Category : Religion & Culture

The Church of England restricts investment in climate laggards

The Church of England’s National Investing Bodies (NIBs) are delivering on their 2018 commitment to General Synod to engage with and disinvest from high carbon emitting companies that are not making progress to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2023.

Twenty companies have made climate-related changes to stay off the Church’s restricted list since 2020.
Following extensive engagement efforts by the NIBs, nine companies made changes to meet the 2021 hurdles. As a result they stayed off the restricted list for a further year, while 28 companies that did not meet the latest climate hurdles were restricted.

These actions are part of the NIBs’ commitment to transitioning their portfolios away from companies that are unwilling to act and align their businesses with the Goals of the Paris Agreement. The climate hurdles were set by the NIBs using Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) data. Additional exacting hurdles will come into force in 2022 and 2023.

The NIBs are founding members of TPI and are investor engagement leads in the Climate Action 100+ (CA100+) global engagement initiative. As long-term investors, the NIBs will continue to engage with companies to meet their climate objectives and build alliances with like-minded investors to engage with company boards and executives.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

A nifty London Times profile on Diocesan Registrar for Chester and Blackburn, Lisa Moncur

On Boxing Day Lisa Moncur received a call from a vicar asking for help to arrange a special marriage licence for someone who was terminally ill. She has also been called on to deal with a badger whose industrious digging had uncovered human remains in a churchyard.

It was all part of her varied work as the Church of England’s diocesan registrar for both Chester and Blackburn. Registrars are personally appointed by the diocesan bishop and must be a qualified solicitor and a communicant in the Church of England.

Moncur was appointed to the diocese in Chester in 2016, and in Blackburn last year, after 20 years working as a commercial property solicitor. In that previous role, Moncur says, “I got up and knew what each day would look like” — but as a diocesan registrar she never knows what to expect and “there is never a dull day”.

Her job is to provide advice and support on ordinations, consecrations, confirmations, baptisms, marriages and burials as well as general legal advice to clergy and parishes, maintaining diocesan and parochial records, and advising on parish trusts.

Read it all (requires subscription).

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

(Premier) The Bishop of Ripon speaks up against government plans to abolish BBC licence fee

A bishop from the Church of England has spoken out about government plans to abolish the BBC licence fee.

Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, the Bishop of Ripon has praised the Corporation’s role in developing greater understanding of religion.

Dr Hartley is a Chair of the Sandford St Martin Trust that promotes ‘excellence in broadcasting about religion ethics and spirituality.’

She has expressed deep concern about Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries statement about possibly abolishing the licence fee after 2027.

Dr Hartley, issued a statement on the Sandford St Martin Trust website, she said: “It is with concern that we at the Trust have read reports that the BBC is to be hit by a funding freeze and that the culture secretary Nadine Dorries is anticipating the abolition of the licence fee after 2027.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) ‘Eco dioceses’ all round in race to reach 2030 goal

All 42 dioceses in the Church of England have signed up to become “eco dioceses” as part of their commitment to reaching carbon net zero by 2030.

Under the Eco Dioceses scheme, developed by the charity A Rocha UK, churches and dioceses are awarded bronze, silver, or gold status, depending on actions taken to improve their environmental footprint.

The development was welcomed by the Bishop of Norwich and lead bishop on the environment, the Rt Revd Graham Usher. He said: “Having every diocese sign up is a statement of intent from all of us as we take seriously the need to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss today.

“A Rocha UK’s Eco Church and Diocese scheme is a great tool, which enables local churches at every level of their climate justice journey to engage with environmental issues. We know that climate change and biodiversity loss impact us all — especially the world’s poorest countries….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(CT) Evangelical churchgoers are pretty happy with how things are going at their churches

At a time when pastors feel particularly under pressure, here’s some good news from the pews: Evangelical churchgoers are pretty happy with how things are going at their churches.

Most don’t think the sermons are too long; if anything, they’d like to see more in-depth teaching from leaders. They aren’t bothered by too many messages about giving. They don’t think social issues and politics play an outsized role in the teaching.

That’s according to a new survey of evangelical churchgoers in the US, the Congregational Scorecard conducted by Grey Matter Research and Consulting and Infinity Concepts.

Around three-quarters are satisfied with their congregation approach to various areas of church life and wouldn’t want it to change, the survey found.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Martin Luther King Jr. in the Christian Century how I changed my Mind series in 1960–My Pilgrimage to nonviolence

I also came to see that liberalism’s superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. The more I thought about human nature the more I saw how our tragic inclination for sin causes us to use our minds to rationalize our actions. Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man’s defensive ways of thinking. Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

In spite of the fact that I had to reject some aspects of liberalism, I never came to an all-out acceptance of neo-orthodoxy. While I saw neo-orthodoxy as a helpful corrective for a liberalism that had become all too sentimental, I never felt that it provided an adequate answer to the basic questions. If liberalism was too optimistic concerning human nature, neo-orthodoxy was too pessimistic. Not only on the question of man but also on other vital issues, neo-orthodoxy went too far in its revolt. In its attempt to preserve the transcendence of God, which had been neglected by liberalism’s overstress of his immanence, neo-orthodoxy went to the extreme of stressing a God who was hidden, unknown and “wholly other.” In its revolt against liberalism’s overemphasis on the power of reason, neo-orthodoxy fell into a mood of antirationalism and semifundamentalism, stressing a narrow, uncritical biblicism. This approach, I felt, was inadequate both for the church and for personal life.

So although liberalism left me unsatisfied on the question of the nature of man, I found no refuge in neo-orthodoxy. I am now convinced that the truth about man is found neither in liberalism nor in neo-orthodoxy. Each represents a partial truth. A large segment of Protestant liberalism defined man only in terms of his essential nature, his capacity for good. Neo-orthodoxy tended to define man only in terms of his existential nature, his capacity for evil. An adequate understanding of man is found neither in the thesis of liberalism nor in the antithesis of neo-orthodoxy, but in a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(1st Things) Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it—and I believe he is right—he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama—in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Read it all.

Posted in History, Language, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Prison/Prison Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) The needed Voice of a local Hero—The Rev. Anthony Thompson’s message of forgiveness shaped by tragedy, MLK

‘“It’s ‘You can’t destroy my spirit,’” Cone told the magazine. ”‘I have a forgiving spirit because that’s what God created me to be.’”

Thompson’s message doesn’t let Whites off the hook. White people must repent, he said. Though today’s White Americans haven’t participated in slavery, they reap the benefits, which are seen in today’s social and economic inequities, Thompson said.

Thompson, who was the speaker for this year’s MLK ecumenical service at Greater St. Luke AME on Jan. 16, sees a connection between his message and King’s philosophy of nonviolence. In his sermon “The Meaning of Forgiveness,” King preached that he saw forgiveness as the solution to the nation’s “race problem.” King saw forgiveness as a “weapon of social redemption.”

Similar to King, Thompson feels that forgiveness can bring about racial healing.

“Martin Luther King Jr. once said: ‘We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love,’” Thompson said at the service.’

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

I find it always is really worth the time to listen to and read and ponder it all on this day especially–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(Economist) Hindu bigots are openly urging Indians to murder Muslims

All hindus must pick up weapons and conduct a cleanliness drive,” bellowed a Hindu priest at a three-day “religious parliament” in north India last month. Another speaker fired up the large crowd even more crudely: “If a hundred of us become soldiers and kill two million of them, we will be victorious.” By “them”, she meant India’s 200m Muslims.

Those priests baying for blood are not isolated bigots. Under the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi, the world’s most populous democracy has seen a growing wave of intolerance. In Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi, Muslims have been denied the use of open space to pray because it “offends sentiments”. They have also been denied permission to build mosques. Elsewhere Muslims accused of transporting cattle for slaughter, or of being in possession of beef, are sometimes lynched. Muslim businesses are boycotted. In recent months young Hindu radicals have persecuted high-profile Muslim women by creating apps to “auction” them off.

Muslims are not the only target of Hindu chauvinism. In Varanasi, a Hindu temple town, posters warn non-Hindus to stay away. Attacks on Christians, a tiny minority, have risen in recent years. Last week, after Mr Modi, the prime minister, was briefly delayed on an overpass in Sikh-majority Punjab, people associated with his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) warned darkly of a repeat of 1984, when thousands of Sikhs were killed in pogroms after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. In an index of societal discrimination against minorities compiled by Bar Ilan University in Israel, India scores worse than Saudi Arabia and no better than Iran. It is impossible to know the number of hate crimes in the country: independent trackers were shut down in 2017 and 2019, and the government stopped collecting data in 2017.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Gallup) U.S. Charitable Donations Rebound; Volunteering Still Down

Eighty-one percent of Americans say they donated money to a religious or other charitable organization in the past year, and 56% volunteered time to such an organization. After dipping in April 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic, charitable donations have rebounded and are essentially back to the level measured in 2013 and 2017 surveys.

Volunteer activity also dropped in 2020 but, in contrast to charitable giving, remains lower than it was in pre-pandemic surveys. While lower today than in recent years, the rate of volunteering has been at its current level in the past, most notably during the Great Recession.

The decline in donations was seen among all income groups in 2020, but more so among those in lower- and middle-income households. Charitable donations are back up among those in all income brackets, with upper-income Americans now returning to pre-pandemic rates. Giving rates among lower- and middle-income Americans are only slightly below where they were in 2017.

Volunteer activity is also lower now among all income groups than before the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CT) Russell Moore–Why Christians should support our government staying out of religious affairs.

We believe in religious freedom not because we believe in freedom on its own terms, but because we believe in the exclusivity of Christ and in the power of the gospel. We believe there is one name under heaven whereby we must be saved—and that name is not “Caesar” or “Ayatollah” or “assistant secretary for civic affairs.”

We believe in religious freedom because we know what Jesus has given us to fight against the kingdom of darkness—the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We believe in religious freedom because there’s no civil substitute for the gospel of Christ.

We believe in religious freedom because we want to persuade our neighbors to be reconciled to God—not so they won’t be fined by the earthly government, but so they will find eternal life in the heavenly kingdom. So that they won’t end up in hell.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) Why the Roman Catholic Church Is Losing Latin America

Tatiana Aparecida de Jesus used to walk the city’s streets as a sex worker, high on crack cocaine. Last year, the mother of five joined a small Pentecostal congregation in downtown Rio called Sanctification in the Lord and left her old life behind.

“The pastor hugged me without asking anything,” said Ms. de Jesus, 41, who was raised a Catholic and is one of more than a million Brazilians who have joined an evangelical or Pentecostal church since the beginning of the pandemic, according to researchers. “When you are poor, it makes so much of a difference when someone just says ‘good morning’ to you, ‘good afternoon,’ or shakes your hand,” she said.

For centuries, to be Latin American was to be Catholic; the religion faced virtually no competition. Today, Catholicism has lost adherents to other faiths in the region, especially Pentecostalism, and more recently to the ranks of the unchurched. The shift has continued under the first Latin American pope.

Seven countries in the region—Uruguay, the Dominican Republic and five in Central America—had a majority of non-Catholics in 2018, according to a survey by Latinobarómetro, a Chilean-based pollster. In a symbolic milestone, Brazil, which has the most Catholics of any country in the world, is expected to become minority-Catholic as soon as this year, according to estimates by academics that track religious affiliation.

Read it all.

Posted in Brazil, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, South America

BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviews Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Listen to it all (starts just past 2:42 minutes in and goes around 5 minutes).

“One way we grieve well is to reach out to others…”

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) Rowan Williams–The world feels fragile, but we can recover from the blows we’ve suffered

…what science alone does not do is build the motivation for a deeper level of connection. We act effectively not just when we find a language in common to identify problems, but when we recognise that those who share these challenges are profoundly like us, to the extent that we can to some degree feel their frailty as if it were ours – or at least, feel their frailty impacting directly on our own, so that we cannot be secure while they remain at risk.

This is where art comes in. Like the sciences, it makes us shelve our self-oriented habits for a bit. Listening to music, looking at an exhibition, reading a novel, watching a theatre or television drama, we open doors to experiences that are not our own. If science helps us discover that there are things to talk about that are not determined just by the self-interest of the people talking, art opens us up to how the stranger feels, uncovering connections where we had not expected them.

What religion adds to this is a further level of motivation. The very diverse vocabularies of different religious traditions claim not only that the Other is someone we can recognise but that they are someone we must look at with something like reverence. The person before us has a claim on our attention, even our contemplation, and on our active generosity. The religions of south and east Asia question the very idea of a safe and stable self with a territory to protect against others; while for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the claim of the stranger is grounded in the conviction that every human beings is a vehicle of God’s presence and God’s glory – “made in God’s image”.

Being more deeply connected will not take away the fragility of our condition, but it will help us see that it is worth parking the obsessions of tribes and echo chambers so that we can actually learn from and with each other; that it is worth making what local difference can be made, so as to let the dignity of the human person be seen with greater clarity. “Our life and death are with our neighbour,” said one of the saints of early Christian monasticism. That is the humanism we need if we are not to be paralysed by the fragility we cannot escape.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, Ecology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Telegraph) Children risk being targeted by ‘aggressive gambling adverts on social media’

The Church of England has warned that a social media advertising “loophole” could leave children exposed to “aggressive” gambling adverts.

Rt Revd Alan Smith, the Bishop of St Albans, said a ruling this week by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), set a concerning “precedent” for promotions on social media.

The watchdog’s ruling dismissed complaints about poker adverts on a popular YouTube channel, as the owner supplied analytics from the site showing that most of his audience were over 18.

However, the Bishop warned that the analytics were an “incredibly dubious metric” as YouTube, which has a minimum age of 13, does not have any age verification and many viewers watch it without signing into an account.’

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(C of E) New ‘cathedral’ of digital worshippers emerges from online broadcasts

Members of a new “cathedral” of online worshippers formed since the first lockdown are to play a key role in the Church of England’s 100th national online service to be broadcast this weekend.

Prayers will be read by people who joined a regular digital worshipping community that grew through YouTube and Facebook broadcasts of national online services.

The first national online service was broadcast from the crypt chapel at Lambeth Palace on Mothering Sunday 2020 as the nation went into lockdown. Since then a service has been broadcast every Sunday – with additional services broadcast over Easter, Advent and Christmas.

The broadcast on Sunday, marking the milestone of the 100th service, will led by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields Dr Sam Wells, with a sermon from Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, who oversees the Church of England’s national online services.

Dr Hamley, who took part in the first online service broadcast in March 2020 from the Crypt chapel of Lambeth Palace, will pay tribute to the work of both the national and local churches in providing online services during the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Robyn Vinter–A Christmas Carol is not cosy, and its angry message should still haunt us

“A Christmas Carol isn’t just a cheery, uplifting tale that we can mimic in various modern ways,” says Mayhew. “It’s a very seriously intended work of moral fiction and, perhaps because we tend to pigeonhole it as a Christmas story, we don’t read just how serious it is.”

The message that Dickens had for Victorian Britain is increasingly pertinent, even though we may use different words to describe similar problems, [Professor Robert] Mayhew believes.

“It’s interesting because we’re living right now with unprecedented levels of homelessness and individuals needing the support of food banks. We have the binary between extreme wealth on one hand and those inured to poverty on the other.” You feel the resonance of A Christmas Carol seems to get stronger every year.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Christmas, England / UK, History, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(BBC) In pictures: the World celebrates Christmas in 2021

People across the world are celebrating Christmas – one of the holiest times in the Christian calendar. However, for the second year in a row, there are smaller crowds at church services and other events because of the continuing coronavirus outbreak. Here’s our snapshot of global festivities….

Take the time to go though them all.

Posted in Christmas, Globalization, Photos/Photography, Religion & Culture

The Queen’s Christmas message for 2021

And for me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children, of whom we were delighted to welcome four more this year.

They teach us all a lesson – just as the Christmas story does – that in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential.

It is this simplicity of the Christmas story that makes it so universally appealing: simple happenings that formed the starting point of the life of Jesus — a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith. His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(SMH) Philip Huggins–The Christmas story evokes a warm-heartedness the world needs

As the Dalai Lama says and as the Christmas story conveys, there is a lot of warm-hearted understanding and forgiveness needed. A lot of more honest conversations which acknowledge our mistakes and offer new beginnings. A lot of choosing to heal and of choosing not to do any further harm.

May this Christmas lift our spirits for this important work that lies ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Christmas, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Nothing can cancel the message of Christmas – bishops speak of hope amid uncertainty

In their annual Christmas messages, bishops of the Church of England speak of the end of 2021 as a time of uncertainty and anxiety but say the message of the Christmas story is needed more than ever.

The Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, refers to weeks of uncertainty about whether some Christmas celebrations should go ahead amid concerns about spreading covid-19, at the end of “another unsettling year for the human race, and us as individuals”.

But he adds: “Every Christmas we tell again the story of … God, who loves our world so much that he chooses to come among us – not because he is obliged to, not because we have asked him to, but simply out of grace.

“We always begin with grace, and we always come back to grace, shown in the sign of Emmanuel, God with us in Jesus Christ, born as a baby among us.

“No law, no government, no power on earth can cancel the wonder of that birth.”

Read it all and there are video links provided.

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

(ITV) Archbishop of Canterbury talks of disappointment and sadness at Downing Street garden image

So what about the vaccines then? He tweeted recently that getting the booster is how you love your neighbour. Is being vaccinated a moral issue?

“I’m going to step out on thin ice here and say yes, I think it is. A lot of people won’t like that – but I think it is because it’s not about me and my rights.

“Obviously there are some who for health reasons can’t be vaccinated – but it’s not about me and my rights to choose.

“Reducing my chances of getting ill reduces my chances of infecting others. It’s very simple.”
So is it a sin – is it immoral – not to get vaccinated if you can?
“I’m not going to get lured into this because I can see this going back at me for years to come. But I would say – go and get boosted – get vaccinated. It’s how we love our neighbour”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Movies & Television, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(EF) African theologians Harvey Kwiyani and Abraham Waigi assess Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka’s harsh criticism of the increasing influence of churches on the continent

Having expanded as a civilising religion during the era of European colonialism, the growth of Christianity in Africa in the decades after the 1960s has revealed a tendency to reject European patronage, choosing either to ‘pentecostalise’ (to various extents) and, following American-styled expressions of Christianity, to globalise or to embrace a new identity as independent African denominations.

This globalisation of African Christianity has been influenced greatly by American Evangelicalism and with this came the legitimisation of celebrity-styled preachers and the prosperity gospel which has, in turn, led to some African evangelical and Pentecostal preachers using fear to dominate and exploit vulnerable people.

In Western discourses on African Christianity, these prosperity-preaching ministries dominate the conversation. However, a majority of African Christians, especially in rural Africa, have no clue what it is.

Soyinka is against charlatanism, fundamentalism and extremism in religion. He has written and spoken at length about what he perceives as the imperialist tendencies in the two leading religions. He gives many examples of abuse of power and the weaponisation of fear in his creative writings as well as in newspaper articles, lectures (particularly the 2004 BBC Reith Lectures that resulted in his book, Climate of Fear), and other works.

What is particularly troubling here is his tendency to demonise all religion without acknowledging the good that it stands for.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

(Church Times) People are dreaming of a green Christmas, poll suggests

Eight out of ten people in the UK are prepared to change their Christmas habits to help tackle the climate crisis, a new poll suggests. Actions such as ending the use of non-recyclable wrapping paper, and no longer giving plastic toys, were the top choices for households.

Giving secondhand gifts and swapping the Christmas turkey for a vegetarian option were less popular actions for those who took part in the poll for Christian Aid: just 15 per cent of respondents were prepared to have a vegetarian Christmas lunch, compared with 55 per cent who were willing to swap the wrapping paper that they used.

Younger people were most likely to be willing to take action: 89 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds would change their habits this Christmas, compared with 79 per cent of over-55s.

The poll of more than 2000 people was carried out by Savanta ComRes to coincide with Christian Aid’s Christmas appeal for South Sudan.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Telegraph) Evensong by Richard Morris, review: a moving study of Anglicanism’s battle for postwar survival

[Richard] Morris is a man of extraordinary learning, who can’t help digressing from the story of, say, the re-organisation of a parish structure in the 1950s to tell us about a little-known Celtic saint born nearby (Morris shares his father’s romantic attachment to the Celtic roots of Anglicanism), or how recent archaeology has proved that a “dark cloud” mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon history was actually caused by two volcanic eruptions.

The result is something extraordinarily rich, which interweaves past and present and illuminates many aspects of post-war Britain, including shifting class relations, housing and industrial policy, and the cultural tensions between conservationists and gung-ho modernisers – the latter especially important for the Church, which was torn between the two. Instead of finding a principled way forward, it often resorted to intellectually dubious fudges, which arouse Morris’s anger – at one point he describes the Church of England as “pre-eminent in faith and fraud”.

But, though the recent reforms of the Church rarely win his admiration, he loves the wisdom of the institution over time, revealed in such symbolic details as burying the dead near or under the porch of churches, so that the living and the dead were joined together in worship. They bear out his deep conviction that cherishing traditions, and in particular medieval churches (of which there’s a greater abundance in Britain than in the rest of Europe put together), is “not devotion to ashes but the transfer of fire”. One feels the heat of that fire in this wonderful book.

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

(BBC) Burnley’s Pastor Mick: ‘If I lock this door, he dies’

Although Joanne doesn’t blame the mental health team, she believes Robert could have been saved with early help. “I think he’d have been all right – he’d have still been here.”

More than a year on, Joanne is still haunted by death. Each word brings back painful memories, but she wants to share how she is feeling. “I can see the flashbacks. I can see him every day in my head – when I get up, when I go to sleep.”

She says one day everything just became too much for her. “I rang Pastor Mick and he told me to come down. He’s been great.”

Church on the Street has been Joanne’s salvation. She says it’s a place where she and her family feel safe – and she’s not the only one. Hundreds of others come here each week looking for hope.

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Posted in England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(PRC) About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated

The secularizing shifts evident in American society so far in the 21st century show no signs of slowing. The latest Pew Research Center survey of the religious composition of the United States finds the religiously unaffiliated share of the public is 6 percentage points higher than it was five years ago and 10 points higher than a decade ago.

Christians continue to make up a majority of the U.S. populace, but their share of the adult population is 12 points lower in 2021 than it was in 2011. In addition, the share of U.S. adults who say they pray on a daily basis has been trending downward, as has the share who say religion is “very important” in their lives.

Currently, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones” – people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. Self-identified Christians of all varieties (including Protestants, Catholics, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox Christians) make up 63% of the adult population. Christians now outnumber religious “nones” by a ratio of a little more than two-to-one. In 2007, when the Center began asking its current question about religious identity, Christians outnumbered “nones” by almost five-to-one (78% vs. 16%).

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