Daily Archives: February 12, 2018

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Are people with Down’s syndrome truly valued?

On the second point, I had to ask myself why we are so timid in being clear about what we believe? Martyn Taylor’s proposed amendment was very modest, simply asking that the affirmation at point a. referring to people with Down’s Syndrome ‘before and after birth’. In doing this, Martyn was proposing that we simply use the language found in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of a Child:

Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth… (in the Preamble).

James Newcombe’s objection here was that saying this would make it harder for Government and GMC to listen to the request made in the motion. But the request came in point d, not in point a. And it is difficult to see why aligning with the UN Declaration would appear to be so unpalatable. But there is a wider point which this hints at: in our discussions with other bodies, and in our making reasonable requests, why are we so shy at being open for our reasons for doing so? If we did make the Church attitude to abortion clear, and if that is at odds with the views of professional bodies, why would that disqualify our request? Do we have to look like these bodies before we can speak to them? Are they so closed to reasonable requests from people with different views, values and outlooks? And does the Church of England have to, chameleon-like, changes its colours to match its surroundings before speaking into a particular context? (Before anyone points it out, I know that chameleons don’t in fact do this.) American theologian Stanley Hauerwas urges that our main priority for living in a post-Christendom world should be to ditch our obsessions with relevance, and simply be the Church we are called to be. And we are not called to be chameleon.

On this issue, it might not in the end make much practical difference. But I am saddened that, in rejecting these amendments, we held back from saying the thing that I think most disabled people want to hear: that we not only value them, but we are prepared to confront those who would see them eliminated. If we cannot do that, can we really say that we value them without qualification?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) David Bentley Hart–The Precious Stephen Pinker

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

And yet, oddly enough, I like Pinker’s book. On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous, occasionally threatening to degenerate into the dulcet bleating of a contented bourgeois. But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist. Over the past few decades, so much of secularist discourse has been drearily clouded by irony, realist disenchantment, spiritual fatigue, self-lacerating sophistication: a postmodern sense of failure, an appetite for caustic cultural genealogies, a meek surrender of all “metanarrative” ambitions.

Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment”—and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

Read it all (from 2012).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Secularism, Theology, Violence

A 2013 Profile of [Mars Hill Audio’s] Ken Myers–Pop Goes the Culture: One man’s quest to preserve and defend the good, the true, and the beautiful

The Journal demonstrates how closely the interests and worries of a conservative Christian intellectual overlap those of any curious traditionalist or cultural conservative, believing or non. Myers’s own curiosity is inexhaustible. On the website’s topic index​—​choosing a letter at random​—​you’ll find under “M” segments on Mondrian (Piet) and Moore (Michael), memory and money, Mendelssohn and Marsalis, masculinity and materialism. I popped in Issue 102 the other day and heard Myers’s pleasant tenor saying, by way of preface: “Is creation meaningful, and if it is, is its meaning perceptible?” This rousing intro opened a series of ruminations and interviews with a variety of scholars and writers. A brief explanation of the split between nominalism and realism in the Middle Ages led to a discussion of Jacques Maritain’s relationship with avant garde painters and musicians in 1920s Paris, then moved through the Fibonacci sequence and the mathematical value of Bach fugues as examples of inherent order, topped off with a tribute to the paintings of Makoto Fujimura by the philosopher Thomas Hibbs. The pace is unhurried, the discussions pretty easily comprehensible. Imagine NPR if NPR were as intelligent as NPR programmers think it is.

Or better: Imagine NPR as it once was, from its founding in the early seventies into the early eighties, when the fateful decision was made to transform an eclectic and discursive ragbag of cultural programming into the fabulously wealthy, grimly professional all-news-almost-all-the-time media colossus we know today. Myers worked at NPR off and on for nearly a decade, spending several years as arts editor for Morning Edition before layoffs from the new regime gutted arts coverage in 1983.

In its original conception, Myers reminded me, “NPR really was an institution devoted to preserving cultural treasures. By the time I left, that vision had vanished, a victim of multiculturalism, postculturalism, autoculturalism, and other fancies.” Myers fondly recalls bygone NPR series like “A Sense of Place: Sound Portraits of Twentieth Century Humanists”​—​a dozen documentaries on longhairs like James Joyce, Igor Stravinsky, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

“ ‘A Sense of Place’ would be unimaginable at NPR today,” Myers says. Today at NPR, as elsewhere, culture means pop culture. With occasional gestures toward jazz, NPR music is the rock music of aging children; the visual arts begin and end with movies and TV, though stage plays will sometimes rouse attention if their themes are sufficiently progressive. This falling off isn’t the fault of the programmers alone, needless to say. In its decline NPR has tumbled in tandem with the tastes of its target audience​—​affluent white people with meaningless college degrees who weren’t educated into an appreciation for richer music and art and who, accordingly, find the whole cultural-patrimony thing intimidating, hence vaguely off-putting, and finally a snooze.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Media, Religion & Culture, Theology

Church of England General Synod affirms dignity and humanity of people with Down’s Syndrome

The Church of England’s General Synod has given unanimous backing to a call for people with Down’s Syndrome to be welcomed, celebrated and treated with dignity and respect.
A motion affirming the dignity and full humanity of people with Down’s Syndrome was passed after a debate at the General Synod meeting in London.

It comes as a new form of prenatal screening, Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), is set to be rolled out in the NHS to women deemed to be at ˜high-risk’ of having a child with Down’s syndrome.

The motion welcomes medical advances and calls for the Government and health professionals to ensure that women who have been told that their unborn child has Down’s Syndrome are given comprehensive, unbiased information on the condition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell: Church of England bullies George Bell’s elderly niece by denying her choice of lawyer

When Desmond Browne QC volunteered his services to Mrs [ Barbara] Whitley [93-year-old niece of the late Bishop George Bell], she was no doubt pleased that her long-dead uncle would have the previously denied skilled advocate at the table to evaluate and challenge evidence, assumptions and conclusions, and to make submissions as the matter unfolded. In this position, of course, he would not be participating in the making of the decisions, and could legitimately be asked to withdraw during decision-making deliberations. Core groups were once commonplace for me, with familiar modes of operation. Unfortunately, so far as I can ascertain, nobody making and shaping decisions on behalf of the church has any such personal experience of what is all in a day’s work a safeguarding lawyer.

But, inexplicably, Mrs Whitley’s choice of advocate was denied by the church.

Upon hearing of this decision, my fellow Synod legal colleague David Lamming and I presented a carefully evaluated case for letting Mrs Whitley have her wish, buttressed by warnings of the highly predictably adverse PR consequences for failing to do so, enhanced with entreaties and exhortations to ‘do the right thing’.

We had a prompt meeting with those who made and defended the refusal. We appreciated their willingness to listen, putting the case I now share, without success. It should not have been necessary. We can over-intellectualise these matters, but the man on the Clapham omnibus could have advocated the case for Mrs Whitley having her free choice of lawyer succinctly. It was, in John Cleese’s succinct if not-quite-biblical phrase, ‘bleeding obvious’.

George Bell’s niece is an elderly lady. She has suffered and continues to suffer prolonged anxiety as her long-dead relative has been and continues to be publicly traduced by the Church of England on the basis of a single uncorroborated allegation brought 60 years after the event, all as a result of inadequate process that need not be restated. You might have expected a compassionate and contrite church to have been on its mettle, but, as usual, the consideration of the little people gave way to what can best be described as institutional bullying – which will come as no surprise to the many dissatisfied victims of abuse at the hands of the church, some of whom gathered outside Church House the following day.

I am puzzled that so many sincere and ethically-aware Christians cannot see that one of the best ways of honouring past victims is not to create new ones.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Theology

JI Packer: Serious Catechesis–One of the Most Urgent Needs in the Church Today

While many Christians are actively involved in devotional Bible study, he laments the lack of formal catechetical study, without which, he says, “Well-intentioned minds and hearts will repeatedly go off track.”

Like Scripture says, we all, like sheep, have gone astray. We need constant shepherding and guidance, and knowing and repeating a catechism can be a way to ground our hearts in unchanging truth. The tradition of repeating established statements of faith helps with that shepherding, and it has a long history. Many modern congregations, however, have allowed a lapse in the practice.

In Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know (Crossway, 2013) Packer says:

As the years go by, I am increasingly burdened by the sense that the more conservative church people in the West, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, are, if not starving, at least grievously undernourished for lack of a particular pastoral ministry that was a staple item in the church life of the first Christian centuries and also of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era in Western Europe, but has largely fallen out of use in recent days.

That ministry is called catechesis. It consists of intentional, orderly instruction in the truths that Christians are called to live by, linked with equally intentional and orderly instruction on how they are to do this.

Read it all.

Posted in Adult Education, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

Church of England General Synod welcomes move towards communion with Methodist Church

The General Synod has given its welcome to a report containing proposals which could bring the Church of England and the Methodist Church in Great Britain into communion with each other.
Members backed a motion welcoming a joint report published last year, which sets out proposals on how clergy from each church could become eligible to serve in the other.

The report, Mission and Ministry in Covenant, which was co-written by the two churches’ faith and order bodies, also sets out how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate.

The motion acknowledges that there is further work to do to clarify a number of areas, including how the proposals would be worked out in practice.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Methodist

A S Haley Historic Episcopal Church of South Carolina Asks US Supreme Court for Review

Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, along with a number of member parishes, having lost a confusing, non-definitive and divided decision in that State’s Supreme Court, have filed a petition for writ of certiorari (review) in the United States Supreme Court. The petition (fifty pages, downloadable from this link) asks the Court to bring harmony to the multiple lower court decisions that diverge over the meaning of “neutral principles of law” as used by the Court in its seminal case of Jones v. Wolf, 445 U.S. 595 (1979).

As the petition lays out with masterful clarity, both state and federal courts apply differing standards of “neutral principles” in approaching the resolution of disputes over the ownership of church property:

Nearly 40 years after this Court last addressed the neutral-principles approach in Jones, the courts are deeply divided about what “neutral” means. For many courts, “neutral” means just that—“neutral”: the high courts of seven States, plus the Eighth Circuit and three intermediate state courts, follow Jones’ clear guidance and resolve property disputes between religious organizations by applying well-established state trust and property law. These jurisdictions hold that a disassociating local church’s property is held in trust for the national church only if the alleged trust satisfies ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts. Courts and commentators call this the “strict approach” to Jones, because it blinds judges to the religious nature of the parties to the dispute, requiring them to apply the same ordinary state law that would apply to property disputes between any other parties….

The petition then addresses the Court directly, and explains why it should grant review:

Petitioners are here for one simple reason: they are churches. If this dispute arose between two secular organizations, or between a religious and a secular organization, the party standing in Petitioners’ shoes would have prevailed. Thus, far from yielding to the First Amendment, the decision below actually violates it. The Religion Clauses command a “principle of neutrality” whereby “the government may not favor one religion over another, or religion over irreligion, religious choice being the prerogative of individuals under the Free Exercise Clause.” McCreary Cty. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U.S. 844, 875-76 (2005). The hybrid approach disregards this vital bulwark, favoring one religious organization over another by allowing a national church to disregard the requirements of state trust law at the expense of a disassociated congregation’s claim to property. As two leading commentators recently emphasized, the strict approach to Jones is “the only approach consistent with the free exercise and nonentanglement principles of the Religion Clauses.” Michael W. McConnell & Luke W. Goodrich, On Resolving Church Property Disputes, 58 ARIZ. L. REV. 307, 311 (2016).

The persistent confusion over the meaning of Jones and the neutral-principles approach has resulted in polar-opposite outcomes in materially indistinguishable cases, creating enormous — and enormously expensive — uncertainty for this country’s religious institutions. Case outcomes turn on courts’ differing interpretations of Jones and the First Amendment, not on how the parties have arranged their affairs under state law. This case could have been easily resolved under ordinary state trust and property law. Instead, the parties and the property have been mired in litigation since 2013. Several years and millions of dollars later, Petitioners seek this Court’s review.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, - Anglican: Analysis, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Euchologium Anglicanum

O God, heavenly Father, whose every motion towards us springs from thine inexhaustible love: Enable us, we humbly beseech thee, cheerfully to sacrifice ourselves for the well-being of those with whom we have to do, and also to love them with the tender love which thou hast for the world; that so though now we see thee darkly through the veil of our blindness, we with them may presently see thee in the fullness of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

–Philippians 2:1-11

Posted in Theology: Scripture