Category : Pastoral Theology

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Debating the Church and same-sex marriage

When I was invited to speak, I began by enumerating the points I wanted to make. I have learnt that this makes it harder for a presenter to cut me off before I have made all the comments that I plan to!

My first point was to note that our current approach in society is a novelty, and is the result of some fundamental changes in the way we think about our bodies, sex, and relationships. I have noticed that the debate often starts with the assumption that belief in same-sex marriage is obvious, natural, and is the final end goal for our thinking about relationships. A little bit of cultural and historical awareness, though, shows that, in comparison with most cultures in most of history, we are very odd; I also want to point out that we have faced very rapid changes in attitudes, and changes are likely to continue in one direction or another. I noticed that Andrew nodded his agreement on this point.

My second point was that the C of E is rooted in the 1662 BCP and the 39 Articles; if we are to change our doctrine of marriage then we will need to redefine the C of E. I went on to make the point I have made previously in various places, that there is a strong consensus of what the Bible says, and to introduce change we do (as Francis Spufford does with honesty) need simply to say that, on this, the Bible is wrong. Andrew seemed to agree with the first of these two, but shook his head on the second.

Read it all and please do watch the debate via the links provided.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) PCC accuses Southwark diocese of ‘weaponising’ safeguarding against Vicar

The diocese of Southwark has “weaponised” safeguarding against the Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden, the Revd Stephen Kuhrt, the PCC alleges.

The diocese of Southwark has confirmed that Mr Kuhrt was suspended from all his ministerial duties on 22 June, “pending the investigation of a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003”. Its statement says: “Suspension is a neutral act and does not imply that a view has been formed on the matter. He has been offered pastoral support during this time. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A statement from the PCC of Christ Church, issued to the congregation on 24 June, states: “His [Mr Kuhrt’s] offence has been to whistle-blow by expressing significant and evidenced concerns about safeguarding within Southwark Diocese. The Churchwardens believe these need to be addressed thoroughly, professionally and accountably, rather than weaponised against the person who has raised them.”

Read it all.

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

(C of E) An update on timing for the John Smyth Review from the National Safeguarding Team

Read it all and for background please see there.

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

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

Today we are living with instant messaging in which many people document their every thought – almost in real time – on various social media platforms. There is no time to reflect on the impact of their words on the unsuspecting world. When they are feeling angry or hurt, social media is ready 24 hours a day to pass along the pain-filled sentiments to everyone. This is already generating unprecedented levels of depression and self-harming behavior among teenagers – both boys and girls. I have witnessed the potential for serious damage with our own grandchildren.

When I was a child – light years ago – we had a childhood chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me!” It was intended to increase resiliency and avoid physical retaliation, but, sadly, it is simply not true. Hurtful words – uttered in person or via social media – can leave deep wounds long after physical scars might have healed. By way of response to this reality, our son and his wife have not only restricted the hours that social media is available in their home but also denied their 15-year-old son his own mobile phone – over considerable protestations!

I readily admit that the social media explosion has produced remarkable benefits. We are able to communicate with friends and family in ways that we never imagined. Angela serves as our family social media queen and stays in regular contact with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our rapidly growing global extended family. She passes along photographs, family news, and prayer needs, and because of her good efforts, we have stayed well connected throughout the pandemic lock down. We have even located high school friends with whom we had lost contact. I am also able to learn a great deal about the various clergy and churches that I now serve as interim bishop, because I can read through their websites and social media posts. But there is a dark side to all of this.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

An update on the situation in the ACNA diocese of the Upper Midwest

Earlier this month, Archbishop Beach announced that, at the request of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, the Province would undertake oversight of the independent investigation into allegations of abuse within the diocese, ensure that pastoral care for survivors is offered, and conduct a review of diocesan structures and processes. Below are some recent developments in that unfolding situation:

Executive Committee expresses sorrow, calls for prayer, and approves formation of Provincial Response Team

Meeting on Monday, July 26, 2021 the Executive Committee of the Anglican Church in North America responded to the concerns raised by survivors of abuse in the Diocese of the Upper Midwest. The members of the Committee expressed “deep sorrow for all survivors who have suffered harm and pain as a result of abuse and/or misconduct and for their families and loved ones,” approved the formation of a Provincial Response Team, and called for “prayer for healing and justice for all affected by this tragic situation, for wisdom for those dealing with it, and for a spirit of grace, humility, and repentance throughout our Church.”

The Executive Committee is the Anglican Church in North America’s Board of Directors and is made up of clergy and laity elected from across the Province. Read more from the Executive Committee here.

Archbishop Beach appoints Bishops Miller and Atkinson to assist Diocese

Read it all and please note the diocesan website is there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

(CEN) Safeguarding Sunday launched but ‘criticisms’ remain

Safeguarding Sunday, will be introduced to churches nationally, a new initiative aiming to raise the profile of safeguarding.

The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, gave a Safeguarding update to Synod.

Dr Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, told Synod the church is “entering a season of action” in which “there is far more to be done.”

“Our aim is to help people see safeguarding as an integral part of the mission of the church,” he said.

“Safeguarding is partly about stopping bad things happening and about how we respond when they do, but it is also about enabling our churches to become places where people are enabled to flourish and grow into the fullness of life that God intends for us all.”

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) The Religious Leaders on the Front Lines of Mental Health

The Rev. Edward Cardoza estimates that the volume of calls, messages and texts from members of his St. Mark’s Episcopal Church increased 20-fold over the past year. Most read something like this: “I’m sure you’re really busy and don’t have time, but if you do, would you have time for a conversation?”

People who had been sober for 10 or 15 years worried they might start drinking again. Some mentioned suicide. Couples who rarely argued were yelling at each other.

When the church resumed in-person services June 13, a new tension emerged: surprisingly angry reactions from some members to any pandemic-related safeguards that remained in place. Other clergy he talked to have seen similar levels of acrimony.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

(FT) Carl Trueman–On the Presbyterian Church in America and Questions of Sexuality

The summer of 2021 is proving to be an interesting time for the conservative Protestant denominations of the U.S. First, the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting witnessed the contentious election of a new president, who was engulfed in controversy almost as soon as the result was announced. Then the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met in St. Louis for a General Assembly (GA) that was inevitably focused on questions of sexual identity and Christianity that have been brought to the fore by Revoice. In particular: Is it acceptable for a Christian minister to identify as a celibate gay Christian, thereby legitimizing “gay” as an identity, while still maintaining the traditional Christian teaching on sexual acts?

To outside observers of the PCA, like myself, the result was encouraging and surprising. What happened, as outlined here and here, was that the Assembly voted to propose several changes to the denomination’s Book of Church Order (the manual of church law) that would prevent anyone who identifies as gay or same-sex-attracted from holding office in the denomination. The proposed new rule states, “Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, ‘gay Christian,’ ‘same-sex attracted Christian,’ ‘homosexual Christian,’ or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires . . . or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.” The Assembly also proposed to make examination of a ministerial candidate’s attitude to his sexual struggles part of the ordination process. Both proposals passed with huge majorities and will now be discussed by the presbyteries. If approved by two-thirds of them, they will be subject to a final vote for approval, by simple majority, at next year’s GA.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(C of E) Living in Love and Faith continues despite pandemic, as thousands take part across the Church

LLF is a set of resources exploring questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage, launched on 9 November 2020.

All 42 dioceses have appointed ‘LLF Advocates’, who are enabling churches to engage with the LLF resources in ways appropriate to local contexts.

More than 85 percent of all dioceses (36) will have held an ‘LLF taster’ event day for clergy and lay people by the end of the month, with more than 5000 people participating in these so far.

Since the launch of LLF, requests for the resources have also been unprecedented: more than 13,000 copies of the LLF Course have been distributed whilst the LLF book has been reprinted three times since publication due to strong demand.

The LLF resources – which include a 5-session course for local groups – are designed to facilitate open, honest, and gracious learning and discussion among churchgoers across the country.

LLF draws together the Bible, theology, science, and history with powerful real-life stories, in what is understood to be the most extensive undertaking of any church to hear and articulate as wide a range of voices, lived experiences and theological understandings as possible in this area.

Read it all.

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

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Should the church ‘let the world set the agenda’ on ethics and doctrine?

What is most sad about Bayes’ argument is the attitude it betrays of those who disagree with him. Unlike those enlightened members of MoSAIC, who are on an exciting journey of learning, the orthodox are apparently stuck in the past, refusing to learn, and trapped in a fear of sex and of their own bodies. They are either asleep, or they are anti-liberal authoritarians, no better than reactionary racists or those who despise the disabled. This dismissive and patronising language is hardly the approach that the LLF process, signed off by Bayes as part of the House of Bishops, wanted to encourage; it is the most exclusive kind of ‘inclusion’.

How Bayes can act as a shepherd to the orthodox in his diocese, whilst viewing them in this way, I do not know. What is worse is that he has made these comments public—so he must intend those whose views he dismisses to know that he views them with such derision.

And how he can be a teacher of the faith, when he waves away actual theological reflection as ‘glittering arguments of the brain’?

A clergy friend of mine made this comment online:

The Church has always grown when its offered a radical alternative to an increasingly morally lost and confused society and, when becoming a member of the Church carries a risk—the test of commitment factor. On my knowledge of rural demographics I think we have 5–7 years left before around 80% of all C of E rural churches will close due to non viability—if not before. But a new, confident Church, anchored to biblical orthodoxy but with the Spirit’s liberating gracious welcome, can offer what our lost and vacuous society needs right now.

Some years ago, gay atheist Matthew Parris said something similar.

As a gay atheist, I want to see the church oppose same-sex marriage…Even as a (gay) atheist, I wince to see the philosophical mess that religious conservatives are making of their case. Is there nobody of any intellectual stature left in our English church, or the Roman church, to frame the argument against Christianity’s slide into just going with the flow of social and cultural change?

Can’t these Christians see that the moral basis of their faith cannot be sought in the pollsters’ arithmetic? What has the Irish referendum shown us? It is that a majority of people in the Republic of Ireland in 2015 do not agree with their church’s centuries-old doctrine that sexual relationships between two people of the same gender are a sin. Fine: we cannot doubt that finding. But can a preponderance of public opinion reverse the polarity between virtue and vice? Would it have occurred for a moment to Moses (let alone God) that he’d better defer to Moloch-worship because that’s what most of the Israelites wanted to do?

It must surely be implicit in the claim of any of the world’s great religions that on questions of morality, a majority may be wrong; but this should be vividly evident to Christians in particular: they need only consider the fate of their Messiah, and the persecution of adherents to the Early Church. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you.’… These, and not the gays, are now the reviled ones. Popular revulsion cannot make them wrong.

Unless other bishops speak out and offer better leadership and a clearer vision, with bishops like Paul Bayes, who deny the doctrine of their own church, despise those who do, and prefer the agenda of the world to God’s own revelation of himself, the Church of England is doomed.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Church of England should completely alter its sexual ethics says Bishop of Liverpool

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT front page) China’s Propaganda Goes Viral With Videos of Happy Uyghurs

Recently, the owner of a small store in western China came across some remarks by Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state. What he heard made him angry.

A worker in a textile company had the same reaction. So did a retiree in her 80s. And a taxi driver.

Pompeo had routinely accused China of committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, and these four people made videos to express their outrage. But they did so in oddly similar ways.

“Pompeo said that we Uyghurs are locked up and have no freedom,” the store owner said in his video. “We are very free now….”

Read it all (note please that the above is the title on the print edition).

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General

(CT) George Yancey–In the Push for Racial Justice, There’s a Middle Path Between Passivity and Aggression

….in our current society, we often deal with race by consistently trying to overpower our “enemies,” rather than by finding ways to communicate and persuade them of our perspective. Why can’t we work at finding common values and agreements? Why can’t we listen to each other until we accurately understand the interests and desires of others? Should not everyone be “quick to listen, slow to speak,” as James 1:19 reminds us?

Sometimes I think that we already know what we need to do to improve race relations but we simply don’t want to do it. But we are going to have to live in this society together. We are going to have to find answers to the racial issues of our day. We can choose to remain in a power struggle with each other, or we can begin to learn how to dialogue in a healthy fashion.

Many people on different sides of these racial issues have a vested interest in continuing our unproductive fighting. But if we learn to stop listening to those voices and start listening to each other, we can finally take important steps toward real racial unity and equality.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Apologetics, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(The Big Issue) When the Archbishop of Canterbury sold The Big Issue

JW: I come from a family of both parents being alcoholic and my mother stopped drinking half a century ago and never went back. My father died of it. What happens if vendors who struggled with a similar thing go back on the booze or the drugs?

LW: For me, personally, I understand if people slip up because I’ve learned addiction is not so black and white as I thought it was. I’ve been quite lucky in life. I did a lot of my silly stuff when I was younger and I haven’t really got any addictions, except maybe to chicken. I don’t mind if my vendors fall, it’s about getting back on the horse. That is what I try and teach them. As a guy who has failed quite a lot in life, I teach people to get off your high horse in life and get yourself a pony – when you fall off it doesn’t hurt as much.

JW: I couldn’t agree more, I think that’s really good. I shall use that!

LW: I’ll be honest, you doing this is really going to help me get my voice out there. We really need to change the way we think as a society.

JW: We need to change the way we think, we really do.

LW: We’ve spoken about this and it’s in your book [Reimagining Britain]. We don’t want to go back to normal because normal didn’t work, did it? We want to have a better life now and we’ve got a chance of starting something.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(Australian Presbyterian.) David Robertson–Welcome to the Sexual Counter Reformation

And so we have come on to a crisis point. Some think it is a turning point. The Spectator last week published its Americano podcast with the intriguing title “Is the sexual counterrevolution coming?”. https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/is-the-sexual-counterrevolution-coming-

It is a revealing and fascinating listen (although wrong in some respects as regards Christianity and Calvinism). Along with some articles published a couple of years earlier it points to a world where sexual freedom has led to sexual fear and to a new secular puritanism. Every word is to be scrutinized, safe spaces established, ‘women-only’ carriages on trains’ etc. In an era that is obsessed with sex (was it ever different?) and where we have such sexual freedom, the irony is that many are concluding that it’s better not to have sex at all. We live in a world where Fifty Shades of Grey is feted as feminist erotica, even though it glorifies male dominance and violence, while a man putting his hand on a woman’s knee is an evil sign of the patriarchy. Our answer to misogyny (hatred of women) is apparently misandry (hatred of men). Put those two together and you end up with misanthropy (hatred of human beings). In the age of humanism we are heading towards a society that likes the idea of humanity; it’s just humans it can’t stand.

There are some Christians who think that this backlash is a good thing and that it might herald better days ahead. I’m not convinced. I think that we live in a confused, hurting and increasingly irrational culture, where the gods of money, power and sex still reign. I don’t believe that a return to a perceived golden age of Victorian morality is either possible or desirable. What we really need is to go back even further – to the 1st century Greco-Roman Pagan world.

In a sense we are already there. Unlike the myth sold us by the false apostles of the new sexual revolution, this was not a time of sexual bliss but one of confusion, abuse, slavery, sexual diseases, infanticide and abortion, immorality, and the rich and powerful ruling over and using the poor and weak. In other words instead of our society progressing we have regressed to the Greco/Roman/Pagan past. We have gone back to the future.

So it’s simple. Christians should do in the 21st century, what it did in the 1st: preach the Gospel, care for the poor, avoid all sexual immorality, live in a community of love and fellowship and keep ourselves from being tainted by the world.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Anna Broadway–How Some Churches Leave Singles Behind

Touch played a significant role in Jesus ’ ministry too. That he let a woman kiss his feet shocked the Pharisees, but he defended her actions as an appropriate response to forgiveness. Later, Jesus even invited Thomas to touch his wounds. Jesus’ example shows that our bodies are part of how we’re meant to commune with God and each other. How then do Christians balance love’s call to extend safety and welcome?

At Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., the Rev. Jonathan St. Clair told me in an email that they encourage vaccinated singles to sit with families or other solo attendees. Ms. Kaiser hopes to do something similar with some of the other widows at her church. Reality SF, a church in San Francisco, took this one step further: Leading up to Easter, it urged the majority-single congregation to form Holy Week pods.

Longer-term use of pods could help singles feel more included in their churches. For most Christian singles I have interviewed, commitment in relationships proved elusive outside marriage; only Catholic priests consistently reported a sense of commitment within a community. Why should so few Christian singles find that?

Singles have the same needs as married people; we simply have different ways to meet them. By giving singles a committed group with which to sit, hug and maybe even eat, pods could help us participate more equally in God’s family.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) Meet the Nun Who Wants You to Remember You Will Die

The books have become some of the order’s best-sellers in recent years, a boost to the nuns, whose income as a nonprofit publisher has declined sharply in recent decades. Sister Aletheia is currently working on a new prayer book for the Advent season, leading up to Christmas.

“She has such a gift for talking about really difficult things with joy,” said Christy Wilkens, a Catholic writer and mother of six outside Austin, Texas. “She’s so young and vibrant and joyful and is also reminding us all we’re going to die.” Ms. Wilkens credits memento mori with giving her the “spiritual tools” to grapple with her 9-year-old son’s serious health issues. “It has allowed me, not exactly to cope, but to surrender everything to God,” she said.

For Sister Aletheia, having spent the previous few years meditating on mortality helped prepare her for the fear and isolation of the past year. The pandemic has been traumatic, she said. But there have also been small moments of grace, like people from the community knocking on the door to donate food to the nuns in isolation. As she wrote in her devotional, “Remembering death keeps us awake, focused, and ready for whatever might happen — both the excruciatingly difficult and the breathtakingly beautiful.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Church Times) Pandemic pressure on clergy has tripled psychiatric referrals, says St Luke’s psychiatrist

Pressure on clergy to deliver additional online services against a backdrop of diminishing financial and human resources, has contributed to an unprecedented increase in clergy referrals for psychological care, a psychiatrist said this week.

St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy, which provides access to advice and clinical care for clergy and their families, provided 146 psychological appointments in the first ten weeks of 2021 — up from 43 in the first 12 weeks of 2020.

Dr Gary Bell, a psychiatrist who serves as both a trustee of St Luke’s and a consultant, expects consultations to double this year. “This is the highest level of demand for help from clergy that I have experienced over the ten years I have been associated with St Luke’s,” he said.

The increase had highlighted “the many and varied ways in which the pandemic has adversely affected the life of the Church. Clergy are now under immense pressure to deliver more than ever before, their traditional ministerial roles being added to by the demand for an ongoing online presence, with correspondingly diminishing financial and human resources. It is hardly surprising that rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout have skyrocketed.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(RNS) For some pastors, the past year was a sign from God it was time to quit

Chuck DeGroat, professor of counseling and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, said pastors have long had to mediate disputes over theology or church practice, like the role of women in the church or the so-called “worship wars” of recent decades. They now face added stresses from the pandemic and polarization, with people willing to leave their churches over mask policies or discussions of race.

“I’m hearing from pastors that they just don’t know what to do,” he said.

A recent survey of Protestant pastors by the research firm Barna Group found that 29% said they had given “real, serious consideration to quitting being in full-time ministry within the last year.”

David Kinnaman, president of Barna, said the past year has been a “crucible” for pastors. Churches have become fragmented by political and social divides. They have also become frayed, as “people’s connectedness to local congregations is waning.

“The pandemic was a great revealer of the challenges churches face,” said Kinnaman.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

[First Things] David Bentley Hart (from 2012)–My friend Reuben and the Therapeutic Superstition of our Age

Some years ago, when I was nineteen and living in the north of England, I knew a middle-aged man named Reuben who claimed to be visited by angels, to receive visions and auditions from God, to see and converse with the spirits of nature, and to be able to intuit the spiritual complaints of nearly everyone he met. He was a cheerful soul, with a vast and almost impossibly tangled beard of walnut brown through which he was forever running the fingers of his right hand, a few ghostly wisps of hair floating about the crown of his head, and eyes of positively gemlike blue. (Actually, his eyes were rather unsettling at times—they sometimes seemed to be lit from within—but there was never any menace in them.)

He once told me that as a very small child he had assumed that everyone was aware of the numinous presences that he saw everywhere, on a nearly daily basis. To him, a small anthropine figure dancing atop an open flower or a radiant angel standing beside a church door was as ordinary a sight as, well, an open flower or a church door. It was only when he was about seven, he said, after years of his parents’ anxiously admonishing him not to make up tales and to embarrass them with his nonsense, that he began to grasp that the world he saw about him was qualitatively different from that of most other persons; and when he was about twelve he began to appreciate how much more interesting and delightful than theirs his reality was.

When I knew him, he was studying for a master’s degree in the religious studies department of the University of Lancaster, where I was doing a year’s research principally on Cittamatra Buddhism. He hoped to write a dissertation on William Blake, with whom—for obvious reasons—he felt a close kinship. He was one of those gentle and slightly hapless eccentrics who are deeply necessary parts of the constituency of any university or college worth its charter, generally drifting about in programs that offer them temporary shelter but no real prospects of a career, working toward degrees they will probably never receive, but contributing some vital, genial, and largely indefinable benefit to everyone around them.

He worked, if that is the right word, in the university library, though as far as I could tell his only job was engaging in long conversations at the front desk with all of his friends (work he did not mind taking with him, after his shift, to the nearby coffee bar). Everyone who knew him was exceedingly fond of him, and I never heard anyone express any doubt that his visions and auditions from the other side were entirely authentic….

Read it all.

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

(C of E) New findings published in long term study into clergy wellbeing

Moving In Power, Transitions in Ordained Ministry, part of the Living Ministry research project, explores transitions from ordination to curacy and first posts, between posts and in the period before retirement.

The qualitative panel draws on individual and group interviews with 72 clergy and examines their wellbeing based on five dimensions: spiritual and vocational, physical and mental, relationships, financial and material, and participation in the wider church.

The study makes suggestions for good practice for the person in transition, theological education institutions, diocesan officers and senior clergy, parishes and the national church, arguing that each of these has a role to play in supporting ordinands and clergy through periods of transition.

The report also explores underlying dynamics and relationships during transition periods. It includes a theological reflection by the Very Revd Dr Frances Ward, former Dean of St Edmundsbury.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, 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