Category : Pastoral Theology

(PBS Newshour) Pope sends ‘signal’ by defrocking ex-cardinal for sexual abuse

Rev. James Martin:

But you know my faith in God hasn’t changed. It’s it’s my sort of disappointment and anger. You know certain people in the church at abusers certainly some of whom I know people who covered this up. But I think it’s also important to say that this happens in all sorts of institutions you know families schools places like that. But in the church what we need to do is really address that and be sort of forthright about it and be as transparent as possible so frankly I am really in favor of the release of these lists that have been happening that’s pretty controversial because it’s it’s necessary for transparency it’s necessary for us to understand how these things happen and enable us to move ahead and reconcile.

Hari Sreenivasan:

Well what are you looking for this week? What helps the church survive this?

Rev. James Martin:

This desire to confront it without any sort of fear. You know that you know we have of the truth the truth sets us free. I mean that that really should be kind of what we’re focused on.

Hari Sreenivasan:

You think the Pope’s doing enough?

Rev. James Martin:

I think the pope could always do more. I think that this meeting in the end of this week is really helpful it’s the heads of all the bishops conferences. There are still countries where bishops have said well it doesn’t happen in our country it doesn’t happen and are part of the world. And I think one of the reasons for this meeting is to teach in a sense those bishops the facts about sex abuse. So I think that’s a really good step forward.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(CA) Stephen Noll–When Is “good Disagreement” Not Good? When It Contradicts God’s Word

Finally, the Rev. Dr. Brett Cane, a Canadian Anglican serving in Egypt, has written an article on “Biblical Perspectives on Staying in Fellowship.” Having noted Paul’s exhortation to seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares and His prayer for unity (Ephesians 4:1-4; Matthew 13:24-30,36-43; John 17:20-23), Dr. Cane concludes:

It is often uncomfortable to be in fellowship with those with whom we disagree… From my perspective, liberals are good at asking questions – conservatives are not. In that sense, Jesus was a true liberal in relationship to the religious establishment of his time. However, Jesus was deeply rooted in the Scriptures and was able to give answers. In my opinion, that is why the liberal needs the conservative – to give answers from a Biblical perspective. We need one another; we need to stay in fellowship.

Is it really true that conservatives are not liberal? In the pre-Gafcon book The Way, the Truth and the Life, we wrote:

Besides its emphasis on the Gospel, Evangelical Anglicanism has another side: a spirit of liberality… Liberality of spirit characterizes the Anglican via media approach to doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral matters, which seeks to be firm in matters of salvation and modest with regard to secondary or ‘indifferent’ matters (adiaphora). Going back to John Jewell and Richard Hooker, this “sweet reasonableness” (Titus 3:2) has been a hallmark of Anglican writers, with George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, and John Stott being prime examples. (page 36)

By contrast, my experience of contemporary liberals is that they are supremely illiberal. Take the example of the Episcopal Church USA and Anglican Church of Canada. Having been warned by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 not to proceed with homosexual ordinations and same-sex unions, they bulldozed their way ahead, reducing the Communion to rubble. And now various other “liberal” churches are following suit, with the Church of England not far behind. Does anyone really imagine that as a result of weeks-long indaba at Lambeth 2020, the “liberals” will listen to the conservative answers from Scripture? Is there any way “liberals” will come to one mind with Richard Hooker when he says: “what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit [faith] and obedience is due”? The Bishop of Bangor is a case in point.

In a recent collection of essays titled Good Disagreement: Grace and Truth in a Divided Church, two Anglican New Testament scholars examine the way in which Jesus and the apostolic church dealt with controversy and division. Dr. Michael Thompson explains that Jesus’ own teaching and ministry caused a “tear” in the garment of Judaism and a “sword” splitting families apart: “there is no indication that Jesus sought deliberately to divide his hearers; it was the inevitable result of a message which some joyfully accepted but others rejected or simply did not understand” (page 44). One might say that “grace” and “truth” are not really opposites: the Good News of God’s grace and truth in Jesus causes some to turn to the light and others to hold fast to the darkness (John 3:17-21).

Dr. Thompson points to texts in which Jesus warns against judging one another (Matthew 7:1) and others where He insists on church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18). He goes on to consider texts in which, on the one hand, the apostles warn against factions in the church (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1-3), while on the other hand they condemn false teachers (2 Peter 2).

Thompson notes in conclusion that the apostles excluded individuals and not entire congregations. I do not think this is quite right. The early church was not an institution in the modern sense but a fellowship recognized by the apostles and their successors. Hence St. John can declare concerning a heretical faction: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

The Gafcon and Global South movements have warned repeatedly concerning a false Gospel in the Episcopal Church and others. Unfortunately, since the formal “Instruments of Communion” have failed to deal with this “leaven of the Pharisees,” it has infected the entire communion. Hence Gafcon has stated: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the majority of the Anglican Communion seeking to remain faithful to our Anglican heritage.”

