Pioneering Episcopal priest, Joan Grimm Fraser dies at 68

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( Religion News Service) The Rev. Joan P. Grimm Fraser, an Episcopal priest and leading spokesperson on women’s issues in church and society has died.

Mother Joan recently represented the Episcopal Church and the International Atlantic Province of the Episcopal Church on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The province includes six dioceses in New York, two dioceses in New Jersey and the off-shore dioceses of Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. About the UNCSW she had said, “It is an opportunity to give a voice to women here and abroad who don’t have a voice” about health, poverty and justice.

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, bishop of Long Island, said, “Each of us will miss Joan’s great spirit and faithful, thoughtful counsel. She was a pioneer in our church and one of the wisest, most faithful priests I have ever known.”

There will be a Requiem Eucharist, Friday, May 27 at 11 am, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City, NY. Bishop Provenzano will preside.

The Fraser family has provided the following biographical details.

The Reverend Joan P. Grimm Fraser, one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church, and a geologist, has died at the age of 68. Mother Joan, as she was known to parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish in Hicksville, NY where she served as rector since 2004, was admired throughout the Church as a kind and loving priest who blazed a trail for other women.

Born in Berea, Ohio in 1947, Fraser graduated from Allegheny College in 1969 with a B.S. Later that same year she entered the Episcopal Theological Seminary (ETS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts as the only woman in her class. She graduated with a Master’s of Divinity in 1973, and was the first woman ordained a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Ohio in 1973. She was the 33rd woman ordained a transitional deacon in the nation.

Mother Joan had been invited to be one of the women who came to be known as the “Philadelphia Eleven”, who were ordained in 1976 in “irregular” fashion prior to authorization by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church for the ordination of women to the priesthood. However, continuing her lifelong practice of abiding faithfully by the decisions of her Church, and obeying her Bishop, Fraser declined to be one of the very first women ordained priest, and chose instead to serve as deacon at that historic mass.

She served as the Associate Chaplain at Kenyon College in Ohio from 1974-1976. She was the first woman formally approved by the Diocese of Ohio to be “regularly” ordained priest in 1977. Her deliberate care and intentionality led to her being the second woman ordained to the priesthood in Ohio. Many women throughout the U.S. were ordained in January of 1977, as soon as it was permitted within the Episcopal Church. Fraser had committed to being ordained priest in the Chapel at Kenyon at a time when the students could participate. That delay meant being ordained priest in March of 1977. Mother Joan was thus one of the first 50 women regularly ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The Right Reverend John Burt ordained her both deacon and priest.

Following her ordination, it was nearly impossible for a woman priest to obtain paying work, let alone full-time paying work. After her ordination, at her Bishop’s urging, and with financial support from the Diocese of Ohio, Fraser obtained an M.S. in Geology from the University of Arizona in 1978.

She served full time as a petroleum geologist for Amoco Production Company from 1978-1985. Throughout her long and varied life in the church, Mother Joan frequently took lower paying, part-time or even non-paying jobs so as to be able to serve the church in an environment where women were not always considered desirable candidates for clergy positions. She was known for her cheerful disposition and her wise acceptance of the role she played as a trailblazer for others. She told many younger clergy she mentored that it was her delight to serve as a “doorknob” for other women participating in the life and ministry of the church.

Throughout her long career Fraser served parishes in Ohio, Colorado (where she was the first full-time, fully-stipended female priest), North Carolina, Western Massachusetts (where she served as Canon at Christ Cathedral), New York City, and Long Island. She was appointed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to be the 2015 Anglican Delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Mother Joan married Ross Fraser, Director of Planning at the Nassau University Medical Center, in 1979. Her husband Ross survives her, along with six godchildren, countless cousins, and many other family and friends. Among her friends and family, she was known as a gracious, wonderful hostess, cook and artist. At the time of her death, complex negotiations were being carried out for the sharing of her secret chocolate sauce recipe. In addition to her many other accomplishments she obtained a BFA in Design from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1999.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society for the benefit of the Joan Grimm Fraser UNCSW Legacy Fund, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

Court Victory in Bathroom Battle

SACRAMENTO, May 23, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — A week after the Obama Administration issued “guidance” to public schools that would result in students being exposed in bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, a court in California handed a victory to the proponents of a referendum to overturn that state’s own “bathroom law.”
On Friday, a Superior Court judge in Sacramento granted a motion to compel the production of documents requested by proponents of a referendum to overturn AB 1266. The Secretary of State and 55 counties had resisted production of these documents, citing privacy concerns.
“Today the court gave us a roadmap that we believe will ultimately allow us to prove that the necessary signatures were submitted to qualify the referendum,” said Kevin Snider, Chief Counsel for Pacific Justice Institute. “We are pleased that the court rejected attempts by elections officials to prohibit access to this necessary information.”
Before bathroom access became a national issue, California passed a statute that would allow access to public school facilities based on gender identity as opposed to biological sex. In the 90 days that followed passage of the law in August of 2013, Privacy For All Students (PFAS) collected more than 620,000 signatures of registered California voters to qualify a referendum to overturn the new law.
But elections officials disqualified more than one in five of the signatures leaving the referendum effort 17,276 signatures short of the requirement to qualify for the ballot. PFAS has been in court for more than two years, battling scores of government attorneys trying to withhold both the disqualified names and the reason for their rejection.
Gina Gleason, proponent of the referendum and member of the PFAS executive committee, was pleased with the outcome of Friday’s hearing but was critical of government efforts to keep the referendum off of the ballot. “It is difficult to miss the irony of elections officials using privacy as grounds for opposing production of evidence to back their claims,” said Gleason. “Privacy For All Students sought to qualify this referendum to protect the privacy of school children threatened with unwanted exposure under the new law.”
In the matter heard Friday, backers of the referendum asked the court to compel Kings County to produce documents related to the invalidation of signatures, including the petitions submitted in support of the referendum. Objections to production of the requested petitions are based on concerns of privacy and confidentiality of voters’ records, even though the party seeking these petitions possessed and controlled the petitions up until they were turned over to the counties to be counted. Kings County was a starting point as it is expected that petitioner will return to court to have other counties similarly compelled to produce these documents.
In addition to granting the motion to compel production of the requested documents, the court issued a protective order to assure that documents produced were treated as confidential.
Karen England, a privacy advocate and member of PFAS’s executive committee noted, “The people of California object to bullies in bathrooms and bullies in elected office. We are now one step closer to maintaining privacy for all students in public school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms.”

FaithInspires.Org Founder Comments on Egypt Air Flight MS 804 Tragedy

Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield founder and editor of FaithInspires.Org releases the following statement on the crash of Egypt Air MS804. “When Egypt Air Flight MS 804 crashed into the Mediterranean, it took with it people from 11 different countries. This is the type of tragedy where the world mourns. But none of us more than the friends and families of those who were lost. On behalf of myself, my family, and our world wide network of donors, readers, and prayer partners at FaithInspires.Org, I want to express our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to this tragedy.”

Crutchfield continued “ May God comfort and strengthen the families of those lost to this tragedy for as long as their journey through grief may take. May he guide, and encourage the rescue workers, and those investigating this crash. I encourage Christians all over the world to join us in these prayers.”

Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield is an internationally known Christian writer, minister, and blogger. He and his work have been seen in/on SelfGrowth.Com, Katy Christian Magazine, ChristianHeadlines. Com, and in the works of best selling author Loree Lough. He holds the honorary rank of Admiral, Texas Navy granted by the Governor of Texas in 1986. He has served with Red Cross Disaster Services, The Military Police Corps-Texas State Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is also the former Chaplain of the Katy (Texas) Fire and EMS Department

Virginia Ministry Celebrates 6,000 Churches Built or Under Construction in 81 Countries

HAMPTON, Va., May 17, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — International Cooperating Ministries (ICM), a Virginia nonprofit with only 43 employees in the U.S., now has 6,000 church projects built or under construction in 81 countries. The ministry, which is preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary, reached its 5,000 project milestone only 18 months ago, near the end of 2014.

Dois Rosser, founder of POMOCO, established ICM in 1986 at the age of 65. His daughter, Janice Rosser Allen, is ICM’s CEO and Executive Chair. The ministry’s purpose is to equip Christian congregations in Third World areas with churches, Bible study materials, and resources for outreach and mercy ministries. To date, ICM has established relationships with 190 indigenous ministry partners who oversee projects in the field.

The 6,000th church was approved for construction in the rural, Hmong-speaking community of Bao Yen in North Vietnam (pictured). Nearly a third of the congregation’s 285 members are children, who will benefit from children’s ministry programs the new building will facilitate. The congregation has desired a chapel for years, but lacked resources to build one on their own. This church will give them a safe place to gather as a community and establish their presence in the community as followers of Christ, allowing them to reach others with the Gospel message. The legitimacy that comes with having a house of worship is vital in countries like North Vietnam, where Christian persecution remains a reality.

“Our vision is to use any available method to share the Gospel, nurture believers and advance the Kingdom…nation by nation. Just as Jesus told His disciples, He tells us today to ‘go and tell them who I am.’ The tools He has given ICM are being used to do precisely that. We are going into all the world as He opens doors, using the vehicle of His Church and His Word to tell them who He is. I stand in complete amazement at the greatness of God and the power which brings all of this into being. It can only be of God,” says Rosser.

In October, ICM will hold a special event to celebrate 30 years in ministry. Its goal is to reach 10,000 church projects built or under construction by 2020.

International Cooperating Ministries is a ministry of the Rosser Foundation, a public charity tax-exempt 501(c)(3), located at 1901 N. Armistead Avenue in Hampton, Va. For information, visit www.icm.org

The 2016 Worldwide Marriage Encounter Conference/Convention to Be Held in Tampa this June Now Open to All Married Couples

TAMPA, Fla., May 15, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — The 2016 Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) Conference/Convention that will be held at the Tampa (FL) Convention Center from June 17 to 19, 2016 is now open to all married couples, it was announced today.
The convention, which will feature Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott and their special marriage program, will have Bishop Bill Skylstad, the North American leadership priest, deliver the keynote address.
Les and Leslie’s vision for building stronger, life-long marriages is to equip a band of more than a million marriage mentors who walk alongside less experienced couples. Research reveals that marriage mentoring is one of the best things we can do to cut the divorce rate and improve marriages – whether couples are engaged, newly married or married for decades.
The Parrotts have been featured in USA Today and the New York Times. Their television appearances include CNN, The View, The O’Reilly Factor, The Today Show and Oprah.
Bishop Skylstad is an American Roman Catholic Bishop. He is Bishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane in Washington retiring in 2010. He is a former President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and he currently serves as the North American Secretariat Ecclesial Team with Gene & Maggie Tokraks.
The WWME North American convention is held every two years and brings together couples who have experienced a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend. This year’s convention is being opened to married couples who have not been on a WWME weekend so they can see the benefits of going on the regular WWME marriage enrichment experience.
In addition, to the 3 day conference/convention, which includes programs for children and youths, there will also be a Priest Day experience on Friday, June 17th at the Tampa Convention Center. That special program focuses on inspiring and supporting priests who have been part of the WWME weekend.   That program will also be open to priests who have not been on the regular WWME weekend experience.
Married couples interested in registering for the conference/convention should go to wwme2016.org and sign up for the very special three day event. Couples can also learn more about WWME by going to wwme.org.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter has been offering weekend experiences for over 48 years and is considered the original faith-based marriage enrichment program. The programs are continually updated to keep abreast of changes in society, and WWME now offers evening and half-day programs that are presented at parishes and other church facilities. The weekend program, traditionally presented as an overnight experience at a hotel or retreat center, can also be presented at the parish where the couples return to their homes in the evenings. WWME has a presence in almost 100 countries, which makes it the largest pro-marriage movement in the world. In North America, the WWME programs are presented in English, Spanish, French, and Korean languages.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter offers married couples the opportunity to spend time together away from the busyness of the world to focus on each other. Priests are also encouraged to attend a WWME weekend, which offers insights into their relationship with the church and their parishioners, and how their Sacrament of Holy Orders interacts with the Sacrament of Matrimony. WWME offers tools for building and maintaining a strong, Christian marriage in today’s world. To learn more about the Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekends online, go to wwme.org, or contact the WWME national office at 909-332-7309.

BOOK REVIEW:The Firefighter’s Refrain

If I count correctly this is Loree’s 107th published book. Her books have sold a total of over 6 million copies. So as you can imagine there was great excitement as May 1st, and her newest effort for Harlequin grew near.

The book is described as follows,

He’s a man who wants it all…if only he could have it….

Dreams of stardom took musician and firefighter Sam Marshall far from his Colorado roots. Starting fresh in Nashville hasn’t been easy, especially after an injury on the job, but he’s working his way to the Grand Ole Opry one open mike at a time, teaching at the fire station to make ends meet. Yet Sam’s intentions are shaken when he meets the lovely owner of a local café. Suddenly, Sam’s dreams are filled with her. Too bad that as the daughter of country-music wannabes, Finn Leary’s been there, done that. She’ll never choose a musician. So how can Sam possibly get the girl and keep the guitar?“

Fans of Lough’s work will not be disappointed in this book. If this is the first of her books a reader has come across, I  doubt it will be their last. Lough is known for putting a lot of research into her books, and developing her characters. Sam and Finn are no exception. By the time you finish this book you won’t think of them and their supporting cast as fictional characters, but as friends.

It what has also become familiar to her readers Firefighter’s Refrain is far from predictable. The plot of the story is very full, and contains a great amount of detail. Whenever I read one of her books ( and I have read several others)  I invariably end up later at night than planned because I can’t help but read “just one more chapter.” Those who remember From Ashes to Honor, and the other two books of her First Responders Series, will definitely want to check out this book as well. Loree has a great love and respect for all first responders, and it shows in the stories she creates about them. She works to make them each a tribute to the real life heroes they are based on.

She is also familiar with the music side of this plot. Years ago, before becoming an author she was a touring musician. She sang and played the guitar. So her fellow musicians, and other music lovers are also likely to find an air of authenticity in this book that they don’t see in a lot of others. Here too she describes a world she knows well !

It takes a talented story teller to be able to fill 368 pages like this book does. However Lough fans have nothing to fear from her, or this book ! The Firefighters Refrain is now available from your favorite online or brick and mortar book merchant.

Christians United for Israel Reaches Three Million Members

Christians United for Israel Logo / Christians United for Israel is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States. (PRNewsFoto/Christians United for Israel)

SAN ANTONIO, May 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Ten years and three months after its founding, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization, has crossed the three million member mark. The news comes on the heels of an exceptional year for the Christian Zionist group, including the creation of a permanent Washington DC office, as well as the establishment of a CUFI sponsored weekly newsmagazine program on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), the world’s largest Christian television outlet.

“CUFI continues to grow at an exceptional pace. Never did we think we would reach this number of supporters in such a short time, but our growth is a direct result of the American people’s rock-solid commitment to Israel. I expect our elected officials to understand and reflect that support,” said Pastor John Hagee, CUFI’s founder and National Chairman.

“At three million members, CUFI is one of the largest grassroots organizations in America.  But what’s even more exciting than reaching this milestone is the accelerating pace at which we did so.  With at least 50 million more pro-Israel Christians in America, we’re excited about CUFI’s future and confident in the future of the US-Israel relationship,” noted David Brog, a member of CUFI’s Board of Directors.

“Israel stands on the frontlines of the fight against radical Islam. The same forces that seek to wipe Israel off the map have placed a bullseye on the United States. At CUFI, we’re helping millions of Christians across America identify, understand and answer these threats. I’m proud to be part of the CUFI team at this critical juncture and excited to see what the future has in store,” added Erick Stakelbeck, Director of the CUFI Watchman Project and host of The Watchman on TBN.

With more than 3 million members, Christians United for Israel is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world. CUFI spans all fifty states and reaches millions with its message. Each year CUFI holds hundreds of pro-Israel events in cities around the country. And each July, thousands of pro-Israel Christians gather in Washington, D.C. to participate in the CUFI Washington Summit and make their voices heard in support of Israel and the Jewish people.

Williamsburg Christian Academy Wins More Than $50,000 in lockers and scholarships in “Duralife Unlocker Challenge” National Video Competition on Inclusivity

SCRANTON, Pa., May 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Scranton Products yesterday awarded Williamsburg Christian Academy (WCA) $50,000 in Duralife plastic lockers and $7,500 in scholarships as first prize in the Duralife Unlocker Challenge national video competition. Created by Scranton Products, a leading manufacturer of plastic toilet partitions and lockers, the video competition challenged students to think about inclusivity and diversity in their schools and everyday lives to produce a video entry. Through online voting open to the public, Williamsburg Christian Academy’s was part of the TOP 100 videos selected to be judged. The video was then selected from a judging panel as the winner from among 260 submissions nationally.

The competition’s theme, “Through the Locker Door,” asked students to explain why inclusivity is important to a more positive school environment and how it applies later in life. In producing their videos, students chose to expand the theme to include topics ranging from diversity and race relations to bullying and students with special needs.

Williamsburg Christian Academy serves students in pre-K through grade 12. Students at WCA created a video that looked literally “through the locker door” to demonstrate many aspects of inclusivity in a student’s life. The students used traditional videography as well as green screen technology and a drone to produce the winning video.  Dr. Dianna Lindsay, head of the high school at Williamsburg Christian Academy, served as the adviser on the project.

“I am thrilled that our Leadership Class was able to create a national award winning video that braided together research, images, and a story that not only accurately addresses the mission of our school but that was also well received by the judges!” commented Lindsay.

Participating schools spanned every region of the country from coast-to-coast. In addition to Williamsburg Christian Academy, second place winner Canby High School, of Canby, Oregon, was given $10,000 worth of Duralife lockers and $5,000 in scholarships and St. Ann Catholic School, in West Palm Beach, Florida, was awarded $5,000 worth of Duralife lockers and $2,500 in scholarships for third place.

More information and the top 100 videos are available online: http://www.unlockerchallenge.com.

About Scranton Products

For more than 25 years Scranton Products’ premium brands have led the plastic partition and locker market, setting new benchmarks for the industry in quality and innovation. The company’s well-known brands, including Hiny Hiders®, Resistall™, Tufftec® and Duralife®, are engineered for strength and durability, offering superior performance.  The only HDPE plastic locker that is fully fire-rated for school corridors, Duralife Lockers® are GREENGUARD Gold Certified and meet strict criteria for products intended for use in schools and other environments where children spend significant periods of time.  Visit www.scrantonproducts.com.

Anne Graham Lotz Succeeds Shirley Dobson as Next Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force

New Chapter Begins after Quarter Century as Mantle of Leadership Passes to Billy Graham’s Daughter.

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — In a span of only 25 years, under the direction of Shirley Dobson, the National Day of Prayer has been observed at over 630,000 events with more than 33 million people praying for America. Today, a new chapter begins as Mrs. Dobson steps into the role of Chairman Emeritus and passes the mantle of leadership to Mrs. Anne Graham Lotz.

“After much prayer and careful consideration, I am pleased to announce that Mrs. Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Dr. Billy Graham, has graciously accepted this new role, and will succeed me as the new chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force,” said Dobson.

The New York Times named Anne Graham Lotz whom her father, Billy Graham, refers to as “the best preacher in the family,” one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation. She is also a prayer warrior, powerful speaker, best-selling author and the founder and president of her own organization, AnGeL Ministries. Anne’s latest book, The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations, releases May 10, and will encourage, equip and engage readers in effective, passionate prayer.

“For the past three years I have felt a compelling urgency to pray,” said Lotz. “As a result my organization, AnGeL Ministries, has offered five worldwide prayer initiatives that have drawn tens of thousands into prayer. So when Shirley Dobson asked me to succeed her as the Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, I was highly honored.”

“I believe I’m called by God to those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1-2),” Lotz added. “I will continue to lead AnGeL Ministries as I accept this new assignment to not only get people into God’s Word, but also onto their knees in serious prayer for our nation.”

Pastor and His Family Arrested in China After Meeting with U.S. Consulate Officials

WENZHOU, Zhejiang, China, April 29, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province incarcerated a pastor, his wife and son on Tuesday for contacting U.S. Consulate officials in Shanghai and foreign journalists.

Wen Xiaowu, a pastor, and his wife, both of whom provided legal defense counsel for churches affected by an ongoing cross demolition campaign, were criminally detained on April 26 and charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” His son, Wen “Eden” Yidian was taken into police custody on the same day for “obstructing public service.”

Family members, however, believe that the detentions are in response to the couple’s meetings with officials from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai and a number of foreign journalists, during which they released developments on the cross demolitions. Zhang Kai, a prominent human rights lawyer, experienced a similarly sudden detention in August 2015 just a few days before he was scheduled to meet with U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein.

Wen Xiaowu and his wife are currently being held in the Rui’an Detention Center in Zhejiang. They have not been allowed to meet with family members. Authorities also confiscated various personal items, including computers, from their home in Wenzhou.

“Arresting Pastor Wen and his family members for these meetings is a direct slap in the face to the U.S. government and the American people,” said China Aid president Bob Fu, who is a friend of the Wen family. “He is a man with integrity and passion who is always ready to help others. Despite the constant threats state security agents posed to him and his family in the past few years, he and his wife have been boldly providing legal counsel for churches and persecuted human rights defenders in Zhejiang. I urge the U.S. government to work with the Chinese authorities for the immediate release of the Wen family and other innocent church leaders who are under arrest.”

China Aid will update this story as more information becomes available.

China Aid exposes abuses such as those experienced by Wen Xiaowu and his family in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.

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