Category : Religion & Culture

(Church Times) The idea of the Parish is not threatened, says Archbishop Justin Welby

The parish is “essential” and is not under threat, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In an interview last Friday for the Church Times, Archbishop Welby responded to the Save the Parish campaign by stating: “There is no ‘threat’ to the parish. . . There is no conspiracy to abolish the parish.”

It was “rubbish”, he said, to suggest that the parish system was outdated. “We are the Church for England. If we are going to be for England, we have to be in every community, or as many as we can possibly manage. We have to be open to every person, not just the congregation, precious as they are.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

The Walkabouts for the three Finalists for the Next Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina

I am putting up the one in which I participated here at Saint Philip’s, Charelston:

But please note there are three others to choose from. Please do take the time to watch through at least one.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Northeast Now) Last service said at Watson’s Anglican church, congregation to join nearby parish in Humboldt

It was a bittersweet celebration in Watson over the weekend as the St. Bride’s Anglican Church was deconsecrated.

The final mass was said by Bishop of the Saskatoon Diocese, Chris Harper, Rev. Matteo Carboni, and Archdeacon Alex Parsons on Sept. 12 with members of the Watson and Humboldt congregations in attendance.

Carboni resided over the Watson parish before Sunday’s secularization service and those congregants will now be welcome to attend mass at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Humboldt where Carboni also resides.

While the service was a mixture said Harper of celebration and sorrow, with only four members of the congregation celebrating service at the church, Carboni said they were putting in a lot of time and energy into maintaining the parish.

Margaret Henderson, one of the few members of the Watson church, said it was getting hard to justify the resources being spent on four people.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Tim Keller) The Decline and Renewal of the American Church: Part 1 – The Decline of the Mainline

Virtually the only major cultural figure to sound an alarm in the U.S. was the eminent writer and journalist Walter Lippmann. Lippmann was a non-religious Jew who was at the center of the secular liberal establishment. But in 1955 he wrote his last book, Essays in the Public Philosophy, which dismayed his peers. “His heresy was to say that his liberal colleagues were trying to build a public consensus based on inherited principle, even after they had dynamited the foundations on which those principle had first been established.”

He charged that our liberal American values (whether fully executed or not)—equal dignity of all people, freedom of conscience, thought, and speech, government by consent, trust in science and reason—were not the deliverances of science. Originally, these American ideas were based on transcendent moral standards, a higher “universal order” that we could all recognize as the truth.

Lippmann was no theist, and so he was speaking more in the tradition of Aristotle. But he insisted that unless a society could recognize an objective moral order, a set of standards that were not merely produced by culture or our private feelings, there was no grounding for a public, shared social order. “If what is good, what is right, what is true, is only what the individual ‘chooses’ to ‘invent,’ then we are outside the traditions of civility.” By that he meant that no one had ever tried to create a social common life on such a basis. Who is to say that one particular law is just and another unjust? Do we do it by majority vote? Then what do we say to Germany whose majority thought it was right to persecute and even destroy minorities?

Lippmann was right that our original “American values” originated in an agreement between Christians who believed these were the teachings of the Bible as well as Enlightenment thinkers who believed as the ancients in “natural law”—a transcendent, moral order in the universe that was discernible through human reason and reflection. But in 1955 the American modern liberal establishment was aghast at Lippmann. They reviewed his book negatively and pushed back, saying that returning to belief in God or natural law was dangerous and completely unnecessary. A “nondogmatic, relativistic, pragmatic” way of testing beliefs was the best. Our values are just things “we all know” that will benefit human beings best and will make most people happy. They are not rooted in God or a cosmic order.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Religion & Culture, Theology

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way; it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope–hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian–I’m speaking for the Christian now–the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(WCAX) TEC Diocese of Vermont confronts financial squeeze

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is considering its next steps after a recent financial analysis revealed problems.

“Fewer people may mean fewer dollars coming in to those congregations and thus those congregations giving fewer dollars to support the dioceses,” said the Diocese’s Rev. Walter Brownridge. This is the flow of finances for the church in Vermont and he fears they will struggle to support their 45 congregations. “We knew we were facing some real challenges in a few years if we didn’t change course.”

There are less than 6,000 Episcopalians in the state, a number that is on the decline due to various reasons, including an aging demographic.

“I’m almost 80 myself and I’m not particularly unusual in our congregation, and there are a lot of parishes like this that are losing members due to attrition, to deaths, to people moving away,” said Glenn Sproul, a member of the All Saints Episcopal Church in South Burlington.

Read it all (part of summer break article catch-up).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Parishes

(Economist) The Church of England needs new members. How to get them?

Now the church is displaying evangelising glints that are, for many, alarming. A briefing paper on “Vision and Strategy”, delivered in July at its general synod, called for a church that is “younger and more diverse”—and much bigger. It aims to develop 3,000 “worshipping hubs” for children and young people, and has linked with a movement called “Myriad” (the word is Greek for 10,000), which aims to create 10,000 new churches and a million new worshippers in Britain within a decade.

Myriad does not mean “churches” in the spinsters-and-stained-glass sense. It is not promising 10,000 more pulpits or transepts or tea urns or vicars. It is not promising buildings at all. Myriad groups might meet in churches and work with priests—or they might meet independently, in houses or offices or parks. Followers talk freely about God. As a promotional video explains, this movement is “not just reserved for Bibles and a building”. These churches will be “predominantly” led by lay people—a Myriad boss referred to buildings and theological training as “key limiting factors” in church expansion.

The response has been bitter. Both the church and Myriad later apologised for the “limiting factors” comment, but the damage was done. The plans have been described as “Stalinist” and a “Great Leap Forward”. This, one vicar wrote, is a Christianity that is “randy for converts”. A Save the Parish group has been formed. Diarmaid MacCulloch, an emeritus professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford University, sees in the scheme a certain “adolescent self-confidence”. Many are very angry. Mr MacCulloch says he is merely “mildly cross in an Anglican sort of way”. Which in Anglicanese means furious.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Debating the Church and same-sex marriage

When I was invited to speak, I began by enumerating the points I wanted to make. I have learnt that this makes it harder for a presenter to cut me off before I have made all the comments that I plan to!

My first point was to note that our current approach in society is a novelty, and is the result of some fundamental changes in the way we think about our bodies, sex, and relationships. I have noticed that the debate often starts with the assumption that belief in same-sex marriage is obvious, natural, and is the final end goal for our thinking about relationships. A little bit of cultural and historical awareness, though, shows that, in comparison with most cultures in most of history, we are very odd; I also want to point out that we have faced very rapid changes in attitudes, and changes are likely to continue in one direction or another. I noticed that Andrew nodded his agreement on this point.

My second point was that the C of E is rooted in the 1662 BCP and the 39 Articles; if we are to change our doctrine of marriage then we will need to redefine the C of E. I went on to make the point I have made previously in various places, that there is a strong consensus of what the Bible says, and to introduce change we do (as Francis Spufford does with honesty) need simply to say that, on this, the Bible is wrong. Andrew seemed to agree with the first of these two, but shook his head on the second.

Read it all and please do watch the debate via the links provided.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology: Scripture

(PRC) Muslims are a growing presence in U.S., but still face negative views from the public

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. …

Read it all.

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

The Bishop of Croydon, The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, announces departure from the Diocese of Southwark

The Bishop of Croydon, The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, announced today that he will be leaving the Diocese of Southwark on March 21, 2022 – exactly 10 years to the day of his consecration as Bishop.

“I’m sad about all I’ll be leaving, as well as excited about what lies ahead,” said Bishop Jonathan, who will be moving to Orkney with his wife Alison, who will be continuing her academic and creative work. “I plan to write more and will be teaching, leading retreats and offering mentoring support to clergy,” he continued.

The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, said, “Bishop Jonathan has served the Diocese of Southwark with energy, integrity and vision for ten years as the Bishop of Croydon. He has been a superb colleague and has also served the wider Diocese as Chair of the Southwark Board of Education as well as the national church in various additional roles, particularly on Ministry Council and as one of the lead bishops for refugee issues. I am grateful to him for all he has accomplished, for his companionship in episcopal ministry, and for his loving service of God’s people. He and Alison go with our prayers and gratitude as they move forward to the next stage of life and ministry.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Welsh same sex marriage blessing bill passes for 5 year experimental period

Several clergy acknowledged the struggles they had on the issue. The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) believed that those opposed to the Bill had been misrepresented: “We disagree how we read scripture. I stand here not as a bigot, but as someone who has struggled to a point where I believe this Bill would be crossing a boundary,” he said. “My position has been maligned. A pastoral response is not to offer kindness for kindness’s sake….”

Bishop Cameron, summing up the debate, described it as “the most difficult job I’ve ever been given”. He sought to assure the Evangelical constituency that he had not chosen to misrepresent or condemn their views.

“When I talked about my understanding of scripture, I was speaking autobiographically. It was not intended as rubbishing of conservative Evangelical thinking, theology, or ministry.

“But I don’t agree with you that the Bible can only be read as hostile to gay relationships. I refuse to be told that I am ‘unorthodox’. . . We should not ‘disfellowship’ each other because we do not agree on this issue. . . Christ compels me to stand with the vulnerable and oppressed. I will not betray them at any price in this world or the next.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Wales, Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Joint statement on climate change by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch

In a joint statement, the Christian leaders have called on people to pray, in this Christian season of Creation, for world leaders ahead of COP26 this November. The statement reads: ‘We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’

The joint declaration strikes a clear warning – ‘Today, we are paying the price…Tomorrow could be worse’ and concludes that: ‘This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.’

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, Ecumenical Relations, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(NYT) For a Second Year, Jews Mark the High Holy Days in the Shadow of Covid

The leadership at Central Synagogue in Manhattan had big plans this year for the Jewish High Holy Days: After celebrating via livestream during the pandemic last fall, they rented out Radio City Music Hall for a grand celebration.

But the spread of the Delta variant has upended those plans. Now, they’ll still use the 5,500-seat music hall, but only at 30 percent capacity. And everyone must show proof of vaccination and wear masks.

“In some ways, last year was easier to plan because it was so absolutely clear we would be gathering virtually,” said Angela W. Buchdahl, the synagogue’s senior rabbi. “This year we certainly expected all the way until early July that we would be able to be in person for this year’s High Holy Days.”

Many congregations plan their celebrations for the High Holy Days, which are among the most important dates in the Jewish calendar, months in advance. But the recent surge of coronavirus cases has driven synagogues across the New York region — home to the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel — and around the country to address safety concerns they had thought had been rendered moot by the arrival of the vaccines.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CT) Why the UN’s Dire Climate Change Report Is Dedicated to an Evangelical Christian

His concerns about greenhouse gases, rising temperature averages, dying coral reefs, blistering heat waves, and increasingly extreme weather were informed by his training at as atmospheric physicist and his commitment to science. They also come out of his evangelical understanding of God, the biblical accounts of humanity’s relationship to creation, and what it means for a Christian to follow Christ.

“We haven’t lived up to the call to holiness,” Houghton’s granddaughter Hannah Malcolm explained to CT. “We’ve been conformed to the patterns of this world, with the desire for wealth accumulation and the desire to increase our comforts, and that’s not the demand that is placed upon us as followers of Christ.”

Houghton was born in a Baptist family in Wales in 1931. As a young man he realized he needed to make a personal decision for Christ, and he did. To the end of his life, Houghton described it as the most important choice he’d ever made.

His love for God fueled his love for science. He saw it as a way to worship.

“The biggest thing that can ever happen to anybody is to get a relationship with the one who has created the universe,” Houghton told a Welsh newspaper in 2007. “We discover the laws of nature when we do our science. So we discover what’s behind the universe and if there’s an intelligence and a creator behind it. What we’re doing as Christians is exploring our relationship with the person who is the creator of the universe. Now that’s something that is absolutely wonderful.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Houses of Worship Struggle Back, and Tread Lightly on Vaccines

The weekly rhythms of Catholic life have started to return at Our Lady of Lourdes in Harlem. The pews are packed on Sunday mornings, prayer groups meet after work and the collection plate is almost as full as it was before the coronavirus pandemic began.

But parishioners are starting to worry about the virus again.

“For a little while everyone felt more free, not using masks and things like that,” said the Rev. Gilberto Ángel-Neri, the pastor. “But now that we hear all the news about the Delta variant, everyone is using masks again.”

The progress made at Father Ángel-Neri’s church, and at houses of worship across New York City, may be threatened by a rise in virus cases in the past month and by an uneven patchwork of rules governing vaccination that can differ from one place to another.

New rules that have been enacted in recent weeks to curb the spread of the virus’s more contagious Delta variant require New Yorkers to show proof of vaccination to participate in many indoor activities, including sitting inside restaurants or bars, going to a gym or nightclub and visiting a museum or zoo. But they do not apply to religious services.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Food for Thought from Paul Kingsnorth

From there:

Ultimately, without that higher purpose to bind it, society would fall — as it has — into “emotivism”, relativism and ultimately disintegration. If every culture is cored around a sacred order — whether Christian, Islamic or Hindu, the veneration of ancestors or the worship of Odin — then the collapse of that order will lead inevitably to the collapse of the culture it supported. There is a throne at the heart of every culture, and whoever sits on it will be the force we take our instruction from. The modern experiment has been the act of dethroning both literal human sovereigns and the representative of the sacred order, and replacing them with purely human, and purely abstract, notions — “the people” or “liberty” or “democracy” or “progress.”

I’m all for democracy (the real thing, please, not the corporate simulacra that currently squats in its place), but the dethroning of the sovereign — Christ — who sat at the heart of the Western sacred order did not lead to universal equality and justice. It led — via a bloody shortcut through Robespierre, Stalin and Hitler — to the complete triumph of the power of money, which has splintered our culture and our souls into a million angry shards.

The vacuum created by the collapse of our old taboos was filled by the poison gas of consumer capitalism. It has now infiltrated every aspect of our lives in the way that the Christian story once did, so much so that we barely even notice as it colonises everything — from the way we eat to the values we teach our children. Cut loose in a post-modern present — with no centre, no truth and no direction — we have not become independent-minded, responsible, democratic citizens in a human republic. We have become slaves to the self and to the power of money; broken worshippers before the monstrous idol of Progress. “In the ethics of the West,” wrote Spengler, “everything is direction, claim to power, will to affect the distant.”

After Virtue ends with its author declaring that the task we face today is similar to that set for those living through the collapse of Rome: not to “shore up the imperium” but to start building anew. Macintyre famously concluded that the West was waiting for “a new — and doubtless very different — St Benedict.” That was forty years ago, and we are still waiting, but it’s not a bad way to see the challenge we face. Despite the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, the post-Christian West is not at all short on ideas, arguments, insults, ideologies, stratagems, conflicts or world-saving machines. But it is very short on saints; and how we need their love, wisdom, discipline and stillness amidst the chaos of the times. Maybe we had better start looking at how to embody a little of these qualities ourselves.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(The World) After the revolution, a secular Sudan?

“One of the main reasons that actually separated the country [of] South Sudan was the unwillingness of the previous regime to repeal Sharia law from the country. That would actually have saved the country,” he argued.

Many people from Nuba fear there’s a risk of other parts of the country breaking away, or of ongoing conflict, if Sudan is not able to take religious ideology out of government affairs.

As a government peace adviser, Komey said he brought in experts from Turkey, Nigeria and other countries with large or majority-Islamic populations (but secular constitutions) to meet with members of Sudan’s government.

“That actually opened minds that Sudan, which is majority Muslim, can still go secular without endangering people,” he said.

But in Sudan’s public sphere, secularism remains a provocative and emotional word for ordinary people.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sudan

(C of E) An update on timing for the John Smyth Review from the National Safeguarding Team

Read it all and for background please see there.

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

(Goulburn Post) Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn speaks up on Jerrara Power plan

The Reverend Davies was one of 15 members of the community, many of them from Bungonia, to speak during open forum.

He said he wasn’t from Bungonia but “breathed the same air.” In addition, parishioners in the area were “very distressed about the proposal to process up to 330,000 tonnes annually of Sydney’s waste in the rural zone. The Reverend Davies took the matter to Dr Short, who wrote that he had become keenly aware of the importance of environment and air quality, particularly to Goulburn Mulwaree residents.

“This was highlighted in the lead-up to Christmas, 2019 when we were unable to go ahead with an outdoors carols program because of the impact of smoke from the bushfires,” he wrote.

Dr Short noted Jerrara Power’s scoping report had mentioned residents’ concerns about air quality, health and drinking water impacts associated with industry, including quarries in Goulburn Mulwaree.

“Noting the concerns that are acknowledged here and the fact that the vast majority of waste to be processed at the facility would come from outside the local government area, I support any process that would allow the interests and concerns of local residents to be fully heard and evaluated,” the letter stated.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Alan Smith announced as next First Church Estates Commissioner

Alan Smith, Senior Advisor – ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Risk and Inclusion, and former Global Head of Risk Strategy at HSBC, is to be the next First Church Estates Commissioner, Downing Street announced today. Alan has also been a Church Commissioner since 2018.
The First Church Estates Commissioner chairs the Church Commissioners’ Assets Committee, a statutory committee responsible for the strategic management of the Church Commissioners’ £9.2 billion investment portfolio.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Chair of the Commissioners’ Board of Governors, said: “I am delighted that Alan has chosen to use his skills and experience to serve the Church and greatly look forward to working with him. Climate change is the most urgent challenge we face, and Alan’s knowledge of environmental issues and risk management will be critically important for the Commissioners’ work. I’d also like to thank Loretta Minghella for her hard work and leadership during her time at the Church Commissioners.”

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “We are pleased that Alan will succeed Loretta. Alan’s experience as a Commissioner and his role on the Commissioners’ Audit & Risk Committee means he’s extremely well suited for this leadership role.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(NYT front page) ‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families

She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.

At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.

The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.

Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Facebook’s Next Target: The Religious Experience

Months before the megachurch Hillsong opened its new outpost in Atlanta, its pastor sought advice on how to build a church in a pandemic.

From Facebook.

The social media giant had a proposition, Sam Collier, the pastor, recalled in an interview: to use the church as a case study to explore how churches can “go further farther on Facebook.”

For months Facebook developers met weekly with Hillsong and explored what the church would look like on Facebook and what apps they might create for financial giving, video capability or livestreaming. When it came time for Hillsong’s grand opening in June, the church issued a news release saying it was “partnering with Facebook” and began streaming its services exclusively on the platform.

Beyond that, Mr. Collier could not share many specifics — he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Safeguarding Sunday launched but ‘criticisms’ remain

Safeguarding Sunday, will be introduced to churches nationally, a new initiative aiming to raise the profile of safeguarding.

The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, gave a Safeguarding update to Synod.

Dr Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, told Synod the church is “entering a season of action” in which “there is far more to be done.”

“Our aim is to help people see safeguarding as an integral part of the mission of the church,” he said.

“Safeguarding is partly about stopping bad things happening and about how we respond when they do, but it is also about enabling our churches to become places where people are enabled to flourish and grow into the fullness of life that God intends for us all.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Priests and bishops a ‘given’ in Myriad’s vision for lay-led churches

The Myriad initiative, which envisages the planting of 10,000 lay-led churches by 2030, is shining a light on what is already happening in the Church of England, the Bishop of Islington, Dr Ric Thorpe, said on Friday.

In a personal statement issued in response to concerns about the initiative (News, 2 July, 9 July), Dr Thorpe — who leads the Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication, home to the Myriad church-planting initiative — apologised for the “hurt and frustration” caused by communication of the work.

He referred to the phrase “key limiting factors”, used by Canon John McGinley, who leads Myriad, in a conversation about lay leadership (“When you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader of church . . . then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form”). The context to this had been lost, Dr Thorpe, said.

“I am so sad that this has happened. It is the opposite message to what we were trying to communicate and it didn’t come across as it was intended to. I am deeply sorry for the hurt and frustration that people have experienced.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(RCR) Asma T. Uddin–Defend Religious Liberty for All Despite Our Differences

I recently attended the inaugural Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Religious Liberty Initiative at Notre Dame Law School, where attendees’ religious differences were obvious even to a casual observer. At this leading Catholic university, I watched a Jewish Rabbi praise a Mormon author. And as Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik spoke, I glanced up and saw an Elder from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Catholic cardinal, and a notable Protestant leader sitting side by side. I saw secular agnostics and devout believers — reporters, advocates, and pundits. For all the differences in that room, there was a comfortable warmness, academic and earnest. It was apparent that the leaders who had gathered there shared an understanding that religious freedom is about our individual dignity as human beings and the demands of conscience.

Sitting inside that Catholic university, I remembered “Dignitatis Humanae,” Catholicism’s definitive 1965 document about religious liberty: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” The document also argues that free will — free search — is foundational: “The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.” Religious liberty as a whole is at risk when a society embraces the idea that some searches for truth are invalid because of where they lead.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) The Religious Leaders on the Front Lines of Mental Health

The Rev. Edward Cardoza estimates that the volume of calls, messages and texts from members of his St. Mark’s Episcopal Church increased 20-fold over the past year. Most read something like this: “I’m sure you’re really busy and don’t have time, but if you do, would you have time for a conversation?”

People who had been sober for 10 or 15 years worried they might start drinking again. Some mentioned suicide. Couples who rarely argued were yelling at each other.

When the church resumed in-person services June 13, a new tension emerged: surprisingly angry reactions from some members to any pandemic-related safeguards that remained in place. Other clergy he talked to have seen similar levels of acrimony.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

(Chronicle Live) ‘The exact opposite of levelling up’ – North East groups including the Bp of Durham call for Universal Credit uplift to be kept

An unprecedented coalition of groups in the North East – including business leaders, unions, charities and the Bishop of Durham – have come together to condemn the Government’s planned cut to universal credit as ‘the exact opposite of levelling up’.

Groups including the North East Child Poverty Commission, Children North East and the North East England Chamber of Commerce have signed the letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak opposing the ending of the Government’s £20 universal credit uplift.

The benefit increase came into force at the beginning of the pandemic but ministers have confirmed that it will phased out over the coming months, despite opposition from across the policital spectrum and from a number of charities.

A total of 17 North East organisations have signed the letter, as has Bishop of Durham the Rt Rev Paul Butler, who takes responsibility for child poverty for the Church of England.

It points out that the cut in benefits will take £5m a week from the regional economy and make it harder for the North East to recover from the Covid crisis.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CNA) Coptic Orthodox church in British Columbia destroyed in ‘suspicious’ fire

A Coptic Orthodox church in British Columbia was destroyed in a fire on Monday, July 19, just days after an attempted arson attack damaged the church’s door.

Local police said they were alerted to a fire at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey around 3:17 a.m. on Monday. By the time the fire was extinguished, the building was almost entirely demolished and only a single wall was left standing. No one was reported injured in the fire.

“While today is a day of sadness, we will not be deterred and we will rebuild,” said Bishop Mina of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada in a statement on Monday. “Our church will always be open for all and continue to be a beacon of light and hope for all in our community.”

Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, stated Monday on Twitter that he was “saddened” by news of the fire.

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Posted in Canada, Religion & Culture

(AP) Court Upholds Ruling in Favor of InterVarsity at U of Iowa–“We are hard-pressed to find a clearer example of viewpoint discrimination”

Attorneys with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office listed on court filings as representing the university in the lawsuit did not immediately return phone messages Friday seeking comment.

A UI spokeswoman, Anne Bassett, said in an email Friday afternoon that the university “respects the decision of the court and will move forward in accordance with the decision.”

Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for InterVarsity, said Friday’s ruling puts other schools on notice.

“Schools are supposed to be a place of free inquiry and open thought, but the school officials here punished opinions they didn’t like and promoted ones they did — all while using taxpayer dollars to do it,” Blomberg said.

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

(CT) Hannah Anderson–We Put Down Roots. Then Everything Around Us Shifted.

In reflecting on this, Pastor John Starke of New York City notes that “while the pandemic has surely exposed what is fragile in our world and in the church, it has also exposed what is in vain … [some] had been trying to build something that God had no intention of building. ”

And so I wonder, how does work and life need to change not despite the earthquake but because of it? What things need to be torn down to make way for new possibilities?

Reporting on the challenges churches face coming out of the pandemic, Kate Shellnutt writes “What feels like struggles atop struggles could be an opportunity for the church to live up to its ideals, to care well for each other and look to God in their suffering.”

But more than anything in this moment, I find myself learning to hope—to believe that even as an earthquake remakes a place that this place can still hold possibility and calling.

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Posted in Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Theology