Category : Pastoral Theology

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

(CT Pastors) Todd Wilson–How Can So Many Pastors Be Godly and Dysfunctional at the Same Time?

When we talk about spiritual formation, we’re talking about the process whereby a person moves toward maturity in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Spiritual formation is, as Paul puts it in Colossians 1, all about becoming complete in Christ.

“Him we proclaim,” Paul writes, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (vv. 28–29, ESV).

You might say that the telos, or “goal,” of spiritual formation is to be teleios, or “complete,” in Christ.

We, as pastors, will have a hard time getting to this telos without taking more seriously our bodies, without taking more seriously our brains, and without taking more seriously our interpersonal communion, being known by one another and by our Lord and Maker. “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” Scripture says, “but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12, ESV).

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Pastoral Theology

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all (subscription).

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

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

Found here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Vancouver Sun) Anglican Church rejects same-sex marriage in Vancouver vote

The Anglican Church of Canada has defeated a motion allowing for same-sex marriages, despite overwhelming support from both the denomination’s laity and clergy.

Had it passed, the motion would have changed the church’s definition of marriage, deleting the words “the union of a man and woman” from the canon and thus permitting clergy to officiate gay weddings.

The vote, which occurred late Friday night in Vancouver at the church’s general synod, required a two-thirds majority from each of the church’s three delegate groups: the laity, clergy, and bishops.

The laity voted 80.9 percent in favour, and the clergy 73.2 percent in favour.

But the bishops of Canada defeated the motion, with two abstaining and just 62.2 per cent voting in favour of the resolution, disappointing many of the church’s members.

Read it all.

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

(AJ) Traditional definition of marriage stays after a canon amendment to allow for same-sex marriage narrowly fails to pass at Anglican Church of Canada General Synod

The Anglican Church of Canada will maintain its traditional definition of marriage after a vote to amend the marriage canon failed to pass at General Synod 2019.

The 42nd General Synod voted against Resolution A052-R2, which would have amended the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, after the resolution failed to pass by a two-thirds majority in all three orders. While two-thirds of the Order of Laity (80.9%) and Order of Clergy (73.2%) voted in favour, less than the required two-thirds (62.2%) voted in favour of the resolution in the Order of Bishops.

The final results of the vote, which took place on the evening of July 12 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, were as follows: The Order of Laity saw 89 members (80.9%) vote Yes and 21 members (19.1%) vote No, with one abstention. The Order of Clergy had 60 members (73.2%) voting Yes, 22 members (26.8%) voting No, and two abstentions. In the Order of Bishops, 23 members (62.2%) voted Yes and 14 members (37.8%) voted No, with two abstentions.

The announcement of the result left many synod members visibly in shock. A scream could be heard. Many members began crying, and one young delegate ran out of the room in tears.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) Hattie Williams talks to Paul Handley about covering the IICSA hearings

“Hattie Williams, senior reporter at the Church Times, has covered the proceedings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church from the beginning. She talks to Paul Handley, Editor, about the experience, and what she thinks the Church can learn.” Listen to it all (slightly under 17 minutes).

Posted in Anthropology, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(CT) Celibate Gay Christians: Neither Shockingly Conservative nor Worryingly Liberal

Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step bravely (foolishly?) into this battleground with their comprehensive study of people like me: Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. It’s an important book with an academic feel that grows more pastoral as you read on. Yarhouse has written multiple volumes on LGBTQ experience based on careful research from the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University in Virginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s ever written, but I thank God for the gracious tenor of his contributions.

This newest book is essentially a listening exercise, based on an in-depth survey of celibate gay Christians. You hear their stories of milestone events and experiences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their mental health outcomes and relational challenges. But they are not the only voices recorded: There’s also input from friends, along with some fascinating insights into the perspectives of some evangelical pastors. The authors helpfully add their own measured reflections.

Certain conversation topics could prove controversial. We hear differing thoughts, for instance, on such questions as the origins of same-sex attraction, the correct labels to use (is it “gay,” “same-sex attracted,” or something else?), the possibility of same-sex desires that aren’t wholly sinful, and the prospect of changing one’s sexual orientation. But one of the authors’ strongest points is the need to discuss these issues more carefully. They write, “Some church leaders and some celibate gay Christians seem to us, at times, to be describing two different things, rather than disagreeing on precisely the same thing.”

This appeal for a better conversation within evangelicalism couldn’t be timelier.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Sex, gender and marriage in the C of E

Underlying the problems arising from contradictory statements, and the difference between civil and Church understandings of marriage, is the difference between biological sex and gender. The Church of England’s view of marriage as being between ‘one man and one women’ has usually been understood as a reference to biological sex—hence Christine Hardman’s answer to the question seems to assume that, since biological sex has not been changed by gender transition, the marriage is still believed to be valid. But the previous decision in 2004—that the notion of man and woman is understood with reference to the legal definition of gender—takes the opposite view. That was similar to the Government’s approach, in that prior to the 2013 Equal (Same-sex) Marriage Act, gender transition would lead to the dissolving of a marriage, since it was not possible in law for two people of the same gender in law to be married to each other—but it is worth noting that the Government here was only concerned with status in law, rather than questions of ontology and theology that the Church is more interested in.

In fact, the question was explicitly raised in the law around gender recognition. It is only possible to obtain a GRC for married people if they have obtained ‘spousal consent’; without this, the person would first have to get a divorce prior to applying for a certificate. (The Liberal Democrats opposed this idea, which would have meant that the spouse of someone undergoing gender transition would be forced into a same-sex marriage against their will.)

The term ‘gender’ with reference to the social manifestation of sex identity is relatively recent, having been coined in the 1950s by sexologist John Money. The term was taken up by feminists as a way of detaching biological sex from the (often rigid) expectations of social roles of the sexes. But with the rise of transgender ideology, the term has now been turned inward and used to refer to an ‘inner’ sense of sex identity—though without any real evidential basis in biological or psychological study. And this inward turn has ill-served feminists, since biological males who claim an ‘inner’ sense of being female can, under the legal mechanism of gender recognition, now enter social contexts that are limited to women only.

The Church of England is seeking to explore these complex questions around sexuality in a process called Living in Love and Faith (LLF). It is becoming ever clearer that this exploration will have to come to a view on the status of ‘gender’ in relation to biological sex: is it really a thing? how is it understood? how does it relate to biological sex as part of bodily human existence? does it have any theological status? And until that is done, I think the Church would be wise not to make any more ad hoc pronouncements about transgender issues.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

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

We all must become “double majors”

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

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

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

There is good reason to be encouraged

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Sadgrove–Walking on Water: an ordination retreat address

On your ordination day last year I asked you about your hopes and aspirations and expectations as you approached this great moment in your lives. “You wouldn’t be human if somewhere within, you didn’t tremble at this threshold” I said, recalling my own ordination more than forty years ago. Now that I look back, it felt a bit like the disciples going down to the sea, getting into a boat and setting off on their voyage. Even if the lake wasn’t rough to begin with, it was now, John points out, “dark”. Ahead of them an adventure beckoned. But there was so much that was unknown to them, so much that they couldn’t know. There is risk involved in launching out on to the deep at night, as they will tell you when you visit Galilee and learn about the storms and squalls that suddenly sweep down from Mount Hermon and churn up the water treacherously.

But I think the key question concerns what is going on inside us. Van Gogh said that the human heart is “very much like the sea; it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too”. This is a metaphor they may not recognise in poor landlocked dioceses. But we here in Newcastle know the North Sea and its fickleness, the calm still days where barely a ripple laps the pristine white beaches of Northumberland, and the storms out of the north east that crash against the basalt rocks and lighthouses and breakwaters so violently that you wonder they are still standing. We know our own selves too. On the night before Thomas Merton was ordained priest in 1949, he confided to his journal The Sign of Jonas. “My life is a great mess and tangle of half-conscious subterfuges to evade grace and duty. I have done all things badly. I have thrown away great opportunities. My infidelity to Christ, instead of making me sick with despair, drives me to throw myself all the more blindly into the arms of His mercy.” He knew about treading water at seventy thousand fathoms.

Which is, not literally but metaphorically what the disciples experienced on Gennesaret that night. “The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.” They had rowed three or four miles, says John, which can only mean that they were in the middle of the lake, out of sight of the shoreline. At the height of the tempest, they see Jesus coming to them, drawing near to the boat. “And they were terrified” says the text. You’d have thought they would already be frightened for their lives because of the storm. Yet it’s the apparition of Jesus that terrifies: that’s clear from the words Jesus speaks. “It is I; do not be afraid”.

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Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

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

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

Read it all.

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