Monthly Archives: September 2017

Bishop of Clogher John McDowell’s Diocesan Synod Address

One of the principal tasks of a leader is to communicate reality to those who wish to take his or her lead, and the reality that I observe all around me, not just in Church but in every sphere of life, is a mood of impatience with other points of view, of an increasing narrowing of vision and of a drawing back from the sort of commitment that creates sustainable and worthwhile communities. It is hardly an exaggeration to call these developments the triumph of individualism and I sometimes think that the word “individual” should be banned from Christian conversations and replaced by a word like “person” to reflect the complexity and value which each of us has – what we share as much as what we need.

This individualism which is so prevalent in our world and sometimes in our parishes is the enemy of reasoned debate and very far from the spirit of Anglicanism. Over the past ten years or so a new and very revealing way of opening a conversation or a debate has entered into our way of talking. “Speaking as an X.” somebody will say, whatever X might be. Speaking say as a woman or speaking as a progressive or speaking as a traditionalist or speaking as a unionist or as a republican – whatever it might be. But the intention of that way of opening a conversation is not to engage in an equal conversation but to establish some sort of privileged position. “I am X and you are not, so you couldn’t possibly understand.” It is an attempt to set up a wall against questions and it turns conversations into an encounter about power. The winner of the argument won’t be the person who has the strongest reasons but the one who has the morally superior identity and can express the greatest outrage at being questioned.

The key word to look out for is “offended”. Other people’s arguments aren’t weak or illogical – they are offensive. What replaces argument is a series of taboos rather like in the old paganism where only a small number of people, like the Druids or the shamans, were permitted to speak on certain matters or do certain things but nobody else not of that caste could interfere. Propositions become pure or impure, not true or false. Ask any of your children who have been to university recently about the matters which people simply aren’t allowed to debate any more or the beliefs which are denigrated because they are outside a certain limited range of reference.

As you may have guessed by now I believe that the antidote to this strange perversion of the liberal spirit is the smallness and the diversity of the parish. It is what I meant when I said last year that the parish is the place where we create local significance in a globalised world.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Ireland, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Michael and All Angels

O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thy appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Lord of all power and might, fill our lives with the joy of thy Word and the courage of thine apostles, that having caught the vision of thy Kingdom we may proclaim it with power and a glad heart, to the salvation of men’s souls and the creation of a better order more conformed to the pattern of thy Kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee?…Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

–Psalm 88:10-12

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) Mark Regenerus–The Death of Eros

The introduction of the Pill has not changed what men and women value most, but it has transformed how they relate. The marriage market before the Pill was populated by roughly equal numbers of men and women, whose bargaining positions were comparable and predictable. Men valued attractiveness more than women, and women valued economic prospects more than men. Knowing that men wanted sex, but realizing that sex was risky without a corresponding commitment, women often demanded a ring—a clear sign of his sacrifice and commitment.

Not anymore. Artificial contraception has made it so that people seldom mention marriage in the negotiations over sex. Ideals of chastity that shored up these practical necessities have been replaced with paeans to free love and autonomy. As one twenty-nine-year-old woman demonstrated when my research team asked her whether men should have to “work” for sex: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s okay if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.” The mating market no longer leads to marriage, which is still “expensive”—costly in terms of fidelity, time, and finances—while sex has become comparatively “cheap.”

For every one hundred women under forty who want to marry, there are only eighty-two men who want the same. Though the difference may sound small, it allows men to be more selective, fickle, and cautious. If it seems to you that young men are getting pickier about their prospective spouses, you’re right. It’s a result of the new power imbalance in the marriage market. In an era of accessible sex, the median age at marriage rises. It now stands at an all-time high of twenty-seven for women and twenty-nine for men, and is continuing to inch upward. In this environment, women increasingly have to choose between marrying Mr. Not Quite Right or no one at all.

For the typical American woman, the route to the altar is becoming littered with failed relationships and wasted years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sociology, Women

(CT) Stephen Backhouse reviews Alan Jacobs new book ‘How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds’

“As any wizard knows, to practice magic is to marshal the powers of the universe into a concentrated point. Spirits, forces of nature, and other humans are subjected to the magician’s wishes. If I practice magic, I am trying to bend reality to my will. Aleister Crowley, the magician dubbed the “wickedest man in the world,” famously summed up the occultist philosophy: “Do what thou will is the whole of the law.”

This might sound like the stuff of medieval fantasy, but a quick glance at our culture confirms that habits of magical thinking are stubbornly persistent. Wherever one finds groups and individuals intent on ramming an agenda through the system—perhaps by manipulating boardroom membership, stacking organizations with the “right” people, or enacting ideologically driven purges—one finds shades of black magic. We don’t call political lobbying the “dark arts” for nothing.
Petitions, protests, and popular rallies reveal our deeply ingrained belief that voices shouting loudly in unison can shape reality. In today’s climate, many of us crave clear battle lines between good and evil and abhor anyone who dares admit that complex problems don’t have simple answers. And heaven help any poor public figures foolish enough to sincerely change their minds.

All these trends have hampered our ability to think carefully, judiciously, and generously. As a professor and public intellectual, Jacobs is well aware of the difficulties posed not so much by a lack of thinking, but instead by the way we think. “For me,” he writes, “the fundamental problem we have may best be described as an orientation of the will.””

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Philosophy, Psychology

(NBC) Parents of Toddler Killed in Disney Resort Alligator Attack Launch Foundation to Help Families with Children in Critical Medical Need

The parents of Lane Graves announced that the foundation, named in honor of their son, would help other parents pay expenses like electrical bills or the mortgage, while their children endure organ transplants.

Watch it all.

Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(Christian Today) Former Queen’s chaplain Gavin Ashenden consecrated as ‘missionary bishop’

Gavin Ashenden, the former chaplain to the Queen who earlier this year resigned from the Church of England over its ‘liberalising’ trend, has been consecrated a bishop.

Ashenden has been consecrated as a missionary bishop to the UK in the Christian Episcopal Church, one of the continuing Anglican churches that emerged in the United States in the ongoing disputes in The Episcopal Church over the ordination of homosexuals and women.

In the UK, he will work closely with Bishop Andy Lines, also recently consecrated a missionary bishop to work with conservative evangelical churches.

Ashenden told Christian Today that he believed the Philip North affair, where North withdrew as Bishop of Sheffield after a row over his opposition to women bishops, showed how difficult it will be for traditonalist Anglo-Catholics and orthodox evangelicals to ‘flourish’ in the Church of England.

‘You can only function as an Anglican if you have bishops you can trust,’ he said. He said the Church of England had ‘not been very generous’ in providing conservative or traditionalist bishops.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Church of England (CoE)

ABC Rel+Ethics (II)–Tony Payne: Is There Moral Truth Out There? A Response to Scott Cowdell on Gender and Identity

The upshot of the past two-hundred years is summed up by philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who says that we find ourselves today in a climate of ethical “emotivism,” in which morality is mostly an expression of internal states of feeling and will. This has a range of confusing and negative consequences that I don’t have time to explore at this point, but which include the relationship of the individual mind to the world, and the great difficulty we have as a society in ever having a rational discussion about moral issues.

But back to the Big Question and its relevance: the Sydney Anglican Doctrine Commission’s recent Report on gender and gender identity belongs squarely in the Yes camp. The report is based on the conviction that the world does have a God-given moral shape and reality to it, including our human experience of sex and gender. The Report does not believe that this moral order is an arbitrary set of rules or declarations imposed on the brute stuff of the world by a sovereign divine Will (perhaps to assert control over us troublesome humans). To believe that would be to buy in to the No answer – that there is no objective moral order in the world, and that the only reason God’s version of morality prevails is that he is bigger and stronger than us.

On the contrary, the Report springs from the classic biblical conviction that a good, loving, righteous God has woven his goodness, love and rightness into the very fabric of the world that he created. Every time we see something genuinely good or right, we are recognising something that is working as it should (there’s another moral word we use all the time). We are catching a glimpse of the moral order that God has graciously created in the world. When fathers love and laugh with their daughters, it is good and right and beautiful, not simply because we feel it to be or because we might all agree that it is, but because it really, objectively is. And conversely fathers abusing their daughters really is “evil,” and would be in any time or place or culture, because it rips apart the good fabric of the moral world that God created.

Now, there is a great deal that could be objected to in Canon Scott Cowdell’s recent response on to the Sydney Doctrine Commission Report. To quote one observer, the article:

“skims over the substance of the [Sydney Anglican] document, summarising it in such a way as to misrepresent it. If one read his commentary without reference to the document he refers to one could conclude that the Diocese has a simplistic and negative attitude to the issue of Gender Dysphoria.”

We might also object to the typically modern emotivist mode of argument the article trades in, as it seeks to disparage the Report by attributing it to conservative sexual “anxiety,” as opposed to a “non-anxious alternative.” And we might look with bemusement at the attempt to recruit the hermeneutics of suspicion to the cause of progressive Christianity, and wonder whether the author appreciates just how deep the rabbit-hole of suspicion goes.

But the most disturbing problem with the article, from which its other flaws and (at times) bizarre claims stem, is that it seems to inhabit the No camp on the Big Question. It regards the “whole business of gender” as “our business to explore and to define and not God’s business to declare and to impose.”

 

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

ABC Rel+Ethics (I)–Scott Cowdell–Gender and Identity: Freeing the Bible from Modern Western Anxieties

In Australia’s same-sex marriage debate, anxiety over gender confusion looms large.

An early advertisement for the “No” campaign features a young mother, concerned because her son was allegedly told that wearing a dress to school was permitted.

Conservative protests against “Safe Schools” programs, which supposedly attempt to normalise gender fluidity, reflect an unease with hybridity in its various forms. Anthropology reveals how clear-cut differentiations, enshrined in myth and ritual, are meant to keep such hybridity at bay and maintain an ordered society. The modern West is no exception, struggling with its own range of ineradicable hybrid realities. Hence we are not “modern” at all in that sense.

In this article I want to address gender anxiety as it is handled by the conservative Christian right, and offer an alternative view. A recent report by the Doctrine Commission of the (conservative-Evangelical) Anglican Diocese of Sydney will serve as a touchstone, entitled “A Theology of Gender and Gender Identity.” I will suggest that its approach is way too modern, and not biblical enough.

But first, what exactly is the problem?

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CNS) Holy Land Christians condemn wave of church desecrations

Christians in the Holy Land, including Catholic leaders, have expressed frustration with lack of legal action against cases of desecration and vandalism of sacred places.

Even as the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a statement condemning the September 20 desecration and vandalism of a Catholic shrine in Israel, some people criticized the statement’s “weak language” and asked, “How long will we be tolerant?”

“Unfortunately, in these situations we feel how vulnerable we are,” one person wrote on Facebook.

The latest incident took place on September 19 at St Stephen Church inside the Beit Jamal Salesian monastery west of Jerusalem. The monastery is open for visitors and generally has good relations with its Jewish neighbours, including the residents of an ultra-Orthodox town, said Salesian Father Antonio Scudu, caretaker of the church. Pilgrims to the church discovered the vandalism, which included a shattered statue of Mary, broken faces of figures on the stained-glass windows, and a destroyed cross.

Read it all.

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Violence

(AM) Andrew Symes–Faithfulness to Christ against the odds: the Anglican Communion and the global sexual revolution

[Some but not all]…Global Anglican leaders will gather to meet in Canterbury in early October for a summit meeting. Most of them come from contexts where the Anglican church is continuing to teach and promote the biblical Gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for salvation, and the historic Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage. A few Provinces, with most of the wealth and power, are dominated by a leadership wanting to promote a different form of Christianity that is more acceptable to the secular West.

The last Primates…[gathering], in Canterbury January 2016, only made these divisions clearer. The majority of Primates resolved then to work together to continue the important work of the Anglican Communion, but required TEC to withdraw from full involvement, as they had violated the ‘bonds of affection’ by continuing to pursue their revisionist agenda, of which acceptance of same sex marriage was the latest example. But the TEC leadership, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office, interpreted things very differently. For them, Canterbury 2016 was all about resolving to “walk together”, continuing a conversation, finding unity in diversity, putting differences in doctrine to one side for the sake of common mission, etc.

There have been such scenarios many times before in the twenty-year process of separation between these two groups and their mutually incompatible visions of Christian truth. The pattern goes like this: an expensive, time-consuming meeting brings Primates together in good faith. While there is common ground on shared support for Anglican ministries of mercy, community development and peacebuilding, the majority again and again express their desire to move forward together on the basis of shared understanding of and commitment to the faith once delivered to the saints, and deep concern about departures from it. A document is produced reiterating the majority view and giving some form of censure for TEC and the revisionists. Almost immediately after the meeting the powerful minority ignore and renege on the agreements. As the majority protest, they are accused of being divisive by the officials from the Anglican Communion Office.

Two of the longest-serving Primates have experienced this pattern several times at first hand. Archbishops Nicholas Okoh and Stanley Ntagali have decided not to attend the upcoming conference, because it is clear that the result will be no different; there has been a “breakdown of trust”[1] and the failure to follow through resolutions reinforces “a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity”[2]. Why are more Primates not boycotting the meeting? Of the four others who are not attending, at least two have not publicly given a reason but are known to align with Okoh and Ntagali. Several of those attending are relatively new in post; they may have heard about the bad faith and broken promises at meetings in the past but have not experienced it themselves; some believe that it’s important to be there and defend the orthodox position. Some have been personally welcomed and persuaded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and are mindful of not jeopardizing important connections with British and American government aid departments.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anglican Primates, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Partial Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011, Pastoral Theology, Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016, Primates Meeting Alexandria Egypt, February 2009, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton+Margery Kempe

Gracious God, we offer thanks for the lives and work of Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, and Margery Kempe, hermits and mystics, who, passing through the cloud of unknowing, beheld thy glory. Help us, after their examples, to see thee more clearly and love thee more dearly, in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from New Every Morning

Almighty God, in whose presence is fullness of joy, and whose power is made perfect in our weakness: Grant us so to dwell in thy presence, that we may ever be glad of heart; and so to rest on thy strength, that we may have victory over evil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–New Every Morning (The Prayer Book Of The Daily Broadcast Service) [BBC, 1900]

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

–Psalm 34:17-22

Posted in Theology: Scripture