Category : Religion & Culture

The Diocese of Birmingham Response to Channel 4 News story this week

In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4’s news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance.

Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England – Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than ‘forcing it on her’ as reported.

It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a ‘confidentiality clause’. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).

Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(City Journal) Gerald Russello–Our New Religion: Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects

Paradoxically, now that humanitarianism has fully cut itself loose from Christianity, its categories and language have inserted themselves back into Christian thought. This infiltration prevents Christians at times from noticing that they’re arguing not in Christian categories but humanitarian ones. Almost every national bishops’ conference in the West, for example, speaks the language of humanitarianism. Mahoney sees this as the problem with much of Pope Francis’s language as well— too often, the language of mercy is emptied of theological content, and condemnations of “rigidity” seem to echo a rights-based view of the person. This trend is problematic because humanitarian language is antithetical to the Christian message, and also because it elides the sharp criticism of humanitarian thinking offered by, among others, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Benedict clearly distinguished between authentic Christian teaching and the “humanitarian moral message” in his Introduction to Christianity and his Regensberg lecture, both of which Mahoney discusses. Mahoney calls for the return of an older way of reasoning about our moral selves, which involves a transcendent dimension through which we can know our obligations to ourselves and one another.

Mahoney acknowledges that many of his co-religionists already accept his message—but why should atheists care that humanitarianism seeks to replace Christianity, when they reject the significance of the West’s moral collapse? Mahoney explains, using the powerful witness of Solzhenitsyn, that without a divine warrant, humanitarianism points to tyranny and the negation of true politics. We may already be seeing what a post-Christian politics might look like. The humanitarian religion of the twenty-first century will not be the same one as that of the twentieth; rather than Soviet Man, it will elevate the “woke” protester or Twitter provocateur. Both the authoritarian and racialist Right and the identity-obsessed Left offer glimpses of a post-Christian politics, and neither is a model for a healthy democracy.

Indeed, as Christianity fades, we don’t see a decline in religious fervor or doctrinal vigilance. Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Terry Mattingly) Old Time Religion – Meeting the woman who could become St. Thea of Mississippi

During her final speaking tours, she joked about black Catholics kneeling at altars carved out of fine Italian marble. These black Catholics gazed at sacred images carved by European artists many centuries after the lives of numerous early church saints who lived and worshipped in the lands already being called “Africa.”

“I know that people are looking for sources of hope and courage and strength,” she told me, clasping a warm robe with hands thinned by cancer. “I know that it’s important to have special people to look up to. … But, see, I think all of us in the church are supposed to be that kind of person for each other.”

In her 1989 talks, she constantly returned to images of faith, family and the ties that bind through the generations. Bowman talked about workaholic parents who give their children toys – but little of their own time. She talked about broken homes and marriages. She praised parents that set a strict, but loving, example – showing children they “aren’t fools … who will tolerate insanity.”

“Remember the old days? … Remember those old family stories? You didn’t know they were telling you WHO you are and WHOSE you are,” she said, urgently. “Hard times test us. … This is family business, people. This is the church and we are the family and we have to take care of family business. … I am not talking about the way of the WORLD. I am talking about the way of the CHURCH.”

All the people said, “Amen.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Women

(Atlantic) Beth Kissileff–Pushing Back the Darkness in Pittsburgh

I was walking somewhere I was afraid to go, even though I had been there many times before. But I had not been to a religious service at the Tree of Life synagogue—where my husband is the rabbi of New Light Congregation—in more than 30 days, since a shooter killed 11 people in that spot.

Though it was not quite 6 o’clock on Sunday evening, the first night of Hanukkah, the winter darkness enveloped my neighborhood. I walked past the shopping district, the dry cleaners, my dentist’s office, and the home of my husband’s college roommate. All was familiar, yet I was scared to be outside in the open air with a group of Jews. If we had been targeted inside, where our Torah scrolls and prayer books were and where we were not being public about our faith, wouldn’t this be a provocation, a taunt to anti-Semites, wherever they lurk, to come and get us? A therapist told me to use my rational mind and remember that this was the only event of its kind, the only synagogue shooting that had happened in the United States. That is true, but when it happens at your own place of worship, statistics and rationality take a back seat to raw fear.

As I walked down Shady Avenue, approaching the corner of Wilkins, I saw the police barricades at Northumberland Street, a block before the synagogue. I told a police officer that I was glad to see him, and that I was scared to be here. He told me I did not need to be afraid.

That has been the message I have gotten in so many ways over the past few weeks….

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Channel 4 News) Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA

A woman who claims she was abused by a vicar has told Channel 4 News she was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – before she was allowed to read an official review accusing the Church of England of mismanaging her complaints.

Channel 4 News has seen a copy of the report, which makes a series of damning criticisms of the way a serving bishop handled her allegations.

Read it all.

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

(PRC) How do European countries differ in religious commitment? Use our interactive map to find out

Europeans generally are less religious than people in other parts of the world. But within Europe, there are sometimes sizable differences in levels of religious commitment, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys in 34 countries.

To learn more about religion in the nations of Europe, select a country to see where it ranks in overall religiosity. While exploring the interactive, keep in mind that differences between two countries may not be statistically significant due to the margins of error inherent in survey data.

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Posted in Europe, Religion & Culture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Church in Wonderland: the Clergy Discipline Measure shoves victims down a rabbit hole

What is missing in all this is the option of an ‘Admonishment’. By that, I mean that the Church of England does not currently accompany a ‘no action’ outcome with a plain unequivocal finding that ‘this was wrong’. Vindicating the victims complaint is immensely important to them, regardless of the sequelae.

Surely we need such an option in a revised system, preferably published and accompanied by a victim impact statement, and perhaps even an agreed statement of reconciliation in which the wrongdoer can offer an acknowledgement of error and a proper apology and, if possible an (entirely voluntary) acceptance. Closure on such a basis might be attainable with all parties able to move forward.

As it is, the Bishop is untouched, the Deputy President emerges as a humane judge constrained by an insufficient legal structure, and the role of the Chaplain has slipped under the radar. The Archbishop has been affirmed in his procedural propriety and judgment, and does not have the embarrassment of having to find against his fellow Bishop. Everyone within the church wins.

The only one… the only one for whom the whole prolonged process has offered nothing whatsoever is the poor victim, who has received no justice, no closure, and no apology whatsoever from anyone involved. On what basis do we in the Church suggest that this kind of outcome is anything other than a disgrace?

Talk to victims and they speak of an Alice in Wonderland world where injustice is justice, and due process means just what the church says it means: episcopal clothing is metaphorically rent, yet no apology escapes their lips. No wonder that victims increasingly advise each other not to disappear down this particular rabbit hole.

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

The Full Text of Archbishop Justin Welby’s Sunday Telegraph Article–We must not forget Christians in the Middle East

At this point you may be wondering: what needs to be done to address this deeply alarming situation?

First, everyone can remember Christians in the Middle East and pray for them. At the beginning of Advent our eyes turn towards Bethlehem in the West Bank, to Nazareth, to Egypt and to other places in the Christmas story. It’s a time to pray with special focus and dedication for those Christian communities who trace their roots right back to the time of these stories. God is faithful and hears our prayers.

Second, we must understand their plight and not present it as simple or with obvious solutions. For example, to ask Syrian Christians to choose between President Assad, under whom they were tolerated, and the unimaginable horrors and threats of so-called Islamic State, is to impose a choice that we would not accept for ourselves, and which we should not judge too easily.

Third, we must support and help them in every way we can. Where they wish to leave, they will be refugees in need of asylum. Where, courageously and by the grace of God, they choose to remain, they need publicity and external, visible support. Whether in large and flourishing communities, such as in Lebanon or Egypt, or smaller, struggling Churches, they need the protection and encouragement of governments and people at home and abroad. and foreign popular expression. Without this they cannot live out their vocation as citizens of their native lands in co-operation with other religious groups.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NPR) A Grieving Pittsburgh Focuses On Community And Light In Hanukkah Celebrations

The 9th annual “Latkepalooza” at Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh is open to families across the Jewish community.

There’s plenty of fried food, face painting and carnival-style games.

Seventeen-year-old Ariel Holstein runs the putt-putt game. For him, the past five weeks have been intense. He says there was a lot to take in after police say a shooter killed 11 people at the nearby Tree of Life Synagogue in October.

“I went to all the vigils and I helped out, I helped set up,” he said. “It was very heartbreaking and I thought we had to come together as a community.”

Since the shooting, there have been youth-led events like rallies and prayer services. Young people have also been engaging in ongoing conversations with each other and in their classrooms about rising anti-Semitism.

Holstein said the dialogue has helped with the healing. But now, it’s Hanukkah, the first major Jewish holiday since the shooting, and it’s nice to take a break.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Yorkshire Post) The Archbishop of York: I voted Remain, but now I’ll be backing the Brexit deal and here’s why

The “Brexit deal”, negotiated by Her Majesty’s Government and agreed by the Cabinet, is a government deal and not Theresa May’s deal. She may have secured it, but it is now a deal the Government is putting before Parliament and the people of our four nations. Having read the document and gone through it with a fine-tooth comb, I have come to the conclusion after much thought and prayer, I will walk in the content lobby in the House of Lords. One of the enduring British characteristics, nurtured and honed by the Christian ethic in its application to human responsibility, accountability and the ever changing challenges, is that of tenacity. Like a Yorkshire terrier never letting go and doing so only in order to get a firmer grip, we should stick to the rule book when we disagree with others’ decisions and interpretations.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Arda) David Briggs–Faithful man walking: Science finds multiple benefits of religion for justice system

Several studies of religion and mental health have shown religious beliefs and practices and positive relationships with a divine being can be powerful resources helping people cope with major challenges such as illness and unemployment.

More recent research also suggests faith may help individuals deal with intense, lasting anger.

Scholars in the developing field of religion and criminal justice are finding evidence that suggests practical ways faith may turn lives around even in the depths of prison.

One of those new findings: Organized religion matters.

A study of 571 prisoners in Oregon found those who identified as religious and spiritual were less likely to reoffend in the 13 years after an initial 2004 survey than spiritual but not religious inmates. More frequent service attendance and the greater likelihood of spending time in private thought and prayer partially explained the differences.

The results highlight the importance of ensuring support for persons in prison in the process of making meaning, in addition to supporting the work of prisonchaplains and religious volunteers,” researchers reported in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(Sunday Telegraph) Christians on brink of extinction in Middle East, warns Archbishop of Canterbury

Christians who were the first founders of the church are on brink of “imminent extinction”, the Archbishop of Canterbury warns today.

Describing the “daily threat of murder” faced in the Middle East, the Most Reverend Justin Welby says Christians are experiencing “the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th Century”.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Archbishop Welby, the most senior clergyman in the Church of England, calls on the Government to take in more refugees.

It comes as figures have revealed just one in 400 Syrian refugees given asylum in the UK last year were Christians despite them being subjected to “horrendous persecution”.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NR) Patrick Brown–Falling Life Expectancy and a Politics of Meaning

Does more robust funding of, say, worker-training programs seem to be the ticket to address the kind of existential angst evidenced by the slide into opioid abuse? Should we expect the induced labor-supply growth from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to counteract the emptiness met by a bottle or pill jar? Is moralizing about civic society sufficient to rebuild a frayed social fabric that leaves too many isolated and alone?

Alone, none of these is sufficient, but the conversation Cass and others have started seems like a step toward responding to the challenge. Broadening our lens beyond economic growth to encourage caring for family, volunteering, or other non-remunerative but socially beneficial activities creates space for small spheres of being needed that can serve as the antidote to anomic suicide.

The worst-case scenario looks something like the human devastation wrought in mid-1990s Russia, and we’re not there yet. But this crisis will continue to, as the cliché goes, get worse until it gets better. Yes, we need to stanch the immediate bleeding, but we need to focus on saving the patient over the long term.

COMMENTS
Doing so requires more creativity and less economic determinism, more willingness to question orthodoxies and less attention paid to the Twitter contretemps of the day, in favor of a politics that places creating space for small spheres of meaning at the forefront of any social agenda.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Bari Weiss–Europe’s Jew Hatred, and Ours

On Tuesday, a CNN poll about the state of anti-Semitism in Europe startled many Americans — and confirmed what Jews who have been paying attention already knew about the Continent.

Not 74 years since the Holocaust ended, a third of respondents said they knew only a little or nothing at all about it.

The poll, which surveyed more than 7,000 people across Austria, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, didn’t only discover ignorance. It exposed bigotry.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars. More than a quarter believe that Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in five believe that most anti-Semitism is a response to the behavior of Jews. Roughly a third say Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own goals. Just 54 percent say Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(New Statesman) Matters of life and death: Rowan Williams and John Gray in conversation

John Gray:…I think the further away secular humanism is from its Christian roots, and the closer it gets to a certain kind of Enlightenment rationalism, in many ways the more illiberal it gets, because in Bentham’s calculus, it could turn out that a widespread cruelty to some small minority could by some calculations turn out to be felicifically or utilitarianally maximal, so why not do it? The only argument Bentham could give then would be to say, “Well, maybe you’d be giving too much power to the majority.” I think the revulsion of modern sensibility is not only that it’s dangerous to do this; it’s that securing pleasure from the suffering of others is in and of itself bad. I can’t think of a classical author or a classical philosopher who says that.

Rowan Williams: Neither can I, and that takes us back to the question of how we think of ethics in terms of the universal recognisability of human dignity, human worth, the claim on our attention – and again, it’s something we’ve learned. I remember reading a book by Joanna Bourke about the early debates on animal rights as well as on women’s rights, and she quoted a pamphlet written by a woman in the early 19th century saying that animals appeared to have more moral recognition in some philosophical discourse than women did. Putting that alongside the endemic racism of a lot of 18th-century thought and it was clear that for some very influential thinkers it was simply not obvious that you recognised the same humanity in people of another race. The universalist claim that there’s something recognisable in the physical humanity of another is an ethical fact of real substance.

Part of the typical secularist narrative is that there is a steady advance in liberality of spirit, in inclusiveness of sympathy, which has something to do with the liberation of individuals from the slavery of dogmatic belief. The Christian response would be, I guess, to say the idea that belief in God is a slavery really assumes a very powerful, very persistent and pervasive version of the religious story in which God is a very large version of what we are, and therefore is in competition with us: because he’s very big and very powerful, he will, on the whole, win such competitions, and therefore we’d better be on our best behaviour. Whereas if certain aspects of the Christian story are foregrounded more obviously, what you end up with, I believe, is the notion that because God has no interests to defend and is in no sense in competition with us, then the dignity of humanity is something we can affirm without any trouble, and without any offence or diminution to the honour of God. And my own liberalism, such as it is, would, I think, be rooted in that sort of conviction: there is something about humanity as endowed by God with the dignity, the beauty, the creativity that we see which again becomes a significant factor in our moral thinking.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture