Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

(NYT) Jealousy Led Montana Chemist to Taint Colleague’s Water Tests

Lab rivalries go back nearly as far as labs themselves. There’s the case of a prominent 19th-century bacteriologist who paid local authorities to deny a former collaborator access to the bodies of plague victims. There are the AIDS researchers who sabotaged one another’s work on at least five occasions. And there are numerous stories of scientists who have accused colleagues of stealing their work.

But even the highest-profile cases rarely end up in criminal court; they typically become humiliating footnotes to the discoveries they slowed.

This week, however, a judge in Montana sentenced a former chemist at the water treatment plant in Billings after she pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of tampering with public records or information.

The information in question? Her colleagues’ water tests, which she contaminated for three months, ultimately costing the Billings water treatment plant its state certification and thoroughly perplexing her colleague, her boss and a host of experts, who could not figure out why just one chemist’s tests kept failing, according to prosecutors.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues

(AFM) USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019 —nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Tinker AFB, Okla., this week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell: “Shabby and shambolic” – the CofE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

In a church that has nominally (if belatedly) embraced “Transparency and Accountability”, rejected clergy deference and pledged to “put the interests of the victim first”, it is surely not asking too much for a full and frank response to be issued to these important and prima facie legitimate concerns about the way the review is being handled. One of the problem areas also identified by the survivors lawyers at IICSA is the Church of England’s “Byzantine procedures”.

In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Stewardship, Theology, Violence

(York Press) Archbp John Sentamu to lead delegation to London in October to Lobby for One Yorkshire

John Grogan, Co-Chairman of the One Yorkshire Committee, has issued a statement along with his fellow co-chairman Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, stressing the need for devolution.

In the statement they reveal that the Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, will lead a delegation to London in October to lobby for One Yorkshire.

It says: “The One Yorkshire Committee has been created to campaign for the One Yorkshire Devolution Agreement proposed by council leaders of all parties from across the county. This would involve the election of a Mayor for Yorkshire supported by a cabinet of council leaders. The committee brings together business, trade union, academic and political leaders and has now met seven times. The committee has received a grant of £32,500 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to support its work and is launching a website today.

“The lack of progress on devolution is hurting the people of Yorkshire. The economic case presented to ministers shows that One Yorkshire devolution would result in a £30 billion boost to our economy – up to £5,400 extra growth per person, per year in the Yorkshire economy.

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Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(NYT) Lebanese Band’s Concert Is Canceled After It’s Accused of Blasphemy

A Lebanese music festival has canceled a concert by a major indie music band, Mashrou’ Leila, after it was accused of blasphemy and received death threats because a member had shared an image of the singer Madonna as the Virgin Mary.

The controversy has raised questions about religious tolerance and freedom of expression in the relatively moderate, multi-sectarian and Muslim-majority country.

The Byblos International Festival, one of the country’s most popular music events, canceled the Aug. 9 concert by Mashrou’ Leila over fears of “bloodshed” after the image angered the Maronite Christian Church and prompted threats of violence from hard-line Christian critics.

“Unfortunately, the national debate that ensued as a result of an organized campaign against the band and the festival goes well beyond the scope of the mission BIF is able to handle,” the festival said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Lebanon, Middle East, Music, Religion & Culture

(Church of Ireland) Bishop John McDowell–An Open Letter from a Border Bishop

The Border and the problems which it poses for any form of Brexit are not only technical or technological issues. Nor are they simply issues to do with trade or security matters. Expressed in the starkest terms, the Border is the background against which all political and much cultural life in Northern Ireland (and in a more limited way in the Republic of Ireland) is worked out. Some people like the Border and others do not, but positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously, it is pivotal to how politicians and people here assess almost all policy alternatives.

For this reason alone, any big change which has an impact on the Border is unavoidably complicated and inevitably charged with emotional and symbolic significance.

After a period of relative obscurity, it now appears that everybody is fascinated by the Border. It is interesting, for a while, to be at the centre of the world’s attention. But on the whole I think many of us would rather have been left alone.

For a political border, it is very beautiful in places. That is largely because of the hundreds of small farms looked after by hundreds of sturdy farmers along its length. There isn’t much money in it for most of them, but if you ask them why they don’t move to somewhere less difficult to farm they say “You can’t roll up the land and take it with you”. The long term well–being of men and women like these, and their neighbours all along the border, requires and deserves a clearly spelt–out, sustainable agreement between both sides. This is so that they have not only that material basis necessary for civilised living but also hope for their children’s future. Neither peace nor prosperity are possible without hope.

