Category : Religion & Culture

(Sun Telegraph) Why millennial atheists like me are embracing church

During the noughties, many teenage contemporaries were attracted to the shouty certainty of the ‘New Atheism’, just as today’s youngsters choose the climate change pulpit to lecture older generations. Shamefully, I accused my mother – a consummate do-gooder – of child abuse for baptising me without my consent. The canard “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 30, you have no brain”, may be trite but it reflects a fundamental truth; maturity often involves the realisation that we can learn much from the past.

Indeed, the Church of England still safeguards our architectural and artistic inheritance. National identity is inseparable from its defining texts, the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer. It is impossible to interpret much great art or literature created before the 1900s without some Bible knowledge.

But perhaps the most important lesson is how churchgoing takes us outside the trivia of our own lives – the preoccupations and obsessions induced by social media and that sense of ourselves as the star of our own B-movie biopic. It enables us to escape – if temporarily – such narcissism, focusing on the wider world and taking a longer view. For me it is at least a partial antidote to the illusory optimism, anxiety and depression that has defined my generation.

Read it all.

Posted in Atheism, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Young Adults

(BBC) St Paul Cathedral’s bomb plot: ISIS supporter Safiyya Shaikh pleads guilty

A supporter of the banned Islamic State terror group has admitted plotting to blow herself up in a bomb attack on St Paul’s Cathedral.

Muslim convert Safiyya Shaikh went on a reconnaissance trip to scope out the London landmark and a hotel.

The 36-year-old, born Michelle Ramsden, was arrested after asking an undercover police officer to supply bombs.

At the Old Bailey, Shaikh, of west London, admitted preparing an act of terrorism and will be sentenced in May.

She was considered such a threat that MI5 made her the highest-level priority for investigation in the weeks before her arrest, according to Whitehall security sources.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Ericka Andersen–Thank God, American Churches Are Dying

As thousands of churches close across the U.S., many fret about the inevitable decline of faith in American life. Congregational demise is troubling, but underreported data suggest that fear of a secularizing America may be overwrought. A religious renewal could be on the horizon.

It’s true that denomination-based churches—Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic—have been on a downward slope for years. But nondenominational evangelical churches are growing in number, from 54,000 in 1998 to 84,000 in 2012, according to the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Pew Research data show a similar trend continuing to the present, with steep declines among mainline churches as evangelical ones keep popping up. And 42% of these new congregations report growing attendance, data from Lifeway Research shows.

One reason for the success of the new evangelical congregations is their aggressive pursuit of growth, which they call “church multiplication”: A new church will commit to start several smaller churches in a short time. Dave Ferguson, president of the church leadership organization Exponential, tells me that church multiplication numbers are on the rise. In 2015 only 4% of churches were multiplying, according to research conducted for Exponential by Lifeway. Last year 7% were doing so. Each percentage point upward represents some 3,000 churches. Mr. Ferguson says that if this growth is maintained, “it will change the spiritual landscape.”

Read it all.

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

(FT) Behind closed doors: modern slavery in Kensington, featuring the C of E parish Saint John’s, Notting Hill

….the domestic worker from Mindanao in the southern Philippines ended two years of overwork, underpayment and underfeeding by slipping through a throng of people and into the street. As she headed between the elegant Victorian apartment blocks of Harrington Road, she asked for God’s help.

“As I’m walking, I’m praying, ‘Lord, bring me to your people,’” Canuday recalls.

Her prayer was answered. After a little more than two miles, Canuday, a slight, round-faced woman who is now 50, heard Filipino religious music coming from a west London church. When she followed it, she found herself at a service being conducted in Tagalog, the country’s most widely spoken language.

Members of the congregation sat her down, gave her coffee and food and offered reassurance. Today, Canuday remembers the event as an act of divine providence. “God took me to beside people who took care of me,” she says. “They said, ‘Don’t worry; don’t worry — relax.’”

Canuday’s reception at St John’s, Notting Hill — a prominent Gothic-revival building that houses London’s only Tagalog-language Church of England congregation — represented a rare nugget of good fortune for an overseas worker fleeing an abusive employer in the UK.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Violence, Women

(Guardian) How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart

The onslaught on JNU marked the middle of a season of nationwide protest, provoked by a new law. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by parliament on 11 December 2019, provides a fast track to citizenship for refugees fleeing into India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Refugees of every south Asian faith are eligible – every faith, that is, except Islam. It is a policy that fits neatly with the RSS and the BJP’s demonisation of Muslims, India’s largest religious minority. To votaries of Hindutva, the country is best served if it is expunged of Islam. The act was both a loud signal of that ambition and a handy tool to help achieve it.

Since December, millions of Indians have turned out on to the streets to object to this vision of their country. The government has fought them by banning gatherings, shutting off mobile internet services, detaining people arbitrarily, or worse. After protests flared at Jamia Millia Islamia, an Islamic university in Delhi, cops fired teargas and live rounds, assaulted students and trashed the library. As demonstrations spread across the state of Uttar Pradesh, police raided and vandalised Muslim homes by way of reprisal. Detainees in custody were beaten; one man reported hearing screams in a police station all night long. (In various statements, the police claimed to be acting in self defence, or to prevent violence, or to root out conspiracy.) At least 20 protesters died of bullet wounds. Police officials denied firing at the crowds, even though the police carried the only visible guns at these rallies.

Still, the protests have persisted well into February. At Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in south-eastern Delhi, hundreds of thousands of people have turned up over nine weeks to take part in an indefinite sit-in. The BJP has taken a ruthless view of all this dissent. On one occasion, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu cleric who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said: “If they won’t understand words, they’ll understand bullets.” One of Modi’s ministers used “Shoot the traitors to the nation!” as a call-and-response at a rally – the same slogan the ABVP had raised in JNU.

In its 72 years as a free country, India has never faced a more serious crisis. Already its institutions – its courts, much of its media, its investigative agencies, its election commission – have been pressured to fall in line with Modi’s policies. The political opposition is withered and infirm. More is in the offing: the idea of Hindutva, in its fullest expression, will ultimately involve undoing the constitution and unravelling the fabric of liberal democracy. It will have to; constitutional niceties aren’t compatible with the BJP’s blueprint for a country in which people are graded and assessed according to their faith. The ferment gripping India since the passage of the citizenship act – the fever of the protests, the brutality of the police, the viciousness of the politics – has only reflected how existentially high the stakes have become.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(RNS) A daughter’s duty: From Boston, a Uighur woman champions her father’s release in China

Samira Imin can’t stop thinking about the times her father took her horseback riding.

She remembers how her father, a prominent Uighur publisher and historian named Iminjan Seydin, would always spoil her and shelter her from her mother’s scoldings. She thinks of the time she went out alone as a teen living in China’s Xinjiang region and became lost, and Seydin began frantically calling around to find her, then cried when she finally returned home.

“He was like a mountain to me, so strong,” said Imin, who works as a research assistant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. “He was always my protector.”

Now, months after she learned that Chinese officials were holding her father in a detention camp for Uighur Muslims before arresting him over charges of extremism, Imin says it’s her turn to become her father’s protector and bring him back home.

Read it all.

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

(Deseret News) Valery Hudson–Has the Utah Legislature done its homework on polygamy?

The Utah State Senate has voted to decriminalize polygamy between consenting adults, making bigamy and polygamy an infraction rather than a felony. Fines and community service would be the extent of legal enforcement, akin to a traffic ticket. Of course, Utah has for the past several decades largely declined to arrest anyone for polygamy, unless additional charges such as underage marriage or welfare fraud could be brought. Maybe decriminalization is “better than doing nothing,” to use the words of state Sen. Daniel Thatcher?

I suggest that position is untenable. Where polygyny is involved — and the vast majority of polygamy cases are in fact cases of polygyny (the union of one man to multiple wives) — the harm has been found to be inherent in the practice. In 2011, the Supreme Court of British Columbia was asked to rule on the constitutionality of Canada’s ban on polygamy. One of the star witnesses was Professor Rose McDermott of Brown University, who has penned an entire volume called “The Evils of Polygyny” summarizing her extensive research.

McDermott finds a statistically significant relationship between the legality and prevalence of polygyny within a country, on the one hand, and what they call “an entire downstream suite of negative consequences for men, women, children and the nation-state,” on the other. Their data analysis points to a significant relationship between polygyny and poor outcomes, including higher levels of sex trafficking and higher levels of domestic violence.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, polygamy, Religion & Culture, State Government

(NPR) Amid Census Concerns, Religious Leaders Asked To Quell Fears

JUDITH ANN KARAM: The outcome of the census is important because it signifies the dignity of the human person and resources that impact the quality of life of each individual. That is so fundamental to not only Catholic social teaching.

[HANSI LO] WANG: Sister Karam said it’s fundamental across many other faith traditions. It’s a U.S. tradition to use census numbers to determine each state’s share of congressional seats and Electoral College votes, as well as the redrawing of voting districts. During the summit, Census Bureau officials tried to counter worries that census data could be misused.

DILLINGHAM: The data comes in and statistics go out – numbers.

WANG: Federal law also prohibits the bureau from releasing information identifying individuals until 72 years after the information is collected. But Pastor John Zayas of Grace and Peace Church in Chicago raised concerns about how the Trump administration may try to misuse census data to help ICE officers carry out immigration raids.

Read it all.

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

(AP) Stresses multiply for many US clergy: ‘We need help too’

Greg Laurie is among America’s most successful clergymen — senior pastor at a California megachurch, prolific author, host of a global radio program. Yet after a youthful colleague’s suicide, his view of his vocation is unsparing.

“Pastors are people, just like everyone else,” Laurie said by email. “We are broken people who live in a broken world. Sometimes, we need help too.”

Laurie’s 15,000-member Harvest Christian Fellowship, based in Riverside, California, was jolted in September by the death of 30-year-old associate pastor Jarrid Wilson. He and his wife had founded an outreach group to help people coping with depression and suicidal thoughts.

“People may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people,” Laurie wrote after Wilson’s death. “We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not.”

There is similar introspection among clergy of many faiths across the United States as the age-old challenges of their ministries are deepened by many newly evolving stresses.

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CT) The Radical Christian Faith of Frederick Douglass (for his Feast Day)

Douglass rejoiced in 1865 when the Union triumphed in the Civil War and the nation ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery forever. But he did not believe his prophetic work had ended. At the end of his life, equality under the law remained an aspiration, not a reality. African Americans and women were denied the right to vote. The ghost of slavery lived on in oppressive economic arrangements like sharecropping. Jim Crow carved rigid lines of racial segregation in the public square. White mobs lynched at least 200 black men each year in the 1890s.

He had good reason, then, in 1889, to mourn how the “malignant prejudice of race” still “poisoned the fountains of justice, and defiled the altars of religion” in America. Yet Douglass also rejoiced in the continued possibility of redemption. A new way of seeing the world, and living in it, still remained—one that rested, Douglass said, on a “broad foundation laid by the Bible itself, that God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(CT) Polyamory: Pastors’ Next Sexual Frontier

How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. Though they were clear they did not affirm Tyler’s choice, they did affirm their love for Tyler, Amanda, and their grandkids. They made a point to keep their weekly Thursday afternoon “dates” with their grandkids and stay a part of their lives. Because of this, Tyler has maintained his relationship with his parents, and though his relationship choices are unbiblical, they have been able to communicate their love and care for him and his family. Amanda’s mother responded differently. Decades earlier, her relationship with Amanda’s father had ended when he had proposed a polyamorous relationship and then left when she wasn’t open to it. Amanda’s choice reopened her mother’s unhealed wounds. Feeling angry and betrayed, Amanda’s mother effectively broke off the relationship with her daughter. When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.

Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. When we want to lovingly call people to repentance, we should be precise about what needs repentance and what relationships or elements can and should be sanctified in Christ. For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory—deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community—are good things.

But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. In the example above, Amanda and Tyler both need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery. A pastoral approach would commend them for their desire to have other adults contribute to the life of their family but point them to the church—not a polyamorous relationship—as the place where God intends for that to happen.

Read it all.

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

Posted in --Polyamory, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Unherd) Giles Fraser–Churches are closing down — I won’t let mine be one of them

A report for the Church Buildings Council has claimed that the Church of England is currently closing more church buildings than at any time since the sixteenth century. And the weight of these closures is falling predominantly in urban areas. Since 1969, about ten percent of the C of E’s churches have been turned into carpet warehouses or yuppie flats or Mosques. I won’t allow mine to be one of them.

But the powerful argument made by hard pressed parish clergy up and down the country is that they didn’t get ordained to become glorified building’s managers. A church is not the building, it is the people. And so many congregations retreat from their cold and leaky building into the local school hall or community centre. The problem here, however, is that the church building is not a mere bricks-and-mortar encumbrance, it is a way of being rooted in a community — a powerful expression of the physical presence of the Christian community over time.

In the vestry of my church is a list of Rectors of the parish going back to 1212. In 1876, the local authorities forced the old church at the Elephant and Castle to be demolished to make way for road widening. A new church was built a few hundred yards away, only to be destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. Again it was rebuilt. The bricks of my church are not an inconvenience, a distraction — they are a statement of Christian defiance. And under its roof, Christians from all over the world seek shelter.

Read it all.

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

(EF) Pablo Martinez–“Turning the truth into a matter of personal opinions, inexorably leads to loss of hope”

Question. We went from ‘I think therefore I am’, to ‘I feel therefore I am’, and then to post-truth. What is the reference that will be an anchor to human beings in this new decade?

Answer. The two great anchors of human beings are truth and hope. Both come together, they are inseparable and make the backbone of human existence. These two do not vary with time, we need them today just like twenty centuries ago. What changes is the relationship, the attitude of Man towards these two anchors. That’s where the origin of the current deep crisis of values lies. The replacement of ‘the Truth’ by ‘my truth’ has broken one of the anchors, dragging the other one, hope, with its breakup. In his best known work From Dawn To Decay, the renowned French historian Jacques Barzun, already warned that ‘the postmodern assault on the idea of truth could lead us to the destruction of 500 years of civilisation’.

The root of the conflict is not cultural or ideological, it is a moral one. Ultimately, it is not a matter of a new philosophy, but a matter of who has the authority in my life and in the world. Does anyone rule up there or can I rule?

A strong earthquake has shaken the foundations of Western civilisation, because in the last 30 years the foundation and nature of the truth have amazingly changed. The change is summed up in one sentence: ‘Truth is dead, long live to my truth!’

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(Mirror) The Rev. Paul Nicolson–‘I’m an 87-year-old vicar – but when I acted homeless, I was suddenly invisible’

While several people entering or leaving Church House stopped for a chat, most walked by as if I was not there.

That invisibility while lying on the pavement must be very depressing for long term street homeless people.

£14.38 was put into my mug which I gave to one of the three street homeless people begging outside Tottenham who I pass on my journey home. I am planning another session in the role of beggar opposite Downing Street.

Read it all.

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

(Seattle Times) Sudden resignation of two Seattle-area Roman Catholic school teachers stirs protests over church stance on same-sex relationships

Two people close to one of the teachers, Paul Danforth — his mother, Mary Danforth, and his fiance, Sean Nyberg — said his departure was related to news that he was planning to marry another man. They said they couldn’t comment about whether the teachers were fired, quit voluntarily or were asked to resign.

Several students said they already knew that Danforth and the other teacher were both in relationships with same-sex partners.

Kennedy Catholic mother Erika DuBois, who helped plan the walkout, said the news of the teachers’ departures shocked her. She said she knew that Catholic school teachers had to sign a contract that includes a morality clause about adhering to church values but that she didn’t expect the school to act on the clause.

Read it all.

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

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NYT) ‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises

A rabbinical student was walking down a quiet street in Brooklyn last winter, chatting on the phone with his father when three men jumped him from behind. They punched his head, knocking him to the ground before fleeing down the block.

When police officers arrested three suspects later that night, the student, a Hasidic man who asked to be identified by his first name, Mendel, learned that another Hasidic Jew had been attacked on the same block in Crown Heights just minutes before he was. Video of the earlier attack showed three men knocking a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

The victims in both attacks were “very visibly Jewish,” said Mendel, 23, who has a beard and dresses in the kind of dark suit and hat traditionally worn by Hasidic men. That, he said, made them easier targets.

“You could ask everyone if they’re Jewish,” he continued, “or you could just go after people who you don’t have to ask any questions about because you can just see that they dress like they’re Jewish.”

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Document Shows Chinese Officials’ Calculations in Waging Xinjiang Campaign

A spreadsheet compiled by Chinese authorities responsible for tracking ethnic-minority Muslims catalogs detailed personal information—including whether they regularly pray at a mosque, possess a passport or have friends or relatives in trouble with the law.

The 137-page document, a copy of which was shown to The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations, holds records from one county in Xinjiang, a northwestern region where human-rights groups say as many as a million people have been detained in re-education camps in recent years.

Xinjiang, on the doorstep of Central Asia, is home to millions of Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

Officials in Xinjiang describe the camps as vocational-training schools. In December, the region’s governor said all students had successfully “graduated.” The spreadsheet appears aimed at helping decide who would stay in custody and who would be let go, often for “management and control” at home.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

***Must Not Miss*** (AJPS) Young-Hoon Lee–Korean Pentecost: The Great Revival Of 1907

Then began a meeting the like of which I had never seen before, nor wish to see again unless in God’s sight it is absolutely necessary. Every sin a human being can commit was publicly confessed that night. Pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of mind and body, guilty souls, standing in the white light of their judgment, saw themselves as God saw them. Their sins rose up in all their vileness, till shame and grief and self-loathing took complete possession; pride was driven out, the face of man forgotten. Looking up to heaven, to Jesus whom they had betrayed, they smote themselves and cried out with bitter wailing: “Lord, Lord, cast us not away forever!” Everything else was forgotten, nothing else mattered. The scorn of men, the penalty of the law, even death itself seemed of small consequences if only God forgave. We may have other theories of desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine; but I know now that when the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls, there will be confession, and no power on earth can stop it.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the sermon posted earlier).

Posted in Church History, Korea, Missions, North Korea, Religion & Culture, South Korea, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

(AP) No handshakes: Viral outbreak spooks Asian places of worship

In a popular Catholic church in the Philippines, nearly half of the pews were empty for Sunday Mass. The few hundred worshippers who showed up were asked to refrain from shaking others’ hands or holding them during prayers to prevent the spread of the virus that started in China.

In Hong Kong, Cardinal John Hon Tong, wearing a mask, announced the suspension of public Masses for two weeks and urged churchgoers to instead watch them online.

Buddhist temples, Christian churches and Muslim mosques have been ordered closed since Jan. 29 in mainland China, where the new coronavirus strain was first detected in the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Mosques have canceled weekly Friday prayers since January under an order to avoid “collective religious activities.”

Religious leaders should encourage Muslims to “trust the party” and avoid crowds, the Communist Party-controlled body that oversees China’s officially authorized mosques said in a statement.

The restrictions and dwindling crowds in religiously diverse places of worship underscore the extent of the scare over the outbreak that has permeated many aspects of life in the hard-hit Asian region.

Read it all.

Posted in Asia, China, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

(CCD) During Epidemic, Chinese Believers Hold on to Faith through Family Worship

During the outbreak of Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), all on-site gatherings of churches have been suspended, but Jesus’ work in the hearts of believers has been not. The epidemic seems to separate the believers, but the inseparable love between each other in the Lord continues through their family worship sessions.

As a sister puts it, even though we can’t go to church, God’s love never leaves us. At home, we confess our sins to God and ask for his forgiveness and mercy. We read the Bible to help with our spiritual growth, and share spiritual resources with our brothers and sisters. We encourage each other and pray together, waiting for God’s blessings.

The children of God, some as families, others as individuals, worship God at home in various ways, even when they are not able to gather together….

Read it all.

Posted in Asia, China, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Church of England backs sports ministry

Sports and fitness activities are to be championed as part of plans by the Church of England to reach more people with the message of the Christian faith and promote the wellbeing of communities, it is announced…[yesterday].

Seven dioceses across the country in areas such as Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, Norfolk and Surrey, are to take part in pilot projects to include sport and wellbeing into their mission.

The dioceses hope to help provide a range of different activities from personal fitness classes to holiday football clubs, outdoor pursuits and even sports quizzes. In the Diocese of Gloucester, the Church of England is planning to develop a network of sport and wellbeing centres with participants invited to explore and respond to the Christian faith.

In Lancashire, in the Diocese of Blackburn, sports quizzes are already arranged for churches by the group Christians in Sport and churches have been active in setting up holiday sports schemes and personal fitness classes.

Training for lay and ordained leaders in sports and wellbeing ministry is being provided as part of the programme by Ridley Hall, the Anglican theological college in Cambridge.

Read it all.

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

(AP) More US firms are boosting faith-based support for employees

It has become standard practice for U.S. corporations to assure employees of support regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. There’s now an intensifying push to ensure that companies are similarly supportive and inclusive when it comes to employees’ religious beliefs.

One barometer: More than 20% of the Fortune 100 have established faith-based employee resource groups, according to an AP examination and there’s a high-powered conference taking place this week in Washington aimed at expanding those ranks.

“Corporate America is at a tipping point toward giving religion similar attention to that given the other major diversity categories,” says Brian Grim, founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation that’s co-hosting the conference along with the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business.

A few companies have long-established faith-in-the-workplace programs, such as Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, which deploys a team of more than 90 chaplains to comfort and counsel employees at its plants and offices. That program began in 2000.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) General Synod accepts that ‘serious money’ must be found for abuse survivors

Calls for “proper” and “just” redress for survivors of clerical abuse, with “serious money”, were made in an emotional debate on safeguarding in the General Synod on Wednesday morning.

The Synod voted unanimously for an amended motion to endorse the response of the Archbishops’ Council to the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The amendment, brought by the next lead Bishop of safeguarding, the Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, asked that the original motion be reinforced by “concrete actions”. Earlier attempts to strengthen it had foundered (News, 7 February). Dr Gibbs’s amendment also urged the National Safeguarding Steering Group to commit to a “fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors” and to update the Synod on the progress on the IICSA recommendations not later than 2021.

Redress was a small phrase with large implications, Dr Gibbs said. “It will mean serious money [and] changes in ways we handle claims and complaints.” Safeguarding responses must be “shaped by the righteousness and compassion of God’s Kingdom, not by the short-term and short-sighted financial and reputational interests of the Church,” he said.

Read it all.

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

(Economist) Latin America’s new war of religion

Under the banner of “religion and traditional (ecclesiastical) privileges”, in 1858 Mexican Conservatives rose in arms against a Liberal constitution which declared freedom of worship and ended a rule preventing Catholic church property from being transferred to anyone else. After a three-year war, the liberal principles of religious toleration and the separation of church and state triumphed. In the following decades they spread across Latin America. Now, it seems, this 19th-century political battle has to be fought all over again.

The new blurring of the divide between spiritual and temporal realms owes much to the rise of evangelical Protestantism. Although 69% of Latin Americans were still Catholics in 2014, 19% were Protestants (26% in Brazil and more than 40% in three Central American countries), says a Pew poll. The number of Protestants is likely to have risen since then. Most are Pentecostals.

Read it all.

Posted in Latin America & Caribbean, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Overwhelming support for General Synod safeguarding motion

General Synod voted unanimously today to endorse the Church’s response to the five recommendations from IICSA and urged its national safeguarding steering group to work towards a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors.

The debate was opened by the lead bishop for safeguarding, Bishop Peter Hancock who shared personal reflections on his time as lead bishop along with outlining the Church’s response to the IICSA recommendations. The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, takes over as lead safeguarding bishop in April.

Read it all and please note the links to the various speeches.

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

(CEN) Andrew Carey–The C of E Bishops are playing a game of power politics

Last week’s College of Bishops meeting was described by one unnamed evangelical bishop as a ‘bruising experience’. Out of it emerged a statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologising for the House of Bishops’ statement on civil partnerships in which it had set out the orthodox position of the Church of England.

The Archbishops wrote: “We… apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement … which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

Predictably, of course, this apology has done far more damage than the original statement. Liberals took it as a pseudo-apology along the lines of ‘sorry for offending you’, or ‘sorry for being caught out’. Many others took it as an apology for the actual statement and therefore a rejection of the Church of England’s teaching on marriage. Others took it as a clever bit of spin in which the Archbishops could head off liberal outrage, while still maintaining faith with evangelicals and traditionalists. That latter interpretation does the Archbishops no favours at all because it portrays them in similar terms to Iannucci’s Thick of It as spin doctors desperately and incompetently triangulating to win their nihilistic game of power politics.

The Bishop of Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Martin Seeley, is the latest Diocesan Bishop to break ranks with the Bishops’ pastoral statement on civil partnerships. He revealed that he and other colleagues had asked that the document be withdrawn but a majority of bishops decided against this course of action. From this insight, it is clear that we are beginning at last to see a bit of an honest open ‘fight’ in the House of Bishops. This is about time too. And I also hope that this division is openly revealed in the General Synod as it meets this week.

If we have this aim of achieving ‘good disagreement’ let us at least be open about it rather than hide it behind closed doors. It cannot be ‘good disagreement’ if it is hidden behind the superficial smiles representing faux Anglican ‘niceness’.At the moment suspicions are festering and we in the Church of England are in that anxious and fretting place – the calm before the storm.

The problem with processes such as Living in Love and Faith is that most of the debate and discussion takes place behind closed doors in a process that many of us simply don’t trust. I have always believed that this process is in place simply to kick the can down the road rather than leading to a place where a decision can be made about the future direction of the Church of England. I am much more likely to be convinced if this was an open discussion in the Church of England.

It would be much more honest to recognise the profound differences we have over human sexuality and decide how the two sides in this debate are going to co-exist – if they ever can – in the same Church.Does the future now lie in some kind of formal distancing of relationships from which different networks and forms of oversight can emerge?

–This column appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2020, edition (subscriptions are encrouaged)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Andrew Symes on the Oxford Ad Clerum–Bishop offers orthodox Anglicans hope of retaining protected minority status as Diocese takes reappraising route

….there are several clues in the letter that the Bishop does not see his office as a guardian of the apostolic faith, or even as a neutral referee between those with opposing views, but rather as gatekeeper of a new era, ushering in a new default position of revisionist theology while continuing for the moment to tolerate those with traditional views.

Bishop Colin begins by referring first not to the Bishops’ pastoral statement itself, but to the Archbishops’ apology for it following the media furore. He then makes an excuse for the publication of this official episcopal statement, apologises for it himself, and goes further,calling it “wrong-headed and pastorally inept”. Although he acknowledges that some people were in favour of the statement, seeing it as a clear expression of the church’s historic teaching, he makes it clear that he, and by extension the Oxford Diocesan leadership, stand with those who oppose the statement – in fact he specifically quotes further criticisms of the statement from the Bishops of Oxford and Reading.

This criticism is not just about tone and timing, but also content. Outlining why the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement was needed in the first place, Bishop Colin explains it as a response to Civil Partnerships becoming available for heterosexual couples, which was simply a matter of “justice”, and only raised “technical questions” for the church. This dismisses the concerns that many faithful Christians have had about the Civil Partnership legislation: how it undermines marriage, and creates obvious issues about sexual ethics that the Bishops’ Statement was trying to answer.

The Ad Clerum goes on to quote with approval highly critical articles about the Bishops’ pastoral statement in The Times and in the Via Media blog. It is surely significant that these pieces which fiercely attack and even deride historic Christian teaching about sexual ethics and the Church of England’s attempts to navigate the issue, are commended by a Bishop, writing in a position of spiritual authority to his flock. He then makes clear his agreement with the view that, just as the church over the years has changed its understanding on the celibacy of clergy, use of contraception and permitting marriage of divorcees, so there is nothing “static and immovable” in Christian teaching. This, together with a marked absence in the letter of any reference to Scripture or even to God (except at the end – “God bless you”) will surely cause alarm as it appears to illustrate a complete loss of confidence in the idea, basic to Christianity, that faith is based on things that are unchanging!

A letter genuinely trying to balance the different views would offer resources from the two sides, as Living in Love and Faith is likely to do. Bishop Colin does not do this.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Diocese of Oxford Ad Clerum Letter in response to the recent C of E Bishops Pastoral Statement

But are you listening to other voices?

The responses of the bishops and many others have disturbed some people. We have had clergy in this Diocese, who are loved, respected and valued, write to say that they affirmed the pastoral statement. They are concerned to know that we will continue to honour and pastor to those who uphold the historic teaching of the Church of England on marriage.

We continue to listen carefully to voices from across the Church about these matters. As we stated in our December 2018 letter to members of ODEF, neither I nor my fellow bishops have any intention or desire to exclude in any way those who hold to the traditional teaching of the Church and our marriage discipline. As bishops, these are things we uphold. We do not permit uncanonical blessings, though we do seek to encourage priests who, in good conscience, want to pray for and with people at significant points of their lives in a spirit of generous hospitality. As bishops, we are always happy to advise clergy on these matters as issues arise.

Living in Love and Faith

As well as the pastoral insensitivity of the statement, the timing of it was problematic. The Church is now coming towards the end of a two-year national programme of listening, prayer and discernment led by the bishops.

Living in Love and Faith will help the Church to learn and explore questions of human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality. Study guides and resources will be published following the July General Synod. We hope and pray that parishes and deaneries will fully engage with those resources when they are published.

For some, the resources will break new ground. For others, they won’t go far enough. But we must hold firm to that timetable and await what comes next while trusting and praying for the those most closely involved in the process. Do take time to explore the LLF website.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Safeguarding: the Church of England’s house is slowly being rebuilt

Our proposals sought to record our collective lament at our sins of omission and commission, and (for the second time of asking) we commended the text of the excellent Blackburn Ad Clerum. Then and now these suggestions were rejected: the first time our Archbishops thought it premature; this time, seeking to preface our acceptance of the IICSA recommendations with sentiments of repentance, and endorsing the pastoral response which our victims had welcomed, were ruled technically out of order. We can play with the idea of repentance being ‘out of order’ in this context at a future juncture: this is not the time for mischief-making, however tempting.

Our purpose in going beyond the anaemic and prosaic was to make this debate a cultural turning point from which we might begin to move on from the necessary demolition – of structures, attitudes, policies etc. – toward a more positive future.

We thought it important that such an initiative should come from below, for we saw that it is no longer sufficient for the House of Bishops alone to direct our response. Archbishop Justin has previously acknowledged that a change to the culture of deference is needed. We were taking him seriously. It is liberating and deserves to be taken seriously. “Trust me, I’m a Bishop” is no longer a sound principle: the whole of the Church, from top to bottom, must own its priorities, and discussing these at Synod seemed to be a healthy place to start.

Our proposals additionally committed Synod to accepting the final IICSA proposals promptly, on the basis that it was inconceivable that we would pretend to know better after all the embarrassment of the IICSA evidence and submissions. Our track record does not merit once again wandering off on a Safeguarding frolic of our own.

Our final proposal dared to engage bluntly with the issue of proper reparation. We were mindful of the story of ‘Tony’ in the insurance press. He told his story on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and explained how survivors have endured very low levels of compensation because they cannot afford to take matters to court and lose. The power imbalance in the negotiations is immense.

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

(Church Times) Church of England General Synod apologises to Windrush generation for C of E racism

The Church of England is still “deeply institutionally racist”, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the General Synod on Tuesday.

During a debate on the Empire Windrush legacy (Features, 29 June 2018), Archbishop Welby said: “Personally, I am sorry and ashamed. I’m ashamed of our history, and I’m ashamed of our failure. I’m ashamed of our lack of witness to Christ. I’m ashamed at my lack of urgent voice to the Church. . . It is shaming as well as shocking.”

The debate was triggered by a private member’s motion tabled by the Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby (Southwark) which called for the Synod to “lament, on behalf of Christ’s Church, the conscious and unconscious racism experienced by countless BAME Anglicans in 1948 and subsequent years”, and to “stamp out all forms of conscious or unconscious racism”.

The motion — subsequently amended to add an apology to the lament, and to commission further research — was carried unanimously.

In his introduction to the debate, Mr Moughtin-Mumby, a priest of British-Jamaican heritage, said that he did not have a personal connection to the Windrush generation; but he was raising the motion as “a matter of simple Christian solidarity with a group of people who have fallen victim to the injustice of discrimination at the hands of our Government and our Church”.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture