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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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You talk about the crisis and the promise of following Jesus. In a nutshell, what’s the crisis?
The crisis we’re facing is that many people outside and inside the church don’t understand what it’s supposed to be about. It has become encrusted with so many cultural, historical, political, economic forms. As these get thicker and thicker, they distance us from the core affirmation of living as disciples of Jesus. If you look at the New Testament and ask “What is the church?” I think the primary answer is: people living their lives as an act of worship and response to Jesus Christ and seeking to live as daily disciples in community and for the sake of their world. The crisis is that Christians inside the church don’t seem to view this way of life as necessary. This leaves outsiders puzzled about the purpose of the church, because so little of it seems related to Jesus.
And what’s the promise?
The most illuminating moment of the “promise,” in cultural terms, is the shock of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church has been embroiled in scandal for many years. It has been seen as bureaucratic and unresponsive. Then, all of a sudden, there appears this authentic, living disciple. Here is someone who seems to live out of this deep spirit of humility—a Jesus follower who wants a life rooted in simple action.
Read it all.
I, a lay Anglican, am reassured by this. I want the clergy to be a bit more left-wing than me. It’s a sign that they are deeply involved in the lives of the poor, that they have a sense of solidarity with them and give those on welfare the benefit of the doubt. It is proper that a large sector of them should advocate a greater redistribution of wealth, and criticise capitalism. (There are plenty of other voices to cheer capitalism.) Ideally, they should do with great caution, rather than Guardian-leader self-righteousness. But it’s OK for a few to dabble in more radical campaigning – that’s part of the Christian tradition. Overall, the survey suggests to me that the Church is in pretty good shape.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
1. HALLOWEEN CELEBRATES EVIL
Although people celebrate Halloween in different ways it remains, at its core, an event that glorifies the dark, creepy and scary side of life.
Children and adults dress up as figures that are ‘evil’: witches, vampires, ghosts and demons.
If you want to be different you can hire costumes to make you look like a chainsaw killer, a psychopathic butcher or even a shooting victim (‘with authentic-looking bullet holes’).This is hardly harmless.
Whatever view we have about life, we all take it for granted that our society should spend time and energy encouraging children to care for others and to know the difference between right and wrong.
Yet on this one day, we throw all those values away and glorify everything that is evil and unpleasant. Talk about sending out mixed messages!
Read it all.
A curriculum of seven films each lasting 15 to 20 minutes, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles advances a sophisticated theological anthropology. Schmemann’s breathtaking sacramental view of ordinary life is here, as are Kuyper’s distinctive spheres. Kuyper’s fellow Dutch Reformed thinkers Herman Bavinck and Lester DeKoster contribute a high view of common grace and human work, respectively. Catholic theologians such as Josef Pieper and Hans Urs von Balthasar testify to the significance of the family and the centrality of beauty to the Christian life. Rigorously careful with its language, the curriculum unapologetically resorts to Greek in its first and last episodes to articulate core concepts of oikonomia (stewardship), anamnesis (remembering), and prolepsis (anticipation).
Though true, the preceding paragraph is almost comically misleading. Because from that description you would surely never guess that our protagonist is a manically expressive 20-something named Evan (Evan Koons, who cowrote the script). Evan lives in a house filled with retro bric-a-brac, furnished circa 1940, and undisturbed by any technology invented since 1983. He is given to playing the ukulele, declaiming poetry, drinking lemonade from Mason jars—and to breaking the fourth wall, freezing the frame, and scrambling narrative sequence, using every trick of the postmodern visual storyteller.
When we meet him, Evan is in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. He’s sure that if faith means anything, it must have implications for everything, but finds little guidance from the church toward a viable calling in a pluralistic world. Evan begins the series, and ends every episode, handwriting a letter to his fellow Christians: “Dear Everybody.” The question that Evan finds most worrying is, “What is our salvation for?”
Read it all.
Beginning in the 1940s, Isaac Asimov created with his Foundation series an enduring classic of science fiction. He depicted the development of inconceivably vast galactic empires, guided by the predictive powers of a complex social and behavioral science known as Psychohistory. For millennia, the universe unfolds as it should. Then, overnight, all these plans are utterly confounded by the rise of a messianic prophet called the Mule, a mutant who brings all lesser mortals under his sway, and who conquers all rival empires. Instantly, all psychohistorical bets are off.
In this instance, as in so much else, Asimov took the Mule from the pages of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and specifically the account of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632). And although Asimov was explicitly writing fantastic fiction, his account often echoes older historical writing on the rise of Islam. We read of the great Roman and Persian empires that dominated much of the known world, until very suddenly, a charismatic leader who believes he is instructed by God gathers faithful followers around himself. Ultimately, these supremely motivated legions pour out of Arabia into the civilized world, conquering most of it within a century or so. In this prophet-centered version, Muhammad is quite as radical a newcomer to the known universe as is the Mule, and his career is equally at right angles to conventional historical reality. He comes from nowhere, and the incredible rapidity of the rise of Islam seems near-miraculous.
Fortunately, the rise of Islamic empires can be explained without invoking either supernatural powers or genetic mutation, and Robert Hoyland's In God's Path offers a very convincing attempt. Hoyland's subtitle deserves careful reflection, with the distinction he draws between Arab and Islamic forces.
Read it all.
While no one would argue that the United States has more bombs, bullets and boots, the question is, “Why does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to gain territory and to recruit young people to their cause from the western world?”
The Jihadists see themselves in a struggle against evil and we are the face of their evil. We are attempting to win on the battlefield but we are losing the battle for hearts and minds.
Former Senator Birch Bayh referred to the Jihadist ideology as “empty” on Fox New Sunday (October 26th) If only. If only he was correct. We may kill their soldiers but their ideology, while evil, is robust, certain and virulent. The western world in general and the U.S. lack the courage of their convictions because they lack convictions. We have no vision and are lacking in moral authority. Do we honestly think that we could reinstate the draft to compel young men once again to fight this war?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
3. Technology Enables Discipleship
Our church has an app where people can actually access the sermon outline, and people use their phones or iPads to follow along and take notes. Technology enables members and attendees to enhance their discipleship experience at church.
During certain series, we have encouraged our people to tweet questions in the middle of services, and we try to answer them.
All of these are tools to enhance discipleship. Technology, though, is not the goal. The goal is to enable the church’s mission to make disciples of all people groups.
Read it all.
Nigeria says it is still holding talks with Boko Haram, two weeks after the government said it had agreed a truce with the Islamist militant group.
A presidential spokesman said he was optimistic that something "concrete and positive" would come out of the talks.
There has been no comment from Boko Haram, and violence in northern Nigeria has continued.
More than 200 schoolgirls are still being held by the group, which has been fighting an insurgency since 2009.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
On 24 October 2014, all of us here in Egypt were shocked to hear the news of another terrorist attack in the North of Sinai.
The terrorists fired on a military border check point, killing 26 military officers and soldiers and injuring a further 25. This was a very serious incident and an attack on the forces of law and order, yet it was largely ignored by the international media.
Egyptians were angered and saddened by the attack and the government responded by tightening security measures, especially at the border with Gaza from where the terrorists possibly had crossed into Sinai, or from where they had received support. The government also declared a State of Emergency in the region.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt
Whilst recognizing the well-established place of the ministry of absolution in the life of the CofE, the Council also acknowledged the responsibility of the Church to protect children and vulnerable adults from harm, and the force of the argument that the legal framework of the Church should be such as to enable those who present a risk to children and vulnerable adults to be identified.
The Council therefore decided to commission further theological and legal work to enable it to review, in consultation with the House of Bishops, the purpose and effect of the un-repealed proviso to the Canon of 1603, with a view to enabling the Synod to decide whether it wished to legislate to amend it. At its November meeting, the Council will consider the terms of that review and who should conduct it, with a view to putting their proposals in those respects to the House of Bishops when it meets in December.
On the afternoon of 17 November, General Synod is to debate a motion to take note of the draft Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, (GS 1970). Responsibility for approving any final version will rest with the Convocations following the ‘take note’ Synod debate.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Sacramental Theology
Basima al-Safar retouches a picture of Jesus on an easel outside her house overlooking the flat Nineveh plains, 30 miles north of Mosul.
The murals she paints tell the story of her people, Christians in Iraq. But with Islamic State militants nearby, she is worried that life in Alqosh and towns like it could soon come to an end.
The Assyrian Christian town of around 6,000 people sits on a hill below the seventh-century Rabban Hormizd Monastery, temporarily closed because of the security situation. Residents of Alqosh fled this summer ahead of Islamic State militants. Around 70 percent of the town’s residents have since returned. Still, a sense of unease hangs in the air.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
As a prerequisite for the job of being a Church of England priest, it would seem not unreasonable to expect a belief in God to be fairly essential.
But this is not the case, according to a poll of Anglican clergy which found that as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.
It is 30 years since David Jenkins, then the Bishop of Durham, caused controversy by casting doubt on the resurrection, but it appears that such unorthodox views are widespread amongst Britain’s priests.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found the Anglican Diocese of Grafton treated victims insensitively and conducted settlement negotiations in a hostile manner.
The commission's public hearing was told about frequent sexual, psychological and physical abuse of nine former residents of the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore between 1940 and 1985.
Handing down its findings, the commission found the diocese denied responsibility for the sexual abuse, denied some victims financial compensation and conducted some settlement negotiations in a hostile manner.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Sexuality Teens / Youth Violence * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
I can never agree with you that the Incarnation, or any truth, has to satisfy emotionally to be right (and I would not agree that for the natural man the Incarnation does not satisfy emotionally). It does not satisfy emotionally for the person brought up under many forms of false intellectual discipline such as 19th-century mechanism, for instance. Leaving the Incarnation aside, the very notion of God’s existence is not emotionally satisfactory anymore for great numbers of people, which does not mean that God ceases to exist. M. Sartre finds God emotionally unsatisfactory in the extreme, as do most of my friends of less stature than he. The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.
There is a question whether faith can or is supposed to be emotionally satisfying. I must say that the thought of everyone lolling about in an emotionally satisfying faith is repugnant to me. I believe that we are ultimately directed Godward but that this journey is often impeded by emotion. I don’t think you are a jellyfish. But I suspect you of being a Romantic. Which is not such an opprobrious thing as being a fascist. I do hope you will reconsider and relieve me of the burden of being a fascist. The only force I believe in is prayer, and it is a force I apply with more doggedness than attention.
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They were among the final holdouts. Even as many of their neighbors fled the violence that engulfed Iraq after the American invasion, the three men stayed put, refusing to give up on their country or their centuries-old Christian community.
Maythim Najib, 37, stayed despite being kidnapped and stabbed 12 times in what he believed was a random attack. Radwan Shamra, 35, continued to hope he could survive the sectarian war between his Sunni and Shiite countrymen even after losing two friends shot by an unknown gunman who left their bodies sprawled in a Mosul street. And a 74-year-old too frightened to give his name said he remained despite the trauma of spending three anguished days in 2007 waiting to learn if his kidnapped 17-year-old son was dead or alive.
Now all three men from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and its environs have fled with their families to Jordan, forced out by Islamic State fighters who left them little choice. After capturing the city in June, the Sunni militant group gave Christians a day to make up their minds: convert, pay a tax, or be killed.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq Jordan * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
For six months the world has waited for news of the fate of more than 200 girls abducted by Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. As the Nigerian government insists a deal to release the "Chibok girls" is being negotiated, three girls who escaped their captors have told their story to BBC Hausa.
Lami, Maria and Hajara were at school in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, when they were kidnapped in April. Best friends Lami and Maria escaped by jumping from the back of a truck. Hajara was taken to a camp but later fled with another girl.
To protect the girls' identity we have portrayed their story as an animation, and provided an edited transcript of their account below.
The girls' names have been changed for their protection.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence Women * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Bishop Ken Short AO, former missionary, military chaplain, Dean of Sydney and Bishop of Wollongong, Parramatta and the Defence Forces, has died at the age of 87.
Bishop Short suffered a massive stroke last week and died on Sunday, 19th October.
Archbishop Glenn Davies, who visited him in hospital at the weekend, described Bishop Short as 'a faithful pastor, a gracious leader, and an elder statesman of the Sydney Diocese’.
“He had international experience and was greatly respected around the world. He had a significant impact in all the ministries in which he was involved, whether in parish, chaplaincy, missionary service or diocesan leadership ” Dr Davies said.
Read it all and the funeral service from St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney may be watched below:
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ
“The question for our government” says Lenni Benson, executive director and founder of the nonprofit Safe Passage Project, “will be, even if they have deportation orders, is it ethical and legal to remove a child to a country of origin if we aren’t assured that child will be safe upon return?”
Read or watch it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Immigration Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Should coaches and players pray before football games? Perhaps it all depends on what they pray for. Pray for peace? Not the way the game is played today. Pray that the Lord will help you “play to the best of your ability?” Not if that means you have to dampen God-given, psychological, fail-safe systems designed to protect you from injury. Pray to win? Only if you think God, in his infinite wisdom, wants to bring you the thrill of victory while bringing your opponents the agony of defeat. Pray for the Lord’s protection? Not unless you are willing to set limits on what your coach asks you to do with your body. Pray that God might be glorified by the game? Not unless the rules and strategies of the game are radically altered so that that overused platitude actually means something. Ask that the game will glorify God but only after it has been stripped of its bellicosity, purged of its brutality, and infused with a spirit that, far from challenging the best instincts of Christian, actually fosters spiritual growth.
I might venture one unqualified role for prayer in football although I doubt it ever would gain a foothold in a culture where clear thinking doesn’t have a chance against entrenched, unexamined traditions. Does it seem too radical, too idealistic, too traitorous to the ideals of the game to suggest that football Christian coaches, in the stillness of their offices pray that football might one day be redeemed and restored to its created design? And after having prayed that prayer, maybe they should work to realize its vision.
Read it all.
If anyone isn’t aware that the Church of England is slowly walking down the statistical road to oblivion, the publication of the 2015 British Election Study last week should be enough to convince them that this is not just the dream of hopeful secularists.
This wide-ranging and extensive survey carried out earlier this year takes a look at historical trends of religious affiliation according to denomination and age. What we see is that Roman Catholics are doing pretty well, with their numbers staying more-or-less stable over the last 50 years, whereas the number of Anglicans has halved and other Christian denominations have fared even worse, dropping down by about two thirds.
Christianity still has its nose ahead in the overall statistics nationally at 48 per cent, just in front of the ‘Nones’ at 45 per cent, with other religions, including Islam, making up the final 7 per cent.
Read it all and follows the links as well.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
Three things immediately strike a visitor to the tiny cathedral city of Vic in Catalonia: the smell of pigs that hangs in the air, the lovely arcaded square surfaced with raked sand, and the fog that envelopes the place for 100 days a year. The last may bring out the richness of the first.
Fog was used by the writer Miquel Llor (1894-1966) as a metaphor for the closed, hypocritical society that he portrayed in his novel Laura a la ciutat dels sants – Laura in the City of Saints. I don’t recommend it, except as an indicator of the way things seemed to middle-aged intellectuals in 1931, the year that the Republic was declared in Spain.
Vic was known as the City of the Saints because it produced saints at times that other Spanish towns did not. To acquire a new saint it is necessary first to supply holy men and women as candidates, but then to have people determined to persevere with the slow process of canonisation.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Spain * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
But one thing which is not mentioned in the press reports is the question of clergy and the numbers in stipendiary ministry. As I have argued elsewhere, I am not sure there are many examples in history where churches sustain growth without stipendiary ministry. This is not because I believe in clericalism, but simply because setting people aside for ministry is essential to create the support and investment which sees individuals and congregations flourish and grow. It is the principle which was at work in Corinth, when Paul was able to devote himself fully to his apostolic ministry when he received the gift from the Macdeonian Christians in Acts 18.5.
This means that the decision some years ago to raise the average age of those entering training by 10 years over about 10 years was catastrophic for ministry and church growth in the long term, because it has led to the prospect of a whole cohort of clergy retiring at the same time, and a rapid drop in the number of stipendiary clergy in post. It is perhaps the single most devastating self-inflicted wound of the C of E. But it also means that dioceses which are encouraging vocations and generating ordinands are likely to be ones with the best chance of turning around decline and seeing numerical growth.
When I was responsible for admissions in the theological college I was part of, I did an analysis of where ordinands were coming from, so we could partner with them. But I also did some analysis that I have not seen elsewhere, but which seems pertinent. Dioceses vary in size, so you would expect larger dioceses to have more people in training for ministry. But the really interesting question is, which dioceses are generating more ordinands for their size? This is relatively easy to find out, since figures on Usual Sunday Attendance (USA) and the number of ordinands in training per diocese are available from different sources. They tell a striking story:
The Diocese of London had twice as many ordinands per church attender as the second most ‘productive’ diocese.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
Following the legislative business, there will be a Take Note debate on the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy. This is a draft document prepared by the Convocations of York and Canterbury which updates the existing Guidelines dating from 2003 to take account of new developments in secular and Church legislation and pastoral practice, as well as liturgical developments. Following comment by General Synod, the draft Guidelines will return to the Convocations for further consideration. After a short period of worship, the day will conclude with Synod Questions.
Tuesday 18th November will start with Holy Communion which will lead into a presentation by a panel of speakers moderated by the Bishop of Coventry on Violence against Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria. The panel will include the Rt. Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Great Britain, who is one of our regular Ecumenical representatives on Synod and who is in close touch with churches in Iraq and Syria, Dr.Fuad Nahdi Executive Director of the Radical Middle Way and Founding Editor of the pioneering Q-News and the Revd Dr Rachel Carnegie, the Co-Director of the Anglican Alliance. There will be opportunities for Synod members to pose questions to the panel.
Read it all.
"The purpose of the lectures is to encourage persons recognized for scholarship, wisdom, and creativity to undertake serious thought and original writing on an issue of significance for the Christian church and to promote the sharing of such thoughts through a series of public lectures."
Is this what you would choose if you had to pick a topic? Read here for more information.
In his new book “Waking Up,” neuroscientist and popular atheist Sam Harris recounts that “a feeling of peace came over me” as he followed in Jesus’ footsteps on a hill by the Sea of Galilee, and it “soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self—an ‘I’ or a ‘me’—vanished.”
Mr. Harris doesn’t use religious terms, but his musings about meditating on a mountaintop have left some fans wondering what happened to the pugilistic author of “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” which declared that “faith is nothing more than the license religious people give to one another to keep believing when reasons fail.”
Mr. Harris isn’t the only one who has changed his tone. The atheist Richard Dawkins recently devoted an entire book, “The Magic of Reality,” to showing how scientific inquiry has made sense of the seemingly miraculous—from rainbows to the origins of the universe. The discoveries of science, Mr. Dawkins writes, offer as much wonder and life satisfaction as religious belief. The evolutionary biologist and atheist Olivia Judson calls “the knowledge that we evolved a source of solace and hope.”
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One in 50 Anglican clergy in the UK believes God is merely a human construct, according to a new survey today.
Just eight in ten believe there is a personal God and a further three in 100 believe there is some spirit or life force.
And in spite of two millennia of Church doctrine based on determining the mind of God through the Scriptures, nearly one in ten believes: "No-one can know what God is like."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.
How does 38 percent sound?
That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.
He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”
If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.
Read it all.
I did not know the man I was drinking tea with in the parish hall below my office. He had introduced himself as a retired Episcopal priest a few days before, when he'd called for this appointment. He told me then that he was offering something called "coaching," and was asking for referrals from local clergy. At the time of the call I had thought he was running some sort of sports team, but now, over tea, he was telling me what he meant by the word "coaching."
"We ask five power questions to help people change their lives," he told me (I cannot remember even one of those power questions). "This helps individuals grow and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and recognize his working in their lives."
"So far so good," I thought to myself. "At least up until now he has said things I cannot fault." Still, something felt wrong. And then he told me what coaching had done for him.
"It helped me evolve," he said with a wide smile. Since he appeared to be an average homo sapiens, I awaited an explanation. "Why, just last week I drove up to Maryland and did my first ever same-sex wedding."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
The proportion of British people identifying themselves as Anglican has halved in the last 50 years, while the proportion of Roman Catholics has remained largely steady, according to new data.
The percentage of self-identified Anglicans in Britain has fallen by half since 1963, according to figures released this week by the British Election Study in the run-up to next year’s general election. This year 31.1 per cent of respondents were Anglican compared to 64.5 per cent in 1963.
A spokeswoman for the Church of England said that it was active across the country, carrying our weddings, baptisms and funerals, and was host to vital community activities.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Perched on a hill overlooking the countryside, a little historic church is going green in a unique way.
The cemetery at St. James Anglican Church is poised to offer green burials in the community thanks to the efforts of parishioner Gerald Beavan, 78. Mr. Beavan, who came to Canada from England in 1974, said his grandparents were buried in simple pine boxes without all the additions of modern funerals. He wants to offer that simple, environmentally friendly type of burial to a community he has called home since 1978. He came up with the idea to create a place in the church’s cemetery for green burials about five years ago, he said.
“The idea is you go back to the old way of burial,” said Mr. Beavan.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary Canada
Canadian authorities identified the gunman in the deadly shooting Wednesday of a soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, who had a criminal record, recently converted to Islam, senior American law enforcement officials said. He was shot and killed in the attack.
The episode was the second deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces in three days, and the latest in a growing list of attacks in the West against soldiers, and in some cases civilians, by individuals who have professed their affinity for radical Islam or sympathy to militant ideology.
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China's newly announced switch to a two-child population control policy does not resolve the coercive nature of the program, pro-life leaders say.
The disclosure of the change came even as the communist government imposes the most severe oppression in four decades, according to a leading advocate for the Chinese church.
Christians face the "worst persecution in China since the Cultural Revolution," Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, said in an article by Christian Today on Oct. 9.
That description is justified, Fu explained to BP in written comments in an email interview...[yesterday] (Oct. 22), due to "both the large scale and the severe degree of [the] violent crackdown" against not only the unregistered house churches but against the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement congregations. About 300 churches have either been destroyed or had crosses forcibly removed recently in an ongoing campaign, and various believers have been arrested, Fu said.
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In 1999, after receiving allegations of sexual abuse by a priest in his province, Lord Hope, then Archbishop of York, wrote a letter of apology, aware that "this whole business will have caused you deep disquiet and distress and a considerable degree of sadness and pain."
The letter was sent not to the survivor, but to the abusive priest. On Wednesday, it was published as part of a strongly critical report on the Church's response to allegations of abuse against the priest, the former Dean of Manchester, the late Robert Waddington. It details how the failure to implement policies meant that victims were denied an opportunity to see their abuser brought to justice.
The report is the result of an inquiry commissioned last year by the present Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, after a joint investigation by The Times in London and The Australian newspaper in Sydney had revealed allegations against Waddington dating back decades.
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The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu has apologised to victims of sexual abuse by a former cathedral dean.
Dr Sentamu was responding to a report into how abuse allegations against the Very Rev Robert Waddington, formerly dean of Manchester, were handled.
His predecessor was criticised for not acting on allegations in the report, which found "systemic failures" within the Church of England.
At least two men made claims of abuse in 1999 and at sometime in 2003-04.
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With all Canadians my heart is very heavy with the news of the killing of a Canadian soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, while on honour guard duty at the National War Memorial in Ottawa today.
This follows all too soon on the killing of another member of the Canadian Armed Forces in Quebec, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, just days ago.
I ask your prayers for these men, for their loved ones stricken with grief, and for the Canadian Armed Forces chaplains who are ministering to them.
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Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.
Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized – the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.
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Presented October 1 to the Episcopal Business Administrators Conference (EBAC) at the group’s annual gathering in New York, Bishop Sauls details the many ways that the Missionary Society can partner with and support mission and ministry at the local level.
“The fundamental mission of the church is to remember about God,” said Bishop Sauls, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church. “That’s why the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society exists. To help you remind the church about God. That’s why we’re in business – to support the work you do.”
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Beginning just over a century ago, all this changed. Catholics and Protestants alike have now embraced a new ecclesiology based on the consumer model. Adam Graber tells us that this huge shift was sparked by the invention of the automobile: “How Cars Created the Megachurch and put churchgoers in the driver’s seat.” As recently as the turn of the last century my great-grandparents, who lived in rural southeast Michigan, attended a Friends Church. Not because they were Quakers, but because it was near their farm and thus easily accessible. In their world, a megachurch would have been an impossibility. If you couldn’t walk or ride a horse or horse-drawn vehicle over unpaved country roads, you simply couldn’t get there at all.
Now virtually every family has at least one automobile, and this reality has transformed not only our cities, but also our churches. Here’s Graber:
Cars have made distance less of a factor in our lives. For this reason, church goers can choose from a marketplace of churches. But in order to decide, they have to narrow down the options, and when they do, they (naturally) consider their personal preferences first. They’ll try on different churches and see what “fits.”The most important consequence of this trend is that the gathered church—as distinct from the church as corpus Christi, which is all-encompassing—has been reduced to a mere voluntary association of like-minded individuals who can join and quit, or come and go at their discretion. The church, like any other commodity in the marketplace, exists only to serve the needs of its individual members.
Pastors, in reaction, are today forced to account for these new dynamics of affinity. Because church shoppers are exploring their options, area pastors often respond by targeting “felt needs.” For pastors, attracting and retaining church goers often means preaching on the topics people are looking for.
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A week after a Washington rabbi was charged with videotaping women disrobing for ritual baths as they converted to Judaism, the national association of modern Orthodox rabbis said Monday that it would require the appointment of ombudswomen to handle any concerns from women about the conversion process.
The association, the Rabbinical Council of America, is eager to contain the damage from the arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel, a prominent modern Orthodox rabbi who served on the council’s executive committee and, from 2006 to 2013, presided over its committee on conversions. Rabbi Freundel had been considered an advocate for women’s rights in Orthodox Judaism. The local United States attorney’s office has charged him with using a camera concealed in a clock radio to film women as they showered or changed for immersion in the ritual bath, called a mikvah.
The council said Monday that it would not only require the appointment of an ombudswoman for each regional tribunal of rabbis overseeing conversions, but would also name a commission, which would include women as members, to recommend ways to prevent conversion abuses.
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United Methodist Church leaders recently announced they are closing the Wilderness Retreat and Development Center, as well as three other camps the denomination operated in Missouri. Together, the camps served about 2,000 children this summer.
“I’ve wanted to get married at Wilderness since I was 11,” Dyer said. “I have a boyfriend I want to marry, and now they’re taking away my camp.”
The announcement by the church’s Camping and Retreat Board sparked an instant social media campaign — complete with hashtags, blogs, online petitions and more than 2,000 Facebook likes — in an effort to roll back the decision.
The discussion in the Kansas City area has been particularly lively because of its proximity to Wilderness, which hosted more than 600 children at summer camp this year, said D. Garrett Drake, a clergyman and conference staff member who advises the camping board.
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Pope Francis will travel to Turkey next month, the Vatican said on Tuesday, his first visit to the predominantly Muslim country which has become a refuge for Christians fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and in Iraq.
During his three-day visit, the pope will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He will also meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the Orthodox churches that make up the second-largest Christian church family after Roman Catholicism.
"The Holy Father will visit Ankara and Istanbul from Nov. 28 to 30," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
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Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five from the Punjab province, was accused and convicted of “defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed” in 2009 and sentenced to death. Bibi asserted after her death sentence in 2010 that the allegations against her were fabricated by a group of women who did not like her.
Two prominent politicians who called for her release were both murdered and another forced into hiding. Haroon Barkat Masih, director of the Masihi Foundation, stated that many interests are at stake behind Bibi’s case. Too many vested interests and too much pressure that, in the end, cover up the truth of the facts, he said in an interview with Fides News Agency.
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The percentage of Alabamians not affiliated with a specific religion surpasses the percentage of white mainline Protestants, ranking it third among "religious" groups, according to new research.
The American Values Atlas was compiled by the Public Religion Research Institute and Social Science Research Solutions, and was released in late September. It found that 14 percent of Alabamians describe themselves as "unaffiliated" when asked about their religious tradition. The "unaffiliated" category ranks third behind white evangelical Protestants (36 percent) and black Protestants (18 percent).
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A bishop has warned the Church of England must make wholesale change to halt the slide in attendance, or wither away in the 21st century.
Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, said he feared unless the Church reinvented itself in his own diocese, it would disappear like the region’s textile industry.
The warning from Bishop Henderson follows similar concerns from colleagues around the country that urgent action is needed to prevent dwindling numbers heralding the end of the Church.
Bishop Henderson made the warning as he launched a 12-year-plan to attract younger people to the Church.
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If the left does own popular culture, it's because they worked hard for it, employing the conservative values of perseverance and creativity. There is a chasm that separates the infrastructure that the left has erected over the last 50 years to celebrate and interpret popular culture and the tiny space that establishment conservatism allocates to popular culture. It is for this reason, more than any claim that American popular culture is irredeemably decadent and leftist, that the right seems lost in the world of movies, music, and bestsellers. Every month, if not every week, important works of popular culture go unnoticed by the right. These are often things that speak to people's souls -- films that wrestle with questions of honor, novels, like Le Guin's about the meaning of sex and politics, music that explores the limits of self-sacrificial love.
And the right has nothing to contribute to the conversation.
In 1967 a college student named Jann Wenner borrowed $7,500 and founded Rolling Stone magazine because he wanted to cover the music and culture that was providing poetry to his generation. Around the same time a student named Martin Scorsese was graduating from New York University's film school, and a young would-be novelist named Ursula Le Guin was having her first five novels rejected. In other words, these artists, and many others, laid the groundwork for what they would eventually become -- the liberal establishment. They played the long game. This is why if musician Mark Turner had been inspired by Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, a book that imagines a race that can change its gender, there would be an interview in the New York Times, play on the internet, a mention in Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, maybe even a spot on Letterman. The structure is in place so that when an artist reinforces dominant liberal values, he or she has an instant pipeline to the people.
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It would be foolish to claim that this framework alone will resolve everything. Easy access to pornography, the hook-up culture, and media portrayals of recreational sex as the norm are difficult to counter. The social expectations that are producing ever more exorbitant wedding events do not get the attention they deserve.
The widening practice of cohabitation is vexing in another way. Young people hesitating to vow themselves to one another permanently are perpetuating the culture of contingency even though they have often been its victims—for example, as children of divorce. And even if the contingency of cohabitation makes lasting relationships somewhat less likely, it does approximate and thus honor marriage in some ways.
So the church and its leaders need great pastoral wisdom to do two things simultaneously:
Walk back from the culture of contingency by explaining and insisting in fresh ways that God intends for active sexuality to belong uniquely to marriage.
Work compassionately with those who have embraced the relative fidelity of cohabitation, even if they have not yet moved to embrace a covenant of marriage or a vocation of celibacy.
If we aim for these two goals, Christians will be better able to speak clearly and work energetically because together we’ll affirm that marriage is good—for everyone.
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At some point, young people contemplating a clerical career will have to consider just how long there will indeed be a church for them to serve.
This isn’t meant to be panic-mongering, and infinite extrapolations rarely follow exact lines. But if any church is losing 2.6 percent of its attenders every year – not every decade – it should be deeply alarmed. Why isn’t it?
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CS: You attended an Assemblies of God college; now you identify as an atheist. How did you get where you are today?
JM: I was homeschooled on a farm by my parents. They were really involved in our local Assemblies of God church. That was my entire upbringing: There was homeschooling and there was church. So church was my social outlet. As a kid, virtually everybody I knew was religious.
I ended up going to an Assemblies of God school—their most notable alumni include Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It wasn’t until the very tail end of my college career that I started actually questioning my faith.
It was actually based on an assignment that I had to do for a Bible class that I was taking. I had to write a paper on 1 Corinthians 11 and I just thought, “Okay, this will be easy.” So I started researching it and found out that nobody really has any idea what that passage means. Whatever the reason, that really bothered me. I thought that the Bible was 100 percent the inerrant word of God.
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VALENTE: Transgender isn’t the same as being homosexual or merely cross-dressing. It’s a far more complex phenomenon known clinically as “gender dysphoria,” a severe discontent with one’s assigned sex. Transgender people often take hormones and have surgery to become more like the opposite sex. A little over a year ago, Becker began injecting testosterone. He had his breasts surgically removed.
transgenders-and-theology-post01BECKER: My only regret is throughout this entire process is not starting it sooner.
VALENTE: Emboldened by the new Amazon Online series "Transparent" and "Orange is the New Black" on Netflix, which features a transgender actress, transgender individuals are increasingly speaking out about their needs and their lives. An Episcopal priest recently came out as transgender, and a community of Carmelite nuns in Canada just accepted a novice with both male and female physical characteristics. The novice, Tia Michelle Pesando, has written a book called Why God Doesn’t Hate You.
OWEN DANIEL-MCCARTER (Transgender Activist, Chicago House): Even in the past 14 years, it is an incredible change in the visibility of transgender people in the media, the number of transgender activist organizations, people who are trying to change the law, and the medical system for trans people. It’s remarkable.
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Since 1990, the percentage of unchurched adults in America has risen from 30% to 43% of the population. Even as this segment has grown, has their profile changed?
With the aid of more than two decades of tracking research—a sort of cultural time-lapse photography—Barna Group has discovered real and significant shifts in unchurched attitudes, assumptions, allegiances and behaviors. We’ve identified five trends in our research that are contributing to this increase in the churchless of America.
This new study of the unchurched population comes in conjunction with the release of Churchless, a new book from veteran researchers George Barna and David Kinnaman. Churchless draws on more than two decades of tracking research and more than 20 nationwide studies of the unchurched.
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Huntington’s sensitivity to religion-and-world-politics ought to have commended his analysis to the Vatican for thoughtful consideration and serious discussion. Instead, Huntington-the-straw-man-who-prophesied-endless-civilizational-war is dragged out whenever it’s deemed necessary for officials of the Holy See to say that “a war between Islam and ‘the rest’ is not inevitable” (true, if the civil war within Islam is resolved in favor of those Muslims who support religious tolerance and pluralism); or that Christian persecution and dislocation in the Middle East must be handled through the United Nations (ridiculous); or that the path to peace lies through dialogue, not confrontation (true, if there is a dialogue partner who is not given to beheading “the other”).
The Huntington proposal is not beyond criticism. But Huntington accurately described the Great Change that would take place in world politics after the wars of late modernity (the two 20th-century world wars and the Cold War); he accurately predicted what was likely to unfold along what he called Islam’s “bloody borders” if Islamists and jihadists went unchecked by their own fellow-Muslims; and he accurately identified the fact that religious conviction (or the lack thereof, as in Europe) would play an important role in shaping the 21st-century world. Thirteen years after 9/11, and in light of today’s headlines, is Huntington’s proposal really so implausible?
There is something very odd about a Holy See whose default positions include a ritualized deprecation of the Huntington thesis married to a will-to-believe about the U.N.’s capacity to be something more than an echo chamber.
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A struggling Presbyterian congregation with roots going back more than a century has decided to close its doors.
Beset by financial problems — brought on in part by a for-profit day care center it opened — New Life Presbyterian Church at 3410 W. Silver Spring Drive voted last month to dissolve itself. The church is the latest iteration of a Milwaukee congregation founded as Newminster Presbyterian in the late 1800s.
Now, the Presbytery of Milwaukee will take up the issue at a special meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Greenfield Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1455 S. 97th St., in West Allis. The presbytery, which has contributed some $250,000 to New Life over the years, will spend an additional $60,000 to get its financial affairs in order.
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In an age of smartphones, instant messaging and 24/7 availability, it’s increasingly hard to find time to step away and reconnect with one’s self, especially in fast-paced tech hubs like Silicon Valley.
But before you lock your smartphone in a closet for an hour a day, check out some of the apps and websites available for learning and practicing the ancient art of meditation and the more contemporary mindfulness-based stress reduction.
You don’t need a new gadget to meditate — all the equipment necessary comes installed in the product.
But some meditation and mindfulness trainers are using technology in interesting ways. They range from simple meditation timers to complete courses.
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The Rev. Don Flowers was at breakfast with a group of minister friends in New York City when he heard news of the U.S. Supreme Court decision not to review a case overturning Virginia's gay marriage ban.
The pastors sat stunned, unsure what it meant, shocked at the speed things could start moving. Talk swiftly turned to ramifications ahead.
Flowers, pastor of Providence Baptist Church on Daniel Island, realized what it could mean back home: Gay marriage could become legal - and soon.
"A grenade has just been thrown down our aisles," Flowers said.
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A call to reflect, pray and take action on child poverty, from the bishops of the Anglican Church.
In a new booklet, they're asking Anglicans to keep up the focus on child poverty, even with the election done and dusted.
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If you thought Nigeria had the release of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls sealed up in Friday’s ceasefire agreement with Danladi Ahmadu, Boko Haram’s self-styled secretary-general, President Goodluck Jonathan has thrown another twist into the whole matter.
In a message to Nigeria’s intending Christian Pilgrims, he urged them to pray not just for a peaceful, successful conduct of the 2015 election, but also the safe return of the abducted Chibok girls.
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The Anglican Church in Adelaide has backed an earlier move by the church nationally to let its priests break the confidentiality of confessions.
Earlier this year, the national synod met in Adelaide and voted for an historic change to let priests ignore the privacy of the confessional in cases of serious crimes, such as child abuse.
That national meeting said it would be up to individual dioceses to adopt the policy, a vote the Adelaide diocese has taken this weekend.
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All About Jazz: What would you say is the connection between the deep pathos found within jazz music and the biblical notion of the seat of emotion?
Jeremy Begbie: A great deal of jazz has a streak of pathos, a kind of dark color to it, however joyful or celebratory the piece as a whole may be. A part of that is the pervasiveness of the blues, the blues scale, which brings a tinge of lament and restlessness to the music. Moreover, the blues brings to us the awareness of the fragility and sometimes the injustice of life. Jazz at its best faces up to these things, and actually incorporates those darker tones into a "bigger picture." That's the real miracle of this music: the way it can take up dissonance into a dynamic of hope. I think that's what the best kinds of jazz are doing.
AAJ: How can we relate this idea to the Gospel?
JB: Well, this is very basic to the Gospel, in that, injustice, suffering, and evil are not ignored but are faced and through the cross taken up into God's purposes. So there are very strong resonances here between jazz and the Christian faith.
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Asia Bibi’s death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi, a Roman Catholic mother of five also known as Aasiya Noreen, was sentenced to die in 2010 after she was convicted of blasphemy. Bibi’s Muslim coworkers accused her of drinking the same water as them and verbally challenging their faith.
“I met Asia in prison a month ago. She’s fine and was hoping to hear good news, but, alas, our ordeal is not over yet,” Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Morning Star News after yesterday’s decision.
World Watch Monitor reports that Bibi’s attorney Naeem Shakir challenged the testimony of the women who feuded with Bibi, arguing to the appellate court that their testimony had been hearsay because the complainant in the case had not heards Bibi’s words himself. The judges ignored Sharkir’s critiques, suggesting he should have raised them the trial level.
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...what if living a radical life isn’t what Christ desires for us? What if He’s far more interested in how we approach the mundane, the everydayness of life?
That’s the premise of Michael Horton’s balancing new book Ordinary: Sustaining Faith in a Radical, Restless World. Horton believes we need to question “false values, expectations, and habits that we have absorbed, taken for granted, and even adopted with a veneer of piety.” (27)
Horton suggests we’ve got a problem, the problem of everydayness: “our lives are motivated by a constant expectation for The Next Big Thing.” (16) Instead of dedicating ourselves to ordinary, everyday callings and people we chase after the radical, the revolutionary, the dramatic. He insists that “Changing the world can be a way of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us…” (16)
So how did we get here and where do we need to go? Horton argues the everyday became so yesterday starting with Boomers, and this has been perpetuated by their children and grandchildren. And the path beyond is a refocusing around God’s own focus...
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...it’s not surprising that a narrative of spiritually and religiously illiterate young adults would catch on. But the dominance of a narrative does not make it truthful, as any evaluator of history or prophet can tell you, and the orthodoxy-ambivalent college student is a narrative that I think deserves particular challenging.
In my first book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, I attempt with the naive zeal of youth to turn some of this folly on its head. I describe my feelings — not anger, again, a dominant narrative — toward the Christian church, my experience seeking out a communal faith experience, and even my desire for orthodoxy. There is nothing essentially remarkable about any of that, unless you defer to the narrative that Millennials are incapable of serious engagement with faith.
There is no question that Millennials are different in articulating their faith experience than previous generations, but I believe what is fundamentally different has less to do with whether or not we care about faith, but what about faith we care about. What has changed is not our concern over questions of orthodoxy, but the kinds of questions of orthodoxy we ask.
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By the nineteenth century...natural philosophy had become more natural and less philosophy. Theology and natural science were substantially separated. Apologetic natural theology — arguing that God can be deduced from nature — was now mostly for the theologians. The language of physics had become measurement and mathematics, and the objective of science had become a description of the world of nature in its own terms, rather than through the purposes of a Creator. As a result, it is tempting to read the science of that era as if it were completely independent of the religious commitments of its practitioners. But it wasn’t.
Because Victorian scientists are of interest to us mostly owing to their scientific contributions, their religious beliefs tend to be treated as incidental conformities to the conventions of the day — as if these figures were proto-rationalists and proto-materialists who, without the benefit of our full present enlightenment, had not completely shaken off the superstitions of an earlier age. This caricature is demeaning and mistaken, as can be illustrated by the lives and ideas of two men who were arguably the greatest physical scientists of their time, and among the greatest of all time: Michael Faraday (1791–1867) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879).
The two men had very different backgrounds. Faraday was English; Maxwell Scottish. Faraday was the son of a blacksmith of limited means; Maxwell’s father had inherited a substantial estate and hardly needed to practice the law in which he had been trained. Faraday had only a basic, grade-school education; Maxwell had the finest education available. Faraday was one of the most popular scientific lecturers of his day; Maxwell gained a poor reputation in the classroom. Faraday knew practically no formal mathematics; Maxwell was one of the finest mathematicians of his time. Faraday’s research became dominant for experimentation in electricity and magnetism; Maxwell’s for electromagnetic theory. One experience they had in common: both were committed Christians. Yet even here fascinating contrasts existed between the religious traditions to which they belonged and the ways their spiritual commitments influenced and strengthened their science.
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This “different spirit” is the key to Welby’s thinking, and it is not one that can be entrusted to our politicians. Whether we choose to accept religious belief or not, it does not alter the reality that religious faith and ideologies hold far more power than guns and bombs. In the first three centuries of the Church it had no armies and pitched no battles, yet it overcame the Roman Empire through love and a gospel of God’s peace. Religious leaders need to be given a place at the top table as much as military commanders. Their insights into the role of religious belief as a driving force in individuals’ lives, along with their status, hold great value and potential to change the stakes.
There is an onus, too, on all of our religious leaders to take the initiative and become more outspoken, addressing those both inside and outside of their respective religions:
Religious leaders must up their game and engage jihadism in religious, philosophical and ethical space. Religious justifications of violence must be robustly refuted. That is, in part, a theological task, as well as being a task that recognises the false stimulation, evil sense of purpose and illusory fulfilment that deceive young men and women into becoming religious warriors. As we have seen recently, many religious leaders have the necessary (and very great) moral and physical courage to see the need for an effective response to something that they have condemned. It is essential that Christians are clear about the aim of peace and the need for joint working and that Muslim leaders continue explicitly to reject extremism, violent and otherwise. Any response must bring together all those capable of responding to the challenge.Justin Welby talks about treasuring and preserving our values, but also of reshaping them. This would appear to be contradictory, but the context suggests that he is referring to both the values that have built peace and progress and also those that we have developed that bear the hallmarks of selfishness and self-preservation.
This is the battle that Justin Welby is calling for.
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In five decades, the number of people with no religion in Britain has grown from just 3 per cent of the population to nearly half, according to a new survey. Among adults aged under 25, nearly two-thirds define themselves as "nones", or people with no religious affiliation.
The findings present an enormous challenge for the churches over how they make faith appealing to young people, in a world where many young will be appalled at how the male-dominated church leadership has made discrimination against women and homosexuals a defining feature of orthodox mission.
If the trends continue, Methodists will be extinct in a few decades and the Church of England also faces massive decline by the end of the century.
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What is really happening at this synod is an earnest effort by pastors of the church to determine how best to encourage people to live the Catholic faith. This is no easy task. A move too far in the direction of merely repeating old formularies will not work. A move away from what constitutes the very definition of what it means to be Catholic will not only erode the church’s self-identity and betray her founder’s mandate, it will also insult and alienate many Catholics who strive to live by the church’s teachings. This is what we pastors call the art of pastoral practice.
The practice is best modeled by Jesus’ encounter with the woman “caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8: 1-11). His interlocutors somehow thought that they could drive a wedge between his allegiance to biblical law and mercy. So they cast the woman before him and demanded that he say whether she should be stoned, as the law stipulated. The tension built as Jesus doodled in the sand. Finally he replied, “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
The story does not end there. Jesus turned to the woman at his feet and delivered gentle, memorable words—a message that makes the whole story an encounter of faithful mercy: “Go and sin no more.” If this model—finding the balance between justice and mercy, which are often in tension—weighs heavily on the minds of bishops gathered in Rome, that will be an achievement for the church and its pastoral model.
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Dr. Samuel Kabue, coordinator of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network says, "The inclusion of persons with disability is not an option but a defining characteristic of the Church."
Members of EDAN, a program of the World Council of Churches, met in the Netherlands to develop a new statement with the working title "Gift of Being: Called to be a Church of All and for All."
The new document aims to build on the WCC interim statement on disability "A Church of All and for All" issued in 2003, the WCC said in a statement.
Read it all.
So the first wall is the wall of withdrawal. Many of my Christian friends perceive a growing difference between the secular world and the Christian world, the difference between Jay-Z and Hillsong and the Jesus culture. The difference between Quentin Tarantino and Eugene Peterson, Richard Dawkins and Henri Nouwen, Columbia College and Calvin College. Many of my friends fear they are being written out of polite society because they believe in the Gospel. With that comes a psychology of an embattled minority. With that comes a defensiveness and a withdrawal, a fear, and a withdrawal into sub-culture. I certainly have friends how live in a sub-culture, work in a sub-culture, Christian in the sub-culture, socialize in the sub-culture, and if you live in a broader society, that is governed by the spiritual longing that doesn’t know how to express itself, is withdrawing into your own separate sub-culture really the right thing to do.
I think that’s being governed by fear and not love.
The second wall is the wall of condescension. In a lot of the walls come from a unique psychology which I have observed. Which is a weird mixture of – this is going to sound a little rude – in the Christian culture a mixture of wanton intellectual inferiority complex combined with a spiritual superiority complex.
And the second wall is the wall of condescension. There is sometimes a belief among some people that those who have been with Christ a long time can adopt a paternal attitude toward those who have not been with Christ, or who have come to Christ recently. And this is a caring condescension. It’s people wanting to help. But it’s also a form of pride to know the route God has chosen for each of us. It’s a form of closed-mindedness. It’s off-putting. People who have come to Christ recently may not at all, may not have lived in the church for very long. But they have lived, and read and thought and they haven’t come back from these experiences with empty hands and they have as much to teach as to learn.
The third wall is the wall of bad listening.
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A leading Nigerian evangelical, Samuel Kunhiyop, author of African Christian Ethics,serves as general secretary of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), a 5-million-member denomination in Nigeria. ECWA has been doing frontline evangelism in Nigeria since 1954. In recent years, this group has planted hundreds of congregations in Muslim areas of Nigeria. Kunhiyop spoke with Timothy C. Morgan, CT's senior editor for global journalism.
Is Nigeria as bad as we read in news headlines?
It’s even worse. Hundreds of churches have been destroyed, over 50 in Kano alone. One church and ministry has been built seven times and destroyed seven times. Another has been built three times and destroyed three times. Pastors have been murdered in their houses. Another was murdered in the church during a prayer service.
The situation is much worse further north in Yobe and Borno states, the headquarters of Boko Haram. People have fled residences where their forefathers lived for generations. Christians have been the victims.
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After nearly 20 years as lead pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll has resigned. Driscoll, 44, had faced mounting criticism over church leadership and discipline within Mars Hill and how he wrote and promoted his popular books.
The decision came less than two months after Driscoll stepped down from leadership while the church investigated charges against him. Earlier in August, he had been removed from the church planting network he founded, Acts 29.
In a statement, the church's board of overseers accepted his resignation, but emphasized that they had not asked Driscoll to resign and were surprised to receive his letter.
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Although Hansard now records the ABC’s response to Lady Howe’s Q4, in view of the nature of the debate and his non-governmental position, such assurances carry different weight from those made by a government minister at the dispatch box and subsequently relied upon under Pepper v Hart.
With regard to the application of the Equality Act, the Archbishop’s specification of “parochial appointments” implicitly acknowledges that the House of Bishops considers other appointments differently, i.e. hospital chaplains. With regard to remarriage after divorce, this dispensation is not strictly within the gift of the bishops, as clergy are provided a “conscience clause” directly through s8(2) Matrimonial Causes Act 1965.
On Monday 20 October, the House of Commons will consider the Motion: “To approve a Church of England Measure relating to women bishops”. Following the expected vote in favour, the Measure will be presented to the monarch for Royal Assent after which it becomes part of the law of the land.
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Attalaf al Nour, a farmer who lives in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, long enjoyed a simple life that revolved around livestock, crops and trips to the city to sell his grain.
But since July, when Islamic State militants swept into Iraq, his world has been upended by new geographic and political borders that don’t yet appear on any map. They are fracturing Iraq’s fragile cohesion by forcing thousands of families to cross, at their peril, militant checkpoints to reach their markets, schools and jobs.
“Iraq is broken like never before, thanks to Daaesh,” said Mr. Nour, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “We are all divided and our lives are now upside down.”
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Another question has to do with the relationship between the seminary and the Church (large C, meaning denominations). Churches started seminaries. People who are heavily invested in Church have funded these institutions. Churches entrust their candidates to seminaries so that they might be equipped to pastor, teach, and lead us. Since Dunkle and Copenhaver are ordained ministers, should the Church be consulted? Should the boards listen to our denominations? Of course, the lines are blurry. Boards and Churches are often members of one another. But I’m wondering about the relationship on an official capacity, should there be more mutuality in place when making such major decisions? Decisions that could have a major impact on the seminary's future viability?
Churches have worked hard to make sure that standards in place, particularly when it comes to women, people of color, and a variety of sexual orientations. If the reports are valid, Dunkle has acted far outside of the Church’s professional standards. Should a seminary president (who is also ordained) be held to the same standards that we expect of the pastors?
Churches have worked hard to make sure that standards are in place when it comes to sexual relationships. We all have friends and loved ones who have been caught in scandals. Forgiveness and love are extremely important. The Church has figured out ways in which pastors are cared for and brought into reconciliation with their community and calling. This looks different in different circumstances. Sometimes the person needs to step down from pastoral duties, consent to spiritual direction, or go to therapy. Pastors work to make amends with their families and their communities.
In both cases, it seems like there has been a disregard of the Church.
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The church has faced steep losses since the early 2000s with a perfect storm of changing demographics, low fertility and departures by traditionalists.
The 2013 reporting year saw a continuation of the downward trend, with a membership drop of 27,423 to 1,866,758 (1.4 percent) while attendance dropped 16,451 to 623,691 (2.6 percent). A net 45 parishes were closed, and the denomination has largely ceased to plant new congregations.
The new numbers do not factor in the departure of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, of which the church continues to report over 28,000 members and over 12,000 attendees, despite the majority of South Carolina congregations severing their relationship with the Episcopal Church at the end of 2012. If South Carolina departures were factored in, the membership loss would be closer to 50,000 persons.
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Some of the most interesting debates taking place in Catholicism these days on family and marriage issues revolve around the work of gay Catholics who are orthodox in their stance on church teachings, as articulated in the Catechism and elsewhere.
Yes, this is a complex crowd. There are important debates in these circles about the degree to which homosexual orientation itself should be seen as a unique gift from God and, by implication, a part of God's plan for creation. There are also debates here about the degree to which sexual orientation should be openly celebrated as a key source of a person's public identity. (Can orthodox Catholics use "gay" language in a way that is positive and helps the church?) I get all of that.
All I am saying is that the language used in these discussions is often very close to the language that news consumers are hearing from the Vatican – filtered through the political, not doctrinal, lens of the press. The "tone" of the discussions in this niche in Catholic thought, and some content, is very similar to the current Vatican language that we are reading.
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The leader of the Church of England has spoken of his plan for Britain’s “ambitious” young bankers to give up work for a year and join a “quasi-monastic community” so they can learn about ethics ahead of entering the City.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called on some of the UK’s brightest and most ambitious young bankers to quit work temporarily so they can pray and serve the poor.
He said he believed their natural ambition would encourage them to join his Godly community.
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When we began our quest for the 100 best Christian books, we knew that the material we were contemplating had already been through several refining fires. It had been worked on by its author, judged worthy to be published, and, over time, had impressed enough readers to be noticed — and, mostly, to be kept in print.
IT IS sometimes easy to forget it, given the variable quality of the books that come into the Church Times office for review, but works that get into print can be categorised, by and large, as quite good. Many that we review are not only good: some are very good. But “best”?
Best is, of course, a value judgement. We have kept it for this project because it is so obviously subjective. “Best” does not just cover a book’s intrinsic worth: it also prompts a consideration of what a book can achieve. Throughout our debate, we found ourselves balancing a title’s historical position with its place in our memories. A different set of judges on a different day — perhaps even the same set of judges — would certainly have come up with a different list.
But, perhaps, not that different.
Read it all and see what you make of their list.
Photographer Charlie Phillips talks to Dan Damon about the rituals and fashions of Afro-Caribbean funerals in London. Starting with the Windrush generation in the 1950s to today. Charlie's work will be published in the book 'How Great Thou Art'. The title for this book is borrowed from the popular hymn sung at funerals.
Watch the whole Youtube clip.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * International News & Commentary Caribbean
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Using strikingly open language, an interim report of a Vatican synod on modern family life says the church needs to welcome and appreciate gays, and offers a solution for divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion.
At a press conference to present the report, Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines said the most discussed topics at the Synod so far were the impact of poverty, war and immigration on families.
But one veteran Vatican journalist called the newly proposed language on gays and civil marriages a “pastoral earthquake.”
“Regarding homosexuals, it went so far as to pose the question whether the church could accept and value their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine,” said John Thavis, a former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.
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Update: An AP article is here--read it all also.
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If Christians are to accept...so-called [same-sex] marriage, they must accept that our liturgies and our services, our pastors and priests, our forefathers and foremothers have been for centuries wrong about the meaning of marriage. What they heard, what the pastor read, what their grandparents knew to be true was wrong as rain. And not just a little wrong, but fundamentally mistaken about the most essential elements of marriage. If... [same-sex] marriage is right, then there is almost nothing in the old Book of Common Prayer that is right.
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One can contextualize the message of the Gospel well or poorly, and it is important to know not only the need for contextualization but also how to engage in the process appropriately. Paul Hiebert has helpfully suggested that there are four levels of contextualization: no contextualization, minimal contextualization, uncritical contextualization, and critical contextualization. The no contextualization approach understands the Christian faith as something that is not a part of human culture; it rejects the notion that culture shapes how one receives and practices Christianity. The minimal contextualization approach acknowledges that differences exist between cultures, but it tries to limit cultural adaptation as much as possible. Under this model, missionaries might translate the Bible into a foreign language but will likely arrange new church plants in a fashion similar to the churches in their home country. Uncritical contextualization tends to prioritize culture over the Gospel. It minimizes the eternal truths found in Scripture in order to emphasize cultural convictions and practices.
Critical contextualization seeks a balanced approach. In the words of Hiebert, in critical contextualization the Bible is seen as divine revelation, not simply as humanly constructed beliefs. In contextualization the heart of the gospel must be kept as it is encoded in forms that are understood by the people, without making the gospel captive to the contexts. This is an ongoing process of embodying the gospel in an ever-changing world. Here cultures are seen as both good and evil, not simply as neutral vehicles for understanding the world. No culture is absolute or privileged. We are all relativized by the gospel....
Out of all of these approaches, contemporary Christians should prefer critical contextualization.
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In a new publication, ISIS justifies its kidnapping of women as sex slaves citing Islamic theology, an interpretation that is rejected by the Muslim world at large as a perversion of Islam.
"One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar -- the infidels -- and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law," the group says in an online magazine published Sunday.
The title of the article sums up the ISIS point of view: "The revival (of) slavery before the Hour," referring to Judgment Day.
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What are you afraid of? That’s what Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson asks writers who shy away from writing about faith.
The beloved author has won accolades after writing so openly about belief, but it remains a subject few other writers take on.
“It’s courageous of Robinson to write about faith at a time when associations with religion are so often negative and violent,” Diane Johnson wrote in her New York Times review of Robinson’s latest book, “Lila,” which was released Tuesday (Oct. 7).
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Is another way of putting it that the focus on divorced and remarried Catholics and on annulments risks overshadowing the bigger question, which is how to prevent marriages from breaking down in the first place?
Absolutely. The preventative approach is important. Of course, we never should be making a choice between helping people who are suffering and trying to prevent them from getting hurt in the first place. We have to do both.
What would be most useful to you as an American bishop out of this synod?
I think the most useful result would be a confirmation of the beauty of the Church’s teaching and a resolve on the part of the Church at all levels, not just the bishops, to support marriage and family.
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When asked how important it is to maintain the parish system 83% say it is important, 12% not important, and 5% have no strong feelings either way. There is no other topic in the survey (which asked 29 questions in total) on which there is such uniformity of opinion – except the belief that there is a ‘personal God’ (83%)....
One reason for the high level of support for the parish system may be clergy’s belief that the CofE exists to serve the whole nation. When asked who the Church should prioritise 2/3 say ‘England as a whole’ and only 5% say regular churchgoers.
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There are at least three levels of violence. The first demonstrates mere power and greed, with mobs and soldiers driving people out of their homes and businesses and into the streams of refugees. According to United Nations estimates, at least 1 million Iraqis have been displaced during the past four months.
The second level of everyday violence, she said bluntly, is "just shooting people."
On the third level, people move beyond deadly violence into unbelievable acts of terror. A Muslim who fled the fighting, said Ahmed, told her one story about what happened to some Iraqi men who could not flee fast enough. The Islamic State soldiers "lay them on the ground, after shooting them," and then rolled over the bodies with a tractor in "front of their families, just to devastate them."
[Andrew] White said those who survive are left haunted by what they have seen and, in some cases, what they themselves have done.
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With food and jobs scarce, and their savings depleted, Syrian Christians and their neighbors are struggling to provide for their families.
Despite their own trauma, many believers are choosing to stay in their beleaguered communities and reach out in love amid their neighbors' pain.
Christians in Syria have been able to distribute food with the help of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist-related relief organization. Families also are receiving blankets and medical care. Children who have been out of school for years once again are being educated.
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The US-led coalition has unleashed more than 40 airstrikes on Anbar since August, helping drive Isis back from the critical Haditha dam.
However, the strikes have failed to blunt the militants’ overall advance, which has accelerated dramatically in the past three weeks. They have taken two military bases and a string of strategic towns, putting the Iraqi government’s already tenuous presence in Anbar at risk. Daily attacks on Iraqi security forces are taking place around the provincial capital, Ramadi.
After the capture of Hit last week, Ramadi and Haditha are now the only two government-held enclaves standing in the way of an unbroken Isis supply line running along the Euphrates river from Raqqa, its de facto capital in Syria, to Baghdad.
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After 16 years, Egypt has completed the restoration of a famous Cairo landmark — the St. Virgin Mary's Coptic Church, also known as the Hanging Church.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and the country's Coptic Christian pope, Tawadros II, attended the Saturday's ceremony marking the end of the $5.4 million restoration project.
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Despite the elusiveness of a common good, we can and indeed are called to pursue creative work for the good of others. We can do that regardless of whether we find ourselves within the acceptable mainstream or at the margins of society. That is the example of Martin Luther King Jr., John Perkins, Dorothy Day, Fanny Crosby, Sojourner Truth, and countless others who have gone before us. It is also the example of Jesus.
Our laws and our culture are in a state of flux, and we do not yet know what the new normal will look like. But we can move forward without knowing how the story ends, because of our faith in how the Story ends.
I am encouraged by what I see in the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The enforcement of the all-comers policy against groups like InterVarsity is a cultural marker that these groups are now outside of the mainstream of acceptability on the campuses that they serve. But InterVarsity has largely avoided the language of persecution. It has also worked for years to cross race and class lines, and to learn from those differences.
Read it all from CT.
While Malala’s courage in defying the Taliban’s barbarism won her the admiration of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, her Pakistani detractors’ criticism reflects the national malaise that young Malala has committed herself to fight. Hundreds of young Pakistanis, most of them supporters of cricket icon Imran Khan, have started the #MalalaDrama hashtag on Twitter to describe Malala as a tool of the evil West who is seeking to impose Western values on Islamic Pakistan. A few on Twitter even called for her to be charged with blasphemy, the catch-all accusation frequently used in Pakistan against those advocating anything but the most primitive ideas. Luckily, she now lives in Birmingham, England, after having come to Britain for medical treatment for her head wound.
Malala began documenting life under the Taliban in 2009, after they took control in the Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan and then tried to shut down her school. The Taliban and their Islamist supporters oppose education for girls, and their concept of education for boys is far from enlightened. A young village girl with little outside exposure, Malala wished to connect to the rest of the world. She says she was inspired by the Pakistani Benazir Bhutto, who became the Muslim world’s first woman prime minister and was killed in 2007 by terrorists for challenging their ideas.
By rejecting the Taliban’s version of Islam—which was being brutally imposed by force of arms—Malala showed greater foresight than many of Pakistan’s politicians, generals and public intellectuals who have gradually ceded space to extremist Islamists. She didn’t buy into the propaganda description of the Taliban as a nationalist reaction to U.S. dominance or Indian influence, recognizing them as a menace that would set the country back several centuries.
Read it all from the WSJ.
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I happened to come across these this week, and I haven't seen them since 1990 when we first caught them on boxing Day in England (really). French with english subtitles, beautifully filmed, and, perhaps most notably, full of Christian themes--KSH.
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I admire Isabel Sawhill deeply, but I respectfully disagree with this recommendation.
First, American marriage isn’t disappearing, it’s fracturing along class lines. In upscale America — about one-third of the society — marriage is thriving. Most people marry, few children (fewer than 10 percent) are born to unmarried mothers, and most children grow up through age 18 living with their two married parents. Among the more privileged, then, marriage clearly functions as a wealth-producing arrangement, a source of happiness over time, and a benefit to children.
Indeed, scholars today increasingly identify America’s marriage gap — in which the affluent reap the benefits of marriage while the non-affluent increasingly do not — as an important driver of rising American inequality. Wouldn’t it be odd, and sad, if American elites, at the very moment in which the role of marriage as both an indicator and producer of high status in their own lives is crystal clear, decided to throw up their hands in resignation when it comes to marriage in the rest of the society?
Second, changing what we support from “marriage” (a social institution) to “responsible parenthood” (a piece of advice) means downplaying the role of society and putting all responsibility on the individual.
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Most of the tutors, not all of whom are church members, have just finished a full day at work. “We never start by just opening the books,” said Jon Findley, a bank data-base manager who has been volunteering for 24 years. “These kids bring their day with them. So you listen. It’s important that they know someone wants to hear about their lives. I don’t want to be another person who lets them down.”
Since the program started in 1964—one night a week, that first year, in the church basement—more than 6,000 children have been taught. Now tutoring is available four nights a week. The children who journey downtown from some of the city’s bleakest, most dangerous neighborhoods could be excused for complaining about the hand life has dealt them. But complaining is easy; working to better oneself is hard. The volunteers could be excused—even commended—if they chose only to give money to charities instead. But writing a check is easy; being the person who does something—the one who shows up—is hard.
The rewards, though, are lasting. Tamatha Webster’s daughter no longer has to struggle to learn in chaotic classrooms. She has been a faithful attendee on tutoring nights for seven years now, and because of her intelligence and diligent work has been awarded a scholarship to one of Chicago’s finest private schools.
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“If there’s one thing that is essential in ministry it’s knowing that you are in the hands of, and that you belong to, God Himself. That He’s chosen you, that He’s called you, that you are precious to God.”
With these powerful words the Archbishop of Canterbury began his address to the Trinity College community at the start of their new term, speaking to a packed chapel of women and men heading towards leadership in the Church of England.
His message followed the theme of Isaiah 44, where God reaffirms Israel’s chosen status and reminds them that the One they belong to is more powerful than the mess they’re in, and so commands them not to be afraid.
Read it all and you can watch the whole Youtube video (about 12 1/2 minutes).
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