Category : Other Churches

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way; it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope–hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian–I’m speaking for the Christian now–the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Evangelicals, History, Terrorism

A Prayer for the Feast Day of ‘the beautiful-sounding nightengale of the church’ Kassiani

O God the Father of boundless mercy, whose handmaiden Kassiani brought forth poetry and song: Inspire in thy church a new song, that following her most excellent example, we may boldly proclaim the truth of thy Word, even Jesus Christ, our Savior and Deliverer, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen (slightly ed.).

Posted in Church History, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(BBC) Pope Francis in Africa: Is the continent the Catholic Church’s great hope?

Pope Francis begins a three-nation visit to Africa later on Wednesday.

It will be his fourth visit to the continent since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, compared to the two his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made during his eight-year papacy.

The importance of Africa to the Catholic Church can be summed up in a word – growth.

Africa has the fastest growing Catholic population in the world, while Western Europe, once regarded as the heartland of Christianity, has become one of the world’s most secular regions, according to the US-based Pew Research Center.

And many of those who do identify themselves as Christian in Western Europe do not regularly attend church.

In contrast, Christianity, in its different denominations, is growing across Africa. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2060 more than four in 10 Christians will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Globalization, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(AM) Rod Dreher–[Following up on the FT article already posted] Putin & The Patriarchs

UPDATE: An American reader in Moscow says there’s a lot wrong with the FT piece, at least as I have reported it. He writes:

I can’t access Max Seddon’s piece, so I am sure most of my corrections are problems with his article. In any case, there are some serious factual errors and lack of context for a lot of the information in this post.

To begin, the main problem is the narrative of the Ukrainian Church breaking from the Russian Church. This simply did not occur. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the rest of the Local Orthodox Churches, remains within the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Onuphry, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who consistently is left out of Western coverage of this crisis, is to this day a member of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. There simply has been no change on this front.

Very basic proof: Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Onuphry concelebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Saint Sergius Lavra outside of Moscow in June of this year: https://pravlife.org/uk/content/predstoyatel-upc-spivsluzhyv-patriarhu-v-prestolne-svyato-troyice-sergiyevoyi-lavry

That’s right. The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church flew from Kiev to Moscow to attend a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of which he continues to be a member. While there his Beatitude Onuphry served the Liturgy with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, which in the Orthodox world means everything. The Archbishop of Greece refused to serve the Liturgy with “Metropolitan Epiphany” Dumenko because that would mean legitimizing his controversial status.

The basic fact pulls the carpet out from under the narrative of Seddon’s piece (what you have quoted) as well as most of the Western coverage. The Churches did not split. This is a classic case for Terry Mattingly at GetReligion — journalists who don’t know enough about the religion they are writing about simply cannot resist the temptation to bend the narrative so that it perfectly reflects the political narrative. In this case, that would be “Russia is mad that Ukraine wants independence.”

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia

(FT) Putin and the Patriarchs–how geopolitics tore apart the Orthodox Church

Kirill thought his status as post-Soviet patriarch would earn him a key role of peacemaker, according to people close to the church. But when Russia annexed Crimea in February 2014, a rift opened between Kirill’s and Putin’s conceptions of the “Russian world”. Keenly aware that Putin’s actions severely undermined his authority in Ukraine, Kirill refused to absorb Crimea’s parishes and boycotted a ceremony in the Kremlin to celebrate Russia’s annexation.

Later that year, Putin underscored the rift by declaring that the Crimean town of Khersones — where Vladimir the Great, the first Christian ruler of Rus, was baptised in 988AD — was “Russia’s Temple Mount”.

The notion has no grounding in Orthodox theology and, by implication, undermines the primacy of Kiev and the Lavra. According to Roman Lunkin, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, it was an attempt to justify the annexation by presenting Putin as the protector of all Russian-speaking people.

The growing divide between Ukraine and Russia was underscored by the war with ­Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shortly afterwards, where more than 13,000 have died. Filaret backed Ukraine’s offensive, saying the local population “must pay for their guilt [in rejecting Kiev’s authority] through suffering and blood”. Rebels in Donetsk, meanwhile, enjoyed support from Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch and prominent member of Moscow’s Orthodox elite.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia

(ESPN) [Must-Not-Miss story]–Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? ‘So I made this deal with God.’

Twenty-five years old and not far removed from her All-America days at Villanova, [Shelly] Pennefather was in her prime. She had legions of friends and a contract offer for $200,000 to play basketball in Japan that would have made her one of the richest players in women’s basketball.

And children — she was so good with children. She had talked about having lots of them with John Heisler, a friend she’d known most of her life. Heisler nearly proposed to her twice, but something inside stopped him, and he never bought a ring.

“When she walked into the room,” Heisler said, “the whole room came alive.

“She had a cheerfulness and a confidence that everything was going to be OK. That there was nothing to fear.”

That Saturday morning in 1991, Pennefather drove her Mazda 323 to the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Virginia. She loved to drive. Fifteen cloistered nuns waited for her in two lines, their smiles radiant.

She turned to her family.

“I love you all,” she said.

The door closed, and Shelly Pennefather was gone

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sports

(Local Paper Front Page) A Lowcountry South Carolina Parish gets its steeples back 30 years after Hurricane Hugo toppled them

For David Shorter, Thursday morning brought back a monumental memory.

He was in the seventh or eighth grade at West Ashley’s Blessed Sacrament School in the 1960s when a construction crew installed the twin spires atop the new Catholic church next door. The schoolchildren were allowed to step over the steeples before they were hoisted into place.

Of course, Shorter also remembers them being blown down by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the church’s brick towers have stood unadorned ever since. At least until Thursday.

Shorter was among a few dozen who gathered just outside the church to watch as a construction crew hoisted the first steeple back into place.

“I ain’t missing this for no reason,” he said. “Twice in a lifetime.”

The spectacle was so dramatic that those involved waited until after the morning rush hour on Savannah Highway, reducing the chance of causing any wrecks. Thursday’s weather was near perfect: clear skies and only the slightest breeze. But a computer glitch with a construction crane ended up delaying the lift until the lunch hour.

But by 1:20 p.m., the first one — weighing almost 3 tons — was stood up and hoisted off the ground….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

(The Tablet) Both Wimbledon champions are committed Orthodox Christians

“For many young people today Simona is a symbol of diligence, perseverance and hope”, the Patriarch said at the ceremony. “Besides all that, the Romanian Church greatly appreciates the fact that you profess your Orthodox faith by making the sign of the Cross in public thus showing that you faithfully represent the devout, sacrificial and skilled Romanian people”, he added.

Halep received the Romanian Patriarchate’s Cross of St Andrew last year (2018). In an interview a few days after winning Wimbledon, she said that her Christian faith was “most important” for her in her life. “I believe in God even if I cannot attend the liturgy every Sunday”. (Unlike Sunday Mass attendance in the Catholic Church which has been compulsory since the Council of Trent, attending the Sunday Liturgy is not compulsory in the Orthodox Church.)

Novak Djokovic (aged 33), the number 1 tennis player in the world, belongs to the Serb-Orthodox Church. He already received the Serb-Orthodox Church’s Order of St Sava 1st Class in 2011 above all because he promotes many religious and social church initiatives. “This is the most important award in my life as, before being an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian”, he said at the time on receiving the award from the hands of Patriarch Irenaeus of the Serb-Orthodox Church.The Order of St Sava is the Serb-Orhtodox Church’s highest distinction.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Sports

(BBC) Choosing between God and the gang in El Salvador

A church deep in La Dina, San Salvador is holding a service with a difference: many of the men here used to be in a gang.

Eben-ezer is a functioning church but also runs a rehabilitation project for men who repent their past gang life.

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

Posted in --El Salvador, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Violence

Ian Paul’s full letter to the Editor of the Church Times in response to the misleading previous article on some C of E evangelicals and the marriage statement

(Please note that the first three sections of this letter to the editor WERE published in the Church Times, but not the last two; it is included here with Ian’s kind permission–KSH.

From the Revd Dr Ian Paul–First, no ‘senior members’ of the group resigned. You do mention two archdeacons, who might be styled ‘senior’ in terms of ministry, but they had no seniority within the group. The committee and leadership of EGGS were unanimously agreed on the proposed changes.

Secondly, the group was in no sense ‘split’. Of those who did vote against, a number agreed with the statement, but were not sure whether the timing was right. The fact that you can name only three people who have resigned from a membership of around 140 gives some indication of how united the group was.

Thirdly, you quote Ven Gavin Collins claiming that the new statement was a ‘very narrow formulation’. In fact, as was mentioned repeatedly in the debate at which Gavin was present, the statement did nothing more than restate the current teaching of the Church of England in its canon law and liturgy, and was in line with the stated view of the Anglican Communion. It is a strange day when an archdeacon can believe that the current teaching of the Church is ‘very narrow’.

Jayne Ozanne asks ‘Who is speaking for young people?’ She might want to note that members of the group include leaders from the churches with the largest youth ministries in the Church of England, as set out in an answer given during Synod questions that immediately preceded the EGGS meeting.

The fact that the vote was so clear offered an example to the Church of people finding unity in the truth, just as Jesus prayed in John 17. Many in the Church of England are desperate to hear someone in leadership in the Church actually speak up for the Church’s understanding of marriage and sexuality, and they will be heartened to read of the clarity of the EGGS position.

IAN PAUL
Member of General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council
Nottingham

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

An unfortunately misleading Church Times Article–‘Evangelicals on [General] Synod split over marriage statement’

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(JE) Jeffrey Walton–Lutheran Bishops and an Empty Hell?

A tip of the hat to Lutheran blogger Dan Skogen, who highlighted this exchange. The church historically teaches – and most Christians today would reiterate – that God loves everyone and seeks their best interest. But does that love mean that Hell is, as Egensteiner asserted, empty?

Even among many liberal mainline Protestant luminaries, the doctrine of Hell is taken seriously today more so than in the past two generations. In 2008, the liberal Christian Century hosted a symposium on Hell. As IRD’s Mark Tooley reported somewhat surprisingly, most of the respondents seemed to believe in it. This stands in stark contrast to early and mid-20th Century liberal Protestants who rejected the existence of Hell outright.

This old Protestant liberalism was embodied by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. Tooley notes that Spong gained celebrity in the 1980s writing books denying supernatural Christianity and insisting rationalism was the only way to “save” the faith for younger people. Meanwhile, his Episcopal Diocese of Newark lost nearly half its members under his watch, and the seminars he taught in retirement attracted only the elderly.

Rarely today do Tooley or I encounter liberal Protestants similar to Spong who are under 60 (Egensteiner turns 62 next month). “Modernist” views are now passé, and liberal Protestants under age 50 typically believe in an afterlife and sometimes even Hell.

But Hell isn’t just about the afterlife. As I reported last year on an Anglican workshop that addressed preaching on the subject, the Doctrine of Hell has consequences today for the living including Christology, evangelism, human dignity and our “tone in life”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, Eschatology, Lutheran, Sermons & Teachings

(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