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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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Aside from a pastor's personal weaknesses, what cultural forces make it harder for pastors to stay true in their calls?
We have a cultural tendency to elevate leaders. Maybe it's because they have an extraordinary education or a title or a position. Maybe it is because they have had a great deal of success in the growth of their church, or as an author or speaker. Whatever the reason, we're creating minigods in our minds and hearts. That creates expectations in leaders, and expectations are the foundations for disappointment.
What does that look like in a local church?
Maybe the pastor receives disproportionately large gifts compared to what's given to associates or other staff. Or the senior pastor is seen as the person that we all go to. It's people saying, "The pastor sat at my table," or, "The pastor was over at my house." As if the pastor is a movie star or sports figure.
I don't know how many times in Peacemakers' work, after coming in to help a church, I've heard elders say, "I wanted to say something, but I thought, Who am I?" We elevate pastors to a place where we feel they know so much more than we do, so we don't hold them accountable to some fundamental issues.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Mexico’s deadly drugs war is not just a question of supply and demand but a symptom of the rise of Satan, according to some Catholic leaders. With the death toll at about 80,000 and counting, the number of exorcisms is rising.
Father Carlos Triana, an exorcist in Mexico City, said: “We believe that behind all these big and structural evils there is a dark agent and his name is The Demon. As much as we believe that the Devil was behind Adolf Hitler, possessing and directing him, we also believe that he [the Devil] is here behind the drug cartels.”
Exorcisms and spiritual cleansings are common in Mexico, a superstitious country where Catholicism overlaid the religious beliefs of its indigenous inhabitants, including the Aztecs.
Read it all (subscription required).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theodicy
...in this article, I want us to suspend the popular perception of this acerbic idiom and replace it with a sunnier interpretation. I want us to consider how something as simple and carefree as a half-hour trek through nature can reap tremendous benefits for body, mind and soul.
This positive spin on a negative phrase carries encouraging news, especially for those who sometimes shudder at the thought of a fast-paced kickboxing class at 6 a.m. after a sleepless night with a sick child, or who just can’t seem to motivate themselves to hit the weights in a packed and noisy gym after a stressful day at the office. With just a little bit of time and a trusty pair of tennis shoes, we can literally walk our bad moods, bad habits and worries all away!
Today, I’m advising you—lovingly—to take a hike, and here are my top five reasons why....
Read it all.
I’m thankful that even though I don’t have all the answers, God does. In tragedy we seek explanations, but explanations never comfort. It is God’s presence that eases our pain.
I’m thankful that this life is not all there is. It’s not the end of the story. One day God will right all wrongs, even the odds and settle all accounts. Justice will be served. Evil will not win.
I’m thankful for the hope of heaven. I won’t have to live with pain forever. In heaven, there are no broken relationships, broken minds, broken bodies, broken dreams or broken promises. The Bible tells us, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Pastoral Theology
One day near the middle of the last century a minister in a prison camp in Germany conducted a service for the other prisoners. One of those prisoners, an English officer who survived, wrote these words:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive… He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near… On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment, and the thoughts and resolutions it had brought us. He had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.” That had only one meaning for all prisoners–the gallows. We said good-bye to him. He took me aside: “This is the end; but for me it is the beginning of life.” The next day he was hanged in Flossenburg.”I read it every year on this day and every year it (still) brings me to tears--KSH.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * International News & Commentary Europe Germany * Theology Eschatology Pastoral Theology
About sunset, it happened every Friday evening on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast. You could see an old man walking, white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent.--Paul Harvey's the Rest of the Story (Bantam Books, 1997 Mass paperback ed. of the 1977 Doubleday original), pp. 170-172
One gnarled hand would be gripping the handle of a pail, a large bucket filled with shrimp. There on a broken pier, reddened by the setting sun, the weekly ritual would be re-enacted.
At once, the silent twilight sky would become a mass of dancing dots...growing larger. In the distance, screeching calls would become louder.
They were seagulls, come from nowhere on the same pilgrimage… to meet an old man.
For half an hour or so, the gentleman would stand on the pier, surrounded by fluttering white, till his pail of shrimp was empty. But the gulls would linger for a while. Perhaps one would perch comfortably on the old man’s hat…and a certain day gone by would gently come to his mind.
Eventually, all the old man’s days were past. If the gulls still returned to that spot… perhaps on a Friday evening at sunset, it is not for food… but to pay homage to the secret they shared with a gentle stranger.
And that secret is THE REST OF THE STORY.
Anyone who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day it was reported that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was lost at sea.
Captain Eddie’s mission had been to deliver a message of the utmost importance to General Douglas MacArthur.
But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. . Somewhere over the South Pacific, the flying fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, and the men ditched their plane in the ocean.
The B-17 stayed afloat just long enough for all aboard to get out. . Then, slowly, the tail of the flying fortress swung up and poised for a split second… and the ship went down leaving eight men and three rafts… and the horizon.
For nearly a month, Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun.
They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. Their largest raft was nine by five… the biggest shark ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.
In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”
Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking… Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a seagull. I don’t know how I knew; I just knew.
“Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word. But peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at the gull. The gull meant food… if I could catch it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten; its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.
You know that Captain Eddie made it.
And now you also know...that he never forgot.
Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent.
His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.
People in the early twenty-first century seem to struggle to be thankful. One moving story on this topic concerns a seminary student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. On September 8, 1860, a ship called the Lady Elgin went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later he died in California at the age of 81. In a newspaper notice of his death, it was said that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.
Today is a day in which we are to be reminded of our creatureliness, our frailty, and our dependence. One of the clearest ways we may express this is to seek to give thanks in all circumstances (Philippians 4:6).
I am sure today you can find much for which to give thanks: the gift of life, the gift of faith, the joy of friends and family, all those serving in the mission field extending the reach of the gospel around the world, and so much else. I also invite you to consider taking a moment at some point today to write a note of thanksgiving to someone who really made a difference in your life: possibly a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a minister or a parent. You might even write to the parish secretary, the sexton, or the music minister in the parish where you worship; they work very hard behind the scenes.
–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is the convenor of this blog and takes this opportunity to give thanks for all blog readers and participants and to wish everyone a blessed Thanksgiving
What about what some call the greatest mission field, which is our own secularizing or secularized culture? What do we need to do to reach this increasingly pagan society? I think we need to say to one another that it’s not so secular as it looks. I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It’s interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?
The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don’t know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced.
And third is their quest for community. Everywhere, people are looking for community, for relationships of love. This is a challenge to our fellowship. I’m very fond of 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” The invisibility of God is a great problem to people. The question is how has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? First, Christ has made the invisible God visible. That’s John’s Gospel 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
People say that’s wonderful, but it was 2,000 years ago. So in 1 John 4:12, he begins with exactly the same formula, nobody has ever seen God. But here John goes on, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” The same invisible God who once made himself visible in Jesus now makes himself visible in the Christian community, if we love one another. And all the verbal proclamation of the gospel is of little value unless it is made by a community of love.
These three things about our humanity are on our side in our evangelism, because people are looking for the very things we have to offer them.
You may find the whole article from which it comes there. I quoted this at the early morning service sermon this past Sunday--KSH.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Between classes, they schemed and conspired. For weeks, the football players at Olivet Middle School in Olivet, Mich., secretly planned their remarkable play.
"Everyone was in on it," says Nick Jungel.
"But the coaches didn't know anything about it," Parker Smith says. "We were, like, going behind their back."
We've never heard of a team coming up with a plan to not score.
Read it all but also make sure to watch the Video.
You say in The Church for the World that Christian public witness has gone awry in the United States. How so?
The main problem is that Christian presence in public life tends to be triumphalistic. The purpose of Christian witness is to point to Jesus and the reign of God he embodies, but a triumphal presence actually contradicts Jesus’ way of being in the world as depicted in the Gospels.
The triumphal character of Christian witness has contributed a good deal to how polarized our society and churches have become. Christians so thoroughly disagree about war, sexuality, ecological care, immigration and other issues that we wind up on opposing sides of the political spectrum. This is cause for great concern, because partisan politics ends up defining what is Christian; it shapes the way we think and speak about public issues.
It is possible, though, for Christians to take a stand on specific social and political matters without binding the church to partisan politics. We have biblical and theological resources to help us reframe issues and offer something new—a third way.
Read it all.
Every 14 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies by suicide. Every 15 minutes, someone is left to make sense of it. Survivors of Suicide Day is a time of hope, healing, and support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Take the time to watch the video.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Psychology Suicide * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
After the jurors were seated, [Retired Bishop Alfred] Gwinn explained to them that both sides of the trials had agreed to two facts. First, [the Rev. Frank] Schaefer had performed a same-sex ceremony that involved his son and partner in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on April 28, 2007. Second, Schaefer signed a certificate of marriage that stated he “solemnized the marriage” and that he was ordained United Methodist clergy of The United Methodist Church.
Schaefer declared “not guilty” to both of the charges he faces, which fall under the 2004 Book of Discipline. He is accused of violating these two parts of Paragraph 2702.1:
(b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings,15 including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies;**
(d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church;
Read it all.
Filed under: * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
A United Methodist pastor was convicted Monday of breaking church law by officiating his son's same-sex wedding and could be defrocked after a high-profile trial that has rekindled debate over the denomination's policy on gay marriage.
The Methodist church put the Rev. Frank Schaefer on trial in southeastern Pennsylvania, accusing him of breaking his pastoral vows by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.
The 13-member jury convicted Schaefer on two charges: That he officiated a gay wedding, and that he showed "disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
The United Methodist Church’s division over homosexuality grew heated Friday (Nov. 15), as the denomination’s Council of Bishops called for charging retired Bishop Melvin Talbert with presiding at the Oct. 26 wedding of two men, which the church forbids.
The council asked its president, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference, to file a complaint accusing Talbert of undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the wedding of a same-gender couple at Covenant Community United Church of Christ in Center Point, Ala.
Talbert, who served as bishop of the San Francisco area, ignored a request not to perform the ceremony. He has said in the past that the church’s position on homosexuality “is wrong and evil … it no longer calls for our obedience.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
At the cemetery of a former Minnesota mental hospital, hundreds of patients were buried in nameless graves marked only with numbers. But disability rights groups and family members are working to identify the graves and give these forgotten dead a respect and dignity they did not receive in life.
Read or watch and listen to it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology Mental Illness Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity-as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him; wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble-delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are.--Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 9
What must you do? If you suffer then you—or your friends and care-givers—must be keenly aware of these possibilities so you can move through them. Obviously, any afflicted person needs times of solitude, but isolation must ultimately be resisted. Suffering can make you more lonely or drive you into deeper community. Let it be the latter. And while all afflicted persons need to spend a great deal of time self-examining and healing, at some point they must face outward and think of others and love their neighbors and not think exclusively of themselves.
Even for Christians who understand the gospel, the feeling of condemnation can be a great challenge, but it is in the end a welcome one. We may think we believe we are saved by grace, but in times of difficulty we can finally learn to use the doctrine we know on our hearts, remembering that God’s wrath and punishment of our sin fell into the heart of Jesus, and now that we believe in him, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)
Our anger can be the greatest challenge of all. Again, the answer is to not merely believe gospel doctrine but use it.
Read it all.
England, of course, is the nation that once gave us preachers the likes of Charles Simeon, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Now, with the rare and blessed exception of some faithful evangelical churches, preaching has fallen on desperate times.
Some observers of British life now estimate that in any given week Muslim attendance at mosques outnumbers Christian attendance at churches. That means that there are probably now in Britain more people who listen to imams than to preachers.
This raises an interesting question: Is the marginalization of biblical preaching in so many churches a cause or a result of the nation's retreat from Christianity? In truth, it must be both cause and effect. In any event, there is no hope for a recovery of biblical Christianity without a preceding recovery of biblical preaching. That means preaching that is expository, textual, evangelistic, and doctrinal. In other words, preaching that will take a lot longer than ten minutes and will not masquerade as a form of entertainment.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
He grew downward in humiliation before God, and he grew upward in his adoration of Christ.
Handley Moule captures the essence of Simeon's secret of longevity in this sentence: "'Before honor is humility,' and he had been 'growing downwards' year by year under the stern discipline of difficulty met in the right way, the way of close and adoring communion with God" (Moule, 64). Those two things were the heartbeat of Simeon's inner life: growing downward in humility and growing upward in adoring communion with God.
But the remarkable thing about humiliation and adoration in the heart of Charles Simeon is that they were inseparable. Simeon was utterly unlike most of us today who think that we should get rid once and for all of feelings of vileness and unworthiness as soon as we can. For him, adoration only grew in the freshly plowed soil of humiliation for sin. So he actually labored to know his true sinfulness and his remaining corruption as a Christian.
I have continually had such a sense of my sinfulness as would sink me into utter despair, if I had not an assured view of the sufficiency and willingness of Christ to save me to the uttermost. And at the same time I had such a sense of my acceptance through Christ as would overset my little bark, if I had not ballast at the bottom sufficient to sink a vessel of no ordinary size. (Moule 134f.)He never lost sight of the need for the heavy ballast of his own humiliation. After he had been a Christian forty years he wrote,
With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God's having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually. (Carus, 518f.)Please do read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Pastoral Theology
Watch it all, and, yes, you will likely need kleenex--KSH.
The personal and the pastoral...both inform Ms. [Rita] Brock’s work. She writes about her father in her recent book “Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War.” Her co-author, Gabriella Lettini, is a theologian whose extended family includes veterans emotionally damaged by wartime experience. In the Soul Repair Center, Ms. Brock collaborates with the Rev. Herman Keizer Jr., who was an Army chaplain for 40 years.
Over the past three years, Ms. Brock and Ms. Lettini have spoken about moral injury and soul repair at the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting and at denominational gatherings of Presbyterians and Unitarian Universalists.
Now, with a $650,000 two-year grant from the Lilly Endowment and the formal support of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Soul Repair Center is beginning to teach congregational leaders how to address moral injury in veterans. The first such training session will take place in early February.
Read it all, a story worth revisiting today from January.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Iraq War War in Afghanistan * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Flashbacks and post-traumatic stress from combat were trapping one Ohio female veteran in her home.
Judy Sallerson, whose Army unit was hit by a series of mortar attacks in Iraq, had been sent to Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington in 2010 where she recovered for two years. For nearly a year of that time she didn't do much at all and stayed inside, she said.
But with the help of a therapist, Sallerson finally started to venture out and even signed up to be a mentor in a local court.
“I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere because I was afraid someone would see and judge me,” said Sallerson.
Read it all and watch the video report.
The problem is that preachers and teachers of such messages are not telling us the whole truth. They are not giving us a full understanding of the Good News.
Proverbs is only half of wisdom. The other half is found in the Book of Job. And Ecclesiastes. And Jesus at Golgotha. The other part of wisdom—the deeper wisdom—centers on the folly of the Cross.
Not the Cross as a mere rest stop on the way to Resurrection. Not suffering as a means to an end. Not hardship that builds character and makes us better. That's more Proverbs wisdom and is true as far as it goes. That's the theology of glory—if we do this and that, and endure this and that with the right attitude, all will be well.
The theology of the Cross says that God is most deeply met in the suffering itself, not just on the other side of it. Forgiveness of sins is not found after the Cross, but in, with, and under the Cross. This is the "wisdom of the cross" (1 Cor. 1–2) that is folly to the world.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
In both poetry and journalism, I’ve always been drawn to the edges of metaphysical and physical places. A poem is a prayer, and a risky one at that: reading or writing a poem requires that we step out of ourselves. We have to enter the world of the poem, and this can be dangerous. As a foreign correspondent, I do the same thing. I lean on certain basic tools, above all a willingness to slow down, step out of myself and listen to what’s happening around me. Both vocations require a love of looking and a tendency toward fierce self-appraisal in order to scour away as much of the muddy distortion that ego offers in a given moment. Both require a nose capable of sniffing out the closest thing to truth.
Growing up as the child of an Episcopal priest in suburban Philadelphia, I frequently felt out of sync with the comfortable, “ordinary” world that surrounded us. I felt that we lived at the portal to a sacred and dangerous world. I was painfully aware, as so many children are, that where our family lived was weird. Our flagstone and clapboard house might look like the others on the block, but it led away from the familiar land of school plays, ice skating and tennis lessons. We lived next to the church in the rectory, on semisanctified and consecrated ground. I had a profound sense that the home we lived in was borrowed. It didn’t belong to us. It was a sanctuary for those in need of pastoral counseling, which sometimes took unusual forms.
Read it all.
The books just keep coming: Collaborative Divorce,Happy Divorce,The Good Karma Divorce, The Creative Divorce. Reading the articles and books, you might get the idea that The Good Divorce is a sacrament, not a disaster...
[So why are they wrong?]
Heartache, financial loss and time detangling bring irreparable setbacks. Lots of spouses get dumped. Eighty percent of U.S. divorces "are unilateral, rather than truly mutual decisions," notes researcher Maggie Gallagher. Still, healthy people can wade through the hurt and make the best of the situation.
That doesn't ameliorate the damage. Children, who never have a say in their parents' parting, become collateral damage and dismissed with the dubious phrase "kids are resilient." Judith Wallerstein, whose landmark 25-year study of divorced families convinced her of its ongoing harm, found that "many of these . . . children forfeited their own childhoods as they took responsibility for themselves, their troubled, overworked parents; and their siblings." The trauma peaks in adulthood, she cautions, undermining love, sexual intimacy and commitment.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
"It's all about trust," says David Beidel, founding pastor of New Hope Community Church in Staten Island's West Brighton neighborhood. "We have known each other for years. Some of us even grew up together. We have a level of trust that can only come through years of laboring together toward the common goal of seeing the gospel flourish in our city."
However, Beidel says, newly arrived leaders in Staten Island are also welcome. "I just had lunch this week with a young pastor who planted a church here not too long ago," he adds. "He has been really impressed by how we have worked together to rebuild after Sandy."
The storm also prioritized corporate prayer among the SIAE pastors. Their monthly prayer meetings have become weekly. "I believe the fact that we worked together so much after Sandy, and the fact that we were overwhelmed together by Sandy, caused this awareness of our being called to pray together," says Dave Watson, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Staten Island's Mariners Harbor neighborhood. Beidel agrees. "Our weekly prayer meetings for the past several months have been a very sweet time of fellowship."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * General Interest Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc. * Theology Pastoral Theology
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.--Martin Luther:"On Christian Freedom"(1520).
"Servant" in our English New Testament usually represents the Greek doulos (bondslave). Sometimes it means diakonos (deacon or minister); this is strictly accurate, for doulos and diakonos are synonyms. Both words denote a man who is not at his own disposal, but is his master's purchased property. Bought to serve his master's needs, to be at his beck and call every moment, the slave's sole business is to do as he is told. Christian service therefore means, first and foremost, living out a slave relationship to one's Savior (1 Corinthians. 6:19-20).
What work does Christ set his servants to do? The way that they serve him, he tells them, is by becoming the slaves of their fellow-servants and being willing to do literally anything, however costly, irksome, or undignified, in order to help them. This is what love means, as he himself showed at the Last supper when he played the slave's part and washed the disciples' feet.
When the New Testament speaks of ministering to the saints, it means not primarily preaching to them but devoting time, trouble, and substance to giving them all the practical help possible. The essence of Christian service is loyalty to the king expressing itself in care for his servants (Matthew 25: 31-46).
Only the Holy Spirit can create in us the kind of love toward our Savior that will overflow in imaginative sympathy and practical helpfulness towards his people. Unless the spirit is training us in love, we are not fit persons to go to college or a training class to learn the know-how or particular branches of Christian work. Gifted leaders who are self-centered and loveless are a blight to the church rather than a blessing.
--J.I. Packer Your Father Loves you (Carol Stream. Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986) and quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon
More than 30 United Methodist pastors from Eastern Pennsylvania have agreed to jointly officiate a same-sex marriage next month, an unprecedented showing of solidarity for an embattled colleague that could lead to their ouster from the pulpit.
The colleague is the Rev. Frank Schaefer, who faces a Nov. 18 church trial in Chester County for officiating at the 2007 marriage between his son and another man.
Schaefer's fellow pastors call that an act of love, not a prosecutable offense. They gathered Thursday at a Philadelphia church and, after more than two hours, agreed to preside as a group at a same-sex marriage, a step they hope jolts the larger church.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
A facility outside Seattle, surrounded by pine trees, is a refuge for addicts — of technology.
There are chickens, a garden and a big tree house with a zipline. A few guys kick a soccer ball around between therapy appointments in the cottage's grassy backyard.
The reSTART center was set up in 2009. It treats all sorts of technology addictions, but most of the young men who come through here — and they are all young men — have the biggest problem with video games.
Read os listen to it all.
It's a familiar sight at the Catholic Center, the archdiocesan headquarters on First Avenue in Manhattan where I work. Dozens of new arrivals to our country line up early in the morning, waiting for our office to open. They know that here they will get the help they need to become citizens, learn English and civics, reunite with their families, and navigate the complex legal immigration system. Our telephone counselors answer 25,000 calls from immigrants each year in 17 different languages.
It isn't, however, confined to our office. We've all seen the men—almost 120,000 of them nationally on any given day—queuing up on the side of the road on hundreds of street corners throughout the U.S., hoping to be hired for the day. In places like Yonkers, N.Y., volunteers from Catholic Charities offer these day laborers coffee and sandwiches and even some employment advice.
The Catholic Church is doing the same things in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Houston, Newark and Miami. More than 150 Catholic immigration programs across the nation assist immigrants in becoming Americans. Helping the newcomer to our land feel at home is part of our mission, as Christ reminds us in Matthew 25 that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Historian Henry Steele Commager wrote that: "The Church was one of the most effective of all agencies for democracy and Americanization."
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Regret weighs down many Americans. According to a new study from LifeWay Research, almost half feel the weight of a bad choice from their past, even though a vast majority believe God gives second chances.
When asked to respond to the statement, "I am dealing with the consequences of a bad decision," 47 percent of respondents agree.
While self-defined Protestant or non-denominational Christians are less likely to agree (42 percent), a majority (51 percent) of those who said they are a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian agree they are still dealing with a wrong choice from their past.
Recognizing a sizeable percentage of people are suffering consequences from past mistakes allows Christians to show grace, according to Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.
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Carey Nieuwhof is not a United Methodist. Nope, he’s the pastor of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, Canada which is part of a network of churches that have been influenced by Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries. And yet, he’s a voice we should be listening to because again and again Carey posts pithy articles on church leadership and evangelism that are worth thinking about. Today (which you have have already read) he unpacked the 8 reasons most churches never break the 200 in attendance mark:
You know why most churches still don’t push past the 200 mark in attendance?
They organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization.
Think about it.
There’s a world of difference between how you organize a corner store and how you organize a larger supermarket.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
On the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, do you consider your own views and those of the church as being out of touch with the views of your students at Cambridge, and do you think that’s a problem?
I think it is quite a problem. This is the one area where there is the deepest sense of the church being out of step with what the rest of the culture take for granted. I think it’s quite difficult for some people outside of the church to recognise that there is something in the matter of several thousand years of assumption, reflection and ethical practice here which isn’t likely to be overturned in a moment. But, all that being said, I think the church has to put its hands up and say our attitude towards gay people has at times been appallingly violent. Even now it can be unconsciously patronising and demeaning, and that really doesn’t help. We have to face the fact that we’ve deeply failed a lot of gay and lesbian people, not only historically but more recently as well. I think that there is a very strong, again theological, case for thinking again about our attitudes towards homosexuality: but I’m a bit hesitant about whether marriage is the right category to talk about same sex relation, and I think there is a debate we haven’t quite had about that. But in a sense that’s water under the bridge, the decision has been taken, things move on. Looking back over my time as Archbishop I think that’s what most people will remember about the last ten years: ‘oh, he was that bloke who was so bogged down in issues about sexuality’.Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
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[This is the]...first in a series of annual events with Ashley Null, who is both the Theological Advisor for the Diocese of the Carolinas as well as the Senior Research Fellow for the Ridley Institute, the school of theology at St. Andrew’s.
The event begins Tuesday, October 15 at 8:30 a.m. with worship and concludes on October 16 at 5:00 p.m. Over the course of two days, Dr. Null will deliver eight lectures on Cranmer and Contemporary Anglican Worship. There will be ample time for discussion, questions, and networking over lunches and dinners (daily schedule).
The two-day seminar is also available via livestream....
Check it out courtesy of Saint Andrew's Mount Pleasant, S.C., and consider the livestream option..
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship --Book of Common Prayer * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
At a time when many Christian leaders today are failing, we need to reclaim these eight vital qualities:
1. You must have a sure calling. Nehemiah said to the king: “Send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it” (Neh. 2:5, NASB, emphasis added). Nehemiah was a “sent one.” He was called by God, and he surrendered. You must be convinced that you are called. You may have great preaching skills, a powerful anointing or a magnetic personality, but human abilities and God-given talents alone will not make you successful. You must know that you know that you know that God has sent you.
2. You need a heavenly burden. When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem’s walls were destroyed and that the Jews were displaced, he wept (1:4). His call to leadership flowed out of true compassion for people. The most successful leaders step into their assignments not because they want to make a name for themselves or because they want a paycheck from a church, but because they want to help others. If love is not your motivation, do us all a favor and wait until God’s compassion grips you. The church today does not need any more leaders with personal agendas or selfish ambitions.
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Bishop Vicar of Quincy Keith Ackerman once again lit up smiles of parishioners at Christ Church Limestone where he performed service Sunday morning.
Ackerman, the retired eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy for the Anglican Church in North America, came back to the Hanna City church after current Bishop Juan Alberto Morales of Quincy asked him to return to the area for a diocene convention.
Ackerman spoke about the importance of giving thanks to God, family and friends.
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...what happened late last week was not minor. Kill did not feel well as Minnesota prepared to leave for Michigan, and he stayed behind, and he hoped, right up until he had another seizure, that he would be able to fly to Ann Arbor on Saturday morning and lead his team to a statement win.
Only he did have another seizure. He stayed home. This was the first time he had not attended a game at all because of a seizure. And it was his fifth seizure on a game day and his second one this season.
Kill and the Minnesota football program did the right thing in light of all that Thursday. They did the right thing for the team, but more important — way, way more important — they did the right thing for Kill. When he can coach, he should. Until then, his health is more important. More coaches should consider that.
Read it all.
The Most Rev Justin Welby advised churchgoers that it could be an “enormously powerful” experience to unburden themselves to a confessor, even if it was not always a “bunch of laughs”.
His comments came as he addressed the heads of other churches – including the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols – about divisions between Christians.
Although Archbishop Welby comes from the evangelical wing of Anglicanism, his personal spiritual director is a Swiss Roman Catholic priest, Fr Nicolas Buttet, and he is a strong advocate of Catholic worship styles.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Sacramental Theology Soteriology
...Stations of the Book Writing Cross:
cycling through my ritualized insistence that I'll never ever ever write another book. Years ago, I'd cling to this delusion for at least a year after a book was published. My manuscript for The Social Media Gospel was submitted to Liturgical Press on January 2, 2013 and by January 7, I was ruminating about the next book.
rearranging book shelves to reflect emerging realities. Books I've used during the previous book's writing process are either moved to a distant shelf, shipped to friends who might want them, or schlepped to The Book Thing. I then re-populate the bookshelves in my sight line with whatever I'm diving into.
going to sleep and waking up with words, phrases, sentences demanding attention....
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The Episcopal bishop of Washington is inviting any couples who had to cancel their weddings on federal property due to the government shutdown to have their ceremonies in a garden at Washington National Cathedral.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde said Thursday that the Bishop’s Garden at the cathedral would be offered free of charge to any couples who wanted to hold wedding ceremonies outdoors.
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Some of [“The Good Soldiers,” Mr. Finkel's previous] book’s most powerful passages dealt with the war after the war — the efforts of the soldiers to come to terms with their injuries and ineradicable memories, and to try to readjust to ordinary life back home in the States. Mr. Finkel’s new book, “Thank You for Your Service,” amplifies that story, tracking the lives of some of the same soldiers after their deployments have ended. They and their families attempt to recover some facsimile of normalcy or, in the words of one veteran’s wife, “come up with reasonable expectations of what can be,” given their lingering physical and psychological wounds.
This is a heartbreaking book powered by the candor with which these veterans and their families have told their stories, the intimate access they have given Mr. Finkel (an editor and writer for The Washington Post) into their daily lives, and their own eloquence in speaking about their experiences. The book leaves the reader wondering why the Veterans Affairs Department cannot provide better, more accessible care for wounded warriors. And why soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — which Mr. Finkel says studies show afflicts 20 to 30 percent of the two million Americans who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — must often wade through so much paperwork and bureaucracy to obtain meaningful treatment.
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In the Christian tradition, we have a certain understanding that loneliness is inevitable and part of the human condition. We're created for complete union with God, but unable to fully consummate that union this side of God's Kingdom. There is an Augustinian element of truth from which we cannot escape no matter how much intimacy we do cultivate. Still, that doesn't seem like a sufficient response for our loneliness predicament. If anything, it's an invitation for Christians to communicate more openly about the challenges of the loneliness we are all bound to experience at various seasons of our lives.
In our age of social media, when new "friends" are a click away on Facebook and Twitter users actively form real-time communities around everything from favorite TV shows to breaking political news, we can easily be led to think that loneliness is an outdated phenomenon. But it is not.
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“I was really attracted to this place. I felt like I was being called to come to Block Island,” said [Eileen] Lindeman, who moved here from near San Francisco in late August and now works part-time as vicar, also known as the priest, of St. Ann’s.
Lindeman’s duties involve leading the Sunday worship services, which begin at 9 a.m. each week and last about an hour. At the service, she leads the prayers, “consecrates the elements” (preparing for the holy communion, Lindeman explained) and she also delivers a sermon. She helps lead a monthly Taizé prayer service, which happens the fourth Wednesday of each month. She also performs weddings, funerals and baptisms — the first Saturday of her job she said she performed renewals of marriage vows for two couples.
Aside from these roles, Lindeman said she really wants to be there for her congregation, and for the community as a whole, regardless of a person’s religious denomination. She said that often people call or visit with specific situations or concerns — sometimes they just want to talk, she said — and she wants to have enough flexible time to be there to accommodate each person. According to Lindeman and Parish Administrator Erica Tonner, for a little over a year, St. Ann’s has had an interim priest who has not lived on the island year-round.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Rural/Town Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Pastoral Theology
The invitations are in the mail. Jennifer Beltz and T.J. Gurski of Commerce Township, Mich., are defying the odds — they’re taking the plunge a second time.
“When I got divorced, I said, ‘I’m never getting married again,” says Beltz, 41, who works in marketing.
That sentiment seems to be quite common among those jaded by a failed first union: A new analysis of federal data provided exclusively to USA TODAY shows the USA’s remarriage rate has dropped 40 percent over the past 20 years.
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Today, [Marine Sargeant Dana] King has no visible scars from his time in combat. But his injuries are as real as any veteran hit by shrapnel. Instead of losing a limb, King lost functions in his brain that help him remember things, control his emotions and sometimes talk clearly.
He covers it up well. He said most people around him don’t know he’s suffering from the effects of a traumatic brain injury – don’t know the invisible battle with his disability that he wages every day.
And King is far from alone. Since 2000, more than 270,000 troops have been diagnosed with concussions and other traumatic head injuries. Experts say the numbers are likely much higher. A Rand Corp. study in 2008 put the number of brain-injured troops at more than 320,000, and that was two years before a massive surge in improvised explosive device attacks in Afghanistan.
Read it all from the front page of the local paper.
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At some point in their lives, one of every three Americans will leave Christianity, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Religion and Society. Called "leavers," "deconverts," or "ex-Christians," they are targets of fresh concern among church denominations watching their numbers shrink. Pollsters and bloggers tick off reasons why so many are leaving, such as intellectual hurdles to belief, immoral or intolerant church leaders, and profound suffering. But the leavers phenomenon is nothing new. It goes back at least to the parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus and recorded in Luke 15:11–32.
What about the people whom the prodigals leave behind? The ones who love the leavers? The ones left to hold down the forts of remaining families and faith communities? Few theological and practical resources exist for the two out of every three Christians who remain with the Father while they watch their "younger brother" leave.
The biblical parable centers on the relationship between a father and his two sons. But the essence of the story remains the same, whether the prodigal is a child, sibling, spouse, parent, or friend. This is why P. C. Ennis Jr. argues in the Journal for Preachers that "it is crucial that periodically we preach on the Prodigal Son. . . . Like the Easter story and the Christmas story, it bears repeating, for the story of the Prodigal Son is the gospel in capsule."
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The Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, is a smiler.
He loves to laugh, and those who know him best say he can tell a joke with the best of them.
But there is one form of humor that always puts a frown on his face.
“I don’t like jokes that are hateful toward any one group, especially jokes that are hateful toward a religious group,” he said. “In my baptismal covenant I pledged that I would ‘work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.’ Statements of hate, regardless of who they are generated against or how humorously they are intended, are not part of what it means to me to be faithful as an Episcopalian. So I say, don’t do it.”
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A Youtube video of a mom doing the “happy dance” after putting her children on the bus for the first day of school went viral this week. The school bus pulls up, the kids hop on, N’SYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” is cued up, and the Framingham mother starts dancing wildly on the curb.
I think it resonates because it captures the swirl of emotions this time of year....
The reality is that we both fear and crave routine.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Amid increasing calls for legalization of abortion in Africa, botched cases among young women are on the rise, according to recent reports.
Governments are responding by distributing contraceptives, but the Roman Catholic Church, some Muslim groups and anti-abortion groups are waging their own campaigns against contraception, warning it will further escalate the problem.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Life Ethics Religion & Culture Women * International News & Commentary Africa * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) has launched a free cell phone application or 'app' to aid communication between parishes and parishioners in the Province.
The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in the Polokwane area of South Africa, the Very Revd Luke Pretorius, is also a member of ACSA Media Committee.
"I am excited at what may be a world first from Africa," he told ACNS, "and [also] for how this app will improve the communication between churches and people by using cell phone technology, an essential and already popular tool in Africa.”
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Many have mourned theology’s separation from the Church, but in the last 30 years we have witnessed resurgent efforts to reconnect academic theology to its ecclesial roots. The Scholar-Priest Initiative stands in this vein, endeavoring to be the servant in the background of Rembrandt’s picture: to do everything in our power to reintegrate theology back into the life of the parish; to rekindle theological vocation and imagination; in short, to welcome theology home.
The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada face three intractable and seemingly unrelated problems: the double bind of ordained parochial leadership, the diminishment of theological discourse in parish life, and the overall decline of North American theological education.
First, while debates rage on whether and to what extent North American Anglicanism is in decline (and what to do about it), we suffer from an undeniable and debilitating double bind in our parochial leadership. In the Episcopal Church nearly 40 percent of congregations operate without full-time, permanent ordained ministers. Our churches — ever increasingly, it seems — simply cannot afford full-time clergy. Many dioceses have accordingly found themselves with a glut of ordained ministers. Several have suspended their discernment processes because they already have too many unemployed and underemployed priests. We have an overabundance of well-trained, capable priests. We have too many congregations in need of priests. We need to somehow connect the dots.
Second, there is a disconnect between theological discourse and parish life....
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Pastoral Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Each Sunday, Ashley Ridge Church collects about $200 to $300 in its Change for a Dollar buckets.
Then, church members email requests or suggestions for how to use the money that week.
Church leaders pick someone, and then watch what happens.
Take a young man who recently suffered a seizure disorder but lacked the resources to see a neurologist. He had visited the Medical Outreach Clinic of Summerville but needed more specialized care than it could provide.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
After the Mass [for the Death of my Father], people from the church gathered around to console. A priest friend accompanied me to the funeral home to work out the details of the wake. The parish where the funeral Mass was held assigned a laywoman volunteer who, in a very sensitive and knowledgeable way, helped me to plan the service. A contingent from my home parish in Brooklyn came to the wake and funeral. Sisters and others who work with my wife at a Catholic high school in Brooklyn arrived in large numbers.
I saw a theological term made real—that God's people make up the Body of Christ, a mystical concept of the church that encompasses the living and the dead, the visible and invisible, my deceased father and me. As St. Paul wrote, if one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer. This is the church I would not be lured to leave, even on the frequent occasions when its leaders disappoint me.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Pastoral Theology
Southern church culture, including Birmingham, celebrates nearly anyone who claims to reach teenagers. We often assume the inherent goodness of any ministry that draws large numbers. And we idolize reaching the next generation to the point that we largely ignore what we are winning them with and what we are winning them to. Despite warning signs, youth pastors continued to take busloads of teenagers to The Basement and Christian radio relentlessly promoted Pitt's meetings.
All the while The Basement's theology was largely ignored. Viewing the videos on The Basement's website reveals an exciting atmosphere that lacks substantial understanding of God as revealed in his Word. Pitt's sermons might have been "in your face," but they did not point teens to the Bible and the gospel message revealed in it. Much of the public also ignored the Bible's teaching about character in leaders because Pitt claimed to have a "calling" from God to lead this ministry. And who could question his results?
But internal calling is only part of what it means to be a gospel minister.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Youth Ministry * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Urban/City Life and Issues * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
The Most Rev Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue.
Archbishop Welby, who as a young priest once opposed allowing gay couples to adopt children, said the church now had to face up to what amounted to one of the most rapid changes in public attitudes ever.
While insisting that he did not regret voting against same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, he admitted that his own mind was not yet “clear” on the wider issues which he was continuing to think about.
Read it all. Also, there is an article in The Independent on this there.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
There is something indulgent about boredom. It makes me think of posh people in Russian plays complaining they have nothing to do while other people work their arses off in the field. As Schopenhauer insisted, life for the person of means becomes a question of how to dispose of surplus time. Maybe that's why boredom feels like a problem especially associated with August and not least with children on long car journeys.
But according to the Norwegian philosopher Lars Svendsen, author of A Philosophy of Boredom, boredom comes to take on a particular and possibly darker inflection with modernity. Having been bored witless writing his PhD about Kant, Svendsen came to see a connection between his subject and his state of mind. With Kant, God is replaced by the self as the ultimate source of meaning. As traditional structures of meaning are wiped away, boredom comes to be regarded as a very personal sort of failing. And in order to avoid it, various distractions are entertained: travel, drink, drugs, the Xbox, sex, transgressive behaviour – all strategies of avoidance, all hinting at a desperate desire to hold off the acknowledgment of meaninglessness. It is, says Svendsen, a problem characteristic of modernity. Whereas boredom has once bragged about as a mark of nobility, now it is the ultimate in personal failing. Those who are bored are losers.
Perhaps this is why the entertainment industry is more important to us that we are often prepared to admit.
Read it all.
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It was my attempt in those far off days to combat the spirit of anti-intellectualism that I still believe is such a bane on the Christian church today. It was then that I dared for the first time to say, though I have said it often since, that anti-intellectualism and the fullness of the Holy Spirit are mutually incompatible. And I dare to say it because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Jesus our Lord himself, referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth, and therefore, it is only
logical to say that wherever the Holy Spirit is given his freedom, truth is bound to matter. So, I have argued, and argue still, that a proper, conscientious use of our minds is an inevitable part and parcel of our Christian life.
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An unlikely chain of events made him not only a national celebrity but a stand-in for every priest who has ever ministered to the faithful in an emergency.
But Father Patrick Dowling -- who was dubbed a "mystery priest" and a "guardian angel" after praying with a woman trapped in a wrecked car in northeastern Missouri -- hopes all the hype surrounding his simple deed won't overshadow the real message.
"God loves us, he is here close to us, and when we're in trouble, he's there," said Father Dowling.
Read it all.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
The past week has been traumatic for Egyptians. We witnessed bloodshed on our streets, vandalism and the deliberate destruction of churches and government buildings in lawless acts of revenge. One of our Anglican Churches was attacked, and other ministries received threats. We praise God that our churches and congregations are safe, but we grieve for the loss of life and for the churches which were burnt over the past week in Egypt.
The Anglican Church in Egypt serves all Egyptians, especially the disadvantaged and marginalized, through our educational, medical and community development ministries. We seek to be a light in our society, and we continue to serve our neighbours in the difficult situation which surrounds us. Unemployment is at a record high, there is a lack of security on the streets, the economy is in decline, and poverty is crushing for many people in Egypt.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Poverty Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
....despite his national renown, he's a pastor at heart. Gentle, gracious, and filled with concern for his congregation, for over 25 years he's counseled his flock at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio through countless painful experiences—the marriage that's fallen apart, the 5-year-old who died in a car accident, the war vet burned from head to toe in Afghanistan. These experiences led to his latest book, You'll Get Through This: Hope and Help For Your Turbulent Times, an extended reflection on suffering, pain, and hope based on Joseph's story in Genesis. Jeff Haanen, executive director of Denver Institute for Faith & Work, spoke with Lucado on living through tragedy, a theology of suffering, and the hopefulness that flows from trusting in God's sovereignty.
Why did you choose Joseph's story in Genesis as a basis for your book?
Well, I've been pastoring for a long time—over 30 years—and I've found myself wanting to give people a real hope-filled message that they can consider during tough times of their lives.
Read it all.
In his most stark comments yet about divisions over issues such as homosexuality, the Most Rev Justin Welby said the Church is coming perilously close to plunging into a “ravine of intolerance”.
He even drew parallels between the crisis afflicting the 77 million-strong network of Anglican churches and the atmosphere during the English Civil War.
And he likened the collective behaviour of the church to a “drunk man” staggering ever closer to edge of a cliff.
Read it all and the sermon text being cited is there.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Global South Churches & Primates Instruments of Unity Lambeth 2008 Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
"It was hard to know where to start after my last album. The song Blessings started as a diary entry and God blew us away by using it in the lives of so many around the world. And as I began to write for my new project "God of Every Story", I went back to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord, and honesty -- with myself. The path God has led our family down is not one I would have chosen for myself. It has been much harder than I had envisioned, yet it has required deeper faith than I ever thought myself capable of. And that's what God of every story is really about: It’s trusting that the same God who orchestrates the rising and the setting of the sun each day pays the same attention to every detail of my life. It’s believing that at the end of the day, we will look back on this amazing God story that is my life and view it as a beautiful sunset, where the blues and reds, the laughter and tears, all meld together to show the faithfulness of God in a way that makes us stand in applause."
"God of Every Story" is a collection of songs about where God's love and grace intersect with our real life situations. It’s about God working all things together for good and love always winning. It’s a celebration of God's faithfulness, even when we don't always understand His plan this side of heaven. Yet we praise Him because He is the keeper of the stars, the One who holds all things together and always, always, deserves our worship.
Read it all (note there is an excerpt from one of her new songs if you wish to listen) and you can find a Godtube interview to watch there.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Music Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church. I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt (photo above), as well as a Catholic church in Suez. Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt. Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt.
arly this morning, the police supported by the army, encouraged protestors in two different locations in Cairo, to leave safely and go home. It is worth mentioning that these protestors have been protesting for 6 weeks, blocking the roads. The people in these neighborhoods have been suffering a great deal—not only these people, but those commuting through, especially those who are going to the airport. The police created very safe passages for everyone to leave. Many protestors left and went home, however, others resisted to leave and started to attack the police. The police and army were very professional in responding to the attacks, and they used tear gas only when it was necessary. The police then discovered caches of weapons and ammunition in these sites. One area near Giza is now calm, but there is still some resistance at other sites. There are even some snipers trying to attack the police and the army. There are even some rumors that Muslim Brotherhood leaders asked the protestors in different cities to attack police stations, take weapons, and attack shops and churches.
A few hours later, violent demonstrations from Mursi supporters broke out in different cities and towns throughout Egypt. The police and army are trying to maintain safety for all people and to disperse the protestors peacefully. However, the supporters of former President Mursi have threatened that if they are dispersed from the current sites, they will move to other sites and continue to protest. They also threatened to use violence. There have been a number of fatalities and casualties from among the police as well as the protestors, but it seems that the numbers are not as high as expected for such violence. However, the supporters of former President Mursi claim that there are very high numbers of casualties. The real numbers will be known later on.
Please pray that the situation will calm down, for wisdom and tact for the police and the army, for the safety of all churches and congregations, and that all in Egypt would be safe.
May the Lord bless you!
--(The Most Rev.) Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis is Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa and President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The title of this article may seem both presumptuous and audacious. Do I really believe every pastor should have a blog? Yes I do. I speak to pastors in numerous settings, and I am able to share with them the benefits of such a discipline in writing.
Understand that writing a blog can begin simple with little time pressure. The pastor can commit to write 400 words a week in one post. I do recommend that the number of posts increase to at least twice a week later, but you need to start somewhere.
I think you will be amazed how much the blog benefits the church and your ministry. Here are seven reasons why it is so important....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Media Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
High-profile pastors have long complained (along with other celebrities) of impersonators on social media. But Rick Warren recently revealed just how widespread the problem is.
Warren announced Tuesday that in the months since his son Matthew's suicide, more than 200 fake Facebook pages have popped up, soliciting funds in Matthew's memory. So far, he has succeeded in shutting down 179 of them, which he said were "making money on my son's death."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Media Psychology Suicide Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
We fear being sued, finishing last, going broke; we fear the mole on the back, the new kid on the block, the sound of the clock as it ticks us closer to the grave. We sophisticate investment plans, create elaborate security systems, and legislate stronger military, yet we depend on mood altering drugs more than any other generation in history. Moreover, “ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s.”--Max Luxado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear (Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp.5-6 ; quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon
Fear, it seems, has taken a hundred-year lease on the building next door and set up shop. Oversize and rude, fear is unwilling to share the heart with happiness. Happiness complies and leaves. Do you ever see the two together? Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Clear thinking and afraid? Confident and afraid? Merciful and afraid? No. Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and unproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.
Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.
Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?
Imagine your life wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, and doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, absent the dread of failure, rejection, and calamity. Can you imagine a life with no fear? This is the possibility behind Jesus’ question.
“Why are you afraid?” he asks (Matt. 8:26 ncv).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Books * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
In its passion to pursue a progressive theological paradigm embracing cultural sensitivity (inclusiveness) and intellectual freedom, TEC cast aside fundamental Christian doctrines, professing, among other things:
* Jesus was not born of a virgin, was not God incarnate, and his resurrection is questionable at best;
* Man needs enlightenment, not salvation; we are to reconcile ourselves with one another, not with God;
* Scripture is not authoritative nor the revealed word of God, but rather metaphorical.
Simply put, Anglicans left TEC because of their faithfulness to the fundamental and historical Christian foundation that the Holy Scriptures are the final authority of its faith.
The tragic fallout of this split is multifaceted. A lady I have known and worshipped with for 30 years approached me, saying homosexuals were not welcome at St. Paul's. I was taken aback by her misconception. I reminded her that on every Sunday, the priest who is celebrating Holy Communion invites "all baptized Christians as being welcome here at the Lord's table." Not blessing same sex unions is an unrelated issue.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin TEC Departing Parishes TEC Parishes * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Rising healthcare costs for needed items such as shower chairs and grab bars gave parishioners at Immanuel Episcopal Church in Bay Minette the impetus to begin a new outreach ministry.
Offered as an idea at a church retreat held this past spring, the plan has developed into an active ministry with shower chairs, grab bars and commode chairs delivered and more shower chairs, commode chairs and grab bars purchased and ready for delivery.
“After a lifetime spent working hard, raising a family and contributing to their community, many of these people now face multiple health problems and mounting healthcare costs,” said Ryan Gillikin, Immanuel vestry member and coordinator of this ministry. “While Medicare and insurance cover many of these costs, there are certain things like shower chairs and grab bars that are no longer covered. These items can increase a person’s independence, improve quality of life and decrease fall risk.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology
Christians and the church can do much more beyond welcome. About half of LGBT adults surveyed report no religious affiliation. While the ones who did attend worship felt welcome, the Pew survey found that most LGBT respondents view major religious groups (Christians, Jews, and Muslims) as "unfriendly."
A new attitude within churches of openness and hospitality, anchored in biblical grace and truth, would be a startling response for individuals or couples with same-sex attraction. We need to repent of the notion that sexual identity is as easy to change as a light bulb.
What would this new attitude look like? Biblical belief and practice are tested by extreme situations. In this instance, the test occurs inside and outside the four walls of a church.
Read it all.
“His comments only further reflect his desire to reach out to all Catholics and individuals who are marginalized,” said [Marcus] Cox, a history professor and associate dean at The Citadel. “His unassuming leadership style and his message of love and tolerance gives him the ability to connect with individuals seeking a place in the Catholic church.”
Francis might have struck a more conciliatory tone for some, but he surely did not suggest that noncelibate gays and lesbians should escape the church’s judgment, said Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of Alliance for Full Acceptance, a Charleston-based gay-rights advocacy group.
“Pope Francis’ recent ‘Who am I to judge?’ remark regarding gay clergy has been called an ‘outstretched hand’ and a shift toward greater understanding,” wrote Redman-Gress in an email. “I don’t believe it is either. When a person, even a pope, uses the ‘who am I to judge?’ phrase, he is saying, ‘I won’t judge because I am a sinner as well; I am going to leave the judgment of that person’s sexual orientation to God.’ ”
But this implies that a sexually active gay person nevertheless is subject to God’s reckoning (and, by extention, the church’s), Redman-Gress wrote.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Justin Welby, the 57-year old former oil executive who quit the world of high finance in 1992 to become a priest, was enthroned in March as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. And now the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, has revealed that he speaks "in tongues".
During an interview with Charles Moore of The Daily Telegraph at Lambeth Palace, London, he was asked by Moore that since he was an evangelical, could he speak "in tongues" which the journalist said is the "charismatic" spiritual gift recorded in the New Testament.
Moore said that Welby answered "Oh yes", as if he had been asked if he plays tennis.
"It's just a routine part of spiritual discipline - you choose to speak and you speak a language that you don't know. It just comes," the Archbishop said.
Read it all.
Standing at the entrance to St. Paul's Episcopal Church on 17th Street, the Rt. Rev. Chet Talton raised up the blunt end of a 6-foot-tall staff and pounded it against the door.
Again he pounded with his crosier, and again, each time the knock resounding through the 160-strong gathering. From inside, the church warden greeted him, and after a brief exchange, Talton entered.
So began a new era at St. Paul's, itself the subject of a prolonged battle that, though settled at this congregation, continues to ripple through courtrooms across the country.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology
The American hospice movement is thriving. Forty-two percent of all Americans who died in 2010 were in hospice care—up from 22 percent in 2000. The number of organizations providing hospice care has grown steadily, up 13 percent from 2006—from 4,500 to over 5,000—as has the length of time that patients spend in hospice care. More people are spending their dying days experiencing the holistic medicine and dignified care that hospice seeks to provide.
But the growth in the hospice movement has tended to neglect African Americans. African Americans constitute 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 8 percent of hospice patients are African American—even though blacks have the highest cancer rates of all ethnicities and are more likely to die from cancer than whites.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Race/Race Relations * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Passing from a state of keenest grief I came to one of quiet reconcilement----to the profound conviction that, living or dying, God will take care of us. God seemed very near to me in that wood; the beauty of it all trembled with His grace; the music held His voice. I saw there both life and death----in the green leaves and the brown, in the standing trees and in the fallen. If one is honest with himself when he asks the question, What is it that perishes? he will be obliged to answer, Everything that the eye sees. In the forest, amid those things that God provided, I came to understand that if we are to hold anything----and in times of sorrow we must have something to which we can cling---it must be to the unseen. For the strength that is permanent, we have to lean on visions; for immortal hope, we have to trust, not the things that we perceive but those invisible things that our spirits affirms.--Archibald Rutledge, Life's Extras (hat tip: DF)
In principle, what needs to be known about the nominees can already be known. It is a candidate’s past performance, outside the walls of Synod Hall, that really matters. Evidence can be gathered from the spheres in which his ministry has been exercised, for that evidence already exists in the real world amongst the real people who have experienced his ministry already. There is nothing mysterious about any candidate, the data simply needs to be gathered:
Has he been gospel focussed (or not)? Has he encouraged Christ’s mission (or not)? Does he clarify gospel truth and stand for it (or not)? Has he made good appointments of other people (or not)? Has he built and encouraged a ministry team (or not)? What is his track record of growing a congregation in strength and size (or not), or of successfully planting and growing new congregations (or not)? Does he know the world of the laity—has he encouraged ‘people like me’ in my part of Christ’s mission-field (or not)? Does he know the weaknesses and struggles of being a human being in a suffering world, so that, having been comforted himself, he can bring the comfort of the grace of God to others (or not)? Does he know how to encourage his fellow clergy to keep at their task of shepherding God’s flock with patience and joyful endurance (or not)?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Tensions ran high at a north Charlotte church Sunday morning as members protested Pastor Andrew Rollinson’s leadership, saying he was fired nearly three months ago but refuses to leave.
“Rollinson must go!” about a dozen people chanted outside Morningstar Baptist Church at 5623 Phillips St. “When? Today!”
Rollinson said he has no intention of leaving the church. He said the members who fired him did not follow church bylaws, and therefore the decision is invalid. He did not say how the members violated the bylaws.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/07/21/4179928/members-of-charlotte-church-protest.htmlRead it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
So how can we be shaken out of our lethargy and awakened to our need to grow? Here are some principles that I have gleaned from Newton’s letters over the years.
1. Know that your worst character flaws are the ones you can see the least.
By definition the sins to which you are most blind, that you make the most excuses for, and that you usually minimize—are the ones that most have you in their grip. As we said before, one way we hide our blemishes is that we look at places that our natural temperament resembles spiritual fruit. For example, a natural aptitude for control and self-discipline can be read as ‘faithfulness’, and a natural desire for personal approval could look like ‘gentleness’ or ‘love.’ Or we mistake a bubbly, sanguine temperament for joy, and a laid-back, phlegmatic temperament for peace. We give ourselves spiritual credit for these things, when actually we aren’t growing spiritually at all. The lack of other fruit shows that real supernatural character change is not happening.
2. Remember that you can’t learn about your biggest flaws just be being told—you must be shown.
There are two ways we come to see our sins and flaws more clearly. One way is that we are shown them by troubles and trials in life. Suffering is ‘God’s gymnasium’—it reveals our spiritual weaknesses just as a workout reveals physical weaknesses.
Read it all.
A new approach to caring for young adults with developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities is quietly rooting and growing in a cozy mustard-colored house behind a West Ashley strip mall.
The dozen or so participants at Healing Farms Ministries recently graduated high school, and said good-bye to all of the structure and help that the school system provided them.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Young Adults * South Carolina * Theology Pastoral Theology
The crown jewels of the Church of England are its parishes. Priests have the cure of souls—not just the churchgoers but of every resident of the neighborhood, where every blade of grass in the entire country has a church that seeks to make itself in some way a blessing to all, where the clergy know that “I can’t know everyone, but everyone can know me.” But this inheritance is under pressure. In the corners of clergy gatherings there are mutterings. Stories are told of spouses or friends in health care and education who see very few patients or students any more, but instead sit behind computers filling in forms about targets and thresholds. The same is said about priests—that a Prussian-style bureaucracy is infesting the poetry of the priest’s relationship to the parish.
In the Church of England, parish clergy are all paid the same; there are no “rich rectors” with well-endowed churches and sprawling expense accounts, so the conventional commercial appraisal—balance sheet healthy, 2 percent pay increase, MBA completed, another 2 percent increase—doesn’t apply. But now appraisal schemes for ministry review have been introduced by some dioceses, and this is the bureaucracy that is resented by clergy who see it, with its target goals, assessments, statistics and accountability, as another layer of control.
When I overhear the clergy grumbling, the elderly Welsh millworker comes to mind, and I find myself asking, “Shouldn’t we pause for a moment and ask ourselves why all these systems and controls have been introduced? Isn’t it because the glorious parish system puts the parish priest in a position of extraordinary trust, and because that trust has gone without honor rather more times than we’d care to admit?”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Pastoral Theology
To compare the mentality of a brother bishop to school shooters (see here), or to call him and presumably those close to him "petty deciders or wolves who masquerade as sheep" is incredibly inappropriate for any Christian, not to mention bizarre. I truly have never before heard or read such a spiteful and hate-fueled speech on either side of our present unpleasantness. This type of hateful and over the top language is even worse coming from a leader who claims to speak for the "national Church" and all Episcopalians. Let me be clear: I am an Episcopal priest and the Presiding Bishop does not speak for me. I have no delusion that I share in any ownership of anything outside of my parish and my diocese. The idea that one person, even if one agrees with the present incumbent, can speak for all Episcopalians is sheer lunacy.
To be fair, this centralization of power and influence certainly did not start with the present Presiding Bishop, but we do well to consider the state in which we find ourselves. Power corrupts, and the Presiding Bishop rightly notes that when one figure assumes the power it often leads to abuse, tyranny and corruption. She apparently fails to see how this truth has been demonstrated in her term as Presiding Bishop. Fast tracking bishops to "renounce their orders" rather than letting the House of Bishops speak, inhibiting without the consent of the three most senior active bishops (which the new Title IV conveniently does not require), and setting up new dioceses (which TEC has every right to do) while violating the canons of TEC all point to an office that has overgrown its canonical bounds and is running unchecked.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina TEC Polity & Canons --Aggressive Title IV Action Against Multiple Bishops on Eve of Gen. Con. 2012 * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
I’m often asked “What does it mean to be a member of St. John’s?” and I usually answer, “it all depends.” Of course it is possible to wax theological about the fact that through the resurrection, God put all things under Jesus’ feet “and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22-23). Clearly, the church is at the heart of God’s eternal purposes and infinitely precious to Christ. But I think people are usually after a more concrete and practical answer.
There is a very helpful answer to this question on p. 555 of our Book of Common Prayer which enunciates six practical commitments. It states:
Every Christian man or woman should from time to time frame for himself or herself a RULE OF LIFE in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel and the faith and order of the Church; wherein he or she may consider the following:
The regularity of attendance at public worship and especially at the Holy Communion;
The practice of private prayer, Bible-reading, and self-discipline;
Bringing the teaching and example of Christ into everyday life;
The boldness of spoken witness to our faith in Christ;
Personal service to the Church and the community;
The offering of money according to our means for the support of the work of the Church at home and abroad.
“Rule of Life” is an unfortunate title, conjuring images of monastic asceticism and itchy clothing, or more commandments to make us feel guilty, or worse—a list of duties to tick so I can know God cannot ask any more from me. That is not what the Prayer Book intends.
Everything we do in the Christian life is in response to the grace and goodness of God. In the death of Jesus we are remade and flooded with the Holy Spirit, who spreads the love of God and the obedience to God in our hearts. It is true that most monastic orders have a “Rule of Life” (usually poverty, chastity, and obedience), but the old Latin word for ‘Rule’ is ‘Regula’—which means a pattern or model to regulate our lives.
So the six principles in the BCP “Rule of Life” are intended to show what a “cross-shaped life” looks like. They are not meant to be read legalistically or as a means to gain God’s favor, but as a way to nourish our love for God and one another in practice precisely because we know God’s favour in Jesus Christ. They are the visible, realistic, and balanced behaviours of those who have been gripped by God’s grace.
I commend them to you for your summer meditation.
--(The Rev.) David Short is rector, Saint John's, Vancouver, B.C.
After the Germans invaded Poland, the Lewis brothers opened up The Kilns to children forced to evacuate the big cities. The first group was four school girls, and throughout the war several other groups of children came in and out of their home. The highlight during this time was a delightful sixteen-year-old named June Flewett. She brought much fun and laughter to the household. The Lewises’ gift of hospitality was being reciprocated by the gift of joy that emanated from this young lady.
In his later years Lewis opened his home to a brash, gifted, divorced, Jewish American follower of Jesus, Joy Gresham Davidman, and her two sons. This relationship, retold in the movie Shadowlands, once again highlights Lewis’s hospitality. After spending time with Joy’s sons, David and Douglas, Lewis wrote humorously in a letter to his friend Ruth Pitter, “I never knew what we celibates are shielded from. I will never laugh at parents again. Not that the boys weren’t a delight: but a delight like surf-bathing which leaves one breathless and aching. The energy, the tempo, is what kills.”
Read it all.
I find joy in every day, not because life is always good, but because God is.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Pastoral Theology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
In spite of assurances from Bishops and senior church officers that a change to the marriage canon would not be pursued at the 2013 General Synod, two members from the Diocese of Nova Scotia will do exactly that.
The motion reads:
Be it resolved that this General Synod direct the Council of General Synod to prepare and present a motion at General Synod 2016 to change Canon XXI on Marriage to allow the marriage of same sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples . . . (Resolution #C003)
It offers this defense:
It has been 6 years since General synod last debated this issue. Since then, some dioceses have proceeded in a manner they deemed necessary to meet the local pastoral and other needs with respect to the blessing of same sex civil marriages. It has been over 10 years since such civil marriages were legal in Canada. The general public has become much more accepting of same sex unions since we last discussed it. This is also true of the church, though not, of course, universally so....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Middle-aged and senior women at a Knoxville church did a Harlem Shake dance, while a Kodak church’s staff plans to jump out of an airplane.
These activities may seem a little out of the ordinary, but they are being done by area United Methodist church members to allow one very normal activity letting more people in Africa enjoy everyday life without the fear of malaria.
Since the worldwide United Methodist Church decided to try to raise $75 million in the fight against malaria due in part to the urging of Microsoft president and philanthropist Bill Gates, the local Holston Conference agreed in 2012 to try to raise $1 million.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
If my gay and lesbian peers have the right to sexual union and companionship, why don't I? If the scriptural passages forbidding homosexual behavior apply only to a particular context, then surely the passages about fornication (sexual behavior outside marriage) and Paul's praise for singleness are also culturally bound. And so long as marriage ascends into the echelons of existential imperative—you must have this in order to be a complete human being—then my singleness becomes a problem. It is no longer a unique witness to the kingdom, where people "will neither marry nor are given in marriage." It no longer reveals that the water of baptism is thicker than blood—that an entire generation of Christians could be single, and still God would renew his church. Instead, it becomes a second-class existence.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships Young Adults * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
“The tradition of forgiving was central to the civil rights movement, and it’s grounded in two things,” said the Rev. Jonathan L. Walton, a professor of Christian morals at Harvard and minister of its Memorial Church. “One cannot be held accountable for how others treat us, but we can be held accountable by God for how we treat others. So forgiveness and reconciliation are central to us. Particularly for Martin Luther King, it was not about defeating an enemy but defeating injustice by bringing people from opposing sides into beloved community.”
Some of those moments of reconciliation have been soul-stirring in their force. One thinks of former Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama rolling his wheelchair into a reunion of Selma marchers in 1995 to renounce the segregationist beliefs that had defined his political career. Yet even if the offender never apologizes at all, black Christianity has repeatedly offered God’s grace in the all-too-real world.
“Forgiveness is just expected,” said the Rev. Douglas A. Slaughter, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C. “Even as a child, we were not allowed to hate the racist but to hate racism, and to fight against it. We were taught ways to understand that the racist is more in need of understanding than we were. It’s just how you were raised.”
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Assurances that a candidate for the episcopate who is in a civil partnership is living a celibate life may not be sufficient to qualify him for appointment to a bishopric, new guidance from the Church of England's legal office said this week.
The revised guidance on the impact of the 2010 Equality Act on the selection of bishops follows the decision by the House of Bishops last year to lift the ban on celibate clergy in civil partnerships' being put forward for the episcopate....
Like the old guidance, the new document explains that, while it is unlawful to treat a candidate to an office less favourably than other candidates because of his sexual orientation or civil partnership, churches and other religious organisations can apply requirements relating to sexual conduct, including a requirement not to be in a civil partnership "where that requirement is applied to give effect to the non-conflict principle".
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
After 25 years of consulting and researching local congregations, I have found four common approaches churches take to break attendance barriers regardless of size. There are certainly more than four possibilities, but allow me to evaluate these four more common approaches.
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I recently received the following message from a stranger: “So basically, the ‘orthodox Catholic’ game you all play is just that . . . a game?” It was in reference to a Catholic man with whom I am friendly, and like very much. She had apparently read on social media that this man was planning to marry another man.
My friend had never “come out” to me, and—call me old-fashioned, or call me incurious—it had never occurred to me to ask, so the wedding plans were mildly surprising. But reading the email I thought, “Yes, so? What does this woman want me to do? Should I now hate him? Am I supposed to ‘un-friend’ him (that ridiculous term) or even publicly denounce him in order to demonstrate sufficiently ‘orthodox’ Catholic bona fides for her satisfaction? Is that what she wants?”
Well, I couldn’t do that....
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Marriage & Family Psychology Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
My first congregation was located in a diminishing rural area, but after a year, we were growing. We began a youth group. Families and young members began attending. More people started commuting from the larger city to attend the church.
Then the local governing body put a minimum salary in place that was 10k above what I made. I applied for a grant that got me enough money for the next three years, but a struggle at the church arose between those who wanted to “go out with a bang” and those who wanted to hold onto the little bit in the bank account. There was an idea that having money in the bank was going to keep the church alive for an eternity. So I got a better job. (And yes, it was a better job at a more stable church. I don’t want to spiritualize it too much by saying it was God’s calling.)
When I look back, I’m sad about how it all went down. Not to overblow my importance, but it was as if the church didn’t buy the prescription medicine that they needed to live well, because it would cost too much.
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Priests working through the ‘S curve’ of change in their ministry should seek inspiration from 20th Century poet and priest RS Thomas and the film Of Gods and Men, suggests the book Moving on in Ministry. Being launched this week at the Seventh Annual Faith in Research conference at Church House, London, the book comprises essays focusing on transition and change by respected authors in their fields*.
Realising that development can slow down then speed up in an ‘S’ shape , and can actually take place without moving to a new role, the book encourages priests to make reflective and practical responses to moving on in ministry. It begins with an essay by Tim Harle on the ‘S Curve’, to help priests identify where they are in the process of accommodating the change they are experiencing; and also to help them “live comfortably out of control”.
Mark Pryce uses the poetry metaphors for priesthood of RS Thomas to analyse change, looking particularly at the “self-in-relation to God” and the “mystery of God disclosed or hidden in others”; Thomas’s poem The Moor, for example, is quoted from: “There were no prayers said. But stillness of the heart’s passions – that was praise enough.”
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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 Books * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology
Whenever we come close to despair, the strongest lifeline is to think like Joseph. That is how psychotherapist Viktor Frankl saved the lives of several of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, by helping them realise that they had a task to perform or a mission to fulfil that they could only do by surviving. This gave them the will to live. People who have suffered tragedy have often found meaning by alleviating the suffering of others. The grief may not disappear but it is redeemed. The adagio, with its intense sadness, is not the last movement of the symphony.
Seen through the eyes of faith life is not what Joseph Heller called it: “a trashbag of random coincidences blown open in a wind.” Each of us is here for a reason, to do something only we can do, and all the pain and heartbreak are bearable if we can discern God’s purpose or hear, however muffled, His call. As Nietzsche used to say, “He who has a strong enough Why can bear almost any How.”
In crisis, the wrong question to ask is, “What have I done to deserve this?” The right one is, “What am I now being summoned to do?” Each of us has a task. Every life has a purpose. We can bear the pain of the past when we discover the future we are called on to make.
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The city of Philadelphia has rejected overtures made by Archbishop Charles Chaput and others to give the babies killed by notorious “House of Horrors” abortionist Kermit Gosnell a fitting burial.
For now, the unclaimed fetal remains of Gosnell’s victims, once stored in the abortionist’s freezer, will have their final resting place at the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office.
At the close of the trial that resulted in Gosnell’s conviction on three charges of first-degree murder, Archbishop Chaput renewed the archdiocese’s request made back in 2011 to gain custody of the bodies of Gosnell’s fetal victims and bury them.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
We need to go deeper to the only lasting way to change our hearts—take them to the radical, costly grace of God in Christ on the cross. You show your heart the infinite depths to which he went so that you would be free from sin and its condemnation. This fills you with a sense not just of the danger or sin, but also of its grievousness. Think about how ungrateful it is, think of how your sin is not just against God’s law but also against his heart. Melt your heart with the knowledge of what he’s done for you. Tremble before the knowledge of what he is worth—he is worthy of all glory.
A second powerful thought from Newton is this: we sin not simply out of a rebellious desire to be our own masters, but also because we are looking to things besides God to satisfy and fulfill us. While Newton was good at pointing out the danger of having too low or light a view of one’s sin, he was also good at pointing out the opposite problem—too light a grasp of what Jesus has done for us.
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In the... [crucial] section of his order, Judge Houck sets out the law that is applicable to these various claims and assertions ("Standard of Review"). Citing another 4th Circuit case which is binding upon him, Judge Houck writes: "Thus, '(i)f a plaintiff can establish, without the resolution of an issue of federal law, all of the essential elements of his state law claim, then the claim does not necessarily depend on a question of federal law." To determine this question, the U.S. Supreme Court requires a federal court to which a state-law case has been removed to analyze whether or not the federal claim involved is "substantial", or is merely an incident to the dispute:
Under the substantial federal question doctrine, "federal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a federal issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress." ... If the defendant fails to demonstrate all four of these elements, removal is improper under this doctrine.Now Judge Houck turns to a detailed analysis of the defendants' arguments to see how they fare under each of the four prongs of this test. He preliminarily disposes of the defendants' claims concerning the Lanham (federal trademark) Act, and observes that the plaintiffs had the absolute right to base their complaint upon State trademark law only. Thus the fact that there may be federal-law claims assertable in addition to the state-law ones pled in the complaint is irrelevant to the analysis.
And in a few thoroughly researched and well-written pages, Judge Houck now demonstrates how insubstantial are the defendants' federal-law arguments. He takes each of the four prongs one by one, and shows how the defendants' arguments fail to satisfy any of them. ((That is why Judge Houck's order would almost certainly be upheld if defendants were able to appeal from it (see below). Failing four out of four grounds of the test does not even make this a close case....)
Read it all and please note that there is a link provded to the full document from the Judge for those of you interested in such things--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
When it comes to leading denominational conversations on sexual violence, clergy across traditions express twin reactions: encouragement over the protocols already in place and the efforts of fellow advocates; and frustration with a culture of silence around sexual violence in the church. Despite strikingly different experiences across denominations — and church by church — the clergy, church staff, and seminarians who spoke with Sojourners are in agreement that addressing this issue in one’s own house is complicated at every level.
First, the good news: Several major Protestant denominations, across progressive and fundamentalist strains, subscribe to a practice of what the United Methodist Church calls “safe sanctuary” — a commitment to ensure their church buildings and leadership are free from sexual predators. These policies generally include running background checks on any volunteers working with children and establishing protocols (many developed by Marie Fortune and the Faith Trust Institute) for interpersonal interaction at the church.
These denominational policies are the first line of defense against abuse, particularly of children, in houses of worship. So what else, if anything, beyond this basic groundwork is needed from leadership?
This is where consensus breaks down, and in speaking with clergy and seminarians across denominations and traditions, various barriers and fear patterns were revealed.
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