Two of the most interesting stories that readers sent along this week didn't come from mainstream newspapers. The first was reported by The Living Church News Service, which covers Anglican news:
A three-session course titled "They Followed a Star: Astrology and Christianity as Allies on the Journey" is being taught at St. Andrew's Church in Seattle this month. The first session is scheduled to be held tonight.
The course is being taught by Dan Keusal, a licensed counselor and astrologer in private practice in Seattle. Mr. Keusal holds a degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame and worked for years as a parish and campus minister.
In a brief description of the course located on an internet website he maintains, Mr. Keusal describes his workshop as a way to "look at how astrology can support and deepen our journeys as men and women of faith." The course was mentioned in the December issue of Episcopal Voice, the newspaper of the Diocese of Olympia and in the calendar section of the diocesan website. The course is also listed on the parish website.
As the article notes, the course was first mentioned in the Olympia diocese's publication. You might remember that we looked at that publication a few months ago for featuring a story about an Episcopal priest who converted to Islam. While Olympia supported her conversion and said she could stay on as a priest, the bishop of the Rhode Island diocese (in which she is canonically resident) gave her a year to think things over.
The second story came from gay news site EDGE Miami via NHReligion.com. Reporter Priscilla Greear coovered a speech by openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson at a symposium on sex, morality and the law sponsored by a local university.
"I always wanted to be a June bride," said Bishop Gene Robinson at a talk on Nov. 27 at Nova Southeastern University.
"It may take many years for religious institutions to add their blessing for same-sex marriages and no church, mosque or synagogue should be forced to do so. But that should not slow down progress for the full civil right to marry," Robinson said. "Because New Hampshire will have legal unions beginning in January, my partner of 20 years and I will enter into such a legal union next June."
... Wearing a raspberry clergy shirt with a cleric collar and pectoral cross, Robinson characterized the "religious right" as close-minded, taking a literal interpretation of Bible condemnation of homosexuality.
"The greatest single hindrance to achievement of full rights for gays and lesbians can be laid at the doorstep of the three Abrahamic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It's going to take people of faith to end discrimination," said Robinson, who was invested as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in 2004.
Even if he's not using the actual definition of bride (a newly married woman or a woman about to be married), this is huge news. His views on Judaism, Christianity and Islam are also noteworthy. For a mainstream media so obsessed about Episcopal wars, both of these stories help tell the story of why some parishes and dioceses are leaving -- and yet neither has been mentioned in the mainstream media yet.
Perhaps it just takes time for these stories to percolate up to other media outlets. Either way, it's a good reminder to read trade, niche and sectarian publications when covering the religion beat.