Category : Pastoral Theology

A [London] Times Article on the Aftermath of the IICSA report–Independent watchdog to police abusive priests

Bishops’ powers will be passed to trained “diocesan safeguarding officers”, who will be able to make decisions “independently of clergy” and will be supervised centrally.

The church said that bishops still have an “important role to play” in promoting the importance of child protection policies, but added that they “should not hold operational responsibility” for decisions about abuse cases.

The church also gave its backing to the creation of an independent body to oversee the work of its national safeguarding team, which will be the first time that an external watchdog has been set up to police abusive priests.

It will consist of a board with a “majority of entirely independent members” to provide “independent scrutiny and feedback”.

Read it all.

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

The Church of England’s detailed response to IICSA report

The Church of England has…published its detailed responses to the recommendations of the IICSA report from October. As the report stated, the Church of England failed to protect some children and young people from sexual predators within their midst. While the Church will continue to apologise, the main focus is now recognising the distress caused particularly to victims and survivors and acting to improve its safeguarding structures and to change its culture.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Tom Wright writes to the Spectator about Racism and the Gospel

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PW) Fear and Hope: When Timothy Keller’s Book Met His Life

“Most books you write after you have gone through an experience, but in this case what was so strange was I was having the experience while writing the book,” he told PW. “When you realize this may be the end and you have this abstract belief in heaven and the promise of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, you have to ask, do I really believe this? So writing the book was really a struggle with that question.”

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the 70-year-old Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the sodom known as Manhattan does believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus. While writing, he spent extra time in prayer and “experiencing the presence of the risen Christ,” as he put it. “I was just shocked at how much more experience of God there was than I found before. So I have grown and I have confidence in the resurrection after a combination of faith and experience.”

Keller has buckets of experience as an author. His first title, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008) hit number five on PW’s Bestseller List and sold more than 150,000 copies in its first year. That was followed by more than 20 titles on everything from love to suffering, Christmas to church planting. He hit PW’s twice more, with Prodigal God (Dutton, 2008) and Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014), both of which hit the 100,000 copies sold mark. Hope in Times of Fear is intended as a bookend to Hidden Christmas, a holiday book published by Viking in 2016. In between books, Keller became one of the pioneers of the now-standard megachurch model of multi-site worship. Before retiring in 2017, he spent years of Sundays hopscotching across Central Park, going uptown and down, giving three or more sermons a day at Redeemer’s five different sites. Today, there are Redeemer-affiliated churches in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout his publishing career, he has been with one editor — Brian Tart, president and publisher of Viking Penguin. Tart heard about Keller and his popular church in 2006 and headed there one Sunday to hear him preach. “Obviously, he knew the Bible inside and out, but he also took a lot of examples from stories and myths and movies and books. He was really engaged in the cultural conversation of the moment and there wasn’t a barrier of entry for people to understand him. He reached people where they were,” Tart told PW. “That Tim is talking about cancer makes his personal journey to God helpful to people. He is saying ‘I’ve been through a dark time, we all been through a dark time, and yet I feel this great reservoir of hope.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(PD) Can We Still Reason Together? A Conversation with Robert P. George

SS: In a discussion about advocacy for traditional marriage, one Princeton graduate student told me that she was uncomfortable with the idea of trying to convince others to oppose same-sex marriage by appealing to social science or the kind of arguments you have articulated in What Is Marriage. Although she herself is Catholic, to this student, such an approach felt deceptive—like smuggling in religious precepts under the guise of neutrality and disinterested intellectual inquiry.

How would you respond to her? Is it intellectually honest to make arguments based on natural law or social science for positions you only hold because of your own religious faith?

RG: From your description of her, it sounds like the graduate student you were talking to doesn’t understand the teachings of her own Catholic faith when it comes to the nature of morality, moral questions, and moral judgments, including those concerning marriage. Catholicism self-consciously embraces and proposes a certain understanding of marriage and the norms shaping and protecting it for reasons—reasons that are in principle accessible to anyone, Catholic or not. The point of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense was to articulate, explain, and defend those reasons.

Catholicism is not a fideistic religion. Quite the opposite. Its basic view of marriage as conjugal union (and not a mere form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership), for example, is not a matter of “religious precepts” that we (or the pope, or the Church) know because God has communicated them to us only by special revelation. Your friend may happen to believe what she believes about marriage because that is what the Church believes and teaches; but the Church herself believes and teaches what she believes and teaches on the subject for reasons that by the Church’s own lights—and her teachings—are available to be understood by “disinterested intellectual inquiry.” These reasons are matters of natural law.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(TGC) Justin Taylor–Questions for David French on the Connections between the Atlanta Killer and Purity Culture

But what’s the evidence that the shooter, who would have been in youth group during the presidencies of Obama and Trump, was taught the toxic purity culture that peaked in the 1990s?

