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Vocapedia > Religions, Faith > Christians > Catholics, Protestants > Churches, Denominations




Christianity Churches In Harlem



Photographer: Andreas Feininger


Life Images

http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l?imgurl=6ef3cbc15893cb1d  - broken link























Reformation        UK / USA












Reformation > English Reformation        UK










Germany > Martin Luther    1483-1546        USA


















protestant        UK


















Anglican        UK










Angllican        USA












Anglican communion








Anglicanism        UK










the Church of England    C of E        UK / USA


the Archbishop of Canterbury,

spiritual leader

of the Church of England

and the Anglican Communion


































The Church of England > Lambeth Palace






UK > The Church of England's General Synod        UK












at the Synod        UK







gay bishop        UK






women bishops debate        UK








Angela Berners-Wilson

The Church of England's first female priest        UK






Low church





High church





High church ceremonial















Anglican women        UK







women bishops / female bishops        UK








Anglican traditionalists        UK






Anglicanism        UK






the worldwide Anglican Communion        UK













the Anglican Communion,

an international confederation of churches

tied to the Church of England





UK > archbishop of Canterbury > Justin Welby        UK / USA










UK > archbishop of Canterbury > Rowan Williams    UK / USA



















Anglican clergy        UK










gay clergy        UK















laity        UK










Church Times        UK










Anglican church split        2008        UK













Times Square church        USA













How the Ebenezer Baptist Church

has been a seat of Black power for generations in Atlanta        USA


has-been-a-seat-of-black-power-for-generations-in-atlanta-152804 - Jan. 15, 2021
















praise house        USA


















South Africa > Archbishop Desmond Tutu        UK




























The Episcopal Church        USA


the American branch of the Anglican Communion


There are about 2.4 million members

of the Episcopal Church,

the U.S. branch

of the 77-million-member global Anglican Communion









Episcopal Leader






U.S. Episcopals / U.S. Episcopal Church        USA













U.S. Episcopal Church > Gay bishop        USA






USA > U.S. Episcopal Church        UK


Gay bishop > Reverend Gene Robinson        2003

the first openly gay bishop in the modern history of Christianity






USA > The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles






USA > US Anglican traditionalists        UK

















Quakers        USA

















Riverside Church        USA

one of the nation’s most prominent liberal Protestant pulpits

















Trinity United Church of Christ        USA        2008






















No caption.


N.Y. / Region|Side Street

Accusations of Racism in a Brooklyn Lutheran Community

By DAVID GONZALEZ        NYT        MARCH 16, 2014

















USA > The seven largest mainline Protestant denominations        2006


United Methodist


Evangelical Lutheran




Presbyterian Church


Disciples of Christ


United Church of Christ


American Baptist Churches


















The United Methodist Church        USA


the nation’s

largest mainline Protestant denomination








the United Methodist Church


Methodist court


Methodist > the church's Book of Discipline

























Southern Baptists > racist past        USA












Southern Baptists > sexual abuse        USA










The Southern Baptist Convention        USA        2012


a denomination born in 1845

in defense of slavery

and a spiritual home

to white supremacists

for much of the 20th century










The Southern Baptist Convention,

the largest Protestant denomination

in the country


The largest denomination in the United States

after the Roman Catholic Church        USA
















New Birth Missionary Baptist Church        USA        2011










Southern Baptist Convention        USA

















Lutheran Church in America        USA






story.php?storyId=890700 - December 25, 2002








St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church        USA










Trinity Lutheran Church        Brooklyn , NY        USA

















Collegiate Church        USA

one of the oldest and most prominent

Protestant congregations in North America.


Part of the Reformed Church in America,

it was founded by Dutch settlers in 1628.

























USA > Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Ill.        USA










archdiocese        USA

















heresy        USA        2011

















split from / split with N














secession        USA

























Pentecostalism        USA










Pentecostal evangelist > Granville Oral Roberts    1918-2009        USA











































USA > Amish        UK / USA


For centuries, the Amish community

has been famously isolated

from the hustle of the outside world.


Homes still lack telephones or computers.


Travel is by horse and buggy.


Home-sewn clothing remains the norm.


















































































catholic        UK






Catholic missionary        UK






The Catholic faithful / the faithful        UK






Archbishop of Westminster

leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales        UK






Roman Catholic Church        USA









Roman Catholic Church > Jesuits > slave labor        UK / USA








the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales





Catholic church in Scotland        UK






Roman Catholic thinking        USA






Christendom > Catholicism        UK / USA








Christendom > Orthodoxy






St. Peter’s Church

the oldest Roman Catholic church in New York State        USA






Catholic Church in Ireland > The Magdalene Laundries > The Magdalene Sisters        UK







Cardinal        USA










Philip Matthew Hannan        USA        1913-2011


confidant to President John F. Kennedy

and the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans

for more than 20 years
















Archdiocese of Philadelphia        USA






Archbishop Charles J. Chaput        USA






Archdiocese of New York        USA






Archdiocese of Miami    USA






Quixote Center        USA




















The architects' impression

of the steel sculptures of the lost churches of Dunwich,

which they plan to build in the sea of Suffolk


The Guardian        p. 6        8 September 2004
















faith        UK






people of other faiths        USA






interfaith discussion group        USA












Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith        USA


the Vatican’s doctrinal office,

which is responsible

for enforcing orthodoxy











Corpus of news articles


Religions, Faith > Christians > Catholics,


Protestants > Churches, Denominations




A Prayer at Christmas


December 24, 2012

The New York Times



Providence, R.I.

BACK when I was 8 or 9 and wanted to be a nun, I would often stop at church on my way home from school. The school sat across the street from two churches: St. Joseph’s, which we called the French church, and Sacred Heart, which is where my family went. Sacred Heart was built by and for Italian immigrants, an odd pale stucco building in the midst of rundown mill houses. I would enter and let my eyes adjust from the bright afternoon light to the dim interior. The smell of incense and candles burning permeated everything, and I liked to stand still for a moment and breathe it in before I dipped my hand into the holy water in the marble aspersorium. My wet fingers made the sign of the cross as I made my slow, reverential way down the worn maroon carpet to the altar.

I prayed a lot in those days. For straight A’s, which I got without God’s help. For a friend, since I was a lonely, peculiar child who had trouble making friends. For my father to come home from Cuba, where he was based with the Seabees. For a real Christmas tree, instead of the fake silver one with pompom tips my mother put up in my father’s absence.

These prayers were fervent, desperate. But when I went to church alone on those long-ago afternoons, I prayed just for the sake of comfort, for the peace it brought me. Sometimes a nun might appear in her habit and allow me to scrape the melted candle wax from the marble. I imagined, briefly, a life of devotion like that. A swishing black dress and a giant wooden crucifix swinging from my rosary beads.

That fantasy disappeared eventually, along with the ritual of churchgoing. I didn’t get the same sense of peace at Sunday Mass. For reasons I can’t remember, my family eventually stopped attending church, and I started questioning the Catholic Church’s beliefs. I dabbled a little, but nothing stuck.

So I was surprised when I was struck with a desire to go to church earlier this month. Not a Mass, but inside a church, where I might pray quietly and alone. In my adult life, I had spent a lot of time angry at God, mostly over the sudden deaths in my family — my brother at 30, my daughter at 5. This year we’d suffered another sudden loss, a favorite aunt killed in a car accident. Why on this December afternoon I felt the need to check in with God, I cannot say. Maybe a conversation with a friend who spoke about going to church when her daughter was ill, or maybe the appearance of Christmas lights and decorations around town.

Whatever the reason, I walked to a Catholic church a few blocks from my home in Providence. The afternoon was chilly. Boughs of evergreen draped across the wrought-iron gate. I climbed the steps to the front door and pulled. Locked. I walked around to the side. Then the other side. Then the back. All locked. There were other churches, I thought. Plenty of them.

I went home and got in my car and drove from church to church to church. All of them were locked. With each locked door, my need to get inside and pray grew. I felt it was imperative, that if a person needed to go to church and pray, she should be able to do that. All the things I wanted to pray about washed over me. I wanted to explain to God why I’d been so angry. I wanted to apologize for things I’d done wrong. I wanted to put in a good word for my son, and for my daughter, and for my mother’s health, and for a dozen other things. But six, then seven churches were locked.

When I told my husband, he looked confused. I was not a religious person, after all. “It’s expensive to keep them open,” he, the churchgoer in our family, explained. “But what about truly desperate people?” I insisted. “It’s probably not safe to keep them open like that,” he said. Then he added, “Maybe in bigger cities?”

The next day, I was in New York City. The weather had turned as warm as spring, and after a lunch in Midtown I decided to take a walk. The mild temperature made me forget that it was Christmastime, and I was surprised to see a line of people in front of Saks Fifth Avenue waiting to see its window displays. I joined them. Then I crossed the street to stare up at the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and smile at the white angels blowing their trumpets in front of it.

As I turned to walk to the subway, a sign caught my eye: ST. PATRICK’S IS OPEN. I read it again. ST. PATRICK’S IS OPEN. Although I quickly realized the sign was there because of all the scaffolding around the church, I still couldn’t help but feel that it was also there just for me.

A church that was open! I crossed the street and went inside. The grandeur of St. Patrick’s is nothing like the little stucco church of my childhood in West Warwick, R.I. And even on a Tuesday afternoon, it was crowded with tourists. But the candles flickered, and the smell of wax and incense filled me. I dipped my fingers in the holy water, and walked slowly up the long center aisle to the altar. Around me, people snapped pictures of the manger with their phones. A woman holding a baby in a Santa suit rushed past me. When I got to the front pew, I lowered the kneeler, and I knelt. I bowed my head and I prayed.

In the years since I’d done this simple act in church, I have prayed at home and in hospital waiting rooms. I have prayed for my daughter to live, for the bad news to not be true, for strength in the face of adversity. I have prayed with more desperation than a person should feel. I have prayed in vain.

This prayer, though, was different. It was a prayer from my girlhood, a prayer for peace and comfort and guidance. It was a prayer of gratitude. It was a prayer that needed to be done in church, in a place where candles flicker and statues of saints look down from on high; where sometimes, out of nowhere, the spiritually confused can still come inside and kneel and feel their words might rise up and be heard.


Ann Hood is the author, most recently,

of “The Red Thread”

and the forthcoming novel “The Obituary Writer.”

A Prayer at Christmas,






We Are All Nuns


April 28, 2012

The New York Times



CATHOLIC nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature. No, nuns rock!

They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s.

They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world. In my travels, I’ve seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits. Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.

So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is: You are crazy to mess with nuns.

The Vatican issued a stinging reprimand of American nuns this month and ordered a bishop to oversee a makeover of the organization that represents 80 percent of them. In effect, the Vatican accused the nuns of worrying too much about the poor and not enough about abortion and gay marriage.

What Bible did that come from? Jesus in the Gospels repeatedly talks about poverty and social justice, yet never explicitly mentions either abortion or homosexuality. If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’s life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.

Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support. “Nuns were approached by Catholics at Sunday liturgies across the country with a simple question: ‘What can we do to help?’ ” The National Catholic Reporter recounted. It cited one parish where a declaration of support for nuns from the pulpit drew loud applause, and another that was filled with shouts like, “You go, girl!”

At least four petition drives are under way to support the nuns. One on Change.org has gathered 15,000 signatures. The headline for this column comes from an essay by Mary E. Hunt, a Catholic theologian who is developing a proposal for Catholics to redirect some contributions from local parishes to nuns.

“How dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world?” Hunt wrote. “How dare the very men who preside over a church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious?”

Sister Joan Chittister, a prominent Benedictine nun, said she had worried at first that nuns spend so much time with the poor that they would have no allies. She added that the flood of support had left her breathless.

“It’s stunningly wonderful,” she said. “You see generations of laypeople who know where the sisters are — in the streets, in the soup kitchens, anywhere where there’s pain. They’re with the dying, with the sick, and people know it.”

Sister Joan spoke to me from a ghetto in Erie, Pa., where her order of 120 nuns runs a soup kitchen, a huge food pantry, an afterschool program, and one of the largest education programs for the unemployed in the state.

I have a soft spot for nuns because I’ve seen firsthand that they sacrifice ego, safety and comfort to serve some of the neediest people on earth. Remember the “Kony 2012” video that was an Internet hit earlier this year, about an African warlord named Joseph Kony? One of the few heroes in the long Kony debacle was a Comboni nun, Sister Rachele Fassera.

In 1996, Kony’s army attacked a Ugandan girls’ school and kidnapped 139 students. Sister Rachele hiked through the jungle in pursuit of the kidnappers — some of the most menacing men imaginable, notorious for raping and torturing their victims to death. Eventually, she caught up with the 200 gunmen and demanded that they release the girls. Somehow, she browbeat the warlord in charge into releasing the great majority of the girls.

I’m betting on the nuns to win this one as well. After all, the sisters may be saintly, but they’re also crafty. Elias Chacour, a prominent Palestinian archbishop in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, recounts in a memoir that he once asked a convent if it could supply two nuns for a community literacy project. The mother superior said she would have to check with her bishop.

“The bishop was very clear in his refusal to allow two nuns,” the mother superior told him later. “I cannot disobey him in that.” She added: “I will send you three nuns!”

Nuns have triumphed over an errant hierarchy before. In the 19th century, the Catholic Church excommunicated an Australian nun named Mary MacKillop after her order exposed a pedophile priest. Sister Mary was eventually invited back to the church and became renowned for her work with the poor. In 2010, Pope Benedict canonized her as Australia’s first saint.

“Let us be guided” by Sister Mary’s teachings, the pope declared then.

Amen to that.

We Are All Nuns,






New Translation

of Catholic Mass

Makes Its Debut


November 27, 2011

The New York Times



Roman Catholics throughout the English-speaking world on Sunday left behind words they have prayed for nearly four decades, flipping through unfamiliar pew cards and pronouncing new phrases as the church urged tens of millions of worshipers to embrace a new translation of the Mass that more faithfully tracks the original Latin.

The introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, the book of texts and prayers used in the Mass, appeared to pass smoothly in churches, despite some confusion and hesitancy over the new words.

But behind the scenes, the debate over the new translation has been angry and bitter, exposing rifts between a Vatican-led church hierarchy that has promoted the new translation as more reverential and accurate, and critics, among them hundreds of priests, who fear it is a retreat from the commitment of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s to allowing people to pray in a simple, clear vernacular as they participate in the church’s sacred rites.

There was no reference to that history Sunday morning in the cavernous nave of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, where Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, in purple robes to mark the start of Advent, told thousands of worshipers, “Today is a special day — today is the start of a new translation of the Mass,” and directed them to follow the new words listed on laminated pew cards.

But when Monsignor Ritchie said to the assembly, “The Lord be with you,” many reflexively responded with the words that have been used for decades, declaring, “And also with you,” rather than with the new response, “And with your spirit.”

And though he had carefully studied the new service, even Monsignor Ritchie lost his place at one point, raising his eyebrows as he flipped through the missal, looking for the right words before the start of communion.

Across the Atlantic, the scene was similar at Westminster Cathedral in London, where the pews were filled with worshipers clutching freshly printed pamphlets under soaring, dark stone ceilings.

The Rev. Alexander Master, celebrating the Mass, made no direct mention of the change, but his sermon centered on the concept of upheaval, which, he said, had been “especially marked” this year. What the future holds, he said, “is known only to God.”

The new translation, phased in throughout the English-speaking world over the past year, was officially introduced over the weekend in every English-language Mass in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and India.

Because the form of the Mass was not changed — just the details of the translation — many Catholics reacted mildly.

Rebecca Brown, a parishioner at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, said she felt well prepared for the new translation. “I’m not fond of the linguistic choices, how it rolls off the tongue,” Ms. Brown said. “But on the other hand, the Catholic Church is always about renewal and reforming itself. This is just one of those changes.”

“It was interesting,” said Danielle McGinley, 31, a parishioner at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. “It feels more like a Spanish Mass to me. The Spanish Mass is a more literal translation. I like it.”

But George Lind, 73, in New York, had a more visceral reaction. He tried to say the new language at the Church of the Holy Cross in Times Square during the Saturday night Mass, he said, but he became so angry that he had to stop speaking.

“I am so tired of being told exactly what I have to say, exactly what I have to pray,” he said. “I believe in God, and to me that is the important thing. This is some attempt on the part of the church hierarchy to look important.”

Most of the changes are within the prayers the priests say, but there are some notable differences in the responses by worshipers. The Nicene Creed, the central profession of faith, now starts with “I believe in one God” instead of “We believe in one God.” Jesus is now “consubstantial with the Father” rather than “one in Being with the Father.” Communion begins with the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” instead of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.”

The mixed emotions in the pews broadly mirrored the reception that the new translation has received from clergy and liturgical scholars. More than 22,000 people, including many priests, endorsed a petition, on the Web site whatifwejustsaidwait.org, to postpone the introduction of the new Mass. An association of hundreds of Irish priests called for the translation to be scrapped.

The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a scholar of Latin and Gregorian chant at St. John’s University and seminary in Collegeville, Minn., worked on parts of the latest translation with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, but he left after he became “increasingly critical of the clunky text and the top-down secretive process” with which it was being created, he said.

“The syntax is too Latinate — it’s not good English that will help people pray,” he said in an interview. “Rome got its way in forcing this on us, but it is a Pyrrhic victory because it is not bringing the whole church together around a high quality product.”

Catholics throughout the world worshiped in Latin until Vatican II, when the church granted permission for priests to celebrate Mass in other languages. The English translation used until this weekend was published in the early 1970s and modified in 1985. Scholars then began work on a new translation, and by 1998 a full draft of the new missal was completed and approved by bishops’ conferences around the English-speaking world.

But Rome never approved that translation, and instead, in 2001, issued new guidelines requiring that the language of the Mass carefully follow every word of the Latin text, as well as the Latin syntax, where possible. That marked a dramatic philosophical shift from the more flexible principle of “dynamic equivalence” that had guided the earlier translations.

The Rev. Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, who started the Web petition to postpone the new text, said he believed that nearly all critics among clergy would nonetheless use the new translation.

“I am not going to change a word, because the only way it will get evaluated is if people hear it as it is,” he said. “I trust the people will indeed speak up.”

The Rev. Daniel Merz, associate director of the secretariat of divine worship for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is in charge of promulgating the changes in America, said the text had been widely discussed before it was put into use. He said the new translation was more poetic and filled with imagery.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a document that’s been so consulted in the history of the world,” he said.

“Over time, we have realized that there is a better way to pray,” he added. “Not that the old way was bad, but we hope and believe that this new way is better.”


Ian Lovett contributed reporting from Los Angeles,

Isolde Raftery from Seattle

and Ravi Somaiya from London.

    New Translation of Catholic Mass Makes Its Debut,
    NYT, 27.11.2011,






Jamestown Thought to Yield Ruins

of Oldest U.S. Protestant Church


November 13, 2011
The New York Times


JAMESTOWN — For more than a decade, the marshy island in Virginia where British colonists landed in 1607 has yielded uncounted surprises. And yet William M. Kelso’s voice still brims with excitement as he plants his feet atop a long-buried discovery at the settlement’s heart: what he believes are the nation’s oldest remains of a Protestant church.

The discovery has excited scholars and preservationists, and unearthed a long-hidden dimension of religious life in the first permanent colony.

It may prove to be an attraction for another reason: the church would have been the site of America’s first celebrity wedding, so to speak, where the Indian princess Pocahontas was baptized and married to the settler John Rolfe in 1614. The union temporarily halted warfare with the region’s tribal federation.

Last week Mr. Kelso, the chief archaeologist at the site, hopped into the excavated pit topped with sandbags and pointed to where Pocahontas would have stood at the altar rail. Orange flags marked the church’s perimeter. The pulpit would have been to the left and a baptismal font behind, with a door opening toward the river.

“I’m standing where Pocahontas stood,” Mr. Kelso said, gesturing to the earth at his feet. “I can almost guarantee you that.”

It would have been unthinkable for the intrepid settlers, as ambassadors of country, crown and church, not to erect a building for worship and conversion of Native Americans in their Virginia Company encampment.

Nor is it the nation’s oldest house of worship: Britain’s earlier “lost colony” in North Carolina may have had a church, and remnants of 16th-century Catholic churches and missions have been identified, according to Mr. Kelso. But the 2010 discovery and continuing excavation has generated excitement partly due to the size of the 1608 structure — at 64 feet by 24 feet, it was an architectural marvel for its time — and also because of how little has been understood about religion in Jamestown.

Some scholars lament that popular knowledge of colonial-era religion has been flattened into a view of the Virginians as greedy and indolent, while later colonists in Plymouth, Mass., were pious and devout.

The distinction is rooted in their origins. While Virginians were largely loyal to the Church of England, the pilgrims in Plymouth repudiated the church and came to America to escape it.

“Fundamentally, they’re different places,” said David D. Hall, a scholar of colonial religion at Harvard Divinity School.

Religion would still have been central to Jamestown, and theories abound as to why there has been scant attention. Histories tend to emphasize commercial pursuits of its colonists, and scholars also point to the Civil War: with the Union victory, the story of Northern colonial virtues — including piety — triumphed over those of the South. Another view is that Plymouth had a prolific printer and Jamestown did not.

“You have two very different Christian experiences; both of them can be equally rich and nuanced, but one tended to leave a much richer and more layered testimony about itself,” said Richard Pickering, deputy director of program innovation at Plimoth Plantation, the recreated colonial village in Plymouth that uses the historical spelling of the name.

There is also a practical reason: until recently, relics of early Jamestown were underground. For centuries, the fort was believed washed into the James River. But Mr. Kelso, unconvinced, began digging along the river’s banks in 1994.

By 1996, he was certain he had located James Fort’s perimeter. The site has since yielded about 1.4 million artifacts, many of them stored in a locked, fireproof laboratory nearby.

But the original church remained elusive. Then, last fall, the archaeologists located remnants of a new structure beneath Civil War earthworks.

“Every one of our colleagues had goose bumps. It was something we’ve been looking for 17 years,” said the senior staff archaeologist, Danny Schmidt, 33, who first worked at Jamestown as a high school intern in 1994.

The dig has continued through the fall. The graves will be investigated in the spring, Mr. Kelso said.

“This is as close as you can get to a time capsule,” he said.

The church would have been the fort’s biggest structure by far. Paul A. Levengood, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Historical Society, said a conspicuous church served a political purpose for the British.

“To put up a big church on this island in the Chesapeake region was a very clear political sign as well, saying, ‘We’re here, stay out, we claim this area, and we’re willing to fight you,’ ” he said.

The site will mark the spot of perhaps the best-known part of Jamestown’s history, the wedding of Pocahontas, who adopted the name Rebecca after her baptism and marriage.

Popular knowledge of that wedding could enhance attention to religion at Jamestown, said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which manages the park. He said the church may be partially reconstructed atop the site.

H. Wade Trump III, a Williamsburg pastor who traces his ancestry back to the Jamestown colonists, sees the site as a New World Jerusalem where the nation’s religious heritage began.

“This church would be a place for Christians from all over the country to see where their roots are,” Mr. Trump said. “This is really the birthplace of the Judeo-Christian faith in America.”

Today, James Fort resembles an outdoor archaeology classroom, with school groups and tourists watching archaeologists at work just feet away.

Barbara Costin, 70, of Beaverdam, Va., made a circuit of the fort with her friend Marshall Healey, 82. Ms. Costin wondered if the discovery of the church was not an extension of the mission to convert native inhabitants, and exploit their land and wealth.

“Power, control — that’s what it’s about,” she said.

Myron Semchuk, 64, visiting from Norwalk, Conn., took a different view, calling the discovery “fascinating,” another key to the nation’s origin.

“The rights that we enjoy today had their roots here. This is where they first started,” he said. “And those religious beliefs, I think, were the foundation.”

    Jamestown Thought to Yield Ruins of Oldest U.S. Protestant Church,
    NYT, 13.11.2011,






The Political Pulpit


September 30, 2011
The New York Times


This weekend, hundreds of pastors, including some of the nation’s evangelical leaders, will climb into their pulpits to preach about American politics, flouting a decades-old law that prohibits tax-exempt churches and other charities from campaigning on election issues.

The sermons, on what is called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, essentially represent a form of biblical bait, an effort by some churches to goad the Internal Revenue Service into court battles over the divide between religion and politics.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit legal defense group whose founders include James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, sponsors the annual event, which started with 33 pastors in 2008. This year, Glenn Beck has been promoting it, calling for 1,000 religious leaders to sign on and generating additional interest at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

“There should be no government intrusion in the pulpit,” said the Rev. James Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., who led preachers in the battle to pass California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. “The freedom of speech and the freedom of religion promised under the First Amendment means pastors have full authority to say what they want to say.”

