Category : Other Churches

(IVP blog) Ollie Lansdowne–We need to Recover Isaiah’s View of God

Maybe I’m the product of overexposure, but at this point I’m willing to argue it out with anyone: Isaiah is the greatest piece of literature that has ever been written.

More pointedly, Isaiah has what British evangelicalism needs: a thoroughly classical doctrine of God, which undergirds a vision of salvation that’s as sweeping as creation and would stop us putting our faith in powerful men.

Unique By His Very Nature

Isaiah’s doctrine of God is breathtaking, presenting us with a God who is genuinely incomparable. Here’s an example: “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?” ─Isaiah 40v25.

This isn’t just an attack on the number of gods in paganism, it’s an attack on the nature of the gods in paganism. The gods of paganism are many, but that isn’t the deepest problem that Isaiah identifies. The deepest problem with the gods of paganism is that it’s possible to compare them with one another: they are relative. Pagan gods are comparable and relative because these ‘gods’ can exist in varieties: you could tweak and change any of them─add some grace and power, remove some wisdom─and they’d become different gods, but they’d still be ‘gods’. No pagan god exists in a category uniquely its own, truly and totally independent from everything else, absolute and unchangeable by definition.

Here’s where the rubber hits the road: if no pagan god is truly and totally independent, that means that no pagan god could ever be truly and totally dependable. If you throw the weight of your life at one of these gods, you’ll quickly find that they are themselves leaning on something else: whoever or whatever has been determining how much grace and power and wisdom they have.

Not so the God of Isaiah.

Isaiah’s God is unique by his very nature.

There are two categories: God, and everything that God created. He isn’t relative, a variation on a theme. As Steven J. Duby puts it in God In Himself, “There is no impersonal form of life, wisdom, or love “out there” from which God must draw in order to be what he is.” If it was even possible for this God to change, He would cease to be God. He isn’t ‘the most’, He is ‘the only’. Isaiah’s doctrine of God isn’t that “the most powerful” also─fortunately─happens to be “the most gracious”. It’s that God is incomparable and unchanging, truly and totally independent and therefore truly and totally dependable.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Theology: Scripture

(CNS) The Roman Catholic faith of Kobe Bryant RIP

In 2015, the basketball player told GQ that after the matter was resolved, he decided to shed some superficiality he felt he had built up in his public persona.

“What I came to understand, coming out of Colorado, is that I had to be me, in the place where I was at that moment.”

Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal.

Describing his fear of being sent to prison for a crime he believed he had not committed, Bryant told GQ that “The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Roman Catholic, Sports

(CT) The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

Every day, 8 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith.

Every week, 182 churches or Christian buildings are attacked.

And every month, 309 Christians are imprisoned unjustly.

So reports the 2020 World Watch List (WWL), the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for their faith.

“We cannot let this stand,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, during the 2020 list’s unveiling in Washington, DC, this morning. “People are speaking out and we have an obligation to hear their cry.”

The listed nations comprise 260 million Christians suffering high to severe levels of persecution, up from 245 million in last year’s list.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Other Churches, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(EF) TobyMac writes a song about the passing of his son

TobyMac, former member of DC Talk and an influential Hip Hop artist with seven solo albums, has written a song about the experience of losing a son.

“‘21 years’ is a song I wrote about the recent passing of my firstborn son, Truett Foster McKeehan. I loved him with all my heart. Until something in life hits you this hard, you never know how you will handle it”, the artist said on his Instagram account. He said he was thankful for all those who have surrounded his family with “love, starting with God’s”.

He and his wife Amanda have four other children.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Music, Theology

(America) How parishes can tackle the U.S. church’s money crisis

For the Catholic Church, this means starting with our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. But the road to the financial health of a parish also means seeing financial resources as a spiritual issue, and encouraging parishioners to contribute, as Christian disciples, relative to their means. We recommend three steps to get started.

Preach and teach about money more. The Bible has some great wisdom on how to handle money, and Jesus had more to say about it than any other issue. The pulpit needs to be leveraged to give parishioners insight on money and how giving can be an act of faith. Beyond the pulpit, parishes can host courses to help people get out of debt and more skillfully manage their money.

Talk about money more but ask for it less. Incessant, guilt-tinged “asks” for causes ranging from busted boilers to leaky roofs create the impression that all the church talks about is money. These asks take the form of second collections, special appeals, sales in the lobby and, of course, raffles, bake sales and bingo. These fundraisers create confusion, and parishes should wean themselves off of them. At Mass, pass the offering basket once, and, barring an extraordinary event, ask for additional financial support no more than once a year.

Lead by example. The Gospels say that people followed Jesus because he spoke as one having authority. Church leaders can speak with authority about money when we ourselves are giving at a sacrificial level through our gifts of time, talent or, when possible, financial resources. Our credibility is further enhanced when we are good stewards of the money we receive in offerings, honoring parish budgets, avoiding unnecessary debt and eliminating unneeded expenses.

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stewardship

(Rod Dreher) When A Bishop Does Right

Whenever you read about bishops here, it’s usually to complain about their failings. I’m delighted to be able to write about something good a bishop has done. In this case, it’s the Antiochian Orthodox Bishop Basil Essey, of Wichita, who corrected one of his priests, Father Aaron Warwick. As I wrote here, Father Aaron published an essay in a dissenting Orthodox online journal in which he called for a strong revision in Orthodox pastoral care for LGBT people — including encouraging same-sex couples to pair off and keep their sex lives within the pairing. Father Aaron insisted that he wasn’t challenging Church teaching, only pastoral practice, but this is a Jesuitical distinction without a difference (no, it really is: this is the tactic the Catholic LGBT activist priest James Martin, SJ, uses).

Father Aaron was scheduled to be elevated to archpriest (sort of like “monsignor” in the Catholic Church) this month, but now, that’s not going to happen quite yet. This went out yesterday:

I don’t know what, exactly, Bishop Basil did, but Father Aaron issued a public apology, and a retraction of his essay….

There is no more difficult stance in contemporary American culture for a cleric, bishop or not, to take than the one Bishop Basil has taken here. When our priests, pastors, and bishops do take those stands, we need to praise them, and praise them publicly. A senior church leader who doesn’t temporize or surrender to the culture — imagine that! God, send us more!

Read it all (cited by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Orthodox Church, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

For his Feast Day (4)–[SWJT] Olayemi O.T. Fatusi–The Retransmission of Evangelical Christianity in Nigeria: The Legacy and Lessons from Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s Life and Ministry (1810–1891)

In conclusion, this article has attempted to establish the evangelical root and persuasion of Ajayi Crowther that perspicuously points to his missiological praxis. It equally shows that the nineteenth century pioneering evangelical antecedents of Crowther’s ministry was a foundation upon which the twenty-first-century Christian faith expansion and movements in the Anglican Communion in Nigeria was cast. The contemporary manifestation of the evangelical movement in the Church of Nigeria today still points to Crowther’s evangelical convictions on the Scriptures, the need for conversion of sinners in missions, and the need for collaborating efforts in missiondriven ecumenism. Indeed, the historic growth and expansion that places theAnglican Church in Nigeria on the pedestal of global leadership within the global Anglican Church today can be traced back to Crowther’s principles and strategies in gospel retransmission.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of Nigeria, Evangelicals, Missions, Theology

(NYT) China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention.

As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue

First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.

As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.

Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of [some of] American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Local Paper) How Dabo Swinney’s Christian evangelism boosts Clemson recruiting

Swinney, an evangelical Christian, is reluctant to elaborate with reporters about his faith; he declined an interview request for this story. But in the moments after Clemson’s 44-16 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game Jan. 7, he made a bold statement in front of a global audience.

“We beat Notre Dame and Alabama. We left no doubt. And we walk off this field tonight as the first 15-0 team in college football history,” he said. “All the credit, all the glory, goes to the good Lord.”

Recruiting new talent is perpetually on the minds of college football coaches, and Swinney, who will lead Clemson against Ohio State in the Dec. 28 Fiesta Bowl, has struck a chord with prospects who come from strong Christian backgrounds.

Players insist Swinney doesn’t force his views on others, but it’s clear faith is imbued in the program.

The results are the envy of the sport: five straight College Football Playoff appearances, two of the last three national titles, 28 consecutive wins.

“Only God can do this,” Swinney said Jan. 7 inside Levi’s Stadium, purple and orange confetti clumping on his pullover. “That’s a fact. People may think I’m crazy or quacky, or whatever.

“But only God can orchestrate this.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Sports

Kendall Harmon–the myth of some kind of monolithic evangelical support for President Trump

I think one can clearly state the nature of the myth of some kind of monolithic evangelical support for President Trump.

The evangelical movement is quite broad and diverse and comprises nearly ¼ or so of the USA population.

In this movement in terms of the last election (2016) there were four groups.

In the first group are evangelicals who voted for Hillary Clinton with varying degrees of enthusiasm, either for her policy or party stance in terms of things like support for the disenfranchised. This also includes also a number who voted for her because they saw no choice but to vote against Donald Trump.

In the second group are evangelicals who voted for a third party, or stayed at home and didn’t vote because even though they opposed a number of the Democratic nominee’s proposals they were horrified by Donald Trump’s character and modus operandi and could not in good conscience support him.

In the third group were people who were adamantly opposed to a number of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, but who reluctantly concluded that the only way they could influence public policy was to vote for one of the two people who were going to win. They therefore held their nose and voted against Hillary Clinton but very much thinking that they were worried about Trump as a person and what his character would do to the office.

In the fourth group were people who enthusiastically supported Donald Trump. The reasons for this support vary a great deal under the surface, one of the most interesting being a who number felt that the culture war had been shoved down their throat during the Obama years, and actively wanted a person who would enable a kind of payback, even with his modus operandi.

The main distortion comes from the NEARLY COMPLETE FOCUS on group four, and even a minority of leaders among group four. There may be an occasional nod to group three, but often it is falsely implied that group three are enthusiastically behind the current President, whereas they are not at all but saw no alternative given the American two party system. Groups one and two are hardly even talked about.

Therefore the picture given of the movement as a whole is entirely false. I would like to say personally how sorry I am for the Hispanic, African American, and mainly younger evangelicals whose voices are nearly entirely silenced by the false picture–KSH.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * By Kendall, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(A CT Editorial) President Trump Should Be Removed from Office

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Katharina Von Bora

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Katharina von Bora from a cloister to work for the reform of thy church, grant that all of us may go wherever thou dost call, and serve however thou dost will, for thy honor and glory and for the welfare of thy whole church. All this we ask through Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Lutheran, Spirituality/Prayer

(NC Register) Former Chaplain to the Queen of England Gavin Ashenden Converting to Roman Catholicism

Gavin Ashenden, a former Honorary Chaplain to the Queen in the Church of England who was consecrated a bishop in a Continuing Anglican ecclesial community, will be received into the Catholic Church on Sunday.

He will receive confirmation Dec. 22 during a Mass at Shrewsbury Cathedral from Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury.

His wife, Helen, became a Catholic about two years ago in the Diocese of Shrewsbury.

“Having come to believe that the claims and expression of the Catholic faith are the most profound and potent expression of apostolic and patristic belief, and to accept the primacy of the Petrine tradition, I am grateful to the Bishop of Shrewsbury and the Catholic community in his diocese for the opportunity to mend 500 years of fractured history and be reconciled to the Church that gave birth to my earlier tradition,” Ashenden has said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, Church of England (CoE), Roman Catholic

An interesting Look Back–The Nottingham Statement: The Official Statement of the second National Evangelical Anglican Congress held in April 1977

R
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
R1
Marriage and God’s purpose
We affirm, as the church in every age has done, that marriage, as the lifelong partnership of a man and a woman, is fundamental to God’s purpose for the whole of society. It meets the physical and emotional needs of individuals made in God’s image and affords a stable environment for the birth and upbringing of children. This most-welcome gift of God has an abiding strength and continuity that will outlast the ebb and flow of cultural change, yet it demands fresh appropriation within the cultural terms of each new generation. Sexual union and the marriage covenant belong together; the one is the appropriate expression of the love involved in the other. The tendency of modern society to separate them–in promiscuity, group sex and other experimental patterns–is one to be opposed at every point.

R2
The calling to a single life
Together with marriage, we affirm afresh the calling of God, given to some, to live singly. This is not a sign of personal failure, nor need it lead to dissatisfaction; on the contrary, the single person can enjoy a rich and fulfilled life in God’s purposes, yet there are special needs attaching to this state that can be met by a caring church fellowship.

R3
Homosexuality
We recognise the growing problem of homosexuality and our need for a better-informed understanding of this condition. There should be a full welcoming place in the Christian fellowship for the Christian homosexual. Nevertheless, we believe homosexual intercourse to be contrary to God’s law and not a true expression of human sexuality as he has given it. More thought needs to be given to the pastoral care appropriate to those with this particular need.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ABC Aus.) David Furse-Roberts –‘Evangelicals and Catholics Together’ — why it still matters after 25 years

Appealing to what Richard Baxter and C.S. Lewis famously called “mere Christianity,” the 6,500 word document drew primarily from New Testament precepts and the Trinitarian doctrine of the Nicene Creed. Affirming a common Christ as Lord and Saviour, ECT declared that “Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.” Recognising the saving power of the cross and the authority of a divinely-inspired Bible, ECT affirmed “together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ,” and that “Christians are to teach and live in obedience to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God.”

At the same time as affirming a common Christianity, ECT did not seek to paper over the real and ongoing differences existing between the two traditions — most notably in their ecclesiology, doctrines of the sacraments and scriptural authority vis-à-vis church tradition. Realistic about its scope and ambition, the agreement made it clear that it could not, in itself, resolve these doctrinal disputes stemming from the Reformation.

Shifting to the Christian church’s engagement with society, the ECT recognised the enormous degree of overlap between the Catholic social teaching of the papal encyclicals and Evangelical social ethics, articulated in books such as John Stott’s Issues Facing Christians Today. As such, it called for Evangelicals and Catholics to cooperate in contending for the importance of marriage and family, the sanctity of human life at all stages of development and a free society based on a market economy with humane safeguards to protect the poor and weak from poverty or exploitation.

Prominent Evangelical signatories to ECT included: the Reformed Anglican theologian, J.I. Packer; the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright; the Evangelical historian, Mark Noll; and the author and cultural commentator, Os Guinness. Meanwhile, from within the Catholic fold, ECT attracted the endorsements of Michael Novak from the Institute on Religion and Democracy; George Weigel, the acclaimed biographer of Pope John Paul II and Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre; Cardinal John O’Connor of New York; and Archbishop Francis Stafford of Denver.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, Theology

(FT) Some of Brazil’s evangelical church preach the Bolsonaro revolution

Paulo Guedes, Mr Bolsonaro’s economy minister, was spotted in Congress recently wearing a bracelet with a Bible verse given to him by an evangelical pastor. “These guys support the president,” he beamed. Mr Guedes is leading his own crusade to bring the free-market economics he learnt from Milton Friedman in Chicago to his homeland. The Universal Church’s message that state handouts are no way to live is music to his ears.

The Sunday service featured on its giant screens the story of a believer who raised himself from scavenging on a rubbish dump at the age of 17 to the ranks of the bourgeoisie. Now a successful lawyer and the proud owner of three apartments, he was invited on stage by Mr Macedo to explain how his devotion to the church had transformed his life. His strict adherence to a rule that believers tithe one-tenth of their income to the church — even when eking out an existence on a rubbish dump — was emphasised repeatedly.

Mr Mendonça says the message is an entrepreneurial one. “The same things you hear at a seminar for people starting their own business — the need to believe in your potential and in what you do, to be creative and to take risks — are exactly the same” as the advice in church, he says.

The formula has worked for Mr Macedo. His personal wealth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.1bn, making him one of the world’s richest religious leaders.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Post-Gazette) A new Pittsburgh area Roman Catholic parish merger is ‘managing growth rather than decline’

At a packed 11 a.m. Mass at Holy Child Church in Bridgeville, the Rev. Dennis Yurochko explained he was wearing rose-colored vestments to mark Gaudete Sunday — the third Sunday in the Advent season that signifies a time to rejoice as Christ’s birth approaches.

Another reason for celebration, he told the Roman Catholic congregation, is that Holy Child will officially merge on Jan. 6 with nearby St. Barbara and St. Mary churches to create the new Corpus Christi Parish.

Unlike many parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh grappling with empty pews and uncertain futures, Corpus Christi “is thankfully managing growth rather than decline,” Father Yurochko said.

About 10,000 individuals are registered in what will be the new parish, he said, including about 6,600 at Holy Child; 2,700 at St. Barbara, also in Bridgeville; and about 1,500 at St. Mary in Cecil, Washington County.

Read it all.

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

Kendall Harmon’s Teaching on Hell at the 2019 Renew Conference

Listen to it all (and note the handout link if desired).

Posted in * By Kendall, Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Evangelicals, Sermons & Teachings, Theology

(CT) British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit

Faced with so many unknowns, British evangelicals are trying to remain focused on things that don’t change.

“It is essentially important our attitude to each other remains fueled by love,” Webster said. “As Brexit stumbles towards actually happening, evangelicals should not lose sight of loving our neighbor.”

In the end, the question of “how to Brexit like a Christian” has as many possible answers as the question of “how to Brexit” at all. Friendships have been tested, harsh words said, zealous positions taken.

That is because, John Stevens said, “there is no specific ‘biblical’ position on Brexit.” Stevens believes evangelicals have “to speak wisely and model unity-in-disagreement.”

“This will no doubt become easier once decisions are made and the uncertainty is ended,” he said. “In the meantime we need to keep praying for wisdom and grace, and keep trusting the good sovereign purposes of God. Who will win? At this point God knows. And that is the only true comfort.”

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Michael Gotlieb–A Rabbi Walks Into a Presbyterian Church

As a Jew, I have a deep love for and admiration of Christianity. I identify with Jesus’ protests against mechanized, nascent rabbinic practice, and the well-established priestly cult of his day. Jesus knew what many committed Jews have long known: Rabbinic law runs the risk of becoming an end unto itself. Halacha, the Hebrew term for Jewish law, doesn’t directly translate to “law.” It means “way” or “path.”

Unfortunately for too many Jews, Halacha became a veil—an intermediary—between the individual and God. Rulings on Jewish law are frequently engulfed in a labyrinth of casuistic hairsplitting debate. Great rabbinic minds often have been diverted away from timeless moral issues only to rule on the superficial, like whether aluminum foil or bottled water is kosher.

My time at Brentwood Presbyterian also has made me reflect on the decline of Christian affiliation in the U.S. Christianity has become increasingly marginalized alongside Judaism.

Read it all.

Posted in Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Other Churches, Presbyterian

All of the Talks from the ReNew 2019 Conference are now available

Take the time to enjoy them all and note that several have links to handouts that accompanied the talks.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Eschatology, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

(GR) Richard Ostling reflecting on the struggles the media is having with the label “evangelical” these days

Two of the book’s editors provided standard definitions, In an introduction to a 1984 book, Marsden said “we may properly speak of evangelicalism as a single phenomenon” with “conceptual unity” around five points: “the final authority” of the Bible, the “real, historical” character of God’s work recorded in the Bible, “eternal salvation only through personal trust in Christ,” “the importance of evangelism and missions,” and “the importance of a spiritually transformed life.”

That last point, often mis-characterized, does not require a dramatic moment of “born again” conversion or commitment. People in biblically conservative churches are often “transformed” gradually, but thoroughly.

Bebbington’s 1989 history of British evangelicalism defined the “special marks” as “conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible, and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

Confusingly, both the Marsden and Bebbington criteria depict not some distinctive evangelical ideology but ardor for pretty much what all of Protestantism stood for till recent times.

The Religion Guy advises writers to refine those definitions by adding traditionalism in doctrine and morals. Thus evangelicalism embraces the ancient belief in God as the Trinity (excluding “Oneness” Pentecostals, Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses despite some evangelical-like traits), and on morality opposes such innovations as openly gay clergy and same-sex marriages in church.

Note that movement-wide definitions omit certain sectors’ enthusiasm for end-times scenarios or attacks on evolution. Also they involve religious substance, not politics…

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Media, Religion & Culture

(AI) The rector of Truro Anglican Church, Tory Baucum, resigns

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Church of England (CoE), Roman Catholic

(Churchman) Max Alexander Cunningham Warren–The Gospel Confronts The World–(A)The World’s Need : “Buying Up The Opportunity”

We live in a strange and dangerous world, a world so dangerous that Mr. Chamberlain warned us recently to watch our very words lest their echoes, as in the Swiss Alps, awaken an avalanche
which might plunge down the mountain to leap upon the peaceful villages and towns beneath. Once again we must live dangerously.

An old world is disintegrating and we do not know whether this means a definite end or a liberation of the elements of the world, enabling them to aggregate afresh and crystallize into a new and better world.” I quote that passage from Dr. Adolf Keller’s telling little book, Five Minutes to Twelve, because it gives the urgent background to that prevailing perplexity which is the dominant mood of our time. But I have another reason for quoting it. I believe it contains a sentence whose message is the challenge of our opportunity. “Once again,” says Dr. Keller, “we must live dangerously.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Missions, Theology

(Atlantic) Peter Wehner–The Moral Universe of Timothy Keller: A conversation with the evangelical pastor and theologian

My final question to Keller during our phone interview was his take on the spiritual temperature of the nation. What sorts of yearnings does he see and sense, and how can Christianity, properly understood, speak to those yearnings?

“I think the perplexity I see is that people want to have a foundation for making moral statements, but at the same time, they want to be free, and so they want to talk about the fact that all moral statements are culturally constructed,” he told me. “And so when somebody pushes a little bit on their life, they’d say, ‘All truth and all fact, all facts and all moral statements, are culturally constructed.’”

As Keller pointed out, they’re creating, at least philosophically, a kind of relativism, though of course no one actually lives like a relativist. All except sociopaths believe in certain deep truths about right and wrong, human nature, justice and a good life. “What we need is a non-oppressive moral absolute,” in Keller’s words. “We need moral absolutes that don’t turn the bearers of those moral absolutes into oppressors themselves.”

Keller concluded our conversation with a sentence that summarizes his consequential life: “I actually think the Christian faith has got all the resources you need.”

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

([London] Times) Church of Scotland doomed if squabbling doesn’t stop, former moderator and minister John Chalmers says

Radical plans to rescue the Church of Scotland from extinction are at risk of collapse amid rancorous infighting and internal division, one of its most senior figures has warned.

The Kirk registered a deficit of £4.5 million last year and membership is dwindling by an average of more than 100 people a week. It is estimated that the church has lost 80 per cent of parishioners since the 1950s.

In an effort to address its declining fortunes it has approved wide-ranging cost-cutting measures, including merging parishes and closing a number of churches. Earlier this month the Kirk agreed to integrate a number of its policymaking councils and significantly reduce the number of meetings.

The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, a former moderator and principal clerk of the church’s general assembly, urged members to put aside their differences and work together. Speaking of the reforms he said: “If we do not change the way we think of our colleagues or learn to speak well of our brothers and sisters in Christ — even those we disagree — it may all be for nothing. Ours is a culture that needs to change”.

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Posted in --Scotland, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Roman Catholicism, Culture Mix at the Sheen

Like many arts spaces in New York City, the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture offers a varied mix of events, from film screenings to gallery exhibits.

But the nonprofit venue in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood differs in that its mission is exactly that—a religious calling.

The Sheen Center is the cultural home of the Archdiocese of New York. And even as the Roman Catholic Church has contended with a range of issues and scandals in recent years, the center has proved something of a local success story.

Since the Sheen opened in 2015, it has expanded its programming. It now hosts more than 50 events annually that encompass many cultural disciplines, plus talks and lectures. The center’s leadership also says it draws its audience from beyond the base of 2.8 million Catholics throughout the metropolitan New York City area, noting that a local rabbi, Joseph Potasnik, serves on its board.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues

(1st Things) Matthew Schmitz–God’s Garbage People

Fr. Botros Roshdy, a priest who serves there, tucks an iPhone into his black cassock. He has a social media presence and is known across the country. He is more willing than most to discuss the persecution faced by the zabbaleen and Egypt’s other Christians. “Neither the church leaders you have met, nor those you are going to meet, are speaking freely,” he says after we sit down. “If they could speak freely, they would discuss the discriminatory laws, the infiltration of the judicial system by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Roshdy notes that little has changed for the Copts over the last decade, despite the hollow promises of freedom that came with the Arab Spring and current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s self-presentation as a defender of Christians. “We are still being used as a playing card in political games. When the government wants to win the support of Copts during the elections, they offer to let us build a church.” But these overtures have not changed the landscape. “Take the blasphemy law,” ­Roshdy says. “It has been applied only against Christians.”

Roshdy mentions some typical incidents of persecution. One involved an elderly Coptic woman in Minya who was attacked, stripped naked, and dragged through the streets. “Everyone knows who did this crime, but there has been no punishment.” A group of Coptic students in Bani ­Mazar filmed a video in which they mocked ISIS. “People in their town accused them of blasphemy for mocking Islam. So these young children were arrested and jailed. . . . They were finally freed and received asylum in ­Europe.”

Despite the persecution, Egypt’s Christians are winning converts. The number and names of converts must be carefully guarded, however, because conversion from Islam carries a high price. “Some of them are kicked out of their houses, some of them are fired, some of them have their kids taken away,” Roshdy says. “But they consider all of these troubles nothing for the sake of Christ. Their faith is so strong, they see him.” Cast out by their families, these men and women are adopted into the household of God.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Coptic Church, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT Pastors) The Peculiar Tale of an Anglican-Baptist Church Plant

Do members feel they are “losing” by planting a church outside their denomination?

Crane: This is a gift for the kingdom. It is not a quid pro quo arrangement. Our denominational systems reward denominational progress. Our resources are poured into the expansion of our own tribe. Imagine what can be accomplished for the kingdom if we move beyond models of denominational competition toward strategic partnerships.

But strictly speaking, one reason an evangelical congregation can plant an Anglican church in the same facility is because there is such a dramatic difference between a contemporary service and a liturgical service. Typically the evangelical congregation will not “lose” many people to the liturgical expression—other than those who are encouraged to assist in the startup. You can plant on top of yourself if you reach a different universe.

What should a typical pastor take away from your uncommon approach?

Crane: The need for church plants. New churches have a much younger age profile than do older churches, and new churches have two to four times the conversion rate of new Christians than older churches do. New churches are required to keep the church species healthy and strong.

Hunter: The power of trust. Stephen Covey wrote about The Speed of Trust. When you have trust, things that would otherwise be really hard become doable.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Baptists, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry