Daily Archives: December 23, 2007
Roman Catholicism, bolstered by an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa, has overtaken the Anglican Church as the nation’s most dominant religious group, figures obtained by the Sunday Telegraph reveal.
A survey by Christian Research shows that the number of people going to Mass last year stood at 861,000 compared to only 852,000 Anglicans worshipping each Sunday. Leading figures from the Church of England have warned that it could become a minority faith.
Good heavens. Read it all.
As Christmas draws near, Pastor John Foster won’t be decorating a tree, shopping for last-minute gifts or working on a holiday sermon for his flock. After all, it’s been 50 years since Christmas was anything more than a day of the week to him.
He’s one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations — rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.
“People don’t think of it this way, but it’s really a secular holiday,” said Foster, a Princeton-based pastor in the United Church of God. He last celebrated Christmas when he was 8.
His church’s objection to Christmas is rare among U.S. Christians. Gallup polls from 1994 to 2005 consistently show that more than 90 percent of adults say they celebrate Christmas, including 84 percent of non-Christians.
That’s a huge change from an earlier era, when many Protestants ignored or actively opposed the holiday. But as it gradually became popular as a family celebration, churches followed their members in making peace with Christmas.
The change didn’t happen overnight. Through much of the 19th century, schools and businesses remained open, Congress met in session and some churches closed their doors, lest errant worshippers try to furtively commemorate the day.
So it is very understandable that Tony Blair should convert. But what about the difficulties – and they are great? He has been a great champion of embryonic stem cell research. This involves the destruction of the tiny multiplying bundle of cells that form the early embryo. According to the Roman Catholic Catechism, ‘human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception’. In other words, the early embryo has to be accorded the full rights of a baby. This also rules out in vitro fertilisation, for this involves the destruction of some of the fertilised eggs. All this without even taking into account his voting record on abortion.
Then there is the question of gay relationships and his support for civil partnerships. As a Catholic there can be no question of Tony Blair now advocating their blessing.
There are also the old theological difficulties. A huge amount has been achieved in recent years by the international commission of Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians. On issues such as the Eucharist, misunderstandings have been overcome and substantial agreement reached. But on two areas there is still a big divide. One is any idea of the Pope being an oracle in his own right, as opposed to the linchpin of the college of bishops. The other involves dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which Anglicans may believe if they like, but which since the 19th century have been matters of basic faith for Roman Catholics.
A friend emailed me this–see what you make of it–KSH.
December 25, 2007
The Nativity of Christ
What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sakes has appeared on earth as a man?
(From the Vespers of the Nativity)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this glorious day of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ we celebrate the truly historical, universal, and eternal event of His Incarnation. It is historical, for at the divinely appointed time He entered our human history by being conceived and formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and was born of her in a cave in Bethlehem. It is universal because the Son of God, the divine Logos of Creation, took upon himself human flesh and blood so that He might redeem us and all of the universe from the burden of sin and death. His Incarnation and birth has eternal significance because through His life, we are offered life, not just a mortal and earthly life, but unending life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The gift of the Lord and the gift of life are the greatest offerings presented to humankind. God the Father gave his Son, and the Son gave Himself so that we might be restored to the life and communion for which we were created.
It is in this gift that we see and experience the true nature of giving. First, our Lord gave himself freely. He did this because of His great love for us. Jesus became like us in every way with the exception of sin. He began his life in the womb, then as an infant. He endured temptation, suffering and death, and He affirmed the power of faith through His Resurrection. In this revelation of GodÂ¹s love, our Lord has given completely, freely, and willingly so that we might be saved.
Second, Christ offered himself in humility. He did not enter this world in all of the trappings of royalty and might. He did not come seeking fame, political power, and wealth. It would appear that He came in weakness and obscurity and that His meager beginnings would be no match for worldly authority. But in His humility was His power. In entering our humanity, our Lord exalted what had been made low by sin and death. As the Son of God Incarnate, He affirmed the divine imprint on our creation and our lives. Through His birth, life, teaching, and miracles He baffled the so-called wise of this world, brought down pride and spiritual arrogance, and illumined the path of truth so that all might enter His kingdom.
Third, the offering of our Lord was one of peace. His compassionate sacrifice of himself was not accomplished through violence. His birth signified that His cause was life, and even through His death He revealed His power to give and uphold life. The peace offered by Christ is an enduring peace that is experienced and sustained not by the sword, but through faith and love.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Let us contemplate what our Lord has offered to us, especially during this time of year when we give to one another. Giving can and should be a blessed and beautiful act toward others when we know the true nature of giving. Our Lord has given to us freely, and in humility and love. In the challenges of our lives and the uncertainty of our world He gives us peace. What can we offer to Him and to one another? In our celebration of this great Feast of the Nativity, we can affirm our faith in Him. We can and should offer all of our being for His glory and service, sharing in the life, love, and peace that will be ours for all eternity.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
The Presiding Bishop’s Christmas message 2007
Eyes to see
Finding Immanuel as immigrant, wanderer, child
In what form will you find the Christ child this year? The fact of the Incarnation in a weak and helpless babe says something significant about where we focus our search. I am convinced that it is part of our call to exercise a “preferential option” on behalf of the poor, weak, sick, and marginalized. The long arc of biblical thinking and theologizing has to do with seeing God’s care for those who have no other helper. Indeed, Jesus is understood as that helper for all who fail, by the world’s terms, to save themselves. More accurately, we understand that Jesus is that helper for all.
One of the great gifts of the way in which those in our cultural surroundings celebrate Christmas is the focus on children and on those who have few human helpers. We delight in the wonder of children as Christmas approaches, and many of us make an extra effort to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the needy. The challenge is to let our seasonal “seeing” transform the way we meet our neighbors through the rest of the year, and through all the coming years.
How might we begin to see that child in those around us: strangers and aliens (both Immanuel and Immigrants); wanderers (Homeless, like Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room); widows and orphans (Social Outcasts); babe born in Bethlehem (Palestinian and Israeli alike; or the boy babies whom both Pharaoh and Herod sought to kill); divine feeder of thousands (Soup Kitchen worker); and savior of the world (Peacemaker, Bringer of Justice for All, Reconciler, Just and Gracious Lawgiver…). If God comes among us as a helpless child, then the divine presence is truly all around us. Where will you meet Jesus this Christmas?
(Hat tip: ykw)
Even in an era of mass immigration that has produced suburban tamale shops alongside halal meat markets and created a market for television programming in Hindi and Arabic, places of worship remain bastions of racial and ethnic uniformity. And that makes the case of one brick church in Springfield particularly remarkable.
On a recent Sunday morning at the Word of Life Assembly of God Church, pink-cheeked Virginia native David Gorman skipped in a conga line in Swahili Sunday school while a Kenyan preacher played an accordion and a Singaporean woman led jubilant hymns. Filipinos analyzed Bible passages in a classroom.
Later, as the Sierra Leonean choir prepared to perform in the sanctuary, D. Wendel Cover, the folksy white pastor, listed the nations of the world and asked worshipers to stand when they heard their homelands.
He seemed a bit dismayed to find just 80 represented.
“Our country’s becoming more international,” Cover, 73, said in an interview. He has led the formerly majority-white Pentecostal church for three decades. “The next generation is going to be American. If the church doesn’t realize that, they’re going to lose a whole generation.”
Each year, Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, produces a list of the year’s top 10 quotes. See what you make of his choices.
In the dimly lit sanctuary of a large brick church at the north end of Main Street, more than 100 people move to light Christian rock music. Children, recently resettled refugees from Burundi, are splayed out on the floor with coloring books. A man in jeans and a sweater stands nearby, swaying and holding his palms heavenward.
“What can wash away my sins,” the group sings. “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Grace Fellowship in Nashua is part of a growing movement of evangelical Christians in New Hampshire, a group that includes nearly 1 in 5 Republican primary voters and that could play an important role in the state’s Jan. 8 election. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and an ordained Baptist minister, has preached in four New Hampshire churches, and is hoping to connect with religious conservatives.
Yet those who worship at Grace Fellowship and other New Hampshire churches point to many ways in which they differ from evangelicals outside New England, particularly in the South and Southwest, who are the backbone of the religious right in America and, in Iowa and South Carolina, provide a base of support for Huckabee.
Outside New England, evangelical megachurches are commonplace, attracting thousands or even tens of thousands. In New Hampshire, evangelical churches tend to be smaller – and more independent.
Rob and Kim Goldman wanted to welcome their first-born daughter, Sienna, into the world in a special way.
“My family kept asking me over and over again when I was going to have the baby baptized,” Kim Goldman said.
But a traditional church baptism didn’t feel right for the Goldman family, who live in Staten Island, N.Y. Kim was raised Catholic, and Rob is Jewish. While they follow traditions of both religions, neither regularly attend church or synagogue.
So the Goldmans decided to welcome Sienna with a different kind of ceremony: a baby blessing.
Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country’s dominant religious group. More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England, figures seen by The Sunday Telegraph show.
This means that the established Church has lost its place as the nation’s most popular Christian denomination after more than four centuries of unrivalled influence following the Reformation.
Last night, leading figures gave warning that the Church of England could become a minority faith and that the findings should act as a wake-up call.
The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches, to be published in the new year, shows the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans Âworshipping.
The Complete Book of Aunts covers everything from aunts in literature and film, to remembrances from nieces and nephews who had unusual relationships with their aunts. Rupert Christiansen, co-author, speaks with NPR’s Scott Simon.
Watch it all and note carefully the man who says Christianity is not a religion but is instead something else.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (to use its proper name) is arguably America’s most important indigenous religion. It is a universal faith, but also “very American”, reckon Richard and Joan Ostling, authors of the excellent “Mormon America: The Power and the Promise”. Its history is entangled with America’s. Like American settlers, Mormons were pioneers who travelled far for religious freedom. Like America, Mormonism has grown fast. Smith had 26,000 followers when he died. Now he has more than 13m, more than half of them outside America. And within America, by one estimate, Mormonism is the fourth-largest denomination.
As it has grown, it has moved towards the mainstream. Its leaders renounced polygamy in 1890. Its members, following Smith’s view that the American constitution was divinely inspired, are patriotic and prone to public service. Mormons are also one of the best-behaved groups in America. Practising ones shun alcohol, cigarettes and even coffee. They work hard, marry, have lots of children and set aside an evening each week for quality time with the family. The 53,000 dark-suited, white-shirted, tie-wearing Mormon missionaries who fish for souls around the world can seem like America personified: earnest, friendly, optimistic, fond of Jesus and eager to tell you about it.
Yet many Americans have doubts about Mormonism. Only 53% of non-Mormon Americans think Mormons are Christian, despite the words “Jesus Christ” in the church’s name. Many evangelical Protestants think them heretics””the ruder ones regularly heckle Mormon conferences. Some secular Americans voice the opposite complaint: that Mormons are too pious and too likely to knock on your door.