Yearly Archives: 2018

(Surviving Church) Stephen Parsons: IICSA–reflections on Archbp Welby’s conclusions

A second word came out of [Archbp Justin] Welby’s reflections at the end of the questions by Fiona Scolding. This was the word ‘tribalism’. The Archbishop wanted to make the point that when groups or factions within the church band together to protect themselves and their privileges, that creates an atmosphere highly hostile to good and transparent safeguarding. Although he used the word tribalism in the context of protecting vulnerable people in the church, it was clear that this word also sums up many of the problems being faced by the Church of England in other areas. Tribalism seems to be rife in the whole Anglican Communion and is the cause of many of its intractable divisions.

Those of us listening to his words realise that, for the Archbishop, church tribalism is a source of deep frustration. The problem is that everyone feels stronger when they band together with others to accomplish a particular task. Some tribalism is of course healthy. The church rightly encourages people to gather together the purposes of study, prayer and worship. Feeling support from others as we grow together in community is something that enriches our lives. But community or communion can become something dark when it descends into tribalism. This negative side of community is manifested when the individual surrenders their thinking and feeling to a group mind. In political terms this is seen in mass movements whether on the Right or on the Left. Anyone who attends a fascist rally does not have to think for themselves. He or she is part of something great and of enormous power. The Movement, the Cause has replaced the individual isolated functioning which belongs to a single person. Within the mass gathering there is power; outside the rally there is only insignificance and a sense of personal weakness.

A readiness to surrender our individual weakness in exchange for tribal power is perhaps not as far away from each of us as we would like to think.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

Food for Thought from AW Tozer–‘A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.’

That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is…A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.

–A W Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperOne, 2009 ed. of the 1961 original), p.2

Posted in Evangelicals, Theology

(Church Times) IICSA: the dean’s bonfire and the destroyed report at Chichester Cathedral

A former Dean of Chichester Cathedral, the late John Treadgold, burnt a batch of files suspected to contain sensitive personnel material upon his retirement in 2001, the Dean of Worcester, the Very Revd Peter Atkinson, confirmed on Tuesday.

Dean Atkinson, who was Canon Chancellor of Chichester Cathedral at the time of the incident, was giving evidence to a public hearing conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).

The hearing, now in its third and final week, is using the Chichester diocese as a case study.

Asked by Counsel about the burning of files, Dean Atkinson said: “He [Dean Treadgold] had retired in the autumn of 2001 and moved a short distance away. What I remember of the episode is that he returned to the Deanery, which then was empty — this was long before Dean Frayling arrived — removed a number of files from the Deanery basement and had a fire in the garden.

“I don’t know what the files were. I think there is some indication that they might have been old Chapter files, but they may well have been his own. It’s a bit odd that he’d moved away and then came back to do this, and it was sufficiently troubling for us to mention this to the police, which happened.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(CEN) The Church of England fears its Near Neighbours programme could be undermined

The Church of England has said it is concerned that new Government proposals aimed at integrating mixed ethnic communities will bring an end to projects already promoting integration through the Near Neighbours programme.

The Government has launched a consultation on a number of proposals that they say will tackle segregated communities. These include providing additional funding to Jobcentre Plusso they can support more people from the most segregated communitiesinto work.

Other proposals also include supporting people from ethnic minorities into working in places where there remains a big gap between their employment rates and that of white British people, and increasing the take up of apprenticeships by people in isolated communities.

A background paper explains that major focus of the new strategy will be addressing outcomes for people from different ethnic backgrounds that are linked to poor integration.

Read it all (subscription needed).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Gregory the Illuminator

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Gelasian Sacramentary

O God, Who dividest day from night, give us hearts and minds unshadowed by the gloom of evil; that we may think continually upon things that are good and wholesome, and be always pleasing in Thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

–2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CT Editorial) We Need an Independent Investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries

For six years now—and more intensely in the last few weeks—charges and counter-charges (see links…), accusations and defenses have been conducted in public forums and in the courts, without a satisfactory conclusion. This has left many, many observers bewildered, angry, and deeply suspicious of SGC. What’s worse, these unseemly events reverberate outward, mixing with the #ChurchToo discussion and lingering anger over the Roman Catholic Church abuse scandal. Many now wonder if there has been a habit of covering up and denying child and sexual abuse in evangelical churches in general—if there is something in the evangelical DNA that makes us hesitant to deal with accusations quickly, openly, and truthfully when there is the suspicion of grave sin in our midst.

We call for a fresh and thorough independent investigation not because we believe SGC guilty of every one of its critics’ charges. We are as bewildered as anyone and simply don’t have enough information to make a confident judgment on the matter. We see, however, that SGC and some of its individual congregations—and pastor C. J. Mahaney (founder and former president) in particular—are under a cloud of suspicion. A former ministry partner of Mahaney turned critic, Brent Detwiler, has been chronicling the controversyfor many years and claims that 100 pastors, 300 small group leaders, 40 churches (including his own), and 12,000 members have left SGC churches largely over what they claim has been abusive and deceitful leadership.

Given the prominence of Sovereign Grace, especially in Reformed evangelical circles, this puts the gospel we preach under a cloud. If, in fact, they are as guiltless as they have proclaimed, and if, in fact, the incidences are as few as they suggest, it would be great news for the evangelical community and the cause of the gospel.

At the same time, if the many charges prove to be true to a larger extent than they currently acknowledge, it would be sad and troubling—but not without hope if it leads to truth-telling and repentance. The truth of sin that leads to repentance is one of the most glorious moments in our life in Christ.


Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NYT) This Preacher Would Be Happy to Share Your Bowl of Açaí

On a strip of Wilshire Boulevard, not far from where the rapper Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in a drive-by shooting some 20 years ago, a black plastic pool had been placed on the sidewalk outside the El Rey Theater. It was a balmy December afternoon, and the theater had been transformed into an assembly for Zoe Church, a two-and-a-half-year-old evangelical congregation that got its start in a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard.

Today was Baptism Sunday and nearly a dozen adults signed up, cheered on by a crowd of mostly 20-somethings who were gathered behind a metal barricade. Chad Veach, the 38-year-old founder of Zoe, who moved to West Los Angeles from Seattle in 2014, chewed gum as he danced to a pop gospel playlist blaring overhead. “Let’s go!” he shouted, clapping. A pair of muscular men dunked a woman in the waist-high water. She surfaced, arms pumping the air, as a friend snapped photographs that were later posted on Instagram.

One man behind the barricade was so moved that he called for the preacher to purify his soul right then. He slipped a black Zoe T-shirt over his jeans, covered his nose and waded into the pool. Afterward, he looked dazed, swaddled in a black towel.

Zoe — pronounced “zo-AY, like, be-yon-SAY,” as Mr. Veach often says — is one of the newest in a wave of youth-oriented evangelical churches making their homes here. While most are content to have a church and a campus or two, Mr. Veach is claiming nothing less than Los Angeles County and its population of 10 million. “We’ll have many locations,” he said of Zoe. He is opening a San Fernando Valley campus on Sunday and plans one more per year for the next decade or so.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Europe’s Young Adults and Religion–Findings from the European Social Survey (2014-16) to inform the 2018 Synod of Bishops

[Some] key findings:

The proportion of young adults (16-29) with no religious affiliation (‘nones’) is as high as 91% in the Czech Republic, 80% in Estonia, and 75% in Sweden. These compare to only 1% in Israel, 17% in Poland, and 25% in Lithuania. In the UK and France, the proportions are 70% and 64% respectively…

70% of Czech young adults – and c. 60% of Spanish, Dutch, British, and Belgian ones – ‘never’ attend religious services. Meanwhile, 80% of Czech young adults – and c. 70% of Swedish, Danish, Estonian,Dutch, French and Norwegian ones – ‘never’ pray….

Catholics make up 82% of Polish, 71% of Lithuanian, 55% of Slovenian, and 54% of Irish 16-29 year-olds. In France, it is 23%; in the UK, 10%.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Young Adults

(CEN) Church survey finds that one in four women experience domestic abuse

A new survey on Church responses to domestic abuse has found that one in fourrespondents had experienced at least one abusive behaviour in their current relationship.

The aim of the survey was to identify the rates of domestic abuse amongst male and female churchgoers, and the levels and attitudes of awareness among church leaders relating to domestic abuse in their congregation.

The report published this week In Churches too, found that emotional abuse was the most commonly experienced, with respondents reporting feeling diminished self-esteem, depression, feeling trapped and withdrawing from family and friends.

The samplefor the research, led by Dr Kristin Aune of Coventry University, and co-author Dr Rebecca Barnes, of the University of Leicester, was taken from a sample in Cumbria.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(BBC) Archbishop of Canterbury ‘ashamed’ of Church over abuse

The Most Rev Justin Welby told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that it was “horrifying” to read the evidence from survivors.

“I have learned to be ashamed again,” he said.

The three-week hearing is looking into the Diocese of Chichester, where dozens of clergy have been accused of abuse.

Mr Welby said: “To read the transcripts, to read the evidence, to meet the survivors, is horrifying to a huge degree, because you see this extraordinary and atrocious willingness to turn a blind eye to things going very seriously wrong and entirely damaging human beings for their whole lifetimes.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Wash Post) Robert Samuelson–Don’t deny the link between poverty and single parenthood

What’s less worthy is basing any debate on misleading analysis. That’s my complaint against the Times essay. Its hypothetical and admittedly unrealistic thought experiment that eliminating poverty among single mothers wouldn’t have much effect on overall poverty is wrong, according to the government’s own figures from the Census Bureau.

Let’s look at the census figures.

In 2016, 40.6 million Americans had incomes below the government’s official poverty line, which was $24,339 for a family of four, including two children. Of those below the poverty line — 12.7 percent of the population — nearly 5 million were moms or dads heading single-parent families; 8.7 million were children under 18 in these single-parent homes.

Do the arithmetic. Together, single-parent families and their children totaled almost 14 million people, which is roughly a third of all people in poverty. If, magically, a third of America’s poor escaped poverty, the change would (justifiably) be hailed as a triumph of social policy. If we included the children in poverty in two-parent families, that would add more than 7 million to the total (3 million parents and 4 million children). The total of 21 million would equal about half of all people in poverty.

Read it all.

Posted in Census/Census Data, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty

Peter Moore’s Sermon from this past Sunday at Saint Michael’s, Charleston–Are We at Liberty to Change Jesus?

So, the first thing he said to them was: “You are wrong.” He didn’t say, let’s discuss this further. He didn’t offer to organize a seminar on differing visions of the afterlife. He didn’t decide to have a conversation on the subject. He simply said: “You are wrong.” Kind of blunt. Kind of direct. But, friends, this is the only Jesus we know. This is the canonical Jesus. He used strong terms. And he did not suffer fools gladly. It’s kind of refreshing – certainly different from the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” that many of us were brought up on in Sunday School. I’m not saying that Jesus isn’t loving. He’s incredibly loving. But like C. S. Lewis’ Lion Aslan, he is good; but he is not tame.

The second thing that Jesus said to them was “you are ignorant of the Scriptures.” “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (v.29) This was like waving a red flag before a bull. They were the scholars, the elites, the educated ones. They had been to seminary. And they had degrees after their names. And who was he? Somebody from a nowhere place up north….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

James DeKoven on his Feast Day–A Sermon on Christian Hope (1864)

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.”””HEB. vi. 19, and part of v. 20.

Life is full of changes and chances. It sounds commonplace to say so, and yet more and more one learns to realize that the commonplaces of life are the things we most frequently dwell on, and the things we most often need comfort about. Poverty and riches, sickness and health, prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, succeed one another in our lives in a way that men call chance, and Christians know to be the will of God. All external circumstances change and alter; friends fail us or are taken away; death breaks up family circles; we move away from the scenes of youth and dwell in other places; cities and towns lose their familiar appearance; nay, in this our day things that should be most stable shake and totter, and government and order seem about to fail, and the very Church itself partakes of the universal disquiet; and only the eye of faith can discern the sure and immovable foundations against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.

But, even if there were no external changes, the changes within us are still harder to bear. We are not what we were. Time more surely alters our inner selves than even it does what is without us. We do not love what we loved, we do not seek what we sought, we do not fear what we feared, we do not hate what we hated. We are not true to ourselves. However brave a front we may present to the world, we are compelled to acknowledge to ourselves our own inconsistencies. There is often a broad chasm even between the intellectual convictions of one period of life and of another; and our very religious convictions, except they are built on the unchanging rule of the catholic faith, contradict each other; and the weary heart, uncertainly reaching forth in the darkness, longs with an ever deeper longing for that immutable One “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Blessed, then, is it to hear of an anchor of the soul. The imagery is simple enough. The ship, beaten by waves, tossed by tempests, driven by winds, takes refuge in the harbor. The anchor is cast from the stern. The ship rides securely; the danger is over.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics