The Last Saltie: On Friday evening December 14, clergy from the Central Great Lakes Synod led by Bishop Thorvald ("Wally") Noe-Effingway braved below-zero temperatures to bless the Isadora the last ocean-going vessel ("Saltie") to depart the port of Duluth in the 2007 Shipping season. From the deck of a tug boat just outside the Lift Bridge, Bishop Noe-Effingway conducted the rite of blessing with prayers for the protection of the ship and its crew and used an evergreen aspergillum to "baptize" the ship. Captain Zdzislaw Iwanowski sounded the ship's horn in acknowledgment.
Blessing the Last Saltie is an annual Advent ritual in the Central Great Lakes synod (which serves island churches through the Great Lakes). Throughout the synod, churches along the shipping route send parties to greet the ship and offer prayers for the safety of ship and crew.
The 655-foot Isadora carried a load of wheat destined for Barcelona.

Episcopal, Anglican Letters: Responses to the Diocese of San Joaquin's vote to disassociate from the Episcopal Church have begun to pile up.
In an Advent Letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury commented extensively on the tension between the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church.
If you are have lost patience with the "journey together faithfully" language that ELCA Lutherans use to talk about their disagreements over the participation of LGBT people in the church, read Archbishop Williams' letter in its entirety. Here's an excerpt:
A great deal of the language that is around in the Communion at present seems to presuppose that any change from our current deadlock is impossible, that division is unavoidable and that any such division represents so radical a difference in fundamental faith that no recognition and future co-operation can be imagined. I cannot accept these assumptions, and I do not believe that as Christians we should see them as beyond challenge, least of all as we think and pray our way through Advent.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to San Joaquin BishopJohn-David M. Schofield to ask for clarification of his status:
I assume that this means you understand yourself to have departed the Episcopal Church and are no longer functioning as a member of the clergy in this Church.
I would like to have confirmation from you of this understanding of your status. Many interrelated matters depend on that status for example, your membership in the House of Bishops and the acceptability of pension contributions on your behalf.

And finally, The Rev. Fred Risard, Vicar of St. Nicholas in Atwater, CA has written to Bishop Schofield inquiring about the bishop's plan to visit the congregation December 23 and asking for clarification about his status as a bishop in the Episcopal Church:
"We would like you to state to us your pastoral and canonical relationship with St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, and myself,

Sinfully Delicious: You'll be the envy of everyone in your lectionary study group, and your Fair Trade Coffee will be sinfully delicious because you're drinking it from the Official MUG!

Be the Life of the Party:
Worn out your old copy of The Book of Concord?
Get a new one.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship: what's all the fuss about? Find out for yourself.
Looking for a good old hymnal? We've got those, too.
Buy books, music, and other Lutheran stuff now from the Store! (Frequently cheaper than Augsburg-Fortress or Concordia.)

Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:

    Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.

    You publicly stated at our diocesan convention that you no longer are the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and instead you are a Bishop within the Province of the Southern Cone. As such, we understand your visit is simply to worship with us; there will be no liturgical role for you, neither celebrating nor preaching. The Episcopal Church welcomes all, and you are most welcome to worship, with the purpose of seeking transformation and reconciliation."

    Hate Crimes Prevention Stalled: You may remember that the Matthew Shepard Act and the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act were passed by the Senate and the House respectively. The legislation extended the definition of hate crime to include crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability and would also allow federal authorities greater leeway to participate in hate crime investigations.
    In working out the differences between the two versions of the legislation that were approved, the finished product was appended to a defense policy bill that would have authorized more money for the Iraq war.
    Bundling the bills proved controversial, and congressional leaders, while still professing support for the expanded hate crimes legislation, ultimately withdrew it on December 6. (Read the Associated Press report from the International Herald Tribune.
    And so a bill that passed both houses of Congress may never be sent to the President to be signed.

    Refrain...from Wasting Money: Last year at this time there was a great deal of talk about the impending trial of Pr. Bradley Schmeling in the Southeastern Synod. In 2006, Bishop Ron Warren charged Pr. Schmeling with conduct incompatible with the ministerial office because Pr. Schmeling lives in a committed, same-sex relationship.
    At the time, we speculated that the trial would be expensive, perhaps costing the ELCA between $150,000 and $200,000.
    Recent rumor has it that we were overly optimistic, and that the final bill for the trial was nearly to $250,000.
    Can it really be worth a quarter million dollars to remove one pastor from the ELCA clergy roster? One would like to think that as a church we are not so alienated from our mission that we couldn't find a better use for that money.

    Armor of God Pajamas: Now, for a modest investment of $39.95, kids can gird their loins with Truth, put on the breastplate of Righteousness, and take up the shield of Faith before hopping into bed for a good night's sleep. All it takes is a pair of Armor of God PJ's inspired by Ephesians 6: 10-18.
    We hear that there's a growing demand for Armor of God pajamas in adult sizes, and that much of the interest has come from the Central Great Lakes Synod.
    This could be just the thing to help the synod's clergy cope with Bishop Noe-Effingway's request that they abstain from sexual relations until the ELCA can adopt a sexuality social statement. We've dispatched Pr. Sophie to investigate.

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