Category : Pastoral Theology

Canon J John–The recipe for resilience

what’s the recipe for resilience? I think we need to balance several things.

First, there needs to be a balance between both hope and realism. Hope is essential to getting up off the floor after some hard blow; without it we may as well stay there. Hope is one of the great virtues of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 13:13). The only safe and unbreakable hope comes from putting our faith in the God who, in Christ, has defeated all evil. Yet matching our hope there needs to be a realistic view of life that accepts that conflicts and challenges are inevitable. It’s an attitude that encourages people to make preparations well in advance. Resilient individuals put their armour on before the battle starts.

Second, there needs to be a balance between toughness and flexibility. Toughness is obviously important but resilient people know there are times and places where we need to be flexible. To survive a crisis often needs elasticity; the ability to bend not break before returning to our original shape when the crisis is over. In a gale, flexible willow trees may survive better than sturdy, rigid oaks.

Third, there needs to be a balance of both independence and dependence. It’s hard to give anyone else resilience; once someone has decided that they will lose a battle, then that’s what they will do. You’ve got to want to get up off the floor! That said, resilience is much easier if there is someone there to help you get on your feet. I feel that one of the most important roles of any church or church leader is to try to help people bounce back after the blows of life. Ultimately, the one who helps us all to get to our feet after we’ve been knocked down is God himself.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Yesterday’s NYT front page–‘I Can’t Turn My Brain Off’: PTSD and Burnout Threaten medical Workers

Screw all of you now I see exactly why the only thing left to do is suicide. — a Facebook post by a St. Louis paramedic in April

After Kurt Becker, a paramedic firefighter in St. Louis County, saw that post, which included a profanity-laced screed of frustration and despair over the job, he sent a copy to the man’s therapist with a note saying, “You need to check this out.”

“I’m reading this, and I’m ticking off each comment with, ‘stress marker,’ ‘stress marker,’ ‘stress marker,’ ” said Mr. Becker, who manages a 300-person union district. (The writer is in treatment and gave permission for the post to be quoted.)

The paramedics are part of a “warrior culture,” Mr. Becker said, which sees itself as a tough, invulnerable caste. Asking for help, admitting fear, is not part of their self-image.

Mr. Becker, 48, is himself the grandson of a bomber pilot and son of a Vietnam veteran. But his local has been hit by a dozen suicides since 2004, and he has become an advocate for the mental health of its members. To maintain his equilibrium, he works out and sees a therapist.

Read it all.

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

(CJ) The Therapeutic Campus–Why are college students seeking mental-health services in record numbers?

“I don’t know anyone [at Yale] who hasn’t had therapy. It’s a big culture on campus,” says a rosy-cheeked undergraduate in a pink sweatshirt. She is nestled in a couch in the subsidized coffee shop adjacent to Yale’s Good Life Center, where students can sip sustainably sourced espresso and $3 tea lattes. “Ninety percent of the people I know have at least tried.” For every 20 of her friends, this sophomore estimates, four have bipolar disorder—as does she, she says.

Another young woman scanning her computer at a sunlit table in the café says that all her friends “struggle with mental health here. We talk a lot about therapy approaches to improve our mental health versus how much is out of your control, like hormonal imbalances.” Yale’s dorm counselors readily refer freshmen to treatment, she says, because most have been in treatment themselves. Indeed, they are selected because they have had an “adversity experience” at Yale, she asserts.

Such voices represent what is universally deemed a mental-health crisis on college campuses. More than one in three students report having a mental-health disorder. Student use of therapy nationally rose almost 40 percent from 2009 to 2015, while enrollment increased by only 5 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University. At smaller colleges, 40 percent or more of the student body has gone for treatment; at Yale, over 50 percent of undergraduates seek therapy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Young Adults

(Unherd) Giles Fraser–Let priests pray in their churches

…[Today] the bishops of the Church of England will meet to consider the growing opposition to their policy of banning clergy from saying prayers in their churches.

To recap: on 24 March the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote to the clergy of the Church of England with the following instruction: “Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own.”

The guidance of the government makes it specifically clear that clergy are allowed into their churches on their own to pray and to broadcast prayer. And the Roman Catholics and other churches continue to do so. But the C of E has banned its clergy from doing this, in some Dioceses with the threat of disciplinary action hanging over those who do.

The deep unhappiness about this continues to grow. Today a letter was sent to The Times signed by hundreds of clergy and lay people complaining about the current restrictions. And as the resistance grows so too does the counter-resistance — with arguments from those defending the official line appearing all over social media.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(CC) Peter Marty–Looking for constancy when routines are disrupted

I’ve been thinking a lot about constancy in recent days. The initial stay-at-home decree from health officials may have felt cozy or even exotic at the outset, especially to Americans accustomed to being on the go. But that sentiment fast morphed into waves of personal anxiety and disequilibrium as huge swaths of the country settled into extended isolation. With daily rhythms for life and work now disrupted, people with serious financial, medical, and relational constrictions are feeling especially exhausted.

I’ve had to face my own disorientation since the cancellation of in-person worship has become more than a momentary phenomenon. I’m lost on Sunday mornings as I try to navigate between online worship, reading the newspaper, texting colleagues, and lounging around within the confines of my home. It’s like having one’s circadian rhythm interrupted, only much more significantly than with a flight across time zones. The clock that regulates my spiritual metabolism has spent 60 nonstop years calibrating itself to weekly worship. I realize that people who don’t worship in a congregation have no idea what I’m talking about. But for me, this arrhythmia is huge.

Constancy isn’t just a virtue in horn playing. Spiritually speaking, it’s that God-inspired equanimity that allows us to find our way through turmoil. If I don’t get my bearings back soon, I may just have to pull out the horn and give myself a lesson.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Music, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(Regent College) [Church Historian] Bruce Hindmarsh–Coronavirus And The Communion Of The Saints

At the beginning of June, Carolyn and I were supposed to be leading a travel course for Regent College in Italy, “Martyrs, Monks, and Mystics,” but we sent a note to all the participants in mid-March to cancel because of the coronavirus. This seemed a judgment call at the time, but within days it became clear that it was the right decision: Europe went into lockdown and the grim statistics of the growing number of dead were reported each evening.

As a historian, it has given me pause. I remember that we have been here before.

It is as though the clock has been turned back several centuries. I was struck by the comment in the Financial Times of the famous virologist Peter Piot (who discovered Ebola): “All we have is medieval ways of containment: isolation, quarantine, contact tracing.” We have gone back in time.

As we were canceling our Italy trip, I was reminded of the early medieval bishop of Rome, Gregory the Great. He was called to lead in the hardest of times. We were hoping to park the tour bus by his family estate at the present church of San Gregorio Magno al Celio before we left Rome for Assisi. We would have told everyone that from his home on the Caelian hill, he could literally have looked straight across the little valley (as we can today) to the Palatine hill to see the crumbling palaces of past Roman emperors. To Gregory’s right was the already decaying Colosseum and ruins of the Forum. Repeated sieges of Rome had left famine and disease in their wake. Large areas of the city were destroyed by fire, and civil society stopped functioning altogether.

And that is not all: plague was pandemic during Gregory’s whole adult life. Something like a third of the population was wiped out during these years by their version of the coronavirus.

In this situation, what did Gregory do? He served his generation. He fed the poor, clothed the naked, and ministered to the sick. He devoted himself to prayer, supported the new Benedictine communities, sent out missionaries, promoted high standards for pastoral care, and took over the running of the city.

The pressures of his life meant that he could write eloquently of what it was to balance a life of active service with a life of prayer. He found inspiration from the example of the ministry of Christ himself.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Al Mohler) Obedience to God and Love of Neighbor in the Face of a Coronavirus: A Christian’s Mandate

But then, quite unexpectedly, Jesus said, “The second greatest commandment is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We should note that Jesus drew this from the book of Leviticus 19:18. The very same Book of Leviticus that included the quarantine of the diseased.

Love of neighbor means that we would not do anything to compromise, weaken, or endanger our neighbor—and that certainly includes our neighbor’s physical health. Applying all of these passages—Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Matthew, and Romans—we come to understand that faithfulness today means full and unwavering compliance with all rightful orders seeking to control the spread of COVID-19.

Interestingly, the command to “love your neighbor” ends with two words of enormous significance: “as yourself.” We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Often, we are told to not think about ourselves—that true virtue is found in self-sacrifice and having no regard for our own lives. That is true, but in this command from the words of Jesus himself, we are told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Actually, endangering ourselves also endangers others. We regard our own lives, so we must regard the lives of others. We protect our lives, so we protect the lives of others. In the context of this pandemic, if we do not comply with the government’s guidelines and fall ill, then someone will have to take care of us. We will tie up resources, time, and put others at risk of catching what could be for some people a deadly virus. Furthermore, we are not able to contribute to the commonweal—to the larger community.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) New Christian coalition launched to support the bereaved

A new coalition of Christian organisations has been launched to support churches of all denominations in caring for the bereaved.

Loss and HOPE was launched last week at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in recognition of an increasing openness in society to speak about death and bereavement.

The coalition brings together the Ataloss.org website with the Church of England, Care for the Family and HOPE Together.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: “Over the last few years in this country, there has been a real opening up of conversations about bereavement in our society.

“We’re beginning to realise the huge impact that losing a loved one can have on every area of a person’s life. As a result, increasing numbers of people are likely to reach out for help to process loss – and this is presenting the Church with a special opportunity for outreach to our communities.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

(1st Things) Wesley Smith–Death On Demand Comes To Germany

…even I never expected full-bore death on demand to arrive in the West for another decade. I was too optimistic. A recent ruling from Germany’s highest court has cast right-to-die incrementalism aside and conjured a fundamental right both to commit suicide and to receive assistance in doing it. Moreover, the decision has explicitly rejected limiting the right to people diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities. As a matter of protecting “the right of personality,” the court decreed that “self-determined death” is a virtually unlimited fundamental liberty that the government must guarantee to protect “autonomy.” In other words, the German people now have the right to kill themselves at any time and for any reason. From the decision (published English version, my emphasis):

The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . . The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.

The court wasn’t done. The right to suicide also includes a right to assist suicide:

The right to take one’s own life also encompasses the freedom to seek and, if offered, utilize assistance provided by third parties for this purpose. . . . Therefore, the constitutional guarantee of the right to suicide corresponds to equally far-reaching constitutional protection extended to the acts carried out by persons rendering suicide assistance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(VM) Canon Giles Goddard offers some thoughts on the Living in Love & Faith Project

To be on the LLF Co-ordinating Group at the moment feels weird. We review and revise and re-edit the resources, on the basis of feedback from a wide range of people – more or less equally balanced between progressives and conservatives. We are working in the heat of the moment, and yet, because all is not yet ready for publication, we are working away from the public eye.

I think that what is emerging is something which just might do what Jeremy hopes it might. Films which tell real people’s stories, offered to us with vulnerability and trust, from across the spectrum. A book which opens up the variety of human relationships and understandings of sexuality and gender, recognising that we are, as a Church, in an unprecedented situation where there is a strong desire for unity but also deep questions about whether that must also require uniformity.

But I am so close to the process that I fear I may have lost my sense of perspective. And I know that the hinterland to which I am closest, the LBGTI+ community, is tired of waiting, tired of scraps from the table, tired of being fobbed off. LLF is a process; it will involve more talking, more listening, with a clear timetable for some decisions, but the timetable is not quick and any decisions to be made are far from being considered, let alone recommended. Meanwhile, opinion continues to change and more and more Christians accept the possibility of equal marriage.

Many people have said to me – ‘why can’t the Church just change? Why’s it all taking so long?’ To which my reply is that if we were a different Church, we could indeed have just changed a long time ago. If we were a Church made up only of progressive Christians, of people who are relaxed about the diversity of ways in which God created humans, then it would be easy to change. But we aren’t: we are a Church which includes many more conservative Christians, and many of us, including me, were brought to faith within those more conservative churches… and the eye cannot say to the hand, I do not need you.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Polyamory: Pastors’ Next Sexual Frontier

How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. Though they were clear they did not affirm Tyler’s choice, they did affirm their love for Tyler, Amanda, and their grandkids. They made a point to keep their weekly Thursday afternoon “dates” with their grandkids and stay a part of their lives. Because of this, Tyler has maintained his relationship with his parents, and though his relationship choices are unbiblical, they have been able to communicate their love and care for him and his family. Amanda’s mother responded differently. Decades earlier, her relationship with Amanda’s father had ended when he had proposed a polyamorous relationship and then left when she wasn’t open to it. Amanda’s choice reopened her mother’s unhealed wounds. Feeling angry and betrayed, Amanda’s mother effectively broke off the relationship with her daughter. When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.

Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. When we want to lovingly call people to repentance, we should be precise about what needs repentance and what relationships or elements can and should be sanctified in Christ. For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory—deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community—are good things.

But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. In the example above, Amanda and Tyler both need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery. A pastoral approach would commend them for their desire to have other adults contribute to the life of their family but point them to the church—not a polyamorous relationship—as the place where God intends for that to happen.

Read it all.

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

Posted in --Polyamory, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(EF) Spanish parliament starts the final process to decriminalise euthanasia

The first official debate to finally pass the draft law to decriminalise euthanasia, proposed by the social democrat party PSOE, took place this week in the Spanish Parliament.

It has the support of the majority of the parties. The draft law, inspired by the Dutch and Belgian model, proposes that those who suffer a serious and incurable or disabling illness, with unbearable suffering could ask for euthanasia.

First, the patient and a doctor will have to agree, afterwards a second medical opinion is needed, then the patient will have to confirm his decision two weeks later, and 15 days later it can be made. The process will not last more than a month.

Furthermore, the law foresees the creation of a Commission for Control and Evaluation in each region, in addition to a registry of health professionals who decide to be conscientious objectors. Doctors who allege this cause must do so in writing.

The draft law must now go through the Health Commission, go back again to the Parliament and, finally, to the Senate. A process that could be resolved before summer.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Spain, Theology

(Psephizo) Jon Kuhrt–Why do churches manage people badly?

The church frequently has to respond to the scandal and upset created by safeguarding failures and other cases of serious malpractice. As we all know, these scandals powerfully undermine the integrity of the church’s witness.

One key factor in ecclesiastical failures that is frequently downplayed is the poor state of basic ‘human resources’ practices. The “bad fruit” (Matthew 7.17) that is exposed has not emerged from nowhere. It grows in dysfunctional settings, where clear expectations are not established, proper structures are not in place, and where robust action is not taken against those who ignore requirements. Often there is a basic problem of poor management.

But management is not a concept that sits well within the church. The phrase “managerialism” is often used as code for all that the church does wrong. Theologians will say that the clergy are called to be priests, pastors, and preachers, not CEOs of mini-corporations.

Yet, over the past 20 years, in working for and with many churches and Christian organisations, I have consistently seen the bitter cost of this kind of attitude. Whether it is curates, youth workers, choirmasters, administrators, caretakers, or others, time and again I have seen the problems and sadness it causes.

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

(Church Times) General Synod accepts that ‘serious money’ must be found for abuse survivors

Calls for “proper” and “just” redress for survivors of clerical abuse, with “serious money”, were made in an emotional debate on safeguarding in the General Synod on Wednesday morning.

The Synod voted unanimously for an amended motion to endorse the response of the Archbishops’ Council to the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The amendment, brought by the next lead Bishop of safeguarding, the Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, asked that the original motion be reinforced by “concrete actions”. Earlier attempts to strengthen it had foundered (News, 7 February). Dr Gibbs’s amendment also urged the National Safeguarding Steering Group to commit to a “fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors” and to update the Synod on the progress on the IICSA recommendations not later than 2021.

Redress was a small phrase with large implications, Dr Gibbs said. “It will mean serious money [and] changes in ways we handle claims and complaints.” Safeguarding responses must be “shaped by the righteousness and compassion of God’s Kingdom, not by the short-term and short-sighted financial and reputational interests of the Church,” he said.

Read it all.

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

(C of E) Overwhelming support for General Synod safeguarding motion

General Synod voted unanimously today to endorse the Church’s response to the five recommendations from IICSA and urged its national safeguarding steering group to work towards a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors.

The debate was opened by the lead bishop for safeguarding, Bishop Peter Hancock who shared personal reflections on his time as lead bishop along with outlining the Church’s response to the IICSA recommendations. The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, takes over as lead safeguarding bishop in April.

Read it all and please note the links to the various speeches.

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

(CEN) Andrew Carey–The C of E Bishops are playing a game of power politics

Last week’s College of Bishops meeting was described by one unnamed evangelical bishop as a ‘bruising experience’. Out of it emerged a statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologising for the House of Bishops’ statement on civil partnerships in which it had set out the orthodox position of the Church of England.

The Archbishops wrote: “We… apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement … which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

Predictably, of course, this apology has done far more damage than the original statement. Liberals took it as a pseudo-apology along the lines of ‘sorry for offending you’, or ‘sorry for being caught out’. Many others took it as an apology for the actual statement and therefore a rejection of the Church of England’s teaching on marriage. Others took it as a clever bit of spin in which the Archbishops could head off liberal outrage, while still maintaining faith with evangelicals and traditionalists. That latter interpretation does the Archbishops no favours at all because it portrays them in similar terms to Iannucci’s Thick of It as spin doctors desperately and incompetently triangulating to win their nihilistic game of power politics.

The Bishop of Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Martin Seeley, is the latest Diocesan Bishop to break ranks with the Bishops’ pastoral statement on civil partnerships. He revealed that he and other colleagues had asked that the document be withdrawn but a majority of bishops decided against this course of action. From this insight, it is clear that we are beginning at last to see a bit of an honest open ‘fight’ in the House of Bishops. This is about time too. And I also hope that this division is openly revealed in the General Synod as it meets this week.

If we have this aim of achieving ‘good disagreement’ let us at least be open about it rather than hide it behind closed doors. It cannot be ‘good disagreement’ if it is hidden behind the superficial smiles representing faux Anglican ‘niceness’.At the moment suspicions are festering and we in the Church of England are in that anxious and fretting place – the calm before the storm.

The problem with processes such as Living in Love and Faith is that most of the debate and discussion takes place behind closed doors in a process that many of us simply don’t trust. I have always believed that this process is in place simply to kick the can down the road rather than leading to a place where a decision can be made about the future direction of the Church of England. I am much more likely to be convinced if this was an open discussion in the Church of England.

It would be much more honest to recognise the profound differences we have over human sexuality and decide how the two sides in this debate are going to co-exist – if they ever can – in the same Church.Does the future now lie in some kind of formal distancing of relationships from which different networks and forms of oversight can emerge?

–This column appeared in the Church of England Newspaper, February 7, 2020, edition (subscriptions are encrouaged)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Andrew Symes on the Oxford Ad Clerum–Bishop offers orthodox Anglicans hope of retaining protected minority status as Diocese takes reappraising route

….there are several clues in the letter that the Bishop does not see his office as a guardian of the apostolic faith, or even as a neutral referee between those with opposing views, but rather as gatekeeper of a new era, ushering in a new default position of revisionist theology while continuing for the moment to tolerate those with traditional views.

Bishop Colin begins by referring first not to the Bishops’ pastoral statement itself, but to the Archbishops’ apology for it following the media furore. He then makes an excuse for the publication of this official episcopal statement, apologises for it himself, and goes further,calling it “wrong-headed and pastorally inept”. Although he acknowledges that some people were in favour of the statement, seeing it as a clear expression of the church’s historic teaching, he makes it clear that he, and by extension the Oxford Diocesan leadership, stand with those who oppose the statement – in fact he specifically quotes further criticisms of the statement from the Bishops of Oxford and Reading.

This criticism is not just about tone and timing, but also content. Outlining why the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement was needed in the first place, Bishop Colin explains it as a response to Civil Partnerships becoming available for heterosexual couples, which was simply a matter of “justice”, and only raised “technical questions” for the church. This dismisses the concerns that many faithful Christians have had about the Civil Partnership legislation: how it undermines marriage, and creates obvious issues about sexual ethics that the Bishops’ Statement was trying to answer.

The Ad Clerum goes on to quote with approval highly critical articles about the Bishops’ pastoral statement in The Times and in the Via Media blog. It is surely significant that these pieces which fiercely attack and even deride historic Christian teaching about sexual ethics and the Church of England’s attempts to navigate the issue, are commended by a Bishop, writing in a position of spiritual authority to his flock. He then makes clear his agreement with the view that, just as the church over the years has changed its understanding on the celibacy of clergy, use of contraception and permitting marriage of divorcees, so there is nothing “static and immovable” in Christian teaching. This, together with a marked absence in the letter of any reference to Scripture or even to God (except at the end – “God bless you”) will surely cause alarm as it appears to illustrate a complete loss of confidence in the idea, basic to Christianity, that faith is based on things that are unchanging!

A letter genuinely trying to balance the different views would offer resources from the two sides, as Living in Love and Faith is likely to do. Bishop Colin does not do this.

Read it all.

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

The Diocese of Oxford Ad Clerum Letter in response to the recent C of E Bishops Pastoral Statement

But are you listening to other voices?

The responses of the bishops and many others have disturbed some people. We have had clergy in this Diocese, who are loved, respected and valued, write to say that they affirmed the pastoral statement. They are concerned to know that we will continue to honour and pastor to those who uphold the historic teaching of the Church of England on marriage.

We continue to listen carefully to voices from across the Church about these matters. As we stated in our December 2018 letter to members of ODEF, neither I nor my fellow bishops have any intention or desire to exclude in any way those who hold to the traditional teaching of the Church and our marriage discipline. As bishops, these are things we uphold. We do not permit uncanonical blessings, though we do seek to encourage priests who, in good conscience, want to pray for and with people at significant points of their lives in a spirit of generous hospitality. As bishops, we are always happy to advise clergy on these matters as issues arise.

Living in Love and Faith

As well as the pastoral insensitivity of the statement, the timing of it was problematic. The Church is now coming towards the end of a two-year national programme of listening, prayer and discernment led by the bishops.

Living in Love and Faith will help the Church to learn and explore questions of human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality. Study guides and resources will be published following the July General Synod. We hope and pray that parishes and deaneries will fully engage with those resources when they are published.

For some, the resources will break new ground. For others, they won’t go far enough. But we must hold firm to that timetable and await what comes next while trusting and praying for the those most closely involved in the process. Do take time to explore the LLF website.

Read it all.

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

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Safeguarding: the Church of England’s house is slowly being rebuilt

Our proposals sought to record our collective lament at our sins of omission and commission, and (for the second time of asking) we commended the text of the excellent Blackburn Ad Clerum. Then and now these suggestions were rejected: the first time our Archbishops thought it premature; this time, seeking to preface our acceptance of the IICSA recommendations with sentiments of repentance, and endorsing the pastoral response which our victims had welcomed, were ruled technically out of order. We can play with the idea of repentance being ‘out of order’ in this context at a future juncture: this is not the time for mischief-making, however tempting.

Our purpose in going beyond the anaemic and prosaic was to make this debate a cultural turning point from which we might begin to move on from the necessary demolition – of structures, attitudes, policies etc. – toward a more positive future.

We thought it important that such an initiative should come from below, for we saw that it is no longer sufficient for the House of Bishops alone to direct our response. Archbishop Justin has previously acknowledged that a change to the culture of deference is needed. We were taking him seriously. It is liberating and deserves to be taken seriously. “Trust me, I’m a Bishop” is no longer a sound principle: the whole of the Church, from top to bottom, must own its priorities, and discussing these at Synod seemed to be a healthy place to start.

Our proposals additionally committed Synod to accepting the final IICSA proposals promptly, on the basis that it was inconceivable that we would pretend to know better after all the embarrassment of the IICSA evidence and submissions. Our track record does not merit once again wandering off on a Safeguarding frolic of our own.

Our final proposal dared to engage bluntly with the issue of proper reparation. We were mindful of the story of ‘Tony’ in the insurance press. He told his story on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and explained how survivors have endured very low levels of compensation because they cannot afford to take matters to court and lose. The power imbalance in the negotiations is immense.

Read it all.

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

(Christian Today) Living in Love and Faith process is a ‘call to action’ for Church of England – bishop

Later in the session, the floor was opened up for questions, with Ian Paul, editor at evangelical publisher Grove Books, expressing his desire to see the Church of England use the LLF process “give us a renewed commitment to the apostolic inheritance of the teaching of the New Testament”.

“I’ve been struck by the commitment to listening and the commitment to one another, but what seems to have been slightly more muted in the discussion so far is the commitment to re-engage with the teaching of Jesus,” he said.

“I think we need to be honest and say both within the Anglican tradition and within this room there is a pulling away from whether Jesus really is a good pastor and whether His teaching is what we need to hear – that teaching which I believe is also echoed in the teaching of Paul.”

Jayne Ozanne, a lesbian and campaigner for LGBT equality in the Church of England, said that she did not want to see the Church of England “just keep kicking this can down the road for more discussions”.

“The truth is, it’s not been a safe space for many involved with the LLF,” she said.

Read it all.

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

Bishop [of Maidstone] Rod Thomas’ letter after the Archbishops’ statement following the earlier release of the ‘Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples’

I thought I should write following the statement that was issued after the conclusion of the College of Bishops yesterday. The statement can be found here.

My understanding at the College was that the statement was needed for two reasons. First, it was felt that the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples which had been released on 22nd January was pastorally insensitive in the way it was framed and released to the press. Secondly, there was concern that as a result, some of the necessary participation in the discussions which will follow the publication of the Living in Love and Faith materials could be jeopardised. Yesterday’s statement therefore apologised for the release of the Pastoral Statement.

However, it was also my clear understanding that nothing in yesterday’s statement should be taken as a retraction of the doctrinal teaching of the Church of England on marriage and sexual relationships. While some of that teaching may well come into question during the discussions about the LLF materials, it remains the current teaching of the Church. The position set out in the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples, and which was agreed by the House of Bishops, therefore continues to apply.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Women

(Christian Today) Church of England’s parliamentary body reaffirms commitment to tackling clergy stress and burnout

The Church of England is launching a ‘Big Conversation’ to combat clergy stress and burnout.

The Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing was proclaimed an Act of Synod by the Church of England’s parliamentary body on Monday, and will now be sent out to all 42 dioceses to formally adopt.

“What we are proposing this Synod does today in making an Act of Synod, is to make clear and unequivocal the mind of the church on a simple statement of commitment to one another, in our different roles, callings and responsibilities,” he told the General Synod,” said the Rev Canon Simon Butler, who headed the Working Group which drew up the Covenant.

“From such a statement, we believe that the potential for much good and much good fruit can emerge.”

Read it all.

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

(Aus AP) Few Australian Anglican Submissions back blessing same-sex marriages

Australia’s most senior Anglican, Melbourne Archbishop Dr Philip Freier, referred that decision to the church’s internal appellate tribunal in September.

The tribunal was asked to consider whether the regulation was consistent under the church’s national constitution and valid under canon law.

The tribunal then called for submissions on the matter.

A second referral – to be considered concurrently – asked the tribunal to decide more generally if blessing services other than for heterosexual unions should be allowed.

In her address to the Wangaratta synod in August, which forms part of the diocese’s submissions to the tribunal, Reverend Dorothy Lee argued the blessing of same-sex Christian couples “seems a small thing to ask”.

“There are no theological grounds for refusing to bless civil unions,” Rev Lee said.

“On the contrary, faithful and loving Christian couples, whatever their sexual orientation, gender, race or class, should be able to ask for and receive the church’s blessing.”

However, of the 33 other submissions to the tribunal, just four support blessing same-sex marriages.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Safeguarding amendments to give Synod motion ‘more teeth’ are rejected

Survivors of clerical abuse welcomed amendments to next week’s General Synod motion on safeguarding, in a letter to members that laments that the Church has made “no progress at all” in caring for victims and survivors. It was ruled on Wednesday, however, that the amendments were out of order and could not be moved.

“We need you to acknowledge that you do not have the competence or the right to clear up your own mess,” the ten survivors write. “We need independent people we can go to to report abuse and find support; people who are not part of the Church, and don’t wear the same uniform that our abusers wore. We need you to use your power as a Synod to establish a properly funded scheme for support, compensation and redress for victims of church abuse.”

The existing motion, to be debated on Wednesday morning, endorses the Archbishops’ Council’s response to the five recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in May (News, 9 May 2019).

“Is that all?” the survivors ask. “We believe that you should go much further. . . The motion before you is anodyne, but the amendments we have seen seem to have some teeth.”

Read it all.

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

(CNS) Pope Francis attacks ‘evil’ of ‘gender theory’

Father Epicoco also noted how often Pope Francis speaks of evil, and he asked Pope Francis where he sees evil at work today.

“One place is ‘gender theory,'” the pope said. “Right away I want to clarify that I am not referring to people with a homosexual orientation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church invites us to accompany them and provide pastoral care to these brothers and sisters of ours.”

Gender theory, he said, has a “dangerous” cultural aim of erasing all distinctions between men and women, male and female, which would “destroy at its roots” God’s most basic plan for human beings: “diversity, distinction. It would make everything homogenous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, on the creativity of God and on men and women.”

Pope Francis said he did not want “to discriminate against anyone”, but was convinced that human peace and well-being had to be based on the reality that God created people with differences and that accepting – not ignoring – those differences is what brings people together.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Medium) Ray Gaston–On being pastorally (ir)responsible — and not waiting for bishops

On my return to parish ministry in Wolverhampton a new chapter in engagement with LGBT+ people and the church began as through a member of our congregation Kenny Rogers(who was gay) a growing ministry to sanctuary communities developed. This included a small number of people, particularly — but not exclusively — from African contexts fleeing persecution because of their sexuality. Sadly, Kenny died suddenly but on the night of his death we opened the church for nearly a hundred people, mainly from sanctuary communities to come and light candles and mourn together. At his funeral I shared his story and his journey that he had written for the process he was undergoing to become an authorised lay minister in the church. From this a growing ministry to refugees generally and a small number of LGBT+ refugees has developed and with the help of the Inclusive church ambassador for our area the support group for LGBT+ refugees Emmaus was established. This group now meets at our church and draws people from across our region to support and encourage one another through the hostile asylum process. For some of these people our church has also become their spiritual home. They come from contexts where anti-homosexual legislation introduced in the 19th century by European colonisers is defended by the church and in some cases the church argues for greater prohibition and penalties for LGBT+ people. We often hear about the Bishops of African churches and their negative views on LGBT+ inclusion in the church. At Emmaus we hear from the LGBT+ African Christians their faithfulness in the face of Christian persecution, their love for Jesus and their courage often rooted in a profound knowledge and love of God. Some of these folks rejected the church at home and have (re) embraced the faith here. Its been my experience here and in my previous incumbency that inclusivity (which I prefer to see as true catholicity) leads to growth numerically and spiritually.

I have yet to be asked if I would marry or bless a lesbian or gay relationship at St Chad and St Mark. The guidelines of the church issued in 2014 closed off any ambiguity that some of us felt gave us wiggle room in the noughties to offer blessings. Ironically following the rejection at Synod of ‘The Marriage and same sex relationships’ report in 2017 the bishops claimed they were working towards a ‘radically inclusive church for LGBT+ people’, this latest unnecessary statement shows this not to be the case. And as one non Christian friend commented ‘What’s so radical about NOT discriminating!’

Some of us at the grassroots have been seeking to develop ‘inclusivity’ for years hampered by the pronouncements of the House of Bishops. Perhaps we need to get more radical in our approach and directly and openly flout the guidelines from 2014 and 2020 misdescribed as ‘pastoral’ and make visible the reality of those struggling and in small ways succeeding in creating truly ‘radically inclusive spaces’ at the grassroots — perhaps it’s the only way change will come!

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AM) Kenny’s stages of rebellion, and the church’s response

The onset of the sexual revolution has massively challenged the church and caught it unprepared for dealing with new ways of looking at sex, especially the last two stages of rebellion. While most Christians would no doubt believe that adultery of the kind Kenny is involved in, is wrong, the use of pornography, sex before marriage and cohabitation, marriage breakdown, homosexual practice and transgenderism are increasingly seen as secondary issues by orthodox believers, and even illustrations of love and truth to be celebrated by more liberal Christians.

Amongst evangelicals in some quarters, a narrative has developed whereby we can affirm the historic teaching on sexual desire and practice – the need for sexual self-control; celibate singleness for same sex attracted people, and monogamy for marrieds – as long as this teaching is only directed at practising Christians. The reason more are not attracted to this lifestyle, we’re told, is because of lack of pastoral care and failure of communication. So, the argument goes, Christians must repent of ‘homophobia’ and general lack of compassion towards those not following the Christian sexual ethic like Kenny, and must improve communication of its message. There must even be a visible reconciliation and working together of Christians who have different views on sex. An example of this thinking can be found in the participation of an evangelical minister in a video commending the ‘pastoral guidelines’ from the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project.

If we take this view, we will see Kenny’s story as illustrating just two problems: Kenny breaking God’s commandments, and the church’s failure to show God’s love. But Kenny’s rebellion is not just adultery. He has also embraced a profoundly anti-Christian belief system, based on self-justification, the creation of a new identity celebrating his sin as an innate part of himself, and an ideology which wants to replace ‘repressive’ Christian morality with something which must in the end repress authentic Christian faith and practice.

These powerful new forces of sex/ gender identity and neo-Marxist ideology, sinful and idolatrous thinking now embedded in society’s structures, are too often not addressed in contemporary evangelical discourse about sex. Worse than that, we can end up being ‘orthodox’ in terms of our understanding of marriage and personal application of Christian sexual ethics (remaining opposed to rebellion stages 1 to 3), while at the same time imbibing the philosophies of the sexual revolution (ignoring or affirming stages 4-5). This is perhaps the reason why Bishops are able to sign a document affirming the historic teachings of the church on sex and marriage, and at the same time also support re-naming and re-baptism for those who have rejected God’s design for their bodies, and even call for blessings of same sex relationships.

If Kenny is to become a Christian, it will involve not just stopping his adultery with Ellie (stage 2 and 3), or even gaining control of his lustful thoughts (stage 1). He will need a profound change in the way he views himself (stage 4), and the world (stage 5). It won’t help if Christians positively affirm his understanding of himself, and agree that he is an oppressed victim. Similarly, if society is to become Christian, winsome presentation of Christ will need to be accompanied by a call to widespread repentance from false ideologies, and practical help to escape them, not collusion in them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Kate Bowler) The Burden of Love

Says Lewis, “There is nothing we can do with suffering, except to suffer it.”

We know that advice from other people can sound a lot like well-meaning white noise. Or like a line separating the grieving from everybody else in the normal world. It makes me wish we learned a bit more from cultures who carve out space for mourning, like the Jewish custom of “sitting Shiva” where friends and family gather for seven days together in silence. Or how people in Greece and Portugal encourage widows to wear black for months, creating a reminder for others of their loss.

We all need a bit of permission to allow ourselves time and space to feel the weight of loss, and move through it in our own way. My friend and former cello teacher lost her husband last year, and the week after the funeral, to the chagrin of those thought she should be taking a break, there she was at the piano accompanying the services as she always did. That was her way of living through her loss, with keys under her fingers, helping others the way she always did.

So my dears, what can then be said of grief except that is the burden of love? It can’t be defined or drawn, only suffered. But what must be said, what must be given, is the permission to feel it. All of it. Not as a state, but as a process. No one can tell you what that process must be for you, just now. So gently, gently, let it lead you through.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(CC) Why Andover Newton requires seminarians to take a course from the Yale School of Management

Bill Goettler, associate dean at YDS, says that a quarter of YDS students indicate an interest in taking courses at the SOM, though only a small fraction of that number follow through. By making it a requirement, Andover Newton is nudging people toward a kind of learning that, on some level, they realize they need.

Perhaps most interesting is the way new theological questions can arise in business classes. Washington shared an example of how this happened in the course Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations. “I had to answer questions like whether or not nonprofits were supposed to work to no longer be needed, which led me to ask myself this same question as it relates to denominations and churches.”

As long as the world still needs churches, it needs a learned clergy, and the clergy need whatever education is called for by the times. Today congregations are calling out for multidimensional leaders, and business education is rounding out an increasingly important dimension of pastoral ministry.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecclesiology, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(Christian Today) David Baker–Dear C of E Bishops, please stop traumatising your clergy

But then we had a significant number of Bishops coming out and criticising their own statement with a kind of passive-aggressive, pseudo-spiritual language that is actually very disingenuous. Oh yes, they don’t overtly reject the statement per se – it’s just the way it came out, the timing of it, the wording that was used – as though introducing a few swirly flower motifs in the margins, changing the font from ‘Times New Roman’ to ‘Comic Sans’, and sending the whole thing out in a gift-wrapped presentation box with a free Parker pen was all that was required to satisfy them.

But this doesn’t fool anyone, does it? We all know that what many, probably most, of these objecting Bishops really mean is, ‘We don’t support that statement.’ In other words, they disagree with their own church’s teaching (not to mention that of most other denominations also). And thus the scene was set for a reportedly somewhat ‘lively’ meeting of the College of Bishops last week.

Out of that came a second statement – about the first statement – in which the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologised for any ‘hurt caused’. The words used were of such wonderfully ambiguous Anglican-speak that the Church of England media office apparently had to spend most of its time and energy making it clear to media outlets that, no, they were not retracting their original statement, and, no, nothing had changed. Except whatever it was that had. Or hadn’t. Or something.

I scarcely need to spell out what this does for the morale of many clergy on the ground. And heaven help our watching parishioners. So what are we to do? The New Testament would seem to recommend expelling those who contradict established church teaching on moral issues (1 Corinthians 5). But this somehow seems to have been supplanted in recent years by Justin Welby’s assertion that ‘we don’t chuck out those we disagree with’. It’s a lovely sentiment, redolent of the touchy-feely era in which we live. But I can’t really relate this to apostolic teaching on church discipline at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture