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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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Read it all. The preface alone, to his two sons and only daughter, is wonderful--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Youth Ministry * Theology
This is a very sobering time for ecclesiastically minded Americans. At a steadily growing rate, more and more Americans — especially the young — claim no religious affiliation. The figure has climbed from 15% to 20% of all Americans in the past five years. Pew researchers call the trend “nones on the rise.”
In reaction, Protestants and Roman Catholics are proving that the author of the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes had it right when he wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. In a classic attempt to turn adversity to advantage, Christian leaders who once assumed a cultural dominance (in the beginning of the baby-boom era, Christian identification among Americans was at least 91%; today it’s down to 77%) are now arguing for a double-down strategy. Rather than softening the Gospel message to make it more marketable to an America skeptical of institutions — a frequent reform point of view — what draws the real energy among the faithful is a renewed commitment to what Christians call the Great Commission, the words the resurrected Jesus spoke to his apostles at the end of Matthew: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
At the center of this strategy of unapologetic apologetics stands George Weigel, the papal biographer and prominent Catholic writer who has just published Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, a handbook for Catholics seeking to keep the church out of the catacombs. “It’s a recovery of the basic dynamic of New Testament Christianity, but that passionate impulse to live the Great Commission and convert the world cooled during centuries when the ambient public culture helped do the church’s job,” says Weigel.
Read it all from a recent issue.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Nearly 400 people attended the 222nd Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina at the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center in Florence, South Carolina, March 8-9, 2013.
"Wasn't the worship incredible last night?" said Patricia Smith, remarking on the Convention's Friday evening service of Holy Eucharist. Smith is a member of St. Paul's, Summerville, and attended with her husband who is a delegate. "I felt like I was coming in to the gates of heaven. It had that triumphant sound. I guess, now that we've made a stand there was a unity, a lack of confusion. We were uniting in worship. It felt like God's favor was there."
For the second time the Convention voted unanimously to remove all references to The Episcopal Church from the Diocese's constitution--the final step in severing their ties to the denomination they helped to found in 1789, five years after the South Carolina Convention first met in 1785.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Youth Ministry Spirituality/Prayer * South Carolina * Theology Apologetics
At our convention last March I stressed two dimensions of our diocesan calling: Our vocation to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age working in relationship with Anglican Provinces and dioceses around the world; and secondly our calling to make disciples by planting new congregations as well as growing and strengthening our existing parishes and missions in an era of sweeping institutional decline among almost all of the mainline denominations. These remain two constants for us today even while so much around us is in flux. You will be relieved to hear that it is not my intention in this address to retrace the road we have traveled in these intervening months since our Special Convention on November 17th. Suffice it to say that since these two dimensions of our common life and vocation remained unshaken when the tectonic plates of the diocese shifted, I remain convinced that they were God’s mandate for us then and they are God’s mandate for us now. The reason for this is two-fold: What is at stake in this theological and moral crisis that has swallowed up the Anglican Communion since the latter years of the 20th Century is first and foremost, “What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as this Church has received it?” We did not create it and we cannot change what we have received. So what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Anglicans have received it? There is nothing in Anglicanism that cannot be found elsewhere among the churches of Christendom. What is unique is how we have blended certain aspects of what other churches hold together. But we have received a Gospel. What is it?
The second thing is “What will Anglicanism in the 21st Century look like?” While the former is the more important, the latter is the more complex. Put another way, proclaiming the Good News, “the whole counsel of God” as St. Paul declared in his parting address to the presbyters of Ephesus in Acts 20:27, that should be our first concern. Proclaiming the good news – the whole counsel of God. But the charge to “care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his blood” (Acts 20:28) or as our text last evening put it, “which he obtained with the blood of his son.” was also part of St. Paul’s charge to the bishop-presbyters. If we apply this second charge to take care of the church of God, which he obtained, with the blood of his son, if we apply this charge to ourselves – those of us whose leadership is in this vineyard where the Lord has placed us – I believe this means caring for emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century. Frankly, this caring for Anglicanism in the 21st century gets wearisome at times, painful almost daily, exhausting, but it is a charge we cannot relinquish without abandoning our vocation. What does this mean specifically for us here in this Diocese of South Carolina? Let me take up three aspects of this charge as it I believe it applies to us.
Read it all and a pdf version is available top right of the page.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care Youth Ministry * South Carolina * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
From a letter to the editor in the local paper:
I was saddened and appalled, but not surprised, by the vindictive and mean-spirited language Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori used in her sermon on Saturday.I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Alluding to Bishop Mark Lawrence as a "tyrant" and comparing him to "citizens' militias deciding to patrol ... the Mexican border for unwelcome visitors" was unconscionable.
And to say, "It's not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage," was despicable.
That any Christian, much less a presiding bishop, would use such invective and incendiary words says more about the speaker than the person she is attempting to vilify.
However, she is the same person who has spent over $22 million to sue churches over their property, who refused to sell a church back to its congregation and instead sold it to a Muslim organization, and who sued beloved, retired bishops because they challenged her authority.
It is not surprising that the fruits of Bishop Jefferts Schori's leadership of TEC are a significant decline in members, controversy and confrontation with the majority of the Anglican Communion, and financial problems resulting in the need to sell prized land in Manhattan.
"They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love" has been a favorite hymn of mine for over 50 years.
It is also a good barometer of a person's Christian character. The language used by Jefferts Schori from the pulpit is as unloving and un-Christian as it gets.
Still, as one who believes in a forgiving God and in spiritual transformation, I will continue to pray that TEC and Jefferts Schori may be inspired and imbued with the Holy Spirit and in the process may rise above petty name-calling and invective and embrace the love of Christ in what they say and do.
Dr. Peter T. Mitchell
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
One scholar says it's impossible to understand American history without an understanding of the nation's Christian history. Another suggests that it can lead to church renewal. A third says it helps us interpret Scripture, shape our mission, and appreciate God's grace. People of Faith serves most of these needs well.
The series—produced by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College (Illinois), with support from the Lilly Endowment—shows Christians engaged in public life during the European settlement, the founding of the nation, the Civil War, the 19th-century social reform movements, and the civil rights movement. Christian activity is portrayed as predominantly positive, though not entirely so. For example, the series points out that Christians made arguments both for and against slavery, and that Prohibition began as a public health crusade against a devastating social problem but quickly turned punitive and counterproductive. Subjects that Christians got mostly wrong, notably the treatment of Native Americans, are touched on lightly, if at all.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch Education History Media Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
[When Charles] Proudfit... [became a Christian] he was eager to "apply my new faith to every area of my life, including my work." But when he looked to his church for guidance, he was stymied.
"The local church doesn't deal much with everyday realities for the working people in the pews," he laments. So, "more out of exasperation than inspiration," Proudfit founded the Cincinnati-based marketplace ministry At Work on Purpose (AWOP).
That AWOP formed independently of the church is common, says Princeton University scholar David W. Miller. Author of God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement, Miller notes that most marketplace ministries "have formed outside the authority, involvement, or impetus of the church." What is uncommon is AWOP's holistic approach to integrating faith and work among its 5,000-plus members in the Cincinnati metro area. It's moving past a narrow focus on workplace evangelism to include ethics, social responsibility, and citywide engagement—a model that more marketplace ministries are embracing across the nation.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Tim Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, has taught and counseled students, young professionals, and senior leaders on the subject of work and calling for more than twenty years. Now he puts his insights into a book for readers everywhere, giving biblical perspectives on such pressing questions as:
• What is the purpose of work?
• How can I find meaning and serve customers in a cutthroat, bottom-line-oriented workplace?
• How can I use my skills in a vocation that has meaning and purpose?
• Can I stay true to my values and still advance in my field?
• How do I make the difficult choices that must be made in the course of a successful career?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Books * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The New Evangelization is not a strategy or program, but an invitation to an encounter and life-long relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. It involves falling in love with the person of Jesus Christ and his bride, the Catholic Church. This encounter with Christ takes place in and through the Church so as not to foster a false dichotomy between spirituality and religion. Encounters with Christ in the Church help the faithful to understand the need for salvation and forgiveness from sin. Following the initial encounter with Christ, the faithful desire to spend time with the beloved in prayer, sacrament and to contemplate the face of God (Novo Millennio Ineunte).
Hence, the Synod Fathers might propose a lifelong accompaniment of each Catholic on their journey of faith modeled on Christ's walk with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The faithful need the continued work of systematic, comprehensive and lifelong catechesis. Evangelization and catechesis should help the faithful know, understand, live and share the faith. A catechesis for youth and adults that is age-appropriate and presented in an appealing and apologetic manner that answers the genuine questions of those participating in their formation would enhance the New Evangelization. This basic presentation of the fundamentals of our faith, as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in an attractive and appealing manner, for example at World Youth Day, will help to revive a confidence in the faith and a greater ability to share it with others.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
You'll build a great church, pastor, if you ever learn how to communicate.
Listening to that sermon was like drinking from a fire hydrant.
I'm so disappointed! I wanted you to give God all the glory. And you missed it!
Your preaching is too intellectual.
Your preaching is too practical.
You don't talk enough about social justice.
You talk about social justice too much.
Your preaching is over people's heads.
Your preaching isn't deep enough. Give us meat, not milk.
...Some of these criticisms surprised me. Some felt unfair. A few hurt. Some were well-deserved (especially the "fire hydrant" comment). Occasionally they roll off, but the fact I remember so many of them proves they stick. Every experienced preacher could add to the list. Personal criticism is one of the job hazards of Christian ministry.
It's also one of the great benefits....
Read it all.
Youth ministry researcher Chap Clark says, “I’m convinced that the single most important area where we’ve lost ground with kids is in our commitment and ability to ground them in God’s Word.”
As a result, Barry Shafer says, “The church today, including both the adult and teenage generations, is in an era of rampant biblical illiteracy.” Duffy Robbins takes this one step further when he says: “Our young people have become incapable of theological thinking because they don’t have any theology to think about. … And, as Paul warns us, this … leaves us as ‘infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching’ (Ephesians 4:14).”
At the conclusion of the National Study of Youth and Religion, lead researcher Christian Smith reported: “Even though most teens are very positive about religion and say it’s a good thing, the vast majority are incredibly inarticulate about religion. … It doesn’t seem to us that many teens are being very well-educated in their faith traditions.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Youth Ministry * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations * Theology Theology: Scripture
The more specific you can be (i.e. what book you are using, video you are watching, etc.) the more the rest of us can glean from your comment(s). To give you an idea or whet your appetite, here is the parish newsletter announcement from the parish where I serve of what we are up to:
“The Spirit, the Church and the World” – “The Church Afire” – “The Spread of the Gospel” – “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” These are some of the ways the book of Acts is described. The second of the two New Testament books written by St. Luke, the book of Acts is the record of the early church. From the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost Luke records the spread of the Gospel in response to Jesus’s words in Acts 1:8.
This fall the book of ACTS will be the focus of our preaching and home group study. Each week Fr. Craige or Fr. Kendall will preach on some aspect of that week’s Acts reading. Again this year, we will have our own Home Group DVD teaching by Fr. Kendall. Groups will be meeting throughout the parish every other week. These groups are the center of our discipleship program and we encourage every member of the parish to be a part of a group. You can join a group, or gather together others and make your own group. Meet when and wherever it works best for you. I hope you will give it a try this fall!
The decline in biblical literacy and the loss of a "faith culture" is no longer news, but it is somewhat shocking. Twelve years ago, New Testament professor Gary Burge reported the results of a survey given to students at Wheaton College, the premier evangelical higher education institution. He found that one-third of the students tested could not put the following in sequential order: Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, the death of Christ, and Pentecost. One-third could not identify the Book of Acts as the location of Paul's missionary travels; half did not know that the Christmas story was in Matthew.
Many studies since have only confirmed these findings. Combine this with increasing anxiety over the church's loss of the younger generation, and we can understand the church's growing need for fresh resources to disciple not just youth but Christians of all ages. To put it in terms that feel a little old-fashioned, at the core we have a growing sense that we need to learn again how to catechize.
Read it all (also quoted by yours truly in yesterday morning's sermon).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Theology Theology: Scripture
A Marine is a best-practice warrior who models the highest levels of what military training can accomplish.
The Marines are by no means the only people who take such transformative experiences seriously. Colleges and seminaries talk a lot about this process, each claiming that it turns out world class leaders. There are businesses (Starbucks comes to mind) that believe that their profitability depends on turning employees into best-practice sales representatives.
How about churches and their goal of making of devoted followers of Jesus? What does the difference look like there?
Read it all.
After spending the past nine months debating questions of affiliation, members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, a congregation in the northern suburbs of Colorado Springs, affirmed the recommendations of its pastor and leadership team, voting 82-6 to end their affiliation with the Anglican Mission in the Americas and to become part of PEAR USA (the North American Missionary District of Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda).
The July 22 vote followed a lively, hour-long discussion involving dozens of parishioners. The discussion reflected the parishioners’ backgrounds in the Episcopal Church (about half), evangelical, and Protestant churches. One member supported his arguments with references to apostolic succession and the restoration of Charles I to the English throne, while another plainly said, “I didn’t grow up Episcopalian, or Anglican, so I don’t have a background in church hierarchy.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Rwanda Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Colorado * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology
Since the presumptive Republican nominee for president is a Mormon, St. Jude the Apostle Episcopal Church in Cupertino sees that as a hot topic among both liberal and conservative voters this election year.
In an effort to educate the community on the subject, The Rev. Maly Carswell Hughes is hosting a forum on Aug. 26 to discuss Christianity and Mormonism as part of its adult education series. Church organizers already see an intense interest in Mitt Romney's religion. The interest is drawing comparison to John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, and his election in 1960.
Hughes is looking to talk with church members and guests about Mormonism and discuss the religion's similarities to, and differences from, Christianity. The forum will not be a critique of either religion nor will it be political, but instead focus on the many similarities and differences between the two faiths.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Mormons * Theology
 JESUS - BAPTIZER IN HOLY SPIRIT
 JESUS - LORD OF ALL
 JESUS - JUDGE
...the idea of having leisurely conversations about Jesus is just, well, too slow. The only adult formation things that have been in any way successful are sermon podcasts and daily e-mailed bits of wisdom, prayer or scripture.
A mentor once gave me some good advice: stop doing things that aren’t working. This makes all the sense in the world, but it’s hard to do. It is hard to give up the picture I have in my head about what a church is supposed to look like: people sitting around on couches in the parish hall, Bibles open.
But at least in my ministry context, that just isn’t working anymore. And personally, I’m done with the roller coaster of getting seduced by the latest thing that’s supposed to work, putting mountains of energy into making it really good and then getting cranky with people because they don’t come. So we stopped it all.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending
The house lights go down. Spinning, multicolored lights sweep the auditorium. A rock band launches into a rousing opening song. "Ignore everyone else, this time is just about you and Jesus," proclaims the lead singer. The music changes to a slow dance tune, and the people sing about falling in love with Jesus. A guitarist sporting skinny jeans and a soul patch closes the worship set with a prayer, beginning, "Hey God …" The spotlight then falls on the speaker, who tells entertaining stories, cracks a few jokes, and assures everyone that "God is not mad at you. He loves you unconditionally."
After worship, some members of the church sign up for the next mission trip, while others decide to join a small group where they can receive support on their faith journey. If you ask the people here why they go to church or what they value about their faith, they'll say something like, "Having faith helps me deal with my problems."
Fifty or sixty years ago, these now-commonplace elements of American church life were regularly found in youth groups but rarely in worship services and adult activities. What happened? Beginning in the 1930s and '40s, Christian teenagers and youth leaders staged a quiet revolution in American church life that led to what can properly be called the juvenilization of American Christianity. Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults. It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity. But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith. In any case, white evangelicals led the way.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Youth Ministry * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
What do you get when you combine faith, a sense of community, love of music, an experienced music director and a generous church facility?
You get the St. James Community Orchestra, founded last year by members of St. James Episcopal Church.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch Music * South Carolina
Jezebel and Delilah have plenty to teach contemporary Christian women, according to Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them. In her book, Higgs tells fictionalized, contemporary stories based on the lives of biblical characters including Eve, Potiphar's wife, and the woman at the well. In verse-by-verse commentary, Higgs summarizes each life's lessons and provides a list of questions for personal consideration or group discussion. The overall message of each chapter is the same: "Good Girls and Bad Girls both need a Savior. The goodness of your present life can't open the doors of heaven for you. The badness of your past life can't keep you out either, “ said -Michael Joseph Gross, for Amazon.com reviews.
St. James’ Episcopal Church is an open, inclusive and caring faith community that embraces diversity and celebrates the joy of Christ....
Read it all. Also please note that you may find the parish website there.
Christianity and Islam – two great monotheistic faiths, the two largest religions in the world, have for centuries been locked in a painful struggle. Today this struggle has once again erupted into our world. Many believe it will be the defining spiritual, intellectual, and political conflict of the 21st century....
Read it all.
Part one is here and part two is there. You are encouraged to take the time to listen to (suffer through?) it all.
Please note--these are both audio files. The time begins with a short Q and A to introduce me to those present before the questions shift to the subject at hand. Note, too that Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama was invited by the Dean, Frank Limehouse, to come, which he (graciously) chose to do. During the time, Dean Limehouse invited Bishop Sloan to speak, and he chose to do so. This covers a wide range of recent events/developments and will be of broad interest to many blog readers--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Data * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Stewardship * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology
From the perspective of one who values freedom of choice, individualism, and the market, the proliferation of new translations and paraphrases of the Bible must seem, on the whole, a good thing. From a perspective that places a greater value on theological probity, spiritual understanding in the laity, and coherence in the witness of the Church, however, the plethora of English translations and the Babel-like confusion of tongues they create is arguably a calamity. While every new translation is evidently a “market opportunity” and may express in some way the particular slant or voice of individual denominations on certain doctrines, the dissonance and “white noise” of competing Bibles tends to confuse rather than clarify discussion across denominational boundaries. In fact, the “Babel effect” intensifies the confusion.
In addition to new translations, we now have a plethora of “niche” editions, like the “Revolve” magazine-format Bibles, aimed at pre-pubescent girls, whichincludes marginal tips on how to put on makeup and deal with two admiring boys at the same time, or The Veggie Tales Full Text NIV Bible, the NIV Faithgirlz Backpack Bible (in periwinkle blue with a green flower!), the NIV Bible for Busy Dads (or perhaps for dads who aren’t quite busy enough), the Holman CSB Sportsman’s Bible (in camouflage, natch). If you are tired of your mother’s old Bible, which printed the words of Jesus in red, you can choose a more trendy Green Bible, with all the eco-sensitive passages printed in green ink. If you are a feisty woman unfazed by possibly misdirected allusions, then maybe you would like the Woman Thou art Loosed edition of the NKJV. If perchance you should be a high-end of the TV-channel charismatic, there are “prophecy Bibles” coded in several colors to justify your eschatology of choice. If you are a devotee of the U.S. Constitution (the document, not the ship), Tolle Lege Press offers the 1599 Geneva Bible, Patriot’s Edition, complete with a frontispiece portrait of George Washington, a prayer by him, and facsimile reproductions of the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States of America (with the Amendments), and finally, a tract on Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior by George Washington.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Biblical Commentary & Reflection Church History Parish Ministry Adult Education Preaching / Homiletics Youth Ministry * Culture-Watch Books Education History Religion & Culture * Theology Theology: Scripture
Charles Hough already had quite a career, including 18 years in the prestigious post of canon to the ordinary in the Episcopal Church’s Fort Worth Diocese. Now he wants to become a Catholic priest.
Hough hopes to lead a group of former Episcopalians in Cleburne, Texas, who have asked to belong to the new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created by Rome for former Episcopalians. Every Saturday, from 9 to 4, he participates in a newly developed program of training for former Episcopal clergy.
He and approximately 60 other former Episcopal priests around the United States, many of whom are married, are studying for the priesthood using a teleconferencing system to hear lectures and discuss their intense course of readings.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
In a time when disdain for other faiths is commonplace, even blessed in some religious circles, how does a Bible study instructor contrast the teachings and doctrines of another tradition and his own without seeming intolerant? And conversely, can the increased sensitivity to multiculturalism and religious diversity in early 21st-century America gradually diminish the celebration of one faith tradition's distinctive place in the theological spectrum?
"If you're going to take your religion seriously, you should feel it's superior to others. Why else believe in it?" said Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "On the other hand, society does require a hands-off attitude toward other faiths in order for us to all live together. It's a dilemma."
Thomas, who was on staff at Concordia Seminary in Clayton for 18 years, said he believes the Bible studies at St. Paul's have stayed on the respectful side of the line. His goal with the classes, he said, is to explain the teachings of another religion and to ask why Lutherans don't believe the same thing.
Read it all.
Go here and find the class for December 11th.
(Alert blog readers are asked to note where the author of this article teaches--KSH).
A recent study on youth and discipleship by Slavic theologian Jana Struková suggests that the key to this sort of formation is in renewing a sense of Christianity as a vocation. A vocation is a calling, a "voicing" of the gospel into language that speaks directly to the reader or listener. As Martin Luther argued, the gospel is nothing until I hear it addressed to me; once my ears are trained to hear it, I can begin responding, "working with words" to live out an answer to its call.
Reframing Hollinger's concept of acculturation as vocation shows us that gospel words are irreplaceable in the formation of Christian youth. If they are brought up constantly hearing God's loving address, they will grow to love the gospel like they love their friends and family. And this is not just due to the nostalgic familiarity of the "big black book on the shelf." No, it is the message, the content—the very voice of God in the words of Scripture—that inspires devotion. The challenge of Christian education, according to the early 20th-century theorist George Albert Coe, is to "lead each one to adopt" the words and teachings of the faith "as his very own desire, purpose, and practice."
How well are we meeting this challenge? A quick survey of adult classes and Sunday sermons does not paint a pretty picture....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Children Media Religion & Culture * Theology Pastoral Theology
The basic problem, Gallup told me in 2004, is that far too many clergy "simply fail to take discipleship seriously. They assume that because people say they believe something, that this means they will live out those beliefs in daily life...."
Far too many pastors, he lamented, seem afraid to ask tough questions.
"America is a churched nation, for the most part. Most Americans are either going to church or they used to go to church," said Gallup. "At some point we need to start focusing more attention on what is happening or not happening in those churches. ... Are our people learning the basics? Is their faith making a difference in their lives? Is their faith attractive to other people? "These are the kinds of questions we must be willing to ask."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
It is critical for church leadership to challenge believers to be in the Word of God, consistently growing in their knowledge of the Scriptures. One way to do that is to teach and encourage study of the Scriptures in the context of the grand narrative of redemption. I try to read the Bible in the way it unfolds. The Bible is not a series of isolated morality tales. Instead, by looking at it as a whole through a Christ-centered lens, I read the Scriptures with the whole story of redemption in mind....
Churches today face some big challenges. One of the greatest is the evangelical angst occurring in North America. Evangelicals in our country are just not sure of who they are or where they're going.
Perhaps what evangelicals need most right now is a strategy for biblical literacy. We need to reengage the biblical narrative and immerse ourselves in consistent study. It will help us be more gracious and winsome in the way we communicate. It will help us have a clearer view on controversial issues. It will help us to understand and communicate a clear Gospel as laid out in the Scriptures -- a Gospel of the cross and of the Kingdom. The Word of God is essential to where we are right now.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Youth Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Theology: Scripture
Last night at a gathering, Marcus Borg said (twice), “Jesus trumps the Bible.”
This is an extraordinarily irresponsible thing for a scholar and leader in the church to say. It can’t be said often enough: we have no access to knowledge of Jesus except through the Bible and its interpretation. There is no record of him outside the Bible until years after his death. The only way to understanding who he was is through the witness of the New Testament apostles. Therefore to suggest that he “trumps the Bible” is to suggest that we can cut loose from the Scriptures and construct a Jesus according to the perspectives of our own time. It has been shown over and over again that attempts to construct a “historical Jesus” or “real Jesus” apart from the faith-based witness of Scripture end in failure because such attempts are grounded, not in the text, but in the bias of those who undertake them....
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Men would rather watch Monday Night Football than go shopping. Eating too many Hardees Monster Thickburgers is linked to obesity. Texting while driving is a bad idea.
There are times when research findings are so obvious they are almost beyond questioning. So it is puzzling that growing evidence showing the importance of congregations cultivating the spiritual lives of the faithful is so routinely ignored.
Puzzling, and damaging to the health of many of the nation’s churches, especially those most in need of revival.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained * South Carolina * Theology Christology
Q: Seacoast is a highly successful and very large church with several campuses. As your congregations grow, how do you ensure that spiritual growth keeps up? How do you cater to the individual needs of your members?
A: Jesus was very clear about who was responsible for doing what in his instructions to the disciples. He said that he would build the church and we were to make disciples. If we will do our job, he will do his. Our job at Seacoast is not to grow the church. Our job is to make disciples. Disciple-making is done one-on-one, one-on-two, etc. We take that seriously. We try to make disciples by huddling small groups of leaders who in turn huddle others, helping them to hear the voice of God in their lives.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * South Carolina
Never underestimate the power of a well-told story.
The Rev. Adam Bartholomew was converted to biblical storytelling when the Rev. Thomas Boomershine asked him to serve as his audience while he prepared an audiotape of Mark's Passion narrative as part of his dissertation at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where both were students in the 1970s. First Boomershine read the narrative. Then he told it.
"I was absolutely astonished at the difference. That converted me," said Bartholomew, a former United Church of Christ minister and now Episcopal priest-in-charge at Church of the Ascension in Mount Vernon, New York .
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This was the subject of today's Adult Sunday school. Make sure you did not miss Walter Russell Mead's piece wherein he uses Daniel 5 as a means by which to understand our times. His reflections formed the basis of our deliberations--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch History * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia China Japan Europe * South Carolina * Theology Theology: Scripture
Check it out if you are so inclined.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Theology: Scripture
Listen to it all.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Theology: Scripture
Some will cite the 2003 General Convention, which approved the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, as the turning point, and The Episcopal Church Annual again shows an important decline (see p. 21): we have lost more than 250,000 baptized members (from 2,284,233 to 2,006,343) and 325 parishes and missions (from 7,220 to 6,895). “Episcopal Congregations Overview” records that 89 percent of Episcopal congregations reported conflicts or disagreements in the last five years, and adds: “The ordination of gay priests or bishops was the most frequently mentioned source of conflict” (p. 3).
But the essential elements of decline began in the mid-1970s. In 1970, TEC had an all-time high of 3,475,164 members. Within five years, it had lost nearly half a million, down to 3,039,136 (Episcopal Church Annual, p. 21). In the four decades since then, we bled out more than one-third of our members. Some will blame this drastic period of anemia on divisions over women’s ordination, prayer book revision and even fallout from the civil rights movements of the 1960s, but it is probably not that simple either. A massive loss between 1970 and 1975 occurred before the height of divisions over women’s ordination and prayer book revision....
Our many-faceted attempts to scramble for some method that will recharge, reawaken and revitalize the church are simply not working. What are we to do?...
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It may be the best-selling book of all time, but its battles, bloodletting, and "begats," its many laws, rituals, and tribes, and those chewy names like Oholiab and Eliphelehu and "Joshbekashah son of Heman" don't make for easy reading.
Yet when the rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whitemarsh invited his congregants in January to join him in reading the Bible cover to cover in a year, the response surprised him.
"It's taken on a life of its own," the Rev. Marek Zabriskie said last week.
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We are looking forward to having Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali visit our diocese May 22-25 for a teaching mission. He is the former Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester in England and a recognized expert on the subject of Muslim-Christian relations. He is a native of Pakistan who converted to the Christian faith and then felt called to the ordained ministry. He will preach at St. Vincent’s Cathedral on Sunday, May 22, and lead a diocesan clergy day on Tuesday, May 24, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Fort Worth. That evening, everyone is invited to hear him speak at the Will Rogers Center in Fort Worth’s cultural district. His theme is “Hold Fast: An Urgent Call to the Western Church.” The event begins at 6:30 p.m., and I hope you will come and bring friends with you.
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Irish society is not just suffering from the sex abuse scandal but from a failure to pass on the faith to the younger generation, said the archbishop of Dublin.
"We have to completely, radically change the way we pass on the faith," Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told Catholic News Service May 16. "Our parishes are not places where evangelization and catechesis are taking place."
The archbishop traveled to Washington to present the Order of Malta Inaugural Lecture, "Faith and Service: the Unbreakable Bond." During his speech and in remarks to CNS beforehand, he spoke of the declining practice of the faith in Dublin -- 18 percent of Catholics regularly attend Sunday Mass -- and of the need to give young people responsibility in the parish to reinvigorate them.
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"Within the Church," the Pontiff said, "believers' first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service."
He continued: "Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God's grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
"This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbor: a share in the very life of God."
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In response to criticism of the USCCB statement, Cardinal Wuerl's 13-page resource highlights the complementary role that should be played between bishops and theologians.
"It is the privilege of theologians to delve more profoundly and systematically into the meaning of the faith, according to the ancient adage, 'fides quaerens intellectum' (faith seeking understanding)," the cardinal wrote. "Since this faith is handed on by the Church through the ministry of the magisterium, the bishop and the theologian have a special relationship that can and should be reciprocally enriching.”
"Bishops benefit from the work of theologians," he continued, "while theologians gain a deeper understanding of revelation under the guidance of the magisterium. The ministry of bishops and the service rendered by theologians entail a mutual respect and support.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
As the religious landscape continues to change in North America, many voices are seeking the attention of Christians. Mainline churches were the voice of Christianity for most of our U.S. history. Today, the media often views American evangelicals as speaking for Christianity on issues of faith and society.
Who are these people, the American evangelicals? They range from members of megachurches to devotees of TV evangelists to fundamentalists and conservative denominations. Evangelicals are our neighbors, family members and co-workers.
Some questions often posed about them by mainline church members include: "Do we have conversations with evangelicals? How do we differ from evangelicals?"
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Faith is a journey and facing doubts is part of the journey, according to Frank Schaeffer, a best-selling New York Times author and popular blogger for the Huffington Post.
Schaeffer will present a workshop “Articulating an Authentic Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)” on Saturday, sharing his journey from conservative evangelical beliefs to joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.
“I tell people my own doubts, my own story. People aren't used to hearing people share doubts,” Schaeffer said Monday in a phone interview.
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For a community that prides itself on being "biblical," it is shocking how out of focus our views of sexuality can be. A biblical view of sexuality is a profoundly positive, profoundly appealing, and profoundly life-affirming foundation from which to address the abortion problem. Evangelicals are fundamentally not anti-abortion—at the most basic level, we are defined by what we are for rather than what we are against. We are fundamentally life-affirming and sexuality-affirming because we celebrate the truths that are ours in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, we start the formation of our young people's understandings of sexuality tardily, anemically, ambiguously, and ineffectively. We are stuck in avoidant, negative, sub-biblical paradigms for thinking about sexuality. Our pastors avoid the topic except for the safest messages, which too often are shame-oriented, "just say no" litanies. We engage easily in negative culture-war rhetoric. Sadly, too many evangelical leaders fail to live up to the standards they proclaim and become very public examples of hypocrisy. Competing views about sexuality take advantage of these failures and seduce our youth.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Sexuality * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Just how did Mary and Joseph make their famous trip to Bethlehem?
What did an innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph once they reached the city?
The Rev. Joe Alsay, rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, asked his congregation these and other questions during the Dec. 19 services at the Oklahoma City church, 14700 N May.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Advent Christmas Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained
Check it out and yes, we would appreciate your prayers.
Over the next year, people in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh — including locals from Monroeville — will read 100 Bible
Last month, more than 4,000 people from 48 churches in the Pittsburgh region began to read 100 "essential" readings in the Bible — 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament
The E100 challenge is a Bible reading
plan that provides an overview of the biblical narrative and advances participants' Bible knowledge through regular reading.
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Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and Executive Council member Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine have issued a letter to the church calling for study on the Anglican Covenant.
“We strongly urge every congregation in this Church to engage in discussion of the proposed Covenant at some time in the coming two years,” the letter states.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Covenant Episcopal Church (TEC) House of Deputies President Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education
I am interested in the following: where was it offered, who taught it, what aids did you use if any (book, video), how long did it last (both the classes themselves as well as the overall course), and, most especially, WHY did it have such a big impact on you? Any other details are of course welcome. Many thanks--KSH.
Check it out to see which film(s) and book(s) were chosen.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch Books Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian
[Bill] Scott and other interested Christians who met for the meal at the Hendersonville church were participating in “What Would Jesus Eat?” a Food in the Gospels Bible course being held at the church on Wednesday evenings for the next few weeks.
The course, taught by Bible student John Snodgrass, aims to shed light on the importance of planting, harvesting and dining through the parables as well as miracles that Jesus performed.
“Jesus is known to us today because he captured the hearts of first-century Galileans, and the best way to the heart of a first-century Galilean was through his stomach,” Snodgrass told the group as they ate.
Snodgrass and his wife Elizabeth prepared the food for the meal. They attempted to re-create a typical first-century Palestinian peasant's supper.
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Go here and on page 3 you can find a blurb about THIS YEAR's conference where South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence was the speaker. Doesn't that sound worthwhile? How about considering attending next year's conference? You can find information about it there.
Barney Fife and Andy Taylor may not be Peter and Paul, but Chattanooga churches have found TV's Mayberry disciples often touch on the same truisms as the New Testament leaders.
Local congregations increasingly are using television shows and the movie format to teach spiritual lessons.
"It's amazing the parallels you can find to New Testament scripture," said St. Timothy's Episcopal Church member Bill Steverson, who led the recent study "The Gospel According to Barney," based on the 1960s "Andy Griffith Show." "I wondered if the scriptures I found were the ones they were reading when they wrote the (television show) script."
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Check it out and see what you make of it.
Americans love their Bibles. So much so that they keep them in pristine, unopened condition. Or, as George Gallup Jr. and Jim Castelli said in a widely quoted survey finding, "Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don't read it."
Anecdotes abound. Time magazine observed in a 2007 cover story that only half of U.S. adults could name one of the four Gospels. Fewer than half could identify Genesis as the Bible's first book. Jay Leno and Stephen Colbert have made sport of Americans' inability to name the Ten Commandments—even among members of Congress who have pushed to have them posted publicly.
Perhaps the first step toward improved Bible literacy is admitting we have a problem. A 2005 study by the Barna Group asked American Christians to rate their spiritual maturity based on activities such as worship, service, and evangelism. Christians offered the harshest evaluation of their Bible knowledge, with 25 percent calling themselves not too mature or not at all mature.
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Graham Tomlin has a radical goal: to bring theology back to the heart of the church. You'd think it would already be there, but Tomlin, on the pastoral staff of Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in London, believes the local church has neglected sound theological teaching for the past 200 years.
"It began when universities began to become secular in the 18th and 19th centuries," says Tomlin, also the principal of Holy Trinity's St. Paul's Theological Centre and the dean of St. Mellitus College, an Anglican theological school. "Theology was being taught apart from Christian life and separate from the churches, to the impoverishment of both. Seminaries started in reaction to that, to provide Christian alternatives to the secular university. Yet those remain one step removed from real local churches."
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When it comes to religion, people of faith are passionate about their beliefs, and at times, that passion can lead to conflicts with others of different religions.
However, sometimes with understanding can come peace.
With that idea in mind, the Solo Flight Singles Group of New Covenant United Methodist Church decided to host an event that would promote peace and understanding between faiths.
The group gathered together representatives from five different faiths — Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian — for an interfaith panel discussion at the church Tuesday evening.
“I think it’s important that we try to understand everyone,” said Bev Diaz, coordinator of the event. “We’re all coming to realize the world is getting smaller. We’re coming into contact with more faiths, and to have more peace, we need to understand and tolerate each other.”
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The talks manage to avoid the sin of navel-gazing: rather than focusing on Anglican peculiarities, the purpose of each is to see and to show how the Anglican tradition opens up onto a world much larger than itself, making them not just a good primer on Anglicanism but on Catholic Christianity as such.
The series begins with N.T. Wright, who with characteristic clarity and depth of learning gives not only an overview of the New Testament but also of how Anglicans have classically read and been formed by the Bible in their common life. Scripture, as reformers such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Cranmer held, is to be placed in the hands of the people and read in common, so as to knit together a people through deep immersion in the Scriptural story. This, Bishop Wright holds, is in fact at the heart of Anglican worship and life: the simple, daily, communal reading of the Bible, through which the Spirit forms us as a church and equips us for mission in the world.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Theology Ecclesiology Seminary / Theological Education Theology: Scripture
If you are taking a class, I am interested in what it is, if you are teaching, we want to hear that also.
I am teaching a six week class on C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters--KSH.
In Georges Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest, the elderly Curé de Torcy gives his young priest friend a bit of advice about proclaiming the Gospel: "The Word of God is a red-hot iron," he says. "Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes later."
One could probably craft a meditation on the state of the Catholic soul today in terms of the tension between those two values -- truth and comfort. We want the church to offer comfort, which among other things implies that Catholics shouldn't brutalize one another in internal tribal warfare. Yet we also want the church to be bold in proclaiming the truth that saves, which inevitably means that sometimes lines have to be drawn and feelings may be bruised.
The $64,000 question is, can we do both? Can the Catholic church be both the "sacrament of the unity of the human race" and a fearless evangelical force?
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“Packer’s last crusade in this world,” the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer affirms, is recovering catechesis — systematic instruction in the Christian fundamentals — to meet the challenges of an increasingly pagan age.
The evangelical theologian said at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas on Jan. 9 that he yearns for the return of catechesis, “Bible-based, Christ-centered, declarative in style,” at a time when “the Christian value system is virtually disappearing from schools.”
“We are drifting back into paganism, that’s the truth,” said Dr. Packer, the second featured speaker in the James M. Stanton Lecture Series.
“Ongoing learning is part of the calling of the Church,” he said. “It has to be taught in all churches at all times.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Church of England (CoE) Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Theology Pastoral Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Those of you in parish ministry considering continuing education opportunities for 2010, here is a grand possibility to consider.
Has there ever been a more pressing time to discuss the ethics of business and investment?
The Dean of Liverpool Cathedral, the Very Rev Justin Welby, thinks this is exactly the right time to debate the issue.
Liverpool Cathedral will be the UK northern host of an online worldwide conference on this topic from Wall Street, New York.
It will join with Canterbury Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral, London, for the live video webcast streamed from New York.
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Jesus promised that he would build his church (Matthew 16:18) and one of the surest ways we know to be obedient to God is to be faithful to the Holy Scripture. It was Jesus who prayed for the church, saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
God seems to be using at least six factors in the continuing process of renewing and reforming United Methodism toward faithfulness to his Word.
1. Most evangelistically-minded churches grow, while others seldom do. Quite simply, too many of our United Methodist congregations don’t know how to reach out. Though most liberal United Methodists are compassionate, kind people, their churches seldom grow. One definite reason is theological. Most evangelical Christians feel a sense of urgency about lost people. They really believe that people who are outside a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are at risk of spending all eternity in a horrible place where God is totally absent. By way of contrast, many liberal United Methodists are universalists—believing that all persons are going to heaven regardless of what they believe or do. Such a belief makes evangelism irrelevant.
Recently I studied one particular annual conference in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. The ten local churches with the highest worship attendance figures for the previous year were quite diverse in terms of location (some are inner-city, others suburban) and in worship style (traditional, contemporary, and blended). But these ten churches have one thing in common—all of their senior ministers are evangelical/orthodox in theology. That same pattern probably prevails in most other annual conferences.
Jesus said that he came to earth “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Holy Spirit seems to bless those congregations that focus primary attention and resources on seeking, serving, and saving lost people.
2. United Methodist renewal and reform groups are making a positive contribution. The “granddaddy” of UM reform organizations is Good News, launched in 1966 by Charles Keysor’s article in the Christian Advocate. For 28 years, the Rev. James V. Heidinger II led Good News with prophetic courage and winsomeness. Now, the Rev. Rob Renfroe leads this vital agency of renewal and reform. Other organizations like The Confessing Movement, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, The Mission Society, Lifewatch, Transforming Congregations, and others have joined in the struggle.
3. High-quality biblical material has been introduced into the UM educational curriculum....
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• Scriptural Authority. This is such a comprehensive dimension of our present crisis in the church that one hardly knows where to begin. But one can hardly do better than St. Ambrose’s statement that “the whole of Holy Scripture be a feast for the soul.” How seldom one hears upon us who are bishops in Tec such glowing statements about the Bible. In my experience all too many of our bishops and priests seem to mine the scriptures for minerals to use in vain idolatries. There is too little confidence expressed in its trustworthiness; the authority and uniqueness of revelation. Indeed, as J.V. Langmead-Casserly once put it, “We have developed a method of studying the Word of God from which a Word of God never comes.” Too often supposed conundrums or difficulties are brought up, seemingly in order to detract from traditional understandings, never considering the damage to the faithful’s trust in God and his Word. Ridiculous arguments such as shellfish and mixed fabrics are dragged out (long reconciled by the Fathers of the Church, as well as the Anglican Reformers) in order to confuse the ill-taught or the untutored in theology. And those who are intellectually sophisticated, schooled in many academic disciplines, but dreadfully untaught in the Bible and theology, are, through little fault of their own, except for naively trusting generations of slothful priests and bishops, are led astray. We must be willing to speak out against this.
--South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence in his special clergy day address earlier this year
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Theology: Scripture
Comedian Jay Leno has gotten lots of mileage out of exposing general ignorance, including biblical ignorance. He'll ask passersby a question such as "On the first day of creation, God said, 'Let there be _____'" and people will respond: "Um, peace!" Or he'll ask, "Who were Cain and Abel?" and get the answer: "Friends of Jesus?"
The Bible is the all-time best-selling book—according to a 2002 Gallup poll, nearly every American (93 percent) owns at least one—yet it seems people know little about it. A Kelton Research survey in 2007 indicated that people know more about what goes into a Big Mac than they know about the Bible and can name members of the Brady Bunch far better than they can name the Ten Commandments. A 1997 Barna survey showed that 12 percent of adults think that Noah's wife was Joan of Ark, and about half don't know that the book of Isaiah is in the Old Testament. Yet another poll (by Gallup in 2004) revealed that nearly one in ten teens thinks that Moses was one of the 12 apostles.
Americans are not alone in their ignorance. Earlier this summer, St. John's University in Durham, England, released its biblical literacy report for the U.K. While 76 percent of respondents said that they owned a Bible, 79 percent couldn't identify a single accurate fact about Abraham, and 60 percent had no idea what the parable of the Good Samaritan is about.
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If by any chance you didn't catch it, this is an excellent discussion.
The Rev. John Graham at Grace Church, an Episcopal parish in Georgetown, has held an adult forum every Sunday morning since the weekend after Labor Day to help people hurt by the recession.
“When people are dealing with unemployment, they don’t feel like they’re productive members in the society,” Graham said. “They doubt the sense of their meaning, and some even hide from their neighbors because they feel so much shame. They tend to think they’re not useful.”
He said the class has about 25 to 30 people, a significant number considering the size of the church, which has about 100 people at Sunday service.
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Tim Black, our seminarian, was the kind person who instinctively knew that I was unaware of what I was missing in Sunday School. So he asked me and invited and reminded me, here a Sunday, there a Sunday, and finally one morning wooed me back to the founders room to the sofa in the back. Before I knew it, I was completely engaged in the topic at hand. The class was interesting and funny and thought provoking, laughter and intensity. Everyone in the class had their hand up, and comments and questions bounced around the room like atoms under an atomic microscope.
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Jan Hilton starts most days sitting in a living room chair, facing an iconic image of Jesus created 1,400 years ago in a Middle Eastern monastery.
Before she prays and meditates there for 20 minutes, she looks into the eyes of the picture.
“It creates the right frame of mind,” she said. “It’s just remembering that in awareness of the quiet is the divine.”
A spiritual director at an Episcopal church in Corpus Christi, Hilton said that same feeling of connection to God is one that has been enriched by her interest in mysticism. She has enrolled in a class about modern mystics that will begin next month in San Antonio.
Called “Christian Mysticism: History, Wisdom and Insights,” the course will include scholars talking about mystics from various Christian faith traditions, organizers said. In addition to talks about mystics, time is set aside in class for participants to practice prayer and meditation.
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On Sunday, July 19th, I preached a sermon called: The Great Recall Virus. In light of events at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I made the diagnosis that our church all over the country is suff ering from this deadly disease. The recall virus defi ned is an IN-ABILITY TO RECALL WHO WE BELONG TO AND WHY… A virus so severe that it leads to not only to what you read in the paragraph below, but one that has the potential to lead each one of us astray.
I will never forget the moment I knew The Great Recall Virus had hit the National Episcopal Church. It came as I sat in att endance at the convention of the Diocese of Washington in the National Cathedral. The convention preacher stood up and said these words:
“We live in a pluralistic world. A world of peoples with many belief systems and values. Our Christian, especially evangelical mission no longer can be as simple – as if it ever was – as telling people about Jesus, so that thy may be as we are and believe as we do. Perhaps our mission, by necessity, must continue to focus on more common human, not especially Christian concerns – alleviating poverty, civil rights, the ill, economic exploitation, environmental devastation…”
As I sat in stunned silence, I was shocked to see the preacher receive a standing ovation!
Is there a remedy? Enter a new season of our Beta Course. As you know by now, we have divided our courses here at St. Michael’s into three:
Alpha: Cultural Christian to Believer
Beta: Believer to Disciple
Gamma: Disciple to Mission Apologist
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Do Episcopal parishes teach the basics?
When I finished seminary in 1987 I came out with youthful idealism, energy, and too much arrogance, among many other things. I also believed I needed to be unapologetic about teaching and preaching on the most basic questions.
For example, I taught for two years through the Book of Acts. What was the gospel they were proclaiming I wanted to know. What was their understanding of mission? Who did they think Jesus was? What did they believe about the church?
After three years in the parish where I served my curacy, I left the parish (and the country) to pursue a doctorate. This allowed me the luxury of reflecting on many things, including my three year curacy.
My deepest conclusion: I had failed to be basic enough. I had made too many assumptions. I had used too much Christian vocabulary without defining terms. The bottom line was my instinct was right but my implementation left a lot to be desired.
When I asked myself why, my sense was it was partly out of fear. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone to describe the exact nature of the God he or she believes in, to wrestle with the doctrine of Original Sin, to probe the mystery of the Atonement and the Cross, to delve into the depths of what heaven really is and is not like.
So consider this question: if we look at the parish of which we are a part, and its preaching and teaching, how are we doing in terms of asking and answering the most basic of questions? Are we daring to look at the roots of the roots?
Jesus talked about God and the nature of his kingdom. It is hard to get more basic than that. Can we do any less?
--The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and convenor of this blog
Adult education finds people at various stages of faith development. Some adults are stuck in certitudes of an earlier age while being vaguely aware the certitudes don't work anymore. Some are in full flight from religious conventionalities and find freedom in discarding old forms of faith. Some are perplexed, wounded, and looking for a meaning that brings their life into focus and gives them hope. Some are exploring Christian meanings alongside alternatives provided by other religions, feminism or a passionate cause such as environmentalism. Adults in most churches, including ours, are all over the landscape!
Different forms of adult education meet different needs. The primary teaching function of the church is the sermon, which we call the Teaching. Based in the Bible and following the Common Lectionary, the Teaching relates faith and personal/public life by taking the Bible seriously but not literally. While the Teaching is usually the work of one person, we also use "talkbacks" to stimulate discussion and even disagreement.
Most adult education is done in small groups that covenant together to meet for an extended time to study a course. "Living the Questions" is one we have used with multiple groups for several years. It is a thoughtful, no-holds-barred exploration of pressing questions about Christian faith and it stimulates vigorous discussion. Courses on "Voluntary Simplicity" and "Choices for Sustainable Living" have also challenged groups to develop a more intentional lifestyle. These covenant groups often meet on a week night.
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