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"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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American Lutherans became a full part of American Protestantism just in time to participate in its decline. From its high of more than 9 million members in 1965, the total number of American Lutherans declined to just over 7 million in 2013, representing about 2 percent of the American population. Though Lutheran numbers generally plateaued through the 1970s and 1980s, both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod have declined markedly over the past 25 years. The ELCA went from 5.2 million members in 1988 to 3.9 million in 2013; the LCMS declined less severely, from 2.7 million members in 1988 to 2.3 million in 2013. The decline in giving to the national programs and offices of these two denominations is also fairly dramatic, though more pronounced in the ELCA.
Besides suffering from the same negative demographic trends facing other mainline Protestant denominations in this period—aging membership and an inability to retain younger members—the ELCA since 2000 has witnessed the departure of nearly 500,000 members who have coalesced into two new and distinct centrist Lutheran denominations: the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (2001) and the North American Lutheran Church (2010). Though the scale of these departures is noteworthy in itself, this development is all the more interesting for the new patterns and new directions that these denominations are attempting to develop. Their rejection of the ELCA (and implicitly the LCMS) has forced them to experiment with new ways of being Lutheran Christians in the American context, and they are actively exploring these possibilities.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology Ecclesiology
Dr. David Yeago has been appointed to the faculty of the North American Lutheran Seminary and Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, as Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics.
“I am honored and delighted to join the faculty at Trinity School for Ministry in partnership with the North American Lutheran Seminary,” said Dr. Yeago. “Trinity’s commitment to the historic Christian faith, focus on Biblical theology, and passion for the mission of the Gospel correspond to my own priorities as a Christian theologian. I look forward to new friendships with new colleagues as we work together to form students for service to Christ and his Gospel in the Church and in the world.”
Read it all.
Once upon a time, from the UUA on down, “Headquarters” buildings were statements of power: “Look! We are important! ‘Notice us!’” But just as cathedrals don’t tower in an age of skyscrapers, so impressive-looking headquarters no longer draw notice. And “secularization” is only part of the reason for this change.
When we look at secular analogues, we see that newspaper and other publishing empires are down-sizing for many reasons, including digitalization and the demands and opportunities that come with the internet. Today denominational and agency business is largely transacted in ways that permit employees to work from home, committees to meet by Skype, Conference Call, and other digital means. Many in the “secular” public make up their minds about the power and value of religious works and workings not based on images of huge Interchurch Centers or denominational Power Houses, but based on what they do....
Planners in religious agencies may regret turning the key to close the Big House doors for the last time, but wise planners are using their skills and energies to advance their work through non-elite, less-strategically-located bases of operation.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology
As mainline Protestant denominations continue decades of decline, one of the main institutions helping educate its leaders announced Wednesday (March 19) that it will shut its doors.
Since it was founded four decades ago, the Virginia-based Alban Institute has guided mostly mainline congregations through consulting and publishing. Its founder and former president, the Rev. Loren Mead, became well-known for his speaking and writing about the future of U.S. denominations and was one of the first to predict denominational decline.
“When I started as a parish pastor, I found there wasn’t much help or continuing education,” said Mead, a retired Episcopal priest. “I am glad I have been able to contribute to the church, but I have not been able to solve its turnaround.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology Ecclesiology
Churches under Bishop Rimbo's purview are trying some unorthodox measures. In Williamsburg, Mr. McKelahan organized a life-size crossword puzzle inside the Lorimer Street/Metropolitan Avenue subway stop, where topics included Mexican art and nuclear physics, along with a few biblical questions. (Clue: Hebrew name meaning "He will laugh." Answer: Isaac.)
Another interactive art project used giant dye-filled soap bubbles on foam at an event on Governor's Island. Mr. McKelahan said that, while not explicitly religious, soap bubbles carry a spiritual message in that they must burst "if they are to leave a lasting impression"—referring to a passage in the Book of John.
"Did most people pick up on this spiritual message? Probably not," he said. "But hopefully they see that the church is inviting them to work together in bringing joy and beauty into the world."
Mr. McKelahan, who at 28 is one of the New York metro area's youngest ordained Lutheran ministers, said it was Bishop Rimbo's idea to send him to Williamsburg.
"I met with Bishop Rimbo and explained to him, 'I'm really interested in making art as worship, all my friends are atheists,'" Mr. McKelahan said. "Bishop Rimbo said, 'There's this neighborhood in Brooklyn called Williamsburg where lots of young creative people are moving. We are trying to figure out how to minister to them. Would you like to do something with them?' Even though I'd never heard of Williamsburg, I couldn't say yes fast enough."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology
Pastor Johannes Block can consider himself Martin Luther's successor. He's the vicar of Stadtkirche St. Marien zu Wittenberg, Luther's own church. The church is the St. Peter's Basilica of Protestantism.
Here, Luther preached his incendiary sermons against Vatican corruption that led to the Reformation and the rise of the Protestant movement. It is where Protestant pastors were first ordained.
But on a typical Sunday, Block looks out over a mere 50 to 100 people in the pews: a tiny number in a city of 135,000, especially one whose official name is Lutherstadt (Luther City) Wittenberg. Indeed, nowhere in Germany is the share of Protestants lower than right here in Luther's homeland.
Read it all from Newsweek.
Not only were the mainline denominations beset by divisive internal controversy; they were simultaneously smitten by a wasting disease, whose agent is variously identified but whose presence is plain. Their theological, demographic, and financial declines are related and continue unchecked. They are already too internally riven to pay much attention to division from others.
The ecumenical movement centered on “the dialogues” was carried by these now distracted and enfeebled bodies and the Roman Catholic Church. And there is no one to pick up the burden on the Protestant side. Evangelicals are rarely bothered by questions of eucharistic fellowship — or by sacramental matters generally — and when they do think about such fellowship they assume that they are all in it anyway. In the dialogue days, when a meeting included evangelicals they would regularly demand moving from worries about sacramental fellowship to more interesting matters.
So what do we do now? I think the first thing is to remember that we pray for something we will not do: “thy Kingdom come.” God will take care of that, and when he does he will sort out his Church in ways that will surely surprise us. It may happen any minute, so let us keep on praying for the unity of the Church.
If there is to be a long meantime, perhaps we may suppose that God will be up to something in it.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran * Theology Christology Ecclesiology
Hymns echoed down the stairwell on a cold December morning. But they were not in English, or in the Norwegian of the Knudsens, Pedersens and other long-dead Scandinavians who are commemorated on the faded stained-glass windows.
Downstairs the descendants of the Norwegians continued to worship as they have done for decades at Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood.
But the Arabic prayers and responses heard upstairs were from a newer congregation that shares the building. The Salam Arabic Lutheran Church has become a home for Arab Christians, many of whom fled the Middle East. Some escaped violence in Syria and Iraq. Others say life was made difficult by armed gangs, kidnappers and extortionists, jihadi extremists or Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology
The Rev. Michael Last, retired bishop of the Western Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has been called as the interim rector of St. John's Episcopal Church.
Last, 67, began his new position on Nov. 1.
The previous rector, the Rev. Wendy Abrahamson, left at the end of April to become rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Grinnell.
Read it all and the parish website is here.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran
“In the western section of the diocese,” the Rev. John Stark Ravenscroft told North Carolina Episcopalians in 1825, “the prospect (of advancing the faith) is very discouraging, though not without hope.”
“Spiritual destitution” is how Bishop Levi Silliman Ives characterized our region’s religious landscape 19 years later, though the physical landscape was “beautiful and striking, far beyond my powers of description.”
Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians had made great spiritual progress in Western North Carolina as early as the 18th century. Samuel Edney, head of the Methodist church’s Swannanoa circuit, established the first camp meeting west of the Blue Ridge in what is now Edneyvillle in the 1790s; in 1797, the Rev. George Newton turned Asheville’s Union Hill Academy into a Presbyterian school named after him. The French Broad Baptist Church was organized in Henderson County in 1780, and regional churches formed the French Broad Baptist Association in 1807.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
With mainline religious congregations dwindling across America, a scattering of churches is trying to attract new members by creating a different sort of Christian community. They are gathering around craft beer.
Some church groups are brewing it themselves, while others are bring the Holy Mysteries to a taproom. The result is not sloshed congregants; rather, it's an exploratory approach to do church differently.
Leah Stanfield stands at a microphone across the room from the beer taps and reads this evening's gospel message.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Religion & Culture Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran
Half a century ago, the denominations under the mainline umbrella dominated the American faith landscape. Now, after decades of declining numbers, only about one in five U.S. adults identifies with a mainline denomination such as United Methodists, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and American Baptists.
Could replacing the “mainline” name help stem the slide? The challenge came from scholar and Presbyterian pastor Carol Howard Merritt. Writing in the venerable Christian Century magazine, she called for a new brand that conveys her view of the mainline’s rising diversity and social justice leadership.
“The image of an all-white, elitist church is not going to fly for generations to come,” said Merritt, an author and speaker who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. “’Mainline’ was a good historic marker but the future needs to reflect who we are now.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
"Any time you can take an insult and make it your own, it's a win," explains Bolz-Weber, who speaks in Winnipeg Friday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 5.
And she's not the only one who believes in transforming words, and even lives. On her recent book tour promoting her new bestselling memoir, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, the recovering alcoholic and former stand-up comic has attracted crowds of up to 900 people wanting to hear her story, and maybe share some of theirs.
"I think people are eager to have a whole life faith, to have the sacred story connected with their reality," explain Bolz-Weber of the huge response to her book, which exposes her struggle with drugs and alcohol, her move to faith, and her efforts to stay there.
Read it all.
The Co-ordinating Committee studied the mandate given by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Anglican Communion. The focus of this work is to monitor and encourage existing Anglican-Lutheran relations, as well as to advance co-operation between the two Churches in areas where there are not yet any formal agreements. To enable the Committee to function as an encourager as well as a catalyst, the Committee has begun a process of mapping agreements, initiatives and projects in different regions. This mapping project is an ongoing task for the Committee and we urge Churches, in both communions, to provide information to further this task.
The Committee has also initiated a process promoting Anglican-Lutheran collaboration in the observance of the 2017 Reformation anniversary. As part of this the Committee intends to provide study material based around the official LWF theme Liberated by God’s Grace. This material would be designed to be used in joint Anglican-Lutheran study groups where both denominations are present as well as by separated groups. It is hoped that this material will relate to different ages and contexts. The purpose is to highlight that reformation is ongoing and that 16th century Reformation thoughts are relevant for Christians today. The Committee is locating this and all its work within the theological theme of communion in the mission of God.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Reports & Communiques Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran * Theology
It’s interesting that in the discussion of doctrinal incoherency, no one mentioned the Thirty-Nine Articles, perhaps because they’ve proved so inadequate a doctrinal foundation. Or perhaps the problem is that, as a 16th-century confessional statement, they no longer speak to the issues that are really shaking the Anglican Communion to its core today. (Although Reformed and Lutheran Christians would argue that their confessions are more than adequate in the 21st century, despite new and improved denominations popping up on a regular basis, not to mention disputes over how to interpret the confessions themselves: third use of the law, anyone? How about 2K theology?)
It seems to me that there are a couple of ways out of this mess, which undoubtedly have been tried and failed. But this is Anglicanism, so why let that stop us:
1. I don’t know what is demanded precisely of a prospective clergyman/woman in the CofE in regard to the Three Ecumenical Creeds. I doubt they are required to affirm them on all points in their literal sense, such that there is no hedging on the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, Ascension, and coming Judgment. “Born of the Virgin Mary”–yes or no? “On the Third Day, He rose again from the dead, He ascended into Heaven”–yes or no?
Here’s one way forward: If the response begins with ”It all depends on what you mean by—” deny them ordination. I certainly would expect this to be the case in “continuing” Anglican churches.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology Ecclesiology
Finitude, contingency, transience. These three linked words signal basic elements of what it is to be a human—and especially to be a historian. David Tracy, noted theologian and next door study-neighbor, taught me this connection, and I’ve let it color my life and scholarly preoccupations. It will help us interpret the almost reflexive use of the rubric “decline” in relation to the western Christian presence. Specifically, do a search for “mainline Protestant” and “decline” and you will get the picture, millions of times over.
Everything and everyone dies, is subject to accidents and change, and all human endeavor will pass and be forgotten. What can a church historian do with this obvious insight at such a time as ours? Given my parallel calling as a peregrinating lecturer, I use the vantage acquired there to try to sense the comings and goings of topics for inquiry. One way to measure public curiosity is to listen to questions asked after a lecture.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
The challenges that both our Churches have experienced around issues of inclusion of all human beings in recent years have reminded us that God is always at work – on us, within us, and among us. Some have judged our smaller numbers as faithlessness but it may actually be the Spirit’s way of pruning for greater fruitfulness. If we see ourselves standing at the foot of the cross, any such judgment will be far less important than our response. Jesus has given us to one another – all of us – and we will not live faithfully if we forget who it is we see or seek in those others. The body of Christ has need of all its diverse parts, working together, for the building up of God’s beloved community and creation.
Read it all and there is a Christian Post article there on this subject also.
Janet Engel knelt at the Communion rail at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Sunday, tears welling in her eyes.
At 85, she'd built a lifetime of memories in this sacred space. She was confirmed here. She attended its grade school. Every Christmas, every Easter was celebrated in these pews.
And on Sunday, for the last time, Engel knelt to receive the Holy Eucharist here.
"It's heartbreaking," said Engel, who gathered with hundreds of current and former members for final services at Bethlehem, which closed its doors Sunday after 125 years.
Read it all.
The North American Lutheran Church (NALC) has chosen to partner with Trinity School for Ministry to create a “Seminary Center” for the training of future NALC pastors. In a nearly unanimous vote on August 8, 2013, the Convocation of the NALC took action to establish a new North American Lutheran Seminary (NALS). This seminary will not be a degree granting institution, rather, it will partner with existing accredited seminaries to provide sound theological education for NALC students. Trinity will soon welcome a new NALS Seminary Director to its Ambridge, PA campus to oversee the formation of NALC students, whether at Trinity or at one of the Houses of Study that will be developed throughout North America.
Lutheran students will earn a degree from Trinity School for Ministry, taking the core courses required in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) curriculum. For some courses they will take Lutheran alternatives taught by NALC professors to ensure a solid foundation in confessional Lutheranism.
Read it all.
In the Halcyon days of the 1950s, Lutherans were considered by church historians and Lutherans themselves to be importantly different from both mainline Protestants and Evangelicals. They had, Robert Handy remarked in the 1950s, a stronger doctrinal base than Methodists, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists while they were more churchly—both liturgically and in appreciation of the whole scope of church history—than Evangelicals. They were expanding in numbers and influence. They had impressive leadership: Franklin Clark Fry, the President of the United Lutheran Church in America, appeared on the cover of Time magazine with the caption: “Mr. Protestant.” Exceptionally positioned as they were, mainstream Lutherans were expected to provide renewed Protestant vitality in America.
Ah, but it was not to be. While the two most conservative—the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods—bodies remained aloof from other Lutherans and from American life in general, the main body of Lutherans participated in mergers that seemed for a time to make them stronger. Many smaller ethnic churches joined into two new major churches in the early 1960s—the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church. Like most American denominations, membership in all the Lutheran churches peaked at about 1965. Optimism about the future of Lutheranism in America abounded. That is, until the last merger produced the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988.
Read it all.
ome scholars with roots in more traditional churches caution against overstating the importance of liberal religion. The recent work on the subject is “a nice rebalancing of the historiographical ledgers,” said Mark Noll, a historian of religion at Notre Dame and a prominent evangelical intellectual. But for a tradition to have any continuing influence, he added, it needs committed bodies in the pews.
That point is seconded by Ms. Coffman, who worked as an editor at Christianity Today before entering academia. She currently teaches at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution where pastors in training, she said, are less likely to be savoring their broad cultural victories than debating which elements of evangelical worship they should adopt to attract a viable congregation.
“I teach at a mainline seminary, and we do not feel very triumphal,” Ms. Coffman said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Education History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
Archbishop Fred Hiltz described the recently concluded Joint Assembly as a “spirit-filled, spirit-led” gathering that can only strengthen the full communion relationship of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
“The very fact that these two churches, who have all kinds of challenges in front of them, were prepared to make this step to meet is really quite incredible,” said Hiltz, primate of the Anglican church. “What I saw through the Joint Assembly was a very positive, upbeat spirit.” The assembly was held July 3 to 7, at the Ottawa Convention Centre.
Read it all.
The first known use of the word “mainline” to describe the largest Protestant denominations and distinguish them from their growing evangelical and fundamentalist counterparts appeared in the New York Times in 1960—at the very moment when mainline Protestantism began its rapid decline. You don’t call something “mainline” or “mainstream” unless its supremacy is being disputed (think of the “mainstream media”). And the supremacy of older, more socially prestigious churches within American Protestantism was being directly disputed in the mid-1950s. It’s impossible to speak with precision about what constituted mainline Christianity, but in general the mainline churches de-emphasized doctrinal differences; were Northern and Midwestern rather than Southern; promoted social causes rather than personal conversion or repentance; and virtually always took the liberal line in politics. By 1960, liberal Protestantism enjoyed almost nothing of the authority that had seemed unassailable 15 years earlier.
In “The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline,” Elesha Coffman charts the half-century ascendancy of liberal Protestantism in American society from its beginnings in northern seminaries at the turn of the 20th century to its brief triumphant moment immediately after World War II, when it had no effective rival. She does this through the lens of the magazine that, in the absence of any formal governing body, was effectively this strand of Protestantism’s voice and conscience: the Christian Century.
Read it all (if needed another link is there).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
As the U.S. Senate continues to debate the bipartisan immigration reform bill introduced earlier this spring, leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church commemorate World Refugee Day with a joint statement to "celebrate our churches' shared commitment to welcoming the stranger through service, accompaniment and advocacy."
In their statement the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA and the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, wrote that the observance of the day is an "opportunity to examine the dire global and regional conflicts and persecutions that create refugees, and to celebrate the resilience and success of the former refugees who bless communities in our midst with the riches of their earned wisdom, energy and spirit."
In 2000, the U.N. General Assembly declared that each June 20 would be dedicated to raising awareness about the situation of refugees throughout the world. According to the U.N. Refugee Commission, more than 45.2 million people were in "situations of displacement" around the world as of 2012.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran
“Denominationalism is not dead but, increasingly, it’s only one of several options for organizing the church in America,” explained Baptist historian Bill Leonard, the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and professor of church history at Wake Forest School of Divinity.
Increasing pluralism in the United States and the decreasing influence of Protestantism are forcing denominational leaders to ask hard questions about identity, viability and relevance.
Pluralism, “which Baptists helped put into place,” is becoming more normative, Leonard said. The rise of the “nones”—people with no connection to organized religion— also plays into the challenges denominations face.
Gone are the days when communities formulated policy and activities around the church. “We are living through the death rattle of the Protestant privilege,” Leonard said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
When it comes to leading denominational conversations on sexual violence, clergy across traditions express twin reactions: encouragement over the protocols already in place and the efforts of fellow advocates; and frustration with a culture of silence around sexual violence in the church. Despite strikingly different experiences across denominations — and church by church — the clergy, church staff, and seminarians who spoke with Sojourners are in agreement that addressing this issue in one’s own house is complicated at every level.
First, the good news: Several major Protestant denominations, across progressive and fundamentalist strains, subscribe to a practice of what the United Methodist Church calls “safe sanctuary” — a commitment to ensure their church buildings and leadership are free from sexual predators. These policies generally include running background checks on any volunteers working with children and establishing protocols (many developed by Marie Fortune and the Faith Trust Institute) for interpersonal interaction at the church.
These denominational policies are the first line of defense against abuse, particularly of children, in houses of worship. So what else, if anything, beyond this basic groundwork is needed from leadership?
This is where consensus breaks down, and in speaking with clergy and seminarians across denominations and traditions, various barriers and fear patterns were revealed.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Sexuality Violence * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler says the nation’s largest Lutheran body is “not a church.”
He says the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only lives up to a quarter of its name, citing the Southwest California Synod’s election of the first openly gay bishop in the denomination.
“It is by this act and by many prior acts distancing itself by light years from the actual faith and conviction of Martin Luther,” Mohler said in a Monday podcast. It has “demonstrated itself to be neither Evangelical nor Lutheran and, as G.K. Chesterton might say, not a church either. That just leaves them in America.”
Read it all.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elected its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. R. Guy Erwin, to oversee churches in Southern California, four years after the church allowed openly gay men and lesbians to serve as clergy.
Following a wider trend within other mainline Protestant denominations to appoint gays and lesbians to leadership positions, the ELCA’s five-county Southwest California Synod elected Erwin on Friday (May 31) to a six-year term.
“It’s historic and a turning point, as was the ordination of women,” said Martin Marty, the dean of American church historians at the University of Chicago and a member of the ELCA. “This is just one of many indications that the culture has shifted.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
As we prepare for the first Joint Assembly of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, we know that there are some who, like our ancestors in the faith, may be just a little dispirited as we face the challenges of our times. But just as surely as God's Spirit inspired the fi rst generation of believers, that same Spirit is working in us to give us the words to speak to one another and to those who are seeking something-dare we say, "Someone"-to believe in.
Our coming "Together for the Love of the World" will be a visible sign of the Spirit working in and among us. It will be time to take counsel together for the common good of both our churches and for the common good of our world. It will be a time to set our fears aside and arise with "bold new decisions."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Pentecost * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran
Small wonder, given the harrowing times recently, that news about a long-running property fight over a picturesque church in northern Virginia escaped most people’s notice. But the story of the struggle over the historic Falls Church is nonetheless worth a closer look. It’s one more telling example of a little-acknowledged truth: though religious traditionalism may be losing today’s political and legal battles, it remains poised to win the wider war over what Christianity will look like tomorrow.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Virginia Global South Churches & Primates Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
Editor's Note: The gay marriage debate has reached an apex nationally as the U.S. Supreme Court considers two cases that could expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples and extend a large set of rights, benefits and privileges to such couples. The court's decisions are expected this summer. In the meantime, The Post and Courier has invited two local clergy to share their views on the matter.
Read them both.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
At first, Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., could see itself as exempt from the economic forces shaking seminaries and theological schools nationwide. Luther is the biggest seminary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. Among its peers, it had a reputation for being innovative. Individual donors continued to give, and its local area -- in one of the country’s most Lutheran states -- was supportive.
Last fall, though, it all came crashing down. Enrollments were dropping. The seminary found it was running multimillion-dollar deficits, spending down its endowment and relying on loans. In December, its president, the Rev. Dr. Richard Bliese, resigned, as the seminary’s board began to look at options to trim at least $4 million from the seminary’s $27 million annual budget.
The results were announced...[not long ago]: layoffs for 18 of its 125 staff members, many effective within a few weeks; the voluntary departure of 8 of 44 faculty members at the end of the academic year, who will not be replaced; the termination of a master’s program in sacred music; and the decision to no longer admit Ph.D students for at least three years.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Stewardship * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Lutheran leaders have warned the Vatican that the creation of a structure to welcome conservative Lutherans into the Catholic Church would harm dialogue and damage ecumenical relations.
In 2009, Pope Benedict created a special church structure, called an ordinariate, to allow disgruntled Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while maintaining bits of their traditions and culture.
Ordinariates have been created in the U.S., England and Australia, attracting hundreds of conservative Anglicans who oppose female and gay bishops and who seek greater lines of authority.
In recent weeks, senior Vatican officials publicly suggested the creation of a similar structure for disaffected Lutherans; the idea was first floated last October by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Vatican chief ecumenist.
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But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us. Then indeed there is humble longing and knocking, prayer and search, in order to be rid of sin, death and dread. And then he acts as if he had only begun to show us our sins, as if death were to continue, and hell never to cease. Just as he here treats his mother, by his refusal making the need greater and more distressing than it was before she came to him with her request; for now it seems everything is lost, since the one support on which she relied in her need is also gone.
This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious--as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9. For if Christ's mother had allowed those harsh words to frighten her she would have gone away silently and displeased; but in ordering the servants to do what he might tell them she proves that she has overcome the rebuff and still expects of him nothing but kindness.
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At its meeting in Auckland, the Anglican Consultative Council commended the new report of the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission (ALIC III) to the whole Communion, for study and action.
To Love and Serve the Lord focusses on diakonia (the ministry of service and mission, common to all Christians). Jointly produced by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Anglican Communion for the third phase of their bilateral dialogue the publication offers a diverse array of stories about church ministries that are transforming relations between churches in both communions....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori * Culture-Watch Globalization Health & Medicine * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran
(LCMS News) On the 495th anniversary of the Reformation, Dr. Alister McGrath, professor at King’s College, London, called on confessional Lutherans around the world to continue to “unpack, interpret and translate” the words of Dr. Martin Luther in the contemporary culture.
Speaking on the topic of Witness (martyia) to Lutheran church leaders—who collectively represent more than 20 million Lutherans—from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Australia and North America, McGrath urged all Lutherans to “go back to this resource [Luther] to enrich the present-day mission.”
McGrath, a leading critic of the New Atheism and an advocate of the importance of theology in apologetics, mission, evangelism, spirituality and social engagement, is also a former atheist whose interest and eventual conversion to Christianity was due in part to his reading of Luther.
Serving as keynote speaker to the International Conference on Confessional Leadership, sponsored by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, McGrath set the stage for a series of follow-up responses from pastors from Taiwan, Nigeria, Brazil and England regarding the relevance and importance of Luther and the Lutheran church in the 21st century.
A failure to share Luther’s insights and the enduring confessional Lutheran perspective with the 21st century, noted McGrath, will result in a “treasure chest” of doctrine that will “remain unopened because the language isn’t understood.”
“It’s much easier to withdraw and not engage with anyone else,” McGrath admitted, “but Luther is a witness to the more uncomfortable truth that we need to be there at the intersection of Christ and culture, bearing witness to the Gospel.”
Tomorrow (Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day), the conference will focus on the theme of Mercy (Diakonia).
Daily news briefs and updates from the conference are available at the Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog, LCMS Twitter, LCMS Facebook and KFUO Radio. The conference is made possible by a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
Parishioners of St Paul's Sarhadi Lutheran Church in Mardan, Khyber Pakhthunkwa are calling for the Government to restore their church back to it's "former glory." The church which was built in 1937 provides education and health services to the local community – Muslim and Christian alike – and provided substantial support to victims of floods and a major earthquake in recent years, regardless of their religious affiliation.
During a local "protest"on Friday afternoon (21st Sept), over the release of and anti-Muslim movie called "The innocence of Muslims", a mob broke into a church compound in Mardan near Pashawer, burnt down the church, and destroyed 27 homes in the church compound including the houses of two priests and the school head teacher. The mob burnt bibles and other religious artifacts including books with Islamic text and many question whether blasphemy charges will be laid against the those that have been caught.
The attack took place after the Government called a national holiday, purportedly in sympathy of protests against the film.
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Lahore Bishop Rt Rev Dr Alexander John Malik has strongly condemned the burning of a church in Mardan, reiterating that Pakistani Christians have nothing to do with the people who made the profane movie.
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A mob of hundreds of Muslim men attacked and burnt an 82-year-old church and an adjoining school in northwest Pakistan during a protest against an anti-Islam film, sparking concerns among the minority Christian community.
The mob broke through the gate of the St Paul's Lutheran Church inside the cantonment in Mardan city, 48 km from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital of Peshawar, on Friday while returning from a rally against the film Innocence Of Muslims.
According to reports from Christians in Mardan, the mob attacked and set on fire the church, St Paul's high school, a library, a computer laboratory and houses of four clergymen, including Bishop Peter Majeed.
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Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”
Do you also wish to go away?
I considered this question during my years as a seminary student when I came to realize and understand the ELCA’s stance on homosexuality and the policies that supported that stance. In the late 1990s, when I was a student, gays and lesbians were not allowed to serve as pastors nor was there any support from the ELCA to bless same-sex unions. Could I become a pastor in a church with such policies and positions? As many of you know, I had a mentor in junior high and high school, a Lutheran pastor, whose homosexuality was revealed only when he revealed that he had AIDS. The congregation where he was serving decided to keep him on as their pastor until he was no longer able to serve, even though they would have had every right — under ELCA policies at the time — to dismiss him. Could I become a pastor in a church that had such a right and which, on many other occasions, acted on that right? Would becoming a pastor in the Lutheran church imply full support of the ELCA’s stance, becoming complicit in a system that denied gays and lesbians the opportunity to answer God’s call to serve as pastors in this church? Would becoming a pastor in this church mean becoming a part of a system that kept people like my mentor in the closet, that denied blessings to those who were in love, that perpetuated the cycle of ignorance and fear?
Do you also wish to go away?
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The annual gathering of Pope Benedict’s former students has begun at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo and is examining the ecumenical dialogue the Catholic Church has with Lutherans and Anglicans.
“The fact that the Holy Father has chosen this theme for the meeting this year is a sign that the ecumenical question is of primary importance for him,” said participant Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna in an Aug. 30 interview with Vatican Radio.
“I think this is already a first essential concept, within the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, it is a strong sign that the Holy Father insists on the importance of these meetings between separated Christians.”
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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is responding to the needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan, where an estimated 150,000 Syrians -- 39,600 of which are registered with the United Nations as refugees -- have fled. As the conflict in Syria continues to worsen, some Syrians have also fled to Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
The Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of The Lutheran World Federation, has been in conversation with Jordanian officials about how Lutherans can best be involved in addressing the needs of Syrian refugees. He is helping to identify ways in which his church, the ELCA and The Lutheran World Federation can deepen their participation in relief efforts.
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[The Rev. Eric] Greenwood, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, says his denomination has its troubles. But it is still a force for good in the world.
“Everybody gets all excited about sex in the church,” he said. “But the good work that gets done in the name of God and our lord Jesus Christ, it will take your breath away.”
Nationwide, the numbers don’t look good for the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant denominations, most of which tend to hold more liberal beliefs. From 2000 to 2010, most suffered double-digit percentage declines in membership, leading some to wonder if those denominations can be saved in the future.
But in Nashville, those mainline churches have showed surprising strength and have grown in membership over the past decade.
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....rather than scour tarnished Weimar, we should read much deeper into Germany’s incomparably rich history, and in particular the indelible mark left by Martin Luther and the “mighty fortress” he built with his strain of Protestantism. Even today Germany, though religiously diverse and politically secular, defines itself and its mission through the writings and actions of the 16th century reformer, who left a succinct definition of Lutheran society in his treatise “The Freedom of a Christian,” which he summarized in two sentences: “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none, and a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all.”
Consider Luther’s view on charity and the poor. He made the care of the poor an organized, civic obligation by proposing that a common chest be put in every German town; rather than skimp along with the traditional practice of almsgiving to the needy and deserving native poor, Luther proposed that they receive grants, or loans, from the chest. Each recipient would pledge to repay the borrowed amount after a timely recovery and return to self-sufficiency, thereby taking responsibility for both his neighbors and himself. This was love of one’s neighbor through shared civic responsibility, what the Lutherans still call “faith begetting charity.”
How little has changed in 500 years. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, a born-and-baptized daughter of an East German Lutheran pastor, clearly believes the age-old moral virtues and remedies are the best medicine for the euro crisis.
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We’ve become so accustomed to the narrative of “mainline decline” that it is difficult to get our minds around a more nuanced version of this story. How do you tell this story?
The ecumenical leaders achieved much more than they and their successors give them credit for. They led millions of American Protestants in directions demanded by the changing circumstances of the times and by their own theological tradition. These ecumenical leaders took a series of risks, asking their constituency to follow them in antiracist, anti-imperialist, feminist and multicultural directions that were understandably resisted by large segments of the white public, especially in the Protestant-intensive southern states.Read it all.
It is true that the so-called mainstream lost numbers to churches that stood apart from or even opposed these initiatives, and ecumenical leaders simultaneously failed to persuade many of their own progeny that churches remained essential institutions in the advancement of these values.
But the fact remains that the public life of the United States moved farther in the directions advocated in 1960 by the Christian Century than in the directions then advocated by Christianity Today. It might be hyperbolic to say that ecumenists experienced a cultural victory and an organizational defeat, but there is something to that view. Ecumenists yielded much of the symbolic capital of Christianity to evangelicals, which is a significant loss. But ecumenists won much of the U.S. There are trade-offs.
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Discussion among eurozone leaders about the future of their single currency has become an increasingly divisive affair. On the surface, religion has nothing to do with it - but could Protestant and Catholic leaders have deep-seated instincts that lead them to pull the eurozone in different directions, until it breaks?
Following the last European summit in Brussels there was much talk of defeat for Chancellor Merkel by what was described as a "new Latin Alliance" of Italy and Spain backed by France.
Many Germans protested that too much had been conceded by their government - and it might not be too far-fetched to see this as just the latest Protestant criticism of the Latin approach to matters monetary, which has deep roots in German culture, shaped by religious belief.
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The Text of resolution A036 follows--
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 77th General Convention give thanks for the full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011; and be it further Resolved, That the Church acknowledge that there exist areas of theological divergence that hinder the fullest degree of communion possible; and be it further Resolved, That the Church commit itself to address those areas that hinder this
relationship, including but not limited to the diaconate and lay presidency of the Eucharist; and be it further Resolved, That the Church invite the ELCA to a new season of bilateral dialogue to discuss and address these matters; and be it further Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $60,000 for the implementation of this resolution.
You can read more there and you can see a picture there (thanks to David Simmons).
Eight of the ten bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark on June 11 presented a ritual for same-sex marriage to the country's Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs.
Their action came in response to the Danish Parliament's decision on June 7 to change the marriage legislation so that from June 15 same-sex couples may be married in a civil ceremony or in the state church, the church's website Folkekirken.dk reported.
The ritual states that pastors who cannot theologically support same-sex marriage shall be free not to use the rite. Denmark's sovereign, Queen Margrethe II, is expected to approve the new ritual shortly. A rite for the blessing of civil same-sex marriages was also proposed by the bishops.
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After four meetings over the past 18 months, the Anglican Church in North America and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) rejoice in affirming core teachings of the Christian faith they share. The two church bodies, together with the Lutheran Church—Canada, are jointly releasing a report today summarizing the areas of agreement.
Leaders from the two church bodies began meeting in the fall of 2010 to discuss theological and ecumenical issues for the purpose of increasing the level of mutual understanding and affirmations between them, and identifying potential areas of cooperative work. Because the Anglican Church in North America includes congregations in Canada as well as in the United States, a representative from Lutheran Church—Canada, an LCMS partner church, also participated in the discussions.
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A first meeting of representatives of the Anglican Church in North America and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) was held Tuesday, March 27, at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA.
This gathering included representatives from the two denominations, including the leaders of both groups: Archbishop Robert Duncan and Bishop John Bradosky (NALC). The Anglican Church in North America was formed in 2009 as a new Anglican Province in North America. The NALC was formed in 2010 as a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America. Both bodies represent a biblical, confessional expression of their respective historic traditions.
The group was hosted by Trinity School for Ministry, a biblical and orthodox Christian seminary which trains men and women for lay and ordained ministry. A presentation was made by Bishop John Rodgers on historical Lutheran-Anglican dialogue. Bishop Rodgers was a regular participant in this work at both the international and national levels from 1969 to 1990.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Major steps toward the dis-establishment of Norway's state church, the (Lutheran) Church of Norway, were passed by the government on March 16 in its weekly session with King Harald V.
Expected to be adopted by the Parliament (Storting) in May or June this year, the proposals will make changes in the country's constitution as well as in other church legislation, the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs announced.
"I hope we have now prepared a good basis for the Church of Norway to be an open and inclusive national church, also in a multicultural and multi-religious setting," Minister Rigmor Aasrud (Labour Party), said in a news release.
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For Gene Edward Veith Jr., provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College, Martin Luther's doctrine of vocation undergirds a truly Christian theology of the family. Vocation, as he describes it, is "the way God works through human beings." In his latest book, Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood (Crossway), Veith looks to Luther's ideals of loving and serving our neighbor, and to his view of the family as a "holy order" unto itself. Coauthored with daughter Mary J. Moerbe, a deaconess in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the book applies Luther's understanding to the various family vocations (marriage, parenthood, and childhood) and the "offices" within those vocations (husband, wife, father, mother, and child). Author and Her.meneutics blog contributor Caryn Rivadeneira spoke with father and daughter about Luther's vision of family life....
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Since it is only through the external means ordained by Him that God has promised to communicate the grace and salvation purchased by Christ, the Christian Church must not remain at home with the means of grace entrusted to it, but go into the whole world with the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16. For the same reason also the churches at home should never forget that there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the divinely ordained means of grace. Whatever activities do not either directly apply the Word of God or subserve such application we condemn as "new methods," unchurchly activities, which do not build, but harm the Church (my emphasis).
The question now is whether these breakaway groups signal a seismic shift in American Protestantism, or just a few fissures in the theological terrain.
In some ways, the rifts are nothing new. American Protestants have been splintering since Roger Williams left Plymouth Colony in the 1630s, said Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University.
Yet the schisms counter a 20th-century trend in which ethnic and regional Protestant groups merged to form big-tent denominations such as the ELCA and PC(USA).
"What we may be experiencing at this point is the limit of that movement to draw a lot of diversity under one umbrella," said Ammerman, author of "Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and Their Partners."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Presbyterian
In a time when disdain for other faiths is commonplace, even blessed in some religious circles, how does a Bible study instructor contrast the teachings and doctrines of another tradition and his own without seeming intolerant? And conversely, can the increased sensitivity to multiculturalism and religious diversity in early 21st-century America gradually diminish the celebration of one faith tradition's distinctive place in the theological spectrum?
"If you're going to take your religion seriously, you should feel it's superior to others. Why else believe in it?" said Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "On the other hand, society does require a hands-off attitude toward other faiths in order for us to all live together. It's a dilemma."
Thomas, who was on staff at Concordia Seminary in Clayton for 18 years, said he believes the Bible studies at St. Paul's have stayed on the respectful side of the line. His goal with the classes, he said, is to explain the teachings of another religion and to ask why Lutherans don't believe the same thing.
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They may not be as large as Catholics or as active as evangelicals, but white mainline Protestants have a big thing going for them this election cycle: they are divided, and possibly persuadable.
That's according to a new poll released Thursday (Feb. 2) that found white mainline Protestants are more evenly split between President Obama and his Republican challengers than other religious groups.
"They're the most important ignored religious group in the country," said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Religion News Service.
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Seven influential megachurch pastors took part in live unscripted discussions on different approaches to ministry in the second round of The Elephant Room – an event billed as "conversations you never thought you'd hear" from pastors.
Held in Aurora, Ill., and broadcast to over 70 locations around the U.S., the discussions were mediated by James MacDonald of Chicago's Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hill Church.
With nondenominational churches growing across the county, the role of denominations and church networks was the first topic discussed.
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In early September, as new students wandered onto the campus of Concordia Seminary in Clayton, they were joined by another group of theological rookies — mostly midcareer types — joining the school's program that allows students to train for the ministry online.
As the consultants, electricians, farmers and entrepreneurs in the Specific Ministry Program got to know one another in person, before reconnecting online from hundreds or thousands of miles away in the weeks that followed, one student had an orientation story that truly rocked.
David Ellefson was an honest-to-God founding member of the legendary thrash metal band Megadeth.
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Since I’ve been chairing a national Presbyterian Church (USA) committee on the Nature of the Church for the 21st century, I’ve been gaining a different perspective on many of the larger trends of our denomination. One thing that has been difficult to realize (and equally difficult to communicate to the larger church) is the young clergy crisis.
Why would I call it a crisis? We’ve known for a long time about the startling decline of young clergy. The drop-out rates don't help (I can't find hard and fast stats on this... but some claim that about 70% of young clergy drop out within the first five years of ministry, usually because of lack of support or financial reasons). The average age of a pastor in the PCUSA is 53. And I’ve realized that the age of our leadership might be much higher.
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A list of the Episcopal Church’s 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards spilled over eight PowerPoint slides during a recent presentation by its new chief operating officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls.
By his count, there are also nearly 50 departments and offices in the church’s New York headquarters, and 46 committees in its legislative body, the General Convention.
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Many of the proposals, which were compiled by a special church commission, seem in keeping with Christian mores: no investing in companies that manufacture guns or pornography; avoid investing in countries that are considered dictatorships or that present a risk to the environment.
The guidelines say investing in the alcohol industry is appropriate, so long as the beverages contain no more than 15 percent alcohol by volume.
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Pastor Elke Rosenthal has a problem that Christian clergy elsewhere in Europe can only dream of.
While pews across the continent are emptying, her Lutheran congregation in this leafy suburb of Berlin has tripled in size in recent years, outgrowing its two small churches and eager to break ground for a much larger structure.
But the dream sometimes seems like a nightmare for the Resurrection Church parish, which has hit barriers every time it tries to expand.
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I share these two experiences alongside a comment I came across years ago: every church and every member of the clergy, over a span of time, needs to belong to a denomination. I serve as a district superintendent, and I am aware of the church's imperfections, and my own. I watch over 69 local churches and a few assorted institutions within our geographical boundaries, and we are at work on the development of a new church plant and the development of a missional church network. At any given time about 3-5 of these churches are in real crisis: they are in need of outside intervention, mediation, conflict resolution and spiritual guidance. A denomination, at its best, provides a framework for the protection of the clergy in a workplace and supervision of even the most powerful clergy leaders. In addition, a denomination works out the implications of a missional strategy in an area that is more nuanced than simply whatever the market can bear.
I share these experiences at a time when there is much rhetoric around moving energy, resources and attention to the local church. I love the local church. It is the basic context for the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. At the same time, the local church will, on occasion, be stronger as it accomplishes mission that is beyond its own capacity, and as it is accountable to a wisdom that is outside its own day to day movements.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Reformed Roman Catholic United Church of Christ * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology
In an historic move, the Anglican diocese of Rupert’s Land has appointed a Lutheran pastor – the Rev. Paul Johnson – as dean of the diocese and incumbent for St. John’s Cathedral in Winnipeg.
This is the first time that a Lutheran pastor has been appointed dean in an Anglican cathedral in Canada. A dean is the priest in charge of a cathedral (“mother church”) and occupies a senior position in a diocese.
The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have been in full communion since 2001, which means that their clergy may serve in one another’s churches.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran
According to the Vatican official on ecumenism, the Church and the World Lutheran Federation are preparing a Joint Declaration on the Reformation, in view of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, announced this in an interview with the German Catholic agency KNA.
In this context, Vatican Radio reported Monday that Benedict XVI wants his Sept. 22-25 trip to Germany to have an ecumenical focus.
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Some national church denominations have changed their standards in recent years – stirring debate among congregations about whether to stay or find a new path.
In the central San Joaquin Valley, some congregations have chosen to leave their denominations because, they say, it doesn't represent their traditional values. The goodbyes have worked out for the churches, but they have been difficult.
The trend has reached three major denominations – the U.S. Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and most recently the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Presbyterian Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
...as a Catholic I think that Luther was deeply mistaken. But I also understand that if you take theology seriously, as something with real cognitive content, then it will by its very nature exclude certain beliefs while entailing others. Thus, the Catholic Church affirms that Protestant denominations, like the Lutherans, are not real churches. That judgment inexorably follows from the Catholic belief in apostolic succession.
Not surprisingly, Baptists do not accept infant baptisms as legitimate, Judaism believes that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is unbiblical, Eastern Orthodoxy forbids its people from receiving the Eucharist at churches in communion with Rome, Muslims deny that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, “believes that the popish sacrifice of the mass is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect.”
It is not clear what Mr. [Joshua] Green expects to find when he investigates the churches, synagogues, or mosques of political figures. In a nation of serious believers who are citizens of a government committed to religious freedom and other basic liberties, why does it surprise Mr. Green to find that differing religious points of view should arise and that the advocates of those views would issue doctrinal statements that are at points critical in nature?
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Q: Under the new policies, can a Lutheran church refuse to hire a gay pastor?
A: Hiring works a little different in the church than it does in other places. We don’t apply for jobs. And when you’re talking about spirituality, and where people are in their lives, it really takes a connection, like on a relationship level, that doesn’t necessarily come out in a regular job interview. It becomes very complicated.
Myself, if I knew a congregation didn’t welcome everyone, I would just say no to the (position). If I knew they really didn’t like female ministers, OK, you know what? I know that that’s how this community is. And perhaps if I was at the right point in my life, I might go. I’ve been the first woman pastor in a parish before. And yes, you can change people’s minds and you can show a different way. But sometimes you can’t. And I think that’s more how it will play out: people will just kind of know pockets or where they should and shouldn’t go.
Q: Do you think there will be a further split over this that no one is foreseeing?
A: There has already been a split over the past decade. We have had some parishes leave. Some have gone to the (Lutheran Church-Canada) most recently. There’s a new group called the Canadian Association of Lutheran Churches who have stepped aside on this issue and said, ‘We don’t want any part of a church that is blessing same-sex marriages or rostered clergy who are gay.’ So we’ve already lost some, and I think we’ll lose a few more. Some congregations, some pastors, and within each individual parish we’ll probably lose a few. But it’s a risk that the church is willing to take.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
The latest casualty of the long-running Protestant conflicts over the Bible and homosexuality is a massive network of social service agencies that work in areas ranging from adoption to disaster relief.
The theologically conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod announced this week that direct work with its larger and more liberal counterpart, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has become "difficult if not impossible," because of doctrinal differences, including the 2009 decision by liberal Lutherans to lift barriers for ordaining gays and lesbians.
Neither denomination would discuss the potential financial impact Wednesday. Many Lutheran-affiliated agencies receive substantial state and federal money through contracts and grants that would not be directly affected by any split. However, similar to Catholic Charities, Lutheran agencies are some of the biggest service providers in their communities and have been struggling to meet increased demand for help during the recession.
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New York--After same-sex marriage becomes legal here on July 24, gay priests with partners in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island will head to the altar. They have to. Their bishop set a nine-month deadline for them to marry or stop living together.
Next door, meanwhile, the Episcopal bishop of New York says he also expects gay clergy in committed relationships to wed "in due course." Still, this longtime supporter of gay rights says churches in his diocese are off limits for gay weddings until he receives clearer liturgical guidance from the national denomination.
As more states legalize same-sex marriage, religious groups with ambiguous policies on homosexuality are divided over whether they should allow the ceremonies in local congregations. The decision is especially complex in the mainline Protestant denominations that have yet to fully resolve their disagreements over the Bible and homosexuality. Many have taken steps toward acceptance of gay ordination and same-gender couples without changing the official definition of marriage in church constitutions and canons. With the exception of the United Church of Christ, which approved gay marriage six years ago, none of the larger mainline churches has a national liturgy for same-sex weddings or even blessing ceremonies.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Parishes Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
Sarah Kristin Dreier began July 5 in her new role as the legislative representative for international issues for both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in an effort by both denominations to share resources.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran
For years, Guy Erwin worked toward becoming a Lutheran minister, knowing the whole time his church wouldn't ordain him because he is gay.
Now Erwin, 53, is one of two California Lutheran University professors who were ordained recently because the Lutheran and Episcopal churches changed their policies on ordaining [non-celibate] gay and lesbian clergy.
"I had thought, 'Maybe it's too late for me,'" said Erwin, who was ordained at CLU in May. "But my friends said, 'The church has been calling you all these years.' It has ended up being a point of great joy."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
Bishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican bishop, hosted an ecumenical reception for local church leaders, and the Commission was addressed by His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem. The Commission spent one of its sessions with Bishop Dawani and Bishop Younan. At both this session and at the reception, members of the Commission heard of the struggles of Christians in Jerusalem and Palestine: of the strain of living a restricted life, of the lack of jobs and opportunities particularly for young people, and of lacking peace with justice for all in society, all of which lead many Christians to leave the holy land and diminish the witness of Christianity in the very places of its birth. At the same time, they heard of the dedication of the local churches to be the hands and feet of Christ: to advocate for a just peace among all, to seek good relations among all the faith communities, and to offer high quality education and health care to the whole society.
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Illinois' civil union law not only empowers clergy to officiate same-sex civil unions, it has inspired a long-awaited formal rite in Chicago's Episcopal Church and now compels many clergy in committed same-sex relationships to make them legal.
Chicago's Episcopal and Lutheran bishops this week unveiled new policies for openly gay pastors in committed relationships and those who want to officiate same-sex civil unions. Many clergy already informally blessed same-gender partnerships.
"Now with the possibility of civil recognition of lifelong unions, the blessing of unions from a Christian perspective will have a different character, where before it has been purely a pastoral matter," said Chicago Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Lee.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
For the Elderton Lutheran Parish, the national church's 2009 vote to permit some gay clergy appeared to be a final sign that the denomination had pulled up its biblical roots. Last winter it left the 4.5 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for a new Lutheran body, as have seven other congregations from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. Another four are in the process of voting to leave.
"There is no hostility toward the ELCA. Yes, it was difficult, but it was a matter of understanding who we are as children of God," said the Rev. Joyce Dix-Weiers, pastor of the two linked congregations in such a remote part of unincorporated Armstrong County that the mailing address is Shelocta, Indiana County.
"The ordination... [question] was the tip of the iceberg. The question of how the church understands scriptural authority was the crux of the problem."
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For orthodox theologians such as Larry Gember, pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Greenfield, the ELCA’s decision went a step too far.
“The primary issue is not sexuality,” Gember, 59, said Wednesday. “It’s that the authority of Scripture is being undermined.”
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In your time at the Seminary, you have doubtless learned many things, but I hope above all that you have had occasion for perception. I hope this, but I also expect that it’s true: that in some class, or in some conversation, or at some chapel service – when you were studying the lives and words of Christians of the past, or exegeting Holy Scripture, or learning about the practice of ministry, or even wading through theology assignments – at some point, the sun peeked through the clouds, the world lit up in a strange way, and it dawned on you that Jesus is not... not ordinary.
My first word of counsel, then, is simply this: remember that you saw that. Don’t try to recapture the feeling: that’s totally unimportant. Even if you can’t remember just exactly what you saw, even if you’ve not quite mastered the theological language needed to describe what you saw – remember that you saw it. Remember that it once dawned on you that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is more than you can handle, that we have no methodological nets or ecclesiastical boats that can hold all that he is and all that he means. Remember that you saw that, once – and don’t settle for a smaller Jesus.
We live among all kinds of pressures to scale Jesus down, to shoehorn him into categories familiar and easy to us. We are glad to have him tell us things we already know: that God is accepting, that we should remember those in need, that the Church should be compassionate and caring. We don’t mind him motivating us to do the things we already know we should be doing. We are delighted to make him into a symbol of our highest aspirations and our best ideals. But some time or other, I’d be willing to bet, here or elsewhere, in class or at worship, it has dawned on you that Jesus is more than any of that. Whether that perception was weak or strong, articulate or inarticulate, remember that you saw that, and don’t settle.
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On May 1, four groundbreaking churches celebrated 10 years of full communion in joint celebrations on the U.S.-Canadian border. The four are the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Two parishes, St. Paul’s Anglican in Fort Erie, Ont., and Holy Trinity Lutheran in Buffalo, N.Y., held simultaneous services at 3 p.m. to honour the call to a common mission first made in the Waterloo Declaration of 2001.
And the celebrations did not go unnoticed in the international church community. “The eyes of the world were on this service,” said the Rev. Donald McCoid, a member of the executive for ELCA ecumenical and inter-religious relations. At the close of ceremonies in Buffalo, he read out congratulatory statements from the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches , who commended the two denominations on their decade of working together in unity and Christian mission. “Years later, your churches have much to celebrate—shared ministries between Anglican, Episcopal and Lutheran parishes in Canada and the United States,” wrote the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Of the courageous decisions that set this cooperation in motion, he said, “These were truly acts of faith.”
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Also in 2009, Arcus gave the communications firm of Douglas Gould and Company a grant of $194,200 to provide communications support to both the UM Reconciling Ministries Network and Lutherans Concerned to assist their efforts “to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
Here are several other Arcus grants from last year:
Church Divinity School of the Pacific: $404,351 “to develop official rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships within the Episcopal Church....”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Seminary / Theological Education
As the religious landscape continues to change in North America, many voices are seeking the attention of Christians. Mainline churches were the voice of Christianity for most of our U.S. history. Today, the media often views American evangelicals as speaking for Christianity on issues of faith and society.
Who are these people, the American evangelicals? They range from members of megachurches to devotees of TV evangelists to fundamentalists and conservative denominations. Evangelicals are our neighbors, family members and co-workers.
Some questions often posed about them by mainline church members include: "Do we have conversations with evangelicals? How do we differ from evangelicals?"
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Evangelicals Lutheran * Theology
The idea of a shared national office, possibly located in Ottawa, for the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), is receiving mixed reviews from respective executive councils. In fact, said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada may need to “step back” and consider more carefully the benefits of a shared national office.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran
One of the hottest college campuses in the U.S. for Jewish students is also one of the unlikeliest: a small Lutheran school erected around a soaring stone chapel with a cross on top.
In what is being called a testament to word of mouth in the Jewish community, approximately 34 percent of Muhlenberg College's 2,200 students are Jewish. And the biggest gains have come in the past five years or so.
Perhaps equally noteworthy is how Muhlenberg has responded, by offering a kosher menu at the student union, creating a partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and expanding its Hillel House, a social hub for Jews.
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Six missionaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will return to the ministries they serve in Egypt by the end of March. The six were among 10 missionaries temporarily evacuated from Cairo Feb. 1 on flights arranged by the U.S. government, because of protests against the government of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The ELCA missionaries, along with one missionary from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and eventually arrived in St. Paul, Minn. Most have been staying in ELCA apartments reserved for missionaries on home assignment while in the United States.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran
Let's face it. Lent is in trouble.
Let me explain. Most of us have favorite holiday seasons. For some it's Christmas, with the family get-togethers and presents. For others it's the Fourth of July and summer, filled by a sense of national pride and beach vacations to boot. But each year at just about this time, it strikes me that very few of us would pick Lent, a season that seems to most of us as grim as the weather that usually attends it.
Think about it: crossing off days on the calendar until Ash Wednesday; leaving work just a little early, saying "I've got to get my Lenten shopping done;" advertisements on billboards and television reading "only 12 more days 'til the day of Ashes;" or little kids going to bed, asking their parents, "How much longer 'till Lent is here?" It just doesn't happen.
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The Rev. Frank G. Honeycutt, senior pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in downtown Columbia, took a three-month sabbatical to write his latest book “The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations.”
The title is drawn from a line by writer Flannery O’Connor, a Southerner who pondered faith and spirituality in her novels and short stories. Honeycutt employs his favorite authors and theologians and his own pastoral story to explore ways pastors and lay people can speak honestly and effectively about living out the Christian faith.
This week, Honeycutt answered questions from The State about his new book...:
Question:You suggest that too many pastors practice avoidance, failing to speak the biblical truth to parishioners about the nature of belief in Jesus Christ and what that means about living a Christian life. How does a pastor learn to speak with pastoral integrity?
Honeycutt: There is a huge siren call among clergy — myself included — to try and make everyone happy. Stanley Hauerwas (Duke Divinity School) has famously referred to the pastor as a “quivering mass of availability.”
Many of us arrived at seminary as “pleasers” and do not like to rock the boat. The challenge is sometimes trying to please people who really do not want what Jesus wants. That’s a rather toxic mix. “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” asks Saint Paul of the church in Galatia. There can be a lot of relational fallout to pastoral truth-telling that may require an immense amount of time to sort through. It’s easier to lie low on so many issues and count the years to retirement. Jesus is our pastoral guide here. He spoke the truth in love in his ministry. Both words are important. Truth and love. It is easy to speak the truth in any number of damaging ways that have little to do with love.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
O God, our refuge and our strength, who didst raise up thy servant Martin Luther to reform and renew thy Church in the light of thy word: Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of thy grace, which thou hast made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.
President Barack Obama announced Feb. 4 his intention to appoint the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The advisory council brings together religious and secular leaders, as well as scholars and experts in fields related to the work of faith-based and neighborhood organizations, to make recommendations to the government on how to improve partnerships, according to a White House news release.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran
Ten years ago this week, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church launched a relationship of shared mission and ministry in a worship service and ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
This relationship, known as full communion, is described in Called to Common Mission: A Lutheran Proposal for a Revision of the Concordat of Agreement adopted by both churches. The document states: "We do not know to what new, recovered, or continuing tasks of mission this Concordat will lead our churches, but we give thanks to God for leading us to this point. We entrust ourselves to that leading in the future, confident that our full communion will be a witness to the gift and goal already present in Christ, 'so that God may be all in all' (I Corinthians 15:28)."
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At the same time mainstream denominations lose thousands of members per year, churches such as Crosspoint are growing rapidly — 15 percent of all U.S. churches identified themselves as nondenominational this year, up from 5 percent a decade ago. A third dropped out of major denominations at some point.
Their members are attracted by worship style, particular church missions or friends in the congregation.
"They no longer see the denomination as anything that has relevance to them," said Scott Thumma, a religion sociology professor at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. He's compiling a list of nondenominational churches for the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study. "The whole complexion of organized religion is in flux."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Orthodox Church Pentecostal Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
The president of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Younan has said before meeting Pope Benedict XVI that their churches should issue a common statement on Holy Communion to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that Martin Luther began in 1517.
"Our [the Lutheran federation's] intention is to arrive at 2017 with a common Roman Catholic-Lutheran declaration on eucharistic hospitality," Younan told the Italian Protestant news agency NEV the day before his December 16 audience with the Pope.
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The recession has finally caught up with churches.
After two years of treading water, more Protestant congregations have seen their Sunday collections drop this year.
Pastors blame high unemployment and a drop in per-capita giving by members. To make ends meet, churches have laid off staff and frozen salaries, put off major capital projects and cut back on programs. At the same time, more of their congregation members and neighbors are asking for help with basic needs such as paying the rent and buying groceries.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Pastoral Care Stewardship * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian
The ordination of [non-celibate] gay clergy continues to create tension within Christian denominations in America.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church and the American Baptist Church USA have experienced tremendous internal discord over the issue.
But perhaps the most dynamic schism today involving [non-celibate] gay ordination is within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Last month, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs publicly announced it had left the ELCA. Bethel Lutheran and Faith Lutheran have also quit the denomination.
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As faculty in a seminary of the church, we are especially conscious of the importance of intentional spiritual formation for pastoral ministry, the diaconate, and other forms of church leadership. Seminary students must receive the encouragement, urging, and instruction they need in order to find a stable and enlivening pattern of spiritual practice capable of sustaining them over the long haul in life and ministry.
-The LTSS Faculty, "Spirituality and Spiritual Formation"
Here are four questions:
How will you be spiritually sustained during your years in seminary and over the long haul in public ministry?
What is the spiritual life?
Why does Southern Seminary emphasize intentional spiritual formation?
Where do you begin?
Check the link for the answers.
Most members of the 5,800-member Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, which has three campuses, were troubled by what they viewed as the liberal drift of the ELCA, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S.
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Radical trust is what it means to be a Christian of the Lutheran flavor even though Lutherans, like everyone else would prefer a cross the t and dot the i system where God had to play by rules we understand and ultimately control. But to trust that God loves with no strings attached, no down payment required, because God's very nature is love means God's love is truly free.
--Lutheran Phil Heinze on the Living the Lectionary blog; a very appropriate thought for Reformation Sunday
(Anglican Journal) Canadian Lutheran churches appear to be faced with many of the same problems known to Canadian Anglicans.
These include shrinking congregations and an increased interest in weekly eucharist.
According to Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), this is leading Lutherans to look at such measures as the use of ordained pastors as “circuit riders” bringing the eucharist to a number of parishes. Speaking here at the Oct. 22-25 joint meeting of the Anglican House of Bishops and Lutheran Conference of Bishops, she added there has also been pressure to revive a practice of permitting lay people to preside at the sacrament, as some Lutheran churches did at one time.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Lutheran
Parish ministry can be a lonely vocation. The “set-apartness” of the pastoral role, the effects of geographical isolation, and the time demands of congregational life can all conspire to make the parish feel like what the old spiritual calls “the lonesome valley.” And yet Jesus walked that same lonesome valley, and, through him, even the loneliness of ministry can become a source of beauty and communion. Hear Jeremy Troxler, director of the Thriving Rural Communities initiative, discuss the loneliness of rural, and all, ministry.
If you have the capacity and interest you can download this presentation via Itunes following the link here.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic
Anyone who is justified on the basis of the Law . . . has within himself the power to acquire righteousness....If this is true, then it necessarily follows that Christ died to no purpose. For what need would a man have of Christ who loves him and gives Himself for him [if] he is able to obtain grace and eventually do good works and to merit eternal life. . . or surely be justified by performing the Law? Therefore let Christ be removed togetherwith all his blessings because he is completely useless. But why is Christ born, crucified and dead? Why does He become my High Priest, who loves me and gives an inestimable sacrifice, Himself, for me? Why does he do all this? Simply to no purpose at all if the
meaning of justification which the [false teachers] set forth is true, because I find righteousness in the Law or in myself, outside grace and outside Christ.
--one of the many passages I cam across preparing for this morning's sermon on Galatians 2 the second half from Luther's Galatians
Fierce fighting among some Lutherans culminated in Friday's formation of the North American Lutheran Church, the nation's newest church body. The church has strong ties to a little-known ministry in the Twin Cities and a new seminary in Brookings.
The battles have included scorching accusations of blasphemy, "devilish" behavior and the leader of a reform group declaring that last year's vote on gay clergy amounted to the biblical sign of the beast: 666.
It's not the sort of thing typically seen among Lutherans, the low-key Christians that Garrison Keillor jokes about on his radio show. They prefer to sit in back pews and project an image of grace and peace.
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