Daily Archives: June 21, 2009

RNS: Even at 500, Calvin isn't slowing down

Like most 24-year-old men, Stephen Jones is keenly interested in sin. But while many of his peers enjoy their youthful indiscretions, Jones takes a more, shall we say, Puritanical stand.

Last weekend (June 12-15), Jones and 4,000 other young Christians packed into a convention center in Palm Springs, Calif., to hear preachers tell them that they are totally depraved, incapable of doing the right thing without a mighty hand from God, and — most importantly
— have absolutely no control over their eternal fate.

The mind behind that message is John Calvin, the 16th-century Reformer often better known for condemning sinners and heretics than for igniting evangelical zeal. But as Presbyterian and other Reformed churches prepare for the 500th birthday of their spiritual godfather on July 10, increasingly, it is young American evangelicals who are taking up his theological torch.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Reformed

Bert Keller in the Local Paper: Spirit leads children to learning

Adult education finds people at various stages of faith development. Some adults are stuck in certitudes of an earlier age while being vaguely aware the certitudes don’t work anymore. Some are in full flight from religious conventionalities and find freedom in discarding old forms of faith. Some are perplexed, wounded, and looking for a meaning that brings their life into focus and gives them hope. Some are exploring Christian meanings alongside alternatives provided by other religions, feminism or a passionate cause such as environmentalism. Adults in most churches, including ours, are all over the landscape!

Different forms of adult education meet different needs. The primary teaching function of the church is the sermon, which we call the Teaching. Based in the Bible and following the Common Lectionary, the Teaching relates faith and personal/public life by taking the Bible seriously but not literally. While the Teaching is usually the work of one person, we also use “talkbacks” to stimulate discussion and even disagreement.

Most adult education is done in small groups that covenant together to meet for an extended time to study a course. “Living the Questions” is one we have used with multiple groups for several years. It is a thoughtful, no-holds-barred exploration of pressing questions about Christian faith and it stimulates vigorous discussion. Courses on “Voluntary Simplicity” and “Choices for Sustainable Living” have also challenged groups to develop a more intentional lifestyle. These covenant groups often meet on a week night.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Adult Education, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

Nick Jowett: Great music can unite the sacred and the secular

I prayed to God not like a miserable sinner in despair, but calmly, slowly. In this I felt that an infinite God would surely have mercy on his finite creature, pardoning dust for being dust. These thoughts cheered me up. I experienced a sure joy so confident that as I wished to express the words of the prayer, I could not suppress my joy, but gave vent to my happy spirits and wrote, above the Miserere, Allegro.”

So Joseph Haydn, the 200th anniversary of whose death we celebrate this year, explained how he could set even a prayer for mercy in an upbeat tempo. In one of his late Mass settings, at the point where the tempo usually slowed for the words “Thou that takest away the sins of the world”, Haydn kept going in a fast tempo and even quoted from his own Creation a passage referring coyly to the sexual urge that engenders life. The Empress Maria Theresa insisted that he remove this in her own copy of the score.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Music, Religion & Culture

Church attendance in recessions–No rush for pews

Last year David Beckworth, an assistant professor of Economics at Texas State University, examined historic patterns in the size of evangelical congregations and found that, during each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, membership of evangelical churches jumped by 50%. This report filled the newspapers and TV news-shows at the height of the depression panic just before Christmas; but the report’s findings focused on evangelicals, and do not apply to Americans at large.

According to Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief of Gallup Poll, which interviews 30,000 Americans every month, “to guess that attendance would increase [in recessions] is a common-sense assumption with no basis in data.” John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which recently published a study on the correlation between church attendance and economics, has found no link in the past 20 years.

Interestingly, says Gallup, the percentage of Americans who tick the “no religious preference” box has steadily grown, from 0-3% 40 years ago to 12-15% now, while church attendance has remained steady.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Religion & Culture

Father's Day special: My father, my hero

As families around the country celebrate Father’s Day, Britain’s politicians, authors and TV personalities offer tributes to their dads, and recall the influence they had on them. Paul Bignell conducts the interviews….

Read it all and a happy father’s Day to all fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers out there–KSH.

Posted in Uncategorized

BBC– 'Ten killed' in Iran clashes – state TV

Iranian police have used water cannon, batons, tear gas and live rounds to break up protests over the presidential election, witnesses in Tehran say.

A BBC reporter said he saw one man shot and others injured amid running fights.

Defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi repeated calls for the election to be annulled on the grounds it was rigged.

US President Barack Obama urged Iran’s government “to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people”, saying the “world is watching”.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

From the Morning Bible Readings

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

–Psalm 66: 8-9

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Episcopal Congregations Overview: Findings from the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey

Since a physical copy of this was mailed to Episcopal parishes recently, it is worth your time to give it careful attention.

Because I am concerned a number of you will whiz by this entry, please complete the following blanks:

The median Episcopal congregation had _______ persons in worship in 2007 according to the annual Parochial Report.

_____ % of Episcopal congregations have facilities that seat more than 300 people.

The answers are in the report; give your own answers before you look.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Data

In a Very Tough Section of LA, One Man Helps Children Build a More Hopeful Future

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

When you begin watching this lovely piece, guess where the featured man lives. His home will be shown toward the end–watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Men, Poverty, Sports, Violence

Lisa Pryor: what if the Government introduced voluntary same sex marriage?

The stance [Kevin] Rudd and [Malcolm] Turnbull are taking may be unpopular, but not everything in politics is about popularity. Obviously they have decided in this case it is more important to protect the persecuted minority of Australians who identify as bigots, a minority whose lifestyle is under attack.

Sorry, I shouldn’t use “bigot”; apparently that’s not politically correct these days. I’ll be rapped over the knuckles by the thought police. I’m sure they prefer to be called something euphemistic like “People Living With A Need To Exclude Other People From The Institution Of Marriage Because It Makes Their Own Marriages Seem More Special”.

Even though laws have been tweaked to remove many forms of discrimination against gay couples, neither major party is willing to go all the way. They are not prepared to follow the radical lead set in godless, radical jurisdictions such as Belgium, Canada, Spain and the US state of Iowa, out of concern for the sensibilities of the 36 per centers. The philosophy is something akin to saying: “Hey, gay people, you say you want some chocolate? Have some delicious no-frills carob drops. I don’t want to eat them myself, but I’m sure they taste just like the real thing.”

It may just be possible to find a solution which respects the values of both the majority and the minority in this debate. And to this end I would like to propose a novel legislative solution: what if the Government introduced gay marriage as an option – but didn’t make it compulsory?

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Australia / NZ, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

President Obama Issues a New Statement on Iran

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East