Category : Other Churches

(Spectator) Chris Wright–John Stott: the centenary of a true radical

But such evangelicals, a fraction of the global majority, are not typical. Most evangelicals are more aligned with the faith modelled by John Stott, which had nothing to do with ethnic or political allegiance but simply a personal devotion to Jesus Christ as saviour and Lord, belief in the trustworthiness of the Bible, and a commitment to live out their faith in daily practice.

Decade after decade, Stott travelled around the globe, speaking and teaching at conferences, building friendships among church leaders in the majority world, and mentoring young men and women by his own example of humility, integrity, and servanthood. Together with Billy Graham, he launched the Lausanne Movement in 1974 which, in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance, holds evangelicals to the historical legacy of Wesley, Wilberforce, and Shaftesbury – integrating their evangelistic message and mission with social action in combatting the evils of poverty, injustice, racism and slavery.

As an Anglican clergyman who stayed rooted in his own local parish for 50 years, he had a profound love for the Church of England and the rapidly growing Anglican churches in other continents, especially in Africa. He founded and inspired the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC), a global network to encourage faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching and moral standards. But his vision also embraced all denominations of the global church – he founded the Langham Partnership to resource churches worldwide with enhanced theological scholarship, quality literature in local languages and cultures, and training in biblical preaching.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

(GR) Richard Ostling–Inspiring feature idea on Christianity near Holy Week sent aloft by (what are the odds?) producers at MSNBC

This got The Guy to thinking about how much we’re missing on TV and religion. Leave aside fictional entertainment, which when religion turns up in the plot too often causes anybody who knows anything about religion to cringe. And let’s not get into the fare transmitted by paid-time preachers.

Eastertide or Christmas may bring seasonal documentaries, often over the years sensationalized attempts to debunk the church or the Bible. David Gibson’s 2015 archaeology series on CNN, “Finding Jesus,” was an exception.

But what about intelligent treatment throughout the year of news and ideas in the world of religion, which interests masses of today’s viewers just as it has gripped imaginations across human history?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(PW) Fear and Hope: When Timothy Keller’s Book Met His Life

“Most books you write after you have gone through an experience, but in this case what was so strange was I was having the experience while writing the book,” he told PW. “When you realize this may be the end and you have this abstract belief in heaven and the promise of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, you have to ask, do I really believe this? So writing the book was really a struggle with that question.”

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the 70-year-old Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the sodom known as Manhattan does believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus. While writing, he spent extra time in prayer and “experiencing the presence of the risen Christ,” as he put it. “I was just shocked at how much more experience of God there was than I found before. So I have grown and I have confidence in the resurrection after a combination of faith and experience.”

Keller has buckets of experience as an author. His first title, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008) hit number five on PW’s Bestseller List and sold more than 150,000 copies in its first year. That was followed by more than 20 titles on everything from love to suffering, Christmas to church planting. He hit PW’s twice more, with Prodigal God (Dutton, 2008) and Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014), both of which hit the 100,000 copies sold mark. Hope in Times of Fear is intended as a bookend to Hidden Christmas, a holiday book published by Viking in 2016. In between books, Keller became one of the pioneers of the now-standard megachurch model of multi-site worship. Before retiring in 2017, he spent years of Sundays hopscotching across Central Park, going uptown and down, giving three or more sermons a day at Redeemer’s five different sites. Today, there are Redeemer-affiliated churches in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout his publishing career, he has been with one editor — Brian Tart, president and publisher of Viking Penguin. Tart heard about Keller and his popular church in 2006 and headed there one Sunday to hear him preach. “Obviously, he knew the Bible inside and out, but he also took a lot of examples from stories and myths and movies and books. He was really engaged in the cultural conversation of the moment and there wasn’t a barrier of entry for people to understand him. He reached people where they were,” Tart told PW. “That Tim is talking about cancer makes his personal journey to God helpful to people. He is saying ‘I’ve been through a dark time, we all been through a dark time, and yet I feel this great reservoir of hope.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(TGC) Justin Taylor–Questions for David French on the Connections between the Atlanta Killer and Purity Culture

But what’s the evidence that the shooter, who would have been in youth group during the presidencies of Obama and Trump, was taught the toxic purity culture that peaked in the 1990s?

