Category : Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Allan Ripp–The Life of a Rabbi With ALS

Using the same eye-gazing program, Yitzi painstakingly writes his weekly Torah commentaries. It sometimes requires a day to complete a column that once would have taken two hours. One recent piece addressed whether someone can be commanded to love another in the same way as loving God. “To be loved, is to be understood,” Yitzi concludes. While he has rabbinical dispensation to use his computer on Shabbat, Yitzi often refrains and rests his strained eyes from the intense workouts. “He communicates differently on Shabbat, looking at everyone’s faces directly; it’s more pleasant,” Dina says. She adds that she still detects the mischief and happiness of the man she married in 1996.

Shlomo Bistritzky —a fellow Chabad rabbi in Westlake Village, Calif.—grew up in Brooklyn with Yitzi. “If you want to see what a beautiful soul looks like, go meet Rabbi Yitzi,” he says. “Everyone who visits approaches nervously with acid reflux but leaves feeling uplifted. As his body has failed him, his joyous spirit shines through.”

When his symptoms first appeared in 2012, Yitzi and Dina were living in the California desert town of Temecula. They had moved there in 1999 to establish a Chabad house, which grew from their living room to a storefront serving a growing Jewish community. Yitzi was an active pulpit rabbi—overseeing Hebrew school and adult education, along with weddings, births, funerals and daily prayer services. He composed songs on guitar and was usually the last one dancing on holidays. He counseled families during the financial crisis and took extra jobs to support his own brood. This included work as a chaplain in a state hospital for the criminally insane and as a supervisor of kosher operations at a dairy farm a half-hour up the road.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(FE USA) Where is the Church in North America Heading and What are the Implications?

Last month, I was in a room in Central Pennsylvania with North American leaders and kingdom practitioners from around the country for a retreat. After lunch we centered our conversation around this question:

“Where is the Church in North America heading and what are the implications?”

For those who know me, you know I am passionate about discussing a great question. And this certainly is a significant one.

Many missiologists, theologians and scholars believe the Global Church is becoming more diverse and moving south (that is, the center of Christianity is no longer in North America, but its greatest movement is in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly South America and the southern part of the continent of Africa.)

But what about North America? What does the future of the Church look like here? Well, we don’t know for sure, but we are seeing it become more diverse (ethnic, racial, gender, etc.), more urban, and more post-Christian/postmodern. With all this as the foundation, we dug deeper. We broke down our answers into three categories:

  • Sociological (what does this mean for how we interact with others)

  • Ecclesiological (what does this mean for the Church and localized churches)

  • Missiological (what does this mean in how we join with God and His mission)

Here is what we surmised for each category….:

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Pope Francis in Africa: Is the continent the Catholic Church’s great hope?

Pope Francis begins a three-nation visit to Africa later on Wednesday.

It will be his fourth visit to the continent since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, compared to the two his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made during his eight-year papacy.

The importance of Africa to the Catholic Church can be summed up in a word – growth.

Africa has the fastest growing Catholic population in the world, while Western Europe, once regarded as the heartland of Christianity, has become one of the world’s most secular regions, according to the US-based Pew Research Center.

And many of those who do identify themselves as Christian in Western Europe do not regularly attend church.

In contrast, Christianity, in its different denominations, is growing across Africa. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2060 more than four in 10 Christians will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Globalization, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

The Episcopal Church Releases its Latest Statistics

Read it all and make sure to look at all the accompanying data sets there also.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Data

The Archbp of Sydney Responds to a vote by the Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta

From there:

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has issued a statement in response to a vote by the Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta to authorise a service to bless civil marriages. The Bishop of Wangaratta has claimed this service would allow for a blessing of same-sex unions and that he personally intends to use it for that purpose.

Archbishop Davies said “It is highly regrettable that clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Wangaratta have chosen to follow their Bishop rather than the clear words of Scripture concerning God’s design for human sexuality (Matt 19:4-12).

The doctrine of our Church is not determined by 67 members of a regional synod in Victoria nor is it changed by what they may purport to authorise.

Time and time again, the General Synod has affirmed the biblical view of marriage as the doctrine of our Church. To bless that which is contrary to Scripture cannot, therefore, be permissible under our church law.

The circumstances of this event are reminiscent of the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada in 2003. It is now universally acknowledged that those events were the beginning of the ‘tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion’.

Moreover, to claim the authority of our Church to carry out a service of blessing contrary to the biblical view of marriage and the doctrine of our Church will certainly fracture the Anglican Church of Australia.”

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

(David Ould) Wangratta Motion Passes in Australia, the Anglican Church There Faces a Crisis Moment

The Diocese of Wangaratta has passed their motion calling for the blessing of individuals who have taken part in a same-sex wedding. The voting, reported by prominent supporter of the motion Ven. John Davis (Archdeacon Emeritus of the Diocese), was that 67 for, 18 against and one abstention.

Davis has published his speech in support of the motion….

Read it all.

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

(Local Paper) Church’s lawsuit prompts South Carolina town to lift ban on worship services at public civic center

A lawsuit filed by a church against a South Carolina town last year for prohibiting worship services at a public facility has prompted the municipality to lift the ban.

Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island and the town of Edisto Beach agreed Aug. 19 to end the suit, which alleged the town violated Redeemer Fellowship’s right to free exercise of religion after the municipality banned all rentals for religious worship services at its Edisto Beach Civic Center.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the church in the case, commended the town for lifting its ban, which the alliance said was inconsistent with the town’s own statement that it welcomes “civic, political, business, social groups and others” to use its civic center.

“Churches shouldn’t be treated less favorably than other groups that want to rent facilities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Its previous policy that singled out one form of expression — worship — as inferior to other forms of speech was clearly unconstitutional.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life

(Telegraph) 80 per cent decline in religious funerals as mourners opt for golf courses and zoos over churches

An all-black dress code, pallbearers marching in unison, and a steady stream of tears are not often associated with golf courses, zoos and Chinese takeaways.

Yet according to the most extensive ever report on UK funeral trends which, the religious funeral is dying a death.

Instead of services in crematoriums, churches and cemeteries, Britons are instead opting for increasingly quirky ways to mourn their loved ones.

The Co-op, the UK’s largest national funeral provider which conducts more than 100,000 every year, has today published a report revealing that since 2011 there has been a 80 per cent decline in religious funerals.

Eight-years-ago 67 per cent of people requested traditional religious services and just 12 per cent were non-religious. However by 2018, just 13 per cent wanted a religious funeral.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(AP) Lawsuit by family of victims of South Carolina Mother Emanuel church shooting reinstated to look at faulty background checks

A lawsuit over a faulty background check that allowed a South Carolina man to buy the gun he used to kill nine people in a racist attack at a Charleston church was reinstated Friday by a federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling from a lower court judge who threw out the claims brought by relatives of people killed by Dylann Roof in the 2015 massacre, and by survivors.

The lower court judge found the government immune from liability. The judge said the families’ claims did not fit into narrow exceptions to laws that shield government employees from liability while carrying out their official duties. But the appeals court panel disagreed.

The FBI has acknowledged that Roof’s drug possession arrest in Columbia, South Carolina, weeks before the shooting at AME Emanuel Church should have prevented him from buying a gun. Roof has been sentenced to death for the slayings.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Church Times) Alexander Faludy–After Brexit, bonds of affection are crucial

The Church of England can make a difference. Before the 2016 EU referendum vote, leading bishops sought to offer an appearance of neutrality which could easily be confused with disengagement. In the strange “between time” between the referendum and today, they belatedly sought to play the part of civic reconciler, urging churches to hold “tea and prayer drop-ins” to encourage better conversations (News, 22 March).

Unfortunately, clergy were not given either adequate notice or a supply of extra tea bags. The project occasioned more satire than mutual understanding. When it comes to improving Anglo-European understanding after Brexit, however, the Church does have significant, if latent, gifts to bring to the table.

To date, the C of E’s ecumenical relationships in Europe have mainly been appreciated by those who have specialist interests or personal ties to the partner Churches. Those partnerships could now be a source of social capital.

The Porvoo, Meissen, and Reuilly agreements connect us, respectively, with Christians in the Nordic and Baltic States, France, and Germany. After Brexit, link-scheme visits, exchanges, and prayer cycles might carry a new significance, emphasising a “bond in the spirit” with people to whom we are no longer bound by laws or trade.

Most people in the pews know little or nothing of the work of the fast-growing diocese in Europe. It, too, could be a valuable resource. Parishes and deaneries on “the mainland” might twin with their equivalents in the diocese in Europe for friendship and mutual support.

Read it all.

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

(Item) Judge: If it comes to that, Historic South Carolina diocese has right to money for property upgrades

A total of 28 parishes, including two in Sumter County, have been involved in the diocese’s legal battle over their right to properties with the national church. The two Sumter parishes are Church of the Holy Comforter, 213 N. Main St., and The Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg.

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a diocese petition for a hearing last year, the case is now back at the circuit court where it originated, Lewis said.

The statute describes the process for payback for improvements, but Lewis said he wasn’t sure on the process.

He said the judge’s ruling this week is definitely a “win” for the breakaway diocese, if it lost control of the parishes.

“From our perspective, it would mean, if we lost control of the property because of this trust interest, then The Episcopal Church doesn’t get all this property for free,” Lewis said. “They will have to pay for it in some fashion.”

Currently, Dickson of the circuit court has the responsibility of interpreting a 2017 state Supreme Court 3-2 ruling with five different opinions in it.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

Please pray for the 2019 ReNew Conference

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

(Northern Echo) Prayer spaces in schools ‘encouraged positive mental health’

Prayer spaces in schools have helped encourage positive mental health in young people, according to pupils who have been involved in a project promoting them.

Four Church of England secondary schools in the Diocese of Durham were involved in the “reservoirs of hope” project, which started in February.

The prayer spaces were set up in The Venerable Bede Church of England Academy in Sunderland, Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy in Stockton, Whitburn Church of England Academy in Sunderland and St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Darlington.

Read it all.

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

(ESPN) [Must-Not-Miss story]–Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? ‘So I made this deal with God.’

Twenty-five years old and not far removed from her All-America days at Villanova, [Shelly] Pennefather was in her prime. She had legions of friends and a contract offer for $200,000 to play basketball in Japan that would have made her one of the richest players in women’s basketball.

And children — she was so good with children. She had talked about having lots of them with John Heisler, a friend she’d known most of her life. Heisler nearly proposed to her twice, but something inside stopped him, and he never bought a ring.

“When she walked into the room,” Heisler said, “the whole room came alive.

“She had a cheerfulness and a confidence that everything was going to be OK. That there was nothing to fear.”

That Saturday morning in 1991, Pennefather drove her Mazda 323 to the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Virginia. She loved to drive. Fifteen cloistered nuns waited for her in two lines, their smiles radiant.

She turned to her family.

“I love you all,” she said.

The door closed, and Shelly Pennefather was gone

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sports

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell: “Shabby and shambolic” – the CofE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

In a church that has nominally (if belatedly) embraced “Transparency and Accountability”, rejected clergy deference and pledged to “put the interests of the victim first”, it is surely not asking too much for a full and frank response to be issued to these important and prima facie legitimate concerns about the way the review is being handled. One of the problem areas also identified by the survivors lawyers at IICSA is the Church of England’s “Byzantine procedures”.

In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Jillian Kay Melchior–Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye

Mr. Harris’s book seems to have taken a special toll on young Christian women, who felt controlled and objectified when church leaders told them that immodesty, even if unintentional, makes them responsible for violating men’s spiritual and emotional purity. Worst of all, some readers told Mr. Harris they had lost their faith because of the shame and spiritual duress his book inflicted.

Hearing such things left Mr. Harris “in a place where I would find my own faith really shaken,” he said in December. “The brand of Christianity that I practiced was so specific, and was so tied to thinking certain ways, certain practices.” Questioning them means “I’m having to figure out what does that mean, in regard to my relationship with God, because my relationship with God was those things.” Mr. Harris was questioning whether “I can let go of this, and not let go of God.”

In July, Mr. Harris made two personal announcements on Instagram: He and his wife were separating, and he had “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he wrote. “Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”

Many Christians responded with mourning, but I’m hopeful. Abandoning untrue beliefs is progress, and a faith that doesn’t stand up to the toughest inquiry isn’t worth believing. The Book of Hebrews says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Mr. Harris, please keep seeking, and I’ll be praying as you wander.

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Sumit Paul-Choudhury–Tomorrow’s gods: What is the future of religion?

Before Mohammed, before Jesus, before Buddha, there was Zoroaster. Some 3,500 years ago, in Bronze Age Iran, he had a vision of the one supreme God. A thousand years later, Zoroastrianism, the world’s first great monotheistic religion, was the official faith of the mighty Persian Empire, its fire temples attended by millions of adherents. A thousand years after that, the empire collapsed, and the followers of Zoroaster were persecuted and converted to the new faith of their conquerors, Islam.

Another 1,500 years later – today – Zoroastrianism is a dying faith, its sacred flames tended by ever fewer worshippers.

We take it for granted that religions are born, grow and die – but we are also oddly blind to that reality. When someone tries to start a new religion, it is often dismissed as a cult. When we recognise a faith, we treat its teachings and traditions as timeless and sacrosanct. And when a religion dies, it becomes a myth, and its claim to sacred truth expires. Tales of the Egyptian, Greek and Norse pantheons are now considered legends, not holy writ.

Even today’s dominant religions have continually evolved throughout history. Early Christianity, for example, was a truly broad church: ancient documents include yarns about Jesus’ family life and testaments to the nobility of Judas. It took three centuries for the Christian church to consolidate around a canon of scriptures – and then in 1054 it split into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. Since then, Christianity has continued both to grow and to splinter into ever more disparate groups, from silent Quakers to snake-handling Pentecostalists.

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Posted in History, Religion & Culture

(York Press) Archbp John Sentamu to lead delegation to London in October to Lobby for One Yorkshire

John Grogan, Co-Chairman of the One Yorkshire Committee, has issued a statement along with his fellow co-chairman Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, stressing the need for devolution.

In the statement they reveal that the Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, will lead a delegation to London in October to lobby for One Yorkshire.

It says: “The One Yorkshire Committee has been created to campaign for the One Yorkshire Devolution Agreement proposed by council leaders of all parties from across the county. This would involve the election of a Mayor for Yorkshire supported by a cabinet of council leaders. The committee brings together business, trade union, academic and political leaders and has now met seven times. The committee has received a grant of £32,500 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to support its work and is launching a website today.

“The lack of progress on devolution is hurting the people of Yorkshire. The economic case presented to ministers shows that One Yorkshire devolution would result in a £30 billion boost to our economy – up to £5,400 extra growth per person, per year in the Yorkshire economy.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Lebanese Band’s Concert Is Canceled After It’s Accused of Blasphemy

A Lebanese music festival has canceled a concert by a major indie music band, Mashrou’ Leila, after it was accused of blasphemy and received death threats because a member had shared an image of the singer Madonna as the Virgin Mary.

The controversy has raised questions about religious tolerance and freedom of expression in the relatively moderate, multi-sectarian and Muslim-majority country.

The Byblos International Festival, one of the country’s most popular music events, canceled the Aug. 9 concert by Mashrou’ Leila over fears of “bloodshed” after the image angered the Maronite Christian Church and prompted threats of violence from hard-line Christian critics.

“Unfortunately, the national debate that ensued as a result of an organized campaign against the band and the festival goes well beyond the scope of the mission BIF is able to handle,” the festival said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Lebanon, Middle East, Music, Religion & Culture

(Christian Today) After a year of Ebola in the DRC, faith leaders have a key role to play

Hundreds of faith leaders are being trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help prevent the spread of Ebola as the outbreak continues to bring heartache and uncertainty to the country.

Over 1,700 people have died since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018. It is the second largest outbreak of Ebola in history and was recently declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The outbreak comes as a double blow to the country that has already been ravaged by years of conflict. The fighting has not abated during the Ebola outbreak and has only served to hamper the response efforts.

Christian development agency Tearfund is working through local churches to help tackle the outbreak, with at least 482 faith leaders so far trained to provide information and education on how to spot the symptoms of Ebola, where to seek medical help, the importance of washing hands, and guidelines on how to handle dead bodies.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Republic of Congo

(ABC Aus) Israel Folau launches court proceedings against Rugby Australia, NSW Waratahs over unfair dismissal claim

[Israel] Folau claims his contract was unfairly terminated because of his religious beliefs.

Legal experts have said the coming court battle is a “test case” that will establish what holds sway before the courts — an employer’s rights via an employment contract or their employee’s freedom of religious expression.

It is expected to set a precedent for anyone who posts to social media something that is in conflict with his or her code of conduct, be it with an employer or another organisation such as a university or sporting club.

The burden of proof in this case will lie with Rugby Australia to establish that it did not terminate Folau’s contract based on his religious beliefs, but rather that the decision was purely an employment matter.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby’s India trip to be ‘pastoral, not political’

The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a “full and very transparent account of what happened” when he becomes the first C of E Primate to visit the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in India, his interfaith adviser said this week.

After a trip to Sri Lanka to show solidarity with the Christian community in the wake of the Easter bombings, the Archbishop will begin a ten-day trip to India on 31 August, travelling to seven cities and towns in the Church of North India and the Church of South India.

At a briefing for journalists on Tuesday, his interfaith adviser, the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth, emphasised that the visit was pastoral rather than political, after being questioned about whether the Archbishop would be challenging the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the status of minorities (News, 16 January 2015).

“The Archbishop will be going to listen and learn what the situation is,” he said. “There seems to be a very varied picture, and what we are encouraged by here is that the Indian constitution does give freedom of religion and belief, and that is something we will be hoping to affirm and hear about as we travel around.”

Read it all (registration).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, India, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) A Debate over American Religious Liberty Between David French and Marci Hamilton

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists. But Christians who had been paying attention knew of this risk well before Obergefell. Christians who had been paying attention had seen a trend where legal activists at all levels of government had been aggressively expanding their regulatory and ideological attacks on religious liberty.

During my legal career defending free speech and religious freedom on campus, I saw more than 100 colleges attempt to de-recognize Christian student groups or eject them from campus for reserving their membership or leadership for Christian students. During the Obama administration, Americans watched his Department of Health and Human Services try to force nuns to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Catholic adoption agencies that continued to place children with families according to church teachings faced a choice between closing and violating their deeply held beliefs. Christian creative professionals faced ruinous financial penalties for refusing to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they found offensive.

The list could go on, but more disturbing than the individual cases is the deep inversion of America’s constitutional principles that has empowered this legal assault. If governments ultimately prevail in these efforts, the resulting precedents would upend the constitutional order, rendering religious Americans even more vulnerable to future legal attacks, like the threatened loss of tax exemptions for Christian educational institutions.

The Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War) renders operational and enforceable the founding declaration that Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These core American liberties include rights to due process, free speech, assembly and the free exercise of religion. Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under this Bill of Rights.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(BBC) Vigil to be held for Christine Ford, a 71-year-old woman who was killed in a village where she was known for tending the church garden

Villagers said she was a regular at the church and often tended its gardens, paying special attention to the peach roses growing outside the entrance.

Mrs Ford had lived in the village for about 10 years, having moved there from the Isle of Wight.

She came to Flamstead to be near her family and was offered one of the four almshouses, which were built in the 1600s.

The almshouses are run by a trust and are for people who have local connections and need affordable housing.

Read it all.

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

(Telegraph) Tim Stanley–Putting a mini-golf course in a cathedral is an act of desecration

Emptiness can be rich with meaning. When the Romans captured Jerusalem in 63BC, or so says Tacitus, Pompey marched into the inner sanctum of the Jewish Temple and found it empty. No idols, no treasures, just God. To be in His presence was the greatest bounty.

If Pompey besieged Rochester Cathedral today, what would he find inside? A miniature golf course. No joke. Located in the nave, this summer installation consists of nine holes with models of bridges – justified by the kind of silliness that parts of the Anglican Church have become famous for. “We hope,” says the Rev Canon Rachel Phillips, “while playing adventure golf, visitors will reflect on the bridges that need to be built in their own lives and in our world today.” Because contemplating the brotherhood of man is what we all do when playing mini-golf at the sea side. I believe Karl Marx composed Das Kapital at a Butlins in Skegness. No mean feat when trying to putt with one hand and eat a raspberry ripple with the other.

But Rochester isn’t alone! If Pompey’s pagan army is travelling north, it’ll feel right at home at Peterborough Cathedral, where they’re doing “Creative Yoga” under a giant model of the planet Earth, titled “Gaia”. Or kick off your sandals at Norwich Cathedral which is installing a 50ft helter skelter that “aims to give people the chance to experience the Cathedral in an entirely new way and open up conversations about faith.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Entertainment, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sports

(CT) Oren Cass’s New Book–‘Tis a Gift to Do ‘Undignified’ Work

In The Once and Future Worker, Cass turns high ideals into concrete proposals to actually heal the fractures splintering the American workforce.

The most compelling is the “wage subsidy.” Rather than luring large corporations to town with big tax breaks (like the Amazon HQ2 hysteria of 2017) or levying payroll taxes on low-income workers and then redistributing the money through entitlements, why not “pay for jobs” directly? What if a worker saw a “Federal Work Bonus” on her next paycheck, adding three extra dollars for every hour she had worked?

Cass also advocates building an educational system better suited to the four-fifths of students who do not complete the high-school-to-college-to-career path. Around two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree. To better ensure that more of them can get good jobs and contribute to their communities, Cass proposes reinvesting in vocational training and shifting toward a more “tracked” form of schooling—similar to systems found in Europe—where students are grouped according to educational ability rather than lumped together in the same classroom.

Yet there’s one area that government policy can’t do much about: our cultural views about the value of lower-wage workers.

“Waiters, truck drivers, retail clerks, plumbers, secretaries, and others all spend their days helping the people around them and fulfilling roles crucial to the community,” writes Cass. “They do hard, unglamorous work for limited pay to support themselves and their families.” Why shouldn’t we admire those who do harder jobs for lower wages on a broad scale? We’re capable of doing this with police officers, teachers, and firefighters. Why shouldn’t the work done by trash collectors, housekeepers, and janitors deserve the same degree of respect?

For that, we need not just policy reform but a different story about work altogether.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) China Says It Has Released Most Muslims Held in Camps. That’s Difficult to Prove.

Senior Chinese officials made the surprising announcement on Tuesday that the authorities had released most detainees held in the government’s mass internment program for ethnic minority Muslims in China’s far west, but provided no firm numbers or specific details to support their assertion.

Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman of the government of the region of Xinjiang, said 90 percent of people held in what the government calls vocational training centers had been returned to society. It was a contention that would be nearly impossible to independently verify in the tightly controlled region and flew in the face of accounts of disappearances and detentions that have been compiled by relatives abroad and human rights groups.

Detainees who have been released from the camps say they were subjected to a high-pressure indoctrination program with the goal of removing any devotion to Islam and encouraging loyalty to China and its ruling Communist Party.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Premier) Holy in one: Rochester Cathedral opens crazy golf course

[The] Rev. Phillips said she hopes that these events will lead to more people hearing about Jesus’s message.

“We hope that we’ll reach more people with the message the good news that Christians have to bring that Jesus came to bring peace,” she said.

“He said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers that people might find ways to build bridges in their own life.'”

The Church of England recently announced that Cathedral attendance is bucking the national trend with 37,000 people attending every week.

Anglican leaders have planned a number of ‘seeker-friendly’ initiatives across the country, including a fifty-foot tall helter skelter inside Norwich Cathedral and a gin and prosecco festival at Peterborough.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Entertainment, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sports

(538) What Americans Know About Religion — And What They Don’t

  1. It gets murky for people outside of the basics. Respondents really struggled with some questions. For example, only 24 percent answered correctly that Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish New Year, similar to the number (26 percent) who knew that Islam is the religion of most people in Indonesia. Even some Christian doctrines and facts are not that well-known — despite it being the faith of about 70 percent of Americans. Only 51 percent correctly said that Jesus is the person known for giving the “Sermon on the Mount,” a number I thought was low considering that’s a fairly important event in Christianity. (The other possible answers were Peter, Paul and John.) And just 22 percent of Americans could describe the “prosperity gospel,” which is generally associated with evangelical Christians. (Pew defined it as the tenet that “those of strong faith will be blessed by God with financial success and good health.”)
  2. Americans really don’t know the number of Jewish and Muslim people living in the U.S. According to Pew Research estimates, about 2 percent of American adults are Jewish and 1 percent are Muslim. But only 26 percent of respondents answered correctly that Muslims make up less than 5 percent of the population in the U.S. And only 19 percent knew that the share of Jewish Americans is also below 5 percent. Most either thought the Muslim American and Jewish populations were each larger than 5 percent or didn’t know. But I suspect that the explanation for these inaccurate responses might not totally be about how much Americans know about these two religions but may instead be related to broader issues of innumeracy. Other research has shown that Americans have inaccurate views about the size of many demographic groups and may be particularly likely to overstate the size of groups of which they are not a part. For example, Republicans vastly overestimate the number of Democrats who are black.

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

(The Tablet) Both Wimbledon champions are committed Orthodox Christians

“For many young people today Simona is a symbol of diligence, perseverance and hope”, the Patriarch said at the ceremony. “Besides all that, the Romanian Church greatly appreciates the fact that you profess your Orthodox faith by making the sign of the Cross in public thus showing that you faithfully represent the devout, sacrificial and skilled Romanian people”, he added.

Halep received the Romanian Patriarchate’s Cross of St Andrew last year (2018). In an interview a few days after winning Wimbledon, she said that her Christian faith was “most important” for her in her life. “I believe in God even if I cannot attend the liturgy every Sunday”. (Unlike Sunday Mass attendance in the Catholic Church which has been compulsory since the Council of Trent, attending the Sunday Liturgy is not compulsory in the Orthodox Church.)

Novak Djokovic (aged 33), the number 1 tennis player in the world, belongs to the Serb-Orthodox Church. He already received the Serb-Orthodox Church’s Order of St Sava 1st Class in 2011 above all because he promotes many religious and social church initiatives. “This is the most important award in my life as, before being an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian”, he said at the time on receiving the award from the hands of Patriarch Irenaeus of the Serb-Orthodox Church.The Order of St Sava is the Serb-Orhtodox Church’s highest distinction.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Sports