Category : Other Churches

(EF) Thinking through how a biblical work ethic clashes with contemporary European life

In its report World Employment Social Outlook, published this year with data from 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO), says that “a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development”.

The volatility of employment is what leads the coordinator of GBG (the Spanish IFES Graduates group) and of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, to consider, “the long-term commitment and the emotional involvement with people as the main challenges that the biblical work ethic poses to the current labour system”.

“Although the companies we work for ask us for teamwork and mutual collaboration, they foster superficial and utilitarian relationships, dispatch their workers without any relational consideration, and use and throw away workers following other very different principles”, he says. Furthermore, “this sharp contrast of values provokes the corrosion of the character, the destruction of the person”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Spain

(CT) Mark Galli–Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Let clarify my use of the term sacrament. Some evangelical churches call the Lord’s Supper and baptism ordinances, to suggest they are actions Jesus commands us to participate in, and that they signal our faith in and obedience to Christ. The term sacrament includes these two ideas and another crucial one: that they are means of grace. By “means of grace” I’m not proposing any specific theology—whether trans- or consubstantiation, whether real or symbolic presence. But for all believers, Communion and baptism are practices in which one’s faith is deepened and strengthened, and that sort of thing only happens by God’s grace. This is what I mean by “means of grace” in this article, and why I will use the word sacrament to talk about them.

As I said, I believe these sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Take baptism. Even among churches that believe Matthew 28:19 is the church’s rallying cry—“Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ….”—the sacrament is no longer central to their mission. It would be difficult to come by statistics that suggest the problem, but one anecdote suggests it’s a serious one. I belong to an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, which meets not far from Wheaton College. The charismatic singing and Bible-centered preaching attract many Wheaton College students to attend worship and to become members. However, to partake in Communion, as well as to become a member, one must have been baptized. The pastors are continually surprised at the number of Wheaton College students—no doubt some of the most earnest, devout, and intelligent young believers in the evangelical world—who have yet to be baptized. One would have thought that their churches would have attended to this matter long before they left home for college.

Another sign of the problem is the deep fear some evangelicals have of baptism. I attended an independent church in Dallas, Texas, on a Sunday on which they were having a mass baptism for some 400 people. This speaks well of the effectiveness of their outreach and their desire to obey the commands of their Lord. As part of the service, four or five people came on stage and were interviewed by the pastor to help them give their testimony. At the end of each testimony, the last question the pastor asked each was this: “But you don’t believe that baptism saves you, right?” It wasn’t just the question, but the leading way in which it was asked time and again that suggested to me that the pastor was deeply afraid of the power of the sacrament. And the fact that he also asked this right before each person was baptized went a long way into ensuring that the sacrament did not become a means by which God broke in and blessed the recipient but became all about the horizontal: an act of the person’s faith.

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Eucharist, Evangelicals, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(France 24) Evangelical churches gaining ground in France

“In France, a new Evangelical church is built every 10 days, thanks to the efforts of highly motivated young believers. Once a fringe religious movement, Evangelism (sic) is gaining ground and now counts 700,000 followers across France. What are the reasons for this success? Our France 2 colleagues report, with FRANCE 24’s Emerald Maxwell.”

Watch it all (about 4 2/3 minutes).

Posted in Evangelicals, France, Religion & Culture

(CT) Celibate Gay Christians: Neither Shockingly Conservative nor Worryingly Liberal

Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step bravely (foolishly?) into this battleground with their comprehensive study of people like me: Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. It’s an important book with an academic feel that grows more pastoral as you read on. Yarhouse has written multiple volumes on LGBTQ experience based on careful research from the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University in Virginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s ever written, but I thank God for the gracious tenor of his contributions.

This newest book is essentially a listening exercise, based on an in-depth survey of celibate gay Christians. You hear their stories of milestone events and experiences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their mental health outcomes and relational challenges. But they are not the only voices recorded: There’s also input from friends, along with some fascinating insights into the perspectives of some evangelical pastors. The authors helpfully add their own measured reflections.

Certain conversation topics could prove controversial. We hear differing thoughts, for instance, on such questions as the origins of same-sex attraction, the correct labels to use (is it “gay,” “same-sex attracted,” or something else?), the possibility of same-sex desires that aren’t wholly sinful, and the prospect of changing one’s sexual orientation. But one of the authors’ strongest points is the need to discuss these issues more carefully. They write, “Some church leaders and some celibate gay Christians seem to us, at times, to be describing two different things, rather than disagreeing on precisely the same thing.”

This appeal for a better conversation within evangelicalism couldn’t be timelier.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Barna) How Faith Heritage Relates to Faith Practice

A majority of practicing Christians tells Barna they became Christians long before adulthood, usually before they were 12 years old. This is true regardless of the type of household practicing Christians now occupy.

The idea of beliefs that transcend generations is beautiful, but is it also beneficial? That is, does an “inherited” religious identity contribute to the maturation and flourishing of the individual and their faith in the long run? How does this experience compare with that of people who come to Christianity on their own, without positive faith influences in childhood or later in life? The recent Barna report Households of Faith, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries, finds some (at times surprising) links between faith heritage and present faith practice.

Most Practicing Christians Say Their Faith Was Passed Down to Them
For most practicing Christian adults in this study, the early, formative days of discipleship occur in their family of origin. (As the goal of this research was to look at faith formation among households, individuals living by themselves are excluded from this study. See the About the Research section for more details about the methodology.) Usually, respondents say Christianity was “passed down” to them by a particular relative (59%), though sometimes another family member was exploring faith around the same time as the respondent (11%). More than half of those who report growing up in the faith (57%) say they were Christian at the time of their birth, a response that is revealing either of their theology or of how extensively Christianity permeated their upbringing.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Terry Mattingly) The ordination of married men as Roman Catholic priests: Is this change now inevitable?

Half a century ago, there were nearly 60,000 U.S. priests and about 90 percent of them were in active ministry – serving about 54 million self-identified Catholics.

The number of priests was down to 36,580 by 2018 – while the U.S. Catholic population rose to 76.3 million – and only 66 percent of diocesan priests remained in active ministry. According to a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, half of America’s priests hoped to retire before 2020. Meanwhile, 3,363 parishes didn’t have a resident priest in 2018.

It’s understandable that concerned Catholics are doing the math. Thus, activists on both sides of the priestly celibacy issue jumped on an intriguing passage in the “Instrumentum Laboris” for next October’s special Vatican assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Pan-Amazonian region.

“Stating that celibacy is a gift for the Church, we ask that, for more remote areas in the region, study of the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous,” stated this preliminary document. These married men “can already have an established and stable family, in order to ensure the sacraments that they accompany and support the Christian life.”

The text’s key term is “viri probati” – mature, married men.

Read it all.

Posted in Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

(Churchman) A 1957 Article by (then) Bishop Hugh Rowlands Gough–Our Evangelical Heritage

A study of our Evangelical Heritage would be grossly incomplete unless attention were drawn to the high standard of conduct and of disciplined holy living set by our forefathers. These Evangelicals of old were men who knew their God ; they were men of God, men of Prayer, men of Christlike character, men filled with the Holy Ghost.

They proved the truth of the Evangelical Doctrines by the way they lived. They demonstrated the reality of justification by faith by their works. Through their evangelistic preaching and through the witness of their lives, thousands upon thousands of sinful men and women were converted and experienced a similar transformation of character, and this miracle was one which even their opponents admitted. Although special emphasis in their preaching was always laid upon the Atonement and man’s consequent reconciliation with God, the great implications of the Doctrine of the Incarnation were not neglected. By word and by example these men proclaimed how the Lord Christ, Who became Man, still dwelled with man upon earth, entering into his daily life and toil, so that work became worship, and “the daily round, the common task” a thrilling experience of the presence and power of God.

Moreover, as these truths were more closely studied, the Evangelicals became foremost in the movement for social reform, for the material as well as the spiritual welfare of their fellowmen….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelicals, Theology

(Telegraph) Tim Stanley–The West owes Iraq’s persecuted minorities a lot more than just talk

I’m here to interview Christians but I’m also invited to meet the pope of the Yazidis, an ancient native religion, and I’m never one to turn down a pope, so off we go. The venerable Sheikh Baba is in his Eighties, tired, and his son and brother take over the meeting. Conversation – as with all Iraqis – is robust.

“The situation is very bad,” says the Sheikh’s son, and the West offers only “talk”. That’s not entirely fair – some money has been spent by the US – but this is a community in crisis. Daesh killed thousands of Yazidi men and raped the women. When the Jihadists disappeared, they took 3,000 girls with them. Where are they? The Yazidis “are now in camps and [suffer] psychologically and materially. No jobs. We want our people to return to their land.”

He doesn’t think much of its chances in Europe, either. The more Islamists who move there, he says, the more children they have, the less Christian the West will be. The Sheikh’s family are perplexed that we haven’t figured this out yet. There are good and bad Muslims, adds one man, and who can forget what Christians did to the Jews in Germany? But the West “must say the reality”, which is that Daesh was Islamic.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(Christian Today) Church of England moves towards communion with the Methodist Church

The Church of England’s national assembly has backed proposals to continue the process towards communion with the Methodist Church.

Members of the General Synod meeting in York over the weekend agreed to begin drafting a number of texts towards this end, including a “formal declaration” outlining a new relationship of communion between the two Churches.

The motion approved by Synod also instructs the Faith and Order Commission to work on additional texts for the inaugural services that would take place after communion is agreed, and the guidelines covering how presbyters and priests from each Church could serve in the other.

The House of Bishops is to report back on the progress being made following elections to the new General Synod taking place next year.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Inter-Faith Relations, Methodist

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Bp Philip Mounstephen calls for sanctions on countries which persecute Christians

The Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen has finally published his independent report on persecuted Christians across the world, and it doesn’t disappoint. The review was commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last December, and launched in January, and the intervening six months have been worth the wait, not least for its impeccable justification:

..this particular focus is justified because Christian persecution, like no other, is a global phenomenon. And it is so precisely because the Christian faith is a truly global phenomenon. Thus Christian persecution is not limited to one context or challenge. It is a single global phenomenon with multiple drivers and as such it deserves special attention. More specifically it is certainly not limited to Islamic-majority contexts. So this review is not a stalking horse for the Islamophobic far-right, and nor does it give the Islamophobic right a stick to beat Islam with. To focus on one causative factor alone is to be wilfully blind to many others.

..Because the Christian faith is perhaps the one truly global faith it has become a bellwether for repression more generally. If Christians are being discriminated against in one context or another you can be confident other minorities are too. So renewing a focus on Christian persecution is actually a way of expressing our concern for all minorities who find themselves under pressure. And ignoring Christian persecution might well mean we’re ignoring other forms of repression as well.

Bishop Philip not only calls for the UK to impose sanctions upon countries that persecute Christians, but also for the adoption of a specific definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution. Since the Government has refused to adopt a specific definition of Islamophobia, and the definition of Antisemitism is not without contention, it will be interesting to see how anti-Christian discrimination (which some call ‘Christophobia‘) is actually finally defined.

Significantly, Bishop Philip affirms the view expressed by the Rev’d Jonathan Aitken last December in his Christmas sermon to the Foreign Office, of an essential lack of religious literacy among FCO staff.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

([London] Times) The Rev Richard Bewes RIP

It became something of an open secret during the latter years of Richard Bewes’s ministry that he might have to “drop everything” if the call from the US came. A long friendship with Dr Billy Graham had led Graham and his family to ask Bewes to preach at his funeral. That honour was a measure of Bewes’s stature and a signal not only of the respect between the two men, but of their shared Gospel convictions.

For decades Bewes enthusiastically supported the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse International. He had chaired Graham’s Eurofest event in Brussels in 1975. He was also an energetic member of the planning committee of the Amsterdam 2000 Congress, which brought together more than 11,000 evangelists from around the world.

It was an immense disappointment to Bewes that, after Graham’s death (obituary, February 22, 2018), his failing health prevented him from flying to take part in a ceremony viewed by millions. It could have been a fitting climax to a magnificent career.

Bewes was one of the most versatile Anglican parish clergy of his generation. He served as rector of All Souls, Langham Place in central London from 1983 to 2004 as a successor to John Stott and Michael Baughen.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Scott Sauls) The Nashville Statement, the Airing of Differences, and the State of the PCA

We all must become “double majors”

Based on various factors such as wiring and experience and personal bias and the theological tribes we run with, some of us are prone to “major” in doctrinal precision and “minor” in pastoral tone. Likewise, others of us major and minor in the same things, but in the reverse.

Our shared task, as iron sharpens iron, is for all of us to become double-majors who are equally filled with truth and grace, with law and love, with repentance and kindness, with mortification and compassion, with moral clarity and discernible empathy…just as our Lord Jesus was.

“It is enough,” our King has told us, “for the servants to be like their Master.”

There is good reason to be encouraged

As part of the PCA’s 40% minority, I don’t think the Nashville Statement is the ideal Statement for us (see video link above). However, I am still more encouraged coming out of our Assembly than I am discouraged. In some ways, I am more optimistic about the PCA’s future than I’ve ever been. I believe that we are, warts and all, still one of the healthiest denominations in the world.

Why do I believe this? First, each and every one of us maintains a high view of Scripture. Second, we all want to shepherd and serve, faithfully and lovingly, those who are impacted by sexual sin and brokenness. Third, while some of us are talking past each other, the majority of us are talking to each other.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Mark Galli–The Temptations of Evangelical Worship

In the last decade or so, evangelical congregations have woken up to the centrality of praise and adoration as Scripture commands. One of the great developments of our time is how we worship. “Praise choruses” and contemporary worship music, for all their limitations, aim our hearts and minds in the direction of God. One does not even have to be taught to lift your face or raise your arms as you sing these songs, as the songs themselves often drive one upward to seek and praise God. One has to be a spiritual miser not to recognize how such music has helped the church worship God.

Yet the temptation of the horizontal is with us always, and it comes in many disguises in our worship. Worship leaders—as they themselves often admit—are tempted to take cues from Finney’s Lectures on Revivals. Every worship leader worth his or her salt knows how to manage the emotions of the congregation, moving them from quiet devotion to raucous praise or from bass-throbbing adulation to whisper-quiet meditation. We don’t have to deny that, despite sometimes obvious manipulation, we’ve been touched by God in such services. But it is a constant temptation to replace God with technique, to seek not the Holy of Holies but mostly devotional exhilaration.

That is to say, many weeks what we mostly want is for worship to give us a good spiritual feeling. I suspect that by our inattention to what we’re singing. We sing various choruses that say, “Bring down your glory” and “show us your face.” But we do not know what we’re asking for. People in the Bible who actually encountered God’s glory fall on the ground in fear. For example, after the miracle of the fishes, Peter knows he has seen glory and that he is in the presence of the Glorious One. He doesn’t give God an ovation. He doesn’t weep with joy. He falls on his knees, begging Jesus to depart from him. The glory of Jesus has made it clear to him that he is a sinful man (Luke 5).

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

(RNS) United Church of Christ’s General Synod endorses Green New Deal

The denomination helped launch the environmental justice movement in the 1980s, and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., a UCC minister, is believed to have coined the phrase “environmental racism,” [the Rev. Brooks] Berndt said.

More recently, the UCC became the first denomination to call for divestment from fossil fuels, he said.

“When the Green New Deal came out, we immediately saw this as reflecting the values and the commitments that we’ve been holding dear for all these many years,” Berndt said.

The Green New Deal — introduced in the House in February by Ocasio-Cortez — aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, build smart power grids, update buildings to be more efficient and train workers for jobs in a new “green” economy over the next 10 years.

The UCC resolution framed its support for the legislation in terms of faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, United Church of Christ

(AM) Andrew Symes–“We don’t do prosperity theology” – or do we?

Historically, among white British Christians there has probably been a more natural tendency towards emphasis on the stiff upper lip against adversity and even poverty rather than expectation of miraculous and abundant provision. There remains a suspicion of demagoguery; also, the huge improvement in living standards generally over the past 50 years has meant less fertile ground for the preachers appealing to those desperate for supernatural intervention in personal fortunes. As Joel Edwards comments:

“Most traditional evangelicals …who belong to affluent churches have less need of a God who acts vibrantly in the material world… the prosperity gospel and its audacious faith holds little cultural or theological attraction”.

But is this the whole story? Perhaps most challengingly from this book, experienced mission leader Eddie Arthur warns the British church against arrogance and complacency. We might not be taken in by the white-suited emotional preachers, but have we unwittingly swallowed other forms of prosperity teaching without realizing it?

Certainly we’re not immune from consumerism. When as lay people we drive half an hour to a large church, is it because of the “good teaching”, or the well-staffed kids work, excellent coffee, numerous programmes and sense of ‘success’? As clergy faced with powerful pressure to conform to new ethical norms, or making decisions about ministry, do we tend to prioritize personal comfort and steer away from sacrifice, rationalizing perhaps that the more godly approach is to keep quiet in the face of obvious wrong (for the sake of “continued opportunities for the gospel”) rather than speaking out?

Many Western Christians continue to be generous in their giving and humble and servant hearted in their leadership – these are good ways of counteracting greed and hunger for power in ministry. But as our affluence increases at the same time as the possibility of persecution and the temptation to avoid it through disobedience, the need is more pressing for us to learn from the disadvantaged and suffering parts of the global church which have not succumbed to the prosperity preachers.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Evangelicals, Psychology, Theology

A Statement by Anglican Catholic Future on the Forthcoming Discussion in Synod of Mission and Ministry in Covenant

Over what is to be received by the Methodist Church, the report by no means allays fears that the proposed Methodist President-Bishop does not resemble episcopacy as the episcopally ordered churches have known it. We recognise that it is not necessary for the precise details of how the Church of England has held the historic episcopate to be replicated. It is important, however, that an episcopal church, in conferring the episcopate, should do so in a form that bears a family resemblance to how it has been known across the episcopal churches, down their history. The report before Synod serves to underline our conviction that what is proposed lies a long way far from that.

One of our principal concerns with MMiC was that the personal, historic episcopate was presented there stripped down simply to a power to ordain. The more recent report further clarifies this point: the only thing what would be changed by episcopal ordination for the President of the Methodist Conference would be to limit the authority to ordain to her, or him, and to episcopally ordained predecessors. Beyond that, the role of those consecrated to the role of President-Bishop becomes personally episcopal in no other way. In taking about the future ministry of a past President-Bishop, for instance, the report only details roles that either already belong to a presbyter, or which could be undertaken by either a President or a Vice-President (a lay role).

Authority to ordain is, indeed, integral to the historic episcopacy, but possessing the historic, personal episcopate has also meant far more than that. In contrast to a vision of episcopacy focused solely on ordination, we must insist that the personal episcopacy is not simply about the transfer of what has sometimes, disparagingly, been described as a ‘magic hands’ understanding of the episcopal role.

The historical episcopate is a structural principle: episcopacy takes in an entire way in which the church is ordered in relation to bishops. The Methodist Church is currently ordered significantly differently from the churches with the historic episcopate, with the Conference bearing ultimate authority. Limiting to a small group of people those who can lay hands on those who are to be ordained does not by itself represent the acceptance of historical episcopal order.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Methodist, Religion & Culture

Tuesday food for Thought from (Methodist Theologian) Billy Abraham

Posted in Methodist, Theology

A brief biography of Moses the Black from the OCA

Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would neither be driven away nor silenced. He continued to implore that they accept him.

Saint Moses was completely obedient to the hegoumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while Saint Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent his time in prayer and the strictest fasting.

Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of Saint Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about Saint Moses’ repentance, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Egypt, Ethiopia, Orthodox Church

(CT) Evangelicals Can Help at the Border. They Just Can’t Do It Alone.

Leaders like San Antonio pastor Max Lucado have urged Christians to pray and act. “This is a mess. A humanitarian, heartbreaking mess. As we are wondering what can be done, let’s do what we are called to do,” he wrote in a lament for CT. “Let’s pray. Let’s lament. Let’s groan.” (You can read a collection of six Christian leaders’ prayers for the border here.)

Grief over the conditions at the border has compelled many evangelical Christians to act, but they prefer to work directly with evangelical mercy ministries.

However, in these moments when the law stands between Christians and acts of mercy—like not being able to drop off donations at a detention center—they can be uncomfortable with idea of supporting government aid or state humanitarian efforts, said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission.

“Even for Christians who tend to be leery of government intervention,” Freeman said, to get the diapers and wipes to the children in custody, “the reality is that Congress has to take that up and do it.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(AI) GAFCON kept in the dark about Jonathan’s Fletcher alleged misconduct

Though Mr. Fletcher was removed from public ministry in 2017, he continued to hold himself out as a priest in his retirement and led an active ministry life. Following the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Andy Lines in Illinois by GAFCON archbishops last summer, a commissioning service was held in September 2018 at Emmanuel Church to inaugurate his English ministry. GAFCON Archbishops Peter Jensen and Ben Kwashi participated in the service.

The GAFCON spokesman explained: “The service was officiated by Robin Weekes [Emmanuel’s minister]. Jonathan Fletcher did a Q and A with Bishop Lines as part of the evening. The GAFCON global folks there did not know Jonathan’s PTO had been removed.”

He added that no one informed them of Fletcher’s status or the allegations of misconduct. Asked when Bishop Lines understood his long standing relationship with Fletcher may have been unhealthy, the spokesman said:

“Bishop Lines didn’t begin to recognize the nature of the abusive relationship until later in 2018 and didn’t fully come to grasp with it until the first quarter of 2019.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, GAFCON, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Christian Today) ‘Trump wants you to be in his reality show’: US theologian Stanley Hauerwas challenges the Church

The man Time Magazine once named as ‘America’s best theologian’ was critical of Trump, but said that the president may remind the Church what it truly stands for. He was speaking this week at lectures for both the think tank Theos, and St Mellitus College, in London.

He said: ‘Trump may not be good for America but he may be pretty good for the Church.

‘Trump forces Christians to be a people of justice rather than looking for the state to give justice.’

He added a line emblematic of his theology: ‘The first task of the Church is not to make the world more just but to make the world more the world.’

He explained: ‘You only know that there is a world, if you know that there is an alternative to the world.’ The Church embodies the witness of an alternative reality, the people of God, telling the world to “come home”.’

Read it all and please note the full audio link to the entire talk at the bottom.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(GR) Roman Catholic school wars (yet) again: Can teachers take public actions that defy church doctrines?

So what should editors do, if the goal is to produce accurate, fair-minded coverage on this issue?

For starters, they need to know that these fights have been raging for decades, pitting progressive Catholic educators against pro-Catechism Catholics. It would help if reporters did some homework by reading Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church)” — that’s the urgent 1990 encyclical by Pope John Paul II on reforming Catholic education. For St. John Paul II, “reform” meant asking schools to defend the basics of the Catholic faith, in words and deeds.

Journalists also need to familiarize themselves with this U.S. Supreme Court case — Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. The key: Private religious schools and institutions have the right to take doctrinal issues into account when hiring and firing teachers and staffers.

Why? Because the professionals in these academic communities are “ministers,” in that their lives and work are linked to the doctrines affirmed in their job descriptions, contracts and/or covenants.

It’s important that reporters — the USA Today story is only one example — frequently mention this “minister” status, without explaining the Supreme Court context. This “minister” status, obviously, doesn’t mean that all teachers, staffers, etc., are ordained.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Christian Today) Prominent evangelical minister Jonathan Fletcher accused of spiritual abuse

A report in The Telegraph has detailed allegations of spiritual abuse against prominent evangelical leader and former Reform trustee Jonathan Fletcher.

According to the report, in 2017, the Bishop of Southwark stripped Mr Fletcher of his powers to continue preaching and officiating at services following anonymous complaints.

It is understood that the complaints against Mr Fletcher did not involve criminal behaviour and related only to spiritual abuse, not physical or sexual.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:

  • Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
  • Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
  • Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
    organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) The gift of overcoming barriers eludes the world’s Orthodox Christians

in the coming weeks, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s profile in the Western and Anglophone world will certainly rise. The average age of his most visible representatives will plunge by nearly 40 years as younger clerics take over Greek-Orthodox sees in New York, London and Sydney. Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, has invited Patriarch Bartholomew to America in July to give a speech on the environment. The choice of topic will come more naturally to the guest, a staunch greenie, than to the host.

As part of an apparent effort to counter-balance Muscovite influence in the Orthodox world, Patriarch Bartholomew has in recent weeks visibly mended his relations with the Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, by patching up their arcane quarrels over church jurisdiction in parts of Greece. That paved the way for Archbishop Ieronymos to join the primate of the new Ukrainian church, Epifaniy, and many other Bartholomew-minded hierarchs at celebrations in Istanbul of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s personal feast-day on June 11th. To judge by the reaction on social media, this innocent-seeming event caused much fury in the Muscovite camp and much pleasure in the opposing one.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, ecclesiastical disputes roll on in an often bizarre way. Controversy swirls around 90-year-old Filaret Denysenko, a veteran and still-vigorous player in the high politics of Orthodoxy since the Soviet era. Having narrowly failed to become Patriarch of Moscow, he led a breakaway Ukrainian church in 1992 and was duly defrocked and disgraced by his erstwhile colleagues in Moscow, some of whom he had helped to consecrate as bishops.

Since then the nonagenarian has styled himself the Patriarch of Kiev, a title that few people outside Ukraine recognise. In recent months, he has voiced bitter disappointment over the fact he was not put in charge of the newly-established Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and he has openly challenged the authority of 40-year-old Epifaniy, who was once his close aide.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Isabel Hapgood

Loving God, we offer thanks for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(Tablet) Ashley Beck–Theology battles the nonsense of today

Those of us who teach or research in theology and related disciplines have a responsibility to try and support the whole Church – laypeople, clergy and bishops. Theological reflection about the world in which we live is constantly being deepened, and this can and should strengthen the faith of the People of God. The consequences of lacking theological literacy are serious. “The majority of those raised as Catholics find their way out of the Church, in part, I suspect, because the version of Christian faith to which they have been exposed has been so poorly articulated that it is not worth taking seriously at all,” the theologian John McDade has pointed out. “Good theology is necessary for the life of faith and the spread of the Gospel.”

Good theology is not always sought. In many places catechetical programmes are promoted that are intended to be “simple”, sometimes a shorthand for skirting around critical reflection. Some courses are offered because they are cheaper than those that are properly accredited; many programmes are imported. And there is a worrying decline in religious studies programmes in Catholic secondary schools. This has serious consequences for our future ability to provide RE teachers, and even more serious consequences for university departments. The new report from the British Academy alarmingly reveals that there were 6,500 fewer students on theology and religious studies degree courses in the UK in 2017/18 than there had been in 2011/12. In recent years, we have seen the closure of Heythrop College and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, and the possible closure of theology departments elsewhere, including in Catholic institutions.

If you’re a theologian, falling student numbers gives rise to anxieties about redundancy. And for a Catholic theologian there can be the added feeling that what you do is not really valued by the Church, either because some people think academic theology is highbrow or irrelevant, or because others don’t like your views and think you’re a heretic. If you feel under threat, it is hard to feel confident about offering yourself to the Church as a resource.

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education

More Saturday Food for Thought–John Wenham on Liberal Theology

It needs to be re-emphasized that liberalism is the arch-enemy of the Gospel. Biblical theism stands for the clearest distinction between Creator and creature, for the absolute distinction between right and wrong, for the reward of well-doing and the punishment of wrong, for the unity and perspicuity of revelation. Liberalism is pantheizing, blurring the distinctions between God and man, between right and wrong, embracing contradictions and ambiguities within its system of truth.

When liberalism takes on the cloak of ecumenism, it is the enemy of clear doctrinal statement. It has no idea of the unity and perspicuity of revelation, so it never expects to reach doctrinal agreement. It finds contradictory beliefs within the Church, but is not worried by them and does not think that they are capable of resolution. It deliberately seeks unity by ambiguity. It sets no store by the value of a clear, united declaration of the one and only Gospel of God. It is this characteristic of the Theological Considerations of the Anglican Methodist Conversations which is so deeply distasteful to all who are looking for a clear statement of biblical principles. The whole statement is about as clear as mud, in marked contrast to the clarity of the dissentient statement.

–John Wenham, A Conservative Evangelical looks at the Ecumenical Movement, Churchman 79,3 (1965), p.192 [found there.]

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(EF) Age of first access to pornography falls to 8, study finds

The youngest Member of Parliament in Spain is leading an initiative to force porn websites operating in the country to install credible age verification systems.

The recently elected 26-year-old Andrea Fernández has called to end the “culture of porn” among young people which has lead in the last years to more than one hundred cases of so-called “manadas” (English: packs, herds) – groups of young men who plan to rape vulnerable women.

The limitation of pornographic contents online was included in the electoral programme of the the newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez (Social Democrats). The goal of the new government is to implement a new strict age verification system for these kind of websites. This has already been approved in the UK, with the support of 88% of parents.

The social debate about the role of pornography in the education of children becomes more important as new data of a research conducted by the Balearic Islands University among 2,500 people aged 16-29 showed a disturbing reality.

The report “New Pornography and the changes in interpersonal relationships” says some children are starting to consume pornography at 8. The average age for boys to start to consume pornography is 14, 16 for girls. The legal age required to access such contents is 18.

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Pornography, Religion & Culture, Spain

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution