Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani to lead Church of England drive to tackle housing crisis

Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the next Bishop of Chelmsford, is to become the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Housing to spearhead the Church’s efforts to help ease the UK’s crippling housing crisis.

The announcement comes ahead of the publication next month of the findings of a major two-year commission, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, examining the role of the Church in tackling housing inequality and examining possible solutions.

Bishop Guli, currently the Bishop of Loughborough, will take up the new role later this year when she becomes Bishop of Chelmsford.

The new post will involve leading efforts to implement the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community which will be published in late February.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(PD) Andrew Walker–Protecting Christian Political Theology from the Shibboleth of “Christian Nationalism”

The very best of the Christian political tradition entails a fervent seeking of the common good, and that entails recognizing certain moral goods consistent with Christian moral tradition. This will always be interpreted as a malevolent expression of Christianity when those with the most cultural power have a different definition of the common good. If, however, all expressions of Christian faith that color one’s political activity are reduced to “Christian Nationalism,” that only leaves space for Christian faith to function as mere private piety. On this view, William Wilberforce, who labored to abolish Britain’s slave trade, and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose professed Christianity ignited the Civil Rights Movement, were Christian Nationalists who should have been silenced.

It is hypocritical for secular critics to accept only those religious claims that conform to liberal sentiment and to label any disfavored religious claim as Christian Nationalism. Christianity cannot be permissible to polite society only when it meets with the approval of its cultured despisers. Such oscillation is not only hypocritical; it is fundamentally out of alignment with the Constitution.

After January 6, everyone was awakened to the severity of how online conspiracies sparked what happened at the Capitol. If we are to have a shared project of rooting out conspiracy, it is incumbent that all parties bear certain responsibilities. It is the responsibility of orthodox Christianity to speak plainly and truthfully about the dangers lurking behind internet-induced conspiracy theories and to call loved ones back from the brink of delusion. We should renounce Christian Nationalism where it is indisputably present. We should rightfully warn against and teach against what is rightly defined as Christian Nationalism. At the same time, secular and liberal audiences who wish to protest the dangers of Christian Nationalism would do well to represent Christian political theology accurately.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Wired) The Ongoing Collapse of the World’s Aquifers

AS California’s economy skyrocketed during the 20th century, its land headed in the opposite direction. A booming agricultural industry in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with punishing droughts, led to the over-extraction of water from aquifers. Like huge, empty water bottles, the aquifers crumpled, a phenomenon geologists call subsidence. By 1970, the land had sunk as much as 28 feet in the valley, with less-than-ideal consequences for the humans and infrastructure above the aquifers.

The San Joaquin Valley was geologically primed for collapse, but its plight is not unique. All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet. More punishing droughts mean the increased draining of aquifers, and rising seas make sinking land all the more vulnerable to flooding. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, in the next two decades, 1.6 billion people could be affected by subsidence, with potential loses in the trillions of dollars.

“Subsidence has been neglected in a lot of ways because it is slow moving. You don’t recognize it until you start seeing damage,” says Michelle Sneed, a land subsidence specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey and coauthor on the paper. “The land sinking itself is not a problem. But if you’re on the coast, it’s a big problem. If you have infrastructure that crosses long areas, it’s a big problem. If you have deep wells, they’re collapsing because of subsidence. That’s a problem.”

Read it all.

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

(PD) Timothy P. O’Malley–A Communion of Anxiety: Hookup Culture and the Impossible Horizon of the Future

For those of us who are married and with kids, these micro-transformations are most of our life. We change diapers, play endless games of horsey with toddlers, teach our kids to read and write, ask our teen the questions that matter, and endure the wrath of the same teen when we limit their use of a digital device. We do this because we hope in a future in which truth, goodness, and beauty will be passed on not by us but by our progeny. After all, we will be very dead. But the pursuit of wisdom will continue through our children, who hand on the gift of life to their children, and so on until a future generation knows us exclusively because of a seventh-grade family history project on the part of our great-great-great-great granddaughter.

All of this may seem a strange way to deal with hookup culture and an increasing fear of procreation. But if hookup culture and the anxiety of introducing children into this world is about fear of the future, then we must uphold the gift of commitment, stability, and those small acts of love that no human being will recognize as an accomplishment worth fêting.

It is precisely through these micro-transformations that a future will be created that is marked by generosity and communion. In other words, a future in which everyone will introduce children into a world that is very good.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(CT) Esau McCaulley– It’s Not Enough to Preach Racial Justice. We Need to Champion Policy Change.

As pastors, teachers, and Christian leaders who participate in America’s public square, we don’t remember King rightly by pulling a few disconnected words about justice out of context and plastering them all over social media. We remember him rightly by taking an honest assessment of ourselves as a country. This involves both lauding the progress and looking toward the future. And it involves a robust commitment to understanding the link between injustice and economic disenfranchisement.

King didn’t see his economic advocacy as a move toward partisanship. He saw it as the most Christian of activities, a manifestation of love for neighbor. His truth telling was not a mere venting of frustrations. He was doing work similar to the biblical prophets of old. He was holding up a mirror to American culture so that it could see what it had become in light of God’s vision for a just society.

When we pretend we can live above the fray and not get into the rough and tumble of people’s lived experiences, we are becoming less Christian. We are squandering our chance to be witnesses to what is possible. And we are forfeiting our God-given right to dream.

We are blessed that Martin never did.

Read it all.

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

(NBC) Florida Restaurant Manager Saves Boy From Abuse, Police Say

“Flavaine Carvalho, sensing distress from an 11-year-old boy with his family, secretly flashed the boy a note asking him if he needed help. When the boy said yes, Carvalho called 911. The boy’s stepfather faces three charges of aggravated child abuse, and his mother faces two charges of child neglect.”

Posted in Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Violence

Gary Saul Morson–Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom

On December 22, 1849, a group of political radicals were taken from their prison cells in Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress, where they had been interrogated for eight months. Led to the Semenovsky Square, they heard a sentence of death by firing squad. They were given long white peasant blouses and nightcaps—their funeral shrouds—and offered last rites. The first three prisoners were seized by the arms and tied to the stake. One prisoner refused a blindfold and stared defiantly into the guns trained on them. At the last possible moment, the guns were lowered as a courier galloped up with an imperial decree reducing death sentences to imprisonment in a Siberian prison camp followed by service as a private in the army. The last-minute rescue was in fact planned in advance as part of the punishment, an aspect of social life that Russians understand especially well.

Accounts affirm: of the young men who endured this terrible ordeal, one had his hair turn white; a second went mad and never recovered his sanity; a third, whose two-hundredth birthday we celebrate in 2021, went on to write Crime and Punishment.

The mock-execution and the years in Siberian prison—thinly fictionalized in his novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1860)—changed Dostoevsky forever. His naive, hopeful romanticism disappeared. His religious faith deepened. The sadism of both prisoners and guards taught him that the sunny view of human nature presumed by utilitarianism, liberalism, and socialism were preposterous. Real human beings differed fundamentally from what these philosophies presumed.

People do not live by bread—or, what philosophers called the maximalization of “advantage”—alone. All utopian ideologies presuppose that human nature is fundamentally good and simple: evil and apparent complexity result from a corrupt social order. Eliminate want and you eliminate crime. For many intellectuals, science itself had proven these contentions and indicated the way to the best of all possible worlds. Dostoevsky rejected all these ideas as pernicious nonsense. “It is clear and intelligible to the point of obviousness,” he wrote in a review of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “that evil lies deeper in human beings than our social-physicians suppose; that no social structure will eliminate evil; that the human soul will remain as it always has been . . . and, finally, that the laws of the human soul are still so little known, so obscure to science, so undefined, and so mysterious, that there are not and cannot be either physicians or final judges” except God Himself.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Russia

(Local Paper) South Carolina human trafficking annual report released

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force released new numbers from 2020 showing the scourge is not going away and COVID-19 has only made things worse, as traffickers prey on the most vulnerable.

Traffickers look for vulnerabilities and exploit them. Fresh data from the report on how victims become ensnared by traffickers shows most of the time it starts with an ad for a job. Other times the trafficker is familiar with the victim– an intimate partner or the victim becomes indebted by receiving a loan. Soon the victim is coerced, manipulated and trapped.

“It presents a public health and a public safety issue that violates basic human rights,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson at a press conference from the Statehouse on Jan. 11.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Sexuality, Violence

(NC Register) Re-Reading Father Richard Neuhaus’ ‘American Babylon’ in Light of U.S. Capitol Attack

Father Richard’s engagement in political activism never led him to messianic politics. He died after Barack Obama’s election but before his inauguration, and long before the current president came down the escalator at Trump Tower. He was suspicious of the messianic dimension of Obama’s candidacy and would have been troubled by those who regarded Donald Trump as having some kind of messianic anointing.

Father Richard would have been dismayed at the apocalyptic tone of politics today. The future of the republic does not hang on a presidential election, let alone a senate election in Georgia. Elections have consequences, sometimes, grave consequences, but electoral politics does not heal a corrupt culture.

“Moral progress is far from being self-evident,” Father Richard wrote. “We should at least be open to the possibility that we are today witnessing not moral progress but a dramatic moral regression.”

That possibility was the risk of freedom, and Father Richard knew well that the great American experiment in ordered liberty was just that, an experiment, which would be tested. His commitment to the pro-life cause made him all too aware that that test could be failed….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(Guardian) London Mayor Khan urges PM Johnson to close places of worship as Covid cases surge

Places of worship in the capital should shut immediately because of the risks of Covid infection, Sadiq Khan has said, amid signs that churches, mosques and synagogues are already closing their doors.

In a letter to the prime minister setting out his reasons for declaring a major incident in London, the mayor urged Boris Johnson to order places of worship to close, among other measures to tackle the crisis.

Under the lockdown restrictions, places of worship in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are permitted to remain open. The Scottish government has ordered them closed.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) A Snaking Line to No Vaccine: Florida’s Big Rollout Sputters

Linda Kleindienst Bruns registered for a coronavirus vaccine in late December, on the first day the health department in Tallahassee, Fla., opened for applications for people her age. Despite being 72, with her immune system suppressed by medication that keeps her breast cancer in remission, she spent days waiting to hear back about an appointment.

“It’s so disorganized,” she said. “I was hoping the system would be set up so there would be some sort of logic to it.”

Phyllis Humphreys, 76, waited with her husband last week in a line of cars in Clermont, west of Orlando, that spilled onto Highway 27. They had scrambled into their car and driven 22 miles after receiving an automated text message saying vaccine doses were available. But by 9:43 a.m., the site had reached capacity and the Humphreys went home with no shots.

“We’re talking about vaccinations,” said Ms. Humphreys, a retired critical care nurse. “We are not talking about putting people in Desert Storm.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, State Government

(Local paper front page) Worry rising with the tides Amid climate change, Charleston Harbor logs 68 tidal floods, the 2nd most ever

The Charleston Harbor tidal gauge logged more records in 2020.

It recorded 68 tidal floods — the second-most ever at the station.

The highest year, when water levels reached 7 feet or higher 89 times, was in 2019.

The database of flood events maintained by the National Weather Service dates to 1953.

2020 also brought the highest ever amount of “major” tidal floods, when water levels rise to 8 feet, causing significant disruption in the region. That happened seven times last year, which is an even more remarkable milestone considering the region was not directly affected by a hurricane.

While 2020′s records are just one data point, it’s another sign that tidal flooding in the city driven by man-made climate change is worsening. The pace of flooding is speeding up, according to institutions such as the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, which has plotted an exponential trend of higher seas for Charleston.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, City Government, Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(Commentary) Adam White–The Turn Against Religious Liberty

America’s history of tolerance and accommodation, which the late Justice Ginsburg invoked at oral argument, reflected America’s constitutional institutions. When legislators representing diverse people and values meet on equal footing to debate and deliberate, the product is informed by values of toleration. The legislative process’s inherent tendency toward compromise and moderation is itself a crucial institution for the perpetuation of tolerance. But in dominance, intolerance.

And when Americans see the lawmaking power as a weapon to be won in warlike presidential elections and then wielded against one’s opponents for the four years that follow—not the shared responsibility of legislators—they too lose their capacity for tolerance and their memory of toleration.

Rebuilding that capacity, and restoring that memory, requires a return to Madison—not a “Madison’s Razor” of Rakove’s creation, but the genuinely republican constitutional institutions that Madison himself labored to help create, and the republican virtues that Madison knew undergirded those institutions.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(NYT front page) Hope Dries Up as Young Nigerians Disappear in Police Custody

AWKA, Nigeria — In the small family portrait gallery hanging above the television in the cozy home of the Iloanya family, only two framed photographs remain that include the youngest son, Chijioke.

He disappeared eight years ago. His parents, Hope and Emmanuel, last saw him in handcuffs in a police station run by the feared unit known as SARS — the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

They have been searching for him ever since, along the way encountering an industry of merchants peddling hope: lawyers, human rights groups and the churches and pastors who asked for the photographs of Chijioke, promising to pray over them and help bring him back.

“They give you a prophecy that he will come back,” said Hope, a devout woman of 53, staring at the gaps on her salmon-pink wall. “Whatever they tell you to do, you do it.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Nigeria, Personal Finance & Investing, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(FT) Britain and EU poised to announce Christmas Eve Brexit deal

Britain and the EU were last night finalising a historic post-Brexit deal that will define their future trading relationship, reducing the risk of the UK crashing chaotically out of the European single market on January 1.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, is expected to confirm the deal early on Christmas Eve after a flurry of last-minute talks in Brussels, bringing an end to nine months of tense negotiations.

EU and UK officials worked through Wednesday night to finalise the legal text, which will preserve tariff-free trade in goods between the EU and UK as well as protect co-operation in other areas such as security.

People briefed on the talks said that the ongoing work included fine-tuning the details of agreements struck on Wednesday on EU fishing rights in UK waters. But officials on both sides said the terms of the post-Brexit relationship were essentially settled.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(AI) Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth files responses to TEC’s appeal to the US Supreme Court

Today in Washington, D.C., attorneys for the Diocese and Corporation have filed two Briefs in Opposition with the U.S. Supreme Court, responding to Petitions initiated in that Court by the TEC parties and All Saints’ Church (Fort Worth) in October. (The property of All Saints’ Church in Fort Worth was separated by the trial court from the rest of the property suit in 2015.)

The October Petitions asked for a review of the unanimous opinion issued in May of this year by the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Diocese and Corporation.

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

(Local Paper) South Carolina confirms nearly 3,600 more coronavirus cases as experts warn against Christmas travel

Nearly 3,600 South Carolinians tested positive for COVID-19, authorities announced Wednesday, worrying the experts who’ve warned against holiday travel and gatherings.

The state has only surpassed 3,000 cases per day a couple times, but authorities have warned that another surge in cases could come two weeks after the holidays.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has urged Palmetto State residents to stay home for Christmas, modify holiday traditions using Zoom or sticking to single-household celebrations. Those who choose to attend gatherings should get tested and avoid traveling with others if possible.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, State Government, Theology

(EF) Spain legalises euthanasia

The Spanish Parliament has approved the first euthanasia law in the country on 17 December.

The rule, promoted by the Social Democrat government party, PSOE, received 198 votes in favour, 138 against and 2 abstentions. Spain becomes the fourth country in Europe and the sixth worldwide to legalise euthanasia, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and New Zealand.

The law was approvedafter several attempts in which the Parliament voted against it. The government coalition of PSOE and leftist party Unidas Podemos, along with the deputies of liberal party Ciudadanos, leftist party Más País, Catalonian parties ERC, CUP and Junts per Catalunya, Basque parties PNV and EH Bildu, and Galician party BNG, all voted in favour.

The conservative parties PP and UPN and far-right Vox voted against it. Vox has announced that they will file an appeal of unconstitutionality against the text.

The law, which has yet to be approved by the Senate, although it is expected to do so, could come into force in the first months of 2021.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Spain, Theology

(Bloomberg) Millions of Renters Are Fighting to Stay Housed as Evictions Near

Mari Finkley has already been homeless once during the pandemic. For two weeks in October, she lived out of her Dodge Journey with her dog and 11-year-old godson. The 29-year-old found a new place, and fresh hope. But she’s behind on her rent again.

Finkley was pushed out of her Gainesville, Fla., home by her previous landlord after she stopped driving for Uber and fell behind on the rent. She suffers from severe asthma, and her doctor warned her the job put her at high risk for exposure to Covid-19.

“Are you going to risk potentially dying just to pay a bill?” Finkley says. “But if you don’t pay the bill you’re going to be homeless. You have to literally decide what’s worse.”

Finkley is a member of a burgeoning class of long-term underemployed and unemployed Americans who have slipped into poverty during the pandemic. Many of them are renters teetering on the verge of homelessness, even as large swaths of the U.S. economy have rebounded and coronavirus vaccines raise hopes for a brighter 2021….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance

(The World) Undeterred by ICC decision, Uighurs hail EU, UK steps toward holding China accountable

After more than 70 years of Chinese rule over the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, there’s mounting evidence that in recent years, their occupation has intensified into an environment of strict surveillance, with more than a million Uighurs held in internment camps.

Reports show many are forced to pick cotton and work in factories that supply international brands and that some Uighurs are even subjected to forced sterilizations and organ harvesting.

For several years, Beijing repeatedly denied those allegations, while companies like Nike said they’ve made sure they’re not using Uighur slave labor. But some recent developments suggest 2021 may see a breakthrough in the Uighurs’ long struggle for justice, with help from a new group of international lawmakers.

“I’m accusing the Chinese authorities of the worst crime of the 21st century. I am also accusing the international community for being a part of this crime, for abetting it through its silence,” European Parliament Member Raphaël Glucksmann of France said during a Dec. 17 debate, through an interpreter. “I’m also accusing Nike and other multinational corporations that are taking advantage of slavery.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(PRC FactTank) Polygamy is rare around the world and mostly confined to a few regions

Polygamy is rare throughout most of the world. In the U.S., having spouselike relationships with more than one person under the same roof was criminalized in 1882. Today, people in the U.S. are rarely prosecuted for living with multiple romantic partners, but every state has laws against getting married while already being married to someone else.

In February, Utah passed a bill to reduce the penalties for adults who voluntarily live in polygamous relationships, making the practice an infraction, a low-level offense that is not punishable with jail time.

In other parts of the world, including swaths of the Middle East and Asia, polygamy is legal but not practiced widely. And in some countries – particularly in a segment of West and Central Africa known as the polygamy belt – the practice is frequently legal and widespread.

A Pew Research Center report about living arrangements in 130 countries and territories published in 2019 analyzed the number of people residing in polygamous households, as well as other types of households. Here are some key findings from that report, and from a separate study of customs and laws around the world.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

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

(Vanguard) Restructure Nigeria before 2023, Anglican Bishop of Oleh tells the Federal Government

Anglican Bishop of the Oleh Diocese, Delta State, Rt. Rev John Aruakpor, yesterday, told the Federal Government to restructure Nigeria before the 2023 general election so as to put the country on the right track for accelerated development.

He emphasized that restructuring would lead to far-reaching solutions to the myriads of problems facing Nigeria “and no part of the country has anything to fear about it. The development and peaceful coexistence we hope for, will be more assured and guaranteed”.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(WSJ) Timothy Dolan and Toufic Baaklini–Remember the Persecuted at Christmas

For the first time in their lives, millions of Americans have been ordered by their government not to attend church. For millions of persecuted Christians across the globe, this is the only reality they know.

The theme of persecution lies at the heart of the Christmas story. The Holy Family were forced to flee their native land due to state-sponsored oppression. As citizens of a global superpower whose lawmakers are responsive to their citizens, we are called to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians. The U.S. government has shown during this difficult year that it is responsive to such advocacy.

The House unanimously passed a resolution in November calling for continued humanitarian assistance to Christians, Yazidis and other communities that survived the ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria. Also last month, the State Department and the Polish government hosted the third annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, an international forum for governments and civil society.

At the same time, 2020 has presented unprecedented challenges for persecuted Christians world-wide.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Church Times) Church in Wales issues draft Bill on same-sex blessings

The Bishops of the Church in Wales have published their proposals to authorise formal blessings in church of same-sex partnerships and marriages.

A draft Bill that would permit the blessing in parish churches of same-sex couples after a civil partnership or civil wedding has been circulated to members of the Church’s Governing Body ahead of a debate in April.

In an explanatory memorandum, the Bishops acknowledge that scripture and Christian tradition have previously understood unions of one man and one woman as the only context for sexual relationships.

“However, with new social, scientific and psychological understandings of sexuality in the last one and a half centuries, we believe that same-sex relationships can be understood in a radically different way, and that the teaching of Scripture should therefore be re-interrogated,” the Bishops write.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Wales, Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Bloomberg) Russia-Linked SolarWinds Hack Ensnares Widening List of Victims

It was clear from the start that a cyber attack by suspected Russian hackers aimed at several U.S. government agencies was going to be bad. One clue: National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien cut short a trip overseas early this week to rush back to Washington to help manage the crisis.

But on Thursday, the reality of just how sprawling — and potentially damaging — the breach might be came into sharper focus. It started with a bulletin from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, known as CISA, warning that the hackers were sophisticated, patient and well-resourced, representing a “grave risk” to federal, state and local governments as well as critical infrastructure and the private sector. It didn’t take long to see how accurate the agency’s assessment was.

Bloomberg News reported that at least three state governments were hacked. That was followed by reports of other breaches: the city network in Austin, Texas, and the U.S. nuclear weapons agency. Late in the day software giant Microsoft Corp. said its systems were exposed.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Russia, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(WSJ) Nigerian Boys Taken in Kidnapping Claimed by Boko Haram Are Freed

More than 300 schoolboys kidnapped by gunmen from their boarding school in northwest Nigeria last week were handed over to security agencies late Thursday, Nigeria’s government said, prompting outpourings of relief and joy across Africa’s most populous nation after fears they would become long-term hostages of jihadist militants.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aminu Bello Masari, the governor of Katsina state, announced in a televised interview that 344 of the boys had been handed over in the forest of neighboring Zamfara state and would be immediately driven to Katsina for medical treatment.

The release comes six days after the students were seized from their dormitories at the Kankara Government Science Secondary School in Katsina and driven into the nearby forest, marking one of the largest mass school kidnappings in history. President Muhammadu Buhari praised the military and security agencies in a statement that offered prayers for the full recovery of the victims. They “endured significant hardships in the course of their ordeal,” the statement said.

Local newspaper The Katsina Post tweeted images of dozens of schoolboys jammed onto the back of trucks, some looking dazed, but others sporting wide smiles for the camera as they headed toward home. Government officials said the boys would be given new clothes before an audience with the president on Friday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

(Wash Post) The U.S. government spent billions on a system for detecting hacks. The Russians outsmarted it.

When Russian hackers first slipped their digital Trojan horses into federal government computer systems, probably sometime in the spring, they sat dormant for days, doing nothing but hiding. Then the malicious code sprang into action and began communicating with the outside world.

At that moment — when the Russian malware began sending transmissions from federal servers to command-and-control computers operated by the hackers — an opportunity for detection arose, much as human spies behind enemy lines are particularly vulnerable when they radio home to report what they’ve found.

Why then, when computer networks at the State Department and other federal agencies started signaling to Russian servers, did nobody in the U.S. government notice that something odd was afoot?

The answer is part Russian skill, part federal government blind spot.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Russia, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(JE) Virginia TEC Diocese Signals Truro Anglican Sale is Possible

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia officials have announced that diocesan leadership initiated “confidential conversations” in late 2019 with representatives of Truro Anglican Church in suburban Washington about the future of the property, with a potential sale possible.

“The discussions have been productive and are expected to continue,” the diocese shared in a December 6 press release on its website. A member of the Truro congregation confirmed to me that the diocesan release “is substantially correct.”

I’ve reached out to Truro’s vestry wardens and will update this blog entry as I receive their responses. Truro staff confirmed that a verbal announcement was read aloud to the congregation during a parish meeting but that no written or public statement was released.

Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic Canon for Congregation and Clergy Care the Rev. Mary Maggard Hays noted that ongoing negotiations with the Diocese of Virginia are still confidential, but characterized them as “amicable and thoughtful.”

That assessment is similarly held by Episcopalians.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes

Bishop of Durham on the urgent action needed to tackle poverty in the pandemic

Living standards for low income families have worsened since the summer amid the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the findings of a new report by the Church of England Child Poverty Action Group. The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, writes about how urgent action is needed to tackle poverty and destitution.

At times like this, when nearly everyone is struggling in some way, it is tempting to turn in on ourselves, as individuals and as a nation. We saw this during the first lockdown when people stock-piled essential supplies and in the recent decision to reduce the UK’s foreign aid budget.

Fortunately, though, the overwhelming response to the pandemic has been to reach out generously to those in need through the spontaneous emergence of local mutual aid schemes across the country, alongside countless everyday acts of kindness and neighbourliness.

The call to ‘remember the poor’ runs through the Bible. The ‘Poverty in the Pandemic’ report that we are publishing today with the Child Poverty Action Group is a modern-day call to remember the poor. Based on a survey of nearly 700 low-income families with children, it offers a stark insight into the experiences of these families, many of whom have seen their lives turned upside down by the pandemic. This year has been a difficult one for many of us, but these challenges are a lot harder when you are short of money.

Sudden loss of earnings, increased living costs, navigating a complex benefits system, falling into debt – these are just some of the challenges facing families during the crisis. Financial worries are adding considerably to the pressures on families, pushing many of them to breaking point….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture