Conservative Anglicans turn away from American church leader

In a striking statement, seven conservative Anglican archbishops refused to take Holy Communion on Friday with Katharine Jefferts Schori (below), the presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

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More than a dozen Anglicans took the same action in 2005 against Jefferts Schori’s predecessor, Frank Griswold.

Friday’s action by the bishops at an Anglican gathering in Tanzania showed that tensions are not easing over the Episcopal Church’s support of gay bishops, gay priests and the blessing of same-sex couples.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria, on its website, included this “explanation”:http://www.anglican-nig.org/GSPrimates_in_Tanzania.htm for the protest:

“We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the Church has been torn further. It is a consequence of the decision taken by our provinces to declare that our relationship with The Episcopal Church is either broken or severely impaired.

Scripture teaches that before coming to sit with one another at the Lord’s Table we must be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29) We have made repeated calls for repentance by The Episcopal Church and its leadership with no success. We continue to pray for a change of heart.

We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding, “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith” (Book of Common Prayer)

This is a painful decision for us and also for our host and brother, the Most Rev¹d Donald Mtetemela. He understands our painful dilemma and accepts our decision. Pray for the Church.”

Romney gets going, faces Mormon questions

It’s starting. We’re going to hear a lot of comparisons about Mitt Romney’s run for president — as a Mormon — to JFK’s historic run as a Roman Catholic.

Here’s the opening of an “article”:http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/elections/orl-romney1707feb17,0,7800076.story?track=mostemailedlink in Saturday’s Orlando Sentinel about a Romney campaign stop:

“THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Before former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney could tout his conservative credentials Friday in this tri-county hotbed of Republicanism, he first had to defend his religious background as he begins the long road toward the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

About 800 people packed Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center in this retirement community of 65,000. It was standing room only.

But what got the crowd roaring wasn’t a pitch for safe offshore oil drilling or health care. It was his religion. If he were to win the White House, Romney would become America’s first Mormon president.

A man stood amid the crowd and called Romney “a pretender� who doesn’t know “the Lord.�

The crowd booed the man from the room, and Romney responded: “First of all, I believe in God.�

Based on his experience so far — just three days after announcing his candidacy — Romney said most people don’t take issue with his religion and are focused more on faith.

Resident Jerry Liebergen, 69, defended Romney: “They said the same thing about John Kennedy, because he was Catholic, that he’d never be president.�

Who made up the Big Bang? Who else?

At least two anti-evolution state legislators — one in Georgia, one in Texas — have distributed memos that say the theory of evolution is a myth that comes from Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.

The memo was written by the “Fair Education Foundation,”:http://www.fixedearth.com/ a group that opposes the teaching of evolution.

The memo included this:

“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ’secular evolution science’ is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate ’creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion. This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ’holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.�

A quick scan of the Fair Education Foundation’s website revealed this nugget:

“[So, “superstrings theoryâ€? is yet another blatant example of how contra-scientific, Christ-hating Pharisee Kabbalist Occultists (using theoretical non-science and phony physics) have deceived the whole world into believing that 15 billion years of Big Bang Evolutionism has produced all that exists. Anyone can know that evolution is a lie by just studying the facts. But now anyone can also know that evolution is a double-damned lie. It has never been “secularâ€? science as the world has been led to believe. Rather, it has been a long labor of a Cabal of Pharisee Religionists to destroy the Bible’s credibility from Creation to Jesus to Heaven. That labor will soon be known to all to have been in vain.] (Matt. 24:35; Matt. 16:18)”

Bill Nigut, Southeast regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a letter to Georgia State Rep. Ben Bridges — who put his name on the memo — asking for an apology.

“Your memo conjures up repugnant images of Judaism used for thousands of years to smear the Jewish people as cult-like and manipulative,” he wrote.

Worldwide poll: Most don’t go for the ‘clash of civilizations’ idea

Sixty-four percent of Americans polled for an international study believe that common ground can be found between the West and the Muslim world. But 31 percent see conflict as inevitable.

Around the world, 52 percent of Muslims polled said that common ground can be found. Only in Indonesia did a majority — 51 percent — believe that violence is inevitable (Indonesia happens to have the largest Muslim population in the world).

The whole idea of a “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Muslim world is not catching on worldwide, according to the “BBC poll”:http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbciswest/ of 28,000 people in 27 countries.

Only 29 percent of respondents said that “religion and culture” are to blame for tensions between Muslims and the West. By contrast, 52 percent said that tensions are caused by political power and interests.

The countries polled included: the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Australia; four predominantly Muslim countries, Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia; and two countries with large Muslim populations, Lebanon and Nigeria.

“Most people around the world clearly reject the idea that Islam and the West are caught in an inevitable clash of civilizations,� said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which conducted the poll for the BBC, along with the international polling firm GlobeScan.

In Britain, 77 percent of people believed that tensions can be resolved between Muslims and Westerners. Fifteen percent saw violence as inevitable.

Sing Amazing Grace, watch Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace.

You’ve heard the hymn. Soon you can see the movie.

“Amazing Grace”:http://www.amazinggracemovie.com/index.php opens a week from today, Friday the 23rd. It is the story of William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament who fought to end the slave trade in the British Empire.

Wilberforce was inspired by John Newton, a former slave ship captain who underwent a religious conversion and became a minister. He wrote the words to Amazing Grace. Newton is played by the great Albert Finney.

Wilbeforce is played by Ioan Gruffudd, below (I hope he got a better script than he did as Mr. Fantastic in The Fantastic Four).

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Many religious groups are endorsing the film, which tells a story that should appeal to all people of faith (and none).

“Beliefnet.com”:http://www.beliefnet.com/amazinggrace/ has excellent resources on the movie — including different version of the hymn, a report on modern-day slavery, a look at Wilberforce and an opportunity for your to share your “Amazing Grace Moment.”

Catholic-Jewish relations: today and tomorrow

NCR’s John Allen uses his weekly “column”:http://ncrcafe.org/node/921 today to debrief his address last week to the National Convention of the Anti-Defamation League.

It’s a status report on Catholic-Jewish relations — complete with good and bad signs for the future.

He also goes through his list of the 10 “mega-trends” affecting the future of Catholicism:

  • The Shift from North to South
  • Secularism and Catholic Identity
  • Islam
  • Changing Global Demographics
  • Women
  • Laity
  • Biotechnology
  • Globalization
  • China
  • Pentecostalism

Reconnecting with God in nature

Yesterday I visited the Garrison Institute, a magnificent retreat center located in a former monastery on the Hudson, to listen to religious leaders talk about saving the environment.

My article is in today’s “Journal News/LoHud.com.”:http://lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070216/NEWS04/702160400/1017

Wherever you stand politically, it’s hard to argue with the general principle that protecting the earth (and air and water) is a natural off-shoot of faith in a creator.

Whether or not clergy can galvanize their congregations to live “green” remains to be seen.

If you want to get closer to nature, the National Council of Churches has issued a study guide that “encourages Christians to seek out wilderness and other quiet places to reconnect with God, renew and refresh themselves for ministry, and rediscover their role as caretakers of God’s creation.”

It’s called Out of the Wilderness: Building Christian Faith and Keeping God’s Creation and is available on the NCC’s Eco-Justice Programs’ “website”:http://www.nccecojustice.org/resources.html (you have to scroll down a bit).

The study guide includes: “information and theological reflections on wilderness, sermon starters, a bulletin insert for a themed worship service, suggestions for adult and youth study activities, and ideas for personal and congregational action and service.”

When you can’t make it to the funeral…

And the latest example of the shrinking global village…

“Plaza Jewish Community Chapel”:http://www.plazajewishcommunitychapel.org/ in NYC, which calls itself the only community-owned Jewish funeral home in the New York area, has announced that it can now stream funerals on the Web, so that loved ones in far away places can watch and listen to services they cannot attend.

Last year, Plaza introduced a phone-in service so that relatives and friends could listen to a service. Now they’re going one better.

Services can be archived for future viewing. There’s no extra cost for the streaming service. And, of course, there is a privacy code for viewing.

Plaza quotes Amy Bachrach, a resident of Australia, who said this about watching a funeral service:

“From the furthest city on the planet from New York, I was able to see and hear my family and friends as they laughed, cried and celebrated the life of my most loved great aunt. I cannot say how grateful I am for this service Plaza Jewish Community Chapel has done. It’s a mitzvah and a miracle.”

Egan: NYC condom program is ‘tragic’

New York City’s decision to offer an “official” NYC condom — part of its plan to distribute 18 million condoms this year — does not sit well with Cardinal Egan.

He and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn released a joint statement this afternoon blasting the city’s program, saying that the city is encouraging inappropriate sexual activity.

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement: “Abstinence is fail-safe, and reducing the number of sexual partners reduces risk of infections. But for sexually active people, using a condom is key to staying healthy.�

Here’s Egan and DiMarzio’s statement in full:

“The decision of the City of New York to distribute 18 million free condoms to the public — and minors as well, according to news reports — is tragic and misguided. The only certain way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV AIDS is abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage.

“Our political leaders fail to protect the moral tone of our community when they encourage inappropriate sexual activity by blanketing our neighborhoods with condoms. Although in their statements they give nod to the truth that only abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage are failsafe, by their actions they ignore that truth and degrade societal standards.

“The taxpayers’ money that is being spent to distribute condoms and promote the attitude that ‘anything goes’ would be far better spent in fostering what is true and what is decent.â€?

Rudy invited to Liberty U, too

I blogged yesterday about Mitt Romney being invited to give the commencement address at Pat Robertson’s Liberty University. It was a big score for the Mormon presidential candidate, who is trying to appeal to the conservative evangelicals who make up a large portion of the GOP base.

I wondered whether Rudy Giuliani tried to get the same slot.

Well, today Liberty U announced that Giuliani has been invited — to speak at Regent’s executive leadership series on April 17. It’s a luncheon, not commencement. But it’s still an important opportunity for Rudy to connect with conservative evangelicals, who are prone to wince at his pro-choice stance and his support for civil unions for same-sex couples.

Will Giuliani dive into those controversial waters, maybe by offering some sort of compromise positions? Or will he avoid such sensitive matters, sticking to national security and the need to appoint conservative judges?

We’ll find out. The luncheon is open to the public.