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A Prayer For This Web Site
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"For those who Influence Public Opinion,"
Book of Common Prayer, page 827

(For other old messages not in this blog, please go to epiphanychurch135.blogspot.com)

In our church, neither a person's gender nor their sexual orientation matter; what does matter is how they serve Jesus Christ as Lord.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Peter Akinola, Archbishop in Nigeria Continues Defiance Toward ECUSA-

Despite requests by our Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Peter Akinola plods along, disrupting our churches ...

Anglican church turmoil over gay issues deepens
By Michael Conlon

An African archbishop's defiant intervention in the U.S. Episcopal Church has sent new shock waves through a global Anglican church already badly divided and facing possible schism over gay issues.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria kept up his high profile attack this week, saying the leadership of the U.S. branch of the Worldwide Anglican Communion was "insulting and condescending" to the church at large.

"The decisions, actions, defiance and continuing intransigence of the Episcopal Church are at the heart of our crisis," he told Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and titular leader of the 77-million-member global church.

"They are determined to pursue their own unbiblical agenda and exacerbate our current divisions," he said in a letter to Williams, who had asked him to stay out of the United States and not participate in a ceremony last Saturday in Virginia.
Akinola ignored the plea from Williams and an earlier one from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. He carried out the ceremony in which Bishop Martyn Minns, an Episcopalian, was installed as head of a new Nigerian-based church branch designed as a refuge for orthodox American believers.

The 2.4 million-member Episcopal Church has been splintered since 2003, when it consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in more than 450 years of Anglican church history.

Some congregations have already placed themselves under the jurisdiction of conservative bishops in Africa and elsewhere. The Episcopal Church has said that only 45 out of more than 7,400 congregations have voted to break away.

Akinola is a defender of traditional Christianity and a leader of the Anglican Communion's "Global South," churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America that now account for half of the world's Anglican church membership.


Akinola's action "seems to lay out a claim that he has a better sense than the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that's a bold claim," said Mark Sisk, the Episcopal Bishop of New York.
Last week's events are more than just another tremor on an existing fault line, Sisk said in an interview, and what may be very significant is that the Archbishop of Canterbury tried to stop Akinola.

His is "a new public voice in this and welcome from my prospective," Sisk said.
Williams earlier agreed to come to the United States in September to meet with the Episcopal bishops when they again meet to wrestle with such issues as gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions -- both of which are opposed by the Anglican church at large.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Anglicans are organized more as a federation of national churches without hierarchical lines of authority. It would be hard to say that Akinola's action is unprecedented, added the Rev. Ian Douglas, professor of world mission and global Christianity at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

Over the years, he said, bishops have often taken "personal initiative" trying to balance "the relation between their own church and their roles and responsibilities, interests and concerns in the wider Anglican Communion," he told Reuters.

"That's not an easy negotiation," he added. "We're trying to hold together two realities that just by definition have tension -- the local and the global."
There is no "strong central agency that has the authority and the power to compel anything across the Communion. ... We are neither as centralized as the Roman Catholic Church nor as de-centralized" as some others, he added.

The conservative American Anglican Council called last week's development "a high point in North American Anglicanism."

"The energy and zeal of the Church of Nigeria have come to the U.S. ... and we pray that the result will be a re-strengthening of the historic, biblical Anglican faith in this nation after decades of accelerating moral and theological decline in the Episcopal Church," said Canon David Anderson, a leader of the group.
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New York Times Recent Advertisement

This message appeared last weekend in the New York Times.

The Episcopal Church-Marking a Milestone, Moving Forward


Somewhere near you, there's a blue-and-white sign bearing the familiar slogan: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You .. It represents some 7,400 congregations that trace their beginnings in North America to a small but hopeful group of English Christians who arrived May 14, 1607 at a place they called Jamestown - the first permanent English settlement in the New World.


You may know us as Washington's monumental National Cathedral, site of historic services and ceremonies, or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, still unfinished, but already the largest cathedral in the world.


But the Episcopal Church is also Boston's Old North Church, founded in 1723 and made famous by serving as the beacon for Paul Revere's revolution-spurring "midnight ride." And Philadelphia's Christ Church, home parish of 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence, host to the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1785.


It's Trinity Parish on Wall Street in New York, formed in 1698, and St. Paul's Chapel just down the street, frequented by George Washington and the spiritual healing center of Ground Zero since September 11, 2001.


It's also Epiphany Church in Los Angeles, where Cesar Chavez rallied the United Farm workers. And Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland, whose basement was a major stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom for enslaved African-Americans. And St. John's Church in Greenwich Village, a meeting place for gay and lesbian action following the 1969 Stonewall uprising.


It's a parish in Iowa. A campus ministry in Georgia. A mission in Dinetah - the Navajo Reservation. A cathedral in Utah. Even a house church in Vermont.


Wherever you find us, you'll find the Book of Common Prayer and a Christian faith that honors and engages the Bible, the tradition of the Church, and God-given human reason. Joined in prayer, you'll find people with many points of view - Christians who are progressive, moderate, and conservative - yet who value the diversity of their faith community.


That's a heritage drawn from our deep roots in nearly 2,000 years of English Christianity, and shared by a worldwide Anglican Communion that unites nearly 80 million people in 164 countries through prayer and ministries committed to caring for "the least of these," as Jesus commanded, by reducing poverty, disease, and oppression.


Episcopalians struggle with the same issues that trouble all people of faith: how to interpret an ancient faith for today ... how to maintain the integrity of tradition while reaching out to a hurting world ... how to disagree and yet love and respect one another.


Occasionally those struggles make the news. People find they can no longer walk with us on their journey, and may be called to a different spiritual home. Some later make their way back, and find they are welcomed with open arms.


Despite the headlines, the Episcopal Church keeps moving forward in mission - in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as congregations in Belgium, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guam, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands.


We're committed to a transformed world, as Jesus taught: a world of justice, peace, wholeness, and holy living. We've grown a lot in 400 years, since that 1607 worship service from the Book of Common Prayer was held in Jamestown-inside and out.


Come see for yourself. Come and visit. .. come and explore ... come and grow.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Simple Ministry

It has been awhile since I updated you on our CUFF dinners each Thursday night, so I thought this would be a good time to do so.

Our 'free supper' for the entire community each Thursday night (well, most Thursday nights, 49 weeks this year) is called CUFF _C_hristians _U_nited in _F_eeding _F_riends is a way we at Epiphany Church serve our community. Every Thursday night between 5:30 and 7:00 PM anyone in town is invited to come by our fellowship hall for a free supper. Tonight we had chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes and salad. Just walk in, get a plate of food and sit down to visit with neighbors. Normally we have been 80-100 visitors; tonight we had 103 'through the front door', not including the kitchen help preparing the dinner, etc. There are a lot of older people come to the free dinner, and quite a few younger people as well; mothers with their kids, teenagers and street people.

The menus vary from one week to the next. Sometimes we have spaghetti, other times meatloaf or similar. My part in this ministry is to act as greeter at the front door, keeping track of the number of visitors and telling them 'welcome to Epiphany!'
Also, I unlock the door when it is time to let them in to eat, and see to it the building is locked up and secure when everyone is leaving. Based on what I see from week to week, I am certain the Thursday night suppers are the one and _only_ decent meal many of our visitors receive in a week. I say this since our community is sort of financially depressed anyway, as is much of rural southeast Kansas. We do these CUFF dinners each week in cooperation with other churches in Independence, including Saint Andrews Catholic Church, the First United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Zion Lutheran Church, the First Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church, and the Southern Baptist Church.

Whenever you are in our town, Independence, Kansas on Thursday evening, do stop in to say hello, please.

Patrick Townson

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Prayer Vigil on Account of Virginia Tech Shootings

Prayer vigil planned for KU Canterbury Tuesday evening

In response to the shooting deaths today at Virginia Tech, the campus ministry program of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas will offer a prayer vigil Tuesday, April 17 at 8 p.m. at Canterbury House at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The house is located at 1116 Louisiana Street.

Participating will be Kansas Bishop Dean E. Wolfe, student peer ministers, and campus missioners the Rev. Craig Loya and the Rev. Susan Terry.

All members of the diocese, and the public, are invited to attend.

Student peer ministers at the Episcopal campus ministry at Kansas State University will take the lead in coming days in organizing an on-going response by college students across the diocese, reaching out especially to Episcopal students at Virginia Tech.

Bishop Wolfe has asked that all parishes and members of the diocese offer special prayers this week and this coming Sunday on behalf of those killed and injured and their families, and for all those in the Virginia Tech community affected by this tragedy.

Bishop, campus ministers offer prayers, pledge of support

The people, clergy and bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas offer our fervent prayers for the students, faculty and staff members of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in Blacksburg, Va., in this time of shock and grief.

We are deeply saddened by the senseless acts of violence that have occurred on the Virginia Tech campus. We grieve with the friends, families and teachers of those who have died and those who are hospitalized. We pray that God’s healing peace will enfold the Virginia Tech community in the midst of their loss and lead them to an awareness of God’s presence in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.

We who work in campus ministries treasure the relationships formed on our college campuses, the gifts shared by all members of our schools and the unique communities that grow out of our times of prayer and fellowship together.

In addition to our prayers, we offer whatever other help the people at Virginia Tech may need from us now and in the days ahead. And we pray that God’s powerful presence will enable all of us on college campuses to combat the darkness of violence with the light of God’s love.

In Christ,

The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe, Ninth Bishop

The Reverend Craig Loya, Campus Missioner

The Reverend Susan Terry, Campus Missioner

Deacon Stephen Segebrecht, Chairperson, Higher Education Committee

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas

Monday, April 16, 2007

Episcopal Campus Ministry Reaches Out in Response to Shootings

By Mary Frances Schjonberg April 16, 2007
[Episcopal News Service] Members of the Canterbury House Episcopal ministry on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University plan to gather on the evening of April 18 for a memorial and healing service, following an April 16 shooting spree at the school which is being called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The Rev. Elizabeth Morgan, interim rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Blacksburg, Virginia, said she was able to check on the small number of students who live at the Canterbury House and all are accounted for.

"They're fine," she told ENS.

A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people and wounding another 24 before he was killed, according to the Washington Post.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that the people of the Episcopal Church are shocked and saddened by the shootings at Virginia Tech. "We hold in our prayers the students, faculty, and staff of that institution, their families, and all affected by today's events," she said "As we begin to confront this senseless loss, we will continue to pray for all who grieve and search for understanding."

"Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," Virginia Tech president Charles Steger said at a news conference. "The university is shocked and indeed horrified that this would befall us."

The university reported shootings at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a co-ed residence hall that houses 895 people, and continuing about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.

One student was killed in a dorm and the others were killed in the classroom, according to Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum.

After the shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed and classes canceled through Tuesday.

A service of Evening Prayer in remembrance of the deaths and injuries from the shootings was planned for 6 p.m. April 16 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia.

The Canterbury Fellowship ministry on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg is part of Christ Church's outreach work.

Morgan said the town was virtually locked down after the shootings. She and her staff could hear the wail of sirens all morning but "now it's deadly silent."

The AP reported that students on campus communicated via cell phones and the internet while the shooting was going on.

Morgan said residents had some trouble communicating as telephones, especially cellular phones, were experiencing service trouble. The problems could have been due to the high winds of a nor'easter storm that began hitting the east coast of the United States on April 15 and continued into April 16. Morgan reported that medical-evacuation helicopters were grounded because of the winds.

The Christ Church staff held a prayer vigil shortly after the shootings and the church is open now for prayer -- 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. -- for the rest of the week. A sign on door of the sanctuary says "Please enter to pray."

Morgan said she anticipates an ecumenical response by the area's faith communities, but it is still too early to know what shape that service will take.

"Two of our area clergy are police chaplains but we haven't heard from them yet," she told Christie Wills, minister of communication for the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. "I expect that we will wait on planning any services until we hear from them and find out what community services may be held."

Virginia Tech said it plans a convocation ceremony April 17.

Scott Russell, Christ Church's associate rector and campus chaplain, is in Germany and won't be back until April 18, Morgan said.

She told Wills she has made it known that Canterbury House is open and available for meals, companionship and counseling for anyone.

Wills reported to the diocese's clergy via email that there may be a need for additional clergy to help with counseling/ pastoral visits later in the week.

Bishop Neff Powell is on sabbatical and Wills reported that he has been in touch about the shootings.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A New Episcopal Web Site ... Take a Look!

A new, church maintained web site of interest went on line in the past couple days: It is called Episcopal Life Online and I hope you will check it out soon and see what you think!

And don't forget, try to get to church over this weekend. Here in our town, we not only worship on Sunday morning, of course but during Lent we also have Sunday evening services in cooperation with other churches (of our basic beliefs) here as well. Over the six weeks of Lent this year, we have variously had services at 7 PM on Sunday evening at the Disciples of Christ Church, our own Epiphany Episcopal Church of course, St. Andrews Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church and (tonight) at the Presbyterian Church. And next week, being Palm Sunday we are going to have a community Palm Sunday evening service at Riverside Park here in Independence. These well attended Sunday evening services are an excellent opportunity for fellowship as well, with refreshments served afterword.

At tonight's service at the Presbyterian Church, our guest preacher will be from St. Andrew's Catholic Church, and the music will be provided by own Epiphany Choir. So, if you see this in time, please get over and join us! 5th and Maple Streets at the Presbyterian Church, 7 PM.

Speaking of ecumenical community events each week, I have been working with six or eight churches in town (the ones mentioned above, and a couple of others each week on our Thursday evening free community suppers. Every Thursday night (with a very few exceptions) we have a dinner -- Christians United in Feeding Friends -- (CUFF) for anyone who wishes to attend. The dinner is always in the fellowship hall at our Church of the Epiphany, Episcopal and although we will NOT have a dinner on Maundy Thursday, we have it almost every other week. Just show up, get a plate of food and a beverage, sit down and talk to friends, etc. Typically we have 60-80 visitors for dinner and we might as well put a plate on for you as well. 6 PM to 7 PM ... at 400 East Maple Street (4th and Maple just west of the church building itself.) Look for the old guy standing in front welcoming the visitors each week; that's me!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Newton and Wilberforce; Two Forces to Reckon With

The Germans have a wonderful word: Ohrwurm — literally, ear-worm — for a tune you cannot get out of your head. Recently, my Ohrwurm has been “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” My family is sick of me singing it at top volume.

“Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, along with other hymns, such as “Glorious things of thee are spoken” and “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds”. As we shall often hear in this abolition-anniversary year, Newton was a slave-trader who had a conversion to Evangelical Christianity during a sea storm in 1748, and eventually set about arguing for the emancipation of slaves. “Amazing Grace” has been one of the anthems of Christian defiance ever since.

Yet what is gob-smacking about Newton is what a nasty piece of work he once was. The idea that the author of “Amazing Grace” raped his slaves has been a conceptual Ohrwurm for me ever since I found it out. Indeed, Newton’s conversion might have stopped him from swearing and drinking, but he continued to trade in slaves for six more years.

As Stephen Tomkins puts it in his new biography of Wilberforce, who was inspired by Newton, he “would read the Bible and pray for an hour or two, leading services for the crew, while his human cargo lay or sat hunched and chained under their feet”. It is astonishing to us, but the truth is that many Christians supported slavery because it was there in the plain meaning of scripture.

In fact, one of the biggest proponents of slavery in the 1800's was the Protestant Episcopal Church. Remind me to tell you about the Epiphany Church in Philadelphia in the 1850's -- if you have not already read the story in a much earlier blog entry here. Dudley Tyng, their rector was a fierce abolishonist who fought frequently with members of his vestry about the 'slavery question' in the 1850's. He and several members of his congregation removed themselves at a Sunday "Evening Prayer" meeting at the church, and voted to start the "Church of the Ascension" as they walked out and stood on the front steps at Epiphany.

Slavery was given foundational justification in the book of Genesis, the curse of Ham condemning Ham’s descendants to perpetual captivity. It would have been seen as what contemporary Evangelicals call “a creation ordinance”.

The New Testament enthusiastically takes up this theme, for example in Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “Let as many slaves as are under the yoke count their own master worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, but rather do them service.”

What was deeply courageous about the Newtons and Wilberforces of the 18th century is that they fought their society’s prejudice, as well as the uncritical biblical theology that reflected it.

The idea that we might bask in the memory of these campaigners, without reflecting that there may be similar challenges for contemporary Christians, is to be radical 200 years too late. No: the spirit of “I was blind, but now I see” has a new challenge. And there are arguments within the life of the church today where we need to apply it.

NB: My mention of Epiphany Church above is simply used as an illustration, as I am not permitted by the vestry to speak nor write about Church of the Epiphany in Independence, Kansas.