The newSpin newsletter
March 20, 2015
With the emergence of the mid-month Leadership News and the end-of-month Diocesan Enewsletter … this newSpin newsletter may move to twice a month rather than weekly publication. We are still working through that, but it seems likely. newSpin has alrealdy discontinued its DioBethSpin and ParishSpin sections. That news will appear in the new newsletters and on the DioBeth website.
• Indicates new item.
•• Indicates repeat.
• DioBeth's new monthly enewsletters
(1) The first issue of our new Diocesan Enewsletter was published at the end of February. Find it here … and sign up here to receive future issues by email as soon as they are published. Actually, you may sign up also at the bottom of the newsletter itself. The content of the monthly newsletter will be posted also on the DioBeth website and linked to on Facebook and in our Twitter stream.
(2) The first issue of Leardership News was published during the past week. It will continue to be published in the middle of each month, and will consist primarily of information that clergy, lay leaders and church staff need to do their work. This isn't to say that all are not invited to sign up for it. Find the mid-March issue here. To receive it monthly by email, sign up at the bottom of Leadership News, at "Join our Mailing List."
• Largest Presbyterian denomination gives final approval for same-sex marriage … [RNS via Reuters] The Presbyterian Church (USA) on Tuesday (March 17) approved a change in the wording of its constitution to include same-sex marriage, a move which threatens to further splinter one of the largest U.S. mainline Protestant denominations. A majority of the 171 regional “presbyteries,” or local leadership bodies of the church, have now voted to change the wording of the constitution to define marriage as a commitment “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” That change in the Louisville, Ky.-based church’s constitution was recommended by its General Assembly last year and required a simple majority of 86 votes, achieved on Tuesday, the church said. The new wording, which replaces “between a woman and a man,” takes effect June 21. Read on.
• After the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally approved same-sex marriage … [Pew Research] an updated Fact Tank post looks at where Christian churches and other religious groups stand on the issue.
• For Christian millennials, gay marriage debate produces new views on morality … [Christian Science Monitor] The vote this week by the Presbyterian Church USA to redefine marriage points to a deeper debate for millennials about interpretations of biblical morality. Read on.
• Dousing homeless at church gets San Francisco archdiocese in hot water … [San Francisco Chronicle, Kevin Fagan, March 18] First the water rained down, and then the condemnation rained down — and on Wednesday, San Francisco’s embarrassed Roman Catholic Archdiocese said it would tear out sprinklers that have been dousing homeless people sleeping in the doorways of its premier church in the city. The sprinklers have been regularly dousing people camping overnight in four spacious side doorways of St. Mary’s Cathedral for about two years, leaving soggy piles of blankets, clothing, hypodermic needles and other trash nearly every morning. Preventing that type of mess, soggy or not, was the reason the archdiocese installed the sprinklers, church officials said. Then came Wednesday. A report by KCBS radio quoting homeless people complaining about the nightly dousings led to the archdiocese being swamped by media requests for explanations — and by 2 p.m. the sprinklers had been torn out. The city Building Department issued a violation order saying the sprinklers had been improperly installed without a permit, but that should be dismissed as soon as the church shows proof of the removal, an agency spokesman said. Read on.
• No sprinklers required: How one church kept homeless people off church steps … [RNS, Linda Kaufman] Every Tuesday at 7 a.m., a small group of us met with our homeless neighbors for breakfast and discussion. We talked about what it would take to find permanent housing and kept track of commitments. Six weeks in, when it was time for everyone to be moved to someplace else, we decided that we would continue the community we had formed beyond the March 1 deadline. At our meeting the first week of March, some miracles occurred. Read on.
• Vatican backs military force to stop ISIS 'genocide' … [Crux, John Allen] In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups. “We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.” Tomasi said that any anti-ISIS coalition has to include the Muslim states of the Middle East, and can’t simply be a “Western approach.” He also said it should unfold under the aegis of the United Nations. Read on.
• Central Pennsylvania diocese elects woman … [ENS, diocesan staff of CPA] The Rev. Canon Audrey Cady Scanlan was elected on March 14 as 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church. Scanlan, 56, canon for mission collaboration and congregational life in the Diocese of Connecticut, was elected on the second ballot out of a field of three nominees. Read on.
Resources … way below.
• An Analogy for Grace … [Written by Jim Naughton, September 25, 2014. Lovely. Insightful. Theologically astute. Not to be missed.] We take as a theological given that we don't deserve grace, but what we need to reckon with is the fact that we don't recognize it. It wears the wrong clothes and shows up in the wrong places at the wrong times. It comes in the guise of people we generally avoid. As a result, we fail to see it for what it is. We take the word of others--experts, advance teams--for what grace is and what it isn't, when we must pay attention and when we can walk on by. Perhaps we don't trust ourselves to recognize and respond to grace when we see it or hear it. Or perhaps life is constructed in such a way that grace needs references and a spot on our calendar before we can give it its due.Henry James once urged readers: "Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost." This is among the few spiritual disciplines that still make sense to me. Read on.
• Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time … [WaPo, via Stanford Medicine magazine, by Paul Kalanithi, Stanford University neurosurgeon] In residency, there’s a saying: The days are long, but the years are short … The years did, as promised, fly by. Six years passed in a flash, but then, heading into chief residency, I developed a classic constellation of symptoms — weight loss, fevers, night sweats, unremitting back pain, cough — indicating a diagnosis quickly confirmed: metastatic lung cancer. The gears of time ground down. While able to limp through the end of residency on treatment, I relapsed, underwent chemo and endured a prolonged hospitalization. Read on. Also, at Episcopal Café. [Paul Kalanithi wrote essays for The New York Times and Stanford Medicine reflecting on being a physician and a patient, the human experience of facing death, and the joy he found despite terminal illness. He died March 9, 2015 at the age of 37. Here is his obituary.]
• Mary in Context: Pictures at an Exhibition … [National Museum of Women in the Arts] All organizations are grappling with how to present information online. The National Museum of Women in the Arts has done a noteworthy job of digitally rendering one of its current exhibitions in Washington. The show is about the representations of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in European, Islamic and Asian cultures. The breadth of the museum’s scholarship is apparent in the “tour” — a series of videos and high-resolution photos of the paintings and sculptures in a slide-show format. Here. [h/t Damon Darlin at NYT's What We're Reading]
• On ‘disastrous’ homilies that drive Catholics away, often to evangelical churches … [RNS, From a recent interview with Pope Francis] “I do not know if they (bad sermons) are the majority — but they do not reach the heart. They are lessons in theology and are abstract or long, and this is why I devoted so much space to them in Evangelii Gaudium (his landmark statement from 2013). Typically evangelicals are close to the people; they aim for the heart and prepare their homilies really well. I think we have to have a conversion in this. The Protestant concept of the homily is much stronger than the Catholic. It’s almost a sacrament.” More here.
Spirit Resources ... way below.
Columns, Sermons, Reflections and other Spin
•• Your sermon? … If you have a sermon you might like uploaded to the newSpin blog and linked to from the newSpin newsletter, point email@example.com to it online.
• Danforth's eulogy for Missouri's late auditor is a powerful call to repair politics … [WaPo, Reid Wilson, March 3] Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (R) was laid to rest Tuesday morning (March 3), less than a week after committing suicide at his St. Louis area home. Schweich had been a candidate for governor, but the pressure of an insidious, anti-Semitic whisper campaign and a harshly negative radio advertisement apparently pushed him over the edge. In a eulogy Tuesday, former senator John Danforth (R-Mo.), Schweich’s political mentor, said his protege was so troubled by criticism that Danforth initially discouraged him from seeking elected office. Danforth, an Episcopal priest, said Schweich’s death should become a catalyst for changing the negativity that has crept into American politics. Read on.
• The case for free-range parenting … [[NYTimes Opinion, Clemens Wergin] Recently, researchers at the University of Virginia conducted interviews with 100 parents. “Nearly all respondents remember childhoods of nearly unlimited freedom, when they could ride bicycles and wander through woods, streets, parks, unmonitored by their parents,” writes Jeffrey Dill, one of the researchers. But when it comes to their own children, the same respondents were terrified by the idea of giving them only a fraction of the freedom they once enjoyed. Many cited fear of abduction, even though crime rates have declined significantly. The most recent in-depth study found that, in 1999, only 115 children nationwide were victims of a “stereotypical kidnapping” by a stranger; the overwhelming majority were abducted by a family member. That same year, 2,931 children under 15 died as passengers in car accidents. Driving children around is statistically more dangerous than letting them roam freely. Read on.
• For a rich country, America is unusually religious and optimistic … [WaPo, Wonkblog, George Gao, March 12] The differences between America and other nations have long been a subject of fascination and study for social scientists, dating back to Alexis de Tocqueville, the early 19th century French political thinker who described the United States as “exceptional.” Nearly 200 years later, Americans’ emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out in surveys of people around the world. When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57 percent of Americans disagreed with the statement “success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38 percent. Americans also stand out for their religiosity and optimism, especially when compared with other relatively wealthy countries. Read on.
Rest in Peace
• Frances Skan … I would like to thank everyone who offered prayers for my daughter" wrote James Decatur, Sr. "She went home Thursday 3/5/15 at 12:18am. We will miss her until we catch up with her."
• Seven questions to test your St. Paddy's know-how … [RNS] Did you think St. Patrick’s Day is all about green beer and leprechauns? In fact, the Christian feast day has been celebrated since the 17th century in honor of Ireland’s beloved patron saint. Take our quiz to find out more about the trailblazing, fifth-century priest.
BackSpin – Do you remember?
Nothing this week
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.
Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
• ‘Prosperity gospel’ pastor pulls online appeal for congregation to buy him a new $65 million jet … [RawStory] Faced with a huge social media backlash after appealing to his parishioners to buy him a brand new $65 million Gulfstream jet, the head of the Creflo Dollar Ministries has taken his request for donations offline. Dollar has a personal net worth of $27 million, 200 times more than the $29,640 average annual income in College Park, Georgia where he holds court. Read on.
• The Blasphemy of ISIS: A 7-Point Pro-Guide to Islam(ism) … [Religion Dispatches, Haroon Moghul, March 16] Graeme Wood’s controversial article on ISIS in this month’s Atlantic elicited a flurry of responses, from hearty “amens” to clever and erudite rebuttals (along with some more colorful takes on the matter). Since much of the subsequent discussion hinged on interpretations and misinterpretations of a number of terms related to Islam, RD senior correspondent Haroon Moghul assembled the following primer.Please note that it isn’t intended as a comprehensive guide either to Islam or even to the individual terms, but should be read in the context of recent debates. Read on.
• 7.5 million Americans lost their religion since 2012 … [RNS] A new survey shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues. Read on.
• From 121 to 17,000-plus: Charlotte's Elevation Church congregation keeps growing … [Charlotte Observer] In nine years, Charlottes Elevation Church has grown from the 121 worshippers at its first service to the more than 17,000 who now show up every weekend at its 13 locations. The evangelical megachurch is about to open a University City campus that cost nearly $5 million to turn into worship space. It’s just the latest piece of an ambitious expansion that involves spending big, building big and even carrying the Elevation franchise to another city, another state and another country. Read on.
• Can one pastor bridge deep divides between evangelicals and mainline Protestants? … [WaPo, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, March 19] As mainline Protestant churches struggle, the Rev. Amy Butler of Riverside Church NYC is looking for ways to infuse some of what has made evangelicalism thrive into a more progressive form of Protestantism, two forms of Christianity usually seen at odds with one another. Read on.
• Event for victims of John Howard Yoder … [South Bend Tribune, Margaret Fosmoe] Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart will host an event March 22 to acknowledge institutional responsibility for sexual exploitation against women by the late John Howard Yoder, who was a prominent Mennonite theologian, and to help bring peace and closure to his victims. Yoder, who died in 1997 at age 70, was a longtime faculty member and president at a Mennonite seminary in Elkhart and also taught for 30 years at the University of Notre Dame. Read on.
Evangelical Lutheran Church
NEPA Synod website ... Here.
ELCA website ... Here.
ELCA News Service ... Here.
ELCA's blogs may be found here. See especially "Web and Multimedia Development."
Spirit Spinning ... for those who hunger and thirst for a deeper connection with God ... Here.
• Unraveling the church ban on gay sex… [NYTimes, Gary Gutting] Here.
• Five Francis forecasts for Year Three … [Crux, John Allen, March 13] Today is the beginning of Year Three of the Pope Francis era, as the pontiff completes two full years in office since his surprise election in March 2013. Although the Vatican says there are no festivities planned aside from giving most employees the day off, that hasn’t stopped the rest of the world from taking stock of the spiritual tsunami this maverick pope has become. f there’s a “Francis revolution” underway, it appears to be more about the pastoral application of teaching rather than revisions to it. As the dust settles, the Catholic Church is still saying “no” to women priests, gay marriage, and contraception, even if it’s trending softer in terms of how those positions are communicated and enforced. It’s an agenda that plays well with moderates, but leaves many liberals disappointed. John Allen's forecasts: 1. A liberal backlash. 2. A rock star in America. 3. The Dark Green Pope. 4. A Humanae Vitae moment that won’t be. 5. The Pope of the Persecuted. Read on.
•• Vatican Insider …is a project run by the daily newspaper La Stampa. The website provides comprehensive information on the Vatican, the activities of the Pope and the Holy See, the Catholic Church’s presence on the international scene and on religious issues. It is an independent multimedia tool, produced in three languages: Italian, English and Spanish. It is distributed through its website as well as other digital platforms and the main social networks on the Internet. It boasts a staff of qualified Vatican correspondents, flanked by some of the most prestigious international names in the field of religious and Vatican-based information. It provides free news and in-depth reports seven days a week and offers its partners exclusive journalistic services, inquiries, interviews and information packages.
••Two years in, Francis faces headwinds in reforming the Vatican. Here's how he can prevail … [RNS, David Gibson] One reason the cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis two years ago on Friday (March 13) was a brief but powerful speech the Argentine cardinal made shortly before the conclave in which he denounced the “theological narcissism” of the Roman Catholic Church. The church, Francis declared, was “sick” because it was closed in on itself and needed to go out “to the peripheries” and risk all by accompanying the shunned and marginalized. In these past two years, Francis’ efforts to do just that have captivated the public’s imagination and inspired a wide swath of the Catholic spectrum with visions of a newly resurgent faith unshackled from years of scandal and stagnation.
But there was another big reason the cardinals voted for Bergoglio: They thought the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires was the one man with the administrative chops to finally rein in the dysfunctional papal bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia, that was often at the root of the Catholic crisis. Today, however, the reforms that Francis launched with vigor and near-evangelistic zeal are showing signs of a sophomore slump, bogged down in ponderous consultations and more infighting. Read on.
Vatican website ... Here.
Vatican Information Service blog ... Here.
Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.
The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium] ... Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, with detailed table of contents. Here.
Health and Wellness
Resources for caregivers ... Here.
Medline Plus ... Here.
WebMD ... Here.
Alzheimers.gov ... For people helping people with Alzheimers. Here.
Flu shots ... Info from the CDC here and here. A lot of good info also at flu.gov
Three Free Apps for getting qualified medical advice... [Techlicious] Urgent Care, HealthTap and First Aid. Info and links.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Center for Disease Control - Healthy Living
Church Health Reader
Eastern Pennsylvania Faith Community Nurses
Episcopal Mental Illness Network
Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging at NIH
National Episcopal Health Ministries
NEHM Wellness Resource Page
• The hyperreal Kimmy Schmidt … [Religion Dispatches, Sarah Morice-Brubaker, March 12] We aren’t meant to dwell on the theological particulars of the bunker-bound doomsday cult from which Kimmy Schmidt and three other women were rescued in the new Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (In fact, good luck if you decide to try. There’s something about Jesus’ crazy stepbrother Terry, and Gosh’s son Jeepers, and the apocalypse happening because people are dumb. Apparently Durnsville, Indiana doesn’t have any systematic theologians.) That’s okay, though, because the cult’s claims don’t really need to be very persuasive. After all, they don’t rely on persuasion to attract adherents. The Spooky Church of the Scary Apocalypse – of which Rev. Wayne Gary Wayne is the CFO – manages to attract exactly one voluntary member. The rest are kidnapped and held in a bunker by Rev. Wayne, who… well, in order to avoid giving anything away, let’s just say he’s working an angle. Read on.
• When bad things happen … [MacPowerUsers] Mostly for Apple users. What to do when the worst things happen to your tech. Malware, compromised passwords, stolen devices and more and what you can do to prepare now to be ready when disaster strikes. Read on.
• Movies that foster reflection, spiritual growth … [NCR, Sr. Rose Pacatte] Read on.
• Telling the good news, in the media ... [Jim Naughton and Rebecca Wilson] If the media isn’t telling the stories you want told about your congregation, it is possible (we say very gently) that those stories aren’t interesting or significant enough to warrant coverage. Or, it is possible that you are not presenting them to the media in a way that catches their attention. Or perhaps you have not presented stories to the media at all. It isn’t easy to get your congregation, diocese, conference, or other sort of Christian organization into the newspaper or in online media outlets unless something has gone significantly wrong. It is even harder to get it on television or the radio. But it is possible if you absorb these 10 simple tips. Read on.
• Communicate … Your Ministry, including Bill's Communication Biases and Communication-Evangelism. Here.
Spirituality & Film ... Here.
Spirituality on DVD ... Here.
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.
• Ten stunning images show the hidden beauty in π … [WaPo, Ana Swanson] March 14, 2015 – 3/14/15 -- marked an extremely nerdy holiday, the official celebration of π, the magical, mathematical and infinite constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter … Pi looks random: Mathematicians have computed pi out to 10 trillion digits and seen no evident pattern. But what really vexes mathematicians is that no one can definitely say that pi is random -- no one has figured out the mathematical proof. And in another sense, pi is anything but random: After all, the number embodies the order of a perfect circle. The tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi. Read on.
• The right way to end a meeting … [Harvard Business Review, March 11] Here.
• How to program your mind to stop buying crap you don't need … [LifeHacker, Patrick Allan] We all buy things from time to time that we don't really need. It's okay to appeal to your wants every once in a while, as long as you're in control. If you struggle with clutter, impulse buys, and buyer's remorse, here's how to put your mind in the right place before you even set foot in a store. Read on
. • Ditch the country music cliché: God's not our first influence … [RNS, Cathy Lynn Grossman] When you talk about yourself, what markers of personal identity come first? If it’s not “God, family and country” in that order, well, there go your credentials for Nashville stardom. The real order is family first (62 percent) followed by “being an American” (52 percent). “Religious faith” falls steeply to third place (38 percent) – if it’s mentioned at all, according to a survey released Thursday (March 19) by The Barna Group. Read on.
ResourceSpin: See next issue of newSpin
The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on other diocesan lists of some 3,000 addresses. 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 or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bakery (if you are subscribed to that interactive list) and at the newSpin blog. At the newSpin blog, click 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]