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Showing posts from February, 2019

Ecclesiastical dieting for better health

Approximately 70% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. Similarly, The Episcopal Church (TEC) after decades of declining attendance and membership is organizationally overweight or even obese. The sooner TEC diets, the greater the probability of TEC returning to ecclesiastical health and vitality.
TEC can lose weight. A prior Ethical Musings post examined the episcopacy. In that article, I advocated reducing the number of dioceses to better serve TEC’s declining number of congregations. This essay identifies ways TEC’s congregations (a category that includes both parishes and missions) can improve their organizational health by shedding unhealthy burdens of excess programs, staff and facilities.
Corporate worship constitutes the programmatic and spiritual heart of most Episcopal congregations. I have served a congregation that needed to add a third Sunday morning service to accommodate the growing number of worshippers because of limited parking. I have also served congregation…

Our imperiled democracy

Democracy in the United States, already endangered, took a step closer towards extinction when President Trump declared a national emergency to reprogram federal funds in order to build a border wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.
Warning signs that U.S. democracy has been becoming endangered include presidents:
·Issuing Executive Orders in lieu of obtaining Congressionally passed laws
·Signing statements that identify portions of new laws that the president believes unconstitutional or which the President states the executive branch will ignore because of policy disagreements, attempting to exercise a line item veto when none exists
·Refusing to spend authorized funds in another attempt to exercise a non-existent line item veto
·Waging de facto wars without the Constitutionally required Congressional authorization
Over the second half of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Presidents have employed those devices – and others – to move government…

Learning to fish for people

Someone was bemoaning the lack of growth in their congregation. One listener responded sympathetically, remarking that "A lot of congregations struggle with that issue." To which the complainer replied, "Yeah, but how many churches do you know that have an unlisted phone number?"[1]
When I look at this congregation, I mostly see familiar faces. What is it that brings you back here to St. Clement’s, Sunday after Sunday?
While reflecting on today’s gospel reading,[2] I identified four factors that collectively explain why I personally return to St. Clement’s Sunday after Sunday. They fit the mnemonic ABC and F, like the familiar grades, except that the goal is to journey from A, B, and Cs to F.
A stands for acceptance. Here, I feel welcomed as who I am, without a need for pretense. In our liturgy, acceptance connotes God’s affirming love and embrace. Over time, I’m becoming part of the parish community. I hope, and pray, that your experience at St. Clement’s is similar.…

Some musings on moral responsibility

From the window behind the computer at which I write Ethical Musings, I can see the busy intersection at which a speeding driver last week killed three pedestrians and injured five other people. He was fleeing police who had sought to stop him for a prior traffic violation; police also think that the man was driving while intoxicated. Nine lives were inalterably changed, including that of the perpetrator who was seriously injured and now faces multiple manslaughter and other criminal charges.
From late December to early April, I occasionally see humpback whales apparently cavorting and spouting. When whales are spotted offshore, small boats and the two vessels that thrice daily take people out for an excursion and meal at sea congregate. Federal regulations mandate that boats stay a prescribed distance from whales and not otherwise interfere with the whales. Of course, the whales don’t know the federal rules and may violate those rules by approaching a stopped boat too closely. And, …