Mr. Garlow said he planned to inveigh against same-sex marriage, abortion and other touchstone issues that social conservatives oppose, and some ministers may be ready to encourage parishioners to vote only for those candidates who adhere to the same views or values.

“I tell them that as followers of Christ, you wouldn’t vote for someone who was against what God said in his word,” Mr. Garlow said. “I will, in effect, oppose several candidates and — de facto — endorse others.”

Two Republican candidates in particular, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, would presumably benefit from some pulpit politics on Sunday, since they have been courting Christian conservatives this year.

Participating ministers plan to send tapes of their sermons to the I.R.S., effectively providing the agency with evidence it could use to take them to court.

But if history is any indication, the I.R.S. may continue to steer clear of the taunts.

“It’s frustrating,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defense. “The law is on the books but they don’t enforce it, leaving churches in limbo.”

Supporters of the law are equally vexed by the tax agency’s perceived inaction. “We have grave concerns over the current inability of the I.R.S. to enforce the federal tax laws applicable to churches,” a group of 13 ministers in Ohio wrote in a letter to the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, in July.

Marcus Owens, the lawyer representing the Ohio ministers, warned that the I.R.S.’s failure to pursue churches for politicking violations would encourage more donations to support their efforts, taking further advantage of the new leeway given to advocacy groups under the Supreme Court’s decision last year in the Citizens United case.

Lois G. Lerner, director of the agency’s Exempt Organizations Division, said in an e-mail that “education has been and remains the first goal of the I.R.S.’s program on political activity by tax-exempt organizations.” The agency has posted “guidance” on what churches can and cannot do on its Web site.

The agency says it has continued to do audits of some churches, but those are not disclosed. Mr. Stanley, Mr. Owens and other lawyers say they are virtually certain it has no continuing audits of church political activity, an issue that has been a source of contention in recent elections.

The alliance and many other advocates regard a 1954 law prohibiting churches and their leaders from engaging in political campaigning as a violation of the First Amendment and wish to see the issue played out in court. The organization points to the rich tradition of political activism by churches in some of the nation’s most controversial battles, including the pre-Revolutionary war opposition to taxation by the British, slavery and child labor.

The legislation, sponsored by Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a senator, muzzled all charities in regards to partisan politics, and its impact on churches may have been an unintended consequence. At the time, he was locked in a battle with two nonprofit groups that were loudly calling him a closet communist.

Thirty years later, a group of senators led by Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, passed legislation to try to rein in the agency a bit in doing some audits. While audits of churches continued over the years, they appeared to have slowed down considerably after a judge rebuffed the agency’s actions in a case involving the Living Word Christian Center and a supposed endorsement of Ms. Bachmann in 2007. The I.R.S. had eliminated positions through a reorganization, and therefore, according to the judge, had not followed the law when determining who could authorize such audits.

Sarah Hall Ingram, the I.R.S. commissioner responsible for the division that oversees nonprofit groups, said the agency was still investigating such cases. “We have churches under audit,” Ms. Hall Ingram said. “Maybe they just aren’t the clients of the people you’re talking to.”

None of the churches involved in previous pulpit Sunday events have received anything beyond a form letter from the I.R.S. thanking them for the tapes, Mr. Stanley said. “They haven’t done anything to clarify what the law is and what pastors can and can’t say,“ he said.

Mr. Owens, the lawyer representing the Ohio churches, said that Ms. Lerner had told a meeting of state charity regulators in late 2009 that the agency was no longer doing such audits. “I have not heard of a single church audit since then,” Mr. Owens said.

He said the agency could have churches under audit for civil fraud or criminal investigation. “I know of at least one of those,” he said.

Ms. Lerner said she could not recall what she had said at the meeting. Grant Williams, an I.R.S. spokesman, declined to describe the type of church audits the agency was doing or their number.

Last year, the I.R.S. also quietly ceased its Political Activities Compliance Initiative, under which it issued reports in 2004 and 2006 detailing its findings of illegal political campaigning by charities, including churches.

Paul Streckfus, a former I.R.S. official who publishes a newsletter about legal and tax developments in the tax-exempt world, said the reports had served as an alert. “They also gave us some idea of how big the problem of noncompliance actually was, and that the I.R.S. was actually doing something about it,” Mr. Streckfus said.

Mr. Garlow said he planned to outline where the candidates stood on various issues and then discuss what the Bible said about those issues, calling on church members to stand by their religious principles.

“The Bible says render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” he said. “But Caesar is demanding more and more of what was once considered God’s matter, and pastors have been bullied and intimidated enough.”

    The Political Pulpit, NYT, 30.9.2011,






Up From the Ashes,

a Symbol That Hate Does Not Win


September 25, 2011
The New York Times



In the hours after the 2008 election of the country’s first African-American president, three white men crept up to a predominantly African-American church being built here in Springfield, blessed it corruptly with gasoline — and faded into the fresh November night.

Soon the church’s pastor, Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., was at the crime scene’s flickering edge, weary, saddened. Moments before, he had been anticipating a new chapter in American history, and now here was one page, stuck. He didn’t need an investigation to tell him this was a racist act of arson. He is a black man with snow in his hair; he knew.

As he watched the new home for the Macedonia Church of God in Christ burn to the ground, Bishop Robinson imagined only one response: Rebuild.

Now, nearly three years later, that election night’s crisp air of possibility has all but faded in Washington, where the first African-American president, Barack Obama, struggles with grinding wars, a broken economy and spirit-killing partisanship. But here in Springfield, the smoke has lifted to reveal a new, 20,000-square-foot church standing on top of an old crime scene, its sanctuary walls painted the color of a clear blue sky.

Resting in one of its pews the other day, a silver cane by his side, Bishop Robinson, 74, said that this building on Tinkham Road reflects the ever-unfolding American story of race, in Washington, Springfield, everywhere. “The hatred in our country,” he said. “And the goodness in our country.”

The election night burning of a New England church became national news. A “This Land” column shared how the pastor’s father had left segregated Alabama, gathered together a congregation in Springfield, and bought an old downtown church to use as a house of worship; how his eldest son and successor, Bryant, worked for years to raise the money to build a new church on the city’s outskirts; and how, when it burned down, he just knew that racism had fueled the fire.

Now, sitting in a pew, Bishop Robinson referred to another part of family history. How, in Emelle, Ala., on July 4, 1930, his grandfather and uncles found themselves in an argument with a white store owner over a car battery. How that dispute escalated into a violent, hate-filled mob scene that left several dead, white and black, including a pregnant black woman and the bishop’s Uncle Esau — who was lynched.

So, you see, Bishop Robinson just knew.

Two months after the fire, three white men in their 20s were charged with burning down the church to express their rage at the thought of a black president. Two pleaded guilty, and the third was convicted after trial, in a case that The Republican newspaper of Springfield described as a “blot on the whole city.”

“Unfortunately, it was a confirmation of my experiences as an African-American,” Bishop Robinson said, adding: “My faith teaches me to forgive, and I forgive them. But I cannot be accepting of their behavior. I cannot be victimized by hatred. So I have to move forward.”

In moving forward, he and his congregation of a few hundred found outstretched hands. Donations arrived from around the country, while volunteers cleared the debris and carted away the ruined foundation. But the journey had its peaks and valleys.

For example, its leaders applied for federal assistance under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which was enacted after a spate of house-of-worship burnings. They filled out a checklist that asked, with bureaucratic bluntness, what the arson had destroyed:

Sanctuary (yes). Choir seating (yes). Fellowship hall (yes). Pastor’s office (yes).

The Macedonia church eventually won the very last government loan guarantee available under the law, which was good. But it had trouble securing a loan for the government to back, which was bad.

That is, until Gov. Deval Patrick addressed the Urban League of Springfield in February 2010. He explained that the church had just learned that day that its bank was not inclined to provide a vital construction loan, even though the church had already paid off the loan related to its first attempt at a new home.

“I know that in this audience tonight are people who care about Macedonia,” Mr. Patrick had said. “Are people who understand we need this church to rise as a symbol that hate doesn’t win. And I know that there are people here who are in the finance field or know people who are, who can rally to help this very, very worthy cause.”

Soon the church had the $1.8 million bank loan it needed. And construction began in earnest.

Along the way, a group called the National Coalition for Burned Churches offered rotating teams of volunteers. Here came some Catholics from suburban Chicago. Here came some Methodists and Jews from Northern California. Here came some students from Harvard, and some Congregationalists from the town of Millbury.

A few of these volunteers left behind handwritten messages on the walls concealed by the church hallway’s dropped ceiling — a form of spiritual graffiti, you might say. “His love endures forever.” “May God dwell in this house forever.”

There is still work to do; the landscaping, for example, will have to wait until spring. And the need to pay for everything remains; the church, Bishop Robinson admits, is in perpetual fund-raising mode. No matter: what has risen is a large, simple structure of wonder.

A sanctuary — yes — with 60 wooden pews purchased from a North Carolina business called Affordable Church Furniture. Choir seating — yes — with many of the chairs donated by a Lutheran church. A fellowship hall — yes — with more than enough room for wedding receptions and funeral repasts.

And — yes— a pastor’s office, on the very spot where gasoline was poured on that hopeful, horrible November night. “The guys came from those woods,” Bradford Martin Jr., the church’s indefatigable lawyer, said as he led a tour through the building. “They busted in here. They splashed it on the outside and they splashed it on the inside.”

On Saturday’s misty morning, members of the Macedonia congregation gathered in their new home for a rousing dedication. Dressed in their finest, they prayed and sang and swayed.

Here was the governor of Massachusetts, and the mayor of Springfield, and a police officer who worked on the arson investigation, and, all the way from California, Charles E. Blake Sr., the presiding bishop and chief apostle of the Church of God in Christ.

And here, of course, was Bishop Robinson, steadied by his cane and giving thanks for this celebration that would not, could not, be denied.

    Up From the Ashes, a Symbol That Hate Does Not Win, NYT, 25.9.2011,






First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop

to Retire in 2013


November 6, 2010
The New York Times


Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a historic rift in the global Anglican Communion, announced to his New Hampshire diocese on Saturday that he intended to step down.

He plans to retire in January 2013 after nine years as bishop, to give the diocese enough time to elect a new bishop and get the approval of the national church, a process that can take two years.

The news took some by surprise because Bishop Robinson is an energetic 63-year-old, and mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops is 72. He has led a relatively stable and healthy diocese, despite predictions by some that his election would undermine the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire.

The reason to depart, he said in a speech delivered at the close of the annual convention of his diocese, is that being at the center of an international uproar has taken a toll on him and on the diocese.

“Death threats, and the now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark” and on Episcopalians in the state, he said.

But those who know Bishop Robinson say he has no intention of retiring from public life. His status as a symbol in the international gay rights movement means that after he steps down, he will have no shortage of platforms from which to preach his message that God blesses gay relationships too. (Through a spokesman, he declined interview requests.)

Bishop Robinson has become a national figure. In 2009, he gave the invocation for the opening event of the inauguration of President Obama. He also sees himself as an evangelist to people alienated from Christianity.

The election of Bishop Robinson in a church in Concord, N. H., in 2003 was the shot heard round the Christian world. It cracked open a longstanding divide between theological liberals and conservatives in both the Episcopal Church and its parent body, the Anglican Communion — those churches affiliated with the Church of England in more than 160 countries.

Since 2003, the Communion’s leaders have labored to save it from outright schism, not just over homosexuality, but also over female bishops and priests.

The current strategy, pushed by the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is for each regional province to sign a “covenant” of common beliefs.

The covenant has been slowly making its way through laborious writing and approval processes, which could take years.

Late last month, an international coalition of liberal Anglicans started a campaign to reject the covenant, saying, “The covenant seeks to narrow the range of acceptable belief within Anglicanism.”

The group, Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, said, “Rather than bringing peace to the Communion, we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments.”

The church in New Hampshire suffered less fallout under Bishop Robinson than the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. Only one New Hampshire congregation departed during his tenure, a congregation long unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church, according to diocesan leaders.

The number of active members in New Hampshire fell 3 percent, from 15,259 in 2003 to 14,787 in 2009. In that period, the Episcopal Church, like most mainline Protestant denominations, lost about 10 percent of its members. (It had about two million in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.)

Bishop Robinson won critics over with a leadership style that was decisive but collaborative, said Margaret Porter, moderator of the diocesan council.

“The people who were skeptics, that did not last,” she said. “He was willing to meet them where they were. There were churches that were reluctant to have him visit as bishop for a time, and I think he now visits every congregation and is welcomed.”

But the pressure on Bishop Robinson became apparent in 2006. He took a monthlong leave to be treated for alcoholism. He said Saturday that he was in his fifth year of sobriety.

He and his partner of more than 20 years had a civil union ceremony in New Hampshire in 2008.

Bishop Robinson is no longer the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Mary D. Glasspool was consecrated in Los Angeles earlier this year.

In his resignation speech in New Hampshire, Bishop Robinson said: “This is the one place on earth where I am not ‘the gay bishop.’ I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.”

    First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop to Retire in 2013, NYT, 6.11.2010,






At East Village Food Pantry,

the Price Is a Sermon


September 28, 2010
The New York Times


The shopping carts are lined up hours early in Tompkins Square Park, not far from the dog run, where the East Village’s more genteel residents are unleashing retrievers and beagles and chatting animatedly. The poor or elderly waiting on benches to get the free food that comes with a dose of the Gospel seem more lost in their own thoughts, even though many meet every Tuesday.

A guard, Mike Luke, a powerhouse known as Big Mike who himself was a consumer at church pantries until he found religion and decided to work for “the man upstairs,” manages the crowd with crisp authority until the 11 a.m. service starts across the street at the Tompkins Square Gospel Fellowship. There is nervous tension because only the first 50 will get in, and suddenly two women are squabbling over a black cart.

“How do you know that’s your cart?” Big Mike firmly asks one, a fair question since the carts look alike. But the mystery is cleared up with the discovery of an orphaned gray cart.

Inside the worship hall, the 50 men and women sit in neat rows in front of a pulpit and a painting of a generic waterfall while a pianist softly plays hymns. Their carts are reassembled in neat rows as well.

The room has the shopworn air of Sergeant Sarah Brown’s Save-a-Soul Mission in “Guys and Dolls.” One almost expects Stubby Kaye to get up and sing “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” But people don’t mind having to sit through a sermon as the price of admission, and few have jobs they need to run to. While they wait, volunteers fill each cart with a couple of bread loaves — redolent of a Gospel miracle, except these are ciabatta and 10-grain — a couple of bananas, a couple of less-than-freshly-picked ears of corn, a box of eggs, a box of blueberries, even an Asian pear.

The food is donated by Trader Joe’s, the gourmet and organic food purveyor, which has a store nearby. It usually feeds the kinds of professionals who use the dog run, but it provides the fellowship with a wealth of unsold baked goods, fruit and vegetables.

The fellowship was started 115 years ago as a mission to the immigrant Jews of the Lower East Side but now mostly serves the black, Latino and Asian poor. The East Village has several other pantries that dispense food without sermons; their food is government-financed and so must be religion-free. The fellowship started its giveaways in January and now feeds 250 people during three services on Tuesdays — one in Chinese — and a single evening service on Sundays and Wednesdays.

The mission is run by the Rev. Bill Jones, a lively ordained Baptist minister from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

“People are not only hungry for food, but hungry for the word of God,” Mr. Jones said. “There’s not just a physical need but a spiritual need.”

Nevertheless, he is aware of the actual hunger. “If you wait for three hours to get $25 worth of groceries,” he said, “you have a need.”

He affirms that thought to the waiting crowd in a stentorian drawl.

“You all get blueberries today,” he announces. “Some of you get eggs. If you don’t get eggs, don’t be upset. You neighbor is getting eggs, so be grateful.”

The people who come include Rafael Mercado, 52, who lost his job as a mailroom clerk four years ago.

“I don’t have the kind of money now to go shopping,” he said, “so I go to many pantries.” Another is Asia Feliciano, 37, a single mother with a lush head of cornrow braids. She and her sons, Trevor, 5, and Jordan, 3, live in a nearby shelter, and they stumbled upon the mission in August while panhandling.

“It puts food on our plates every night,” she said.

Mr. Jones begins the service with a prayer — “Heavenly father, we are so grateful for the provisions you have brought us for another day.” He then offers a lesson from the Gospel of John, in which Jesus tells the disciples to love one another. With ardor that is not quite brimstone, Mr. Jones urges listeners to love one another as well, not give in to temptations and pray to remain faithful to God.

Many among the 50 sit stone-faced. But some clearly listen. Though she comes mostly for the food, Ms. Feliciano indicates that the worship has subversively taken hold.

“When I have to sit through the service, it opens my eyes,” she said. “So I started reading the Bible and I asked them for a Bible, and they gave me one.”

Jim Dwyer is on leave.

    At East Village Food Pantry, the Price Is a Sermon, NYT, 28.9.2010,






Tensions Linger

Between Pope and Anglicans


September 21, 2010
The New York Times


LONDON — The pope and the archbishop prayed together last weekend, a rare event at Westminster Abbey meant to show the fundamental closeness of Catholics and Anglicans, their churches separated in doctrine by few degrees and each battered by secularism and division. The signal sent was that, someday, a more formal union would strengthen both.

But beyond the smiles, the prayers and the self-conscious focus on the things the two spiritual leaders share, Benedict XVI’s four-day visit to Britain was more than a moment of reconciliation, underscoring that the two churches that split during the Reformation over issues of papal authority are as divided as ever.

Everyone was polite, including the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, not allowing the dissent to show much publicly. Still, it did not go unnoticed that Benedict broke his own rules and personally presided on Sunday over the beatification Mass of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th-century thinker and writer who left the Church of England to convert to Catholicism. He had said earlier in his papacy that he would celebrate Mass only for canonization, the final step of sainthood.

The beatification came a year after the Vatican angered many Anglicans, not least Archbishop Williams, when it announced that it would facilitate the conversion of groups of traditionalist Anglicans. This again pointed up differences and accusations that the Roman Catholic Church was aiming to lure away those no longer comfortable in a church that ordains female and gay priests — something the Catholic Church does not allow.

For its part, the Vatican has said it created the new rite, which would allow Anglicans to preserve some liturgy and traditions, including married clergymen, after joining the Roman Catholic Church, in response to repeated requests from a handful of groups of traditionalist Anglicans.

Benedict made a rare acknowledgment of the tensions on Friday, telling Archbishop Williams that he had not come to visit the headquarters of the Church of England — becoming the first pope to do so — “to speak of the difficulties that the ecumenical path has encountered and continues to encounter.”

In the service at Westminster Abbey on Friday, Benedict smiled when Archbishop Williams, with devastating understatement, said that “Christians have very diverse views about the nature of the vocation that belongs to the See of Rome.”

Tapping into longstanding, vexed questions of papal authority, the pope further stirred the waters two days later, telling the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland that they should regard the conversion offer as “a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics.”

“It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion,” he added.

Yet reality might not be on the pope’s side. Both Anglicans and Catholics say that dialogue aimed at full communion — in which the two churches work toward mending the rift of the Reformation — has grown nearly impossible since the Church of England opened the way for female bishops. It first ordained women as priests in 1994.

“Full communion was and still remains the goal,” said Christopher Hill, the Anglican bishop of Guildford, who has been involved in Catholic-Anglican dialogue. “How distant the goal is another matter.”

Full communion would mean that Anglican and Catholic clergy members could administer the sacraments — like the Eucharist, marriage and baptism — in one another’s churches without being reordained, and that parishioners could receive them in each church without formally converting.

In the coming years, the Church of England is on track to ordain the first female bishops, a move that is expected to divide the Anglican Communion even further, including pitting more liberal communities in England and elsewhere against more traditional ones in Africa.

Once women become bishops, more Anglican traditionalists are widely expected to leave — although it remains to be seen whether they will join the Roman Catholic Church, which recently ruled that ordaining women as Catholic priests is a crime against the faith, punishable by excommunication.

So far, Anglican and Catholic officials say few have shown interest in the Vatican’s conversion offer, which seems to have raised more tensions than it has converts. “We don’t expect it to be very many at all,” said Marie Papworth, a spokeswoman for the archbishop of Canterbury.

Takers include the Traditional Anglican Communion in Australia and the Anglican Church in America, traditionalist groups that have already split from the Anglican Communion or have never been part of it, meaning that they adhere to the Anglican traditions without having a formal relationship with the See of Canterbury.

Some traditionalists are drawn to the Roman Catholic Church’s top-down model. “The trouble with the Anglican Church is that it has adopted a parliamentary model and one that presumes change and presumes everyone can have a say,” said the Rev. John Broadhurst, a traditionalist Anglican. “I think it’s become a kind of fascist democracy.”

Father Broadhurst works closely with Britain’s three so-called flying bishops, Anglican bishops appointed to minister to Anglican communities not comfortable with women as priests. He said he would neither confirm nor deny reports that he and the flying bishops had been in talks with the Vatican about converting.

The Rev. Geoffrey Kirk, the parish priest of St. Stephen’s Church in Lewisham, in South London, said that he and his parish hoped to move to the Catholic Church for reasons “related to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate,” but also out of “a sense that the Church of England is moving in a direction of liberal theology in all sorts of areas that we think is unfaithful to the Gospel basically.”

Father Kirk, who is also the national secretary of Forward in Faith, a traditionalist group, said that his Sunday parish of 150 largely consisted of West African and West Indian members. “We are eagerly awaiting the details of the announcement and we hope to take advantage of the pope’s generosity,” he added.

Many questions remain about the new rite, not least what becomes of Anglican parish members who do not want to join Rome, and the role of laity, or nonclergy, in the new structure.

Because of the open questions, “Even those who are taking it seriously are taking their time,” Bishop Hill added.

For his part, Father Kirk said that the Vatican’s offer of fast-track conversion had revealed the “latent anti-Catholic sentiment” among “some quite distinguished Anglicans.”

“We are a country of Protestant atheists,” he added. “Most people don’t take religion very seriously. The one thing they do take seriously is how dreadful the Catholic Church is.”

    Tensions Linger Between Pope and Anglicans, NYT, 21.9.2010,






Defections to Pentecostalism

Pose Challenge

for the U.S. Catholic Church


April 20, 2008
The New York Times


To say she was a practicing Catholic would be an understatement. For years, Maria Aparecida Calazans was a mainstay at her Long Island church, joining dozens of fellow Brazilian immigrants for the Portuguese-language Mass on Sunday mornings. She and her husband, Ramon, were married at the church. Their two daughters were baptized there, and every Friday she attended a prayer meeting that she had helped organize.

But six years ago, her husband went to a relative’s baptism at a Pentecostal church in a warehouse in Astoria, Queens, and came home smitten.

The couple made a deal: “We would go to the Pentecostal service on Thursdays and to Mass on Sundays, and then we would decide which one we felt most comfortable with,” Mrs. Calazans said.

Within 40 days, they had both given up Roman Catholicism and embraced Pentecostalism, following the same path as an estimated 1.3 million other Latino Catholics who have joined Pentecostal congregations since immigrating to the United States, according to a survey released in February by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“I feel whole here,” Mrs. Calazans, 42, said one recent Sunday in the Astoria sanctuary, the Portuguese Language Pentecostal Missionary Church, as she swayed to the pop-rock beat of a live gospel band. “This church is not a place we visit once a week. This church is where we hang around and we share our problems and we celebrate our successes, like we were family.”

As Pope Benedict XVI completes his visit to the United States today with a Mass at Yankee Stadium, in a borough that has been home to generations of Latinos, he does so facing something of a growing challenge to the church’s immigrant ranks.

For if Latinos are feeding the population of the church, many have also turned to Pentecostalism, a form of evangelical Christianity that stresses a personal, even visceral, connection with God.

Today, it has more Latino followers in the United States than any other denomination except Catholicism; they are drawn, they say, by the faith’s joyous worship, its use of Latino culture and the enveloping sense of community it offers to newcomers. As the Pew survey released in February revealed, nearly half of all Latinos who have joined Pentecostal denominations were raised as Catholics.

They are part of a global shift. Pentecostalism, the world’s fastest-growing branch of Christianity, has made such sharp inroads in Latin America, particularly in Brazil, that in an address to bishops there last year, Pope Benedict listed its ardent proselytizing as one of the major forces the Catholic Church in the region must contend with.

Catholic leaders and experts on the church in the United States say that the force of Pentecostalism is less dramatic here than in Latin America and elsewhere. Still, the pope has urged the nation’s bishops to make every effort to welcome new immigrants — “to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home” — and any number of Catholic clergy and lay people have conceded that the church needs to work harder at reaching, and keeping, its Latino flock.

““That some of the newly arrived Latinos are drawn to Pentecostalism is certainly reason for concern,” said the Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, the executive director of the Office for Cultural Diversity, which was created last June by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to help the church adjust to its changing ethnic makeup. My faith is a big part of my life. The pope is the head of the faith.”

“But we can counter that with the kind of music we use, with the sense of celebration that we bring to our worship, the spontaneity and some of the popular customs that are not part of the official liturgy of the church. We’re doing some of that, but we could do better.”

The Pentecostal church in Astoria vividly shows what Catholicism is up against. It offers enough activities to fill a family’s calendar: services on Sundays and Thursdays, youth group meetings on Fridays, a Bible study group on Wednesdays and all-night prayer vigils throughout the year. Then there are birthday and engagement parties, to which every congregant is invited.

The church, on the second floor of a stucco building opposite a nightclub and three blocks from the subway, is half house of worship and half community center. It ministers primarily to a single immigrant group, Brazilians, in the group’s language, Portuguese —much like the ethnic urban parishes founded by European Catholics more than a century ago.

The Sunday service starts at 4 p.m., but the front door opens at least two hours earlier, and families trickle in. One recent Sunday, children giggled and ran around while mothers greeted one another with a kiss on each cheek, as is the custom in Brazil.

The pastor, Zeny Tinouco, himself a former Catholic, preached to about 100 people from a pulpit framed by an American and a Brazilian flag. Arms rose into the air and hands faced the ceiling as a guitar-and-drums band tore through pop-inflected hymns. Over and over in his sermon, the pastor exclaimed, “Alleluia!” and the congregants fervently responded, “Glória a Deus!” (“Praise the Lord!”)

“The first thing I tell the newcomers is that there are no lambs without a shepherd in our church; no one is a stranger,” said Pastor Tinouco, 62, who has a high school education and 11 churches — three each in New York City, Portugal and his native Brazil; one in Switzerland; and one in Newark.

“Our mission is to welcome the immigrant and be his guide and his support,” the pastor said. “If they need money to pay the rent, we’ll raise the money for them. If they need work, we’ll find them work. If they need someone to talk to, they can come to me.”

He counts more than 500 members among his churches in the United States — more than half of them, by his estimate, former Catholics. They include people like Renato C. Silva, who converted to Pentecostalism right after he immigrated in 2005, then met his wife at Pastor Tinouco’s church. And there are others like Tatiana DeMauro, who said her conversion in 2000 had strained her marriage.

“My husband is American and he is Catholic, and he won’t come here with me,” said Ms. DeMauro, 40, as she fed pretzels to her 2-year-old twin daughters. “He says I’ve changed and that this church has brainwashed me, but he doesn’t get it. I have friends here. Some of the strongest relationships I have I made at this church.”

The Rev. Virgil Elizondo, a professor of pastoral and Hispanic religions at the University of Notre Dame, said that Latinos who practiced a populist, emotional brand of Catholicism in their home countries experience a cultural clash when they encounter the more traditional, low-key ways of the church in the United States.

“To Latinos, the church is a place for socializing,” Father Elizondo said. “Even people with deepest of Catholic beliefs, if they’re in a foreign country and they can’t find a church where they can experience companionship, they will look elsewhere.”

Father Deck, of the Office for Cultural Diversity, said the Catholic Church was making progress. Latinos now make up about 15 percent of all seminarians. “And we’ve had an explosion in what we call lay ministry,” he added. “There are thousands of Latinos who are lectors during Mass, do outreach work, are catechism teachers, and we have some who are administering parishes.”

Latinos have also fueled the growth of the church’s charismatic movement, whose high-energy Masses are reminiscent of Pentecostal services. Many parishes, particularly in the South and the West, have introduced mariachi Masses, colorful processions and communal meals after the liturgy.

But Luís D. León, a professor of American religions at the University of Denver, said many of those gestures toward Latinos were “token changes.”

“Latino immigrants still find some kind of solace and connection with their home country through Catholicism, and they’re looking for a reason to hang on to the church in this country,” he said. “But for that to happen, they need to feel that their culture is being understood and recognized. They need to feel that the church is their caretaker in a much more profound and personal way than it is today.”

Adriara Mello, who came from Brazil in 1996, said many of her Brazilian friends began attending Pentecostal churches after immigrating.

But she has remained faithful to Corpus Christi Church in Mineola on Long Island — the same parish that Mrs. Calazans and her family left to join the Pentecostal congregation in Astoria.

In fact, the two women had started a series of prayer meetings, which Ms. Mello continues to run.

Corpus Christi is a mainly English-speaking parish, but it has a long history of catering to immigrants. Aside from its Portuguese Mass, which has been celebrated by the same Brazilian priest for 35 years, the church has a Portuguese ministry offering translation services and tutoring for immigrant students who attend the parish’s school.

Ms. Mello said Brazilian parishioners have also raised money for a few compatriots facing financial difficulties, and have cooked and cleaned for a man who had to raise his children alone after his wife’s death.

“We’re trying to be a faith community and a support community,” Ms. Mello added. ”We’re here to help.”

Still, just a few minutes after the 8:30 a.m. Mass ended last Sunday, the Portuguese-speaking faithful had dispersed, to make way for the English-language service that followed.

“I can see how people might get turned off by that,” Ms. Mello said. “I mean, if you’re alone in this country, there goes an opportunity to make the church part of your life. There goes a chance to make friends.”

    Defections to Pentecostalism Pose Challenge for the U.S. Catholic Church,
    NYT, 20.4.2008,






After Smoke, Soot and Water,

a Great Church Is Cleansed


November 30, 2008
The New York Times


The Very Rev. James A. Kowalski has been dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for nearly seven years. In all that time, he has never heard its great organ played during a worship service.

On Sunday, he will finally have his chance.

So will countless congregants and visitors as the Episcopal cathedral is formally rededicated. Everyone is invited to the 11 a.m. service, though the cathedral advises the public to arrive at least an hour early to claim passes for unreserved seats. At least 3,000 people are expected to attend.

The rededication signifies the return of the whole cathedral — all 601 feet of it — to useful life.

Since a fire on Dec. 18, 2001, one part of the cathedral after another has been closed for cleaning, refurbishing and restoration. Now, from the bronze doors on the west front to the stained-glass windows in the easternmost chapel, the cathedral seems to have shed not only the mantle of destructive smoke, soot and water stains (for the most part), but also the general dulling brought on by more than a century of hard use.

The rehabilitation was financed by a $41.5 million settlement of the cathedral’s insurance claim with the Church Insurance Companies, an Episcopal organization. Stephen Facey, the executive vice president of the cathedral, said scaffolding and cleaning accounted for about 50 percent of the cost.

The fire broke out in the unfinished north transept, which housed a gift shop. Some of the damage elsewhere in the cathedral occurred in the interest of protecting artistic treasures. For instance, to avoid the need to ventilate the fire by breaking stained-glass windows, firefighters drew smoke through the baptistry, which adjoins the north transept.

“This was black — it acted like a chimney,” Mr. Facey said as he walked through the octagonal baptistry this month. One must take him at his word, because the room is now a near riot of color, with a frieze of shields splashed in vibrant greens, oranges, reds and blues.

It does not seem unreasonable to think that the cathedral has not looked this good since it was first dedicated, on Nov. 30, 1941, after the nave was completed. As 10,000 people watched, immense gray curtains parted at the east end of the nave, permitting a view all the way to the apse.

“The entire length of this building, America’s greatest cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, now stands open for the worship of God and for the blessing and inspiration of men,” Bishop William T. Manning declared in his sermon that day. He added that he hoped the towers, the crossing and the north transept might be finished while he was still bishop.

But that aspiration ended with World War II, which Bishop Manning foreshadowed in his sermon as he acknowledged that the cathedral was rising at a time “when we see in this world an outbreak of almost incredible evil, a return to sheer barbarism and to unbelievable cruelties.”

Seven days later came the news from Pearl Harbor.

    After Smoke, Soot and Water, a Great Church Is Cleansed,
    NYT, 30.11.2008,






Bad Times

Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches


December 14, 2008
The New York Times


The sudden crush of worshipers packing the small evangelical Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset, N.Y. — a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund managers — forced the pastor to set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV and 100 folding chairs, which have been filled for six Sundays straight.

In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled — almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs.

Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

Nationwide, congregations large and small are presenting programs of practical advice for people in fiscal straits — from a homegrown series on “Financial Peace” at a Midtown Manhattan church called the Journey, to the “Good Sense” program developed at the 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and now offered at churches all over the country.

Many ministers have for the moment jettisoned standard sermons on marriage and the Beatitudes to preach instead about the theological meaning of the downturn.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, who moved much of their door-to-door evangelizing to the night shift 10 years ago because so few people were home during the day, returned to daylight witnessing this year. “People are out of work, and they are answering the door,” said a spokesman, J. R. Brown.

Mr. Bernard plans to start 100 prayer groups next year, using a model conceived by the megachurch pastor Rick Warren, to “foster spiritual dialogue in these times” in small gatherings around the city.

A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical, a term generally applied to churches that stress the literal authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion, or being “born again.”

Part of the evangelicals’ new excitement is rooted in a communal belief that the big Christian revivals of the 19th century, known as the second and third Great Awakenings, were touched off by economic panics. Historians of religion do not buy it, but the notion “has always lived in the lore of evangelism,” said Tony Carnes, a sociologist who studies religion.

A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly.

The little-noticed study began receiving attention from some preachers in September, when the stock market began its free fall. With the swelling attendance they were seeing, and a sense that worldwide calamities come along only once in an evangelist’s lifetime, the study has encouraged some to think big.

“I found it very exciting, and I called up that fellow to tell him so,” said the Rev. Don MacKintosh, a Seventh Day Adventist televangelist in California who contacted Dr. Beckworth a few weeks ago after hearing word of his paper from another preacher. “We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”

Frank O’Neill, 54, a manager who lost his job at Morgan Stanley this year, said the “humbling experience” of unemployment made him cast about for a more personal relationship with God than he was able to find in the Catholicism of his youth. In joining the Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, he said, he found a deeper sense of “God’s authority over everything — I feel him walking with me.”

The sense of historic moment is underscored especially for evangelicals in New York who celebrated the 150th anniversary last year of the Fulton Street Prayer Revival, one of the major religious resurgences in America. Also known as the Businessmen’s Revival, it started during the Panic of 1857 with a noon prayer meeting among traders and financiers in Manhattan’s financial district.

Over the next few years, it led to tens of thousands of conversions in the United States, and inspired the volunteerism movement behind the founding of the Salvation Army, said the Rev. McKenzie Pier, president of the New York City Leadership Center, an evangelical pastors’ group that marked the anniversary with a three-day conference at the Hilton New York. “The conditions of the Businessmen’s Revival bear great similarities to what’s going on today,” he said. “People are losing a lot of money.”

But why the evangelical churches seem to thrive especially in hard times is a Rorschach test of perspective.

For some evangelicals, the answer is obvious. ”We have the greatest product on earth,” said the Rev. Steve Tomlinson, senior pastor of the Shelter Rock Church.

Dr. Beckworth, a macroeconomist, posited another theory: though expanding demographically since becoming the nation’s largest religious group in the 1990s, evangelicals as a whole still tend to be less affluent than members of mainline churches, and therefore depend on their church communities more during tough times, for material as well as spiritual support. In good times, he said, they are more likely to work on Sundays, which may explain a slower rate of growth among evangelical churches in nonrecession years.

Msgr. Thomas McSweeney, who writes columns for Catholic publications and appears on MSNBC as a religion consultant, said the growth is fed by evangelicals’ flexibility: “Their tradition allows them to do things from the pulpit we don’t do — like ‘Hey! I need somebody to take Mrs. McSweeney to the doctor on Tuesday,’ or ‘We need volunteers at the soup kitchen tomorrow.’ ”

In a cascading financial crisis, he said, a pastor can discard a sermon prescribed by the liturgical calendar and directly address the anxiety in the air. “I know a lot of you are feeling pain today,” he said, as if speaking from the pulpit. “And we’re going to do something about that.”

But a recession also means fewer dollars in the collection basket.

Few evangelical churches have endowments to compare with the older mainline Protestant congregations.

“We are at the front end of a $10 million building program,” said the Rev. Terry Smith, pastor of the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J. “Am I worried about that? Yes. But right now, I’m more worried about my congregation.” A husband and wife, he said, were both fired the same day from Goldman Sachs; another man inherited the workload of four co-workers who were let go, and expects to be the next to leave. “Having the conversations I’m having,” Mr. Smith said, “it’s hard to think about anything else.”

At the Shelter Rock Church, many newcomers have been invited by members who knew they had recently lost jobs. On a recent Sunday, new faces included a hedge fund manager and an investment banker, both laid off, who were friends of Steve Leondis, a cheerful business executive who has been a church member for four years. The two newcomers, both Catholics, declined to be interviewed, but Mr. Leondis said they agreed to attend Shelter Rock to hear Mr. Tomlinson’s sermon series, “Faith in Unstable Times.”

“They wanted something that pertained to them,” he said, “some comfort that pertained to their situations.”

Mr. Tomlinson and his staff in Manhasset and at a satellite church in nearby Syosset have recently discussed hiring an executive pastor to take over administrative work, so they can spend more time pastoring.

“There are a lot of walking wounded in this town,” he said.

Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches, NYT, 14.12.2008,






Historic split for U.S. Episcopals


Sun Dec 9, 2007
12:16am EST
By Adam Tanner


FRESNO, California (Reuters) - An entire California diocese of the U.S. Episcopal Church voted to secede on Saturday in a historic split after years of disagreement over the church's expanding support for gay and women's rights.

Clergy and lay representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno in central California, voted to leave the church, which has been in turmoil since 2003 when U.S. Episcopalians consecrated their first openly gay bishop.

"We've seen a miracle here today," Bishop John-David Schofield said after the vote. "We are already outside the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church."

The head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, said the church had received word of the decision "with sadness."

"We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness," she said in a statement.

There are about 2.4 million members of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the 77-million-member global Anglican Communion, as the worldwide church is called.

Delegates voted 173-22 for secession, far more than the two-thirds majority needed. They later voted to align the 8,800-member diocese with the conservative Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, based in South America.

Amid the dissent of recent years, the Episcopal Church said 32 of its 7,600 congregations had left, with 23 others voting to leave but not taking the final step.

San Joaquin, with 47 churches in 14 counties, is the first of the church's 110 dioceses to complete the split.

Last year it voted overwhelmingly at its annual convention to split with the U.S. church, but held off on a final decision until Saturday's meeting.

Divisions and schisms have plagued Christianity since its earliest days, but the airing of differences through the media and Internet on hot-button social issues such as gay rights and the role of women have given prominence to disputes once debated behind closed doors.

In recent years, the Episcopal Church has faced dissent over the consecration of the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the blessing of gay unions practiced in some congregations.

There is also disagreement over the role of women. San Joaquin is one of only three U.S. dioceses that do not consecrate female priests.



The Episcopal Church represents less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, yet its members have long had a disproportionate influence on American political and societal life.

Founding Fathers such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson went to Episcopal churches. In the 20th century, U.S. presidents Franklin Roosevelt, George Bush, the father of the current president, and Gerald Ford were Episcopalians.

Dioceses in Pittsburgh and Fort Worth, Texas, have also taken preliminary votes to leave, but their final decisions are a year away.

"They are going to be watching this quite closely to see what the Episcopal Church does," said Rev. Ian Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I don't see this as suddenly becoming a landslide."

Schofield said he hoped others would follow San Joaquin's lead.

"This will give encouragement to dioceses that want to go but haven't had the courage to make that first step," the bishop said.

A few liberal parishes within the diocese are expected to stay with the church.

"It's a giant step toward the past," said the Rev. Charles Ramsden, a vice president of the church-owned Church Pension Group, who was a nonvoting observer. "It's about property, it's about millions of dollars and it's about power."

Both sides are prepared for a protracted and expensive legal battle over church assets and other issues.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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