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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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The Bible. We tweet it, believe it, preach it, argue about it. But the stats suggest we’re not reading it, or at least, reading it less often. Evangelical Alliance’s survey in 2011 found only 38 per cent of those 16-44 read their Bible every day compared to 69 per cent of those over 65. Perhaps yes, those over 65 will often be retired and may also have more time on their hands, but the results for those aged between 44 and 65 were much higher, suggesting there is a generational decline, which supports other studies both in the UK and across the western world.
It would be easy to assume we don’t hold the Bible in such great authority as previous generations, but the evidence doesn’t suggest this. Most show young millennial Christians still believe the Bible to be the word of God. So why aren’t we reading it?
Problem 1: The rise of technology
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, but there are some potential drawbacks.
Read it all.
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
A few months before 9/11, when I first moved to downtown Los Angeles, the city’s high rises teemed with lawyers and bankers. The lights stayed on late — a beacon of industriousness. But as I quickly discovered, they rolled up the sidewalks by sundown. No matter how productive and wealthy its workers, downtown was a ghost town. LA’s urban core was no place to raise a family or own a home. With its patchwork of one-way streets and expensive lots, it was hardly even a place to own a car. The boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s that had erected LA’s skyline had not fueled residential growth. Angelenos who wanted to chase the dream of property ownership were effectively chased out of downtown.
But things change. Last month, I moved back to “DTLA,” as it’s now affectionately known. Today, once-forlorn corners boast shiny new bars, restaurants, and high-end stores. The streets are full of foot traffic, fueled by new generations of artisans, artists, and knowledge workers. They work from cafés or rented apartments, attend parties on hotel rooftops, and Uber religiously through town. Yes, there are plenty of dogs. But there are babies and children too. In a little over a decade, downtown’s generational turnover has replaced a faltering economy with a dynamic one.
What happened? Partly, it’s a tale of the magnetic power possessed by entrepreneurs and developers, who often alone enjoy enough social capital to draw friends and associates into risky areas that aren’t yet trendy. Even more, it is a story that is playing out across the country. In an age when ownership meant everything, downtown Los Angeles languished. Today, current tastes and modern technology have made access, not ownership, culturally all-important, and LA’s “historic core” is the hottest neighborhood around. Likewise, from flashy metros like San Francisco to beleaguered cities like Pittsburgh, rising generations are driving economic growth by paying to access experiences instead of buying to own.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Pastor Jesse’s mud-plastered Mitsubishi SUV jolted wildly along the newly dug dirt road that zigzagged up the mountainside toward the construction site of the new church. We stopped to let a pedestrian squeeze by, a middle-aged Lisu woman with a pink, checkered headscarf and a giant bamboo back basket which was strapped to her forehead. The Lisu are one of the 55 ethnic minorities of China and the predominant tribespeople in Gongshan, which nestles on the slope of the Gaoligongshan mountain range. Only 30 miles to the north, these mountain peaks reach more than 16,000 feet. Beyond that is Tibet.
It was a sun-drenched Saturday morning in December 2014. I had arrived the night before on my first visit to the area after reading Chinese media reports of the explosive growth of Christianity among the Lisu people in the “Gospel Valley,” as the Upper Salween River Valley is known. The church under construction is called Zion. It replaces a smaller one built in 1998 with members’ shovels, picks, baskets, and bare hands.
“Brothers and sisters brought their own bedrolls and woks and camped over there during construction of the first church,” Pastor Jesse said, gesturing toward the terraced fields up the slope. “Almost all the construction material was carried up here in bamboo baskets.”
Read it all.
In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg on Monday declared the Safe Harbor data-sharing deal as invalid.
The agreement, signed in 2000 between Brussels and Washington, enables companies and international networks to easily transfer personal data to the United States without having to seek prior approval, a potentially lengthy and costly process.
"The Court of Justice declares that the (European) Commission's US Safe Harbour Decision is invalid," it said in a decision on a case brought against Facebook by Austrian law student Max Schrems.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Another day, another bishop trying to tell us that the church has had it wrong for 2,000 years.
The latest is the Anglican bishop of Wangaratta, the Most Rev. John Parkes, who has gotten himself into the newspapers and on the radio to tell us that not only is same-sex marriage inevitable in Australia, but that it might actually be compatible with Christian doctrine.
He is, of course, not the first to make the argument in one form or another, and none of his arguments are new so they serve as good example of this tendency of the theologically liberal wing of the church - and, not least, the Anglican Church of Australia - to keep pushing contrived arguments that are less likely to make the grade than that famous strained gnat of which Jesus spoke.
Read it all from ABC religion and Ethics in Australia.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Benefit cheats should be allowed to get away with fraud to stop innocent people being punished with sanctions and late payments, a leading bishop has said.
The Rt Rev David Walker criticised the "Kafkaesque" workings of the welfare system which he said produced too many wrongly imposed sanctions and delays.
The Bishop of Manchester made the remarks at a Conservative Party conference fringe event in the city.
He claimed innocent people are trapped in the drive to catch fraudsters.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Q: What do critics say?
Many doctors continue to object to it, as do many religious leaders and activists for the disabled who fear that the disabled could be put under duress to end their lives prematurely.
The California Catholic Conference, the Medical Oncology Assn. of Southern California and the California Disability Alliance note that similar bills have failed recently in Connecticut, Delaware and Colorado.
"This bill is simply about protecting doctors and HMOs from liability," Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst for the Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund told The Times earlier this year, "and tells people with disabilities who face a terminal diagnosis that may well prove inaccurate that there is no dignity in our lives."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Tyndale has been called the architect of the English language, and in many cases he invented words to better convey the original:
And scores of his phrases have proved impossible to better in the last five centuries…
“Let there be light”
“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God”
Wonderful stuff--make sure to read it all.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber.
South Sudan is the kind of place where a sermon anecdote about gunfire draws hearty laughter. The sound of a firearm is such an everyday occurrence that South Sudanese only question whether it came from a pistol, an AK-47, or an M-16. “Many people right now are praying, ‘Thank you God for not making me South Sudanese,’ ” says the pastor.
Listening near the back of the sanctuary in Juba is Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. He is visiting the world’s newest and most fragile state in his quest to revive the compassion American Christians had for Sudan years ago. The South gained independence from the Muslim-dominated North in 2011 with the solid backing of evangelicals. But two years later, a political power struggle engulfed the Christian-majority nation in bloody conflict.
“It’s a hard sales pitch,” he told Christianity Today as he stood among 50 mothers with malnourished children at a clinic. He said South Sudan is a perfect example of how enormously difficult it is to fulfill both the Great Commission and Great Commandment amid chronic conflict and violence.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan * Theology
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
It is now public knowledge that prominent figures, notably the television personality Jimmy Savile and the Liberal MP Cyril Smith, took advantage of their celebrity to abuse children. It was also public knowledge at the time that they were committing these appalling acts; yet those who knew chose to protect the information, and those who merely suspected were given no official encouragement to investigate.
An independent inquiry into historical sex abuse is being led by Justice Lowell Goddard, who has already said that it may last till 2020. That is not her fault, given the scale of the task, but it is scant consolation for the victims whose lives have been ruined and psyches scarred. Archbishop Welby is right to take the initiative in the Ball case and in doing so has signalled a huge change in the way that the clerical establishment approaches these matters.
The Church of England remains the established church and an integral part of the life of the nation, even in an age of secularism and pluralism. The notion that it provided cover for crimes against the vulnerable by the sexually rapacious and that the perpetrators gained the protection of their posts is abhorrent. It must be aired and investigated.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Men Sexuality Violence * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The Church of England said the review, which will be published next year, will examine its co-operation with the police and other statutory agencies and the extent to which it shared information.
It will also consider whether it properly assessed the possible risk that Ball posed to others and whether it responded adequately to the concerns of survivors.
The Archbishop of Canterbury in 1993, George Carey, now Lord Carey, was aware of the case at the time and has denied interfering in it.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Men Religion & Culture Sexuality Violence * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The eight-hour workday hasn't changed much since Henry Ford first experimented with it for factory workers. Now, Americans work slightly longer—an average 8.7 hours—though more time goes into email, meetings, and Facebook than whatever our official job duties actually are. Is it time to rethink how many hours we spend at the office?
In Sweden, the six-hour workday is becoming common.
"I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think," says Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus. "To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. . . . In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. I wanted to see if there could be a way to mix these things."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine History Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary Europe Sweden * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever! Who can utter the mighty doings of the LORD, or show forth all his praise? Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!
Both Kunduz and Russia’s bombing are symptoms of the same phenomenon: the vacuum created by Barack Obama’s attempt to stand back from the wars of the Muslim world. America’s president told the UN General Assembly this week that his country had learned it “cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land”; others, Iran and Russia included, should help in Syria. Mr Obama is not entirely wrong. But his proposition hides many dangers: that America throws up its hands; that regional powers, sensing American disengagement, will be sucked into a free-for-all; and that Russia’s intervention will make a bloody war bloodier still. Unless Mr Obama changes course, expect more deaths, refugees and extremism.
Having seen the mess that George W. Bush made of his “war on terror”, especially in Iraq, Mr Obama is understandably wary. American intervention can indeed make a bad situation worse, as odious leaders are replaced by chaos and endless war saps America’s strength and standing. But America’s absence can make things even more grim. At some point, extremism will fester and force the superpower to intervene anyway.
That is the story in the Middle East. In Iraq Mr Obama withdrew troops in 2011. In Syria he did not act to stop Mr Assad from wholesale killing, even after he used poison gas. But when IS jihadists emerged from the chaos, declared a caliphate in swathes of Iraq and Syria, and began to cut off the heads of their Western prisoners, Mr Obama felt obliged to step back in—desultorily.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe Russia Middle East * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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
(Warning--very disturbing content-KSH).
He was our man in Africa.
Hissene Habre, who ruled Chad in the 1980s, was a U.S. ally in good standing even as his government killed tens of thousands of people and filled prisons with enemies who were starved, beaten and tortured.
Last week he finally had to face victims of those times in court. There was frozen silence as former prisoners testified for the first time against the man who was feted at the White House in 1987 by President Reagan and was armed and supported in a covert CIA operation to fight Libya's Col. Moammar Kadafi.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Chad Libya America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.
Read it all.
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
Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent investigation of the deadly bombing of its hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, which it says is no longer operational.
Aerial bombardments blew apart the medical facility about the time of a U.S. airstrike early Saturday, killing at least 19 people, officials said.
The blasts left part of the hospital in flames and rubble, killing 12 staffers and seven patients -- including three children -- and injuring 37 other people, the charity said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Charities/Non-Profit Organizations Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia Afghanistan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser, three of the largest World Cup sponsors, are demanding that Sepp Blatter step down immediately from his presidency of Fifa, a week after he personally became the subject of a criminal investigation into a corruption scandal that has engulfed the organisation.
Visa, another important sponsor, also joined the call for Mr Blatter to fall on his sword. But the defiant head of Fifa pushed back in a statement through his lawyer, refusing to heed the companies whose deals with Fifa contributed to more than $1.6bn in sponsorship revenue for the body between 2011-14, according to consultancy IEG.
The demands from Coke, McDonald’s and Budweiser’s owner Anheuser-Busch InBev are the strongest yet. All three have urged Fifa to make swift progress in cleaning itself up but to date they had not called outright for Mr Blatter’s resignation.
Read it all.
“As of now, the GAFCON primates have said that if the Anglican Church of Canada and the U.S. is at the table for the January meeting, they will not attend,” said the Rev. Paul Stephens, rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo, “And that’s unfortunate.”
Stephens said that worldwide, the Anglican Communion is connected, but not obligated. The Anglican church was spread through British colonization. Wherever there was a British colony, there is now an Anglican church. Globally, 38 Anglican provinces make up the Anglican Communion, the centerpiece of which is the Church of England.
“In terms of authority, the Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t like the Pope. He doesn’t have the jurisdiction to ‘make’ me do anything, though if he did I would almost certainly acquiesce,” Stephens said. “Anglican provinces have autonomy, and make their own rulings within themselves that don’t have bearing on the others. However, there’s a saying that goes something like, ‘If someone sneezes at an Episcopal church in Corinth, someone at an Episcopal church in Bay St. Louis will say “Bless you.”’”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Church of England (CoE) Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Culture-Watch Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
THE tendency to ignore bisexuals seems particularly prevalent in Christian circles. The Pilling report made almost no reference to bisexuality...It repeatedly used the phrase “gay and lesbian”. At certain points, it seems that this is meant to mean “people who are not straight” or “people in same-sex relationships”. At other points, it seems to involve the more usual meaning of “people attracted only to others of the same sex”.
Church discussions on sexuality are confusing and controversial enough without using sloppy language and ignoring a sizeable number of people. The Pilling report is far from being the only culprit.
Campaigners on both sides of the argument say “gay marriage” when they mean same-sex marriage. As a bisexual Christian, I know that marrying a man would not make me gay, nor would marrying a woman make me straight.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine History Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
It's time to stop marching, having discourses and debates, writing and repeatedly speaking about being anti-corruption. Why?
Because it's not about being anti-corruption...
It's about being pro-courage. Pro-courage.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Southern Africa * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.”
Read it all.
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 hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz was badly damaged early Saturday after being hit by what appears to have been an American airstrike. At least 19 people were killed, including 12 hospital staff members, and dozens wounded.
The United States military, in a statement, confirmed an airstrike at 2:15 a.m., saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”
The airstrike set off fires that were still burning hours later, and a nurse who managed to climb out of the debris described seeing colleagues so badly burned that they had died.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Afghanistan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral 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.
Read it all.
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
He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly; and he does not let their cattle decrease. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, he pours contempt upon princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction, and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth. Whoever is wise, let him give heed to these things; let men consider the steadfast love of the LORD.
As teacher and evangelist this is the first job of the bishop. Not MD of CofE plc; not safe pair of managerial hands, not just emerged slick and shiny from the talent pool, not even graduate of the latest whizzy business school offer of better organised salvation (though these things can help us), but storyteller, poet, theologian: a gospel person, with the good news of Christ and on our lips and in our hearts, and this good news translated into the languages of the smorgasbord of cultures in which we serve. Which is also why being a bishop is so dangerous. We either draw back from such an uncomfortable proclamation. Or end up holding back the Spirit’s sure advance into all truth. Meanwhile, too many people still treat us with the wrong sort of deference and respect, and believing our own publicity, we collude.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
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
Forget the 26-year-old zero who murdered 10 innocents at Umpqua Community College on Thursday morning.
The one to remember is 30-year-old Chris Mintz, the student and Army vet who was shot at least five times while charging straight at the gunman in an effort to save others.
Mintz did so on the sixth birthday of his son, Tyrik.
“It’s my son’s birthday, it’s my son’s birthday,” he was heard saying as he lay wounded.
When word of Mintz’s heroism reached his kin in his native North Carolina, his cousin Derek Bourgeois was hardly surprised.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Violence Young Adults * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology 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.
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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
I did know that the whole student body had been summoned to the auditorium—and I was one of a few people who knew why. All morning long I’d known what was coming, much as I would have liked to stay in the dark. I got a tip the day before that Sweet Briar’s board had determined the college’s financial challenges to be insurmountable. I knew the board had voted to close the school, effective at the end of the semester. I knew that the students and staff whose names I was just learning were on the brink of having their world torn apart. And I knew that I was the chaplain, and that I was going to have to watch it happen.
During lunchtime, while the president delivered the fatal news to the faculty and staff, I attended the regular meeting of students working for the Office of Spiritual Life. My secret charge was to gather as many as possible into the auditorium for the chance to hear the news directly from the president, before it hit Twitter with explosive force. But as we walked up the hill to the auditorium, my phone was already lighting up. A friend at a nearby college forwarded her own faculty announcement: “Is this for real? What’s going on out there?” I responded with brevity bordering on hostility, typing as I walked: “Students don’t know yet. We need ten minutes. Stay off Facebook.”
The assembly was brutal. I sat with a few friendly students but could hardly engage, knowing what I knew and they didn’t. I stared at my phone, waiting for social media to beat the president to his own job. The sound system wasn’t working, and we waited for an eternity of troubleshooting. And then there was no more time, and the president came out and spoke without a mic, projecting his voice. He said he wanted to get right to the point. He said it broke his heart to be there. Then he said Sweet Briar would close its doors. The class of 2015 would be the last graduating class.
And then the whole auditorium burst into tears.
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“We call on Nigerians to support the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and be patient with him as we urge him to fulfill his campaign promises to Nigerians. “President Buhari should see himself as president of the whole nation and not a sectional or religious president”, he admonished.
He cautioned that despite the myriad of challenges confronting the nation, dismemberment of the country remains a ridiculous thinking, adding that it is an unthinkable idea after shedding innocent blood through the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War to keep Nigeria one.
The religious leader commiserated with the families of those that have lost their lives in the North through the activities of Boko Haram insurgency, and called on the governments at all levels, religious organizations and philanthropists to come to the aid of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) who have been dehumanized by the activities of insurgents.
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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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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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The gunman who opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College singled out Christians, according to the father of a wounded student.
Before going into spinal surgery, Anastasia Boylan told her father the gunman entered her classroom firing.
"I've been waiting to do this for years," the gunman told the professor teaching the class. He shot him point blank, Boylan recounted.
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The crisis in Lebanon, where 1.2 million Syrian refugees are competing for limited resources with host communities, is a “ticking time bomb”, two aid workers gave warning this week.
The country, which is the size of Yorkshire, has the highest number of refugees per capita: a quarter of the population. Of these, 70 per cent live below the poverty line. Since the UN’s Syria regional-response plan is less than half-funded, and the influx costs the country a third of its GDP, communities are in crisis.
“It’s more than just tension: I think it is a ticking bomb,” the communications manager for World Vision in Lebanon, Patricia Mouamar, said on Tuesday. “It’s like the whole country of Greece moving into UK. . . If no funding is made available to us, it will explode at a certain time.”
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Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.
A shooter described as a 20-year-old man opened fire on a rural community college campus in Oregon on Thursday morning, killing multiple people and injuring even more.
Ellen F. Rosenblum, the Oregon attorney general, said her office believed that 13 people were killed in the shooting and another 20 people were injured.
“We are just heartbroken here in Oregon that an act of this magnitude has occurred in our state,” Rosenblum said in an interview on MSNBC. She said the figures were from the Oregon Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice division. She cautioned that the situation was still developing, and other officials confirmed few details.
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You have to give Vladimir Putin credit—he has a special talent for changing facts on the ground and daring others to do something about it. Russian bombs are now falling on Syria, though Putin’s intentions remain a subject of debate. But here’s the bottom line: Russia’s strongman has restored his country’s status as a major international player. These 5 facts explain Putin’s calculations for joining the fight for Syria.
1. Putin’s Popularity
Putin has used tough foreign policy words and deeds to boost his popularity at home from the very start.
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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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It was an emotional and heartfelt reunion 38 years in the making inspired by a photo of a severely burned baby being cradled by her nurse.
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Doctors have been granted approval to carry out the UK's first 10 womb transplants, following the success of the procedure in Sweden.
The go-ahead has been given by the Health Research Authority - as part of a clinical trial - which launches in the spring.
Around one in 7,000 women are born without a womb, while others lose their womb to cancer.
If the trial is successful, the first UK baby could arrive in early 2018.
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Those of you who are shortly going to be commissioned as Church Credit Champions have heard God’s call, as the whole church has in recent years, to be a church of the poor for the poor; to seek justice and the common good for all in our society.
You have set up credit union access points in your churches, brought new people onto the boards of local credit unions, supported people struggling with debt through signposting them to debt advice resources.
You have seen the need, and you have met it with love, grace and hope.
We all know that the Christian relationship with money is, at best, slightly ambivalent. We recognise when it’s got the wrong place, but we find it quite hard to find the right place.
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The church has heard a fresh call to be “a church of the poor for the poor” in recent years, the Archbishop of Canterbury said last night as he commissioned volunteers to help churches engage with issues of credit and debt in their communities.
Speaking during a special service at St George-in-the-East in Shadwell, London, the Archbishop told more than 50 volunteers – who have taken part in a pilot scheme in London, Southwark and Liverpool dioceses – that they had “seen the need, and met it with love, grace and hope.”
The first phase of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Church Credit Champions Network is on course to secure benefits worth over £2million for local communities.
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One 15-year-old I interviewed at a summer camp talked about her reaction when she went out to dinner with her father and he took out his phone to add “facts” to their conversation. “Daddy,” she said, “stop Googling. I want to talk to you.” A 15-year-old boy told me that someday he wanted to raise a family, not the way his parents are raising him (with phones out during meals and in the park and during his school sports events) but the way his parents think they are raising him — with no phones at meals and plentiful family conversation. One college junior tried to capture what is wrong about life in his generation. “Our texts are fine,” he said. “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.”
It’s a powerful insight. Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.
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Watch and listen to it all.
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One such place was Holy Trinity Brompton whose leaders had experienced a measure of frustration in their dealings with the Kensington Area hierarchy. Alpha was beginning to develop into the global movement that it is today, and there were voices within HTB urging that a base outside the Church of England would be more conducive to growth. The local hierarchy was unwilling to see HTB as much more than a conventional parish in the Area, and in particular was keen to restrict the numbers of curates that the Church could employ, even though there was finance available to enlarge the staff. The restrictions were fuelled by a liberal distaste for charismatic evangelicalism and a conviction that the supply of curates should be evenly spread throughout the Diocese, irrespective of the capacity to pay.
There was an important principle here, also expressed in the Common Fund system. The Diocesan budget was calculated on the basis of the establishment figure for clergy numbers, together with elements for administration and national church obligations. The total sum was then divided between parishes by reference to a complex formula which relied heavily on electoral roll numbers, with the consequence that a church in decline would be more and more heavily subsidised by any that were growing. There was in effect a tax on growth and an incentive to be less than candid in declaring parochial resources. This may have been tolerable when the Diocese still enjoyed a substantial benefit from the distributions of the Church Commissioners but, as these declined in significance and pension obligations in particular mounted, the contributors to the system were increasingly restive as they saw that they were being asked to subsidize less active neighbours. It was clear that a crisis of consent could not be long delayed.
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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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....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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New research is helping medical experts devise formulas for how long a typical office worker should spend sitting and standing.
Studies have found that sedentary behavior, including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Some ergonomics experts warn that too much standing also can have negative effects on health, including a greater risk for varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.
“The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day,” said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. “Sitting all day and standing all day are both bad for you,” he said.
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O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!
I would put it this way: corruption involves, not restriction of voice in general, but its illegitimate restriction, defined in terms of the rules of a given game. When those rules are established and accepted, then the issue of “voice” becomes less problematic: bowling clubs are not acting illegitimately when they restrict their membership to bowlers, rather than opening it up to ping-pong players. Similarly, churches are not acting illegitimately, and therefore are not restricting voice, when they limit ordination to baptized and believing Christians. Thus, the inevitable question of whether “orthodoxy” should restrict the voices of the “unorthodox” must be answered as both “yes” and “no.” “Yes,” if this restriction is built into the canonical structures of the church in question; “no”, if these restrictions derive from structures that are extra-canonically constrained by manipulations of influence. For when there is canonical space for diverse embodiments of, e.g. theological positions in a church, as in both “evangelical” and “catholic” views within the older Anglican ecclesial structures, engaging the Influence Market in a way that restricts those voices becomes a matter of corruption.
This can arguably be shown with the Episcopal Church (TEC): what was once a relatively theologically diverse church, within the limits of its formularies, has become one of the most theologically monochromatic churches in America. This has happened through the ever more deeply engaged Influence Market. On the one hand, there has been nothing “illegal” about the outworking of that market: bishops can ordain whom they wish and appointments can be made according to personal preferences of those in power. But the end result of caving into, let alone deliberately manipulating, these dynamics is corruption, and on two scores.
First, through the suppression of legitimate voices in the Church, it is inevitable that the truth — in this case, the truth of the Gospel — suffers, simply for lack of adequately trained hearts and minds to engage that truth. More corruption follows, through the perversion of critical Christian inquiry. Second, when Influence Markets such as TEC’s are moving ahead at full steam, it is inevitable that more concrete and classical acts of corruption take place: misuse of funds and misuse of canons (the church’s legal process). In an institution where everybody is “on the same side” (because there are few left on any other side), no one wishes to hurt their “friends” by raising questions. This has happened on a number of fronts in TEC in matters involving the national budget (e.g. misusing trust funds to balance the bottom line), discipline (manipulating canons to silence dissenting voices), and the legislative process (not following canonical procedures at General Convention). It represents a matter of corruption, at least in Johnston’s paradigm, where the “legal” Influence Market has finally given way to quite “illegal” activities.
Read it all from the Living Church's Covenant blog (emphasis his).
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The synod of the Anglican Church's Sydney diocese will next month consider a report from a senior bishop which argues that wedding service providers should have the "religious freedom" to refuse to cater for gay couples.
While some believe that such laws would set a dangerous precedent, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson argues the rights of both groups can be protected.
The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney Robert Forsyth heads up the Religious Freedom Reference Group within the church's conservative Sydney diocese.
He is personally opposed to gay marriage and wants any new laws to offer an opt-out for those opposed to [same-sex marriage].
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“Anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD, is a growing problem,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, supreme allied commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told an audience in Washington on Monday. Kaliningrad has given Moscow the ability to better defend the Baltic, while the annexation of Crimea has done the same on the Black Sea, he said.
“The geography of Europe has changed” since the end of the Cold War, Benitez said. “The geography of NATO has changed. In the Cold War NATO’s borders were in the center of the continent, but now the front lines are the Baltics, and you’re drawn to that small land bridge [near Suwalki].”
“The Russians have chosen to make this the new zone of friction, that’s where you’re seeing the air provocations,” such as Russian warplanes flying with transponders off, said Benitez.
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You can listen directly at the link found here or you can download the MP3 there.
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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A poll by Populus for ACS, undertaken online among 1,864 adults in England and Wales on 2-3 September 2015, revealed that a majority (58%) of the public still thinks that Sunday is different from the rest of the week, 61% because it is a shared time with family and friends, and 58% because it is a day of relaxation. Two-thirds (67%) supported the current legislation permitting large stores to open up to six hours on Sundays while 23% opposed it, presumably because they thought it was either too strict or too liberal. Three-fifths agreed that the existing laws provide sufficient opportunities to shop on Sundays (with just 12% dissenting) and a similar proportion felt that, if the laws were relaxed, shop staff would be forced to work longer and their family life would suffer. At the same time, 25% agreed that the present legislation is not convenient for people like themselves and a plurality of 42% that it constrains customers’ choice when they can go shopping. Sunday trading is one of those topics where the outcome of surveys can be radically different dependent upon the question-wording and context.
An online survey by Research Insight for ACS of 70 local authority chief executives in England and Wales between 6 August and 4 September 2015 found that 64% were likely to support deregulation in some form in their own local authority, typically in an out-of-town location. However, 64% were concerned that having different Sunday trading regulations within their local authority would cause confusion for consumers and 69% that it would displace trade from some zones to others.
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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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Of all the European countries, Greece bears the heaviest refugee burdens. Malcolm Bradshaw, our Athens chaplain, relates that between 1 and 14 September 54,000 migrants arrived in Greece from Turkey. These were people whose hopes of a better life had been cruelly raised.
For the last eight years, we have helped run a soup kitchen that delivers 800 meals a day to poor people in central Athens. In Greece, refugees are at the bottom of the pecking order. Earlier this year, I visited a large detention centre north of Athens where refugees were being held in the kinds of cages where we might more usually house animals. I was distressed to see two cages where unaccompanied minors were being held. They had broken shoes and torn trousers, and appeared dazed and confused.
We have provided clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags and phone cards to the residents of the detention centres. We are working with UN and Orthodox Church representatives to provide food and shelter to new arrivals. Of course the fundamental problems that lead people to leave their countries need to be dealt with at a political level. But Christians are enjoined to help those who are casualties of forces far beyond their control.
Yet, strangely, we ourselves are being blessed....
Read it all from the C of E blog.
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Virgin mothers having IVF, three-parent babies, transgender gold medallists . . . the new sexual politics is changing so rapidly that few can keep up. Facebook now has more than 71 terms for gender identity including gender fluid, hermaphrodite, polygender, asexual and two-spirit person. Google has increased its coverage of transgender healthcare for employees to include genital surgery, facial feminisation and pectoral implants.
In America they are increasingly clued up about these new sexual identities. Caitlyn Jenner — formerly known as Bruce — the Olympic decathlete and reality TV star, came out in July as transgender and said she was tired at 65 of telling lies. The arguments have now moved on to whether you have to be biologically female for the ladies’ loos. Campaigns have been launched, #weneedtopee and #occupotty, as states such as Florida and Kentucky struggle to work out what is appropriate in schools, hospitals and prisons.
The acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) doesn’t trip off the tongue so easily here, but slowly the discussions are reaching Britain. The comedian Eddie Izzard, whom I interviewed, explained that he now sees being a transvestite as a gift, “because women talk to me in a different way”. Grayson Perry’s art transcends what he wears. Gender is increasingly no longer about men v women, Mars v Venus, but where you are on the spectrum.
The young are much more likely to challenge their sexuality. The number of children under ten being seen for transgender treatment on the NHS has quadrupled in the past five years.
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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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Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.
--1 Corinthians 8:9-13
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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There was a report that the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion office was offering “facilitators” for the January gathering of Primates. He may be planning that, but I would suggest that the facilitators get refundable tickets. There is absolutely no chance that the GAFCON and Global South Primates will stand for another meeting where they are “handled” and manipulated by “facilitators” who have a pre-cooked agenda. This upcoming meeting will either be utterly genuine in all the gritty reality that brings, or it will not happen at all. I think it is truly an important gathering and I pray that it will be effective.
When innovations are introduced, it is done with the expectation that there will be unicorns and skittle rainbows. When they are done thoughtlessly, the result can be catastrophic, as it has been with some Provinces who have discarded the historic Biblical teaching on sexuality. I’m sure that they think all will be well because they want it to be; that there will be rain showers of gumdrops and the pot at the end of the skittle rainbow will be found, but in truth, consequences that they did not anticipate or intend are actually driving the train. Superficial solutions never work more than superficially. This is a time in which we need to actually deal with the departures from Biblical faith, with issues of Christology that are being erroneously embraced, and a disastrous sexual ethic that is not bearing godly fruit.
Here is the bottom line. If the January gathering of Primates does not fully address the real issues, the Communion will not survive—nor should it.
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A former Anglican church in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's that was the source of deep division in the community is being demolished.
A demolition crew arrived at the property Monday and made short work of the steeple, which had become a symbol of a bitter feud that has raged since 2009 when the diocese approved a plan to remove the 120-year-old former sanctuary.
Someone took a saw to the steeple in March 2010 and used a vehicle to pull it down to the ground. That's where it rested until it was hauled away and later reduced to splinters by a backhoe.
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Richard Dawkins and the other prophets of atheism love to tell us that in the fabricated battle between religious belief and rationalism, there can be only one winner, and that their side is finally gaining the upper hand; the days of superstitious belief in sky pixies and the like are numbered – at least in the enlightened West. The tide is turning, and it is their hope that, in time, all religious belief, including Christianity, will be seen as little more than a dwindling remnant of the age of ignorance. This is the dawning of the Age of the Nones, where science and technology are the new gods to be worshipped and revered.
Certainly Christianity, though still the dominant faith in the United Kingdom, is in a bad way. Those who never progressed beyond the linear graphs of GCSE Maths will look at the decline in the number of professing Christians and calculate that, based on Census numbers going down from 72 per cent of the population in 2001 to 59 per cent in 2011, Christians will be about as common as chicken teeth by about 2060. If you happen to be a Methodist, things are even worse: your obituary is being readied for 2035.
But once you start digging deeper, the picture tells a set of more intricate stories. Even within the United Kingdom there are significant regional differences. A recent poll for the Theos think-tank found that Scotland is far more irreligious than the rest of the country, with 50 per cent of respondents having no religious faith compared to 35 per cent nationally. A quarter of the Welsh still attend a weekly service, almost double that of England and Scotland, and only 27 per cent of 18-24-year-olds actually describe themselves as Christian, compared to 79 per cent of the over 65s.
Read it all from the Archbishop Cranmer Blog.
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Private equity and hedge fund firms have bought more than 100,000 troubled mortgages at a discount from banks and federal housing agencies, emerging as aggressive liquidators for the remains of the mortgage crisis that erupted nearly a decade ago.
As the housing market nationwide recovers, this is a dark corner from which banks, stung by hefty penalties for bungling mortgage modifications and foreclosures, have retreated. Federal housing officials, for the most part, have welcomed the new financial players as being more nimble and creative than banks with terms for delinquent borrowers.
But the firms are now drawing fire. Housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers contend that the private equity firms and hedge funds are too quick to push homes into foreclosure and are even less helpful than the banks had been in negotiating loan modifications with borrowers. Federal and state lawmakers are taking up the issue, questioning why federal agencies are selling loans at a discount of as much as 30 percent to such firms.
Read it all from the front page of today's New York Times.
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The report was provided on 5 August 2015, in time for Te Runanganui and every Diocesan Synod.
In the report the Working Group outlines its intention to propose a two-step process which would allow consultation at Diocesan Synod and Hui Amorangi level between sessions of the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui in 2016 and 2018.
This process will give more time for consultation than would have been possible for a proposal capable of adoption at a single General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui. It is the procedure provided for by the Church of England Empowering Act 1928.
Read it all and the link to the report itself.
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Bill Nye is supposed to be “the science guy.” Recently he published a video on YouTube purporting to inform viewers of what science tells us about abortion. Nye claims that laws against abortion reflect “a deep scientific lack of understanding.” But it turns out that it is Nye himself who doesn’t understand the science. “I really encourage you to look at the facts,” he says. But then he misrepresents the facts from top to bottom in an embarrassingly transparent effort to hijack science in the cause of pro-abortion ideology.
Nye’s video is so breathtakingly arrogant and incompetently argued that it is hard to know where to begin. He opens by saying: “Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans. Eggs get fertilized, and by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova — a lot.” The fact he is pointing to here — the high rate of pre-implantation spontaneous abortions (estimates range from 45 percent to as high as 70 percent) — is the only bit of science Nye ever mentions in the video. But he thinks one can infer from it that a human being does not come to be until the embryo implants on the uterine wall: “[The sperm’s joining the ovum] is not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb, a woman’s womb.”
But that is easily exposed as a non sequitur — a logical fallacy, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. The fact that many human embryos die at an early stage of development (pre-implantation) provides no evidence whatsoever for the proposition that they are not embryonic human beings — no more than comparable high rates of infant mortality in most places before the 20th century showed that infants were not human beings.
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Christ commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations, by “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”; and by “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”(Matthew 28:19). There is a doctrine to be learned, “mere Christianity” if you like, “the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul’s health”. In accordance with Scripture’s command (Psalm 78:1-8) the Prayer Book provides a Catechism, in question and answer form, “that is to say, An Instruccion to bee learned of every childe, before he be brought to be confirmed of the bushop” (1549 Prayer Book rubric in original spelling!).
In his classic treatise on pastoral care, the Country Parson, the priest-poet George Herbert values Catechizing for infusing “a competent knowledge of salvation to every one of his Flock”: The “secret” benefit of this practice “consists in this, that at Sermons, and Prayers, men may sleep or wander; but when one is asked a question, he must discover what he is [i.e. awake, and alert or asleep, and wandering!]”....
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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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The daily spiritual exercises Dietrich Bonhoeffer expected of all members of Finkenwalde created some controversy at the time.
Bonhoeffer required silence before the morning service, which consisted of Bible reading, prayers and hymns. He also required a time of silent meditation and intercession after breakfast before lectures began. The community had a similar evening service, and at times readings during lunch.
Though these exercises were balanced by study, lectures and recreation, many objected to such "Catholic" practices. Others considered them evidences of legalism at Finkenwalde. Why did Bonhoeffer require these aspects of the community's day together and its day alone?
He did so because he believed that students were members of Christ's body preparing to be shepherds of the body of Christ.
Read it all from ABC Australia.
...research suggests that while it’s true that lawmakers passed a lot of measures calling for long prison sentences, if you look at how much time inmates actually served, not much has changed over the past few decades. Roughly half of all prisoners have prison terms in the range of two to three years, and only 10 percent serve more than seven years. The laws look punitive, but the time served hasn’t increased, and so harsh laws are not the main driver behind mass incarceration, either.
So what does explain it? Pfaff’s theory is that it’s the prosecutors. District attorneys and their assistants have gotten a lot more aggressive in bringing felony charges. Twenty years ago they brought felony charges against about one in three arrestees. Now it’s something like two in three. That produces a lot more plea bargains and a lot more prison terms.
I asked Pfaff why prosecutors are more aggressive. He’s heard theories. Maybe they are more political and they want to show toughness to raise their profile to impress voters if they run for future office. Maybe the police are bringing stronger cases. Additionally, prosecutors are usually paid by the county but prisons by the state, so prosecutors tend not to have to worry about the financial costs of what they do.
Read it all from the New York Times Op-ed page.
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Sir Hector Sants is calling upon the wealthy to lend to credit unions and help run co-operatives in an attempt to raise their profile and fill the vast gap left by the shrinking payday lending sector.
The former chief executive of the City watchdog was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year to lead the Church of England’s task force on credit unions, but said they need greater support to help borrowers seeking short-term loans.
In an interview with FT Money, Sir Hector said: “Join a credit union — it doesn’t have to be your sole bank — and deposit money, which can then be lent out. There are often good terms if you need a loan.”
Read it all from the FT.
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The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.
Facebook is down. There's water on Mars. And a red moon. End of days.— Paul B (@paulbestfit) September 28, 2015
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Women are having children after undergoing IVF - despite never having had sex, according to doctors.
25 young women in the UK who are hetereosexual and in their twenties have opted for IVF in the past five years because they feel ready to be a parent, doctors told the Mail on Sunday.
Some who have had the "virgin borths" said they are still waiting for the right partner - and a few may be afraid of sex owing to psychosexual complications, experts have said.
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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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There has always been a fierce debate about the relationship between cohabitation and divorce risks. Some argue that cohabitation lessens people’s commitment to partnership and thus increases their risk of divorce, while others believe that a cohabitation phase before marriage (as a trial marriage) would strengthen marital stability. In the United States, data suggest that the effect of cohabitation on marriage is at best neutral; however, in European countries, the effect of cohabitation on marital stability varies markedly, according to a study covering the last decade of the twentieth century (Liefbroer and Dourleijn, 2006).
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A few initial suggestions:
1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and it also keeps me working across several disciplines.
2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead—not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies....
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I’ve been screening churches in my new city of Vancouver, and I guess you could say they’ve been “screening” me. Almost every church I’ve visited uses a screen in its sanctuary during worship. In the 1980s or ’90s this might have been a signal that a congregation had taken a side in the worship wars. Now it’s just a sign that a church is open and functioning.
One congregation showed a funny video of Canadians singing an ode to Canada Day (replete with a poke at American politics). Another screen featured a long clip from the movie Frozen. What all this had to do with Jesus was not clear. The video clips were pleasant distractions, brief entertainment in the context of worship.
But other uses of screens struck me as more theologically intentional. One congregation featured background images of the city of Vancouver. These appeared before and after worship and during announcements. The images were not just beautiful. They announced that this was a church not only in but for a city. God’s kingdom always comes in particular settings, and the church is called to love its neighborhood, as God does in Christ’s incarnation. This same church asked its preachers to say, “You can follow along as I read in your pew Bibles, or the words will be on the screen . . .” I noticed nary a Bible opening. All heads were up.
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Vladimir Putin certainly knows how to steal a show. The Russian president will speak today at the UN General Assembly for the first time in a decade. The rapid build-up of Russian military force in Syria in recent weeks has turned Mr Putin into the centre of attention in New York, as rivals and allies both speculate about his intentions.
To his delight, he has managed to put the US on the back-foot. After a year of trying to freeze out Mr Putin over his military intervention in Ukraine, US President Barack Obama has decided he has little choice but to meet the Russian leader to discuss Syria.
The Russian intervention in Syria — in support of the isolated regime of President Bashar al-Assad — has come at a time when Washington’s own strategy for resolving the conflict is in tatters. The US-trained force of Syrian fighters numbers in the dozens, not the planned thousands, while air strikes have had only a limited impact on the Syrian operations of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury invites the 37 heads of Anglican churches to a meeting....this features Chris Sugden and Colin Coward as the guests.
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"Church schools continue to be oversubscribed and popular with parents and pupils, opting for a Christian based education whatever their own faith. Both community and church schools increasingly testify to difficulties in recruiting headteachers and our recent consultation has shown a strong desire for more support in training new leaders. Heads and teachers have told us that they want more help and better training to enable them to promote the Church of England's vision for education. To this end we are consulting about plans to better equip and support leaders and teachers across the country in a fast-moving educational environment."
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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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What spurred him on his journey to the priesthood was a growing realization of how poorly Canadian students are taught about the aboriginal experience. His mother went to a residential school, as did most of his relatives. Talking to elders to learn more about Cree history, he was drawn into “the story of the land.” Meanwhile, his Christian faith was nurtured by his mother and grandfather, both “hard-core Anglican.”
“That’s the work I’ve been doing, trying to reconcile those two things: the work of Jesus Christ, the history of Canada, the impact of both of those questions on Cree people. How can we as Cree people be fully engaged in our identity and be connected to the land, and still be connected to Jesus Christ?”
After graduating from university, he briefly worked for Revenue Canada until, wanting more human contact, he turned to hairdressing, eventually buying his own shop. It proved to be an inspiration for the next step in his life: seminary.
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First we need to welcome and help refugees.
In order to do this we need to put more and more pressure on governments in developed countries to accept more refugees. Lebanon, such a small country, with a population of 5 million people and a weak economy is hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The rest of the neighbouring countries did the same. In Egypt we accepted a quarter of a million Syrian refugees in addition to 2.5 African refugees. After welcoming refugees in the country the churches can then cooperate with the government and UNHCR to provide for the needs of the refugees in a more holistic way. I was so encouraged by the appeal of Pope Francis when he asked every parish to host refugee family. It is so important that these refugees may encounter the love of Jesus in us.
In our refugee program in Egypt and Ethiopia we deal with thousands of refugees. We help them to find accommodation and shelters. In fact some of our churches in Ethiopia became shelters for the thousands who walked in from South Sudan. We also have programs to build their capacities so that they can find jobs. And we provide education for their children as well as health care through our clinics. I am sure you [others] do better than us in these areas. Let us see Jesus in each one of them and let us hear Him saying, “I was a stranger and you invited me in” when we meet them.
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I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.
Nearly 30,000 foreign recruits have now poured into Syria, many to join the Islamic State, a doubling of volunteers in just the past 12 months and stark evidence that an international effort to tighten borders, share intelligence and enforce antiterrorism laws is not diminishing the ranks of new militant fighters.
Among those who have entered or tried to enter the conflict in Iraq or Syria are more than 250 Americans, up from about 100 a year ago, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials.
President Obama will take stock of the international campaign to counter the Islamic State at the United Nations on Tuesday, a public accounting that comes as American intelligence analysts have been preparing a confidential assessment that concludes that nearly 30,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria from more than 100 countries since 2011. A year ago, the same officials estimated that flow to be about 15,000 combatants from 80 countries, mostly to join the Islamic State.
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Pro-independence parties in Spain's Catalonia region have won an absolute majority in regional elections, near complete results show.
With more than 90% of the votes counted, the main separatist alliance and a smaller party won 72 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament.
They said earlier a majority would allow them to declare independence from Spain unilaterally within 18 months.
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They’ll be discussing what unites them and what divides them; whether the Communion ought to continue as it is presently modelled, and whether the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury needs to change. There will be no ‘Continuing Indaba‘ for the pursuit of “cultural models of consensus”, and no meditation on the mission of “mutual creative action”. The days of fudge, patch and hedge are over – unless, of course, all the gathered Archbishops, Presiding Bishops and Chief Pastors determine to ignore the pleas and prayers of the Primus inter Pares.
But (and it’s a very, very interesting ‘but’), Justin Welby has not only invited the 37 recognised primates of the Wordwide Anglican Communion: according to Lambeth Palace (..and here’s the Guardian headline..) he has also written a letter to Foley Beach. That isn’t a cruise-ship resort in sunny Florida: The Most Rev’d Dr Foley Beach is Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which split from The Episcopal Church (TEC) when The Most Rev’d Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori set her face against social conservatism and theological orthodoxy on matters relating to gender and sexuality. The letter of invitation to Archbishop Foley is significant because ACNA is not a recognised member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion (according to the traditional instruments of communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury).
Yet what credible discussions may take place if he is snubbed, since ACNA is affirmed and recognised by other Anglican provinces, in particular those belonging to GAFCON?
There are clearly provincial fractures and parallel churches already operating throughout the Communion.
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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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America is a Christian country. This is true in a number of senses. Most people, if asked, will identify themselves as Christian, which may mean only that they aren’t something else. Non-Christians will say America is Christian, meaning that they feel somewhat apart from the majority culture. There are a large number of demographic Christians in North America because of our history of immigration from countries that are or were also Christian. We are identified in the world at large with this religion because some of us espouse it not only publicly but also vociferously. As a consequence, we carry a considerable responsibility for its good name in the world, though we seem not much inclined to consider the implications of this fact. If we did, some of us might think a little longer about associating the precious Lord with ignorance, intolerance, and belligerent nationalism. These few simple precautions would also make it more attractive to the growing numbers among our people who have begun to reject it as ignorant, intolerant, and belligerently nationalistic, as they might reasonably conclude that it is, if they hear only the loudest voices.
There is something I have felt the need to say, that I have spoken about in various settings, extemporaneously, because my thoughts on the subject have not been entirely formed, and because it is painful to me to have to express them. However, my thesis is always the same, and it is very simply stated, though it has two parts: first, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind. As children we learn to say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We learn that, after his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Christ is a gracious, abiding presence in all reality, and in him history will finally be resolved.
These are larger, more embracing terms than contemporary Christianity is in the habit of using. But we are taught that Christ “was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made….The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The present tense here is to be noted. John’s First Letter proclaims “the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” We as Christians cannot think of Christ as isolated in space or time if we really do accept the authority of our own texts. Nor can we imagine that this life on earth is our only life, our primary life. As Christians we are to believe that we are to fear not the death of our bodies but the loss of our souls....
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After the Obergefell decision, Time magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer was quick to declare that the state should “abolish, or greatly diminish” property tax exemptions for churches that “dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”
Punishing “dissent” seems a strange new role for the American government. In the mid-twentieth century, the Catholic church was a leading advocate against anti-miscegenation laws. The church was able to take a stand contrary to the state on marriage and not be penalized for it, a position now almost unquestionably supported by Americans. And despite the confidence of those like Oppenheimer, the dissenters aren’t even a minority in the more recent marriage controversy. Most Americans favor religious liberty, and a plurality oppose Obergefell.
Allowing conscientious objection is an acknowledgment that the state does not have all the answers. The state has an obligation to make laws, but the state has no obligation to be correct. The independent voices that critique the state make the state better, and should not be silenced. Lose churches, lose the independent voices that prevent the state from having an absolute say in complicated moral matters.
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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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Complain about your job on Facebook? Your children? What about your marriage?
Hannah Seligson, author and New York Times contributor, contends that unhappy marriages are Facebook’s last taboo. Seligson argues that complaining about one’s spouse in public violates the marital code of silence. So, as people attempt to manage and influence how others perceive their relationships, social networks also affect couples’ views of their own relationships. Approval from friends and family can positively affect the stability and quality of romantic relationships, while social disapproval may be a negative, sometimes relationship-ending force.
In a 2010 article, Richard Slatcher found that friendships with other couples, particularly meaningful connections, increased feelings of closeness in one’s own relationship. It also turns out that perceptions of others’ opinions are more predictive of relationship stability than the actual views of network members. Thus social network approval has a positive influence on the partnership, including increased feelings of love and commitment.
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