Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

(Scott Sauls) The Nashville Statement, the Airing of Differences, and the State of the PCA

We all must become “double majors”

Based on various factors such as wiring and experience and personal bias and the theological tribes we run with, some of us are prone to “major” in doctrinal precision and “minor” in pastoral tone. Likewise, others of us major and minor in the same things, but in the reverse.

Our shared task, as iron sharpens iron, is for all of us to become double-majors who are equally filled with truth and grace, with law and love, with repentance and kindness, with mortification and compassion, with moral clarity and discernible empathy…just as our Lord Jesus was.

“It is enough,” our King has told us, “for the servants to be like their Master.”

There is good reason to be encouraged

As part of the PCA’s 40% minority, I don’t think the Nashville Statement is the ideal Statement for us (see video link above). However, I am still more encouraged coming out of our Assembly than I am discouraged. In some ways, I am more optimistic about the PCA’s future than I’ve ever been. I believe that we are, warts and all, still one of the healthiest denominations in the world.

Why do I believe this? First, each and every one of us maintains a high view of Scripture. Second, we all want to shepherd and serve, faithfully and lovingly, those who are impacted by sexual sin and brokenness. Third, while some of us are talking past each other, the majority of us are talking to each other.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of York’s Presidential Address to General Synod July 2019

In his address to this General Synod in November 2010, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams asked this question:

How can people who read the same Bible and share the same baptism come to strongly diverse conclusions about human sexuality?

Having discussed the issue of the ordination of women, he turns to the issue of same-sex unions:

The other issue, still bitterly divisive in the Communion, is that of our approach to same-sex unions. It is inevitable that, whether in open debate or in general discussion, this will be around during the lifetime of this Synod. I shall make only a brief comment here, having said a fair amount on the subject this time last year and in other settings. And it is that this has become a cardinal example of how we avoid theological debate. The need for some thoughtful engagement that will help us understand how people who read the same Bible and share the same baptism can come to strongly diverse conclusions is getting more urgent, because I sense that in the last few years the debate on sexuality has not really moved much. It is unthinkingly treated by some as almost the sole test of biblical fidelity or doctrinal orthodoxy; it is unthinkingly regarded by others as one of those matters on which the Church must be brought inexorably into line with what our culture can make sense of. Neither side always has the opportunity of clarifying how they see the focal theological issues – how one or the other position relates to our belief in a divine Saviour. And if we are not to be purely tribal about this, we need the chance for some sort of discussion that is not dominated by the need to make an instant decision or to react to developments and pressures elsewhere. [1]

Nine years later there has been little, if any, progress in answering it. In this Presidential Address I will offer some pointers towards an answer to Dr Rowan Williams’ question.

It has been said rightly that the church often has to wrestle painfully with issues that public opinion is prepared not to wrestle with, because public opinion can jump from one conviction to the opposite, and back again, without caring very much about consistency or fairness. Our disagreements can be a positive test of our faith – an opportunity to model difficult discussions that ought to be going on everywhere, but are not. But we cannot do that, if we cannot draw on the resources of faith, God’s word and God’s work.

The kind of disagreement we have is exactly the kind of disagreement one would expect to find in a church where the old habits of reading the Bible consistently and thoroughly, as part of a liturgical pattern or a pattern of private devotion, had broken down. The expectations we have of Biblical literacy – not only of laity but of clergy too – would strike most earlier generations of Christians as sadly low.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Bekah McNeel reviews Karen Gonzalez ‘s new book ‘The God Who Sees’

González herself is an immigrant, from Guatemala, and she calls on that personal testimony to give a firsthand account of the fears, insecurities, and elations of the immigration process. She recalls finding dead bodies on the walk home from school, feeling lost as a non-English speaker in her first US church, and the difficult decision to leave her family home to attend college after the death of her mother.

The biographical portions of González’s story are broken up into thematic chapters following the sacraments of the Catholic church, a faith expression to which she feels some affinity, though she herself is Protestant and her parents were only nominally Catholic at most. The approach is reminiscent of Lauren Winner’s Mudhouse Sabbath, which does the same with Jewish traditions, pointing out their enduring relevance for Winner’s Christian faith.

Alongside her own story, González examines the lives of other “foreigners” in the Bible: Ruth, Abraham, Hagar, Joseph, the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24–30), and the Holy Family. She draws parallels between these vulnerable people and the asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants US residents encounter in their communities. In looking at these figures in light of their displaced situation, González reminds the reader that upheaval and vulnerability are common to the people of God, and they offer opportunities for God to demonstrate his nature, his concern for them.

It is Hagar, the despised servant of Sarai and mother of Ishmael, who calls Yahweh “El Roi,” or, “the God who sees.” Again and again in the book, we realize that being misunderstood and unknown is at the core of the immigrant experience, giving immigrants a special appreciation for what it means to be seen and known.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Law and Religion UK) David Pocklington, “IICSA: Some more legal views: Comments on the seal of the confessional”

  • In summing up the approach of the Anglican Church In Australia, Dr Bursell said that he would not advocate the Australian model “I think it is too complicated and I think that it leaves far too much to the individual who finds other reasons for not reporting, which is why I think that there should be a mandatory reporting, if the priest or anybody knows — has knowledge of or has reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse. Now, immediately one says “reasonable suspicion”, it of course brings in a subjective term. But it is well known within English law and it seems to me, therefore, is acceptable [36/22 to 37/11].
  • He also said “May I also add that the Church of England Faith and Doctrine Commission also says there is no definition of what auricular confession is. It is not just me. So if the Working Party and the Faith and Doctrine Commission says there’s no definition, how can you draw the boundary as to where it starts and where it ends? It seems to me perfectly fundamental. [38/2].
  • With regard to national vs diocesan responsibilities for safeguarding:

I’ve got absolutely no doubt that the rolling out of safeguarding has to be done at diocesan level. I equally have no doubt that the principles, the training manuals, whatever you want to call it, must be done at national level, because I’m aware, within the last ten years, of a Diocesan Safeguarding Officer saying, “I don’t agree with what the national churches say. Therefore, I am going to give different training”. That’s not good enough, because an individual does not know better than the whole, certainly in this regard when it has been properly rolled out. I accept that a lot of the guidance is a little opaque sometimes.” [44/14]

  • This guidance is written in the language of the safeguarding professional, just as lawyers write in legalese,” but it is a question then — all right, the safeguarders understand it. It may be that the senior end of the church understand it, though not always. I refer in my witness statement to a bishop who didn’t understand “have due regard to” [45/1]

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Journal of Practical Ethics) John Tasioulas–First Steps Towards an Ethics of Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Church Times) C of E Synod ‘lazy and incurious’ about safeguarding scandals

The General Synod has been “lazy and incurious” despite a wave of safeguarding scandals, a lay member said this week.

Martin Sewell, a representative from the diocese of Rochester, expressed disappointment that the Archbishops had declined a proposal to add to the agenda a motion welcoming a letter from the bishops of the diocese of Blackburn, which warned that Church’s mission was “fatally undermined” by the abuse crisis (News, 21 and 28 June).

He joined David Lamming, a lay member from St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, in making the proposal.

“At a time when the Church is nosediving into controversies over IICSA and Jonathan Fletcher, this motion was carefully designed to bring us together around a pastoral letter that prioritised repentance, humility, and genuine concern for victims,” Mr Sewell said on Monday. It deliberately sought support from General Synod, an institution that has historically been lazy and incurious as scandal after scandal broke. We never debate these matters properly.

“Instead we are left with a question for the Archbishops — ‘Don’t you want to hear what the elected representatives of the people of the Church have to say about all this?’”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

CoE General Synod Q&A — if my spouse has a sex change, are we still married in the eyes of the Church?

The Bishop of Newcastle to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:

A. The Pastoral Advisory Group considered this question in the context of one specific case and I cannot comment here on the personal circumstances involved or draw a general theological principle from a single instance. However, we noted two important points. When a couple marry in church they promise before God to be faithful to each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health – come what may, although we preach compassion if they find this too much to bear.

Secondly, never in the history of the church has divorce been actively recommended as the way to resolve a problem. We have always prioritised fidelity, reconciliation and forgiveness, with divorce as a concession when staying together proves humanl unbearable. In the light of those two points, if a couple wish to remain married after one partner has transitioned, who are we to put them asunder?

Read it all. Please note that there is also a [London] Times article (requires subscription) on this which appeared yesterday with the headline ‘Church accepts marriage between people of the same gender — with a catch’ which begins as follows:

The Church of England has given its blessing to marriage between two people of the same gender . . . but only if they were man and wife when they originally took their vows.

The church’s teachings state that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but bishops have now been asked to resolve a thorny question over the church’s position on opposite-sex married couples who remain married after one transitions to a new gender, thereby creating a same-gender couple of two men or two women.

A member of General Synod, Prudence Dailey, asked bishops: “Given that the Church of England’s teaching about marriage is that it is a lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman, if one person in a couple undergoes gender transition, has consideration been given as to whether they are still married according to the teaching of the Church of England?”

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(AC) Rod Dreyer–The Orwellian Sexual Revolution

Yesterday in our podcast interview, Ezra Klein asked me to explain why it is that when he looks at this blog, he sees lots of anxious material about LGBT stuff, when that kind of thing doesn’t appear in the actual life he lives as a New York liberal. It’s a fair question.

Here’s what I told him — or rather, the overall message you will have received from listening to the entire interview.

The Sexual Revolution is the most important social event of our era. It has overturned many of the structures, practices, and ways of thinking that ordered human life for ages and ages. It has radically changed the meaning of family, marriage, male, female, even what it means to be human. It is changing the way we use language, which itself changes the way we frame our experiences of the world. And its principles negate the Christian religion, which I passionately believe to be true. You cannot reconcile the Sexual Revolution to orthodox Christianity. You just can’t.

You can think this is a great thing, a terrible thing, or some of both, but what you cannot deny is that it is a momentous thing. Writing in the 1960s, sociologist Philip Rieff said it was a more radical revolution than the Bolshevik one.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(RNS) United Church of Christ’s General Synod endorses Green New Deal

The denomination helped launch the environmental justice movement in the 1980s, and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., a UCC minister, is believed to have coined the phrase “environmental racism,” [the Rev. Brooks] Berndt said.

More recently, the UCC became the first denomination to call for divestment from fossil fuels, he said.

“When the Green New Deal came out, we immediately saw this as reflecting the values and the commitments that we’ve been holding dear for all these many years,” Berndt said.

The Green New Deal — introduced in the House in February by Ocasio-Cortez — aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, build smart power grids, update buildings to be more efficient and train workers for jobs in a new “green” economy over the next 10 years.

The UCC resolution framed its support for the legislation in terms of faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, United Church of Christ

(PA) Christian wins appeal after being thrown off social work course

Lord Justice Irwin, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Sir Jack Beatson analysed Ngole’s appeal at a court of appeal hearing in London in March and ruled in his favour on Wednesday.

Ngole said after the appeal court ruling: “This is great news, not only for me and my family, but for everyone who cares about freedom of speech, especially for those working in or studying for caring professions.

“As Christians we are called to serve others and to care for everyone, yet publicly and privately we must also be free to express our beliefs and what the Bible says without fear of losing our livelihoods.”

Read it all.

Posted in Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

(Scott Sauls) Toward a Truer Christianity…Abandoning Us-Against-Them

A few years ago, Slate Magazine came out with a multi-essay piece that identified 2014 as “the year of outrage.” The subtitle to the article is as follows: From righteous fury to faux indignation, everything we got mad about in 2014. Featured were pieces on sexual identity outrage, liberal outrage, conservative outrage, holiday outrage, religious outrage, and so on.

Similarly, New York Times contributor Tim Kreider describes an epidemic he calls “outrage porn.” Kreider says that so many letters to the editor and blog comments contain a “tone of thrilled vindication” from “people who have been vigilantly on the lookout for something to be offended by…some part of us loves feeling 1) right and 2) wronged.”

One former U.S. President recently said that the one remaining bigotry in modern society is that we don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us.

Emma Green of The Atlantic wrote an article called “Taming Christian Outrage” highlighting how some Christians have become part of the outrage madness in the blogosphere, the media, and their personal lives. Green’s belief is that the common thread among “outraged” Christians is not an interest in winning hearts, but rather an interest in asserting their own rights, privileges, and comforts in a post-Christian culture.

Can this be a good thing when Jesus, the rightful King, set aside his rights, privileges, and comforts in order to move toward his enemies in love?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Squalid Conditions at Border Detention Centers, Government Report Finds

Overcrowded, squalid conditions are more widespread at migrant centers along the southern border than initially revealed, the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog said Tuesday. Its report describes standing-room-only cells, children without showers and hot meals, and detainees clamoring desperately for release.

The findings by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General were released as House Democrats detailed their own findings at migrant holding centers and pressed the agency to answer for the mistreatment not only of migrants but also of their own colleagues, who have been threatened on social media.

In June, inspectors from the department visited five facilities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and found children had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. Many migrants were given only wet wipes to clean themselves and bologna sandwiches to eat, causing constipation and other health problems, according to the report. Children at two of the five facilities in the area were not given hot meals until inspectors arrived.

Overcrowding was so severe that when the agency’s internal inspectors visited some of the facilities, migrants banged on cells and pressed notes to windows begging for help.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(WSJ) American Suburbs Swell Again as a New Generation Escapes the City

APEX, N.C.—This Raleigh, N.C., suburb was declared the best place to live in America by a national magazine in 2015, around the time Lindsay and Terry Mahaffey were drawn by its schools, affordable housing and quaint downtown.

The couple found a sprawling five-bedroom house next to a horse farm for $782,000, half the cost they would have paid in the Seattle suburb they left behind.

Many other families had the same idea. Apex, nicknamed the Millennial Mayberry, is the fastest-growing suburb in the U.S., according to Realtor.com, and the town is struggling to keep pace with all the newcomers.

When Mr. and Mrs. Mahaffey took their eldest daughter for the first day of kindergarten, school officials told them they didn’t have a seat. Too many kids, they said. On weekends, the family thinks twice about going downtown—not enough parking. And the horse farm next door was sold for a subdivision.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(PD) Eugene Rivers+Robert George: On Martin Luther King Jr, Immoral Conduct and Moral Witness

As we’ve noted, the truth is the truth. It doesn’t cease being the truth because of who spoke it or for what reasons. What King said about racism and segregation was true: they are contrary to the biblical teaching that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and is, as such, the bearer of inherent and equal dignity; they violate the natural law—the law “written on the hearts of even the Gentiles who have not the law of Moses,” but who, by the light of reason, can know the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, justice and injustice; and they contradict our nation’s foundational commitments, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. At a time when these truths were ignored, and even denied, King proclaimed them boldly.

And this brings us to a point very much in King’s favor, a point that must not be forgotten, even in our sorrow and anger. In proclaiming these truths, he exercised and modeled for Americans of all races tremendous courage—moral and physical. His safety and very life were constantly under threat. He knew he would likely be murdered—indeed, he predicted his assassination. That he had a dark side—a very dark side—does not make him less than a martyr, someone who was targeted and killed for speaking truth and fighting for justice even in the face of intimidation and threats.

Shocked by what has recently come to light, some may call for monuments to King to be taken down and for boulevards, schools, and the like that are named in his honor to be renamed. We ask our fellow citizens not to go down this road. The monuments and honors are obviously not for King’s objectification and exploitation of women, but for his leadership and courage in the fight for racial justice. Everyone understands that. Future generations will understand it too. Just as we ought not to strip the slaveholding George Washington of honors but continue to recognize his courage and leadership in the American Revolution and the crucial role he played in establishing an enduring democratic republic, we should not strip King of honors for his wrongdoing. While acknowledging his faults and their gravity, we should continue to recognize and celebrate all he did to make our nation a truly democratic republic—one in which the principles and promise of the American founding are much more fully realized.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(CT) Evangelicals Can Help at the Border. They Just Can’t Do It Alone.

Leaders like San Antonio pastor Max Lucado have urged Christians to pray and act. “This is a mess. A humanitarian, heartbreaking mess. As we are wondering what can be done, let’s do what we are called to do,” he wrote in a lament for CT. “Let’s pray. Let’s lament. Let’s groan.” (You can read a collection of six Christian leaders’ prayers for the border here.)

Grief over the conditions at the border has compelled many evangelical Christians to act, but they prefer to work directly with evangelical mercy ministries.

However, in these moments when the law stands between Christians and acts of mercy—like not being able to drop off donations at a detention center—they can be uncomfortable with idea of supporting government aid or state humanitarian efforts, said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission.

“Even for Christians who tend to be leery of government intervention,” Freeman said, to get the diapers and wipes to the children in custody, “the reality is that Congress has to take that up and do it.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(FT) America’s new redneck rebellion–West Virginians are embracing an anti-corporate populism that can veer left as well as right

I drive five hours across some of America’s most breathtaking scenery to meet Mike Weaver. “Almost heaven, West Virginia” opens John Denver’s classic song “Country Roads”. Almost Heaven is also the name of the Washington-based yacht of Joe Manchin, the state’s Democratic senator, who berths in the capital when Congress is in session. 

You can inhale the song’s lyrics as you spin through the deep gorges, wide meadows and craggy mountain byways. The state is utterly bountiful. Few landscapes could be so misleading as to the condition of its people.

“Eat your rice Han Ling, don’t you know there are children in West Virginia who are starving,” said a Chinese mother to her child in a New Yorker cartoon a few years ago. That was obviously comic exaggeration. Nevertheless, a child in West Virginia has a greater chance of dying from opioids than of becoming a doctor. 

Many kids enter the school gates as “drug babies” — either having become addicted in the womb or as victims of parental overdoses. One small town, Williamson, with a population of just 3,000, shipped in more than 20 million opioid pills, mostly oxycodone and hydrocodone, in a seven-year period. West Virginia’s rate of resource extraction — timber, coal, gas and agribusiness, which are its principal industries — seems to be matched only by the inflow of prescription drugs.

The steep decline of the coal industry is partly to blame. But other businesses are flourishing. The state’s mountains are criss-crossed with pipelines from the big fracking companies. Farms have been bisected, and their water tables polluted, by the often poorly compensated land seizures. A number of locals told me that the state’s fastest-growing suicide rate is among its farmers. 

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General

Archbishops of Canterbury and York launch Church of England’s first ever social media guidelines and charter

The Church of England has published social media advice aimed at tackling offensive behaviour and misleading content and encouraging a positive atmosphere for online conversations.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, unveiled the Church’s first ever social media guidelines at Facebook today. The guidelines encourage positive engagement across all national social media accounts run by the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York.

At the same time the Church is urging Christians and others to sign up to a voluntary digital charter aimed at fostering a more positive atmosphere online.

As part of a live Q&A at Facebook UK’s Headquarters, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, launched the digital charter and guidelines and encouraged Christians and others to sign up to it.

The charter is centred on the five principles of: truth, kindness, welcome, inspiration and togetherness, and the opportunity for people to sign-up to show they support the principles.

It is hoped that people of all faiths and none will use the charter to consider how their own online interactions can affect others, both for good and bad.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(AI) GAFCON kept in the dark about Jonathan’s Fletcher alleged misconduct

Though Mr. Fletcher was removed from public ministry in 2017, he continued to hold himself out as a priest in his retirement and led an active ministry life. Following the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Andy Lines in Illinois by GAFCON archbishops last summer, a commissioning service was held in September 2018 at Emmanuel Church to inaugurate his English ministry. GAFCON Archbishops Peter Jensen and Ben Kwashi participated in the service.

The GAFCON spokesman explained: “The service was officiated by Robin Weekes [Emmanuel’s minister]. Jonathan Fletcher did a Q and A with Bishop Lines as part of the evening. The GAFCON global folks there did not know Jonathan’s PTO had been removed.”

He added that no one informed them of Fletcher’s status or the allegations of misconduct. Asked when Bishop Lines understood his long standing relationship with Fletcher may have been unhealthy, the spokesman said:

“Bishop Lines didn’t begin to recognize the nature of the abusive relationship until later in 2018 and didn’t fully come to grasp with it until the first quarter of 2019.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, GAFCON, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Christian Today) ‘Trump wants you to be in his reality show’: US theologian Stanley Hauerwas challenges the Church

The man Time Magazine once named as ‘America’s best theologian’ was critical of Trump, but said that the president may remind the Church what it truly stands for. He was speaking this week at lectures for both the think tank Theos, and St Mellitus College, in London.

He said: ‘Trump may not be good for America but he may be pretty good for the Church.

‘Trump forces Christians to be a people of justice rather than looking for the state to give justice.’

He added a line emblematic of his theology: ‘The first task of the Church is not to make the world more just but to make the world more the world.’

He explained: ‘You only know that there is a world, if you know that there is an alternative to the world.’ The Church embodies the witness of an alternative reality, the people of God, telling the world to “come home”.’

Read it all and please note the full audio link to the entire talk at the bottom.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(GR) Roman Catholic school wars (yet) again: Can teachers take public actions that defy church doctrines?

So what should editors do, if the goal is to produce accurate, fair-minded coverage on this issue?

For starters, they need to know that these fights have been raging for decades, pitting progressive Catholic educators against pro-Catechism Catholics. It would help if reporters did some homework by reading Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church)” — that’s the urgent 1990 encyclical by Pope John Paul II on reforming Catholic education. For St. John Paul II, “reform” meant asking schools to defend the basics of the Catholic faith, in words and deeds.

Journalists also need to familiarize themselves with this U.S. Supreme Court case — Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. The key: Private religious schools and institutions have the right to take doctrinal issues into account when hiring and firing teachers and staffers.

Why? Because the professionals in these academic communities are “ministers,” in that their lives and work are linked to the doctrines affirmed in their job descriptions, contracts and/or covenants.

It’s important that reporters — the USA Today story is only one example — frequently mention this “minister” status, without explaining the Supreme Court context. This “minister” status, obviously, doesn’t mean that all teachers, staffers, etc., are ordained.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

([London] Times) Will Face-Reading AI Tell Police When Suspects Are Hiding the Truth?

Police could soon get help from an artificial intelligence system that reads the hidden emotions of suspects by scanning involuntary “micro-expressions”.

The technology analyses fleeting facial movements that researchers believe betray true emotions and are impossible to suppress or fake.

The system has been developed by Facesoft, a British company co-founded by Allan Ponniah, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in northwest London, who first used AI to reconstruct patients’ faces.

The company, which has held discussions with police forces in Britain and India, describes micro-expressions as “emotional leakage”. The expressions were first linked to deception by psychologists in the 1960s, who noticed that suicidal patients sometimes lied to disguise strong negative feelings.

Read it all (subscription) and you may find more there; the company’s website ishere.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Vanguard) Anglican Church cries to President Muhammadu Buhari, judiciary, INEC: Save Nigeria from collapse, self-destruction

Speaking through the Bishop, Diocese on the Niger, Rt. Rev. Owen Nwokolo, the Church of Nigeria, said: “The challenges facing Nigeria today, to say the least, are enormous. “And regrettably, soon after the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of 2019 presidential election by INEC, the President reciprocated the gesture by telling Nigerians “to expect tougher times ahead, instead of giving them hope of a better future.”

While the Church asked President Buhari to “call the Fulani herdsmen to order, especially now that their comments and body language depicts that of a people operating above the law and backed by powers,” it alleged that their menace increased since after the President was re-elected for the second tenure.

It warned that the President must act fast to avert a crisis in the country because the atmosphere is charged with complaints from Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo and other non-northern ethnic groups, who are also complaining about the activities of herdsmen and their leaders.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) Serious Allegations made against the Revd Jonathan Fletcher, an influential evangelical C of E clergyman

Mr [Andrew] Wales went on to cite other factors which supported “taking the allegations seriously”. They included: “The number of disclosures received”; “their consistent nature, where, for the most part, each person was unaware of what anyone else had disclosed”; and “the identity of those making disclosures, whose testimonies we consider reliable”.

A final factor cited by Mr Wales was that “Jonathan has recently acknowledged involvement in activities of the sort described. He did so only this week to [the Revd] William Taylor [Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate]; and he’s done so to other senior leaders as well.”

Mr Wales went on to say that “all these factors, taken together, led Emmanuel to take the allegations very seriously, even though — and I stress this — nothing criminal or to do with children has been alleged.”

The Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, the Revd Vaughan Roberts, who is director of the Proclamation Trust, said of Mr Fletcher: “Sadly, it seems that he has not yet accepted the seriousness of the situation, despite the efforts of a number of senior Evangelical leaders, who have sought to engage with him, both face to face and in writing.”

Read it all. Interested readers may also find the full statement of Vaughan Roberts there.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

The Church of England’s response to the IICSA’s report

The NSSG, on behalf of the Church of England, reiterates the apology to all those who have been abused by those who held a position of power and authority within the Church. It remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions to improve how all worshipping communities across the whole Church in its many forms – across its parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, religious communities, national church institutions and other church bodies – respond to concerns and allegations of abuse and to all victims and survivors of abuse and others affected by this, whilst at the same time working to prevent such abuse from occurring in the first place. The Church must continue to find ways to place children and young people at the centre of its response and safeguarding at the heart of its mission and culture.

The Church recognises that these responses are made to the recommendations from the Inquiry that have arisen as a result of IICSA’s work to date. The Church will need to consider carefully the evidence given to the July public hearings in respect of the national and wider church and is committed to progressing further improvements that can be made ahead of IICSA’s final report, when we anticipate additional recommendations being made.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

IICSA’s report of the Inquiry Panel on the diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball

This phase of the Anglican Church investigation has examined two case studies. The first was the Diocese of Chichester, where there have been multiple allegations of sexual abuse against children. The second concerned Peter Ball, who was a bishop in Chichester before becoming Bishop of Gloucester. In 1993, he was cautioned for gross indecency, and was convicted of further offences in 2015, including misconduct in public office and indecent assault.

The Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. It failed to be so in its response to allegations against clergy and laity.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(Christian Today) Prominent evangelical minister Jonathan Fletcher accused of spiritual abuse

A report in The Telegraph has detailed allegations of spiritual abuse against prominent evangelical leader and former Reform trustee Jonathan Fletcher.

According to the report, in 2017, the Bishop of Southwark stripped Mr Fletcher of his powers to continue preaching and officiating at services following anonymous complaints.

It is understood that the complaints against Mr Fletcher did not involve criminal behaviour and related only to spiritual abuse, not physical or sexual.

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

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:

  • Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
  • Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
  • Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
    organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Guardian) Time Is Now thousands march in London for urgent climate action

Campaigners, religious leaders and people of various faiths, led by the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams proceeded along Whitehall on a “walk of witness”.

Williams said he was proud the UK was taking the climate crisis seriously. “I compare it with the great struggle 200 years ago with ending the slave trade. Parliament took an option that wasn’t easy, it must have felt risky at the time facing massive entrenched global culture – and things changed,” he said.

At least 195 MPs who met campaigners were encouraged to mark their constituency with a pin on a large map of the UK before being taken by rickshaw to speak to their constituents.

At 2pm the thousands present rang alarm clocks, mobile phone alarms and sirens, and cheered loudly to symbolise “the time is now”.

Jane Alexander, a primary school headteacher from London, brought five pupils from her school, North Harringay primary, to the lobby. She said: “Our children may be too young to vote but they are not too young to have their voices heard.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(PS) Peter Singer–Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal”

If Rugby Australia had existed in the first century of the Christian era, and Paul had had enough talent to be a contracted player, Rugby Australia would presumably have ripped up his contract once his letter to the Corinthians became public. That makes it quite bizarre that Castle should have justified [Israel] Folau’s dismissal by saying, “People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.” Did she mean that you can feel welcomed in rugby, regardless of your religious beliefs, as long as you don’t express them in public? That looks a lot like telling homosexuals that they can do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom, but they must not show their affection in public because some people might find it offensive.

As this example shows – and as John Stuart Mill argued in his classic On Liberty – once we allow, as a ground for restricting someone’s freedom of speech or action, the claim that someone else has been offended by it, freedom is in grave danger of disappearing entirely. After all, it is very difficult to say anything significant to which no one could possibly take offense. Mill had in mind restrictions imposed by the state, but when employers dismiss employees who make controversial utterances, that is also a threat to freedom of expression – especially when the employer has a monopoly on the employment of workers with special skills, as Rugby Australia does.

Rugby Australia would have a stronger basis for its decision if Folau’s post had expressed hatred toward homosexuals and could have been interpreted as an incitement to violence against them. But the post no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers.

If that analogy seems implausible, that’s because you do not take Folau’s beliefs seriously. Granted, for anyone outside that particular faith, it’s hard to take such beliefs seriously. But try putting yourself in the position of someone with Folau’s beliefs. You see people on a path toward a terrible fate – much worse than getting lung cancer, because death will not release them from their agony – and they are blind to what awaits them. Wouldn’t you want to warn them, and give them the chance to avoid that awful fate? I assume that is what Folau believes he is doing. He even tells homosexuals that Jesus loves them, and calls on them to repent so that they can avoid burning in hell for eternity. That doesn’t sound like hate speech.

What should Rugby Australia have done about Folau’s post? It might have just said that people are entitled to express their religious beliefs, and that would have been the end of the story….

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Sports

(C of E) New study outlines impact of two child limit

Research on the impact of the two-child limit in tax credits and universal credit, conducted by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, is published today.

All Kids Count: the impact of the two-child limit after two years, shows that parents affected by the policy are reporting that they have cut back on fresh food for children, are unable to cover essential utility bills, and are being obliged to withdraw older children from activities such as swimming lessons and school trips.

The report, with additional contributions from Women’s Aid, the Refugee Council, and the charity, Turn2us, includes analysis by the Institute for Public Policy research (IPPR) which projects that one million children who already live in poverty will be pushed further below the poverty line by the time universal credit is fully rolled out in 2023/24 as a result of the policy.

The research draws on a survey of more than 430 families and 16 in-depth follow-up interviews with a representative sample of survey respondents. Women’s Aid and the Refugee Council provided additional findings from interviews with survivors of domestic abuse and refugees.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Children, Church of England (CoE), Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General