Category : Religion & Culture

(UnHerd in 2018) Losing their religion: the priests who turned from God

Over the course of less than two decades, [Richard] Holloway moved from doubts over the uses to which religion can be put to a complete rejection of its divine origins. That path is one that many others have made and many more doubtless fear making. But what makes Holloway different is not merely that he made this journey whilst himself being a member of the clergy or that he wrote about it whilst doing so. What is different and significant about Holloway is that while he became disenchanted with traditional religion and while he became surer of its man-made nature he nevertheless saw that there remained something in religion, and the Christian story in particular, that deserved and needed to be saved.

In his 2012 memoir, Leaving Alexandria, he described with frankness not only the fundamentalism that had pushed him away from the church, but those few hopes he had still had left for it. His religion is now, he says, “pared away to almost nothing” 7, and he asks what he is left believing. ‘Was religion a lie? Not necessarily, but it was a mistake. Lies are just lies, but mistakes can be corrected and lessons can be learned from them. “The mistake’” he says,”‘was to think religion was more than human.”

Though he concludes that religion was a work of the human imagination he reiterates that that itself is not nothing. If it could be appreciated as other works of the human imagination are appreciated – so long as people did not fall over again into thinking it was more than that – if it could be appreciated like Shakespeare, and Proust, Elgar, Tolstoy, Gaugin or Nietzsche (to use Holloway’s list) and seen to have no more authority than them, then the uses of religion might still be for the good.

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Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church

(Church Times) Enquirers’ courses are attended mainly by churchgoers, statistics suggest

One third of Church of England churches run enquiry and “Christian basics” courses and two-thirds of these report that their courses are attended mainly by people who already go to church, new statistics suggest.

The figures have been collated for the first time at Church House, Westminster, in the Statistics for Mission 2018 report, published by the C of E’s Research and Statistics department.

Of the 13,003 churches that responded to this question, 34 per cent reported that they ran such courses (4400 churches). Of this group, 28 per cent ran courses that they had designed themselves; 28 per cent ran Alpha; 17 per cent ran the Pilgrim course; nine per cent ran Christianity Explored; and 30 per cent ran other courses, including Lent and confirmation classes.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) said that they were mainly attended by people who already attended church regularly. Ten per cent said that they were mainly attended by people who did not already attend regularly, and 19 per cent that they had equal numbers of church-goers and non-church-goers.

The Experiences of Ministry survey of 2011, completed by 2916 members of the clergy, found “an important association between the running of nurture courses and both forms of growth [spiritual and numerical]; growth is stronger when nurture courses are more frequently run.” Research by Dr Stephen Hunt published in 2001 found that 77 per cent of Alpha attendees were already churchgoers, although his sample size was small.

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

(RNS) National Association of Evangelicals names new president, diverse leadership

Scholar and minister Walter Kim, an expert on the theology of race, has been chosen as the next president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Kim is a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has served on the board of the group, an umbrella organization of 40 evangelical Christian denominations, since 2013.

“As a proven pastor, scholar and thought leader, Walter brings an incredible combination of skills to lead the National Association of Evangelicals into the next decade,” said Roy Taylor, chair of NAE’s board of directors, in a Thursday (Oct. 17) announcement of Kim’s election.

“His ability to think critically and engage charitably has garnered respect and enthusiasm among our leaders as we consider the future of the NAE and evangelicalism in America and throughout the world.”

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

(PRC) In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.

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

(Christian Today) Church of England’s digital reach grows as service attendance continues to fall

Record numbers of people are seeking Christian contemplation and reflection through the Church of England’s apps and social media platforms, but service attendance continues to struggle, new figures have revealed.

Apps that allow users to pray the ancient ‘Daily Office’ of morning, evening and night prayer were used 4.2 million times on Apple devices alone in the last 12 months, up by 446,000 on the year before.

In addition to the apps, millions more are engaging with prayers, reflections and other posts from the Church of England through social media.

According to figures in its 2019 digital report, the Church of England now has an average monthly reach on social media of 3.6 million.

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

(CEN) Peter Brierley–Anglican evangelicals in focus

On their Census form clergy were invited to tick different boxes. Many Anglican Evangelicals, 49 per cent, ticked both “Broad” and “Evangelical” in 1990, but such had dropped to 29 per cent by 2010 and are likely to be only 12 per cent by 2030 if present trends continue. Also in 1990, a third of all Anglican Evangelicals, 35 per cent, ticked “Charismatic” as well as “Evangelical.” Anglican Charismatic Evangelicals have remained about the same proportion since (39 per cent in 2010 and 31 per cent probably in 2030), perhaps partly because the meaning of “charismatic” has changed, some formerly Charismatic churches now simply calling themselves Evangelical.

The third group of Evangelicals, outside the Broad and Charismatic, are called “Mainstream” Evangelical in the early reports, simply to save confusion with the other two groups (ministers simply ticking the one word “Evangelical” on the Census form). The word was used before the Mainstream Anglican group came into being, although as it happens probably many of the churches in the two groups would be the same. Many would now prefer the word “Conservative” to “Mainstream”, which may or may not fit theological definitions!

It is, however, this group which is growing among the Anglicans. The Mainstream Evangelical Anglicans were only16 per cent of all Evangelical Anglicans in 1990, but had doubled in proportion to 33 per cent by 2010, and they could be almost three-fifths, 58 per cent, of the total by 2030. It is the Mainstream Evangelicals which are also growing in most of the other denominations, especially the Baptists, Independent ch urches and the Pentecostals.

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

(David Ould) Diocese of Perth approves extra-marital sex for clergy and church workers

davidould.net understands this change was the subject of significant debate in the legislative committee for several months prior to synod but liberal voices were insistent.

The revised standard, which now means that sexual activity outside marriage is now considered appropriate for clergy and church workers, was adopted on the voices by synod.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Premiere) Bishops push for better support for women released from prison

The Bishop of Newcastle, together with the Bishop of Gloucester, hosted an event in the House of Lords on Tuesday 15 October to highlight the importance of finding suitable accommodation for women released from prison.

The event, supported by the Church Commissioners and Dame Caroline Spelman MP, brought together people and organisations from across the country who work with women in prison, in the community through Women’s Centres, housing providers and MPs. The event showcased powerful examples of how people are working to drive change for disadvantaged women.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Women

Anne Snyder–Turning the Tide: Celebrating Comment and a New Era of Voices

A subtle yet important question embedded here is one of influence: How are Christians called to influence the larger culture? As long as I’ve been an adult swimming in and out of Christian waters, talk of “witness” and “Christ redeeming culture” has seemed to hinge more on strategies leveraging temporal power than it has about nurturing contexts for demonstrations of God’s power. From messianic hopes placed in the White House every four years, to theories of cultural change overly dependent upon our elites and the institutions they represent maintaining the public trust, there seems to be a glaring forgetfulness about who Jesus Christ said He was and the Beatitudinal Kingdom He came to bring. Many white believers in particular, if I may, are expressing crisis-level concern that Christianity is threatened in the West, a fear that has driven them to make certain political choices and appear like an aggrieved minority hungry for lost power. While I believe deeply in the leavening role the sacred sector plays in our society and will march to preserve the freedoms of the faithful as indispensable to our democracy surviving, the rhetoric from today’s more conservative spokesmen make them look amazingly ignorant of what their faith community actually is in their own nation, of Christianity’s growth and vitality among the burgeoning sectors of our society. In short, those who get to speak for “We, the Church” are too often found fighting their own oppression while not attending to the struggles, energy AND the wisdom of their brothers and sisters from historically non-dominant worlds.

Now, a personal caveat. I’m really grateful for Western civilization: I’ve been shaped by its ideals, I’ve worked for several institutions that seek to protect and advance them. But here at Nyack, in all its grittiness and prismatic perspective, the future felt closer, the Christian difference more palpable. Here were souls whose stories were rooted in exile, and yet they were living into this exile with hope and hospitality. And I wondered, sitting there, tears coming down my face, if the more visible ambassadors of American Christianity, concerned for the future of Western civilization and the freedoms of the faithful, could learn something from their posture and build an alliance.

This next season of Comment Magazine would like to play a role in bridging these worlds and resourcing their brother and sisterhood. As sincere people of faith navigate an era that once again scorns and misunderstands us, there is a need to look beyond each of our own cultural and ecclesial comfort zones for instruction, sustenance and relationship with those whose lives are surrendered to the same Source of Life and Love, yet are faced with different pains, equipped with different gifts, and live in trusted relationship with different communities. We at Comment would like to provide a long and unruly banquet table both on and off our actual pages for conversation, exploration, storytelling and artistic expression that is at once more Beatitudinal, more widely accessible to people of all walks of life, and more reflective of the body of Christ in ALL its beauty, scars and missteps. We’d also like to be more hospitable to those who, in the lonely cry of our age, say, “I don’t believe in God, but I sure do miss Him.”

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Theology

(ABC Aus.) Ilana Pardes–“Draw me after you, let us run”: The poetry, sensuality and relentless artistry of the Song of Songs

This collection of love poems revolves around a dialogue between two young lovers: the Shulamite, as the beloved is called, and her nameless lover. There is something utterly refreshing in the frank celebration of love that is found in the passionate exchanges of the two. Nowhere else in the Bible are bodily parts — hair, nose, eyes, lips, tongue, breasts, thighs — set on a pedestal; nowhere else are the sensual pleasures of love — tastes, colours, sounds and perfumes — relished with such joy; nowhere else is sexual desire spelled out with so much verve.

And yet sexuality is never blatant in the Song. Instead we find a nuanced combination of audacity, innocence and decorum, made possible by a spectacular metaphoric web that allows the two lovers to be direct and indirect at once.

Both lovers are masters of metaphor. If much of the love poetry of antiquity (and beyond) sets male lovers on stage as the agents of courting, here we find a strikingly egalitarian amorous dialogue between two virtuoso speakers who woo each other while juggling a plethora of metaphors and similes from different realms. They liken each other to roses, trees, gazelles, doves, goats, the moon, the sun, a crimson thread, perfumes, gold, precious stones, locks, walls and towers. No figure of speech seems to suffice in depicting love.

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Things Worth Dying For: The Nature of a Life Worth Living

Family, friends, honor, and integrity: These are natural loves. Throughout history, men and women have been willing to die for these loves. As Christians, though, we claim to be animated—first and foremost—by a supernatural love: love for God as our Creator and Jesus Christ as his Son. St. Polycarp, for all his caution and prudence, eventually did choose martyrdom rather than repudiate his Christian faith.

The issue at hand is this: Are we really willing to do the same; and if so, how must we live in a way that proves it? These aren’t theoretical questions. They’re brutally real. Right now Christians in many countries around the world are facing the choice of Jesus Christ or death. Last year the German novelist Martin Mosebach published an account of the 21 migrant workers in Libya who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and executed for their faith. Twenty were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One was another African who refused to separate himself from his brothers in the faith.

The murder of those 21 Christians is captured on video. It’s hard to watch—not just because the act is barbaric, but also because, in our hearts, we fear that, faced with the same choice, we might betray our faith in order to save our lives. Put frankly, the martyrs, both ancient and modern, frighten us as much as they inspire us. And maybe this reaction makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a version of the biblical principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of martyrdom is the beginning of an honest appraisal of our spiritual mediocrity.

So I think we should consider this fear for a moment, rather than repressing it, as we so often do.

The Christian men beheaded on the Libyan beach are not really so remote from us. The worry we naturally feel, that we might fail a similar test, is a concrete and urgent version of the anxiety we rightly feel when we think about coming before the judgment of God. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know that we’re likely to fail that test too. After all, we’re barely able to live up to the basic demands of the Ten Commandments. Many of us have trouble following even the minimal norms of a Catholic life: regular confession and Mass attendance, kindness to others, and a few minutes of daily prayer. If those very simple things are struggles, how can we possibly have the spiritual strength to face martyrdom? Or the judgment of a just God?

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(PR FactTank) In the U.S. and Western Europe, people say they accept Muslims, but opinions are divided on Islam

At the same time, there is no consensus on whether Islam fits into these societies. Across Western Europe, people are split on Islam’s compatibility with their country’s culture and values, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. And in the U.S., public opinion remains about evenly divided on whether Islam is part of mainstream American society and if Islam is compatible with democracy, according to a 2017 poll.

The vast majority of non-Muslim Americans (89%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The same survey finds that most people (79%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as members of their family.

In Western Europe, most people also say they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbors. However, Europeans are less likely than Americans to say they would be willing to accept Muslims as family members. While about two-thirds of non-Muslim French people (66%) say they would accept a Muslim in their family, just over half of British (53%), Austrian (54%) and German (55%) adults say this. Italians are the least likely in Europe to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (43%).

The vast majority of people across 15 countries in Western Europe and in the United States say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors. Slightly lower shares on both sides of the Atlantic say they would be willing to accept a Muslim as a family member.

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Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(BBC) Church of Scotland considers selling half Aberdeen’s churches

Almost half of Aberdeen’s churches are being considered for sale as part of a “once in a generation” review.

The 10-year plan recommends 15 buildings for disposal, with 15 being retained and the future of a further three under consideration.

The Church of Scotland report said it aimed “to reshape the church estate”.

Rev Scott Rennie, planning convener for the Presbytery, said there were “many more” church buildings than needed and that “difficult choices” lay ahead.

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Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Church Times) This is how to honour the referendum: Welby clarifies Bishops’ statement

A binary “winner-takes-all” approach to Brexit does not honour the result of the 2016 Referendum, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week.

Archbishop Welby has written to clarify the College of Bishops’ statement, issued two weeks ago. He repeats his view that a no-deal Brexit would be a “moral failure”, an expression that attracted “intense criticism”, he reveals.

The College of Bishops produced a statement a fortnight ago which included the sentence: “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured” (News, 4 October).

Archbishop Welby argues, in response to criticism of the statement, in the Church Times and elsewhere: “To honour or respect the 2016 Referendum result is not to sign up to Brexit at any cost.

“Honouring the result means no more than paying proper attention to an outcome that saw 52 per cent of those who voted favouring leave, but 48 per cent favouring remain.”

He goes on: “It does not mean that the Bishops have aligned themselves with any particular political party, faction, or wing within a party.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Holy tech! Churches try new ways to connect

Geraint Harries, a technology specialist, for St John the Evangelist in Lancashire, admits that when his parish first started using social media, it didn’t get it quite right.

“At first we didn’t really know what social media meant for the church and fell into the trap of simply chasing the number of likes and followers on our Facebook page,” he says.

But when a parishioner credited the Facebook page for her decision to return to the church, then he felt the strategy had started to work.

Weekly posts on the social media page of the church which simply asked “How can we pray for you today?” resonated with the woman going through a divorce last Christmas.

“Sometimes it can be daunting to turn up in person to a service so connecting online, more anonymously, can make it easier to take that first step into the building which happened here,” he adds.

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Posted in Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NR) German Interior Minister: Yom Kippur Shooting was Anti-Semitic Attack

German officials called a live-streamed shooting at a synagogue Wednesday in the city of Halle an anti-Semitic attack after the gunman denied the Holocaust and denounced Jews on the stream before embarking.

Two people have been killed and another two are seriously injured, according to Reuters, and a suspect is in custody. The gunman attempted to force his way into the synagogue, but was unsuccessful after finding the gates shut. The man then went on a shooting spree, killing a woman outside and a man in a nearby kabob shop.

Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper that approximately 75 people were in the synagogue observing Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement which is the holiest day of the Jewish year and is marked by fasting and solemn prayer.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” he said. “We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police.”

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Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

Anglicare Australia calls for Robodebt system to be suspended

Anglicare Australia called for Centrelink’s Robodebt system to be suspended at a Senate committee hearing today.

“The Robodebt system has no human oversight – and it puts the onus onto ordinary people to correct robotised mistakes,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“The Government has already admitted that the system that has saddled people with tens of millions of dollars in false debt. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Many people are simply paying these false debts instead of challenging them. In other cases, the debts are so old that the records to contradict them no longer exist.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Diocese of Oxford) A Christian response to Brexit

  1. –Watch over other faith and minority ethnic communities. Hate crimes and crimes against other faiths increased after the 2016 referendum. Reconnect with the mosques, synagogues and gudwaras in your area.
  2. –Encourage truthful and honest debate. The renewal of our politics will need to be local as well as national. Plan now to host hustings during the General Election campaign. Don’t be afraid of the political space but step into it with a message of faith, hope and love.
  3. –Pray in public worship and private prayer for the healing of our political life, for wisdom for those who lead us, for reconciliation between communities and for stability in our government.

Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small.

Don’t take on too much either: loving our neighbour through the Brexit process needs to be woven into everything we do anyway, not simply added into busy lives. Don’t be limited by this checklist – you might have even better ideas. If you do, spread them around.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture

(CT) Syrian Christians to US: ‘Don’t Abandon Us Now’

The Kurdish-controlled area of northeast Syria stretches 300 miles from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border. Approximately 750,000 people live there, including estimates of between 40,000 and 100,000 Christians.

Over 700,000 Christians have fled Syria since 2011. And while some warn of further displacement, others fear a greater threat.

“Turkey aims to kill and destroy us and to finish the genocide against our people,” said a statement issued by the Syriac Military Council, a Christian component of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), as reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “We hope and pray that as we have defended the world against ISIS, the world will not abandon us now.”

The Christian community of Qamishli, on the border with Turkey near Iraq, issued its own statement.

“The Turkish regime is based on armed extremist and radical groups that commit crimes against civilians and humanity,” said Sanharib Barsoum, the co-chair of the Syriac Union Party. “Such threats endanger the life of Syriac people in the region.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Syria, Turkey

(NYT) Why a judge says she gave Amber Guyger a Bible, a hug and hope of redemption

At the end of the trial, after the jury had been dismissed, Judge Kemp came down from the bench to offer her condolences to Mr. Jean’s parents, as is her habit when a family has lost a loved one. “I told them that they raised a remarkable son in Botham,” she said.

Next, she said, she stopped by the defense table to offer a word of encouragement to Ms. Guyger. “I said to her, ‘Ms. Guyger, Brandt Jean has forgiven you,’” Judge Kemp recalled, referring to Botham Jean’s brother. “‘Now please forgive yourself so that you can live a productive life when you get out of prison.’”

What followed, she said, was an exchange whose equivalent she could not remember in her decades as a lawyer and her nearly five years on the bench.

“She asked me if I thought her life could have purpose,” Judge Kemp recalled. “I said, ‘I know that it can.’ She said, ‘I don’t know where to start, I don’t have a Bible.’” Judge Kemp said she thought of the Bible in her chambers. “I said, ‘Well, hold on, I’ll get you a Bible.’”

She came back out and, together, they read John 3:16, a passage about redemption.

That is when Ms. Guyger did something that caught the judge off guard: She asked for a hug.

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Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) For Churches, a Temptation to Sell

“With every real-estate cycle, developers will systemically call on religious institutions because their sites are soft,” Ms. Friedman said.

In a way, it’s an odd time for churches to disappear. The number of congregations in New York is actually increasing, according to census records. There were 1,426 congregations in Brooklyn in 2010, up from 959 in 2000, records show, with large gains in Manhattan and Queens, too. And the 2020 census is expected to show more growth, religious leaders predict.

But small mosques and storefront churches account for a lot of the uptick. Older and highly visible institutions that once served Episcopalians and Lutherans, for example, are indeed closing. And dozens of Catholic churches, facing low attendance, have also gone dark in the past 15 years.

“Every time we turn around, another is being sold,” Gilford T. Monrose, who directs the Office of Faith-Based and Clergy Initiatives on behalf of Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President.

Concerned that the borough is losing an important source of community services, Mr. Monrose has been working over the past few years to get churches to consider affordable housing as a lifeline.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

Alister McGrath—Science and Faith: Conflicting or Enriching?

Posted in Apologetics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(WSJ) David Bashevkin–#MeToo Should Include #SinToo: America needs a secular Yom Kippur, a day of reflection and atonement

America needs a Yom Kippur—a day to reflect on our guilt, however defined, and take steps, however small, to make amends. Belief in God is helpful but not necessary for the country to establish a day when Americans can grapple with sin and restore others’ faith in them. Such a day may already exist, though few know it.

Eisenhower’s call for Americans to “confess their sins” came from his proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer. Eisenhower called it a “National Day of Penance and Prayer.” But like “sin,” over the years “penance” disappeared, too. Those words ought to be brought back.

“Women at Work: Changes in Sexual Harassment between September 2016 and September 2018”—a PLoS One journal article from May—found that the most egregious forms of sexual harassment decreased in 2018. Given heightened fear of the legal repercussions, this makes sense. Yet reports of more ambiguous “gender harassment” increased. How could a widespread reckoning with sin influence these numbers?

Imagine a day on which Americans recounted their sins and strived to repent—without concern for legal admissions of guilt, without advice from counsel to invoke the Fifth Amendment. Maybe a spouse would finally apologize. Maybe a supervisor will reflect on how the workplace culture could be healthier. And maybe Americans would, for a moment, move beyond cycles of accusations and outrage and ask what would repair the country’s tattered social fabric.

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

(CT Pastors) Screens Are Changing the Way We Read Scripture

In an article aptly titled “Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain Aren’t the Same Thing,” PRI reports that the habit of superficial comprehension developed in digital reading transfers to all reading such that “the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading—a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.” In reporting on another study published in 2017, Inside Higher Ed notes that “readers may not comprehend complex or lengthy material as well when they view it digitally as when they read it on paper.”

So what does this mean for Christians who are, increasingly, reading the Word on screens instead of on paper?

More than half of Bible users include some form of digital reading, searching, or listening in their Bible usage. A survey reported in a 2015 Journal of Religion article titled “E-Reading and the Christian Bible” finds that a majority of respondents (58%) cited ease and convenience as a major advantage of digital Bibles. Pastors must consider whether this characteristic is one they should tap into or disciple people away from. Many churches already provide physical Bibles during services, but a gentle nudge to use them instead of a Bible app, a page number to help them flip to the correct spot, and a few extra seconds before reading the passage aloud may be worth the slight inconvenience.

Many survey respondents complained that digital text tends to isolate verses apart from their immediate context as well as the Bible as a whole. These respondents noted that the physical layout of the biblical text is important for comprehension, memory, and “correct interpretation.”

Furthermore, despite findings that digital Bibles result in increased Bible reading by many users, challenges to memory and comprehension “persisted even when the frequency of reading actually increased.” As one survey participant reported, “I probably read the Bible more (more often) but possibly less deeply.”

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Posted in Books, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Good Money Week: Using money for good

“In the present state of mankind,” John Wesley declared in his celebrated 18th-century sermon on the use of money, “it is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends.”

Rightly used, he said, money could feed the hungry, provide drink for the thirsty, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the stranger. “It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”

He warned against excessive spending, however, and condemned the exploitation of workers. He called on Christians to be generous in their financial giving, and recognised that money could be misused.

The right use of money has been a Christian concern since the early days of the Church, and, between then and now, both the institution and individuals, in their earning, hoarding, or spending of money, have fallen short of the ideals taught. Today, no doubt, Wesley would be a leading campaigner against the consumer society, drawing attention to how irresponsible and excessive consumption has led to environmental degradation.

Churches and faith investors have, for many years, done their best to align their investments with acceptable beliefs and ethics, and, despite good returns promised, have avoided buying shares in, for example, arms companies, and the tobacco and gambling industries. They have monitored businesses in which they invest closely to ensure they are not exploiting the vulnerable or despoiling the planet.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

(IP) How some American Christians distort the gospel

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CEN) Iraq Christians plea for solidarity with UK church

The Christian community in Iraq, and other minority faiths, have been “broken and scattered” by two decades of violence and suffering – from the 2003 US-UK invasion and warfare, through ISIS terror, to today’s “daily life discrimination’ under the Islamist Iraqi government imposing sharia law.

Such was the sober assessment of Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana of the ancient Assyrian Church of the East, a Christian humanitarian aid pioneer in Iraq, at the recent Edinburgh ‘Scotland Day’ of Embrace the Middle East, which supports his work.

Over these years the Church in Iraq has diminished from 3.2 per cent of the population in 2003 to a mere 0.1 per cent today – through death and diaspora.

The post-invasion collapse of all functioning government left religious minorities as ‘soft targets’ for Muslim terrorists: shops, churches and other institutions of Christians and Yazidis were destroyed; many thousands of Christian families fled Iraq to escape ongoing war, usually going to Jordan or Europe. Some returned when the situation seemed settled, but ISIS’ seizure of two-thirds of Iraq in 2014 saw thousands of Christians slaughtered and raped under its terror.

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Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture