Category : Religion & Culture

(World) Erin Hawley and Kristen Waggoner on the historic Dobbs decision–A victory for life and the Constitution

The U.S. Supreme Court’s courageous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a win for life and the Constitution. That historic ruling finally reverses the court’s disastrous opinion in Roe v. Wade—a decision that made up a constitutional right to abortion and resulted in the deaths of more than 60 million unborn children. Because of the court’s ruling in Dobbs, states may now fully protect unborn life.

The Mississippi law at issue in the case, the Gestational Age Act, protects unborn children and the health of their pregnant mothers based on the latest science. It protects unborn life after 15 weeks of gestational age—a point in time when babies can move and stretch, hiccup, and quite likely feel pain. It permits abortions to save the life of the mother or for severe fetal abnormalities. Despite the modesty of Mississippi’s law, the lower courts struck it down because no matter what science showed, or how strong a state’s interest in protecting unborn life was, under the Roe regime, states may not protect life until viability—about 22 weeks of gestational age.

Dobbs is a win for life. Fifty years of scientific progress and innovation establish what the Bible has always taught: Life begins at conception. Ultrasound technology allows expectant parents to see the truth of Psalm 139: Children are fearfully and wonderfully made from the very beginning.

Under Roe v. Wade, moreover, the United States has been an extreme outlier in abortion law and policy. As the chief justice noted during oral arguments, the United States is one of only six nations, including China and North Korea, that allow elective abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. The Washington Post recently ranked the United States as the fourth most liberal abortion country in the world. Most countries do not allow elective abortions at all, and 75 percent protect life after 12 weeks of gestation.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Supreme Court, Theology

(BBC) Salisbury bishop marks appointment with cash giveaway

A new bishop says parishioners cheered after they were surprised with a gift of £10 each at his inauguration.

Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Stephen Lake, said it was the first time he had seen a congregation “burst out in applause”.

He said the money, given by two anonymous donators, was to show people can make the most of what they have been given.

Bishop Lake said: “It was a great start to a new ministry.”

He added: “They [the congregation] were given the £10 because we were living out the gospel, read out in the service. Taken from Luke, The Parable of the Talents, also known as The Parable of the Pound.

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

Archbishop Welby presents The Queen with Canterbury Cross for ‘unstinting service’ to Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury has presented HM The Queen with a special ‘Canterbury Cross’ for Her Majesty’s ‘unstinting’ service to the Church of England over seventy years.

The Archbishop made the presentation during an audience with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle today.

The Canterbury Cross was given to The Queen in recognition and gratitude for Her Majesty’s “unstinting support of the Church throughout her reign” and to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.

Archbishop Justin Welby gave the Cross as “a heartfelt symbol of the love, loyalty and affection in which the Church of England holds Her Majesty”.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Supreme Court Rules Against Maine Policy Denying Christian School Aid

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Maine policy covering tuition for private schools but not religious schools violates the First Amendment.

Maine offers the tuition assistance in rural districts that do not have public schools. The challenge involved two private Christian schools, Bangor Christian Schools and Temple Academy, which didn’t meet the state’s “nonsectarian” requirement for families to qualify.

The court said such a requirement infringes on free exercise protections and that there was “nothing neutral” about the program.

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Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government, Supreme Court

(Church Times) Church Commissioners acknowledge that the slave trade boosted early funds

The Church Commissioners acknowledged on Thursday that their £10.1-billion fund has early links with the transatlantic slave trade. Both the Commissioners and the Archbishop of Canterbury have apologised.

The revelations come after research into Queen Anne’s Bounty, which was established in 1704 to tackle poverty among the clergy through the buying of land (from which the clergy received the income) or through an annuity stream. The Commissioners came into being in 1948 after a merger of the Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The research was initiated by the Commissioners in 2019 — shortly before the death of George Floyd sparked the Black Lives Matter movement (News, 5 June 2020), and amid an international debate about monuments to people with links to the slave trade (News, 14 May 2021).

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

(NYT) How a Religious Sect That Dominated a Company Unit Landed Google in a Lawsuit

Founded in 1970 by Robert Earl Burton, a former San Francisco Bay Area schoolteacher, the Fellowship of Friends describes itself as an organization “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.” It claims 1,500 members across the globe, with about 500 to 600 in and around its compound in Oregon House. Members are typically required to give 10 percent of their monthly earnings to the organization.

Mr. Burton based his teachings on the Fourth Way, a philosophy developed in the early 20th century by a Greek Armenian philosopher and one of his students. They believed that while most people moved through life in a state of “waking sleep,” a higher consciousness was possible. Drawing on what he described as visits from angelic incarnations of historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Sebastian Bach and Walt Whitman, Mr. Burton taught that true consciousness could be achieved by embracing the fine arts.

Inside the organization’s Northern California compound, called Apollo, the Fellowship staged operas, plays and ballets; ran a critically acclaimed winery; and collected art from across the world, including more than $11 million in Chinese antiques.

“They believe that to achieve enlightenment you should surround yourself with so-called higher impressions — what Robert Burton believed to be the finest things in life,” said Jennings Brown, a journalist who recently produced a podcast about the Fellowship called “Revelations.” Mr. Burton described Apollo as the seed of a new civilization that would emerge after a global apocalypse.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Gallup) Belief in God in U.S. Dips to 81%, a New Low

The vast majority of U.S. adults believe in God, but the 81% who do so is down six percentage points from 2017 and is the lowest in Gallup’s trend. Between 1944 and 2011, more than 90% of Americans believed in God.

Gallup’s May 2-22 Values and Beliefs poll finds 17% of Americans saying they do not believe in God.

Gallup first asked this question in 1944, repeating it again in 1947 and twice each in the 1950s and 1960s. In those latter four surveys, a consistent 98% said they believed in God. When Gallup asked the question nearly five decades later, in 2011, 92% of Americans said they believed in God.

A subsequent survey in 2013 found belief in God dipping below 90% to 87%, roughly where it stood in three subsequent updates between 2014 and 2017 before this year’s drop to 81%.

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

(Local Paper front page) How Polly Sheppard, a survivor of the Emanuel mass shooting that occurred 7 years ago today, carries on

It doesn’t take long before the first embrace. And then Polly Sheppard greets another of the students, then another.

This group of young evangelicals, affiliated with the parachurch ministry Cru, is here at Emanuel AME Church to learn more about the 2015 mass shooting, visit the sanctuary and offer their prayers. They have just watched Brian Tetsuro Ivie’s documentary “Emanuel,” and they recognize Sheppard, who is visiting the church grounds, where a memorial soon will be erected.

The exchange between this survivor of the attack and the Cru crew is polite, warm, engaging.

Because that’s how the magnanimous Sheppard operates. Mostly, she sees the good in people. She’s ready with a smile….

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Posted in * South Carolina, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Church Times) Bishops unite to condemn ‘shameful’ Rwanda plan for asylum-seekers

The Government’s “offshoring” policy, under which the first people are due to be deported to Rwanda as early as Tuesday, “should shame us as a nation”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 23 other bishops, have said.

The policy was included in the Nationality and Borders Act, which came into law in April despite objections and attempted amendments from bishops and other peers (News, 29 April). It was explicitly criticised by Archbishop Welby in his Easter sermon (News, 27 April), and reportedly by the Prince of Wales last week, who is said to have called it “appalling” in a private conversation.

Last week, campaigners failed to win an injunction against the policy in the High Court, which ruled that it was in the “public interest” for the Government to carry it out. An appeal on Monday was rejected for the same reason. A full hearing on whether the policy is lawful is due to take place next month.

In a letter due to be published in The Times on Tuesday, the full complement of bishops who sit in the House of Lords have written: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.” The letter continues: “The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.”

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

(C of E) Sowing seeds: how a patch of wasteland became heart of community

In just a few years, a patch of once unused land in the middle of the Quarrendon estate in Aylesbury, Bucks, has been transformed into the beating heart of the community by the local church.

The once neglected scrap of land surrounding St Peter’s Church, has been turned into a multipurpose green space – simultaneously a community garden, an exercise site, a place to grow food, an outdoor classroom, and a tranquil spot in the centre of the estate.

In partnership with local organisations, St Peter’s regularly takes referrals from the local GP surgery, known as ‘social prescribing.’

It also welcomes schools, the local Adult Education Centre, and the Youth Offenders Probation Service – where young adults learn new skills in landscaping and horticulture to help get them back into employment.

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

(LR) Half of Americans Rule Out Pentecostal Churches

Most Americans are open to a variety of denominations of Christian churches, including many people of other faiths or no faith at all.

Americans have a wide range of opinions and impressions about Christian denominations, but most won’t rule out a church based on its denomination, according to a new study from Lifeway Research. From a list of nine denominational terms— Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, and nondenominational—more Americans rule out Pentecostal than any other denomination. Just over half of Americans (51%) say a church with Pentecostal in the name is not for them.

But for each of the other denominations in the study, most Americans say a specific religious label in the name of a church is not an automatic deterrent for them. Americans are most open to nondenominational and Baptist churches.

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

(Tablet) Why Queen Elizabeth II is a ‘missionary’ for Christianity

The Queen’s faith has been a “consistent” feature of her reign and since 2000 she has increasingly spoken about it, making her something of “a missionary” for Christianity, the former editor of The Tablet, Catherine Pepinster has said.

Speaking at a special Tablet webinar on the eve of the celebration of her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee about her new book, Defenders of the Faith: The British Monarchy, Religion and the Next Coronation, Pepinster said that it was when she was researching a previous book, The Keys and the Kingdom: The British and the Papacy from John Paul II to Francis, she realised what a significant figure Elizabeth II was in terms of religion in Britain.

Her new book looks at the Queen’s personal faith and also her public role as the supreme governor of the Church of England, with a special focus on the coronation and the future of the monarchy.

The author and commentator stressed that while the Queen is Defender of the Faith, she was also a defender of other faiths in a religiously diverse Britain.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Reuters) ISIS affiliate suspected of R Catholic church massacre, Nigeria says

Nigerian security officials suspect extremists from Islamic State’s affiliate in west Africa were behind an attack on a Catholic church last weekend that killed dozens.

Forty people are now thought to have died after gunmen stormed St Francis Catholic church in Owo, Ondo State, on Sunday, and 61 survivors are still being treated in hospital, according to local authorities. The total is double an earlier estimate.

Nigeria’s National Security Council said on Thursday that the attack was the work of the Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) group, apparently reinforcing fears that the militants, who have been restricted to the north-east for many years, are looking to expand their influence and reach to other parts of the country. Ondo, in the south-west, has long been considered one of the safer parts of the country.

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Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Pentecost, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

A Local Paper Article about the recent South Carolina Supreme Court Decision

On April 20, the state’s top court ordered that 14 of the 29 congregations that split from the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina were to hand over the properties to the Episcopal Church. It appeared that the court’s decision put an end to a decadelong legal battle over the ownership of dozens of church properties valued at roughly $200 million.

But in a stunning development Tuesday, the state’s top court did not deny petitions for rehearing submitted by seven of those churches. Instead, the court requested that the Episcopal Church respond by June 20 to the arguments made by the seven parishes.

The court’s order gives hope to some of the breakaway parishes, which fall within the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina umbrella, that they could, in fact, retain their valuable religious facilities.

“We are encouraged by the recent development from the South Carolina Supreme Court and are buoyed by the hope that seven more of our parishes might keep their properties,” said Bishop Chip Edgar of the Anglican Diocese. “But in all these legal matters, we are keeping our eyes focused on our Lord Jesus and the work he has called us to — to glorify God in worship and in our lives, to proclaim his name, to build up the church, and to love our neighbors as Christ loves us.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

SC Supreme Court Moves Petitions for Rehearing Forward for 7 of 8 parishes

From there:

Columbia, S.C. (June 8, 2022) – Yesterday, in welcome news for the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court released an order concerning the eight petitions for rehearing filed by parishes of the Diocese. For seven of those congregations, the court requested that the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) submit a return by June 20 responding to the arguments made by the seven parishes. The issues TEC and TECSC must address are: 1) the effect of subsection 62-7-602(a) of the South Carolina Code making all trusts created after Jan. 1, 2006 revocable, and 2) the argument that no trust was created by accession language incorporated in governing documents prior to 1979. Based on the April 20 ruling, these parishes maintain they did not create a trust interest in favor of TEC or TECSC and therefore, should retain ownership of their properties.

The parishes whose petitions for rehearing are included in the Court’s request are: the Church of the Holy Cross (Stateburg), the Church of the Good Shepherd (Charleston), the Church of the Holy Comforter (Sumter), St. Jude’s Church (Walterboro), Old St. Andrew’s (Charleston), St. Luke’s Church (Hilton Head) and Trinity Church (Myrtle Beach). The petition for Christ Church (Mt. Pleasant) was denied in its entirety. The people of the Diocese are encouraged to keep these parishes, the Supreme Court and its continued deliberations in their prayers.

In Christ’s Service,

The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis
The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina
Anglican Church in North America

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, State Government, Stewardship

(OUP blog) Grace Davie–The president and the Patriarch: the significance of religion in the Ukrainian crisis

Borders in this part of Europe have shifted over many centuries in a marchland squeezed between East and West, most recently—and tragically—between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The key point, however, is the following: Ukraine’s western frontier is open to the West in a way that disturbs both Putin and the Russian Patriarch. Their unease is captured in the extraordinary sermon delivered by the Patriarch on 6 March (the eve of Orthodox Lent) just two weeks after the Russian invasion commenced. Patriarch Kirill sees the Russian campaign as a war to defend Orthodox civilization against Western corruption, symbolised in this case by the holding of gay pride marches.

Much has been written about the relationship between Putin and the Patriarch, most of which lies beyond the present discussion. The crucial fact, however, is abundantly clear: both men see themselves as defenders of an integral Christian culture as Western influence creeps ever closer. Seen from this perspective, Western “ideals”—not least, democracy, a market economy, secularity, diversity, and tolerance—become a threat to civilization itself. Thus, a culture war tips inexorably into a religious one, and becomes all the more difficult to resolve.

One reason why this is so is the incapacity of Western minds to grasp the continuing significance of religion in much of the modern world. That is unfortunate as good social science—including effective policy outcomes—demands that we see the issues from the point of view of the adversary as well as from our own. Only then can effective dialogue begin.

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Posted in Church History, History, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(Telegraph) Archbp Stephen Cottrell–The Queen’s Christianity is the lens through which she views the world

Amid all the pomp, pageantry and pleasure the Platinum Jubilee brings, it is easy to forget that at its heart, the Coronation seventy years ago was a religious event. And while television cameras may have been granted access to Westminster Abbey, one moment was hidden from public view. Her Majesty was anointed with oil and afforded a time of stillness and reflection before God. She was also given a Bible by Archbishop Fisher and reminded that scripture is ‘the most valuable thing this world affords’.

Geoffrey Fisher was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. He came alongside Her Majesty as she prepared for the spiritual journey that lay ahead. One of the treasures in the Lambeth Palace library is the book of devotions, which he prepared and presented to Her Majesty all those years ago. It includes prayers, passages of scripture and daily meditations.

For Her Majesty, the Coronation was an intimate encounter between a monarch and her God, a moment where the Queen would be called by name and given a lifelong vocation. It marked a moment where her personal relationship with Christ met the national events and public moments that remind us that this country, its laws and customs and culture, is shaped by the Christian faith.

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Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church History, England / UK, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CNN) The evangelical church faces a ‘state of emergency’ over the pandemic and politics, Andy Stanley says

When you hear about something like the Southern Baptists report, do you get concerned about what the evangelical church will look like in, say, 10 years if current trends continue?
No, I don’t worry about it. And I don’t worry about it because of the way the church started. The deck wasn’t just stacked against them. There wasn’t even a deck. It’s Jesus and a group of teenagers and 20-year-olds, and he says, I’m going to start something new. And it won’t end with my death. This is for the world. And it’s forever. It’s until the end of this age.
One of the best books I’ve read recently is called “Bullies and Saints.” The author takes in all the embarrassing parts of Christianity through the years, and he says all these things are true. All these things are embarrassing, he said, But Christianity has a built-in self-correction ethic. When things go awry, reformers come along and correct it.
Do you think the White evangelical world can self-correct in this country?
Yes, most white evangelicals are not extreme. You sell things in the extremes. You raise money in the extremes. You get elected in the extremes, but most people can’t live in the extremes unless you have one of those jobs where the only way you’re going get paid is by ginning up fear.
Most people in the middle are like, ‘Hey, I just need to get my kid to school and get them home safely. And I just need to keep my job and pay the bills.’ Most white evangelicals are not how they are presented in culture. And neither are people on the other side.

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

(JC) Vicar accused of antisemitism faces removal from Church of England at disciplinary hearing

A vicar accused of sharing a platform with a Holocaust denier and promoting antisemitic material online is facing removal from the Church of England.

The Rev Dr Stephen Sizer is facing 11 instances of alleged antisemitism, as outlined yesterday at the opening of a Church disciplinary hearing – the first of its kind to be held in public.

He denies the allegations or the claim that he is any way antisemitic.

The Clergy Disciplinary Measure against Dr Sizer, 68, follows a complaint from the Board of Deputies to the head of his current diocese, the Bishop of Winchester, who referred him to the ecclesiastical professional hearing.

The vicar had been banned by his former diocese from using social media for six months in 2015, but still continued to make “deeply offensive” and “unpleasant” antisemitic pronouncements, the hearing in London heard.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CT) Nigerian Christians Protest Deborah Samuel’s Death

Thousands of churches across Nigeria demanded an end to sectarian killings on Sunday, horrified by the mob assault on a female university student accused of blasphemy. But fearful of more violence, their approach differed significantly—by geography.

“The overwhelming majority of our churches in the south participated, many going to the streets in peaceful protest,” said Testimony Onifade, senior special assistant to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “Gathering together, we condemned this gruesome act and demanded the government identify, arrest, and prosecute the culprits.”

But in the north, where Muslims represent the majority of Nigerians, John Hayab described 20 minutes set aside to pray for divine intervention. The president of CAN’s Kaduna state chapter lauded the “solemn” ceremony observed by all northern denominations, amid a ban on protests by local authorities as some Muslims had threatened counterdemonstrations.

Instead, a select group of 120 Christian leaders gathered in a Kaduna city church, guarded by police and security agencies.

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Posted in Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Violence

(FT) Walsingham–The Norfolk Lourdes: England’s lost Holy Land

Somewhere in an English village — amid the cul-de-sacs and pubs, vegetable patches and garden gnomes, the GP’s surgery and the miniature steam railway — lies the spot where the Virgin Mary came down from heaven.

Walsingham, Norfolk, is a sleepy place (though not as sleepy as the neighbouring village of Great Snoring). Nonetheless, it was here in 1061 that the Virgin supposedly appeared to Richeldis de Faverches, a Saxon noblewoman. Mary instructed her to build a replica of the house at Nazareth where archangel Gabriel had brought the news that she was to bear the Son of God.

You might wonder if there were more urgent prophecies to relate to a Saxon in the England of 1061 — but, in any case, the noblewoman set about following her instructions. It is said that one night, while she prayed, the building materials she had provided miraculously assembled themselves into the “Holy House” of Walsingham.

For half a millennium, Walsingham thrived as a centre of pilgrimage, alongside Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago. English kings came to pray here. The Milky Way became known as “The Walsingham Way” because its celestial sweep recalled the movement of pilgrims towards the bright star of its shrine. Walsingham, so the saying went, was “England’s Nazareth”.

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

(Scotsman) Church of Scotland General Assembly 2022: Kirk says ministers can conduct same-sex marriages

The General Assembly voted by 274 to 136 to approve a change in church law to allow the move, but ministers who do not want to conduct such weddings will not have to.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Chinese police told to shoot Uighurs who try to escape camps

Uighur prisoners in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang are to be shot on sight should they try to escape from “re-education” camps where they are said to be arbitrarily detained, according to leaked police documents.

A cache of police files allegedly obtained by hackers and shared with foreign media also reveals the faces of nearly 3,000 people, including children, who appear to have been detained because of their religion.

According to the BBC, the official files outline an internal police protocol that “describes the routine use of armed officers in all areas of the camps, the positioning of machineguns and sniper rifles in the watchtowers and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape”.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT) Russell Moore on the SBC Report on Sexual Abuse–This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse

Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I expected from the third-party investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. I said I didn’t expect to be surprised at all. How could I be? I lived through years with that entity. I was the one who called for such an investigation in the first place.

And yet, as I read the report, I found that I could not swipe the screen to the next page because my hands were shaking with rage. That’s because, as dark a view as I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.

The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).

And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.

For years, leaders in the Executive Committee said a database—to prevent sexual predators from quietly moving from one church to another, to a new set of victims—had been thoroughly investigated and found to be legally impossible, given Baptist church autonomy. My mouth fell open when I read documented proof in the report that these very people not only knew how to have a database, they already had one.

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Posted in Anthropology, Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(NPR) Chris Singleton’s mom was killed in a racist attack in Charleston. Now he’s helping Buffalo

SINGLETON: How many other people are thinking this kind of thing? It’s scary, especially because I’m trying to stop this stuff from happening. And it’s kind of demoralizing, honestly, you know, when it continues to happen.

HANSEN: But Singleton says he won’t let another racist attack shake his faith. He’s now headed to Buffalo to speak with schools where children have lost family members. He remembers the confusion he felt as a college student, robbed of his mother and left to raise his two siblings.

SINGLETON: And so if I could just be of any support to them, just sharing the things that have helped me out, with realizing it’s OK to cry.

HANSEN: Singleton still hopes he can change even one misguided mind by setting an example as a Black man who’s lost a loved one to racism but does not hate. He was supposed to visit Buffalo schools last year but couldn’t make it. The suspect would have still been in high school. Singleton worries he missed an opportunity.

SINGLETON: If he would have realized that everybody has a family and they’re loved and we didn’t choose the very thing that he hates us for, I hope it would change his heart.

HANSEN: It’s a message he shares during public talks.

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

Cathedrals have a mission to show the ‘heart of Jesus’ to a suffering world, Archbishop tells conference

Speaking on the closing day of the National Cathedrals Conference, Archbishop Stephen Cottrell praised the ‘precious and important’ contribution of the cathedrals, emphasising their role of service and teaching to their communities.

He said cathedrals had a mission to show the ‘heart of Jesus’ in world of “so much hurt and so much confusion and so much uncertainty.” The heart of Christian teaching and mission is to open the heart of Jesus to everyone, he told the conference.

“Our primary vocation is to be the place that serves and teaches… to be the Church which is aligned with that which is basic and obvious to our Christian faith, which is to show the heart of Jesus to others both from our teaching and preaching and evangelising and through the service that we offer,” he said.

In his speech, the Archbishop urged cathedrals to see themselves as a ‘work in progress’ and to continue asking the ‘hard missional questions’ about how to transmit the Christian faith in a changing world.

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

(Telegraph) Marriages in places of worship hit record low

A couple’s wedding day is traditionally considered one of the most important in life, but churches have become increasingly spared from hosting nuptials.

Marriages in places of worship have hit a record low, new figures revealed on Thursday, accounting for less than a fifth of all ceremonies for the first time.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data on marriages in England and Wales in 2019, analysed by age, sex, previous marital status and civil or religious ceremony.

It found that in 2019, religious ceremonies accounted for less than one in five (18.7 per cent) of opposite-sex marriages, a decrease from 21.1 per cent in 2018 and the lowest percentage on record; for same-sex marriages, 0.7 per cent of marriages were religious ceremonies.

Researchers said that the reason for the decline was down to “couples choosing to live together rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative”.

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

(Church Times) Bishops challenge Government on cost-of-living and climate crises

Bishops in the House of Lords continued to challenge the Government’s response to the cost-of-living and climate crises this week, as debates on the Queen’s Speech of last week (News, 13 May) entered a fourth day.

On Monday, debate focused on economic development, energy, and the environment. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, said: “The climate crisis is the multiplying factor for all the other crises we face.”

In his maiden speech, Bishop Seeley dedicated much of his time to environmental issues. “Global temperature rises will dramatically increase the global refugee crisis and food shortages, and the geopolitical impact will continue to be magnified,” he said.

“We must pursue the determined course set at COP26, where we take actions —challenging actions — now, for the sake of the long term.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment, wrote of the agreement at COP26 that “progress was made . . . but not enough” (Comment, 18 November 2021).

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecology, Economy, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Buffalo Pastors Respond to Loss of Community ‘Pillars’

Soon after a white 18-year-old shooter targeted Black customers of a community grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, Denise Walden, executive director of Voice Buffalo, a social justice and equity organization, was coordinating clergy to offer grief counseling and help families immediately and, she hopes, for the foreseeable future.

She was also grieving personally: She knows the families of most of the 10 people killed in the massacre.

“This is going to take more than a week, more than a month, more than six months,” said Walden, a member of the clergy team at First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly Black congregation in Buffalo. “We need long-term solutions and support.”

Walden’s 25-year-old organization is a local chapter of Live Free, a Christian organization that has in recent years focused on preventing community violence, which now has new questions to answer, Walden said, about “the hate that caused this person to come into this community and create such a horrible, violent violation to our community.”

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Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CNN) Akanksha Singh+Roshan Abbas–In the world’s largest democracy, ‘looking Muslim’ could cost your life

When, as journalists, we prepare for a job, we think carefully about our questions, locations and equipment. But for one of us, documentary photographer Roshan Abbas, there is an added consideration — how much of his true identity to reveal.

Abbas, co-author of this article, is a Muslim man in India. A country where, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch, Muslims are being vilified and evicted from their homes, their freedom of religious expression stifled.

It’s oppression Abbas has experienced firsthand, choosing not to wear a kurta — a loose, collarless shirt — that might point to his identity as a Muslim, when traveling the country for work.

The decision is cautionary. In public spaces, there looms a sense of uneasiness. Mob lynchings of Muslims who look visibly Muslim have arisen in the past.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Religion & Culture