Monthly Archives: November 2017

(NR) David French–Stop Misrepresenting the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Heading to the US Supreme Court

To the extent that Boylan engages with Phillips’s actual argument, she waves it away with a paragraph so specious that one has to read it to believe it:

Mr. Phillips certainly makes nice-looking cakes. But I’m not sure I’d call them artistic expressions, at least not in the same sense as, say, Joyce’s “Ulysses.” That argument demands that the court get into the business of defining art itself, a door the justices open at their peril. Is a well-manicured lawn a form of art by this definition? How about a lean corned beef sandwich? What would not be art if the court rules to protect icing and buttercream?

In this case, the complaining gay couple ultimately decided on a rainbow cake. Can Boylan not see that the cake clearly and unmistakably sent a specific message? There is a substantial difference between a rainbow symbol at an event celebrating a same-sex wedding and a corned-beef sandwich. Phillips isn’t comparing himself to Joyce, he’s making the painfully obvious point that there’s a viewpoint inherent in the expression his customers asked him to create — a viewpoint that a well-manicured lawn lacks.

Here’s the problem. If a writer squarely addresses the argument that Phillips actually makes, then she will soon run head-on to a sobering constitutional reality. Sexual revolutionaries are asking the Court to overturn generations of constitutional precedent to allow the state to compel American citizens to advance ideas they find reprehensible.

Boylan claims that Phillips is seeking special religious exemptions. To the contrary, sexual revolutionaries are seeking exemptions from the Constitution. They believe that same-sex marriage is so precious that even artists can be conscripted into the ceremony — despite their deeply held beliefs. They believe that the cost of entering the marketplace is not just the loss of your distinct artistic voice but the commandeering of that voice by your ideological foes to advance their ideological interests.

Read it all (his emphasis).

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes in Anglo-American diplomatic Twitter row

In a rare political intervention, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has explicitly criticised the US President Donald Trump for retweeting anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right extremist group. Archbishop Justin said “it is deeply disturbing that the President of the United States has chosen to amplify the voice of far-right extremists.” The UK Prime Minister Theresa May also criticised the US President, but was slapped down by Mr Trump, who told her to “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

The original tweets were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a minority political party with virtually no support in Britain outside its estimated 1,000 followers. In a 2014 parliamentary by-election in the Rochester and Strood constituency, Fransen received just 56 of the 40,065 votes cast. She is currently awaiting trial in Belfast on charges of using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” and in Kent for inciting racial hatred.

She and her followers have stormed mosques and carried out what they call “Christian Patrols” – marching in paramilitary-stule uniforms carrying a large cross in areas of the UK populated by people who – either themselves or through their ancestors – have roots in south-Asian countries. She claims to be Christian but it is not known if she attends any church. Her actions and those of Britain First have been condemned by Christian leaders from across the denominational spread.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --Social Networking, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(WWM) Egypt: 21 churches receive long-delayed government approval to build

Twenty-one churches in Egypt’s southern rural Minya governorate can restore, expand and rebuild their churches after receiving approval from the Minya Governor.

Governor Essam al-Bedeiwi approved the 21 applications over the last six months. Some of the churches had been waiting for more than 20 years for a permit to come through.

On 17 November an evangelical church in Tama, Sohag governorate, also received permission to renovate its building.

Some analysts note that the approvals have preceded several visits by international evangelical delegations to Cairo.

Read it all.

Posted in Egypt, Middle East, Other Churches

(GR) Royal wedding quiz: Must a ‘Protestant’ be baptized in order to become an Anglican?

The faith angle of the Markle story is certainly an interesting subject. What does the word “Protestant” mean in this context, as opposed to the word “Anglican”?

That’s a question worthy of discussion, but there are other layers to the puzzle. Some might hint at royal opinions about the match?

For example: If Markle is already a Protestant Christian, why is she being baptized? I have never heard of anyone being re-baptized in order to be confirmed as an Anglican. Protestant converts to Anglicanism, under ordinary circumstances, are simply confirmed. Catholics are “received” into the church, since they were already part of an ancient Communion (there’s that via media, part Catholic-part Protestant factor, again).

Was she part of some Christian movement that did not do a normal, small-o orthodox baptism rite? It’s easy to assume that she had some form of Christian identity, since the American actress is a spokesperson for the Christian charity World Vision.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Marriage & Family, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones and read by David Suchet – Fish Out of Water

Posted in Books, Children, Theology

Tim Tennant–Uniting Methodists Document and the Local Option (Part IV): What is the New Testament Teaching on sexual morality?

But, for now, it is clear that the Uniting Methodists document requires that we consider all of the language around sexual immorality in the New Testament as either generic, non-specific or only referring to a very tiny slice of sexual immorality; namely, pederasty. Yet, as we have seen, the exegetical case for this is not defensible. If we are being asked to sign off on this option and “agree to disagree” on this issue, then we will need to have a much better conversation about the biblical data which pertains to this question.

I, for one, remain completely unconvinced by the progressive argument and am actually disappointed that they would argue so strongly about their commitment to biblical authority and yet provide no serious exegetical argument for the dramatic changes they wish to usher into the life and faith of the church. To move a named sin from a New Testament “sin list” and declare that we are now to regard it as a sacrament is unprecedented. Christians have every right to resist this doctrinal innovation which is being embraced by a few declining mainline denominations in the western world.

Read it all.

Posted in Biblical Commentary & Reflection, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Kendall Harmon–Who are we Anyway?

“When I look at the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou are mindful of him” (Psalm 8:3)? It’s a haunting and powerful question. A man stands alone beneath a starry firmament in an open field, a mother gathers her newborn child into her arms for the first time, or a woman stands in a hospital room with family members to commend a just-deceased father to God’s care. First, a stillness. Then out of the depths the questions surge forth. Who, exactly, are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?

Who we are is THE question of the twenty-first century. Partly this has theological roots. The church has lost touch with CREATION as a key part of her teaching since the nineteenth century, and then in the twentieth century, ESCHATOLOGY, the church’s sense of how history will finally come out, has been sadly neglected. So many Christians float out in philosophical space like Sputnik, without a clear sense of their beginning or their end. This makes the human identity question all the more poignant.

Another important reason is cultural. We have developed in the last fifty years hitherto unimaginable technology, thereby moving farther back the time in which we can sustain a preborn infant outside her mother’s womb, and we are moving farther out the time in which a person’s life can be continued. If a premature infant can be maintained, but without normal functioning, should they be? If an older person is in a hospital room and only kept alive with machines, and they seem to us to be nothing more than a ghost of their former selves, what are we to do? Is that life? Is that humanness?

These questions were movingly brought to the fore for me at a recent meeting of the Episcopal Church’s Working Group on Science, Technology and Faith. We heard a brilliant presentation by Dr. Stephen Post, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, on the moral theology of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr. Post made two points clear. The first is that the issue of sustaining life for a longer and longer period is very much more pressing than many of us realize. Yes, there is an aging population in the West, but there is more. Researchers are working very hard to press out the envelope of the supposed “life expectancy” of people. I heard Gail Sheehy say in an interview that one third of girls born today will reach ninety. Dr. Post went further. He had just recently returned from a major conference in Germany in which NONE of those present assumed people would not soon be living from 120-140 years and beyond, it was only a question of when. The desire to be the first to achieve this feat among scientists is like the quest for the Holy Grail. One recent study extended the normal life span of a species of worm by three and one half times its normal range through use of external modifiers of one sort, another used different modifiers to double the expected life span of a fruit fly. If we think this is not coming for men and women, we are in for quite a shock.

This immediately raises troubling questions: if we know our days are numbered will we value them more?
Should we simply extend people’s possible life span if we have the capability of doing so?

The second problem posed by Dr. Post had to do with the way in which we value and appreciate who a person really is. He maintained we live in a “hypercognitive” society. Coming from a man who has worked with Alzheimer’s patients and their families since 1988 it had a special sting. Thinking and doing are what we in this country appear to be “about”, and if you cannot do those things, you are less valued. In some cases you become a sort of non-person, or worse.

But is this all there is to humanness? When God created men and women in his image, was it only to think and to do? What about being, feeling? What about loving and being loved? What about praying and being known and loved by God?

How interesting to see Alzheimer’s on the cover of Time magazine in 2001, for those who have this disease and those who care for them have much to teach us. When are you most alive? We do well to ponder that question, and as we do let us think foremost of him who loved his disciples in the world “until the end,” and who shows us that a person is never more alive than when he or she is on their knees praying to their heavenly Father.

–From what seems like a long time ago in a land far away

Posted in * By Kendall, Anthropology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Andrew

Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Christina Rossetti

O Lord God of time and eternity, who makest us creatures of time that, when time is over, we may attain thy blessed eternity: With time, thy gift, give us also wisdom to redeem the time, lest our day of grace be lost; for our Lord Jesus’ sake.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 131

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CT) Evangelical leaders warn of ‘devastating’ impact of GOP tax plan on the charitable deduction.

Evangelical leaders have raised concerns that the current reform bills in the House and Senate would reduce the incentives that compel givers to donate to churches and other nonprofits.

Currently, taxpayers must itemize their deductions in order to take advantage of the tax breaks for charitable giving. Since the proposed GOP tax reforms would increase the standard deduction, fewer Americans are expected to itemize as a result—dropping from 30 percent of taxpayers to just 5 percent, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Doubling the standard deduction means 30 million Americans would no longer benefit from a deduction for their charitable giving, a change that is predicted to reduce giving by $13 billion annually, according to Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(PRC) Europe’s Growing Muslim Population–Muslims are projected to increase as a share of Europe’s population–even with no future migration

In recent years, Europe has experienced a record influx of asylum seekers fleeing conflicts in Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries. This wave of Muslim migrants has prompted debate about immigration and security policies in numerous countries and has raised questions about the current and future number of Muslims in Europe.

To see how the size of Europe’s Muslim population may change in the coming decades, Pew Research Center has modeled three scenarios that vary depending on future levels of migration. These are not efforts to predict what will happen in the future, but rather a set of projections about what could happen under different circumstances.

The baseline for all three scenarios is the Muslim population in Europe (defined here as the 28 countries presently in the European Union, plus Norway and Switzerland) as of mid-2016, estimated at 25.8 million (4.9% of the overall population) – up from 19.5 million (3.8%) in 2010.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Immigration, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Zambian Anglican Church denounces Gender Based Violence

The Anglican Church has encouraged its members to seriously speak against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), corruption and political oppression.

Zambia Anglican Bishop and Primate of the Council of Anglican Province in Africa (CAPA), Albert Chama said this at the just-ended two-day Anglican 2017 high-profile Provincial Synod held in Gaborone.

The Central Africa Province Synod consists of Anglican bishops from Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and convenes every three years. The main aim of the meeting is to deliberate on diocesan matters in the region.

“Our continent of Africa has been gripped with fear, deaths, ethnic divisions and many more evils one can think of.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Central Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women, Zambia

(NYT) Royal Engagement Seen as Symbol of Change, With Asterisks

But for Ms. [Afua] Hirsch and other chroniclers of racial inequality in Britain, it is problematic to frame Ms. Markle’s engagement as too seminal a moment. The symbolism of Ms. Markle’s entry into a family that once shunned commoners, Catholics and divorced people — let alone nonwhites — does little to diminish structural racism across Britain, several commentators said.

“Markle is not Britain’s Obama moment and shouldn’t be covered as such,” tweeted Reni Eddo-Lodge, the author of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,” a new book about institutional racism in Britain.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Ms. Markle would — in addition to joining the Anglican Church — apply for British citizenship after marrying Prince Harry on an unspecified date in May in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the site of many royal weddings.

In response, a columnist for The Independent highlighted how Ms. Markle would find it far easier to gain citizenship through her husband, compared with the process other nonwhite immigrants face. Such immigrants are disproportionately more likely to fail the admission criteria than their white counterparts.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Debbie Hayton–We transgender women cannot self identify our sex

People fundamentally believe lots of things but that does not necessarily make them true. We don’t legislate on the basis of astrology or homeopathy, for example, yet the government is considering reforms to the Gender Recognition Act that may allow people to self-identify their legal sex based on their fundamental beliefs.

As a transgender woman I find that deeply troubling. The mechanism by which our legal sex can be changed underpins the equality legislation that protects transgender rights. I am a science teacher, and that protection was vital when I transitioned in school five years ago.

The same piece of legislation defends women’s rights. Some women have perceived a conflict and they are asking hard questions. If anyone can self-identify as a woman, what does the word woman even mean? My dictionary tells me that a woman is an adult human female, but that does not fit well with the claim that “transgender women are women”. This is painful territory for transgender people, and it is tempting to shut down debate and dismiss concerns as transphobia. But concerns don’t go away, they fester, and we risk transgender-acceptance being replaced by transgender-suspicion.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality