newSpin, the newsletter
May 3, 2018 – Bill Lewellis
• Diocese of Bethlehem elects Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, as its next bishop … Nichols, who is currently, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, was elected on the first ballot by the clergy of the diocese and elected lay representatives during a meeting in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
"I am thrilled to be joining with the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem to bear witness to the power of the Resurrection in their communities," Nichols said. "The momentum there is unmistakable and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us together.
"I see this as a moment for us as a church to recover our purpose for why we are here, to reconcile and to offer God's love and healing where there has been painful damage. The Diocese of Bethlehem in its diverse landscapes is rich and fertile ground for God's planting and pruning."
Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire's Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.
A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and St. Andrew's in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
While serving small parishes, Nichols also worked as an account manager and management trainer for Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging company. Read on,
• Bishop Sean's Farewell Event, May 12 … Say thank you and farewell to Bishop Sean Rowe, and his family. This event includes Eucharist at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral (12:30) followed by a light hors d’oeuvres reception at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center, Wilkes-Barre. This is a free event, however registration is required by April 23: Register here. In lieu of gifts for Bishop Sean, we will be collecting donations for Grace Montessori School, now a diocesan school. If you would like to make a donation in Bishop Sean’s honor, it can be sent to the Diocesan Office. Checks should be made payable to: The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem and mailed to: 333 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Please be sure to include “Bishop Farewell Gift” in the memo line.
• A. Theodore Eastman, 89 … 12th bishop of Maryland, retired, died April 26. Bishop Eastman was rector of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown,1969-73. More below, under "Requiescant."
• A Lynching Memorial … [NYT] The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens Thursday on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol, is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy. And it demands a reckoning with one of the nation’s least recognized atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror. Read on.
• The Waiting Game … [ProPublica, April 23] The U.S. is supposed to be a safe haven for people fleeing persecution. But asylum-seekers face years of uncertainty when they arrive.
Like any piece of journalism, The Waiting Game presents true stories in each of the game’s five narratives. They’re based on detailed records and accounts from five real asylum seekers, as well as interviews with people who worked directly with them, and with experts who work with asylum seekers on a regular basis. The places, major events and people in our narratives are real, as are the reasons each person sought asylum and the results of their asylum requests. We have omitted details to protect the identity of the asylum seekers. Read on.
• These are the 12 most 'effective' preachers in the English language … [CNN] For only the second time in two decades, Baylor University has released its list of the 12 most "effective" preachers in the English language. It is among the most prestigious honors in the preaching profession -- one that has changed the lives of previous recipients. Read on. View/hear the sermons that put these 12 preachers on Baylor's list, here.
• DioBeth General News, April 26 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, April 19 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, April 12 … Here.
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Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• Trump blasts 'breeding' in Sanctuary Cities. That's a racist term … [Analysis by Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, April 18] '"Breeding’ as a concept has an animalistic connotation. Dogs and horses are bred. So (Trump’s) use of it is, at best, dehumanizing to the immigrants he appears to be referring to," writes CNN’s Z. Byron Wolf. The network’s political director notes that “fear of immigrants from certain countries ‘breeding’ has been a staple of nativist thought for hundreds of years. The ‘breeding’ fear has been affixed to Jews from Eastern Europe, Catholics from Ireland and Italy, Chinese and, now, Latinos, Filipinos, Africans and Haitians.” Apparently excepted from Trump’s rhetoric: Germany and Scotland, where his immigrant grandfather and mother were born. Read on.
• NJ Court rules churches can't receive county's historic preservation money … [Episcopal News Service, David Paulsen, April 19] It was an offer too good for a congregation to refuse. Need your church tower preserved? Your roof replaced? Your parish house restored? Morris County, New Jersey, was ready to help, with a historic preservation grant program offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in upkeep assistance for a range of properties, including houses of worship. The problem: Such direct taxpayer assistance to churches violated the state constitution, the New Jersey Supreme Court has concluded, ruling April 18 against a list of defendants that includes 12 churches, three of them Episcopal churches.
The potential financial ramifications for Morris County churches are significant. The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, as one prominent example, received a $294,000 grant in 2013 to restore its 1926 parish house and an additional $272,000 in 2015 to restore the church’s slate roof. The court did not require Church of the Redeemer and the other 11 churches named in the lawsuit to repay the $4.6 million they received over four years, but the county is barred from awarding money to churches in the future. Read on.
• Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest? Why did Paul Ryan dismiss the House chaplain? … [WaPo, Greg Sargent] House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has dismissed the House chaplain, outraging Catholics in the lower chamber, and this morning’s speculation has centered on a prayer offered by the chaplain that was critical of the GOP tax law. In that prayer, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy urged members of the House to ensure that “there are not winners and losers” under the new law, but rather “benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
In an interview this morning, Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia said that Conroy told him he thought this prayer was a cause of his dismissal. “He speculated that this might be the reason,” Connolly told me. Conroy has publicly made similar suggestions elsewhere, and Ryan’s office has refused to explain the decision.
“A Catholic priest, a Jesuit like the Pope, committed to the social justice doctrine of the church, mildly encouraged members to keep fairness in mind as we contemplated the tax bill,” Connolly told me. “It reminds me of the line in Henry II, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'” Read on. Also here and here.
• What Mueller wants to ask Trump about obstruction, and what it means … The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently provided President Trump’s lawyers a list of questions he wants answered in an interview. The New York Times obtained the list, and published it with the context and significance of each. The questions fall into categories based on four broad subjects. Read on.
• Is the Christian Right driving Americans away from religion? … New research finds that, when evangelical organizations raise their profile by sponsoring a high-profile political campaign, a backlash ensues. Read on.
• Frequently and Shamelessly … [David Leonhardt, Op-Ed Columnist, NYTimes, May 1] Throughout his business and political careers, Donald Trump has had an important advantage: He is willing to lie, frequently and shamelessly. Most other people in public life view reality as a limitation. Trump does not. If telling falsehoods is more convenient or helpful to him than telling the truth, he tells falsehoods. It’s worked out very well for him — making his business look more successful than it was, helping him land a prime time television show and, of course, allowing him to win the most powerful political office on earth. In his 15-plus months as president, Trump has added a second bit of shamelessness to his approach. In addition to lying, he has also been willing to obstruct justice. Read on,
• A Sad Track … President Trump has made 3,001 documented false or misleading claims since he has been in office — and he's making them more frequently in recent months, according to an updated count by Washington Post fact-checkers. "Seventy-two times, the president has falsely claimed he passed the biggest tax cut in history — when in fact it ranks in eighth place," the fact-checkers write. "Fifty-three times, the president has made some variation of the claim that the Russia probe is a made-up controversy." Read on,
• Proposed cuts to food program are immoral … [Editorial, National Catholic Reporter, April 29] Sometimes it feels hard to keep up with the myriad scandals swirling around the Trump White House. From alleged payoffs to a porn star and ongoing inquiries into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the headlines come at a dizzying pace. The lurid spectacle of it all should not blind us to actual policy scandals that make a mockery of the administration's laughable claim to being "pro-life."
While cable pundits are buzzing about Stormy Daniels, the most vulnerable Americans now face the prospect of losing critical nutrition support for their families. Under a 2018 farm bill proposal in the House Agriculture Committee supported by the White House, a reckless change to the nation's food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), ties critical food support to work requirements (see Page 3).
More than 2 million people who rely on the program, including parents raising children and people with disabilities, would be affected by the plan. This partisan, punitive measure breaks with a long history of bipartisan commitment to alleviating hunger as a matter of basic human dignity.
The details are sobering and unacceptable. The bill cuts SNAP benefits by more than $20 billion over 10 years, diverting much of that money to sweeping new work programs with unforgiving penalties. Read on.
• Pope Francis, spiritual guide … [RNS, Thomas Reese] Before he was pope, before he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis spent much of his Jesuit life as a spiritual guide to young Jesuits. He was not a great theologian, although he was well read in theology. Nor was he the president of one of the order’s universities. Rather his job was to introduce young men to the Jesuits and help form them in their spiritual lives. He was the director of novices and rector of the community where young Jesuits studied philosophy and theology.
This background and experience helped make Francis the person he is today. It also explains why he naturally felt impelled to write “Gaudete et Exsultate,” his recently released apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness. For Francis, all Christians, not just religious and priests, are called to holiness. But as an experienced spiritual guide, he knows that most people are confused about what holiness really is and therefore can easily get lost on their spiritual quest.
Francis’ goal was not to write an abstract theological treatise on holiness but to present a practical way to holiness for our time. He does this with a simple style that is full of spiritual wisdom that can enrich any reader, whether a beginner or experienced practitioner of the spiritual life. Read on. Read Gaudete et Exsultate.
• The Template of Reality … [Richard Rohr] The basic template of reality is Trinitarian, it’s relational. God is relationship. The energy in the universe is not in the planets or in the protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them. Not in the particles but in the space between them. Not in the cells of organisms but in the way the cells feed and give feedback to one another. Not in any precise definition of the three persons of the Trinity as much as in the relationship between the Three! This is where all the power for infinite renewal is at work: The loving relationship between them. The infinite love flowing between them. The dance itself. Read on.
• At the Heart of Reality … [Sermon by Bill Lewellis, Trinity Sunday, 2004] Clues to the most profound mysteries of life – who we are, why we are, where we are going, how we are meant to live – may be embedded in our DNA… that double-helix spiral staircase that has inspired scientists and artists and theologians over the past half century. Read on.
• Not to Win but To Be One … [A slightly edited excerpt from a 1991 column by Bill Lewellis, published in a local paper] Despite my reservations about activities that nurture the competitive over the cooperative and empathic tendencies of children, our 14-year-old son plays ice hockey and our two younger sons, ages 6 and 8, play Little League baseball. Fortunately, the younger ones have coaches who love children more than the score.
One Saturday morning in May, I wasn’t able to be at my six-year-old’s game. “How’d it go?” I asked Stephen later. “O.K.,” he said. “I got two hits and scored two runs — one for us and one for them.”
“One for us and one for them?” “Yes,” he said. “Some of the kids on the other team had church and couldn’t play today. So our coach made some of us play sometimes for us and sometimes for them.”
That was church of its own. Jesus didn’t say we ought to win. He prayed only that we might be one. One for us and one for them
• Celebrate Life … [A slightly edited 1987 column by Bill Lewellis, published in a daily newspaper] Our spiritual journey is a relationship. No two are the same. Still, a reasonable construct which draws on the experiences of many, including St. Paul and St. John, suggests God is not only the end of the journey but also its beginning. The journey begins when God speaks. "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1: 1). Read on.
• Creativity and the Cross … [Hillary Raining interviews Charles "Ty" Welles] Charles “Ty” Welles is a fourth generation lawyer from Scranton, PA, with degrees from Yale and Harvard. He has served as the Chancellor of Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, and, perhaps surprisingly, a sculptor, who primarily carves marble. He has been carving for more than twenty-five years and has exhibited and studied throughout the northeastern United States as well as regionally. In this episode, Ty will talk about his 13-piece installation of the Stations of the Cross as well as his creative process. This is a discussion (Season 1, Episode 5) about the power of creativity and spirituality in every life. Listen.
This podcast appears on The Hive, a website created by Hillary Raining, rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwyne and known to many in the Diocese of Bethlehem where she was ordained. "Based on a model of community and support found in the hive of the honey bee," Hillary writes, "this wellness and spirituality website is for you in your quest to change the world." Here.
• Jesus' Farewell … [Bill] In the Gospel according to John, just before John’s account of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, there are five chapters — 13 through 17 — that make up an especially powerful read. Read the entire section reflectively, perhaps today or tomorrow, and you will understand. John put that section together to be Jesus’ Farewell. Read on,
• Be in Love Transformed … [Bill Lewellis, column published in The Morning Call, May 2003] My next to last step when preparing a sermon plays out on Saturday morning at a local diner where I browse through my notes while having breakfast and much coffee. I glance randomly at the faces of strangers. Might anything I’ve written be useful to anyone in this place? Something good always happens. I almost always discard cute phrases to which I was wedded a few days earlier. Ernest Hemingway, I believe, called this “killing your darlings?” *
Something else happened a few weeks ago. Seeing that my coffee cup was full, the waitress on refill duty said, “You’re good.” Lose the notes, I chuckled. Anne gave you the sermon. This is your waitress. Listen to her. Read on.
• 'Religion' in Opposition to 'Ideology' … [Interview: America Magazine with Jordan Peterson] In your lectures, you define “religion” in opposition to “ideology.” Could you explain the difference between the two?
To me, ideology is corrupt; it’s a parasite on religious structures. To be an ideologue is to have all of the terrible things that are associated with religious certainty and none of the utility. If you’re an ideologue you believe everything that you think. If you’re religious there’s a mystery left there. The mystery is whatever God is. That mystery has the possibility of keeping you humble. You’re not the ultimate authority, and you’re accountable in some ultimate sense.
Now, you might say that doesn’t translate directly into proof for God, and obviously it doesn’t. But I think you could make a very compelling case that people are ultimately responsible, and if they don’t act that way. all hell breaks loose. Plus, religious thinking is a human universal that’s biologically instantiated. There’s every bit of evidence that capacity for religious thinking and experience evolve. Read on.
• Prayers and Thanksgivings from the BCP ... Here.
• The (Online) Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• The Daily Office ... online in Rite I, Rite II or the New Zealand Prayer Book versions. At Mission St. Clare.
• The Daily Office ... from the Diocese of Indianapolis. Here.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons and reflections. Here.
Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin
• Good Shepherd Sunday sermon by Winnie Varghese at Trinity Wall Street.
• A Man Called Mark … A new biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, will be published on July 17. Dyer was bishop of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995. [Church Publishing and Leadership News] This official biography tells the compelling story of the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer: Irish Catholic boy from New Hampshire, U.S. Navy vet, Roman Catholic then Episcopal priest, bishop, and seminary professor-and one of the most influential, beloved leaders of the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Following a dispute with ecclesiastical authorities, Dyer left the Roman Church for the Anglican Church of Canada. Later received as priest in the Episcopal Church, his gifts as teacher, preacher, and pastor were recognized with election as Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There, he established a new model of leadership, delegating administrative duties to concentrate on spiritual direction, pastoral care, and creating mission projects at every church in his diocese. Also renowned as a story-teller, many of his favorite stories appear here, told in his own voice. Read on.
• Herding Cats in the Kingdom of God … [A sermon preached by Canon Andrew Gerns at the celebration of new ministry of the Rev. Rebecca Parsons Cancelliere at St. Mark and St. John Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe, PA on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 22, 2018.] If you were to ask me to choose the 100 best TV commercials of all time, do you know what would be at the very top of my list? It would be an ad that first appeared in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.
Picture tough, dust-caked cowboys riding the range. They are on a drive through the desolate, wild, open prairie. From their horses they shout, whistle and use their lariats to bring their herd home. The ad opens with a young cowboy standing next to a Conestoga wagon, holding up a picture. “This is my grandfather,” he says. “He started herding cats when he was 15.”
Yes, these cowboys are herding cats. “Anyone can herd cattle,” one of these cowboys says. “But keeping ten thousand half-wild short hairs together… is about the hardest work a man can do.” This ad works because it takes a time honored image that we all know and with wonderful details like a little yarn, a sneeze, and a lint roller---not to mention dozens and dozen of cats--and turns it all upside down.
Sort of like taking an historic parish founded by a famous industrialist located in a town re-named for a famous athlete and then raising up for that parish an all-female leadership team. Read on.
• Michelle Moyer … canon for family and faith formation at Nativity Cathedral Bethlehem has accepted a full-time position as chaplain to the independent and assisted living residence of the Phoebe Home Allentown.
• DioBeth General News, April 26 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, April 19 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, April 12 … Here.
• Video series invites Episcopalians to revisit slave trade, share truths about race today … [The Episcopal Church, Public Affairs Office] "Door of Return: Racial Truth and Reconciliation Pilgrimage to Ghana" is a series of three powerful, short films and discussion tools that open conversation about race, faith and the path toward healing. The videos and discussion guide are available for viewing or download at no fee. Read on.
• We went to 'Beyoncé Mass' and it was glorious … [Mother Jones] San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, an historic episcopal church known for its commitment to social justice, hosted its “Beyonce Mass” as part of a weekly worship series intended to uplift the experiences of women and appeal to young worshippers. The unconventional service featured a sermon about liberation struggle, readings from a speech by civil rights leader Ella Baker, scripture readings by black women, a traditional communion, and of course, the singing of Beyoncé songs. A gospel soloist backed by a choir and live band performed Beyonce’s songs “Listen,” “Freedom,” “Flaws and All,” and “I Was Here,” as well as “Survivor,” a hit by Beyonce’s original girl group Destiny’s Child.
News of the planned service appeared in more than two dozen local and national news outlets—including the New York Times. Not surprisingly, the church was mobbed. Ushers estimated there were about 900 people in attendance—Grace’s Wednesday night service normally attracts 50 or so. Read on. Also here.
• Vital Practices for leading congregations … This website of the Episcopal Church Foundation seems to me to be an especially useful tool for anyone active in parish life. It covers much more than parish finances. Read on.
• A new comprehensive Evangelism Toolkit … is available online for congregations, dioceses, groups, and individuals to explore Evangelism.
• Episcopal Migration Ministries … Here.
• Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) … Here.
• Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) … Here.
• Episcopal Asset Map … Here.
• She spoke to the soul … Years ago, after having sufficiently experienced the ether, I ventured to say that online conversation would enable us to know people we might never meet. Ann Fontaine died this morning April 19). Though she was known personally to many across the Episcopal Church, she was known also to many more who never met her. Count me among those. Andrew Gerns of Trinity Easton has served for many years as an editor of Episcopal Café, as had Ann. Yet, they never did meet. Andrew wrote a tribute to Ann today that begins: "It seems strange to me, but I am grieving the death of a friend whom I have never seen in real life, at the same time we have 'spoken' as many as a dozen times a day as we worked together on the Episcopal Café over the past decade."
"Maybe the reign of God is like this," Andrew also wrote. "We have dear friends knit together by bonds that defy space and time but are intimately connected by the love of God in relationship to Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Ann communicated Jesus in strikingly powerful and ordinary ways. When she told us that she had been admitted to hospice, she wrote in a way that was real, reassuring (to us), and reflective. She told us she was okay. And she was." Read Andrew's tribute.
• The Life She Deserves … [Brookings] When Jennifer Collins was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, the drugs prescribed to stop her seizures made her angry, suicidal, and interrupted her ability to live a normal life. Desperate to help their daughter, Jennifer’s parents sought out alternative treatments, and learned about the success of cannabis oil in treating epilepsy. There was just one problem: marijuana wasn’t legal where they lived, even for medical purposes. Watch the rest of Jennifer’s story in the short film online now
What if you had to choose between suffering from a debilitating illness and breaking the law? A new documentary short film from Brookings sheds light on the challenges American patients and their families face when navigating the outdated laws and lack of research around medical marijuana. Read on
• How religion is coming to terms with modern fertility methods… [WaPo, April 27] Forty years ago this July, the world’s first “test tube” baby was born at a British hospital in the industrial city of Oldham, heralding a radical change in the creation of human life. Until Louise Joy Brown arrived, hopeful parents had been at the mercy of fate, and a barren marriage could feel like divine punishment.
Since then, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and related technologies have produced some 7 million babies who might never have existed — roughly the combined population of Paris, Nairobi and Kyoto — and the world’s fertility clinics have blossomed into a $17 billion business.
The procedures have amplified profound questions for the world’s theologians: When does life begin? If it begins at conception, is it a sin to destroy a fertilized egg? What defines a parent? Is the mother the woman who provides the egg or the woman who gives birth? What defines a marriage? If a man’s sperm fertilizes an egg from a woman who is not his wife, does that constitute adultery?
The moral questions are rapidly becoming more complex. Researchers are working to advance gene-editing tools that would allow parents to choose or “correct for” certain preferred characteristics; to create artificial wombs that could incubate fetuses outside the body for nine months; and to perfect techniques to produce “three-parent” babies who share genetic material from more than two people. Read on.
• It's about the music … [Bill Lewellis] In April 1999, Bishop Paul preached to the deacons and priests of the Diocese of Bethlehem at the Chrism Mass, the Eucharist wherein Holy Oils are blessed and ordination vows renewed. He spoke about how ordained ministry is so much more than role and function. “When I took organ lessons,” he said, “I was a bit too concerned at one point with technique and with hitting the right notes. My. teacher said, ‘Paul, I could get a monkey to play the right notes. What I want to hear from you is music.’" Read on.
• Same-sex marriage garners support among most American religious groups … [RNS, Janet Riess, May 1] Most religious groups now support the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to a study released Tuesday (May 1) from the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey, which was based on more than 40,000 responses collected during 2017, finds that twice as many Americans now support same-sex marriage as oppose it, 61 percent to 30 percent.
What is more surprising is how quickly support for same-sex marriage has grown among religious groups that are more politically diverse. Two-thirds of Catholics, Orthodox Christians and white mainline Protestants now say they are in favor.
What’s more, majority support now includes African-Americans, whose support for same-sex marriage has increased from 41 percent in 2013 to 52 percent today. Hispanic Americans also saw double-digit increases, with support rising from 51 percent in 2013 to 61 percent today. Majorities of Americans in most states support same-sex marriage, with the exceptions all located in the South. Even in the handful of states that do not have more than 50 percent support for same-sex marriage, they also don’t have 50 percent opposition; Alabama is now the only state where a majority of residents say they oppose same-sex marriage. Read on.
• I give you a new commandment … A few decades ago on a National Public Radio program, someone spoke about an experiment she did with her kindergarten class. The occasion for her experiment was her dismay over the five-year-olds who would constantly exclude: "You can't play with us." "You can't sit in here with us." And so on.
So the teacher sat down with the children and told them there was a new rule now. Everyone can play with everyone else and sit with everyone else. She reported that the children were relieved. I can’t think of her name, but the teacher wrote a book entitled: You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.
A new rule. Everyone can play with everyone else and sit with everyone else. The story reminded me of the beginning of Jesus’ farewell: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." (Jn. 13:34)
Requiescant in pace
• Louise "Petey" D. Perkins, 92 … died April 23. She was a member of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, since 1955 and President of Talbot Hall, the Episcopal Diocese's onetime home for teenage girls. Since 1980 she served as an Associate Chaplain with the Pastoral Care Department of St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem. Obituary.
• David R. Brackenbury, 39 … of Bethlehem tragically lost his long battle with bipolar disorder on April 20. Obituary.
• Barbara Ann (Wamsher) McCord, 84 … died on April 6. She was a member of St. Thomas Morgantown. Obituary.
• A. Theodore Eastman, 89 … 12th bishop of Maryland, retired, died April 26. Bishop Eastman was rector of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown,1969-73. Washington Post obituary here. Also, Baltimore Sun.
• James H. Cone, 79 … The Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, a central figure in the development of black liberation theology in the 1960s and ’70s who argued for racial justice and an interpretation of the Christian Gospel that elevated the voices of the oppressed, died April 28 in Manhattan. Read on. Also, here and here. His theology is easy to like and hard to live, Christian Century.
• Pope to Chile abuse victims: 'I was part of the problem' … [AP] The three whistleblowers in Chile’s sex abuse scandal urged Pope Francis on Wednesday to transform his apology for having discredited them into concrete action to end what they called the “epidemic” of sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.
Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo spoke to reporters Wednesday after spending five days with the pope at his Vatican hotel. Their press conference was broadcast live in Chile, a sign of the unprecedented nature of their hours of meetings with the pope.
Cruz said that during his private encounter with Francis, the pope acknowledged: “I was part of the problem. I caused this, and I apologize to you.” Read on.
[Bill] Now there's an apology. None of this "I apologize to anyone who was offended."
• Vatican treasurer to face trial on abuse charges … [CNN, May 1] Cardinal George Pell, of Australia, is accused of abuse spanning three decades, including incidents that allegedly took place at a swimming pool in rural Victoria in the 1970s and at St. Patrick's Cathedral during his time as archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Pell, who says he's innocent and has pleaded not guilty, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to face criminal sex abuse charges. Read on. Also, RNS.
• Vatican Information Service blog ... Here.
• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.
Health and Wellness
• Infections like Lyme disease, dengue and Zika that are spread by ticks and mosquitoes are soaring, the C.D.C. says … [NYTimes] The number of people who get diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled in the United States in recent years, federal health officials reported on Tuesday. Since 2004, at least nine such diseases have been newly discovered or introduced into the United States. Ticks spread Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rabbit fever, Powassan virus and other ills, some of them only recently discovered. Read on.
• All about ticks and mosquitoes … [NYTimes] Here.
Film and TV
• Reflecting on the frightening lessons of 'The Handmaid's Tale' … [America] The Handmaid shows us that that terrible things happen when there is only one acceptable religion to practice or when there is only one way to be a woman. Read on.
• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.
• Communicate … Your Ministry, including Bill's Communication Biases and Communication-Evangelism. Here.
Media, Print, Music, Tech
• James Comey has a story to tell. It's very persuasive … [NYTimes, April 12, Book review by Michiko Kakutani] The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture. Read on,
• God and the IRS … [Book by Samuel Brunson. Reviewed for Forbes by Peter J. Reilly] Brunson's thesis is that accommodations to religious individuals have been implemented in a random, haphazard manner without any sort of overarching system. The point of Brunson's survey is to demonstrate the "ad hoc, reactive lawmaking" that has created exiting religious accommodations in the tax law. From there he goes on to suggest a rational rubric and then apply that rubric to a number of situations that might call for accommodation. I have a sense that Brunson's quest is somewhat quixotic, but you can always hope. Over the next couple of years bright lads and lasses in law school may read Brunson's book. The brightest of them will be clerking for Supreme Court justices in a few years when the parsonage exclusion litigation now before the Seventh Circuit makes it to the big leagues. With just a little bit of luck the "Brunson Rubric" might then make its way into legal history. Read on.
• Great American Novels … Which books deserve to be described as "Great American Novels"? PBS plans to put its own spin on this much discussed question in The Great American Read, a new 8-part series, starting May 22, which will journey across the country to uncover the nation's 100 most-loved novels.
• Books for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• Audios for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• Free eBooks by Project Gutenberg ... Here.
• Free Audiobooks from LibriVox ... Here.
• Free Audiobooks and eBooks ... Here and Here.
• Google Books ... Millions of books you can preview or read free. Here.
• The Online Books Page ... from UPenn. Here.
• More free eBooks and Audiobooks ... [Techlicious] Here.
• The Episcopal Café … Here.
• AnglicansOnline … Here.
• Diocese of Bethlehem … Here.
• The Episcopal Church … Here.
• Episcopal News Service … Here.
• The Bible for Normal People … Hosted by Peter Enns and Jared Byas.
• The Daily … How the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.
• Invisibilia …Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
• Today, Explained … Vox's daily explainer podcast — bringing you the biggest news every day with guests, context, radio drama, and more
• Radio Atlantic … Weekly conversations with leading journalists and thinkers to make sense of the history happening all around us.
• Stay Tuned with Preet … Join former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for a podcast about justice and fairness.
• The Axe Files with David Axelrod … Revealing interviews with key figures in the political world.
• Pod Save America … Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — are joined by journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists for a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency.
• Trumpcast … A quasi-daily podcast from Slate chronicling Donald Trump's rise to the presidency and his current administration. With journalists, historians, psychiatrists, and other experts to help explain who this man is and why this is happening, right now, in the United States of America.
• Freakonomics Radio … Stephen Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.
• Things Not Seen … is an independent radio show and podcast that features in-depth interviews with nationally recognized guests. Each week, we welcome authors, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, and more. "We take faith seriously, and our guests do, too."
• The Francis Effect … is about the real world of politics and current events, seen through the lens of Catholic teaching and spirituality. Hosts, Fr. Dan Horan and David Dault, both have doctorates in theology. Dan is a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. David is a radio producer and Catholic convert.
• Caliphate… is a new audio series following Rukmini Callimachi of the NYTimes as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul.
• Ukrainian Sushi … Here.
Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO … Anglicans Online
AP … Associated Press
BCP … Book of Common Prayer
CJR … Columbia Journalism Review
COM … Commonweal
CN… Crux Now
CNS … Catholic News Service
DoB… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC … Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic
TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal
newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It 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, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).
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]
Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest
• For the Poor and the Neglected … [BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.
• A prayer before anything … [Bill] Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. Let us pray: Guide us, gracious God. May we be … Attentive to our experience, to the voices and hearts of those around us, Intelligent in our interpretation of that to which we have been attentive. Reasonable in our judgments about what we have understood. Responsible in our decisions about how we will act on our judgments. And always open to inner conversion, to transformation in your truth and your love.
• Reclaiming Jesus … is a confession of faith in a time of crisis signed on to by many faith leaders including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The following is an excerpt.
I. We believe each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore, we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity.
II. We believe we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28).
Therefore, we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
III. We believe how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Therefore, we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34).
IV. We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives.
Therefore, we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.
V. We believe that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Therefore, we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it.
VI. We believe Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18).
Therefore, we reject “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. Read all of this confession of faith.
• The Toolkit … of the Public Affairs Office is located on the Public Affairs pages of The Episcopal Church website here. Among the items are: Topics – topics of interest and dates of importance. Catalog – a list of important topics along with actions taken by The Episcopal Church and General Convention. Getting started - an easy how-to for getting started in preparing materials, media releases, op-eds, etc. For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, email@example.com, 212-716-6080. THERE'S A NEW TOOLKIT
• Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.
• Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.
• The Episcopal Church … is currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on.