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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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A new publication containing the Agreed Statement on Christology of the Anglican–Oriental Orthodox International Commission 2014 was launched during Vespers in St Asaph Cathedral by the Co–Chairs of the commission, the Rt Revd Gregory K Cameron Bishop of St Asaph, and His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, in the presence of the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell, former Co–Chair of the Commission and co–signatory to the Statement.
The Commission completed its work on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, agreeing on the omission of the Filioque clause that had been appended to the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed in the Latin Western tradition. The Co–Chairs signed an Agreed Statement on the procession of the Holy Spirit, which is Part A of our ongoing work on our theological understanding of the Holy Spirit. A detailed discussion of the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church followed, including a discussion of the four marks of the Church, namely: oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. The Commission has designated a drafting group which prepared a preliminary draft and will continue to work on Part B of our theological understanding of the Holy Spirit.
The Commission discussed the present situation of Christians in the Middle East and heard reports on the difficulties facing Churches, particularly in Syria and Iraq. There was a consideration of the most practical ways in which the Anglican Communion in its various countries could respond effectively to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.
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On a mountainside in Iraq’s Kurdish region, at the end of a road that winds through sparse olive trees, stands the fourth-century Mar Mattai monastery. It is Iraq’s oldest monastery, named for the hermit monk who retired here at the dawn of Christianity. The forces of Islamic State are a little more than two miles away. When the weather is clear on the plain of Nineveh, you can see the Islamic State front lines defending Mosul about a dozen miles in the distance.
The vast monastery perched high on Mount Alfaf is hewed from stone, its passages, stairways and terraces exposed to the sun and weather. In the courtyard on the ground level live two families who fled Mosul and the persecution of Christians there.
Four monks live at Mar Mattai. There should be several dozen to judge by the empty rooms along the esplanade. But only these four remain, clad in their black robes and caps embroidered with white crosses. In the Eastern Rite church on the upper level, the monks are standing in the crypt at the far end, their eyes closed, intoning one of the “chants of the Greek church” described by Chateaubriand in his 1811 “Record of a Journey From Paris to Jerusalem and Back.” He admired the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) with its notes “held by different voices, some bass, others treble, executing andante and mezza voce, the octave, fifth, and third.” Its beauty, he said, was enough to cure him of a fever.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
My parish is a short drive from the house. Every Sunday I see the same people at 8:30 a.m.: the older couples whose children are grown, the many young families with their children, the teenagers who came with their parents but who would rather be in bed. This is the Mass I almost always attend alone. There are a few others who are also alone, though not many.
I serve as an acolyte twice a month, and on these Sundays I sit up at the front beside the priest. On other Sundays, I sit near the front of the church with a family I know. Apart from them, I know the director of music and worship, the deacons and the priests. Others in the parish are mainly just familiar faces, although they are the people with whom I take Communion each and every week.
At the end of Mass, I drive home to pick up my wife, Kim, and our three boys for the 10 a.m. liturgy at the Episcopal parish we attend as a family. Like my Catholic parish, this church is thriving, filled with young and old from a variety of backgrounds. There are cradle Episcopalians, ex-evangelicals who found life in the beauty of Episcopal liturgy and disaffected Roman Catholics. Because this is my family’s parish, I know these parishioners more deeply than the ones at my Catholic parish. My children play with their children, and our families regularly hang out together. During the liturgy I sit with Kim and my oldest son while his two brothers are downstairs for Sunday school. When it comes time for the Communion, we process to the altar rail where my wife and my son take Communion together. I cross my arms and am blessed by the priest. Apart from a few children, I’m the only person who does this.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
the other thing that John was concerned about was to banish apathy from the hearts of those to whom he ministered. Starting with his own congregation at All Souls, Langham Place in London and extending to all the congregations to whom he ministered quite literally all around the world.
Banishing apathy, what did that mean in positive terms? It meant that John summoned us to learn our faith and not be sloppy in terms of our doctrine, and equally not to be sloppy and casual in terms of our service of the Lord whom we love and honour as our Saviour.
John himself as we all know was, well, I call him a 15-talent man of God. 10 the number in our Lord’s parable really doesn’t seem enough. John Stott one sometimes felt could do anything and everything in ministry. He had all the gifts that make up a teacher and a carer and a unifier. He lived in a way which displayed the freedom of self-discipline. I am thinking there of the kind of freedom which in a different department of life a solo pianist or violinist will display. He or she has accepted the self-discipline of learning to master the instrument. Now he or she is able, if one may put it this way, to relax with the instrument and with the sort of inner ease to make it sound and sing out all the music that is there in the notes and which as a soloist the musician wants to convey.
Well, that is a picture an illustration of what I mean by freedom with self-discipline at its heart and you saw that in John as a preacher and teacher and influence in the church. And the self-discipline that lay at the heart of it was a discipline of constant Bible study, constant prayer, constant self-watch and constant refusal to go wild - John never went wild. John observed his own discipline so that he might always be at his best for ministry. And well we know, all of us I am sure, know something about the quality of that ministry, marked as it always was by love and wisdom in whatever form the situation demanded.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Globalization * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Enjoy it all (hat tip: SH).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * General Interest Animals * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Theology: Scripture
Why are you now taking up the issue of guns?
Our perceived need for self-defense discounts the life of the person on the other side of the gun. I’m really limiting my message to my fellow Christians, especially evangelicals. And we have a massive presence of lethal weapons in our Christian communities. I’m aware of some pastors who now go into the pulpit armed and ready to use their weapons to defend their congregants. That sets up, in my mind, a disaster.
What do you say to people who say they need a gun to protect themselves and their families?
I like to ask people the last time they faced a mortal threat in their life. Most people can’t think of one. Within our conservative ranks, there seems to be an almost rampant fearmongering that’s used as a device to build audiences and readership. And I think it’s contrary to the optimism of the Gospel.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Pope Francis on Monday told a contentious gathering of the world's bishops on family issues to put aside their personal prejudices and have the courage and humility to be guided by God.
Francis told 270 cardinals, bishops and priests that the three-week synod isn't a parliament where negotiations, plea bargains or compromises take place. Rather, he said, it's a sacred, protected space where God shows the way for the good of the church.
The bishops are debating how the church can better care for Catholic families at a time when marriage rates are falling, divorce is common and civil unions are on the rise. The main sticking points include how the church should welcome gays and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
A Former Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to do more to help Christians in the Middle East saying "time is running out".
Lord Carey said more had to be done to support followers of Christ who face persecution or death at the hands of Islamic terrorism.
"Time is running out for Christians in the region," he said.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary England / UK Middle East Iran Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The pope has returned to Rome after his historic trip to the United States, but the message and meaning of his words and actions are still being debated. We are joined by John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought, and Pat Zapor, who covered the pope’s trip for Catholic News Service, about how the pope was received, what he said and did, and what the impact of his message may be on the Catholic Church and beyond.
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To celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, the Army is rolling out a major social initiative aiming to lift 100,000 families out of poverty over the next 15 years. Called Pathway of Hope, this innovative program will target qualified families that show the necessary “strengths and aptitudes” to benefit from in-depth support from Army caseworkers. The Army began to pilot programs in three Midwestern communities in late 2011. Early results show that 50 percent of the families who stayed in the program “demonstrated increased stability and sufficiency.”
The US wing of the Army has the necessary reach to attempt a project of that scale. “Across the country, we have about 3,500 active officers, 60,000 employees, and 3.5 million volunteers,” National Commander David Jeffrey told me. “We’re in over 7,000 communities.” In addition, the Army is collaborating with social work departments at colleges like Asbury, Trevecca Nazarene, and Olivet Nazarene.
But to identify and serve these families on the path to self-sufficiency, Jeffrey estimates, the Army will need to hire up to 700 more caseworkers. It will require an additional $200 million to ensure that the program can retain its faith-based nature and stay free of government restrictions.
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Give pastors vacations.
Open the books for periodic financial reviews.
Be sensitive to how sounds — and traffic — can affect church neighbors.
The National Association of Evangelicals this week released a code of ethics for congregations that it hopes will help leaders make practical decisions for the health of their churches and community.
The document calls for churches to strive for unity by embracing different worship styles and reconciling “dissident factions.” It urges them to affirm the various cultural heritages of their members and neighbors, minimize barriers for disabled people and use natural resources wisely.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The proclamation, which provides extensive scriptural citation, asserts, “God has given all animals the breath of life, that He sustains them… they belong ultimately to Him, and… He has declared them ‘good,’ indicating they have value to Him independent of human use.”
Many conservative evangelicals bristle at the mention of the animal rights movement because they believe it puts humans and animals on equal footing. But the evangelical statement is unequivocal that humans hold a unique status in creation. In fact, it’s this special status that demands humans practice extra care with all of God’s creation. The signatories affirmed the belief that, “all animals ultimately belong to God, are sustained by Him, and exist to bring Him praise and reveal His character.”
Also being announced today is the launch of the “Every Living Thing” initiative, which will begin a year-long effort to engage Christians in dialogue around the biblical mandate to care for animals.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * General Interest Animals * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
The roads that wind north from Lagos, Nigeria, toward the headquarters of the Winners’ Chapel mega-church are lined with unusual testaments to Nigerians’ religious fervor.
There’s the Amazing Grace Hair Salon and the No King But God Driving School, My God Is Able Furniture Makers and God’s Grace Multipurpose Hall. And wedged between these omnipotently styled businesses are the churches themselves, hundreds of them, carrying on tenaciously in a sweltering tin shack or a room balanced atop a gas station, in the parking lot of a half-finished shopping mall or perched on stilts above Lagos’s thick, viscous lagoon.
But even in a country so devout, Canaanland stands out. The headquarters of one of the most powerful churches in Africa rambles out across 10,500 acres and includes not only a massive church – the 50,000 seat Faith Tabernacle – but a fully stocked company town complete with schools and a university, a bottled water processing plant, restaurants, shops, and residential neighborhoods. Every weekend, hundreds of bus loads of Nigerians, regally coiffed in vividly patterned, tailor-made suits and dresses, pour through its gates for Sunday service.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
When large, multisite Grace Church in Florida needed a pastor for its new downtown Fort Myers campus, the Rev. Arlene Jackson got the call.
She began with about 30 in worship. Over five years, her flock at Grace — a United Methodist church — has grown to more than 400. Many were previously “unchurched” and recovering from addictions, as she did.
“It’s the most diverse bunch of mixed nuts you’ve ever met,” Jackson said. “They’re growing in Christ and bringing people and having a lot of joy in their walk with the Lord.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
....there’s no way to view the encounter other than as a broad gesture of support by the pope for conscientious objection from gay marriage laws, especially taken in tandem with his statement aboard the papal plane that following one’s conscience in such a situation is a “human right” – one, he insisted, that also belongs to government officials.
So what does it mean?
First, it means that Francis has significantly strengthened the hand of the US bishops and other voices in American debates defending religious freedom.
In the wake of a massively successful trip in which Francis was lauded for his stands on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to fighting poverty, it will be more difficult for anyone to wrap themselves in the papal mantle without at least acknowledging his concerns vis-à-vis religious freedom.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
It is this fantasy of living in an endlessly adjustable world, in which every physical boundary can be renegotiated, that shapes the opening reflections of the encyclical and pervades a great deal of its argument. The paradox, noted by a good many other commentators, is that our supposed “materialism” is actually a deeply anti-material thing. The plain thereness of the physical world we inhabit tells us from our first emergence into consciousness that our will is not the foundation of everything—and so its proper working is essentially about creative adjustment to an agenda set not by our fantasy but by the qualities and complexities of what we encounter. The material world tells us that to be human is to be in dialogue with what is other: what is physically other, what is humanly other in the solid three-dimensionality of other persons, ultimately what is divinely other. And in a world created by the God Christians believe in, this otherness is always communicating: meaning arises in this encounter, it is not devised by our ingenuity. Hence the pope’s significant and powerful appeal to be aware of the incalculable impact of the loss of biodiversity: it is not only a loss of resource but a diminution of meaning. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us” (33).
The argument of these opening sections of Laudato si’ repeatedly points us back to a fundamental lesson: We as human beings are not the source of meaning or value; if we believe we are, we exchange the real world for a virtual one, a world in which—to echo Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty—the only question is who is to be master. A culture in which managing limits is an embarrassing and unwelcome imperative is a culture that has lost touch with the very idea of a world, let alone a created world (i.e., one in which a creative intelligence communicates with us and leads us into meanings and visions we could not have generated ourselves). The discussion in Chapter III of the obsessive pursuit of novelty in our lives draws out very effectively how the multiplication of pure consumer choice produces not greater diversity or liberty but a sense of endless repetition of the same and a lack of hope in the future. Once again, the underlying issue is the loss of meaning. It is fully in keeping with this general perspective that what Pope Francis has to say about the rights and dignities of the unborn (120) is seamlessly connected with the dangers of a culture of “disposability” in which the solid presence of those others who do not instantly appear to contribute to our narrowly conceived well-being can so readily be forgotten.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Life Ethics Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
The new Global Goals have emerged from an international three year process of listening. The UK government, led by the Prime Minister, played a really key role.
There is huge ambition here. According to the UN document: “Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda”. And again, “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet”.
The goals are more comprehensive this time. There are 17 goals and 169 targets. They are therefore less catchy but much more realistic. They recognize that all kinds of things are interconnected in tackling poverty. They are also goals for every country not simply for the developing world. The British government has promised to implement them alongside governments in Africa and Asia. There is a much stronger emphasis on building strong, honest, robust governments and institutions as well as on aid and generosity. There is a strong slogan which focuses on helping the weakest so that no-one is left behind.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Dammer, the University of Scranton professor, said people are often skeptical of religious people in prisons, and particularly those who convert behind bars. “The common thought by correctional officers or people who run prisons or even the general public is that people who are involved in religion in prison because …[they] think they’ll get parole easy or earlier,” he said. This isn’t really the case, he said; especially as states have moved away from indeterminate sentencing, or prison terms that involve a range of possible lengths, this kind of pious performance hasmattered less for helping people get parole.
“Do some inmates use religion in prison in a manipulative way? Absolutely. They do it to meet women at services, they do it to get goods and services,” he said. “Most of them, though, don’t do it for this myth—just to get out of prison. They do it to help them live in prison in a way that helps them survive.”
Religious figures play various roles in prisons. Institutions will usually have hired chaplains on staff, sometimes euphemistically called “faith representatives.” These chaplains often oversee groups of volunteers who come into prisons to run bible studies and other programs. In one prison that Dammer studied, “the only contact [inmates] had with anybody was with the chaplains, who would walk up and down the hallways and read the bible. [Otherwise], it was 23 hours a day of total solitary confinement.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Prison/Prison Ministry Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
As Christians we have a responsibility, not only to give generously to address immediate social need, but to work with political leaders and the wider community to change the structures that are trapping people in cycles of poverty.
‘Local communities are ready to be active partners in tackling the root causes of social exclusion and are best placed to inform and shape this work. In community and faith–based organisations, volunteers are working quietly and effectively to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable and marginalised, including the basic necessities of food, shelter and much–needed emotional and psychological support. As demands continue to rise, charities are stretched beyond capacity and facing difficult decisions about the future.
‘The unacceptable level of child poverty, affecting over 100,000 children, roughly 6% of Northern Ireland’s population, constitutes a real crisis. Supports that have proved to be effective in recent years in addressing inequality and closing the gap in crucial areas such as educational disadvantage are now being withdrawn through lack of funding. The failure to invest adequately in the future leaders of our society is a cause of deep frustration among young people, leaving many feeling disconnected from political processes.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Ireland * Culture-Watch Poverty Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches
He is certainly not a Marxist, and he’s not a “liberal” as American politics understands the terms. But he has been a gift to liberals who are also Christians, to religious believers whose politics lean left.
It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.
Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism — abortion and same-sex marriage — while elevating other causes and concerns.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic Pope Francis United Church of Christ * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Pastors, teachers, and small-group leaders would be wise to spend more energy showing how the Bible is the source of the great church doctrines—which are so often about God and his saving work. It’s time for our main pedagogical question to be not, “What difference does this make?” but, “What does this tell us about our good God?” To help churches answer that question, CT recently joined Zondervan Publishing, HarperCollins, to produce the NIV Understand the Faith Study Bible. This is but one of many resources that makes these crucial connections.
To emphasize theology will entail a battle, as any pastor will sense. It will be a battle against those who have fed too long on the milk of therapeutic Christianity, and who will demand immediate application. It will be a battle against false teachers, who will react defensively. It will be a battle against our own sloth, as this type of teaching requires more intellectual labor than “10 ways to improve your marriage.”
But it is a battle well worth fighting. It will no doubt create scars, but God will also give us many a victory. Some false teachers may be saved from their pernicious ideas, and the church will have an ever-clearer picture of the beautiful God whose nature it is to save the world.
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Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit formally welcomed the Commission to its meeting in his diocese. He offered praise and encouragement for the work of the dialogue. He stressed the urgent need for expressions of Christian unity in light of the deep challenges and crises before the global community, mindful of events unfolding even as the Commission undertook its deliberations.
The Commission brought to completion the first section of its work on the theological understanding of the human person, with the adoption of its agreed statement, In the Image and Likeness of God: A Hope-Filled Anthropology. The report, shortly to be published, is the culmination of six years of study on what Anglicans and Orthodox can say together about the meaning of human personhood in the divine image.
This agreement lays the foundation for continuing dialogue on ethical decision-making in the light of this vision. At its future meetings the Commission will consider the practical consequences of this theological approach to personhood. The Commission anticipates ongoing study in areas such as bioethics and the sanctity of life, as well as human rights and ecological justice.
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DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, I thought it’s so clear how countercultural he is. We have ideological fights. He’s anti-ideological. He’s personalist. Somebody once said, souls are not saved in bundles, and he’s with each individual human being.
I loved the moment, little girl on the street, she came up to his caravan, and he embraced her. That was a moment, the pope and the individual. And so he represents community an ethos of community and uplift, which is just different than our horizontal politics.
It’s a vertical axis he’s on. And so, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, I think everybody felt uplifted, and both uplifted by his example and his humility, but also humbled by — he believes that the church is a hospital for the souls, and so he offered that as well.
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First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.
Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).
The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
..The Roman Catholic Church that Pope Francis will encounter on his first visit to the United States is being buffeted by immense change, and it is struggling — with integrating a new generation of immigrants, with conflicts over buildings and resources, with recruiting priests and with retaining congregants. The denomination is still the largest in the United States, but its power base is shifting.
On the East Coast and in the Midwest, bishops are closing or merging parishes and shuttering parochial schools built on the dimes and sweat of generations of European immigrants. In many parishes, worshipers are sparse, funerals outnumber baptisms, and Sunday collections are not enough to maintain even beloved houses of worship.
In the West and the South, and in some other unexpected pockets all over the country, the church is bursting at the seams with immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Latin America, but also from Asia and Africa. Hispanic parents put their children on waiting lists for religious education classes and crowd into makeshift worship spaces, but avoid predominantly Anglo parishes because they do not always feel welcome there.
“The ethnic face of the church is changing, and the center of gravity and influence in the church is shifting from the East to the West, and from the North to the South,” Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles said...
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The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, Bishop Angaelos, has called on the Government to multiply its efforts to resettle Middle Eastern refugees in the UK.
Bishop Angaelos visited a transit camp for refugees on the border of Greece and Macedonia earlier this month, and said that the people he met were desperate to find a safer life.
He spoke on Tuesday about a conversation with a young Syrian. “He said: ‘In Syria we are used to quick deaths through bombs and bullets, but we are embarking on a slow death.’ He was referring to the trip by sea.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Immigration Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The U.S. Catholic Church is expanding quickly in the South and West, largely driven by immigrants from Latin America filling pews in Atlanta, Houston and in Southern California.
Meanwhile, the church is contracting in the East and upper Midwest, where historic Catholic strongholds like Boston, Detroit and New York City are closing parishes as population or attendance declines.
The result: Old-line dioceses are battling to keep their doors open, even as fast-growing ones are scrambling to meet the needs of the growing faithful.
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Could the next Billy Graham be a married lesbian? In the year 2045, will Focus on the Family be “Focus on the Families,” broadcasting counsel to Evangelicals about how to manage jealousy in their polyamorous relationships? That’s the assumption among many—on the celebratory left as well as the nervous right. Now that the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case has nationalized same-sex marriage, America’s last hold-outs, conservative Evangelical Protestants, will eventually, we’re told, stop worrying and learn to love, or at least accept, the sexual revolution. As Americans grow more accustomed to redefined concepts of marriage and family, Evangelicals will convert to the new understanding and update their theologies to suit. This is not going to happen. The revolution will not be televangelized.
In any given week, I’m asked by multiple reporters about the “sea change” among Evangelicals in support of same-sex marriage. I reply by asking for evidence of this shift. The first piece of evidence is always polling data about Millennial support for such. I respond with data on Millennial Evangelicals who actually attend church, which show no such shift away from orthodoxy. The journalist then typically points to “all the Evangelical megachurches that are shifting their positions on marriage.” I request the names of these megachurches.
The first one mentioned is almost always a church in Franklin, Tennessee—a congregation with considerably less than a thousand attendees on any given Sunday. That may be a “megachurch” by Episcopalian standards, but it is not by Evangelical standards, and certainly not by Nashville Evangelical standards. The church is the fifth-largest, not in the country, not in the region, not even in the city; it is the fifth-largest congregation on its street within a mile radius. I’ll usually grant that church, though, and ask for others. So far, no journalist has named more churches shifting on marriage than there are points of Calvinism. They just take the Evangelical shift as a given fact.
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Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
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An enthusiastic crowd of 11,000 ticketed guests gathered on the South Lawn of the White House this morning as President Obama officially welcomed Pope Francis to the United States.
Among the overwhelmingly Catholic audience there to greet him on his first US visit was a smattering of evangelical leaders.
Leith Anderson and Galen Carey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church. Lisa Sharon Harper from Sojourners. Joel Hunter of Northland Church.
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The symbolism of the morning services, which Francis now holds four times a week, is clear: a humbler papacy, where the pope is foremost a pastor to the flock, not a king. But a humbler papacy hardly means humbler papal ambitions. Francis is not just trying to change the Roman Catholic Church. He seems determined to change the world.
Popes are expected to challenge society. But Francis, 78, who lands in Cuba on Saturday and prepares to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for his first visit to the United States, has achieved a unique global stature in a short time.
His humble persona has made him immensely popular, a smiling figure plunging into crowds at St. Peter’s Square. He speaks in deeply personal terms about people discarded by the global economy, whether refugees drowned at sea or women forced into prostitution. His blistering critiques of environmental destruction have seized the world’s attention.
But he is also an inscrutable tactician whose push to change the church has stirred anxiety and hope — and some skepticism. Many conservatives project their fears onto him. Many liberals assume he is a kindred spirit. Others argue that Francis is less concerned about left or right than he is about reversing the church’s declining popularity in Latin America and beyond.
Read it all from the front page of Saturday's New York Times.
Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. on Tuesday, September 22nd, for five busy days in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Managing editor Kim Lawton asks American Catholics about the beliefs that shape the Pope’s view of the world, and Tom Roberts, editor-at-large of National Catholic Reporter, and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute of Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, join host Bob Abernethy in the studio for a conversation about their expectations for the Pope’s trip.
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If the church is the body of Christ, then the megachurch is like an athlete on steroids.
Every major city has a bevy of churches drawing between 5k-25k people. To get a body to grow that big leaders have to use some sort of performance enhancer. These things—typically models, strategies, and techniques gleaned not from the gospel or the Christian narrative, but from the world of business and the narrative of consumer capitalism—serve as performance enhancers that help create enormous congregations with huge facilities and hundreds of programs.
The impact of these practices is akin to using performance-enhancing drugs. They actually alter the form and function of the body, causing real and serious long-term consequences for the church universal.
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My dad was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1970, the same year that he married my mother and began doctoral studies in theology at Oxford. But Catholicism always pulled at him. In Providence, he argued with the Episcopal bishop over the Assumption of Mary — the belief that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven immediately upon death, part of Catholic dogma but not accepted by all Anglicans.
At Oxford, he devoured the writings of one of England’s most famous Catholic converts, Cardinal John Henry Newman. Even his children weren’t immune. My parents named me Mary Benedicta, a name that evokes images of a wimple-bedecked nun. (They gave my brother the middle name of “Becket” after Thomas Becket, venerated by both Catholics and Anglicans as a saint.) So when Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral provision in 1980 allowing qualified married Episcopal priests to convert to Catholicism and retain their ministry, my father applied. In 1984, after two years of preparation, he was one of the first priests ordained under this process in the United States.
As Pope Francis prepares for his United States visit this week, priestly celibacy is up for discussion for the first time in decades. In February, in response to a question about married priests during a meeting with the Roman clergy, the pontiff stated that the issue was on his agenda. His secretary of state has reaffirmed that celibacy can be discussed because it’s a matter of church tradition, not core tenets.
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Since he was elected by his fellow cardinals in 2013 to head the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has captivated the public imagination the world over with his down-to-earth demeanor even as he tries to fit a new vision onto the ancient institution he leads.
He's bringing that vision to North America with a visit to Cuba beginning Saturday and to the United States on Sept. 22-27. The trip embraces the lofty — with addresses to Congress and the United Nations — as well as the lowly — meetings with homeless people and migrant families. It will be the first time that the 78-year-old pontiff has set foot in the U.S.
His very lack of flamboyance has, paradoxically, turned him into a spiritual rock star and newsmaker who has graced the covers of Rolling Stone, Time and National Geographic. Rapturous crowds greet Francis worldwide; a million or more people are expected to attend his outdoor Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 26.
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In 2006, the television comedy “The Office” aired an episode in which one of the characters, Dwight Schrute, nervously faces the prospect of delivering a speech after winning the title of top salesman of the year for his company, Dunder Mifflin. As a prank, his co-worker preps him for his moment by cribbing a speech from a dictator, coaching him to deliver it by pounding the lectern and waving his arms wildly. Dwight does it, and the audience gives a standing ovation to a manic tirade.
Watching a cartoonish TV character deliver authoritarian lines with no principles, just audacity, was hilarious back then, but that was before we saw it happening before our eyes in the race for the United States presidency.
Donald J. Trump stands astride the polls in the Republican presidential race, beating all comers in virtually every demographic of the primary electorate. Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives. To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.<
a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/opinion/have-evangelicals-who-support-trump-lost-their-values.html">Read it all.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
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The current Archbishop seems to have decided that a new approach is called for. There is a mood of crisis. He has postponed indefinitely the Lambeth Conference due to be held in 2018, and last December stated that the worldwide Anglican Communion possibly “will not hold together”.
But we should beware seeing him as wringing his hands in desperation; he is far from saying that it is all up for Anglicanism. Archbishop Welby’s experience in conflict resolution calls for a more hands-on approach: speaking directly to disaffected parties rather than proposing abstract solutions. He has set himself the task of meeting every Anglican Primate personally, and his call to the Anglican Primates to meet in Lambeth next year should be seen in this context.
It is indeed difficult to imagine a solution to the present crisis, when, for example, Nigerian bishops declare themselves to be out of communion with their American brethren. To our Catholic ears, the language used by the Archbishop’s staff of "moving into separate bedrooms" sounds an effective end of communion, a formalising of a rift – and for Roman Catholics, such an arrangement would indeed signal a serious breach of communion.
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The [proposed new] process will be shorter, simpler and, if possible, free. The pope said he wished that “the heart of the faithful” awaiting clarification might not “be oppressed for a long time by the darkness of doubt.” Many oppose loosening requirements: Cardinal Raymond Burke has warned of a “false mercy” if the determination process isn’t rigorous.
My wife and I met in 2005 and dated for 18 months before marrying in a Brussels church in 2007. I reasoned that a sacramental endorsement would heal some of our serious problems. I was wrong, and we separated in 2010. A year later I moved to Pittsburgh. Why would I rehash all that by getting an annulment? My ex-wife and I have no children, and we have remained friends.
Annulments, I thought, were for extreme cases—bigamy or incest, for instance. My marriage was a failure but it wasn’t a sham, and I didn’t want to pretend that it never happened, which an annulment seemed to imply. And who likes recounting blunt truths about past immaturity and impulsiveness? It would also be complicated. I live in Pittsburgh and my ex-wife is in Brussels. Then there was the cost, as much as $1,000.
And yet: A Catholic marriage ceremony is solemn, extraordinary and majestic. I made a fundamental promise—to love and be with somebody until one of us died. My word mattered, and my commitment was etched on the church’s books.
So this spring I ordered the paperwork. I wrote up our story, and chose four witnesses: my two best men, one of my sisters and the priest who married us. The request was accepted. A marriage tribunal invited me to testify. On a sunny day in June, I drove a rental car from my parents’ house in Brussels to the grand 18th-century diocesan headquarters in Namur....
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...this close contact both with poverty and with political terror has undoubtedly given Pope Francis a perspective on the Church and its government that is a good deal more impatient with bureaucratic proprieties than many Vatican insiders would like. Vallely describes this particularly well, making excellent use of many contacts at high levels, explaining the dysfunctional conduct of many of the central bodies in Rome and the mediocrity and incompetence of various very senior figures (he also rightly notes some of those who stood out against this depressing background, not least the Vatican’s head of interfaith relations, the shrewd, patient and generous Cardinal Tauran). It is difficult to know how fast one can expect reform to move in this context; and yet, despite the frustration expressed in some quarters, an outsider can only marvel at the speed with which Francis has moved to purge the most intractable.
[Paul] Vallely devotes a full and candid chapter to the continuing and heartbreaking business of dealing with clerical abuse, concluding that Francis has been slow to make it a priority as Pope, and that his record in this area as a diocesan bishop was at best average. Like practically all bishops who were in post before about the mid-1990s (this writer was one), he had little training and little awareness of the scale and depth of the problem. But he has now set up an effective, even aggressive body, with representation from survivors of abuse. It remains to be seen how it will change things, yet it is typical of the man that once he has identified a priority, he will look for measurable movement in a short timescale.
There will be many more books written about the present papacy, but these two provide first-rate and provide first-rate and complementary pictures. Both are profoundly sympathetic but not hagiographic. That itself is a tribute to the stature of a pope who is not afraid of challenge, and not afraid to confess and confront his failures. It shows Jesuit training in detachment, yes, no doubt. But also something more centrally and simply Christian; something about faith, hope and love.
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Church World Service (CWS), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and other faith communities are urging the U.S. government to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees this coming fiscal year, in addition to increasing the total U.S. resettlement commitment to 100,000 refugees from other parts of the world.
The CWS and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are cooperative ministries by churches based in the United States, including member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“More than 60 million people have been displaced from their homes,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Program for CWS. “Syria is the largest crisis we are facing but let’s not forget Somalia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
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We live in a time of exile. At least those of us do who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.
For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.
It is also being driven by issues that few predicted would have such cultural force. It is surely an irony as unexpected as it is unwelcome that sex—that most private and intimate act—has become the most pressing public policy issue today. (Who could have imagined that policies concerning contraception and laws allowing same-sex marriage would present the most serious challenges to religious freedom?) We are indeed set for exile, though not an exile which pushes us to the geographical margins. It’s an exile to cultural irrelevance.
Read it all from First Things.
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Sam Espada led friends in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for his sombrero-wearing brother at a Mexican restaurant. After dinner, they saw the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
The five-story mall could have been anywhere in America, except that every storefront sign was in Arabic as well as English. The group was in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“This place is like Disneyland,” said Espada, a Christian from New Jersey. “But I don’t feel fully free. You can definitely tell you are living in a Muslim country.”
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The number of Catholic priests in Canada has fallen sharply in recent decades, so any ordination is a rare event.
But Friday's example of the sacrament in Saint John was particularly unusual — because the new priest was surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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Christians like to quiz each other about their favorite book in the Bible. Finding out how people experience Scripture—especially those who write books about the Bible—is a natural interest to us. When asked which Bible book is my favorite, I say Ecclesiastes. Should people raise their eyebrows and ask why, I give them two reasons.
First, it is a special pleasure to read an author with whom one resonates. That is how the writer, who called himself Qohelet—Hebrew for “Gatherer,” a title that in Greek became Ecclesiastes, the “Assembly-man”—strikes me. I see him as a reflective senior citizen, a public teacher of wisdom, something of a stylist and wordsmith. As his official testimonial or third-person testimony (it might be either) in 12:10 shows, this man took his instructional task very seriously and labored to communicate memorably. Whether he was the Solomon of history or someone impersonating him—not to deceive but to make points in the most effective way—we do not know. All I am sure of is that each point has maximum strength if it comes from the real Solomon at the end of his life.
Whoever he was, Qohelet was a realist about the many ways in which this world gives us a rough ride. But while temperamentally inclined to pessimism and cynicism, I think, he was kept from falling into either of those craters of despair by a strong theology of joy.
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So, when Wendell and I were researching The Wind in the Reeds, we learned a fascinating story from his Uncle Lloyd (“L.C.”), who is now 81. It’s a piece of civil rights history that amazed both of us. Lloyd had never told Wendell the story, and it’s the kind of story that might have been lost to history.
Father Harry J. Maloney, a big, bluff Irishman from New York City, had given his life as a priest of the Josephites, a Catholic religious order founded by Rome in the 19th century to provide priests to serve freed black slaves in America. Believe it or not, there were lots of Catholic slaves. In Louisiana, if the master was Catholic, his slaves were also baptized as Catholics. After the Civil War, they had no black priests, and the segregated culture made it impossible in most places for black Catholics to share churches with white Catholics. The Josephites dedicated their lives to serving African American congregations.
In 1948, the New Orleans archdiocese sent Father Maloney to Assumption Parish, where Wendell’s ancestors were living, to serve the black Catholics there.
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Writing self-consciously in the train of Clifford and Grant, Phyllis Airhart pushes well beyond either defensiveness or indictment. Her research leads, instead, to a deeply sympathetic account of the liberal evangelicalism and the national aspirations of early United Church history, but also an account that is realistically candid about the ultimate dissolution of the former and eventual disappointment of the latter. Because of how well she describes the life and death of these two phenomena—the particular Protestant type and the particular national agenda—her book raises questions with implications far beyond Canada.
Americans are not in the best position to assess the merits of "liberal evangelicalism" since we inhabit a religious landscape that has been dominated by strong binaries. In our religious history, "evangelical" and "liberal" have been construed as polar opposites, and our bookshelves bulge with studies riffing on the poles: fundamentalist vs. modernist, liberal vs. conservative, evangelical vs. ecumenical, traditional values vs. individualistic values, evangelism vs. social gospel, single-issue politics vs. Kingdom politics, and so on. In other parts of the English-speaking world, it has been more obvious that the institutionalized evangelical Protestantism that became so important in so many places for so many purposes during the 19th century always defined a spectrum of practices and beliefs. Broadly considered, all evangelicals embrace the four characteristics specified in David Bebbington's well-known definition: conversion, the Bible, the cross, and activism. But those who can be grouped together as sharing these characteristics have promoted an almost limitless array of specific variations. Even in the United States' own history, a broad range of evangelicals have always combined features from both ends of the spectrum. Against the stereotyping, many "fundamentalists" as fully deserve the evangelical label as do at least some whom right-side-of-the-spectrum folk call "liberals." So, for example, recent research by Heath Carter of Valparaiso University has shown how many evangelical traits—like trust in Scripture and stress on Christ as redeemer as well as model—informed early "liberal" agitation for labor and industrial reform toward the end of the nineteenth century.
Phyllis Airhart's careful documentation suggests that the United Church of Canada may have been the most significant example of liberal evangelicalism in the Protestant world from its founding in 1925 until the late 1950s.
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In my lifetime I have seen a glorious and surprising revival of love for the God of sovereign grace and for his mighty gospel. Thousands of churches, seminaries, colleges, discipling centers, publishing houses, magazines, books, videos, websites, radio programs, global missions, music artists (from classical to rap), campus ministries, urban ministries, counseling centers, prolife efforts (and more) have come into being with a dynamic of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated joy and missional courage (what we used to call evangelism) and passion for racial harmony and robust Reformed theology. And none of this is limited to one ethnicity or nation. It is the best of times.
On the other hand, I have witnessed with sometimes depressing heaviness the evisceration of the historic name “evangelical” to a meaningless conglomerate of people whose “evangelical” identity is that they all had grandparents who once believed what the reformers did. I have seen the mainline Protestant denominations collapse from gospel influence to faint cultural echoes. I have watched the rise of enormous churches and ministries who preach and export to poor nations a prosperity “gospel” that mutes the biblical teaching on suffering and reduces the glorious gospel to earthly betterment rooted in human attitudes, not the glory of Calvary.
And to mention just a few more of the many sorrows: the rise of a generation that knows little of the Bible, the disappearance of the weight of God’s awesome presence in worship, the glorification of immorality in entertainment, the explosion and ubiquity of pornography, the indifference in churches to justice for all ethnic groups, the decimation of whole neighborhoods through a dominant drug culture, the collapse of the family with the prevalence of premarital sex and easy divorce and the absence of responsible fathers. And the rise of civic leaders who, instead of standing against the disintegration, function as cheerleaders.
Read it carefully and read it all.
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Growing up in nearby Eden Prairie, Minn., Tyler Sit felt called to be a minister. But he was not sure what kind.
“I was a cradle Methodist,” said Mr. Sit, 26, who is half-Chinese, half-European and all-Minnesotan: sweet, smiley and Protestant. “I went to church camp, did Sunday school, was youth-group leader, was in the choir, sat on worship committees.”
So Mr. Sit went searching. “I spent a lot of time with Buddhists in Zen circles, studied in India, did a mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh,” Mr. Sit said, in a conversation that began in the May Day Café and wandered several blocks to his apartment. Then, in May 2014, visiting the Taizé Christian spiritual community in France, he decided to return to his roots.
“I realized that Christianity has within itself a deep internal religion, and also a deep ethic of social justice,” Mr. Sit said. “I don’t need to outsource to Buddhism.”
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ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday's feast of St. Joseph the Worker....
ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?
Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.
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ope Francis called on the faithful Sunday to not only welcome asylum-seekers to Europe but to give them shelter and help them begin new lives, as the leading edge of a migrant wave began dispersing across Germany or moving on to points north and west.
In a span of 24 hours from early Saturday to early Sunday, more than 13,000 people made their way into Germany via its border with Austria, the biggest share of them from war-racked Syria, but with large contingents of Afghans and Eritreans as well.
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Finally, Francis explained his notion of how theology ought to be practiced. The theologian, he said, is the child of his people. "He cannot and does not wish to ignore them. He knows his people, their language, their roots, their histories, their tradition." That knowledge leads the theologian "to recognize that the Christian people among whom he was born have a theological sense that he cannot ignore." (The sense of the faithful is an abiding theme of Francis's ministry.) What's more, the theologian is a "believer," a "prophet"—because the theologian "keeps alive an awareness of the past and the invitation that comes from the future."
“There is only one way of practising theology: on one's knees," according to Francis. That is not merely an act of prayer that precedes the intellectual work of theology. The relationship between thinking and prayer "a dynamic reality." Doing theology "on one's knees," the pope concluded, "means encouraging thought when praying and prayer when thinking."
Read it all from dotCommonweal.
“The moral foundation of political economy,” to use Lord Acton’s phrase, rests on the connection of liberty with right, of right with duty, of duty with leisure and delight, and of all with transcendence.
Our most unsettling economic problems are actually not economic but moral—moral ones that cannot be simply passed on from generation to generation. They need to be chosen and internalized by each person in each generation at the risk of deflecting material goods from their proper purposes.
Work likewise is not exclusively for its own sake. Rather work, while being an expression of human dignity and concrete accomplishment, aims at a product, aims at the material wellbeing in which something more than work can happen. The basis of culture, as Josef Pieper wrote in a famous thesis, is not only work but also leisure that lies beyond work. We work in order to have leisure, not the other way around.
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Pope Francis on Wednesday (Sept. 2) told his followers to clamber down from their lofty skyscrapers, reclaim public spaces and rejoin communities.
Speaking at his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pope said it was up to families to rejuvenate cities.
There may be a lot of ways to spend one’s free time in a city, but love is missing, Francis said.
“The smile of a family is capable of overcoming this desertification of our cities. And this is the victory of the love of a family,” he told followers in St. Peter’s Square.
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According a faculty biography, he’s the father of eight children, is rector of theology and chair of philosophy and theology at Reformation Bible College. He’s also a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, an outreach ministry. It was founded by Robert Charles Sproul, his father, who is also chancellor of Reformation College. Sproul Jr.’s college biography also describes him as delighting in teaching “the fullness and the glory of the gospel truth that Jesus changes everything.”
Or rather, he was a professor. He was a fellow. He alerted both institutions and, in accordance with church discipline, is now suspended from both roles.
Unlike other Christians, who maintain all of us are born into sin, his sin — or rather prospective thought about maybe sinning — was outed. And yet, R.C. Sproul Jr., is still teaching a Christian lesson.
This is what he posted on his blog today. It’s titled, “Judgment and Grace.”
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Some of the following predictions are guaranteed to be wrong. Casting the runes of the future is an imprecise art. However, the broad themes of the next 100 years are already taking shape.
The first is the de-Christianising of England, where the number of Christians is dropping. This affects the Catholic Church as it does the others, yet not all are falling at the same rate. The most acute crisis is in the Church of England, where recent independent statistics show membership fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1983 to 17 per cent in 2014, a drop of 58 per cent.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has argued that the writing is now on the wall, and the Church of England is only a generation away from total extinction. Unless something truly radical happens to reverse decades of decline, the Church of England and its many charms will have disappeared before 2050. (The numbers look similarly bleak for the Church of Scotland, whose membership dropped from 36 per cent of the population in 2001 to 18 per cent in 2013.)
The death of the Church of England will be immensely significant. For the first time since the reign of King Henry VIII, the Catholic Church will again be the largest Christian denomination in England.
The second big theme will be the general trend in global religion. Although Christianity is waning in Europe, religious adherence (including to Christianity) is increasing globally, which will make the world in 2115 a more religious place.
Behind this trend, the big story is Islam, which is the world’s fastest growing religion. Today, there are 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. By 2100 the positions will have reversed, with Islam overtaking Christianity to become the single largest religion on the planet.
The life of an English Catholic in 2115 will be significantly affected by the consequences of these two trends. These are my predictions...
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What does this mean for conservative Christians? Keller uses the analogy of an umbrella:
So what’s happening is the roof has come off for the devout. The devout had a kind of a shelter, an umbrella. You couldn’t be all that caustic toward traditional classic Christian teaching and truth. I spoke on Friday morning to the American Bible Society’s board. American Bible Society does a lot of polling about the Bible. The use of the Bible, reading the Bible, attitudes toward the Bible. They said that actually the number of people who are devout Bible readers is not changing that much.
What is changing is for the first time in history a growing group of people who think the Bible is bad, it’s dangerous, it’s regressive, it’s a bad cultural force, that was just never there. It was very tiny. And that’s because the middle ground has shifted, so it is more identified with the more secular, the less religious, and it’s less identified now with the more devout.
Later, he explains what the loss of this umbrella means for the devout:
The roof came off. That is, you had the devout, you had the secular, and you had that middle ground that made it hard to speak disrespectfully of traditional values. That middle ground now has not so much gone secular, but they more identified with this side. They are identified with expressive individualism, and so they don’t want to tell anybody how to live their lives.
And so what that means now of course is that the devout suddenly realize that they are out there, that the umbrella is gone, and they are taking a lot of flak for their views, just public flak.
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Cardinal William Joseph Levada, once the highest-ranking American official at the Vatican, was arrested last Thursday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for drunken driving and is now set to respond to the charge in court next month.
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This week, Archbishop Foley Beach, at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill of Russia, led a delegation from the Anglican Church in North America to Moscow for formal ecumenical meetings with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The delegation made a pilgrimage to the monastery of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius on Monday, August 24th before beginning meetings with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations on Tuesday, August 25th. Later in the day, the conversations continued when the delegation was officially received by Patriarch Kirill at his residence.
During the communist era, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered decades of severe persecution. This week the Anglican delegation saw a transformed religious landscape in which Christian symbols now dominate Red Square and Moscow, and new churches are being planted across the country (on average 1,000 per year for the last 27 years).
Both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church in North America expressed a desire to see the growth and deepening of relationships between Orthodoxy and faithful, global Anglicanism. Archbishop Beach delivered a letter of greeting from Archbishop Wabukala, the Archbishop and Primate of Kenya, and Chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON).
As the realignment of Anglicanism continues to unfold, Archbishop Beach gave thanks for the common ground that the faithful of both churches are finding on the practical moral issues that confront our societies:...
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On 25 August 2015, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, met with members of the delegation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), who had come to Russia on a pilgrimage visit. The meeting took place at the DECR premises.
Metropolitan Hilarion told the guests about the activities of the Department for External Church Relations, paying special attention to inter-Christian contacts of the Russian Orthodox Church and her relationships with the Protestant world. As the DECR chairman noted, the process of liberalizing moral teaching is going in a number of Protestant Churches today. The Moscow Patriarchate breaks off communion with such Churches.
The participants in the meeting discussed the issues, pressing for the Anglican Communion today, including the issue of admitting women to ‘episcopal’ orders, which has become a topic of heated debate after the General Synod of the Church of England made the respective decision in 2014, as well as the problem, closely related to the previous one, of preserving the unity of the Anglican Communion, whose spiritual centre is the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The guests shared with Metropolitan Hilarion their vision of the abovementioned issues, reaffirming the ACNA’s commitment to the Gospel moral principles and doctrines, traditional for Anglicans.
The participants in the meeting expressed their satisfaction over the fruitful cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church in North America in academic sphere.
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On 25 August 2015, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with members of the delegation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), who had come to Russia on pilgrimage, at the Patriarchal residence in St Daniel’s Monastery in Moscow.
The delegation included Archbishop Foley Beach, head of the Anglican Church in North America; Bishop Ray Sutton, chairman of ACNA’s Ecumenical Relations Committee; Bishops Kevin Allen and Keith Ackerman; and Rev. Canon Andrew Gross, head of ACNA’s Communications and Media Relations Service.
Greeting the delegation of the Anglican Church in North America, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted the difficulty of the situation in which this denomination had been established six years ago. “At the time your Church was undergoing a very difficult period in her history, which required from believers fortitude and the ability to resist great temptations,” His Holiness said.
“It is my firm belief that in the course of her history, the Church faces challenges which she must overcome with all her courage,” he continued, “There are two models of behavior of the Church and Christians. The first one implies obedience to secular power and those mighty forces that influence the development of society. The second one implies the ability to tell the truth and show commitment to Christ’s glad tidings.”
As the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church noted, the second model always implies martyrdom. “There is nothing new in it. The Lord said that we should follow the narrow path leading to the Heavenly Kingdom. A wide and nice path will not lead us there,” he said, “Here, in Russia, we realized it in the hard times of persecutions of our Church. We also could choose one of the models of behavior, and I thank God for granting fortitude to our predecessors who followed the only right path and never fell away from the Apostolic faith and the Tradition we received through the Apostles and holy fathers.”
“For a moment it seemed that the Church had no future here, for the majority of people would not associate the future of our country with Christianity,” His Holiness Patriarch Kirill continued. “Yet, the Lord changed the course of history in several days, and those who had been regarded as outcasts and retrogrades, turned out to be heroes courageously defending their beliefs.”
The participants in the meeting discussed the processes going on in the Anglican Communion in recent years, as well as prospects of Orthodox-Anglican dialogue. Archbishop Foley Beach told about a positive experience of bilateral dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America and the Orthodox Church in America.
Also discussed at the meeting were practical aspects of cooperation between the Anglican Church in North America and the Russian Orthodox Church.
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Next month a hilltop square in Rome is due to be named Piazza Martin Lutero, in memory of Luther’s achievements. The site chosen is the Oppian Hill, a park area that overlooks the Colosseum.
The move has been six years in a making, following a request made by the Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant denomination, Italian daily La Repubblica said. The original plan was to inaugurate the square in time for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s historic trip to Rome in 2010. City officials were not able to discuss the process behind naming the square or the reason for the holdup.
Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.
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The historic First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, announced in May that it would declare itself be “open and welcoming” to all people and that it would allow same-sex marriage and ordain openly homosexual ministers.
The move came after the church had undergone a “discernment” process under the leadership of a “LGBT Discernment Team.” That team brought a report to the church’s deacons, who then forwarded it to the congregation. The church then approved the statement by standing vote.
The congregation, now more than 180 years old, is one of the most historic churches in the South. It participated in the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 and its pastor, William Bullein Johnson, became the SBC’s first president. The church was largely responsible for the birth of Furman University and its old “church house” became the first home of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859. Few churches in the South can match its historical record.
Nevertheless, First Baptist Greenville and the Southern Baptist Convention had moved in very different theological directions in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The church was moving steadily in a more liberal direction and the Southern Baptist Convention was moving to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and a far more confessional understanding of its identity.
The church and the denomination were set on a collision course, and the congregation voted to withdraw from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999. If that had not happened, the SBC would have moved to withdraw fellowship on the basis of the church’s announcement in May...
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A Pennsylvania pastor who’s the key suspect in a global insider-trading scheme must remain in custody while being sent to New York for a bail hearing.
A judge in Philadelphia, whose decision on Tuesday to free Vitaly Korchevsky on $100,000 bail was blocked by a judge in Brooklyn, ordered the pastor temporarily detained while he’s transported by U.S. Marshals to the New York borough for the hearing.
Korchevsky made no comments Friday in court in Philadelphia. He whispered to his wife and brother-in-law across the courtroom. Bob Levant, one of his attorneys, said the father of two is the “centerpiece” of a close-knit Ukrainian community in the Glen Mills area.
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On a hot August morning, 30-year-old Sister Bethany Madonna sits before the altar of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist. Seated alongside her are seven other women, also in their 30s, also dressed in blue habits and long white veils.
The moment has been years in coming: the day they consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ as they offer their final vows as members of the Sisters of Life.
Which provoked a question: What could lead a personable young woman from a happy family to give up everything -- especially at a moment when women have never had as many opportunities before them?
It’s a reasonable question.
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The white Christians I know who care deeply about solving our nation’s racial injustices are those who are embedded in communities with black and Hispanic and Asian Christians. They care not just about issues but about people they love as their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Where we see churches that expand beyond the sameness of ethnicity or economic status, we see people who are willing to stand up for one another in the public square, because they’ve learned to love one another at the family table.
The answer to racial injustice is precisely the way the Hebrew prophets once framed the answer to all social evil. It means working for courts and systems that are fair and impartial. But it doesn’t stop with policies and structures. It must also include people who are transformed, not just by greater social awareness, but also by consciences that are formed by something other than our backgrounds. For that, we need more than national conversations and policy proposals (as important as those are).
We need, nationally, what Abraham Lincoln called “a new birth of freedom.” But we also need, personally, a new birth.
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It was a formal church setting with nine area Christian leaders present, but no formal sermons were given or messages with the Bible cracked open to a particular passage.
Instead, the clergy spoke off the cuff in a Christian “conversation” Wednesday night on issues of faith and belief.
And that led them into some areas of modern-day debate and concern, such as marriage equality, race and the church’s relevance in a digital age.
“We’ll be having a great debate next April about same-sex marriage and transgender (issues),” said the Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, at “Christianity Beyond the Catchphrases,” held at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville.
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Is the Pope Catholic? Of course. Wait ... no! Oh, hang on -- yeah, yeah, he is. pic.twitter.com/Hql9d8Inw5— Freakonomics (@freakonomics) August 11, 2015
Life is stranger than fiction.
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A year after tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled communities overtaken by Islamic State militants, their lives are on hold in exile: They won't go back to Iraq, saying it's not safe for Christians, but as refugees they're barred from working in temporary asylum countries such as Jordan. Expectations of quick resettlement to the West have been dashed.
"We've lost hope in everything," said Hinda Ablahat, a 67-year-old widow who lives with dozens of fellow refugees in plywood cubicles set up in a church compound in downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. "We've been sitting here for a year and nothing's happened."
About 7,000 Christians from northern Iraq have found refuge in Jordan, including about 2,000 living in church-sponsored shelters.
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With scant media attention, leading U.S. thinkers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon) and Evangelical Protestantism have been holding regular dialogue meetings the past 15 years. This is a good moment for religion writers to examine where things stand between these two dynamic faiths.
That’s because the talks are pausing temporarily as participants issue a new anthology: “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation” (InterVarsity Press). The book’s editors, who’ve led the dialogue to date, are top sources for journalists: Robert Millet, former religious education dean at the LDS Brigham Young University, and Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary.
The two sides constitute the most unlikely dialogue partners imaginable, despite their concord on moral issues in the socio-political realm.
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There is a natural link between evangelism and worship. Yes, at Redeemer we talk about sharing the hope of Jesus out of our gratitude for his love and rescue. Worship and gratitude is a natural motivator for evangelism but there’s another link that comes to mind. When I talk to Christians and pastors who have a natural bent towards evangelism, I notice they live their faith very publicly because evangelism is an act of worship. They get to see a glimpse of God’s sovereignty, his unrelentless love and pursuit of someone and they get to see the Holy Spirit do beautiful things in their midst. Lyn Cook, a Community Group Director with Redeemer’s East Side Congregation, told me one time, evangelism is one way God reaches into her heart and reminds her of his grace and goodness. He reveals himself to her by giving her hope and compassion as she prays, listens and talks with non-believing friends. God’s sovereignty and relentless love are the foundation for evangelism and the way that many Christians, like Lyn, experience God as they live out their faith publicly.
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Christian preacher Pastor James McConnell has said he wants to be “exonerated, liberated and set free” after he pleaded not guilty at a Belfast court in connection with charges he faces over a sermon where he branded Islam as “satanic”.
At Laganside court on Thursday, the north Belfast preacher’s solicitor Joe Rice said his client would be pleading not guilty to the case prosecutors have taken under the 2003 Communications Act.
Supporters, including DUP MP Sammy Wilson, gathered outside the court holding placards to protest what they described as the pastor’s right to free speech.
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If pastors and pundits and politicos follow Moore's lead, what would that mean for evangelicals—and for everyone else?
On the evangelical side, Moore hints at a few strategic shifts ahead—and, perhaps, strategic retrenchments. During his time as a Southern Baptist leader, Moore has pushed hard on the topic of racial reconciliation within the denomination. He sees the broader church for what it’s becoming: markedly less white, and steadily more global. This is part of the context for his campaign against a vague, American-values Christianity—the real movement in the faith is happening outside of the United States.
He also thinks Christians need to change how they relate to their LGBT brothers and sisters. “The loudest voices against the hounding and intimidation of gay and lesbian persons around the world should be from the wing of the church most committed to a biblical Christian sexual ethic,” he writes. This means working to end homelessness among gays and lesbians, he says, and caring for teens who have been rejected by their parents.
But this response is not a softening on sexuality; if anything, Moore is calling for more fidelity to this Christian sexual ethic. This means talking about “chastity,” not just “abstinence,” he says; condemning “fornication,” not just “premarital sex.” It means eschewing divorce and recognizing traditional gender roles and rejecting the values of the sexual revolution.
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[The Rev. Gretta] Vosper, 57, who was ordained in 1993 and joined her east-end church in 1997, said the idea of an interventionist, supernatural being on which so much church doctrine is based belongs to an outdated world view.
What’s important, she says, is that her views hearken to Christianity’s beginnings, before the focus shifted from how one lived to doctrinal belief in God, Jesus and the Bible.
“Is the Bible really the word of God? Was Jesus a person?” she said.
“It’s mythology. We build a faith tradition upon it which shifted to find belief more important than how we lived.”
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Christians are facing growing persecution around the world, fuelled mainly by Islamic extremism and repressive governments, leading the pope to warn of “a form of genocide” and for campaigners to speak of “religio-ethnic cleansing”.
The scale of attacks on Christians in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America has alarmed organisations that monitor religious persecution, with most reporting a significant deterioration in recent years.
On his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Francis said he was dismayed “to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus”. He went on: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
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The largest Presbyterian church in the Lehigh Valley has begun a process that could lead to a split from the most visible national denomination — a move initiated after a survey showed most of its congregants disagree with church positions, including those allowing same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay ministers.
The leadership of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted on June 15 to enter the discernment process to leave Presbyterian Church (USA), or PC (USA), and seek affiliation with ECO: a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians after spending years considering the move.
The 140-year-old church on Center Street in Bethlehem has 2,609 members and would be the largest congregation to leave the Lehigh Presbytery, the group of congregations covering seven counties in eastern Pennsylvania.
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A new ecumenical resource is offering an alternative way for small groups and congregations to lead worshippers in the singing of hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing Hallelujah! is a video hymnal comprised of a five-volume DVD set. In each video, musicians perform well-known traditional and contemporary hymns while lyrics scroll in large letters along the bottom of the screen, allowing viewers to join in and sing along.
Ralph Milton, a retired former missionary and longtime member of First United Church in Kelowna, B.C., played the lead role in creating the video hymnal. Reflecting his ecumenical outlook, Sing Hallelujah! was designed for use by all denominations, though many selections are drawn from United Church hymn books.
“Having been a writer and penned more books than anybody would want to read, I did a lot of travelling around at one point to small, various congregations,” Milton said.
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On June 28 a handful of fundamentalist hecklers from the Church of Wells, located in the piney woods of East Texas about three hours northeast of Houston, disrupted services at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. As reported in national and local media outlets, and astutely analyzed by historian Charity Carney, security removed the activists after they shouted at the popular preacher and they were arrested. While that June Sunday was not the first time the Wells hecklers visited Lakewood, it represented a bold and memorable confrontation with America’s smiling pastor, not unlike the one evangelist Adam Key had with Osteen in 2007.
It is easy to dismiss the Wells hecklers and Key as fundamentalist partisans whose messages appeal to a small number of like-minded followers. However, as my book Salvation with a Smile argues, their actions are part of a longer history of public castigation of popular preachers. And Molly Worthen’s insightful description of evangelicalism’s crisis of authority speaks powerfully to the rhetorical combat between Osteen and his critics, as does Todd Brenneman’s post for this blog.
Lakewood’s heckler episode this summer, while documenting one way to understand Osteen’s popularity, also prompts historical reflection about the summer of 2005 when Joel and his congregation moved into Houston’s Compaq Center, a sports-arena-turned-megachurch. The last decade encompassed Joel Osteen’s ascendancy to the peak of American evangelicalism.
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..Pope Francis, who was born in Argentina, knows how to talk in a language that is not simply a replay of liberation theology. During his trip, which included visits to Ecuador and Paraguay, he repeatedly invoked the idea of a “Patria Grande,” a great Latin American homeland, brought about through greater social, political, and economic unity. Such appeals for unity have been made in the recent past by the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, but they have their origins in the stirring rhetoric of Latin American independence heroes such as José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar.
Notably, Pope Francis was a crucial figure, behind the scenes, in the recent secret diplomatic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. In May, Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, a lifelong communist, went to the Vatican to see Francis and remarked, “If the Pope continues to speak like this, sooner or later I will start praying again and I will return to the Catholic Church—and I’m not saying this jokingly.” Evo Morales, for his part, said, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a Pope—Pope Francis.”
But it is not only the leftists of Latin America who see something in the pontiff. Paraguay’s conservative President, Horacio Cartes, was equally effusive, lauding him for “his direction [that] lights the way and also gives us a grand task: to work together, with sacrifice and perseverance, so that we might have a country that is more equal for all.”...
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Polygamy may well make for a coalition of strange bedfellows drawn from across the religious and non-religious spectrum in the United States. If the so-called “mainline” churches repeat their same-sex marriage trajectory, they could well provide polygamy some hefty cultural and political ballast (though the impact of that support may not be quite as big as it was for same-sex marriage in light of the continued demographic decline of these denominations).
These Christians would, of course, also need to square their religious heritage around polygamy with the kinds of feminist critiques that informed the overhaul of monogamy during the past 50 or so years. The Reformation proponents of polygamy, after all, only had polygyny in mind, and a very male-dominated version at that. Protestants today would almost certainly need to consider polyandry and, to use a clunky term, polygynandry.
I agree with Douthat and Silk that Americans are going to need to think seriously about polygamy. Douthat is probably right in arguing that many of the arguments liberals put forth on behalf of same-sex marriage will be deployed on behalf of polygamy, but Silk is probably also correct that religious freedom claims will play a role as well. In any case, rather than let fear guide the conversation, perhaps we should embrace an honest, thorough, and thoughtful debate that will likely generate a new set of pro- and con- alliances from a diverse range of people and groups in the United States. It wouldn’t be a reformation of marriage without one.
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"Compromising the truth is a serious blunder" but we must always live out our beliefs with love and grace, Ravi Zacharias has said in a detailed blog post addressing same-sex relationships.
The author and speaker who chairs the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), says he is against gay marriage, and points to the biblical description of one man and one woman in sacred commitment. "So profound is this union that the relationship of God to the Church bears that comparison. He is the bridegroom; the Church is the bride," Zacharias writes.
Responding to the US Supreme Court's recent decision to legalise same-sex marriage, which Zacharias says "sent tremors around the globe," the author warns that we are at "breaking point".
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Imagine that an American politician, competing with a dozen other candidates for media attention, launched his presidential campaign by describing the nation’s evangelical Christians as a problem: “They’re charlatans who raise money from poor people to spend on private jets,” he says. “They have multiple affairs and sexually abuse children. And, some, I assume, are good people.”
Millions of evangelical Christians would be fighting mad, and rightly so. While there have been a few, highly publicized cases of professing evangelicals committing these sins and crimes, the overwhelming majority have not. This charge against believers would be what the Bible calls bearing false witness, and what the world calls slander.
No presidential candidate would make such a claim, as no candidate would want to alienate millions of evangelicals. And yet this blanket slander is precisely what Donald Trump did in recent days by describing Mexican immigrants as “bringing crime” to the U.S. and as “rapists.” Mr. Trump then “clarified” his views by suggesting that the problem is “not just Mexico,” but immigrants from other parts of the world as well.
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The video reveals Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood, discussing the intentional harvesting of organs and other tissues from babies aborted in Planned Parenthood clinics. While reaching with her fork for salad, Dr. Nucatola openly tells a group she believes to be medical researchers that there is a great demand for fetal livers, but “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.”
Dr. Nucatola went on to explain in chilling detail that abortionists often plan in advance how to harvest desired organs, even telling the group that a “huddle” is sometimes held with clinic staff early in the day, so that targeted organs can be harvested from unborn babies.
Her language is beyond chilling as she described how abortions are conducted specifically to harvest intact organs: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” She also described using an abortion technique that appears to be partial-birth abortion.
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The free tickets were for the festival this Saturday in Central Park featuring Luis Palau, one of the world’s leading evangelical Christian figures, whose event is expected to draw 60,000 people to the Great Lawn. For months it has been promoted not only in churches, but also on billboards, on the radio and in the subways, and it promises to be the largest evangelical Christian gathering in New York since the Rev. Billy Graham led a crusade in Queens 10 years ago.
The size of the festival belies the city’s secular reputation and speaks to the vibrant evangelical movement in New York. The phenomenon is driven largely by immigrant-led churches that have proliferated in the boroughs outside Manhattan.
Nearly 900 of the 1,700 churches participating in the festival are Hispanic, organizers said. Latino leaders were the ones two years ago to invite Mr. Palau, an endearing, white-haired bilingual immigrant from Argentina who has built a reputation as the Hispanic Billy Graham, but African-American and Korean-American church leaders quickly got involved in the planning.
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A Change of Heart recounts his dramatic turnabout. After he arrived at Drew University in 1970, his older colleague, the former Communist Will Herberg—by then writing for National Review, having returned to his own Jewish faith at Reinhold Niebuhr’s urging—implored Oden to read the early church fathers before presumptuously rejecting their faith. After months in the library absorbing Sts. Athanasius, Vincent, and Augustine, among others, Oden was stunned by their persuasive powers, which he credited to the Holy Spirit. He would spend his next three decades at Drew as a respected but lonely voice for Christian orthodoxy, tutoring several generations of “young fogey” orthodox scholars and clergy.
No less important, Oden connected with a wider network of conservative religious voices who shared his critique of liberal modernity, including the Vatican theologian Joseph Ratzinger—who, of course, would become Pope Benedict XVI and whom Oden credits for inspiring his Ancient Christian Commentary project—and the Lutheran-turned-Roman-Catholic Richard John Neuhaus, who joined Oden in the ecumenical project of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Oden also befriended Avery Dulles, the Catholic-priest son of John Foster Dulles who excelled as a crisply orthodox theologian and became a cardinal.
Unlike other Protestant intellectuals who turned conservative in collaboration with Catholic thinkers, Oden seems never to have been seriously tempted to leave Wesley for Rome. He insists that he would never leave the church that baptized him, which means the small-town Methodism of Depression-era Oklahoma, where he was shaped by the preaching, prayers, and hymn-singing of traditional Wesleyan piety.
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For years Catholics and evangelical Protestants have found common cause especially in opposing abortion and homosexual practice, including gay marriage and challenges to Christian privilege. They have also stood together to assert their right to conscientiously object to laws they find morally repugnant.
But does this mean they're friends? Jamie Manson's sharp-eyed piece on the pope's embrace of some of the more visible evangelical figures suggests it is so. If that is the case, it must be a rather narrow version of friendship that collides with the pope's major message in several ways.
Rick Warren , Tony Perkins, Jim Robison and the others identified as Francis' amigos are an unblended lot. They act on their individual agendas (evangelicalism being perhaps the truest form of free enterprise extant) and not only compete for audience but frequently stir mutual friction. They publicly stand four square against shared moral evils, however, and that alone makes for friendships of convenience with official Catholicism. Warren has become the media go-to preacher for his image as the "new evangelical" who shows sympathy with broader social causes like environmentalism, but so far that advocacy has barely shown itself.
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In recent days, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have all spoken out on the vital issue of climate change. It is vital, because the long-term future of the Earth and its inhabitants is at stake. It is no less a matter than that.
The issue of climate change led to the landmark Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system. What is termed the Conference of Parties (COP) regularly reviews the implementation of the Rio action programme. The next COP will be held next December in Paris and, for the first time in two decades of UN negotiations, will seek to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, aiming to keep global warming below 2°C.
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Some Christians are worried that their churches will lose their tax-exempt status as a result of the Supreme Court's decision declaring gay marriage a constitutional right. I'm worried that my church will cease to exist altogether, or at least in its present form.
The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America. Following decades of steep membership losses across all these historic churches, that's kind of like being the tallest building in Topeka. But only the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have more U.S. members, and the United Methodist Church's international membership is actually growing.
Almost alone among mainline Protestant churches, the United Methodists have remained committed to orthodox Christian standards of sexual morality. Clergy must be celibate when single and monogamous in marriage, which is defined as the union of a man and a woman. Methodist pastors are not permitted to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
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People of Irish Catholic ancestry will be able to trace their origins back almost 300 years online from Wednesday.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys will officially launch online the entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI).
Involved are more than 370,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded and which will be accessible free of charge.
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The Catholic Church in England and Wales is turning to the pioneer of the Alpha course to inspire parishes to evangelise.
The Revd Nicky Gumbel, vicar at the Holy Trinity Brompton church in South Kensington, London, is due to address 850 diocesan representatives at Proclaim ’15, a national Catholic evangelisation gathering in Birmingham on Saturday.
The Alpha course is a 10-week introduction to Christianity borne out of the charismatic Evangelical movement and is now used by more Catholic churches worldwide than Anglican ones.
Clare Ward, home mission adviser to the bishops’ conference said Mr Gumbel had been invited to help parishes shift their mentality “from maintenance to mission”.
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Over the past three years, a major church scandal has unfolded in the island state of Singapore (literally, the “Lion City”). The target of investigation is the mighty City Harvest megachurch, which claims more than 20,000 adherents. Founding pastor Kong Hee has been accused of diverting at least $20 million to support his wife’s pop music career. Several other church leaders have been implicated in alleged cover-ups.
At first sight such a scandal might seem unremarkable. Sadly, clergy on all continents sometimes fail to live up to their principles, and churches often lack accountability.
What is astonishing is the existence of megachurches in Singapore, and their enormous popularity. This fact challenges much of what we commonly think we know about the nature of Christianity outside its traditional Euro-American heartlands. It also raises basic questions about the process of secularization....
Most of the usual explanations for Christian expansion in Asia fall flat in the case of Singapore.
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Contrast this statement with another, from January 1963. [Maxie] Dunnam, then a young pastor in Mississippi, invited three other Methodist pastors to his river camp in order to draft “Born of Conviction,” a historic challenge to Jim Crow amid one of its darkest moments. Only a few months before, rioting had broken out when James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. A few months later, a white supremacist shot and killed Mississippi NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers (whose wife would later honor Dunnam).
“Born of Conviction” cited the official Methodist teaching that all men were equal, denounced resegregation under the cover of Christian schooling, and rejected the charge that the civil rights movement was Communist. Several of the twenty-eight Methodist pastors who subsequently signed the statement were forced to leave the state. Some received death threats.
The distance between Dunnam's statement in 1963 and [Bill] Mefford's in 2015 provides another measure of the loss of moral seriousness in mainline social justice activism. The comparison is not, I think, an altogether unfair one. Mefford's official position makes it impossible to dismiss his comments as the mere product of one man's glibness, rather than to admit them as evidence of a church bureaucracy that has lost touch with scripture, tradition, and the believers it purports to represent.
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...in the wake of the 5-4 Obergefell decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the U.S. Supreme Court, the Chicago Tribune has followed up with a news report about Reardon that does a good job of describing his decision, yet does little to dig into the thoughts and beliefs of those who either oppose or dismiss his strategy. Consider, for example, this passage in which an Orthodox bishop seems to echo, in reverse, some of Reardon's thinking:
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, said he doesn’t foresee such a boycott in Chicago. He even questions whether it’s legal.
“I can’t imagine any of our priests doing that,” he said. “It hasn’t happened yet and I don’t anticipate it happening to make a political statement,” he said.
That's a really important quote.
I would stress that this statement by a Greek Orthodox bishop in no way represents an endorsement of Obergefell, but it clear indicates that there will be theological and legal debates ahead – inside Eastern Orthodoxy in this land and in other sanctuaries – about how priests should handle this clash between state and church.
In other words, this quote should have been near the top of the Tribune report and backed with more material explaining, on the record when possible, the views of those – in Orthodoxy and elsewhere – who have rejected Reardon's strategy.
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Senior Anglican leaders have responded to a move by the Presbyterian Church in NSW to consider ministers handing back their marriage licences if marriage is redefined to include same-sex couples.
Kevin Murray, the moderator of the NSW Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, wrote to churches about debate at the annual assembly in Sydney last week.
“The Assembly considered what the church should do if marriage is redefined in Australia. It decided to ask the General Assembly of Australia to withdraw the whole church from the Marriage Act, so that our ministers could no longer solemnise marriages under the Marriage Act.” Mr Murray said. “The report which recommended this decision argued that if the Federal Government were to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage then it would corrupt a good gift of God into a wrong. That would mean that ministers would then be acting for the government in a system which did not reflect the biblical view of marriage. In this case the positive reason for our co-operation with the Marriage Act would have been removed, and we would be better to avoid association with evil by no longer acting as celebrants.”
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Justin taylor provides a helpful summary which begins:Tony Reinke asks New Testament scholar and Gospel Coalition president D. A. Carson the following questions:
 Generally speaking, what would you say to someone who came up and asked you for your initial thoughts about the SCOTUS ruling?
 Does this landmark ruling today mark a new era for the church in America?
 What would you say to Christians who feel angry and betrayed by the courts for this ruling?...
Read it all and listen to the whole 18 minute recording.
One reason that this has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950's, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality.
But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed, not so much by other religious denominations, as it was in the 19th century, but by the ideology of secularism and the self-defining individual -- admirably expressed, by the way, in Justice Kennedy's articulation of the majority position in the case under consideration.
So what do we do?
We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.
The Church has faced this sort of thing before -- and we're still standing.
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An historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is "getting closer every day," a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on 28 June.
The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054.
"Now such a meeting is getting closer every day but it must be well prepared," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
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The result has been an obvious change in tone and emphasis — but not teaching or policy — at many churches. Almost all evangelical churches oppose same-sex marriage, and many do not allow gays and lesbians to serve in leadership positions unless they are celibate. Some pastors, however, now either minimize their preaching on the subject or speak of homosexuality in carefully contextualized sermons emphasizing that everyone is a sinner and that Christians should love and welcome all.
“Evangelicals are coming to the realization that they hold a minority view in the culture, and that on this issue, they have lost the home-field advantage,” said Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research, which surveys evangelicals. “They are learning to speak with winsomeness and graciousness, which, when their view was the majority, evangelicals tended not to do.” A handful of evangelical churches have changed their positions. City Church in San Francisco, for example, has dropped its rule that gays and lesbians commit to celibacy to become members, and GracePointe Church in Tennessee has said gays and lesbians can serve in leadership roles and receive the sacrament of marriage. Ken Wilson, who founded the Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., published an open letter calling for a greater embrace of gays and lesbians in evangelical churches. But Mr. Stetzer said they are the exceptions.
“Well-known evangelicals who have shifted on same-sex marriage, you could fit them all in an S.U.V.,” Mr. Stetzer said. “If you do shift, you become a media celebrity, but the shift among practicing evangelicals is minimal.”
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“We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt.”--Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP, 2012), p.283
At First Baptist Dallas, where the pulpit was adorned Sunday with red, white and blue bunting to honor the Fourth of July, the pastor called the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.”
The iconic rainbow colors that bathed the White House Friday night after the court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide represent “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion,” the Rev. Robert Jeffress said.
“But we are not discouraged,” Jeffress said. “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.”
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Almost on cue, there were three different news stories about abortion and Down syndrome around the time of the encyclical’s release. New blood screening, for instance, has resulted in a 34 percent increase in such abortions in Britain. Just a few days later, a Washington Post guest columnist argued such routine and systematic screening — not least because between 67 percent and 92 percent end up aborting — constitutes the formal “elimination of a group of people quite happy being themselves” under “the false pretense of women’s rights.” And then there was the story of the truly despicable company stealing the image of a child with Down syndrome for their Orwellian-sounding test kit named “Tranquility.”
You couldn’t ask for a more revealing practice of the throwaway culture Pope Francis so strongly decries. It doesn’t matter that people with Down syndrome are happier than those who are “normal;” our consumer culture’s tendency is to turn everything into a mere object or tool of the market, and when the object or tool is no longer useful, we simply discard it. These children don’t meet the quality-control standards of the consumer, and so the product simply gets thrown out as so much trash.
But one of the central themes of Pope Francis’s encyclical is that all creation has value independent of its value within a consumer culture. In response to my sharing the three stories mentioned above on social media, an old friend sent me a touching e-mail (parts of which are shared here with permission) about her sister with Down syndrome. She remembers that her family was initially sad and worried — but now, looking back, “it truly made no sense....”
Read it all from Charles Camosy in the Washington Post.
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