Friday, 10 October 2008

Chicago plans school for gay students

The head of Chicago's school system has proposed the creation of a "gay-friendly" high school to counter the high bullying, depression and drop-out rates among homosexual pupils.

The Pride Campus of Social Justice High School would be open to all students in the city, and would probably end up being "majority straight", said Arne Duncan, the head of Chicago Public Schools.

But it would provide a supportive atmosphere for gay pupils, using prominent gays and lesbians - including James Baldwin and Gertrude Stein - in its curriculum.

Bill Greaves, the city's liason officer on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said the school would "make sure these people are not invisible in history".

He said it was important that gay and lesbian historical figures were highlighted to give young gay people positive, successful role models.

The proposals were supported by most of the 50 Chicago residents who attended a public meeting on the city's education. They will be voted on by the Chicago board of education on October 22. Read more

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NEAC 2008 Agenda and Booking

The agenda and booking links for NEAC 2008 can now be accessed online.

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Largest Western New York parish leaves diocese

The area’s largest Episcopal parish plans to split from the Diocese of Western New York and leave behind the Town of Tonawanda church buildings it has called home for 48 years.

Members of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church will become the first local congregation to break ties with the Episcopal Church since the contentious 2003 ratification of an openly homosexual bishop by the national governing body.

“The gay issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said the Rev. Arthur W. Ward Jr., rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church. “The Episcopal Church from our perspective has turned its back on the Lord, it’s turned its back on scripture and the word of God.”

St. Bart’s will join hundreds of parishes around the country that have abandoned the Episcopal Church because of philosophical and theological differences, particularly over interpretation of scripture, the path to salvation and the acceptance of same-sex marriages.

The congregation, however, won’t engage in a legal battle for the property on Brighton and Fries roads — as was done by several churches around the country, including in New York.

Instead, the group plans to buy the former Temple Beth El property on Eggert

Road, less than a mile from its current location. It anticipates a December move. Read more
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Thursday, 9 October 2008

Group drafts GAFCON theology for churches

The Rev Dr Mark Thompson has been working with GAFCON’s Theological Resource Group to draft a commentary applying the Jerusalem Declaration to church life.

Speaking after his return home from a three-day conference at Uganda’s Christian university, Dr Thompson said the group, part of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, had gathered to put together a commentary for use by churches.

The commentary – which is expected to be circulated in the coming months – will lay out the theology of GAFCON and its practical outworkings in church life, Dr Thompson says.

“A number of people who had seen the [Jerusalem Declaration] statement greeted the statement positively but needed to know what it meant and what were the implications of saying yes to this statement – they wanted those things spelt out,” he says. “Here was an opportunity for a group of theologians to help unpack the statement for people.” Read more
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Holy war strikes India

As she recalled her awful story, Puspanjali Panda made no attempt to halt the tears flooding down her face.

Holding her daughter close, she told how a baying Hindu mob dragged her husband – a Christian pastor – from his bed, beat him to death with stones and iron rods and then threw him into a river. She found his corpse two days later, washed up on the bank. When she went to the police, they told her to go away.

Mrs Panda and thousands of others like her are victims of the worst communal violence between Hindus and Christians that India has seen for decades. For a country that boasts of its mutual religious tolerance, the long-simmering tension that has erupted in the Kandhamal district of the state of Orissa – a nun being raped, churches being burned, at least 35 people killed and thousands forced from their villages – is both a belated wake-up call and a mounting embarrassment. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, called it a "national disgrace". Read more
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Southern Cone bishop 'alarmed' at English Evangelicalism

“Life after Lambeth - taking stock of the position of Evangelicals in the Church of England”


Some final observations.

1. I was again struck by the widespread misunderstanding and in many cases, ignorance, of what is happening in the wider Anglican Communion.  There seemed to be little awareness that what has happened to orthodox believers in North America could well happen here.

2. I was equally alarmed that some of those present were already assuming that we simply had to get used to being a church where widely divergent views and lifestyles were permitted.  Questions and comments betrayed the extent to which an Evangelical understanding of Scripture had been compromised and how the prevailing cultutral attitudes were exercising strong influences within the life of the church.

3. I came away deeply concerned to see that we are indeed "drifting away" (Hebrews 2:1) from biblical and historic orthodoxy.  The challenge particularly from within Anglican Mainstream, is to work with new vigour and understanding on the promotion of the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement, so that English Anglicans become part of this movement  for the renewal of our Communion.

John Ellison, formerly bishop of Paraguay, Southern Cone, now. hon. assistant bishop in Winchester diocese.

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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Cash Crisis Confronts Chelmsford Diocese

All clergy in the Diocese of Chelmsford have received via e-mail a copy of a letter from the Chief Executive, Steven Webb, appealing for an increase in parish giving to save the Diocese from an impending financial crisis. He asks that the letter be shared also with treasurers and PCC secretaries. The letter reads as follows:


October 2008


Dear Parish Priest,


This is an unusual letter from me and I hope that the fact that I am writing it will give you some indication of the seriousness of the situation.


You do not need me to tell you about the “Credit Crunch” and the downturn in our national economy. Neither do you need me to tell you about the financial pressure that many individuals are under at the moment but I write to ask for your assistance in coping with these pressures as we work together for the benefit of everyone within our diocese.


Our diocesan income comes primarily from the parishes and by far the vast majority of our spending goes directly into paying for the ministry within our diocese.


Until August we were doing quite well compared to our target but in August we saw a significant decrease in the parish share payments compared to what we expected to achieve.


In September we have seen a slight pick up but not enough to make the combined figures for August and September as good as the same period in 2007. If we are to reduce our deficit in line with our plans, we must all do better than 2007.


I know that the current economic situation puts everyone under pressure, but please can you use your best endeavours to encourage people to keep the levels of giving at the highest levels possible.


We are in the process of formally approving our budget for next year and it is due to go to Diocesan Synod for formal approval in November. It is a good budget that continues to build on our improving financial rigour.


However, that budget has been drawn up on the assumption that parish share payment would continue to improve. If the current trend continues we will end up being in a worse position at the end of 2008 than we were at the end of last year. That will alter our expectations for next year and it will create difficulties. We will need to look at areas where further cost savings can be made during 2009 if it does not improve.


We are doing as much as we can in our office and at committee level but we really do need your help in encouraging people to support our ministry. In the last few days two members of staff in our diocesan office have left employment with us. I have decided not to replace them at this moment in time, although it is necessary to recruit one half time (much lower paid) member of staff to help those of us remaining in the office. I am grateful to the members of staff who will be absorbing the extra work. I mention this to reassure you that we all take this situation seriously and that we never look only to parishes when things get tough. Compared to many dioceses and similar structures we already have a small office staff and it has just got smaller.


The most significant areas of expenditure are on payment of clergy, pensions, and clergy (including curate’s) houses. Reducing expenditure in these areas is undesirable but if income decreases then we must look very carefully at where corresponding cost savings can be made.


Therefore, I would appreciate it if you could find an opportunity soon to encourage your congregations to do as much as they can to keep giving levels up and please speak with your treasurer and PCC secretary to share this message. The Diocesan Board of Finance will continue to keep a close eye on matters and will stand ready to assist you in any way we can.


Thank you in anticipation of your support in this matter.


Yours sincerely


Steven G Webb

Chief Executive

Diocese of Chelmsford

01245 294410

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