News Brief

Episcopal News Service. April 15, 1976 [76137]


The conviction of the Rev. Peter Beebe on charges that he allowed two women to preside at a celebration of the Eucharist in his parish, Christ Church, Oberlin, has been overturned by an Episcopal appeals court for Province 5. The five-man, two-woman court said in a unanimous decision that the Ohio diocesan court should have considered arguments about the validity of the two women's ordination to the priesthood before it issued its ruling. Father Beebe, who was found guilty last June, was removed as rector of Christ Church in March 1976 by Bishop John H. Burt at the request of the parish's vestry. He now directs an ecumenical retreat center. Seven errors by the trial court were noted by the appeals court decision, which could bring about a new trial if the Ohio diocese's Standing Committee chooses to request one.


Louise Fletcher, who won an Academy Award as the best actress in 1975 for playing the monstrous nurse-keeper of the insane in the movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," comes from a family of Episcopal priests. Her father, the Rev. Robert Capers Fletcher, of Birmingham, Ala., now retired, and her brother, the Rev. John Fletcher, director of Inter-Met, an interfaith seminary in Washington, D. C., are both priests in the Episcopal Church. Robert and Estelle Fletcher, her parents, are both deaf. In accepting her Oscar, Miss Fletcher, her voice breaking, told her parents in sign language and in spoken words they could not hear, 'I want to thank my mother and my father for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true."


The Rev. Merrill Bittner, Rochester, N.Y., one of the eleven women in the disputed ordination service in Philadelphia, July 29, 1974, announced recently that she will "no longer affiliate myself with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." She said that she does not intend to "abandon the faith that has informed my life" or to renounce "my priestly orders or my vows to the Church of God." She said she has no plan to affiliate with another church, and added, "In effect, I have not left the Church; the Church has left me. " She said she plans to continue working until December in the ministry to women in prison with which she has been involved for the past three years. Bishop Robert R. Spears of Rochester and the Standing Committee of the diocese have accepted her 1974 ordination as "valid but irregular," although she has not been permitted to exercise priestly functions.


President Ford has designated May 14 of this Bicentennial year as National Day of Prayer, 1976. Noting the "profound faith in God which inspired the founding fathers," the President's proclamation said, "I call upon all Americans to pray that day, each in his or her own way, for the strength to meet the challenges of the future with the same courage and dedication Americans showed the world two centuries ago." Mr. Ford pointed out that the Continental Congress asked the colonists to observe a day in May 1776 as a day "humiliation, fasting, and prayer."

GENEVA, Switzerland

The new Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches voted recently to trim the organization's 1976 budget by $700,000 (from $3.1 million to $2.4 million). The cut means a reduction in travel and meetings, foregoing salary increases, and cuts in appropriations for the financially troubled Ecumenical Institute. New sources of financial support will be sought for the Institute. The Committee agreed that a United States office for the WCC is still necessary and will be continued in New York City. The New York office, of which the Rev. Charles Long, an Episcopal priest is head, reported that it hopes to balance its 1976 budget through anticipated savings, reserves, and special efforts by a new fund-raising committee.


The Western Training Conference, "Aging, The Church's Ministry," will be held at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, May 9-11. A United Thank Offering grant has made it possible to hold two training conferences this year. The east conference was held in New York in April. The keynote address on "Aging in the Future" will be given by the Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Lazenby, Executive Director of Episcopal Services, San Diego, Calif. There will be workshops on parish ministries, pastoral care, community services, housing and retirement planning. Information is available from the Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Lazenby, Episcopal Community Services, 601 Market Street, San Diego, Calif. 92101


A new 64-page "Religious Public Relations Handbook," edited by Dr. Wilmer C. Fields of Nashville, Tenn., has just been published. A previous edition of the book was well received in a number of denominations. Designed for local congregations of all denominations, the book offers practical communications suggestions on press relations, broadcasting, advertising, congregational publications, audio-visual aids, photography, displays and signs, community relations, direct mail, and other topics. The book costs $2 each ($1.50 each for 10-99 copies), and may be ordered from The Religious Public Relations Council, Inc., Room 1031, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, N.Y. 10027.


Chaplain (Col.) Bruce H. Cooke, an Episcopal priest, has been appointed chief of chaplains of the Air National Guard, with the title "Chaplain for the Air Directorate of the National Guard Bureau." Chaplain Cooke set aside his brigadier general's star in the Air Force Reserve to assume his responsibilities in the newly-created post. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Mass., and served Episcopal parishes in Michigan, Wyoming, Missouri and Iowa, and most recently as dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Davenport, Iowa. In his new position, Captain Cooke will be responsible for supporting and coordinating the work of 104 Air National Guard chaplains and 89 chapel managers in their ministry to some 93,000 men and women.

CAPETOWN, South Africa

The Rev. Canon Lawrence Bekisisa Zulu, Grahamstown Cathedral, has been named to succeed his uncle, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Zululand. The new bishop, 37, worked in the Zululand diocese from the time of his ordination in 1961 until 1970 when he was appointed canon. His uncle was the first black elected to the Anglican episcopacy in South Africa.