Category : Religion & Culture

(CT’s The Exchange) Ryan Burge–Race, Religion, and the Future of American Evangelicalism

Evangelicals are having a branding problem. When I searched Twitter in December of 2018 for tweets that contained the word “evangelical,” I was surprised to see that one of the most popular words that appeared in those tweets was the word “white.” In fact, I looked back over a number of different sets of tweets going back to 2017 and the term “white evangelical” comes up frequently among those discussing evangelical Protestants on social media. That means that at least one vocal portion of the population sees that evangelicalism has become strongly linked with a white racial identity. That’s bad news if you are concerned about the future viability of American evangelicalism. In this article, I want to outline three important trends regarding race and faith that we should consider as we try to lead evangelicalism through this period.

First, Evangelicals are not keeping pace with America’s racial diversity

It is a widely accepted statistical fact that the racial makeup of the United States is rapidly changing. In 2018, about seven in ten people living in the United States are non-Hispanic whites. However, that will dramatically change over the next 30 years. The United States Census Bureau now projects that somewhere between 2045 and 2050, the share of the population that is white will drop below fifty percent.

While there are numerous reasons for this change, it appears to be due to two key factors. First, the average age of the white population is steadily increasing, while the ages of other racial groups are staying much lower. Second, the fertility rate of racial minorities is far outpacing the number of children that are born to white Americans. This is already evident in the data. In the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), just 57% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 25 were white.

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Posted in Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Christian Today) On what should have been Brexit weekend, churches and cathedrals open their doors for prayer and dialogue

The first weekend after the UK was supposed to leave the European Union, churches and cathedrals are offering spaces for conversation and prayer on Brexit.

Many churches across the country are holding prayer vigils this weekend on what should have marked the start of a new post-Brexit era for the UK.

But after another week of votes and debates failed to break the deadlock on Brexit, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting people to come together in dialogue and prayer as part of five days of prayer for the nation and its future relationship with the European Union.

Cathedrals across England have answered that call. On Friday, Leicester Cathedral hosted a prayer vigil led by the Bishop of Loughborough, Guli Francis-Dehqani, Chair of the European Council of Churches, while Wakefield Cathedral has been inviting members of the public to come and write down their prayers for peace and for each other on prayer cards.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Man arrested after gun incident at St Paul’s Cathedral

A suspected gunman attempted to shoot security guards inside St Paul’s Cathedral before being arrested by firearms police as he fled.

The suspect, who has not been identified, is said to have also levelled the weapon at staff and pulled the trigger but no bullets were fired, the BBC reported.

He was spotted by security staff inside the cathedral’s crypt, which has a café and is generally busy with tourists. Elsewhere in the crypt lie the tombs of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed the rebuilt cathedral after the original structure was all but destroyed in the Great Fire.

He fled towards an exit but was intercepted by firearms officers from City of London Police.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(WSJ) Deus Ex Machina: More Religions Use Robots to Connect With the Public

Gabriele Trovato is worried about tomorrow. Or at least that’s what he confesses to SanTO, one of his religion-inspired robots. Just shy of 17 inches tall, SanTO resembles those small figurines of saints often found in Catholic homes—except with a computer, microphone, sensors and a facial recognition-enabled camera. As Mr. Trovato touches and speaks to the machine, its deep, echoing voice responds with a Bible quote: “From the Gospel according to Matthew,” it says, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Mr. Trovato, a roboticist and assistant professor at Japan’s Waseda University, designed SanTO to provide comfort and assistance to the elderly. Interactive, social robots like ElliQ, a robot companion for seniors, or Sony’s Aibo robot dog are increasingly seen as a means to alleviate loneliness, entertain and provide information. But they can do better at making users comfortable with the technology, Mr. Trovato said, by incorporating cultural touchstones including religious features. At the same time, a handful of religious institutions are developing robots to converse with visitors and share doctrine. These robots are not meant to replace religious leaders, but they can make religious information more accessible or spur attendance to places of worship. “Religion has evolved through history, from oral tradition to written tradition to press and mass media. So it’s very reasonable to think that AI and robotics will help religion to spread out more,” Mr. Trovato said.

Eventually, says Robert Geraci, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, robots might become more than just tools. “One possibility is that religion gets radically reformulated in collaboration with the advancement of technology,” he said. Another is that technology-celebrating movements such as transhumanism could compete with traditional religions. Should they ever become sentient, robots could join faiths themselves, raising questions about religious identity, he said. Would a robot count for a minyan, a Jewish quorum for religious obligations?

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Touchstone) Jacob Fareed Imam–Not Merely Islam: C. S. Lewis Assesses the Religion of Mohammed

Living in Christian Oxford as he did and dying in 1963, C. S. Lewis never directly witnessed the growing scale of Islamic immigration to the United Kingdom in the years after World War II. His exposure to Islam was more literary and intellectual than personal and actual.

Daily interactions between Muslims and Christians in Britain (and throughout the West) have increased vastly since Lewis’s time, yet mutual understanding has not grown with the same rapidity. Particularly now, as Islamic extremism threatens the West with yet another holy war, Christians must understand Islam apart from polemical analyses. Samuel Huntington argues in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996) that both of these world religions grew markedly in the twentieth century in large part because many tried to escape modernity and secularity in tradition-dependent claims to truth. Given that so many settled within these traditions, it would be interesting to examine what a major religious thinker of the time thought about the other religion.

Lewis, as one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century and somewhat ahead of his time in his familiarity—albeit literary and intellectual—with things Islamic, may assist us in understanding Islam from a Christian perspective.

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Posted in Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NR) San Antonio Violates the First Amendment to Punish Chick-fil-A

The San Antonio city council has voted to block Chick-fil-A from opening a store in its airport to punish it for donating to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.

No, really. Here’s the report, from Fortune:

Don’t plan on getting a Chick-Fil-A sandwich next time you fly through San Antonio Airport.

The city’s district council approved a new concession agreement for the airport on Thursday that will bring in more local establishments and specifically bans the popular chicken sandwich chain. At issue, apparently, is the donation of money by the Chick-Fil-A to groups that have been accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

The council was apparently reacting to a breathless Think Progress allegation that “in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.8 million to a trio of groups with a record of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.” The donations included more than $1.6 million of the FCA, $150,000 to the Salvation Army, and a small $6,000 gift to the Paul Anderson Youth Home. By Think Progress’s standard, a company is committing a terrible sin whenever it gives money to a traditional Christian ministry. After all, FCA is merely upholding traditional Christian teaching that sexual activity is reserved for a marriage between a man and a woman. The donation to the Salvation Army is apparently based on the Salvation Army’s past policies, since Think Progress admits that the Salvation Army currently has “a national policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The FCA and the Salvation Army (I’m not familiar with the work of the youth home) both do an immense amount of good in this nation. No one seriously questions the Salvation Army’s value, and the FCA is a fixture in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American youth. It provides a spiritual home for countless kids and often a community of friends they can find nowhere else. Does “inclusion” now demand that corporate donors exclude them from support? Apparently so. Here’s San Antonio city councilman Robert Trevino:

With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior . . . Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies.”

This is Orwellian nonsense. This action isn’t based on any alleged mistreatment of gay customers. Instead it’s based on the notion that a person won’t feel “welcome” in an airport because they disagree with the charitable donations of a foundation connected to one of the airport’s vendors. That’s absurd. That’s more fake outrage. And it’s unsustainable for a free people in a pluralistic society. Should we only feel “welcome” in spaces where we know the owners share our faith?

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Tablet) Jesuit Refugee Service has accused the Home Office of demonstrating a “shocking illiteracy of Christianity” in its recent Action

Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK said: “This is a particularly outrageous example of the reckless and facetious approach of the Home Office to determining life and death asylum cases – they appear willing to distort any aspect of reality in order to turn down a claim.

“This case demonstrates the shocking illiteracy of Christianity within the Home Office. But the distortion of logic and reckless approach to asylum seeker’s lives is a common feature. Here at JRS, we routinely encounter cases where asylum has been refused on spurious grounds. Some of these cases require more legal knowledge to recognise than this bizarre misquoting of the Bible.

“As this instance gains public attention, we need to remember it reflects a systematic problem and a deeper mindset of disbelief within the Home Office, and is not just an anomaly that can be explained away.”

Mr Stevens said that the Home Office subsequently agreed to withdraw their refusal and to reconsider the man’s asylum application. He later released details of a second case, in which a Christian woman who fled Iran fearing execution had her asylum claim rejected because the Home Office considered her belief in Jesus to be “half-hearted”.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) A Letter to the Editor from Archbp John Setamu and others–‘Double standards on oil spills in Nigeria must end’

The devastating impact of oil spills is widely recognised. The past decade has witnessed the destruction caused to human life and the environment from spills including the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the Montara spill in Australia in 2009.

On each occasion the global community has reacted with horror, demanding the oil industry clean up local ecosystems and communities. Yet in Nigeria, and particularly in Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta, these calls are ignored.

Oil spills are a persistent feature of life in Bayelsa. While 4m litres of oil are spilled annually in the US, 40m litres are spilled in the Niger Delta.

Oil has poisoned the land and water. The contamination of fish and crops has destroyed livelihoods, decimated local employment opportunities and pushed many into militancy. Life expectancy in the Niger Delta is 10 years below the national average.

Multinational oil companies operate to severe double standards. While efforts are made to clean up spills in the US, Scotland or Norway, oil is left to flow unabated in Nigeria.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Religion & Culture

(RNS) After Cyclone Idai disaster, church organizations mobilize to help devastated Africans

When Cyclone Idai struck the Southeast Africa coast last week, it swept away everything in its path, including churches, schools and homes in the Mozambican port city of Beira and beyond.

By Sunday, the number of confirmed deaths caused by the storm in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, already surpassing 700, continued to rise as churches, Christian relief organizations and agencies raced to aid the three countries most affected by the tropical storm.

After causing extensive flooding as a tropical storm, the cyclone — traveling at a speed of up to 177 kilometers (106 miles) an hour — made landfall on the Mozambican coast on March 14 and continued inland. On Saturday, agencies reported that the number of deaths had reached nearly 750 and was expected to rise in the three countries.

Last week, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said the number of deaths in his country could reach 1,000. Initial government estimates said nearly 1.8 million people were affected by the floods — including 900,000 children, according to UNICEF….

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Zimbabwe

(NYT) This Chinese Christian Was Charged With Trying to Subvert the State

In 2006, three Chinese Christians traveled to Washington to ask President George W. Bush for his support in their fight for religious freedom. One of them had converted to the faith only a few months earlier: Wang Yi, a 33-year-old lawyer from the southwestern city of Chengdu.

But Mr. Wang had already become such a prominent Christian that organizers made sure he went to the White House. A nationally known essayist and civil rights lawyer, he would soon found a 500-member church that was independent of government control, along with a seminary, an elementary school and even a group to aid the families of political prisoners — all illegal but which he accomplished by sheer force of will.

Today, Mr. Wang, now 45, is back in the spotlight, this time at the center of an intense crackdown on Christianity. His Early Rain Covenant Church and others like it are popular among China’s growing middle class and have resisted government control, testing the ruling Communist Party’s resolve to bring China’s churches to heel.

“He saw an inevitable fight with the government because of it trying to control the churches,” said Enoch Wang, a pastor based in the United States who has met Wang Yi many times. “He knows that sooner or later they’ll come for you and so there’s no point in trying to hide.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture

Terry Mattingly–After wars over Bible, marriage and sex: is Union possible for Reappraising Episcopalians and Methodists?

So far, leaders on the United Methodist left haven’t announced plans to leave. But that doesn’t mean that Episcopal clergy and other liberal Protestant leaders shouldn’t be prepared to help United Methodists who come their way, said the Rev. David Simmons of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, Wis., a leader in several regional and national ecumenical efforts.

“We have to start with the fact that lots of United Methodists are really hurting,” he said, in a telephone interview. “What we should be doing is providing a safe harbor. Our primary motivation shouldn’t be to grab members from other churches. … If we do that then we’re not being a safe harbor. We can’t go around saying, ‘United Methodists hare having trouble, so let’s recruit them.’ ”

Thus, Simmons recently posted an online essay entitled, “How to Deal With Methodists at your Red Church Doors” – referring to the front doors at most Episcopal parishes. His subtitle was even more blunt: “Don’t be a Jerk.” His suggestions to Episcopal leaders included:

* Remember that Methodists have their own traditions and history. It’s wrong to hand them a Book of Common Prayer and try to instantly “make them Episcopalians. … ANY language about ‘Coming Home’ or ‘Returning to the Mother Church’ is harmful, insensitive and historically inaccurate, since American Methodism and the Episcopal Church are both technically equal children of the Church of England.”

* “Lay off the smugness!” Episcopalians, for example, should not brag about “how much further ahead we are” on LGBTQ issues, noted Simmons. Some United Methodist congregations have “been way ahead of us in this in spite of the discipline of the UMC. … Don’t attempt to score cheap points….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

The University of Kent issues a statement on the Partial Lambeth Conference to be held there in 2020

The University has become aware that proposals relating to the Lambeth Conference 2020, which is due to be held at the University, raises serious issues at the heart of these values.

The Lambeth Conference is, of course, a remarkable event and has been held at the University since 1978. When the organisers of the Lambeth Conference 2020 came to the University seeking to work with us again, we were happy to engage. Bringing this gathering of spiritual leaders, from across the globe, to meet, celebrate, debate, learn and reflect, supports our vision of the kind of welcoming, inclusive, civic university we stand for and formal agreement relating to the use of University facilities was reached in August 2018.

It subsequently came to the University’s attention that, on 15 February 2019, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion made a public announcement on the Anglican Communion News Service website ‘that it would be inappropriate for same sex spouses to be invited to the conference’.

The University was concerned by this announcement, as it does not accord with our values, and determined it would seek further information and discuss the issue at its next meeting of University Council, the University’s governing body. The University has since received a large number of concerns raised by staff, students, and members of the public, about hosting the conference. While we currently understand that the Lambeth Conference may be permitted by law to rely on exemption under the Equality Act 2010 for religious organisations, we also believe there are significant ethical concerns raised. These were discussed at the meeting of University Council on 22 March 2019.

Council members were clear that exclusion of same sex spouses, on grounds of orientation, would be contrary to the values of the University. Council determined that the University shall ensure that accommodation will be available on campus for those spouses affected by this decision who wish to be in Canterbury with their partners during the conference period. The University welcomes them and affirms its belief in, and commitment to, diversity and inclusivity.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(CT) America’s Farming Crisis, Laid Bare by Midwest Floods

The fields where my grandfather and his brothers once played football are currently covered by several feet of water.

My grandpa Bert was born in a small Nebraska town called Oakland, a couple hours north of Lincoln, just down the road from Senator Ben Sasse in Fremont. Like much of northeastern Nebraska, these towns are now in crisis, battling the historic flooding that has devastated the state’s farms and ranches, killed three people, and dislocated thousands.

Currently the state estimates $439 million in damages to infrastructure, $85 million in damages to homes and businesses, $400 million worth of cattle lost, and $440 million of crops destroyed, placing the total damages, by my count, at around $1.3 billion….

Sadly, I cannot help but see this quickening destruction happening in my home state. The flood has soaked thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses to ruin in places that already struggled with a trajectory of economic decline and despair brought about by forces outside their control.

 

To understand the impact of these catastrophic floods in Nebraska—what they will mean for the communities in the weeks, months, and years after the rivers recede and the roads clear—we have to look at the state of the farmers, the men and women who have loved this place even when no one else did.

 

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Religion & Culture, Theology

(History) Why the King James Bible of 1604 Remains the Most Popular Translation in History

In 1604, England’s King James I authorized a new translation of the Bible aimed at settling some thorny religious differences in his kingdom—and solidifying his own power.

But in seeking to prove his own supremacy, King James ended up democratizing the Bible instead. Thanks to emerging printing technology, the new translation brought the Bible out of the church’s sole control and directly into the hands of more people than ever before, including the Protestant reformers who settled England’s North American colonies in the 17th century.

Emerging at a high point in the English Renaissance, the King James Bible held its own among some of the most celebrated literary works in the English language (think William Shakespeare). Its majestic cadences would inspire generations of artists, poets, musicians and political leaders, while many of its specific phrases worked their way into the fabric of the language itself.

Even now, more than four centuries after its publication, the King James Bible (a.k.a. the King James Version, or simply the Authorized Version) remains the most famous Bible translation in history—and one of the most printed books ever.

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Posted in Books, History, Religion & Culture

(CT Editorial) Ted Olsen–Religious Freedom Isn’t Just for Christians

At the 2016 Southern Baptist annual meeting, pastors chastised convention bodies that had filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of New Jersey Muslims wanting to build a mosque. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) didn’t back down. “A government that has the power to outlaw people from assembling together and saying what they believe, that does not turn people into Christians,” he said. “That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell.”

The International Mission Board (IMB) initially defended itself too, saying the briefs both embodied Baptist beliefs and gave its workers credibility overseas. But it soon changed its policies and promised to “speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission.”

Five years ago, the IMB and ERLC were two of several Christian organizations that filed briefs in a Supreme Court case on behalf of a Muslim prisoner barred from growing a half-inch beard. The Alliance Defending Freedom was another. But the ADF website indicates it hasn’t advocated for a Muslim’s religious freedom since. Meanwhile, some Christian organizations have been suggesting that Muslims don’t deserve religious freedom because Islam isn’t really a religion. The Thomas More Law Center’s Tom Lynch took aim at another organization: “[If you] Believe Islam a religion, then support the Becket Fund,” he tweeted. “Believe it will destroy US, then [support] thomas­more.org.”

This is madness. When we advocate on behalf of Muslims and other religious minorities, the Golden Rule dovetails with making common cause against aggressive secularization and government overreach. (It’s worth noting that Alabama said that if it lost the Ray case, it would bar chaplains instead of allowing imams.) But if you only argue for the religious liberty of your friends and co-religionists, what’s the point? Even pagans do that! (Matt. 5:47) We who know true freedom do not want to use our own freedom for self-indulgence but to serve others humbly in love (Gal. 5:13). Advocating for religious freedom is not just about what’s good for Christians. It’s also about being Christians: It is a way in which we can show our neighbors what the True God is about.

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

(RNS) ‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals and R Catholics in the U.S.

In a shift that stands to impact both religion and politics, survey data suggests that the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or Catholic.

According to newly released General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016.

That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country.

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

(C of E) Response to Home Office letter regarding Iranian asylum seeker from Bp Paul Butler

“I am extremely concerned that a Government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities. To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding.

“It is good that the Home Office has recognised that this decision is inconsistent with its policies and that its staff need better training, but the fact that these comments were made at all suggests that the problem goes deeper than a lack of religious literacy among individual civil servants and indicates that the management structures and ethos of the Home Office, when dealing with cases with a religious dimension, need serious overhaul.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(1st Things) California threatens the seal of confession

n February 20, California Democratic State Senator Jerry Hill, whose affluent, liberal-leaning district encompasses the San Francisco Peninsula and portions of Silicon Valley, introduced a bill to abolish legal protection for the Catholic Church’s sacramental seal of confession, at least as regards confessions of child abuse.

Specifically, the bill would remove an exemption for “penitential communications” in an existing state law that designates more than forty categories of professionals—clergy, physicians, teachers, counselors, social workers, and the like—as “mandated reporters” who face criminal penalties if they fail to report sexual and other mistreatment of children that they learn about in their professional capacities. Currently, the law carves out a narrow exception for information obtained during the Catholic sacrament of Penance and other religions’ similar penitential rituals, which bind clergy to secrecy. If the California legislature enacts Hill’s bill, that exception would disappear—and Catholic priests, bound by canon law not to disclose the contents of a confession, could face criminal prosecution and imprisonment for refusing to comply. “The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes—with no exceptions, period. The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk,” Hill said in a statement accompanying the proposed measure, SB-360.

The Catholic doctrine of the seal of confession dates back to the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which mandated that Catholics confess their grave sins to a priest via the sacrament of Penance. The latest formulation of the church’s Code of Canon Law states: “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.” The penalty for any priest who divulges anything heard in confession—or even a penitent’s identity—is automatic excommunication. Eastern Orthodox churches do not have such an explicit rule, but they do have the same expectation of absolute secrecy surrounding sacramental confession. Since the Middle Ages it has not been unusual for priests to risk—and occasionally endure—martyrdom from secular authorities rather than break the seal, as did several priests executed by militant secularists during Mexico’s Cristero uprising of the 1920s and the Spanish Civil War a decade later. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 film, I Confess, involves a priest who risks conviction for a murder he did not commit after the true murderer confesses the crime to him and he is bound not to reveal it.

Interestingly, although America is historically Protestant, it has also historically recognized the binding power of the Catholic seal of sacramental confession.

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Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) After Mass Detentions, China Razes Muslim Communities to Build a Loyal City

In this old Silk Road city in western China, a state security campaign involving the detention of vast numbers of people has moved to its next stage: demolishing their neighborhoods and purging their culture.

Two years after authorities began rounding up Urumqi’s mostly Muslim ethnic Uighur residents, many of the anchors of Uighur life and identity are being uprooted. Empty mosques remain, while the shantytown homes that surrounded them have been replaced by glass towers and retail strips like many found across China.

Food stalls that sold fresh nang, the circular flatbread that is to Uighur society what baguettes are to the French, are gone. The young men that once baked the nang have disappeared, as have many of their customers. Uighur-language books are missing from store shelves in a city, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, that has long been a center of the global Uighur community.

Supplanting the Turkic culture that long defined large parts of Urumqi is a sanitized version catering to Chinese tourists. On a recent morning in the Erdaoqiao neighborhood, the once-bustling heart of Uighur Urumqi, nang ovens were nowhere to be seen—but souvenir shops sold nang-shaped pocket mirrors, nang bottle openers and circular throw pillows with covers printed to look like nang.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(AP) Dartmouth professor Marcelo Gleiser wins top religion prize

A Dartmouth College professor of physics and astronomy was awarded one of the world’s leading religion prizes for blending hard science and deep spirituality in his work, a foundation announced Tuesday.

The John Templeton Foundation is awarding its 2019 prize to Marcelo Gleiser, who has written books on topics ranging from the origin of the universe to how science engages with spirituality. The Templeton Prize comes with a $1.4 million award.

Gleiser, a 60-year-old Brazilian native, is the 49th recipient and the first from Latin America to get the award, which honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension. Previous winners include Mother Teresa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and King Abdullah II of Jordan. The award will be presented at a ceremony in New York City on May 29.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

(CT) Seventh Circuit rules Clergy Housing Allowance is constitutional

The October 2017 decision by Wisconsin district judge Judge Barbara Crabb had been a victory for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which “jeopardized the benefit for clergy in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin … and many predicted similar consequences nationwide,” wrote CT’s sister publication, Church Law & Tax(CLT) in an analysis.

In today’s ruling, a panel of three judges again refuted the claims of FFRF attorneys, deciding that the allowance passes muster according to two related Supreme Court rulings, Town of Greece v. Galloway and Lemon v. Kurtzman.

“FFRF claims Section 107(2) renders unto God that which is Caesar’s,” wrote circuit judge Michael Brennan. “But this tax provision falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.”

The FFRF told the Associated Press it is reviewing its options.

CT previously reported how the FFRF challenged the same tax break in 2012 with the same initial success, but ultimately lost on appeal in November 2014. Today’s ruling was essentially a rematch over whether the tax benefit unfairly benefits religious Americans.

“This ruling is a victory not just for my church but for the needy South Side Chicago community we serve,” said Chicago Embassy Church pastor Chris Butler in a Becket press release. He intervened in the case because his church “can’t afford to pay him a full salary, but it offers him a small housing allowance, so he can afford to live near his church and the community he serves,” noted Becket, which represented a group of pastors appealing the FFRF’s initial victory.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(NPR) After New Zealand Attacks, Muslim Americans Call For Action Against Rising Bigotry

As New Zealand grapples with the aftermath of the attack on two Muslim congregations in Christchurch, the mass shootings on the other side of the world have struck fear through Muslim American communities and renewed calls for action against the rise of bigotry in the U.S.

Muslim Americans urged political leaders, local officials and tech companies to confront the alarming spread of hate and racism that in recent years has led to scores of worshippers being slaughtered in religious institutions.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Friday, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad demanded President Trump unequivocally condemn the attacks, saying his words and policies “impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally.”

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture

(SC) Martin Sewell–Too important to care about child sexual abuse? Problems for Church and State

To their credit, the Scottish Liberal Party have moved swiftly to suspend and investigate Lord Steel’s case. In this they put to shame the Church of England. At virtually the same time problems have again hit the Church of England with reports
from Chester Crown Court that the local Diocesan Bishop had received an admission from a priest abuser but accepted an assurance that he “would not do it again”. This has resulted in campaigning journalist Andrew Graystone writing to directly call for the Bishop’s resignation.

In both cases, plainly those exercising misjudgement are not bad people. I constantly remind readers that the context of the time must be factored in. However, the time for this to be an excuse allowing us to continue, simply apologising, undertaking a “learned lesson review’ and moving on, has surely passed. That scenario has been played out too many times in too many places. Victims need to see more robust responses either from the individuals concerned or from the relevant institutions.

Until such public figures pay a price, either through voluntarily resignation, through the withdrawal of honours conferred upon them, or through being shunned by the court of public opinion, we shall continue to have a culture of minimisation and cover-up. Hitherto the only ones who have paid a price for these matters coming into the public domain are the victims who have to revisit their history of pain, humiliation, anger and all the tragedies within their personal lives that go with this.

If the Establishment, secular or faith, is to retain any credibility, it is time for its members to grasp the personal responsibility that such cases require. Great reputation and personal advantage goes with pubic status: with great privilege goes great responsibility. Respect for both victims betrayed and the institutions served requires no more feet shuffling but bold moral acceptance of consequence through principled resignation.

Anything less would demonstrate precisely the kind of cynicism which our Archbishop advised us to give up for Lent when he addressed the General Synod last month. It will continue to poison our public discourse unless or until those privileged with public approval voluntarily surrender it when public confidence is no longer merited.

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

Church leaders offer prayer and solidarity after New Zealand mosque attacks leaves 49 dead

Anglican archbishops in New Zealand, Australia and England have spoken out after gunmen attacked two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. At 9 pm Friday NZDT (8 am GMT), the official death toll from the terror attacks stood at 49 people with another 39 being treated in Christchurch Hospital. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a press conference that 41 people were killed at the al-Noor mosque on Deans Avenue; and seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Avenue. Another person died at Christchurch Hospital.

The City of Christchurch was put on lockdown after news of the attacks emerged at around 1.40 pm NZDT (12.40 am GMT). Four people have been arrested. One, a man in his twenties described as a white supremacist, has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow (Saturday). One armed man arrested near the scene has been ruled out of involvement. Police are continuing to investigate whether two other people arrested at the scene with firearms were involved in the attacks.

The Bishop of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, issued a statement on behalf of the leaders of churches in Christchurch city and Canterbury province. “Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon and our hearts and prayers go to all involved,” the statement said. “No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone’s hate – regardless of beliefs.

“We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. So across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event.

“We are upholding you all in our prayers. We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer. We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.”

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism, Violence

(NZ Herald) Terror Attacks on New Zealand Mosques; 49 Dead

A horrific shooting at a Christchurch mosque was livestreamed for 17 minutes by the gunman.

Australian police have identified the shooter as Brenton Tarrant – a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man. Twitter has shut down a user account in that name.

The gunman published an online link to a lengthy “manifesto”, which the Herald has chosen not to report.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an individual taken into custody was an Australian-born citizen. He called him “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.

Sky News reported that the man’s home town of Grafton was in shock, trying to come to terms with how a “polite, well-mannered young man” came to find himself on a path that led to Christchurch.

He was a student at the local high school and went on to work at a gym, where his former boss said he regularly volunteered his time to train kids for free.

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

ResearchLive talks to the Reverend Richard Coles–Politics, Pop And The Church Of England

When asked whether the Church of England was a brand and whether companies could learn from it, Coles said no, though said there was temptation to “make sure we give the right kind of message” to address the haemorrhaging of numbers.

“Someone said we needed a mission statement,” he said. “But what we do is so different to our [wider] culture values. We have problems, and I kind of like that. I like that we’re seen as hopeless and bumble around; that we’re not afraid of failure.

“Mary Magdalen went to the graveyard expecting a body in the tomb but she found a life transformed. That’s really what we’re for and I don’t think that that is something we can easily articulate.”

In a similar vein he cautioned against a drive to bring more young people into the church. Instead, they should go out and live life to the full – the church will be there for them later, as it was for him.

“As a vicar I spend a lot of time with older people but recently I have spent a lot of time with young people and they are stimulating in a different way. Younger people don’t know their limits yet. It makes them exciting, risky and bold.”

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

(Economist Erasmus Blog) In some countries, theism and patriotism are impossible to separate

If people in the eastern half of Europe were as devoted to their faith, and as convinced of God’s existence, as they tell pollsters, then one would expect the region to be pervaded, at this time of year, by an atmosphere of contrition and repentance. Roman Catholics, after all, began their Lenten fast on March 6th while for Orthodox Christians March 11th is the first full day of Lent. (In any given year each church makes a complex set of lunar-based calculations to determine the date of Easter, and the seven-week period of self-discipline which precedes it.)

Certainly there will be many individuals and communities who do feel that ascetic spirit. But it would be an exaggeration to say that an air of sober self-examination will be palpable on every street. People in some former communist and former Ottoman lands seem to overstate their religiosity when asked about their views, just as those who live in the continent’s more secular western half may be a bit shy about admitting any interest in the transcendent.

Consider some findings of Pew, a researcher based in Washington, DC, about how strongly people in 34 European countries believe in a Supreme Being. (The research was actually done between 2015 and 2017 but Pew does an artful job of keeping debate on the subject alive by presenting nuggets from its rich seam of data in ever-shifting combinations.)

There are 10 countries where more than 85% of people declare belief in God: Georgia (99%) and Armenia (95%) come top, along with Moldova and Romania (95% each). The nations which used to form communist Yugoslavia score highly (Bosnia 94%, Serbia 87% and Croatia 86%). Greeks (92%) also declare themselves to be firmly theist, as do the people of mainly Orthodox Ukraine and historically Catholic Poland, where the figure in both cases is 86%. At the other extreme, majorities of people in the Netherlands (53%), Belgium (54%) and Sweden (60%) are convinced that there is no God.

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Posted in History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Longest serving Church of England bishop faces calls to resign after court hears he knew about paedophile priest

The longest-serving bishop in the Church of England is facing calls to resign after it emerged he knew about a paedophile priest in his diocese and did nothing.

The Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Peter Forster, found out Rev Gordon Dickenson had become embroiled in a child abuse scandal decades earlier when the retired vicar wrote a letter about the affair in 2009.

Dickenson was convicted earlier this month of eight counts of sexual assault after pleading guilty to abusing a boy during the 1970s inside a church hall and even his vicarage.

But ten years ago, Dickenson had written to the Diocese of Chester which was conducting a review of past abuse cases admitting he been accused of the abuse during the 1970s and had promised the then Bishop of Chester he would “never do it again”.

Despite this admission, Bishop Forster failed to pass on the letter to the police or order an internal church inquiry.

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

(NPR) For Priest Turned Professor Barbara Brown Taylor, ‘Holy Envy’ Is Key To Appreciating World Religions

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Posted in Books, Religion & Culture