Category : Anthropology

(TLC) Church of England General Synod Discusses Transgender Guidance

Many questions sought to clarify the bishops’ intentions in issuing the guidance, the process by which it was developed, and the permanence or provisionality of its suggestions.

Some confusion in the bishops’ answers arose about the intention behind the service and whether it was making any theological claims.

Prudence Dailey (Oxford) asked, “for the sake of absolute clarity,” whether the House of Bishops “intended … that the service of affirmation of baptismal vows should be used to mark gender transition.” The Bishop of Hereford, Richard Frith, said that it was “not intended at all.”

Some lack of clarity on this point continued, however, with the Bishop of Willesden later saying that the service was primarily developed to meet the needs of people who had “already in this situation” before joining the church, rather than those transitioning within a congregation. “We’re not at the moment making any more theological assumptions about where we go after that. That’s something that the [Living in Love and Faith] project is seeking to address.”

Dailey asked a supplementary question on whether “in addition to the pastoral concerns which they quite rightly considered,” the bishops had considered the significant “philosophical considerations” raised by these pastoral situations.

Cocksworth said the pastoral, philosophical, and theological questions raised by the guidance would be addressed by the Living in Love and Faith Project: “That is giving exactly the sort of theological and philosophical attention to the matters you raise now.”

Read it all and you can find the questions and answers here.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

(Stuff) New Zealand Anglican group who are unwilling to compromise Christian sexual standards for leaders is growing

Since the vote to allow same-sex blessings last year, three Christchurch parishes have split from the Anglican church – St Stephens in Shirley, St John in Latimer Square and Christchurch South. About 80 per cent of worshippers in Woolston have also left to form a new church. Vicars have resigned in Avonhead, Papanui and Rakaia, taking some worshippers with them.

Last year, St Matthew’s church in Dunedin left the Anglican church, with vicar Stu Crosson writing in a parish newsletter that same-sex ceremonies were blessing “something that God calls an abomination”.

Rangiora vicar Andrew Allan-Johns declined to comment, but confirmed he had resigned and started a new church.

The worshippers, priests and parishes that have left the Anglican diocese intend to form a new church.

St Stephens minister Jay Behan said West Hamilton Church, which left the Anglican church in 2014 over same-sex blessings, will join the new church. He said the new church would hold its first synod in May to agree on a new name, constitution and bishop.

The first same-sex blessing in Canterbury gave Behan a “sadness”, he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Deseret News) Why the United Methodist Church seeks to end the decades-long battle over whether to change the standards of Christian behavior for leaders

Members of the United Methodist Church don’t agree on biblical teachings about homosexuality. More than that, they don’t agree on whether it’s necessary to agree about homosexuality in order to remain a unified denomination, church members and leaders said.

Participants in this special session of general conference on sexuality are tasked with determining whether it’s possible to avoid a denominational schism. They’ll debate policies on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage, seeking to understand God’s will for the church.

“Our hope is not that this is an argument, but rather a way for followers of Jesus to develop empathy for each other and to listen to disagreements,” wrote Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in an email.

Conference delegates will vote on multiple potential paths forward, weighing whether to change church teachings stating that homosexual acts are sinful or provide an exit plan for those who don’t share this belief. Even creating room for pastors and congregations to hold a range of views on LGBTQ rights could lead to a schism, said Mark Tooley, author of “Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century” and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

“This could potentially rip apart thousands of congregations,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PBS Newshour) Read Michael Gerson’s sermon sharing his struggle with depression

It is impossible for anyone but saints to live always on that mountaintop. I suspect that there are people here today – and I include myself – who are stalked by sadness, or stalked by cancer, or stalked by anger. We are afraid of the mortality that is knit into our bones. We experience unearned suffering, or give unreturned love, or cry useless tears. And many of us eventually grow weary of ourselves – tired of our own sour company.

At some point, willed cheerfulness fails. Or we skim along the surface of our lives, afraid of what lies in the depths below. It is a way to cope, but no way to live.

I’d urge anyone with undiagnosed depression to seek out professional help. There is no way to will yourself out of this disease, any more than to will yourself out of tuberculosis.

There are, however, other forms of comfort. Those who hold to the wild hope of a living God can say certain things:

In our right minds – as our most sane and solid selves – we know that the appearance of a universe ruled by cruel chaos is an lie and that the cold void is actually a sheltering sky.

In our right minds, we know that life is not a farce but a pilgrimage – or maybe a farce and a pilgrimage, depending on the day.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

(Healthday) Screen Time for the Very Young Has Doubled in 20 Years: Study

The electronic babysitter is alive and thriving in the new digital age.

A new study says it all: Children under the age of 2 spend twice the amount of time in front of a screen each day — almost three hours, to be exact — as they did 20 years ago.

Kids are being exposed to far more screen time than recommended by pediatric experts, the researchers added.

That screen was most often a TV set, with the television viewing of toddlers rising fivefold between 1997 and 2014, the study findings showed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

(60 Minutes) The Chibok Girls: Survivors of kidnapping by Boko Haram share their stories

Rebecca: Yes, they say if you didn’t convert to Islam you wouldn’t get home alive. That’s what they say.

Here are some of the girls two years ago right after they were released, alive but looking like concentration camp survivors, haunted and numb. This is Rebecca, skin and bones.

Lesley Stahl: I heard you were eating grass.

Rebecca: Yeah. Some of us eat that. And we are just be patient and live like that. No food. No anything.

Look at them today, in their 20s. They’re healthy and full of spirit at a school created just for them, paid for by the Nigerian government and some donors, where they are making up for lost time.

They’re from Northern Nigeria, where life can be hard and opportunities for women are limited. Now, in their Wi-Fi-equipped dorms, they have smart phones, and lap tops and their own beds.

They go back to Chibok to see their parents twice a year; over Christmas and during the summer.

Read it all (video highly recommended).

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Theology, Women, Young Adults

(PBS Newshour) Pope sends ‘signal’ by defrocking ex-cardinal for sexual abuse

Rev. James Martin:

But you know my faith in God hasn’t changed. It’s it’s my sort of disappointment and anger. You know certain people in the church at abusers certainly some of whom I know people who covered this up. But I think it’s also important to say that this happens in all sorts of institutions you know families schools places like that. But in the church what we need to do is really address that and be sort of forthright about it and be as transparent as possible so frankly I am really in favor of the release of these lists that have been happening that’s pretty controversial because it’s it’s necessary for transparency it’s necessary for us to understand how these things happen and enable us to move ahead and reconcile.

Hari Sreenivasan:

Well what are you looking for this week? What helps the church survive this?

Rev. James Martin:

This desire to confront it without any sort of fear. You know that you know we have of the truth the truth sets us free. I mean that that really should be kind of what we’re focused on.

Hari Sreenivasan:

You think the Pope’s doing enough?

Rev. James Martin:

I think the pope could always do more. I think that this meeting in the end of this week is really helpful it’s the heads of all the bishops conferences. There are still countries where bishops have said well it doesn’t happen in our country it doesn’t happen and are part of the world. And I think one of the reasons for this meeting is to teach in a sense those bishops the facts about sex abuse. So I think that’s a really good step forward.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(Globe and Mail) Julia Shaw–Is Evil only in the eye of the beholder?

So, is there really such a thing as evil? Subjectively, yes. You can call sadistic torture or genocide or rape evil. You may mean something very specific and have well-reasoned arguments as to why you have called a particular person or act evil. But as soon as you have a discussion about it with others, you may find that what you think is an undeniable act of evil is not perceived that way by them. Certainly by the time you bring people who have committed the act into the discussion, you are likely to encounter a different perspective. To once again cite Nietzsche, evil is only created in the moment when we perceive something as such. And just as quickly as we can make evil, if our perception shifts, it can disappear.

We make evil when we label something so. Evil exists as a word, as a subjective concept. But I firmly believe there is no person, no group, no behaviour, no thing that is objectively evil. Perhaps evil only really exists in our fears.

You have probably heard the saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Well, the same thing rings true for many contexts – one person’s soldier is another’s insurgent, one person’s sexual liberation is another’s perversion, one person’s dream job is another’s source of all ills. When we learn that evil is in the eye of the beholder, we begin to question the beholder and the society they live in. And when we turn our attention to ourselves, we realize that we sometimes curiously even betray our own sense of morality.
Because of what I consider an insurmountable problem of subjectivity, I think that neither humans nor actions should be labelled evil. Instead, I cannot help but see a complex ecosystem of decisions, cascades of influences, multifaceted social factors. I refuse to summarize all of this into a single hateful word.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Psychology, Theodicy, Violence

Will Jones Responds to Bishop Andy John–Should we extend the boundaries of ‘gospel freedom’ in sexuality?

All in all then, we see that Bishop Andy’s argument, while initially plausible perhaps, falls apart on closer examination. On none of the issues he mentions has the church changed its teaching by setting aside the plain meaning of scripture in favour of ‘other sources of authority’. This means the pattern he is wishing to follow is not there, and neither is it endorsed by scripture or church practice. The inclusion of the Gentiles is not a model for the affirmation of conduct that scripture prohibits, and there is nothing in the New Testament or Christian history to suggest it should be. Scripture does not mandate us to go beyond scripture, and any move in that direction must be regarded as a move away from Christian orthodoxy.

Read it all.

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

A TLC article on Jane Williams’s latest book, The Merciful Humility of God–God and the Lived Reality of Humility

“One of my big obsessions is that we shape our characters and our lives day by day in our regular choices and decisions. … I am who I am because of the life I’ve lived, the decisions we’ve made, some of which are not under our control but some of which are. The questions: What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of world to you want to live in? They’re not questions we can just sit around and hope something can happen.”

She pointed to two particular moments in her life when she felt presented with a clear choice to act on the basis of her faith. “In my early teens, I was mildly anorexic. It was a sort of real encounter with the incarnation that made a significant difference. God likes bodies. God does not think that bodies are unreal, unimportant; and there’s no way of encountering God outside of our bodies, our embodied selves. So with that sense of alienation from my bodily self, which I think is a part of anorexia, doctrine was an actual turning point.”

Williams alluded as well to the decision to lead a life of understanding amid the difficulties of the Anglican Communion: “At a point of life where my husband was undergoing some trials, I remember feeling a choice. There were one or two people in groups who were making our lives harder — that’s not what they were trying to do — and I remember in a prayer session feeling that I was almost offered this choice: You can go down the route of hating and obsessing about what they’re doing wrong, and that will affect you, that will shape you; or you can choose to try and see what they feel they’re defending. … And that will also shape you. And the simple question is: Who do you want to be? It’s very uncomfortable. It’s not nice and it spills out into other things that are not part of the same problem. I thought: I’m going to try to choose to see these people as God sees them. … It was a choice that was entirely in my hands. I think a lot of us have those choices.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

Martin Davie responds to the Bishop of Bangor [Andy John] on same-sex relationships

For the reasons given above the argument presented by the Bishop of Bangor in his letter is not convincing. He simply does not make out a convincing case for changing the Church’s teaching and practice.

Where he is right, however, is in saying that many people with same-sex attraction experience the Church as a hostile place. However, the proper way to address this is not to change the Church’s teaching.

As the Ed Shaw, himself same-sex attracted, argues in his important book The Plausibility Problem,[3] the problem lies not with the Church holding that sex should only take place within heterosexual marriage, but with the way in which people within the Church collude with the culture in suggesting that you can’t be happy without sex, value marriage and family life above singleness, and wrongly identify godliness with heterosexuality.

What the Church needs to do, he argues, is recapture the importance of celibacy and singleness and provide a place where everyone is valued, loved and supported regardless of their sexual attraction. That is what is needed, not same-sex marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CA) Stephen Noll–When Is “good Disagreement” Not Good? When It Contradicts God’s Word

Finally, the Rev. Dr. Brett Cane, a Canadian Anglican serving in Egypt, has written an article on “Biblical Perspectives on Staying in Fellowship.” Having noted Paul’s exhortation to seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares and His prayer for unity (Ephesians 4:1-4; Matthew 13:24-30,36-43; John 17:20-23), Dr. Cane concludes:

It is often uncomfortable to be in fellowship with those with whom we disagree… From my perspective, liberals are good at asking questions – conservatives are not. In that sense, Jesus was a true liberal in relationship to the religious establishment of his time. However, Jesus was deeply rooted in the Scriptures and was able to give answers. In my opinion, that is why the liberal needs the conservative – to give answers from a Biblical perspective. We need one another; we need to stay in fellowship.

Is it really true that conservatives are not liberal? In the pre-Gafcon book The Way, the Truth and the Life, we wrote:

Besides its emphasis on the Gospel, Evangelical Anglicanism has another side: a spirit of liberality… Liberality of spirit characterizes the Anglican via media approach to doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral matters, which seeks to be firm in matters of salvation and modest with regard to secondary or ‘indifferent’ matters (adiaphora). Going back to John Jewell and Richard Hooker, this “sweet reasonableness” (Titus 3:2) has been a hallmark of Anglican writers, with George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, and John Stott being prime examples. (page 36)

By contrast, my experience of contemporary liberals is that they are supremely illiberal. Take the example of the Episcopal Church USA and Anglican Church of Canada. Having been warned by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 not to proceed with homosexual ordinations and same-sex unions, they bulldozed their way ahead, reducing the Communion to rubble. And now various other “liberal” churches are following suit, with the Church of England not far behind. Does anyone really imagine that as a result of weeks-long indaba at Lambeth 2020, the “liberals” will listen to the conservative answers from Scripture? Is there any way “liberals” will come to one mind with Richard Hooker when he says: “what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit [faith] and obedience is due”? The Bishop of Bangor is a case in point.

In a recent collection of essays titled Good Disagreement: Grace and Truth in a Divided Church, two Anglican New Testament scholars examine the way in which Jesus and the apostolic church dealt with controversy and division. Dr. Michael Thompson explains that Jesus’ own teaching and ministry caused a “tear” in the garment of Judaism and a “sword” splitting families apart: “there is no indication that Jesus sought deliberately to divide his hearers; it was the inevitable result of a message which some joyfully accepted but others rejected or simply did not understand” (page 44). One might say that “grace” and “truth” are not really opposites: the Good News of God’s grace and truth in Jesus causes some to turn to the light and others to hold fast to the darkness (John 3:17-21).

Dr. Thompson points to texts in which Jesus warns against judging one another (Matthew 7:1) and others where He insists on church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18). He goes on to consider texts in which, on the one hand, the apostles warn against factions in the church (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1-3), while on the other hand they condemn false teachers (2 Peter 2).

Thompson notes in conclusion that the apostles excluded individuals and not entire congregations. I do not think this is quite right. The early church was not an institution in the modern sense but a fellowship recognized by the apostles and their successors. Hence St. John can declare concerning a heretical faction: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

The Gafcon and Global South movements have warned repeatedly concerning a false Gospel in the Episcopal Church and others. Unfortunately, since the formal “Instruments of Communion” have failed to deal with this “leaven of the Pharisees,” it has infected the entire communion. Hence Gafcon has stated: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the majority of the Anglican Communion seeking to remain faithful to our Anglican heritage.”

Read it all.

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

(Unherd) Giles Fraser on the Culture of Choice–Our modern parenting is making monsters

I also suspect that the way we have come to treat children as mini-consumers, little choice-centres, also has something to do with it as well. For nowhere is this choice-inducing anxiety more toxic than in childhood. It used to be that childhood operated under instruction. For the child, life was a series of givens. And this functioned as a sort of emotional security. But now that we are inducting our children into this culture of choice at an ever earlier age, we deprive them of the necessary scaffolding of care, love and support.

It’s a big claim, I know. But it is worth reminding ourselves of an important aspect of our culture of choice: that it absolves people of a responsibility of care towards others. To put it another way, our culture of choice contains this message: I am not responsible for you because you are responsible for you. Are you fat? That’s your choice. Smoke? Your choice. In debt? Your decisions have got you into trouble. It’s all on you.

It is one thing to take this attitude towards adults. But our culture is so saturated with this culture of choice that it has come to apply even to children. I am ashamed to admit that my two year old could operate a remote control almost before he could walk. And instead of presenting him with his tea, I now ask him what he wants. It’s almost as if the poor boy has a menu in hand before he can even read it. Choose, we demand. “What do you want?….”

The reductio ad absurdum of this overblown culture of choice is the case of a man who is currently taking his parents to court because he didn’t choose to be born. Yes, its true. A businessman from Mumbai, Raphael Samuel, 27, is suing his parents because he didn’t ask to be born. Apparently, by conceiving him without his consent, they were infringing his ‘right’ to choose.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Theology

(RC) Craig Gay On Technology: How Do We Tell The Good From The Bad?

My primary intellectual interest has always been trying to understand where we are, what’s going on, how we got here, and how does understanding these sorts of things help us to understand ourselves. As soon as you start asking these kinds of questions you can’t help but wonder about modern technology, i.e., where it came from, where it’s headed, what it’s doing to us, is it good or bad, etc. The fact that I grew up in Silicon Valley during the 1960s and ’70s and witnessed the early years of the “digital revolution” is just a kind of happy accident, but it has given me a kind of insider’s knowledge of modern tech development.

What if I think modern medicine, electric cars, and Instagram are all great? What if I love technology and think it’s basically a force for good? Should I still read Modern Technology and the Human Future?

Fair warning: I’m going to try to talk you out of such a naive view….

It is often said that modern technology is not the problem; rather, the problem is what we do with it. This is true as far as it goes. Technology per se—even in its distinctively modern form—is not the real problem. What we do with technology, however, is shaped by who in the world we think we are and by the kind of world we believe ourselves to be living in. Here we appear to have certain problems.

People commonly ask: What about this or that technology? Should we use it? Is this or that technology good or bad? What we need to understand is that we stand absolutely no chance of being able to satisfactorily answer these kinds of questions unless we know what kinds of people we are trying to become. Basically, unless we know where we are trying to get to, there’s no way of knowing if this or technology is going to help us to get there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Touchstone) Anthony Esolen–Surprised by Delight: Divine Love & the Love of Man & Woman Surpass Mere Consent

I don’t mean pleasure. A whore and her patron may enjoy plenty of that. I mean delight, being caught by the laces, tangled in the snares: love comes with the laqueum or net, to trip you up and take you prisoner by your own senses and desires. The man in love is so tangled in his fascination with the beautiful woman that he hardly knows what to do. Think of lovelorn Orlando, pinning awkward but sincere sonnets on the trees of the Forest of Arden; and think of Rosalind, fainting away when she sees a handkerchief soaked in Orlando’s blood. Spenser imagines the lovers in the Temple of Venus so taken up by innocent delight that it appears to them to be all the world:

And therein thousand Pairs of Lovers walked,
Praising their God, and yielding him great Thanks,
Ne ever aught but of their true Loves talked,
Ne ever for Rebuke or Blame of any balked.

Their keynote is not a sense of accomplishment or security, but praise: for the beauty that comes uncalled-for and unmerited warrants the free response of praise and gratitude. We delight in that praise, and we must always remain incomplete and unquiet without it. Why should man praise God, who needs no praise from us? It is our heartiest share in the divine life, this delight in praise, for God has made us to praise, and our hearts are restless, says Augustine, until they rest in him. Says Sidney, in words that might apply to a beloved either human or divine:

Not thou by praise, but praise in thee is raised:
It is a praise to praise, when thou art praised.

A Strange Question

Now, if it is not good for the man to be alone, or the woman either, despite the bitter delusions of feminists, how do we raise children who will be delighted by the other sex? How do we express our own delight? How do we make ourselves vulnerable to those foreign entanglements? How do we prepare our hearts for the grace of ravishment?

The question would have struck our grandparents with incomprehension. Why should it need to be asked?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(John Stevens) Same-Sex Relationships: Sorry Bishop Bayes, But The Meaning Of Holiness Does Not Change From Generation To Generation

Bishop Bayes argument from the comparison with divorce somewhat ironically falls apart when it is remembered that Jesus explicitly stated that homosexuality was a ground for divorce (Matthew 19v9 – using the work porneia for “sexual immorality” which includes homosexual acts as well as heterosexual acts outside of marriage). This verse therefore affirms both that divorce is holy and permissible in some circumstances, and that homosexuality is unholy and a ground for divorce.

When it comes to homosexuality the Biblical message is entirely different. Whereas divorce is permitted in both Old and New Testament, and by Jesus and by Paul, there is not a single text in the entire cannon of Scripture that would suggest that same-sex sexual relationships are pure, holy and pleasing to God, In fact the exact opposite is the case throughout. Homosexual acts are forbidden in language which negatively contrasts them with the purity of holiness, and sex is to be rightly enjoyed solely in the context of heterosexual covenant marriage. This is true in both Old and New Testaments. It is a position taught not just by Paul but also by Jesus, who upheld the Old testament teaching about sex and marriage and condemned “sexual immorality” using language that in the cultural context clearly included homosexuality.

There can be no viable case made that the Scriptures indicates any change in God’s attitude towards homosexual acts, and not even the hint of a “redemptive trajectory” in this direction. He is a holy God and remains implacably opposed to all sexual acts that fall short of his holy standard. We are not at liberty to revise our understanding of holiness to fit with contemporary cultural mores.

The idea that God has revealed a different standard today is equally flawed. The Holy Spirit is himself God, and just as unchanging as God the Father. He cannot reveal something to be holy today that was condemned as unholy in the Scriptures that he breathed-out. The Holy Spirit is not a liar, and he has not learned anything new about human sexuality in the two thousand years since the closure of the Canon.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

A February 2019 Message from Gafcon Chariman Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

It came to light last month that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s newly appointed envoy to the Vatican had a history of disputing core Christian doctrine, including a widely circulated video in which he calls for people to be ‘set free’ from belief in a physical resurrection. Dr John Shepherd has responded by issuing a statement which apparently affirms belief that Jesus was raised bodily, but has not repudiated his previous statements to the contrary. Such confusion is itself an obstacle to the gospel.

We have also learned with deep concern that the Assistant Bishop of Toronto, Kevin Robertson, entered into a same sex union using the marriage service in St James’ Cathedral, Toronto. This step by the Anglican Church of Canada underlines the urgency of our advice in the Jerusalem 2018 ‘Letter to the Churches’ warning against attending the 2020 Lambeth Conference as currently constituted. For the first time assistant bishops and their spouses will be invited, so we can expect that Bishop Robertson and his partner will be attending and received in good standing.

Over two hundred bishops did not come to Lambeth 2008 as a matter of conscience because Archbishop Rowan Williams invited the TEC bishops who had approved the consecration in 2003 of Gene Robinson, a man in a same sex partnership, against the clearly stated mind of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, but even Archbishop Williams did not invite Gene Robinson himself on the grounds that he reserved the right not to invite bishops who had caused very serious division or scandal. But now it seems to be considered that a bishop can be married to a same-sex partner in a cathedral, by another bishop, and yet remain in good standing. I strongly commend Professor Stephen Noll’s article ‘Taking Sweet Council Together’ in which he shows how true Christian fellowship is not only a joy, but also a responsibility and must be based on true doctrine. Without that discipline, the Church is prey to the ‘fierce wolves’ St Paul warns the Ephesian elders to beware of, even those who arise from within the Church and speak ‘twisted things’ (Acts 20:29,30).

With great sadness we therefore have to conclude that the Lambeth Conference of 2020 will itself be an obstacle to the gospel by embracing teaching and a pattern of life which are profoundly at odds with the biblical witness and the apostolic Christianity through the ages.

St Paul was prepared to ‘endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ’.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(JE) Anglican Theologian warns that Churches in the west are embracing a pagan anthropology

Deploying the phrase “the pew never rises higher than the pulpit,” Harmon noted that a good sermon is organized, biblical, and applies the bible to daily life. In contrast, he lamented the state of American preaching ministry as “woefully inadequate.”

“It has to have its primary content from the Bible, it has to be clearly structured so that as a listener you can follow it,” Harmon quoted Simeon as saying. “You take them to the average American pulpit and the guy gets up there and he’s mumbling this strange amorphous set of pithy sayings and interesting jokes as if it’s some kind of entertainment seminar. The person’s already hit the off button.”

“I concede that [the state of the American church] is depressing, but it’s only depressing if you don’t believe it’s the truth. If it is the truth, for our God every obstacle is always an opportunity.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, - Anglican: Analysis, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Interracial Couples And Disability-Friendly Emojis Coming Soon To Smartphones

Disabled individuals will see a wide range of new emojis devoted to them, including wheelchairs, canes, hearings aids, and prosthetic limbs. These emojis were proposed by Apple to better represent individuals with disabilities.

“One in seven people around the world has some form of disability,” Apple wrote in its proposal. “Adding emoji emblematic to users’ life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability.” Apple said it developed the proposed emojis in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf, among other organizations.

A new “people holding hands” emoji will let users mix and match different skin tones and genders, with 171 possible combinations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT) When Religion Leads to Trauma–Some churches “weaponize scripture and religion to do very deep damage on the psyche,” one pastor says.

Brett Higbee, a retired land surveyor who attended the ranch during the late 1970s, said that he was routinely beaten for religious infractions like failing to memorize Bible verses. These experiences made him religion-phobic for years, he said, his pain triggered by entering a church or even hearing Christmas music on the radio.

The gap between religious teachings on compassion and the ways that faith sometimes gets misused inspired Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a psychiatrist, and his colleagues at Duke University to develop “religious cognitive therapy” in 2014. The therapy uses “positive scriptures that focus on forgiveness, God’s love and divine mercy to challenge the dysfunctional thoughts that maintain trauma,” says Dr. Koenig.

The Duke team has developed workbooks that accentuate this positive content for each of the world’s major religions. Clinical trials, published in 2015, showed that religious people who received the therapy had lower rates of depression and reported more positive emotions like gratitude and optimism than those who did not receive it.

The best cure for religious trauma may be a deeper dive into the spiritual core of religious teachings, Dr. Koenig says.

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Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

Wales Bishop [of Bangor] Andy John writes his diocese about Same-Sex Unions

The point is that continuing to discern the will of God includes reading the Scriptures as well as other sources of authority such as reason, scientific evidence and in serious dialogue with other disciplines. This is part of our responsibility as Christians as we seek to understand the will of God and witness to our faith.

Over a period of time, in which I have ministered alongside those in same sex relationships and have wrestled with how to be faithful to God and open to the Spirit, I have come to believe that the Church should now fully include without distinction those who commit to permanent loving unions with a person of the same sex. I further believe that the best way to do this is for the Church to marry these people as we do with men and women.

This is not the teaching of the Church at this moment but I believe it is fully in keeping with our faith and orthodoxy. I believe it will strengthen our witness to a world which longs to see justice and fairness for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and cannot understand how the Church is still wrestling with an issue that most people have accepted long ago. Christians can seem uncaring, even cruel, and bizarrely obsessed with a limited range of issues so that everything else we say about God and hope and faith is marginalised. To put it bluntly, we are not believed and taken seriously.

Any change to official Church teaching will require the consent of the Church in Wales through its Governing Body. I realize that not everyone will take the position outlined above – and there are good arguments for developing the Church’s teaching in other ways, for example by introducing a service of life vows or revisiting the question of blessing same sex unions. This debate cannot be ignored but neither can it take place without wisdom, generosity and grace. I pray that it will engage you in a new way this year and that you will pray and reflect on how we can be faithful to God and strengthen out witness to Christ’s redeeming love.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Pamela Paul–Let Children Get Bored Again

People used to accept that much of life was boring. Memoirs of pre-21st-century life are rife with tedium. When not idling in drawing rooms, members of the leisured class took long walks and stared at trees. They went motoring and stared at more trees. Those who had to work had it a lot harder. Agricultural and industrial jobs were often mind-numbing; few people were looking to be fulfilled by paid labor. Children could expect those kinds of futures and they got used to the idea from an early age, left unattended with nothing but bookshelves and tree branches, and later, bad afternoon television.

Only a few short decades ago, during the lost age of underparenting, grown-ups thought a certain amount of boredom was appropriate. And children came to appreciate their empty agendas. In an interview with GQ magazine, Lin-Manuel Miranda credited his unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration. “Because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom,” he said.

Nowadays, subjecting a child to such inactivity is viewed as a dereliction of parental duty. In a much-read story in The Times, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting,” Claire Cain Miller cited a recent study that found that regardless of class, income or race, parents believed that “children who were bored after school should be enrolled in extracurricular activities, and that parents who were busy should stop their task and draw with their children if asked.”

Every spare moment is to be optimized, maximized, driven toward a goal.

When not being uberparented, kids today are left to their own devices — their own digital devices, that is….

Read it all.

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

(FA) Richard Haass–How a World Order Ends, And What Comes in Its Wake

A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain. As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

In the search for parallels to today’s world, scholars and practitioners have looked as far afield as ancient Greece

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT) This Is Your Brain Off Facebook

The world’s most common digital habit is not easy to break, even in a fit of moral outrage over the privacy risks and political divisions Facebook has created, or amid concerns about how the habit might affect emotional health.

Although four in 10 Facebook users say they have taken long breaks from it, the digital platform keeps growing. A recent study found that the average user would have to be paid $1,000 to $2,000 to be pried away for a year.

So what happens if you actually do quit? A new study, the most comprehensive to date, offers a preview.

Expect the consequences to be fairly immediate: More in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(CT Women) Jen Michel–Move Over, Sex and Drugs. Ease Is the New Vice.

According to recent research, teens are starting their sex lives a lot later. Despite shifting cultural norms and new sexual freedoms, our youngest and most virile are apparently having less sex—at least for now. Sociologists and social commentators debate whether the trend is temporary and whether it marks a healthy or unhealthy societal shift. But it’s possible that the so-called sex recession offers evidence of a wide, disturbing trend that has nothing to do with sex—one that is particularly endemic to our cultural moment. The trend bears witness to the ways that we’re increasingly finding embodied life “tiresome.” (In Japan, that’s the word many younger Japanese people to describe intercourse: mendokusai.)

Our apparent fatigue with bodily living extends to other areas, as well. Two years ago, in response to declining cereal sales, market researchers went looking for answers to why younger people were opting out of the convenience food that had fed their parents and grandparents. According to The New York Times, researchers found the reason: Breakfast cereal—with the whole bother of bowl and spoon—involved far too much work. “Almost 40 percent of the millennials surveyed by Mintel for its 2015 report said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it.”

The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease. Of all the cautions we raise about technology—its distractions and temptations, its loneliness and superficiality—this promise of unencumbered living is perhaps the most insidious danger and also the one we talk the least about.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Peter Mullen on the George Bell case–A dark episode in the life of the Church

Lord Carlile’s report was eventually handed to the Church authorities and they kicked it into the long grass.

So much for Bishop Martin Warner’s vaunted “…safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.” All along, the only interests being safeguarded here were those of the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We know very well why these authorities leapt so precipitately to condemn Bishop Bell out of hand: it was because they had previously had to admit to the existence of so many perpetrators of sexual abuse among the senior clergy – especially in the Diocese of Chichester.

Warner and Welby, to salvage what remained of their reputations, wanted desperately to appear to be doing something.

Thus the name of the safely-dead Bishop George Bell was tarnished because the Church’s highest authorities sought to cover their own backs.

Let us be in no doubt as to the seriousness of the Church’s misconduct so eloquently criticised in Lord Carlile’s report. He said that Bell had been “hung out to dry,” he added that the Church’s procedures were “deficient, inappropriate and impermissible”; “obvious lines of enquiry were not followed” and there was “a rush to judgement.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Wa Po) This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church

Racism has been pretty easy to spot for most people. It felt like the sting of a lash on an enslaved person’s back and smelled like the charred flesh of a public lynching. Since those forms of racial oppression have become frowned upon, so the thinking goes, then we must have moved past racism.

Unfortunately, some Christians seem to believe racism is merely a relic of a bygone era.

In an admirable effort to reckon with its racial past, leaders at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary formed a commission to examine the school’s racist founding and present their findings. The history, dating back to the mid-19th century, was as honest as it was tragic. For instance, all four original founders of the seminary held slaves, and one donor who saved the seminary from financial ruin earned his wealth through convict leasing. Yet the report stopped too soon. It ended in the mid-1960s, giving the impression that racism had, for the most part, ended with the civil rights movement.

Christians who see racism as mainly a problem of the past often fail to see that they or other people of faith still hold negative views about people of certain races and ethnicities.

In a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 54 percent of white evangelicals indicated that the country becoming majority nonwhite by 2045 would have negative effects on the nation. But 79 percent of black Protestant respondents and 80 percent of Hispanic Protestants thought this demographic change would be good for the country.

It’s easier to believe racism is a problem of the past if you think of racism strictly in interpersonal terms, truncating the definition of racism.

Read it all.

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

([London] Times) Football is grooming children into gambling, says Bishop of St Albans

Children are being “groomed into gambling” by football and betting companies must be banned from sponsoring clubs’ shirts, a bishop has said.

It is the first time a Church of England leader has called for an outright ban, pointing out that nine out of 20 Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 Championship teams have a gambling company as their main shirt sponsor.

Today the church unveiled a set of proposals to be put to its General Synod calling on the government to “reduce the quantity and pervasiveness of gambling advertising” and to force betting companies to pay a levy to fund education and addiction treatment.

The Bishop of St Albans, who sits in the House of Lords, led the church’s successful campaign to limit how much can be wagered on fixed-odds betting terminals. He said that 55,000 teenagers in Britain were classed as problem gamblers and not enough had been done to shield children from gambling advertising since laws were liberalised in 2005.

(subscription required).

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

Concerns about the planned partial Lambeth Conference in 2020 (II): Stephen Noll

While I am sympathetic with Dr. Goddard’s concern, I think he misses the point. The “prolonged failure” is in fact a system failure, and God has gone ahead in reforming His church through the Gafcon and Global South movements, which have picked up the historic mantle which the Lambeth establishment laid down after 1998.

A Challenge to Orthodox Anglican Bishops

My brothers, are you planning to attend the Lambeth Conference next year? If so, what kind of council do you perceive it to be? If the Conference is claiming to be an “Instrument of the Anglican Communion,” what do you understand the word “communion” to mean? Do you agree with its claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion Office have the exclusive “branding rights” to declare who is Anglican and who is not, as was announced by the Primates in October 2017? Do you agree that Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Kevin Robertson and those who facilitated them are authentic Anglicans, whereas Archbishop Foley Beach and Archbishop Miguel Uchoa are heading up some other Christian denomination?

Let me ask you a personal question – because true fellowship is personal and a church council, while it has a formal role, is a body of brothers (and sisters) united in “making the good confession” of our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you who are members of the Gafcon and Global South movements, how can you sit in council in Jerusalem or Cairo and enjoy sweet fellowship with brothers who have been expelled from their churches, sued out of their properties, defrocked from their ministries, and then turn around and sit at table in Canterbury with bishops of the Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada, and others who have disowned these brothers?

St. John sums up the Gospel fellowship in this way:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship (koinonia) with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:5-6).

My brothers, will you walk together in the light of God with your fellow believers and take sweet counsel in the Spirit of Truth? Or will you let them down and say one thing and do another, “double-minded men, unstable in all your ways” (James 1:8)? The future of the Anglican tradition and mission hangs in the balance.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Instruments of Unity, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Concerns about the planned partial Lambeth Conference in 2020 (I): Andrew Goddard

At the moment in relation to Lambeth 2020 we have important preparatory work being done but we also appear to have the reversal of previous policy, the rejection of previous theological rationales in relation to invitations, no justification of these changes, and no public response to the requests from GAFCON or engagement with their theological rationale.

These are all worrying signs that preparations for the Conference are refusing to consider any creative proposals for its restructuring in response to the realities of impaired communion, even though the consequences of these realities have already been recognised by the Instruments. It is as if, in planning the Conference, we are in denial of the truth articulated by Rowan Williams back in 2006: “There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment”.

It seems as if there is a determination simply to call the bluff of those who have warned they may not attend and even to aggravate them further by altering the invitation policy from 2008. Why not rather engage them in dialogue and offer them grounds on which they may conclude it is right and profitable to attend, despite their current concerns? The other side of this stance is an apparent willingness to accept that many bishops (particularly from provinces marked by significant Anglican growth) will indeed stay away but to say that this doesn’t really matter and is a price worth paying in order to uphold the current but novel and unexplained invitation policy. It is almost as if, rather than address these issues, the view is that the Conference will happen as currently planned however many cannot in conscience attend it. Even if, as I’ve heard it put, the Conference ends up being small enough to meet in a telephone box.

There is of course no chance the Conference will be that small because whatever happens there will undoubtedly be a significant turnout on current plans. It would, however, be a serious error to (a) ignore the significant shift in the nature of the Conference which has been created by the moving of the goalposts embodied in the current invitation policy or (b) minimise how widespread and deep the concerns (and possible absences) are likely to be with that new policy. These concerns are not limited to the more hard-line GAFCON provinces or even just to GAFCON as a whole. The 6thGlobal South Conference in October 2016 was clear about the Communion’s problems in its communiqué:

  1. The prolonged failure to resolve disputes over faith and order in our Communion exposes the Communion’s ecclesial deficit, which was highlighted in the Windsor Continuation Group Report (2008).
  2. This deficit is evident in the inability of existing Communion instruments to discern truth and error and take binding ecclesiastical action. The instruments have been found wanting in their ability to discipline those leaders who have abandoned the biblical and historic faith. To make matters worse, the instruments have failed to check the marginalisation of Anglicans in heterodox Provinces who are faithful, and in some cases have even sanctioned or deposed them. The instruments have also sent conflicting signals on issues of discipline which confuse the whole Body and weaken our confidence in them.

“… for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

  1. The instruments are therefore unable to sustain the common life and unity of the Anglican Churches worldwide, especially in an increasingly connected and globalising world, where different ideas and lifestyles are quickly disseminated through social media. This undermines the mission of the Church in today’s world.

[….]

  1. The present and potentially escalating crisis poses challenges to the Global South in the shepherding of her people. We recognise the need for our enhanced ecclesial responsibility. We need to strengthen our doctrinal teaching, our ecclesiastical ordering of our collective life as a global fellowship and the flourishing of our gifts in the one another-ness of our mission.
  2. The Global South Primates will therefore form a task force to recommend how these needs can be effectively addressed.

If the challenges identified in this article are ignored and if no attempt is made to find a consensus among the Communion’s bishops about the nature of the Conference and the status of participants, the real danger is that these Global South conclusions will simply be applied to Lambeth 2020, perhaps at their next Global South Conference later this year. It may even be that some bishops in the Global North draw the same conclusions and seriously consider the implications of this for their attendance.

If this happens, it will represent a tragic failure of leadership as the Conference will demonstrate how far apart from each other we are now walking.

Read it all. (For the key news about Kevin Robertson see there [posted after the annual Christmas break from Anglican news]).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process