Episcopal Church General Convention 2012 ... Here.

• Bishop Jon Bruno is being treated for leukemia
... [Episcopal Café, Ann Fontaine] Find a message from the Bishop of Los Angeles here. An excerpt: "We will start immediately to begin aggressive treatment for Acute Monocytic Leukemia (AML M5). I don't do anything lightly, and I am never surprised that when God calls me, it is to do more than I asked or thought. The doctors are of a mind that we can beat this, but I want to be honest with you: I am frightened. Not unlike the amputation, or the metabolic staph infection (MRSA) that I experienced, or the court cases, a few challenges have come across our path."

• May 19: Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Archbishop Desmond Tutu to discuss mission in live webcast  ... Here.

• The fight to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury ... [The Guardian,UK, Andrew Brown's blog] John Sentamu will likely be Rowan Williams's successor – but the campaign to get him there has employed unpleasant tactics. Here.

• On the commodification of everything ... [Episcopal Café, Andrew Gerns] The Most Rev. Rowan William reviews two books that describe the commodification of everything. His basic thesis: when everything is monetized, nothing has value. Here.

• Episcopal News Weekly bulletin inserts ... Download inserts here.

• Episcopal Church new website ... complete transformation and redesign, launched December 28, efficient and user friendly. Read about it here. ... Episcopal News Service ... ENS blog ... Episcopal Church on Facebook ... Episcopal Church on YouTube ... Anglican Communion website ... Anglican Communion News Service. ... Anglican Communion News Service on Facebook.

• Anglican Algebra
... [Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG] Today's lesson is very short and consists of a single formula, which can be taken as an axiom: Covenant ≠ Communion. This simple expression can serve as a reminder that the Proposed Anglican Covenant, only having come into prospective being within the last few years, and perhaps never to see broad acceptance throughout the Anglican Communion, is not in fact essential to or definitive of the Anglican Communion. It was a proposal, a mechanism, perhaps even a movement: but it was not, is not, and never shall be “The Communion.” It will remain, in relation to the Communion, something that was adopted at a particular point by some of its members. It is not of the esse of the Communion; perhaps not even of the bene esse of the Communion. Class dismissed. [In a Godward Direction is the blog of Brother Tobias.]

• Into the lion's den
... Paul Ryan went to Georgetown University and defended his “Catholic” budget, which turns out not to be so Catholic after all. [h/t Religion News Daily]

• Would you believe ... [WaPo] that a right-wing group has tried to get Gonzaga University to disinvite Archbishop Tutu as commencement speaker? Washington Post and Faithful America.  

• Student loans and college finance ... [Christian Science Monitor] Take the quiz. Here.

• Holy Women, Holy Men ... Download Holy Women, Holy Men as a .pdf file.
• Congregational Resource Guide ...
April 24.
Daily Office ... Lectionary Page ... Lectionary ... Oremus Bible Browser ... Revised Common Lectionary 

• In defense of obscure words
... [BBC News Magazine] We are living in a risk-averse culture -- there's no doubt about that. But the risk that people seem most reluctant taking is not a physical but a mental one, Will Self writes in the BBC magazine. Just as the concrete in children's playgrounds has been covered with rubber, so the hard truth about the effort needed for intellectual attainment is being softened by a sort of semantic padding. More here. [h/t Leadership Education at Duke Divinity]

• Moravian Church in North America
website.  Moravian Church Northern Province website.  Moravian Theological Seminary website.

Evangelical Lutheran 
NEPA Synod website ... HereELCA website ... HereELCA News Service ... HereELCA's blogs may be found here. See especially "Web and Multimedia Development."

United Methodist 
• UMC website Here. News Service Here. Communication Resources Start here. Communication newsletter (tips and tools) Here. Eastern PA Conference website  Here. Facebook Here. Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

• Presbyterian Church USA admits gays and lesbians to ordination 
... The largest Presbyterian church in Colorado voted overwhelmingly to leave the Presbyterian Church USA and join a new, more conservative denomination. The exodus was prompted by the PCUSA decision to allow gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Roman Catholic
• A losing strategy: The U.S. Bishops' campaign against the contraception mandate ... [Commonweal Magazine, Margaret O'Brien Steinfel] What are the U.S. Catholic bishops really
arguing about with the Obama administration? Is it religious liberty, as they insist? Is it contraception and sterilization, as the headlines in my archdiocesan paper stress? Is it a desire, conscious or unconscious, to reassert their authority after the dog days of the sexual-abuse scandal? Is it simply anti-Obama prejudice? Maybe it’s all of the above, and then some: perhaps they just lack astute advisers. In any event, the daunting task of explaining the Catholic bishops to others and to oneself has come a cropper. They are digging a hole from which they may never emerge ... Perhaps mistaking the initial Catholic protest for a standing army, the bishops continue to say no to Obama. Yes, they’ve left the door open for further negotiations—but just a crack. Unless they widen that opening, they will seize certain defeat from the jaws of near victory ... On the issues that the bishops seem to count as paramount—the legal right to contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage—they have already lost the cultural argument, even with many Catholics. Seeking to reverse a cultural defeat through political muscle is a misbegotten strategy. Losing an argument is not a disgrace. But losing because you’re fighting in the wrong arena? That’s just dumb. More here.

• The landmark Philadelphia abuse trial ... Today begins the sixth week.   Daily reports. Complete Phila Inquirer coverage. The Morning Call has also provided daily coverage.

• Has the "real Ratzinger" come out to play? ... [NCR, John Allen] Here.

• Diocese of Allentown ... HereDiocese of Scranton ... Here.  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here.  Catholic News Service ... Here.  Vatican website ... Here.  Vatican Information Service blog ... Here.  Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.

• Rabbinical school to admit gay and lesbian candidates ... [Religion News Service] The Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism announced that its rabbinical school will begin to accept gay and lesbian candidates for ordination.

• Judaism 101 ... Here.

• Debunking the myths ... [American Lung Association] Myths surrounding the flu may contribute to the fact that, in the United States, more than 226,000 people are hospitalized  for flu related complications and an average of 36,000 people die annually. More here.

• Sitting too long can kill you ... [RealAge] Here.

• How's your bone density health? ... Lehigh Valley Health Network is hosting free bone density scans on Tuesday, May 8, at LVH-Cedar Crest from 5:00  to 8:00 p.m. and on Monday, June 11, at LVH-Muhlenberg from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Call 610-402-CARE to schedule a free bone scan.

• Medline Plus ... Here.

• WebMD ... Here.

• Doris Betts, novelist in Southern tradition, dies at 79 ... [NYTimes] An award-winning novelist and short-story writer, Doris Betts died on Saturday at her home in Pittsboro, N.C. She was 79. Though critics often missed it, religion was embedded in almost all of her work, The New York Times reports. In a 1997 interview, she said that whether or not reviewers saw the connection depended on whether they had a religious outlook. It was kind of like believing in God, she said: "If you see it, you will see it. If you don't see it, no one can persuade you." [h/t Leadership Ed at Duke Divinity]

• Best websites ... [MakeUseOf] The best 119 useful websites, categorized. Here.

• If you want a true community on social media, you have to create it ... [Advertising Age, Anthony Del Monte] This past Easter, I experienced community in a profound and refreshing way. I was at church with my family. My nephew and godson, Matthew, is a severely autistic, strapping 16-year-old, and while the priest was conducting Mass, he took it upon himself to run up to the altar to blow out the candles. What happened next surprised me: The priest asked Matthew over and announced to everyone that it was awesome to see one of God's children celebrating the Resurrection. As the priest began to clap, the entire congregation joined in and clapped simultaneously for over a minute in celebration of Easter and of Matthew. It was very emotional, not because Matthew is my family, but because this community in a downtrodden neighborhood in North Jersey joined together in unison. More here.

• Bad Religion: How we became a nation of heretics ... [Commonweal] Bad Religion by Ross Douthat is "lively, provocative, informative, and useful as well as simplistic and misleading," writes Peter Steinfels. "It is a good book by a talented author. It could have been a lot better." ... "In postwar America, Douthat argues, the religious establishment—the old mainline churches, the rising evangelicals, and a solid Roman Catholicism—provided 'a moral and theological center,' and “'an invisible mortar for our culture and a common vocabulary for our great debates.' In the various revolutions of the 1960s and ’70s, the center, to echo another poet, did not hold. Novel heresies had always been thick on the ground in America, but now this 'slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity' let 'destructive pseudo-Christianities' flourish unchecked. They fed our worst impulses toward self-infatuation, avarice, and national overreach. So 'America’s problem isn’t too much religion,' as the left imagines, 'or too little of it,' as the right laments. According to Douthat, 'It’s bad religion.'"

• May 4 Digital Formation webinar focuses on "QR Codes – In and Around Church" ... Here.

• The Intersection of Poverty and the Environment ... The on-demand video is now available for this groundbreaking forum initiated by the Episcopal Church. View The Intersection of Poverty and the Environment at

Calendar of Events/DioBeth ... Here.

Additional sources of news/info/commentary
• Religion News Service Daily Roundup ... here.
• Faith in Public Life ... here.
• Episcopal/Anglican

 (1) The Episcopal Church
 (2) Episcopal News Service
 (3) Episcopal Café
 (4) AngicansOnline.
 (5) AnglicansOnline News Centre.


You are reading the newSpin newsletter. The newSpin blog, which includes the newsletter and other items, is available here. When the newsletter is completed on Mondays and occasionally on Thursdays as well, it is published immediately to the blog and on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,000 addresses. Many recipients forward it to many more. Bakery and the blog are interactive. The ChurchPost list is not. 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 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. Regarding items about your parish or agency as well as feedback on any other items ... send email to Bill.

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]





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