My argument is not “no evidence will ever or could ever exist,” but rather “no one actually knows, and therefore we shouldn’t draw that connection until and unless evidence emerges.”

If I was a betting man, I would actually put a hefty wager on this young man having heard the normative / traditional / orthodox teaching on sexuality that David French taught his youth group instead of the toxic legalism that Bill Gothard taught.

And if that’s true, then the argument of this piece basically falls apart. It could become a good standalone article on purity culture, but not a very illuminating one of the killer and his theological culture.

(By the way, if you want to hear from the church itself, you can read their statement.)

So my encouragement to everyone: let’s slow down on drawing connections that might seem obvious but are actually quite tenuous.

Read it all.

Update: Terry Mattingly also has helpful reflections Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

David French–Why the Atlanta Massacre Triggered a Conversation About Purity Culture

As this conversation unfolds, it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, the purity culture I’m describing never fully captured the church. Millions of people have thankfully lived their entire Christian lives free from the extremes I’ve described above.

Second, however, it’s absolutely vital that Christians do not leave the task of confronting extremes to a secular world and media that is often hostile to (or doesn’t understand) Christian orthodoxy itself. The secular critique is typically all confrontation, no redemption.

The Christian response, however, requires both confrontation and redemption. It recognizes that Christ holds the answer when the church fails. As I’ve written before when addressing the failures and faults of the purity movement, through Christ even stories of past pain and suffering can be redeemed and transformed into instruments of grace and mercy.

Shortly after we received the first reports about the Atlanta killer’s motives, my friend and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Karen Swallow Prior tweeted two insightful words, “Culture cultivates.” A culture that defines a person by their sexual sin cultivates misery. When it places women in a position of guarding a man’s heart, it cultivates abuse. And sometimes, when a man’s heart is particularly dark, it can even cultivate murder.

The problem with purity culture is not Christianity. The problem with purity culture is that its extremes are not Christian at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Youth Ministry

(Barna) ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: John Mark Comer on Pastoral Rhythms

[John Mark] Comer reflects on the ways in which this past year has forced him to recognize how little control he has over circumstances, especially when it comes to the impossibility of pleasing everyone as a leader. He reflects, “It is literally impossible to lead through a year like 2020 and 2021 and not have a whole bunch of people upset about you. There’s such a broad range of opinion issues—social distancing and masks, right and left, people who want you to be political and others who don’t.”

One of the invitations Comer sees for leaders in this difficult season is the ability to accept reality and limitations as they are and move from a place of fear into love. Comer notes, “When we are fearful of something, we need the world to go a certain way, we need people to act toward us in a certain way in order to act toward them in love. As long as we [desire control], we’ll always sabotage our growth into people of faith, hope and love. As the mystics would say, at the root of fear is a need for control.”

He adds, “The last year has exposed the illusion that we’re more in control of our life than we actually are. It has given all of us an invitation to either freak out and rant or to actually begin to accept reality and move to a place of trusting love.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(Tablet) Welby condemns ‘sins of male violence’ amid vigils for Sarah Everard

The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “Testimony after testament from women over recent days have shown us something we have known and ignored for far too long: the profound impact of the sin of male violence, intimidation, harassment, sexism and abuse carried out against women. It is these sins – and the culture that perptuates and condones them – that need our urgent repentance, our fervent prayer, and our resolute action as men.”

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme that Ms Everard’s death was a tipping point, and acknowledged the Churches’ role in fostering a culture of male dominance. “We have used scripture to make women submissive to men. . . We have contributed to that pervasive culture that women and girls are lesser than men and boys and we have got a big part to play in redressing that,” she said.

Read it all.

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

(The Cut) A Wonderful story on Nasim Alikhani, who opened a New York restaurant at age 59

I was born in Iran, and I went to school to study law to become a judge. Then the revolution happened, and women could no longer be judges. The only option for an outspoken woman like me was to leave my country, and so I came to New York in my early 20s on a student visa. I lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, and I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t study law in the U.S.; I couldn’t afford it. I was starting over completely.

I found a job as a nanny, and the family paid me a little extra to cook their meals. My own mother had taught me to cook when I was growing up, and it was always something I was passionate about, but I never considered it professionally. The family noticed that I could cook really well, and the wife recommended me to her friends, so I started cooking in other people’s homes for parties, people’s birthdays, things like that. People would tell me, “You should open a restaurant.” But I was so young, and still a student in a master’s program. To me, the only way to advance was through higher education, so I got a useless master’s degree and kept doing all kinds of odd jobs — waitressing, babysitting, working in a copy shop.

When I got the opportunity to open my own copy-and-print shop, I was beside myself. It was the first chance I had for financial stability. I had that business for eight years, and it did really well. During that time, I got married, and between my husband and me, our financial situation improved significantly. We were working hard and dining out a lot, and I would always look at the food scene and say, “Why is nobody doing a good job with Iranian food?” I started thinking seriously about opening a coffee shop in the East Village that would serve Persian food for breakfast and lunch. We were also trying to start a family, and it was difficult. I lost pregnancies. And then I got pregnant with twins, so I put the restaurant idea on the back burner.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iran, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Middle Age, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(Bloomberg) CEOs Become Vaccine Activists as Back-to-Office Push Grows

Some chief executive officers are so eager for their employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 that they’re granting workers time off or cash incentives to get shots.

In the U.S., retailer Lidl is giving its staff $200, while Aldi, Dollar General Corp. and Trader Joe’s Co. are offering extra hours of pay. Online grocery delivery firm Instacart Inc. is providing a $25 stipend for workers and contractors. Yogurt makers Chobani LLC and Danone SA are offering as much as six hours of paid leave, and the French company says it will cover the cost of inoculation in countries where vaccines aren’t free.

Other companies are taking a harder line. U.K. handyman empire Pimlico Plumbers Ltd. has said it plans a “no jab, no job” policy for new members of its workforce. United Airlines wants to make shots mandatory, drawing concerns from unions.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Local Paper) Line stretches across East Side block as church offers walk-in coronavirus vaccines

While thousands of South Carolinians who are newly eligible for the coronavirus vaccine struggle to get an appointment, a Charleston church and pharmacy found a way to immunize members of their East Side community on a walk-in basis.

They were regular attendees and people who’d never before seen the inside of Ebenezer AME Chruch’s education building, Nassau Street neighbors and suburb residents who crossed rivers get to the event. But they hoped, by the end of the day, to have one thing in common: a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in their arms.

In a three-hour sprint on March 13, Ebenezer AME and Focus: Meds Pharmacy & Wellness hoped to vaccinate as many people as possible, Rev. William Swinton Jr. said. As part of the strategy, they decided to make the event a first-come, first-served, avoiding the online registration process that’s befuddled many South Carolinians in Phase 1B.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(NYT) Clergy Preach Faith in the Covid Vaccine to Doubters

During a recent Sunday service at the Gathering Place, an evangelical church in Orlando, Fla., the Rev. Gabriel Salguero focused his sermon on the Covid-19 vaccine, and the fear and suspicion that his largely Latino congregation clutches so tightly.

He turned to the New Testament: the parable of the good Samaritan, about the importance of aiding the stranger.

“In getting yourself vaccinated, you are helping your neighbor,” he preached to about 300 masked and socially distanced worshipers. “God wants you to be whole so you can care for your community. So think of vaccines as part of God’s plan.”

Mr. Salguero is among thousands of clergy members from a cross-section of faiths — imams, rabbis, priests, swamis — who are trying to coax the hesitant to get vaccinated against Covid-19. By weaving scripture with science, they are employing the singular trust vested in them by their congregations to dispel myths and disinformation about the shots. Many are even offering their sanctuaries as vaccination sites, to make the experience more accessible and reassuring.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Anglican Diocese of SC) Jay Crouse–Reflections on God’s Unexpected Pandemic Gifts

Gone! There was not really one obvious event which brought the pandemic into our reality. Not like when JFK was assassinated or 9/11. Everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when those tragedies occurred. Not so with the 2020 coronavirus.

It crept up on us. With some believing it was no more dangerous than the annual flu epidemic. Creeping, creeping, creeping and then it was gone. Not the virus but our freedoms!

Many of us were in shock for weeks trying to comprehend what was happening, others suffered the awful shock of losing a loved one to the virus. Some have created “bubbles” which include a few people, mostly family members, with whom they can have physical contact. Social distancing for social people? How awkward and uncomfortable. 14 day quarantined? A worldwide pandemic. Loss of our freedom to worship. How debilitating.

I am not sure when I first heard this phrase, but upon hearing it, it consumed my sequestered thoughts: “Why is God doing this for us?” A twist on the “Why is God doing this to us.” If you pause, as I have over these past months, you might be overwhelmed with appreciation for the answers you come up with….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theodicy, Theology

Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding comments by the Primate of Nigeria

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology

(AC) Rod Dreher–Ryan T. Anderson Was Made For This Moment

When he was running for president, Joe Biden vowed to sign the Equality Act if elected. Now that both the House and the Senate are in the hands of Democrats, odds are that the Equality Act will pass. Why does this concern you?

First, thankfully, odds are still against the bill becoming law. If the legislative filibuster remains, the Equality Act goes nowhere in the Senate. If they somehow convince Senator Manchin to vote to remove the legislative filibuster, then we’re in a different situation. The question would then be whether Senator McConnell can keep all 50 republicans opposed (and early signs are good as Senator Collins has said she now opposes the Equality Act). That would then leave a 50-50 split with VP Harris casting the deciding vote—unless, of course, Senator Manchin broke ranks and opposed the bill.

Second, why is the Equality Act so disconcerting? My most recent short treatment can be found last week in the New York Post. But I’ve been writing about the harms of the Equality Act, and its predecessor the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, since 2013. In books, law review articles, essays, op-eds, white papers, etc. etc. my basic argument has been that it gets the nature of the human person wrong, and by enshrining a false anthropology into law it’ll cause serious harms. (Basic idea being straight from MLK, who was building on Aquinas and Augustine, that for man-made law to be just, it needs to embody the natural law and the eternal law.)

The equality act would take a just law—the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which banned discrimination on the basis of race, and then add “sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity” everywhere that race is protected. It expands the number of private businesses that would now be classified as public accommodations. And it explicitly exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). And it’s important to point out that because “sex” isn’t currently a protected class in Title II (public accommodations) or Title VI (federal funding recipients), by adding “sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity” to those titles the only religious liberty protections the Equality Act allows for would be those available to racists.

So the short answer is that the Equality Act treats people and institutions that believe we are created male and female, and that male and female are created for each other, as the legal equivalent of racists. And then all of the negative consequences for privacy and safety in single-sex facilities, for equality and fairness for athletics, for medicine when it comes to gender dysphoria (and abortion, see my NYPost op-ed) follow from that. If you get human nature wrong in law, there are consequences.

Because the vast majority of those consequences are not simply about “religious liberty,” the so-called Fairness for All alternative to the Equality Act isn’t actually fair, at all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(First Things) Hans Boersma on the recent ACNA kerfuffle over Christian anthropology and pastoral care

Whither the ACNA? Much will depend on its ability to keep the theological and the pastoral together.

First, we should avoid blaming our Christian heritage or the contemporary church for singling out the sin of homosexuality. Such self-blame is understandable: It is a way of dealing with the emotional hardship caused by same-sex attraction. But this introspection is, for the most part, unwarranted. Traditional Christian morality does not single out homosexuality, whereas making it part of one’s identity does. Besides, power roles have reversed: In today’s therapeutic culture, insisting on one’s gay identity mostly gets applauded, while it requires great courage to speak and write biblically about homosexuality. And while greed, adultery, etc. are all wrong, Scripture hardly supports the notion that all sins are of equal weight.

Third, we should keep in mind that the primary pastoral context of sin is alienation from God. If disordered sexual desires lead us away from a right relationship with God, then that is the key pastoral issue that we must address. The primary pastoral context, then, is not the feeling of exclusion from fellow believers as a result of sexual identity. It’s not that the latter doesn’t powerfully function; it obviously does. But it does so because of the way we have wedded sexual desire to human identity—a unique characteristic of today’s Western therapeutic culture. Carl Trueman’s recent book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, is a must-read to untangle the cultural web that we have spun for ourselves and a welcome antidote to the inexorable drift toward acceptance of disordered desire.

Please note, I am not encouraging us to ignore the pastoral. Quite the opposite: I am convinced we’re often not pastoral enough.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Esau McCaulley–My 6 Months as a Solo Parent

These past six months have been more exhausting than any other period of my life. There are times when my alarm goes off and I have little desire to move. I want to lie in bed and wish the world away, but there are four kids who need me. So I smile, open my bedroom door and welcome the chaos. I wonder how often my mother felt the same way. I remember noticing the strain in her laughter when I was a child, and now I understand the source.

Simple activities are logistical nightmares. If child care happens only during your work hours, how do you find space for ordinary errands like buying groceries? You either pay for child care while you do it or you drag four children to the market. I now understand my mother’s extensive instructions before we entered the store not to touch or ask for anything.

I have a network of friends and church members who provide meals and rides to band, baseball and soccer practice. My dean and co-workers have been understanding when I have had to leave a meeting early or not attend at all. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed how lonely solo parenting is. I go to work, come home and care for the kids. My interactions with other adults without children present have become nonexistent.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology

(ACNA) Clarity In The Midst Of Confusion: A Provincial Statement On The Events Of The Week

From there:

In January of this year, the College of Bishops released a statement on human sexuality and identity which reiterated the biblical position that the Province was founded upon in 2009, a position fully aligned with the Jerusalem Declaration and Lambeth 1.10. While the culture in North America has moved further away from the biblical understanding of sexuality and human identity, the Anglican Church in North America has not moved.

This week, a lay person dissented from the College of Bishop’s statement in a public letter and instigated the very confusion that the College of Bishops warned would happen if its members did not heed this pastoral advice. The confusion was made worse by a misleading claim that Provincial approval had been given for the letter; it had not.

We encourage those who have concerns to again read the Statement itself, “Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops,” rather than be distracted by inaccurate commentary and misleading open letters. For additional context we also commend the letter, “Identity Matters,” from the bishop who chaired the taskforce. If you continue to have questions or concerns, please contact your local bishop. If you are an international partner, you can contact the Provincial Office at communications@anglicanchurch.net

The Anglican Church in North America remains committed to being a place where Christians who experience same-sex attraction can come alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ seeking to be more closely conformed to the character of Jesus, and grow in biblical holiness, righteousness, and godliness. Together, we will continue to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Prayer and Science Led Me to the Vaccine

As a father, grandfather, pastor and community leader, I grasped the importance of understanding the vaccine. That meant getting the facts early on from the most qualified scientists and doctors. A panel discussion I hosted early in January with several of the nation’s leading infectious-disease experts—including Anthony Fauci, Kizzmekia Corbett and Yale medical professor Onyema Ogbuagu —provided a thorough description of the vaccine-development process. Particularly helpful were the details supplied by Dr. Corbett, a young black woman and key scientist behind the development of Moderna’s novel mRNA vaccine.

I received invaluable advice from my longtime physician, a black woman and member of my church who has herself received the vaccine. Because I believe in the multitude of counsel, I also spoke with several leading infectious-disease specialists here in the Dallas area, a metropolis that is home to many globally renowned health-care facilities.

Eventually, it came down to common sense. I am a 63-year-old black man, a little overweight and with an underlying health condition. The vaccine has been proven to diminish chances of people like me getting the virus. To date, the vaccine’s side effects have been minimal or nonexistent. It’s true that no one knows anything about potential long-term side effects. But here’s what we do know: The virus has killed more than 500,000 people in this country alone, but the vaccine has yet to kill a single person. Moreover, there is a great deal of information about lingering debilitating symptoms among those who survive the virus.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) New C of E disciplinary process ‘could save £250,000’ and boost legal aid

The Ecclesiastical Law Society (ELS) working group that is looking at a replacement for the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) produced its final report…[this past] Wednesday.

The working group, chaired by Peter Collier QC, the Vicar-General of York, calculates that its proposed scheme will cost the Church an average of £652,000 p.a. This includes £294,000 to provide legal aid for all respondents accused of serious misconduct.

The group reckons that the average annual cost of the existing, discredited system under the CDM to be approaching £900,000, with only £104,325 allocated for legal aid (2019 figure).

The working group predicts a saving even if legal aid is offered in minor as well as serious complaints. This would put the annual legal aid bill at £438,000, making the total cost of dealing with complaints £796,000.

The chief purpose in forming an ELS working group was concern about injustices of the existing system. These have been acknowledged by another working group chaired by the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton (News, 11 December 2020). The final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) also addressed the issue of clergy discipline and supervision.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Black Church Group Offers Its Best Shot at Closing Vaccine Gap

As the nation passed 500,000 coronavirus deaths this week, government data revealed that the life expectancy for African American men dropped three years—triple the decline among Americans overall during the first half of 2020.

In an effort to help reach minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 but less likely to get the shot, a coalition of 150,000 churches recently announced its plan for vaccinating over 100 million black and Latino churchgoers.

The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), which represents historic black denominations and partners with Latino leaders, has been lobbying the federal government for a more comprehensive plan to address disparities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake. NBCI president Anthony Evans wants to see the government more deliberately use churches’ built-in trust and familiarity to make the vaccine more accessible for minority populations.

Evans said at a press conference at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Washington, DC, last week that he supports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for who should become vaccinated first but worries that African Americans and Latinos who qualify because of their age or underlying medical conditions aren’t getting the vaccine.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(AI) Archbishop Beach writes to the Diocese of the South about some recent developments

Commemoration of Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna Martyr, 156

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing today to address a letter which was put out yesterday via social media. A group led by aspirant, Pieter Valk, has put out a letter entitled, Dear Gay Anglicans, in response to the College of Bishops’ pastoral letter on identity. If you have not seen the letter, you can find it HERE.

While it says they are not undermining our Pastoral Statement, they actually are. Replacing “gay Christian” with “gay Anglican” is pretty much in your face. My immediate reaction to the letter was that it was pretty benign and wasn’t going to change anything about what we teach.

However, it has already had international ramifications. I have had to deal with two provinces already (actually now three as of a few minutes ago) — and this is just the first day. In many of our partner provinces, the practice of homosexuality is against the law, and to make matters more difficult, they usually don’t understand the nuances of the word “gay” or “homosexual attraction” — they just hear the practice of same-sex immorality.

In the province, the expected hard rhetoric is coming from both sides in reaction to this. I find our lack of charity in the province a serious blind spot we need to address. Many of our bishops, and rightly so, feel this is an attempt to undermine our roles as guardians of the Faith and teachers of the doctrine of the Church. Some individuals have expressed that we are now TEC 2.0. Some think this is going to break the ACNA apart — one quote I received tonight: “If I had to guess what might fracture the ACNA I would’ve said women’s ordination. I never would have thought it would be homosexuality. We gave up everything to take a clear stand on this. It is disheartening to have it being taken away.” I could go on, but you get the point.

This is serious enough, however, that I am writing this at 1:15 am.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Wednesday Food for Thought–Tim Keller on the Holy Spirit as our Second Advocate and a story from the 18th century Welsh Church

” … your defense lawyer may have hard and challenging things to say to you, yet always in order to help you case and cause. And he or she does not merely speak to you – but also speaks to the powers that be for you. This is why the translations of John 14:16-20; 25-27 that call the Holy Spirit the Advocate are also, I believe, on the right track. That’s how God’s Spirit is defined, or described, in the word Jesus uses to talk about him. But we must notice also that Jesus calls the Spirit another Advocate or counselor. Who, then, is the first Advocate? The only other place in the New Testament where the word paraklete is used is in 1 John 2:1-2: ‘If anyone does sin, we have an advocate (paraklete) with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ So Jesus is the first Advocate, and the Spirit is the second. And I want you to know that in this word – advocate, counselor – we have the key to understanding not only Jesus’ work on the cross but also the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Indeed, I’d argue that unless you know that Jesus was the first Advocate, you won’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit as the second Advocate at all….”

“The first Advocate is speaking to God for you, but the second Advocate is speaking to you for you. Throughout the Farewell Discourse, Jesus keeps saying that the job of the Spirit is to take all the things Jesus has done on our behalf – all the things that the apostles had still not yet grasped – and to ‘teach you’ and ‘remind you’ and enable the apostles to finally understand all that Jesus had taught them about his saving work (John 14:26).”

“I love the fact that the Holy Spirit is not merely an instructor, but an Advocate. Though he is ‘the Spirit of truth,’ he does not merely teach and inform us; he calls us to live according to what he is telling us. He convicts us and challenges us (John 16:8-11). He says in effect, ‘You are a sinner – are you living with the humility and dependence on God that results from that fact? Yet you are also righteous in Christ – adopted and accepted into the family. Are you living with the boldness and freedom that should accord with that fact? Are you as free from the need for worldly power and approval and comfort as you should be?’ He argues with us, he exhorts, beseeches, and entreats us (all good translations of parakleo), to live lives in accordance with the accomplishments and realities of Christ’s love. And this is why Jesus says that through the Holy Spirit he will finally ‘show’ himself to his friends (John 14:21). They will finally see him and know his loving presence. … it’s natural for us to believe that it would have been better to have lived during the time of Christ and to have actually met him and heard him with our ears and seen him with our eyes. You might believe that you could know him better that way than you do now – but you would be wrong. Before he died, the Holy Spirit had not been released into the world in this powerful way, and you can only know Jesus fully through the Spirit’s influence, as he shows you in the shadow of the cross how high and long and wide and deep his love is for us. In other words, right here and now, through the Holy Spirit, you can see Christ and know his presence and his love better than the apostles could in that moment in the upper room.”

“This week, somebody criticized you. Something you bought or invested in turned out to be less valuable than you thought. Something you wanted to happen didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Someone you counted on let you down. These are real losses – of your reputation, of your material wealth, of your hopes. But what are you going to do, if you’re a Christian? Will this setback disrupt your contentment with life? Will you shake your fist at God? Toss and turn at night? If so, I submit that it’s because you don’t know how truly rich you are. You are not listening to the second Advocate about your first Advocate. You are not living in joy. You are forgetting that the only eyes in the universe that matter see you not as the ‘phony little fake’ you have sometimes been, but as a person of captivating beauty. If you’re that upset about your status with other people, if you’re constantly lashing out at people for hurting your feelings, you might call it a lack of self-control or a lack of self-esteem, and it is. But more fundamentally, you have totally lost touch with your identity. As a Christian, you’re a spiritual billionaire and you’re wringing your hands over ten dollars. It’s the job of the second Advocate to argue with you in the court of your heart, to make the case about who you are in Christ, to show you that you’re rich. And it’s your job to listen. How can you listen better? That’s a big subject, but if you are a believer, then the Holy Spirit will do his work as you use the ‘means of grace’ – reading and studying the Word by yourself and in community, prayer, worship, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper….” 

“I once heard a story of an eighteenth-century Welsh preacher who, when he was just a teenager, was standing with his family around the deathbed of one of his aunts. His aunt had been a strong Christian, but she was slipping away. Everyone thought she was unconscious and some said out loud, ‘It’s a shame; she’s had such a hard life. She’s seen two husbands die, and she’s often been sick, and on top of it all she has died poor.’ Suddenly she opened her eyes, looked around, and said, ‘Who calls me poor? I am rich, rich! And I will soon stand before Him bold as a lion.’ And then she died. Understandably, that had quite an effect on the young man. This woman had the peace that Jesus spoke of because she had listened to the Advocate. She was saying, ‘I’ve got the only husband who can’t die. I’ve got the only wealth that can never go away. And my Savior dealt long ago with sin – the only disease that can really and truly kill me. How can you call me poor?’ The second Advocate had told her about the first Advocate, so she could say in the face of great loss, as the hymn writer did, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

–Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), pp.34-147, quoted by yours truly in this past Sunday’s sermon

Posted in --Wales, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

For his Feast Day-Mike Aquilina: John Chrysostoms Discovery of the Blessings & Mysteries of Marriage

We could honestly and accurately describe it as a mystagogy of marriage. He wants us to move from the icon to the reality. Still, he insists that we must also learn to venerate the icon. “Learn the power of the type,” he says, “so that you may learn the strength of the truth.”

It is important for us to realize that John’s mature doctrine of marriage is almost unique in ancient Christianity. His contemporaries tended to look upon marriage as an institution that was passing away, as more and more Christians turned to celibacy. The best thing Jerome could say about marriage was that it produced future celibates. In Antioch in John’s day, there were 3,000 consecrated virgins and widows in a city of perhaps 250,000, and that number does not include the celibate men in brotherhoods or the hermits who filled the nearby mountains.

Yet John glorified marriage. It pained him that Christian couples continued to practice the old, obscene pagan wedding customs. So shameful were these practices that few couples dared to invite their parish priest to attend and give a blessing.

“Is the wedding then a theater?” he told them in a sermon. “It is a sacrament, a mystery, and a model of the Church of Christ. . . . They dance at pagan ceremonies; but at ours, silence and decorum should prevail, respect and modesty. Here a great mystery is accomplished.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Sexuality And Identity: A Pastoral Statement From ACNA The College Of Bishops

The Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) offer this pastoral statement to the Church after prayer, study, careful listening to disparate voices, and a collaborative process involving contributions from across the Province. As a result of this process, we have become even more acutely aware of the power we all need to live faithfully in Jesus Christ as He redeems the whole of our identity, including our sexuality.

The College of Bishops asked for the formation of this statement in January of 2020 after we heard reports of varied application among ACNA leaders regarding the use of language about sexual identity, especially within provincial events. We recognize there are a multiplicity of realities in our current national, political, and global circumstances into which an episcopal voice could be presented. In the midst of this tragic pandemic, we desire to continue to minister the Gospel into all aspects of our common life that have been distorted by sin such as racism, persecution, injustice, and violence, while also speaking to this specific issue of identity and sexuality. We hope this circumspect statement will speak pastorally to the issue of sexuality and the use of language within our provincial church.

Our foundation is the Scriptural truth that God made us male and female in His image—a profound unity with distinction (Genesis 1:27). God established marriage between male and female to fill the earth through procreation (Genesis 1:28). Jesus and the Apostle Paul taught that marriage is the model of God’s relation to humanity, the Church. It is a sacramental type of union by which humans work out their salvation with, and in, God’s grace. It requires a lifetime of commitment joined, blessed, and sustained by God between one man and one woman for the purposes of raising children and bearing the image of Christ’s relationship with the Church (Matthew 19:1-12, Ephesians 5:21-33). Yet, Jesus and Paul also extol, and themselves exemplify, the model of virginity for life and spirituality (2 Corinthians 11:1-2). They establish Christian celibacy as a normal, while less common, vocation of abstinent singleness for the sake of the kingdom (Matthew 19:1-12, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40).

Furthermore, we equally affirm, following Paul, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We say, with Augustine, that this Fall has affected our lives in destructive ways that have disordered our affections. While same-sex attraction is one manifest type of disordered affection, there are many other types of disordered affections. Indeed, we recognize that same-sex sexual relationships have been an oft-targeted sin while other sinful manifestations of our common fallen nature, such as pornography, adultery, divorce, greed, and disregard for the poor have sometimes been tragically discounted or even ignored.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) Hospital chaplains at the core of coronavirus care

The coronavirus has swept away any idea that chaplains are optional extras or “genteel outsiders”, the president of the College of Healthcare Chaplains, Dr Simon Harrison, has said.

“In the first wave of the virus, there was a bit of the ‘Perhaps the chaplaincy should stay away for a bit until we get over this,’” Dr Harrison, who is also lead chaplain at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said on Monday. “That has long passed.”

Staff support is significantly more embedded into the infrastructure, to the extent that some trusts have newly recruited dedicated staff chaplains.

The impact of the virus on chaplaincy teams themselves has also heightened the sense of being part of the hospital team. All were now hands-on and very busy, Dr Harrison said.

“There is a lot of fatigue and ongoing anxiety among chaplains, but collegiality is at an all-time high. Staff support feels like the direction of travel for so many more.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(PD) Timothy P. O’Malley–A Communion of Anxiety: Hookup Culture and the Impossible Horizon of the Future

For those of us who are married and with kids, these micro-transformations are most of our life. We change diapers, play endless games of horsey with toddlers, teach our kids to read and write, ask our teen the questions that matter, and endure the wrath of the same teen when we limit their use of a digital device. We do this because we hope in a future in which truth, goodness, and beauty will be passed on not by us but by our progeny. After all, we will be very dead. But the pursuit of wisdom will continue through our children, who hand on the gift of life to their children, and so on until a future generation knows us exclusively because of a seventh-grade family history project on the part of our great-great-great-great granddaughter.

All of this may seem a strange way to deal with hookup culture and an increasing fear of procreation. But if hookup culture and the anxiety of introducing children into this world is about fear of the future, then we must uphold the gift of commitment, stability, and those small acts of love that no human being will recognize as an accomplishment worth fêting.

It is precisely through these micro-transformations that a future will be created that is marked by generosity and communion. In other words, a future in which everyone will introduce children into a world that is very good.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

The Incredible story of what Saint John did to recover a convert who lapsed from the faith

Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant’s death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit.
7. When he had come to one of the cities not far away (the name of which is given by some ), and had consoled the brethren in other matters, he finally turned to the bishop that had been appointed, and seeing a youth of powerful physique, of pleasing appearance, and of ardent temperament, he said, ‘This one I commit to you in all earnestness in the presence of the Church and with Christ as witness.’ And when the bishop had accepted the charge and had promised all, he repeated the same injunction with an appeal to the same witnesses, and then departed for Ephesus.

8. But the presbyter taking home the youth committed to him, reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him. After this he relaxed his stricter care and watchfulness, with the idea that in putting upon him the seal of the Lord he had given him a perfect protection.

9. But some youths of his own age, idle and dissolute, and accustomed to evil practices, corrupted him when he was thus prematurely freed from restraint. At first they enticed him by costly entertainments; then, when they went forth at night for robbery, they took him with them, and finally they demanded that he should unite with them in some greater crime.

10. He gradually became accustomed to such practices, and on account of the positiveness of his character, leaving the right path, and taking the bit in his teeth like a hard-mouthed and powerful horse, he rushed the more violently down into the depths.

11. And finally despairing of salvation in God, he no longer meditated what was insignificant, but having committed some great crime, since he was now lost once for all, he expected to suffer a like fate with the rest. Taking them, therefore, and forming a band of robbers, he became a bold bandit-chief, the most violent, most bloody, most cruel of them all.

12. Time passed, and some necessity having arisen, they sent for John. But he, when he had set in order the other matters on account of which he had come, said, ‘Come, O bishop, restore us the deposit which both I and Christ committed to you, the church, over which you preside, being witness.’

13. But the bishop was at first confounded, thinking that he was falsely charged in regard to money which he had not received, and he could neither believe the accusation respecting what he had not, nor could he disbelieve John. But when he said, ‘I demand the young man and the soul of the brother,’ the old man, groaning deeply and at the same time bursting into tears, said, ‘He is dead.’ ‘How and what kind of death?’ ‘He is dead to God,’ he said; ‘for he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.’

14. But the Apostle rent his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation, he said, ‘A fine guard I left for a brother’s soul! But let a horse be brought me, and let some one show me the way.’ He rode away from the church just as he was, and coming to the place, he was taken prisoner by the robbers’ outpost.

15. He, however, neither fled nor made entreaty, but cried out, ‘For this did I come; lead me to your captain.’

16. The latter, meanwhile, was waiting, armed as he was. But when he recognized John approaching, he turned in shame to flee.

17. But John, forgetting his age, pursued him with all his might, crying out, ‘Why, my son, do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death as the Lord suffered death for us. For you will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ has sent me.’

18. And he, when he heard, first stopped and looked down; then he threw away his arms, and then trembled and wept bitterly. And when the old man approached, he embraced him, making confession with lamentations as he was able, baptizing himself a second time with tears, and concealing only his right hand.

19. But John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Saviour, besought him, fell upon his knees, kissed his right hand itself as if now purified by repentance, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church, furnishing a great example of true repentance and a great proof of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.

(From Eusebius which may be found there [III.23]).

Posted in Church History, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Barna) 3 Insights to Help Pastors Care for Their Church This Season

Barna data show that pastors across the U.S. feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to caring for their church members during crisis. In a year that has been marked by uncertainty, distance and trauma, pastors are likely facing even greater pressure to support and guide their people—perhaps while their own mental and emotional well-being are also suffering.

As a difficult year comes to a close and a challenging holiday season continues, let’s examine findings from three recent Barna studies that could help pastors as they think through caring for their congregants—and themselves—during crisis.

Most pastors agree that trauma is an issue the Church should address, but many church leaders have had little to no training in the way of trauma care. Data from Barna’s recent report created in partnership with American Bible Society—Trauma in America—show that the majority of Protestant pastors (73%) indicates they feel “somewhat” equipped to help someone in their congregation who may be dealing with significant trauma. Only one in seven (15%) feels “very” well-equipped, while 12 percent do not feel equipped at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sociology