Category : Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Church of England calls for fines on harmful social media

Social media giants should face multi-million fines if they fail to take down damaging content that leads children to suffer self-harm, bullying or emotional distress, the Church of England says today.

The bishop who has led the Church’s campaigns on social media said the Government should introduce regulations similar to Germany’s where firms face fines of up to 50m Euros (£44m) if they fail to delete posts within 24 hours of a complaint.

It is the first time the Church has thrown its weight behind a duty of care – a centrepiece of The Telegraph’s campaign social media – that would give children the same protections online as they get in the real world.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

(Wa Po) This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church

Racism has been pretty easy to spot for most people. It felt like the sting of a lash on an enslaved person’s back and smelled like the charred flesh of a public lynching. Since those forms of racial oppression have become frowned upon, so the thinking goes, then we must have moved past racism.

Unfortunately, some Christians seem to believe racism is merely a relic of a bygone era.

In an admirable effort to reckon with its racial past, leaders at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary formed a commission to examine the school’s racist founding and present their findings. The history, dating back to the mid-19th century, was as honest as it was tragic. For instance, all four original founders of the seminary held slaves, and one donor who saved the seminary from financial ruin earned his wealth through convict leasing. Yet the report stopped too soon. It ended in the mid-1960s, giving the impression that racism had, for the most part, ended with the civil rights movement.

Christians who see racism as mainly a problem of the past often fail to see that they or other people of faith still hold negative views about people of certain races and ethnicities.

In a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 54 percent of white evangelicals indicated that the country becoming majority nonwhite by 2045 would have negative effects on the nation. But 79 percent of black Protestant respondents and 80 percent of Hispanic Protestants thought this demographic change would be good for the country.

It’s easier to believe racism is a problem of the past if you think of racism strictly in interpersonal terms, truncating the definition of racism.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Football is grooming children into gambling, says Bishop of St Albans

Children are being “groomed into gambling” by football and betting companies must be banned from sponsoring clubs’ shirts, a bishop has said.

It is the first time a Church of England leader has called for an outright ban, pointing out that nine out of 20 Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 Championship teams have a gambling company as their main shirt sponsor.

Today the church unveiled a set of proposals to be put to its General Synod calling on the government to “reduce the quantity and pervasiveness of gambling advertising” and to force betting companies to pay a levy to fund education and addiction treatment.

The Bishop of St Albans, who sits in the House of Lords, led the church’s successful campaign to limit how much can be wagered on fixed-odds betting terminals. He said that 55,000 teenagers in Britain were classed as problem gamblers and not enough had been done to shield children from gambling advertising since laws were liberalised in 2005.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Religion & Culture, Theology

(PRC) Religion’s Relationship to Happiness, Civic Engagement and Health Around the World

Taking a broad, international approach to this complicated topic, Pew Research Center researchers set out to determine whether religion has clearly positive, negative or mixed associations with eight different indicators of individual and societal well-being available from international surveys conducted over the past decade. Specifically, this report examines survey respondents’ self-assessed levels of happiness, as well as five measures of individual health and two measures of civic participation.2

By dividing people into three categories, the study also seeks to isolate whether religious affiliation or religious participation – or both, or neither – is associated with happiness, health and civic engagement. The three categories are: “Actively religious,” made up of people who identify with a religious group and say they attend services at least once a month (sometimes called “actives”); “inactively religious,” defined as those who claim a religious identity but attend services less often (also called “inactives”); and “religiously unaffiliated,” people who do not identify with any organized religion (sometimes called “nones”).3

This analysis finds that in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations). This may suggest that societies with declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being. But the analysis finds comparatively little evidence that religious affiliation, by itself, is associated with a greater likelihood of personal happiness or civic involvement.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(WSJ) Karl Zinsmeister–What to Do With Empty Churches

Wander any large U.S. city and you’ll spot a serious mismatch. Majestic old houses of worship have only vestigial congregations. Without their endowments these cathedrals, chapels and synagogues couldn’t keep the lights on.

Meanwhile, those same cities have booming evangelical fellowships, traditional Catholic gatherings, Korean congregations, Spanish-language flocks and swelling numbers of Lubavitch Jews. These and other rising groups are too young to enjoy the inherited resources of shrunken assemblies. Instead they meet in auditoriums, theaters or strip malls. Some worship on Saturdays or at night, in sanctuaries rented from mainline churches.

In New York, Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church has congregations worshiping in a converted underground garage, a Salvation Army center, a college auditorium and other improvised locations. Falls Church Anglican in Virginia has for years convened in a public school and a suburban office building while struggling to erect its own sanctuary. In Los Angeles, one congregation of the Pacific Crossroads Church meets at Santa Monica High School, another gathers in a town recreation center, and a third rents a cathedral during off hours.

People of religious faith—whether in the new, energetic congregations or the waning ones—should be concerned. Even nonbelievers have a stake in resolving these physical incongruities.Read it all.

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

(NYT) Washington State Weighs New Option After Death: Human Composting

Katrina Spade, the founder and chief executive of Recompose, a Seattle company that hopes to build the first facility to use the new method and conduct funeral services based around it, said the movement toward cremation — now used in more than half of deaths in the nation — has led to an erosion of essential rituals. Remains are often just picked up from a crematory, she said, and that’s that.

“This is not simply a process to convert bodies to soil; it’s also about bringing ritual and some of that ceremony back,” Ms. Spade said.

Ms. Christian, the woman who is hoping recomposition will be an option after she dies, says she has long been uncomfortable with the other choices. She has ruled out burial. And she does not like the idea of cremation because of environmental costs — emissions and climate impacts of fossil fuels used in the burning process. But her friends remain divided on the issue.

“The vast majority are like, ‘That is so cool,’” she said. “And then the other response is, ‘Oh, gross.’”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Guardian) Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt launches review into how UK can better support Christains under threat

Postcolonial guilt about Britain’s imperial past has held the country back from addressing the deepening persecution of Christians across the world, the foreign secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt was speaking at the launch of an independent review into how the government defends the rights of persecuted Christians. The review, which will be led by the bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, will study the scale, causes and geography of persecution and what more the UK may be able to do to raise the profile of the issue in its diplomatic network.

Hunt, a committed Christian, said: “We wanted to do this not just because freedom of worship is a fundamental human right, but because also freedom of worship is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies.”

He added he wanted “to banish any hesitation to look into this issue without fear or favour that may exist because of our imperial history, because of the concerns that some people might have in linking the activities of missionaries in the 19th century to misguided imperialism”.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

Remembering Sam Shoemaker on his Feast Day (III)–a man concerned with USA’s internal enemies

It was America’s enemies within that interested Shoemaker most. After the country entered World War II, the cleric addressed the nation’s cause in several sermons, eventually published in Christ and this Cause. In one of those sermons, “God and the War,” he lashed out at the nation’s immorality.

This nation has had the greatest privileges ever given to any nation in all time. America has been God’s privileged child. But America has become a spoiled child. We have been ungrateful to the God under whom our liberties were given to us. I believe it is high time for someone to say that this war today is God’s judgment upon a godless and selfish people.”

Shoemaker did support the war effort; in his sermon, “What Are We Fighting For?” he admitted that the war was a “grim necessity,” the means by which nations would once again have the opportunity to choose democracy. But he abhorred any self-righteous cause:

“No war can ever be a clear-cut way for a Christian to express his hatred of evil. For war involves a basic confusion. All the good in the world is not ranged against all the evil. In the present war, some nations that have a great deal of evil in them are yet seeking to stand for freedom ”¦ against other nations which have a great deal of good in them but yet are presently dedicated to turning the world backwards into the darkness of enslavement.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

Remembering Sam Shoemaker on his Feast Day (I)–His Obituary in the New York Times, Nov. 2, 1963

Dr. Shoemaker did not confine his preaching to his church. He would mount a box on a street corner if he thought he could bring religion into someone’s life. And he often did.

Read it all.

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

(Baltimore Sun) Former Episcopal Church bishop Heather Cook seeks to serve rest of sentence for drunken-driving death at home

Read it all.

Posted in Alcoholism, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

(WSJ) Bill McGurn–A NYT Reporter Trolls Christian Schools

Whatever Mr. Levin’s intention, he has provoked an outpouring from people attesting to the wonderful difference Christian schools have made in their lives. Nor is it only conservatives who speak this way. Here’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2013, offering her version of #ExposeChristianSchools when she learned her own parochial school, Blessed Sacrament in the Bronx, was shutting down.

“You know how important those eight years were?” Justice Sotomayor said in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s symbolic of what it means for all our families, like my mother, who were dirt poor. She watched what happened to my cousins in public school and worried if we went there, we might not get out. So she scrimped and saved. It was a road of opportunity for kids with no other alternative.”

One of the lesser known things about Catholic schools is that they boast a 99% high-school graduation rate—with 86% going to a four-year college, nearly twice the 44% rate of public schools. Particularly in the inner cities, these schools are a lifeline, not least for the tens of thousands of non-Catholic children of color who without that education might be condemned to lives lived at the margins of the American Dream.

Among the features that set Christian schools apart is the command to see the face of Christ in each child. Human nature being what it is, reality often falls short. But it remains a beautiful expectation, a reminder that the children before you are to be not only taught but loved.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Education, Media, Religion & Culture

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Pakistan’s Supreme Court upholds Asia Bibi’s acquittal

Ms Bibi was first acquitted last October, but the government backed away from freeing her unconditionally after a wave of rioting orchestrated by an ultra-zealous Islamist political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which continued to demand her death. The party’s leader was among those arrested after the riots and remains in prison. Under a bargain with the protesters, the government agreed to ask the Supreme Court to review her acquittal and to prevent Ms Bibi from leaving the country pending those proceedings. The public response to this latest decision has been more muted than it was in October, with the Pakistani authorities seemingly better prepared to withstand an onslaught.

The case has triggered an international furore, with the accused woman’s husband Ashiq searching for a country which was prepared to offer her asylum and risk the ire of Islamic extremists (Canada, Spain and France are thought to have offered asylum). She is most likely to go to Canada, where two of her children have reportedly moved this week. Britain’s Foreign Office admitted that it had not granted Ms Bibi asylum for fear of endangering its own staff in Pakistan. The move prompted protests from politicians and religious leaders in Britain who insisted that the country should not allow itself to be intimidated. Although Pakistan’s blasphemy laws enjoy some support in the country’s diaspora, including in Britain, several British imams urged the government to take Ms Bibi in and face down the extremists.

A representative for Amnesty International, a London-based human-rights body, urged the Pakistani authorities to implement the verdict swiftly. She said: “Asia Bibi must finally get her freedom and an end to her ordeal. After nine years behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit, it is difficult to see this long overdue verdict as justice. But she should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice.”

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(The Conversation) Katie Gaddini+Linda Woodhead–Brexit shines light on Church of England rift between leadership and Anglican majority

In sharp contrast to the evangelicals, other Anglican voters in England cited immigration as a major issue persuading them to vote Leave, as they wanted to preserve England’s cultural-ethnic identity. Most important of all, however was their concern about excessive EU interference.

For now, the archbishops and and like-minded bishops are in power at the top of the Church of England, but without the support of most grassroots Anglicans. Their stance on Brexit makes this very plain. Traditionally the Church of England has been “the Tory party at prayer” and, in terms of votes cast, it still is.

But the “old guard” of mainline Anglicans is slowly dying out and the new breed of enthusiastic, charismatic-evangelical clergy are having more success in winning over some young people. Supporters of their approach – like the archbishops – say that speaking in tongues and other charismatic practices are the best way to revive the dying Church of England. Opponents say that they are likely to drive out the last remaining Anglicans and alienate their children. Either way, it will affect the political complexion of England as a whole.

Read it all.(Please however note that the authors sadly repeat the completely fallacious idea that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. For why this statistic is just wrong see here,there, and here among many places).

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

(Patheos) Philip Jenkins writes good piece on the history of Anti-semitism in America–The American Dictator and the Lone Ranger

…[William Dudley] Pelley formed a new political-religious movement, the fascist and anti-semitic Silver Legion of America, the Silver Shirts. This was “a great Christian Army fortified by the inviolable principles of the Christ.” Pelley was the “beloved Chief,” a term which could equally well refer to his role as American Führer, or as the living Secret Chief, a not-yet-Ascended Master.

The Silver Shirts were explicitly modeled on the German Nazi Party, and Pelley claimed that he was inspired to form his movement on January 30, 1933, the day Hitler became German Chancellor. But Pelley also drew ideas and images from the popular media, as this day marked the first broadcast of the radio western series, The Lone Ranger, with its heroic Rangers and the recurrent silver themes. Pelley’s followers were also Silver Rangers, and that was the title of one of his newspapers.

Whatever the origins of the idea, Pelley now focused on the Jews as the source of most evils and problems in the world, and he offered a solution based on the formation of a Christian Commonwealth, a Christ-Democracy. Pelley became the nation’s best-known figure on the paramilitary far Right, and he inspired Sinclair Lewis’s imaginary American dictator Buzz Windrip in the 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here.

The Silver Shirts boomed in the mid-1930s, and the movement may have had up to twenty thousand members nationwide at its height in 1933-34. Support was heavily concentrated in California, Oregon and Washington, though other centers of strength were scattered across the Midwest, in Chicago, Cleveland and in the Ohio steel districts. Pittsburgh was another major center of organization, where it spawned leftist and Jewish counter-protests. Though the movement looks like a classic fascist sect, it never lost its strong occult motivation, and some adherents claimed to be less interested in the anti-Semitic rhetoric than in Pelley’s mystic revelations.

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Student cracks Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller’s baffling religious code

While…[Andrew Fuller] wrote a number of influential works before his death in 1815, his early sermons and other documents have survived only as shorthand notes.

They remained inaccessible until Dr Steve Holmes, head of the School of Divinity at St Andrews University found one headed in longhand “Confessions of Faith, Oct. 7 1783”.

He recognised this as the date of Fuller’s induction into the pastorate of a church in Kettering and knew that he would have been required to give a confession of faith as part of that service.

Dr Holmes then wondered if a copy of the confession printed in a biography might help him crack the code.

After discovering that the two texts were the same, he recruited Jonny Woods through the university’s undergraduate research assistant scheme to help.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptists, Church History, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) BBC ‘Year of Beliefs’ to shine light on faith and values in modern UK

The BBC is launching a year-long series of programmes examining faith, belief and values in modern Britain.

As part of its coverage of a society that is “more diverse, more complex and more divided than ever before”, the corporation will launch a major survey of attitudes to contentious issues and ethical dilemmas.

The broadcaster’s “Year of Beliefs” commissions include landmark series and one-off documentaries on television and radio to address issues such as science and religion, LGBT+, circumcision, surrogacy and medical ethics.

Among the programmes is Inside the Vatican, a look behind the scenes at the independent city-state at the heart of the Catholic church, filmed over a year. The two-part documentary promises “astonishing access”, including to Pope Francis, the choristers of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican’s security personnel, diplomats and gardeners.

A one-off documentary, Welcome to the Bruderhof, explores a village near Hastings that is home to 300 Christians who live together as disciples of Christ, spurning cars and mobile phones.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Media, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby apologises for ‘mistakes’ in case of George Bell

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bishop Bell’s biographer, who has been campaigning to clear Bell’s name, said on Thursday evening that the statements “show that they are clinging to the wreckage of their old position as best they can.

“It is simply self-justification, but it does indicate that they will just maintain for the sake of consistency the views that got them into such trouble in the first place.”

He questioned why, in January of last year, the Church had issued a statement and commissioned a second investigation: “What today has really exposed is the ridiculousness of what has been going on, and the foolishness of people who have real power in the Church. . .

“Many people will say that the Church was trying to control, or retrieve control, of the narrative of Lord Carlile, to shut down the critics, and create a doubt in the public mind that Bell might be a serial offender of some kind.

“They have nothing to hide behind now. It looks like a highly calculating, politicised outfit indeed.”

While parts of the Archbishop’s statement were “meaningful, welcome, and appropriate”, the reference to the Church’s “dilemma” in weighing up a reputation against a serious allegation did not exist, Professor Chandler argued….

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(DM) Just one in ten babies is baptised into the Church of England with the numbers even lower in London at three in every 100, figures reveal

Only one in ten babies is baptised into the Church of England – and in London, the figure is even lower at three in every 100, a national breakdown of the Church’s strength has revealed.

The tiny minority of infants who are introduced to Christianity by the CofE in London is mirrored in other major cities.

In Birmingham, only 5 per cent of babies are christened by the Anglican church; in Bristol it’s 6 per cent; in Manchester 8 per cent; and in Nottingham 9 per cent.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture

(OUP Blog) Archaic and postmodern, today’s pagans challenge ideas about ‘religion’

Several people chuckled when they walked past Room 513B during the 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, held in Montréal. The title of the session within was simply “Idolatry,” held by the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group, papers such as “Materiality and Spirituality Aren’t Opposites (Necessarily): Paganism and Objects” were presented.

The nervous laughter at the session’s title shows that even among scholars of religion, topics of polytheism and idolatry seem quaint, antique, and even trivial. Do people still even take them seriously?

Indeed, they do. Pagan religions, both newly envisioned and reconstructed on ancient patterns, are growing throughout the world. In addition, followers of these newer Paganisms, such as Wicca, Druidry, and reconstructed Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Greek, and other traditions, have begun to reach out to people attempting to maintain other indigenous or tribal traditions.

In the English-speaking world, the best-known new Pagan religion is Wicca, which is one form of Pagan witchcraft. Arguably rooted in Romantic ideas — appreciation of nature, an idealization of the “folk soul” and the countryside, a great appreciation of feminine principles — it was created around 1950 by a retired civil servant and spiritual seeker named Gerald Gardner (1884–1964). Gardner did not seek a mass movement but more of a “mystery cult” in the classical sense — small groups of initiates who would meet according to the lunar calendar to worship a goddess symbolized by the Moon and a god symbolized by (among other things) a stag or goat or the Sun, and to perform magic.

Wicca, as the British historian Ronald Hutton has noted, is the “the only religion that England has given the world.”

Read it all from 2016.

Posted in History, Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

For Thomas Aquinas’ Feast Day– Archbishop Michael Miller Speaks on Aquinas and Universities

Authentic Christian faith does not fear reason “but seeks it out and has trust in it”. Faith presupposes reason and perfects it. Nor does human reason lose anything by opening itself to the content of faith. When reason is illumined by faith, it “is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God”. The Holy Father observes that St Thomas thinks that human reason, as it were, “breathes” by moving within a vast horizon open to transcendence. If, instead, “a person reduces himself to thinking only of material objects or those that can be proven, he closes himself to the great questions about life, himself and God and is impoverished”. Such a person has far too summarily divorced reason from faith, rendering asunder the very dynamic of the intellect.

What does this mean for Catholic universities today? Pope Benedict answers in this way: “The Catholic university is [therefore] a vast laboratory where, in accordance with the different disciplines, ever new areas of research are developed in a stimulating confrontation between faith and reason that aims to recover the harmonious synthesis achieved by Thomas Aquinas and other great Christian thinkers”. When firmly grounded in St Thomas’ understanding of faith and reason, Catholic institutions of higher learning can confidently face every new challenge on the horizon, since the truths discovered by any genuine science can never contradict the one Truth, who is God himself.

Read it all from 2010.

Posted in Church History, Education, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Bible Gateway) How to Be the Kind of Christian People Can’t Resist: An Interview with Scott Sauls

Why does the word Christian evoke negative reaction among many people?

Scott Sauls: One of the main reasons for this is nominalism, or the dynamic of people being ‘Christian,’ but in name only. Most especially, when kids and teens and young adults see their parents acting differently in private than they do in public—when their parents’ ‘church self’ is markedly different than the ‘home self’ or ‘Friday night self;’ when their use of things like sex, money, and power are contradictory to the Christian ethic, young people start to associate ‘Christian’ with ‘hypocrite.’

What do you mean when you write, “The problem isn’t with Christianity as much as it is with our flawed approach to and understanding of Christianity.”

Scott Sauls: I think there are two errors that many of us fall into, and that lead to a flawed approach to faith. The first is the ‘grace without truth’ error, which leads us to soften the call of the gospel. ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ becomes an excuse to follow the world instead of following Jesus. It makes us more prone to deny our neighbor, take up our comforts, and follow our dreams than to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. The grace without truth error is salt without savor, light without heat. It’s anemic. It isn’t faith, but is, rather, codependent enabling of others and of self.

Likewise, there’s the ‘truth without grace’ error, which leads us to shame, scold, and separate. And, of course, few things corrupt and diminish the true Christian witness more than such things. We must return to the pattern of Christ, who welcomed sinners and ate with them, and who was willing to be misunderstood—even mischaracterized as a glutton and a drunk—because of who he associated with…

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Theology

C of E General Synod to debate call for reconciliation for divided nation

The UK’s political leaders should draw on “Christian hope and reconciliation” to help steer the country through a time of seemingly “entrenched and intractable” divisions, according to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The call comes in the text of a special motion on the state of the nation, tabled by the two archbishops, to be debated by the Church of England’s General Synod, which meets in London next month.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Why Are People Wearing Earplugs in Church? Hint: It’s Not the Sermon

Larry Calo entered an elementary school in Glen Rock, N.J., for Sunday services of the Emergence Church, greeted fellow congregants and scanned the room for an open seat. Then he dipped his hand into a glass jar and pulled out a pair of orange PVC foam earplugs.

Before long, an electric guitarist, bass player, drummer and singer were tearing through a roughly 15-minute set featuring parish classics such as “King of My Heart.”

The high volume was a bit much for Mr. Calo, 64 years old, who lost part of his hearing working with heavy machinery. “And I don’t want to lose any more,” he said.

Houses of worship have featured live music for centuries. In recent years many have been plugging into rock-style sound systems and cranking up the volume. The effort to appeal to more and younger churchgoers is splitting opinions—and ears.

Crossroads Church, which has 13 locations in Ohio and Kentucky, declares on its website: “Music brings us all together and closer to God—so we can turn it up to 11,” a nod to a joke from the rock mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

An Open letter is released to the C of E bishops in response to their transgender services guidance

….This is the wider medical, social and political debate into which the House of Bishops have introduced their brief ‘Guidance for gender transition services’. The document is undoubtedly well intentioned but lacks the serious theological analysis required to address the philosophical, anthropological and social issues in play in public discourse.

We, the undersigned, are unreservedly committed to welcoming everyone to our churches and communities of faith, so that all might hear and be invited to respond to the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. But we do not believe that the Guidance is the right way to do this, since it raises some significant issues for the Church’s belief and practice.

  1. The House of Bishops previously stated that no new liturgy would be offered. The title of ‘gender transition services’, the focus on the use of a person’s new name, the use of oil and water contrary to previous rubrics in Common Worship, and the description in the later explanatory note confirming that this service is to be used to ‘mark gender transition’ amount to the offering of a new liturgy, since existing wording is now being put to a new purpose.
  2. We are deeply concerned at what appears to be a misuse of the liturgy by which we celebrate one of the dominical sacraments, which are the founding markers of the Church itself (Articles XIX and XXV). Although reaffirmation of baptismal vows might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life, it should primarily be focussed on celebrating new life in Christ rather than a new situation or circumstance, as set out in Common Worship: Christian Initiation, and should always centre on salvation, repentance and faith rather than ‘unconditional affirmation’.
  3. We are similarly concerned at the inclusion of new biblical readings within the guidance and their suggestion that the changes of name for biblical characters in the light of God’s salvific action and intervention offer a legitimate parallel to the change of name associated with gender transition.

Read it all and note if you are interested the list of signatories (which number around 1600 as of this afternoon).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) After police foil terrorist attack on Islamberg, New York Muslims push for justice

In 2015, the FBI issued an alert after an Arizona man affiliated with militia groups allegedly threatened to attack Islamberg in a Facebook video. And for several years, a group of anti-Muslim bikers and right-wing activists led by American Bikers United Against Jihad drove past Islamberg in their annual Ride for National Security.

“The lies about Islamberg have been proven wrong countless times,” The Muslims of America’s chief executive, Hussein Adams, told media. “But what speaks volumes is that after 30 years there have been no instances where members of our community have done anything related to these accusations.”

TMOA said the new alleged plot sent “shock waves” of fear through the community, giving residents flashbacks to the “panic and unease” they endured after previous incidents. “And each time it happens, these grave tragedies compound the trauma of the previous instance,” Islamberg attorney Tahirah Clark said.

After the Doggart case, in which he was released to his family on $30,000 bail, TMOA officials were shocked to learn that domestic terrorism is not always considered a federal crime, and they are now pushing for a change in policy.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

(AI) CANA bishop denounces “prosperity gospel” heresy

“Prosperity gospel” has become a popular tool in today’s secular world. But it is not of the Bible. British professor of sociology Stephen Hunt explains: “In the forefront (of this type of teaching) is the doctrine of the assurance of “divine” physical health and prosperity through faith. In short, this means that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty.”

Prosperity gospel asserts that it is God’s will to bless you with good health, happiness, wealth, and anything you believe you must have if you have enough faith to trust God and decree it by your spoken words. Worse than that heretical assertion is that if you don’t have enough faith to decree those things into existence you will not receive such blessings. Prosperity gospel misrepresents God and promotes greed and materialism. It puts our personal needs above our spiritual needs; above the worship of God and his true mission. It is biblically untrue, pastorally cruel, and misdirects people from Christ and his saving gospel to personal well-being. It turns our relationship with God into a quid pro quo relationship wherein God gives to us according to how much we give him- a total denial of saving grace from a gracious God who loved us and saved us when we hated him.

Let me be clear: God wants to bless us in many ways but sometimes he allows us to go through suffering for our own good and for the sake of others. That’s what he did to the Apostle Paul, our Lord Jesus Christ, the martyrs, and Christians across the centuries, despite their strong faith and faithfulness. It is biblical to pray for healing and blessings, trusting God to bless us in accordance with his providence. It is not biblical to teach that God is obligated to prosper you with wealth, health, and happiness because you have enough faith. This has done much damage to individuals in the body of Christ.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., CANA, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(America) The Editors: Politicians fail the country by applying religious tests

First, as we have pointed out before, Roe v. Wade’s confinement of the abortion question to the judiciary continues to distort the workings of political dialogue and compromise. Unable to debate the abortion question straightforwardly, legislators are left to read tea leaves about what judges might do. And since the American people are not of one mind about abortion, the judicial “settlement” of the issue is in constant need of shoring up, driving its defenders to depict anyone who opposes abortion as dangerously extreme.

Second, the current climate of “gotcha” politics is deeply opposed to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association and the rich history of nongovernmental civic institutions building up the fabric of American public life. Many politicians, seeking short-term advantage, are willing to cast suspicion on any connection to a group or issue they oppose. The assumption that membership in a fraternal organization automatically constitutes endorsement of a particular political position—much less bias that would render a nominee unfit to be a judge—is catastrophically narrow.

Third, religious values are being conflated with bias—but the anemic state of the public conversation about religion makes it difficult to distinguish them properly. It is perfectly possible for judges to be motivated by their faith to recognize that abortion is a grave injustice, while still being committed to honor laws and precedent.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Tara Burton–If God is dead, is it OK if we save ourselves?

…what we’re seeing is not a substitution of one kind of faith for another. As a culture we’re putting our faith in ourselves. Salvation has been relocalized; the new secular faiths think humans have the potential to save ourselves.

You can see this as communities across the United States actively attempt to remake and remap human nature. Transhumanists are attempting to radicalize cryogenics and reverse aging. “Intentional polyamorists” and “relationship anarchists” subvert “toxic monogamy culture.” They’re seeking out blueprints to rewire our bodies, our minds and our social relationships – exploring new avenues of what it means to become our “best selves.”

It’s possible, as Sullivan does, to read these quests as doomed attempts to override what we can never overcome. Maybe they are. But the increasing prominence of these “new utopian” groups represents more than the collapse of traditional religion. It also tells us about the collapse of traditional notions of human frailty.

Fewer and fewer of us may believe in God or spirits. But now, more than ever, we’re willing to put our trust in the better angels of our own nature.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Forbes) Ewelina Ochab–Religious Freedom Is On The Decrease In India

Religious freedom in India continues to deteriorate and it has been on a gradual decline for at least a decade. As a result, the plight of religious minorities is reaching new levels. This despite the fact that the right to freedom of religion or belief is clearly recognized in the 1949 Constitution of India. Also, India acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and so pledged to adhere to the international standards of human rights enshrined in the treaty. Nonetheless, these guarantees prove not to be enough yet again.

In its annual report, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) identifies several limitations to the right to freedom of religion or belief and challenges faced by religious minorities in India. For example, Hindu extremism is on the rise with several of cases of harassment, intimidation and violence being committed against Hindu Dalits, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Sikhs. USCIRF identified groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) who are responsible for an organised campaign of alienation against non-Hindus or low-caste Hindus.

Indeed, the issue is serious. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, reported that in 2017 alone, 111 people were killed and 2,384 injured in communal clashes….

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Posted in India, Religion & Culture

Thorneloe University appoints the Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut as its Next President

A priest of the Diocese of Ottawa, Gibaut is well known in ecumenical circles, having served on national and international dialogues and commissions.

He has been a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada, the Faith and Witness Commission of the Canadian Council of Churches, the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations.

Gibaut earned a doctorate in theology from Trinity College, University of Toronto, and has honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Montreal Diocesan Theological College and Trinity College, Toronto. He has served as canon theologian of the Diocese of Ottawa.

He has lectured in the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College as well as academic institutions in Australia and the United States. He has an impressive list of publications and presentations to his credit, reflecting his deep and diverse perspectives on theology. He is a highly regarded scholar in the areas of ecumenism, liturgy, church history, historical theology and Anglican studies.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Canada, Ecumenical Relations, Education, Religion & Culture, Uncategorized