My argument is not “no evidence will ever or could ever exist,” but rather “no one actually knows, and therefore we shouldn’t draw that connection until and unless evidence emerges.”

If I was a betting man, I would actually put a hefty wager on this young man having heard the normative / traditional / orthodox teaching on sexuality that David French taught his youth group instead of the toxic legalism that Bill Gothard taught.

And if that’s true, then the argument of this piece basically falls apart. It could become a good standalone article on purity culture, but not a very illuminating one of the killer and his theological culture.

(By the way, if you want to hear from the church itself, you can read their statement.)

So my encouragement to everyone: let’s slow down on drawing connections that might seem obvious but are actually quite tenuous.

Read it all.

Update: Terry Mattingly also has helpful reflections Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(TLC Covenant) Gareth Atkins reviews Bruce Hindmarsh’s new book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World’

Among historians of evangelicalism it has long been an article of faith that the movement they study was an Enlightenment phenomenon. Rooting its self-examination in Lockean empiricism, its offers of salvation in consumer-driven individualism, and its optimism about an imminent millennium in notions of human progress, David Bebbington, David Hempton, Phyllis Mack, and others have situated early evangelicalism squarely within the wider Anglo-American and European intellectual universe. But has anyone else noticed?

Thanks to J.G.A. Pocock, J.C.D. Clark, and others, we no longer think of Enlightenment as the rise of modern paganism. Indeed, recent scholarship is coming to emphasize continuity: Enlightenment as late humanism, with the “new” philosophy sharing many of the concerns of the “old,” and borrowing many of its intellectual tools, too. Sermons remained probably the most popular single literary genre in a print sphere dominated by divinity. But even so, among social and cultural historians what may be termed the Roy Porter view predominates: that if religion still mattered it was because it hitched itself to the coat-tails of the political order; and that if it was still taken seriously intellectually it was because it was prepared to dilute itself with enough rationalism to make it palatable to polished literati. Enthusiasm was the province of a few extremists. And few were more enthusiastic than John Wesley, George Whitefield, and their ilk, who are therefore assumed, according to this view, to be fundamentally anti-enlightened. Exhibit A for exponents of the Porter view is William Hogarth’s Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism: A Medley (1762), which depicts an unhinged preacher – possibly Whitefield – ranting about witches and demons to a congregation of drooling misfits.

Bruce Hindmarsh’s magnificent new book underlines how misleading that over-reliance on hostile caricatures has been. “The rise of evangelicalism,” he states crisply at the outset, “occurred in tandem with the rise of modernity and in the midst of a hugely consequential turn away from transcendental frames of reference to the authority of ‘nature’ in multiple fields” (p. ix). Lockean sensibility, Newtonian physics, Shaftesburian politeness, and the growth of the public sphere, he argues, opened up fresh cultural and intellectual space for more personal, emotional and individualistic forms of belief, allowing and indeed impelling figures like Jonathan Edwards in New England and Whitefield and the Wesleys in Old England to pose an urgent question: “Is it possible to experience the presence of God in the modern world?” Their answer was urgent, disruptive and democratic, offering the possibility of spiritual rebirth to all, not as the result of incremental, ordered contemplation, but as an immediate, transformative and potentially explosive experience: “be born again”; “expect it now” (pp. 2-3). Wesley preached on the “one thing needful” more than fifty times, while Whitefield’s pious mnemonic, “one thing is needful,” scratched onto a friend’s window with a diamond, was still visible a century later (p.3). The simple but fervent piety thus produced overtopped denominational and national boundaries, as Methodists in England and Wales, “New Lights” in North America, evangelicals in the Churches of England and Scotland, Moravians, and evangelical nonconformists strove to experience God for themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Evangelicals

David French–Why the Atlanta Massacre Triggered a Conversation About Purity Culture

As this conversation unfolds, it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, the purity culture I’m describing never fully captured the church. Millions of people have thankfully lived their entire Christian lives free from the extremes I’ve described above.

Second, however, it’s absolutely vital that Christians do not leave the task of confronting extremes to a secular world and media that is often hostile to (or doesn’t understand) Christian orthodoxy itself. The secular critique is typically all confrontation, no redemption.

The Christian response, however, requires both confrontation and redemption. It recognizes that Christ holds the answer when the church fails. As I’ve written before when addressing the failures and faults of the purity movement, through Christ even stories of past pain and suffering can be redeemed and transformed into instruments of grace and mercy.

Shortly after we received the first reports about the Atlanta killer’s motives, my friend and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Karen Swallow Prior tweeted two insightful words, “Culture cultivates.” A culture that defines a person by their sexual sin cultivates misery. When it places women in a position of guarding a man’s heart, it cultivates abuse. And sometimes, when a man’s heart is particularly dark, it can even cultivate murder.

The problem with purity culture is not Christianity. The problem with purity culture is that its extremes are not Christian at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(SBC) Bible teacher Beth Moore, splitting with Lifeway, says, ‘I am no longer a Southern Baptist’

For nearly three decades, Beth Moore has been the very model of a modern Southern Baptist.

She loves Jesus and the Bible and has dedicated her life to teaching others why they need both of them in their lives. Millions of evangelical Christian women have read her Bible studies and flocked to hear her speak at stadium-style events where Moore delves deeply into biblical passages.

Moore’s outsize influence and role in teaching the Bible have always made some evangelical power brokers uneasy, because of their belief only men should be allowed to preach.

But Moore was above reproach, supporting Southern Baptist teaching that limits the office of pastor to men alone and cheerleading for the missions and evangelistic work that the denomination holds dear….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Women

(P O) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church look for new ways of being church

The third round of dialogue between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church continued last week. The two denominations have been conducting bilateral dialogue since 2000 in an effort to deepen ties and work together.

In this latest virtual gathering, participants heard from the Rev. Dr. Amy Plantinga Pauw, a theology professor at Louisville Seminary, who led them through a discussion around her book “Church in Ordinary Time: A Wisdom Ecclesiology.” Plantinga Pauw writes about the seasons of the church year and uses wisdom ecclesiology to help the church think about addressing the realities of today’s world.

Dianna Wright, director of ecumenical and interreligious relations with the Office of the General Assembly, says the conversation centered on what it means to be church.

“We have this idea that we’re the ones who have all of what it means to be God wrapped up as the church. But there are so many different entities that are a part of who God is,” said Wright. “The church is only one part of that, and we are supposed to participate with the whole world and share the story of God. We don’t have it all together, but we are continuing to grow and evolve as the church.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presbyterian

For Their Feast Day–(CH) John and Charles Wesley

John and Charles Wesley are among the most notable evangelists who ever lived. As young men, they formed a party which came to be derisively called Methodists, because they methodically set about fulfilling the commands of scripture. In due course they learned that works cannot save, and discovered salvation by faith in Christ. Afterward, they carried that message to all England in sermon and in song. John Wesley is credited with staving off a bloody revolution in England such as occurred in France.

Although the brothers did not set out to establish a church, the Wesleyans and the Methodists are their offspring.

Both preached, both wrote hymns. But John is more noted for his sermons and Charles for his hymns. Here we present two hymns by Charles and a sermon by John.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Wash Post) An evangelical scientist on reconciling her religion and the realities of climate change

Because here’s the thing. When I run into people who are very adamant about rejecting climate change — they’re not that many; only 7 percent of people are dismissive, but they’re very loud about it. I look at those people, whether it’s on social media or if they wrote me a letter — rarely do I run into them in person; most prefer to be behind the safety of a keyboard before they attack you — but I look at who they are because I’m curious. And easily 90 percent of the time — probably more than that — climate change is just one of a package of issues: extreme nationalism, anti-immigration, right-wing politics. You know, whatever the current issue of the day is — covid, school shooting — you can guarantee that whoever rejects climate change will also be adamantly defending the right of people to bear weapons and supporting covid myths and disinformation. It all goes together.

So only 7 percent are what we would call climate-change deniers?

Yeah. Seven percent are really hardcore, but then what happens is that a lot of people are not outright dismissive — they just are what social scientists call “cognitive misers.” We all are. [Laughs.] Because who has time to read all of these things and develop a thoughtful opinion on the myriad issues that we’re expected to have in order to vote or to advocate or even [address] when it comes up in conversation? So we look to the opinions of people we respect, whose values we believe that we share, who we assume have spent a bit more time thinking about it than we have. And we adopt their opinions. Unfortunately, today a lot of that has become very politically polarized. And you have a lot of people who are just really confused because they hear people whose values they share, who call themselves Christians, who have called themselves Republicans or conservatives, telling people, “Oh, this isn’t real.” “Those scientists are just making it up.” “It’s just a liberal hoax.”

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Time Magazine talks to Russell Moore

Often Moore has to tap-dance around the gap between his church’s beliefs and its behavior. He dismisses as a “manufactured controversy” the criticism of six SBC seminary presidents who in November released a public condemnation of critical race theory. “I don’t find any postmodern theory motivating those who are concerned for racial reconciliation and justice,” says Moore. “I find that what motivates such things is the Bible.” And while Moore has set himself apart from those who support the President, he declines to condemn those who opted to vote for Trump because they believed in the platform, not the man.

Moore thinks reports of the death of American Christianity are overblown. But as increasing numbers of Americans tell pollsters that they are not affiliated with any kind of religion, and in the wake of Trump, he wants the church to take a harder look at its priorities. “The biggest threat facing the American church right now is not secularism but cynicism. That’s why we have to recover the credibility of our witness,” he says. It’s one thing to dismiss the teachings of his faith as strange and unlikely, he notes, but “if people walk away from the church because they don’t believe that we really believe what we say, then that’s a crisis.” This is what he fears will be the legacy of an era in which people of faith put so much faith in a President. “There is an entire generation of people who are growing cynical that religion is just a means to some other end.”

Read it all.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Mexican Census: Evangelicals at New High, Catholics at New Low

The Catholic majority in Mexico is slipping, as Protestants surpassed 10 percent of the population in the country for the first time ever.

According to recently released data from Mexico’s 2020 census, the Protestant/evangelical movement increased from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.2 percent last year.

The Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America, but especially in Mexico, which ranks among the most heavily Catholic countries in the region. Today, though an overwhelming majority of Mexicans still identify as Catholic, declines are accelerating.

It took 50 years—from 1950 to 2000—for the proportion of Catholics in Mexico to drop from 98 percent to 88 percent. Now, only two decades later, that percentage has slipped another 10 points to 77.7 percent.

National church leaders attribute the boom in Protestantism to a range of factors, from the influence of Americans and fellow Latin Americans in the country to effective evangelical outreach in indigenous areas.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Mexico, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sociology

(WSJ) Robert Nicholson–Abraham’s Missing Child: Christians

The announcement that Israel would normalize ties with Muslim-majority Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates might have been the highlight of an otherwise dismal 2020. Yet these groundbreaking accords still lack one important child of Abraham. Do Near Eastern Christians have a seat at this table? If not, who can help get them there?

Years of international anxiety over the slow demise of Christianity in its ancient homeland hasn’t translated into action. The situation in old bastions like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is now catastrophic. Egypt, with the largest population of Jesus followers in the region, isn’t much better. That the region’s second most afflicted religious group—after the devastated Yazidis—has gained the least from a long-overdue peace is a painful irony not lost on its persecuted members.

Part of the problem is that the regional hostility being rolled back under the Abraham Accords was never a distinctly Christian problem. The centurylong animus between Muslims, the region’s largest group, and Jews, its oldest Abrahamic population and newest recipient of sovereignty, could only be rectified by Jews and Muslims. The relative lack of Christians in any the four Muslim countries that are part the Abraham Accords—Israel has as many as all of them combined—means that Christians simply haven’t been part of the discussion.

Another thorny problem is the imprisonment of the region’s most dynamic Christian communities in its other geopolitical axis: the resistance bloc controlled by Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(CH) David Mills–The Ecumenical Dog That Doesn’t Bark

I’m all for praying for Christian unity and making a big deal of it for a week. But we should be clearer about what this means than the ecumenically-minded tend to be. They prefer the dog not to bark, but the barking dog warns us of something we need to remember.

Jim Packer remembered it. He wanted me to give in. I wanted him to give in. In our own circles, we both barked, and I think felt that a bond. We each knew what the other wanted and remained friends, with a deep respect for each other as well as affection. We enjoyed a great degree of unity despite our differences.

We should pray for Christian unity. But also offer the old-fashioned prayers that our Protestant friends would convert. And be the kinds of Catholics whose lives encourage people to join us.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, Soteriology

(PRC FactTank) Biden is only the second Roman Catholic president, but nearly all have been Christians

Much has been written about President Joe Biden’s Catholic faith. He often speaks of his religious convictions and quotes the Bible, and he attends Mass regularly.

Although about one-in-five U.S. adults are Catholic and Catholicism has long been one of the nation’s largest religious groups, John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic president until Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20. Aside from Biden, only one other Catholic, John Kerry, has been a presidential nominee on a major party ticket since Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and many have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations.

Read it all.

Posted in Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Let us pray – the gift of life from the Church of Scotland

From here:

We praise you, living God
And cry: ‘Abba’, Father!
For you are the One who creates life
And loves all that your hand has made.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, living Christ
And confess that Jesus is Lord!
For you are the crucified and risen One
Through whom we have peace with God.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, Spirit of the living God
And thank you that we are adopted as children of God.
For you are the One who shares in all our struggles
And inspires in us hope.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
And worship and glorify your name.
We cry: ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.’
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Posted in --Scotland, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Spirituality/Prayer

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “broken partnership” with House of Bishops

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead theHouse of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England.

Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and
marriage is in marked contrast to theHouse of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with theHouse of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Jessica Hooten Wilson reviews Esau McCauley’s new book ‘Reading While Black–African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope’

What does it mean to exercise hope while reading the Bible? Esau McCaulley approaches this question through the perspectives and questions Black readers bring to the interpretation of scripture. Reading While Black is a much-needed addition to the shelves of hermeneutic resources available to preachers, students, and teachers. Its insights, although designed for Black readers, should be read by others as well.

As a military spouse who attended many events meant for the wives of soldiers, McCaulley learned that there are advantages to being the one man listening to the conversations in a room full of women. In this book, he offers a similar advantage to White readers: the chance to visit a majority Black space and see how Black people talk differently than they would if they were the minority in the room. For both insiders and outsiders to its conversations, Reading While Black opens up fresh ways of seeing ancient truth.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews ‘J.I.Packer – His Life in Thought’ by Alister McGrath

McGrath outlines Packer’s views on a number of issues. He was an enthusiastic champion of the Puritans, believing that they have much to teach us today. As McGrath puts it, Packer believed ‘the wisdom of the past can be re-appropriated by today’s Christians allowing it to enrich and challenge our own ideas and lives’. Although McGrath does not draw the parallel, there is much in common with Packer’s approach and the way of ‘ressourcement’ advocated by Catholic theologians who sought to learn from the early church and whose work was a major influence at Vatican II.

To the wider Christian community Packer was known as the author of ‘Knowing God’. This book really expressed the heart of Packer’s theology. Knowing God does not just mean knowing about him; to know God is to enter into a transforming relationship. His account of what it means to know God is cognitive, experiential and relational. There is an emotional element as in all close personal relationships and also deep change within us just as those we love change us.

As years went by, Packer gained a reputation as a conservative in the church. Many were surprised that he cooperated with two Anglo-Catholics, Eric Mascall and Bishop Graham Leonard, in opposing Anglican-Methodist reunion but Packer saw both Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics as allies in defending orthodoxy and the importance of doctrine in Christianity. He would have no truck with the WCC slogan ‘doctrine divides, ministry divides’. This led him to play an important role in the dialogue between evangelicals and Roman Catholics in the US.

It could be said that conservatism led Packer to a progressive attitude to ecumenical relations with Catholics. He showed the same progressive attitude in his readiness to engage with the charismatic movement although early life he opposed the holiness teaching of the Keswick Convention.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Books, Evangelicals, Theology

(BBC) Serbia coronavirus: The Church losing its leaders to the pandemic

Few organisations have taken a bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic than the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Over the past two months, Covid-19 has deprived the religious institution of its top leadership in both Serbia and Montenegro. But critics say the blows are self-inflicted, with traditional acts of worship the likely cause of infection.

