Posted by Kendall Harmon

In fact, God’s prospects look a lot better than mammon’s. Projections from the Pew Research Center show that by 2050 Christians will have grown to near 2.9 billion and Muslims to 2.8 billion. With the oil price still low, the property bubble reaching pop, and many economists predicting yet another stock market crash, I’d say that God is holding up pretty well against his old enemy. Moreover, even the heartlands of the new atheism are not future proof against religious revival. On boats throughout the Mediterranean, growing numbers of religious poor are risking everything to make the journey to Europe to share in the wealth we have long been hoarding. In the Calais refugee camp, for example, it feels obvious that this is also a battle between makeshift cardboard churches and mosques and a secular France that is totally puzzled by the resurgence of religious values it has sneered at for centuries. From the favelas of Brazil, to the Mothers’ Union of the sub-Saharan Bible belt, to the archipelago Islam of Indonesia, the poor go for God. And they have more children. Europe will be 10% Muslim by 2050.

Christianity is currently dying in Europe and the US may gradually follow suit. Pew Research predictions have US Christianity declining from three-quarters today to two-thirds in 2050. But Christianity has been around for centuries, and it remains by far the largest ideological collective the world has ever known. This hasn’t died at all. It has simply shifted its global centre of gravity south and east. And the future is China. What has died in Europe is the cosy link between church and state that was first established by the Emperor Constantine. And good riddance. For this link confused the issue, long associating God with the ruling class. With that gone, God is once again released to have a preferential option for the poor. Don’t let this local atheist lull fool you. Religion remains the future.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationPovertyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted May 27, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Love will keep us together, the Rev. Eli Sule Yakku of Central Nigeria said at the end of a long day filled with both kind and harsh words on the floor of the 2016 General Conference over lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and their role in The United Methodist Church.

The day started with a silent vigil by LGBTQ clergy and clergy candidates. Delegates walked past people wearing robes and holding crosses draped with “Shower of Stoles.” Many United Methodist clergy and clergy candidates came out as gay in the past two weeks.

During a particularly tense moment, a delegate rose and asked Bishop William T. McAlilly to step down as the presiding officer.

The decision to accept a recommendation from the Council of Bishops held all votes on human sexuality and referred all that legislation and the entire subject to a yet-to-be named special commission that will examine “every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 25, 2016 at 5:42 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA announces that Tom Lin has been selected by the InterVarsity Board of Trustees to become the next president of the campus ministry. He will start on August 10.

Tom has been vice president and director of missions for InterVarsity since February 2011, and also director of Urbana 12 and Urbana 15, InterVarsity’s triennial student missions conference. He succeeds Jim Lundgren, who has served as InterVarsity’s interim president for the past year.

In InterVarsity’s 75 years of campus ministry on U.S. college and university campuses, Tom becomes the first InterVarsity president who began his InterVarsity career working in campus ministry. After graduating from Harvard in 1994, he planted a chapter for Asian American students at Harvard, and another chapter at Boston University. He led numerous student missions projects in the U.S. and overseas, and helped design national training for InterVarsity staff.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

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Posted May 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When the suffering doesn’t go away through reading the Bible or prayer, the person affected may despair of his or her spiritual ability or maturity. The very thing that should provide unshakable confidence, that should strengthen our faith in Christ, becomes a source of shame if our faith isn’t “strong enough” to beat the illness.

Most of the time when a physician treats a chemical imbalance and there are some manifestations of those challenges, that imbalance doesn’t go away by prayer or by reading your Bible alone. Sometimes medication is needed and there should be not shame in that.

The more Christians struggle with how to deal with mental illness, the more we fail to create a safe and healthy environment in which to discuss and deal with these issues. As a result, many of our Christian churches, homes, and institutions promulgate an aura of mistrust, guilt, and shame.

As more of us are coming forward with our own stories of struggle and pain, I’m encouraged that it’s okay to talk about these things. We have to defeat the shame because the reality is that many Christians struggle with mental illness.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPastoral Care* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychologyMental IllnessReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 25, 2016 at 5:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this booth, the choice is between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Period.

"That's the scenario people I know are talking about and arguing about," said Stephen P. White of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., author of the book "Red, White, Blue and Catholic."

Many religious conservatives believe they "face a choice between two morally repugnant candidates," he added. "The reality of that choice is starting to drive some people into despair. ... I understand that, but I think it would be wrong for people to think that they need to abandon politics simply because they are disgusted with this election."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted May 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

United Methodists have voted to require church boards and agencies to withdraw immediately from an organization that advocates for abortion on demand. Delegates from across the 12.1 million-member denomination adopted a proposal concluding affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) on a vote of 425 to 268 (61 percent to 39 percent) during their quadrennial General Conference meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Two United Methodist agencies, the General Board on Church and Society (GBCS) and United Methodist Women (UMW) are coalition members of RCRC.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodist* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 21, 2016 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Methodists from around the world are in Portland this week for their General Conference, a big meeting about church teachings and laws that happens every four years. This year, at least, the delegates aren’t focused on bureaucratic minutiae. They are considering whether [non-celibate] gay and lesbian pastors should be ordained, and whether same-sex couples should be able to be married in the church. Depending on what they eventually choose, they may effectively decide whether the denomination should schism.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 20, 2016 at 5:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Religious communities, particularly the Catholic Church, have frequently been persecuted by regimes trying to consolidate power. But Albania’s ruthless Communist-era dictator, Enver Hoxha, went further than most, culminating with the 1967 proclamation of the country as the world’s first constitutionally atheist state.

It is no coincidence that most of the newly declared martyrs were priests. Hoxha reserved a special ire for the country’s Catholic clergy—the spiritual, intellectual and political leaders of a religious minority making up little more than a 10th of the population. His hatred stemmed partly from the crucial role the clergy had played in Albania’s cultural and political rebirth.

Most Albanian priests had been educated in foreign universities, and they represented a vital part of the country’s intellectual elite. Under the motto “Religion and Fatherland,” the clergy promoted a traditional reformist patriotism that sought to protect local customs while simultaneously integrating Albania into Europe. They argued for a free and equal state for all of Albania’s citizens, regardless of social or religious background. As such, they embodied a serious threat to Communist rule.


Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeAlbania* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Council of Bishops asked General Conference to delay a debate on homosexuality at this gathering of the denomination’s top legislative assembly until a proposed commission can study church regulations.

Instead, the bishops asked for the body’s permission to name a special commission that would completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. The commission would represent the different regions of a denomination on four continents as well as the varied perspectives of the church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

8 Comments
Posted May 18, 2016 at 6:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The nuns, who are members of the Dominican order, care for those of all religions and backgrounds — Laub’s mother-­in-­law was Jewish — and live by the prescient words of its founder, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, a daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne: “We cannot cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days, and keep them comfortable and free of pain.” (The Hawthorne Dominicans also operate similar homes in Atlanta and Philadelphia.)

As the nuns cared for their guests, Laub followed them with her camera — it’s her way. Then, even after her mother-­in-­law died in late September, she found herself returning to Rosary again and again, still wanting to capture something of the kindness that her family had found there. She asked the nuns to sit for portraits, in which she stripped away the background to show their eyes and faces in clear focus. “I wanted them to be quiet,” she said, “so their power could come through.”

The nuns in particular had moved her. She was struck by their tenderness with the dying, how they painted women’s fingernails and combed their hair, changed them into fresh nightgowns and arranged flowers in their rooms. “This is how dying should be,” Laub says. “It doesn’t feel like a place of death. It feels like a place of living.”

Read it all and do not miss the pictures.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPastoral CareSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineReligion & CultureWomen* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted May 18, 2016 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Delegates asked the Council of Bishops to lead the church out of the “painful condition” it is in after an address by Bishop Bruce Ough that called for unity but did not address full inclusion of LGBTQ people.

The Rev. Mark Holland, a delegate from Great Plains, said the May 17 call for unity did not provide a path forward. He asked the Council of Bishops to meet today and bring back a report tomorrow. His motion passed 428-364.

The bishops do not have a vote at General Conference, but they can call for a special session of the General Conference.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 18, 2016 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A top United Methodist bishop Tuesday acknowledged the denomination’s severe divisions over the role of gays and lesbians, as well as despair over the church’s falling American membership — but he refuted reports that the denomination’s leadership was preparing a proposal to split the church and its assets.

Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops for the United Methodist Church, speaking to delegates at the church’s legislative gathering in Portland, Ore., did acknowledge high-level meetings at which church leaders across the theological spectrum have “risked exploring what many would consider radical new ideas to organize the United Methodist Church.”

But, he added, the council is “committed to maintain the unity of the United Methodist Church, not a superficial unity to serve as a veneer over our disunity, but an authentic unity born of the Holy Spirit.”

Later in the day, delegates to the General Conference voted to ask the bishops to come back with a recommendation on how the divided church can move forward.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 18, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bishop Bruce Ough acknowledged the pain and anger that has been bubbling up at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference over the full inclusion of LGBTQ people, but said the Council of Bishops supports church unity.

Social media rumors before his announcement indicated the bishops were going to create a special commission to explore the church’s differences and hold a meeting in 2018 to discuss schism.

That is not correct, Ough said. However, he did say the bishops were not in unity with each other.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Amid reports that United Methodist leaders are considering dividing over LGBT equality disputes, the denomination’s top bishop on Tuesday asked members to recommit to remaining together, even though he described their community as having a “broken heart” and in the views of many being “out of time.”

Bishop Bruce Ough spoke during an unscheduled appearance at the major, once-every-four-years meeting of the global denomination, which is being held in Portland, Ore. Ough, the incoming president of the Council of Bishops, said he was responding to a flood of social media leaks about secret meetings top church leaders were having in the last week about the possibility of separating. The meeting is called a General Conference.

United Methodists, the third-largest faith group in the United States, have been talking for years about splitting as conservative wings from Africa and Asia become far more numerous than the relatively liberal American church. Pressure has grown since same-sex marriage started to become legal, meaning more pastors are performing such weddings for congregants — or coming out themselves — and traditional members are pushing for more accountability to United Methodist law and even for trials of pastors who violate it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

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Posted May 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Friday, delegates voted 355 to 477 against the proposal, in what is likely a preview of any vote taken on biblical sexuality. In general, Rule 44 was embraced by proponents of gay marriage and opposed by proponents of traditional marriage.

That’s probably because the usual method has been working pretty well for conservative Methodists who favor traditional marriage. Though other mainline denominations have opened the doors to the full participation of gay members, the UMC’s General Conference spent the last 44 years consistently voting to maintain the denomination’s ban on same-sex unions and on ordaining non-celibate clergy.

The UMC’s firm stance doesn’t stem primarily from its American members; less than half of them (46%) agree with the current ban, while 38 percent oppose it. Almost all of the 100-plus proposals on changes to the UMC's stance on human sexuality came from American conferences.

Some even spent the preceding weeks practicing denominational civil disobedience: the day before the conference began, 111 Methodist religious leaders revealed their homosexual orientation in an open letter. A week earlier, 15 clergy and candidates for clergy in the New York Annual Conference did the same thing. And elder David Meredith married his partner at a Methodist church in Columbus, Ohio, on the weekend between the two.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 16, 2016 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Miles and others pointed to the defeat of Rule 44 – an effort by the Commission on General Conference to have the option of a small-group discernment process in deciding contentious issues – as another notable, thorny development occurring early in General Conference 2016.

Though Miles had her doubts about whether such a process could resolve deep divides over human sexuality issues, she sized up its defeat as adding even more tension to this gathering.

“A lot of the people who were supporting it were really upset,” Miles said. “They took it very personally, and some were even angry at the people who opposed it.”

Mountain Sky Area Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky agreed that the Rule 44 debate and struggle over iPads vs. placards indicated a bigger challenge....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

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Posted May 14, 2016 at 5:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...in an article by the Religion News Service last month, friends of Mr. Hitchens took exception with the book’s conclusions.

Steve Wasserman, a literary agent and editor, and an executor of Mr. Hitchens’s estate, described the book as “a shabby business” in which “unverifiable conversations” are made to “contradict everything Christopher Hitchens ever said or stood for.”

Having evangelical friends is a testament to Mr. Hitchens’s “intellectual tolerance and largeness of heart, not to any covert religiosity,” Benjamin Schwarz, his former editor at The Atlantic, was quoted as saying.

In an interview, Mr. Taunton said that his rather modest claims were being misunderstood.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsAtheism

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Posted May 14, 2016 at 11:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Methodists have debated Christian sexual ethics at every General Conference since 1972, but delegates have repeatedly affirmed traditional teachings. The church prohibits same-sex rites, and clergy must be celibate if single and monogamous if married. For decades what made the difference was Methodism’s large evangelical subculture. But recently the decisive factor has been the church’s growing membership in Africa.

While other mainline denominations shrank, United Methodism grew, thanks to its overseas membership. Since the 1960s the church has lost four million Americans but gained five million new members in Africa, mainly in former French, Belgian and Portuguese colonies, where early 20th-century missionaries didn’t have to compete with British Methodism.

Africans, who are in general theologically conservative, now account for 40% of members and will soon become a majority. This leaves liberal Methodists frustrated. The church’s General Conference has long included colorful protests against traditional sexual standards. These have become more heated: One LGBT activist suggested that protesters show up to this year’s convention with “gallons of piss and vinegar,” adding “just think of the trouble we can cause.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 13, 2016 at 3:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Over the past three days, the United Methodist General Conference also has offered a live demonstration of just how difficult following its rules of order can be.

The final tally on the much-debated Rule 44 — a proposed Group Discernment Process — was 355 “yes” and 477 “no.”

The Commission on General Conference recommended Rule 44 at the request of the 2012 General Conference, which sought an alternative process to Robert’s Rules of Order for dealing with particularly complicated and contentious legislation.

The commission’s aim was to use small groups to give all delegates a chance to weigh in on selected petitions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

4 Comments
Posted May 13, 2016 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I never know how to see my own work clearly—maybe no one does. In August, though, any work I do is complicated by thinking muddied by depression. My deepest depressive cycles follow a fairly simple pattern: one in early winter and another in late summer. I start to slip into the murk, spend a couple of dark weeks beneath the waves, then gradually climb back into the light. I’m a high-functioning depressive: I’ve always been able to get a lot done, even when I’m at my lowest. I’m grateful I’m not laid right out by my depressive spells, though sometimes I think two weeks in the psych-ward would be easier than pushing through the day-to-day with all the light and joy drowned in blackness.

The worst part of my low is the relentless mental monologue. It’s nothing audible; more like the normal self-conscious thoughts most of us experience now and then except uninterrupted and fiercely self-loathing. The voice says “You’re stupid and useless. You’re a waste. You’re a black hole. You’re a piece of garbage, and nobody wants to be around garbage. Toss it and it’s gone.” On and on it goes, day after day for weeks, starting the moment I open my eyes in the morning until I collapse into sleep at night, an endless, monotonous commentary on my day, a narrative of self-hatred. Stupid and useless, not smart enough to really figure anything out, and incapable of doing what actually needs to be done.

I’ve personified my self-loathing voice, and it’s not a raging, snarling demon with fangs and claws, or an evil, faceless ghoul. It’s a fat, middle-aged, balding man who needs a shower and shave.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychology* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted May 13, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose?

To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.

Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

WE progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.

Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

O.K., that’s a little harsh. But consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical.

“Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 9, 2016 at 4:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Monday evening light was fading behind the stained-glass depictions of Bible stories in the simple sanctuary of Unionville United Methodist Church. About a hundred people sang guitar-led praise songs in a regional Methodist gathering at the small congregation in Rochester, Beaver County, which has worked to revitalize itself through everything from a children’s program to a food pantry.

Small-town congregants, simple worship, earnest social service — are all common images of the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant body in the nation and the region.

But the denomination, which is headed for a high-stakes 10-day legislative gathering starting Tuesday in Portland, Ore., is far more diverse — and divided — than its traditional Main Street image.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodist

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Posted May 9, 2016 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shepherding a megachurch is tied in many ways to America’s celebrity culture. There’s a push for big-stage events and around-the-clock access through social media to a pastor’s life and thoughts.

It’s a formula that amplifies the message and multiplies the flock, in congregants who show up on Sunday for worship and in tens of thousands more followers online.

High visibility can also set pastors on a correction-course with humility that evangelical Christians call getting right with Jesus....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The center of gravity for both orthodoxy and evangelism is not among Anglo suburban evangelicals but among African Anglicans and Asian Calvinists and Latin American Pentecostals. The vital core of American evangelicalism today can be found in churches that are multiethnic and increasingly dominated by immigrant communities.

The next Billy Graham probably will speak only Spanish or Arabic or Persian or Mandarin. American evangelicals often use the language of “revival” — a word that is sometimes co-opted by politicians to mean a resurgence of a politically useful but watered-down civil religion. A congregation that ignores the global church can deprive itself of revival by overlooking those places where the Spirit is working.

The thriving churches of American Christianity are multigenerational, theologically robust, ethnically diverse and connected to the global church. If Jesus is alive — and I believe that he is — he will keep his promise and build his church. But he never promises to do that solely with white, suburban institutional evangelicalism.

The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryRace/Race RelationsReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 7, 2016 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

By his ascension to the right hand of the Father, Jesus becomes the head of his body the Church. For the Holy Spirit, who animates the Church, is the gift of the ascended Christ. Ascension makes Pentecost possible.

Moreover, this gift of the Spirit is not a one-time occurrence, whether at Pentecost or at an individual’s baptism or confirmation. The ascended Lord is the ongoing source of spiritual gifts that enliven and build up his body.

As chapter four of the Letter to the Ephesians teaches: “when he ascended on high … he gave gifts.” The ascension bespeaks the ongoing agency of Jesus “who always lives and makes intercession for us.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsAscension* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyChristology

0 Comments
Posted May 5, 2016 at 4:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The classes you'll be teaching this summer are The Anglican Heritage: History and Theology and Colossians. What inspired you to choose those courses?

Well, they are two courses that I’ve taught before, but I’m very glad to be teaching again.

To start with, I’m heavily committed to Anglicanism. I really do think that the Anglican heritage is the richest in Christendom. And I hope in this course to persuade others that that is so. It’s a very great pleasure to be sharing the wealth of that heritage with others.

The Anglican Heritage course generally has a small number of students, between 10 and 15, which allows for a higher degree of real conversation and discussion in the classroom. I’ve taught it a few times before, and I always tell the students that what I’m trying to do is to give them the feel of Anglicanism as a heritage. That’s important, because Anglicans are very heritage-conscious: much more so than some of the other denominational traditions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologySeminary / Theological Education

1 Comments
Posted May 5, 2016 at 11:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The last two decades have seen an explosion of church planting and multiplication ministries and networks. Most church startups are planted by leaders in urban core or inner suburban neighborhoods—and this trend, among others, has financial implications for church planters and their families. But what other factors shape their financial reality?

In a study of 769 planters from across the nation, Barna assessed the general financial condition of church startups and their leaders; how different funding models hamper or facilitate various facets of ministry and family life; and what resources leaders need to effectively manage their personal and church finances. The findings from the full study release today in a new Barna report produced in partnership with Thrivent Financial, Church Startups and Money: The Myths and Realities of Church Planters and Finances.

Here are a few of the standout findings.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* Theology

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Posted April 26, 2016 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

RNS: What would you change about “Wild at Heart” if you were writing it today? Anything?

JE: Here’s the fascinating thing – the proof is in the pudding. “Wild at Heart” is still the #1 book for men in spirituality on Amazon. We still fill every conference we hold. More importantly, “Wild at Heart” is being used in prisons all over the world to help men; it is being taught in Catholic monasteries in Europe and in rural villages in Uganda. What does that story say? [tweetable]There are deep and lasting truths about men that transcend time and culture.[/tweetable] More importantly, the thousands of letters we receive every year are stories of men who have become good dads, loving husbands; stories of men getting free from addiction and living a life of genuine integrity. Isn’t that what society needs? Human trafficking and particularly the sex trade are fueled largely by men with evil intent; men with deeply distorted sexuality. If you can heal a man’s soul he doesn’t support that industry. That is our only hope for lasting justice.

Read it all from RNS.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchBooksMenPsychology* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken control of six churches in the war-torn southeastern city of Diyarbakir in his latest move to squash freedom of speech and religious movement.

The state-sanctioned seizure is just the latest in a number of worrying developments to come out of increasingly hardline Turkey, which is in advanced talks with the EU over visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens.

Included in the seizures are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, one of which is over 1,700 years old.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkey* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The present state of affairs, however, is that the theological and ethical diversity of United Methodism has reached a breaking point. I attribute this to what Jonathan Merritt has called America’s “new moral code.” Whereas conservatives have long bemoaned the rise of moral relativism, before our eyes there is occurring a sea change. Relativism is becoming a thing of the past. Absolutism is coming quickly upon us, and it is no less fraught with problems than the relativism it is replacing. From the perspective of our diverse denomination, the arrival of the new moral code presents the greatest danger to unity we have yet faced. Moral absolutism has exposed the holes in our polity that have allowed for an unauthorized regionalization of ethical decision making in the UMC.

Our denomination’s way of ordering its life assumes disagreement, a push and pull worked out through political processes, such as the legislative sessions of our various conferences. This is, as David Brooks has written, the very essence of politics, and our system is inherently political. No one gets everything they want, but the result is that we are able to live, worship, and work together. We resist the old Protestant impulse to part ways when we disagree, and we thereby avoid further fracturing the body of Christ. While the system is not perfect, it does in theory compel us to recognize the perspectives and interests of others. For diversity of thought to inhere within one community, the various factions of that community must abide by the recognized processes for dealing with disagreement.

In recent years, however, the rejection of the church’s way of ordering its life, and hence the theological diversity protected by that order, has undermined our unity with devastating effectiveness. Note that while conservative groups in the UMC have called for division before, they have never had as realistic a chance of accomplishing this as they do today. This desire for division itself was perhaps an early indicator of the trend toward moral absolutism. We might say the same thing about churches that for one reason or another refused to pay apportionments. Yet the primary rationale for division is not now, as it once was, rooted in a call for a more doctrinally and ethically conservative church. It is based on the breakdown of denominational governance that has become increasingly prevalent since 2013.

Read it all and follow the links.

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Posted April 19, 2016 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 8, 2016 at 7:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis has published new guidelines on family life that argue the Church should show more understanding of modern realities.

The document, based on two Synods on the issue, was eagerly awaited by the world's 1.3bn Roman Catholics.

Entitled "On Love in the Family", it does not change Catholic doctrine.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyMenReligion & CultureWomen* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 8, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mercy has been the animating force of Pope Francis’ three-year pontificate. And the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Catholic Church has been celebrating since December, is the greatest expression of the pope’s interest. Millions of Catholics are taking the opportunity to renew their faith and receive plenary indulgences during what Francis has called “a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God.”

Vatican City’s judicial system, however, is not taking the year off. Msgr. Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda has spent the Jubilee in a Vatican City jail cell, and he could face up to eight years behind bars for crimes against the Vatican City State. He and his co-defendants won’t be the first to be prosecuted by the world’s smallest state.

There are two types of courts within the Vatican: religious and civil. Religious courts punish heretical priests, for example, and their jurisdiction extends beyond the Vatican’s walls. Penalties follow the principle of salus animarum, the salvation of souls. They come in the form of invitations to repentance, expulsion from the priestly state or, in severe cases, excommunication.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 1, 2016 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us...Yes, verily, it is a pledge,

Of Christ's power to raise us to a spiritual life — The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." And then he says, concerning them, "God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^" Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, "We are buried with Christ 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." But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, " I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again...."

--"Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEasterParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologyEschatology

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Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Indian priest Tom Uzhunnalil was reportedly crucified by Islamic State (ISIS) on Good Friday. The gruesome act was committed by the Yemen unit of the dreaded terror outfit.

Father Uzhunnalil was abducted by ISIS on March 4 in the aftermath of an attack on a church in Aden. At least 16 people were killed in the Catholic prayer hall by the Islamic militants. Eyewitnesses reveal that Father Uzhunnalil was dragged out of his room and loaded into a van. The militants were not to be seen again in the region again following the attack.

Read it all.

Update: CNA is reporting the news is still unconfirmed.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 28, 2016 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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)."

--Benedict XVI

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyChristology

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Posted March 25, 2016 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The only path to the hope of Easter is through the struggle of Holy Week. Like the assurance offered in the 23rd Psalm, we’re not given a shortcut around the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

The only way out is through.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted March 24, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Fifty years ago, on March 22nd 1966, a new centre was set up in the heart of Rome dedicated to the building up of Anglican-Catholic dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey presided at the dedication ceremony in the ancient Doria Pamphilj palace, the day before his first historic encounter with Pope Paul VI that took place in the Sistine Chapel.

Exactly half a century on, Christians of many different denominations gathered in the Anglican Centre chapel on Tuesday to give thanks for those events and to commit themselves anew to the task of reconciling their divided Churches.

Read and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted March 24, 2016 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Black Mountain Missionary Baptist Church absolutely gleams in the sunshine with a fresh coat of paint on the outer walls and brilliant yellow daffodils blooming on the manicured lawn.

The handiwork of an arsonist has been entirely erased. There are no signs of the flames that charred the insides of the historic church, which dates back to the days when this was a working coal camp. The soot and stain and odor of acrid smoke are long gone. So, too, are the water-logged furnishings, ruined in the mad dash by firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

Church members refused to leave Black Mountain in shambles.

“They never missed a worship service because of the fire,” said Bill Wallace, director of missions for the Upper Cumberland Baptist Association. “They never gave up. That says so much about their determination to serve the Lord and to reach this community with the gospel.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/Fire* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptists* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted March 23, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church said with regret, – spiritual and religious life in the West has undergone radical changes in the recent years. Western civilization and Western countries ceased to indentify themselves with Christian tradition and adopted an idea of society in which Christian moral values should not be dominant. And then, legislative solutions were taken in many countries, the United States of America including, which allow same-sex marriage, equaling it to natural marriage that the Lord has given us in commandment. People who do not want to abide by these solutions may be subjected to repressions. Today, Christians who uphold the intransient importance of Christian moral values had to become confessors of the faith living under various kind of pressure, on the part of mass media including.”

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association courageously confessed its faith and defended Christian values. “This gives us a sign of hope: there are people among Western Christians akin to us in ethic principles, sharing them with the Russian Orthodox Church,” His Holiness said and reminded his listeners that the Moscow Patriarchate had suspended any contacts and dialogue with Christian Churches and communities which perform same-sex marriages in church and even ordain people of non-traditional sexual orientation as priests and bishops. For instance, we had to break off contacts with the Episcopal Church in the USA, but we support the Anglican Church in North America which remains faithful to Christian ethics. I would like to note once again the role played by the conservative evangelicals in the United States as their position gives us an opportunity to continue our dialogue with Christians in America.”

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox Church

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Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:38 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This sort of public call-and-response has its appeal, but it runs several risks. The first and most obvious is that the very act of documenting one’s every move on the spectrum away from or toward belief will influence and alter that trajectory. It’s similar to what is called the observer effect in science. In life, as in science, you can’t watch something without changing the qualities of the thing being watched.

The risk is compounded when the process takes place in a forum that is entirely your own, unvetted by voices other than the ones you allow. In spite of the Internet’s potential to connect us to the diversity of Christian faith, past and present, too often it becomes a set of claustrophobic corners.

The young Christian becomes limited by a context in which time is always immediate, history is limited to one’s own personal existence, and the only readily available responses consistently confirm one’s own experiences. Theological difficulties are mediated through self-expression. It’s a waiting room full of people echoing what you just said, and little else. No wonder faith narrows and chokes, maybe even suffocates, in this setting. Everybody is trapped in the same room and nobody seems to know where the exit is. Maybe we should amend Sartre this way: hell is relentless, real-time commentary by other people just like yourself.

Read it all from S N D Kelly in Christianity Today.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

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Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is not the fact that the French Revolution attacked clerical celibacy that is revealing, then, but which arguments they deployed against it. Earlier opponents attacked the institution as a crime against innocent bastards and faithful concubines, or as unscriptural Roman overreach, or as an implicit denigration of family life. In the case of the French revolutionaries, their arguments were primarily either utilitarian or legalistic—which may be why they sound familiar today....

More modern-sounding still, in our age of "marriage equality," are the legalistic arguments. Insofar as clerical celibacy was a form of discrimination on the basis of profession, it was deemed a violation of egalité. The most rhetorically powerful ploy of all was to elevate parenthood to the status of a basic human right, which vows of celibacy infringed upon. One abbé Cournand, upon presenting a motion in favor of clerical marriage in a Paris suburb's local assembly in 1790, said that obligatory celibacy violated clerics' "inalienable right … to exist as father and spouse." A 1795 treatise by a married priest argued that becoming a père de famille was a basic right and any act prohibiting it was "fundamentally invalid [and] an attack on liberty."

The debate over clerical celibacy was at its liveliest during the period of ambiguity following the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790, since the issue of clerical marriage is not actually mentioned in that document and would not be settled until the Constitution of 1791. One pamphleteer of the uncertain interim argued that the National Assembly did not even need to clarify its position on clerical marriage, since the right to marry was implicit in the egalitarian decrees already enacted. "Lay people can marry, therefore priests can marry as well." In his eyes, it was a constitutional fait accompli. Eulogius Schneider, a former Franciscan monk who would become a prosecutor of the Terror, echoed this line of argument in 1791: "Priests are men and citizens, and by consequence, they must enjoy the rights of man and of citizen." In the hands of such innovators, the Rights of Man and Citizen proved as accommodating as our Fourteenth Amendment in the search for a never-before-dreamed-of right to marry.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistoryMarriage & Family* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The meeting on 23 March 1966 led to a half-century of ecumenical dialogue through the formation of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic) and the setting up of the Anglican Centre in Rome. The Centre was dedicated on 22 March and opened a few months later. A series of events have been set up to marks its fiftieth anniversary. On Tuesday 22 March, there will be a Holy Communion service in London at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, where the preacher will be Revd Barry Nichols, secretary and former governor of the Anglican Centre, and on the same day a Eucharist service in Rome at the Anglican Centre. Bishop Stephen Platten, the chairman of governors, will preach and use the original order of service used by Archbishop Ramsey to rededicate the Centre’s chapel. In June, ecumenical Evensong will be held at Westminster Abbey to mark the anniversary with the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted March 19, 2016 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anyone who calls women “pigs,” “ugly,” “fat” and “pieces of a–” is not on my side. Anyone who mocks the handicapped is not on my side. Anyone who has argued the merits of a government takeover of banks, student loans, the auto industry and healthcare is not on my side. Anyone who has been on the cover of Playboy and proud of it, who brags of his sexual history with multiple women and who owns strip clubs in his casinos is not on my side. Anyone who believes the government can wrest control of the definition of marriage from the church is not on my side. Anyone who ignores the separation of powers and boasts of making the executive branch even more imperial is not on my side.

I’m a conservative. I believe in conserving the dignity of life. I believe in conserving respect for women. I believe in conserving the Constitution. I believe in conserving private property, religious liberty and human freedom. I believe in morality more than I do in money. I hold to principles more than I yearn for power. I trust my Creator more than I do human character. I’d like to think that all this, and more, makes me an informed and thoughtful citizen and voter. I’ve read, I’ve listened and I’ve studied and there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing, in this man’s track record that makes Donald Trump “on my side.”

I refuse to let my desire to win “trump” my moral compass. I will not sell my soul or my university’s to a political process that values victory more than virtue.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

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Posted March 17, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bishop Angaelos, a U.K.-based leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, stood before the media holding up a thick report on “genocide” in the Middle East that featured a 2015 photo of Islamic state extremists preparing to behead 21 members of his faith in Libya.

“They were not killed for any other reason but they were Christians,” he said Thursday (March 10), joining with others calling attention to religious persecution.

Hours later, he addressed board members of the National Association of Evangelicals, explaining the basics of his 15 million-member faith — “Coptic Orthodox just means Egyptian Orthodox” — and telling them that what they have in common “far, far exceeds” their differences.

A year after losing 21 fellow Copts, Angaelos continues his bridge-building work, seeking support for persecuted people of many faiths, visiting Muslim refugees and helping evangelicals realize that the Orthodox are part of the Christian flock.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchEvangelicalsOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 15, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Union organizers now have their sights set on America’s largest Catholic university, DePaul University in Chicago. But the school’s president, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, won’t let labor bureaucrats usurp his authority without a fight. Writing online for Inside Higher Ed in January, he noted that “whether or not a particular faculty member chooses to incorporate religion in his or her classroom overtly, the point is that it is up to the university, not the government, to decide what counts as religious perspective.” Ultimately, he wrote, “the freedom to determine what is or what is not religious activity inside our church is at stake.”

In recent years many faith-based schools have wrestled with questions about the religious and secular mix in their missions—and labor bureaucrats have noticed. Some schools have seemed to neglect their identity when hiring professors. “I’m not Catholic,” Alyson Paige Warren, a Loyola adjunct professor, told America Magazine in January, “and I don’t teach Jesuit spirituality.”

Pope Francis will have none of that ambivalence. In January 2014 remarks to a delegation from the University of Notre Dame, Francis insisted upon the “uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom.” He reminded his visitors from Notre Dame—and by extension administrators at other Catholic colleges—to protect their schools’ “identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness.”

If more religious educators prayed over that, labor bureaucrats wouldn’t stand a chance.

Read it all.

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Posted March 11, 2016 at 11:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A major report released Thursday by two US-based Christian organizations argues for including Iraqi, Syrian, and Libyan Christians as victims of genocide perpetrated by ISIS, ahead of a March 17 deadline for the US State Department to make a finding about whether, and to which categories of ISIS victims, the term “genocide” applies.

Although experts say a finding of genocide would not immediately trigger changes in US foreign policy or the acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers, it’s nevertheless important since both domestic and international law require that acts of genocide be investigated and those responsible indicted and prosecuted.

The 278-page report was released by the Knights of Columbus in partnership with “In Defense of Christians,” a US-based research and advocacy organization devoted to protecting Christians in the Middle East.

Read it all.


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Posted March 10, 2016 at 5:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Persian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi recently made history. On the tiny island of Sir Bani Yas, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Christian mon­astic complex dating from around 600. After some res­toration, authorities opened the place to the public as a tourist attraction and heritage site.

This decision may not sound surprising, but it stands in stark contrast to the em­barrassment and contempt with which other nations in the region—above all, Saudi Arabia—treat their own pre-Islamic heritage. And that same relative tolerance also applies to the practice of faith today in the Gulf states. If the smaller Gulf nations do not practice freedom of religion in anything like the Western sense, Christianity has nevertheless secured a surprisingly strong foothold in these coastal states.

When the monastery of Sir Bani Yas was built, Chris­tianity had a strong presence throughout eastern and southern Arabia, mainly through the (“Nestorian”) Church of the East. No later than the fifth century, a diocese covered the lands that we would today call Oman and the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE), and Bah­rain had a major church. In Mu­ham­mad’s time, five sees covered the Gulf’s western shores. By the end of the first millennium, that Christian history had come to an end, leaving the churches in ruins.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted March 10, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the great legacies of Jerry Bridges is that he combined—to borrow some titles from his books—the pursuit of holiness and godliness with an emphasis on transforming grace. He believed that trusting God not only involved believing what he had done for us in the past, but that the gospel empowers daily faith and is transformative for all of life.

In 2009 he explained to interviewer Becky Grosenbach the need for this emphasis within the culture of the ministry he had given his life to:

When I came on staff almost all the leaders had come out of the military and we had pretty much a military culture. We were pretty hard core. We were duty driven. The WWII generation. We believed in hard work. We were motivated by saying “this is what you ought to do.” That’s okay, but it doesn’t serve you over the long haul. And so 30 years ago there was the beginning of a change to emphasize transforming grace, a grace-motivated discipleship.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

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Posted March 7, 2016 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mr. Ellis, 39, welcomed the dozen men and women seated before him. “This is a space,” he said, “for people who consider themselves non-Christian and are coming in from the outside.”

His weekly sessions, called the WS Café in a reference to the neighborhood, are at a new frontier of evangelism, one that seeks converts among a fervent and growing number of atheists in this country. The sessions started in September as a push by Redeemer Presbyterian’s prominent pastor, the Rev. Tim Keller, to preach the gospel to skeptics.

Such efforts proceed amid a rare moment in both Christian and American history. At the origin of Christianity, its apostles sought to convert adherents of other faiths, whether Judaism or Roman paganism. Missionaries of the last few centuries journeyed to China or Africa or the Americas to encounter the followers of other faiths, whether Buddhist or Yoruba or Aztec. In every case, the Christian evangelist seeking converts was at least dealing with listeners who embraced the concept of a divine being involved in the world.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and Issues* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther Faiths* TheologyApologetics

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Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The resolution on genocide, introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, "expresses the sense of Congress that the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide."

"ISIS commits mass murder, beheadings, crucifixions, rape, torture, enslavement and the kidnapping of children, among other atrocities," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, R-California. "ISIS has said it will not allow the continued existence of the Yezidi. And zero indigenous Christian communities remain in areas under ISIS control."

The Islamic State "is guilty of genocide and it is time we speak the truth about their atrocities. I hope the administration and the world will do the same, before it's too late," Royce added.

Read it all.

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Posted March 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A growing number of Chinese students in American universities are discovering Christianity and Jesus.

According to Foreign Policy, more than 304,000 Chinese were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in 2015, many coming from Beijing and Shanghai.

While there are no definite numbers of Christian converts from mainland China, students who are immersed in campus spiritual life said the number is growing.

Gregory Jao, national director of campus engagement for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, said the organisation serves up to 1,800 overseas Chinese of the total 5,000 international students under it.

Read it all from Christian Today.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaChina* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* Theology

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Posted March 1, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesUnited Church of Christ* TheologySeminary / Theological Education

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Posted February 29, 2016 at 6:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three theologically conservative church bodies released a report championing progress in their latest round of ecumenical dialogue.

Representatives from the Anglican Church in North America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Lutheran Church-Canada have been engaging in an ongoing dialogue for the past six years.

Titled "On Closer Acquaintance", the interim report on ecumenical dialogue charts the progress made thus far on conversations between ACNA, LCMS, and LCC.

"The report is intended as an aid for ACNA folk wishing to get a deeper understanding of their counterparts in LCMS–LCC and vice versa, and as a resource that will help us determine the nature and goals of our relationship in the years ahead," reads the report.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesLutheran

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Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To be blunt: The last thing this funeral Mass was about was "spirituality." So search the [New York] Times story and look for the role that terms such as "Christian" and "Catholic" played in its contents. What about "Jesus," you ask? Forget about it.

The strongest religious language in the [New York] Times piece linked a kind of vague, Americanized faith with a nod to current fights over religious liberty.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / FuneralsMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyChristologyEschatologySoteriology

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Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The people of Westworth United Church have already opened up their lives to Syrian Muslims, and now they’re inspired to open up their hearts.

"We thought because we are in the middle of a one-year sponsorship of Syrian refugees, this was the perfect opportunity to learn about Islam," says Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd about a five-week study series on Islam and Christianity.

Last fall, the River Heights church, along with members of Muslim and Jewish communities, sponsored six adults and 18 children from Syria. The multi-faith sponsorship group, called REFUGE, has raised about $100,000 of the $120,000 needed to sponsor these three families for their first 12 months in Canada.

Running during the Christian season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter, the free series covers topics such as violence, reading difficult passages in the Qur’an and the Bible, and issues of hate, violence and racism in both faiths, says MacKenzie Shepherd.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryAdult Education* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted February 21, 2016 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted—though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterian* TheologyChristologyEschatologySoteriology

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Posted February 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a majestic Mass at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Feb. 2, history was made for the Anglican ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI: Their first bishop was ordained.

“In a nutshell, it means we’re here to stay,” summarized Msgr. Harry Entwistle, the ordinary of Australia’s ordinariate, which is under the patroness of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

The new bishop, Steven Joseph Lopes, 40, a native of California, was in fact instrumental in the creation of the ordinariate that he now leads — the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted February 20, 2016 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Antonin Scalia attended the traditional Latin Mass nearly every Sunday, at St. John the Beloved church near his home in McLean, Va., or at St. Mary Mother of God church in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C. When he went to the latter location, it was usually followed by a day of reading in his nearby Supreme Court office, which he did for decades on certain Sundays during the court’s term.

In the 20 years I saw him at Mass, not once was he protected by Supreme Court police or by U.S. Marshals. The associate justice with his home number still listed in the telephone book was surprisingly down to earth, true to his New Jersey roots. It was not uncommon to see him park his BMW on G Street in the District before Mass and put on his necktie using the car’s mirror. He would walk into St. Mary’s with his pre-Vatican II handmissal, always sitting in the same general area, near Patrick Buchanan, about halfway up the aisle on the far left side of the nave.

Justice Scalia loved music, especially opera. So when I was the director of an amateur choir at St. Mary’s in the late 1990s (in a Verizon Center-less neighborhood far different from today), we were under increased pressure during the Sundays when he attended High Mass. Our choir was admittedly awful, and even though we rehearsed every Thursday night and Sunday morning, it didn’t seem to help much....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted February 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“He was a man. Take him for all in all. [We] shall not look upon his like again.” Those words from Hamlet seem appropriate on the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He had a powerful effect on the Court and on the law more broadly. Scalia was the most eloquent and prominent proponent of the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the “original meaning” of its words: the meaning they had at the time of their adoption. He argued, in his inimitable style, for a “dead Constitution”—whose meaning is fixed until changed by formal amendment—over a “living Constitution” that a judge can manipulate into whatever shape he wishes.

Moreover, except for Ruth Ginsburg, it is hard to imagine another justice becoming so visible in the broader culture. Many who hated Scalia’s rulings could not help but be entertained by his razor-sharp writing, which he used especially in his dissenting opinions to carve up the majority’s reasoning (my favorite is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where among other things he referred to the majority’s “Nietzschean vision of us unelected, life-tenured judges—leading a Volk who will be ‘tested by following’” the Court’s rulings obediently). In a talk at my law school last November, he said that he wrote his dissents “mainly for you guys, for law students.” His eloquence inspired generations of lawyers and students convinced by his judicial philosophy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralSupreme Court* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 18, 2016 at 11:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Quite aside from his legal views, what came through that night four years ago was just how keenly interested Scalia was in Church affairs, and how central reflection on his faith was to his life and his worldview.

There are, of course, Catholics who don’t believe Scalia drew the correct conclusions from his religious convictions, seeing his “originalist” view of the Constitution as more about conservative political ideology than genuinely Catholic sensibilities.

What can’t be denied is that Antonin Scalia was a serious Catholic, someone whose faith was a defining element of his life. His passing is a reminder that Catholicism’s contribution to public life in the United States may not always be ideologically coherent or predictable, but it’s profound, and he was a lifelong embodiment of that truth.

Read it all frp, John Allen in Crux.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted February 14, 2016 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis on Friday became the first pontiff to ever meet a patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, as the two Christian leaders set aside centuries of division in a historic encounter that was held in an unlikely setting: a room at the Havana airport.

Having announced the meeting only a week ago, Francis landed in Havana about 2 p.m. for a stopover that lasted a few hours, before he continued to Mexico City for his six-day visit to Mexico. Awaiting him in Havana was Patriarch Kirill, who was making an official visit to Cuba at the invitation of President Raúl Castro.

As he approached the Russian patriarch amid the clicking of news cameras, Francis was overheard to say, “Brother.” A moment later, he added, “Finally.”

The two men embraced, kissing each other twice on the cheeks and clasping hands before taking seats. “Now things are easier,” Kirill said. Francis responded, “It is clear now that this is the will of God.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyEcclesiology

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Posted February 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The 21 [Coptic] men executed that day [in Libya] were itinerant tradesman working on a construction job. All were native Egyptians but one, a young African man whose identity is uncertain—reports of his name vary, and he was described as coming from Chad or Ghana. But the power of his example is unshakable. The executioners demanded that each hostage identify his religious allegiance. Given the opportunity to deny their faith, under threat of death, the Egyptians declared their faith in Jesus. Steadfast in their belief even in the face of evil, each was beheaded.

Their compatriot was not a Christian when captured, apparently, but when challenged by the terrorists to declare his faith, he reportedly replied: “Their God is my God.” In that moment, before his death, he became a Christian. The ISIS murderers seek to demoralize Christians with acts like the slaughter on a Libyan beach. Instead they stir our wonder at the courage and devotion inspired by God’s love.

While we remember these men’s extraordinary sacrifice, is there not more that we can do to stop this genocide against Christians in the Middle East?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 12, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

New research suggests that not only is there no end in sight, but there are few signs of hope for revival in rapidly aging, shrinking groups such as the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Consider these findings from two of the largest surveys of U.S. congregations:

• In just the last five years, the percentage of mainline Protestant congregations where more than one-fifth are ages 18 to 35 has decreased dramatically. In 2010, some 4.8 percent of mainline congregations reported having that large a proportion of young adults in the pews; by 2015, just 1.3 percent reported that high a percentage, according to initial findings from the 2015 Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey.
• Children made up just 16 percent of regular attenders in mainline Protestant congregations, compared to an average of 29 percent in other Christian traditions, according to a new analysis of the 2012 wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS).
• Mainline Protestants recorded a nearly 30 percent decline – from 24 percent in 1998 to 17 percent in 2012 – in the proportion of its members filling U.S. pews, the NCS study found.
• In the 2005 FACT survey, a little more than half of mainline churches said fewer than 100 people on average were at weekend worship; in 2015, nearly two-thirds attracted less than 100 worshippers. Sociologist David Roozen, a FACT study director, reported the findings at the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association.

How serious are the numbers?

“It might already be beyond that point” where a significant recovery is possible, said Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves, NCS director and author of “American Religion: Contemporary Trends.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSociology* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistPentecostal* Theology

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Posted February 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Presbyterian Church (USA) is expecting to see a loss of over 400,000 members between 2015 and 2020, according to a reported internal document.

“The slide [from the meeting] also showed that COGA is predicting membership losses of 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016,” reported The Layman.

PCUSA’s Office of the General Assembly and Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Executive Committee held a meeting last Wednesday when projected losses were discussed, according to a recent account by the conservative Presbyterian publication The Layman.

Read it all from the Christian Post.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterian* Theology

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Posted February 9, 2016 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We live in a world so weary of violence and strife, so hardened against rhetoric and marketing, and so soporific from our long dark night that we are tempted to conclude that there is nothing left but boredom and silliness.

But if we can get our own act together, this can be the church’s finest hour.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyApologeticsChristology

1 Comments
Posted February 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Why now? What world events made this historic meeting possible?

Behind closed doors, the pope and the patriarch will almost certainly talk about Ukraine and other issues. They may talk about the remaining doctrinal barriers that prevent shared Communion, in every sense of that word, between the Orthodox and Catholics.

But all signs are that they are meeting because, to be blunt, Christians have few if any safe havens right now in the lands in which they have lived and worshiped since the birth of Christianity. What happens if Damascus falls to ISIS or even to the American-backed "moderate" forces that have been killing and kidnapping Christians and members of other religious minorities at a slower rate than ISIS?

Stay tuned to see what is in the joint declaration in Cuba. I imagine that U.S. State Department leaders will be reading it carefully.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicPope Francis

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Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Which brings us to the multi-layered complexity of the situation: How to help create a context such that people can return to their ISIS-occupied homes 30 miles away? We spent a lot of time listening. The words that kept coming: Rescue. Restore. Return. So we designed a long-term strategy, consistent with their environment, that builds on short-term impact:
Rescue: We wanted to help those in immediate need, providing relief to them so that they could make it totomorrow. In so doing, we were also able to discern who was doing the best work locally, like the Dominican Sisters, or Assyrian Aid Society (which is just incredible). Besides helping people, we found partners whose yes is yes, and no is no. We are in relationship with them. We trust each other in a part of the world where there is no trust.

Restore: All of those who have fled ISIS have been traumatized in some fashion. They need a way to address the internal if they are to become whole again, and thus serve as peace-builders in a post-ISIS world. So we have sought to invest in education as well as trauma training, seeking to build internal reconciliation such that external reconciliation might one day take place.

Return: This is the tricky part, on two counts....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissionsParish MinistryPastoral Care* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted February 5, 2016 at 3:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Vatican says Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in a major step to heal the 1000-year-old schism that divided Christianity between East and West.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

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Posted February 5, 2016 at 5:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Melbourne's Anglican churches say they cannot offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing immediate deportation to Nauru because they are not equipped to provide accommodation.

It puts the Melbourne Anglican diocese at great odds with its counterparts around the rest of the country, who are willing to face police raids and possible charges to shield asylum seekers.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsImmigration* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted February 4, 2016 at 3:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Is it accurate and/or expedient to use the word “genocide” to describe the persecution of religious minorities by the terrorist group known as Islamic State, Daesh or a variant of that name? Hypothetical as it might seem, that question is a real dilemma for people in high places in western Europe and America.

On January 20th, Federica Mogherini, the foreign-policy chief of the European Union, gave a speech to the European Parliament in which she deplored the suffering of Christians and other minority faiths in the Middle East but carefully stopped short of using the word genocide, to the great disappointment of many MEPs and religious-freedom campaigners.

Those campaigners took heart when another Strasbourg-based body of legislators, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), took a much firmer position. PACE is an arm of the 47-nation Council of Europe. The European Parliament, an organ of the 28-nation European Union and rather more important, will also vote on the IS-and-genocide question in a few days' time. The PACE resolution, passed on January 27th, denounced the wave of terror attacks on civilians in Europe and the Middle East

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the oldest refrains in the world is the theodicy question: how could a good God let bad things happen?

That question animates Agnus Dei, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday. But the film's answer is expansive, complex, and subtly subversive. Directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel, Gemma Bovary) and led by an all-female cast, the movie tries to approach (but not fix) the repercussions of unspeakable cruelty with the quiet balm of beauty. It’s a must-see for CT readers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMovies & TelevisionReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted February 2, 2016 at 3:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Holy God, we bless thee for the gift of thy monk and icon writer Andrei Rublev, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provided a window into heaven for generations to come, revealing the majesty and mystery of the holy and blessed Trinity; who livest and reignest through ages of ages. Amen.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistorySpirituality/Prayer* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox Church

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Posted January 29, 2016 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For years, Texas megachurch pastor Bob Roberts has been building relationships with Muslims. Last year, after Franklin Graham argued that the US government should ban Muslims from immigrating to America, the NorthWood Church leader joined Muslim leaders in denouncing the comments. In October, he and imam Muhammad Magid hosted the Spreading the Peace Convocation, which was attended by nearly 200 imams and evangelical pastors.

This week, Roberts traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco, alongside more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, heads of state, and scholars, for a groundbreaking summit. On Wednesday, the Muslim leaders released the Marrakesh Declaration: a 750-word document calling for religious freedom for non-Muslims in majority-Muslim countries [full text in the linked full article].

“I’m blown away,” Roberts told CT from Morocco. “This is a Muslim conference put together by the top sheiks, ministers of religion, the grand muftis of the top Muslim majority nations, and they came up with a declaration, literally using the language of religious freedom to declare that violence cannot be done in the name of Islam.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted January 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the past migrating religious groups either merged into their host societies or else pickled the culture of the old country in aspic. Thanks to technology, today’s roaming worshippers have no such dilemma; a Nigerian or Brazilian in transit can adapt while maintaining contact with home. Globally dispersed Pentecostal churches meet both those needs. An outlying branch of the RCCG can offer job advice and a way to keep links with home. Global charismatic movements act as transmission belts along which ideas and worship styles can travel quickly. “A hymn can be composed in one continent and sung in another a few days later,” says Allan Anderson of Birmingham University.

Like water, charismatic religion takes the path of least resistance. Philip Jenkins, a scholar of global Christianity, cites several little-noticed examples. Dubai is now a bastion of Pentecostal-style worship, among migrants; the Muslim authorities do not mind as long as local Emiratis are not proselytised. Thanks to a shared language, Brazilian neo-Pentecostal churches do well in Angola and Mozambique. And though Filipino Christianity is almost entirely Catholic, the export variety, adapted to the diaspora’s needs, is intensely charismatic, offering a combination of mysticism and practical advice. One movement, El Shaddai, claims 8m members across the world. Worshippers at its Manila base wave their passports in the air as they pray for successful travels.

Politically, too, Pentecostal churches tend to be pragmatic rather than consistently conservative. Brazil’s globally successful Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) initially resisted the rise of the centre-left Workers’ Party, but went on to back its presidential candidates, including Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPentecostal* TheologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

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Posted January 25, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The March for Life — an annual rally held for four decades to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court that legalized abortion — has long been dominated by Roman Catholics.

But evangelical leaders expect that on Friday (Jan. 22), there will be more evangelicals walking beside them. That’s the result of Catholic and evangelical conservatives bridging the divide to work on issues of common concern, they said.

Several hundred evangelicals gathered on the eve of the rally at a hotel near the U.S. Capitol, pledging to join forces with Catholics in the anti-abortion effort.

“There’s no tension between evangelicals and Catholics on this issue,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in an interview. However, he added that Catholics have been “more intentional about communicating the march to their constituents and see the value.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The number is stark: 57,762,169. That is through the end of last year—the number of legal abortions in America since the Roe v. Wade decision 43 years ago tomorrow on January 22, 1973. That was one of the darkest days in American history, and ever since then America has been at war over abortion. We’re now talking about four decades and more. When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, the Court’s majority attempted to put an end to the abortion question. That’s actually what they thought they were doing. To the contrary, that decision has enlarged and revealed the great moral divide that runs through the center of our culture.

Most Americans actually are probably pretty much unaware of the actual contours of the abortion debate as it emerged in the early 1970s. Going back to 1973, the primary opposition to legal abortion came from the Roman Catholic Church; Evangelicals in the pro-life movement joined later. Until the late 1970s and the awakening of the evangelical conscience on abortion, most Evangelicals didn’t want to talk about the issue, considering it to be an issue for other people in other places. Roe v. Wade changed all of that legally in 1973 ruling that in all 50 states abortion on demand, as it has been called, must be considered a woman’s right. The decision was demanded by and later championed by feminists as one of the great feminist victories. The leaders of that movement claimed, and continue to claim, that the availability of abortion on demand is necessary in order for women to be equal with men with respect to the absence of pregnancy as an obstacle to career advancement.

Furthermore, the moral logic of Roe v. Wade was a thunderous affirmation of the idea of personal autonomy that had already taken ahold of the American mind. As the decision made all too clear, “rights talk” had displaced what had been seen as a higher concern for right versus wrong.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 22, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many media reports at the time of Archbishop Welby’s announcement suggested that his intention was to replace the communion relationship of the provinces with a much looser federal relationship in which member churches relate to Canterbury, but not necessarily to one another. The various provinces, these reports claimed, would keep the name “Anglican” but without any attempt to maintain common discipline or doctrine. Such a radical reorientation of Anglican ecclesiology would be a considerable blow to Anglican-Catholic ecumenical relations which have been predicated on the basis of a shared communion ecclesiology. However, Lambeth Palace has strongly rebutted such claims, insisting that no such abandonment of its Communion structures is intended, but rather the aim is to strengthen those structures by reappraising them and encouraging those who are currently disenfranchised to find their voice and be unafraid to offer critique.

At time of writing, the Primates’ Meeting has not yet concluded, however it is possible to make a few observations about the meeting. Firstly, Archbishop Welby has always maintained that he wants the Primates as a group to call the next Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly meeting of all Anglican Bishops from around the world. All the indications are that the next Lambeth Conference will be announced, though mostly likely scheduled for 2020 rather than 2018, and this announcement in itself will be a strong signal of the primates’ continued desire to work for the unity of the Communion.

Secondly, while the Archbishop cannot sanction the North American provinces, he will be working strenuously to deepen the bonds of communion with those provinces which have been most scandalised by their recent decisions. The strongest protest to the North American provinces comes from those affiliated to GAFCon, a grouping that takes its name from the Global Anglican Future Conference held in Jerusalem immediately before the last Lambeth Conference in 2008. A number of the primates who will attend the January 2016 meeting are members of GAFCon, and claim to represent the majority of the world’s Anglicans. One GAFCon primate, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda has already warned that he will not continue to participate in the meetings unless “godly order” is restored. GAFCon claims not to be in communion with the Anglican provinces of North America, supporting instead a breakaway group called the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). In a strong indication of Archbishop Welby’s intention to reach out to GAFCon, he has invited ACNA’s Archbishop, the Rt Rev Foley Beach, to attend some of the Primates’ Meeting as an observer. Moreover, the Archbishop has worked hard at establishing strong personal relationships with many of these primates, which he hopes will help to avoid a rift.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPrimates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyChristologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press confirm what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared: The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group's relentless destruction of heritage sites it considers heretical.

St. Elijah's Monastery stood as a place of worship for 1,400 years, including most recently for U.S. troops. In earlier millennia, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches, prayed in the chapel, worshipped at the altar. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ's name, were carved near the entrance.

This month, at the request of the AP, satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe tasked a high resolution camera to grab photos of the site, and then pulled earlier images of the same spot.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted January 20, 2016 at 10:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Leaders of the Anglican Communion are winding up a meeting in Canterbury on Friday after agreeing to temporary restrictions on the Episcopal Church in the United States for its position on same-sex marriage.

Responding to the decision, the head of the Vatican's Council for ecumenical relations says he is "grateful" the bishops have excluded any more permanent divisions which could hinder the search for reconciliation between the two Churches .

Read or listen to it all.



Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Primary Source-- Statements & Letters: PrimatesArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPrimates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted January 17, 2016 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

GAFCON was established in 2008 to restore scriptural fidelity to the Anglican Communion.

And in the United Kingdom, evangelical Anglican pastors have watched with trepidation as the linchpin in the debate—the Church of England—works loose from biblical orthodoxy. Sam Allberry, associate pastor of St. Mary’s Maidenhead, in Berkshire, is same-sex attracted and has championed the cause of similar Christians seeking to live in faithfulness to God’s Word—which means celibate living in singleness.

“God’s Word on this is not only clear, but I think it is good,” Allberry said during a 2014 conference hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPrimates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 14, 2016 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby has invited Jean Vanier, the Canadian Catholic theologian, to address the bitterly divided primates of the worldwide Anglican communion who have been meeting this week in Canterbury to discuss the themes of living together and the creation of a community.

After two-and-a-half days the 38 archbishops were still together, defying threats of an early walkout by some African leaders over the vexed issue of the western churches’ tortuous accommodation with homosexuality.

Third world archbishops, backed by some English and American conservative evangelicals, have repeatedly demanded over the last decade that liberal American, Canadian and some British churches should be punished for tolerating gay clergy and the meeting is seen as a last chance of compromise. There have been predictions that between three and a dozen archbishops may walk out if their demands are not met.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPrimates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016* International News & CommentaryCanadaEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted January 13, 2016 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Despite fervid media speculation of a walk out by some bishops on the first day of the meeting, the participants gathered for a public evensong service on Monday, accompanied by young people from the new religious community of St Anselm, launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at his London headquarters of Lambeth Palace last year.
Informal sources said during the first working session of the meeting the bishops focused on setting their agenda and listened to an address by Archbishop Welby on the history and key issues facing the Communion.
Ahead of the historic encounter, the Anglican leader asked people of faith to pray for the bishops so that they may be able to discern the will of God, despite the difficulties which challenge not only Christians but all of us in today’s world

Read it all and listen if you wish to.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPrimates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 12, 2016 at 7:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[John] Stott takes time in his speech to detail the specific circumstances in which a Christian might be justified leaving his or her denomination. To him, those circumstances include the following situations (as The Very Rev. Justyn Terry once summarized Stott’s points):
When an issue of first order is at stake, such as deserves the condemnation of “anitchrist” (1 John 2:22) or “anathema” (Gal 1:8-9)
When the offending issue is not just held by an idiosyncratic minority of individuals but has become the official position of the majority
When the majority have silenced the faithful remnant, forbidding them to witness or protest any longer
When we have conscientiously explored every possible alternative
When, after a painful period of prayer and discussion, our conscience can bear the weight no longer
These, I take it, are the kinds of criteria that GAFCON leaders and others are weighing as they gather together. And, in particular, Stott’s fourth point seems to be what the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to explore. While I have reasoned hope that these criteria have not been met and the Communion still has a way forward, they are (it must be said) not simple questions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPartial Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEcclesiology

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Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Archbishop Justin Welby has invited the founder of the L’Arche movement, Jean Vanier, to visit Canterbury next week during the gathering of Anglican Primates.

Vanier, 86, is a Roman Catholic philosopher and social innovator who founded the L’Arche Communities - where people with and without learning disabilities share life together, living and working in community - in 1964.

The movement began with Vanier's own commitment to living in community with people who have learning disabilities in Trosly-Breuil, France, where he still lives.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPartial Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011* Culture-WatchPhilosophy* International News & CommentaryCanadaEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted January 8, 2016 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has convened a meeting of leaders of all the Anglican Churches across the globe in an attempt to find common ground on which to base the continuation of the Anglican Communion. It is well worth fighting for; his bold initiative is timely. As an expression of Christian solidarity between Churches of the Western world and sister Churches in developing nations, the Anglican Communion has an exceptional record. The present threat to its existence has to be addressed, otherwise it could fall apart.

Yet the structures designed to hold it together can no longer bear the weight put on them. Attitudes to homosexuality have become the critical turning point. The tensions arise from the conservative standards of biblical orthodoxy applied by some of the increasingly assertive Anglican Churches in Africa and Asia, compared with the more liberal versions of Anglicanism reflected in church policy and practice in other parts.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican PrimatesPartial Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in him.

Some people ask: but is this joy still possible today? Men and women of every age and social condition, happy to dedicate their existence to others, give us the answer with their lives! Was not Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of true Gospel joy in our time? She lived in touch daily with wretchedness, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she gave everyone God's smile.

In one of her writings, we read: "We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment. Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him" (The Joy of Giving to Others, 1987, p. 143). Yes, joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the lowly and poor. God abides in those who love like this and their souls rejoice. If, instead, people make an idol of happiness, they lose their way and it is truly hard for them to find the joy of which Jesus speaks.

--Pope Benedict XVI (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyAnthropologyChristology

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Posted January 3, 2016 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Saviour of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey’s end. Now must we put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Saviour lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been “born to us”; he was “given to us”, as Isaiah proclaims (cf. 9:5). The people who for two thousand years has traversed all the pathways of the world in order to allow every man and woman to share in this joy is now given the mission of making known “the Prince of peace” and becoming his effective servant in the midst of the nations.

So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, “to reject godless ways” and the richness of the world, in order to live “temperately, justly and devoutly” (Tit 2:12).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis

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Posted December 26, 2015 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of England and Church of Scotland are preparing a landmark pact committing the UK’s two official “national” churches to work closely together for the first time.

Leading clerics hope the move could help forge new ties between the people of England and Scotland in the wake of last year’s independence referendum and the 2015 General Election.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that a formal agreement between the two churches – which emerged separately from the Reformation in the 16th Century – is set be put before their two governing bodies, the General Synod and General Assembly, early next year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Scotland* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesPresbyterian

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Posted December 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Faith leaders from across Britain have condemned a growing crackdown on Christmas in Muslim countries.

Brunei threatened yesterday to imprison for up to five years anyone who celebrates the Christian festival in public. The former British colony’s new penal code could also hand out $20,000 fines for any ceremony contrary to Sharia, including singing religious songs, sending festive greetings or putting up Christmas trees, crosses or candles.

Somalia’s leading clerics issued a similar edict in 2013, which they reiterated yesterday. Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, the religious affairs minister, said that “all events related to Christmas and new year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture”. They could “damage the faith of the Muslim community” and risk attracting terrorist attacks from Al Shabaab, he added.

In China, which has 70 million Christians and is set to overtake America as the world’s largest Christian country within a decade, large outdoor crosses on hundreds of churches have been dismantled by officials from the atheist Communist party. Some churches have been demolished in the eastern city of Wenzhou, dubbed the “Jerusalem of China”.

Read it all (requires subscription).




Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted December 23, 2015 at 4:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ironically, after all of this, Christmas lost its luster for me. The rank materialism became too much to bear, and the Christmas season morphed from being a time I savored into something I tried to survive each year. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, the holiday jingles—they all felt like pagan oppression. When people complained about a war on Christmas I often smirked and thought to myself, Where do I sign up? Honestly: When a sale at Crate & Barrel gets entangled with the birth of Jesus Christ, something has gone horribly wrong.

But then I realized that I had allowed the secular celebrations of Christmas to crowd out its transcendent meaning. As theologian N. T. Wright points out, it’s Christmas that is the moment when God launched a “divine rescue mission” of humankind.

God didn’t just condescend to come to earth as a human. He came as a helpless infant. The King of Kings was born amid barnyard animals and piles of hay after His lowly parents were turned away from better lodgings. When the Magi came to see the Lord, there was no security on hand to judge whether they were worthy. The Messiah was approachable.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsRoman Catholic* TheologyChristology

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Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christians around the world today find themselves in contexts that are very different from those of 40 years ago. Since 1970, many societies have experienced dramatic social upheavals and severe environmental catastrophes, yet the period from 1970 to 2010 was also a time of great technological advancement and increased connections between people around the world. Such changes challenge Christians to think differently about the people among whom they live and work, the ways in which they interact with them, and the potential for future cooperation.

Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission, a report produced in 2013 by researchers at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts, offers a timely overview of the changing demographics of Christianity and Christians’ activities over the past 40 years while looking forward to the next ten. If current trends continue, what will be the state of the world in 2020? Who will be the neighbors of Christians, and what issues will they be facing together? Here we summarize the key findings from the full report, which is available for PDF download at http://www.globalchristianity.org/globalcontext.

Christianity in its Global Context presents global data on the demographics of world religions, providing evidence for the continued resurgence of religion into the twenty-first century.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther Faiths* Theology

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Posted December 21, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From the Lower East Side, St. Lydia’s went to a borrowed space at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Two years ago, the church took over a small storefront space, using about $140,000 to renovate the room into a daytime co-working space complete with an open kitchen and windows overlooking the street. Much of St. Lydia’s funding comes from her denomination, and she hopes to grow the co-working side.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, an author and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, is part of Ms. Scott’s denomination. She described Ms. Scott’s participatory style of worship as drawing in a generation accustomed to user-generated content.

“There’s a whole population that is culturally millennial that is used to participating in the content of their lives, in a way that a generation before them were only consuming products that religious authorities were distributing,” said Ms. Bolz-Weber.

Yet to create that kind of church, she said, you need a charismatic leader who other people want to hang around. “It demands everything of you,” she said.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and IssuesYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesLutheran* TheologyEcclesiologySacramental TheologyEucharist


Posted December 19, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tragically, present policy does not take into account the uniquely precarious situation of displaced Christians. Instead of receiving priority treatment, Christians are profoundly disadvantaged. For instance, the State Department has accepted refugees primarily from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, which oversees the large camps to which refugees have flocked, and where they are registered. Yet endangered Christians do not dare enter those camps.

George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in the Telegraph in Britain in September that a similar protocol in the U.K. “inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them.”

U.S. missteps and missed opportunities in the region contributed to the crises that disproportionately affected Christians. America’s policy should immediately be amended to include these refugees at the top of the list. Opening America’s doors to them first is the right thing to do.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOrthodox ChurchOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 18, 2015 at 3:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Did you catch the subtle, but very important, difference between the lede and the actual quote from the document?

The lede says that it is wrong for Catholics – which would mean priests, laypeople and other Catholic individuals – to try to win Jewish individuals to Christian faith. But what does the document say? It says that the Catholic Church, as an institution, "neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews (italics added)."

So evangelism by individual Catholics talking with individual Jews is acceptable, while organized efforts targeting Jews alone – perhaps a Catholic version of Jews for Jesus – are considered out of bounds.

Thus, the headline and the lede need to be corrected to reflect the actual content of the story and the document on which it is based.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsJudaism* Theology

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Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school in Illinois, has placed a professor on administrative leave after she posted on Facebook that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”

The official school statement Tuesday about associate professor of political science Larycia Hawkins’s suspension said Wheaton professors should “engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”

Following a protest and sit-in of about 100 people Wednesday afternoon on campus, President Philip Ryken and later Provost Stanton Jones said they would not be lifting the suspension. It wasn’t clear how long Hawkins was suspended for, but some of the student leaders who had been involved in talks with administrators said it was through the spring semester.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyChristologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

1 Comments
Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted December 15, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I stood there with my wife, Sandra, in 2004 and whispered to myself: here is where God began to save the Anglican Communion.

We were visiting Kabare in the central western part of Uganda. We were there to take a look at an Anglican theological seminary, and visit the grave of Bishop Festo Kivengere a remarkable African leader whom I had slightly known. There, near the seminary in a grove of trees lies a natural amphitheater. On its curved hillside hundreds gathered in 1935 to hear an African layman preach powerfully about his conversion to Jesus Christ, his repentance from sin, his breakthrough to victory over recurrent wrong behavior, and his overflowing love for other believers regardless of denomination.

This event, continuously recalled in recurrent festivals right up to this day, sparked a revival that has left an indelible imprint on the worldwide Anglican Communion and continues to bear fruit today.

The preacher that day, Simeoni Nsibambi, had only recently met in Kambala with a missionary from England with a most improbable name: Dr. Joe Church. The two men met for several days, reading the Bible and praying together. They lamented the sad state of Christianity in Nsibambi’s home country of Rwanda, and elsewhere throughout East Africa.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* International News & CommentaryAfrica* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

1 Comments
Posted December 15, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Fifty years after the first major Catholic document rejecting anti-Semitism, the Vatican released a new document on Thursday reiterating that Catholics shouldn’t try to convert Jews and calling for a joint effort in the fight against religious discrimination.

Jewish leaders on hand for the Thursday presentation largely welcomed the document, although one complained that it doesn’t go far enough in recognizing the centrality of the land of Israel for Judaism.

Called “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” the document is a theological reflection that builds on five decades of interreligious dialogue that began with Nostra Aetate, a 1,600-word declaration from 1965 that helped reshape Catholic-Jewish relations.

The new document underlines the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations, calling the bond unique “in spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it.”

Among other points, it plays down, though it does not reject entirely, missionary efforts directed at Jews.

Read it all and a BBC article is there also.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyChristologyTheology: Scripture

2 Comments
Posted December 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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