The newSpin newsletter
February 3, 2015
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DioBeth.org … the website of the Diocese of Bethlehem.
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• Priest, wife, son found dead in Houston apartment … [Houston Chronicle] The discovery of three bodies Monday in a bloody west Houston apartment answered the immediate question of why an Episcopal priest and his wife and son had not shown up for church on Sunday.But the mystery of how and when they died — and of course why — lingered as stunned parishioners at Church of the Redeemer (Diocese of Texas) tried to cope with the sudden loss of a beloved family. Read on. Update: According to ABC13/KTRK, this is being investigated as a triple murder.
• Final Listening Process session … [Canon Andrew Gerns, president of the Standing Committee] Bishop Sean Rowe, along with the Standing Committee, invites every member of the Diocese of Bethlehem to take part in the final Listening Process session to be held at Christ Church, Towanda on Wednesday, February 11, at 7 p.m. This is the last of a series of 90 minute sessions held around the Diocese since October. Previously scheduled sessions to cover this region, first in Tunkhannock and later in Towanda had to be rescheduled because of issues with travel.
This is your chance to tell us your experience of the Diocese of Bethlehem. What challenges do you see us facing right now? Where do you see the Holy Spirit at work in our Diocese right now? Tell us your vision for a hope-filled future! As with the other Listening Sessions, held last fall in Wilkes-Barre, Bethlehem and Sinking Spring, this session will be facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Alvin Johnson, of Episcopal Moment. LLC. He also led the Diocesan Convention through the excellent small group values-clarification exercise that was the focus of the small group sessions at Convention.
Registration is needed … because if enough people sign up, we might need to have an additional session. So we are asking people to contact Nanette Smith at Diocesan House 610-691-5655 (or 800-358-5655) xt. 222. Additionally, if there are folks who would like to speak with Al Johnson privately, they can arrange this through Nanette. These inquiries, of course, are confidential.
• So Many and Yet Too Few … [Winnie Romeril, Spokesperson, World Health Organization, Jan. 27, 2015] Sitting in wintery Geneva, it’s hard to imagine how to describe to my family and friends back home these past three months in Sierra Leone working with the World Health Organization (WHO). As I look through my photos, the most meaningful stories that fill my mind and my heart, and make my eyes well up invariably involve Ebola survivors. To date in Sierra Leone, there are over 2,100 survivors discharged from treatment facilities— each with an “Ebola-free” certificate in hand. So many and yet too few. Read on.
[Bill] As spokesperson for the World Health Organization, Winnie spent the past few months working at ground zero of the Ebola outbreak. BBCNews interviewed Winnie … NBC also did a story with Winnie, Horror in Sierra Leone. Winnie is the daughter of the Rev. Canon Gwendolyn-Jane and Bob Romeril of Bethlehem. While growing up in Bethlehem, Winnie was a youth group leader in an Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem program. "She has been living out of the Isaiah passage for some years now," Mother Romeril says, "and where the need is greatest, she always answers the call. 'Her call is as clear as yours, but it has no labels,' Bob reminds me often. Find background on Winnie in an Express-Times story and follow her on Facebook.]
• TREC [TaskForce for Reimagining the Episcopal Church … Partnering with ChurchNext, an online education company, TREC has published a series of free courses to get us all thinking about God’s dream for God’s church. These courses are called 1) Reimagining Church Leadership, 2) Mission and Leadership, and 3) Culture and Leadership. Instructors include theologian Dwight Zscheile, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, teacher and author Stephanie Spellers, rector and writer Winnie Varghese, and theologian Frederica Thompsett, to name a few. Click on the title of each course to learn more and to take each class for free. These are TREC’s gift to you. Each course will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete and contains 4-6 video lectures. Students need not take the whole course, but can skip around and reach, watch, and learn at their own pace. No special software is required. Browse TREC's website.
• Trinity Bethlehem Soup Kitchen Report, January 2015 … The Soup Kitchen at Trinity is a community – Trinity’s “second congregation.” More than 150 people eat lunch together each weekday, served by a team of volunteers that number 55-75 over the course of a week. Volunteers are essential to the work that the soup kitchen does. Each day there is a head cook and usually 5 – 7 others who chop vegetables, assemble salads, make dressings, prepare fruit salad, cook main dishes, make up plates, serve beverages, make coffee, carry trays, and wash dishes. The preparations begin at 8:30 a.m. and lunch is served noon to 1:00. Cleanup is usually done by 2:30 in the afternoon. That is a compact and fast-paced work day for a large handful of people, but it is not everything that happens. Read on.
•• Environmental Journalism … [Poynter] Last week, The Washington Post kicked off its energy and environment section with a blog post by Chris Mooney, the section’s primary writer. In it, he stressed the importance of thoughtful and comprehensive coverage of the environment. He talked to us about The Post’s plans for tackling the environmental beat, the current gaps in environmental coverage and getting through to climate change skeptics. Read on.
• Congratulations to Jim Naughton … founder and former editor of The Episcopal Café, whom The House of Deputies recently honored. The recognition is well deserved. BioSketch here.
• Evolution? Only 65% of American adults believe it … A major new Pew Research Center study looks at the views of Americans overall compared with those of scientists on a range of issues. While 98% of scientists in the survey say that humans and other living things have evolved over time, 65% of U.S. adults overall believe this.
• Why creationists are furious over this Super Bowl ad … [Christian Science Monitor] Carnival Cruise ran a Super Bowl ad featuring the solemn voice of President John F. Kennedy. But what Kennedy said irked creationists. Read on.
• 84-year-old activist nun imprisoned in Brooklyn jail hellhole for breaking into nuclear facility, exposing security flaws … [NY Daily News] Sister Megan Rice and two other activists broke into the facility outside Knoxville, Tenn., in 2012 to bring attention to the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation. They also exposed gaps in national security by showing how easy it was to get in. Now, Sister Megan lives in horrifying conditions in a single room with 111 other women in the Metropolitan Detention Center. Read on.
• Bishop accused in cyclist’s death suspected of being drunk at installation festivities … [WaPo, Michelle Boorstein] The fallout continues. The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland suspected that Heather Cook — now charged in the drunken-driving death of a Baltimore bicyclist — was drunk during her installation festivities this past fall, a new official timeline shows. Officials with the diocese, which elected Cook its first female bishop last spring, have said for weeks that they knew before her election of a drunken-driving incident in 2010. However, they have declined to answer questions about whether they had any reason to be concerned about her drinking after she was elected — until the fatal accident in December. Read on.
• An Open Letter to Clergy and Families in the Diocese of Bethlehem … from the diocesan chaplains. Find it here.
•• Mission to Kajo Keji … Father Dennis Blauser, a rector from the Diocese of Northwestern PA, Mr. Charlie Barebo and Archdeacon Rick Cluett are home from a weeklong mission trip to Kajo Keji in South Sudan. Info and pics at Rick's Facebook page.
•• Diocesan Staff Structure, Roles and Responsibilities … [Bishop Sean, Progress Report] As we begin 2015, I am glad to report that we are making progress in reorganizing the diocese to align our staff, resources and structures with the work we need to do to become a more spiritually vital, financially healthy diocese. The staff has been restructured, the listening process led by Episcopal Moment has concluded and we will soon issue its report, and later this year, the diocese's governance bodies will consider strategic planning issues and possible improvements to the diocese's governance structures.
•• Jubilate and Prayers of the People … Canon Cliff Carr, an assisting priest at Trinity Bethlehem, will be giving Trinity his Jubilate and Prayers of the People to post. They will be available at this link as Trinity receives them. If you have Gmail, they pop up automatically when you click on the appropriate file. (I'm not sure what that means, but I am sure that the person who provided this knows what she is talking about.) We are so grateful for Father Cliff's long service to us all, in creating Jubilate and the weekly Prayers. [h/t Canon Laura Howell]
•• Resources ... Here.
• Mediator Allentown outreach missioner Twila Smith … has an absolutely wonderful listing of resources at her Pinterest site. No matter how challenging you might think it is – it's not – to sign up to see Twila's resources, I think you will find that it's worth it. Her latest listing is Lenten Resources.
• Trinity Bethlehem Soup Kitchen Report, January 2015 … See above, under "TopSpin."
• New questions … [Alban at Duke Divinity, Jeffrey D. Jones] It’s not that the old questions weren’t valid at one time or even that they have no place in the church today. Rather, the new questions, if they are the questions that form our approach to ministry,will lead us to new insights and new learning. One question that has been asked consistently through the years, and even more so in these days of declining church membership is, “How do we bring them in?” It would be better for us to ask, “How do we send them out?”
In these days of changing roles and responsibilities many wonder, “What should the pastor do?” But a more important question for congregations today is “What is our shared ministry?” When congregations focus on strategic planning they ask, “What’s our vision and how do we implement it?” What would happen if they instead asked, “What’s God up to and how do we get on board?” When congregations have financial struggles, they ask, “How do we survive?” Instead they might ask, “How do we serve?”
When congregations think about their mission, they often ask, “How do we save people?” or perhaps, “How do we help people?” A better question might be “How do we make the reign of God more present in this time and place?”
•• Trinity West Pittston and St. Clement and St Peter Wilkes Barre … [John Major] will be "takin' it to the streets" with a winter project: The Episcopal Church: Warming The NEPA Region...One Cup of Soup at a Time. Look for our tent and free home-made soup at a location near you.
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Episcopal/Anglican – beyond DioBeth
• Can the pipes prevail? What is the future of the pipe organ in Christian worship? … [Episcopal Café, Eric McAfee] “Some churches demand a statement of faith and profession of creedal belief of any applicant. Other churches never even ask that question because they’re interested in finding a musician,” Michael Messina told me from near the chancel of Trinity Episcopal on the edge of Indianapolis’ Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, where he is the Director of Music. But it isn’t always easy to articulate how a church and its organist relate to one another theologically…or how they don’t. This ambiguity makes any exploration of the church organists’ world that much more difficult to capture, but also that much more compelling. When the church first hired Messina, he “was asked a pretty non-threatening question nineteen years ago when I auditioned: ‘Tell us about your faith journey.’ That was it. There was no kind of litmus test.” Messina grew up in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, but he has long worked for the Episcopal Church, and he generally agrees with the spiritual expression. “One thing I love about the Episcopal Church is that we are not a people of common faith; we are a people of common prayer. . .So there is a tremendous breadth of experience and range of religiosity in the Episcopal Church, all the way from complete fundamentalists to some of the most famous Anglicans of the 20th century. . .Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who were both professed agnostics.” Read on.
• The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland … [ENS] wants Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook to resign her position in the diocese in the wake of her involvement in a fatal car accident. “The Standing Committee has concluded that Bishop Heather Cook can no longer function effectively in her position as Bishop Suffragan. Therefore, we respectfully call for her resignation from her service to the Diocese,” the committee said in a Jan. 28 statement. Read on.
• Southeast Florida … [ENS] The Very Rev. Peter Eaton, dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, was elected as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida on Jan. 31, pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of The Episcopal Church. Read on.
•• Trinity Institute: Creating Common Good … Trinity Institute took place Thursday, Jan. 22, through Sunday. Many videos of Trinity Institute as well as many other video offerings of Trinity Wall Street may be found here.
• Inequality as a Religious Issue: A Conversation With the Archbishop of Canterbury … [Michael Paulson, NYTimes] Last week, Archbishop Welby was in New York for a conference on inequality at Trinity Wall Street.. On Thursday, he spoke with Michael Paulson, a religion reporter for The New York Times, about income inequality, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, divisions in the Church of England and Pope Francis. Read on.
• Is sexism the Original Sin of the church? … [Episcopal Café] HuffPost’s podcast All Together takes a look at the consecration of Libby Lane as the first female bishop in the Church of England. In this episode, to help him understand the continuing sexism in the Christian Church, Raushenbush spoke with four extraordinary women: the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefforts Schori, the recent US ambassador for Religious Freedom the Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, The President of Union Theological Seminary, The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, and the one and only Sister Joan Chittister. Read on and/or listen.
•• Report to the Episcopal Church 2015 … [Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] An innovative online magazine detailing the mission and ministry, accomplishments and achievements of the Domestic and Missionary Society during the current triennium, had been unveiled at the Executive Council meeting on January 9. It is available here and can be downloaded at no charge. Read on.
• Ugandan bishop willing to defend notorious Lord's Resistance Army commander in war crimes court … [RNS] In its heyday, the Ugandan rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army was accused of killing more than 100,000 people, abducting 60,000 to 100,000 children and displacing more than 2.5 million civilians. But now a retired Anglican bishop in northern Uganda says he is ready to defend one of the LRA’s top commanders, who stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng said rebel commander Dominic Ongwen was a victim of circumstance, having been abducted at the age of 10 and transformed into a marauding killer. Read on.
BackSpin – Do you remember?
• Robert C. Wilkins … [Diocesan Life, January 1994] who served as treasurer of the Diocese of Bethlehem (1986-93) was named Honorary Canon to the Ordinary "in recognition of his ministry as treasurer and a leader in the councils of the church, his personal stewardship of the financial and investment resources of the diocese and its parishes, his continued calling of this diocese to faithful discipleship, stewardship and commitment for the support of the ministry of Christ's Church, and his wise counsel to the bishop, staff and leadership of the diocese." In 1986, Wilkins retired from Bethlehem Steel where he was senior vice president and chief financial officer. He later served as business administrator for the City of Bethlehem.
• Eric Snyder … [Diocesan Life, January 1994] To acknowledge his "lifelong commitment to ministries of justice with the poor, oppressed and marginalized," the Diocese of Bethlehem established the Eric Snyder Award "to honor faithful service by a member of the Episcopal Church in witness to a deeper vision and understanding of Christ's mission to the needs of the world." Snyder retired in 1993 and continued pastoral services to churches in Schuylkill County. He worked for the Episcopal Church USA during the 1960s as a social worker, head of the division of families and youth, and in the specialized services division where he worked with aging persons. During the 1960s, he and his wife Jean put their New York home up for bail collateral for civil rights leaders then held in New York City jails. He was also one of the first parent representatives on the New York City School Board. He served as chair of the Jubilee Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem and on its subcommittee on racism.
• Susan Cox … [Diocesan Life, January 1994] was the first recipient of the Eric Snyder Award "for faithful and exemplary service and leadership in the mission of the church to the poor, oppressed and marginalized." She worked to establish social service and social justice ministries at Trinity Church in Bethlehem and throughout the Diocese of Bethlehem for some 20 years before moving to Canada in 1987. As social missioner for the Diocese of Bethlehem during the early 1980s, she was instrumental in the establishment of New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem. In Canada, she became director of that country's largest food bank.
• Trinity (WallStreet) Institute in Bethlehem … [Diocesan Life, January 1994] A satellite feed projected on a large screen in Nativity Cathedral's Sayre Hall brought Trinity Institute live to local attendees. During question periods, we were able to interact by telephone with the speakers: Krister Stendahl, Ann Ulanov, Cornel West and Walter Brueggemann. The theme was "The Other – Embracing Pluralism."
• Many wonderful resources from Twila Smith … see above, under "ParishSpin."
• The most threatening retreat I ever led … [Bill] was just a few years before I left the RC Church in 1981. It was at the Motherhouse of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (MSC), a retreat for more than 100 women religious, most beyond middle age and in their senior years, many infirm and waiting in the Motherhouse to die, and many very discouraged because fewer and fewer young women felt called to join them as nuns. Until something primed my pump recently, that memory had been under wraps.
I tried to say two things to them. One was about the great debt of gratitude the Catholic Church in America owes to women religious more than to any other single group – and that the long overdue recognition would come from future non-sexist historians.
The second was the crucial difference between the occasion of a call and its meaning. The occasion – whatever got it started – obviously came first; the meaning is gradually discerned later, if at all during this life. Do not give ear to the lie that your call had no meaning.
• 21 things people think are in the Bible (that totally aren't) … [FaithInterrupted] Here, Here and Here.
• It's time to … [SSJE] So much of our stress and anxiety derives from our pollution of Time. God has given us the gift of time, and called it holy, yet we often experience time as a curse. In a series of short, daily videos over the five weeks of Lent, the Brothers of SSJE invite us to recapture time as a gift. Join the Brothers as they wrestle with questions of time and discover how to experience the joy of the present moment. Read on.
•• Hitchhiking the Word … A blog by Bishop Andy Doyle, Diocese of Texas, dedicated to finding meaning in the readings appointed for Sunday in the Episcopal Church. Including resources for going deeper in bible study. Here.
•• Reflection on daily Lectionary readings … Bruce Marold of Trinity Bethlehem, firstname.lastname@example.org, has written comments and reflections on daily Lectionary readings for over 4 years, on and off, from before he started at the seminary. He discontinued them sometime in 2013. His faithful conscience, Mithril, the theological cat – don't let the cat get you, it's worth continuing on – insists that since we are now at the beginning of a new year, that he resume this practice. He does the New Testament reading for each of the seven days, plus the Gospel for Sunday. Depending on how that works, he may replace the Sunday epistle reading with the psalm for the week, and do the Gospel on Sunday. These reflections appear daily on Mithril's Facebook page, accompanied by an image suggested by the text. These are reflections, as they are less commentary and far more personal reaction to the reading, and anything from our culture, from ancient days to today, is fair game. When he started this, in 2009, he would pore over thick commentaries to get something readers may not have encountered. Now, he's burning that bridge and relying on his impressions, hoping that they may spark reflective impressions of your own.
• Anti-Semitism is once again on the march in Europe … [Richard Cohen, WaPo Op-Ed] Anti-Semitism is the most durable and pliable of all conspiracy theories. It supposedly accounts for the death of Christ and the Jewish dominance of the liberal media. It carefully noted the disproportionate number of Jews in the communist movement and in the capitalist movement. Anti-Semitism can account for the wealth of the Jews and their scientific and artistic achievements. They are — we are — a most nimble people. We’ve had to be. Blaming Israel for anti-Semitism misses the point. For at least 1,948 years, anti-Semitism both existed and thrived when Israel did neither. The pogroms of Europe — and the occasional ones of the Muslim Middle East — took place with no Israel in sight. The Holocaust consumed 6 million Jews and not because Hitler was pro-Palestinian. Anti-Semitism infected ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, the subtle mind of T.S. Eliot and the tinkering brain of Henry Ford way before any future Israeli had pushed around any future Palestinian. Anti-Semitism does not need a reason. It needs only an excuse.
That excuse is present in contemporary Europe. Its Muslim minority is poor and inordinately unemployed. It loathes Israel for what it is allegedly doing to the Palestinians, and it hates Jews for being Jewish — supposedly rich, powerful, secretive, conspiratorial and manipulative. The remedy — the cure — is education and assimilation. In the United States, high levels of anti-Semitism in the Hispanic population dissipate with assimilation. The Anti-Defamation League tells us that, while 12 percent of all Americans are anti-Semites, the figure for foreign-born Hispanics is an astounding 36 percent. But for Hispanics born in the United States, the figure is only 14 percent. America is adept at assimilation. Europe is lousy at it. Europe needs work. But non-Muslim Europe needs work as well. Here.
• Five things everyone should know about America's religious history … [OnFaith] Peter Manseau offers a list of counter-intuitive facts about religion in America. 1. Islam was here from the beginning. 2. Indigenous beliefs shaped American religion for centuries. 3. Christianity in America was transformed by slavery. 4. Atheism helped set the stage for the American Revolution. 5. Belief in America is frustrating for both believers and non-believers, and it should be. Read on.
•• Two Paths: Privilege and Internalized Oppression … [T. Scott Allen] February is Black History month and we have just observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday. But the news headlines betray that the state of race relations in this country is anything but harmonious. As one of the certified diocesan trainers (along with The Rev. Trula Hollywood) for Seeing the Face of God in Christ and One Another (the General Convention’s recommended anti-racism training program for the Episcopal Church) I heard a helpful thing at our last Province Three Anti-Racism Committee meeting in Martinsburg, WV. One of our leaders said that the challenged path for a white person is understanding White Privilege and for persons of color it was Internalized Oppression. Both People of Color and European-Americans have a learning curve on these topics. Read on.
•• Jenifer Gamber … edited and contributed to the ERD 2015 Lenten Meditation booklet, now available here. This year’s devotional focuses on creating economic opportunities and strengthening communities, with a particular focus on empowering women. As usual, the booklets are available free.
•• Christ Episcopal Church Reading … [Reading Eagle, Bruce Posten] features prominently in a story, Church Pews Slowly Open Up for Diversity, that begins on the Dec. 26 front page. Rector John Francis says that when he was called to the church ten years ago, the nonwhite membership was five to ten percent at most – now 40%, mostly Latino and African American. Read on. [Note: the continuation link is at the top of the newspaper page.]
•• Resources ... Here.
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Rest in Peace
His London-based agent, Barrie Marshall, said Cocker died Monday of lung cancer in Colorado, where he has lived for the past two decades. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/ns/obituary.aspx?n=joe-cocker&pid=173558813#sthash.22Z9bcRa.dpuf
• The Cathedral and the Movie Theater … [Christianity Today, Betsy Brown] One of the biggest mistakes we make as movie-goers and church-goers is thinking that we attend in order to be entertained. Entertainment is a passive process: we sit and wait for moments of amusement. I would argue that both film and church, although they often are pleasurable and entertaining, serve a higher purpose. They have the power to transform—to drive us to action. And, of course, with this transformation can come a far more lasting joy than mere entertainment can give. … A sensitive liturgy constitutes a living and active Christian community. This life, this action, is worship. And if we open up a place for films to work in us the same way, this, too, is worship. I am grateful for these spaces. They have taught me how to live. Read on.
• Buying Time: The real reason women freeze their eggs … [New York Magazine] In this smart and honest essay, Jillian Dunham explains why she chose to freeze her eggs at the age of 37. A lot of it has to do with feeling as if she has wasted her time dating men who aren’t interested in a relationship. Her fertility doctor reinforces that idea: “There’s something wrong with the men in your generation,” he tells her. Read on. [h/t NYTimes, "What We're Reading"]
• We're all agoraphobics now … [WaPo, Michael Christie] Agoraphobia, from the Greek agora for marketplace, today afflicts 3.2 million adult Americans, a number no doubt underestimated because agoraphobics are notoriously hard to count. Originally conceived as the fear of wide-open spaces, the condition once conjured Munch’s (an agoraphobic himself) “The Scream”: a weakened individual cowering in the frenetic modern city. This definition has since mutated. Today it’s understood as the end game of panic anxiety disorder, the fear of one’s own fear response — being driven mad by the inescapable thunder of a panic attack. Because of this fear, agoraphobics map out safe zones (their homes, usually) and retreat into private worlds, which can become prisons.Darwin had it. Dido has it. Emily Dickinson and Kim Bassinger, too. It’s been called “Greta Garbo Syndrome” after the actress who holed up in her New York apartment for almost 50 years with only her famous declaration “I just want to be alone” to guard her door.
… Reasonable concern is a scarce commodity in our hyperventilated Internet world. Anyone who’s stayed up watching the Dopplerized formation of another mega-superstorm that fizzled by morning, or who’s begun looking up a minor medical symptom and found themselves self-diagnosing a rare cancer after just 10 minutes of clicking knows what I mean. And unlike true agoraphobics, we enjoy the fear. Its seduction keeps us clicking and reading and watching. Americans express widespread fear of natural disasters, but few households actually have emergency kits. Read on.
•• Thomas Merton: Centenary takes note of a mystic for the ages … [ReligionLink] Jan. 31, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Catholic mystic, monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton. Though Merton died almost 50 years ago, his life and legacy have continued to intrigue and inspire believers of many faiths. Throughout 2015, universities, colleges, meditation/retreat centers and other organizations will mark the centennial with conferences, lectures, art exhibits and dance and music performances expected to draw many thousands. Events are slated for the U.S., Ireland, Italy, Australia, France, England, Brazil and more. What, if anything, can Thomas Merton teach us today? Read on.
• Two books: Delving into Thomas Merton's exterior and interior lives … [NCR] John Moses, an Anglican priest, and Suzanne Zuercher, a Benedictine nun, present works that stand out among the many volumes investigating the Cistercian monk born nearly 100 years ago in France. That Merton would catch the attention of both the British dean emeritus of St. Paul's Cathedral and of an American psychologist is tribute to both his genius and his difficulties. That Merton still holds our attention speaks to these as well.
Moses' Divine Discontent: The Prophetic Voice of Thomas Merton is a fascinating study that weaves the details of Merton's life as monk, writer, contemplative, social critic, and ecumenist. It culminates in an evaluation of Merton's discontent even as he had (and still has) a prophetic voice that sounds across the world he left so tragically in December 1968. What is well-documented in Moses' study is that Merton, who was born 100 years ago Jan. 31, cannot be categorized completely simply because he wrote so much. Moses carefully chooses from among the thousands of pages extant to present as complete a portrait as is possible of a man who seems to have written everything there was to know about himself, even as he hid his psyche behind the typewriter. What emerges at the end of the book is a carefully constructed legacy that even Merton could approve.
Zuercher's The Ground of Love and Truth focuses on one fact of Merton's life: his relationship (Moses calls it an affair) with "M," a student nurse who cared for him following his back surgery in 1966, two years before his death in Thailand. Merton burned the letters of the woman, identified in 1993 by John Howard Griffin as Margie Smith, before leaving for the trip. Read on.
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.
Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
•• How Franklin Graham transformed a debate about Duke Chapel into a culture war … [RNS, Aaron Griffith] The apple does not fall too far from the tree, because even though Franklin Graham seems to have departed from his father’s more gentle demeanor, there is commonality in their communication strategy. Like his father, the younger Graham is preaching to the choir. Read on.
Evangelical Lutheran Church
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United Methodist Church
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Presbyterian Church USA
•• Resources ... Here.
•• Pope Francis, Birth Control and American Catholics … [Frank Bruni, Op-Ed, NYTimes] “Forgive me, Father,” my mother would say time and again, in church after church, to confessor after confessor. “I use contraception.”She never met a priest who didn’t respond with some version of the following, and I’m paraphrasing with abandon:“Of course you do. You’re sane. Ignore Rome. Forget about the pope. There’s La-La Land, and then there’s the real world, in which you are clearly living. Say three Hail Marys because it can never hurt, and be on your way.”I’m being cheeky. I’m also being honest. There is perhaps no church teaching more widely derided and disobeyed than the hoary prohibition against any birth control other than strategic abstinence, known more euphemistically (and musically!) as the rhythm method.
And there’s none that more squarely places the Catholic hierarchy in opposition to modernity, practicality and prudence, none that gives Catholics more reason to regard some of the church’s edicts as quaint anachronisms and to follow their consciences in lieu of any commands. It’s the gateway estrangement. So when Pope Francis broached the topic last week, he was bound to whip up a storm of attention, even without a choice of words that “set a new standard for the papal vernacular,” as The Times’s Elisabetta Povoledo observed. He was on the papal plane, en route from the Philippines back to Italy, and he was reflecting on the relationship between third-world poverty and extra-large families. He told reporters that Catholics needn’t feel compelled to breed “like rabbits,” a zoological simile that’s sure to have legs.
… The church came close to lifting its condemnation of contraception back in the 1960s, when a significant majority of theologians, bishops and cardinals who were asked to take a formal look at that teaching recommended such a swerve. Pope Paul VI overruled them — partly, it’s believed, out of fear that an admission of error on the birth-control front might prompt assaults on other teachings and open the fallibility floodgates.
… At my request, Gallup did a special breakdown of its “Values and Beliefs” survey from last May and looked at how the principles of people who identified themselves as Catholics diverged (or didn’t) from those of Americans on the whole. Catholics were only slightly less open to birth control, with 86 percent of them saying that it was “morally acceptable” in comparison with 90 percent of all respondents. But Catholics were more permissive than all respondents when it came to sex outside marriage (acceptable to 72 percent of Catholics versus 66 percent of Americans overall) and gay and lesbian relationships (70 percent versus 58). Read on.
•• As Vatican revisits divorce, many Catholics long for acceptance … [NYTimes] Mark Garren does not take communion when he goes to church. Sometimes he walks up to the priest, crosses his arms over his chest and touches his shoulders to signal that he is seeking a blessing. More often, mindful of his divorce years ago, Mr. Garren, a 64-year-old Illinoisan, remains in his pew, watching with slight embarrassment as the rest of the row moves to the front of the church. Pamela Crawford, 46, of Virginia, is having none of that. Twice divorced, she, too, feels judged by her church, but when she does go to Mass, she walks up with the rest of the congregation. “If God has a problem with me taking communion, we’ll sort it out,” she said.
Facing millions of divorced Catholics around the world, many of whom express frustration over their status in the church, the Vatican has begun a remarkable re-examination of the church’s treatment of worshipers whose marriages have broken apart. Pope Francis, who plans to make his first trip to the United States in September to attend a conference on families, has acknowledged the concerns of divorced Catholics. He has set in motion a high-level debate about whether and how the church could change its posture toward them without altering a doctrine that declares marriage to be permanent and indissoluble. Read on.
•• Resources ... Here.
• Pope approves martyrdom for slain Salvadoran Romero … [Detroit News] Pope Francis decreed Tuesday that slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero was killed out of hatred for the faith, approving a martyrdom declaration that sets the stage for his beatification. Francis, the first Latin American pope, approved the decree honoring one of the heroes of Latin American Catholics at a meeting with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making office.
Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels. His sainthood cause had been held up by the Vatican for years out of concern at his perceived association with liberation theology, the Latin American-inspired Catholic theology advocating for the poor. But Francis “unblocked” the cause soon after being elected. Read on.
• From Laundering To Profiteering, A Multitude Of Sins At The Vatican Bank … [NPR Morning Edition] For decades, the Catholic Church has been dogged by scandals involving money. Vatican City — a sovereign state — controls its own finances through the Vatican Bank. It developed as a cross between the Federal Reserve and an offshore bank. In a new history, God's Bankers, Gerald Posner explains that its roots go back to the mid-19th century. Read on.
• Vatican to offer haircuts, shaves as well as showers to Rome's homeless … [Reuters] The Vatican will offer homeless people in Rome not only showers but also haircuts and shaves when new facilities open next month, the head of Pope Francis' charity office said. The Vatican announced last year that it would provide shower facilities in St Peter's Square for homeless people. Bishop Konrad Krajewski said it would also offer haircuts and shaves when the services start on Feb. 16 in an area under the colonnade of the square. Read on.
• The Vaccine Lunacy: Disneyland, Measles and Madness … [Frank Bruni, Op-Ed, NYTimes] A few years back, an acerbic friend of mine who was a recent transplant to Los Angeles told me that she itched to write a satirical novel with the following narrative:A group of wealthy, educated people in Santa Monica who deliberately didn’t vaccinate their children subsequently take them on a “poor-ism” trip to a developing country. The goal is to make them wiser and more sensitive to suffering in the world. While being sensitized, the kids catch diseases that they could have been inoculated against. Some of them die.
As a plot, it lacks subtlety (and compassion). But as a parable, it’s crystal-clear. You can be so privileged that you’re underprivileged, so blessed with choices that you choose to be a fool, so “informed” that you’re misinformed.Which brings us to Disneyland, measles and the astonishing fact that a scourge once essentially eliminated in this country is back.You’ve probably heard or read about the recent outbreak traced to the theme park. But there’s a chance that you’re unaware, because it hasn’t received nearly the coverage that, say, Ebola did, even though some of the dynamics at work here are scarier. Read on.
• "If my kid can't bring peanut butter to school … [Found on a Tweet] yours shouldn't be able to bring preventable diseases."
•• Flu, other bugs hit Lehigh Valley hard … [The Morning Call] The flu's rampage through the Lehigh Valley has entered its fourth week with little sign of abating any time soon. "We're probably going to see a fair amount of flu for the next few weeks," warned Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, St. Luke's University Health Network's chief of infectious diseases. Both St. Luke's and Lehigh Valley Health Network, the region's two biggest health-care providers, reported sustained, heavy emergency room traffic. Circulating is a particularly nasty strain of the flu called A-H3N2 — against which the vaccine offers little protection. The government last week made clear how little protection: The vaccine is only 23 percent effective — one of the worst performances in the last decade — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The vaccine is prepared months in advance of the flu season, based on health experts' forecast of what strains are likely to be prevalent. The forecast, however, can be off — sometimes a little, sometimes more so, as was the case this time. The CDC describes the flu as "widespread" — the agency's highest designation — throughout nearly the entire country, including Pennsylvania. Read on.
•• The flu and you: Tips … [The Morning Call] Here. It's not "just" the flu, but it's not too late to get a flu shot.
•• Flu shots ... Info from the CDC Here and Here. A lot of good info also at flu.gov.
• A Church with a a Hole In Its Heart: An Excerpt from Peter Manseau’s “One Nation Under Gods” … [ReligionDispatches] At a time when the gulf between Americans who proudly call themselves religious and those who emphatically do not never seemed so wide, it bears remembering: Beliefs are malleable, the borders between them are porous. Belief, in all its varieties, non-belief included, is far more collaborative than we usually suppose. Read on.
•• How Jesus became God … [ Commonweal] Luke Timothy Johnson reviews Bart D. Ehrman's new book, “The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.” The greatest deficiency in Ehrman’s work is that he does not even seem aware of the language of religious experience that pervades Paul’s letters and that paradoxically provides us with the earliest historical evidence for the basis of Christian convictions. The deficiency is not his alone, to be sure. It characterizes all those who seek to secure or discredit the truth of the Gospel by means of merely verifiable facts. But the good news is not and never has been based in verifiable fact; from the beginning and still today, it is based in the experience of God’s power. Read on.
•• Sundance documentary pulls back curtain on Scientology… [AP] "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" recently at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed house — not with a star-studded red carpet, but with police protection. A week before the premiere, the Church of Scientology took out full-page ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times claiming the documentary is filled with falsehoods.
Based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 book of the same name, Oscar winner Alex Gibney's film claims that the church routinely intimidates, manipulates and even tortures its members, tracing the rise of the religion and its founder, former science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor as head of the church, David Miscavige. Gibney also interviewed several former Scientology believers, including past executives. Paul Haggis, director of the Oscar-winning "Crash," left the church in 2009 after decades of membership. "I was really stupid. I was part of this for 30 years before I spoke out," he says in the film. "I was deeply ashamed." As Haggis climbed "the bridge" to the most enlightened levels of Scientology, he finally learned Hubbard's ultimate theory: That a tyrannical galactic overlord named Xenu dropped frozen bodies from millions of years ago into volcanoes, and those spirits attach themselves to modern people today. Scientology is the means of ridding the body and mind of those spirits to become "clear." Read on.
•• Resources ... Here
•• The endlessly rolling ocean … [Kottke] If you'd like to relax for 80 minutes, watch this 4K video shot from the bow of a container ship navigating the South China Sea. Strangely compelling.
• Institutions/Movements … [Brian McLaren paraphrased] An institution preserves gains of former movements; a movement presents future gains to an institution.
As soon as the newSpin newsletter is completed, usually by Tuesday, it is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on other diocesan lists of nearly 4,000 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 likely that no one has sent relevant info. If you think something about your parish or agency merits inclusion, send email to Bill. Comments are welcome on Bakery (if you are subscribed to that interactive list) anf at the newSpin blog. Click at the newSpin blog 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]