Category : Sacramental Theology

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Central Florida

Update: Note this letter has been updated with an addendum on May 12th
..Some will say that it is impossible for gay couples to fully assent to the baptismal covenant, especially the question “do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?” I wrestle with that as well. But I also know that the baptismal covenant is written in language so demanding that I am still discovering places in my life where I live below its demands. The renunciation of sinful desire is a daily discipline. The call for justice forces me not only to care about the plight of the least of these, but it also challenges me to face the places where injustice works to my economic and social advantage.

I know that for some, saying yes to this baptism feels like nothing more than pastoral logic, particularly when one starts with the spiritual needs of the child, regardless of the child’s family situation, and especially if the church is willing to take up her responsibility for spiritual formation. For others it feels like a betrayal of the Gospel and a capitulation on my part in my opposition to gay marriage in the church. Please know, for those on both sides of the gay marriage issue, that I have not changed- at all- my opposition to the church’s recognition of gay marriage as Holy Matrimony. I still believe, strongly, that civil gay unions do not conform to the Biblical definition of Holy Matrimony nor do they conform to the definition of Holy Matrimony found in our Book of Common Prayer.

Given our own brokenness as a people, it seems to me that none of us has the right to cast the first stone…

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Baptism, Episcopal Church (TEC), Pastoral Theology, Sacramental Theology, Theology

[ACI] Dr Ephraim Radner: Infant Baptism For A Modern Age

Having gay parents does not automatically preclude such a baptism at all. There are reasons a priest might decide to go forward with it, and I do not necessarily question colleagues who would come to this conclusion. However, it is also possible that discernment regarding the integrity of this baptismal act might yield another decision ”“ and that too must be acknowledged. But the new, thinner view of baptism, buttressed now by an ideological notion of baptism as an instrument of social legitimation for gay couples, seems to have made it morally inexcusable even to suggest that the church has an obligation to discern whether the child’s parents or sponsors properly understand and consent to the teaching of the church on behalf of the child, or whether there is a reasonable expectation that the child himself will be raised into a proper understanding of this faith and practice. This is deeply unfortunate, for it basically rules out reasoned commitment related to the doctrinal context of the church as essential elements of Christian existence. And it does so just at the time when these aspects are more important than ever as necessary aspects of Christian witness in the face of a rapidly expanding secular culture. Put another way: in our era of beleaguered Christian witness in the West, the practice of infant baptism bereft of a robust commitment to self-conscious discipleship and its formation is a recipe for ecclesial collapse.

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Posted in Baptism, Sacramental Theology, Theology

[ACI] Same Sex Marriage and Infant Baptism

Under the Anglican concept of “lex orandi, lex credendi” (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith) the public worship of the church is the teaching of the church. When a same sex couple (or an unmarried couple) present their child for baptism they are required to answer publicly the following question:

“Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

I renounce them.”

This question and answer, as well as others in the baptismal covenant, unavoidably present the question of what the church’s teaching on sex outside traditional marriage really is. If the same sex or unmarried couple answers this question affirmatively, they and the officiant are publicly proclaiming that the teaching of the church does not consider their relationship sinful. Under the lex orandi standard, that is the teaching of the church.

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Posted in Baptism, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Statements Regarding the Resolution of the Situation in The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

[We ask that commenters respect the request of the Dean that “We ask that you respect the dignity of this process and refrain from destructive and inflammatory commentary” – The Elves]

[Update: The Rev Gary L’Hommedieu’s sermon on point ‘Love One Another As I Have Loved You’ [1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17] may be listened to here – from Sunday, May 10th]

Received via email from the Diocese of Central Florida

Please find attached statements from Bishop Brewer, the McCaffrey family and The Cathedral of St. Luke regarding the recent controversy surrounding the delayed baptism of Jackson McCaffrey, the infant adopted son of Rich and Eric McCaffrey.

There has been a lot of misinformation and speculation since this issue became public last Sunday. We hope these statements will largely put that to rest while healing and reconciliation move forward.

This is, at heart, a matter for the McCaffrey family, Dean Tony Clark and Bishop Brewer to resolve and reconcile. They are well along the way to doing just that.


In recent days, the Cathedral Church of St. Luke has become embroiled in a media controversy regarding the baptism of a child of a gay couple.

The conjecture and speculation being circulated has contained inaccurate and false information regarding the series of events and interaction with the family.

It is with great care and concern that the Cathedral and the Diocese of Central Florida mutually address this situation with all dignity and respect for the family, the child and the congregation.

Baptism is a rite of new birth and new life in Christ. Parents, godparents and sponsors promise the child will be “brought up in the Christian faith and life” – taught the Gospel – so that the grace of baptism may be nurtured and strengthened by the faith of the family and by proper Christian instruction provided by the Church and at home.

It is important to note that the Dean and Cathedral have always intended to baptize this child. No one, including the Bishop, “denied” this baptism. We regret the delay, apologize for it and are working with his family on a revised date that will accommodate their schedule and respect the sacrament of Holy Baptism of their child. The family and the Dean are committed to restoring their pastoral relationship and their welcome into the life of the Cathedral with support from the Bishop. We ask that you respect the dignity of this process and refrain from destructive and inflammatory commentary.

In the meantime, the Cathedral is open and welcoming to all with the ultimate mission of leading people to Christ and transforming lives. We will continue to provide timeless truths to a changing world through the teachings and interpretation of the Gospel as Jesus instructed in the Great Commission. As a congregation we will support this family in their desire to raise their child in the Christian faith.

We ask for your prayers for the family, the child, the Cathedral and the congregation as we navigate through this process.

In Christ we stand united,

The Cathedral Church of St. Luke

Matthew 19:14
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”


On the evening of May 7th, I met with Rich and Eric McCaffrey in my office. Our purpose was to get to know each other and talk through the events that occurred surrounding Dean Tony Clark’s decision to postpone the baptism of their son, Jack.

This was the first time the three of us had met. The conversation was open, warm, and frank. I prayed with and for the McCaffreys at the conclusion of our time together.

The McCaffreys indicated that they wanted to move forward with the baptism and for that baptism to take place at the Cathedral. They said they wanted to set a date for the baptism later in the summer “after the dust settles” so that the focus would be on the baptism and nothing else.

As I had just left a meeting of the leadership of the Cathedral, I brought to them the Cathedral’s desire for the McCaffreys to continue worshipping at the Cathedral and for the baptism to proceed there.

We talked about my being a part of the baptism and I told them I would be happy to do so. We look forward to celebrating Jack’s baptism at the Cathedral in the near future.

The Rt. Rev. Gregory O. Brewer
Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida


Dear friends,

Less than a week ago I shared a very personal story about our son Jack’s baptism. Since then we have received an overwhelming response. Many have expressed disappointment, anger, and a lack of understanding about the situation that unfolded. However, the common thread is one of support from the community, including members of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke. Know that the support has been reaffirming and sustaining for both Eric and me as we contemplated how we want to proceed with the central issue, baptizing Jack.

Bishop Brewer extended an invitation to meet with us and we had the opportunity to speak with him yesterday evening. We spoke frankly and openly about the chain of events. The Bishop acknowledged he learned the Cathedral set a firm date of April 19 for the baptism, but did not support postponing the baptism. He genuinely wanted to learn about us and expressed his apologies for how it had been handled. Most importantly, he was clear he is supportive of Eric and I, two dads, baptizing our son at the Cathedral and offered to be a part of it.

We are appreciative and are looking forward to the baptism to take place this summer. At the same time we know on many fronts there is healing to be done which will take time. Some may question why we are choosing to return to the Cathedral. We are returning because we still have faith in the goodness of people, and we trust people have good intent and ultimately will do the right thing. This is not to say faith or trust should be given blindly, but there are moments when you must choose to rise above the fray and acknowledge you are part of something bigger.

I close with one more lesson for Jack ”“ Aspire to live your life with grace and forgiveness. You will be better for it.

Change is seldom easy. I thank each of you for listening to us, supporting us, and engaging in the conversation.

Rich McCaffrey

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Baptism, Episcopal Church (TEC), Pastoral Theology, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(LA Times+NBC) Gravity Payments CEO Slashes Pay to Raise Company 'Minimum Wage' to $70,000

Dan Price was about a mile into a Sunday hike on scenic Mt. Si when he knew what he had to do to change his life ”” and the lives of others.

His hiking partner and close friend had just been notified that her rent was going up. She had no idea how she would afford the extra couple hundred dollars a month on her salary as the hardworking manager of a luxury spa in pricey Puget Sound.

That’s when it hit him. Many of his own employees at Gravity Payments had similar money problems. He was making $1million a year, and the lowest-paid of his workers was averaging about $35,000.

So he decided he would cut his pay, first to $50,000, rising to $70,000 by the end of 2017.
CEO raises workers’ minimum pay to $70,000 a year

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, reportedly stunned his employees with the announcement that workers’ minimum wage would rise over the next few years to $70,000.

That would make his compensation mirror his company’s lowest-paid employees ”” after he gave them generous raises.

Read it all and take the time to see this brief video report so you can see the worker’s reactions.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(Guardian) Giles Fraser–I regret that the devil is being made redundant. He’ll be much missed

It’s one of the most famous scenes in cinema. “Michael Francis Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?” asks the priest. “I do renounce him,” replies Michael, straight-faced, knowing full well that his orders to murder Moe Greene, Emilio Barzini, Philip Tattaglia, Victor Stracci and Carmine Cuneo are being carried out at that very moment. A particularly over-the-top organ piece by Bach reaches its climax. “And all his works?” asks the priest. Michael repeats: “I do renounce them.” Brilliant stuff. And a perfect rendition of the moral/existential drama of baptism. It’s not just a little bit of genteel water-sprinkling. It’s not just a chance to get out that floral patterned dress and drink lukewarm cava with a few select friends. It’s a scary participatory drama of death and new life.

Unfortunately, however, the Church of England has just agreed to take the devil out of the baptism liturgy. “Those who work with young people give constant advice that references to the devil are likely to be misunderstood in today’s culture,” the Bishop of Truro told the Church of England’s General Synod this week. What a pity. I’m going to miss the devil and all his works. I always thought those passages rather importantly referenced that little bit of Michael Corleone in all of us. And by their omission, we are being taken still further along the road from baptism as an expression of the big themes of death and resurrection to baptism as a polite middle-class naming ceremony….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Church of England (CoE), Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Chr Today) Sin but no devil: Church of England debates its baptismal liturgy

A new baptism service without mention of the devil was debated by members of the Church of England General Synod today

The synod, which sent the texts through to the next stage of the authorisation process, heard that the new texts are needed because the world has changed so much, even in the last 15 years.

Parents are turning up to have children baptised who have lost the language of Church, if they ever had it in the first place.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Children, Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(BP) Evangelical-Catholic coalition: marriage in crisis

In the wake of an interfaith Vatican conference on marriage two months ago, a coalition of Roman Catholics and evangelicals — including Southern Baptist Timothy George — has issued a statement calling the legalization of same-sex marriage “a graver threat” to society than either “easy acceptance of divorce” or “widespread cohabitation.”

“We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages,” the statement, titled “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage,” says. “Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law.”

At least two additional Southern Baptists — Rick Warren and Daniel Akin — have endorsed the statement, which is slated to appear in the March 2015 issue of First Things, the journal’s editor Russell Reno told Baptist Press. A list of approximately 30 Christian leaders to endorse the statement may include other Southern Baptists when it is finalized, Reno said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(TLC's Covenant) Matthew Olver–Confirmation of ACNA's revolutionary theology?

The text of the Preface regarding Confirmation is brief enough that I’ll print the text of the first three out of four paragraphs as I go, one paragraph at a time, followed by a few comments. The statement begins like this:

Anglicanism requires a public and personal profession of the Faith from every adult believer in Jesus Christ. Confirmation by a bishop is its liturgical expression. Confirmation is evident in Scripture: the Apostles prayed for, and laid their hands on those who had already been baptized (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6).

I keep toying with this first sentence in my mind. If they mean this to be an accurate description of how the majority of Anglicans think about confirmation, I think they may be correct. But if this is meant to be descriptive of Anglicanism in any historical sense, than it is certainly misleading and probably just flat out wrong. Why?

At least one implication of the practice of requiring both baptism and Confirmation before reception of Holy Communion in the English and American BCPs (until 1979) is that God administers something in Confirmation (as opposed to it being simply a ritual acknowledgement that one is now mature enough to willingly give themselves to the Christian faith). Or at least that there is a sacramental encounter with God in that moment (which, by definition, would mean that it is an encounter unique to that sacrament). Otherwise, why does the bishop pray not only for a strengthening of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, but for the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit? The petition that the candidate be defended “with thy heavenly grace” is also interesting, as it has no parallel in the baptism rites (that is, it’s not a repetition of something already requested in that ritual). In short, what the bishop petitions on behalf of the candidate are things not requested at baptism.

The rest of the ACNA statement reflects in many ways the tension that persists around this controverted rite, a tension that began in the twentieth century and endures into the twenty-first. While the adage that Confirmation is a “rite in search of a theology” is maybe a bit too cavalier, it is true that the intention of Confirmation and its relationship to baptism remain hotly contested.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Sacramental Theology, Theology

Dan Alger–Sacramental Church Planting

I once accompanied a friend to visit a church plant with roots in a non-denominational tradition. He was excited to take me because his church shared the Lord’s Supper weekly and he knew I was “into Communion.” On this particular occasion the Pastor concluded the service with a prayer, the exit music came over the sound system and he walked off the stage. We were gathering our things to leave when he jogged back up on stage, turned his mic on and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that on your way out we have some bread and juice on a table by the door. Christians call this Communion and have done it for thousands of years. If you are into that kind of thing, we’d love to have you grab some on your way out.”

As an Anglican, my sacramental soul shriveled. I literally stood where I was and said a silent prayer interceding for the people as the words of 1 Corinthians 11 ran through my head, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (29,30).” I felt like Moses waiting for a plague to spread like a wave until it stopped at my outstretched hands. It was a profound juxtaposition to hear the lackadaisical language of the pastor “if you’re into that kind of thing” and Paul’s clear language of warning of the importance of approaching the Eucharist with preparation, solemnity, respect and awe, “this is why some of you have died.”

While mistakes like this are common among well-intentioned planters and pastors, new missional works do not always have careless sacramentology. I have celebrated the Eucharist with linens draped over a plastic table in a gym that smelled like sweaty kids and experienced something transcendent and beautiful, something ancient but immediate. What makes the difference in a church plant between an experience of the sacraments that is holy and one that is sloppy?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(NYT Beliefs) Same-sex Marriage in some places Prompts Call for Clergy to Shun Civil Ceremonies

Dr. Seitz, one of the pledge’s authors, said that as an academic he does not “do the kind of weddings on a regular basis as someone whose full-time job” is in the clergy. And many of those who have signed his pledge appear to be laypeople, or women in traditions in which women do not perform weddings. Like them, he is mostly an observer, and one of his observations is that we are in “a funny time.”

If marriage moves toward becoming just “a contract between two people, the state can take care of that,” Dr. Seitz said. “And it makes a lot of sense ”” property, custody of children.” But he believes that marriage needs more, and that the state may be weakening, rather than enhancing, the customs and mores that uphold the institution.

Dr. Radner, the pledge’s other author, is on sabbatical in France, which has long separated religious marriage from civil marriage. Seeing the separation up close has only made him more of a fan.

“Just living here made me realize that the church can function rather well,” he said, “and also avoid some of the conflict that we seem to get all embroiled in in the U.S. over sexuality matters, by being somewhat disentangled, practically, from the civil marriage system.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Canada, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality, State Government, Theology

(JE) Jeff Walton–Episcopal Church Baptisms Dry Up

The report reveals that in U.S. dioceses, baptisms are down five percent from 27,140 in 2012 to 25,822 in 2013. Similarly, marriages are down four percent from 10,366 to 9,933 (the denomination has seen a 40 percent decline in children baptized since 2003 and a 46 percent decline in marriages over the same period). The losses are not evenly distributed, with some dioceses performing worse than others: in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, where an ordained Buddhist was elected (and later failed to gain consent from other dioceses) to be bishop in 2009, zero children were confirmed in 2013.

Episcopal “renewing” dioceses in San Joaquin and Fort Worth are also continuing to struggle: Fort Worth closed five parishes in 2013 (from 22 to 17), with San Joaquin closing two (21 to 19). Pittsburgh added one new parish (36 to 37). Other diocese closing parishes include Maryland (4) and Massachusetts (3), with most of the dioceses in Northeastern Province 1 seeing the closure of at least one parish.

Despite continuing to claim over 70 parishes and 28,000 members following the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (DioSC) and the vast majority of its parishes ending their affiliation with the Episcopal Church, the renewing Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) has posted updated information on baptisms and weddings, showing a drop from 388 children’s baptisms in 2012 to only 135 in 2013. South Carolina reported 170 children and 143 adults confirmed in 2012, dropping to 54 children and 37 adults in 2013.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Proposed Formation of a new North American Province, America/U.S.A., Baptism, Common Cause Partnership, Episcopal Church (TEC), Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, TEC Conflicts, TEC Data, TEC Departing Parishes, TEC Parishes, Theology

Pope Francis in his Angelus on All Saints Day 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
the first two days of November are for all of us an intense moment of faith, prayer and reflection on the “last things” of life. In fact in celebrating all the saints and commemorating all the faithful departed, in the Liturgy the pilgrim Church on earth lives and expresses the spiritual bond which unites her to the Church in heaven. Today we praise God for the countless host of holy men and women of all ages: simple men and women, who sometimes were the “last” for the world, but “first” for God. At the same time we already remember our departed loved ones by visiting cemeteries: It is a source of great consolation to think that they are in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles, the martyrs and all the saints of Heaven!

Today’s Solemnity thus helps us to consider a fundamental truth of the Christian faith that we profess in the “Creed”: the communion of saints. It is the communion that comes from faith and unites all those who belong to Christ by Baptism. It is a spiritual union that is not broken by death, but continues in the next life. In fact there is an unbreakable bond between us living in this world and those who have crossed the threshold of death. We here on earth, along with those who have entered into eternity, form one great family.

This beautiful communion between heaven and earth takes place in the highest and most intense way in the Liturgy, and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, which expresses and fulfills the deepest union between the members of the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ecclesiology, Eucharist, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Ch Times) Church of England General Synod will debate the confidentiality of the confessional

The “absolute confidentiality” afforded to disclosures made under the seal of confession will be a matter for debate in the General Synod this month.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said last week that he had “every sympathy” with the view, expressed by a survivor who reported abuse to the Cahill Inquiry…, that disclosures that gave rise to safeguarding concerns should not be treated as confidential.

Dr Sentamu told The Times: “If somebody tells you a child has been abused, the confession doesn’t seem to me a cloak for hiding that business. How can you really hear a confession about somebody abusing a child and the matter must be sealed up and you mustn’t talk about it?

“When a child reports abuse, you have an obligation – a duty – to take the matter to the police. If the person who has done it comes and tells you ‘I’ve abused someone, but I’m in a confessional now,’ it needs teasing out. I have listened to those who have been abused, and what I’ve heard leads me to ask a question: ‘Are we really serious about what Jesus said about children or not?'”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(Law and Religion UK) David Pocklington–Seal of confessional: its future in the CofE

Whilst recognizing the well-established place of the ministry of absolution in the life of the CofE, the Council also acknowledged the responsibility of the Church to protect children and vulnerable adults from harm, and the force of the argument that the legal framework of the Church should be such as to enable those who present a risk to children and vulnerable adults to be identified.

The Council therefore decided to commission further theological and legal work to enable it to review, in consultation with the House of Bishops, the purpose and effect of the un-repealed proviso to the Canon of 1603, with a view to enabling the Synod to decide whether it wished to legislate to amend it. At its November meeting, the Council will consider the terms of that review and who should conduct it, with a view to putting their proposals in those respects to the House of Bishops when it meets in December.

On the afternoon of 17 November, General Synod is to debate a motion to take note of the draft Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, (GS 1970). Responsibility for approving any final version will rest with the Convocations following the ”˜take note’ Synod debate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(ACNS) Despite ISIS threat, Baghdad Christians are still seeking baptism

Christians in Baghdad are still being baptised despite the threat of execution by the radical Islamist group Islamic State* (IS) which is currently fighting to get to the Iraqi capital.

The Anglican priest who has served the beleaguered city for more than a decade, Canon Andrew White, today told ACNS he thought the threat posed by IS was actually one reason the believers wanted to be undergo baptism.

“People really wanted to demonstrate their faith and that’s good,” he said. Publicly identifying oneself as a Christian is a particularly courageous move in a country where IS has been intentionally targeting religious minorities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Baptism, Iraq, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Christopher Howse is worried no breakthrough for divorced Christians will come at upcoming RC synod

What is the point of this world synod of Catholic bishops on the family that is starting in Rome on October 5, a week tomorrow?

Most talk in the papers and in the crabbed and febrile world of the internet has been about whether divorced people who remarry should receive Holy Communion. This matters, because Communion is the symbol and channel of a Christian’s spiritual relations with God. And yet Pope Francis, who, we have learnt, is no friend of laws as a substitute for ideals, says that this is not the point of the synod at all.

The Pope often speaks openly when he shares an aeroplane with journalists, and, on the way back from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land earlier this year, he said: “I have not been happy that so many people ”“ even church people, priests ”“ have said: ‘Ah, the synod will be about giving Communion to the divorced’.” His difficulty was that he “felt everything was being reduced to casuistry”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, History, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(WSJ) Francis Rocca–The Pope and the Divorce Question

For better or worse, change is not coming next month. This year’s synod is supposed to prepare the agenda for another, larger synod in October next year. That second gathering will then make recommendations to the pope, with whom the final decision on any change will lie.

Pope Francis could choose to leave the work of mercy in this area to a commission he established last month for the purpose of simplifying and streamlining the marriage-annulment process. The pope has suggested that as many as half of all Catholic marriages are actually invalid, “because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a lifelong commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married.”

Focusing on reform of the annulment process could be appealing to a leader who, for all his innovations, has declared himself a “son of the church” on moral teaching. As the pope has said regarding contraception, “the question is not whether to change the doctrine, but to go deeper and make sure that pastoral care takes account of situations and of what each person is able to do.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Daily Mail) C of E may axe 400-year-old sacred law to let clergy report serious crimes

For centuries the secrecy of the confessional has been sacrosanct, but the Church of England may relax the rules to allow clergy to reveal serious crimes such as child abuse.

Former Bishop of Chelmsford John Gladwin ”“ who last year led an inquiry into clerical sex abuse in the Church of England ”“ is pressing for the changes, along with members of the Church’s ”˜parliament’, the General Synod.

But any change will be fiercely resisted by traditionalists who think clergy should retain the trust of worshippers. It will also cause tensions with Roman Catholics, who believe the seal of the confessional should remain inviolable.

Bishop Gladwin’s moves follow a decision by the Anglican Church of Australia to allow its priests to report crimes they hear during confession to the police.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(CT) Roger Olson–Water Works: Why Baptism Is Essential

To be sure, there is no one simple way forward. But both sides must be willing to compromise if they want to see unity. Credobaptists should work to assure paedobaptists, especially those in the evangelical vein, that they do consider them fellow Christians, insofar as they have accepted Christ by faith. And it helps for credobaptists to go one step further and reconsider infant baptism, performed within a context of genuine faith, as valid if imperfect. They can still require would-be members who were baptized as infants to undergo a “completion” of baptism””perhaps immersion upon making a public confession of faith.

Meanwhile, paedobaptists could work harder to understand credobaptist concerns and consider re-baptism as completing infant baptism rather than totally rejecting it. And they would do well to emphasize more strenuously that baptism itself does not save the infant. Similarly, they should not relegate children of credobaptist believers to the status of covenantal outsiders.

Both groups should look beyond their differences and focus on a bigger problem: the growing neglect of baptism among people who call themselves Christians. As followers of Jesus, we must prevent Christ’s call to follow him fully from being drowned out.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guideposts) Buzz Aldrin Tells the little-known story of Communion on the Moon

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing. We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.

Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.

“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine””common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today. I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Eucharist, History, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

(First Things) Robert Spaemann–Divorce and Remarriage

he divorce statistics for modern Western societies are catastrophic. They show that marriage is no longer regarded as a new, independent reality transcending the individuality of the spouses, a reality that, at the very least, cannot be dissolved by the will of one partner alone. But can it be dissolved by the consent of both parties, or by the will of a synod or a pope? The answer must be no, for as Jesus himself explicitly declares, man cannot put asunder what God himself has joined together. Such is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The Christian understanding of the good life claims to be valid for all human beings. Yet even Jesus’s disciples were shocked by their Master’s words: Wouldn’t it be better, then, they replied, not to marry at all? The astonishment of the disciples underscores the contrast between the Christian way of life and the way of life dominant in the world. Whe­ther it wants to or not, the Church in the West is on its way to becoming a counterculture, and its future now depends chiefly on whether it is able, as the salt of the earth, to keep its savor and not be trampled underfoot by men.

The beauty of the Church’s teaching can shine forth only when it’s not watered down. The temptation to dilute doctrine is reinforced nowadays by an unsettling fact: Catholics are divorcing almost as frequently as their secular counterparts. Something has clearly gone wrong. It’s against all reason to think that all civilly divorced and remarried Catholics began their first marriages firmly convinced of its indissolubility and then fundamentally reversed themselves along the way. It’s more reasonable to assume that they entered into matrimony without clearly realizing what they were doing in the first place: burning their bridges behind them for all time (which is to say until death), so that the very idea of a second marriage simply did not exist for them.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Women

(CEN) Yes to new Baptismal service

A simplified baptism service could soon be rolled out across the Church of England, in a move away from the ”˜wordy’ traditional liturgy. The Additional Texts for Holy Baptism was before Synod for First Consideration, having been changed since it was introduced by the Diocese of Liverpool, following criticisms of it ”˜dumbing down’ the service. The Bishop of Sodor and Man moved the motion, explaining the need stemming from the ”˜wordy and complex’ nature of the current provision. It is now to be considered by the Revision Committee. The new text shortens the service by omitting elements that are not obligatory. “When a child is brought for baptism he or she comes with empty hands,” Robert Paterson said, “Simply the most precious thing in God’s sight is a child of his creation.” Feedback from families who have taken part in baptism show they remember the symbols of the service more than words. “This is a specific request to draft liturgy to meet pastoral need,” he continued. The Group believed the word ”˜submit’, seen in the current text, ”˜seemed to some like bullying’. All of these texts in their authorised form would be additional, not to replace Common Worship texts, the Bishop promised, and is subject to yet more synodical processes. He alluded to the backlash over the absence of the devil in the new baptism service. “We all know that, for many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence. “We have no quarrel with standing up to the devil: the problem is helping people with little doctrinal appreciation to understand what we mean by affirming that the devil is a defeated power.” The press was heavily criticised by many speakers in the debate highlighting the omission of the devil and sin from the first trial draft. “Wherever possible, the final ”˜Commission’ should be expressed simply and directly, eye-to-eye, and not read from a prepared text.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Children, Church of England (CoE), Marriage & Family, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(RNS) Church of England kicks the devil out of baptism rite

In the traditional service, godparents are asked whether they are ready to renounce the devil and all his works for the sake of the child being baptized.

The new wording, approved Sunday (July 13), only asks whether parents and godparents will “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.”

Speaking after the new wording was overwhelmingly approved, Bishop Robert Paterson denied that the baptism service had been watered down.

“We all know that for many people, the devil has been turned into a cartoonlike character of no particular malevolence,” he said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(RNS) Italian archbishop calls for 10-year ban on godparents to stop Mafia infiltration

After a pledge by Pope Francis to “excommunicate” mobsters from the Catholic Church, an archbishop in southern Italy has proposed a 10-year ban on naming godparents at baptisms and confirmations as a way to stop the Mafia from spreading its influence.

Monsignor Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, the archbishop of Reggio Calabria, wrote to Francis some time ago with his suggestion “to prevent the exploitation of the church,” in particular by the powerful Calabrian Mafia known as ’Ndrangheta, and discussed his proposal with the pope at the Vatican last weekend.

Mobsters taking part in the baptisms of newborns as a godfather, or “padrino,” help the mob establish a special bond with future generations of potential criminals.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Italy, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Anne Hendershott–No apology necessary from Church of England on baptisms

Declaring that the devil has departed from the Church of England’s baptism service, The Guardian reported on June 20 that “a simplified baptism which omits mention of the devil” is now favored by the clergy who have test-marketed it throughout the United Kingdom. Claiming that the traditional rejection of the devil and all rebellion against God “put off people who are offended to be addressed as sinners,” clergy claimed that they found it much easier to ask parents and godparents to make vows that do not mention Satan.

Responding to a population “which sees no pressing reason to spend Sunday mornings or any other time in Church,” the Guardian reports, the new and improved baptism service also deletes the instruction to the godparents that the child will keep God’s commandments, and learn what a Christian “ought to know and believe to his soul’s health” ”” promising only that the church “shall do all that we can to ensure that there is a welcoming place for you. We will play our part in helping you guide these children along the way of faith.”

The decision to delete the devil from the ritual reveals that the Church of England may be losing its sense of sin ”” and its need for salvation. More than 60 years ago, T.S. Eliot wrote about the sense of alienation that occurred when social regulators ”” like the church ”” began to splinter and the controlling moral authority of a society is no longer effective. He suggested that a “sense of sin” was beginning to disappear. In his play “The Cocktail Party,” a troubled young woman confides in her psychiatrist that she feels “sinful” because of her relationship with a married man. She is distressed not so much by the illicit relationship, but rather, by the strange sense of sin. Eliot writes that “having a sense of sin seems abnormal she believed that she had become ill.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Baptism, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Soteriology, Theology

A Tom Wright Pentecost sermon

Pause on Ascension for a moment. The Ascension, frustratingly, is often radically misunderstood. The Ascension is not about Jesus going away and encouraging his followers to look forward to the time when they, too, will leave this sad old earth and follow him to heaven. The angels do not say to the watching disciples, ”˜This same Jesus, whom you have seen going into heaven, will look forward to welcoming you when you go to join him there,’ but ”˜this same Jesus, whom you have seen going into heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’. And the point of that so-called ”˜second coming’, or ”˜reappearance’ as several New Testament writers put it, is not that he will then scoop us up and take us away from earth to heaven, but that he will celebrate the great party, the great banquet, the marriage of heaven and earth, establishing once and for all his rescuing, ransoming, restoring sovereignty over the whole creation. ”˜The kingdom of this world,’ says John the Seer, ”˜has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he shall reign for ever and ever.’ Amen, we say at the Ascension. This is the real Feast of Christ the King, and the sooner we abolish the fake one that has recently been inserted into our calendar in late November the more likely we shall be to get our political theology sorted out. And, boy, do we need to sort it out right now. If at a time like this we cannot think and speak and act Christianly and wisely and clearly and sharply into the mess and muddle of the rulers of the world we really should be ashamed of ourselves. Jesus is already reigning, is already in charge of this world. ”˜All authority,’ he says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, ”˜has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’ When he returns he will complete that work of transformative, restorative justice; but it has already begun, despite the sneers of the sceptics and the scorn of the powerful, and we celebrate it with every Eucharist but especially today at Pentecost.

Why especially today? Because at Pentecost we discover, as in last week’s Collect, that the Holy Spirit comes to strengthen or comfort us and exalt us to the same place where our saviour Christ has gone before. In other words, the Spirit is the power of heaven come to earth, or to put it the other way the Spirit is the power that enables surprised earthlings to share in the life of heaven. And, to say it once more, the point about heaven is that heaven is the control room for earth. The claim of Pentecost, from Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and Romans 8 and all those other great Spirit-texts in the New Testament, especially John 13””16, is precisely that the rule which the ascended Lord Jesus exercises on earth is exercised through his Spirit-filled people. No doubt we do need ”˜comforting’ in the modern sense of that word, cheering up when we’re sad. But we need, far more do we need, ”˜comforting’ in the older sense of ”˜strengthening’, strengthening-by-coming-alongside. Just as, in human ”˜comfort’, a strange thing happens, that the sheer presence, even the silent presence, alongside us of a friend gives us fresh courage and hope, how much more will the presence alongside us and within us of the Spirit of Jesus himself give us courage and hope not simply to cheer up in ourselves but to be strong to witness to his Lordship, his sovereign rule, over the world where human rulers mess it up and ignorant armies clash by night.

So being ”˜exalted to the place where Jesus has gone before’ is precisely not about being snatched away from this wicked world and its concerns. On the contrary, it is to be taken in the power of the Spirit to the place from which the world is run.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Eucharist, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(FT) Internet access costs set to sap digital content spending

Consumers’ willingness to pay for digital content is in danger of being held back by their rising spending on internet access, according to a new forecast that raises questions about the media industry’s hopes for streaming music and video subscriptions.

The report from consultancy PwC, to be released on Wednesday, estimates the total size of the industry will grow to $2.15tn by 2018. But the fortunes of the market’s three segments will vary, with internet access revenues growing faster than both consumer spending and advertising.

That suggests internet providers such as Time Warner Cable and AT&T will be poised to capture a growing share of industry revenue. Streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify , the latter of which had Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as its most popular music artists last year, will also be well-positioned to lead growth in consumer spending, as they capture subscribers willing to pay for round-the-clock access to movies, television shows and music.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, Movies & Television, Music, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Ascension, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology

Peter Moore–A Fateful Day: March 21, 1554

It was March 21, 1554, and the weather wasn’t particularly good. The sermon the Archbishop was about to hear would have been preached outdoors, but instead it would be preached in Great St. Mary’s, the University Church. The scene is depicted in a famous etching in John Foxe’s book Acts and Monuments, published in 1563.

Dr. Henry Cole, the Provost of Eaton, was the preacher for the occasion, and his message revolved around the theme of repentance and judgment. Cole pointed out that although King David had greatly sinned, and repented, he still needed punishment.

The Archbishop listened carefully to the sermon, with considerable solemnity. After all, he was the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was, furthermore, a very learned scholar and a man who, for nearly thirty years, had spearheaded a major reform within the Church of England. Thomas Cranmer was his name, and he was not in particularly good health at this point. In fact, he was emotionally exhausted from months of questioning by various papal scholars and bishops who did not share his Reformational views. He had spent time in the Tower of London, and then he had been imprisoned in Oxford for several months, most of it in solitary confinement.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Eucharist, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology