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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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As the western-backed bombing of ISIL targets continues in Iraq and Syria, a leading British Jew has established a fund to resettle Christian refugees from the region.
The 96-year-old peer, Lord George Weidenfeld, was rescued from Nazi Germany by Quakers. Now he’s set up the Barnabas Fund, which has already freed 158 Christians enslaved in Syria.
His campaign comes amid further reports of crucifixions and beheadings of Christians and other minorities.
Listen to it all.
A new publication containing the Agreed Statement on Christology of the Anglican–Oriental Orthodox International Commission 2014 was launched during Vespers in St Asaph Cathedral by the Co–Chairs of the commission, the Rt Revd Gregory K Cameron Bishop of St Asaph, and His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, in the presence of the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell, former Co–Chair of the Commission and co–signatory to the Statement.
The Commission completed its work on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, agreeing on the omission of the Filioque clause that had been appended to the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed in the Latin Western tradition. The Co–Chairs signed an Agreed Statement on the procession of the Holy Spirit, which is Part A of our ongoing work on our theological understanding of the Holy Spirit. A detailed discussion of the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church followed, including a discussion of the four marks of the Church, namely: oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. The Commission has designated a drafting group which prepared a preliminary draft and will continue to work on Part B of our theological understanding of the Holy Spirit.
The Commission discussed the present situation of Christians in the Middle East and heard reports on the difficulties facing Churches, particularly in Syria and Iraq. There was a consideration of the most practical ways in which the Anglican Communion in its various countries could respond effectively to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.
Read it all.
On a mountainside in Iraq’s Kurdish region, at the end of a road that winds through sparse olive trees, stands the fourth-century Mar Mattai monastery. It is Iraq’s oldest monastery, named for the hermit monk who retired here at the dawn of Christianity. The forces of Islamic State are a little more than two miles away. When the weather is clear on the plain of Nineveh, you can see the Islamic State front lines defending Mosul about a dozen miles in the distance.
The vast monastery perched high on Mount Alfaf is hewed from stone, its passages, stairways and terraces exposed to the sun and weather. In the courtyard on the ground level live two families who fled Mosul and the persecution of Christians there.
Four monks live at Mar Mattai. There should be several dozen to judge by the empty rooms along the esplanade. But only these four remain, clad in their black robes and caps embroidered with white crosses. In the Eastern Rite church on the upper level, the monks are standing in the crypt at the far end, their eyes closed, intoning one of the “chants of the Greek church” described by Chateaubriand in his 1811 “Record of a Journey From Paris to Jerusalem and Back.” He admired the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) with its notes “held by different voices, some bass, others treble, executing andante and mezza voce, the octave, fifth, and third.” Its beauty, he said, was enough to cure him of a fever.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
My parish is a short drive from the house. Every Sunday I see the same people at 8:30 a.m.: the older couples whose children are grown, the many young families with their children, the teenagers who came with their parents but who would rather be in bed. This is the Mass I almost always attend alone. There are a few others who are also alone, though not many.
I serve as an acolyte twice a month, and on these Sundays I sit up at the front beside the priest. On other Sundays, I sit near the front of the church with a family I know. Apart from them, I know the director of music and worship, the deacons and the priests. Others in the parish are mainly just familiar faces, although they are the people with whom I take Communion each and every week.
At the end of Mass, I drive home to pick up my wife, Kim, and our three boys for the 10 a.m. liturgy at the Episcopal parish we attend as a family. Like my Catholic parish, this church is thriving, filled with young and old from a variety of backgrounds. There are cradle Episcopalians, ex-evangelicals who found life in the beauty of Episcopal liturgy and disaffected Roman Catholics. Because this is my family’s parish, I know these parishioners more deeply than the ones at my Catholic parish. My children play with their children, and our families regularly hang out together. During the liturgy I sit with Kim and my oldest son while his two brothers are downstairs for Sunday school. When it comes time for the Communion, we process to the altar rail where my wife and my son take Communion together. I cross my arms and am blessed by the priest. Apart from a few children, I’m the only person who does this.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
Concerned with what she calls the "increasing rhetoric about the wearing of the niqab by Muslim women," an Anglican priest in Regina decided to take matters into her own hands. She wore a hijab for a day to see what's like.
In a post on Facebook, Cheryl Toth said she's "uncomfortable with the way the debate focuses on what women wear (or decide not to wear). I am afraid that [the rhetoric] will increase hostility towards women who choose to wear a hijab, a niqab or a burka."
She said she sees her trial run with the hijab as a way "to contribute to the conversation."
She wore it around Regina including on campus at Luther College, walking around her neighbourhood, at a public lecture and while shopping at a mall.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Women * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
the other thing that John was concerned about was to banish apathy from the hearts of those to whom he ministered. Starting with his own congregation at All Souls, Langham Place in London and extending to all the congregations to whom he ministered quite literally all around the world.
Banishing apathy, what did that mean in positive terms? It meant that John summoned us to learn our faith and not be sloppy in terms of our doctrine, and equally not to be sloppy and casual in terms of our service of the Lord whom we love and honour as our Saviour.
John himself as we all know was, well, I call him a 15-talent man of God. 10 the number in our Lord’s parable really doesn’t seem enough. John Stott one sometimes felt could do anything and everything in ministry. He had all the gifts that make up a teacher and a carer and a unifier. He lived in a way which displayed the freedom of self-discipline. I am thinking there of the kind of freedom which in a different department of life a solo pianist or violinist will display. He or she has accepted the self-discipline of learning to master the instrument. Now he or she is able, if one may put it this way, to relax with the instrument and with the sort of inner ease to make it sound and sing out all the music that is there in the notes and which as a soloist the musician wants to convey.
Well, that is a picture an illustration of what I mean by freedom with self-discipline at its heart and you saw that in John as a preacher and teacher and influence in the church. And the self-discipline that lay at the heart of it was a discipline of constant Bible study, constant prayer, constant self-watch and constant refusal to go wild - John never went wild. John observed his own discipline so that he might always be at his best for ministry. And well we know, all of us I am sure, know something about the quality of that ministry, marked as it always was by love and wisdom in whatever form the situation demanded.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Globalization * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Americans' search for the divine is alive and well, although it looks different than it has in the past, according to Diana Butler Bass, a prominent commentator on religion and culture, and author of nine books about American Christianity.
Her latest book, "Grounded: Finding God in the World — A Spiritual Revolution," published Oct. 6, explores how people are finding God in nature and fellowship with friends and neighbors, whether or not they attend church.
Nearly 23 percent of U.S. adults did not identify with any organized religion in 2014, a 7 percentage-point increase from 2007, Pew Research Center reported in May. However, only 3 percent of Americans say they don't believe in God, The Associated Press noted earlier this year.
In "Grounded," Bass, who holds a doctorate in religion from Duke University and identifies as Episcopalian, investigates the spiritual lives of contemporary believers, questioning what happens when people expand their search for God beyond church buildings to the world around them.
Read it all from the Deseret News.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology
Enjoy it all (hat tip: SH).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * General Interest Animals * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Theology: Scripture
But the Elle essay suggests yet another understanding of how secularism interacts with spiritual experience. In this scenario, the key feature of the secular world-picture isn’t that it requires people to reinterpret their numinous experiences as strictly psychological events; it’s simply that it discourages people who have such experiences from embracing any kind of systematic (that is, religious/theological) interpretation of what’s happened to them, and then as a corollary discourages them from seeking out a permanent communal space (that is, a religious body) in which to further interact with these ultimate realities. Under secularism, in other words, most people who see a ghost or have a vision or otherwise step into the supernatural are still likely to believe in the essential reality of their encounter with the otherworldly or transcendent; they’re just schooled to isolate the experience, to embrace it as an interesting (and often hopeful) mystery without letting it call them to the larger conversion of life that most religious traditions claim that the capital-S Supernatural asks of us in return.
What secularism really teaches people, in this interpretation, isn’t that spiritual realities don’t exist or that spiritual experiences are unreal. It just privatizes the spiritual, in a kind of theological/sociological extension of church-state separation, and discourages people from organizing either intellectual systems (those are for scientists) or communities of purpose (that’s what politics is for) around their sense, or direct experience, that Something More exists.
This interpretation – which I think is clearly part of the truth of our time — has interesting implications for the future of religion in the West....what you see in the Elle piece is that in the absence of strong institutions and theological systems dedicated to the Mysteries, human beings and human society can still make sense of these experiences through informal networks, private channels, personalized interpreters. And to the extent that these informal networks succeed in satisfying the human hunger for interpretation, understanding and reassurance — as they seem to have partially satisfied Peter Kaplan’s widow — then secularism might be more resilient, more capable of dealing effectively with the incorrigibility of the spiritual impulse, than its more arid and strictly materialist manifestations might suggest.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Multiculturalism, pluralism Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Eschatology
Our Father, Our King
Our father our king, hear our voice
Our father our king, we have sinned before you
Our father our king, Have compassion upon us
and upon our children
Our father our king
Bring an end to pestilence,
war, and famine around us
Our father our king,
Bring an end to all trouble
and oppression around us
Our father our king,
Our father our king,
Inscribe us in the book of (good) life
Our father our king, renew upon us
Renew upon us a good year
Hear our voice
Hear our voice
Hear our voice
Our father our king,
Our father our king,
Renew upon us a good year
Our father our king,
Hear our voice
Hear our voice
Hear our voice
Hear our voice
Since he was a teenager, Kim Min-hwan knew he would have to make a choice: abandon his religious convictions or go to prison.
Mr. Kim is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who for decades have faced jail terms as conscientious objectors under South Korea’s Military Service Act. Since his release from prison in 2013, Mr. Kim has found the stigma too great to find a meaningful job, though he was a chemical engineering major. He spends his days volunteering at the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters south of Seoul.
“I was predestined to become a convict because I believed in the creator,” Mr. Kim, 31, said in an interview. “I want South Korea to recognize that there are other, nonmilitary ways for us to serve the community.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia Korea * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Why are you now taking up the issue of guns?
Our perceived need for self-defense discounts the life of the person on the other side of the gun. I’m really limiting my message to my fellow Christians, especially evangelicals. And we have a massive presence of lethal weapons in our Christian communities. I’m aware of some pastors who now go into the pulpit armed and ready to use their weapons to defend their congregants. That sets up, in my mind, a disaster.
What do you say to people who say they need a gun to protect themselves and their families?
I like to ask people the last time they faced a mortal threat in their life. Most people can’t think of one. Within our conservative ranks, there seems to be an almost rampant fearmongering that’s used as a device to build audiences and readership. And I think it’s contrary to the optimism of the Gospel.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Pope Francis on Monday told a contentious gathering of the world's bishops on family issues to put aside their personal prejudices and have the courage and humility to be guided by God.
Francis told 270 cardinals, bishops and priests that the three-week synod isn't a parliament where negotiations, plea bargains or compromises take place. Rather, he said, it's a sacred, protected space where God shows the way for the good of the church.
The bishops are debating how the church can better care for Catholic families at a time when marriage rates are falling, divorce is common and civil unions are on the rise. The main sticking points include how the church should welcome gays and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Maajid Nawaz...and his favourite interlocutor Sam Harris are at first sight an unlikely pair, but they are doing their best to find common ground and get their act together. Mr Nawaz is a British-born Muslim who went through a radical fundamentalist phase and was imprisoned in Egypt; two years after his release in 2006 he co-founded Quilliam, a London-based research institution which describes itself as an anti-extremism think-tank. Mr Harris is a well-known atheist public intellectual in the United States.
A short but intensive dialogue between them is being published this week as a slim volume by Harvard University Press, and we can expect to hear a lot more from them, on talk-shows and in the more cerebral parts of the print media, over the coming months. Their conversation sprang out of an initially abrasive encounter after a debate in 2010, when Mr Harris put it to Mr Nawaz that liberal-minded Muslims were engaged in a near-impossible task: proving that their faith was really a religion of peace when the tenets and scriptures of the faith suggested otherwise.
That is still, broadly speaking, what Mr Harris thinks. He sees the elaboration of a peaceful and tolerant understanding of Islam as a praiseworthy enterprise, and one that only Muslims can undertake, but he is politely sceptical of their chances of succeeding. Mr Nawaz's reply is a measured one. He says that Islam is neither a religion of peace nor a religion of war. It is simply a religion, and one that has been subject to many different interpretations over the centuries, and is still refracted in lots of different ways.
Read it all.
Compassion, taken alone and severed from deeper, richer understandings of our nature and destiny, kills morality. Taken as the sole moral principle it undercuts our ability to articulate an ideal for human life. That is surely true of Tribe’s angle of vision on cloning. In order to assure that we do not risk making any person feel marginalized, we are suddenly forbidden to condemn what seems wrong to us. We are unable any longer to raise and discuss questions about what the nature of a cloned person would in fact be, what it means to be human, whether the bond between the generations created by ordinary human reproduction is integral to our humanity.
Tribe is not wrong to fear that cloning threatens human equality. As one made by us rather than one who comes from us, the clone would be a product rather than a gift. And when we make products, we determine their point and purpose. True compassion should draw us away from such circumstances, away from actions that might create cases metaphysically too baffling for our morality to address. But Tribe, as with the instance of removing the stigma from illegitimacy, purchases equality by means of a compassion that is the only moral law, and that makes for too shriveled and truncated a morality.
We ought, of course, to care as best we can for those who are victimized or marginalized in our society. But when we hesitate to pass judgment it should not be because we fear that moral ideals will, by their very existence, make those who fall short feel condemned. That is a dead end, if there ever was one. Bereft of any larger sense of the human good, unable to articulate (lest we hurt feelings) what is best in human life and what the family at its best might be, we will—if we follow Tribe’s prescription—lurch from one affirmation to the next until even the language of compassion finally loses its point. That is the possibility about which we ought to have second thoughts and which might remind us, in Chesterton’s words, of “the importance of an ideal.”
Read it all from First Things (emphasis mine).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Psychology Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
A Former Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to do more to help Christians in the Middle East saying "time is running out".
Lord Carey said more had to be done to support followers of Christ who face persecution or death at the hands of Islamic terrorism.
"Time is running out for Christians in the region," he said.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary England / UK Middle East Iran Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
History was made this summer at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ont., with a unique interfaith wedding, the officiating clerics say.
On August 29, Capt. Georgette Mink, a physiotherapist in the Canadian military, was married to Ahmad Osman, a soldier in the Lebanese army. Although technically a Christian marriage, it was attended by representatives from both the Christian and Muslim religions, and was followed by a Muslim blessing of the couple.
Capt. the Rev. Dwayne Bos, the Anglican padre who officiated, said he believes other weddings may have been done in the Canadian military involving Christians and non-Christians—he has heard of some involving one Wiccan partner, for example. But the fact that clerics from both faith traditions co-performed the liturgy made this one unique, he said.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam
The pope has returned to Rome after his historic trip to the United States, but the message and meaning of his words and actions are still being debated. We are joined by John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought, and Pat Zapor, who covered the pope’s trip for Catholic News Service, about how the pope was received, what he said and did, and what the impact of his message may be on the Catholic Church and beyond.
Read it all.
In 1975, as desperate Vietnamese sought to escape Communist rule, the U.S. embarked on what remains one of the greatest humanitarian rescue missions in history. Over the span of several weeks, Operation Frequent Wind, Operation Babylift and other missions by air or on sea saved and resettled tens of thousands of Vietnamese in the U.S., where they would become thriving American citizens.
Now another desperate population needs rescuing: persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Could there be an Operation Frequent Wind for them?
Mark Arabo thinks so. He is a Chaldean-American and the founder of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to get Iraqi Christians out before it’s too late. “There is historical precedent for this,” he says from his base in San Diego. “President Ford airlifted thousands during the Vietnam War and we need to do the same.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Vietnam Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A series of explosions on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital Abuja have killed at least 18 people, officials say.
The first two struck Kuje township: one by a suicide bomber near a police station, the other a bomb at a market.
Another bomb exploded at a bus stop in Nyanya.
No group has said it carried out the attacks yet but suspicion has fallen on Boko Haram Islamists, who targeted Nyanya last year.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology
To celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, the Army is rolling out a major social initiative aiming to lift 100,000 families out of poverty over the next 15 years. Called Pathway of Hope, this innovative program will target qualified families that show the necessary “strengths and aptitudes” to benefit from in-depth support from Army caseworkers. The Army began to pilot programs in three Midwestern communities in late 2011. Early results show that 50 percent of the families who stayed in the program “demonstrated increased stability and sufficiency.”
The US wing of the Army has the necessary reach to attempt a project of that scale. “Across the country, we have about 3,500 active officers, 60,000 employees, and 3.5 million volunteers,” National Commander David Jeffrey told me. “We’re in over 7,000 communities.” In addition, the Army is collaborating with social work departments at colleges like Asbury, Trevecca Nazarene, and Olivet Nazarene.
But to identify and serve these families on the path to self-sufficiency, Jeffrey estimates, the Army will need to hire up to 700 more caseworkers. It will require an additional $200 million to ensure that the program can retain its faith-based nature and stay free of government restrictions.
Read it all.
Give pastors vacations.
Open the books for periodic financial reviews.
Be sensitive to how sounds — and traffic — can affect church neighbors.
The National Association of Evangelicals this week released a code of ethics for congregations that it hopes will help leaders make practical decisions for the health of their churches and community.
The document calls for churches to strive for unity by embracing different worship styles and reconciling “dissident factions.” It urges them to affirm the various cultural heritages of their members and neighbors, minimize barriers for disabled people and use natural resources wisely.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The proclamation, which provides extensive scriptural citation, asserts, “God has given all animals the breath of life, that He sustains them… they belong ultimately to Him, and… He has declared them ‘good,’ indicating they have value to Him independent of human use.”
Many conservative evangelicals bristle at the mention of the animal rights movement because they believe it puts humans and animals on equal footing. But the evangelical statement is unequivocal that humans hold a unique status in creation. In fact, it’s this special status that demands humans practice extra care with all of God’s creation. The signatories affirmed the belief that, “all animals ultimately belong to God, are sustained by Him, and exist to bring Him praise and reveal His character.”
Also being announced today is the launch of the “Every Living Thing” initiative, which will begin a year-long effort to engage Christians in dialogue around the biblical mandate to care for animals.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * General Interest Animals * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
The roads that wind north from Lagos, Nigeria, toward the headquarters of the Winners’ Chapel mega-church are lined with unusual testaments to Nigerians’ religious fervor.
There’s the Amazing Grace Hair Salon and the No King But God Driving School, My God Is Able Furniture Makers and God’s Grace Multipurpose Hall. And wedged between these omnipotently styled businesses are the churches themselves, hundreds of them, carrying on tenaciously in a sweltering tin shack or a room balanced atop a gas station, in the parking lot of a half-finished shopping mall or perched on stilts above Lagos’s thick, viscous lagoon.
But even in a country so devout, Canaanland stands out. The headquarters of one of the most powerful churches in Africa rambles out across 10,500 acres and includes not only a massive church – the 50,000 seat Faith Tabernacle – but a fully stocked company town complete with schools and a university, a bottled water processing plant, restaurants, shops, and residential neighborhoods. Every weekend, hundreds of bus loads of Nigerians, regally coiffed in vividly patterned, tailor-made suits and dresses, pour through its gates for Sunday service.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
The next point I want to make I think is one that is of increasing importance in a time when there is a certain set tendency to say that religion should be privatised. To use an old expression, many think religion should be only between consenting adults in private.
Far from it, the faith communities are those who provide the glue in society in so many ways, from their social action through to the eternal values which they reflect and support, and which eternal values are themselves the foundation for British values of which we’ve heard a lot over the last few months. Because of what the Scriptures teach us, especially from the prophet Jeremiah, we are committed to seeking the welfare of the place where we live, the common good.
Christians and Muslims are not called to a ghetto-like existence, although both our faiths have from time to time acted in that way, through fear or defensiveness. We are called by contrast to be actively involved in our society not for our own good but for the common good. We are called to seek the flourishing of the society, as Jeremiah said to the Jewish exiles: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” [
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Church of Wales * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK --Wales * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
Islamic State combatants have shown themselves to be resilient, and the group is adept at attracting adherents through social media.
At least eight Islamic State branches in the Middle East and Afghanistan have cropped up in recent years or have redefined themselves as allies, such as the Boko Haram insurgency group in Nigeria.
At the same time, international efforts to combat the Islamic State’s online propaganda messaging has been an abysmal failure, according to a recent State Department assessment.
So far, the Islamic State’s violent narrative — promulgated through thousands of messages each day — has effectively “trumped” the efforts of some of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations, the State Department assessment said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Media * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology
A parish is in uproar after a crematorium's cross was taken down and stuffed in a cupboard to avoid offending non-religious visitors.
Around 40 per cent of funeral services held the crematorium are non-Christian so it was decided that the cross should be kept in a storage cupboard rather than behind the alter.
It will be brought out of the cupboard and put up on the wall for services at Accrington Crematorium in Burnley, Lancashire, only when requested.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
When large, multisite Grace Church in Florida needed a pastor for its new downtown Fort Myers campus, the Rev. Arlene Jackson got the call.
She began with about 30 in worship. Over five years, her flock at Grace — a United Methodist church — has grown to more than 400. Many were previously “unchurched” and recovering from addictions, as she did.
“It’s the most diverse bunch of mixed nuts you’ve ever met,” Jackson said. “They’re growing in Christ and bringing people and having a lot of joy in their walk with the Lord.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
....there’s no way to view the encounter other than as a broad gesture of support by the pope for conscientious objection from gay marriage laws, especially taken in tandem with his statement aboard the papal plane that following one’s conscience in such a situation is a “human right” – one, he insisted, that also belongs to government officials.
So what does it mean?
First, it means that Francis has significantly strengthened the hand of the US bishops and other voices in American debates defending religious freedom.
In the wake of a massively successful trip in which Francis was lauded for his stands on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to fighting poverty, it will be more difficult for anyone to wrap themselves in the papal mantle without at least acknowledging his concerns vis-à-vis religious freedom.
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It is this fantasy of living in an endlessly adjustable world, in which every physical boundary can be renegotiated, that shapes the opening reflections of the encyclical and pervades a great deal of its argument. The paradox, noted by a good many other commentators, is that our supposed “materialism” is actually a deeply anti-material thing. The plain thereness of the physical world we inhabit tells us from our first emergence into consciousness that our will is not the foundation of everything—and so its proper working is essentially about creative adjustment to an agenda set not by our fantasy but by the qualities and complexities of what we encounter. The material world tells us that to be human is to be in dialogue with what is other: what is physically other, what is humanly other in the solid three-dimensionality of other persons, ultimately what is divinely other. And in a world created by the God Christians believe in, this otherness is always communicating: meaning arises in this encounter, it is not devised by our ingenuity. Hence the pope’s significant and powerful appeal to be aware of the incalculable impact of the loss of biodiversity: it is not only a loss of resource but a diminution of meaning. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us” (33).
The argument of these opening sections of Laudato si’ repeatedly points us back to a fundamental lesson: We as human beings are not the source of meaning or value; if we believe we are, we exchange the real world for a virtual one, a world in which—to echo Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty—the only question is who is to be master. A culture in which managing limits is an embarrassing and unwelcome imperative is a culture that has lost touch with the very idea of a world, let alone a created world (i.e., one in which a creative intelligence communicates with us and leads us into meanings and visions we could not have generated ourselves). The discussion in Chapter III of the obsessive pursuit of novelty in our lives draws out very effectively how the multiplication of pure consumer choice produces not greater diversity or liberty but a sense of endless repetition of the same and a lack of hope in the future. Once again, the underlying issue is the loss of meaning. It is fully in keeping with this general perspective that what Pope Francis has to say about the rights and dignities of the unborn (120) is seamlessly connected with the dangers of a culture of “disposability” in which the solid presence of those others who do not instantly appear to contribute to our narrowly conceived well-being can so readily be forgotten.
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The US State Department is seeking a counter-narrative to the propaganda being spread by ISIL, and it is reportedly turning to some of America’s preeminent storytellers for help. According to The Daily Beast, executives from both HBO and Snapchat are part of a team of filmmakers and social media specialists that’s brainstorming how to hamper the effectiveness of ISIL’s messaging.
Citing unnamed industry and government sources, The Daily Beast reports that HBO and Snapchat representatives were invited to Sunnylands, a California retreat known for hosting important government figures, in June to meet with State Department officials on how best to counter the ISIL narrative, which has lured young men from the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States, to join its violent ranks. Mark Boal, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Zero Dark Thirty, is reportedly part of the team assisting the State Department.
Neither HBO nor Snapchat have responded to requests for comment. The State Department, in a statement to Quartz, neither confirmed nor denied the Daily Beast report but noted that film “is an especially powerful medium for building cross-cultural understanding” of world issues.
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The new Global Goals have emerged from an international three year process of listening. The UK government, led by the Prime Minister, played a really key role.
There is huge ambition here. According to the UN document: “Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda”. And again, “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet”.
The goals are more comprehensive this time. There are 17 goals and 169 targets. They are therefore less catchy but much more realistic. They recognize that all kinds of things are interconnected in tackling poverty. They are also goals for every country not simply for the developing world. The British government has promised to implement them alongside governments in Africa and Asia. There is a much stronger emphasis on building strong, honest, robust governments and institutions as well as on aid and generosity. There is a strong slogan which focuses on helping the weakest so that no-one is left behind.
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With civil war in Syria, the emergence of ISIS, and the growing power of Iran, a new Middle East seems to be in the making. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become in some ways a sideline to these other developments. What do you see emerging out of these developments with regard to Israel/Palestine?
For the first time since the collapse of the Oslo process in 2000, I feel a small stirring of optimism and can see a way out. The defining conflict in the Middle East is no longer between Arabs and Israelis but between Sunnis and Shi‘ites. Much of the West hasn’t yet internalized this historic shift. The Saudis are now meeting regularly with Israelis and even allowing those meetings to become public knowledge. This is unprecedented.
During the Gaza War last year, even as anti-Israel demonstrations were happening in the West, Israel was receiving urgent messages from Sunni leaders demanding that it destroy the Hamas regime. Hamas is especially detested by many Sunnis for making common cause with Shi‘ite Iran—it’s the only Sunni Muslim Brotherhood organization to break ranks in the Sunni-Shi‘ite war.
All of which is to say that the Middle East looks very different from the Middle East than it does from the West. When Israelis looks around the region, what we see is that the most intact society left is Israel. I say that with more anxiety than pride, because this is the region in which I live, in which I’m raising a family. My prayer is for a Middle East in which all its peoples will find their safe place. Ultimately, the success of the Jewish homecoming depends on our finding our place in the Middle East.
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Dammer, the University of Scranton professor, said people are often skeptical of religious people in prisons, and particularly those who convert behind bars. “The common thought by correctional officers or people who run prisons or even the general public is that people who are involved in religion in prison because …[they] think they’ll get parole easy or earlier,” he said. This isn’t really the case, he said; especially as states have moved away from indeterminate sentencing, or prison terms that involve a range of possible lengths, this kind of pious performance hasmattered less for helping people get parole.
“Do some inmates use religion in prison in a manipulative way? Absolutely. They do it to meet women at services, they do it to get goods and services,” he said. “Most of them, though, don’t do it for this myth—just to get out of prison. They do it to help them live in prison in a way that helps them survive.”
Religious figures play various roles in prisons. Institutions will usually have hired chaplains on staff, sometimes euphemistically called “faith representatives.” These chaplains often oversee groups of volunteers who come into prisons to run bible studies and other programs. In one prison that Dammer studied, “the only contact [inmates] had with anybody was with the chaplains, who would walk up and down the hallways and read the bible. [Otherwise], it was 23 hours a day of total solitary confinement.”
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American families are under assault from an Islamic extremist group that is quietly turning young minds against their parents, against their religious faith, and against their country.
The group, the self-proclaimed Islamic State in occupied sections of Syria and Iraq, is using social media and the worldwide reach of the Internet in a sophisticated recruitment campaign that is making families feel helpless to stop a slow-motion kidnapping of their children.
So far this year, 58 Americans – more than half under 25 – have been arrested for attempting to travel to Syria or for plotting violence in the US. That is more than twice the number of similar arrests for the entire year in 2014, and more than twice the number for all of 2013, as well.
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A panel of six different faiths found commonality during a religious conference that tasked its speakers to discuss God as myth or reality.
"I don't think it's possible to prove or disprove the existence of God in any rational way," said Anglican priest Peter Zimmer, who presented before an audience of about 80 people Sunday evening at the University of Northern B.C.'s Canfor Theatre for the World Religions Conference.
The question, to him, is the difference faith can make in a person's life.
Zimmer suggested all major religions attempt to answer three questions: where do we come from, where are we going, and what must we do on our way.
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As Christians we have a responsibility, not only to give generously to address immediate social need, but to work with political leaders and the wider community to change the structures that are trapping people in cycles of poverty.
‘Local communities are ready to be active partners in tackling the root causes of social exclusion and are best placed to inform and shape this work. In community and faith–based organisations, volunteers are working quietly and effectively to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable and marginalised, including the basic necessities of food, shelter and much–needed emotional and psychological support. As demands continue to rise, charities are stretched beyond capacity and facing difficult decisions about the future.
‘The unacceptable level of child poverty, affecting over 100,000 children, roughly 6% of Northern Ireland’s population, constitutes a real crisis. Supports that have proved to be effective in recent years in addressing inequality and closing the gap in crucial areas such as educational disadvantage are now being withdrawn through lack of funding. The failure to invest adequately in the future leaders of our society is a cause of deep frustration among young people, leaving many feeling disconnected from political processes.
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He is certainly not a Marxist, and he’s not a “liberal” as American politics understands the terms. But he has been a gift to liberals who are also Christians, to religious believers whose politics lean left.
It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.
Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism — abortion and same-sex marriage — while elevating other causes and concerns.
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Pastors, teachers, and small-group leaders would be wise to spend more energy showing how the Bible is the source of the great church doctrines—which are so often about God and his saving work. It’s time for our main pedagogical question to be not, “What difference does this make?” but, “What does this tell us about our good God?” To help churches answer that question, CT recently joined Zondervan Publishing, HarperCollins, to produce the NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible. This is but one of many resources that makes these crucial connections.
To emphasize theology will entail a battle, as any pastor will sense. It will be a battle against those who have fed too long on the milk of therapeutic Christianity, and who will demand immediate application. It will be a battle against false teachers, who will react defensively. It will be a battle against our own sloth, as this type of teaching requires more intellectual labor than “10 ways to improve your marriage.”
But it is a battle well worth fighting. It will no doubt create scars, but God will also give us many a victory. Some false teachers may be saved from their pernicious ideas, and the church will have an ever-clearer picture of the beautiful God whose nature it is to save the world.
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Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit formally welcomed the Commission to its meeting in his diocese. He offered praise and encouragement for the work of the dialogue. He stressed the urgent need for expressions of Christian unity in light of the deep challenges and crises before the global community, mindful of events unfolding even as the Commission undertook its deliberations.
The Commission brought to completion the first section of its work on the theological understanding of the human person, with the adoption of its agreed statement, In the Image and Likeness of God: A Hope-Filled Anthropology. The report, shortly to be published, is the culmination of six years of study on what Anglicans and Orthodox can say together about the meaning of human personhood in the divine image.
This agreement lays the foundation for continuing dialogue on ethical decision-making in the light of this vision. At its future meetings the Commission will consider the practical consequences of this theological approach to personhood. The Commission anticipates ongoing study in areas such as bioethics and the sanctity of life, as well as human rights and ecological justice.
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DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, I thought it’s so clear how countercultural he is. We have ideological fights. He’s anti-ideological. He’s personalist. Somebody once said, souls are not saved in bundles, and he’s with each individual human being.
I loved the moment, little girl on the street, she came up to his caravan, and he embraced her. That was a moment, the pope and the individual. And so he represents community an ethos of community and uplift, which is just different than our horizontal politics.
It’s a vertical axis he’s on. And so, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, I think everybody felt uplifted, and both uplifted by his example and his humility, but also humbled by — he believes that the church is a hospital for the souls, and so he offered that as well.
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When he was 8 years old, my son, Noah, a true-blue New York Yankees fan, visited his pediatrician for a physical exam before starting day camp. His doctor found a lump in his neck.
The evaluation began with a chest X-ray, which showed a mass; the CT scan confirmed a large lesion in his chest. As a physician, I prayed to God that it would be tuberculosis. Perhaps I was the only doctor ever to ask God to give his son tuberculosis. The biopsy revealed Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphoma, and I quickly began to pray for my son’s life. A deep, gut-penetrating fear seared through my body.
Tefillah is the Hebrew word for prayer. The Torah, also referred to as the Old Testament, begins with: “When God began to create.” And how did God create? With words. Genesis 1:3 “God said ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Genesis 1:26 “God said: ‘Let us make man in our image.’ ” Thus, we see that God used words to bring all that we know into existence.
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First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.
Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).
The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action.
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A woman recruited from India to work in Britain and paid as little as 11p an hour has been awarded nearly £184,000 compensation in one of the UK’s first claims of caste discrimination.
Permila Tirkey, from Bihar – one of India’s poorest states - was kept in domestic servitude by her employers in Milton Keynes and forced to work as their cleaner and nanny.
Tirkey’s family are Adivasi people who are dark skinned, poor and of low caste. They describe themselves as being from the “servant class” comprising of Hindus and Christians.
Her employers, Ajay and Pooja Chandhok, both originally Hindus, were found by an employment tribunal to have made her work for 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
Tirkey, a Christian, was required to sleep on a mattress on the floor, prevented from bringing her bible to the UK, not allowed to contact her family and given a bank account which was controlled by her employers. Her ordeal lasted four and a half years.
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..The Roman Catholic Church that Pope Francis will encounter on his first visit to the United States is being buffeted by immense change, and it is struggling — with integrating a new generation of immigrants, with conflicts over buildings and resources, with recruiting priests and with retaining congregants. The denomination is still the largest in the United States, but its power base is shifting.
On the East Coast and in the Midwest, bishops are closing or merging parishes and shuttering parochial schools built on the dimes and sweat of generations of European immigrants. In many parishes, worshipers are sparse, funerals outnumber baptisms, and Sunday collections are not enough to maintain even beloved houses of worship.
In the West and the South, and in some other unexpected pockets all over the country, the church is bursting at the seams with immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Latin America, but also from Asia and Africa. Hispanic parents put their children on waiting lists for religious education classes and crowd into makeshift worship spaces, but avoid predominantly Anglo parishes because they do not always feel welcome there.
“The ethnic face of the church is changing, and the center of gravity and influence in the church is shifting from the East to the West, and from the North to the South,” Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles said...
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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, Bishop Angaelos, has called on the Government to multiply its efforts to resettle Middle Eastern refugees in the UK.
Bishop Angaelos visited a transit camp for refugees on the border of Greece and Macedonia earlier this month, and said that the people he met were desperate to find a safer life.
He spoke on Tuesday about a conversation with a young Syrian. “He said: ‘In Syria we are used to quick deaths through bombs and bullets, but we are embarking on a slow death.’ He was referring to the trip by sea.”
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The U.S. Catholic Church is expanding quickly in the South and West, largely driven by immigrants from Latin America filling pews in Atlanta, Houston and in Southern California.
Meanwhile, the church is contracting in the East and upper Midwest, where historic Catholic strongholds like Boston, Detroit and New York City are closing parishes as population or attendance declines.
The result: Old-line dioceses are battling to keep their doors open, even as fast-growing ones are scrambling to meet the needs of the growing faithful.
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Could the next Billy Graham be a married lesbian? In the year 2045, will Focus on the Family be “Focus on the Families,” broadcasting counsel to Evangelicals about how to manage jealousy in their polyamorous relationships? That’s the assumption among many—on the celebratory left as well as the nervous right. Now that the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case has nationalized same-sex marriage, America’s last hold-outs, conservative Evangelical Protestants, will eventually, we’re told, stop worrying and learn to love, or at least accept, the sexual revolution. As Americans grow more accustomed to redefined concepts of marriage and family, Evangelicals will convert to the new understanding and update their theologies to suit. This is not going to happen. The revolution will not be televangelized.
In any given week, I’m asked by multiple reporters about the “sea change” among Evangelicals in support of same-sex marriage. I reply by asking for evidence of this shift. The first piece of evidence is always polling data about Millennial support for such. I respond with data on Millennial Evangelicals who actually attend church, which show no such shift away from orthodoxy. The journalist then typically points to “all the Evangelical megachurches that are shifting their positions on marriage.” I request the names of these megachurches.
The first one mentioned is almost always a church in Franklin, Tennessee—a congregation with considerably less than a thousand attendees on any given Sunday. That may be a “megachurch” by Episcopalian standards, but it is not by Evangelical standards, and certainly not by Nashville Evangelical standards. The church is the fifth-largest, not in the country, not in the region, not even in the city; it is the fifth-largest congregation on its street within a mile radius. I’ll usually grant that church, though, and ask for others. So far, no journalist has named more churches shifting on marriage than there are points of Calvinism. They just take the Evangelical shift as a given fact.
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Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
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Hosni Wassef, a Samaritan priest and curator of the Samaritan Museum, located on Mount Gerizim on the outskirts of Nablus, told Al-Monitor that the Samaritans are the descendants of Israelites who fled with Moses from Egypt to the Holy Land some 3,600 years ago to escape the oppression of the Pharaoh. “We have not left the Holy Land since,” he said.
The word “Samaritan” in Ancient Hebrew, the language of Moses, means “guardian,” referring to those who guarded the Torah, said Wassef. Samaritanism is based on five key pillars: the oneness of God, the prophecy of Moses, the first five books of the Torah, the sanctity of Mount Gerizim (not Jerusalem) and the Last Judgment.
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An enthusiastic crowd of 11,000 ticketed guests gathered on the South Lawn of the White House this morning as President Obama officially welcomed Pope Francis to the United States.
Among the overwhelmingly Catholic audience there to greet him on his first US visit was a smattering of evangelical leaders.
Leith Anderson and Galen Carey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church. Lisa Sharon Harper from Sojourners. Joel Hunter of Northland Church.
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Spong will lecture on "CHRISTPOWER in the Radical Center of Life--A New Christianity for a New World," followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Spong always promises to provide a provocative, thoughtful, and enlivening experience for seekers from all faiths and denominations (or none) and across all religious and political spectrums.
His appearance in Columbia is a cooperative effort of several local congregations including St. Luke's, St. Martin's in the Fields, Church of the Cross, and St. Simon & St. Jude Episcopal Churches, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia and the Jubilee! Circle, Columbia.
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Heading up the panel hearing the case will be Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, who in that same position authored the Court's unanimous 2009 opinion in the case of All Saints Waccamaw v. Episcopal Church, which I quoted and analyzed in this earlier post. Also serving on the panel will be Associate Justice Donald W. Beatty, who joined in the Waccamaw opinion. It is not known yet whether any of the other sitting Justices have recused themselves (two of them did so in the Waccamaw case); the fifth, Justice Kaye Hearn, assumed her seat on the Court after the arguments in the 2009 case.
Chief Justice Toal, whose religion is Roman Catholic, is no stranger to the concept of what makes a church "hierarchical." In her opinion in the Waccamaw case, Justice Toal noted that South Carolina Courts are required to resolve church property disputes using "neutral principles of law" whenever possible. They may defer only to "the highest religious judicatories" when they have properly decided an issue "as to religious law, principle, doctrine, discipline, custom, and administration." It should be noted that in her written opinion filed last January, Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein expressly found that there were no such bodies in the Episcopal Church (USA) that had outside jurisdiction over either the Diocese or any of its parishes.
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At the core of the day's prayers is vidui, confession. Through all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet we enumerate, admit and apologise for our sins. But it is at this point that we encounter one of Judaism's most striking phenomena. Instinct would suggest that confession and repentance are best done alone. It is painful to undergo self-criticism in the privacy of our souls; doubly so in the company of others. But on Yom Kippur we confess together, publicly and aloud. We say, not "I have sinned," but "We have sinned."
The practice clearly recalls the time when the High Priest atoned collectively for all Israel. But the problem is obvious, then and now. If I have sinned, only I can put it right. If I have wronged, lied, cheated or humiliated, it does not help if you make amends and apologise. The wrongs we do, we do alone. You cannot atone for my sins and I cannot atone for yours. How then could the High Priest atone for the sins of all Israel, sins he did not commit? How can we in our prayers turn the singular into the plural and atone not as individuals but as a community?
Judaism has a strong sense of individual dignity and responsibility. But it has an equally strong sense of collective responsibility. "All of Israel," says the Talmud, "are sureties forgone another." The great sage Hillel used to say, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?"
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The symbolism of the morning services, which Francis now holds four times a week, is clear: a humbler papacy, where the pope is foremost a pastor to the flock, not a king. But a humbler papacy hardly means humbler papal ambitions. Francis is not just trying to change the Roman Catholic Church. He seems determined to change the world.
Popes are expected to challenge society. But Francis, 78, who lands in Cuba on Saturday and prepares to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for his first visit to the United States, has achieved a unique global stature in a short time.
His humble persona has made him immensely popular, a smiling figure plunging into crowds at St. Peter’s Square. He speaks in deeply personal terms about people discarded by the global economy, whether refugees drowned at sea or women forced into prostitution. His blistering critiques of environmental destruction have seized the world’s attention.
But he is also an inscrutable tactician whose push to change the church has stirred anxiety and hope — and some skepticism. Many conservatives project their fears onto him. Many liberals assume he is a kindred spirit. Others argue that Francis is less concerned about left or right than he is about reversing the church’s declining popularity in Latin America and beyond.
Read it all from the front page of Saturday's New York Times.
Boko Haram carried out its deadliest attacks on the key northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power, killing scores in a series of coordinated bomb blasts.
Police in the Borno state capital said at least 54 people died in Sunday’s co-ordinated strikes, with 90 injured, but residents caught up in the explosions said as many as 85 lost their lives.
The attacks on Sunday night in the Ajilari Cross area and nearby Gomari, near the city’s airport, killed and maimed worshippers at a mosque, bystanders and football fans watching a televised match.
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Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. on Tuesday, September 22nd, for five busy days in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Managing editor Kim Lawton asks American Catholics about the beliefs that shape the Pope’s view of the world, and Tom Roberts, editor-at-large of National Catholic Reporter, and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute of Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, join host Bob Abernethy in the studio for a conversation about their expectations for the Pope’s trip.
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If the church is the body of Christ, then the megachurch is like an athlete on steroids.
Every major city has a bevy of churches drawing between 5k-25k people. To get a body to grow that big leaders have to use some sort of performance enhancer. These things—typically models, strategies, and techniques gleaned not from the gospel or the Christian narrative, but from the world of business and the narrative of consumer capitalism—serve as performance enhancers that help create enormous congregations with huge facilities and hundreds of programs.
The impact of these practices is akin to using performance-enhancing drugs. They actually alter the form and function of the body, causing real and serious long-term consequences for the church universal.
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That name itself is the fiercest, most raw expression of the problem which was already bothering me. We would not, in modern times, want to live in a country called “Christian State”, and few Christians would suggest it. Most Muslims, luckily, do not admire the bloodthirsty regime trying to plant its flag in the most troubled corners of the Middle East, but significant numbers do see a faith-run, faith-defined state as the ultimate goal in this life. They therefore do not believe in secular law, freedom, pluralism or, except in limited form, the rights of unbelievers.
So the sad fact is that nothing in the past quarter-century has undermined the basic argument – as opposed to my tasteless expression of it – which I put forward then. Indeed, the opposite.
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My dad was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1970, the same year that he married my mother and began doctoral studies in theology at Oxford. But Catholicism always pulled at him. In Providence, he argued with the Episcopal bishop over the Assumption of Mary — the belief that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven immediately upon death, part of Catholic dogma but not accepted by all Anglicans.
At Oxford, he devoured the writings of one of England’s most famous Catholic converts, Cardinal John Henry Newman. Even his children weren’t immune. My parents named me Mary Benedicta, a name that evokes images of a wimple-bedecked nun. (They gave my brother the middle name of “Becket” after Thomas Becket, venerated by both Catholics and Anglicans as a saint.) So when Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral provision in 1980 allowing qualified married Episcopal priests to convert to Catholicism and retain their ministry, my father applied. In 1984, after two years of preparation, he was one of the first priests ordained under this process in the United States.
As Pope Francis prepares for his United States visit this week, priestly celibacy is up for discussion for the first time in decades. In February, in response to a question about married priests during a meeting with the Roman clergy, the pontiff stated that the issue was on his agenda. His secretary of state has reaffirmed that celibacy can be discussed because it’s a matter of church tradition, not core tenets.
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Since he was elected by his fellow cardinals in 2013 to head the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has captivated the public imagination the world over with his down-to-earth demeanor even as he tries to fit a new vision onto the ancient institution he leads.
He's bringing that vision to North America with a visit to Cuba beginning Saturday and to the United States on Sept. 22-27. The trip embraces the lofty — with addresses to Congress and the United Nations — as well as the lowly — meetings with homeless people and migrant families. It will be the first time that the 78-year-old pontiff has set foot in the U.S.
His very lack of flamboyance has, paradoxically, turned him into a spiritual rock star and newsmaker who has graced the covers of Rolling Stone, Time and National Geographic. Rapturous crowds greet Francis worldwide; a million or more people are expected to attend his outdoor Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 26.
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In 2006, the television comedy “The Office” aired an episode in which one of the characters, Dwight Schrute, nervously faces the prospect of delivering a speech after winning the title of top salesman of the year for his company, Dunder Mifflin. As a prank, his co-worker preps him for his moment by cribbing a speech from a dictator, coaching him to deliver it by pounding the lectern and waving his arms wildly. Dwight does it, and the audience gives a standing ovation to a manic tirade.
Watching a cartoonish TV character deliver authoritarian lines with no principles, just audacity, was hilarious back then, but that was before we saw it happening before our eyes in the race for the United States presidency.
Donald J. Trump stands astride the polls in the Republican presidential race, beating all comers in virtually every demographic of the primary electorate. Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives. To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.<
a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/opinion/have-evangelicals-who-support-trump-lost-their-values.html">Read it all.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
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In a scathing statement, Canon White has now slammed Europe for its response to the migrant crisis. He says it is wrong to focus resources on those already in Europe, when those in real need are the ones left behind.
“I am disappointed by Europe’s response to the refugee crisis,” he said “Not enough is being done to help the most vulnerable, particularly those who have fled religious persecution.
“My charity is providing food, shelter and medicine for hundreds of Iraqi refugee families who have fled ISIS and are now in Jordan. Some have walked across the desert to find safety, with little more than the clothes on their backs.
“When I see angry young men clashing with border police in Hungary and demanding to be let into other EU countries, I feel that the wrong people are at the front of the queue.
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The author describes a continuing “debate over bombing Auschwitz.” But there really wasn’t one in 1944. McCloy and the military had made their decision and saw no need seriously to re-examine it. Most American Jewish leaders knew little of Auschwitz and did not call for it to be bombed. Most Americans agreed that bringing the war to an early end should be the military’s top priority.
Mr. Winik writes that “there is little doubt that the refusal to directly bomb Auschwitz was the president’s decision or at least reflected his wishes.” But there is no contemporaneous evidence that the proposal ever reached FDR’s desk. Nearly four decades after the war and after the 91-year-old John McCloy had been repeatedly denounced by critical historians as complicit in Nazi war crimes, because he had failed to send the bombing proposals on to the White House, he did suddenly “remember” having once discussed the idea with the president, who, he claimed, had rejected the notion out of hand: “They’ll only move it down the road a little way. . . . I won’t have anything to do [with it]. . . . We’ll be accused of participating in this horrible business.”
Whether or not those words were ever spoken, they were echoed after the war by Albert Speer, who had been the Nazi minister of armaments and war production. If the Allies had destroyed the gas chambers, he told a historian, “Hitler would have hit the roof. . . . He would have ordered the return to mass shooting. And immediately, as a matter of top priority.” Indeed, after the SS abandoned Auschwitz in January 1945, the ever-resourceful Nazis found ways to murder another quarter of a million Jews before the victory Roosevelt did not live to see finally came that May.
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The current Archbishop seems to have decided that a new approach is called for. There is a mood of crisis. He has postponed indefinitely the Lambeth Conference due to be held in 2018, and last December stated that the worldwide Anglican Communion possibly “will not hold together”.
But we should beware seeing him as wringing his hands in desperation; he is far from saying that it is all up for Anglicanism. Archbishop Welby’s experience in conflict resolution calls for a more hands-on approach: speaking directly to disaffected parties rather than proposing abstract solutions. He has set himself the task of meeting every Anglican Primate personally, and his call to the Anglican Primates to meet in Lambeth next year should be seen in this context.
It is indeed difficult to imagine a solution to the present crisis, when, for example, Nigerian bishops declare themselves to be out of communion with their American brethren. To our Catholic ears, the language used by the Archbishop’s staff of "moving into separate bedrooms" sounds an effective end of communion, a formalising of a rift – and for Roman Catholics, such an arrangement would indeed signal a serious breach of communion.
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The [proposed new] process will be shorter, simpler and, if possible, free. The pope said he wished that “the heart of the faithful” awaiting clarification might not “be oppressed for a long time by the darkness of doubt.” Many oppose loosening requirements: Cardinal Raymond Burke has warned of a “false mercy” if the determination process isn’t rigorous.
My wife and I met in 2005 and dated for 18 months before marrying in a Brussels church in 2007. I reasoned that a sacramental endorsement would heal some of our serious problems. I was wrong, and we separated in 2010. A year later I moved to Pittsburgh. Why would I rehash all that by getting an annulment? My ex-wife and I have no children, and we have remained friends.
Annulments, I thought, were for extreme cases—bigamy or incest, for instance. My marriage was a failure but it wasn’t a sham, and I didn’t want to pretend that it never happened, which an annulment seemed to imply. And who likes recounting blunt truths about past immaturity and impulsiveness? It would also be complicated. I live in Pittsburgh and my ex-wife is in Brussels. Then there was the cost, as much as $1,000.
And yet: A Catholic marriage ceremony is solemn, extraordinary and majestic. I made a fundamental promise—to love and be with somebody until one of us died. My word mattered, and my commitment was etched on the church’s books.
So this spring I ordered the paperwork. I wrote up our story, and chose four witnesses: my two best men, one of my sisters and the priest who married us. The request was accepted. A marriage tribunal invited me to testify. On a sunny day in June, I drove a rental car from my parents’ house in Brussels to the grand 18th-century diocesan headquarters in Namur....
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The year 5,775 on the Hebrew calendar ended much the way it began: with violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site. On the morning of September 13th, hours before the Rosh Hashanah holiday began, Israeli police raided the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. A group of Palestinian worshippers emerged from the al-Aqsa mosque to pelt them with stones, and the officers responded with tear gas and sound bombs. Similar scenes have played out on the next two mornings as well.
Police said the raid was a preemptive measure ahead of the holiday, which typically brings an influx of Jewish visitors. Gilad Erdan, the public-security minister, said that pipe bombs had indeed been found inside the mosque. Twenty-six people were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. More than 1,000 Israeli Jews ascended anyway, in spite of the violence.
The plateau, occupied by Israel during the 1967 war, is Judaism’s most sacred site, believed to be the location of the Biblical temple. Muslims revere it as the place where the Prophet Muhammad made his night journey to heaven. Under a long-standing arrangement, Muslims have exclusive rights to pray there; Jews may visit at certain times, but must worship below at the Western Wall.
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Nigerians have greeted the recent reported surrender of Boko Haram terrorists and federal government's dialogue with the terrorists with mixed feelings.
Recent reports from the military high command in the northeast indicate that the Boko Haram terrorists, weary of fighting and mass-killing through suicide bombing, have begun to lay down their arms and handing themselves over to the Nigerian military.
Immediately coming on the heels of the military report was the statement credited to the presidency that negotiation was ongoing with the leaders of the terrorists who have severally been quoted as bragging that they would not go into any negotiation with the Nigerian government.
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They still haven’t got it.
European media and policymakers have correctly realized that the present refugee crisis is an enormous challenge to the assumptions that have guided the continent for decades, to the point of potentially breaking the European Union. But apparently they still are not prepared to confront the specifically religious revolution now under way.
This issue places me in a strange and unprecedented position. Over the past decade, I have written about the presence of Islam in Europe, arguing repeatedly that the threat of “Islamization” is overblown. Overall, I have argued, Europe’s Muslim population is presently around 4.5 percent of the whole, which by U.S. standards is in no sense a massive minority presence. It might rise to 10 or 15 percent later in the century, but the change will be gradual, allowing plenty of time for assimilation.
My moderate position on this has been heavily criticized by various right-wing outlets such as FrontPage Magazine, a publication with which I agree on basically nothing. On most issues, I find FrontPage’s tone hysterical and alarmist. Now, suddenly, I myself have to criticize that magazine for being insufficiently concerned about Islam. These are strange times.
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I was stunned by this passage [from Columbia University President] Fredrick A.P. Barnard — for here we see a man confront what reason tells him must be true (evolution) only to reject it for what his heart most fears. But why the fear? I have written before about our attitudes about death and the afterlife. With this quote, I'd like to do bring a question directly to the 13.7 community (well, two linked questions, really).
First, to our religious readers: Would your belief in God be any different if there was no promise of immortal life? If God created a world where death was just the end of consciousness, would that change anything for you?
And to our atheist and agnostic readers, I ask an inverted form of the same question: Would it be possible to believe in a God who had set the universe running through processes such as evolution — including the reality that death was just the end of consciousness?
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...this close contact both with poverty and with political terror has undoubtedly given Pope Francis a perspective on the Church and its government that is a good deal more impatient with bureaucratic proprieties than many Vatican insiders would like. Vallely describes this particularly well, making excellent use of many contacts at high levels, explaining the dysfunctional conduct of many of the central bodies in Rome and the mediocrity and incompetence of various very senior figures (he also rightly notes some of those who stood out against this depressing background, not least the Vatican’s head of interfaith relations, the shrewd, patient and generous Cardinal Tauran). It is difficult to know how fast one can expect reform to move in this context; and yet, despite the frustration expressed in some quarters, an outsider can only marvel at the speed with which Francis has moved to purge the most intractable.
[Paul] Vallely devotes a full and candid chapter to the continuing and heartbreaking business of dealing with clerical abuse, concluding that Francis has been slow to make it a priority as Pope, and that his record in this area as a diocesan bishop was at best average. Like practically all bishops who were in post before about the mid-1990s (this writer was one), he had little training and little awareness of the scale and depth of the problem. But he has now set up an effective, even aggressive body, with representation from survivors of abuse. It remains to be seen how it will change things, yet it is typical of the man that once he has identified a priority, he will look for measurable movement in a short timescale.
There will be many more books written about the present papacy, but these two provide first-rate and provide first-rate and complementary pictures. Both are profoundly sympathetic but not hagiographic. That itself is a tribute to the stature of a pope who is not afraid of challenge, and not afraid to confess and confront his failures. It shows Jesuit training in detachment, yes, no doubt. But also something more centrally and simply Christian; something about faith, hope and love.
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The fundamental question of how the brain’s physical processes give rise to thoughts, feelings and behavior, much less how to simulate them, remains a mystery. So many neuroscientists see the possibility of reproducing an individual’s consciousness as unforeseeably far off.
“We have to recognize that there are many huge gaps that have to be leaped over,” said Stephen J. Smith, a neuroscientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “The brain is holding on to many of its secrets.”
Jeffrey Lichtman, a Harvard University neuroscientist, said, “Nothing happening now is close to a reality where a human patient might imagine that their brain could be turned into something that could be reproduced in silico.”
But in the spring of 2011, as Kim began chemotherapy that caused hives to erupt all over her body, an unusual letter appeared in Cryonics magazine. Titled “The Brain Preservation Technology Prize: A challenge to cryonicists, a challenge to scientists,” it argued that if a brain was properly preserved, time would not be an issue.
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Caught up in this drama of sin and repentance, justice and forgiveness, estrangement and reconciliation, I begin to realise that being a Jew - being a human being - is not a matter of the here-and-now only. My life is more than this place, this time, these anxieties, those hopes. We are characters in a long and continuing narrative. We carry with us the pain and faith of our ancestors. Our acts will affect our children and those not yet born. We neither live our lives nor come before God alone. In us, the past and future have resided their trust.
The battle of good against evil, faith against indifference, is not won in a single generation. Never in earthly time is it finally won, and must be fought each year anew. In each of us the faith of Abraham and Sarah and Isaac still echoes. The pleas of Levi Yitzchak still resonate. The question is: Will we hear them? On Rosh Hashanah we ask God to remember. But on Rosh Hashanah God also asks us to remember.
Before God lie two books, and one of them is the book of life. It was many years before I understood that before us, also, lie the same two books. In one is written all the things to which human beings have instinctively turned: appetite and will and self-assertion and power. It was Judaism's most fateful claim that this is not the book of life.
The other book is not without these things, but it comes with a condition: that they must be sanctified, used responsibly, turned to the common good.
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The Defence Headquarters has announced the imminent end of the Boko Haram insurgency, saying the reign of the sect would soon be a thing of the past.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Rabe Abubakar, reportedly gave the assurance when a group of journalists visited him in his Abuja office on Monday.
A statement issued by Lieutenant Commander Olabisi Way, restated a renewed commitment of the leadership of the Armed Forces and determination on the part of the troops in the counter insurgency operations.
The DHQ eulogized what it described as the heart-warming success of the coordination between the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Army in the ongoing campaign.
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Sabrina Malach acknowledges that she once felt some “Jewish guilt” about her honeybees.
“Are we stealing from them?” she had asked herself. “They’ve done all this work. They never stop, and now we’re taking all their honey.”
But as she looks toward the Jewish New Year, which begins Sunday evening (Sept. 13), the Jewish beekeeper shares that she eventually learned the opposite lesson about bees and honey, a gastronomic symbol of the holiday.
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As the Middle East is consumed by violence, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are at last putting boots on the ground. They are doing so not in Iraq or Syria, where western attention is focused, but in Yemen, where it is not. Six months and 5,000 deaths into a largely unreported war for control of Yemen, Saudi, Qatari and Egyptian troops are massing in the centre of the country for an offensive intended to dislodge Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from its capital, Sanaa.
If the likely outcome of this campaign were any sort of stability it would be a gamble worth taking. Yet the reverse is true. In the desert east of Sanaa a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is escalating. There is no sign of Iran or the Houthis backing down, and every sign that the only real winners will be Islamist extremists who have shown from Afghanistan to Somalia that they thrive where conventional governance fails.
Britain and the United States have a clear interest in de-escalating this war, and they have leverage on both sides.
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Church World Service (CWS), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and other faith communities are urging the U.S. government to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees this coming fiscal year, in addition to increasing the total U.S. resettlement commitment to 100,000 refugees from other parts of the world.
The CWS and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are cooperative ministries by churches based in the United States, including member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“More than 60 million people have been displaced from their homes,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Program for CWS. “Syria is the largest crisis we are facing but let’s not forget Somalia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
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We live in a time of exile. At least those of us do who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.
For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.
It is also being driven by issues that few predicted would have such cultural force. It is surely an irony as unexpected as it is unwelcome that sex—that most private and intimate act—has become the most pressing public policy issue today. (Who could have imagined that policies concerning contraception and laws allowing same-sex marriage would present the most serious challenges to religious freedom?) We are indeed set for exile, though not an exile which pushes us to the geographical margins. It’s an exile to cultural irrelevance.
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Sam Espada led friends in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for his sombrero-wearing brother at a Mexican restaurant. After dinner, they saw the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
The five-story mall could have been anywhere in America, except that every storefront sign was in Arabic as well as English. The group was in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“This place is like Disneyland,” said Espada, a Christian from New Jersey. “But I don’t feel fully free. You can definitely tell you are living in a Muslim country.”
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The number of Catholic priests in Canada has fallen sharply in recent decades, so any ordination is a rare event.
But Friday's example of the sacrament in Saint John was particularly unusual — because the new priest was surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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I had put effort into figuring out who to be so that I could succeed as the host of a Sunday news show. But last year when I lost that job, which offered me satisfaction and a high profile, I had to find out who I was without cameras or prestigious titles. This hasn’t been rosy or easy, though I tried to leave NBC with grace, mostly as an example to my children.
It has been faith that steadied me. The humbling loss turned out to be a gift, because I have seen how many fresh opportunities for growth and happiness await—even if it hasn’t gone according to my plan. Most plainly, I understand: In joy, pain and even in personal failure, God is close.
Erica Brown wrote me a note on my last day in the job. She reminded me to trust God, quoting Isaiah 46:4. “I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
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One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection....
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More than 1,000 Muslim clerics in India have ratified a religious ruling that condemns the Islamic State and calls the extremist group's actions "un-Islamic," a top Indian Muslim leader said Wednesday.
Religious leaders from hundreds of Islamic mosques, education institutions and civic groups across India have signed the edict, or fatwa, saying the actions of the Islamic State group went against the basic tenets of Islam.
The edict was issued by a leading Mumbai-based cleric, Mohammed Manzar Hasan Ashrafi Misbahi, and has been signed by the leaders of all the main mosques in India, which has the world's third-largest Muslim population.
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Minneapolis officials are unveiling a million-dollar program aimed at preventing ISIS from radicalizing and recruiting Americans in the Twin Cities.
The effort is in response to the fact that Minnesota's burgeoning Somali-American community — the largest in the U.S. at between 15,000 and 20,000 people — has become ground zero for ISIS's U.S. recruitment push.
Law enforcement officials say between 50 and 60 young people in Minnesota have either successfully traveled to Syria, been stopped at an airport en route or are under investigation for allegedly planning to do so.
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Distinguished translator and critic Robert Alter expressed similar sympathy for the task Kushner had taken on for herself. “Existent English versions have not paid sufficient attention to issues of style,” he wrote to me, because “many biblical words do not map semantically onto their approximate English equivalents” and “the structure of biblical Hebrew is so different from that of modern English.”
Kushner writes in a chapter titled “God” that her mother taught her that language isn’t simply a collection of words. “It is an opening into a way of thinking,” she writes, “a view of the world, a naming of its neighborhoods. But it is not easy to make a language come alive for someone who does not speak that language; it is a challenge to rename the seemingly familiar and name the unfamiliar. The effort often results in clumsiness and misunderstanding. Perhaps that is why translators are often reviled.”
One of the many pleasures of this new book is to see the process by which Kushner struggles to come to an understanding of the text in language that at once is poetic and does justice to its source. “What Jewish law wants is an ongoing conversation between man and God, and between man and man—but most of all, between man and himself,” she writes. “It’s not a command, exactly, but a conversation: an inner song, full of melody and refrain.”
The book’s key message is that studying the Bible is never about just one solitary reading.
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Christians like to quiz each other about their favorite book in the Bible. Finding out how people experience Scripture—especially those who write books about the Bible—is a natural interest to us. When asked which Bible book is my favorite, I say Ecclesiastes. Should people raise their eyebrows and ask why, I give them two reasons.
First, it is a special pleasure to read an author with whom one resonates. That is how the writer, who called himself Qohelet—Hebrew for “Gatherer,” a title that in Greek became Ecclesiastes, the “Assembly-man”—strikes me. I see him as a reflective senior citizen, a public teacher of wisdom, something of a stylist and wordsmith. As his official testimonial or third-person testimony (it might be either) in 12:10 shows, this man took his instructional task very seriously and labored to communicate memorably. Whether he was the Solomon of history or someone impersonating him—not to deceive but to make points in the most effective way—we do not know. All I am sure of is that each point has maximum strength if it comes from the real Solomon at the end of his life.
Whoever he was, Qohelet was a realist about the many ways in which this world gives us a rough ride. But while temperamentally inclined to pessimism and cynicism, I think, he was kept from falling into either of those craters of despair by a strong theology of joy.
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So, when Wendell and I were researching The Wind in the Reeds, we learned a fascinating story from his Uncle Lloyd (“L.C.”), who is now 81. It’s a piece of civil rights history that amazed both of us. Lloyd had never told Wendell the story, and it’s the kind of story that might have been lost to history.
Father Harry J. Maloney, a big, bluff Irishman from New York City, had given his life as a priest of the Josephites, a Catholic religious order founded by Rome in the 19th century to provide priests to serve freed black slaves in America. Believe it or not, there were lots of Catholic slaves. In Louisiana, if the master was Catholic, his slaves were also baptized as Catholics. After the Civil War, they had no black priests, and the segregated culture made it impossible in most places for black Catholics to share churches with white Catholics. The Josephites dedicated their lives to serving African American congregations.
In 1948, the New Orleans archdiocese sent Father Maloney to Assumption Parish, where Wendell’s ancestors were living, to serve the black Catholics there.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Writing self-consciously in the train of Clifford and Grant, Phyllis Airhart pushes well beyond either defensiveness or indictment. Her research leads, instead, to a deeply sympathetic account of the liberal evangelicalism and the national aspirations of early United Church history, but also an account that is realistically candid about the ultimate dissolution of the former and eventual disappointment of the latter. Because of how well she describes the life and death of these two phenomena—the particular Protestant type and the particular national agenda—her book raises questions with implications far beyond Canada.
Americans are not in the best position to assess the merits of "liberal evangelicalism" since we inhabit a religious landscape that has been dominated by strong binaries. In our religious history, "evangelical" and "liberal" have been construed as polar opposites, and our bookshelves bulge with studies riffing on the poles: fundamentalist vs. modernist, liberal vs. conservative, evangelical vs. ecumenical, traditional values vs. individualistic values, evangelism vs. social gospel, single-issue politics vs. Kingdom politics, and so on. In other parts of the English-speaking world, it has been more obvious that the institutionalized evangelical Protestantism that became so important in so many places for so many purposes during the 19th century always defined a spectrum of practices and beliefs. Broadly considered, all evangelicals embrace the four characteristics specified in David Bebbington's well-known definition: conversion, the Bible, the cross, and activism. But those who can be grouped together as sharing these characteristics have promoted an almost limitless array of specific variations. Even in the United States' own history, a broad range of evangelicals have always combined features from both ends of the spectrum. Against the stereotyping, many "fundamentalists" as fully deserve the evangelical label as do at least some whom right-side-of-the-spectrum folk call "liberals." So, for example, recent research by Heath Carter of Valparaiso University has shown how many evangelical traits—like trust in Scripture and stress on Christ as redeemer as well as model—informed early "liberal" agitation for labor and industrial reform toward the end of the nineteenth century.
Phyllis Airhart's careful documentation suggests that the United Church of Canada may have been the most significant example of liberal evangelicalism in the Protestant world from its founding in 1925 until the late 1950s.
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Boko Haram militants have destroyed infrastructure that may cost more than $1 billion to rebuild in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, the main theater of the government’s six-year fight against the Islamist insurgency, according to Governor Kashim Shettima.
“Hospitals, bridges, roads that they mined will require about 79 billion naira ($397 million)” to rebuild, Shettima, 49, said in an interview at his office in the state capital of Maiduguri. “If you are to quantify the homes, the figure may reach even three times the figure I quoted.”
The conflict has displaced 1.6 million people in Borno state, or 27 percent of the population, and about 121,000 live in camps in Maiduguri, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. With Boko Haram razing villages, schools, hospitals, clinics and businesses in 22 of 26 of Borno’s local government areas, residents have abandoned their homes and sought refuge in the relative safety of the state capital and the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In my lifetime I have seen a glorious and surprising revival of love for the God of sovereign grace and for his mighty gospel. Thousands of churches, seminaries, colleges, discipling centers, publishing houses, magazines, books, videos, websites, radio programs, global missions, music artists (from classical to rap), campus ministries, urban ministries, counseling centers, prolife efforts (and more) have come into being with a dynamic of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated joy and missional courage (what we used to call evangelism) and passion for racial harmony and robust Reformed theology. And none of this is limited to one ethnicity or nation. It is the best of times.
On the other hand, I have witnessed with sometimes depressing heaviness the evisceration of the historic name “evangelical” to a meaningless conglomerate of people whose “evangelical” identity is that they all had grandparents who once believed what the reformers did. I have seen the mainline Protestant denominations collapse from gospel influence to faint cultural echoes. I have watched the rise of enormous churches and ministries who preach and export to poor nations a prosperity “gospel” that mutes the biblical teaching on suffering and reduces the glorious gospel to earthly betterment rooted in human attitudes, not the glory of Calvary.
And to mention just a few more of the many sorrows: the rise of a generation that knows little of the Bible, the disappearance of the weight of God’s awesome presence in worship, the glorification of immorality in entertainment, the explosion and ubiquity of pornography, the indifference in churches to justice for all ethnic groups, the decimation of whole neighborhoods through a dominant drug culture, the collapse of the family with the prevalence of premarital sex and easy divorce and the absence of responsible fathers. And the rise of civic leaders who, instead of standing against the disintegration, function as cheerleaders.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
Leaders from historically African-American Methodist churches have joined in Washington, D.C. to publicly call for the United States to confront racism and demand legal solutions to bring about racial equality.
Members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, AME Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and Union American Methodist Episcopal Church held a Sept. 1 and 2 event entitled "Liberty and Justice for All."
"With the election of the first black president in the United States, many people may think that the country has entered an era in which racism has ended," said Bishop Reginald Jackson, ecumenical officer and chair of the social action commission of the AME Church.
The meeting convened by churches, many of which belong to the World Council of Churches, was called to discuss criminal justice reform, education, economic justice, gun reform and voting rights, the WCC said.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
At the start of the 7th century, Christianity was making slow advances across much of Western Europe. Anglo-Saxon England was just receiving the faith, which had as yet made few inroads into most of the Germanic world. The Frankish lands were notionally Christian, but in a political environment so savage and chaotic that it made Game of Thrones seem as polite and domestic as Downton Abbey. For any objective observer, there was no doubt that the faith's spiritual and theological centers lay far to the east, in the surviving Roman Empire based in Constantinople, and in the Christian cultures that flourished in Persian realms. If the Christian world had a center of gravity, it was located not far from Antioch, in western Syria. The church's core languages of thought and debate were Greek, Coptic, and Syriac, with Latin an optional extra.
That was the world, then, that from the 630s experienced the sudden shock of the Arab conquests and the eruption of Islam. That point needs emphasizing because we so often view Christian history through the eyes of Europeans and specifically Latins, who would eventually dominate the church. It is easy, then, to think of the Islamic conquest as affecting the distant fringes of the "Christian world" rather than, as we now see, its heart and center.
Within a century, an Islamic empire ruled from the shores of the Atlantic deep into Central Asia, with Muslim élites a tiny minority ruling over Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. The literate and cultured Christians of the eastern lands were thus on the front lines of this epochal transformation, which they struggled to fit into their schemes of historical interpretation, their salvation history. As Michael Phillip Penn remarks, "For those interested in the history of early Christianity, ignoring the post-630s churches in the Middle East meant ignoring almost half of that period's Christians." (I would suggest well over half.)
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
Growing up in nearby Eden Prairie, Minn., Tyler Sit felt called to be a minister. But he was not sure what kind.
“I was a cradle Methodist,” said Mr. Sit, 26, who is half-Chinese, half-European and all-Minnesotan: sweet, smiley and Protestant. “I went to church camp, did Sunday school, was youth-group leader, was in the choir, sat on worship committees.”
So Mr. Sit went searching. “I spent a lot of time with Buddhists in Zen circles, studied in India, did a mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh,” Mr. Sit said, in a conversation that began in the May Day Café and wandered several blocks to his apartment. Then, in May 2014, visiting the Taizé Christian spiritual community in France, he decided to return to his roots.
“I realized that Christianity has within itself a deep internal religion, and also a deep ethic of social justice,” Mr. Sit said. “I don’t need to outsource to Buddhism.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Young Adults * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday's feast of St. Joseph the Worker....
ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?
Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.
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While the United States remains shaped by Christianity, the faith’s influence—particularly as a force in American politics and culture—is slowly waning. An increasing number of religiously unaffiliated, a steady drop in church attendance, the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, and the growing tension over religious freedoms all point to a larger secularizing trend sweeping across the nation.
But how do the numbers stack up? Is America, home to the largest Christian population in the world, actually becoming a “post-Christian” nation? In a recent study, Barna Group analyzed 60,808 interviews conducted over a seven-year period to measure irreligion in American cities. Currently, 78% of Americans describe themselves as “Christian,” but in order to dig deeper than just self-affiliation, Barna Group looked at a variety of key faith indicators for both belief and practice.
To measure a person’s level of irreligion, Barna Group tracks 15 metrics related to faith (you can find the full list of 15 at the end of the article). These factors speak to the lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year, or have not read the Bible in the last week.
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ope Francis called on the faithful Sunday to not only welcome asylum-seekers to Europe but to give them shelter and help them begin new lives, as the leading edge of a migrant wave began dispersing across Germany or moving on to points north and west.
In a span of 24 hours from early Saturday to early Sunday, more than 13,000 people made their way into Germany via its border with Austria, the biggest share of them from war-racked Syria, but with large contingents of Afghans and Eritreans as well.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Immigration Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis
Finally, Francis explained his notion of how theology ought to be practiced. The theologian, he said, is the child of his people. "He cannot and does not wish to ignore them. He knows his people, their language, their roots, their histories, their tradition." That knowledge leads the theologian "to recognize that the Christian people among whom he was born have a theological sense that he cannot ignore." (The sense of the faithful is an abiding theme of Francis's ministry.) What's more, the theologian is a "believer," a "prophet"—because the theologian "keeps alive an awareness of the past and the invitation that comes from the future."
“There is only one way of practising theology: on one's knees," according to Francis. That is not merely an act of prayer that precedes the intellectual work of theology. The relationship between thinking and prayer "a dynamic reality." Doing theology "on one's knees," the pope concluded, "means encouraging thought when praying and prayer when thinking."
Read it all from dotCommonweal.
“The moral foundation of political economy,” to use Lord Acton’s phrase, rests on the connection of liberty with right, of right with duty, of duty with leisure and delight, and of all with transcendence.
Our most unsettling economic problems are actually not economic but moral—moral ones that cannot be simply passed on from generation to generation. They need to be chosen and internalized by each person in each generation at the risk of deflecting material goods from their proper purposes.
Work likewise is not exclusively for its own sake. Rather work, while being an expression of human dignity and concrete accomplishment, aims at a product, aims at the material wellbeing in which something more than work can happen. The basis of culture, as Josef Pieper wrote in a famous thesis, is not only work but also leisure that lies beyond work. We work in order to have leisure, not the other way around.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
The credit crunch of 2008 was quick and brutal. With some 900 apartments coming up for imminent completion, I suddenly found myself in the firing line, facing a queue of creditors demanding their money. Any value in my business disappeared overnight as the property developers stripped the company of its cash. The next two years were the hardest of my life as our family adjusted to the dramatic change in our finances.
That same year, my 2-year-old son became critically ill. Ishaan was a sickly child and had been hospitalized many times with severe breathing difficulties. Now, with the nebulizer failing, he was rushed into resuscitation. Within minutes the ER teemed with doctors and nurses fighting for his life. His airways shut, and he was intubated to keep him alive. He was later transferred to a hospital in London.
Over the next four days, my wife and I wept uncontrollably. An American couple whom we had recently befriended began praying for Ishaan. They even got their families’ churches in the United States to pray for him. On the fourth day in the hospital, the doctor stated that it was unlikely that my son would open his eyes anytime soon. We were distraught.
But as the consultant continued doing her ward round on that fourth day, Ishaan suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. The only explanation was that we had witnessed a miracle.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family * International News & Commentary Asia India England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Hinduism * Theology Christology Soteriology
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