Monthly Archives: October 2017

A Prayer for All Hallows Eve

Lord Christ, your saints have been the lights of the world in every generation: Grant that we who follow in their footsteps may be made worthy to enter with them into that heavenly country where you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen

-BCP 1979

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

Remembering one Year Ago Today–(NYT) A Somber Charleston, South Carolina, Reflects on Race as 2 Murder Trials Begin

CHARLESTON, S.C. Seventy-four days separated the fatal bursts of gunfire: the eight rounds a white police officer fired at Walter L. Scott, a black man in North Charleston, and then the shots that killed nine black churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here.

And now, seven days will separate the trials of the officer, Michael T. Slager, and of Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist accused of carrying out the church killings.

Jury selection in the state trial of Mr. Slager, who was fired after the shooting, will begin on Monday; one week later, the same process is scheduled to begin in the federal case of Mr. Roof. Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty for Mr. Roof, rebuffed his offer to plead guilty.

The proceedings, unusual in a country where, for different reasons, few police officers or mass killers stand trial, will draw renewed attention to, and more reflection within, the Charleston area, where many residents still struggle with killings that rattled the nation.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(NYT) At Least 8 Killed in Terror Attack as Truck Careens Down Bike Path in Manhattan

Eight people were killed when a man drove 20 blocks down a bike path beside the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon before he crashed his pickup truck, jumped out with fake guns and was shot by a police officer, the authorities said.

Federal authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and were taking the lead in the investigation, a senior law enforcement official said. Two law enforcement officials said that after the attacker got out of the truck, he was heard yelling, “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference, “Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

Read it all and join us in praying tonight for New York City.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s sermon at Reformation 500th anniversary service

Through the Reformation we learned that we are saved entirely, confidently and unfailingly by grace alone, through faith, and not by our own works. From the poorest to the richest all will come at the end to stand before God, only with the words of the hymn, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling.”

Through the Reformation the church found itself again confronted with its need to be weak and powerless; to come with nothing to the Cross and to admit that, in the words of the Collect in the Book of Common Prayer for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, “without thee we are not able to please thee”.

Through the Reformation the church found again a love for the scriptures, and seizing the opportunity of printing, gave them afresh to the world – telling every person that they themselves should read them and seek the wisdom of God to understand them. In doing so the church released not only reformation but revolution, as confidence grew amongst the poor and oppressed that they too were the recipients of the promise of God of freedom and hope.

Through the Reformation the vast mass of people across Europe and then around the world were drawn to receive the fruits of a missionary movement that did not indefinitely suffer tyranny, and that would not unquestioningly bow the knee to authorities and hierarchies.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

(Guardian) Giles Frasier–Here’s my Thought for the Day: stop sneering and keep the faith, BBC

Imagine reading out your Thought for the Day knowing that all this sneering and smirking is going on right in front of you. If it were just about Thought for the Day, it might not matter quite so much. Sometimes the slot is good; sometimes it is not so good. But it has become a totem of the BBC’s attitude towards faith generally – that it is an embarrassing relative it has had to invite to the party, but one who can be made to sit in the corner, and about whom it is acceptable to make jokes. To the overpaid panjandrums of the BBC, religion is for the little people, for the stupid and the gullible. And it’s easy to play this for laughs to a gallery of those who have read a few chapters of the Selfish Gene, and think this has turned them into philosophical giants.

Personally, I don’t see the problem with having a slot ringfenced for a particular subject such as religion. The BBC has several for football, and for science. And then there’s Woman’s Hour. And quite right too. But for some reason, the very presence of religion, even at the homeopathic levels at which it is entertained by the BBC, is perceived as some sort of insult to the precious, godless secularity of the news.

But the news isn’t godless – just the people who report on it. About 31% of people in the world are Christians. About 24% are Muslims. About 15% are Hindus. The vast majority of the people on this planet believe in some sort of God. These faiths, and many numerically smaller ones, have shaped world history, ethics, politics and culture like no other force known to humankind. And, for good or ill, people still live and die for their faith. Quite simply, you cannot understand the world unless you understand something about the way that faith functions in the lives of its adherents.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture

(Christian Today) BBC ‘Today’ programme presenters in extraordinary attack on religious slot provided by Thought for the day

John Humphrys, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, has launched an extraordinary attack on the ‘inappropriate’ religious slot ‘Thought for the Day’ (TFTD) in a joint interview with fellow presenters revealing a deep hostility to religion.

The comments come after Christian Today revealed an internal BBC row earlier this year following remarks by the new ‘Today’ editor, Sarah Sands, who singled out TFTD for criticism.

Back then, a BBC Radio 4 spokesperson told Christian Today: ‘Thought for the Day is editorially looked after by the BBC’s Religion and Ethics team in radio and features speakers from the world’s major faith traditions. There are no plans to make changes to it.’

But in a roundtable discussion in the Radio Times to mark 60 years of the ‘Today’ programme, Humphrys is asked: ‘How does it feel when at ten to eight every morning you suddenly have to stop for a sermon in Thought for the Day?’

He replies: ‘Deeply, deeply boring, often. Sometimes not. Sometimes it’s good and the guy or woman is delivering an interesting thought in a provocative way. Usually not….’

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture

(SA) Mark Thompson–Luther’s most important impact

Luther has been co-opted for all kinds of projects since his own time. He has been the proto-German nationalist, the forerunner of Marxism and communism; the first historical critic of the Bible, the man who would challenge that criticism on the basis of the Bible’s own message; one of the great exponents of introspection and despair, the man who pointed us beyond ourselves to a work done for us first and only then in us.

He was a statesman, counsellor, educator, guide and musician. But he was always, first and foremost, a theologian who taught about Jesus from the Bible. He changed language, politics and society but that is not what he set out to do. He wanted to talk about God and the great thing he has done by giving his Son so that the guilt we like to pretend does not attach to us, our estrangement from the God who made us, our corruption and pollution, and our enslavement to desire and to the devil and his schemes, might be dealt with completely and forever.

I recently heard the suggestion that the Reformation should be summed up simply in the words “freedom” and “responsibility”. Luther himself would have used a single, very different word, for he was all about Christ. His preaching was about Christ. His lecturing was about Christ. His writing was about Christ. His counselling and everything else was about Christ.

Luther didn’t just insipidly endorse the values of our culture or his own. He challenged us all with Christ. What have you done with Christ? Have you laid aside your self-importance and self-preoccupation and taken hold of Christ? That is what Luther’s reformation was about from beginning to end. Everything else was, and is, die Mache – window dressing.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Christology, Church History

(TGC) Fred Sanders–Why the Reformation Should Make You More catholic

Celebrating the Reformation, as a 500th anniversary invites us to do, isn’t necessarily a straightforward affair. Even those of us who have robust confidence in the rightness of Protestant doctrine, who feel profound gratitude to the reformers, and whose entire Christian lives have been lived within the good heritage of Reformation churches, can nevertheless worry that somewhere around the third “hip, hip, hooray,” we might be in danger of giving the wrong impression.

The wrong impression would be the sectarian, clannish, hooray-for-our-team impression. It would be bad enough if our Reformation celebration looked like an excuse to mark the boundary between the Protestant us and the Roman Catholic them. But even worse would be a Reformation celebration that looked like an excuse to mark the boundary between 1517 and all that went before it. There is such a thing as chronological clannishness that divides Christian history into fourths and then celebrates the final quarter alone.

Protestants ought to say that this kind of centuries-segregating sectarianism is uncatholic: It fails to be universal in its intent, and it ignores the completeness of the entire Christian tradition. Universal, complete, and entire are of course the proper meanings of the word catholic. So although it may sound odd to our conventional connotations, it’s actually not contradictory at all to say that the Reformation ought to make us catholic.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations

(Atlantic) Emma Green–Why Can’t Christians Get Along, 500 Years After the Reformation?

While relations among Christians are far more peaceful today than they were 500 years ago, the tension between theological particularity and yearning for universal fellowship is still just as complicated. As global Christianity evolves, the tension is likely to increase.

Especially over the last century or so, Christian groups have made significant attempts to repair the conflicts among them. In the mid-19th century, the Evangelical Alliance sought to unite Protestant groups to oppose child labor and poor factory working conditions, a unity they described as “a new thing in church history.” In 1910, a missionary conference in Edinburgh laid the groundwork for what later became the World Council of Churches, which united many Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and mainline Protestant churches for the first time.

But until recently, the rifts of the Reformation were insurmountable. “The idea that Catholics and Protestants would get together to cooperate on anything is just almost unimaginable before the 1960s,” said Mark Noll, a historian at Notre Dame University. “In my lifetime, there has been a sea change in Protestant-Catholic relations, opening up an unimaginable array of cooperation.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Theology

(ES) Archbp Justin Welby: Luther’s historic act did so much to shape the world we live in

We have plenty to be grateful for — particularly the way that the Reformation developed our language and communication technologies. The Reformation also paved the way for how faith is now conventionally a personal choice, rather than something imposed by our society. We may take that for granted today but it’s a trend whose roots are found in the tumultuous events of 500 years ago.

It opened the way to the development of much stronger ideas of the nation state — especially the different kingdoms and principalities of what is now known as the United Kingdom, and eventually the development of British identity.

The arts, sciences and literature flourished, thanks to the Bible becoming available in each person’s language, rather than only in Latin. People began to own books, starting with bibles and prayer books.

Economically, there were creative and innovative developments — especially in finance and banking. It became acceptable to charge interest on loans, which led to the sort of economic development that had not been possible before. If you’re reading this on your way home from the City or Canary Wharf, your work is partly down to that German friar.

But as the story of the two cardinals shows, there was also much to mourn, and much for which to be sorry.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History

(JE) Mark Tooley–What Christ Church’s decision to Remove George Washington’s Plaque really Tells us

Over the last 14 years the Episcopal Church has suffered a nationwide schism since electing an openly homosexual bishop. Some conservative congregations, including several in Northern Virginia, left the denomination to create the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Another church Washington helped govern at the same time as Christ Church was The Falls Church, whose congregation joined ACNA. It lost its historic property in litigation to the Episcopal Church but continues to thrive and grow while meeting in a Catholic high school auditorium. It has even planted several successful new churches.

Christ Church remained in the Episcopal Church and has headed in a more liberal direction. One Christmas Eve sermon I heard got political, as I shared here. And in recent years the church has hosted a labyrinth, advertised by a large banner outside the church to passing commuters. This arguably New Agey fad is popular in some liberal Protestant churches, and I wrote about it here, noting that neither Washington nor Lee, if alive today, were likely to walk the labyrinth.

I mention the political sermon, the labyrinth and support for same-sex marriage because they could all be interpreted as unwelcoming signals to potential worshipers who don’t share Christ Church’s form of Episcopal liberalism. This kind of church invariably attracts a demographic that is nearly all middle and upper class, educated, socially liberal urban white people. Churches that stress their welcome-welcome-welcome message of inclusion over a firm orthodox theological message typically are, whether realizing it or not, actually welcoming some and discouraging others. In my visits to Christ Church I have noticed the well-dressed congregation is not very diverse. Removing the Washington and Lee plaques will not likely expand its demographic.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes, Zimbabwe

A Prayer to Begin the Day from The Wells Office Book

Grant us, O Lord, such boldness for Thee, that we may set our face as a flint and not be ashamed; but contending valiantly for the truth out of weakness we may be made strong and conquer in the might; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads. From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God; and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

–Revelation 4:1-8

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(BBC Radio 4 A Point of View) Sir Roger Scruton–The Religion of Rights

“European society”, says Sir Roger Scruton, “is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in its place save the religion of human rights”.

But, he argues, this new “religion” delivers one-sided solutions since rights favour the person who can claim them – whatever the moral reasons for opposing them.

He says Europe needs to rediscover its Christian roots.

Listen to it all (just over 9 1/2 minutes).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Guardian) Onward Christian Soldiers dropped from local Remembrance Sunday service

A vicar has dropped the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers from a Remembrance Sunday service next month because of the participation of non-Christians in the commemoration.

Some members of the Royal British Legion social club in Oadby, Leicestershire, are threatening to boycott the service or sing the 19th-century hymn outside the church in protest.

The Rev Steve Bailey of St Peter’s church made the decision with the agreement of the local branch of the British Legion. It will be replaced with another hymn, All People That On Earth Do Dwell.

In a statement released by the diocese of Leicester, Bailey said: “We agreed the change in hymn with the Oadby Royal British Legion who run this major civic occasion because members of the community from a wide range of cultural backgrounds attend this event, which is a parade, a service in church and laying of wreaths at the war memorial.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture