Daily Archives: June 3, 2014

(ABC Aus.) Ralph Wood–'Sad, but Not Unhappy': J.R.R. Tolkien's Sorrowful Vision of Joy

There is a little-noticed line in the first volume of The Lord of the Rings that helps make this connection. It contains an important key, I believe, for unlocking this book that conveniently integrates the previously scattered episodes constituting the life of Turin Turambar. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the Company of Nine Walkers having found their path blocked by a huge snowstorm on Mount Caradhras, the wizard Gandalf cryptically declares that, “There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he…”

To an extent heretofore unrecognized, we know that we are born with genetic predispositions, whether mental or physical, that set drastic limits on our prospects and possibilities. We are also the partial products, not only of environing influences, but also of just plain luck – of good or ill fortune, of wyrd. Who of us can say that we have chosen the true path at every turning, or that we have deserved every disaster that has befallen us, so that our lives can be entirely explained by the decisions we have rightly or wrongly made?

This is not for a moment to suggest that Tolkien regarded the universe is an unsponsored and undirected accident. On the contrary, it is Morgoth himself who is the absurdist and nihilist, here declaring that “beyond the Circles of the World there is Nothing.” Yet Tolkien seems to have questioned God’s omnicausality as it is often conceived – namely, as if God were the divine Designer who, acting from beyond the universe, imposes his order from without.

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

(Natl Secular Society) School chaplains: the C of E's latest plan to evangelise in schools

We’re told the primary role of a chaplain is to provide pastoral support to pupils. But the striking thing about the Church’s report, The Public Face of God, is that young people hardly get a look in. The emphasis is almost entirely on how chaplains serve the mission of the Church.

Surely pastoral support should exist to create a nurturing and supportive setting for students during their time at school. The focus should be care and concern for young people and their needs; not the needs of the Church.

Those providing pastoral work in schools need the necessary knowledge and skills to offer effective learning-support and the knowhow to develop pupils’ ability to become good citizens. It goes without saying that those carrying out pastoral roles can be motivated by their religious faith, but it shouldn’t be a requirement of the job.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(NYT Letter from Europe) An Afterlife for Europe’s Disused Places of Worship

When a church closes its doors, it is a sad day for its parishioners. When it is slated for demolition, it is a sad day for the larger community, as Lilian Grootswagers realized in 2005 when she and her neighbors in the small Dutch village of Kaatsheuvel learned that St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was due to be torn down and replaced by a four-story apartment block.

Leaping into action, Ms. Grootswagers started a petition drive, collecting 3,250 signatures, almost one-quarter of the village’s population, and sought help on a national level. As it turned out, St. Jozefkerk, built in 1933 as the centerpiece of an unusual architectural ensemble, was eligible to be on a register of historic buildings.

Today, nine years after it held its last Mass, the church is still standing, empty but awaiting its next incarnation. Its rescue was a victory for a widening effort across Europe to preserve religious buildings in the face of rapid secularization and dwindling public resources.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(God and Politics UK) Meriam Ibrahim’s willingness to die for her faith puts us to shame

Just for a moment, do your best to imagine this scenario:

You’ve been brought up as a Christian in a Christian home and have accepted this faith as your own. This is not a nominal faith; you have chosen to follow Jesus and give your life fully to him. Now as an adult you are married to a fellow Christian, have a son who is nearly two years old and are pregnant with your second child. Your husband is a citizen of another country and you are planning to emigrate. Life where you live is not always easy and you are looking forward to a new start in a place where your children will have far more opportunities available to them as they grow up than will ever be the case if you stay where you are.

One day out of nowhere the police arrive at your door, arrest you and throw you into prison. Apparently your half-brother is furious that you have gone your own way, choosing your own husband and are now intending to move abroad. For him this is simply not acceptable behaviour for a woman in his family. He publicly cries “apostasy” and accuses you of converting to Christianity from Islam. The sole justification for this is that your father had been a Muslim, even though he abandoned your mother while you were still young. In law as a woman your faith is legally determined by your father’s. Up until this point such a technicality has had no bearing on your life, but now that a relative has a grudge against you, everything that you have counts for nothing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --South Sudan, Africa, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Theology

Kendall Harmon's Sermon from Sunday on the Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1; Revelation 1)

Listen to it all should you wish to and also note that there is an option to download it there (using the button which says “download” underneath the link which says “listen”).

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, Ascension, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Mass migration of Mass migration from Poland, Romania helping stem church decline in Britain

Mass migration of Christians to Britain from countries such as Poland and Romania is among the factors helping to stem church decline, according to new figures.

The latest analysis of church membership shows a growth in black-led churches and the mainstream churches’ “Fresh Expressions” movement have also helped lessen “significantly” the rate of decline.

The fall in church membership previously anticipated for 2020 will now not be evident until 2025, according to the research by Peter Brierley whose second edition of UK Church Statistics is to be published soon.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

C of E Bishops deem BNP and National Front incompatible with the teaching of the Church

The House of Bishops of the Church of England have voted to make membership or support of the British National Party (BNP) or National Front (NF) a potential disciplinary offence for its clergy.

The formal declarations by the House of Bishops mean that a complaint of misconduct can be made under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 against any cleric of the Church of England who is a member of, or promotes or expresses or solicits support for, the BNP or NF.

The declarations will be laid before the General Synod of the Church at its July meeting in York and will come into force at 5.30pm on 11 July 2014 unless 25 members of the General Synod give notice that they wish a declaration to be debated. If such notice is given, the expectation is that the declaration would be debated at the Synod’s July group of sessions in York, and it could not come into force unless approved by the Synod.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

Notable and Quotable–Actress Shailene Woodley on the Afterlife

From the most recent Time Magazine:

There’s a lot of discussion in the film about what happens to people after they die. Do you believe in an afterlife?

I believe in energy, and I believe that we all come from the earth and we all come back to the earth. And then what happens spiritually or mentally or emotionally”“I have no idea. It’s like what Peter Pan says: “To die would be a very great adventure.”

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Theology, Young Adults

Terry Mattingly–What You may not know about Ann B. Davis RIP, the Brady Bunch Housekeeper

Members of this household community ”” think small commune ”” shared most finances, cleaning duties, cooking, etc., etc. This kind of idealistic arrangement was actually not that unusual in the era in which charismatic renewal swept through many mainline Protestant bodies, and Catholicism as well. There were many wonderful households of this kind and a few with dark sides (See the amazing Julia Duin book ”” “Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community” ”” about one terrible fall in Houston).

One member of the Denver community kept her Emmy Awards in the household’s television room, where they served as bookends high up on some shelves. She wasn’t very good at cooking (tacos were her norm) and she admitted that she struggled a bit with childcare. Her name, of course, was Ann B. Davis and over the years she became a friend, too.

The woman millions thought of as “Alice” was far more than her character on The Brady Bunch, or her trailblazing “Schultzy” character on “The Bob Cummings Show.” She was the kind of person that, after the conversion experience that turned her life upside down, would spend her days hidden in the back of that homeless center quietly doing laundry or sorting through donated clothes. You should have heard her cackle when she finally managed to make stray socks match.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Episcopal Church (TEC), Media, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Uganda

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of Uganda, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty and merciful God, into whose gracious presence we ascend, not by the frailty of the flesh but by the activity of the soul: Make us ever by thy inspiration to seek after the courts of the heavenly city, whither our Saviour Christ hath ascended, and by thy mercy confidently to enter them, both now and hereafter; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Leonine Sacramentary

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Ascension, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

–Psalm 97:1-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(F Things) Timothy George on the Southern Baptists–Troubled Waters

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America and has been since around 1960 when it bypassed Methodism in this category. Riding the wave of the post-World War II evangelical boom, Southern Baptists long ago moved beyond their old confines south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Southern Baptist churches are now located in all of the fifty states. Led today by the Reverend Fred Luter, their first African-American president, Southern Baptists have become one of the most ethnically diverse and multilingual denominations in the country.

But all is not well in the Southern Baptist Zion. For some years now, annual church statistics have shown that the SBC is losing members. Although there are still more than 46,000 congregations affiliated with the SBC, total membership has fallen by upwards of one million since 2005””from 16.6 million members in that year to 15.7 million members in 2013. The loss of membership is reflected in another disturbing decline: the downward spiral of baptisms. The number of baptisms in the SBC has plummeted from an all-time high of 419,000 in the year 1999 to a low of 310,368 in 2013. That is the smallest number of baptisms since 1948 when Baptist president Harry Truman was in the White House.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Baptists, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Vatican: Too early to confirm 2025 Orthodox-Catholic summit

A Vatican spokesman said it’s premature to suggest a gathering between Catholic and Orthodox faiths to mark the 1700th anniversary of the first church council held in Nicea in 325 A.D.

Despite cordial meetings between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during the pontiff’s visit to Jerusalem in May, the Vatican has rejected media reports that a 2025 event had been confirmed.

“Several news agencies, publications and individuals have reported on this gathering as a fait accompli,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, in a statement.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Media, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(BBC) Nigeria kidnapped girls: Support rallies banned in Abuja

Nigerian police have banned public protests in the capital Abuja for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by Islamist militants in April.

Abuja police commissioner Joseph Mbu said the rallies were “now posing a serious security threat”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Teens / Youth, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Women