Daily Archives: October 30, 2014

Fuller Seminary president sees the church’s moment of cultural exile as a moment of opportunity

You talk about the crisis and the promise of following Jesus. In a nutshell, what’s the crisis?

The crisis we’re facing is that many people outside and inside the church don’t understand what it’s supposed to be about. It has become encrusted with so many cultural, historical, political, economic forms. As these get thicker and thicker, they distance us from the core affirmation of living as disciples of Jesus. If you look at the New Testament and ask “What is the church?” I think the primary answer is: people living their lives as an act of worship and response to Jesus Christ and seeking to live as daily disciples in community and for the sake of their world. The crisis is that Christians inside the church don’t seem to view this way of life as necessary. This leaves outsiders puzzled about the purpose of the church, because so little of it seems related to Jesus.

And what’s the promise?

The most illuminating moment of the “promise,” in cultural terms, is the shock of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church has been embroiled in scandal for many years. It has been seen as bureaucratic and unresponsive. Then, all of a sudden, there appears this authentic, living disciple. Here is someone who seems to live out of this deep spirit of humility””a Jesus follower who wants a life rooted in simple action.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

David Mills: Single and Catholic–Making the Church a more welcoming place for the unmarried

A single friend who recently moved posted a note on her Facebook page: “Was trying out a new church on Sunday when the pastor announced that his November sermon series would be about marriage. ”˜And what if you’re not married?’ he asked us. ”˜Well, Scripture says “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.”’

Not the most welcoming way of putting it. “Excuse me?” my friend responded. “In other words, singles, suck it up. Won’t be returning there.”

Most of the responses were supportive, as you’d expect from friends, but several dismissed her concerns or told her, in various ways, to suck it up and stop whining. Other single friends, including widows and single mothers who were single because their loutish husbands left them for Miss Suzy Cupcake, have told me they don’t talk about their struggles because the chances of being dismissed or patronized or even condemned are too high.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Roman Catholic, Theology, Young Adults

(AP) If Ebola batters the USA, our current medical system is not ready

The U.S. health care apparatus is so unprepared and short on resources to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that even small clusters of cases could overwhelm parts of the system, according to an Associated Press review of readiness at hospitals and other components of the emergency medical network.

Experts broadly agree that a widespread outbreak across the country is extremely unlikely, but they also concur that it is impossible to predict with certainty, since previous Ebola epidemics have been confined to remote areas of Africa. And Ebola is not the only possible danger that causes concern; experts say other deadly infectious diseases – ranging from airborne viruses such as SARS, to an unforeseen new strain of the flu, to more exotic plagues like Lassa fever – could crash the health care system.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, The U.S. Government, Theology

Take time to Look more Closely–Episcopal Church Statistics Links

–2012 Table of Statistics of the Episcopal Church
–Domestic Fast Facts: 2012
–Episcopal Domestic Fast Facts Trends: 2009-2013
–Statistical Totals for the Episcopal Church by Province: 2012-2013
–Statistical Totals for the Episcopal Church by Province and Diocese: 2012-2013
–Membership and Attendance Totals for the Episcopal Church: 2013

The most significant measure remains average Sunday attendance, and you can see the Ten Year % Change in ASA has gone from -23% in 2011 to -24% in 2012. This does not reflect the completely fallacious way in which the diocese of South Carolina’s majority membership is still included in these figures; if it were the decline would be even greater–KSH.

You can find all of the links at the bottom of this page and you should examine them all.

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

(Spectator) Theo Hobson–Anglicanism keeps muddling on ”” thank God

I, a lay Anglican, am reassured by this. I want the clergy to be a bit more left-wing than me. It’s a sign that they are deeply involved in the lives of the poor, that they have a sense of solidarity with them and give those on welfare the benefit of the doubt. It is proper that a large sector of them should advocate a greater redistribution of wealth, and criticise capitalism. (There are plenty of other voices to cheer capitalism.) Ideally, they should do with great caution, rather than Guardian-leader self-righteousness. But it’s OK for a few to dabble in more radical campaigning ”“ that’s part of the Christian tradition. Overall, the survey suggests to me that the Church is in pretty good shape.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Media, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(RD) Steve Wiggins–Fired General Theological Seminary Professors Go Back to Work, For Now

ATS, with its accrediting standards, is sometimes seen as an ally to stressed faculty. It is, however, unlikely to use its weight to smooth over bumps in the theological road. A life in ministry isn’t easy, why should a life in the preparation of ministry be any different? In the final analysis you have an emotionally overwrought, often exhausted, highly educated faculty in a state of desperation. By the time the Board steps in Daniel has already finished pronouncing upharsin.

The situation at General is deeply troubling, and it should be for anyone concerned about the academic study of religion. Seminaries are a crucial part of the overall academic mix in the field. I am not privy to the details of what happened at General, and I have little data to assess how it came to this unfortunate climax. I do know that a cast-off seminary professor is no hot commodity in today’s market. And watching the market performance, I’m afraid this commodity is one that is set to be on the increase. The second truism has already settled in: did something happen at some seminary in some large city? Why should we care?

In Post-Christian America it is an stupendous irony that those working for the destruction of church institutions are often those on the inside, and not the dreaded secularists from without.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Education, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Young Adults

(Mirror) J John–Six reasons why I believe Halloween is far from harmless


Although people celebrate Halloween in different ways it remains, at its core, an event that glorifies the dark, creepy and scary side of life.

Children and adults dress up as figures that are ”˜evil’: witches, vampires, ghosts and demons.

If you want to be different you can hire costumes to make you look like a chainsaw killer, a psychopathic butcher or even a shooting victim (”˜with authentic-looking bullet holes’).This is hardly harmless.

Whatever view we have about life, we all take it for granted that our society should spend time and energy encouraging children to care for others and to know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet on this one day, we throw all those values away and glorify everything that is evil and unpleasant. Talk about sending out mixed messages!

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

CT's Andy Crouch: For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles is "a brilliant new film series"

A curriculum of seven films each lasting 15 to 20 minutes, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles advances a sophisticated theological anthropology. Schmemann’s breathtaking sacramental view of ordinary life is here, as are Kuyper’s distinctive spheres. Kuyper’s fellow Dutch Reformed thinkers Herman Bavinck and Lester DeKoster contribute a high view of common grace and human work, respectively. Catholic theologians such as Josef Pieper and Hans Urs von Balthasar testify to the significance of the family and the centrality of beauty to the Christian life. Rigorously careful with its language, the curriculum unapologetically resorts to Greek in its first and last episodes to articulate core concepts of oikonomia (stewardship), anamnesis (remembering), and prolepsis (anticipation).

Though true, the preceding paragraph is almost comically misleading. Because from that description you would surely never guess that our protagonist is a manically expressive 20-something named Evan (Evan Koons, who cowrote the script). Evan lives in a house filled with retro bric-a-brac, furnished circa 1940, and undisturbed by any technology invented since 1983. He is given to playing the ukulele, declaiming poetry, drinking lemonade from Mason jars””and to breaking the fourth wall, freezing the frame, and scrambling narrative sequence, using every trick of the postmodern visual storyteller.

When we meet him, Evan is in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. He’s sure that if faith means anything, it must have implications for everything, but finds little guidance from the church toward a viable calling in a pluralistic world. Evan begins the series, and ends every episode, handwriting a letter to his fellow Christians: “Dear Everybody.” The question that Evan finds most worrying is, “What is our salvation for?”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

South Carolina gets low marks for its business tax structure

South Carolina ranks 37th in the country in terms of its tax structure being friendly to business.

The state’s biggest problems, according to an annual analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tax Foundation, are its high individual income tax and its unemployment insurance rates.

The issue of tax reform has been touched on during this year’s gubernatorial campaign, but it hasn’t played a central role.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Wyclif

O God, whose justice continually challenges thy Church to live according to its calling: Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on thy Church, and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body; through the same Jesus Christ, who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from John R. W. Stott

O God, our heavenly Father, who so loved the world that thou didst give thine only Son to die upon the cross: Pour thy love into our hearts, we humbly beseech thee; that we loving thee above all things, may give up ourselves, our time, our money, our talents, to thy service; for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

–Psalm 50:14-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Books+Culture) Philip Jenkins–The early Arab conquests and the rise of Islam

Beginning in the 1940s, Isaac Asimov created with his Foundation series an enduring classic of science fiction. He depicted the development of inconceivably vast galactic empires, guided by the predictive powers of a complex social and behavioral science known as Psychohistory. For millennia, the universe unfolds as it should. Then, overnight, all these plans are utterly confounded by the rise of a messianic prophet called the Mule, a mutant who brings all lesser mortals under his sway, and who conquers all rival empires. Instantly, all psychohistorical bets are off.

In this instance, as in so much else, Asimov took the Mule from the pages of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, and specifically the account of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632). And although Asimov was explicitly writing fantastic fiction, his account often echoes older historical writing on the rise of Islam. We read of the great Roman and Persian empires that dominated much of the known world, until very suddenly, a charismatic leader who believes he is instructed by God gathers faithful followers around himself. Ultimately, these supremely motivated legions pour out of Arabia into the civilized world, conquering most of it within a century or so. In this prophet-centered version, Muhammad is quite as radical a newcomer to the known universe as is the Mule, and his career is equally at right angles to conventional historical reality. He comes from nowhere, and the incredible rapidity of the rise of Islam seems near-miraculous.

Fortunately, the rise of Islamic empires can be explained without invoking either supernatural powers or genetic mutation, and Robert Hoyland’s In God’s Path offers a very convincing attempt. Hoyland’s subtitle deserves careful reflection, with the distinction he draws between Arab and Islamic forces.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, History, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Post-Gazette) Ebola outbreak fails to generate donations for emergency aid

After a devastating earthquake rocked the island nation of Haiti in January 2010, unsolicited checks immediately poured into Brother’s Brother Foundation ”” a North Side nonprofit that collects and ships medical supplies to hospitals and clinics worldwide and focuses on places in need of emergency aid.

But in the months since the Ebola virus crisis has dominated news reports, Brothers’ Brother has received, on average, one $25 check per day for Ebola relief efforts.

“It’s just not [generating] the same volume compared to other international disasters,” said Karen Dempsey, vice president of development and administration for the nonprofit, which last week loaded a 40-foot container headed to Sierra Leone in West Africa with face masks, protective gowns, gloves and medical supplies donated by hospitals.

While the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, the Indian Ocean tsunami and other tragedies raised millions of dollars for victims within days after they occurred and inspired celebrities to organize benefit concerts broadcast during prime time, nonprofits that provide assistance for the Ebola outbreak relief say the public has been slow to step up and donate.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Guinea, Health & Medicine, Liberia, Sierra Leone