Category : Pastoral Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “broken partnership” with House of Bishops

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead theHouse of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England.

Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and
marriage is in marked contrast to theHouse of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with theHouse of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

Read it all.

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

David French–The Crisis of Christian Celebrity

A person who doesn’t trust his own virtue takes affirmative steps to protect himself from a foolish fall. You don’t have to map out a full-blown “Pence rule” or “Modesto Manifesto” to take prudent steps to guard against your own fallen nature. This shouldn’t even be a matter of religious controversy. I’m reminded of these powerful and self-aware words from one of America’s most influential and thoughtful progressive atheists, Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, “Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.” Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.

And if a person gains fame, he cannot—he must not—believe the easy laughs, the shining eyes, or the copious flattery of starstruck fans. There are reciprocal responsibilities here. It would be far better if Americans didn’t treat celebrities (including religious celebrities) like Greek gods. It would be far better if celebrities didn’t start to believe that they belong on Mount Olympus.

Christian celebrities will continue to fall. But they don’t have to fall so often.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Entertainment, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(NYT front page) As Hospitals Fill, Travel Nurses Race to Virus Hot Spots

It is a nomadic existence and, in a pandemic, a particularly high-risk one. The nurses parachute into cities like New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Green Bay for weeks or months at a time, quickly learning the ways of a new hospital and trying to earn the trust of the existing staff.

At the end of their shifts, they return to their temporary homes: hotels, Airbnb apartments or rented houses. Their families and friends are sometimes thousands of miles away, available only through phone calls or FaceTime.

Last week in Green Bay, where the surrounding county has averaged more than 150 cases a day since late September, a team of four travel nurses worked at Bellin Hospital, grappling with the unrelenting pressure of the emergency room and a Thanksgiving holiday far from home.

More than eight months into the pandemic, many travel nurses have done little else but treat Covid-19 patients.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology

(RNS) Katelyn Beaty–Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem

Granted, churches can’t control whether church members find a pastor attractive. Physical appearance aside, power, talent and money — all of which can come with a megachurch pastorate — are pretty intoxicating, too. What churches can control, or at least monitor and scan for in hiring decisions, is whether a pastor clearly wants to be found desirable. Professor and author Alan Noble said it well, that he can tell when “ministers desire to be desired. … The way the person carries themself, dresses, speaks, gestures, and posts images signal to me that the(y) desire other people to desire them.”

This desire is at the heart of the hot pastor formula. Megachurches recruit spiritual leaders who are designed to be found desirable by congregants. Their mission becomes bound up in their need to fill their ego, a need to be loved and desired.

Christian humility is about forgetting oneself. “True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself,” writes the Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller, who has planted several successful churches in New York himself. “In fact, I stop thinking about myself.”

It’s hard for anyone standing under the bright lights of a megachurch stage to forget about themselves. Maybe the problem isn’t the hot pastors like Lentz but a toxic megachurch culture that makes narcissism a prerequisite.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(AI) Evangelicals may seek a “Third Province” in the CoE if teaching on human sexuality is changed

The president of the Church of England Evangelical Council, the Rt. Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn suggested Evangelicals may withdraw from the Church of England if the institution changes teaching on human sexuality. Bishop Henderson’s warning came in the Beautiful Story video produced by the CEEC in response to the Living in Love and Faith project (LLF).

Progressives within the Church of England have sought to amend church teaching on human sexuality, bringing it in line with that of the Episcopal Church of the USA. If this happened, evangelical leaders warned, they would have to consider their allegiance to the Church of England….

Read it all.

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

(David Ould) “Erroneous and Unconvincing”. GAFCON Australia responds to Appellate Tribunal Opinion

Gafcon Australia exists to promote the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Anglican Church of Australia. We are convinced that the fullness of life that only Jesus gives is experienced through hearing, trusting and obeying his word of grace and life, in the power of his Spirit and the fellowship of his people. For this reason, the Board of Gafcon Australia expresses its deep regret that the recent majority opinion of the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia relies upon a disputed definition of the meaning of ‘doctrine’ rather than on a whole-hearted and glad embrace of the life-giving Word of God. In doing so, they have seriously undermined the basis of national unity in our church. We regard their conclusions as erroneous and unconvincing.

A majority of the Appellate Tribunal affirmed that certain legislation passed by two Australian Dioceses was ‘not inconsistent with the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution’. In doing so, the Appellate Tribunal declined to follow advice they had requested from two other Australian Anglican bodies – the House of Bishops and the Board of Assessors. Both of these bodies unanimously affirmed the historic and biblical teaching on personal sexual ethics. The General Synod will respond to the opinion at its meeting in May/June next year. It is possible, indeed likely, that in the meantime some Dioceses will take steps to authorise their own services of blessing of same-sex marriages in the near future.

Around the Anglican Communion where developments of this kind have occurred (notably, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland) orthodox Anglicans have found themselves ostracised or isolated from their own Dioceses and Bishops.

Gafcon Australia assures Anglicans who affirm the Scriptures as ‘the ultimate rule and standard of faith given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation’ (to quote the Constitution) that we will support and assist you in maintaining a faithful Anglican witness.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Moore College) Mark Thompson–Preliminary thoughts on the Appellate Tribunal ruling

It is with great sadness that I note the opinion of the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia on the matter of proposed services to bless same-sex unions. Setting aside the unanimous advice of the House of Bishops and the unanimous advice of the Board of Assessors, the majority of the Tribunal has decided that there is no impediment to such services of blessing going ahead.

This opinion, if acted upon, may indeed have devastating consequences for the Anglican Church of Australia, as similar decisions have done elsewhere in the world, but it cannot change the revealed will of God. The opinion is deeply wrong because it opens the door for the blessing of behaviour which the Bible clearly says will exclude people from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). As the Board of Assessors and the House of Bishops made clear, the prohibition of this behaviour is not limited to an isolated passage in the New Testament but is consistent through the entire Bible. God does not change his mind. He does not need to. He has always known the end from the beginning.

Since its release, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Geoff Smith, has described the decision of the Tribunal as ‘an important contribution to the ongoing conversation within the church’. He clearly does not see it as the final word. It is important that only Scripture occupies that place.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia releases its ruling on the matter of proposed services to bless same-sex unions.

You can find the ruling at the top of the page here. You may find the ruling itself in a 123 page pdf there. It is a lot to digest.

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

An update on the safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury

A formal complaint made to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in June, that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow correct safeguarding procedure when responding to an allegation against Smyth, has not been substantiated. The complaint referred to Lambeth’s response to allegations which first came to attention in 2013 and information relating to the specific issues raised has been reviewed. Information relating to a further complaint sent to the NST in August, about wider issues, has now also been reviewed and no safeguarding concerns have been identified. All the information reviewed will now be sent to the Makin Review, due to publish next year, for further scrutiny.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Church of England) Living in Love and Faith resources published

The Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith teaching and learning resources, exploring questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage, have been published today.

The extensive resources draw together the bible, theology, science and history with real-life stories. They were commissioned by the House of Bishops and include a book, a series of films and podcasts and a course following three years’ work by a group of more than 40 people from across the Church.

They are intended to initiate a process of whole Church learning and engagement in 2021, within a clear timeframe, that will contribute to the Bishops’ discernment of a way forward in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.

Read it all (and yes you have to look through it all; the book is 480 pages (!)).

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Ryan T. Anderson And Robert P. George–Pope Francis, Civil Unions, and Moral Truth

In What Is Marriage, we opposed a “consent-based” view of marriage that saw marriage as being primarily about companionship, establishing a companionate relationship with what one scholar called “your number one person.” We argued that a faulty understanding of marriage actually makes it harder for people to find happiness, both inside and outside of marriage. That a vision of marriage that sees it as just about whatever ordinary friendships and relationships have, but taken to the nth degree—that marriage is simply the best, most important of whatever makes human sociality good to begin with—gets marriage wrong in ways that can harm both married and unmarried people.

For married people it can make them presume that their marriage is to be their primary means of fulfillment in all the areas of their life, that they should be able to say of their spouse “you fulfill me.” But no one human being and relationship totally fulfills any of us. And no one should seek total fulfillment from their spouses or their marriage.

For unmarried people, it can make them feel—and the rest of society view them—as not only lacking one aspect of fulfillment, marriage itself, but as lacking the pinnacle of human fulfillment, and thus as not flourishing at all. A vision of marriage that sees the relationship between spouses as the peak of human sociality in turn renders the unmarried as second-class flourishers.

Instead, we should view marriage correctly, as a distinctive good with a distinctive nature: a conjugal union of husband and wife ordered to, and thus normatively shaped by its unique aptness for, the bearing and rearing of children. Doing so not only allows us to see family as involving much more than just the spouses themselves—to include extended family and friends grafted into the family—but also allows us to appreciate the unique and irreducible goodness of non-marital forms of human sociality.

A sound vision of marriage thus offers wide vistas of human fulfillment to people who may never marry, for whatever reason. It offers hope of meaningful non-sexual relationships to people who experience same-sex attraction in a way that makes forming a truly marital partnership impossible.

More deeply understanding the truth about marriage and human sexuality will help all of us flourish. And that, of course, is what a pastor like Pope Francis desires. We can understand—indeed we share—the frustration of our fellow Catholics with the ways in which the Holy Father conducts interviews and the ways in which the media distorts them, but we must not do anything to undermine the truth that sets us free.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop William Love resigns as TEC Bishop of Albany

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and I, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany voluntarily entered into an Accord which became effective October 21, 2020, with the unanimous approval of the Disciplinary Board of the House of Bishops. The Accord resolves the matter of my case, thus discharging any further action from the Hearing Panel.

The Accord stipulates the following: I will resign as Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of Albany, effective February 1, 2021; I will begin a one month terminal sabbatical beginning January 1, 2021; I agree to continue to abide by the January 11, 2019 Restrictions placed upon my ministry by the Presiding Bishop until the effective date of my resignation as Bishop; I will work with the Presiding Bishop through the Office of Pastoral Development to help foster a healthy transition from my leadership as Bishop Diocesan, as the Diocese begins a new chapter in its history; and lastly, I acknowledge that upon February 1, 2021, the effective date of my resignation as Bishop Diocesan, my November 10, 2018, Pastoral Directive regarding B012 will lose force. Until then, however, it remains in effect.

In signing the Accord, the Presiding Bishop has agreed to allow me to notify the clergy and people of the Diocese of Albany of my pending resignation, before he sends out an announcement to the wider community. I am very appreciative of his willingness to agree to that pastoral request.

I met with Fr. Scott Garno, President of the Standing Committee, on Thursday afternoon, to inform him of my decision to resign and of the Accord between myself and the Presiding Bishop. I pledge my full support to Fr. Garno and the Standing Committee as they enter into their new role. I also pledge not to interfere with their deliberations.

Please note, that in accordance with Article IV of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, the Standing Committee serves as the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in the absence of the Bishop. In addition, in accordance with the Diocesan Canons, the Standing Committee oversees the election of the new bishop of the Diocese.

The Diocese of Albany is blessed to have an excellent Standing Committee that will serve you well. I ask God’s blessing upon them as they prepare to lead the Diocese of Albany during this period of transition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Fighting the Pandemic with Our Hearts and Our Smarts–A development economist and a disaster-relief expert on how to approach Covid19

My dentist was becoming a Shrewd Samaritan. But how is a Shrewd Samaritan different from others with good intentions toward the needy?

If we want to genuinely help people living in poverty—and a world in the middle of a global pandemic—rather than just feeling good about believing we have helped, we are not merely to be Good Samaritans, like the man commended in the famous parable in Luke 10. We should also be Shrewd Samaritans—shrewd like the manager in the less-famous parable in Luke 16, whom Jesus also points to as an example.

In the original Greek, the word for the manager in the parable is oikonómon, which literally means “Econo-Man.” We must be people with big hearts like the Good Samaritan but with minds like the Econo-Man. This means learning to love our global neighbors wisely, one might say even “shrewdly,” by making the best use of our resources—our time, talents, and money—on behalf of those who are victims of injustice, disease, violence, and poverty.

Shrewd Samaritans have made progress through what I call the seven I’s. They have moved past ignorance, indifference, and idealism and toward investigation, introspection, and impact. They have even come to identify with those they seek to serve.

Shrewd Samaritans understand the underlying causes of poverty and need. They can identify interventions that are likely to be effective in different contexts. Their motivation is fueled by the Christian call to love our neighbors, but their means are influenced by an understanding of cause and effect and even by good science. Shrewd Samaritans are wedded to a biblical view of humanity and informed by a desire for human flourishing in all respects: physical, psychological, social, and spiritual.

Read it all.

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

Major C of E clergy wellbeing study results shared

Key insights from an ongoing Church of England research programme into clergy flourishing are to be distributed to curates across the country as part of an initiative to promote clergy wellbeing, it was announced…[this week].

Findings from the first phase of the Living Ministry project – a 10-year study into clergy flourishing and wellbeing – have been incorporated into a new booklet, How Clergy Thrive, published by Church House Publishing.

The booklet, sponsored by Clergy Support Trust, is a practical resource for all clergy. It summaries qualitative and quantitative findings from the research in areas including the spiritual, relational, physical and mental as well as material wellbeing of clergy and ordinands.

The study identifies six principles that contribute to the wellbeing of ordained ministers, including handling expectations, recognising times of vulnerability, healthy boundaries and the importance of affirmation.

Read it all.

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

(CNA) Pope Francis Calls for Civil Union Law for Same-Sex Couples, in Shift From Vatican Stance

In a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples, departing from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue.

The remarks came amid a portion of the documentary that reflected on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Pope Francis said in the film, of his approach to pastoral care.

After those remarks, and in comments likely to spark controversy among Catholics, Pope Francis weighed in directly on the issue of civil unions for same-sex couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(NBC) Wonderfully encouraging story from California–Family’s mission to provide desks for kids in need

“Mitch Couch initially built just one desk for his daughter. After posting a YouTube tutorial, parents needing desks started reaching out, and other volunteers across the country joined in to help build desks for kids in need.”

Watch the whole thing.

Posted in Children, Education, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology

(NAE) An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility–For the Health of the Nation

The concerns we face in the United States are great, but they are not greater than God. In creation, God called humans to just and compassionate governance. In reverence to God and with love for others, evangelical Christians engage in the public square — not for our own sake but for the health of the nation and world.

Our responsibility to society is grounded in the truth that all people are made in the image of God. Though we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, we can find full restoration in our living Lord. Truth that brings life leads to flourishing and results in ongoing hope that guides our day-to-day approach to civic engagement.

We also engage with a gracious and winsome spirit. We should not echo the rage and disrespect that typifies much of today’s political debates. Indeed, as the combative nature of 21st-century public discourse threatens meaningful efforts for the common good, the tone of our engagement will be as strategic as our involvement. Evangelicals of all political persuasions and backgrounds must demonstrate that differing opinions can be handled without demonizing, misrepresenting or shaming.

Therefore, in challenging and in equipping evangelical Christians to be involved in policy making and discourse, the National Association of Evangelicals emphasizes that our involvement should model the servant call of our faith and the care and concern for the other. In so doing, we may find our political efforts not only strengthen the social fabric of our nation but also rebuild the plausibility of the Christian faith in the minds and hearts of our culture.

The NAE was formed in 1942, in part, as a response to theological liberalism and rising fundamentalism. Centered on a standard set of beliefs (see the NAE Statement of Faith), NAE’s founders sought a space for thoughtful and biblical engagement with each other and with culture. We continue in this tradition as we advocate for effective public policy.

Evangelical Christians will not always agree on the specifics of governance or the best roads to social reform. However, from our understanding that all people are made in the image of God, we do hold many callings and commitments in common, including: protecting religious freedom and liberty of conscience; safeguarding the nature and sanctity of human life; strengthening marriages, families and children; seeking justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable; preserving human rights; pursuing racial justice and reconciliation; promoting just peace and restraining violence; and caring for God’s creation.

While these issues do not exhaust the concerns of good government, they provide a platform from which evangelicals can engage in common action. In view of our civic emphasis to engage the public square with conviction and love, and in light of the aforementioned commitments held by evangelicals, we present the following principled framework that seeks to be comprehensive and consistent, and seeks to serve as a basis for cultivating thoughtful evangelical public engagement.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(3CBSPhilly) Election Stress Disorder Spreading Across US As Therapist Warns Anxiety Worse Than 2016

A new round of election stress disorder is spreading across the U.S., according to experts. They say the tension is even worse this time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stress levels have been sky-high for months now. We’ve been dealing with the coronavirus since March and tensions have escalated the last few weeks before the election.

Marsha Palanci says she’s been feeling election anxiety.

“I was keeping pretty zen about the whole situation, until I watched the debates, and then that went out the window and I have been incredibly stressed,” Palanci said.

“I’m getting a lot of emergency calls of resentment or anger,” therapist Dr. Steven Stosny said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology

(Phil Inquirer) Excessive social media use linked to depression during pandemic

Excessive social media use during the pandemic is a predictor of symptoms of depression and secondary trauma, suggests a new study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Jinan University in Guangzhou, China.

The study, published last month in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 320 participants living in Wuhan about how they accessed and shared health information with friends, family members, and colleagues over WeChat, China’s most popular social media app. They also used a stress scale to measure anxiety and depression by asking participants to rate statements such as “I felt that life was meaningless” and “I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic.”

Bu Zhong, a journalism professor at Penn State and a coauthor of the study, said that the team began looking into the effects of social media use on people’s mental health right after Wuhan was locked down to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We didn’t expect that this would become a global pandemic,” he said. “We were just thinking that we could reveal some invisible harms caused by the outbreak. In China’s situation, local media was not reporting on COVID-19. If you just read the local newspaper and watched television, you didn’t get information about the virus. This made people extremely stressed, and they began relying overwhelmingly on social media.”

Read it all.

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

(CT) When a Christian Admits to Opioid Addiction

How is someone supposed to react when a brother or sister in Christ brings an addiction to light? There isn’t a flow chart to follow, and few resources exist, especially in the midst of a pandemic. From my experience, I’ve come to believe the answer is Christian friendship. I mean friendships based in a shared hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ, marked by faithful encouragement and mutual trust.

In my community in rural Appalachia, 65 percent of people say substance abuse is the top issue affecting their quality of life. In our three-year-old church plant, more than half of the congregation has been impacted by substance addiction. As my husband and I have ministered here, we’ve seen people in varying scenarios of substance misuse and every stage of recovery.

Recent reports say that misuse of opioids and overdoses have increased in more than 40 states during the pandemic. This isn’t surprising. Addiction is too often a lonely and isolating condition.

For people of the faith who battle against substance dependence, isolation from the Christian community can exacerbate feelings of despair, shame, and worthlessness. Yet many also avoid connection because they fear condemnation. They worry about being judged if they use again or if, during recovery, they use the legal, proven medications that can help with opioid addiction, like buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These are frowned on by some faith communities.

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Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(WSJ) The Covid Economy Carves Deep Divide Between Haves and Have-Nots

A two-track recovery is emerging from the country’s pandemic-driven economic contraction. Some workers, companies and regions show signs of coming out fine or even stronger. The rest are mired in a deep decline with an uncertain path ahead.

Just months ago, economists were predicting a V-shaped recovery—a rapid rebound from a steep fall—or a U-shaped path—a prolonged downturn before healing began.

What has developed is more like a K. On the upper arm of the K are well-educated and well-off people, businesses tied to the digital economy or supplying domestic necessities, and regions such as tech-forward Western cities. By and large, they are prospering.

On the bottom arm are lower-wage workers with fewer credentials, old-line businesses and regions tied to tourism and public gatherings. They can expect to bear years-long scars from the crisis.

The divergence helps explain the striking disconnect of a stock market and household wealth near record highs, while lines stretch at food banks and applications for jobless benefits continue to grow.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Politics in General

(NYT Magazine) Elderly and Homeless: America’s Next Housing Crisis

Oliver was born at the tail end of the baby boom, when American families celebrated postwar prosperity by having more children than ever before — 72.5 million between 1946 and 1964, or nearly 40 percent of the population of the United States at the time. Many of those children went on to live stable, successful lives. Others teetered on the edge as they aged, working jobs that didn’t come with 401(k) plans or pensions and didn’t pay enough to build a nest egg, always one misfortune away from losing all they had. Amid the pandemic, many of them are now facing homelessness, at an age when they are often too old to be attractive to employers but are not old enough to collect Social Security.

Policymakers had decades to prepare for this momentous demographic shift, but the social safety net has only frayed under a relentless political pressure to slash funding for programs that senior citizens rely on to make ends meet, like subsidized housing, food and health care. “It’s the first thing fiscally conservative people want to cut,” says Wendy Johnson, executive director of Justa Center in Phoenix, the only daytime resource center in the state set up exclusively for older homeless adults. “But this is every single senior to whom we promised that if they paid into the system, we’d take care of them.”

Last year, after analyzing historical records of shelter admissions in three major American cities, a team of researchers led by Dennis P. Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading authorities on homelessness, published a sobering projection: In the next 10 years, the number of elderly people experiencing homelessness in the United States would nearly triple, as a wave of baby boomers who have historically made up the largest share of the homeless population ages. And that was before a pandemic arrived to stretch what remains of the social safety net to the breaking point.

“If we’re forecasting a flood, where the water will reach up to our heads,” Culhane told me, “it’s already up to our knees, and rising very, very fast.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Poverty, Theology

(ABC Aus) Sean Winter–Cultivating patience, and working for justice, in the face of hardship

The first is patience. This is the idea that little is to be gained by allowing the arrival of adverse circumstances to distract us from doing what we have always know to be good, and right, and of enduring value. Paul names what endures in terms that lie at the heart of a Christian vision of human flourishing: sincerity, kindness, love, truth, and the assurance of God’s presence and power.

It is notable, however, that these virtues are not named in isolation, as abstract ethical or theological principles that are somehow to be imbibed, or believed. The list begins with a hard gaze on the reality of deprivation and distress, the all-too-human locations and manifestations of external circumstances placing a life under significant stress. The preposition used throughout is the Greek word “in” (en). In the initial list of circumstances it refers to these various locations of adversity, but in the second list of virtues the meaning shifts to connote the commitments that we make in the face of such distress and difficulty. It is in plagues that we discover what it means to live with genuine love. It is in protests that we can find out test our capacity to speak with truthful words.

The cultivation of patience became something of a theme in the life of the church in the early centuries. Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, and Augustine all wrote explicitly about patience in the tumultuous context of North Africa in the third and fourth centuries of the Common Era. The Mennonite historian Alan Kreider has argued that the church’s commitment to this (non-violent) “lost bequest” of patience undergirded the church’s self-understanding and mission in the early centuries, before giving way to forms of violent impatience in the form of Christendom.

This ability to respond to deprivation, persecution, and adversity through the patient cultivation of core Christian virtues proved to be a “fermenting” presence within the wider world of antiquity. It bore witness to a way of life that was characterised by hope in a God who relates to creation with continual forbearance. Crucially, it was deeds and not creeds that really mattered. As Cyprian put it in his treatise on De Bono Patientia (“On the Good of Patience”): “we do not speak great things, but we live them.” Only this kind of embodied patience provides strength in “the varied ills of the flesh and frequent and severe torments of the body with which the human race is daily harassed and wearied.”

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

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Do We As a Church Embody and Embrace the Grace of God? (Romans 12:12)

It starts about 22 1/2 minutes in; listen carefully for a great story about the swimmer Florence Chadwick, among many other things.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(CT Pastors) Wendy Alsup–Grieving Ministry Loss? You’re Not Alone.

My brother-in-law is a pastor in upstate South Carolina. He and his wife shared with me their grief when they realized that they had to completely cancel their summer vacation Bible school, after months of planning and regardless of handwashing protocol.

My own pastor, ministering in our cross-cultural church plant, shared with me the impact of the loss of our community’s call and response pattern of worship, which cannot be replicated through our current options to broadcast live services. It sounds small to some, and yet it has impacted our congregation in real ways. Most of all, we have lost contact with folks we were discipling, fragile buds just beginning to bloom into true discipleship. Though core members have hung together and grown closer, we weekly note the number of fringe attendees, those just beginning to feel a part of our church community, who have fallen away despite efforts to reach out and include them.

The evangelical church in America needed refining. But along with those things that needed to be pruned, it seems ministries are losing many good opportunities that fit God’s call to disciple the nations. Pastors sought God’s face before making their plans. Their ministries moved into the doors God seemed to be opening. In light of global suffering from the pandemic and racial injustice, such ministry losses may seem trivial to some. But they are not trivial. These losses affect pastors and ministry leaders in real ways, though sometimes we don’t even know how to name the feeling of loss they bring.

Ministry losses are piling up for pastors as hopes they had for their churches and joys they found in their ministries seem destroyed by the stifling measures we must all take right now to love our neighbor and slow the spread of this pandemic.

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Posted in Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop Stephen Cottrell: safeguarding statements

Statement from Bishop Stephen

“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.

“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.

“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

Abp. Foley Beach’s ACNA Provincial Council address–Pursuing Racial Reconciliation

A few years ago, the College of Bishops was able to hear Dr. Albert Thompson from the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic speak to us about the history of our Anglican heritage and the failures of racism, the many injustices, and some of the progress we have made over the years. Last year in Plano at our 10th year Anniversary, we heard the Rev. Anthony Thompson from the REC Diocese of the Southeast. His precious wife was shot, along with eight other people, while having a Bible Study at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston by a hate-filled man seething with racism. Anthony told us about the power of the Gospel of Jesus and how it has enabled him to forgive the man who murdered his wife. In spite of this evil, we saw in the city of Charleston brothers and sisters like Anthony responding with the love of Jesus and the incredible power of forgiveness.

We need to search our hearts and make sure there is no offensive way in us as the Anglican Church in North America. All the words about spiritual renewal and revival in the Bible are not directed to the non-Christian culture, but to the people of God. We need to look within ourselves. And it starts with me. What the Lord has shown me about me in the past few weeks is this–I have failed to understand the incredible burden and pain that many of my black brothers and sisters live with every day. I have not wept with those who weep. And I have not understood the depth of the effect of racism and injustice. I have not understood the burden of living under racist acts, slurs, and systems they have to endure every day, nor have I understood the fear with which they constantly live for themselves and their families. It is not enough not to be a racist; we must not be blind to the sin of racism and ignore it in our midst.

Channing Austin Brown writes in I’m Still Here about a white student in a college class, who after visiting a museum on lynchings, said this to her fellow classmates: “I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned,” she said. “I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism.” He writes, “And then she said nine words that I’ve never forgotten: ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.’”

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Regent College Vancouver) A new language for the sexual crisis of our generation- with Dr. Sarah Williams

Dr. Sarah Williams addresses the current sexual identity crisis that we experience today by advocating for 1) a better understanding of history and 2) a more nuanced use of language that can help us have better conversations about marriage, sex, and identity.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality, Theology