Category : Religion & Culture

(BP) Supreme Court delivers 2 religious liberty wins

The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed in two 7-2 rulings Wednesday (July 8) that churches and religious organizations are free to make employment and health insurance decisions based on their convictions.

In one ruling, the justices reiterated their support for a “ministerial exception” that enables churches and other religious bodies to hire and fire based on their beliefs. They had ruled unanimously in 2012 in favor of such an exception. In consolidated cases, two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles chose not to renew contracts for two fifth-grade teachers based on what they said was poor performance.
In its other opinion, the high court upheld federal rules that protect the rights of employers with religious or moral objections to the Obama-era, abortion/contraception mandate. The opinion came after a seven-year legal battle by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that serves the poverty-stricken elderly, to gain an exemption from the requirement.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) commended both decisions as victories for religious freedom.

“If a religious organization cannot recruit leaders who agree with the beliefs and practices of those organizations, then there can be no true religious freedom. The Court recognized that today,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written statement of the “ministerial exception” opinion.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

UK Faith leaders make call for environment-focused economic recovery

Marking the end of the first half of London Climate Action Week, representatives from UK faith groups have signed an open letter to the UK Government urging it to ensure that its economic recovery strategy is centred on the urgent need to reduce the impact of climate change.

In the letter, the signatories, some of whom are members of the ‘Faith for the Climate’ network, also commit to the goals of the Laudato Si encyclical – an initiative of Pope Francis – to advocate for and model positive initiatives to continue to tackle the Climate Emergency.

The open letter [begins]:

COVID-19 has unexpectedly taught us a great deal. Amidst the fear and the grief for loved ones lost, many of us have found consolation in the dramatic reduction of pollution and the restoration of nature. Renewed delight in and contact with the natural world has the capacity to reduce our mental stress and nourish us spiritually.

We have rediscovered our sense of how interconnected the world is. The very health and future of humanity depends on our ability to act together not only with respect to pandemics but also in protecting our global eco-system.

At the same time, less travel and consumption and more kindness and neighbourliness have helped us appreciate what society can really mean.

We have also seen yet again that in times of crisis, injustice becomes more obvious, and that it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most….

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(AP) Some Religious Leaders to Invoke Frederick Douglass on July 4th

About 150 preachers, rabbis and imams are promising to invoke Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass on July 4th as they call for the U.S. to tackle racism and poverty.

The religious leaders are scheduled this weekend to frame their sermons around “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” on the 168th anniversary of that speech by Douglass. The former slave gave his speech at an Independence Day celebration on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York. The address challenged the Founding Fathers and the hypocrisy of their ideals with the existence of slavery on American soil.

The initiative to remember Douglass is led by the Poor People’s Campaign, a coalition of religious leaders seeking to push the U.S. to address issues of poverty modeled after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last crusade.

“(The Declaration of Independence) was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson. Yet he owned hundreds of human beings, and enslaved them,” Rabbi Arthur Waskow plans to tell The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks. “The contradiction between his words and his actions has been repeated through all American history.”

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Posted in History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(EF) Membership of German free evangelical denominations remains stable while Protestant and Catholic churches suffer huge losses

The latest statistics on members of free evangelical churches in Germany show that independent evangelical groups are stable. This contrasts with the heavy losses of the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

The Union of Baptist Free Evangelical Churches (BEFG) of Germany reported 80,195 members at the end of the year 2019, 961 less than the year before.

This loss of 1% in its membership is attributed to the fall of baptisms (1,610, almost half than in 2017). Another reason for this slight fall of membership, the Baptist annual report says, has to do with the fact that members who move from one church to another, do not often ask for membership in the new congregation.

Meanwhile, the Union of Pentecostal Free Churches (BFP), reported 62,872 members in 2019, a growth of over 10% if compared to the year 2017.

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Posted in Germany, Religion & Culture

(DW) Religion is still relevant in Germany even as churches lose members

Germany’s two major Christian churches both recorded a large drop in membership last year. This is a trend that has persisted for a long time, though in 2019, for a change, more Catholics left the church than Protestants. Overall,more than 540,000 Christians turned their back on organized religion. Not since the early 1990s have membership numbers fallen so drastically.

Just over half of all people living in Germany — 43.3 million people, to be exact — are still members of either the Protestant or Catholic church. But that’s a decline of about 5 million compared to 10 years ago. Church membership is also falling because the number of church members dying far surpasses the number of baptisms.

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Posted in Germany, Religion & Culture

(Sun Times) Asian American churches hold march through Chinatown, calling for unity with Black communities

Chinatown’s Chinese Christian Union Church and Bronzeville’s Progressive Baptist Church have existed for more than a century just 1.5 miles apart on Wentworth Avenue.

But the two churches have rarely interacted or helped each other — until Sunday.

With coordination from the Asian American Christian Collaborative, leaders and members of the two churches — as well as many other Asian religious organizations in the area — marched through Chinatown to call for increased unity between the Asian and Black communities.

“For too long, the Asian American Christian church has been silent on tons of matters, especially when it comes to race,” said CCUC deacon Chris Javier, one of the organizers.

“This is the end of silence. This is us pledging to stop that, to start using our voice on behalf of those that are hurting, even if they don’t look like us.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecumenical Relations, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Bishop Stephen Cottrell: safeguarding statements

Statement from Bishop Stephen

“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.

“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.

“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(TGC) Americans Don’t See Human Life as ‘Sacred’—But See Humanity as ‘Basically Good’

The Story: A new study finds that a majority of Americans no longer believe human life has intrinsic value, with six out of ten rejecting the idea that “human life is sacred.” Yet a majority also say that humans are “basically good.”

The Background: According to new research from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, only 39 percent of Americans today view human life as “sacred,” or as having unconditional, intrinsic worth. Groups that still hold this view include adults with a biblical worldview (93 percent); those attending an evangelical church (60 percent); born-again Christians (60 percent); political conservatives (57 percent); people 50 or older (53 percent); and Republicans (53 percent).

Some religious groups had only a minority who viewed life as sacred, including those attending Pentecostal (46 percent), mainline Protestant (45 percent), or Catholic (43 percent) churches. Evangelicals were the group most likely (60 percent) to say that life is sacred, while spiritual skeptics were the least likely (13 percent).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Church Times) National Church Survey: respondents bored, but prayerful during lockdown

What did the laity experience?

Throughout the lockdown, most laity felt well supported by their clergy (51%) and by the members of their church (49%). A high proportion accessed services online (91%), but this figure needs to be read against the fact that these were people also responding to an online survey.

Among those who attended online services, the sense of participation was not as high as may have been expected. About two-fifths reported that during online services they actually prayed (40%) or recited the liturgy (36%), but fewer reported that they joined in singing (27%).

Privatising holy communion

The lockdown brought into sharp focus questions about celebrating and receiving communion. The survey revealed some significant differences between the views of those giving ministry and those receiving ministry. Whereas 41% of laity agreed that it was right for clergy to celebrate holy communion in their own homes without broadcasting the service to others, only 31% of ministers did so.

Similarly, 43% of laity argued that it was right for people at home to receive communion from their own bread and wine as part of an online communion service, compared with 34% of clergy.

The survey also revealed divided opinion between people from different traditions: 49% of Anglo-Catholics agreed that it was right for clergy to celebrate communion in their homes without broadcasting the service to others, compared with only 25% of Evangelicals.

Conversely, only 23% of Anglo-Catholics argued that it was right for people at home to receive communion from their own bread and wine as part of an online communion service, compared with 55% of Evangelicals.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(RNS) Tara Burton–How millennials make meaning from shopping, decorating and self-pampering

[Millenial]…’values hold that the self is an autonomous being, the self’s desires are fundamentally good, and societal and sexual repression as not just undesirable but actively evil. These millennials, which in my new book I called “Remixed Millennials,” are at once attracted to moral and theological certainty — accounts of the human condition that claim totalizing truth or demand difficult adherence because the challenge is ultimately rewarding — and repulsed by traditions that set hard limits on personal, and particularly sexual or romantic, desire.

That, for better or for worse, is where corporations come in. Increasingly, companies have recognized that there is a gap in the needs of today’s Remixed: institutions, activities, philosophies and rituals that manage to be challenging and totalizing while also preserving millennials’ need for personal freedom. It’s the dot-com bubble for spirituality, a free marketplace of innovation and religious disruption. No sooner does something become a viral movement than an ingenious startup finds a way to re-create it at a more profitable price point. (Columbia Business School is currently hosting an incubator for “spiritual entrepreneurs,” offering a certificate in spiritual entrepreneurship for those who complete a 20-week course.)

Consumer-capitalist culture offers us not merely necessities but identities. Meaning, purpose, community and ritual can all — separately or together — be purchased on Amazon Prime.

As journalist Amanda Hess wrote in The New York Times, “Shopping, decorating, grooming and sculpting are now jumping with meaning. And a purchase need not have any explicit social byproduct — the materials eco-friendly, or the proceeds donated to charity — to be weighted with significance. Pampering itself has taken on a spiritual urgency.”’

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Uncategorized, Young Adults

Diocese of Carlisle sets up a Task Group to secure its future mission

A special Task Group has been set up to secure the long-term missional sustainability of the Diocese of Carlisle – the Church of England in Cumbria – post COVID-19.

The Financial Planning Task Group is chaired by the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, and has ten other members including the Bishop of Penrith, clergy and members of the Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF).

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, its focus is the sustained growth of church of every kind in the Diocese of Carlisle, supporting mission, ministry and the ecumenical God for All Vision Refresh.

Bishop James said: “As with all other dioceses in the Church of England, our cash flow and overall financial situation has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Almost every part of our income has been affected: churches have been closed, regular giving has fallen and Parish Offer has been affected; investment income is likely to be lower; parochial fees have not been earned as occasional offices such as weddings and funerals in churches have not happened and our commercial and residential tenants are themselves under financial pressure. We still don’t know exactly for how long and to what degree this will be the case….”

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

(Religion and Politics) Are we going to soon see a “Religion Recession”?

Another argument for a post-pandemic revival rests with what is known as “existential security theory,” or the “Religious Comfort Hypothesis”—social scientists’ way of saying there are no atheists in foxholes. Existential security theory was popularized by political scientists Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart in a 2004 study that sought to explain why the global population is getting more religious, not more secular, as conventional wisdom suggests. Their explanation: The continuing experience of death and grief causes people to turn to religion as a balm. Richer and more secure societies, the argument goes, have less “need” for religion because faith in progress and policies—and, in the United States, a belief in our protected status as blessed by the Almighty—stands in for the comforts of traditional religion.

But what happens when natural disasters and societal breakdowns happen in industrialized countries like the U.S.?

The best case study for the Religious Comfort Hypothesis was the February 2011 earthquake that devastated Christchurch in New Zealand, by any measure a highly secularized country. It was the worst disaster in the country in 80 years. One-third of the city’s buildings were destroyed and 185 people were killed in an urban region of fewer than 400,000. Chris Sibley, a psychology professor at the University of Auckland, and Joseph Bulbulia, a religious studies professor there, were in the midst of a longitudinal study of the values of New Zealanders when the earthquake struck. So they had data from before the disaster to compare with behaviors immediately afterward. “Consistent with the Religious Comfort Hypothesis, religious faith increased among the earthquake-affected, despite an overall decline in religious faith elsewhere,” they concluded.

At first blush, this seems to be true for the coronavirus response, as well. A study just published by Danish economics professor Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, a leading researcher on the religious coping phenomenon, argues that, based on rates of Google searches for prayer, “the demand for religion has risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic.”

“A pandemic this size potentially changes our societies for years to come, especially if it impacts our deep-rooted values and beliefs. I find that the COVID-19 crisis impacts one of the deepest rooted of human behaviors: religion,” Bentzen tweeted.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., History, Religion & Culture

Abp. Foley Beach’s ACNA Provincial Council address–Pursuing Racial Reconciliation

A few years ago, the College of Bishops was able to hear Dr. Albert Thompson from the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic speak to us about the history of our Anglican heritage and the failures of racism, the many injustices, and some of the progress we have made over the years. Last year in Plano at our 10th year Anniversary, we heard the Rev. Anthony Thompson from the REC Diocese of the Southeast. His precious wife was shot, along with eight other people, while having a Bible Study at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston by a hate-filled man seething with racism. Anthony told us about the power of the Gospel of Jesus and how it has enabled him to forgive the man who murdered his wife. In spite of this evil, we saw in the city of Charleston brothers and sisters like Anthony responding with the love of Jesus and the incredible power of forgiveness.

We need to search our hearts and make sure there is no offensive way in us as the Anglican Church in North America. All the words about spiritual renewal and revival in the Bible are not directed to the non-Christian culture, but to the people of God. We need to look within ourselves. And it starts with me. What the Lord has shown me about me in the past few weeks is this–I have failed to understand the incredible burden and pain that many of my black brothers and sisters live with every day. I have not wept with those who weep. And I have not understood the depth of the effect of racism and injustice. I have not understood the burden of living under racist acts, slurs, and systems they have to endure every day, nor have I understood the fear with which they constantly live for themselves and their families. It is not enough not to be a racist; we must not be blind to the sin of racism and ignore it in our midst.

Channing Austin Brown writes in I’m Still Here about a white student in a college class, who after visiting a museum on lynchings, said this to her fellow classmates: “I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned,” she said. “I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism.” He writes, “And then she said nine words that I’ve never forgotten: ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.’”

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Bloomberg) Religion Meets Profit Generation in a Slew of New Faith-Based ETFs

As much as Samim Abedi loved his job as part of the team that managed Google’s corporate investment portfolio, he couldn’t always square the work with his Muslim faith. He worried that some of the companies whose securities he traded had ties to alcohol or tobacco or gambling.

So he quit to join Wahed Invest, which in July 2019 launched the first exchange-traded fund in the U.S. that’s compliant with Sharia, Islam’s religious law. It’s one of eight ETFs introduced in the U.S. last year that incorporate faith-based principles, raising the total to 11. More are coming: In June, money manager Global X filed to launch a bond fund aligned to Catholic values. “We’re all trying to solve the same question,” says Abedi, the global head of portfolio management for Wahed. “How do we invest our wealth in ways that align with our ethics?”

Religion-based funds can differ on what they consider ethical. A stock fund that caters to Catholics shuns companies that sell weapons or exploit child labor. Several ETFs for Muslims steer clear of anything related to interest-based finance, which the religion frowns upon. Those funds invest in a Sharia-compliant alternative to bonds called sukuk, which provide regular payments that are considered profit-sharing rather than interest.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Other Churches, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

Anglican Unscripted 606 – Legal Victories

Kevin Kallsen and AS Haley talk about the latest court victories for the ACNA. And, some of the challenges the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions will bring religious communities.

Posted in Anthropology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Anglican Bishops warn of ‘Environmental Racism’

The Archbishop of Canterbury together with the Bishops of Salisbury, Oxford, Truro, Dover, Woolwich, Sherborne, Loughborough, Kingston, Reading and Ramsbury, and former Archbishop Rowan Williams have joined a list of eight archbishops and 38 bishops worldwide in signing an open letter stating that black lives are predominantly affected by the effects of climate change, as well as police brutality and the spread of COVID-19.

Published by the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network, the letter reads (extract):

The world is slow to respond to climate change, hanging on to an increasingly precarious and unjust economic system. It is predominantly Black lives that are being impacted by drought, flooding, storms and sea level rise. The delayed global response to climate injustice gives the impression that #blacklivesdontmatter. Without urgent action Black lives will continue to be the most impacted, being dispossessed from their lands and becoming climate refugees.

We stand at a Kairos moment – in order to fight environmental injustice , we must also fight racial injustice.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Tablet) Pope hopes pandemic will teach care for environment

Speaking after the Angelus in Rome, the pope said the pandemic had made people reflect on the relationship between humankind and the environment.

“The lockdown has reduced pollution,” he said. It had enabled people to rediscover the beauty of many places free from traffic and noise.

“Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for the care of the common home,” he continued. Mentioning the many emerging grass-roots environmental movements, he called for citizens to be “increasingly aware of this essential common good”.

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Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(WSJ) Saudi Arabia Shrinks Hajj Pilgrimage Because of Coronavirus Pandemic

Saudi Arabia said it was curtailing this year’s hajj pilgrimage to only a small number of people already in the kingdom, rather than the millions who usually flock to Islam’s holiest sites, amid concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

The hajj, the Muslim world’s most important religious pilgrimage, is considered a pillar of Islam and has been held since the seventh century in Mecca. All Muslims who are able to are required to make the journey at least once in their lifetimes.

The five-day event, which begins in late July this year, is a source of great political and religious prestige for Saudi Arabia, while also generating an estimated $8 billion in revenue for the kingdom each year.

The smaller umrah pilgrimage, which takes place in Mecca throughout the year, and international travel to and from the kingdom remain suspended.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Islam, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Travel

(C of E) End the sin of racism, online service hears ahead of Windrush Day

The Church of England’s online weekly service will hear a call for action to build a fairer world ahead of a minute’s silence to lament the racism experienced by the Windrush generation and other black and UK minority ethnic people.

Father Andrew Moughtin-Mumby, Rector of St Peter’s Church in Walworth, south east London, will lead the service in which his sermon will describe racism as one of three pandemics faced by the world, alongside the climate crisis and COVID-19.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Uncategorized

(Anglican Dio of SC) South Carolina Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the Diocese and Parishes

In his ruling, Judge Dickson made several important conclusions of law. Chief among them was his ruling on the central issue of interpreting the Collective Opinions. As he noted in quoting former Chief Justice Toal, “The Court’s collective opinions in this matter give rise to great uncertainty, so that we have given little to no collective guidance in this case or in church property disputes like this going forward.” He concluded that, “This court must distill the five separate opinions, identify the court’s intent and produce a logical directive.” With respect to parish property, the law of this case follows the precedent of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw (2009). In his deciding opinion, Chief Justice Beatty, “found that the Dennis Canon, standing alone, does not unequivocally convey an intention to transfer ownership of property to the national church…” In accordance with established South Carolina law, establishment of a trust interest must meet the standard of being “legally cognizable”. The Diocese has argued that there is no such evidence of accession to the Dennis Canon that meets this standard and Judge Dickson concluded, “This court finds that no parish expressly acceded to the Dennis Canon” and “defendants failed to prove creation of a trust.” He further concluded, “TEC’s argument that their unilaterally drafted Dennis Canon created a trust under South Carolina law is rejected.”

In the case of the Trustees and St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, Judge Dickson affirmed that under the All Saints ruling that a non-profit corporation which follows the correct steps to sever its association with another entity does so with all its property interests intact. The Collective Opinions found that the Diocese and Parishes properly disassociated. As Judge Dickson explains, “Applying neutral principles of law, this court finds the Diocese and Parishes properly disassociated and control their real and personal property with any improvements thereon. Following the narrowest grounds of the majority in the Collective opinions, this Court finds that Camp St. Christopher should remain as titled in the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina as stated in the 1951 deed.”

On the final matter of registered trademarks, Judge Dickson said “This court finds that the Federal Court has jurisdiction over matters related to trademarks, intellectual property and service marks,” Those matters are currently on appeal before the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Speaking on behalf of the Diocese, the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis observed, “The Diocese welcomes the clarity of Judge Dickson’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Collective Opinion. By twice denying petitions by TEC and TECSC to prevent Judge Dickson from completing this task, the Supreme Court has clearly signaled its desire to resolve these issues. We remain confident that our ability to disassociate from TEC, with all our legal rights intact, will continue to be affirmed.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Clergy express relief and delight as doors reopen

Hand sanitisers, one-way traffic systems, and priests in PPE greeted people who were allowed inside their churches for the first time in three months this week.

Permission to reopen for private prayer was brought forward at short notice by the Government from Monday to last Saturday, in the wake of protests that churches were still off-limits while non-essential shopping was permitted. The Dean of Truro, the Very Revd Roger Bush, described the process as “typical of the slapdash way the easing of lockdown for faith groups is being handled”.

Truro Cathedral was one of many churches that waited until Monday to open. “It just wasn’t feasible for us to bring the reopening 48 hours forward,” the Dean said. Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m, 73 people came in. “Some were regulars, many of whom were tearily relieved at the reopening,” he said, “but many were casual visitors. All the clergy residentiaries were on hand, and we had several moving conversations with people about loss and separation.”

Southwell Minster delayed opening until Tuesday. “We couldn’t cope with the very sudden change to 13 June,” the Dean, the Very Revd Nicola Sullivan, said. The cathedral is now open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Three children were among the 45 people who came on Tuesday.

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

(NR) A Liberal Law Professor Explains Why the Equality Act Would ‘Crush’ Religious Dissenters

Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage. What’s made him unusual is that in recent years he’s been trying to make the case to liberals that “same-sex marriage and religious liberty can co-exist.” In 2017 he co-authored an article at Vox with another law professor to argue that Jack Phillips, the Evangelical Christian baker in Colorado at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, should be allowed to follow his conscience to not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Laycock has also been a longtime supporter of enacting a federal gay-rights non-discrimination law, but he doesn’t support the Equality Act, a bill just approved by the House of Representatives that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, because it would “crush” conscientious objectors.

“It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions,” Laycock tells National Review in an email. “It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(1st Things) Hadley Arkes on the recent Supreme Court Decision–A Morally Empty Jurisprudence

The statute has barred discriminations based on “sex” as well as race. As Justice Alito pointed out, virtually no one in 1964 could have dreamed that the statute barred those who would have an aversion to the homosexual life or the transgendered. But I warned myself, in an earlier piece, that it just would not do for the conservatives to cite the dictionaries on the meaning of sex in 1964. The liberals would be free to play the trump card of Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull had steered the Fourteenth Amendment to passage in the Senate, and he had to assure his colleagues up and down that there was nothing in the Equal Protection Clause that barred those laws in Illinois as well as Virginia that barred marriage across racial lines. But now we have an amplified and clearer sense of why that principle on racial discrimination would bar those laws on miscegenation. Judges could easily argue now in the same way that we must bring to the Civil Rights Act a more amplified view of what “sex” has come to mean. The only way to deal with that argument is to make the move that conservative judges have been so averse to making: to move beyond the text of the statute to those objective truths, confirmed in nature, on the differences that must ever separate males from females.

That was the understanding of “sex” that Justice Alito had in mind as he countered every case and example cited by Gorsuch. Justice Gorsuch noted the many ways in which the meaning of discrimination on the basis of sex could extend to sexual harassment or simply treating people differently on the basis of sex. A woman is refused a job because she has children at home, while the job is not refused to a man with children at home. But as Alito points out, at every turn the discrimination pivots on the difference between men and women, as that difference has been plain enough for millennia. The Western States had long established policies barring discriminations based on “sex” in education, and the Nineteenth Amendment had drawn on the same understanding when it barred the denial of the right to vote “on account of sex.” It was understood in all cases that the laws were assuming the biological definition of sex.

Ryan Anderson, drawing on the full range of texts in biology, condensed the truth of the matter in this way: “Sex, in terms of male or female, is identified by the organization of the organism for sexually reproductive acts.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith noted years ago that there has not always been an Italy or Hungary, but as long as there are human beings, there will be males and females. That is the purpose, or the telos, or the very reason that we have males and females. This was the understanding that Justice Alito was seeking so artfully to defend. But he defended it entirely as the meaning of sex contained in a long list of statutes and the Constitution. What he could not quite move himself to say was that this was indeed the inescapable truth of the matter, the only coherent way of explaining what sex must really mean. There is something, in the shaping of conservative judges, that makes them deeply reluctant to make that move beyond “tradition” and statutes to the moral truth of the matter.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(Local Paper) Racism. Violence. A slowly dying son. 5 years after the Emanuel massacre, echoes abound

For five years, they have mourned, then as now, as the country around them grappled with racism and violence.

Parents. Wives. Husbands. Sons. Daughters. They remain bound by the shared loss of nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church when, on the sweltering night of June 17, 2015, an avowed white supremacist gunned down their loved ones.

For five years, the survivors and families of those who died have traversed uniquely uneven paths through immense grief. Many have found new meaning in different, inspiring ways.

The Post and Courier caught up with several to see how they are mourning against the backdrop of nationwide protests and the coronavirus pandemic — and where they hope America goes from here.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

President of U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement on Supreme Court Decision on Legal Definition of “Sex” in Civil Rights Law

I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.

By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.

Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.

We pray that the Church, with the help of Mary, the Mother of God, will be able to continue her mission to bring Jesus Christ to every man and woman.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

Bob Dylan Nails our current cultural moment in a recent interview–‘Good news in today’s world is like a fugitive, treated like a hoodlum and put on the run’

Why didn’t more people pay attention to Little Richard’s gospel music?

Probably because gospel music is the music of good news and in these days there just isn’t any. Good news in today’s world is like a fugitive, treated like a hoodlum and put on the run. Castigated. All we see is good-for-nothing news. And we have to thank the media industry for that. It stirs people up. Gossip and dirty laundry. Dark news that depresses and horrifies you.

On the other hand, gospel news is exemplary. It can give you courage. You can pace your life accordingly, or try to, anyway. And you can do it with honor and principles. There are theories of truth in gospel but to most people it’s unimportant. Their lives are lived out too fast. Too many bad influences. Sex and politics and murder is the way to go if you want to get people’s attention. It excites us, that’s our problem.

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

(CT) Legal experts worry that ruling in landmark workplace discrimination cases can’t provide the nuanced exemptions evangelicals have advocated for

In an article for Christianity Today’s ChurchLawAndTax.com, attorney and senior editor Richard Hammar said churches retain important protections with employment decisions pertaining to clergy, despite Monday’s ruling. However, Monday’s decision fosters greater uncertainty for churches with employees in nonministerial roles, he said.“

Churches that take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for employment based on religious considerations should describe their action appropriately,” Hammar said. “Refer to the religious or doctrinal principle at issue, and avoid generic labels like ‘sex’ or other gender- or sexuality-based labels.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that the ruling will have “seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.”

“This Supreme Court decision should hardly be surprising, given how much has changed culturally on the meanings of sex and sexuality,” he said. “That the ‘sexual revolution’ is supported here by both ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ on the court should also be of little surprise to those who have watched developments in each of these ideological corners of American life.”

Read it all and there is a lot more there as well.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(David French) God Save America from Fearful Christians

Others, in spite of Christ’s admonition to deny yourself and take up your cross to follow Him, are not willing to risk tweetings when the apostles braved beatings. Their jobs are too precious to risk. Though they enjoy greater freedom from actual censorship than arguably any people in the history of the planet, self-censorship suffices to drive too many thoughtful Christian voices from the academy, the boardroom, and the office. But shrinking back in the face of challenges to career and reputation communicates fear, not faith, to a broken world. While the fearful Christian would never say this out loud, they’re functionally treating the “strong gods” of the partisan political moment as greater and more powerful than the God of the universe they seek to serve.

How do you respond to those “strong gods”? By showing them to be weak. Speak in the face of fear, but speak in the way that God desires. He has given His people a mission statement: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Each element is transformative. Each element is necessary. Any Christian movement that lacks justice, kindness, and humility is flawed.

America is at an important crossroads. There is a stirring in the American heart—men and women who were once hardened against the words and testimonies of their black fellow citizens are starting, at last, to listen. But extreme voices seek to hijack the debate, to take advantage of the moment to continue ripping this nation to shreds.

Are Christians prepared to be the instruments of justice, mercy, and humility that this nation so desperately needs? Not if they remain afraid. Not if in their timidity they continue to empower our worst voices or refuse to speak the truth with grace and conviction. Christians have immense liberty in this nation, but our witness ultimately defines us, not our rights, and presently the Christian witness is all too often a witness of fear.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Esau McCaulley–What the Bible has to say about Black Anger

Jesus’ resurrection three days after his crucifixion shows that neither the lynching tree nor the cross have the final say about those whom God values. The state thought that violence could stop God’s purposes. For the Christian, the resurrection makes clear the futility of the attempt. Further, Jesus’ profound act of forgiving his opponents provides me with the theological resources to hope.

Dare we speak of hope when chants of “I can’t breathe” echo in the streets? Do we risk the criticism commonly levied at Christians that we move too quickly to hope because faith pacifies? Resurrection hope doesn’t remove the Christian from the struggle for justice. It empties the state’s greatest weapon — the fear of death — of its power.

Hope is possible if we recognize that it does not rule out justice. It is what separates justice from vengeance. Howard Thurman wrote in his classic work “Jesus and the Disinherited” about how rage, once unleashed, tends to spill out beyond its intended target and consume everything. The hatred of our enemy that we take to the streets returns with us to our friendships, marriages and communities. It damages our own souls.

Christians contend for justice because we care about black lives, families and communities. We contend for reconciliation after the establishment of justice because there must be a future that is more than mutual contempt and suspicion. But justice and reconciliation cannot come at the cost of black lives. The only peaceful future is a just future. And because Christians should be a people for peace, we must be a people for justice even when it seems ever to elude us. Too many black lives have been lost to accept anything else.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(CT) They’re Not From the US. But They’re Ministering to the Nation’s Soldiers

Agravel road in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Thumps of artillery become background noise as units practice on the nearby range. A few wisecracks start off the morning, along with some last instructions before the ruck march. Then Cornelius Muasa’s voice rises over the soldiers’ to ask a blessing on their day’s tasks, the chaplain carefully articulating the English words that are challenging after his native Kenyan tongue of Kikamba.

Growing up as a stuttering pastor’s kid in Africa, Muasa never imagined he would one day be serving God in the American military. But the Lord led him from a Kenyan church to a United States seminary to discover a global calling and a burden for soldiers.

Muasa is one of many foreign-born evangelical chaplains whose experiences have equipped them to minister to the growing diversity of the US and the American military. Nineteen percent of US Army chaplains and 10 percent of Navy chaplains were born outside the US, according to military spokesmen (The Air Force did not respond to CT’s request for data). These include Buddhists from East Asia, Roman Catholics from Europe, Muslims from Africa, and many evangelical Christians like Muasa from around the world.

Diversity drew Muasa to this ministry, and it’s why he loves it. There are about 1.3 million active-duty personnel in the US military, and the service members are more diverse than they’ve ever been—16 percent black, 16 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian, and about 5 percent who are immigrants to America.

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Posted in Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture