Monthly Archives: February 2017

(W S County Times) Clergyman Nick Flints dismay over continued ban on Same-sex weddings in church

Fifty-six-year-old Mr Flint, who is married with children, said: “To me it is inevitable that same sex marriages will be celebrated in church one day and that will be the norm – and I welcome that. “When we look back, I think we’ll ask why were we dithering. The Church is always evolving. At one point divorcees couldn’t get re-married in church.” He said he was ‘frustrated at the moment with the bishops who have closed ranks.’

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

Ed Stetzer—Being pro-life means caring about all of human life. That includes being pro-refugee

First, evangelicals have been involved with refugee resettlement for a long time and in a lot of churches. Many evangelical leaders have advocated for refugees, from all different faiths, for years. They know the program, and they know the refugees — and they know it’s safe and a good way to show the love of Christ.

Second, evangelical leaders, knowing the facts, are emboldened to speak when alternative facts may be holding sway elsewhere, particularly when those alternative facts are hurting the most vulnerable. In the Christian tradition, we call that speaking prophetically — like prophets in what Christians call the Old Testament, we have to sometimes speak to our own people and remind them of what is right.

Third, many evangelical leaders have had an uneasy connection with the Trump administration. Yes, they know that white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, and many strongly agree with Trump’s stated concerns about religious liberty, the Supreme Court, and more. But they want — and even need — room to disagree with a president who has said and done many things contrary to their beliefs. Speaking up for refugees is one of the areas where many believe they can.

Read it all from Vox.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Life Ethics, Uncategorized

Friday Mental Health Break—Keeping Up With the Kattarshians

Keeping Up With the Kattarshians is a cooperation project with The Icelandic Cat Protection Society and with full knowledge and approval of the Icelandic Food And Veterinary Authority, the Animal Welfare Officer and the Expert Veterinarian and Animal Welfare Officer.

Watch and enjoy.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

(WSJ) Anthony Esolen—Free Our Churches From the Ugly and Stupid

What might happen if devout and sensible people were given the freedom to determine how to embody in the church interior what they believe and celebrate? They would revive choir lofts, rather than throwing a karaoke machine up front. They would insist upon kneelers, because they would insist upon kneeling. There is nothing strange about building and beautifying a small chapel, or a room set apart for prayer or sacred reading.

I’m not sanguine about sacred painting and sculpture, because artists sufficiently competent are as rare now as people who can write poetry in meter. But if we cannot create the art right away, we can at least adopt what has already been done and what is easily available.

Today, the word of God is proclaimed in translations that have all the charm and wonder of a corporate memorandum. Must ordinary people be fed the drab and insipid? The politically correct—another thing thrust upon people by their ecclesiastical betters—is always ugly. Get rid of it, period, no excuses, no exceptions. What Christ hath spoken well, let man not paraphrase. Let grace in the word be one humble way in which we show our desire and our gratitude for the grace of God.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life

(CT) Ernesto Grant—Urban Mix-and-Match Religion Didn’t Start with Nick Cannon

While religious syncretism is a danger in every age, with the boom of the technological age, it’s becoming increasingly problematic in the urban context. As a pastor in an inner-city context, I regularly engage people with questions about Egyptian mysticism, Pan-Africanism, ecumenical councils, canonization, and the early history of Christianity.

Some of these brothers and sisters, who were once professing Christians, are now seeking to “find their truth” (a colloquial way of saying they are splicing various religious beliefs to contrive an individualist religion that suits their needs). They have developed their theology from videos on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

What becomes apparent after a few minutes of conversation is that there is not absoluteness to their faith because they reject fixed orthodoxy. Those who are influenced by syncretism, especially of the urban variety, believe in God when it suits them and follow the Scripture when it suits their agenda. The basic appeal to the exclusivity of Christ is abhorred in a culture that celebrates religious pluralism. Syncretism is dangerous because it hijacks Christianity, imports non-biblical notions, and distorts its message by doing away with the uncomfortable or unpopular parts. Syncretism robs Christianity of its truth and creates a user-friendly counterfeit that accommodates to our religious preferences but ultimately has no power and cannot save.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

(MO) Jake Meador—The Benedict Option and Its Reviewers

Rod [Dreher]’s forthcoming book, The Benedict Option, is beginning to attract some considerable press attention. The Wall Street Journal has recently featured the book as part of a profile of the Clear Creek Catholics in rural Oklahoma. (I visited them last summer to attend a conference they held and was quite impressed by their hospitality and the amount of work a relatively small group of people have managed to do in a fairly short time.) Then yesterday the excellent religion reporter Emma Green reviewed the book for The Atlantic.

I will be reviewing the book more extensively next month when it releases. For now, I wanted to make a few notes on how the book is being read and received by a larger audience as the ideas begin to find life outside the relatively small readership of trad Christian blogs.

The idea of being a religious minority that selectively secludes itself from the mainstream in order to protect its religious life is a very comfortable one for many American Catholics and, I would think, many Orthodox as well. Both of these groups have been minorities in America from the beginning and have at times faced severe opposition from their neighbors precisely because of their religious faith. For them, the sort of selective, strategic withdrawal that Rod is proposing makes a great deal of sense and, indeed, fits quite well with their own experience.

Evangelicals, however, hear the same language and react quite differently. There are a couple reasons for this: Partly, it is due to an understandable reaction against more schismatic fundamentalist versions of evangelicalism that seem to have done the same thing Rod is proposing. The consequences were frequently disastrous. (As someone who grew up in such a church, I understand this concern.)

A second motivating factor, I am increasingly convinced, is a classically evangelical craving after the approval of our peers. For 30 years we have been trying to tell the world “no no no, we aren’t weird like those other Christians,” we say with our voice dropping on the word “other.” “We’re normal people like you.” The ways our parents did this differ from how millennials tend to do it, but the end result is the same.

That said, I am increasingly convinced that Rod’s project (and it’s one that I am deeply committed to as well) has much less to do with the question “how can orthodox Christians create thick communities to preserve the faith in a post-Christian world?” and is much more about “how do we rebuild civil society at a time when most of the west’s social institutions are in decline?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary

(AJ) The Book of Common Prayer in worship today

Despite being supplanted in many churches by the Book of Alternative Services, the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) remains the definitive prayer book for a great number of Canadian Anglicans.

Far from being a mere textual reference for prayer and liturgy, the BCP, according to Trinity College assistant divinity professor Dr. Jesse Billett, represents a “total system of Christian life”.

“If you treat it as a resource book for worship, you’ll find it very dissatisfying,” Billett said. “It requires you to go all-in.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Canada

(Diocese of London) Messy Churches—A new phenomenon

Messy Churches continue to pop up all over the Diocese of London. Making use of a grant and resources paid for by Capital Vision, as well as ongoing support from me, having been seconded to the diocese from BRF, almost 20 new Messy Churches have started over these last three years.

Messy Church is a fresh expression of church for all ages, meeting at a time that suits the community and offering an accessible format of creativity and celebration around a Bible story with a meal together. It has proved to be a very successful style of church planting within a parish and there are now well over 3,000 across the UK with a growing number in other countries too.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Hundreds of clergy sign up for long-term Ministry study

In 1964, the Up television series be­­gan following the lives of 14 British children, updating viewers every seven years on their fortunes.

Last month, the Ministry Division began recruiting participants for its own longitudinal study. More than 1000 priests have been con­tacted, with a view to discovering “what enables ministers to flourish in ministry”.

Over the course of the next ten years, the Living Ministry study will look at the experiences of four co­­horts: people ordained deacon in 2006, 2011, or 2015, and those who started training in 2016. Across all four cohorts, up to about 1600 people are eligible; already hundreds have taken up the offer. Every two years, participants will be asked to complete an online survey, while qualitative research will include group discussions and interviews. The study will build on the learning from the Experiences of Ministry study, due to wind up this year.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Matthias

O Almighty God, who into the place of Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve: Grant that thy Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to thy name; the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

–Psalm 140:13

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Scott Cairns–Anya Silver’s imaginative poems speak from nothingness into new creation

Among the many recoveries manifested in Silver’s subtle arguments, the very heart of her matter in this collection is an insistent recovery of common life. The speaker””ostensibly identified with the poet herself””admits to her own bodily sufferings, but a good many of these poems speak to and of the bodily sufferings of others. Employing classical and historical allusion as well as references to friends and family, Silver articulates in no uncertain terms an emphatic empathy that recovers for us what it means to be a person in the image of a triune God. Each of our lives partakes of every other.

I am reminded here of that very strange passage in Paul’s letter to the Colossians wherein the apostle claims to rejoice in his own sufferings, adding that he “fill[s] up in my flesh what is lacking of the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). As I have observed elsewhere, instead of “what is lacking,” a more likely translation of isterimata might be “what is yet to be done.”

Silver grapples with an array of difficult human experiences to bring back into view the absolute interconnectivity of persons, and she presents the compelling proposition that what is yet to be done is our bravely accepting the cost of bearing one another’s afflictions, of becoming one. May it be blessed.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Reuters) Bavaria pushes ahead with burqa ban as elections loom

Bavaria will ban the full-face veil in schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations, the southern German state said on Tuesday.

The move comes seven months before a federal election where immigration will be a prominent issue and the Bavarian conservatives that govern the region, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, are worried about losing votes to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“Communication happens not only via language but also via looks, facial expressions and gestures,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said after the regional government agreed a draft law to ban the full-face veil for civil servants and in public places where there are concerns for public safety.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Church Times) David Goodhew examines growth and decline in parts of the Anglican Communion

…numerical growth and decline do matter. They matter theologically. Scripture, doctrine, and church tradition place a high value on growing congregations and starting new ones. They matter experientially: there is much evid¬ence that congregations enhance individual and community well-being.

And they matter also because churches, like individuals, live out of the narratives that they tell about themselves ”” and narratives of numerical growth or decline mould how churches understand themselves. Churches and provinces see themselves as “major” or “minor” players, are fearful or confident, because of whether they see themselves as growing or shrinking. Often, the stories that churches tell of themselves are not wholly based on reality, or they are based on past realities, ignoring what is happening now. So it matters that narratives of growth and decline tell the truth.

Besides, the Church of England (like many other Anglicans in the global North) has hardly been guilty of excessive concern for numerical growth in recent decades. There is much inverse snobbery about numerical growth, as something “just not done” in polite ecclesial circles. This feeds into a widespread “decline theology”. Decline theology sees church decline as unproblem¬atic, or even to be accepted as “inevitable”. Decline theology is an internalisation of the secularisation thesis. It creates an ecclesiology of fatalism. Perhaps God has other ideas.

Read it all from the long list of should-have-already-been-posted material.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Evangelism and Church Growth, Globalization, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Emma Green Wrestles w/ Rod Dreher's argument for communal religious life in The Benedict Option

There was a time when Christian thinkers like Dreher, who writes for The American Conservative, might have prepared to fight for cultural and political control. Dreher, however, sees this as futile. “Could it be that the best way to fight the flood is to ”¦ stop fighting the flood?” he asks. “Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation.” This strategic withdrawal from public life is what he calls the Benedict option.

Dreher’s proposal is as remarkable as his fear. It is a radical rejection of the ties between Christianity and typical forms of power, from Republican politics to market-driven wealth. Instead, Dreher says, Christians should embrace pluralism, choosing to fortify their own communities and faith as one sub-culture among many in the United States.

But it is a vision that will not be easily achieved. Conservative Christianity no longer sets the norms in American culture, and transitioning away from a position of dominance to a position of co-existence will require significant adjustment, especially for a people who believe so strongly in evangelism. Even if that happens, there are always challenges at the boundaries of sub-cultures. It’s not clear that Dreher has a clear vision of how Christians should engage with those they disagree with””especially the LGBT Americans they blame for pushing them out of mainstream culture.

Read it all from The Atlantic.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology