Monthly Archives: March 2018

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

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”

–Psalm 118: 8-16 (my emphasis)

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Economist) The number of ex-Muslims in America is rising

As soon as he stepped off the plane on a family holiday to Kenya, Mahad Olad knew something was wrong. His mother, a “very devout, very conservative, very Wahhabi” woman, was acting strangely—furtively taking phone calls when she thought he was out of earshot. His suspicions would soon be proved correct. Mr Olad’s family, Somali immigrants to America and devout Muslims, had discovered that he had not only renounced Islam but was also gay. The holiday was a ruse, an intervention to save his soul.

Mr Olad was told he would leave college and be turned over the next day to the care of Muslim clerics who would restore his faith. “I was aware of the horrors of these camps,” Mr Olad says. “They operate them in the middle of nowhere, where you cannot escape. They subject you to beatings, starvation and trampling.” He tried to contact the American embassy, but it could not send help because of recent terrorist attacks nearby. Luckily, he also managed to reach a Kenyan atheist group. In the dead of night he sneaked into his mother’s room, stole his passport and was whisked away by taxi to the embassy, which eventually returned him safely to America. He has not spoken to his family since.

Though few have such harrowing stories, hundreds of thousands of American Muslims might recognise something like their own experience in Mr Olad’s tale. As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.

Read it all.

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

(Good News) Rob Renfroe on the United Methodist Crisis over the new Sexual Morality–Respect or Contempt

The bishops have reported that three plans have been put before them. One would strengthen the church’s present position against homosexual practice and would allow progressive churches to leave the denomination. Another, often referred to as “the local option,” would let individual pastors determine whether they will marry gay couples, and each annual conference would be free to determine if it will ordain practicing homosexuals. A third option would create three branches within the UM Church, each with a different sexual ethic, ranging from thoroughly progressive to fully conservative (the latter of which is actually nothing more than maintaining the church’s present position).

The details of the third option have not been made public, probably because they have not been fully determined. And they have probably not been determined because they are numerous and challenging. How will churches and pastors decide which of the three branches they will join? What if there are more fully committed progressive pastors than there are progressive churches willing to receive them? What if there are more progressive bishops than there are progressive annual conferences – must conservative conferences accept a bishop whose sexual ethic is different than its own? Will all churches be expected to pay apportionments to national boards that promote policies contrary to their beliefs? Can a conservative conference live with a partnered lesbian bishop on the Council that oversees the entire church? Or must there be three different councils? This third “multi-branch” option cannot be the plan Bishop Ough had in mind when he called for a plan that was simple rather than complex, with little ambiguity, and few disciplinary changes.

Where does that leave us? Option one – a more tightly-enforced Book of Discipline and liberal churches exiting the denomination – will never be recommended by a Council that leans left and largely believes we need to liberalize the church’s position (there are notable exceptions within the Council). The only plan remaining and the one Bishop Ough seems to be suggesting is the “local option.” Annual conferences vote. Pastors make their own decisions. The church stays together. And it’s done. Simple and with little ambiguity.

Except for one small detail. It will create schism, not unity. At its first national conference in Chicago, October 2016, with over 1400 pastors in attendance, The Wesleyan Covenant Association approved a statement that said, “A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the “local option” around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.” Good News sent a similar statement to the Commission on a Way Forward. So did the Confessing Movement. So did UM Action.

I’m not troubled that the Council might recommend a plan that conservatives disagree with. I expect they will. What does disturb me is that it appears the Council will propose a plan that all of the denomination’s conservative leaders have said will fracture the church and lead to a mass exodus. Why would it do that?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Post-Gazette) Lutheran seminary in Pennsylvania faces a leadership crisis over president’s past LGBTQ beliefs

A Lutheran seminary in eastern Pennsylvania is facing a leadership crisis due to a belated disclosure that the president of the LGBTQ-affirming school once directed an organization that said gay Christians should change or at least resist same-sex attractions as a temptation to sin.

The Rev. Theresa Latini, the first president of United Lutheran Seminary, which has campuses in Philadelphia and Gettysburg, now repudiates the philosophy of the group she worked for, saying it was “fear-based, controlling, and particularly marginalizing of LGBTQ+ persons.”

But many alumni and students are expressing dismay that she never disclosed this part of her work history — more than five years of work as director of the group OneByOne, beginning in 1996 — to the search committee that interviewed her.

Rev. Latini said in a Feb. 21 statement that she is committed to working with the seminary in “actively identifying and resisting homophobia and heteronormativity.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Lutheran, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, reports on last week’s South Carolina Diocesan Convention

From Rev. Todd Simonis, Senior Associate: I very much appreciated Bishop Lawrence calling local churches to have a mission mindset. It was great to have conversations about the changing demographics of the Lowcountry and how we, as the church, must be ready to reach out to those demographics. As always, it was an encouraging time to be with others from the diocese.
From Rion Salley, Senior Warden and Delegate: Bishop Lawrence shared how a little intentionality can go a long way for the Kingdom of God. First, as sowers of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ we can take more time to familiarize ourselves with the people in our community and build deeper relationships with those God has put in our midst by walking through life together as Jesus did.
From Rev. Chuck Pollak, Priest Associate: For me a highlight was the sermon by Bishop Lowenfield, who described his difficult decision to leave the Episcopal Church, and the joy he now feels as a member of ACNA. His journey is similar to one that many of us have experienced, and we know how wrecking that decision has been to us and to others as well. His message is one of hope.
From Jane Manos, Delegate: It was great to be with the Parish Church of St. Helena at the convention – a true honor! From Bishop Lawrence’s address, what stood out to me: “Uncertainty is WHY we need to sow the seed (of the Gospel).”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

The Real St. Patrick for his Feast Day

Patrick was 16 years old in about the year 405, when he was captured in a raid and became a slave in what was still radically pagan Ireland. Far from home, he clung to the religion he had ignored as a teenager. Even though his grandfather had been a priest, and his father a town councilor, Patrick “knew not the true God.” But forced to tend his master’s sheep in Ireland, he spent his six years of bondage mainly in prayer. He escaped at the suggestion of a dream and returned home.

Patrick was in his mid-40s when he returned to Ireland.

Read it all and for the ambitious there is a lot more there.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Patrick

Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Patrick

[May] I arise today with the power of God to guide me, the might of God to uphold me, the wisdom of God to teach me, the eye of God to watch over me, the ear of God to hear me, the word of God to give me speech, the hand of God to protect me, the way of God to prevent me, the shield of God to shelter me, the host of God to defend me; against the snares of devils, against the temptations of vices, against the lusts of nature, against every man who meditates injury to me, whether far or near, with few or with many…[in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen].

–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 Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly; and he does not let their cattle decrease. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, he pours contempt upon princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction, and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth. Whoever is wise, let him give heed to these things; let men consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

–Psalm 107:33-43

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Friday Evening Worship: Andrew Peterson – Is He Worthy?

Listen to it all.

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship

(WSJ) Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: Learning to Pray When Words Fail–Disorders like aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths

Julie Shulman decided to study linguistics because she wanted to help people with speaking disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. After graduating from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in 2000, the Maine native headed to Massachusetts for a master’s degree and job in speech therapy. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline. They returned to Israel in 2009—with promising careers and three young children.

Two weeks after their return, Mr. Shulman, then 37, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Despite the initially grim prognosis, his cognitive function is intact. But his speech is limited to sentences of three or four words, and his reading and writing abilities are limited.

Along with Mr. Shulman, at least two million people in the U.S. live with aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. Some 180,000 acquire the disorder every year. The condition, which produces a disconnect between what the brain wants to convey and what is actually expressed, often strikes survivors of strokes or head trauma without affecting their intelligence. The incidence is growing because medical advancements enable people with such maladies to survive at higher rates. Yet cures for the ensuing handicaps remain elusive.

Ms. Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation.


Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Martin Davie–‘Transgender, reality and pastoral care’

The fact that ‘I’ am a unity of body and soul means that it makes no sense to suggest, as we have seen Judith does in the Church of Scotland report, that ‘I was born in the wrong body.’ There is no ‘I’ separable from the body we possess. What ‘I’ means is the person who exists in this particular combination of body and soul. The suggestion that I should have been born in a different body really means that I should have been a different person, but in that case I would not exist, so the suggestion is asking for the impossible.

What is also impossible is for someone to change their body from male to female or vice versa. It is possible through the use of hormones and plastic surgery to change to a certain extent the way our bodies function and their outward appearance, but we cannot change the fundamental character of our bodies as male or female. We can produce what Paul McHugh calls ‘feminized men or masculinized women, ‘ [13] but we cannot make a man into a woman or a woman into a man.

The evidence of Scripture agrees that human beings are bodily creatures that are male and female and are able to reproduce as such, but it supplements the witness of natural reason in this regard in two key ways.

First, it teaches in the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 and also in the words of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6) that we are not a dimorphic species by accident, but because God in his goodness and wisdom created us as such so that men and women together can rule over and care for the world on God’s behalf and together can produce offspring who can continue this vocation in their turn.[14] Scripture as a whole further teaches that the dimorphic structure of the human species is also the basis for marriage (Genesis 2:23-24) through which human beings are called to bear witness to the marital relationship between God and his people, which has begun in this world, but will be finally consummated in the world to come (see Ephesians 5: 21-33 and Revelation 19:6-9, 21:2-4).

Secondly, it teaches that our bodies are an eternal part of who we are.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Archbishops of Armagh to reflect on ministry and legacy of Saint Patrick at Armagh annual lecture

On Friday 16 March, the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, the two Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke will join together to host the annual Saint Patrick’s Lecture at at 11.00 am in the Market Place Theatre in Armagh.

At the lecture the Archbishops will reflect on ministry and legacy of our National Patron, Saint Patrick. Following the lecture, UTV presenter Sarah Clarke will host a discussion with the Archbishops on the words of Saint Patrick, and how his message still resonates and holds relevance for many of the challenges faced by people today.

Reflecting on the life of our National Patron ahead of the event, Archbishop Martin said, ‘Saint Patrick, himself a migrant, was called to serve and bring God to a people far from his home. I encourage the faithful at this time to pray for migrants, and all who struggle to live and integrate into new cultures, at home and abroad, arising from displacement and poverty.’

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History, Church of Ireland, Ecumenical Relations, Roman Catholic

(Church Times) Lord Williams backs abuse survivors’ demand for independent safeguarding body at IICSA

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, has given his support to one of the key demands of survivors of clergy abuse: the creation of an independent body to deal with safeguarding cases.

Speaking at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on Wednesday, Lord Williams said that there was a “strong case” for handing over safeguarding issues to a new agency outside of the normal Church of England structures.

“There’s a strong case for having some such arms-length body,” he replied, when asked about it by the lead counsel to the Inquiry’s investigation into the Anglican Church, Fiona Scolding QC.

Lord Williams said that such a move would, in theory, free the Archbishop to take more of a leadership position in safeguarding for the whole Church, but admitted that the reform might never appear high on “any Archbishop’s list of priorities”.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, 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