The Bishop’s Reading List – early summer 2023

The Bishop’s Reading List

For your summer reading enjoyment, we are introducing The Bishop’s Reading List, a new, occasional feature with links to articles and other online materials that Bishop Nicholas has been reading.

This week, smart home technology as a path to energy independence; a new religious charter school in Oklahoma; the Catholic Church’s history of profiting from slavery (which we share as Episcopalians); and a woman who, quite literally, bought a mountain in northwestern Pennsylvania for God—and a far-right Christian movement called the New Apostolic Reformation.

Home, smart home (The Verge)

Oklahoma Approves First Religious Charter School in the U.S. (New York Times)

The Catholic Church profited from slavery — ‘The 272’ explains how (NPR)

The Woman Who Bought A Mountain for God (The Atlantic)

St Stephen’s Church, Vestavia Hills AL

Overnight, we learned of a mass shooting event at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama. As I write this, two people were killed, an 84 year old man and a 75 year old woman, by a 71 year man who occasionally attended the church.
This is horrible news, and it feels so much closer to home, as the images and story seem so familiar to us as Episcopalians. It was a typical weeknight event at a typical congregation, and it went so terribly wrong. And yet, these sorts of shootings have become a typical experience for us in America. By the time I sat down to write this to you, I had trouble finding the news report online. It wasn’t featured anywhere.
We have been asked by the congregation, and their clergy, by their bishop and our Presiding Bishop to pray for them. I ask you to join me in this, particularly this weekend. Prayers alone are not enough, but we should feel some comfort in knowing that there is work being done at the Federal and State level to try to make these events less likely. Next week, Governor McKee will be signing three bills that represent common-sense reforms here in Rhode Island, and a bipartisan group of Senators in Washington DC have indicated they have an agreement in principle to take action in Congress. Pray for those who have been hurt and give thanks for those who are working to protect us all; first responders, activists and legislators.
Working with the RI Sheriff’s department, we have run two recent training sessions on active shooter response in churches. There are some specific things that we can do. If your congregation wasn’t represented at either of the last two trainings, and would like to participate, please let Joannie Collins, a member of my staff, know. ( A quick summary of basic principles taught in the training are found here.
Let us pray:
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this [day/night] in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Message from the Bishop

There’s an old dictum in Anglican Moral Theology; “Circumstances alter cases.” When we’re trying to work out the right thing to do in a moment of moral quandary, we can’t just use a single principle to come to a decision. It’s one thing if a multi-billionaire steals a loaf of bread from a neighborhood bakery. It’s another thing, in our thinking, if it’s a starving child who steals the bread.

This week there has been a leak regarding a potential decision and the associated reasoning behind it concerning the legality of Abortion services in the United States. We don’t know yet the final opinion or the decision, but what has been published has created deep concern for many and hope for others. We in the Episcopal Church are not of one mind about this question. We do though have a published and nuanced position, one initially issued by General Convention in 1967, prior to the Roe v Wade decision, and which was reaffirmed in 1976, and returned to subsequently. You can find more information here:

Our position lays out the instances in which the broader Episcopal Church believes that abortion is not a moral choice and lays out instances when it is the less bad choice of two difficult options. To be clear, it is guidance for decision making. It is not binding on our individual consciences. We rarely do that as a denomination; it’s something that sets us apart from others.

The 1976 statement ends with strong language: “the Episcopal Church expresses its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them.” What we expect of members of the Church is one thing and how we live in a larger pluralistic society is another. That needs to be a part of our consideration should the Supreme Court rule that Roe v Wade was a mistake.

The news comes unexpectedly, and this isn’t something many of us were prepared to hear. It is already raising emotions and opening old wounds. I ask you to be ready to hear people who disagree with you, and to be ready to love those who reject what you believe. The conflict is real and deep. That’s given and there’s not much we can do about that. What we can do is manage how we respond to the conflict which has unexpectedly added to the torn fabric of our social life.

Kept the good wine until now…

P1000018To my mind, there are two key takeaways for us this week. We who are Christians stand in the crowd of witnesses that began with the first stories, with Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, with the family of Abraham, with Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Ruth, Samuel, Saul and David, and all the prophets.

We remember what they longed to see. We are gathered and transformed by what happened just as they were created and transformed by what they were promised.

And standing in that crowd, being given the story that unlocks the deepest meaning of all the stories, it is our turn to share them with our children and our neighbors. They too, whether they know it or not, are being remade by the working of the same Spirit.

His winnowing fork is in his hand… a sermon for the First Sunday in Epiphany

May House in the snowTo us has been given the Word of truth, the Word of faith and of hope. So that even in this moment, as the nations roar and creation groans, we see the working of the Spirit to bring all to perfection.

Do not wonder then but behold the working out of Salvation in our midst. It is being made manifest to us. And how appropriate today that the name of this liturgical season, Epiphany literally means manifestation.

So what should we do in day like this? Care for one another. Care for the people in our lives. Care for the world as best we can. But also know that God is working in us as individuals and in all us as part of God’s created order.

The winnowing fork and the wind are separating the good parts from the bad. Thanks be to God.