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

(WSJ) A Debate over American Religious Liberty Between David French and Marci Hamilton

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists. But Christians who had been paying attention knew of this risk well before Obergefell. Christians who had been paying attention had seen a trend where legal activists at all levels of government had been aggressively expanding their regulatory and ideological attacks on religious liberty.

During my legal career defending free speech and religious freedom on campus, I saw more than 100 colleges attempt to de-recognize Christian student groups or eject them from campus for reserving their membership or leadership for Christian students. During the Obama administration, Americans watched his Department of Health and Human Services try to force nuns to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Catholic adoption agencies that continued to place children with families according to church teachings faced a choice between closing and violating their deeply held beliefs. Christian creative professionals faced ruinous financial penalties for refusing to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they found offensive.

The list could go on, but more disturbing than the individual cases is the deep inversion of America’s constitutional principles that has empowered this legal assault. If governments ultimately prevail in these efforts, the resulting precedents would upend the constitutional order, rendering religious Americans even more vulnerable to future legal attacks, like the threatened loss of tax exemptions for Christian educational institutions.

The Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War) renders operational and enforceable the founding declaration that Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These core American liberties include rights to due process, free speech, assembly and the free exercise of religion. Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under this Bill of Rights.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(CT) Oren Cass’s New Book–‘Tis a Gift to Do ‘Undignified’ Work

In The Once and Future Worker, Cass turns high ideals into concrete proposals to actually heal the fractures splintering the American workforce.

The most compelling is the “wage subsidy.” Rather than luring large corporations to town with big tax breaks (like the Amazon HQ2 hysteria of 2017) or levying payroll taxes on low-income workers and then redistributing the money through entitlements, why not “pay for jobs” directly? What if a worker saw a “Federal Work Bonus” on her next paycheck, adding three extra dollars for every hour she had worked?

Cass also advocates building an educational system better suited to the four-fifths of students who do not complete the high-school-to-college-to-career path. Around two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree. To better ensure that more of them can get good jobs and contribute to their communities, Cass proposes reinvesting in vocational training and shifting toward a more “tracked” form of schooling—similar to systems found in Europe—where students are grouped according to educational ability rather than lumped together in the same classroom.

Yet there’s one area that government policy can’t do much about: our cultural views about the value of lower-wage workers.

“Waiters, truck drivers, retail clerks, plumbers, secretaries, and others all spend their days helping the people around them and fulfilling roles crucial to the community,” writes Cass. “They do hard, unglamorous work for limited pay to support themselves and their families.” Why shouldn’t we admire those who do harder jobs for lower wages on a broad scale? We’re capable of doing this with police officers, teachers, and firefighters. Why shouldn’t the work done by trash collectors, housekeepers, and janitors deserve the same degree of respect?

For that, we need not just policy reform but a different story about work altogether.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Was Paul unclear in his teaching on sexuality?

The second issue is the confusion that has been created in the debate. It suits those who want to see the Church change its teaching for most members of the Church to say ‘It is all so complicated, and the Bible is not really as clear as I thought’. That climate is created by popularised arguments that ignore the whole range of evidence—and give no indication to their readers (who mostly won’t know how to assess this) that there are other issues that need to be considered. For example, I don’t suppose anyone reading Tallon’s article or watching his video will think to ask ‘But what is the cultural context of Paul? And how does his view connect with other Jewish critiques of pagan culture?’ since there is no hint that this might be an important issue. Tallon is right to offer a bibliography—but how many of his readers will actually look up the articles he cites, not least because David Wright’s is published in a specialist journal for which you have to have an expensive subscription? Atomising the debate—isolating one text from another, and isolating the texts from their context—is a common feature of such arguments, and they lead to confusion.

The third issue is our decision in the light of what Paul says. E P Sanders is very interesting in this regard; like many other scholars, whilst he is clear about what Paul means, he does not see Paul’s view as in any sense binding on his own views as a Christian.

Paul’s vice lists are generally ignored in church polity and administration. Christian churches contain people who drink too much, who are greedy, who are deceitful, who quarrel, who gossip, who boast, who once rebelled against their parents, and who are foolish. Yet Paul’s vice lists condemn them all, just as much as they condemn people who engage in homosexual acts (p 372).

Sanders is spot on here: you cannot pick and choose, and if you take Paul seriously on one issue, you must surely take him seriously (or not) on all issues. Sanders’ conclusion is to treat them all as non-binding—but of course there is an alternative response available.

The fourth then is the question of our reception of gay people in terms of our pastoral response. Sanders makes some very interesting observations about the nature and use of Paul’s vice lists.

Homiletically, vice lists gain rhetorical force partly by length and partly by the equation of relatively minor sins with relatively major ones. It might be quite useful for a preacher to gain the audience’s support by condemning major sins (such as adultery and greed), but then to add that there are lots of sins…which are practiced by some of the people in the pews, and that these count as sins too…This has a healthily purgative effect. (p 338).

He also notes that Paul’s own pastoral strategy is not effected by the vice lists, since he handles actual examples of sin in a different way. Besides, the clear assumption is that the things he lists are now in the past: ‘such were some of you. But…’ (1 Cor 6.11). Sanders sums up:

The accusations in his vice lists are not actually directed at the sins of his converts at all (p 339).

Sanders goes further, noting the significance of Paul saying so little about SSS:

[H]omosexual practices are not very important in Paul’s letters. They figures in his vice lists, as do deceit and malice, but he does not elaborate on them; they are only items in a list. We must assume that he did not actually face a case in one of his congregations; if he had, we would hear a lot more about it. (p 345)

Paul’s language on this issue does not offer us a pastoral strategy for relating to gay people, within the church or outside. What it does do, though, is tell us clearly Paul’s understanding of the moral status of SSS, and with him the view both of Judaism and the early church, and following that most of Christian understanding down the centuries. The heated and (in my view unnecessary) debates about these clear texts not only sows confusion, it also makes gay people feel as though they are the subjects of these debates, which I think is unhelpful all round.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Isolated And Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning To Suicide

Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(TGC) George Sinclair–The State of Orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada

In 2016 the Chancellor of the ACoC made clear that just because something is affirmed does not mean that alternatives are rejected. He pointed out that there is nothing in the current Canons that forbids same-sex marriage. He said the same thing this year.

The General Synod then overwhelmingly passed a series of affirmations which made clear that it agrees with the Chancellor’s ruling. Listen to this, “We affirm that, while there are different understandings of the existing Marriage Canon, those bishops and synods who have authorized liturgies for the blessing of a marriage between two people of the same sex understand that the existing Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage.” The House of Bishops made a similar statement.

It gets worse. The Synod overwhelmingly passed “Affirmations” that say that both views on marriage are held “with prayerful integrity;” that all sides on this issue hold their convictions “in good faith” and that “we hold dear their continued presence in this church;” and that “we affirm our commitment to walk together and preserve communion.” In other words, different views on marriage are at best a third-order issue.

This means that biblical orthodoxy has lost the war. To make the Canons clearly biblical, the ACoC will have to change the Canons to add something to the effect that they reject same-sex marriage as biblical and that this is a first-order issue. This is not possible.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Walter Isaacson–Should the Rich Be Allowed to Buy the Best Genes?

The French Quarter, where we live [in New Orleans], is hopping that weekend. There is a naked bicycle race that is intended (oddly enough) to promote traffic safety. There is one of many parades and second lines to celebrate the life of Mac Rebennack Jr., the funk musician known as Dr. John. There is also the gay-pride parade and related block parties. And coexisting quite happily is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, featuring truck farmers and cooks showing off the many varieties of succulent non-genetically modified local tomatoes.

From my balcony, I marvel at the diversity of the passing humanity. There are people short and tall, gay and straight and trans, fat and skinny, light and dark, and even a few wearing Gallaudet University T-shirts excitedly using sign language. The supposed promise of CRISPR is that we may someday be able to pick which of these traits we want in our children and in all of our descendants. We could choose for them to be tall and muscular and blond and blue-eyed and not deaf and not … well, pick your preferences.

As I survey the delightful pageant with all of its natural variety, I ponder how this promise of CRISPR might also be its peril, up there with the encoding of unequal opportunities. It took the laws of nature and of nature’s God more than 3.2 billion years to weave together three billion bases of DNA in a complex and occasionally imperfect way to permit all of the wondrous diversity within our species. Are we right to think we can now come along and, within a few decades, edit that genome to eliminate what we see as imperfections? Will we lose our diversity? Will we become less flavorful, like our tomatoes? Will that be good for our species?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(CLJ) Adrian Vermeule–All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological

First consider a pair of puzzles from the crucial period 2014-16 in American politics, when the tempo of liberalism’s sacramental celebrations increased sharply. In both cases, the puzzle is that political incumbents in a liberal regime—executive actors in one case, litigation groups and judicial actors in another—took actions that were flagrantly ill-advised from the standpoint of the ragion di stato, revealing deeper sacramental commitments and impulses.

The first was the Obama administration’s relentless attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to either fund abortifacient contraceptives or, at least, to take action to pass the responsibility elsewhere. Commentators at the time criticized the seemingly inexplicable stupidity of the administration’s approach, which created a highly salient example of repressive regulatory secular liberalism and thus radically antagonized Christian conservatives, who proceeded to vote for Trump in large numbers. It is plausible to think that the voting pattern was partly caused bythe example, although, in the nature of the case, it is extremely difficult to establish such things one way or the other.

But this criticism, while entirely valid from a ragion di stato perspective, does not quite reach the root of the matter, at least if we understand the inner dynamics of sacramental liberalism. The very point of the administration’s conduct, on my view, was not (or not only) to force one smallish order of nuns to provide contraceptives—indeed, the very fact the administration offered a “voluntary” opt-out underscores that the real objective lay elsewhere. Rather, the objective was ceremonial—to force the nuns to acknowledge publicly the liberal state’s just authority, even in matters of religion, the authority to require either provision or the exercise of an opt-out, as the state saw fit. The main point was to stage a public, sacramental celebration of the justice of liberal power and of the overcoming of reactionary opposition.

Another example involves the puzzle of Obergefell[26]including the administration’s rather chilling representation at oral argument in the Supreme Court that institutions not supportive of same-sex marriage might have to lose their tax exemptions as contrary to “public policy,” as did racist institutions like Bob Jones University.[27] The puzzle is not only why the administration would make such an inflammatory threat, but also why such a judicial decision was necessary at all, when the tide of politics was running in favor of same-sex marriage anyway. Simple nonintervention, by means of any of the standard techniques available to the liberal Justices,[28] would have attained the same policy ends with far less political conflict. As far as instrumental political rationality went, all that was necessary was to do nothing.

But a conspicuous conflict with the settled mores of millennia was, of course, the point. It was right and just to have same-sex marriage not merely embodied in law, but declared a requirement of fundamental justice, coupled with a conspicuous defeat of the forces of reaction.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(NR) David French–‘The Next Big Religious Freedom Case Just Landed at SCOTUS’

Those are the first words in a tweet thread from Becket attorney Lori Windham, and she’s right. This week Becket filed a cert petition in Sharonell Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Fulton is appealing from a Third Circuit Court of Appeals opinion holding that Philadelphia did not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment when it took punitive actions against Catholic Social Services because, in the words of the cert petition, “as a Catholic agency, CSS cannot provide written endorsements for same-sex couples which contradict its religious teachings on marriage.” Philadelphia took this action in spite of the fact that “CSS’s beliefs about marriage haven’t prevented anyone from fostering. ” As Becket explains:

Philadelphia has a diverse array of foster agencies, and not a single same-sex couple approached CSS about becoming a foster parent between its opening in 1917 and the start of this case in 2018. Despite this history, after learning through a newspaper article that CSS wouldn’t perform home studies for same-sex couples if asked, the City stopped allowing foster children to be placed with any family endorsed by CSS. This means that even though no same-sex couples had asked to work with the Catholic Church, the foster families that actually chose to work with the Church cannot welcome new children into their homes at a time when Philadelphia has an admittedly “urgent” need for more foster parents.

As is the case with multiple modern religious liberty cases, the issue isn’t whether LGBT individuals are excluded from the relevant market, industry, or program but whether the state may use its power to enforce ideological and religious conformity. Just as a ruling for Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop meant that customers could still get their cakes, and Christians could still retain their rights of conscience, a ruling for CSS here would mean that LGBT families could still foster, and Catholics would be able to uphold church teaching.

Moreover, the facts of the case demonstrate that Philadelphia’s intolerance doesn’t just harm the Catholic Church, it harms the very people the foster program is designed to help.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(Church Times) Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to persuade bishop ‘to take a less active role’ in claimant’s pastoral care

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to pressure a bishop to withdraw pastoral support from a survivor of abuse because it might prejudice a claim, redacted documents seen by the Church Times suggest.

The survivor, Julian Whiting, alleges that he was abused by a pupil and two housemasters of the Blue Coat School in Birmingham. Neither adult was a cleric. Several years later, in 2012, Mr Whiting approached the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is President of Blue Coat, for pastoral help.

In a letter to a redacted recipient dated April 2013, the casualty-claims employee for EIG in Manchester states: “I feel we may need you to help persuade the Bishop of Birmingham to take a less active role in his pastoral care of a claimant which we feel could have a knock-on effect to the current outstanding abuse claims we have for a Julian Whiting.”

He then says of the Blue Coat allegation: “Importantly, he [Julian Whiting] has never pursued a formal claim. There has been a lot of email traffic, but the position is that until the claimant properly formulates the claim, we have rightly shown little interest in the matter.

“What has recently complicated matters is that the Bishop of Birmingham in his role as Blue Coats [sic] School President has met with Whiting to hear his story. Whilst I fully understand the position taken that there is a pastoral care aspect here, my concern is that a continued dialogue with the Bishop and Whiting could prejudice the positioning we have taken in respect of the two claims.” (Mr Whiting was also pursuing a claim that, in 2009, he was groped by a church employee at a social event at Lambeth Palace.)

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

South Carolina Circuit Court Hears Arguments on Betterments Statute and Orders Mediation

From there:

St. Matthews, S.C. (July 23, 2019) – Immediately on the heels of The South Carolina Supreme Court on June 28,  denying the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus submitted by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), Judge Edgar W. Dickson promptly resumed proceedings on the related legal matters.  The hearing on the Betterments Statute issues, which had been cancelled in March when the petition for Mandamus was filed, was held today in the Calhoun County Courthouse in St. Matthews, SC.

The Betterments Statute, under South Carolina law, provides the means for a party making good faith improvements to property they believe they own, to be compensated for the value of those improvements, if a court makes a final determination that another party is the true owner.   Many of the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina can trace their unbroken history back to the colonial era of the state. During that entire time, there has never been any question of their unencumbered title to property or legal identity.  All have proceeded throughout their history with the maintenance and improvement of their properties with these assumptions.

The motion previously filed by TECSC asked for the dismissal of the case, primarily on the basis that it had not been filed in a timely fashion and that they were not actually taking ownership of the churches but merely exercising their trust interest in the property. The Diocese maintained that the court needed to decide which, if any, of the 29 parishes agreed (acceded) to the Dennis Canon before it could decide whether this case should proceed. As to the eight parishes that TEC and TECSC concede did not agree to the Dennis Canon, Judge Dickson asked Diocesan counsel to submit proposed orders making the finding that those parishes did not accede to the Denis Canon.

The five separate opinions that constitute the Supreme Court decision resulted in a fractured ruling whose interpretation is currently under consideration by Judge Dickson.  The effort to force a particular interpretation of that decision was the essential purpose of the recent Petition for Mandamus filed by TEC and TECSC which was denied by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2019.

Judge Dickson took the motion to dismiss the Betterments case under advisement. He also ordered the parties to mediate all the issues raised in the two state lawsuits referencing the relatively recent Supreme Court order which requires mandatory mediation in civil cases.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Christian Today) No-deal Brexit would be ‘irresponsible’, Church leaders warn

Church leaders have written to Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider his “deal or no deal” approach to Brexit.

Mr Johnson has an uphill struggle ahead of him to negotiate a new Brexit deal – despite the EU already saying there are no concessions to be made – and promised in his victory speech on Tuesday to “get Brexit done” by the October 31 deadline.

“We are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on Oct. 31 and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of can do,” he said, after securing the Tory leadership and 10 Downing Street in a ballot of party members.

In an open letter to Johnson on Wednesday, Church leaders from several denominations said they felt “compelled” to challenge the very real possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU in a no-deal Brexit.

The letter warns that failing to agree a Brexit deal with the EU will “hit those held back by poverty very hard indeed”.

Read it all and make sure to read the full text of the letter.

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

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Young adults get sequence of sex and marriage wrong

These debates happen all the time, and pastors know that many young people in their pews have made their own compromises between centuries of doctrine and premarital sex, said sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

“What’s striking about what we see here is how naive so many young people are about life and love and marriage,” said Wilcox, referring to “The Bachelorette” clash. “They don’t seem to understand how important it is to develop self-control as they try to move seriously into emotional, physical and spiritual relationships. …

“So many young people don’t realize that what the pop culture is selling them is not conducive to a good relationship, based on what we know from the social sciences.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Church Society) Lee Gatiss–What is Spiritual Abuse?

The Church of England has some very helpful online resources for safeguarding. They even have some courses that can be taken by anyone involved in church at their Safeguarding Portal, and you can get “badges” and certificates to prove you’ve passed the course if that is of use in your context. I got a couple of foundational certificates and also did two very helpful and informative training courses on modern slavery and human trafficking, while looking into this recently.

Whilst checking out some of these very well-presented resources, I was struck by the definition given of “spiritual abuse” — something which has sadly become topical of late, and something which many of us are now wrestling with, and trying to understand or come to terms with. It starts by admitting that unlike physical abuse, sexual abuse, or modern slavery for example, “spiritual abuse” is not a category of abuse recognised in statutory guidance. It is a matter for great concern, however, both within and outside faith communities, including the Church of England. It was, for example, discussed and defined in Protecting All God’s Children (2010), a Church of England document which can be found online here. There it is said that:

“Within faith communities, harm can also be caused by the inappropriate use of religious belief or practice. This can include the misuse of the authority of leadership or penitential discipline, oppressive teaching, or intrusive healing and deliverance ministries. Any of these could result in children experiencing physical, emotional or sexual harm. If such inappropriate behaviour becomes harmful, it should be referred for investigation in co-operation with the appropriate statutory agencies. Careful teaching, supervision and mentoring of those entrusted with the pastoral care of children should help to prevent harm occurring in this way. Other forms of spiritual harm include the denial to children of the right to faith or the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and love of God.”

This I think was the working definition in the case of the Revd Tim Davis who, it was reported in 2018, subjected a 15 year old boy to intense prayer and Bible sessions in his bedroom. The teenager described the mentoring he received as “awful” and all-consuming, but never felt able to challenge the minister. Davis was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk of holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

Sam Wells–Citizens of Heaven: Identity, Inclusion and the Church

I suggest second, that such an argument as this is won by the side that tells the more compelling story. It’s no use to protest that treatment of certain identities has been unjust, unfair, heartless, cruel and sometimes criminal and worse. This is true, but it has the truth of lament rather than of aspiration. It leads to authorities and those of diverging convictions making grudging acknowledgements, procedural claims and evasive promises. It seldom changes hearts and minds;on the contrary it often wearies and antagonises, as the phrase ‘Are you calling me a bigot?’ illustrates. I told the story of the dementia and faith evening because it’s one of the most inspiring and amazing things I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of involvement with the church, and I want to make the case that these are the epiphanies you open yourself up to if you recognise that God is giving the church everything it needs but the church too often finds itself unable to receive that abundance. You just have to open your heart and transform your habits and you will find such miracles a regular occurrence. This is what I mean by a more compelling story.

And I suggest, third, as a combination of the first two points, that there’s an important role for personal narrative, the sharing of the pain of exclusion, the grief of talents wasted, identity scorned, gifts neglected and hurts endured. There’s a place for feelings of injustice, calling-to-account for thoughtless, prejudiced and inhuman remarks and actions, protests against inexcusable disrespect, wilful ignorance, wrongheaded doctrine and distorted exegesis, and campaigns for changing language, liturgy, rules and conventions. But in the end this has to be not so much about me and my need to be noticed, appreciated, valued and cherished, as about the church’s need to have a full and joyful understanding of God. The secular discourse of rights, justice and identity can be a good companion to Christians and can help clarify terminology and disentangle hurt from harm, difference from wrong. But it has no capacity for depicting a genuinely shared, glorious and worshipful future that we don’t achieve but God brings us as a gift. In the kingdom there can’t in the end be freedom for one that’s not freedom for all. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ The most convincing argument the inclusive movement has in the face of contrary views has to be, ‘My understanding of God has room for you; but your understanding of God doesn’t seem to have room for me.’ Such a view can go on to say, ‘Isn’t the tragedy of our human life that so much of the time we don’t have room for God; but yet the gift of the gospel is that, however difficult we make it and however reluctant we are, somehow God always has room for us.’

One day, we’ll look back on this debate in the church and realise that this was the moment when we truly discovered what lay in store for us in the kingdom of God, and how we had the precious invitation in the power of the Spirit to model that beloved community now. One day we’ll realise that this was the moment we finally recognised our calling as the church was to imitate the glorious breadth of the heart of God. One day we’ll appreciate that this was when our limited understanding was made to be swept up by the joy of God’s boundless imagination. May that day soon come.

Read it all.

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

(EF) Gideon Para-Mallam–An existential threat to Christianity in Nigeria? Systemic persecution and its implications

Terrorism as we know it today in West Africa thrives on religion, ignorance, and social disaffection. Christians in Nigeria are being killed with targeted precision, posing an existential threat to the church.

The virtual abandonment of missions and evangelism in some affected areas represents a clear danger. To succeed in the fight against terrorism, the youth across the religious and ethnic divide need to be united in working proactively to address this existential challenge. We cannot wait for governments to end the cycle of violence in our communities and nations.

We each have a role to play. Jesus has motivated and inspired me in the role I am playing: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God’ (Matt 5:9). Thankfully, the church’s hope in Nigeria remains firmly rooted in the God who promised: ‘I will not leave nor forsake you’ (Heb 13:5).

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(Guardian) John Marsden on the ‘toxic’ parenting pandemic: ‘I’ve never seen this level of anxiety’

[John] Marsden says that this contemporary crop of teenagers is outperforming generations past in terms of academic achievement, political engagement and so on – but he is fearful about their emotional health, borne out by statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues among the young.

“The scale of the problem is massive. The issue of emotional damage is pandemic,” he tells the Guardian. “The level of anxiety is something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t know how it can be improved.”

Marsden says that much of the anxiety among parents and children springs from concern that the world is a dangerous place, with traditional “safe” authority figures no longer to be trusted. That, coupled with an infantilisation of children as pure, helpless creatures, leads parents to cosset and fret over their offspring, and demand much of the same from educational institutions.

“Part of that is a fear, in particular, of physical injury,” he says. “Of course, all reasonable parents are concerned about physical injury to a child, but if that overrides everything else then what you have instead is a kind of slow death by emotional damage which is so awful to witness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Books, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(NYT) Tennessee Says Internet-Ordained Ministers and Marriage Don’t Mix

State Representative Ron Travis, a Republican, said it was impossible to determine online whether a person had the “care of souls,” as the law states.

“Just because you pay $50 and get a certificate doesn’t mean you’re an ordained minister,” Mr. Travis said, according to WATE-TV.

The opposition in Tennessee reflects a clash with a growing trend in the United States to privatize marriage and personalize weddings by distancing them from the state or established religions.

Ministers ordained online can officiate at weddings in 48 states, with the exception of Virginia and some parts of Pennsylvania, according to the Universal Life Church Monastery, which says it has ordained more than 20 million ministers nationwide. But rules can vary by county, as in New York State.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, State Government

(Sunday [London] Times) Gambling, Africa’s new child plague

British betting companies and football clubs are “luring” hundreds of thousands of African children into an illegal gambling craze that Kenya’s government says is “destroying” their lives.

Using techniques banned in the UK, the companies appeal to youngsters by using cartoon characters and free branded merchandise. At a British company’s betting shops in the Nairobi slums, The Sunday Times witnessed children as young as 14 gambling freely, in breach of Kenyan law.

Tracey Crouch, who resigned as sports minister in protest at the government’s lack of action over gambling, said she was “deeply concerned” at the revelations, adding: “It is reminiscent of the way that tobacco companies are seeking new markets among young people in Africa.”

Top English football clubs, which have millions of fans in Africa, are closely involved in the promotional efforts. Arsenal sent its former star, Sol Campbell, to Nairobi for children’s coaching sessions with SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company that is its African sponsor. Hull City players went to a Nairobi shanty town, where they handed out SportPesa-branded wristbands and football strips to schoolchildren.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Africa, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Sports

(RNS) Faith groups fear the end of refugee resettlement in the U.S.

Faith-based groups that help the U.S. government resettle refugees fear the future of their work is in jeopardy, after learning that the Trump administration is considering shutting down refugee resettlement for the coming fiscal year.

That move, advocates say, would dismantle an already weakened — and largely religious — refugee resettlement infrastructure dedicated to helping immigrants.

On Thursday (July 18), Politico reported that Trump administration officials are mulling the option of setting the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to zero.

The shift could devastate the refugee resettlement program, which is largely operated by religious groups: Of the nine non-profit organizations that currently partner with the federal government to resettle refugees, six are faith-based.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(FT) It has been a good week for climate change policy–Economists’ innovative ideas are quickly moving from radical to mainstream

What is most significant about this work is that both councils now explicitly endorse two rather radical ideas (even if sometimes as one option among several), and that they do so in order to take seriously the political economy of climate change policy. In other words, they have set themselves the task of designing good economic policy in a way that makes it politically acceptable nationally and politically effective globally.

The first proposal — clearly in response to the political trauma of the gilets jaunes protests in France — is that any revenues from carbon taxes should be returned to the private sector rather than enter the government budget to be used for other purposes. The French CAE has developed a concrete and costed proposal for direct cash distribution of carbon tax revenue, in the form of regular “carbon cheques” to households. Its preferred version, where the carbon tax varies with household income and between cities and the countryside, can make virtually below-median-income households better off…

Second, both groups have also raised the possibility of linking trade openness to trading partners’ efforts to combat climate change. The German report explicitly envisages a “carbon border adjustment”. This would be a tax on the CO2 content of imported goods. The joint statement lists a number of alternative trade tools to use against countries with only weak regulation of carbon emissions, or to incentivise those trading partners with strong climate commitments to stick to them.

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Stewardship

(Church Times) C of E to back up government guidance on LGBT lessons

The Church of England is to provide support for its schools to help them deliver new relationship education required by the Government by next year, including teaching on LGBT relationships and families.

The new government guidance on Relationship and Sex Education for primary-age children comes into force in September 2020, although some schools are beginning it earlier.

A course in one school, Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, sparked weeks of angry protests from mainly Muslim parents at the school gate.

The Government’s counter-extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, criticised the Department for Education in a BBC Panorama investigation this week for its lack of support for the school, and for the assistant head teacher, Andrew Moffatt, who devised the school’s programme, “No Outsiders”.

A Church House spokesman said this week that it was considering how best to support Church schools in delivering the new relationships education.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(The Stream) David Mills–The Bible’s Most Politically Incorrect Teaching (You Won’t Like It)

I’d suggest one, at least for Americans and Europeans. It’s Matthew 25:31-46. You’ll remember the passage. Jesus tells the people about the judgment to come. The king says to some: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Why them? He says: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” When did we do that? they ask. The King tells them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Some did not do that for the least of these. The king tells them: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Why did I choose this passage? Because few of us like this idea. As a lovely ideal, yes, but not as a truth to be lived. We don’t want so radical a change in what we do with our stuff. And not just our stuff, but our time, our energies, our space, our company, our affections even.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Jane Robbins–Are There Cracks in the Edifice of Transgender Ideology?

yet these descriptions—cult, social contagion, ideology—fail to capture the uniqueness and enormity of what is happening with the transgender movement. Past and current cults have seduced their victims into losing all sense of reality and embracing bizarre and dangerous beliefs; social contagions and mass crazes have affected large groups of seemingly intelligent individuals; ideologies have taken hold that have altered societies and cost lives. But now we are facing something different.

Previous cultish or similar social phenomena have generally been limited to some degree by time, space, or eventual return of the senses. But Western civilization is now gripped by a cultural cyclone that is blowing through such limitations with totalitarian force. Transgenderism has shaken the foundations of all we know to be true. Scientific knowledge is rejected and medical practice co-opted in service of a new “reality”—that “gender” is independent of sex, that males and females of any age, even young children, are entitled to their own transgender self-identification based only on their feelings, and that literally every individual and every segment of society must bow to their chosen identity at risk of losing reputation, livelihood, and even freedom itself.

Remarkably, this revolution is happening without any credible scientific evidence to support it. The concept of changing one’s biological sex is, of course, nonsense, as sex is determined by unalterable chromosomes. An individual can change his hormone levels and undergo surgery to better imitate the opposite sex, but a male on the day of his conception will remain a male on the day of his death. And as discussed below, the idea that there is a real personal trait called “gender” that challenges or invalidates the identity significance of biological sex is equally fallacious. But the absence of genuine evidence is simply ignored, and faux “evidence” is created to validate the mania.

So far. But there are signs of cracks in the grand edifice of transgenderism. As Dr. Malcolm warned in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So does reality. At some point it will reassert itself, and we will ask how this ever could have happened.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology