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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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Pope Francis told an Argentine newspaper that he never watches TV or logs on to the Internet. Perhaps not surprisingly, he sleeps well.
Speaking to the newspaper La Voz Del Pueblo, the pope reflected on the little over two years since he was thrust into the global limelight.
He said the swift transition from being archbishop of Buenos Aires to leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was somewhat of a shock.
Read it all.
“The diocese wasn’t overwhelmingly pleased with it,” he said. “I’m not sure of whether it was a perceptual issue or whether [the bishop] figured he invested 12 years of education in me and didn’t want to lose it too quick in a motorcycle accident. But the diocese has never been completely at ease with my being a biker.”
His parishioners, he says, believe otherwise. The pastor often cites his motorcycle experiences in his homilies, attempting to convey the Scriptures so that they will relate in the modern world.
“I tell them weather reports are very important to motorcycle riders. If you’re going to be out for a couple of hours, you can’t just look out the window. What’s it going to be like two hours from now when I come back? There’s a 50 percent chance of rain, but if it rains, you get 100 percent wet,” he said.
“So the Lord tells you, ‘not the day nor the hour.’ You know, the odds may be 50 percent that you’re not going to get caught doing something wrong. But if you get caught doing something wrong, you’re 100 percent guilty.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Travel Urban/City Life and Issues * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said he appreciates how the passing of the marriage referendum leaves gay and lesbian men and women feeling and he paid tribute to the “immense effort” that went in to the referendum campaign.
Speaking to RTE News, the Archbishop said he appreciated the efforts particularly of the No side.
“It was a principled vote. People, I hope, will respect that,” he commented.
He said it was very clear that if the referendum was an affirmation of the views of young people that the Church has “a huge task in front of it” to find the language to be able to talk to and get its message across to young people, not just on this issue but in general.
“I think the Church needs to do a reality check, right across the board, to look at the things it is doing well and to look at the areas that we really have drifted away completely from young people.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
The United Methodist Church has only 15 years to reverse its decline in the United States if it is to have a sustainable future, an economist warned church leaders.
At the same gathering, the church leaders discussed possible missional goals to address that decline and enhance the global denomination’s ministries around the world.
“By 2030, the denomination in the United States will either have found a way to turn around, meaning it is growing, or its turnaround in the United States is not possible,” Donald R. House Sr. told the May 19 combined meeting of the Connectional Table and the General Council on Finance and Administration board. “By 2050, the connection will have collapsed.”
In other words, he predicted that unless things change soon, the denomination in coming decades will not have enough U.S. churches to pay for its connectional structures. Such structures include conferences, bishops, agencies, missions and international disaster response.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth. The Psalmist says: “You send forth your Spirit… and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30). The account of the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is significantly linked to this Psalm, which is a great hymn of praise to God the Creator. The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same. Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15). Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam. In this way, renewed by the Spirit of God, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation. In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator, as another Psalm says: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:2, 10).
Read it all.
[Today]...is Wesley Day when Methodists across the globe mark the anniversary of the day in 1738 when their founder John Wesley underwent a deep spiritual experience.
In London, Wesley’s Chapel on City Road — the “Mother Church of World Methodism” — will be holding a day of commemorations, including prayers round his tomb, while in chapels and churches across the country a host of special services will be taking place.
An Anglican clergyman, John Wesley had lived a devout life — visiting prisoners, studying the Bible, praying, living simply and even travelling to America to be a missionary — but on May 24 something happened that changed him. That evening he went (“unwillingly” as he admitted in his journal) to a meeting of Christians on Aldersgate Street, near St Paul’s Cathedral, where someone read aloud Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ.
Wesley recorded in his journal how, as he listened, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Read it all (subscription required).
Something is happening in El Salvador on the 23rd of May. Not just the usual rampant violence in this nation which has one of the world’s highest murder rates. But a celebration for this majority Christian nation: the beatification ceremony of one of its sons, Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The ceremony was arranged following a decree approved by Pope Francis on the 3rd of February in which he declared the Salvadoran Archbishop a martyr.
Like many of his fellow countrymen Romero was a victim of violence and was shot at while celebrating mass on the 24th of March 1980.
Read it all.
What does directly touch church life are Pew’s numbers on generational change. Attachment to religion is declining across all age groups, but the rise of the nones is most pronounced among younger cohorts: the younger the age bracket, the less likely people are to belong to any Christian (or other religious) body. And of all Christian groups, mainline Protestants do the worst job at reaching and retaining younger generations.
One practical lesson of the Pew report, then, is on the crucial need for mainliners to focus on passing the faith on to the next generation. Mainliners may need to borrow some of the ethos of evangelical Protestants (who seem to do a better job at this) in equipping families to be primary incubators of faith and in forming identities that are distinct and (in some selective ways) more oppositional toward the culture than they have been.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Youth Ministry * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian
Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now two Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.
The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.
The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The reason for Coren’s conversion and the manner of it are newsworthy. It is significant in terms of religious culture and the profession of commentary.
Coren left Catholicism over homosexuality and gay marriage. In the face of cultural juggernauts, people do change their minds. Coren is following the theological path of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I wouldn’t have picked the contrarian Coren to join the trendiest cause around, but that’s how cultural trends become trendy; people join them.
Two weeks ago, Coren told our colleague Joseph Brean that he came back to Catholicism (the second time) for the Eucharist. He then left over homosexuality. In the long Christian tradition, sexual morality has never been more important than Eucharistic theology. Coren lambastes those who put sexual morality at the heart of their faith. Yet in choosing his ecclesial allegiance on matters sexual rather than matters liturgical, sacramental and Eucharistic, Coren did just that. The cultural import of his conversion is that it calls attention to exactly the choice facing churches the world over. Around what principles shall a church organize itself? The sexual revolution? Or divine revelation?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Media Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
....perhaps the day has arrived in the PCA when progressives need not worry about any negative connotations of the term "progressive." However, it might still be proper to ask, "Towards what are the progressives asking their church to progress? If we follow the path of progress or get swept along by its tide, what will be left behind and where will we end up?" (Or, for real traditionalists, "where up will we end?")
Dr. Chapell places the label "Traditionalists" on those who are "highly committed to Confessional fidelity and are often worried about perceived doctrinal drift." Is there a more pejorative term in America, where you buy your laundry detergent because it is "new and improved," than the term "traditional"? Not even conservatives want to be traditionalists unless they are appealing to "traditional values" (as in "family" or , peculiarly in Mississippi, "traditional Mississippi values" - wink, wink, hint, hint, get it?). Americans fought a great War for Independence so we wouldn't have to be traditional like those stuffy old British. The last thing a true American wants to be is a stick-in-the-mud old fuddy-duddy traditionalist.
In the churches it's the old and soon to pass from the scene folks who attend the "traditional" service, which may not be traditional at all but a service in which gospel hymns are sung with a song leader rather than praise and worship songs with a praise team. The cool kids flock to the contemporary service, where they will not be turned off by robes, minsters leading worship, and too much Scripture and prayer - until that comes to feel like it is traditional in which case they may join Rachel Held Evans who likes her doctrine and morals progressive but her liturgy sort of traditional in The Episcopal Church.
Read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”
Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.
Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.
A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Philosophy Religion & Culture Sexuality * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Other Faiths Secularism Religious Freedom / Persecution * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
As a bishop I have strong views on marriage based on my religious convictions. I have, however, no wish to stuff my religious views down other people’s throats, but I also have a right to express my views in the reasoned language of social ethics. In airing my views in public debate, I do not expect to be listened to on the basis of dogmatic utterance, but on the reasonableness of my argument.
I write then primarily as a citizen of Ireland. I have no affiliation with any group of No campaigners. Some such groups will quote me, but I know how short-lived such affirmation can be. I have said that I intend to vote No, yet there are those of the ecclesiastical right-wing who accuse me of being in favour of a Yes vote, since I do not engage in direct condemnation of gay and lesbian men and women.
My position is that of Pope Francis, who, in the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, made it very clear that he was against legalising same-sex marriage, yet he was consistent in telling people not to make judgments on any individual. I know the manner with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – and that fact cannot be overlooked.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States – not to mention a majority of U.S. presidents – were members of Christian denominations that fall into the mainline Protestant tradition. But in recent years, the share of Americans who identify with mainline Protestantism has been shrinking significantly, a trend driven partly by generational change.
Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that 14.7% of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition – a sharp decline from 18.1% when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.
Indeed, despite overall U.S. population growth between 2007 and 2014, the total number of mainline Protestant adults has decreased by roughly 5 million during that time (from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014).
Read it all.
Earlier last week, the outgoing moderator, the Right Reverend John Chalmers, issued an appeal for calm in the run-up to the debate and also called for a “year of grace”.
During the debate, the Rev Gordon Kennedy from Edin-burgh said: “This has been the greatest cause for the expression of disunity in our church for 170 years. The only fruit this will bear is disharmony and disunity,”
But the Rev Dr Ian Whyte strongly disagreed and said he had witnessed the suffering of gay ministers who felt they had to hide their sexuality.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted to allow congregations to ordain gay ministers who are in same sex civil partnerships.
Delegates voted 309 in favour and 183 against.
The vote followed a church-wide debate and consultations with all 45 presbyteries, which voted 31 to 14 in favour of change.
A further vote will be held this week on whether or not to extend ordination to ministers in same sex marriages.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
....Neuhaus had an extraordinary talent for bringing people together—to discuss, debate, and strategize. He regularly convened intellectually and theologically diverse groups to spend a couple of days discussing topics of interest. (In my own case the topics included, civil religion, multinational corporations, ecumenism, faith and politics, and “culture wars,” among others.)
But the most important of these projects was the 1990 founding of First Things. While Neuhaus had previously edited two similar journals, Worldview and This World, they had each been sponsored by larger foundations, the Carnegie and Rockford Institutes respectively. This time around the journal was Neuhaus’s own, to shape as he wished. And shaped it he did, with great talent and flair, bringing together like-minded writers representing Catholicism, evangelicalism, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, along with fellow travelers from Judaism and Islam.
First Things was the flagship publication of Neuhaus’s Institute on Religion and Public Life, and the concept of “public life” was foundational to his efforts. Neuhaus always insisted that politics is only one aspect of a larger “public square”—one that makes room, as best it can, for a variety of religious, moral, and communal traditions. Boyagoda reminds us that Neuhaus and Berger actually coined the term “mediating structures,” now commonly used in social science, in their 1977 book To Empower People. That short book (just over 50 pages) showed how a wide range of smaller institutions—families, churches, professional associations, teams, guilds, neighborhood organizations, book clubs, schools—can offer a protective, nurturing space between individual and the power-hungry state.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Evangelicals Lutheran Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology
Pew has released another major poll focused in much greater depth on the United States, and it's being widely interpreted as providing evidence that religion (or at least Christianity) is indeed on the decline in the United States.
So was Dennett right, at least about America? Is the future of Christianity in the United States bleak after all?
Short answer: Not necessarily.
A nearly 8-percentage point drop in those calling themselves Christian (from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent) in just seven years is a big deal. If those numbers are accurate, Christianity is certainly shrinking in America at a rate that, if it continues over the coming years and decades, will produce profound cultural changes.
But we're not there yet.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Soteriology
In my previous post, I detailed the sordid story by which the Episcopal Church (USA) has gotten into the debt collection business. Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.
It's a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church's coffers, to help with its bottom line. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually.
Now thanks to our good friend and frequent commenter El Gringo Viejo, your Curmudgeon has been pointed to this illuminating video message, which tells "the rest of the story," so to speak. It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria. Listen to Ann Corcoran as she explains what she discovered...
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy The U.S. Government Foreign Relations Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
Cynics would argue that the ecumenical blabfest is mere window dressing. One critic likened it to those endless rounds of détente during the Soviet era in which both sides shook hands and smiled for the cameras, but were really waiting to see which side would cave first.
Pope Francis thinks otherwise. While recognizing the “grave obstacles to unity” erected by the Anglicans, in his opening remarks he told the delegates not to give up hope.
“The cause of unity is not an optional undertaking and the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable …. Despite difficulties, we must not lose heart, but we must trust even more in the power of the Holy Spirit, who can heal and reconcile us, and accomplish what humanly does not seem possible.”Not only does unity seem impossible at this point, but movements within global Anglicanism itself are moving towards schism instead of unity. Earlier this month, the leaders of an organization named GAFCON met in London. GAFCON stands for Global Anglican Future Conference. Spearheaded by African Anglican bishops, GAFCON now includes representatives from North America, Australia, and South America.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Global South Churches & Primates * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology
Holywood actor Jonathan Jackson, recipient of five Emmy Awards, at an interview given in "Pemptousia" during his recent visit to the Monastery of Vatopaidi - Mt Athos, speaks about how he became Orthodox.
Watch it all from Vimeo.
True confession... this elf hasn't had time yet to listen to the full audio posted below. But Trevin Wax is usually very worth reading or listening to. The questions he raises in his blog post are excellent. With Kendall needing to cut back on blogging, it seemed this might be a good resource to post, and might stimulate a good discussion.
What disciplines will help us as Christians identify our cultural "blinders" and diligently assess and engage Biblically with our culture, and be faithful disciples in our times?
Please share any books or resources you've found helpful in "knowing and responding to the times."
We live in a society that has been formed, in some measure, by Christian ethics. Here, it’s easy for Christians to assent to Christian teaching and embrace certain practices common to Christianity, and yet still make decisions from a framework that is more influenced by a rival conception of time, because it remains hidden from view.
“Bible Believers” Living Out of Other Stories:
This is a source of continual frustration among pastors.
- We get discouraged when many of the people in our congregations, people who are faithful in attending church and who claim to have personal times of Bible reading, seem to be okay with the fact that their kids aren’t as religiously oriented as they are, as if it’s expected for kids to drop out of church for awhile and hopefully come back (but at least they made a decision for Christ at camp one summer!).
- We get discouraged when we see people put Bible verses on their Facebook page right next to a post about a television show they’re watching, a show drenched in the ethos of the Sexual Revolution and all the lies that come with it.
- We mourn the loss of people who are as kind as can be to us while they’re walking out the door to visit another church that has better services and programs for their kids. We thought they were committed to our church, but they were really just committed to their preferences.
A Question for Our Generation
As cultural currents move faster and we see rapids and waterfalls ahead and wonder what the future holds, one of the questions we must ask is this:
What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?
That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. The audio from the talk is now available here.
What are the disciplines we need as we read our times? Oliver O’Donovan again:
To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.
Read the blog entry here. You can listen to the audio here..
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Resources & Links Resources: Audio-Visual * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Until his recent conversion to Anglicanism, the broadcaster and author Michael Coren was one of Canada’s best known Catholics. He has a Catholic wife and four Catholic children and is the author of books that include “Why Catholics Are Right.” So when he was formally welcomed into an Anglican congregation in Toronto the other day, after worshipping with them privately for a year, the news caused a stir in the Catholic world. False rumours were circulated about his motives. Old scandals from a career in punditry were dredged up. The uproar cost him several speeches to conservative American Catholic groups, and his regular column in the Catholic Register was pulled. As he tells the National Post‘s Joseph Brean, he was driven to Protestantism by a growing sense of hypocrisy....
Q: You say Anglicanism is similar to Catholicism, with many shared beliefs, but the split between the Vatican and the Church of England is longstanding, deep and wide. How did you come to cross it?
A: Yes, of course, otherwise, logically, why would I have bothered? … My father was Jewish, I was raised in a very secular home, sort of semi-culturally Jewish, but no religion. I became a Christian in 1984 and I’ve never wavered. I was received into the Catholic Church in 1985 when I was 26. I’d been interested in Christianity since I was a teenager, actually, and I think I just kept on crawling further and further. It was sort of two feet forward and one foot back the whole time. There was a certain inevitability about it. There was no bunker experience, there were no bullets flying over my head. I think I’d achieved quite a bit early. I’d always wanted to be in literary London, and have books published, and I had all that by about age 24. They were very bad books, but they were published. I was in literary London and there was a certain emptiness.
Read it all from the National Post.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
Malaysian Anglicans have rallied to the support of a Pentecostal church in Petaling Jaya after a Muslim mob disrupted worship services...[recently] and forced the congregation to take down a cross mounted on the church’s facade.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Asia Malaysia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Pentecostal Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
Meeting with the members of ARCIC III, Pope Francis noted the current session is studying the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church – a question central to his own reform programme - with particular reference to difficult decision making over moral and ethical questions.
These discussions, the Pope said, and the forthcoming publication of five jointly agreed statements from the previous phase of the dialogue, remind us that ecumenism is not a secondary element in the life of the Church and that the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable. Despite the seriousness of the challenges, he said we must trust even more in the power of the Spirit to heal and reconcile what may not seem possible to our human understanding.
Finally Pope Francis highlighted the powerful testimony of Christians from different Churches and traditions who have been victims of violence and persecution. The blood of these martyrs, he said, will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment to fulfill the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one.
Read it all.
It’s already happened. In late June in Kingsburg, Calif., all 371 members of Kingsburg United Methodist Church transferred their membership to the Kingsburg Community Church they had just founded. These brave Pacific pioneers, guided by a brighter light than the shine of silver or gold, were forced to leave the building they constructed and remodeled and other assets in the Conference’s hands.
Methodism is dying for renewal, and the light needed to fan the flame in its logo and its life must begin as tiny candles in the hearts and lives of individual members, in particular their prayer lives.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology
Efforts to overturn a long-standing provision barring divorced clergy nomination for bishop in The United Methodist Church in Liberia were rejected by conference delegates on April 18. United Methodists who wanted the ban lifted picketed with homemade signs and sang, halting one afternoon session of the conference.
During the 182nd Session of the Liberia Conference, delegates voted 433 to 24 to affirm the rule barring divorced clergy persons from the episcopal office. Six delegates abstained from the voting process.
Those opposed to the bar argued the provision violated the rights of individuals who wanted to run for the episcopal office, since the bar is not in the Book of Discipline.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa Liberia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
The Church of England's lead bishop on the environment says he shares a Vatican statement's clear view that climate change is largely caused by human activity and mitigating it is a 'moral and religious imperative for humanity'.
The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, welcomed the statement on climate change by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences after a landmark conference in the Vatican this week.
Bishop Holtam said:
"Climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our day, for people of all faiths and people of no faith. I am delighted that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences have so clearly supported the scientific consensus that the major driver of climate change is almost certainly our burning of fossil fuels.
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The rise of extremism has left Christians without hope for a future in the birthplace of their faith, according to a new petition to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.
Thousands of evangelicals who attended Spring Harvest are calling on the Conservative, LibDem and Labour leaders to set aside party differences and take new steps against persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
The 4,496 Christians warn that the faith is at serious risk of extinction in the region.
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Moody Bible Institute professor has called on the school to abandon the term white privilege in discussions about diversity, calling it “inflammatory,” “repugnant,” and “unworthy of Christian discourse.”
“I suggest we should rip the term ‘white privilege’ out of our discourse at Moody,” wrote theology professor Bryan Litfin in a letter to the editor published April 15 in the student newspaper. “The underlying issues that need to be addressed should be described with more wholesome, less divisive terminology.”
Litfin proposes five reasons why he believes the term is “intended to address an important topic” yet isn’t biblical enough to be effective because it is “taken straight from a radical and divisive secular agenda.” “The problem is, the term itself is inflammatory, so the real topic goes unheard because of the offense,” he wrote, concluding, “Why employ terms that divide the body of Christ? As students of God’s Word, let us draw our terminology from the Bible, not the wisdom of man.”
The letter follows an apology he made in March for comments he had made on social media about a campus diversity event.
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The Episcopal Church (TEC) is a complex and diverse denomination. Only last January I had the pleasure of worshipping at two Episcopal churches in Houston, which was a great experience with some wonderful people. In a broad church like TEC there are people to the theological left and right and everything in between. However, TEC as a whole is typified by a radical liberalism and an authoritative leadership that punishes dissent and persecutes conservative believers (I can provide evidence if you wish!). Bishops in TEC have denied every line in the Apostles’ Creed and there is a flagrant rejoicing in apostasy. I have to tell you that the vast majority of world-wide Anglicans look on TEC with a mixture of confusion and disgust and have broken fellowship with TEC. It is because of TEC that the next Lambeth conference has been indefinitely postponed. The African and Global South Anglican bishops have responded with no shortage of rage and rancor at TEC’s actions and attitudes towards Scripture. Now if the TEC presiding bishop asked you, as something of a celebrity recruit to TEC, to go to Africa and get the African bishops to chillax and to receive TEC back into the Anglican fold, what would you say to them? In other words, should the global south Anglican bishops be in fellowship with TEC?
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Departing Parishes TEC Polity & Canons --Aggressive Title IV Action Against Multiple Bishops on Eve of Gen. Con. 2012 Global South Churches & Primates * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
Many church leaders are recognizing a heartbreaking reality. We have received the good news of the Gospel but we’re not actually communicating that good news. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that we are compelled by love in particular because we know if Jesus died for all, then those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the One who died for them and was raised.
Research shows that Protestant churchgoers in the United States and Canada as a whole are not telling this good news message. According to Paul, part of our new life is that we have been commissioned by God to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ. So we’ve been reconciled to become agents of reconciliation. Unfortunately, most Christians have become cul-de-sacs on the Great Commission highway.
In the Transformational Discipleship study, we asked 3,000 protestant churchgoers how many times they had personally shared with another person how to become a Christian. Sixty-one percent said that they had never shared their faith. Zero times. Forty-eight percent said they hadn’t invited anyone to church during that period of time.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
The Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis have demanded that European nations take in more of the migrants who are fleeing North Africa and the Middle East, days after hundreds were feared to have died after their boats sank in the Mediterranean.
Up to 400 migrants were believed to have drowned when their boat capsized last week, but as many as 900 people could have died after another boat sank near the coast of Libya on Saturday. The deaths prompted Archbishop Welby to call for a united effort to prevent more deaths.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: "We can't say this is one country's responsibility, the one nearest; that's not right. Of course, we have to be aware of the impact of immigration in our own communities, but when people are drowning in the Mediterranean, the need, the misery that has driven them out of their own countries is so extreme, so appalling, that Europe as a whole must rise up and seek to do what's right.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Immigration Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
As our economy continues to improve, there is a crushing weight holding many back: payday loans. While state and local leaders have taken up the cause in certain jurisdictions, this is a national problem that requires Congress to act. Unscrupulous lenders lure those who are already facing financial hardship into a debt trap from which it is very difficult to escape.
Drawn by slick marketing, desperate borrowers are induced to accept unfavorable terms they may not fully understand. The cost of a typical payday loan exceeds 300 percent annual percentage rate. By requiring full repayment from the next paycheck, payday lenders virtually guarantee that the borrower will be forced to ask for a new loan, with additional fees and interest, to pay back the old one.
This violates the underwriting standards applied to virtually every other type of loan. Payday loans perpetuate a cycle of debt, poverty and misery.
Three quarters of the fees payday lenders bring in come from borrowers, mostly low income, who have taken out 10 or more loans in a single year. More than half of all payday loans are renewed or rolled over so many times that consumers wind up repaying at least twice the amount they originally borrowed.
Read it all, another from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material.
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The Anglican Bishop for Ethiopia has hailed as martyrs 28 Ethiopian Christians shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL.
"I have just learned the horrifying news that as many as twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians have been shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. This alarming act of violence against those that ISIS calls “people of the cross” comes just two months after twenty-one other Christians - twenty Egyptians and one Ghanian, were beheaded on a Libyan beach." Bishop Grant LeMarquand said in a letter to be read in Ethopian churches and distributed overseas.
Bishop LeMarquand is Anglican Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia) and Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.
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Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the national Presbyterian Lay Committee, said that in the same way the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ became inhospitable environments for evangelicals to serve, the Presbyterian Church is becoming much the same way.
"We are seeing the environment within the PCUSA change following the affirmation of this particular vote," she says. "That environment is changing pretty rapidly. Presbyteries are becoming inhospitable to pastors who hold traditional views not only on this issue but on underlining issues related to the biblical authority of Jesus as the only way to salvation."
While sexuality might be the presenting issue in this case, LaBerge argues that the real division is rooted in a theological cleansing - fueled by a growing intolerance toward traditional, biblical views.
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The confirmation of the murder of Ethiopian Christians by Daesh (IS) in Libya has been received with deep sadness. These executions that unnecessarily and unjustifiably claim the lives of innocent people, wholly undeserving of this brutality, have unfortunately become far too familiar. Once again we see innocent Christians murdered purely for refusing to renounce their Faith.
The Christians of Egypt and Ethiopia have had a shared heritage for centuries. Being predominantly Orthodox Christian communities with a mutual understanding of life and witness, and a common origin in the Coptic Orthodox Church, they now also share an even greater connection through the blood of these contemporary martyrs.
This sad news came on the day that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury visited His Holiness Pope Tawadros II in Egypt to personally express his condolences following the similar brutal murder of 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians in Libya by Daesh in February of this year.
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During an era under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, when Catholicism was trying to swim against an increasingly secular tide in the Western world, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was the American prelate trusted by those two popes, almost above all others, to spearhead that project in the United States.
George, who stepped down in November 2014, died at 10:45 a.m. Friday at his residence in Chicago of a cancer that originated in his bladder but spread to other parts of his body, rendering treatment ineffective. He was 78.
He had been on home care since April 3 after being hospitalized for hydration and pain management issues, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Widely acknowledged as the most intellectually gifted senior US prelate of his generation, George was once dubbed the “American Ratzinger.”
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It was never hard to see the influence of Methodism, born as a reaction to the complacency and privilege of 18th-century Anglicanism, on Mrs Thatcher. She believed in thrift and hard work, and liked the advice of John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, to earn, save and only then give as much as possible. The acts of generosity listed in the New Testament, from the Good Samaritan’s to that of the woman who anointed Christ’s feet, were possible only because the donors had money, she noted.
But in other ways, Mrs Thatcher moved away from Methodism, and it moved away from her. As she ascended firmly to the upper middle class, she began attending Anglican church. Conspicuous consumption and debt-fuelled growth, often seen as legacies of the Thatcher era, could hardly be further from Methodist values. And in her native east Midlands, Methodist communities and ministers were active in defending coalminers during the strike which she defeated. Methodism has influenced Britain’s centre-left far more than its political right.
In explaining her denominational switch, Mrs Thatcher said that Methodism was “a marvellous evangelical faith” with great music—but “you sometimes feel the need for a slightly more formal service” as well as for more formal theology. In her religious origins, she was informed by a passion that was foreign to the English establishment. But as that puritan passion propelled her into high office, its sharp edges were blunted. The Ritz hotel is an unlikely place for a Methodist woman from the Midlands to end her days.
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It’s tax day and Rachel Held Evans’ latest book has just emerged, Searching for Sunday (Nelson Books, 269 pages, $16.99 pb). In some ways this book has appeared at just the appropriate moment, because in some ways it is like a refund check from the IRS, much anticipated, and a big help. In some ways however, the book is simply taxing, burdened down with a false sense of righteous outrage about an issue Rachel should have given more thought and prayer to before choosing to start firing away against the Evangelical womb from which she has emerged. This is not to say that she isn’t right that a large portion of the church has wrongly stigmatized and singled out gay and lesbian people, and wrongly treated them as if they were somehow worse sinners than the rest of us. We have often done that. Hypocrisy stinks, and Rachel is right to stress this point. I will speak about what she says on the issue of same sex relationships and marriage later in the review, but I want first to say a few things about this book which I really like.
First of all Rachel is indeed a genuine Christian person, genuinely wrestling with deep issues....
There are many poignant moments and powerful passages in this book about the sacraments, about silence, about other spiritual disciplines, and especially about the feeling of being bereft, cut off from the church, feeling abandoned or even spurned by the Evangelical Churches in which she was raised. A trial separation from such churches gradually became something of a divorce, and she landed in a ‘less-judgmental’ Episcopal Church in Cleveland Tn. What her book fails to really grapple with however is the major difference between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance of us as we are.
Frankly put, God doesn’t ‘accept’ us as we are, because what we are is fallen and flawed sinful people. God loves us as we are, but God is insistent that we all change, repent of our sinful inclinations and ways, and become more like Christ. A loving welcome by Jesus does not exclude incredible demands in regard to our conduct, and indeed even in regard to the lusts of our hearts. As it turns out, God is an equal opportunity lover of all humanity, and also an equal opportunity critiquer of all our sin, and with good reason— it is sin that keeps separating us from God and ruining our relationship with God. This is why the only proper Biblical approach to everyone who would wish to be ‘in Christ’ and ‘in the body of Christ’ is that they are most welcome to come as they are, and they will be loved as they are, but no one but no one is welcome to stay as they are— all God’s chillins need to change. Welcoming does not entail affirming our sins, much less baptizing our sins and suddenly calling them good, healthy, life giving.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
"It is impossible to go there, and to meet especially the children, without being determined that they must have a future," the Cardinal said.
But the task ahead is vast: regaining land from Islamic State, rebuilding ruined town and cities, establishing law and order and rebuilding society.
Nichols said that in the project to rebuild Iraq, "the presence of the Christian community is essential".
"I say that not out of a nostalgic sense that this is a Christian community that's 2,000 years old. This not a cultural, historical, or an archaeological issue. This is an issue of how do you build a stable, balanced society, in that region, and I think... the Christian presence is essential to that mosaic."
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Three decades ago, plainclothes Syrian agents went door to door in this border village seeking out young Christian men, who were abducted and killed in a notorious chapter of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.
The village’s nearly 2,000 Christians now find themselves siding with the same Syrian regime they blame for what many call the 1978 massacre.
That is because a few miles away, hundreds of Islamist extremists tied to al Qaeda and Islamic State stalk the porous border region separating Lebanon and Syria. Standing between the militants and the village are Lebanese troops aided by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, whose men are also fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Yes, I prefer the Syrian regime over these terrorist groups,” a 45-year-old Al-Qaa resident said, but it is a choice “between the bitter and more bitter.”
Read it all from the WSJ.
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The Pontifical Science Academies have launched a new website aimed at combatting the worldwide scourge of human trafficking. The website builds on the success achieved over the past year by the ecumenical Global Freedom Network, including a joint declaration against modern slavery signed by Pope Francis and leaders of different faith communities in countries around the world.
Read it all and there is more there.
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I have little in common, politically or theologically, with evangelicals or, while I’m at it, conservative Roman Catholics. But I’ve been truly awed by those I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.
On a recent trip to Angola, the country with the highest child mortality rate in the world, I came across a rural hospital run by Dr. Stephen Foster, 65, a white-haired missionary surgeon who has lived there for 37 years — much of that in a period when the Angolan regime was Marxist and hostile to Christians.
“We were granted visas,” he said, “by the very people who would tell us publicly, ‘your churches are going to disappear in 20 years,’ but privately, ‘you are the only ones we know willing to serve in the midst of the fire.’ ”
Foster, the son and grandson of missionaries, has survived tangles with a 6-foot cobra and angry soldiers. He has had to make do with rudimentary supplies: Once, he said, he turned the tube for a vehicle’s windshield-washing fluid into a catheter to drain a patient’s engorged bladder.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Culture-Watch Globalization Health & Medicine Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
The western church typically criticises the eastern view for having a “free lunch” view of salvation. No pain, no gain, insists Anselm. The eastern church says that the west fetishises suffering and is more committed to some iron logic of cosmic necessity than to God for whom all things are possible.
Atheists such as Alexis Tsipras, the Greek leader, may think both of these are fantasies. But for present purposes that’s beside the point. It’s worth recognising that these two completely different stories support two contrasting moral worldviews and different attitudes towards economics in general and capitalism in particular. Tsipras – like me – is very much more in the Greek Orthodox camp when it comes to salvation. And the Lutheran minister’s daughter Angela Merkel is very much in the western one. He wants to leap free from death-dealing debt. She believes it must be paid back, no matter how much blood and pain is involved.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter * Economics, Politics Economy Euro European Central Bank The Banking System/Sector Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Germany Greece * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology
In the wake of last week’s deadly attack against Christians at a college in Kenya, we talk with Father Thomas Reese, senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter and a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, about growing concerns over anti-Christian violence around the world and the need for governments to protect religious communities.
Read or watch it all.
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We are called to be advocates. Each of us has the responsibility to serve as advocates for our beliefs and in this particular context to clearly be advocates opposed to racism in any form and in firm opposition to gun violence.
We are called to pray. Prayer is powerful. Much healing is needed in North Charleston, in South Carolina and in our world. Praying together for understanding, forgiveness and peace is the pathway to healing.
We are called to examine our lives, our associates, our habits and to live according to the principles of our faith. We are called to live our lives as examples, so that those seeing us in the world may see Jesus through us.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire * Economics, Politics Politics in General City Government State Government * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * South Carolina * Theology
More to the point, the Paris attack struck close to home. The victims were journalists and journalists write the news. The terrorists hit a major Western city like the ones where the political leaders and opinion-makers live. The victims were aggressively secular. In marching for the victims, the famous and powerful were marching for themselves and their own.
Which does not apply to the victims in Nairobi and northern Nigeria. They were black Africans, not white Europeans; students, not journalists; living in the developing world, not Europe; and Christian, not modern and secular. No high official is going to fly to east Africa and march for them. The Kenyan and Nigerian victims are not their people.
They are ours. If someone could measure the amount of time American Christians spent reading about the three attacks, and the depth of of our emotional reaction, he would almost certainly find our time and emotional investment nearly as tilted to Paris as the secular Americans’. The more successful in the world, say in academia and publishing, the more this will be true. As a test, ask yourself what details of the Nigerian massacre you remember, compared with how much you remember of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I remember a lot about the Nigerian massacre, but only because I read about it while writing this. Western journalists, even anti-Christian ones, are “our” people, Africa’s Christians a little less so.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Globalization Media Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Africa Kenya Nigeria Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has joined over 30 leaders from major world religions and heads of global faith-based organizations today in launching a call to action to end extreme poverty by 2030, a goal shared with the World Bank Group.
The statement titled Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative notes that remarkable progress has been made in reducing extreme poverty. Over 25 years the world has gone from nearly 2 billion people to fewer than 1 billion living in extreme poverty. Now, for the first time in human history there exists both the capacity and recognition of the moral responsibility to ensure that no one has to live in extreme poverty’s grip.
“We have ample evidence from the World Bank Group and others showing that we can now end extreme poverty within fifteen years,” the Moral Imperative statement notes. “In 2015, our governments will be deciding upon a new global sustainable development agenda that has the potential to build on our shared values to finish the urgent task of ending extreme poverty.”
“We in the faith community embrace this moral imperative because we share the belief that the moral test of our society is how the weakest and most vulnerable are faring. Our sacred texts also call us to combat injustice and uplift the poorest in our midst.”
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In an interview with SAT-7, the Christian TV station based in the Middle East, Archbishop Justin spoke about the suffering of Christians in the region, among other topics.
Watch and listen to it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A Presbyterian Church (USA) regional body located in California has been accused of putting a Korean congregation's effort to leave the mainline denomination to a standstill.
Last year, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church of Rowland Heights voted overwhelmingly to seek dismissal from PCUSA over the denomination's growing acceptance of homosexuality.
Out of 817 votes casted in the March 2014 vote, 738 voted to leave, 74 voted to stay, and 5 votes were dismissed.
Despite that, the PCUSA Presbytery of San Gabriel has not apparently finalized the dismissal as of this month, according to the Korean-American Christian publication Christianity Daily.
Read it all from the Christian Post.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Presbyterian Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
A Trinitarian Theology of Religions Gerald R McDermott and Harold Netland OUP, pb...
Vatican II: Catholic Doctrines on Jews and Muslims Gavin D’Costa OUP
Alan Race once suggested that Christian approaches to other religions fall into three categories that he labelled as pluralism, exclusivism and inclusivism. Race’s typology was widely adopted but has come under strain as theological debate has progressed. It is difficult to fit either of these books into Race’s categories. Both works, one evangelical, the other Roman Catholic, are conservative but while not inclusivist they cannot be labelled exclusivist in any straightforward way. McDermott and Netland advance what they term an ‘evangelical proposal’ but their informed and clearly argued book deserves to be read by a wide audience. One of their starting points is that evangelicals have neglected the doctrine of the Trinity but, following Veli-Matti Karkkainen (who together with Lamin Sanneh, Vinoth Ramachandra and Christine Shirrmacher comments on the book’s proposals), they are sceptical of those theologians who have attempted to isolate the work of the persons of the Trinity and see the Spirit active in other religions. “Other religions,” they write of the Trinity, “may have some connection with God but it is always with that tri-personal God and no other.” D’Costa is quoted arguing that the presence of the Spirit outside the church is always to be seen as Trinitarian and ecclesial, drawing people towards Christ and towards incorporation in his body, the church.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Globalization Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good - ” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is knocked down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.
Let the reader understand.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Philosophy Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Apologetics
For at least two or three generations of Americans, we have been taught in our government schools and through the institutions of influence in our society that all moral categories are nothing more than personal (or societal) preferences where every moral value claim is simply one’s opinion, all of which are equal (well, except for Christian traditionalists). Further, as we see in Mr. Obama’s perception of the Christian faith, religion is no longer a proper basis for morality. As has been observed by many, the Holy Bible, even more than Enlightenment thinking, directed the values of the Founders and the views of generations of Americans. However, for the past several generations, Americans are taught to rely upon their “feelings” to determine how to behave. It is a truism that all of us have a theology; the only question is whether it’s true or false. Ultimately and fundamentally, if we get it wrong about the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t matter what else we get right. As Randy Alcorn once powerfully observed, “Americans embrace democratic ideals. This gives us the illusion that we should have a voice when it comes to truth. But the universe isn’t a democracy. Truth isn’t a ballot measure.” Yes, it would be quite arrogant if Christians were the ones who came up with the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ on one’s life. But we didn’t; we are simply repeating what the Lord Jesus said. If it were merely our thinking, wouldn’t we come up with something far more popular?
Read it all and the transcript of the full 2004 interview referenced is there.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches * Theology Christology Eschatology
Christ himself pointed out the benefit of his sufferings and resurrection when he said to the women in Mt 28, 10 - "Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me." These are the very first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he therefore anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection.
The risen Christ waits not until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Do we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples all fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with its young. He should have called them deserters, yea, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also, when we are mired fast in our sins, temptations and condemnation.
These are words full of all comfort that Christ receives desperate villains as you and I are and calls us his brethren. Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of? Just as it is among natural brothers, so is it also here. Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance, otherwise they would not be brothers: so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, and have in common with him one Father and one inheritance, which never decreases by being distributed, as other inheritances do; but it ever grows larger and larger; for it is a spiritual inheritance. But an earthly inheritance decreases when distributed among many persons. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance, has it all.
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The Assyrian Christians of northern Iraq are among the people who have been massacred and kidnapped by ISIS militants in recent months. Such accounts are depressingly familiar to anyone who knows the region’s history. In fact, this year marks a grim centennial. Besides being the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, it’s the centennial of the year that the Ottoman Turkish regime struck at other Christian minorities whom it suspected of being sympathetic to Russia. The Assyrians call 1915 Sayfo, the Year of the Sword.
Assyrian Christians had very deep roots in the region, and their churches use a Semitic language related to Jesus’ own Aramaic. In late antiquity, believers divided over the Person of Christ. The Monophysite branch evolved to become the modern-day Syrian Orthodox Church. Their Nestorian rivals formed the Church of the East, which remained a flourishing transcontinental institution through the Middle Ages.
By the 20th century, the Assyrian community had declined, split between believers affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (Chaldeans) and the independent Assyrians. For historical convenience, the Assyrian label is often applied to all the Syriac-speaking denominations, including the Syrian Orthodox. Their combined population in 1914 was around 600,000, concentrated in what is now northern Iraq and the borderlands of modern-day Syria and Turkey.
These people were the targets of the Assyrian genocide.
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November 2014 marked the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which established personal ordinariates for Anglican converts to Roman Catholicism “so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift…and as a treasure to be shared.” Anglicanorum Coetibus was not greeted with universal applause among former Anglicans already in communion with Rome, at least not among those of my acquaintance. These converts, who had left Anglicanism for what they had come to believe was the true Church, and who had been attending ordinary Novus Ordo parishes, sometimes for decades, wondered what substantial patrimony Anglicans could bring into the Church. To be sure, Anglicans have (or used to have) splendid liturgies, and their church music was incomparable, at least into the middle decades of the past century. But what do Anglicans have to give to the Church that is not of common inheritance from the pre-Reformation centuries or simply Protestant heresy?
A number of writers has tried to answer this question by taking an inventory of the strong and attractive characteristics of the Anglican heritage — for example, the Book of Common Prayer, the King James Bible, theologians like Richard Hooker and Jeremy Taylor, poets like John Donne and George Herbert, not to mention moderns like C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. This method is useful, if only because it sets us thinking about what Anglicanism really is; but it does not arrive at the essence of Anglicanism.
The answer lies instead in the origins of Anglicanism at the beginning of modernity....
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Today that question, that debate—Did Jesus really rise from the dead historically, bodily?—is not as prominent or as intense because, at one level, people feel that it doesn’t matter to them, because different people believe in different things, and maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t; and if it did, or didn’t, and that helps you get along in life, fine; but it doesn’t make much difference to me. I may or may not call myself a Christian, and if the resurrection seems helpful to me, I may believe it; and if it doesn’t, then I won’t, and I don’t think any body should tell me that I have to.
Behind those two different kinds of unbelief—the kind from 40 years ago and the kind from the present day—is a different set of assumptions. For example, in my college days the assumption pretty much still held sway, though it was starting to give way with the rise of existentialism, that there are fixed, closed natural laws, that make the world understandable and scientifically manageable, and these laws do not allow the truth of the claim that someone has risen from the dead to live forever. That was a commonly held assumption: The modern world with its scientific understanding of natural laws does not allow for resurrections. So unbelief was often rooted in that kind of assumption.
But today, that’s not the most common working assumption. Today the assumption is not that there are natural laws outside of me forbidding the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a personal law inside of me that says: I don’t have to adapt my life to anything I don’t find helpful. Or you could state it another way: Truth for me is what I find acceptable and helpful.
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From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. There are many!
We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful coexistence may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the tragedy of the numerous refugees.
We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land. May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.
We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person. For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people.
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Each of us, religious or non-religious, live out our beliefs in our actions. Christians act on a belief that the claims of Jesus Christ are true. Non-Christians act on other beliefs. As theologian Lesslie Newbigin observes, “We are continually required to act on beliefs that are not demonstrably certain and to commit our lives to propositions that can be doubted.” Recognizing this fact of the world does not make us relativists.
Even though Confident Pluralism is one practical outworking of Christian witness in a liberal democracy, it finds resonance in Christian theology. For example, in our English translation of Psalm 118:9, we see the psalmist proclaim, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” And the well-known verse from Hebrews asserts that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (11:1).
Such examples of confidence in the Christian tradition bring to mind what Newbigin calls “Proper Confidence.” For Christians, the proper object of our confidence is always the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that confidence, we can engage with those who don’t share our beliefs. And we can do so with a grace that flows out of our confidence in the gospel.
That is not relativism. It is witness.
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LAWTON: Feinberg believes joy is a universal impulse.
FEINBERG: Across the globe, humanity speaks so many different languages and yet scientists have noted that there’s one language that all of humanity shares and it is the language of laughter. We are meant to experience this thing called joy.
LAWTON: As a Christian, she sees joy as a virtue derived from God.
FEINBERG: It is that thing that I believe emanates out of an abiding sense of being fiercely loved by God.
LAWTON: Feinberg also believes joy can be activated through practical means. She says for her, one of the first steps was an ancient Jewish grieving ritual.
FEINBERG: I remember going in my bedroom and taking my blouse and making a small clip just like they often do at Jewish funerals and ripping it open and as I did, you know, speaking the words of Job and making that confession to God, and there was something that would happen in those rippings of the garment where grief was allowed to flow. I think like it’s meant to. I think one of the ways that we fight back with joy is that we learn to grieve well.
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Without hope, it is all but impossible face life and endure suffering. But hope must be grounded in something real and lasting. True hope enables us to navigate both sorrow and joy. In Jesus Christ, we have a living hope grounded and sustained in an ever-living savior.
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In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant—amounts to a form of bigotry. Such arguments only increase public confusion on a vitally important issue. When basic moral convictions and historic religious wisdom rooted in experience are deemed “discrimination,” our ability to achieve civic harmony, or even to reason clearly, is impossible.
America was founded on the idea that religious liberty matters because religious belief matters in a uniquely life-giving and powerful way. We need to take that birthright seriously, or we become a people alien to our own founding principles. Religious liberty is precisely what allows a pluralistic society to live together in peace.
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Question 45: What does the "resurrection" of Christ profit us?
Answer: First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death; secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life; and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
Footnotes: [For "first"] 1 Cor.15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: Rom.4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 1 Pet.1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [for "secondly'] Rom.6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Col.3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Col.3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Eph.2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Eph.2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [for "lastly"] 1 Cor.15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Cor.15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Cor.15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. Rom.8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
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“Entering the tomb”. It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us. For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.
We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more!
“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kings 19:12).
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In the silence of this night, in the silence which envelopes Holy Saturday, touched by the limitless love of God, we live in the hope of the dawn of the third day, the dawn of the victory of God’s love, the luminous daybreak which allows the eyes of our heart to see afresh our life, its difficulties, its suffering. Our failures, our disappointments, our bitterness, which seem to signal that all is lost, are instead illumined by hope. The act of love upon the Cross is confirmed by the Father and the dazzling light of the resurrection enfolds and transforms everything: friendship can be born from betrayal, pardon from denial, love from hate.
Yet, there was one large omission that set all other truth dangerously at risk: the omission of holy rest. The refusal to be silent. The obsessive avoidance of emptiness. The denial of any experience and any people in the least bit suggestive of godforsakenness.
It was far more than an annual ignorance on Holy Saturday; it was religiously fueled, weekly arrogance. Not only was the Good Friday crucifixion bridged to the Easter resurrection by this day furious with energy and lucrative with reward, but all the gospel truths were likewise set as either introductions or conclusions to the human action that displayed our prowess and our virtue every week of the year. God was background to our business. Every gospel truth was maintained intact and all the human energy was wholly admirable, but the rhythms were all wrong, the proportions wildly skewed. Desolation—and with it companionship with the desolate, from first-century Semites to twentieth-century Indians—was all but wiped from consciousness.
But there came a point at which I was convinced that it was critically important to pay more attention to what God does than what I do; to find daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get that awareness into my bones. Holy Saturday for a start. And then, times to visit people in despair, and learn their names, and wait for resurrection.
Embedded in my memory now is this most poignant irony: those seven or eight Indians, with the Thunderbird empties lying around, drunk in the alley behind the Pastime Baron Saturday afternoon, while we Scandinavian Christians worked diligently late into the night, oblivious to the holiness of the day. The Indians were in despair, religious despair, something very much like the Holy Saturday despair narrated in the Gospels. Their way of life had come to nothing, the only buffalo left to them engraved on nickels, a couple of which one of their squaws had paid out that morning for four bony ham hocks. The early sacredness of their lives was a wasteland; and they, godforsaken as they supposed, drugged their despair with Thunderbird and buried their dead visions and dreams in the alley behind the Pastime, ignorant of the God at work beneath their emptiness.
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Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day — Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another — Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.
In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.
–Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983)
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And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.
Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, "Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: "O Crux, ave, spes unica" (Hail, O cross, our only hope)."
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The evening concluded with the story of how Wendy Stovall, an assistant pastor in Utah’s Unification Church, started by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, found her way from Zimbabwe to a London park, where she met a friend from that faith.
Raised as an Anglican, Stovall found little comfort in that tradition after her divorce as a young woman. The Unification Church, she said, held many answers to the theological questions that troubled her. “God,” she said, “was taking a role in my life.”
That view was a common thread in the evening’s tapestry.
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At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8). Jesus’ humiliation.
These words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!
Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.
This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!
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The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African-Americans, has broken its fellowship with Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) following its recent vote to approve same-sex marriage.
The Presbyterian General Assembly, the top legislative body of the PCUSA, voted last June to revise the constitutional language defining marriage. This arbitrary change of Holy Scripture is a flagrantly pretentious and illegitimate maneuver by a body that has no authority whatsoever to alter holy text.
Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI President noted:
"NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brother and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship."
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The Warrens held their first Bible study on Jan. 25, 1980, in their Laguna Hills home near Moulton Parkway and Via Iglesia.
That same day, Kay Warren’s grandmother died. The couple wondered if they should cancel the church launch. They didn’t.
The first public service took place weeks later, on April 6, 1980, at Laguna Hills High School. There were 205 in attendance.
“It was confirmation that this was really going to work,” Kay Warren said.
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In all of these tragedies, the religious and ethnic minorities continue to be the most vulnerable communities. Among them are the Christians, our sisters and brothers in the Lord. They face the present danger of extermination or exile from their own region, a catastrophic assault on Christian life and witness in those lands. Many churches and Christians around the world have offered signs of solidarity and sympathy through prayer vigils, humanitarian assistance and advocacy for just peace. Despite these efforts, so many still feel powerless and incapable of making any impact and change. Yet we know that we worship a God of hope, in whom there is always cross, always resurrection. As Christians we are called to live in the hope Christ gives us and make this our witness in times of deep pain and strife.
During this Lenten season, the World Council of Churches invites its member churches and Christians worldwide to offer special prayers on Sunday, March 29 for all people affected by these wars. We ask these prayers especially for the countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt, where the indigenous Christian presence and witness have been continuous since the incarnation of our Lord, and from where the Good News has spread all over the world.
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Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.
Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.
About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.
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In Pope Francis's latest gesture towards Rome's homeless, the Vatican said on Tuesday homeless people will get a special private tour of its museums and the Sistine Chapel.
About 150 homeless people who frequent the Vatican area - where Pope Francis has already set up facilities for them to have showers - will make the visit on Thursday afternoon, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said.
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The church started Jan. 25, 1980, as a small Bible study in Rick and Kay Warren’s Laguna Hills condo. Today, it includes 10 campuses in Southern California and four in other countries, averaging 27,000 weekly worshippers.
As part of Saturday’s celebration, Rick Warren shared a portion of the first sermon he preached at Saddleback 35 years ago, outlining his vision for the church. The pastor – who delivered the invocation for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 – choked up as he said he’s realized that vision and more, encouraging the crowd not to be afraid to aim high.
“I dare you to dream great dreams for God,” Warren said from the pitcher’s mound. “Whatever God asks you to do, do it, even if it’s at great risk.”
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The road from St. Matthew's brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we're told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.
Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn't have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.
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At the beginning of December  I went on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a few days to the north of Iraq, to Kurdistan, first to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and then a three-hour journey to Dohuk. I went to see and know at firsthand the situation of the many thousands displaced by the forces of the Islamic State, which in August last year over-ran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and then swept across the Nineveh plain, with its many Christian villages.
In one camp, in the grounds of Mar Elias Church, they were putting up their Christmas crib. It was in a tent, a tent like those which had been the shelter for families who had had to flee from their homes, their culture, their churches. As they put up the tent, and placed the nativity figures in it, of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, with the shepherds and the angels, it was a indeed a reminder of the reality of the Incarnation: God chose to come down into our midst – he pitched his tent among us.
The advance of ISIS forces, with their distorted fanatical interpretation of Islam, and appalling associated brutality, echoes the invasion of the Mongols centuries earlier, which likewise had devastating consequences for the Christian population of what is now Iraq. Christians and Christianity in the Middle East are under threat as never before. They find themselves ground so often between upper and nether millstones – between the conflict between Sunni and Shia, or between Israel and Palestine.
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In recent years, John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has been both lauded and criticized for his interpretation of Genesis 1–2. In his 2009 landmark book, The Lost World of Genesis One (InterVarsity Press), he argued that to rightly understand Genesis 1—an ancient document—we need to read it within the context of the ancient world. Read alongside other ancient texts, he says, Genesis 1 is not about how God made the world, but about God assigning functions to every aspect of it. In 2013, Walton contributed a chapter in Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan). There he argued that Adam was a historical person, but also that Adam’s primary function in Scripture is to represent all of humanity. For Walton, Genesis 1–2 is not concerned about human material origins, but rather about our God-given function and purpose: to be in relationship with God and work alongside him, as his image bearers, in bringing continued order to our world.
Walton spoke recently with CT assistant editor Kevin P. Emmert about his newest book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (IVP Academic).
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Calvinist-inclined Baptists and Presbyterians attending this year’s upcoming national conference of the Gospel Coalition are adding a place at the table for a new constituency: conservative Anglicans who have broken with the Episcopal Church.
Joining mainstays like Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Albert Mohler and Russell Moore scheduled to speak at the April 13-15 gathering in Orlando, Fla., is John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church Anglican in suburban Washington.
Other Anglican leaders are offering seminars and workshops at the Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, and there will be an informal gathering one evening for Anglicans to come together for fellowship and encouragement, Yates said in a Gospel Coalition blog titled “Who Are These Anglicans in TGC?”
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Tolkien’s political vision doesn’t fit neatly into the simple American two-party system, or into schools of thought developed by others. We wrote a book, The Hobbit Party, to do it justice. In Tolkien’s fiction, that vision involves diverse communities, what we might call “civil society,” and even trade between different species of sentient creatures. If allowed to speak on his own, Tolkien might help bridge the divide between conservative free-market thinkers and distributists.
But there’s a line running through all that nuance that isn’t the least complex, one we tried to capture in the title of the first chapter of our book: “In a Hole in the Ground There Lived an Enemy of Big Government.” Unlike the many self-appointed “radicals” in lockstep with the spirit of his age, Tolkien was the true radical—the square peg in the round hole of modernity. In an age of secularism and the growing leviathan state, he was a conservative Catholic calling for the old virtues, a more vibrant civil society, and smaller, less meddlesome government.
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"Matthew was crazy about theology, a total idealist about studying theology. … But he wanted to learn history and philosophy and art and everything else," said Pentiuc. "I don't know anyone else who read so much and absorbed so much, so soon. It was going to take him 10 or 15 years to fully synthesize what he knew and to find his mature voice."
Friends joked that they could say "Go!" and challenge Baker to connect random subjects – such as "Duran Duran," a rock band, "GMOs," a genetics term, and "Apollinarianism," a 4th Century heresy – and "he would come up with authentically deep links between them," said Damick.
It's easy to imagine three or more books emerging from existing lectures, papers and research by Baker, noted Damick. But all the books and academic tributes in the world cannot answer the ultimate questions being asked by loved ones and friends mourning this loss.
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For example, I believe that:
Religion is a human construct
The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife
In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.
And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.
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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 Presbyterian Other Faiths * Theology
As the Commission suggests, no more introductions are needed to bring the two Churches together. Each has long exercised eucharistic hospitality, joint working on ethical and political matters is now the norm, and there are many more formal agreements in parishes around the country. The commitment made a few years ago not to do apart what could be done together has borne fruit. As a result, one of the final hurdles, the interchangeability of ministers, is once again the focus of debate.
The apostolic-succession question has sent the Methodists back down the garden path on more than one occasion, to their justifiable annoyance. In this report, however, the Anglican understanding of succession, and the problem it poses for the interchangeability of ministers, is explained fully and sympathetically.
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It’s church time, close to 9 a.m. last Sunday.
Katherine Milligan, 66, walks through the central hallway of the Presbyterian Church of Stanley, feeling more uncomfortable, more spurned and more angry than she has in all her 33 years attending this Overland Park church.
“I’m too old. I don’t care what people think,” the Olathe woman said later, defiant in the battle she has joined. “No one is going to tell me I can’t worship in my sanctuary.”
Yet in late April a trial scheduled in Johnson County District Court will effectively determine exactly that. Judge Kevin Moriarty will hear arguments on who owns this $4.4 million house of God, a white modernist building erected in 1978 on a grassy rise at 148th Street and Antioch Road.
For six months, two factions of the church have been embroiled in what both sides agree has been an ugly and hurtful conflict.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article14448485.html#storylink=cpy
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Nothing falls outside God’s creative and redeeming purposes, which include our being created male and female, the complementarity and fruitfulness built into our being created male and female, and the permanence of marriage, which is a sign of God’s own covenant fidelity. God is a communion of loving Persons; thus married love, St. John Paul II taught, is an icon of the interior life of the Holy Trinity. God keeps his promises; thus the promise-keepers among us who live the covenant of marriage bear witness to that divine promise-keeping by their own fidelity.
In light of all this, the Christian idea of chastity comes into clearer focus. In the Catholic view of things, chastity is not a dreary string of prohibitions but a matter of loving-with-integrity: loving rather than “using;” loving another for himself or herself. The sexual temptations to which the Church says “No” are the implications of a higher, nobler, more compelling “Yes:” yes to the integrity of love, yes to love understood as the gift of oneself to another, yes to the family as the fruit of love, and yes to the family as the school where we first learn to love. “Yes” is the basic Catholic stance toward sexuality, marriage and the family. We should witness to that “Yes” with a joyful heart, recognizing that the example of joyful Catholic families is the best gift we can offer a world marked today by the glorification of self-absorption.
In a pontificate that has reminded us continuously of our responsibilities to the poor, for whom God has a special care, preparations for the World Meeting of Families are also an opportunity to remind our society that stable marriages and families are the most effective anti-poverty program in the world.
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The Presbyterian Church approved redefining marriage in the church constitution Tuesday to include a "commitment between two people," becoming the largest US Protestant group to formally recognize gay marriage as Christian and allow same-sex weddings in every congregation.
The new definition was endorsed last year by the church General Assembly, or top legislative body, but required approval from a majority of the denomination's 171 regional districts, or presbyteries. The critical 86th "yes" vote came Tuesday night from the Palisades Presbytery in New Jersey.
After all regional bodies vote and top Presbyterian leaders officially accept the results, the change will take effect on June 21. The denomination has nearly 1.8 million members and about 10,000 congregations.
Read it all and there are many more stories there.
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Anderson grew up in modern evangelical “purity culture,” with all its widely documented problems. “I listened to story after story of being unable to feel close to God because of shame, being kicked out of one’s home, losing friends, separation from one’s faith community,” Anderson writes. “Many grew up being told over and over that their virginity was the most important thing they could give their spouse on their wedding night, only to reach that point and realize that having saved themselves didn’t magically create sexual compatibility or solve their marital issues.”
With Damaged Goods, Anderson wants to provide healing for those who have suffered from faulty teaching, and help for those who want to find a better, more genuinely Christian way to live. Anderson believes that the purity culture taught her to pride herself on living a celibate life and to look down on others who failed to live up to her high standards. Today, she regrets that prideful and contemptuous attitude and feels compassion for those who were hurt by it.
The church benefits from such course-correction and calls for healing in the wake of false teachings and unhealthy emphases in its teachings on sexuality. However, Damaged Goods goes further than that, conflating the misguided portions of purity culture—a relatively recent and proscribed phenomenon—with the Scripture-based beliefs about sexuality that the church has taught since its founding.
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The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and World Methodist Vice President are to launch a publication that aims to overcome centuries of separate ministries of the two Christian traditions.
Archbishop Justin Welby and Gillian Kingston will be in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland—the home of St Patrick—on March 17, St Patrick’s Day, to launch Into All The World: Being and Becoming Apostolic Churches.
The report, written by members of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission on Unity and Mission (AMICUM), highlights how Methodists and Anglicans have understood mission. It surveys places around the world where there is already active cooperation, and goes on to provide Tool Kits with practical advice for ways to work together.
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I identify myself as a heritage Anglican, or a main stream Anglican, on the basis of that view of things. I adapt to state my Anglican identity, words from the great Pastor Duncan of the Free Church of Scotland, who something like 150 years ago, said in answer to a question about his identity as a minister of the church, "I'm first a Christian, second a Protestant, third a Calvinist, fourth a Paedo-baptist, and fifth a Presbyterian". Well, I go with the first four; and then "fifth I'm an Anglican". And if I'm asked to explain further what is the Anglicanism that I stand for, I reel off eight defining characteristics of my Anglicanism like this.
Anglicanism is first biblical and protestant in its stance, and second, evangelical and reformed in its doctrine. That's a particular nuance within the Protestant constituency to which the Anglican church is committed - the 39 Articles show that. Ten, thirdly, Anglicanism is liturgical and traditional in its worship.
I go on to say, fourthly, Anglicanism is a form of Christianity that is pastoral and evangelistic in its style. I quote the ordinal for that and I point out that ever since the ordinal and the prayer book required the clergy to catechize the children, Anglicanism has been evangelistic, though the form of the evangelism has not been that of the travelling big tent - the form of the evangelism has been rather institutional and settled; the evangelism was part of the regular work of the parish clergyman and the community around him. But let nobody say that institutional parochial Anglicanism is not evangelistic and, today, I know the wisest folk here in England are recovering parochial evangelism in a significant way. Thank God they are.
And then I say, fifthly, that Anglicanism is a form of Christianity that is episcopal and parochial in its organization and, sixthly, it is rational and reflective in its temper.
Guess the year and then go and read it all (also used by yours truly in the presentation to Diocesan Convention).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
Being a Plea for the Inclusion within the Church of England of all Mahometans, Jews, Buddhists, Brahmins, Papists and Atheists, submitted to the consideration of the British Public
It is now generally conceded, that those differences, which were once held to divide the Christian sects from one another, (as whether or not Confirmation were a necessary ordinance of the Church), can no longer be thought to place any obstacle against unity and charity between Christians; rather, the more of them we find to exist, the more laudable a thing it is that Christian men should stomach, now and again, these uneasy scruples, and worship together for all the world as if they had never existed. There is no progress in Humanity, without the surmounting of obstacles; thus, we are all now agreed that Satan, far from meaning any harm to our Race when he brought sin into the world, was most excellently disposed towards us, and desired nothing better than that we, having some good stout sins to overcome, should attain an eventful and exciting sort of virtue, instead of languishing for ever in that state of respectable innocence, which is so little creditable to the angels, who alone practice it. In like manner, all heresies and schisms are the very condition of Christian unity, and were doubtless designed to supply a kind of zest to the tedious business of Church-going, on the same principle that the digestion of poultry is improved, if they be allowed to have a little grit or gravel in their crops to assist them. So that there can be no more edifying spectacle, to the rightly-constituted mind, than that of two fellow-worshippers, one of whom is saying in his heart, great is Diana of the Ephesians and the other, O Baal, hear us, both which inward intentions they express by a common formula, when they profess openly with their lips, that honesty is the best policy.
ABOLISHING OF BISHOPS
Further, it has come to be seen that Bishops and Archbishops are not, as was commonly supposed hitherto, the vehicles of any extraordinary grace, which they passed on one to another, like a contagion, by the laying on of hands, but only another of these obstacles, which make the race of life so agreeable a pursuit. They exist to supervise our doctrines, and find them unscriptural, to control our religious practices, and forbid their continuance, thus enabling us to snatch a fearful joy while we are about them: in short to give the Christian profession that spice of martyrdom, which it has so sorely lacked since the abolition of the amphitheatre. However salutary this interference be, it is plain that it is of the nature of a luxury; and we shall, therefore, be content to forgo the enjoyment of it, if the non-conformists should demand the sacrifice as a condition of reunion with themselves
THE LAST JUDGEMENT POSTPONED
I conceive, then, that within a few years from the present date, the division of Christians into sects for purposes of worship will have utterly disappeared, and we shall find one great United Protestant Church existing throughout the civilized world. I would not deny but there might be some few difficulties of adjustment attending the venture; as, that the Fifth Monarchy men might withhold their assent from the scheme, unless we would all make it a matter of doctrine, that the Last Judgement is to be presently expected; which knowledge would cast an intolerable gloom over the more part of our pleasures, and create a lack of public confidence on the Exchange. But I cannot doubt, upon a little cool reflection, we should rid ourselves of these fanciful megrims of sectarian particularity; and there is gain to be shown on the other side; for example, it may be anticipated the Seventh Day Adventists will demand the observance of Saturday as well as Sunday as a feast of the Church; and we shall thus have two days instead of one in every seven on which we can lie abed till noon, over-eat ourselves, go out driving in the country, and dine away from home under colour of sparing trouble to our domestics.
Read it all (used by yours truly in the recent presentation to diocesan Convention).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
If religions are natural for humans and give value to their lives, why spend your life trying to persuade others to give them up?
The answer that will be given is that religion is implicated in many human evils. Of course this is true. Among other things, Christianity brought with it a type of sexual repression unknown in pagan times. Other religions have their own distinctive flaws. But the fault is not with religion, any more than science is to blame for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or medicine and psychology for the refinement of techniques of torture. The fault is in the intractable human animal. Like religion at its worst, contemporary atheism feeds the fantasy that human life can be remade by a conversion experience – in this case, conversion to unbelief.
Evangelical atheists at the present time are missionaries for their own values. If an earlier generation promoted the racial prejudices of their time as scientific truths, ours aims to give the illusions of contemporary liberalism a similar basis in science. It’s possible to envision different varieties of atheism developing – atheisms more like those of Freud, which didn’t replace God with a flattering image of humanity. But atheisms of this kind are unlikely to be popular. More than anything else, our unbelievers seek relief from the panic that grips them when they realise their values are rejected by much of humankind. What today’s freethinkers want is freedom from doubt, and the prevailing version of atheism is well suited to give it to them.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Atheism * Theology Anthropology Apologetics
That headline might sound familiar to readers at Faith & Reason. And it should. The sociologist I wrote about last winter when her research showed the majority of scientists identify with a religious tradition, not God-denying atheists, myth-busting again.
Now, the myth that bites the data dust, is one that proclaims evangelicals are a monolithic group of young-earth creationists opposed to theories of human evolution.
Actually, 70 percent of self-identified evangelicals “do not view religion and science as being in conflict,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist and director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program.
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Today, the same counterfeit ideas that Danielou identified are once again in circulation. Cultural change is cited as a reason to alter the Church’s teaching on communion for the divorced and remarried. Those who object are dismissed as ice-hearted “formalists.” What we need now is spontaneous faith rather than rulebook rigidity.
In his famous interview, Danielou warned against such arguments, saying that “with the pretext of reacting against formalism” there has arisen a “false conception of freedom that brings with it the devaluing of the constitutions and rules and exalts spontaneity and improvisation” and an “erroneous conception of the changing of man and of the Church.”
Danielou made these arguments even while living in great closeness to those who are usually held up as the beneficiaries of replacing formalism with freedom. Though his views made it difficult for him to live with his religious brothers, they did not prevent him from dying with those in need. If we hope to reprise Danielou's arguments today, we would do well also to imitate his actions.Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained * International News & Commentary Europe * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Two bomb blasts have killed at least 14 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.
More than 70 people were hurt in the explosions, which targeted worshippers attending Sunday mass at the churches in the Youhanabad area.
Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob killing two men accused of involvement in the attacks.
Pakistan's Christian community has often been targeted by militants.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Asia Pakistan * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
What exactly does it mean to you to be a priest?
It's a funny thing in a way, probably atypical, but from the time I began to think about being anything I wanted to be a priest. Don't ask me why. It's the grace of God and I can't explain it all, but I kept that through grammar school and high school. When I was going into high school, one of the Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame was giving a mission at our parish in Syracuse, and he told my mother that I ought to come out to Notre Dame and do my high school in the seminary. And she said, "He's not going to pick up at age 12 and go that far away. He's going to high school here." And the priest said, "Well, he might lose his vocation." And she said, "Let me tell you something Father. If he loses his vocation growing up in a Christian family, where he goes to mass and communion every day and is an altar boy, in the Church, I'll tell you something—he doesn't have one." So when I finished high school, I came here.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Education * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Right after Valentine’s Day, the front window of my Brooklyn home sprouts a field of cardboard shamrocks each year. A statue of St. Patrick appears on the bookshelf and a sign is posted on the back door: “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.”
This is the work of my Irish-American wife in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. As the Italian-American husband, I have in past years suggested equal attention to St. Joseph, a favorite saint of Italians. Nothing doing.
The proximity of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 and the Feast of St. Joseph two days later leads to a good deal of teasing and ribbing every year between Catholics of Irish and Italian ancestry.
There is nothing extraordinary about this little bit of fun, unless one considers the bitterness that once marked relations between these two peoples.
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