Daily Archives: May 14, 2012

(CDN) Iranian Officials Heighten Control on Farsi-Speaking Church

Leaders of the Assemblies of God’s (AG) Central Church of Tehran told its congregation on May 6 that authorities have demanded a list of names and identification numbers of church members, a major risk to converts from Islam.

Church leaders then asked members in attendance to volunteer their information. The AG church holds two Sunday services, both conducted in Farsi. It is the only church remaining in Tehran that offers Farsi-language worship on Sundays.

“This [government move] is basically to make sure the church is not taking in new members and to make it difficult and risky for non-Christians to attend,” Monsour Borji, an Iranian Christian and advocacy officer for rights initiative Article 18, told Compass. “It is an effort to limit the church, basically.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The St Matthias Day Statement: A Church of England Evangelical Council Statement on Marriage

On the 30th November 1995, as the world celebrated St Andrew’s day, under the aegis of the CEEC, a group of British Biblical and moral theologians published a significant and widely welcomed contribution to the then debate on homosexuality within the church. It was received by many as a thoughtful, cogently argued and pastorally sensitive contribution to the discussions, and has been broadly referenced, read and re-read in the seventeen years since it was first published.

The church’s conversation on the theology and ethics of same sex relationships continues unabated. Sometimes good thinking has been marred by insensitive and occasionally homophobic attitudes. Other times, genuinely compassionate and inclusive attitudes have been weakened by a lack of biblical rigour, and a consequent misreading of the revealed mind of God.

Since 1995 social change, relational practice and ethical thinking within the church have undergone a notable transformation away from orthodox biblical thinking. Parallel to this is an increasingly comprehensive public avowal of homosexual practice greater than in any other time in our church and nation’s history. Now that the government has called for a public debate on same sex marriage, effectively involving a redefinition of marriage itself, the urgency of thoughtful, biblical discussion set in the context of the Anglican formularies, their commitments and hermeneutic is especially pressing.
The Church of England Evangelical Council offers this irenic, finely argued, biblically articulate monograph, set as it is in the rich context of foundational Anglican thinking, to engage all in our church of whatever persuasion. Like its predecessor it is notable for both its rigour and sensitivity, and for this we are deeply thankful for its authors’ humanity and scholarship. Of course there are other important matters such as equality and human rights that also require thorough biblical thinking and analysis; but before we address such issues, we believe it is important to restate and reaffirm classic, foundational Anglican teaching on this matter.

As a council we pray that engagement with this material will lead to deeper biblical discussion on an issue of great concern to God , and therefore for his church too. For that reason, and in the expectation and prayer for his Spirit’s enablement, we offer to the Anglican Church with its many constituencies, this St Matthias Day Statement.

St Matthias Day 14th May 2012

Introduction

The following short statement seeks to help Anglicans understand our church’s teaching in the area of marriage and sexual relationships and its relevance today. It does so by providing a five-fold summary of that teaching based in Scripture and Anglican tradition. This teaching should be our guide if we are to remain faithful in our pastoral, prophetic and missional responsibilities and in our inter-Anglican and ecumenical relationships.

The Church must, like Christ, welcome, love and respect all, particularly those who feel excluded and marginalised such as those who identify as sexual minorities. It must also, like Christ, bear witness to God’s good purposes for humanity and call for
repentance, assisting a return to God’s will whenever we depart from these purposes. Why is this statement of Anglican teaching necessary? The Church of England’s teaching about marriage and sexual relationships other than marriage currently faces a number of challenges:

Ӣ Within British society, attitudes to sexual relationships have changed in recent decades and there are plans to redefine marriage.
Ӣ Within the Anglican Communion, some dioceses and provinces are changing their teaching and practice.
Ӣ Ecumenically, some of our sister churches, notably among the Porvoo churches, are also revising their doctrine and marriage liturgies.

What is the basis of this statement of Anglican teaching?

In the words of the Declaration of Assent, “The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons”. Therefore, basing itself on Scripture and these formularies, the statement draws out their significance in this area if in the Church of England we are to express our “loyalty to this inheritance of faith” as “our inspiration and guidance under God” and bring “the grace and truth of Christ to this generation” by making Him known. What does this statement seek to achieve? The statement seeks to express Anglican teaching in a way that
Ӣ those committed to that teaching will welcome it as a guide and reference as they seek to teach it and live it out,
Ӣ those uncertain about that teaching will find it informative and persuasive and
Ӣ those seeking to revise that teaching will be able to dialogue with it constructively in order to clarify the nature and depth of our differences.

1 ”“ God’s love and call to love
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
(1 John 4.7)
O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth: Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen. (Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer)

1a. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, all Christians are called by God to practise Christian love (or ”˜charity’). Although God has called us to love all people everywhere, he has also given us certain key forms of relationship in which we can learn what it means to give and to receive love.
1b. These God-given forms of relationship include relationships between believers, marriage and other family relationships, and committed loving friendships.
1c. The Church is therefore called to affirm and support the value of all such Godgiven relationships. In a culture which overemphasises sexual relationships and wrongly implies that love and sexual activity necessarily belong together, we must particularly commend the importance of intimate, committed friendships that remain chaste.

2 ”“ God’s Word and Church
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. (Isa 40:8) The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Article XX)
2a. The authority of the Church to decide its own actions is limited by the word of God in Holy Scripture.
2b. The Church is not free to use certain parts of the Bible, such as the commandment to love our neighbours, as a justification for setting aside teaching contained in other parts of the Bible, such as the rejection of same-sex sexual activity.
2c. The Church therefore does not have the authority to introduce any form of marriage that differs from the form of marriage authorised and commended in Holy Scripture or to commend sexual behaviour forbidden by Holy Scripture.

3 ”“ God’s gift of marriage
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ”˜made them male and female,’ and said, ”˜For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (Matt 19:4-5) For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their matrimony lawful. (BCP Solemnization of Matrimony)
3a. Marriage as created by God is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman that is entered into for life and that is intended in normal circumstances to result in the gift of children who are to be brought up to love and serve God. It is given to us by God both as a created institution which benefits all in society (Genesis
2.18-24) and as a relationship which images the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5.21-32).
3b. Because marriage is instituted by God, neither the Church nor the state is authorised to re-define it.
3c. A relationship between two men or two women cannot therefore be a marriage and neither the state nor the Church should describe it as such.

4 ”“ God’s grace and call to holiness
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)

Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and
lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit. (Article XII)
4a. The Church is not only called to proclaim the justifying grace of God in Jesus Christ, but also to teach clearly that true faith expresses itself in holy behaviour.
4b. This holiness includes holiness in the area of sexual behaviour: faithfulness within marriage between a man and a woman and abstinence outside marriage.
4c. The Church is therefore not free to affirm or bless any form of sexual activity or sexual relationship outside marriage but should welcome those in such relationships with pastoral care, a call to repentance, and the good news that God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to flourish by living lives that are in accordance with His call to holiness.

5 ”“ God’s people united in and by God’s word
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42) The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. (Article XIX)
5a. The visible Church of Christ is a place where the life-giving and life-changing word of God is faithfully proclaimed.
5b. Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships or affirming or blessing sexual activity outside marriage is contrary to God’s word.
5c. When a church does either of these things it therefore becomes difficult to recognise it as part of the visible Church of Christ. Consequently such matters fall outside the scope of acceptable ecumenical diversity and are a legitimate ground for division between churches.

Conclusion

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12.14) We offer this five part statement to Anglican Christians in the hope that, guided and nourished by Scripture and tradition, we may be led together into the way of peace and holiness as we seek to bear faithful witness to the grace and truth of Christ in society and the wider church. We do so aware that as individuals and as a church we constantly fall short in our understanding and in our obedience. In this and every area of our discipleship and mission we must, therefore, be constant in prayer, seeking the grace of God –

O God the strength of all them that put their trust in thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for the First Sunday after Trinity BCP)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Current Policy of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego on Same Sex Blessings

From here:

The Diocese of San Diego does not have a general policy that applies to all same-sex couples seeking a blessing, however, Bishop Mathes has given our clergy approval to proceed pastorally in celebrating the union of LGBTQ members. All clergy must receive express permission of Bishop Mathes. Congregations must study the Holiness in Relationships Task Force Report (.pdf in sidebar) and receive the vestry’s permission before proceeding. Each individual wishing to receive a blessing must write a letter to Bishop Mathes explaining what the service means and how it will change his or her life. If a congregation does not want to support same-sex blessings, that position is honored as well.

Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in California.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes, Theology

The Bishop of San Diego's Convention Address from Earlier this Year

Dear Ones: Welcome to this great age of mission. We have made no small plans. It is not about the church; it is not about us. It is about sharing in and showing forth the fearless love of God in Christ Jesus. In that first century of missional possibility, Jesus gathered together fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and harlots and sent them on an adventure of proclamation and mission. In this place and time, God has gathered us to be missionaries in a moment of missional possibility. It is not about us, but it is our turn. We have God’s mission; we have a mission plan to live into God’s mission. I don’t know about you but I’m ready. Let’s be on the way.

Read it all.

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

Archbishop John Sentamu–Dying With Dignity Means Valuing Life

Today marks the start of the Dying Matters awareness week, organised by the Dying Matters Coalition to encourage more open discussion about dying, death and bereavement. It’s a collaboration of over 16,000 members including hospices, care homes, charities, health and care professionals, the Church of England and other religious groups, as well as families and individuals who are themselves facing the end of life.

Our message, born from personal and professional experiences, is a clear one: unless we change our reluctance to talk about dying and plan for the future, we are unlikely to be able to die as we would want with dignity, or to support the dying and the bereaved.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Questions, debts abound as Episcopal school faces closure in Northern California

Parents are angry and Roseville City School District officials have plans to sue after St. John’s School trustees announced the small private school is broke and will close at the end of the month.

The 32-year-old Episcopal school is more than a half million dollars in debt, including owing more than $170,000 to the Roseville school district for leasing the Barbara Chilton Middle School campus.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Education, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(USA Today) The Great Recession added debt, drained families' savings in many cases

One out of five families owes more on credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other unsecured debt than they have in savings, according to a new University of Michigan report. And the number of families surveyed at the end of 2011 that have no savings at all increased to 23.4%, compared with 18.5% in 2009.

“The people who were down and out, without much money, in the recession have ended up staying there or even worse,” says Frank Stafford, professor of economics at University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and co-author of the report.

And the mortgage crisis is not over.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(Independent) IVF clinics accused of putting money before safety

IVF clinics in the UK are practising aggressive fertility treatments that are putting women and children at unjustified risk, experts say.

The commercially driven industry uses unnecessary procedures, high doses of powerful drugs and risky interventions to help desperate couples spending thousands of pounds to conceive.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Theology

(NY Times) Unions That Divide: Churches Split Over Same Sex Marriage

At a black Pentecostal church in Raleigh, N.C., the Rev. Patrick Wooden entered the sanctuary on Sunday to a standing ovation, exulting that God’s “high hand” had led voters last week to pass a statewide amendment banning same-sex marriage. He took to the pulpit and denounced President Obama for taking a stand “in support of sin,” and “in opposition to the biblical model of marriage.”

A thousand miles away, at a predominantly white, Lutheran church in Madison, Wis., where a rainbow banner greets churchgoers arriving for services, the Rev. Susan Schneider preached that gay men and lesbians were included when Jesus commanded his followers to love one another: “Knocking down the walls is what Jesus was after.”

Mr. Obama’s declaration last week that he supports same-sex marriage prompted ministers around the country to take to their pulpits on Sunday and preach on the issue. But in the clash over homosexuality, the battle lines do not simply pit ministers against secular advocates for gay rights. Religion is on both sides in this conflict. The battle is actually church versus church, minister versus minister, and Scripture versus Scripture.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

More Information on the Diocese of Rhode Island Bishop Finalists who did the Walkabout this Weekend

Read it all, it is lengthy pdf file containing photos, autobiographies, and the nominees’ answers to four essay questions posed by the Search and Nomination Committee

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Archbishop Rowan Williams' message to the Episcopal and Catholic Bishops of South Sudan

We are keenly aware of the great suffering caused by the non-implementation of several key parts of the CPA. The cry of pain continues to be heard from South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, as well as from those affected by the escalation of conflict in the border region between Sudan and South Sudan. I pray that the UN Security Council Resolution and the AU Roadmap will result in real progress in settling the outstanding issues.

The church’s dedicated efforts in peace-building and advocacy continue to represent a powerful witness to the gospel. We are inspired by the untiring efforts to bring peace in Jonglei. We also stand in special solidarity with the church’s situation in the Republic of Sudan and will continue to press for freedom of religion and worship and the safety of the Christian community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --North Sudan, --Rowan Williams, --South Sudan, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Politics in General, Sudan, Violence

St. David's could be among first Episcopal churches in Texas to offer blessing for same-sex unions

St. David’s Episcopal Church of Austin would be among the first Episcopal congregations in Texas allowed to offer a liturgy blessing same-sex unions if the Episcopal Church, as expected, approves the trial rite at its general convention in July.

The Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, has named only one other church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Houston, as among the first with permission to bless same-gender covenants.

Like other denominations, the Episcopal Church has wrestled with the issue of homosexuality for decades. Texas does not recognize same-sex unions, and a number of traditionalists in the Episcopal Church do not favor them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Parishes

Britains Got Talent 2012 – Ashleigh & Pudsey – Final Winning Performance

Watch it all–wonderful, joyful stuff.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Animals, England / UK, Movies & Television

Departure Bittersweet for Member of The Falls Church Anglican

The departure of the Anglican congregation by close of business May 15 from The Falls Church leaves Bill Deiss with mixed feelings.

In 1985 Deiss, parish administrator for the last 16 years, wed his second wife in the church. His son also married there. He watched the baptism of his grandchildren inside the church.

Now the Anglican congregation has been asked to leave the premises.

“It was always a possibility but we didn’t think it would actually happen,” Deiss said Friday. “It’s sad but exciting as well.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who didst ordain thine only-begotten Son to be the Saviour of mankind, and didst command that his name should be called Jesus: Mercifully grant that as we do love and honour his holy name upon earth, so we may evermore enjoy the vision of him in heaven; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

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