Read it all.

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

A February 2019 Message from Gafcon Chariman Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

It came to light last month that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s newly appointed envoy to the Vatican had a history of disputing core Christian doctrine, including a widely circulated video in which he calls for people to be ‘set free’ from belief in a physical resurrection. Dr John Shepherd has responded by issuing a statement which apparently affirms belief that Jesus was raised bodily, but has not repudiated his previous statements to the contrary. Such confusion is itself an obstacle to the gospel.

We have also learned with deep concern that the Assistant Bishop of Toronto, Kevin Robertson, entered into a same sex union using the marriage service in St James’ Cathedral, Toronto. This step by the Anglican Church of Canada underlines the urgency of our advice in the Jerusalem 2018 ‘Letter to the Churches’ warning against attending the 2020 Lambeth Conference as currently constituted. For the first time assistant bishops and their spouses will be invited, so we can expect that Bishop Robertson and his partner will be attending and received in good standing.

Over two hundred bishops did not come to Lambeth 2008 as a matter of conscience because Archbishop Rowan Williams invited the TEC bishops who had approved the consecration in 2003 of Gene Robinson, a man in a same sex partnership, against the clearly stated mind of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, but even Archbishop Williams did not invite Gene Robinson himself on the grounds that he reserved the right not to invite bishops who had caused very serious division or scandal. But now it seems to be considered that a bishop can be married to a same-sex partner in a cathedral, by another bishop, and yet remain in good standing. I strongly commend Professor Stephen Noll’s article ‘Taking Sweet Council Together’ in which he shows how true Christian fellowship is not only a joy, but also a responsibility and must be based on true doctrine. Without that discipline, the Church is prey to the ‘fierce wolves’ St Paul warns the Ephesian elders to beware of, even those who arise from within the Church and speak ‘twisted things’ (Acts 20:29,30).

With great sadness we therefore have to conclude that the Lambeth Conference of 2020 will itself be an obstacle to the gospel by embracing teaching and a pattern of life which are profoundly at odds with the biblical witness and the apostolic Christianity through the ages.

St Paul was prepared to ‘endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ’.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Wales Bishop [of Bangor] Andy John writes his diocese about Same-Sex Unions

The point is that continuing to discern the will of God includes reading the Scriptures as well as other sources of authority such as reason, scientific evidence and in serious dialogue with other disciplines. This is part of our responsibility as Christians as we seek to understand the will of God and witness to our faith.

Over a period of time, in which I have ministered alongside those in same sex relationships and have wrestled with how to be faithful to God and open to the Spirit, I have come to believe that the Church should now fully include without distinction those who commit to permanent loving unions with a person of the same sex. I further believe that the best way to do this is for the Church to marry these people as we do with men and women.

This is not the teaching of the Church at this moment but I believe it is fully in keeping with our faith and orthodoxy. I believe it will strengthen our witness to a world which longs to see justice and fairness for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and cannot understand how the Church is still wrestling with an issue that most people have accepted long ago. Christians can seem uncaring, even cruel, and bizarrely obsessed with a limited range of issues so that everything else we say about God and hope and faith is marginalised. To put it bluntly, we are not believed and taken seriously.

Any change to official Church teaching will require the consent of the Church in Wales through its Governing Body. I realize that not everyone will take the position outlined above – and there are good arguments for developing the Church’s teaching in other ways, for example by introducing a service of life vows or revisiting the question of blessing same sex unions. This debate cannot be ignored but neither can it take place without wisdom, generosity and grace. I pray that it will engage you in a new way this year and that you will pray and reflect on how we can be faithful to God and strengthen out witness to Christ’s redeeming love.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Pamela Paul–Let Children Get Bored Again

People used to accept that much of life was boring. Memoirs of pre-21st-century life are rife with tedium. When not idling in drawing rooms, members of the leisured class took long walks and stared at trees. They went motoring and stared at more trees. Those who had to work had it a lot harder. Agricultural and industrial jobs were often mind-numbing; few people were looking to be fulfilled by paid labor. Children could expect those kinds of futures and they got used to the idea from an early age, left unattended with nothing but bookshelves and tree branches, and later, bad afternoon television.

Only a few short decades ago, during the lost age of underparenting, grown-ups thought a certain amount of boredom was appropriate. And children came to appreciate their empty agendas. In an interview with GQ magazine, Lin-Manuel Miranda credited his unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration. “Because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom,” he said.

Nowadays, subjecting a child to such inactivity is viewed as a dereliction of parental duty. In a much-read story in The Times, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting,” Claire Cain Miller cited a recent study that found that regardless of class, income or race, parents believed that “children who were bored after school should be enrolled in extracurricular activities, and that parents who were busy should stop their task and draw with their children if asked.”

Every spare moment is to be optimized, maximized, driven toward a goal.

When not being uberparented, kids today are left to their own devices — their own digital devices, that is….

Read it all.

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

(NYT) This Is Your Brain Off Facebook

The world’s most common digital habit is not easy to break, even in a fit of moral outrage over the privacy risks and political divisions Facebook has created, or amid concerns about how the habit might affect emotional health.

Although four in 10 Facebook users say they have taken long breaks from it, the digital platform keeps growing. A recent study found that the average user would have to be paid $1,000 to $2,000 to be pried away for a year.

So what happens if you actually do quit? A new study, the most comprehensive to date, offers a preview.

Expect the consequences to be fairly immediate: More in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime.

Read it all.

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

(CEN) Peter Mullen on the George Bell case–A dark episode in the life of the Church

Lord Carlile’s report was eventually handed to the Church authorities and they kicked it into the long grass.

So much for Bishop Martin Warner’s vaunted “…safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.” All along, the only interests being safeguarded here were those of the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We know very well why these authorities leapt so precipitately to condemn Bishop Bell out of hand: it was because they had previously had to admit to the existence of so many perpetrators of sexual abuse among the senior clergy – especially in the Diocese of Chichester.

Warner and Welby, to salvage what remained of their reputations, wanted desperately to appear to be doing something.

Thus the name of the safely-dead Bishop George Bell was tarnished because the Church’s highest authorities sought to cover their own backs.

Let us be in no doubt as to the seriousness of the Church’s misconduct so eloquently criticised in Lord Carlile’s report. He said that Bell had been “hung out to dry,” he added that the Church’s procedures were “deficient, inappropriate and impermissible”; “obvious lines of enquiry were not followed” and there was “a rush to judgement.”

Read it all (subscription).

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

Concerns about the planned partial Lambeth Conference in 2020 (II): Stephen Noll

While I am sympathetic with Dr. Goddard’s concern, I think he misses the point. The “prolonged failure” is in fact a system failure, and God has gone ahead in reforming His church through the Gafcon and Global South movements, which have picked up the historic mantle which the Lambeth establishment laid down after 1998.

A Challenge to Orthodox Anglican Bishops

My brothers, are you planning to attend the Lambeth Conference next year? If so, what kind of council do you perceive it to be? If the Conference is claiming to be an “Instrument of the Anglican Communion,” what do you understand the word “communion” to mean? Do you agree with its claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion Office have the exclusive “branding rights” to declare who is Anglican and who is not, as was announced by the Primates in October 2017? Do you agree that Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Kevin Robertson and those who facilitated them are authentic Anglicans, whereas Archbishop Foley Beach and Archbishop Miguel Uchoa are heading up some other Christian denomination?

Let me ask you a personal question – because true fellowship is personal and a church council, while it has a formal role, is a body of brothers (and sisters) united in “making the good confession” of our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you who are members of the Gafcon and Global South movements, how can you sit in council in Jerusalem or Cairo and enjoy sweet fellowship with brothers who have been expelled from their churches, sued out of their properties, defrocked from their ministries, and then turn around and sit at table in Canterbury with bishops of the Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada, and others who have disowned these brothers?

St. John sums up the Gospel fellowship in this way:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship (koinonia) with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:5-6).

My brothers, will you walk together in the light of God with your fellow believers and take sweet counsel in the Spirit of Truth? Or will you let them down and say one thing and do another, “double-minded men, unstable in all your ways” (James 1:8)? The future of the Anglican tradition and mission hangs in the balance.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Instruments of Unity, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Concerns about the planned partial Lambeth Conference in 2020 (I): Andrew Goddard

At the moment in relation to Lambeth 2020 we have important preparatory work being done but we also appear to have the reversal of previous policy, the rejection of previous theological rationales in relation to invitations, no justification of these changes, and no public response to the requests from GAFCON or engagement with their theological rationale.

These are all worrying signs that preparations for the Conference are refusing to consider any creative proposals for its restructuring in response to the realities of impaired communion, even though the consequences of these realities have already been recognised by the Instruments. It is as if, in planning the Conference, we are in denial of the truth articulated by Rowan Williams back in 2006: “There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment”.

It seems as if there is a determination simply to call the bluff of those who have warned they may not attend and even to aggravate them further by altering the invitation policy from 2008. Why not rather engage them in dialogue and offer them grounds on which they may conclude it is right and profitable to attend, despite their current concerns? The other side of this stance is an apparent willingness to accept that many bishops (particularly from provinces marked by significant Anglican growth) will indeed stay away but to say that this doesn’t really matter and is a price worth paying in order to uphold the current but novel and unexplained invitation policy. It is almost as if, rather than address these issues, the view is that the Conference will happen as currently planned however many cannot in conscience attend it. Even if, as I’ve heard it put, the Conference ends up being small enough to meet in a telephone box.

There is of course no chance the Conference will be that small because whatever happens there will undoubtedly be a significant turnout on current plans. It would, however, be a serious error to (a) ignore the significant shift in the nature of the Conference which has been created by the moving of the goalposts embodied in the current invitation policy or (b) minimise how widespread and deep the concerns (and possible absences) are likely to be with that new policy. These concerns are not limited to the more hard-line GAFCON provinces or even just to GAFCON as a whole. The 6thGlobal South Conference in October 2016 was clear about the Communion’s problems in its communiqué:

  1. The prolonged failure to resolve disputes over faith and order in our Communion exposes the Communion’s ecclesial deficit, which was highlighted in the Windsor Continuation Group Report (2008).
  2. This deficit is evident in the inability of existing Communion instruments to discern truth and error and take binding ecclesiastical action. The instruments have been found wanting in their ability to discipline those leaders who have abandoned the biblical and historic faith. To make matters worse, the instruments have failed to check the marginalisation of Anglicans in heterodox Provinces who are faithful, and in some cases have even sanctioned or deposed them. The instruments have also sent conflicting signals on issues of discipline which confuse the whole Body and weaken our confidence in them.

“… for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

  1. The instruments are therefore unable to sustain the common life and unity of the Anglican Churches worldwide, especially in an increasingly connected and globalising world, where different ideas and lifestyles are quickly disseminated through social media. This undermines the mission of the Church in today’s world.

[….]

  1. The present and potentially escalating crisis poses challenges to the Global South in the shepherding of her people. We recognise the need for our enhanced ecclesial responsibility. We need to strengthen our doctrinal teaching, our ecclesiastical ordering of our collective life as a global fellowship and the flourishing of our gifts in the one another-ness of our mission.
  2. The Global South Primates will therefore form a task force to recommend how these needs can be effectively addressed.

If the challenges identified in this article are ignored and if no attempt is made to find a consensus among the Communion’s bishops about the nature of the Conference and the status of participants, the real danger is that these Global South conclusions will simply be applied to Lambeth 2020, perhaps at their next Global South Conference later this year. It may even be that some bishops in the Global North draw the same conclusions and seriously consider the implications of this for their attendance.

If this happens, it will represent a tragic failure of leadership as the Conference will demonstrate how far apart from each other we are now walking.

Read it all. (For the key news about Kevin Robertson see there [posted after the annual Christmas break from Anglican news]).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process

(Baltimore Sun) Former Episcopal Church bishop Heather Cook seeks to serve rest of sentence for drunken-driving death at home

Read it all.

Posted in Alcoholism, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

(LT) Terry Mattingly: Many pastors clueless when swamped with sex, tech issues

Researchers contacted 410 senior ministers in 29 evangelical and mainline Protestant denominations, along with non-denominational congregations.

Pastors were asked about 18 issues, including marital infidelity, premarital sex, same-sex relationships, sexting, gender dysphoria and the use of pornography by husbands, wives, teens and young children. Among the findings:

  • Eighty percent of these Protestant pastors said they had been approached during the past year by church members or staff dealing with infidelity issues, and 73 percent had faced issues linked to pornography.
  • Seventy percent of the pastors said they dealt with serious “sexual brokenness” issues in their flock several times a year, with 22 percent saying this took place once a month or more.
  • Only one-third of the pastors said they felt “very qualified” to address the sexual issues being raised by their staff and church members.
  • Two-thirds of pastors “agree strongly” that the church should help people dealing with sexual sins. However, fewer than 1 in 4 said their churches openly discuss these issues in Bible studies, small groups, training for laity or support groups.
  • “Mainline” church pastors were much less likely (39 percent) to address “sexual health” issues than evangelical or conservative clergy (78 percent). Many clergy offer “pastoral counseling,” and that’s that.

Read it all.

Posted in Adult Education, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pornography, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–New allegations have rightly been thrown out, but justice has yet to be done for Bishop Bell

The Church does feel uneasy. It admits its processes were wrong. Its tone has changed. It recognises Bell’s greatness, which it previously ignored: Archbishop Welby has personally tweeted to support the building of a statue to Bell in Canterbury, a project frozen by Carol’s original allegation. But it still cannot face the obvious point that if it had applied the Carlile processes it admits it should have used it would never have found against Bell in the first place.

Trying to make some amends, the present Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, wrote to Bell’s niece last week, expressing his sorrow for having ignored the rights of the family. He added in a separate statement, however: “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited.” It reminds one of Pontius Pilate, who found no fault in Jesus, but condemned him all the same.

In our law and culture, if guilt cannot be proved, innocence must be presumed. To do this is not to “discredit” a complainant, who might not be lying, but might be mistaken about identity or confused in other ways. Memory plays strange tricks, especially about events alleged to have occurred 70 years ago.

Read it all.

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

(CC) Nicholas Wolterstorff–On grief, and not theologizing about it

When Eric died, a big part of my own self was ripped out. My desires with respect to him, my commitments, my hopes, my expectations—they were no more. My expectation that he would be home for the summer was no more; my plan to attend his graduation was no more. For a month or so I caught myself still planning to do things with him, still expecting him to call. Eventually, the realization sunk in, all the way down, that he was dead. I had to learn to live around that gaping wound and with that grief. Grief was not just an additional component in my life. I had to live a new kind of life, one for which I had no practice.

When someone to whom we are attached dies or is destroyed, we are cast into grief. That tells us when grief befalls us, not what the thing itself is. Grief, I have come to think, is wanting the death or destruction of the loved one to be undone, while at the same time knowing it cannot be undone. Grief is wanting the loved one back when one knows he can’t come back. Tears and agitation are typical expressions of grief, but they are not the thing itself. My grief was wanting intensely for Eric to be alive when I knew that could not be.

It has to be wanting, not wishing. When I was a teenager, I wished to become a major-league baseball pitcher—one of the very best, a 20-game winner. I fantasized about it. But the fact that I have not become a baseball pitcher has caused me no grief whatsoever, since it wasn’t something I really wanted. I had no talent for baseball, and I took no steps toward becoming a pitcher. I wished, but I did not want. And one has to know, or be convinced, that what one wants is impossible. Otherwise, it is hope rather than grief that one experiences—perhaps worried, anxious hope, perhaps hope against hope, but hope. Grief is wanting with all your heart what you know or believe is impossible. The more intense the wanting, the more intense the grief.

In grief, wanting collides with knowing. I desperately wanted Eric to be alive, but I knew he was dead and could not be brought back to life. Grief is banging your head against the wall. If you are frightened, you can run away or hide; if you are angry, you can vent your rage. When you are in grief, there is nothing you can do, other than altering yourself by getting rid of the frustrated want or by repressing your awareness of it.

By virtue of wanting what you know or believe to be impossible, grief is irrational: it makes no sense to want what you know cannot be. In this way, too, grief is different from fear and anger. Some fear is irrational, as is some anger; but fear and anger are not inherently irrational. It makes good sense to be fearful when you are in danger; it makes good sense to be angry when you are insulted. Grief, by contrast, is inherently irrational.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Joseph D’Souza–Why Human Dignity Is a Gospel Issue

While many of us have heard a one-dimensional gospel — the spiritual forgiveness of sin — the gospel Jesus preached did not dwell exclusively in the spiritual plane. He was not just restoring the spiritual being, but the whole human being. He said as much in his first public sermon, when he quoted the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,” (Luke 4:18-19).

If you look at Jesus’s ministry — especially his healings — you’ll notice this thread running throughout: the leper who can now return to the city; the adulterous woman who is no longer condemned; the demon-possessed man who is no longer an outcast; the hated Samaritan who is now a hero.

In sum, Jesus was restoring people’s God-given human dignity — their Imago-Dei.

Coming from India, I am keenly aware of what happens when people are robbed of their dignity.

For example, as I write this, women in India are fighting for the right to enter a temple in Kerala. For centuries, women of menstruating age were barred from the site, but in September, the Supreme Court lifted the ban. Four months later, only a handful of women have managed to get in, and that under the cover of night and heavy security.

The story of the Dalits — whom you might have heard called “untouchables” — is another case of an entire people being robbed of their dignity.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby apologises for ‘mistakes’ in case of George Bell

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bishop Bell’s biographer, who has been campaigning to clear Bell’s name, said on Thursday evening that the statements “show that they are clinging to the wreckage of their old position as best they can.

“It is simply self-justification, but it does indicate that they will just maintain for the sake of consistency the views that got them into such trouble in the first place.”

He questioned why, in January of last year, the Church had issued a statement and commissioned a second investigation: “What today has really exposed is the ridiculousness of what has been going on, and the foolishness of people who have real power in the Church. . .

“Many people will say that the Church was trying to control, or retrieve control, of the narrative of Lord Carlile, to shut down the critics, and create a doubt in the public mind that Bell might be a serial offender of some kind.

“They have nothing to hide behind now. It looks like a highly calculating, politicised outfit indeed.”

While parts of the Archbishop’s statement were “meaningful, welcome, and appropriate”, the reference to the Church’s “dilemma” in weighing up a reputation against a serious allegation did not exist, Professor Chandler argued….

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

An Open letter is released to the C of E bishops in response to their transgender services guidance

….This is the wider medical, social and political debate into which the House of Bishops have introduced their brief ‘Guidance for gender transition services’. The document is undoubtedly well intentioned but lacks the serious theological analysis required to address the philosophical, anthropological and social issues in play in public discourse.

We, the undersigned, are unreservedly committed to welcoming everyone to our churches and communities of faith, so that all might hear and be invited to respond to the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. But we do not believe that the Guidance is the right way to do this, since it raises some significant issues for the Church’s belief and practice.

  1. The House of Bishops previously stated that no new liturgy would be offered. The title of ‘gender transition services’, the focus on the use of a person’s new name, the use of oil and water contrary to previous rubrics in Common Worship, and the description in the later explanatory note confirming that this service is to be used to ‘mark gender transition’ amount to the offering of a new liturgy, since existing wording is now being put to a new purpose.
  2. We are deeply concerned at what appears to be a misuse of the liturgy by which we celebrate one of the dominical sacraments, which are the founding markers of the Church itself (Articles XIX and XXV). Although reaffirmation of baptismal vows might well be appropriate at certain seasons of life, it should primarily be focussed on celebrating new life in Christ rather than a new situation or circumstance, as set out in Common Worship: Christian Initiation, and should always centre on salvation, repentance and faith rather than ‘unconditional affirmation’.
  3. We are similarly concerned at the inclusion of new biblical readings within the guidance and their suggestion that the changes of name for biblical characters in the light of God’s salvific action and intervention offer a legitimate parallel to the change of name associated with gender transition.

Read it all and note if you are interested the list of signatories (which number around 1600 as of this afternoon).

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

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell and David Lamming-How far is Bishop George Bell’s reputation restored? When is a cloud not a cloud?

The allegations were extremely serious. Archbishop Justin is to be applauded for treating the matter so seriously: we cannot ignore the fact that the evidence in all cases was not strong. Justice is a balance: if one finds it hard to administer coolly and dispassionately, it might be an argument for placing such decisions away from the Church. A pastor’s heart is a great thing, but perhaps not in one necessarily exercising judicial decisions and commentary.

The suspicion of dual standards between the living and the dead is illustrated by the case of the former Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, who was the subject of similar allegations which were also found unreliable after investigation. Upon his retirement he received a standing ovation from General Synod, with Archbishop Justin declaring that he was “glad to thank Bishop Perham wholeheartedly for his ministry after all the investigations and inquiries had cleared him”.

The Archbishop was, of course, dealing with someone he knew; a much-liked and respected colleague. But his acknowledgment that Bishop Perham had been ‘cleared’ followed the well established rule: innocent until proven guilty. It was good to see a faithful servant of the Church vindicated, but is hard to see how that precedent differs from that of George Bell, save that one was personally known to many of those insisting ‘innocent until proven guilty’ at the time, whereas few of us will have a personal attachment to a man who died in 1958.

If there is a clear and proper distinction between the cases, it needs to be fully articulated. As things stand, the discrepancy between the cases is hard to reconcile.

It seems to us that a black-and-white approach to these matters has the considerable merit of certainty, whereas once one moves into gradations of grey we will be asking for trouble. That is why an official approach that accepts the quasi-judicial decision is probably the wisest course of action in such cases. What one thinks privately and individually is, of course, entirely a matter of conscience.

Read it all.

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

A Statement from the Bishop of Chester, Martin Werner, on the George Bell case and the Briden report

It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that if an announcement about any other person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain. We have also now understood much more besides, in particular about the trust that people place in us and their legitimate expectations of us as guardians of the inheritance of faith.

We recognise the hurt that has been done to all who have been directly involved, including the family of George Bell and those who continue to respect his achievements, as a result of the areas where we have fallen short. We apologise profoundly and sincerely for our shortcomings in this regard. The responsibility for this is a shared one, as are the lessons learnt from it.

For the future, we recognise how damaging and painful this has been. We have all been diminished by this case. The legitimate quest for certainty has been defeated by the nature of the case and the passage of time. Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved. We ask those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognize the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion. Moreover, we continue to believe that the good things that George Bell did in his life will stand the test of time. His prophetic work for peace and his relationship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer are only two of the many ways in which his legacy will go on being of great significance to us in the Church and we hope and pray we can go on learning from what he has given to us.

Read it all.

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

(C of E) The National Safeguarding Team statement on Bishop George Bell

A ruling by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence that had been brought before the core group, the Church’s response to any safeguarding situation.

A range of people came forward with further information following the publication of a review by Lord Carlile, in December 2017, of the Church of England’s handling of an original allegation against the late bishop. The Church’s response has included an independent, thorough investigation by former Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway. This was submitted to Mr Briden. Bishop Bell’s living relatives were represented during this process.

To enable Ray Galloway to have an informed understanding of the case he also interviewed ‘Carol’, who brought the original allegation; neither he nor Mr Briden reinvestigated her claim in respect of which a civil settlement has already been made.

Read it all and take the time to read the full Briden report.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Karl Vaters’ The Pivot) 5 Myth-Shattering Reasons We Have To Change Our Thinking About Church Size

Bigger churches aren’t necessarily better. Smaller churches aren’t necessarily broken, stuck or ineffective.

Effective churches exist in all shapes and sizes. Including churches that haven’t grown numerically in a while.

But the myths persist. Especially the myth that if a church is healthy it will get bigger. And the corresponding myth that if a church isn’t getting bigger it’s either a problem to be fixed (at best) or it’s beyond fixing and needs to be closed.

It doesn’t matter if there’s other evidence of health outside the numbers. For too many of us, church size is the primary (or only) factor in determining the health and value of a local congregation.

This thinking is not just mistaken, it’s dangerous. History has regularly shown us that any time we equate bigger with better in the kingdom of God, it leads to problems. Big problems.

Today, there are a handful of unintended consequences that result from the almost universal and seldom questioned assumption that church growth always means bigger churches.

Here are just a few….

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

Phillips Brooks on Phillips Brooks Feast Day

Courage…is the indispensable requisite of any true ministry…. If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else. Go make shoes to fit them. Go even and paint pictures you know are bad but will suit their bad taste. But do not keep on all of your life preaching sermons which shall not say what God sent you to declare, but what they hire you to say. Be courageous. Be independent.

—-Phillips Brooks, Lectures on Preaching, the 1877 Yale Lectures (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 59

Posted in Church History, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(C of E) Statement following IICSA preliminary hearing

Read it all:

Bishop Peter Hancock, lead safeguarding bishop for the Church of England said:

“We welcome the comments today from Fiona Scolding QC* on the wider church hearing scheduled for July which outlined the focus of the Inquiry.

We fully support the emphasis on the present and future of safeguarding in the Church of England which will help with our commitment to make the Church a safer place for all. Miss Scolding QC said the Inquiry will be looking at whether changes being implemented by the Church of England are relevant and purposeful. I believe this part of the Inquiry will be critical in helping us ensure that our safeguarding work is effective and rigorous and that survivors’ and victims’ views are heard.

We continue to be committed to working closely with the Inquiry in a constructive and transparent way.”

*Fiona Scolding is the counsel to IICSA for the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

(Interested readers will note the link to the full transcript of the hearing at the end to read more).

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 Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture:How not to do social change.

In this small story, we see something of the maladies that shape our brutal cultural moment. You see how zealotry is often fueled by people working out their psychological wounds. You see that when denunciation is done through social media, you can destroy people without even knowing them. There’s no personal connection that allows apology and forgiveness.

You also see how once you adopt a binary tribal mentality — us/them, punk/non-punk, victim/abuser — you’ve immediately depersonalized everything. You’ve reduced complex human beings to simple good versus evil. You’ve eliminated any sense of proportion. Suddenly there’s no distinction between R. Kelly and a high school girl sending a mean emoji.

The podcast gives a glimpse of how cycles of abuse get passed down, one to another. It shows what it’s like to live amid a terrifying call-out culture, a vengeful game of moral one-upsmanship in which social annihilation can come any second.

I’m older, so all sorts of historical alarm bells were going off — the way students denounced and effectively murdered their elders for incorrect thought during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and in Stalin’s Russia.

Read it all.

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

(Christian Today) Leading evangelical bishop apologises for role in gender transition liturgy guidance – and now opposes it

A leading evangelical bishop who oversaw the production of controversial Church of England guidance about gender transitioning has apologised – and confirmed that he now doesn’t back it.

The Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, was chair of the House of Bishops’ Delegation Committee, the body which oversaw the publication of guidance last month on how to use the existing Affirmation of Baptismal Faith to enable transgender adults to mark their transition.

When the guidance was published, the official Church of England website quoted Bishop Henderson as saying: ‘This new guidance provides an opportunity, rooted in scripture, to enable trans people who have “come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life”, to mark their transition in the presence of their Church family which is the body of Christ. We commend it for wider use.’

But just a few days later, the Bishop was the lead signatory on a statement from the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), of which he is president. The CEEC statement described the guidance as ‘highly divisive and theologically and pastorally questionable’. The statement said the guidance ‘also risks raising serious concerns both within the wider Anglican Communion and ecumenically’.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(NY Times Magazine) How American Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

[Jamie] Tillman told me that she thought she had no choice but to plead guilty — it was unlikely, she believed, that the judge would take her word over that of the arresting officers. “I admit, your honor,” she said. “I just want to get me out of here as soon as possible.” Under Mississippi state law, public intoxication is punishable by a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Ross opted for the maximum fine. Tillman began to cry.

The Federal Reserve Board has estimated that 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense of $400. Tillman didn’t even have $10. She couldn’t call her family for help. She was estranged from her father and from her mother, who had custody of Tillman’s two young daughters from a previous relationship.

“I can’t — ” Tillman stammered to Ross. “I can’t — ”

Ross explained the system in his court: For every day a defendant stayed in the Alcorn County jail, $25 was knocked off his or her fine. Tillman had been locked up for five days as she awaited her hearing, meaning she had accumulated a credit of $125 toward the overall fine of $255. (The extra $155 was a processing fee.) Her balance on the fine was now $130. Was Tillman able to produce that or call someone who could?

“I can’t,” Tillman responded, so softly that the court recorder entered her response as “inaudible.” She tried to summon something more coherent, but it was too late: The bailiff was tugging at her sleeve. She would be returned to the jail until Oct. 14, she was informed, at which point Ross would consider the fine paid and the matter settled.

That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

The TEC Presiding Bishop’s response to Bishop William Love’s November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Directive

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Michael Curry, Pastoral Theology, Presiding Bishop, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) More than 100 Oxford clergy criticise bishops’ LGBTI guidance

Their main concern, they write, is with the “direction of travel” of the diocese. “In its desire for new expressions of ‘inclusion’, it could end up excluding those who hold to the traditional teaching of scripture, and doing a great disservice to those of us who experience same-sex attraction.

“We are not here simply stating an aversion to change; we are, however, convinced that failing to hold the Bible’s teaching out to everyone, including those who identify as LGBTI+, is to show a lack of that very love the letter urges us to exhibit.”

The signatories disavow any sense of being “morally superior” and acknowledge that they have “much to learn from others, including those with whom we disagree”; but they conclude that “the issue concerns the teaching of Christ’s Church, however lacking we may be as disciples of Christ. . .

“We would love our bishops to articulate clearly God’s love for us in helping us see both the attractiveness of deep friendships, but also the appropriate setting for sexual intimacy — namely in marriage between a man and a woman. However, if they are unwilling to do this, we would ask them to recognise the seriousness of the difference between us: advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Christian Today) Oxford diocese in meltdown as clergy reject bishops’ view on sexuality

The letter to the bishops was sent before Christmas, and in turn the bishops have responded to the signatories with a statement of their own. Christian Today understands both letters are to be circulated to all clergy in the Oxford diocesan email news today, Wednesday. They are now also in the public domain on the website of the Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship.

Clergy signatories include conservative evangelical Canon Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s Oxford, who has openly spoken of his celibacy despite same-sex attraction, and the leading charismatic churchman Canon Charlie Cleverly, Rector of St Aldate’s, Oxford. Their two congregations are among the largest in the diocese. There are also signatories who are lay people and retired clergy, including the distinguished author, evangelist and lecturer Dr Michael Green.

The letter says: ‘Our overriding concern is with the direction of travel which the Diocese is taking as revealed by this letter. In its desire for new expressions of “inclusion”, it could end up excluding those who hold to the traditional teaching of Scripture and doing a great disservice to those of us who experience same-sex attraction. We are not here simply stating an aversion to change; we are, however, convinced that failing to hold the Bible’s teaching out to everyone, including those who identify as LGBTI+, is to show a lack of that very love the letter urges us to exhibit.’

They continue: ‘As Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany in the Episcopal Church of the USA said last month in relation to the introduction of “blessings” for same-sex couples, it ‘does a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian Brothers and Sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship, when in fact He has reserved the gift of sexual intimacy for men and women within the confines of marriage between a man and woman.’

Read it all.

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

(CT) Jeff Haanen: God of the Second Shift–The theology of work conversation is thriving. Why are most workers missing from it?

Years ago, I started Denver Institute after reading Studs Terkel’s 1971 classic Working, an oral history of working-class Americans. Work, Terkel says, “is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

Of course! I thought. This fit well with my graduate school angst (and growing boredom with my assignments). I liked the quote so much that I put it in my email signature.

But somewhere along the way, I forgot that Terkel also believed work was centrally about “violence—to the spirit as well as the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.”

This didn’t sound like the workplaces I was used to. But the tension between Terkel’s two statements has started to resonate with me. In the past five years, we in Denver have hosted thousands of doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and other young professionals at our events. But there’s been a conspicuous absence of home care workers, retail sales clerks, landscapers, janitors, or cooks.

Calvin College philosopher James K. A. Smith—who once pulled 10-hour graveyard shifts on an air filter assembly line—observes, “The bias of the [faith and work] conversation toward professional, ‘creative,’ largely white-collar work means that many people who undertake manual or menial labor simply don’t see themselves as having a voice in this conversation.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

An RNS profile Article of Jamie Aten, a disaster psychologist who founded the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College

At the turn of a new year, people often anticipate weddings, births, reunions, a promotion or other joys. Few greeted 2019 this week by counting on a flooded home or a dreaded cancer diagnosis.

Even Jamie Aten, a disaster psychologist who founded the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, wasn’t prepared for the news he received in 2013, when his doctor told him he had Stage IV colon cancer. Only 35, he had a wife and three young daughters. His academic career had just begun.

But as his oncologist told him, “You’re in for your own personal kind of disaster.”

Indeed, Aten would come to see his encounter with cancer through his field of study, which concerns resilience on the community level (he studied Hurricane Katrina) as well as the individual level.

Now 41, Aten has written about his journey in “A Walking Disaster: What Surviving Katrina and Cancer Taught Me About Faith and Resilience,” which will be published Jan. 14.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture