Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

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.

Read it all.

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

(Yahoo News UK) Jonathan Chaplin–The Church of England needs to speak out about Brexit – here’s why

Central to the Church of England’s understanding of itself as the established church is its vocation to be a “church of the nation” – a public institution ready to bring a theological voice to the national debates of the day. The trauma of Brexit confronts the four nations of the United Kingdom in different ways but – given the centrality to the debate of a resurgent English nationalism – it is most painful for England, which is where the Church of England’s mission is primarily directed.

Since 2016, several individual bishops, some in their capacity as “Lords Spiritual” have sought to contribute to this debate, often with balance and insight. Yet – unlike both the (Anglican) Scottish Episcopal Church and the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland – the Church of England has so far been unable to bring any authoritative collective voice to the national conversation.

No debate on Brexit has taken place in General Synod (the Church of England’s governing body), either before or since the 2016 referendum. While the House of Bishops was able in 2015 to produce an unusually substantial statement before the general election – Who is my Neighbour? – it has so far delivered no formal public statement on Brexit at all.

One obvious explanation for this official silence suggests itself. A referendum exit poll conducted by Greg Smith and Linda Woodhead revealed that English Anglicans are as divided on Brexit as the general population, with 66% reportedly having voted Leave. Since almost all bishops were Remainers, a collective intervention on Brexit could have proved incendiary.

But this cannot be a sufficient account of the church’s institutional reticence. The Church of England has at times been prepared to risk significant controversy in its public interventions. Acrimonious divisions among Anglicans did not prevent the leadership defending its traditional but highly controversial stance against same-sex marriage in 2013.

Read it all.

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

Bishops’ intervention set to extend gambling protections across the UK

Gambling rules in Northern Ireland could be brought into line with tighter standards in the rest of the UK following an intervention by the Church of England.

An amendment tabled in the House of Lords by the Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, opening the way for possible alignment in gambling regulation between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain has been accepted by the Government.

The amendment adds gambling legislation to a number of areas on which the Government would be required to produce a report by September as part of moves to restore the devolved executive in Northern Ireland.

The Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, who spoke to the amendment in the House of Lords, told peers that the current inconsistency meant that reforms introduced in mainland Britain – such as the cap on the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) – do not apply in Northern Ireland.

“The anomalies and confusions abound,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Politics in General

(Law & Religion UK) Russell Sandberg–Religion and Civil Partnerships: The Next Steps in a Turbulent Saga

The third and fourth proposed changes therefore smack of overkill, especially since the role of religious groups in civil partnerships is different from that in relation to marriage. Indeed, paragraph 40 of the ‘Next Steps’ paper states that ‘as there is no Canon law of the Church of England or Church in Wales that would be affected by the civil partnership changes, there is no need for any protections relating to that law’. This misses the point a little. It is not a question of there not being any religious law on the matter or indeed any religious law which is part of the law of the land on the matter. The issue is that it is not a commonly recognised legal right to have civil partnerships solemnised in these two churches (as it is for marriages). On the surface, this creates the seemingly odd situation where there is a legal prohibition of the solemnisation of same sex marriage in these two Anglican churches but no such prohibition on civil partnerships. However, this anomaly is explained by the assumed legal duty upon these churches to solemnise marriages. This does mean that the Anglican churches may find themselves lobbied to conduct civil partnerships.

This all means that the protections proposed will afford religious organisations similar protection for conducting civil partnerships as they have for religious marriage, except in the case of the Anglican churches which will have no special treatment in relation to civil partnerships. The intention is clearly for these provisions to apply to opposite and same sex civil partnerships. That means that the religious protections concerning same sex civil partnerships will increase. Yet, no suggestion is made, let alone no evidence given, to suggest that the current protections in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 are inadequate. Rather, the cause of the change seems to be a lack of clarity about the different roles that religious groups play in relation to civil partnerships rather than marriage. This means that a familiar but an overly cautious ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach is yet again being taken.

The ‘Religious Protections’ chapter concludes by recognising the judgment in Ladele v London Borough of Islington [2009] EWCA (Civ) 1357 stating that ‘these protections will not apply to civil partnership registrars. They perform a secular function’ (para 41). It further clarifies that ‘a handful of religious ministers are also designated as civil partnership registrars, and when they are performing this secular function they will not be able to refuse on faith or belief grounds’. This perpetuates a distinction between a religious ceremony and a civil legal act of registration. It may well be time to refashion outmoded marriage laws in order to insist upon such a neat distinction there.

Indeed, although there is nothing fundamentally unsound in the ‘Religious Protections’ section, it does include a number of confusions and inconsistencies that will be perpetuated if these next steps are taken. There seems to be a lack of clarity as to the role that religious groups have in civil partnerships rather than marriage. This has meant that the same sex marriage provisions are now being replicated rather than the same sex civil partnership provisions without any explanation or justification. Harmonisation of the laws on adult relationships is badly needed. The current law on marriage distinguishes between different religions and indeed gives special treatment to places of religious worship. Calls for humanist ceremonies to be legally recognised and concerns about unregistered Islamic marriages show that the current law is not fit for purpose. As Sharon Thompson and I argue, there is a pressing need for comprehensive reform of adult relationships, particularly the formalities required and cohabitation rights. As I have noted elsewhere, the recent announcement of a review of the Law Commission into weddings law is welcome but the varied and various piecemeal reforms underscore the need for a comprehensive harmonisation and reform programme.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Sky News) Man who gave birth loses anonymity in his bid to be registered as father on birth certificate

Mr [Freddy] McConnell has lived as a man for a number of years and was undergoing a number of treatments, but stopped taking testosterone as he wished to get pregnant.

He transitioned from female to male and was legally recognised as a man before giving birth to his child in 2018. Despite this, when he went to register the birth, the registrar said he could only be registered as the mother.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Sexuality, Women

(CT) An interview with Jeremy Everett–A New Recipe for Ending Hunger

What are the main reasons that hunger exists in America?

Underemployment is the biggest factor. If you’re employed but only making minimum wage, there’s no place in America where you’ll be able to pay for all your expenses. And underemployment is chronic, meaning that typically families have experienced some measure of unemployment for generations.

Educational attainment is another major factor. Beyond a high school diploma, in most cases you need an additional two-year degree or a technical degree to escape hunger and poverty. But if you’re living in hunger and poverty, you’re much less likely to get the education you need.

A third factor is family structure. Common sense—and simple math—says that two gainfully employed adults are going to be better than one. My wife and I have three kids. We both have graduate degrees, we are Anglo, and we grew up in middle-class households. We’ve had every advantage that anyone could have, outside of inheriting large sums of money. But despite all these advantages, raising kids was still difficult, and it’s difficult to pay the bills. Imagine being a single parent trying to work, take care of your kids, and make sure everybody gets to school on time and gets fed on a regular basis. You have to be superhuman to pull that off while getting an additional degree.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Theology

(CBC) Anglican Church in Ottawa to continue performing same-sex marriages

[Bishop John] Chapman said he’s had conversations with other bishops who oppose same-sex marriage.

“It’s awkward,” he said. “It’s the kind of conversation with people who are entrenched in a particular point of view, and it goes as far as these conversations typically go.”

Chapman said he’s concerned the headlines stemming from Friday’s vote will give Canadians the wrong idea about the church.

“Morally, legally and emotionally, 85 per cent of the leadership of the church that gathered in Vancouver in the last week is affirming,” he said.

Read it all.

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

(FT) Emma Howard Boyd–Climate change: is your equities portfolio too hot to touch?

Understanding green finance can be challenging, add in the prolix greenwash that pours on to the internet every day and no wonder many people decide it is all too difficult.

But it isn’t. The Committee on Climate Change’s recent reports showed that the world urgently needs to reduce emissions and take action to prepare for physical impacts that will get worse in just 11 years.

To prosper in this new reality, investors have to focus on whether their investments address these two basic points. That is green finance in a nutshell.

Helping investors obtain good information to do that is why the Environment Agency Pension Fund and the Church of England National Investing Bodies set up the Transition Pathway Initiative in January 2017.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

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

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

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

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

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

(PRC) How religious restrictions around the world have changed over a decade

Pew Research Center just published its 10th annual report analyzing restrictions on religion (by both governments and individuals or groups in society) around the world. This year’s report differs from past reports because it focuses on changes that have occurred over the course of a decade, covering 2007 to 2017, rather than emphasizing year-to-year variations. Another new approach this year involves splitting each of two broad types of religious restrictions – government restrictions and social hostilities – into four subcategories. This provides a clearer picture of the specific types of religious restrictions that people face – and how they are changing over time.

Here are key findings from the report:

1Government restrictions on religion have increased globally between 2007 and 2017 in all four categories studied: favoritism of religious groups, general laws and policies restricting religious freedom, harassment of religious groups, and limits on religious activity. The most common types of restrictions globally have consistently been the first two. Governments often enshrine favoritism toward a certain religious group or groups in their constitutions or basic laws. And general laws and policies restricting religious freedom can cover a wide range of restrictions, including a requirement that religious groups register in order to operate. But one of the more striking increases involved the category of government limits on religious activities, which can include limits or requirements on religious dress. The global mean score in this category rose by about 44% between 2007 and 2017.

2Social hostilities involving religion have increased in a few categories, but levels of interreligious tension and violence, also known as sectarian or communal violence, have declined globally. In 2007, 91 countries experienced some level of violence due to tensions between religious groups, such as conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India, but by 2017 that number dropped to 57 countries. However, harassment by individuals and social groups, religious violence by organized groups, and hostilities related to religious norms (for example, harassment of women for violating dress codes) have all been on the rise.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Clergy Care Covenant divides Church of England General Synod

Speaking during the debate, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, spoke about the covenant’s potential impact on clergy terms of service.

“The proposals in here do suggest that you would have to amend the Terms of Service Measure.

“When the ordinal, which is what we signed up to, is replaced by role descriptions, when capability becomes micro-management, and when licensing services become places where we spell out all the things we are going to do for our clergy, then worry, because our most litigious clergy, and there are a minority of them, will say, ‘At my licensing service you promised to do this so I’m taking you to an employment tribunal’. “I don’t think the covenant will help us, I think the covenant is actually a bad mechanism is order to build good practice.

“If we must do it, we must do it, but I think there’s a worry… moving away from common tenure and moving towards employment and contract culture.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, Theology

A Message From the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada to General Synod 2019

Found here:

We, members of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, see the pain and anguish inflicted on LGBTQ2S+ people, on members of the General Synod, across the Church, and in the world, as a result of the work and the vote on the matter of Canon 21, concerning marriage. We see your tears, we hear your cries, and we weep with you. We have caused deep hurt. We are profoundly sorry.

Although the bishops are not of one mind, we look with hope to the “Word to the Church” and its affirmations which General Synod 2019 overwhelmingly approved on Friday, July 12.

We are walking together in a way which leaves room for individual dioceses and jurisdictions of our church to proceed with same-sex marriage according to their contexts and convictions, sometimes described as “local option.”

Together, we affirm the inherent right of Indigenous peoples and communities to spiritual self-determination in their discernment and decisions in all matters.

Although we as bishops are not able to agree, in the name of Jesus Christ, we commit to conduct ourselves “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

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

(NYT) Pastor’s Exit Exposes Cultural Rifts at a Leading liberal Parish–NYC’s Riverside Church

Dr. Butler’s supporters said she lost her job because she had spoken out about sexual harassment and she had complained in particular about an incident in which a former member of the church’s governing council left a bottle of wine and a T-shirt on her desk, both with labels that read “Sweet Bitch.”

They said she had pursued better treatment for women and minorities, with the aim of fixing a difficult environment that had led some church employees to complain and even quit. Her persistence strained an increasingly fractured relationship between her and the church’s lay leaders, her supporters said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that sexism played a role,” said the Rev. Kevin Wright, who had been recruited by Dr. Butler in 2015 and served as executive minister for programs before leaving last year. “I don’t understand how anyone could think anything different.”

But her opponents said her dismissal was being misconstrued, and pointed to the governing council’s significant misgivings about changes she made to the church staff and programming and spending priorities. Her philosophy and leadership style, they said, collided with a church whose culture remained deeply traditional, despite its politics.

They cited an episode that occurred in May as the final straw.

Dr. Butler was traveling to a conference in Minneapolis with two church employees and a congregant when she brought them to a sex shop during a break, according to two people affiliated with the church.

Read it all and please note there are three stories about this in the New York Post who first broke the story.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues