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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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Hugh Freeze takes his seat near the back of the Mississippi football meeting room, and from here, with his three daughters sitting to his left, the Rebels coach can see everything.
Players begin filing through the doors a few minutes before 10 a.m., some wearing dreadlocks and others buzz cuts. Several carry Bibles. Christian music plays through the speakers of this 200-seat auditorium, and Freeze mouths the words to a song titled “Jesus Paid It All.”
This room in the Manning Center is where the Ole Miss football team gathers to discuss its mistakes, players’ hopes and goals, the opportunities and pitfalls that lay ahead in the season, and anyway, doesn’t that sound like life? To Freeze, it makes sense to merge his beliefs with his coaching, holding a Fellowship of Christian Athletes worship service each Sunday during the school year. For the Rebels’ players and coaches during the season, this is church.
Read it all.
The northern Iraqi village of — and some jitters — when NPR visited back in June. The Assyrian Christian villagers had opened their schools and homes to Iraqis fleeing the takeover of nearby Mosul by Islamist fighters calling themselves the Islamic State.
But these days, most of Al-Qosh is as silent as the overlooking the village from a hill. A few Kurdish security men guard the entrance to the village, primarily concerned with keeping potential looters away from the tidy stone and cement homes.
The villagers fled en masse in early August, when Islamist fighters made a move in Al-Qosh's direction. Now, as Kurdish forces begin to retake territory around Mosul, including the strategic Mosul dam, some families have begun to trickle back to Al-Qosh. Most stay only during daylight hours, however, afraid to stay overnight with Islamic State forces a mere 20 miles away.
Read or listen to it all.
[...]There is nowhere in the Church where there is more vulnerability for the Gospel to be undermined than in the Anglican Communion. Certainly, there are other churches and denominations where the historic faith has been more fully and formally abandoned by the official decisions of institutional leadership, but the current vulnerability in the Anglican Communion is that the historic faith and Gospel commitment which has driven missionary zeal and Biblical fidelity for centuries is being de-emphasized in order to “get along.”
Right now, there are countless initiatives at the institutional level to attempt to convince people that the “cut-glass crystal punch bowl” is so beautiful that when it is polished, preserved, and appreciated the recipe of the punch it contains is unimportant. The challenge, however, is how much adulteration to the punch is acceptable. I addressed the House of Bishops in one of our Anglican Provinces and pointed out that the soup that was being made (to switch metaphors) has lovely carrots, beautiful potatoes, succulent chicken, and tasty broth. “How much manure can be added to the soup before you no longer can consume it and stay healthy?” I asked them. Not surprisingly, they did not want to have any manure added to the soup, and yet, quite a number of them were participating in conferences sponsored by liberal entities that completely undermined the Gospel, replacing it with institutional focus and uncritical acceptance of sin.
While I was tremendously excited at the selection of Justin Welby as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and had hoped and prayed for his selection believing that he was the best of the available candidates, I have been concerned at what appears to be a perspective that everything can be reconciled with everything else. While most relational disruptions can be reconciled, theological positions are another matter. It is impossible, for example, for the position “Jesus is Lord of all” to be reconciled with “Jesus is not Lord of all.” While theological disagreements may not seem to be that stark, it is precisely that revelation that is at stake in the Anglican Communion. The Lordship of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture, and how He viewed Scriptural authority is very much in play.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture
Kendall posted several entries on the Vanderbilt situation in 2011-2012. Links here, here, and here.
Tish Harrison Warren/ August 22, 2014
The Wrong Kind of Christian
Image: KEVIN VANDIVIER / GENESIS
I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.
I'm not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.
We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.
Being a Christian made me somewhat weird in my urban, progressive context, but despite some clear differences, I held a lot in common with unbelieving friends. We could disagree about truth, spirituality, and morality, and remain on the best of terms. The failures of the church often made me more uncomfortable than those in the broader culture.
Then, two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians.
At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression—an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas—then surely they'd see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren't homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.
But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used—a lot—specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, "Creedal discrimination is still discrimination."
Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, "But we're moderates!" We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.
For me, it was revolutionary, a reorientation of my place in the university and in culture.
I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast, and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space.
The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.
The whole article is highly recommended
In a recent forum, “Conservative Christianity After the Christian Right,” Tim Keller predicted moderate growth of conservative evangelicalism even as the culture at large has grown more secular. In these remarks, he explains why these trends are leading to increasing polarization:
When I say “growing moderately,” I mean that the number of the devout people in the country is increasing, as well as the number of secular people. The big change is the erosion is in the middle. The devout numbers have not actually gone down that much. It depends on how you read them. But basically, they are not in freefall by any means.
You don’t so much see secularization as polarization, and what is really disappearing is the middle.
Keller sees the middle as having once leaned toward nominal Christianity, out of a sense of respect, tradition, or for social reasons. He says:
It used to be that the devout and the mushy middle — nominal Christians, people that would identify as Christians, people who would come to church sporadically, people who certainly respect the Bible and Christianity — the devout and the mushy middle together was a super majority of people who just created a kind of “Christian-y” sort of culture.
The mushy middle used to be more identified with the devout. Now it’s more identified with the secular. That’s all.
What does this mean for conservative Christians? Keller uses the analogy of an umbrella:
So what’s happening is the roof has come off for the devout. The devout had a kind of a shelter, an umbrella. You couldn’t be all that caustic toward traditional classic Christian teaching and truth. I spoke on Friday morning to the American Bible Society’s board. American Bible Society does a lot of polling about the Bible. The use of the Bible, reading the Bible, attitudes toward the Bible. They said that actually the number of people who are devout Bible readers is not changing that much.
What is changing is for the first time in history a growing group of people who think the Bible is bad, it’s dangerous, it’s regressive, it’s a bad cultural force, that was just never there. It was very tiny. And that’s because the middle ground has shifted, so it is more identified with the more secular, the less religious, and it’s less identified now with the more devout.
Read the full entry.
The fiction of Flannery O'Connor, especially her novel The Violent Bear It Away, resists the relegation of Satan to an abstract principle and thus to his ultimate irrelevance. She envisions Luciferian evil in traditional terms as a personal power determined to achieve his own supremacy. When Satan appears in her fiction, she candidly observed, he is not to be understood as "this or that psychological tendency." She cites Baudelaire's celebrated dictum that the Devil's greatest wile is to convince us he does not exist, and she declares his considerable success in our own time.
Yet for all that is traditional in her conception of Satan, O'Connor is concerned not to make him obvious, lest he be easily dismissed as a bogeyman. In fact, her demons disguise themselves in thoroughly Freudian and Jungian terms. Freud regarded Satan as nothing other than a symbol, albeit a powerful one, of repressed erotic desires or else of neuroses lying deep within the unconscious, often negatively projected "onto individuals or groups that we identify as enemies or potential enemies." In the work of Jung, Freud's student, Lucifer represents the massive destructive energy resident in the universe as it stands over against the equally enormous constructive powers that Jung links to the divine. Yet for Jung, Lucifer's name still applies: He is the light-bearer whose demonic negativity dwells in a mandala-like complementarity with divine positivity. Only as good incorporates evil into itself, Jung teaches, can higher wisdom and wholeness be attained.
It is noteworthy that, when I ask students to identify the voice that speaks inwardly to young Francis Marion Tarwater from the very beginning of the novel, they respond in Jungian and Freudian ways. They almost always answer that this "stranger" who gradually becomes Tarwater's "friend" is the boy's sub-conscious mind, his inward self, his alter ego. Such obtuseness is as predictable as it is inexcusable. Yet it plays perfectly into O'Connor's fictional purposes. Far from being an artistic failure, her ploy enables her readers, at least potentially, to experience Francis Marion Tarwater's own terrible awakening to the true identity of his inner voice.
Read it all.
The pattern is becoming all too familiar to residents of Nigeria’s embattled northeast: Gunmen believed to be members of the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram descend on a village, burn houses, round up scores of young people, load them onto trucks and then drive away.
Four months after Boko Haram shocked the world by abducting nearly 300 girls from a rural school, fighters shouting “God is great” snatched dozens more young people from another village in recent days, according to officials, local journalists and Nigerian news media.
This time, the target was boys and young men, who were waved into trucks at gunpoint, prompting fears that they would be hauled off and forced to fight for the militants in their war against the Nigerian state.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
I was fortunate, in my own life, to have a bold counseling professor tell me what he saw—immaturity, arrogance, insecurity. We live in a culture of affirmation, and I believe in affirming young men and women entering ministry or leadership positions. But not without some honest feedback—about their relational patterns, hidden insecurities, and messianic dreams.
Spiritual health is not about climbing some moral ladder, but about what Jesus calls "purity of heart." This means that our inner life matches our outer. Remember, this was the problem of the religious leaders in Jesus' day. They were hypocrites, play-actors, doing life on stage but hollow within.
It takes time and suffering for growth to happen. This is why the poor, broken, and unclean seem to be privileged in the New Testament—they've already hit bottom. Our humiliations breed depth, grace, forgiveness, strength, courage, curiosity, and hope—all the attributes that make healthy leaders. Otherwise we'll quickly experience what happens to anyone living a lie: We'll get caught, fall, or alienate everyone we love.
Read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
From today's Washington Post, by a writer based in Charlotte, following the news that several SIM missionaries are returning to Charlotte and will be quarantined there.
“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” or so says the lesson in the Gospel of John in the New Testament. It is a simple message that is now being tested by several modern-day crises, with complications that range from compassion overload to an instinct to protect loved ones close to home.
Charlotte, where I live, waits with support, careful interest and some apprehension after news that missionaries, some of whom have worked with and around patients with the Ebola virus, will be returning to the city. [...]
There has been backlash to the loud voices of criticism – that would be Donald Trump protesting the U.S. treatment of the sick, and Ann Coulter, questioning missionaries working in “disease-ridden cesspools” of Africa. But others are more calmly uncomfortable. Retired neurosurgeon and conservative activist Ben Carson said doctors should have flown overseas to treat Ebola patients there.
Admonitions to be our brother’s keeper are tempered with concern over things that are easy to fear and difficult to understand. It’s what happens when the generosity many Americans take pride in is complicated by practical concerns and worries. You can hear it in the low tones of good people who nonetheless have doubts.
You can hear it as Americans debate the fate of children fleeing violence in Central America. Many want to help and would never stand in the road angrily jeering busloads of women and children, but they also want to know laws are being followed. While the plight of resilient Yazidis escaping with the aid of American airstrikes is a survival story to cheer, for many that support would stop at the point it meant American soldiers on the ground.
In Charlotte, a city welcoming those returning from a mission of mercy, well-wishers also wonder about the limits of compassion. There is caution underlying the support in an overwhelming world that can seem full of danger and unfilled need. But were the Writebols and Brantly on to something? Would the fight against Ebola be further along if the international community had paid more attention when the victims were limited to countries many know little about?
The full article is here.
People in Sierra Leone and Liberia filled churches on Sunday to seek deliverance from an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, defying official warnings to avoid public gatherings to contain an epidemic that has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa.
With their creaking healthcare systems completely overrun, Sierra Leone and Liberia have both declared states of emergency to tackle the highly contagious and incurable disease, which has also stricken neighbouring Guinea.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa Liberia Sierra Leone
On a clear, Sunny July morning, as churchgoers all around Houston take to their pews, dozens of nonbelievers are finding seats inside a meeting room in a corporate conference center on the city’s west side to listen to a sermon about losing faith. But first there’s the weekly “community moment”–remarks on a chosen topic delivered by the group’s executive director, this time focused on how we’re hardwired to read sensationalized news–as well as announcements about an upcoming secular summer camp. In between, a musician sings softly of Albert Einstein.
The men speaking before the assembled gathering–executive director Mike Aus, who regularly leads the group, and Jerry DeWitt, a visitor who heads a similar gathering in Louisiana–are both deeply familiar with the idea of Sunday ritual. Just a few years ago, they were Christian ministers active in the pulpit. Today they’re both nonbelievers leading secular Sunday services.
This is Houston Oasis, a church that’s not a church. It was started in September 2012...
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Atheism
The Christ Church congregation listened in silence as Canon Andrew White talked about one of his parishioners who had been visiting Mosul when Isis overran it. After the jihadis had robbed this widow of her life savings they forced her wedding ring from her fingers. She was lucky. The ring came off. People with stickier rings have had their fingers chopped in half, then been ordered to flee to save their lives.
Many haven’t saved theirs. On his Facebook page Andrew White told of a Christian family of eight who had been shot through their faces after refusing to renounce their faith. A photo that was too horrific for him to publish captured the blood-soaked scene and the family Bible on the couch — still open but never to be read by them again. Elsewhere in Mosul there is a park where the heads of children who’ve been cut in half are put on a stick to warn others that anyone, however young, who refuses to convert to Islam will be put to the sword.
Mr White didn’t stay in Guildford for long. He keeps returning to the most dangerous place on earth and his explanation is simple: you can’t abandon the people you love. It is to the enormous shame of Britain and America that we did not live by the Andrew White principle. America stayed in Germany and South Korea for decades to help to ensure they became the stable nations that they are today. Iraq needed a similar level of commitment. It didn’t get it.
Read it all (if you click on the picture it enlarges).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Office of the President President George Bush President Barack Obama Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Our politicians are at last speaking about the terror, torture, mass murder and genocide being meted out upon Christians and other minorities by the Islamic State in Iraq. Their assessment of the situation ranges from "completely unacceptable" to "barbaric". Cardinal Vincent Nichols astutely calls it "a persecution of immense proportions". The Archbishop of Canterbury calls it "evil". And not only is it evil, but "part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith". And he refers specifically to Northern Nigeria, Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that his subject is radical Islam and the malignant Saudi-backed Salafist strain.
Archbishop Justin knows a thing or two about evil: he has stared it in the face down the barrel of a gun while trying to bring peace and reconciliation to the warlords, bandits and murderous thugs of Africa. When you expect to die and phone your wife to say goodbye, you may begin to grasp what it is to agonise, grieve and suffer because of evil.
Archbishop Justin says that this "evil pattern around the world" is brutally violating people's right to freedom of religion and belief. It is, in fact, killing them for their faith in Jesus Christ. It is persecuting them for heresy, apostasy and infidelity to the temporal objectives and literal truths revealed by Mohammed. The Salafi-Jihadists or Jihadi-Salafists who agitate for a caliphate may constitute less than 0.5 percent of the world's 1.9 billion Muslims, but that still numbers them around 10 million - sufficient to establish an evil pattern of hard-line Islamisation around the world.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The 1918 Treaty of Versailles did restore independence to the Polish nation and created the League of Nations, which was blessed by Pope Benedict when he permitted the Catholic Union of International Studies to establish permanent relations with it. He urged the league to call for an end of slavery in Africa and Muslim countries and to send aid to people in Russia dying from famine because of the civil war there in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution. All this helps to explain why, 85 years later, Cardinal Ratzinger took the name of Benedict XVI, calling his predecessor “the courageous prophet of peace.”
Another pope again calls the world to peace. Pope Francis asks us to pray daily for an end to the various armed conflicts and wars in the Middle East and in Africa. The danger is always, as the world should have learned in 1914, that a small dispute can escalate into a general conflict that ignites the world.
Pope Francis called the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican to pray for peace, but this gesture seems to have been stillborn in the midst of the outbreak of hostilities in Gaza and the rocket attacks on Israel. The self-proclaimed Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria has told all Christians to leave or be killed. The Eucharist that was celebrated for 1,600 years in Mosul is no longer prayed there. The churches are destroyed and Christian families have fled. The persecution of Christians in parts of Africa continues unabated, and their protection is not a high priority for the western powers. As, united with Pope Francis, we remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer each day, we pray for ourselves as well, that we may become peacemakers in our day and in our homes and country. Let the remembrance of the outbreak of the First World War be the occasion for intensified prayer for peace. God bless you.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI Pope Francis
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore, Harold Miller, called for a united effort to help Christians in the war-torn country.
"It's really very important for the world at large to be supportive of Christians in Iraq," he said. "Christianity has been in Iraq for a very long time and what I have observed is that people are now being beheaded for their faith.
"The main Christian town has had most Christians expelled from it, like they did with Jewish people during the Nazi era.
"They are marking the houses of all the Christians with the letter 'N' because it comes from following Jesus of Nazareth. It's profoundly shocking."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Ireland * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam
Most people spend their Saturdays relaxing, especially when the weather looks grim. However, people driving through Durham's Woodcroft Shopping Center saw a small group of dedicated volunteers handing out copies of a police missing person message.
The handbills have two pictures of Kent Torrey Hickson, the 71-year-old Anglican priest who's been missing since Monday.
Hickson's son-in-law Maurice Perry told ABC11, "We've searched around his house, searched around where the car was found. And now, looking between the bank where he was last seen and where the car was found."
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Hoping that "the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored," the Acts 29 church planting network founded by Mark Driscoll has removed the Seattle pastor and his Mars Hill megachurch from membership.
“It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network,” said Acts 29 in an online statement signed by Matt Chandler and other board members of the network of 500 churches.
Acts 29 came to the drastic decision "with deep sorrow," according to the statement. "In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Parker, the article says, preached in Baptist churches as a young man, before going into medicine. He had, he says, a “come to Jesus” moment where he became convinced that he ought to do abortions. “The protesters say they’re opposed to abortion because they’re Christian,” he says. “It’s hard for them to accept that I do abortions because I’m a Christian.”
The profile portrays Dr. Parker as he prepares women for the abortions he is selling them. He tells them to ignore everything but their own consciences, and then, of course, he informs their consciences that abortion is morally acceptable. “If you are comfortable with your decision, ignore everything from everybody else.”
Apparently, he knows how to ignore everything else, including the conscience. The article quotes him talking a woman through an abortion by telling her that her unborn child is “very small.”
Read it all.
Research shows that children are best brought up in families where a mum and dad are present. The role of fathers in the nurture of their children is unique and cannot be replaced by other so-called ‘male role-models’ or, indeed, an extra ‘mother’.
Research tells us that children relate to their fathers differently than to their mothers, and this is important in developing a sense of their own identity....
None of this should detract from the heroism of single parents. They should be provided with every support by the State and by local communities.
There is, however, a big difference between children growing up without fathers because of death or family breakdown, and actively planning to bring children into the world who will not know one of their biological parents and where such a parent will never be part of the nurture of these children.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The men in charge of Liverpool's two cathedrals have abseiled down the city's Anglican cathedral, to raise money for charity.
Cathedral Dean Rev Peter Wilcox and his Roman Catholic counterpart, Father Anthony O'Brien, joined an abseil down the cathedral on Saturday.
As part of a two-weekend event, the 150 ft (45m) leap has helped to raise about £48,000 for the cathedral,
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Charities/Non-Profit Organizations Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic
The five-year-old son of a founding member of Baghdad’s Anglican church was cut in half during an attack by the Islamic State1 on the Christian town of Qaraqosh.
In an interview today, an emotional Canon Andrew White told ACNS that he christened the boy several years ago, and that the child’s parents had named the lad Andrew after him.
“I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half,” he said. “I baptised his child in my church in Baghdad2. This little boy, they named him after me – he was called Andrew.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Jose Gomez was born in Mexico. He grew up to become a Catholic priest and moved to the U.S. Now he is Archbishop of Los Angeles. And he's been thinking for years about immigrants who fill the pews.
JOSE GOMEZ: We can be a beautiful example for the whole world. What Los Angeles is now is the way the world is going to be, in my mind - with the movements of people.
INSKEEP: People speak more than 40 languages in the archdiocese, which says it serves five million Catholics. Taking office in 2010, Archbishop Gomez confronted a sex abuse scandal. Now he wants to focus on a long-standing passion, immigration. He wrote a book on it, quoting both the Bible and Thomas Jefferson. When we visited his office, he said he wants generous treatment for Central American children now crossing the border.
GOMEZ: It seems that sometimes we see these young immigrants coming by themselves as a threat for our country. When, in reality, they're just looking for safety and for a place where they can grow up as normal, healthy, and good and strong members of society. I think our concern, in the Church, was that we will send them back right away, without really giving them the opportunity to (unintelligible) their situation.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Immigration Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
What Tolkien and Lewis saw on the battlefield made it easy for them to imagine worlds ravaged by evil. Nevertheless, fortified by their Christian faith—Tolkien a Catholic, Lewis an Anglican—they believed that God and goodness were the deepest truths about the human story. In Middle-earth and Narnia, the ruin or redemption of every person depends on what side he or she has chosen in the conflict.
Is this so unlike our own world? Think of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram; the civilians caught in the genocidal storm of the Syrian regime; the courageous Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for wanting Pakistani girls to go to school.
The heroic figure is the one who resists evil, who is willing to lay down his life for his friends. Perhaps the character of Faramir in "The Lord of the Rings" expresses it best: "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend." That may be the vision of humanity that our present world needs most.
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The soldiers of the Islamic State fight under the banner of demons, but their enemies are no angels.
But not all distinctions can be erased. When enumerating the horrors meted out by the Assad regime, or noting the ubiquity of rape in the Congo, I can not help but think that these are the products of human venality. The thugs who murder children for Assad, or the soldiers who rape women in the Congo, may have their ad hoc justifications for what they do. But they do what they do not in a spirit of purpose, but on the orders of their paymasters or in a fit of amorality coming to the fore. Atrocity, even on a grand scale, can still be the marshaling of individual human weakness. The power of the Islamic State derives in part from the fact that inverts the moral order of the world. Some of its soldiers are clear psychopaths, as the most violent and brutal of international jihadis have been drawn to the Islamic State (as opposed to Al Qaeda, which is more pragmatic!). But a substantial number believe in its utopian vision of an Islamic society constructed upon narrow lines. A positive vision of a few evil goals, rather than a grand quantity of small evil pleasures. The Islamic State ushers in an evil new order, it does not unleash unbridled chaos. Though its self-conception that it is resurrecting the first decades of Islam is self-delusion in my opinion, it is still a vision which can entice some in the Islamic international.
I do not think that the Islamic State is here to stay. I believe it will be gone within the next five years, torn apart by its own contradictions and its rebellion against normal human conventions, traditions, and instincts. But that does not mean it is not going to cause misery for many on its way down. The irony is that the iconoclastic Islamic State may as well be worshiping the idols conjured in the most fervid of Christian evangelical apocolyptic literature, because they shall tear the land end to end and leave it in a thousand pieces, a material sacrifice to their god. They live under the illusion that they are building utopia, but they are coming to destroy an imperfect world and leave hell in its wake.
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An NHS Trust has withdrawn its offer of an appointment to an Anglican chaplain, after his bishop refused to grant him a licence on the grounds that he had defied the House of Bishops' pastoral guidance by marrying his same-sex partner.
The priest, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, is Deputy Senior Chaplain and Deputy Bereavement and Voluntary Services Manager in the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust. He married Laurence Cunnington in April, and the Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, then withdrew his permission to officiate.
On 10 June, Canon Pemberton was offered a new job as Head of Chaplaincy and Bereavement Services in the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This was conditional on the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham's issuing him with a licence....
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Nursery children are to be taught about “fundamental British values” to protect them from religious extremism. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, is said to be planning the shift as her first important policy announcement since securing the job in the coalition reshuffle last month.
Under the plan, to be announced today, local authorities will be forced to strip nurseries of their funding if they promote extremist views. She will demand that children are taught “fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way”.
Nurseries found to be teaching creationism as scientific fact will also be barred from receiving funding from the taxpayer. It will bring nurseries into line with state-funded schools.
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Various news outlets are carrying a story that this is an investigation by the Metropolitan Police into allegations of indecent assault on a child aged under 18 years and indecent assault on a second female aged over 18 years. The police have confirmed that no arrest has been made. You will all realise that this is therefore a traumatic time for Bishop Michael, his family and for those who have made the allegations. Please hold them in your prayers.
I am sorry that we have not been able to say more until now. I know many people have found this frustrating but I hope you will understand our reasons for this and will appreciate that we have been liaising very closely with Lambeth Palace.
Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury signed an Instrument of Delegation that allows me to act as diocesan bishop.
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The Anglican Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is breaking new ground by bringing help and hope to a Pygmy community living in the country’s forests.
Pygmy peoples live in several ethnic groups across the forests of central Africa. There are an estimated 250,000 to 600,000 living in the Congo rainforest alone.
These forest dwellers have lived by hunting and gathering for millennia. But in the past few decades their homelands have been devastated by logging, war and encroachment from farmers. Their appearance and lifestyle means they have also been marginalized by much of society
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Clergy within the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh may now sign civil marriage certificates between same-sex couples, Bishop Dorsey McConnell confirmed in a recent open letter to the diocese.
The action builds on Bishop McConnell’s decision in November 2013 to allow clergy to conduct blessings of same-sex relationships.
At that time, same-sex marriage was not a legal option in Pennsylvania, but Bishop McConnell and diocesan chancellor Andy Roman reviewed civil and canon law after the May 20 federal court decision ruling that same-sex couples be allowed to marry in the state of Pennsylvania.
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The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – the group otherwise known as ISIS – is no more. It hasn’t been defeated; if anything it’s stronger and more murderous. But now it’s known simply as the Islamic State, because it doesn’t recognise the old national borders. The New York Times reported that, at the weekend, it crossed into Lebanon. Its fighters have seized control of Iraq's biggest dam, an oilfield, and three more towns. And the Islamic State is now worth at least two billion US dollars in cash and assets. With that wealth, it’s pursuing a purist and violent dream of a fundamentalist caliphate. And it’s radicalising young men, including, as we’ve seen from the headlines this week, some young Australians. Australian journalist Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, has been face to face with the zealots and warriors of the Sunni "Islamic State"; and they're facing off against the proxies for Shi'ite Iran. Martin explains the impact this conflict is having on the region.
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Warning--this is very hard to watch, make sure to be in a proper frame of mind to take it in; all of her words are translated in subtitles. When you are ready then watch it all.
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Thousands of Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority's biggest town in Iraq.
The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.
An international Christian organisation said at least a quarter of Iraq's Christians were leaving Qaraqosh and other surrounding towns.
IS has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria to create an Islamic caliphate.
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The Diocese of Esan, Anglican Communion has condemned the ravaging activities of terrorists and insurgents in Nigeria while urging Nigerians, irrespective of party affiliation or religious inclinations to avoid making inflammatory statements capable of worsening the already bad security situation in the country.
The diocese in a communiqué issued at the end of the third session of the fourth synod held in Eguare, Ebelle, Esan South East Local Government Area of Edo State also noted the helplessness of Nigeria in curtailing the ravaging insurgency in the country, inspite of assistance from the international community.
This, the diocese noted “makes the resort to divine intervention both imperative and timely”,In the communiqué signed by the Archoishop of Bendel province and Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev. F.J. Imaekhai and the synod clerical secretary of the diocese, Ven A.O. Isibor, the diocese noted that divine direction is underscored by the fact that any nation that fails to heed the call for divine direction is bound to experience the kind of problem the Nigeria nation is confronted with.
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Clergy often face a great deal of occupational stress that in turn can lead to mental distress. In recent years denominations have been turning to peer support groups to combat these challenges, but little research exists regarding their effectiveness. This
study explores the utility of peer support groups for reducing mental distress among pastors by analyzing data from two waves of an ongoing study of United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy in North Carolina, as well as focus group data from the same population. Results indicate that participation in peer support groups had inconsistent direct and indirect relationships to mental distress (measured as mentally unhealthy days, anxiety, and depression). Focus group data indicated that the mixed results may be due to individual differences among group participants, which in turn lead to a mix of positive and negative group experiences.
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Before birth, it is accepted practice to inject the heart of the unborn child with potassium chloride to cause death before inducing a stillbirth, or late term there may be a partial birth abortion in which during delivery an instrument is inserted into the child's brain through the back of the neck so it also is born dead. After birth, even the birth of a baby of the same or even less maturity or gestational age, to end the life would be regarded as a criminal offence in most jurisdictions.
Anecdotally, mothers who opt not to have their child given the fatal injection before birth are placed under great pressure to use the technique to prevent the birth of a child with a disability. It is a cognitive dissonance that seems irresolvable that birth, not maturity or gestational age, is what makes the difference in status of the infant.
Cultural attitudes to disability are obviously conflictual. Public reaction appears to condemn the commissioning couple for reportedly deserting a child on the basis of disability and the inherently discriminatory attitude involved, but would presumably have accepted the killing of baby Gammy before birth at the request of the commissioning couple or the agency, if the birth mother had acquiesced.
There are many other conflicts underlying this case.
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Karim had time to do just one thing: burn all the documents that connected him to America—photos of him posing with Army officers, a CD from the medical charity—in case he was stopped on the road by militants or his house was searched. He watched the record of his experience during the period of the Americans in Iraq turn to ash, and felt nothing except the urge to get to safety.
By 9:30 A.M., Karim and his extended family were crowded into his Toyota Camry, his brother’s car, and his father’s pickup truck. They’d had no time to pack, and for the drive through the heat of the desert they took nothing but water, bread, canned milk for Karim’s two-year-old son, and their AK-47s. At first, Karim’s father refused to go along. A stubborn man, he said, “Let them kill me in my town, but I will never leave it.” Fortunately, the father’s paralyzed cousin, who had been left behind by his family, pleaded with him, and at the last minute the two old men joined the exodus. Karim’s twenty or so family members were the last to get out of the area by car, and they joined a massive traffic jam headed northwest. Thousands of other Yazidi families had to flee on foot into the mountains: “They couldn’t leave. They didn’t know how to leave. They waited too long to leave,” Karim said.
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Indonesia has issued a ban on the teachings of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, being propagated online through a YouTube message encouraging locals to sign up with extremist movement.
Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, told journalists Monday that the ban was reached after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in mainly Muslim Indonesia, ucanews reports.
"The ISIS teachings are not a religious issue," he said. "The government and the State reject and ban ISIS teachings from growing in Indonesia.
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The Church of England faces fresh scrutiny over its handling of historic child abuse after the outgoing Bishop of Gloucester was placed at the centre of a police inquiry over allegations of indecent assault on a child more than 30 years ago.
The Rt Rev Michael Perham, 66, suddenly quit after nearly a decade as bishop on Friday citing “personal reasons” but it can be revealed that a police inquiry was launched centred on the parish in south London where the senior cleric started his career in the Church as an assistant curate in 1976.
The force confirmed today that officers from its sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command are investigating “allegations of indecent assault on a child said to have occurred between 1980 and 1981”. Nobody has been arrested during the course of the continuing inquiry, the force said in a statement.
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This is an encouraging epistle, the most notable sentence being the final one. But the media have not entirely forgotten: the Christian media are well informed. And even if Channel 4 News is consumed by Gaza and busy lauding the bravery of Baroness Warsi, the BBC is slowly waking up to the horrors being inflicted upon Christians by the self-styled Islamic State.
But we must remember that these Salafist extremists neither represent nor speak for all Sunni Muslims. As Canon White explains elsewhere, there are voices being raised against them....
And it must be observed that the Islamic State is not only persecuting Christians, but also Shia, Turkmen, Shabaks, Yazidis and others.
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Christianity turns on a number of paradoxes. The Christian God is both imminent and transcendent; Jesus Christ is both human and divine; his Kingdom both has and has not yet arrived. These various internal tensions have proven immensely productive for anthropologists, and here Matthew Engelke is no exception. Engelke's first monograph, A Problem of Presence, examined how Apostolic Christians in Zimbabwe navigate the simultaneous proximity and distance of God by seeking direct experiences of the Holy Spirit, so much so that they reject all forms of mediation, including the biblical text. Engelke's new book, God's Agents, explores a very different group of Christians (with, it must be said, a very different relationship to Scripture), the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Engelke has already established himself as a skilful ethnographic writer, and in God's Agents he is in fine form. It is not easy to create compelling descriptions of the mundane workings of a nonprofit organization, but in this book even board meetings and the drafting of press releases are made to matter because Engelke has situated them in a game with stakes we've come to appreciate. In addition to ethnographic description and the firsthand narrations of his informants (as anthropologists call the people they study), the text is dotted with quotations from newspaper articles and blogs, as well as the words of Christian writers who have influenced the Bible society staff. These voices give the book a texture that extends the analysis beyond a particular Christian organization to contemporary Britain more generally. One of the primary implications of this wider focus is that God's Agents is very much an ethnography of secularism. What we learn from Engelke's analysis is that the secular is multifaceted, and that the Bible society has a long and complicated relationship with it.
Engelke focuses on the work of the Bible society at home in Britain, much of which amounts to "Bible advocacy," attempts to convince an increasingly indifferent public that the Bible, and Christianity more generally, have not become irrelevant.
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Italian officials on Tuesday (Aug. 5) moved to expel a Moroccan imam who was caught on video inciting violence against Jews during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said he had ordered the imam, Raoudi Aldelbar, to be expelled “for seriously disturbing the peace, endangering national security and religious discrimination.”
The imam was filmed during a Friday sermon in a mosque near Venice last month calling for Jews to be killed “one by one,” according to the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, which published the video on its website.
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Even in death, you can’t escape the property bubble.
From New York to London, growing populations are competing with the deceased for land, driving up real-estate costs well into the afterlife. In Asian megacities, where cremation is the norm, even space for urns is in short supply.
“At the end of the day, it’s like any other piece of real estate,” says Amy Cunningham, a New York state licensed funeral director. “Prices have conspired to put burials out of the range of most people’s budgets.”
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The President of Italy has formally signed a decree which recognizes seven years of preparation by the Church of England to have official status in the country and be recognised as a denomination. It was granted after careful and detailed examination of the Ministero dell’Interno (Italian Home Office) the Direzione Centrale degli Affari dei culti (central department for religious affairs) and Consiglio di Stato (advisory body of the Italian government on administrative matters and their legal implications, with the approval of the Consiglio dei Ministri (Italian Cabinet). It gives legal status to the association Chiesa d’Inghilterra and accepts its statutes.
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An ethics committee has been set up to tackle moral issues faced by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the area's police and crime commissioner.
The independent committee is one of the first of its kind in the country and aims to make recommendations on moral and ethical dilemmas.
It will look at issues such as surveillance operations and the use of body cameras and water cannon.
Members of the public can make referrals to the committee.
The panel of 13 is chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker.
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The first priest to marry his same-sex partner is to issue a legal challenge to the Church of England after his offer of a job as an NHS chaplain was withdrawn when his bishop refused the necessary permission.
The Rev Jeremy Pemberton, who married Laurence Cunnington in April, was informed on Friday that Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS trust had withdrawn its offer of a job after Bishop Richard Inwood had refused him the official licence in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.
"It this is not challenged," Pemberton said on Sunday, "it will send a message to all chaplains of whom a considerable number are gay and lesbian. This is an area of law that has not been tested and needs to be."
Read it all from the Guardian.
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We lost our innocence in the fall of our first parents, and our return to it is through the redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite. Pornography, on the other hand, is essentially sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of sex with its hard purposes, disconnects it from its meaning in life and makes it simply an experience for its own sake.
Many well-grounded complaints have been made about religious literature on the score that it tends to minimize the importance and dignity of life here and now in favor of life in the next world or in favor of miraculous manifestations of grace. When fiction is made according to its nature, it should reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete observable reality. If the writer uses his eyes in the real security of his faith, he will be obliged to use them honestly and his sense of mystery and his acceptance of it will be increased. To look at the worst will be for him no more than an act of trust in God; but what is one thing for the writer may be another for the reader. What leads the writer to his salvation may lead the reader into sin, and the Catholic writer who looks at this possibility directly looks the Medusa in the face and is turned to stone.
By now anyone who has faced the problem is equipped with Mauriac’s advice: "purify the source." And along with it he has become aware that while he is attempting to do that, he has to keep on writing. He becomes aware, too, of sources that, relatively speaking, seem amply pure but from which may come works that scandalize. He may feel that it is as sinful to scandalize the learned as the ignorant. In the end, he will either have to stop writing or limit himself to the concerns proper to what he is creating. It is the person who can follow neither of these courses who becomes the victim, not of the Church’s dogmas, but of a false conception of their demands.
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War must always represent the abject failure of humanity, the head of the Anglican church in Ireland has said. Archbishop of Armagh Dr Richard Clarke said commemoration of the first World War could not be spiritually separated from carnage in Gaza and other contemporary trouble spots.
He addressed a Belfast service marking Britain’s declaration of hostilities against Germany. The Duke of York read a lesson and lit a candle.
“War must always represent the abject failure of the human spirit and of humanity itself,” Dr Clarke said. “It can never be other and we should never pretend it is other.”
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In the Great War, we see heroism and cruelty standing side by side, we see cynical disillusionment and moral determination intertwining, and we see hope and despair in equal measure, and on every side. This was the first time that the weaponry of war could be fully industrialised and it was, also for the first time, that the phrase ‘total war’ was coined to indicate that civilians were to be regarded as being as much part of the war as the military.
But there are of course also the myths to be debunked. It was not only foot soldiers who died in battle. Indeed, if one was an officer, one’s chances of dying on the western front were fifty percent greater than for those in other ranks. The British generals were for the most part not the total incompetents they are presented as being in popular mythology. Many of them too died in battle; they were not relaxing in beautiful chateaus miles behind the front lines. And personally I can well remember as a child knowing a number of veterans of the First World War whose memories of the conflict were not uniformly terrible.
For all of this, however, the 1914–18 War undoubtedly changed the history of the twentieth century. Three European empires had disappeared by the end of the War in 1918, and we can also trace to this war the beginnings of the sunset on a fourth empire, the British Empire. Also emerging from the Great War are the seeds of the development of two ‘super–powers’ – the United States of America and Soviet Russia – that would come to dominate the world for almost half a century after the ending of the Second World War, that further titanic war that in many respects cannot be totally separated from the First. The course of history changed, brutally, dramatically and forever.
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Detroitis the destination this weekend for Pastor Stephen Shaw and more than a dozen members of his Alabama church.
They’re joining an estimated 7,000-10,000 visitors expected at the 99th annual convention for the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World Inc., which begins Saturday at Cobo Center.
The mission is to learn, pray, find fellowship and more. But for Shaw and others, it’s also an opportunity to lift the city with spiritual support.
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Second-generation pagans — those whose parents were converts to pagan spirituality — are a lot like their peers in other faiths. They often do spirituality their own way. Or not at all.
“Born-to-it pagans just are who we are,” said Angela Roberts Reeder, 43, whose parents were involved in ceremonial magic when she was young.
This week, Reeder said she might continue the tradition by joining a public celebration for the first harvest festival of Lughnasa, also called Lammas, at a Washington, D.C., temple.
“Today, it’s so much easier to be openly pagan than 20 or 30 years ago” when converts often faced strong disapproval by family and society when they came out of the “broom closet,” so to speak, Reeder said.
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The Keep Me Posted campaign, which is pressing for the consumer’s right to choose how they are contacted by banks, utility companies and other service providers, has been joined by The Church In Wales.
In the face of an increasing trend for businesses to switch their customers to mainly digital communication, the campaign is calling for service providers to give customers the choice to retain paper bills without charge. Research from the campaign shows that it is often the poor and most vulnerable people in society who rely the most on traditional methods of communication.
The Church, which takes very seriously the economic, social and environmental needs of the communities of Wales, and works in areas of deprivation facing economic inactivity, poverty, debt and low skills, has recognised the barriers many people have to using the internet.
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St. John’s Church is changing – again. After services ended several years ago at the Episcopalian church on the Union City/North Bergen border, a group of local residents and former congregants repurposed the space to hold community functions and kids’ classes. Now a large part of the church is being sold to a developer to be turned into low-income housing for a special needs population.
On Monday, July 28 the Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Union City held a special public meeting at which they approved the application by Garden State Episcopal Community Development Association Corporation (GSECDC) to purchase all of the church property except the rectory and sanctuary, and build 13 condominium units within the space....
At the Zoning Board meeting and a community meeting with the developers one week earlier, residents raised concerns about whether the programs previously held within the church space will be allowed to continue. The answer to that question is still up in the air.
Read more: Hudson Reporter - Historic church to become special needs housing Questions asked about community programs who gets priority for units
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It’s a pattern of territorial expansion that has now become familiar. After the Islamic State captured Sinjar on Sunday, came the executions. Then arrived the orders to convert or die, the flash of the movement’s black flag, the fleeing of thousands — and, finally, the jubilant and chilling images on social media.
One showed a destroyed Shiite shrine, which had long sat in the ancient city of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. Another depicted the executions of several blindfolded men. There was an image of two masked men who had climbed a tall building, enshrouded its edifice in a black Islamic State flag, and blasted a pistol into the air. Then there was a picture showing a masked jihadist hoisting a gun at the desk of the town’s mayor — a portrait of a famed Kurdish guerrilla leader looming behind.
The armed movement, which has surged in wealth, manpower and resources in recent weeks, also just took the town of Wana on Sunday, according to The Washingon Post‘s Loveday Morris. The Islamic State routed a once-proud Kurdish army and forced an exodus of Kurds the United Nations said numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Calling the situation a “humanitarian tragedy,” a top U.N. envoy to Iraq said in a statement that their expulsion was “dire.”
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Like most people, I don’t particularly relish encounters with death. But, welcome or not, I’ve had my fair share. I’ve clasped a woman’s hand as her breathing slowed, became sporadic, and finally ceased. Through the cramped hallways of an ancient farmhouse, down which no stretcher could be maneuvered, I helped heft the sheet-wrapped body of a family’s matriarch to carry her to the waiting hearse. When a small Oklahoma church mourned a member who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, late at night, early in life, I was there, thinking of the joyless “Joy the World” the band of believers had choked out the day before that December 26th funeral. In each of these situations, the death of the young or the old, there was within me a desire to lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, to shine a ray of life into the gloom of death.
Because of that desire, when I first heard about families opting to have a so-called “Celebration of Life” service for their departed loved ones, instead of a funeral, my interest was piqued. Perhaps here was a viable alternative. The name alone effuses a positive, uplifting appeal that “funeral” or “memorial service” can’t begin to match. Celebrations are good, right? And, life, well, who can possibly have any qualms about that? Perhaps this approach to confronting death, at least the ceremonial part of saying goodbye, would help alleviate some of the pain associated with, and expressed in, a more traditional rite. Maybe it was time to have a funeral for the funeral.
So what makes a Celebration of Life different? Rather than a focus upon the loss of a loved one, this service rewinds the present into the past, to draw the mourners back into the life lived by the deceased. It’s like a miniature, enacted biography of the person, with a focus upon those qualities, interests, and achievements that his family and friends found most endearing about him. Whereas a traditional funeral is structured around a liturgy, in this ceremony stories about the person—serious or lighthearted—take center stage. It is his funeral, after all, so shouldn’t it be about him?
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For Christians, antiquity means the founding centuries of the Church, when apostolic teaching was preserved and elaborated and a body of thought assembled. Thus someone attempting to demonstrate, say, that believers’ baptism is the only authentic Christian practice, or that women may now be ordained as priests, will seek to gain the sanction of antiquity for his position. Traditionalists, for whom it is imperative that Roman Catholic priests be unmarried and celibate, “prove,” by invoking the evidence against itself, that early Christian priests who were married never in fact made love to their wives or sired children after their ordinations.
In the present superheated climate of ideological warfare it has been tempting to abandon the painstaking search for the true reconstruction of the past. Proponents of intellectual movements like cultural criticism or of political movements like multiculturalism have claimed flatly that there is no possibility, respectively, of securing a historical narrative of events as they happened eigentlich , or of arriving at a consensus view. If “texts” do not exist independently of their readers, no one true interpretation can be said to exist.
That is not Boswell’s approach: he portrays his work as an investigation that by patient reconstruction and analysis restores the record of gay couples of the past whose existence was heretofore hidden by the prudery of an oppressive church and culture. It is understandable that groups that see themselves as oppressed should want to recover their authentic history. But to create a false history, as Boswell has done in this book (despite its elaborate scholarly apparatus), is to undermine the very cause the work hopes to advance.
Read it all.
Boswell’s reading of early Christian and medieval history also turns up what he wants to find. Christian history is a multifarious affair, and it does not take much sniffing around to discover frequent instances of what is best described as hanky-panky. The discovery process is facilitated if one goes through history with what is aptly described as narrow-eyed prurience, interpreting every expression of intense affection between men as proof that they were “gay.” A favored slogan of the contemporary gay movement is “We Are Everywhere!” Boswell rummages through Christian history and triumphantly comes up with the conclusion, “They were everywhere.” Probably at all times in Christian history one can find instances of homosexual behavior. And it is probably true that at some times more than others such behavior was viewed with “tolerance,” in that it was treated with a wink and a nudge. Certainly that has been true of at least some Christian communities in the last forty years or so. The Church has always been composed of sinners, and some periods are more morally lax than others.
Despite his assiduous efforts, what Boswell’s historical scavenger hunt does not produce is any evidence whatever that authoritative Christian teaching ever departed from the recognition that homosexual acts are morally wrong. In the years before, say, the fourth century, when Christian orthodoxy more firmly cohered, there are significant gaps in our knowledge, and numerous sects and heresies flourished, some of them bizarre also in their moral practices. This is a rich field for speculation and fantasy, and Boswell makes the most of it. He has failed, however, to persuade those who are expert in that period. For example, David Wright of Edinburgh wrote the article on homosexuality in the highly respected Encyclopedia of Early Christianity . After discussing the evidence, he summarily dismisses the Boswell book as “influential but highly misleading.”
Read it all.
In 1946 the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, poet Paul Engle, interviewed a shy young woman with a Savannah, Ga., accent as thick as honey. Engle could hardly understand a word she said and asked her to respond in writing. On a legal pad, she wrote, "My name is Flannery O'Connor. Can I come to the writer's workshop?"
After looking at samples of her work, he concluded, "Like Keats, who spoke Cockney but wrote the purest sounds in English, Flannery spoke a dialect beyond instant comprehension but on the page her prose was imaginative, tough, alive: just like Flannery herself."
Fifty years ago today, Aug. 3, 1964, one of the great authors of the 20th century, Flannery O'Connor, died in Milledgeville, Ga., at the age of 39 after a 15-year battle with lupus, an autoimmune disease. Born and raised in Savannah, she spent all but five years of her life in Georgia.
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The mob howled for vengeance, the missiles raining down on the synagogue walls as the worshippers huddled inside. It was a scene from Europe in the 1930s – except this was eastern Paris on the evening of July 13th, 2014.
Thousands had gathered to demonstrate against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. But the protest soon turned violent – and against Jews in general. One of those trapped told Israeli television that the streets outside were “like an intifada”, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Some of the trapped Jews fought their way out as the riot police dispersed the crowd. Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, condemned the attack in “the strongest possible terms”, while Joel Mergei, a community leader, said he was “profoundly shocked and revolted”. The words had no effect. Two weeks later, 400 protesters attacked a synagogue and Jewish-owned businesses in Sarcelles, in the north of Paris, shouting “Death to the Jews”. Posters had even advertised the raid in advance, like the pogroms of Tsarist Russia.
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Up to one in 10 Catholic priests are former Church of England clergy, according to new figures.
Professor Linda Woodhead, a sociologist of religion at Lancaster University and organiser of the Westminster Faith Debates, worked with the Catholic bishops' vocations director Fr Christopher Jamison OSB to establish that 389 Catholic priests are former Anglican priests, including 87 priests in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingam.
Currently it is estimated that in England and Wales there are 3,000 active diocesan priests, 800 retired priests, 1,000 religious priests and 700 deacons. Most of the Anglicans are believed to be working in parishes or chaplaincies.
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After the rows and debates that have dominated for the past few years, one image of Britain's Christians is of a people obsessed with rules around sex and with stopping people from having sex, especially when it is gay sex or sex outside marriage.
But new research strong support for the physical side of love among churchgoers. And they also seem to be more open to same-sex relationships than might perhaps have been imagined from their churches' stance on the issue.
One in 200 regular churchgoers have entered a formal relationship with someone of the same sex, according to research published this week.
A survey conducted by Christian Research for Christian Today found that 0.6 per cent of churchgoers are in a civil partnership, slightly more than the number cohabiting.
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On a fall day in 2008, the kitchen phone rang inside the Arnetts’ ranch home in Southwick. It was a state social worker, asking if they would consider taking in a “foster child with disabilities.”
The couple didn’t hesitate. They had completed foster-care training two years before, already had cared for a handful of children, and refused to turn away anyone in need.
As devout Christians, they believed God’s work requires sacrifices, including from busy families like theirs raising three boys.
But the social worker didn’t want a quick answer over the phone, insisting instead on a face-to-face visit. A week later, when she and two supervisors showed up at the Arnetts’ house, carrying files and a videotape, they wasted little time before asking, “Have you heard of Haleigh Poutre?”
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The apparent inability of the Iraqi military to dislodge Islamists who have imposed an increasingly proscriptive Caliphate on a large part of the country is raising fears that Christianity could disappear in the area altogether.
The Chaplain of St George's, Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, told the BBC that "things are desperate; our people are disappearing. . . Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed, come what may. We will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near." Canon White said that Iraqi Christians were "in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go."
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, echoed these views, saying that it was "an outrage that a community established in the early centuries of the Christian era should face expulsion from their own land, simply for their faith". The Australian government, the international community, and the UN, he said, "must not stand by while such persecution continues unabated".
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It’s not easy being a celebrity pastor these days with that pesky Internet around.
Consider the struggles of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Faced with mounting accusations circulating online — plagiarism, misusing church funds to prop book sales, silencing anyone in his church with the temerity to question him — Driscoll has urged his followers to stay off the Web. “It’s all shenanigans anyway,” he explains.
Steven Furtick, a megachurch pastor in North Carolina, and Dave Ramsey, an evangelical finance guru, have been taking hits, too, as have the wheeler-dealers on the Preachers of L.A. reality show. This, against a backdrop of culture shifts creating strong headwinds against the leader-and-follower model typified by today’s Christian superstars.
What are a megapastor and his followers to do? Remembering the biblical admonitions against idolatry would be a good start.
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The gentle probing in today’s debate, and the view that it is up to the CofE to address such issues, contrasts with the attitude of parliament towards the Church of England in the debates, PQs &c which followed the General Synod’s defeat on 20 November 2012 of the draft legislation to allow women to become bishops. Furthermore, the parliamentary record indicates that during this session of parliament, Sir Tony Baldry has not been required to respond or give a written answer on the marriage of clergy to their same-sex partners.
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Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and even violent attacks proliferate in several countries.
Most surprising perhaps, a wave of incidents has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a bedrock of the modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, “Never Again.” Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country’s Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.
This week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city’s new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries. In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, The Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller’s family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.
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When Philadelphia’s St. Paul Baptist Church hired the Rev. Leslie Callahan as its first female pastor, in 2009, she was nearing her 40th birthday and the tick-tock of her biological clock was getting hard to ignore.
She delighted in her ministry but also wanted a husband and children in her life. The husband she couldn’t do much about — he just hadn’t stepped into her life.
“But it was clear to me that I was going to do everything in my power to realize my dream of becoming a parent,” she said.Read it all.
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My friend Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation set out to find out why so many young Christians lose their faith in college. He did this by employing a method I don’t recall being used before: He asked them.
The Fixed Point Foundation asked members of the Secular Students Associations on campuses around the nation to tell them about their “journey to unbelief.” Taunton was not only surprised by the level of response but, more importantly, about the stories he and his colleagues heard.
Instead of would-be Richard Dawkins’, the typical respondent was more like Phil, a student Taunton interviewed. Phil had grown up in church; he had even been the president of his youth group. What drove Phil away wasn’t the lure of secular materialism or even Christian moral teaching. And he was specifically upset when his church changed youth pastors.
Whereas his old youth pastor “knew the Bible” and made Phil “feel smart” about his faith even when he didn’t have all the answers, the new youth pastor taught less and played more.
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Grace Davie, the distinguished British sociologist of religion, has proposed an interesting idea: A strong establishment of a church is bad for both religion and the state–for the former because the association with state policies undermines the credibility of religion, and for the latter because the support of one religion over all others creates resentment and potential instability. But a weak establishment is good for both institutions, because a politically powerless yet still symbolically privileged church can be an influential voice in the public arena, often in defense of moral principles. Davie’s idea nicely fits the history of the Church of England. In earlier centuries it persecuted Roman Catholics and discriminated against Nonconformist Protestants and Jews. More recently it has used its “bully pulpit” for a number of good causes, not least being the rights of non-Christians. Thus very recently influential Jewish and Muslim figures have voiced strong support for the continuing establishment of the Church of England, among them Jonathan Sacks, the former Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and the Muslim Sayeeda Warsi, currently Minister of Faith and Communities in David Cameron’s cabinet.
Of course it would be foolish to recommend that the British version of state/church relations be accepted in other countries—as foolish as to expect other countries to adopt the very distinctive American form of the separation of church and state. However, as I have suggested in other posts on this blog, the British arrangement is worth pondering by other countries who wish to combine a specific religious identity with freedom for all those who do not share it. For starters, I’ll mention all countries who want legislation to be based on “Islamic principles” (not full-fledged sharia law); Russia, struggling to define the public role of the Orthodox Church; Israel trying to define the place of Judaism in its democracy; India, similarly seeking to fit hindutva into its constitutional description as a “secular republic”. In a globalizing world, cross-national comparisons can be surprisingly useful.
Read it all from the American Interest.
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How, then, should Christians respond to Isis?
First of all, they need to respond with steadfast witness to Christ and the truth of the Gospel. The Book of Revelation is concerned with how the powers of evil that assault God’s people are defeated and what it tells us is that this is achieved through Christians remaining faithful to Christ to the point of death. ‘And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’’ (Revelation 12:10-11).
Secondly, they need to pray. As Revelation also makes clear, it is ultimately God who sustains his Church and defeats its persecutors and so Christians need to take seriously Jesus’ injunction to ‘ask, seek and knock’ (Matthew 7:7-8) and pray hard for those who are suffering because of the activities of Isis. The charity Open Doors, for example, has asked for prayers:
for God to change the hearts of those who are persecuting Christians;
for God to uphold Christian refugees who are weary and exhausted through the support of the body of Christ;
for God to give wisdom and strength to the government in Baghdad to resolve this crisis.
Thirdly, they need to give to support those in need because of Isis’ activity, such as the Christians who have been forced to flee their homes in Mosul.
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The ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, once the most powerful capital of the ancient world, has special importance for anyone familiar with the Bible. It was the setting for the book of Jonah, a place to which God sent the prophet to warn its inhabitants of impending destruction unless they repented of their evil ways.
Today it is known as Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. And last week, almost unnoticed amid the horrific stream of news about violence in the Mideast, a fresh casualty of Islamic extremism was the towering structure that contained the tomb of Jonah. Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham who blew up the prophet's tomb either didn't know or didn't care that it was Muhammad himself who, in the Quran, described Jonah as "a righteous preacher of the message of God."
It is remarkable that Jonah achieved significant importance in the religious traditions of all three major monotheistic faiths. His biblical book is short, all of four chapters, totaling 48 sentences. In the Christian Bible, it is found in the section called "The Minor Prophets." In the Jewish version, Jonah is lumped in with 11 others in the work known as "The Twelve."
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A week after my admission to my friend, I was sitting at a wedding Mass listening to the reading of a prayer written by the bride and groom. It asked that “all called to the generosity of the single or celibate . . . might inspire [name of bride and groom] by their conformity to Christ, and always find in them fiercely devoted friends, and in their house a second home.”
The prayer moved me, in part because I’d been going through my own period of loneliness, but also because it reminded me that the movement for gay marriage is absolutely right to demand that the institution be made more inclusive. Where it goes wrong is in supposing this can be done by asserting a free-floating right to marriage, rather than by insisting on the duty of every marriage to become a place of welcome. We can’t and shouldn’t redesign marriage under the illusion that it can directly include everyone. We need more than one form of solidarity.
Despite my eccentric evolution on gay marriage, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a certain fugitive solidarity with those whose paths differ from my own. A strange portion of the intellectual discovery and growth in friendship I’ve enjoyed these past years has come about not despite, but because of, the vexations of the gay marriage debate. Those with whom I disagree have helped me see how the strands of the Christian sexual ethic combine to form a great tapestry, the patterns of which would be much more obscure had they not prompted me to think through how sex intersects with Scripture, nature, culture. For this, I owe them a great debt. I hope that in the years to come I can do something to repay it.
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Calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from all over the world. Pope Francis last Sunday deviated from his script to make an impassioned plea, apparently choking back tears as he spoke: "Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please."
The Evangelical Episcopal Church's Bishop in Israel & the Palestinian territories, Dr Hani Shehadeh, and four other churchmen from the Holy Land wrote to the Church Times this week urging Christians to pray for peace.
They urge all Christians to stand up for the rights of the Christian family in the Middle East: "Lobby your parliament, speak up in your media, and pray for the well-being and safety of Christians facing persecution." The letter said that the latest conflict in Gaza meant that "the Christian community of this corner of the Holy Land faces extinction."
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As you plan — or even go — on your summer vacation, think about this: More and more Americans are no longer taking a few weeks off to suntan and sight see abroad. Instead they're working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English.
It's called volunteer tourism or "volunteerism." And it's one of the fastest growing trends in travel today. More than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year.
But some people who work in the industry are skeptical of volunteerism's rising popularity. They question whether some trips help young adults pad their resumes or college applications more than they help those in need.
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At a Vatican conference held July 29 to mark the World Day Against Trafficking, a U.S. diplomat said that the scourge of modern slavery will not be ended until the economic attitudes that lead to human trafficking are changed.
“One cannot simply protect the victims, and bring the victims into a place of safety, if one doesn’t do anything to change the underlying cultural assumptions that help create and foster this slavery, this exploitation, if one does not change the underlying economic assumptions that treat people as commodities,” Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. ambassador at large for trafficking in persons, said July 29 via video conference.
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The government should consider intervening to stop the Church of England sacking gay vicars who marry, a former Conservative chairman has said.
Lord Fowler raised the case in the House of Lords of Jeremy Pemberton, who had his licence to preach revoked after marrying his partner.
He called on the government to "see if there is anything that could be done to help reconcile the difficulties".
Gay marriage is legal in the UK but the Church of England has not accepted it.
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This is posted at the bottom of Rod Dreher's post and taken from the comments over at Alan Jacobs' site, but I post it here to make sure it is not missed--KSH
I’ve been reading the Times religiously (a paradoxical adverb, right now) since 1969. I just cancelled my subscription, and told the nice clerk who processed my cancellation that the Times’s smug prejudice toward traditional religious beliefs had just become too much. When asked what I liked about the Times, I told her the arts coverage and the seriousness of its international news. But those assets no longer outweigh its characteristics as (as Alasdair MacIntrye characterized it in 1988) “that parish magazine of affluent and self-congratulatory liberal enlightenment.”
For a while, I enjoyed Stanley Fish’s NYT blog, in which, honest postmodernist that he is, he attempted to gleefully deconstruct the untenability of Enlightenment reason. It was fun watching the altar guild huff and puff at his sacrilege. For a while.
Rod, thanks for defining a tipping point.
What Barro’s tweet was for me, and Egan’s ope-ed for Alan, was the tipping point. I have been reading the Times as a subscriber for nearly 20 years. It sometimes made me furious, it sometimes thrilled me, it usually made me think, and I was almost always grateful for it. I started my Times subscription in south Florida, kept it when I moved to New York City, held on to it when I moved to Dallas, then in Philly, and stuck with the digital version in St. Francisville. I’ve been with the Times for longer than I’ve known my wife. We have a relationship, that newspaper and I.
It has never been friendly to conservatives, of course, and that’s just part of the deal. But the Times plays things reasonably straight — except on coverage of social and religious conservatives. This is not just my view; it’s the unapologetic view of Bill Keller, the former executive editor....
Even though I care about culture and religion more than anything else, I gritted my teeth and read the paper anyway. It was worth it. Besides, they employ David Brooks and they hired Ross Douthat, and that counts for a lot in my book.
I’ve noticed, though, that as gay rights became more prominent in the public square, and as the Times took on a no-holds-barred advocacy role (it’s not just me saying that; two former NYT ombudsmen have made the same observation; I don’t have the links available to me, but you can easily look it up), it’s attitude toward religious believers anywhere to the right of the Episcopal Church left became increasingly nasty. Now the Times not only didn’t try to be fair, it seemed to go out of its way to be hostile. Look, I expect the Times to give ample coverage to gay issues, given the particular prominence of the gay community in NYC, and among the creative elites the paper keeps its eye on. I’m not sure when it happened, or why it happened, but at some point I started to think that the Times really does hate social and religious conservatives. I mean hate.
Read it all (emphasis his).
Last night, New York Times reporter Josh Barro tweeted out a disturbing message: “Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”
This is rather shocking. Barro is no angry blogger writing manifestos in his basement. He is a respected reporter from a prestigious newspaper that prides itself on equanimity in the face of heated debate. Yet he seems, by any reasonable measure, to be fomenting a campaign to rout out all dissenters from the sexual revolution. Erick Erickson wrote a brief response to Barro’s tweet, to which Barro replied that he thinks that “we should make anti-LGBT views shameful like segregation. Not saying we should off people.”
Okay. But “stamp out,” intensified by the qualifier “ruthlessly,” means something quite a bit stronger than inviting your interlocutor to tea and crumpets to discuss differences.
Read it all.
Of course, there are schools whose doctrines fit those now held by Jaycen and others whose convictions now contradict centuries of Christian doctrine. Should students attend schools where they can sign doctrinal covenants and then keep those vows? This issue is never explored in the story. Why is this student at George Fox?
Yes, it does matter that the school’s own community seems to be divided — anonymity is crucial — over these doctrines. This is common. That is why it’s crucial — in terms of journalism ethics — for the Times team to quote people on both sides of this debate, even inside George Fox and similar institutions.
Why not cover both sides of the debate? Because, under “Kellerism,” error has no rights, even if that means changing the basic rules of the American model of the press....
Simply stated, many traditional religious believers — even if they are long-time supporters of the Times — are being forced out of the doctrinally defined community that is the church of New York Times subscribers.
Read it all.
Sarah Blanchard was sorry she skipped a worship service. Sarah Wood apologized for denouncing infant baptisms. And as for the Cheneys, Joseph and Abigail? Well, “with shame, humiliation and sorrow,” they acknowledged having had sex before marriage.
More than 250 years ago, their confessions of sin were dutifully logged by the minister of the church here, alongside records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, notes about meetings heated and routine, accounts of finances, texts of sermons, and, in some cases, personal accounts of conversion experiences from young adults.
Now, in a regionwide scavenger hunt, a pair of historians is rummaging through New England church basements and attics, file cabinets, safes and even coat closets, searching for these records of early American life. The historians are racing against inexorable church closings, occasional fires, and a more mundane but not uncommon peril: the actual loss of documents, which most often occurs when a church elder dies and no one can remember the whereabouts of historical papers.
Read it all.
Even as overall party identification trends in the U.S. have shifted over the past six and half years, the relationship between religion and party identification has remained consistent. Very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and less frequently identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with those who are moderately or nonreligious.
Gallup classifies Americans as "very religious" if they say religion is an important part of their daily lives and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. That group constituted 41% of all U.S. adults in the first half of 2014. "Nonreligious" Americans (30% of Americans in 2014) are those who say religion is not an important part of their daily lives and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining group, 29%, are classified as "moderately religious." These people say religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.
From 2008 to June 2014, nonreligious Americans have been the most Democratic of the three religious groups, with a net Democratic value ranging between +38 and +19 over that period. Those who are moderately religious have also tilted Democratic, with net values ranging from +23 to +1. Those who are very religious are least Democratic, with net values in the negative range, meaning that on average, this group identifies with or leans toward the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party.
Read it all.
“You can't look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grand children, from ever worse violence.
“My utmost admiration is for all those involved in the humanitarian efforts on the ground, not least the medical team and staff at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Providing relief and shelter for those displaced is a tangible expression of our care and concern, and I encourage Church of England parishes and dioceses, as well as the wider Communion, to pray for them and support the Diocese of Jerusalem's emergency appeal.
“While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all...."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Israel The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Human rights lawyer Nina Shea described the horror in Mosul to me: "(ISIS) took the Christians' houses, took the cars they were driving to leave. They took all their money. One old woman had her life savings of $40,000, and she said, 'Can I please have 100 dollars?', and they said no. They took wedding rings off fingers, chopping off fingers if they couldn't get the ring off."
"We now have 5,000 destitute, homeless people with no future," Shea said. "This is a crime against humanity."
For the first time in 2,000 years, Mosul is devoid of Christians. "This is ancient Nineveh we are talking about," Shea explained. "They took down all the crosses. They blew up the tomb of the prophet Jonah. An orthodox Cathedral has been turned into a mosque. ... They are uprooting every vestige of Christianity." University of Mosul professor Mahmoud Al 'Asali, a Muslim, bravely spoke out against ISIS' purging of Christians and was executed.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
[This illustration I heard is a...] great story about the power of a good deed. There’s just one problem: Almost nothing about this story is true. It’s one of the most popular myths about Churchill, according Snopes.com and the Downers Grove, Illinois-based Churchill Centre.
How do I know this?
During the sermon, I stopped listening to the pastor and instead turned my eyes on my cell phone. Something about the story just didn’t sit right — it was too good to be true. So whatever spiritual lesson I was supposed to learn in the sermon was soon overshadowed by the wisdom of a Google search.
Things get even worse when a pastor starts quoting statistics.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking History Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
While more than 200 thousand Palestinians have fled Gaza since the war began, and more being added daily, some remain in resistance. Among them is Fr George Hernandez, pastor of the Catholics in Gaza, at Holy Family Church in Zeitun, where he stays to care for his flock while bombs continue to fly overhead and land too close to home.
Fr. Hernandez spoke to Vatican Radio where he described the situation on the ground and how the war has struck the Catholic community:
“Unfortunately, the resistance movement is situated near houses and in the streets. For us, this was a problem yesterday. At a certain point, we could not leave the house. Then the bombs fell. One house near the church was hit and there have been some major damage to our rectory and parish school”.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Israel The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Pastoral Theology
Just and eternal God, we offer thanks for the stalwart faith and persistence of thy servants William Wilberforce and Anthony Ashley-Cooper, who, undeterred by opposition and failure, held fast to a vision of justice in which no child of yours might suffer in enforced servitude and misery. Grant that we, drawn by that same Gospel vision, may persevere in serving the common good and caring for those who have been cast down, that they may be raised up through Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
Every age selects its symbols, preferring some over others, to give expression to those unspoken inclinations of the collective soul. The signs and rituals that betoken traditional eschatology—Last Rites among them—are losing their resonance. We have given a quietus to the death knell, silenced the treble of the Sanctus bell. Altar rails, sturdy emblems of distinction between the sacred and profane, surrendered dominion to modernity’s self-confidence. The sovereignty of modern man spurns genuflection. Our clergy grow uneasy in clerical dress.
And those direful old frescoes of the damned? Their claim on art increases as their hold on lives diminishes. The damned exist for us now only in horror movies. We have lost sight of them among ourselves. Allegories of the weighing of souls ended with those generations who trembled to speak of God as a consuming fire. Now we speak only of love. Nothing hangs in the balance for us good folk. St. Michael has put down his scales and taken up guitar.
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Check it out on Youtube.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Poetry & Literature Religion & Culture * Theology
How easily the world forgets. It has been only three months, but it feels like a lifetime since more than 200 Nigerian girls were snatched from their school in the dead of night by the brutal Boko Haram. Vigils and marches around the world marked the girls’ 100 days in captivity, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan managed to emerge from his cocoon to finally meet the parents of the abducted girls. I guess we should thank God for his small mercies. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his role as a UN global ambassador, tried to keep up hope for the girls’ return on the bleak anniversary, but his words had a hollow ring.
“The world has not forgotten these girls. Not in a 100 days. Not for one day,” Brown wrote.
Yes it has. The universal outrage that greeted the abduction, and the massive effort to mobilize the global community to confront the terrorists and rescue the girls, has dissipated. Western governments talked tough, promised big, but in the end, did precious little to help save the girls. A world-wide Bring Back Our Girls campaign led by politicians, religious leaders and celebrities swept across continents and energized people. There was hope, but it was only fleeting. Once the sad faces that tugged at our heartstrings disappeared from our TV screens, the outrage faded, and governments moved on to the next crisis in the headlines, promises forgotten. People returned to their busy lives, and the Bring Back Our Girls campaign fizzled. More than 200 girls are brazenly abducted, and what the world does is to shed a little tear, then shrug its shoulders and move on. It is hard to imagine the horror that confronts these girls every waking moment. The terror, the helplessness and the feeling of abandonment must be excruciating.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education 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 Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Like many people, I trust Google to find me answers to everything from the mundane to the medical. Now, after a decade in which our increasing obsession with social media brought our computers out of the study and into the living-room, more of us are turning to the internet even when our question is emotional or irrational. The result: two decades after the birth of the web, our search histories have become a mirror to every aspect of our lives.
“Someone once said that what you look for is way more telling than information about yourself – this is something Google and other search engines understood a long time ago,” says Luciano Floridi, the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute.
“Future generations will be able to trace our interests as a society just by looking at what we were looking for. Even if we don’t find the information, it doesn’t matter. Who we are, how we represent ourselves, how the world feeding back a mirror image of ourselves shapes our idea of ourselves – this is as old as philosophy, but today has a completely new twist. The online and offline are becoming more and more blurred, and that feeds back into our self-perception.” (If that sounds pseudy, then think of the example of a recruiter Googling someone who’s applied for a job: does the person on Twitter better represent who they really are, or the person on their best behaviour in the interview room?)
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Health & Medicine Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK
Being more cynical, one might buy into the famous Marx quotation: “religion is the opium of the people”. While it’s true that Marx was articulating his belief that religion was a way of “power” saying “don’t worry if you’re downtrodden in this life, you will find a reward in the next”, in the wider quotation from which those words are taken, he was actually being more sympathetic: acknowledging the potential of religion to give solace where there is distress.
That’s how I feel when I look on in bemused fascination at members of my own family’s religious devotion despite their never-ending series of trials in this life. As a callow, arrogant youth I would try the Marx line out on them, only to be dismissed. And rightly so, because back then I was merely trying to provoke them.
Today, the conversation is different. I respect their beliefs because I can see the solace they have brought them, whilst absolutely rejecting any attempts to continue to force those beliefs upon others, or to marry them to the state.
The need for complete dis-establishment of church and state not only in this country, but in all countries, appears so obvious in the face of the many inequalities that accompany “establishment” that it is mystifying that in the 21 Century that there can be any argument against it. But then, what do I know? Apparently, my heart is closed.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Church/State Matters Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
Amish farmer Raymond Miller developed a taste for Mountain Dew soda, got his GED, and wonders if he should get a pool table after learning to play in prison.
His wife, Kathryn, who had never ridden a public bus before boarding one last year to go to prison for forcibly cutting the hair of her relatives, was introduced to yoga and step classes while behind bars.
The Millers, members of an Amish breakaway sect from eastern Ohio at the center of shocking 2011 hair-cutting attacks on other Amish followers, are trying to settle back into life at home after being exposed in prison to a world their religion is focused on locking out.
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Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan travelled to Washington to meet US government representatives to highlight the plight of Christians in Mosul.
He spoke out about the “mass cleansing” of Christians from the Iraqi city by what he called “a bed of criminals”.
“We wonder how could those criminals, this bed of criminals, cross the border from Syria into Mosul and occupy the whole city of Mosul … imposing on the population their Shariah (law) without any knowledge of the international community,” he said on Friday, referring to Islamic State fighters, formerly known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL.
“What happened is really kind of a cleansing based on religion. You have heard about what they did: proclaim — they announced publicly with street microphones, the ISIS — there’s no more room for Christians in Mosul, that they either have to convert, pay tax, or just leave. And they have been leaving now since then with absolutely nothing,” he added.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Cameroonian military says members of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram have abducted the wife of the country's deputy prime minister in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata.
A local religious leader and mayor was also abducted from the same town.
Separately, at least five people in northern Nigeria were killed in a blast - residents suspect Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has stepped up cross-border attacks into Cameroon in recent weeks, as the army was deployed to the region.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Cameroon Nigeria
I think that the boggle line also tells us something about belief. We each of us have what we could call a belief continuum, with taken-for-granted obvious truths at one end (in August, it does not snow in New York City) and whacked-out possibilities at the other (the tooth fairy, a Cubs triumph in the World Series). When we draw a line between the plausible and the ridiculous — our boggle line — I think we become more confident about the beliefs on the plausible side of the line. You are, the boggle line tells you, a sensible, reasonable person. You do not believe in that. So a belief in this — well, a sensible person would take that seriously.
We know already that asserting one kind of belief shapes one’s willingness to commit to another. Benoit Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford, and his colleagues have found that when people do something that affirms their lack of prejudice, like disagreeing with blatant racism or expressing willingness, in a laboratory experiment, to hire a black person instead of a white one, that reasonable moral action seems to license them later to express views that seem racist. Seeing yourself as morally reasonable might allow you to make morally risky choices.
So perhaps rejecting the extreme position (I don’t believe in that) might make a less extreme, but still uncertain, commitment seem more plausible. Indeed, you can make a case that this is why heresy is so important. “What people do not believe is often more clearly articulated than what they do believe,” the sociologist Lester R. Kurtz wrote in 1983, “and it is through battles with heresies and heretics that orthodoxy is most sharply delineated.” The sociologists would explain that if this is true, it is because people unite most profoundly in opposition to a common enemy.
Read it all from the NY Times Op-ed.
Vicar of Baghdad' Canon Andrew White has warned that Christianity in Iraq could be close to extinction. And he has called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.
Canon White, on a weekend visit to the UK where he visited churches including the Chiswick Christian Centre and The Church of the Ascension in Balham, said numbers in St George's Baghdad had decreased from 6,500 to 1,000.
Many fled to Mosul, across the river Tigris from the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. Now they have been forced by ISIS to flee Mosul also, most escaping to Kurdistan.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Controversial comments made by two ministers of the BJP-led Goa government, one wishing for a Hindu nation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and another claiming India is already one, created an uproar both in the state assembly and across social media Friday.
Minutes after the opposition Congress and an independent legislator staged a walked out demanding a clarification from Co-operation Minister Deepak Dhavalikar for his Thursday's comments that India would become a Hindu nation if everyone supported Modi, Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza dropped another bombshell, saying India was always a Hindu country and that he was Christian Hindu.
"India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I, am a Christian Hindu," D'Souza, one of the seniormost minority members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Goa, told reporters in the assembly complex.
The 'Hindu nation' comments have found backers amongst Hindu right wing groups, but have also been the target of criticism from other politicians as well as civil society commentators on the social media.
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