Daily Archives: July 16, 2015

(CT) Is It Robbing God to Tithe on Your After-Tax (Not Gross) Income?

Soon, we had settled into a pattern of giving 5 percent to our local church and 5 percent to charity. But one year, when it was time to renew our annual pledge to the church, I was convicted that a radical increase was necessary. God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10, ESV). For our family, that means the local church. So the full 10 percent should go to our church, while charitable gifts (alms) were to be an additional offering.

When I began sharing this with my husband, we were in for a surprise. He had separately come to the same conviction. The problem was that we had just promised 5 percent of our income to a missionary. Overnight, we went from giving 10 percent of our income to giving 15 percent.

Yet we never suffered. We saw God meet our needs in ways that bordered on the miraculous. People were always giving us things we needed but couldn’t afford: a sewing machine, a lawn mower, a new refrigerator. More than once, we found an inexplicable extra $50 in our savings account.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

TEC Bishop of Oklahoma discusses General Convention Same-Sex Marriage Vote

[Bishop Ed] Konieczky said he voted against a related measure that calls for a change in the the denomination’s canonical definition of marriage as a “union of a man and a woman.”

He said the resolution, which was eventually approved, calls for altering the current canon language to “gender-neutral language,” replacing “a man and a woman” with “both parties.”

In his letter to the Oklahoma diocese on the Sunday after the denomination’s vote on gay marriage, Konieczky said he voted against this language alteration because it places the denomination’s canon in conflict with language used in their Book of Common Prayer and the denomination’s constitution….

Konieczky said he did not think the denomination had done the necessary theological work to make the switch to gender-neutral language.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

(CSM) US Evangelicals ponder their role, now that same-sex marriage is law of the land

…following the Supreme Court ruling, many Christians have already been feeling a keen sense of tribulation.

“I think that’s the next frontier: Are people who have deeply held opinions [about marriage] going to be called bigots and treated like the man who wouldn’t give up his seat for Rosa Parks?” says John, an Episcopalian who lives in a liberal Atlanta neighborhood.

To an extent, he answers his own question by asking that his last name not be used: He’s concerned that his beliefs could now get him fired from his public-sector job.

“My hope, going forward, is, you all can do what you want, the libertarian part of me says that’s fine,” John says. “But on the other hand, I want my opinion to be protected and respected by the government. What happens if my child is in school and is taught that her parents are bigoted or somehow wrong?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

A Daily Pilot article on the complaint filed against TEC bishop Jon Bruno over St. James site sale

Episcopalians formerly associated with a Newport Beach church have filed a formal complaint against a bishop whose actions have paved the way for the church’s waterfront property to potentially become luxury condos.

The complaint, known as a presentment, filed with the national Episcopal church in New York City alleges that Bishop J. Jon Bruno violated church doctrine in May after he put the St. James the Great Episcopal Church’s Lido Village property and two nearby parking lots up for sale to a developer, Legacy Partners Residential, which plans to construct 22 homes there.

Among the 147 canon violations levied in the presentment, dated July 6, are “instances of reckless or intentional misrepresentation, conduct unbecoming a bishop of the church, possible failure to get required diocesan approval for the sale and creating or promoting conflict,” according to a news release from St. James issued Wednesday.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes, Theology

(TIME) Watch the story behind Pittsburgh’s transition from steel city to research hub

This is an all too little known tale–take the time to watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., City Government, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, Politics in General, Sports, Urban/City Life and Issues

(F Things) The Planned Parenthood Video Saga–Not Just Another Culture War Story

The first breakthrough into the mainstream media came around 4pm at the Washington Post, which did a relatively good job of providing in-depth perspective on the issue. (The Weekly Standard points out some weaknesses in the article though.) The Post (and many other outlets) interviewed Arthur Caplan, director of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics: “If you’re starting to play with how it’s done, and when it’s done, other things than women’s health are coming into play. You’re making a huge mountain of conflict of interest.”

Most liberal websites defended Planned Parenthood and attack the undercover video. The debate is nothing new, says Vox, though they do pay some attention to objections. Mother Jones says the video is a “nothingburger,” and New York Magazine stridently refers to pro-lifers as “wacky relatives” whom you have to “deal with.” Ashley Feinberg, for Gawker, writes “In reality, the donation of fetal tissue is no different than any other situation in which a patient might donate tissue to scientific research.” Right.

Amanda Marcotte, for Slate, writes “Abortion is gross, no doubt about it. It becomes grosser the later in a pregnancy it gets. But so is heart surgery. So is childbirth, for that matter.” But the problem is not that it’s “gross,” it’s the double evil of killing innocent life and commodifying her body parts. As an article at The Federalist reveals, the human fetal parts trade has a commercial and profitable nature. Incidentally, the group StemExpress””which was implicated in the story””is undergoing website maintenance and has deleted their Facebook account.

The sad thing is, the body of a child in the womb can be killed and used for research, but outside the womb, it would result in first-degree murder charges, as seen in the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Media, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby offers reflections on religious freedom

As a Christian, I believe that religious freedom ”” the choice of how we follow God and, indeed, whether we choose to follow God at all ”” is given in creation, and in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave those he encountered absolute freedom of choice as to whether to follow him or not: the thieves on either side of Jesus, as he hung on the cross, were given a choice whether to believe in him: one turned to him, the other cursed him. That is freedom. It is a freedom that should apply to people whatever their faith, or those who are atheists.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus are called to obedience to Him. We bear witness to Jesus Christ, of course, yet we must never compel or manipulate people into faith. This is why the church’s sporadic record of compelling obedience to its teachings through violence and coercion is a cause for humility and shame.

It is all too easy to think that faith is an optional extra or a consumer choice, that choosing whether to believe in God is like deciding which type of car to buy. Humans are made in the image of God, so our religious beliefs are a core part of what it is to be human. To take away a person’s freedom of belief or non-belief is to violate the core of their humanity.

At the same time, more work needs to be done to develop the language used by political and religious leaders to talk about religious belief in their own contexts, and the quality with which we understand the beliefs of others. Religion defines us. For me, there is quite literally nothing more important than knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Mark Greaves–God’s management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation

The Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, Welby’s biographer, says Church growth is the ”˜golden thread’ that ties all the reforms together. Welby, he says, wants people to see that decline is ”˜not inevitable’. In Africa and China churches are booming. ”˜Globally, church growth is normal,’ he says. Welby, he suggests, is ”˜very optimistic about turning the Church of England around’.

Yet Atherstone admits that Welby’s tendency to focus on numbers ”˜makes some in the C of E nervous’. One Church observer says the reason clergy are panicky about the reforms is that they seem ”˜very bottom line ”” if you can’t get more punters in then you’ve failed’.

Atherstone suggests Welby wants the Church to be more entrepreneurial. The change to dioceses’ funding is intended to encourage that. Instead of the old model of one vicar looking after his medieval parish, the idea is to fund projects that no one has yet tried. Welby, says Atherstone, thinks the Church is too ”˜safety-conscious’, smothering start-ups in paperwork.

Critics, on the other hand, say the reforms are merely depressing the workforce. Talented young clergy are ”˜in despair’, they say ”” head office doesn’t seem to grasp what their ministry is really about.

Read it all from the Spectator.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecclesiology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Wordwise Hymns) Robert Cottrill on the hymn 'Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand'

In spite of our many modern conveniences, it’s still possible to get in difficulty while driving. Perhaps we hit a deer on a lonely road, and the car can’t be driven. We belong to an auto club that promised to give us a tow. But when we try to use our cell phone to call for help, we discover we’re in a spot where the phone won’t work. The only solution seems to be a long wait”“or a long walk!

That’s just one example of the difficulties and problems that can arise, not only in travel, but all through the journey of life. For some things there seems to be a ready remedy, but what about the rest? Even here believers can look to the Lord with confidence. No testing or trial entering our lives is beyond His infinite wisdom and power.

There’s an insurance company whose slogan used to tell those who purchased a policy that they were “in good hands.” Far more fully and reliably is that true of all who put themselves in God’s hands. In every circumstance of life, from the womb to the tomb”“and for eternity beyond, God’s loving care is abundantly sufficient.

Read it all and enjoy the wonderful lyrics.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

(WWM) Are Nigeria's 'Middle Belt' Christians victims of ethnic cleansing?

It has been a deadly July in Nigeria. More than 200 people have been killed since June 30 in attacks that have come almost daily in the country’s northern and northeastern regions, stronghold of the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram.

Obscured by Boko Haram’s headlines, violence also has raged farther south, where a lesser reported, years-long campaign has claimed thousands of Christian lives. Militants among the ethnic Fulani, a predominantly Muslim and nomadic population of cattle herders, are suspected of killing dozens of Christians in the states of Plateau and Taraba in recent months. The two states form the eastern end of Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” — the handful of states straddling the pre-colonial line dividing Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north from its Christian south.

The Middle Belt’s most recent violence traces back to March, to a case of cattle rustling….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

A Prayer for Stewardship to Begin the Day from the Pastor's Prayerbook

Almighty God, the source of all that we can have, and all that we can hope for,

Grant that we may be worthy custodians of the earth in which we dwell.

Make us creative so that we will not burden others;

Make us conservative so that we will not squander what comes our way;

Make us perceptive so that we may properly weigh our necessities against the needs of others;

Make us generous so that we may give freely of what we have that others can enjoy a portion of our fortune.

Remove from us all trust in anything but thee;

Strengthen us in the knowledge that thou wilt always provide all that we really need;

And finally, by thy Grace, instill in us that perfect desire to be thy servants and ultimately to be with thee in thy Heavenly Kingdom,

Who reignest forever and ever, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Stewardship

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre’ne, Man’a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleu’cia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Sal’amis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But El’ymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

–Acts 13:1-12

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WWM) How does a man kill ”˜in God’s name’? asks former UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Sacks is well placed to muse on this theme as the former Chief Rabbi of Britain and a prolific author on religious conflict. In fact, he has carved out a niche for himself as the man who gave theological coherence to the Samuel Huntingdon “clash of civilisations” thesis while also critiquing it. Sacks’ 2004 book, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilisations, remains one of the wisest texts for negotiating religious pluralism in the modern world.

Sacks has no time for the politician’s mantra that violence committed by religious extremists like ISIL has nothing to do with Islam. Yes, the vast majority of the conflicts in the world today are nothing to do with religion, but “when terrorist or military groups invoke holy war, define their battle as a struggle against Satan, condemn unbelievers to death and commit murder while declaring ”˜God is great,’ to deny that they are acting on religious motives is absurd” (p.11). Harder work needs to be done to glimpse the twisted logic and primitive psychology of these groups, he says, otherwise the proffered solutions will never create a compelling enough counter-narrative that weans believers from hate to love, and to value weakness rather than power.

Religious violence is rooted in the same source as all violence ”“ identity wars, and Sacks worries that the West, which secularized so merrily, has created societies and institutions that cannot provide enough identity because it has forgotten humans are meaning -seeking creatures; “The result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning” (p.13). Having thought religion was finished, now the West has seen it roar back – partly because of the vacuum secularisation created and, tragically, the religion that has returned is not gentle or ecumenical, but adversarial and aggressive. Make no mistake he warns “the greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world is radical, politicised religion” (14). So if you don’t realise you are dealing with religion ”“ however twisted ”“ you are not going to find any meaningful responses.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, England / UK, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

Roger Pilon–Whatever Happened to Religious Freedom?

The question at hand, then, is whether and how modern antidiscrimination laws limit the constitutional and statutory right to the free exercise of religion. Even after Obergefell, there are clear cases””on statutory, to say nothing of constitutional grounds””in which religious liberty will trump antidiscrimination claims. Clergy opposed to same-sex marriage surely will not be forced to perform or open their facilities to such ceremonies, although some in the LGBT movement are already pressing for churches to lose their tax-exempt status if they do not.

The public-accommodation cases are closer calls. Because they represent their businesses as open to the public, the Kleins and Giffords shouldn’t be able to deny entrance and normal service to gay customers””and neither has done so. If a same-sex couple had walked into that bakery hand-in-hand and ordered bagels, they would have been served without objection. But it is a step further””and an important one””to force religious business owners to participate in a same-sex wedding, to force them to engage in the creative act of planning the event, baking a special-order cake for it, photographing it, and so on.

No one enjoys the sting of discrimination or rejection. But neither does anyone like to be forced into uncomfortable situations, especially those that offend deeply held religious beliefs. In the end, who here is forcing whom? A society that cannot tolerate differing views””and respect the live-and-let-live principle””will not long be free.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Al Mohler–Planned Parenthood, Abortion, and the Conscience of a Nation

The video reveals Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood, discussing the intentional harvesting of organs and other tissues from babies aborted in Planned Parenthood clinics. While reaching with her fork for salad, Dr. Nucatola openly tells a group she believes to be medical researchers that there is a great demand for fetal livers, but “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.”

Dr. Nucatola went on to explain in chilling detail that abortionists often plan in advance how to harvest desired organs, even telling the group that a “huddle” is sometimes held with clinic staff early in the day, so that targeted organs can be harvested from unborn babies.

Her language is beyond chilling as she described how abortions are conducted specifically to harvest intact organs: “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” She also described using an abortion technique that appears to be partial-birth abortion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology