Daily Archives: December 14, 2009

Henry G. Brinton: Churches say, 'Be our guest'

Hospitality can encourage what discussion and debate cannot: reconciliation. As we see across the globe today, theology tends to divide people and too often leads to conflict. Our own nation is still highly segregated on Sunday mornings. But a shared meal can unite people at the level of a basic human need. Over the course of my 23 years of ministry, I’ve seen the power of a simple international potluck dinner. As James Beard wrote, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

Meals also can build relationships across enormous socio-economic divides. My friend Kathleen Kline Chesson is the senior pastor of First Christian Church in Falls Church, Va., a congregation that serves 150 homeless people breakfast and lunch every Tuesday and Thursday. One rainy day, Chesson saw a homeless man ”” uninvited and dripping wet ”” shuffle into an elegant reception being held at the church after the funeral of a longtime member. Chesson greeted him, then smiled as three other members of the congregation rushed up to welcome him, making sure that he quickly had a plate of food.

So how are churches evolving today? Many are trying to become the “third place” that Starbucks has staked out in our culture a place for people to go after (1) home and (2) work.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Melanie Phillips: Rowan Williams is right … treating Christians as cranks is culturally suicidal

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, comes in for a lot of stick – not least from columnists like me.

But in the past few days, he has said something important. He has criticised Government ministers for thinking that Christian beliefs are no longer relevant in modern Britain, and for looking at religion as a ‘problem’.

Many Government faith initiatives, he observed, assumed that religion was an eccentricity practised by oddballs, foreigners and minorities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

"Act for the sake of love": the Archbishop of Canterbury preaches in Copenhagen Cathedral

Love casts out fear. The truth is that what is most likely to get us to take the right decisions for our global future is love. The temptation is to underline fear so as to persuade one another of the urgency of the situation: things are so bad, so threatening, that we have to do something. And indeed there are moments when we might think, rather bitterly, that the human race is still not frightened enough by the prospect of what it has stored up for itself. But this is to drive out one sickness by another. That kind of fear can simply paralyse us, as we all know; it can make us feel that the problem is too great and we may as well pull up the bedclothes and wait for disaster. What’s more, it can tempt us into just blaming one another or waiting for someone else to make the first move because we don’t trust them. We need more than that for lifegiving change to happen.

And that is what we are here to say today. We meet as people of faith in the context of this critical moment in human history; and so we are not here just to plead or harangue, let alone to encourage panic and terror. We are here to say two simple things to ourselves, our neighbours and our governments.

First: don’t be afraid; but ask how the policies you follow and the lifestyle that you take for granted look in the light of the command to love the world you inhabit. Ask what would be a healthy and sustainable relationship with this world, a relationship that would in some way manifest both joy in and respect for the earth. Start with the positive question ”“ how do we show that we love God’s creation?

Second: don’t separate this from the question of how we learn to trust one another within a world of limited resources. In such a world there can be no trust without justice, without the assurance of knowing that my neighbour is there for me when I face insecurity or risk. How shall we build international institutions that make sure the resources get where they are needed ”“ that, for example, ‘green taxes’ will deliver more security for the disadvantaged, that transitions in economic patterns will not weigh most heavily on those least equipped to cope?

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Archbishop of Canterbury, Climate Change, Weather, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

Christian Century: Election of partnered lesbian agitates Anglicans

The election of a lesbian priest as a bishop in the Episcopal Church is likely to cause further problems in the divided Anglican Communion, said Arch bishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

“The election of Mary Glasspool by the diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan [assistant] bishop-elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the communion as a whole,” said Williams, the spiritual leader of the 77-million Anglicans worldwide, in a December 6 statement.

Glasspool, who has served as canon, or assistant, to the bishops of the Diocese of Maryland, has lived in a two-decade partnership with another woman. She is the first gay candidate elected as bishop since the Episcopal Church in July opened all levels of church service to gays and lesbians in committed relationships.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

Notable and Quotable (2)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1960), pp. 138-139; also quoted by yours truly in yesterday’s sermon

Posted in Eschatology, Theology

Notable and Quotable (1)

…to a Christian the true tragedy of Nero must be not that he fiddled while the city was on fire but that he fiddled on the brink of hell. You must forgive me for that crude monosyllable. I know that many wiser and better Christians than I in these days do not like to mention heaven and hell even in a pulpit. I know, too, that nearly all the references to this subject in the New Testament come from a single source. But then that source is our Lord Himself. People will tell you it is St. Paul, but that is untrue. These overwhelming doctrines are dominical. They are not really removable from the teaching of Christ or of His Church. If we do not believe them, our presence in this church is great tomfoolery. If we do, we must sometime overcome our spiritual prudery and mention them.

–C.S. Lewis, from a sermon at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford on October 22, 1939, quoted by yours truly in yesterday’s sermon

Posted in Eschatology, Theology

Lausanne Theology Working Group: A Statement On Prosperity Teaching

We call for further reflection on these matters within the Christian Church, and request the Lausanne movement to be willing to make a very clear statement rejecting the excesses of prosperity teaching as incompatible with evangelical biblical Christianity.

1. We affirm the miraculous grace and power of God, and welcome the growth of churches and ministries that demonstrate them and that lead people to exercise expectant faith in the living God and his supernatural power. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.

However, we reject as unbiblical the notion that God’s miraculous power can be treated as automatic, or at the disposal of human techniques, or manipulated by human words, actions or rituals.

2. We affirm that there is a biblical vision of human prospering, and that the Bible includes material welfare (both health and wealth) within its teaching about the blessing of God. This needs further study and explanation across the whole Bible in both Testaments. We must not dichotomize the material and the spiritual in unbiblical dualism.

However, we reject the unbiblical notion that spiritual welfare can be measured in terms of material welfare, or that wealth is always a sign of God’s blessing (since it can be obtained by oppression, deceit or corruption), or that poverty or illness or early death, is always a sign of God’s curse, or lack of faith, or human curses (since the Bible explicitly denies that it is always so).

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Christ at the Center: CT Talks to Michael Horton

What is at the core of the temptation to practice a Christless Christianity?

When the emphasis becomes human-centered rather than God-centered. In more conservative contexts, you hear it as exhortation: “These are God’s commandments. The culture is slipping away from us. We have to recover it, and you play a role. Is your life matching up to what God calls us to?” Of course there is a place for that, but it seems to be the dominant emphasis.

Then there is the therapeutic approach: “You can be happier if you follow God’s principles.” All of this is said with a smile, but it’s still imperative. It’s still about techniques and principles for you to follow in order to have your best life now.

In both cases, it’s law rather than gospel. I don’t even know when I walk into a church that says it’s Bible-believing that I’m actually going to hear an exposition of Scripture with Christ at the center, or whether I’m going to hear about how I should “dare to be a Daniel.” The question is not whether we have imperatives in Scripture. The question is whether the imperatives are all we are getting, because people assume we already know the gospel””and we don’t.

One of the real heroes on the contemporary Christian scene in my view–read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theology

The Belmont Citizen-Herald does a Q and A with Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas

Q How did this all come about?

A I’ve been teaching here at the Episcopal Divinity School for 22 years. I love the vocation of teaching and I’ve been very pleased with the community and colleagues I’ve been blessed with here at EDS. I’m from Massachusetts, my wife’s family is from Massachusetts ”” from Belmont ”” so it wasn’t as if I was looking to go and switch vocations and locations. But as a Christian and someone who is ordained in the Episcopal Church, I felt like I always needed to be open to see what God and the community, known as the church, might be calling me to do and be next. I’m 51. Our third and final child is graduating from high school. My wife’s vocation as a midwife is changing because of the medical insurance realities in Massachusetts. So it was a good time for us as a family and me professionally to imagine taking on some new challenges and some new possibilities. The question of timing, the question of how can I best serve God and God’s church in the wider world were questions before me.

Q When you applied for the job, did you think you had a shot?

A When it was first recommended I look at Connecticut because they were beginning a search process, my response was, “Yeah, that’s nice, but I’m not from Connecticut.” The reason why I said that is because Connecticut itself in 225 years ”¦ has never elected someone from outside the state. I thought, “It’s a great place, it’s a great diocese, but it’s futile to put my name in because they’ll never elect me.” When the job description came out, many of the things they were looking for I felt very much fit my gifts, my capabilities and experiences. And so I went ahead and allowed my name to stand and went through an application process. There was an ongoing winnowing with paper application review, telephone interview, site visit where people from Connecticut came and heard me preach. I’ve been an associate priest at St. James’ in Porter Square for 22 years. In June I was invited to be one of the finalists and ultimately one of the nominees.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John of the Cross

Judge eternal, throned in splendor, who gavest Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed thy light on all who love thee, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then if any one says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

Matthew 24: 21-27

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Episcopal Church Financial and ASA Totals by Diocese 2008

Take a careful look if you haven’t yet.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stephen Prothero: A hint of this, a pinch of that

So much for the jealous God. A survey released earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that the U.S. is a “nation of religious drifters.” If, in the realm of love, Americans gravitate toward serial monogamy (moving from marriage to divorce to remarriage and so on), we likewise flit from one religious affiliation to another, pledging our fidelity, say, to Methodism in our youth, Catholicism in middle age and Episcopalianism in our dotage.

A new Pew study, released last week, shows that Americans are swingers as well as switchers, flirting with religious beliefs and practices other than their own without officially changing their religious affiliation. Catholic leaders have long denounced “Cafeteria Catholics” for going down the line and picking and choosing the Catholic beliefs and practices they choose to uphold. According to this new study, Americans as a group are now bellying up to what my Boston University colleague John Berthrong has referred to as the “divine deli.”

Not counting travel, or special events such as weddings and funerals, more than one-third of Americans attend worship services at more than one place, and nearly a quarter attend services held by another religion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

Ralph Benko: Interest increases central to looming debt crisis

There is a brewing crisis, which, if it develops as seems inevitable, has the potential of reducing all of the drama of the early Obama administration to child’s play beginning next year. Only this time, it will be the government’s crisis, not the nation’s.

The New York Times recently noted that the government has gone on what the Concord Coalition’s Robert Bixby calls a “teaser rate” borrowing binge, at an interest rate approaching … zero. Rates will rise, substantially, and soon. (The Treasury Department already is attempting to lock in rates on longer-term borrowing– already driving its short-term costs up.)

How bad could this be? So glad you asked.

The federal government currently pays, according the article, $202 billion a year in interest. White House estimates that interest payments will rise to $700 billion a year in 2019.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Globalization, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Stephanie Dowrick in the SMH: Political struggle infected by religious zealotry can be incendiary

Almost 70 per cent of Australians claim to have some kind of religious affiliation and religion continues to be an unmistakeable global force. It shapes personal and collective identity and most particularly how we conceive of and respond to “the other”.

The major and some minor world religions were well represented at the Parliament of the World’s Religions that ended last week in Melbourne, though perhaps not quite the entire world. The organisers, based in Chicago and offering these ambitious international, inter-religious festivals each five years, hoped for 10,000 people. Over a crowded week of activities about 6000 people attended, but with noticeably few speakers or participants from Africa, Asia and even Europe.

A further vast group, or group of groups, conspicuous by their absence, were religious exclusivists or fundamentalists. A few souls stood outside with banners to assure participants that Jesus was the only way, but most didn’t come close. There is a long, agonising history to those absences.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Globalization, Politics in General, Religion & Culture