The chain of events is extraordinary:

Last month, the Church’s senior bishop in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije, died after contracting coronavirus
Then, the Church’s leader, Patriarch Irinej, tested positive for Covid-19 days after presiding at his colleague’s funeral, and died
Last week, Bishop David of Krusevac, who conducted part of the service marking the Patriarch’s death, confirmed that he had contracted coronavirus for the second time
Amfilohije’s successor in Montenegro, Bishop Joanikije, has been unable to take up his duties due to his own struggle with the disease
Regardless of the decimation of its leadership, the Orthodox Church remains central to many people’s lives. And while schools in Serbia have mostly moved online because of the epidemic, communion is still performed in person, often in breach of the ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Serbia

(RNS) Katelyn Beaty–Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem

Granted, churches can’t control whether church members find a pastor attractive. Physical appearance aside, power, talent and money — all of which can come with a megachurch pastorate — are pretty intoxicating, too. What churches can control, or at least monitor and scan for in hiring decisions, is whether a pastor clearly wants to be found desirable. Professor and author Alan Noble said it well, that he can tell when “ministers desire to be desired. … The way the person carries themself, dresses, speaks, gestures, and posts images signal to me that the(y) desire other people to desire them.”

This desire is at the heart of the hot pastor formula. Megachurches recruit spiritual leaders who are designed to be found desirable by congregants. Their mission becomes bound up in their need to fill their ego, a need to be loved and desired.

Christian humility is about forgetting oneself. “True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself,” writes the Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller, who has planted several successful churches in New York himself. “In fact, I stop thinking about myself.”

It’s hard for anyone standing under the bright lights of a megachurch stage to forget about themselves. Maybe the problem isn’t the hot pastors like Lentz but a toxic megachurch culture that makes narcissism a prerequisite.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Gareth Atkins’ new book ‘Converting Britainnia – Evangelicals and British Public Life, 1770-1840’

‘God Almighty has set before me two great objectives’, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary in October 1787, shortly after his conversion, ‘the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners’. As Gareth Atkins comments in this wide-ranging account of evangelical influence on public life in England from 1770 to 1840, it is important not to let the spotlight fall only on Wilberforce or his allies in Parliament. Historians have often failed to give enough attention to extensive networks that supported Wilberforce and to the care he took to form alliances with other groups that were not completely of his way of thinking.

Not that Atkins seeks to play down Wilberforce’s importance. The picture he paints of a politician seeking lobbying William Pitt and others to influence legislation as well as trying to secure promotion for evangelicals in the church is extraordinary. His energy was enormous. Atkins describes the money and support he raised to secure re-election to his Yorkshire constituency and in an amusing touch adds that the evangelical author, Hannah More, was so anxious about the outcome that she had to be prescribed opium.

Wilberforce’s evangelical faith did not mean that he could not be forceful and cold-blooded if he situation demanded it, even thinking about wrecking an opponent’s career. ‘It is the fashion to speak of Wilberforce as a gentle, yielding character’, remarked one official at the Colonial office, ‘but I can only say that he is the most obstinate, impractical fellow with whom I ever had to do’.

But supporting Wilberforce and the other ‘saints’ in Parliament were large networks of evangelicals which Atkins describes in the church, in the City, in the empire, in the Royal Navy and in the East India Company.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture

A Special Tribute to JI Packer is coming Wednesday

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education

(Churchman) J I Packer–Expository Preaching: Charles Simeon and ourselves

[Charles] Simeon himself is our example here. The feature of his preaching which most constantly impressed his hearers was the fact that he was, as they said, “in earnest”; and that reflected his own overwhelming sense of sin, and of the wonder of the grace that had saved him; and that in turn bore witness to the closeness of his daily fellowship and walk with his God. As he gave time to sermon preparation, so he gave time to seeking God’s face.

“The quality of his preaching,” writes the Bishop of Bradford, “was but a reflection of the quality of the man himself. And there can be little doubt that the man himself was largely made in the early morning hours which he devoted to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures. It was his custom to rise at 4 a.m., light his own fire, and then devote the first four hours of the day to communion with God. Such costly self-discipline made the preacher. That was primary. The making of the sermon was secondary and derivative.”

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Preaching / Homiletics

John Piper on Charles Simeon: We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering

He grew downward in humiliation before God, and he grew upward in his adoration of Christ.

Handley Moule captures the essence of Simeon’s secret of longevity in this sentence: “‘Before honor is humility,’ and he had been ‘growing downwards’ year by year under the stern discipline of difficulty met in the right way, the way of close and adoring communion with God” (Moule, 64). Those two things were the heartbeat of Simeon’s inner life: growing downward in humility and growing upward in adoring communion with God.

But the remarkable thing about humiliation and adoration in the heart of Charles Simeon is that they were inseparable. Simeon was utterly unlike most of us today who think that we should get rid once and for all of feelings of vileness and unworthiness as soon as we can. For him, adoration only grew in the freshly plowed soil of humiliation for sin. So he actually labored to know his true sinfulness and his remaining corruption as a Christian.

I have continually had such a sense of my sinfulness as would sink me into utter despair, if I had not an assured view of the sufficiency and willingness of Christ to save me to the uttermost. And at the same time I had such a sense of my acceptance through Christ as would overset my little bark, if I had not ballast at the bottom sufficient to sink a vessel of no ordinary size. (Moule 134f.)

He never lost sight of the need for the heavy ballast of his own humiliation. After he had been a Christian forty years he wrote,

With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God’s having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually. (Carus, 518f.)

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

John Stott gives an introduction to the life and work of Charles Simeon

John Stott on Charles Simeon at Taylor University from Randall Gruendyke on Vimeo.

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

Charles Simeon as described by (Bishop of Calcutta) Daniel Wilson

He stood for many years alone, he was long opposed, ridiculed, shunned, his doctrines were misrepresented, his little peculiarities of voice and manner were satirized, disturbances were frequently raised in his church or he was a person not taken into account, nor considered in the light of a regular clergyman in the church.

–as quoted in William Carus, Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. Charles Simeon (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), p.39

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Charles Simeon

O loving God, who orderest all things by thine unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see thy hand; that, following the example and teaching of thy servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve thee with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Spirituality/Prayer

(CNA) Cardinal Sarah says West must wake up to threat of Islamism after three killed at French Catholic church

Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah said Thursday that the West must wake up to the threat of Islamism after three people were killed at a French church by an attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The Guinean cardinal wrote on Twitter Oct. 29 that “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.”

“It will not stop its war. Unfortunately, we Africans know this all too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace,” the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote.

“The West, today France, must understand this. Let us pray.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Guinea, Italy, Politics in General, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(Church Society) CEEC National Director announced

We are delighted to share the news that CEEC has announced the appointment of the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, currently Bishop of Birkenhead in the Diocese of Chester, as its National Director.

Bishop Keith’s retirement from the See of Birkenhead in March 2021 was announced earlier this month. He will assume this new role on 27 April 2021, the 100th anniversary of the birth of CEEC’s founder, the late Revd Dr John Stott CBE. Bishop Keith is a Church Society member and spoke at the 2019 Church Society conference, Redeeming Love and Faith. Church Society is a member organisation of CEEC and our Director, Lee Gatiss, is on the CEEC Council.

The appointment of a National Director for CEEC represents a significant development in the level of their activities in terms of CEEC’s ability to engage with the issues facing the Church of England from the perspective of evangelical Anglicans who subscribe to the Authority of Scripture and the historic formularies of the Church.

For the Church of England, this is a time of both great challenge and opportunity. However, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that theological differences and tensions exist within the Church which threaten to fracture the life and witness of parishes and dioceses up and down the country. For this reason, CEEC believes that this is an appropriate time to invest in additional personnel resources to ensure that traditional Christian teaching, as found in Scripture, is heard as clearly as possible through the mission and witness of evangelical Anglicans. It is noted that such evangelical Anglicans represent a very significant portion of Church of England weekly attendance.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals