Category : Pastoral Theology

(Church Times) House of Bishops announces move to increase ethnic diversity at meetings

At least ten clergy of UK minority-ethnic / global-majority heritage (UKME / GMH) will be present at meetings of the House of Bishops within months, after its Standing Committee agreed a plan to address its lack of ethnic diversity.

Of the 53 places in the House of Bishops, only four are currently occupied by UKME/GMH bishops. Under plans agreed by the Standing Committee of the House on Thursday it will “ensure that at least 10 can be present, either as members as of right; as suffragan bishops appointed as participant observers, or as priests elected as participant observers”, a statement from Church House said.

“In addition to the four existing UKME/GMH members of the House, the plan will involve three further suffragans (two of whom were recently nominated as bishops) being invited to join the House as participant observers. There would also be three priests elected by serving UKME/GMH clergy.”

Read it all.

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

(Guardian) Winchester college society was cult-like, finds report into child abuse

A cult-like evangelical Christian society at a leading private school allowed a powerful and charismatic barrister to groom and sadistically abuse boys with impunity, an investigation has found.

Members of the Christian Forum at Winchester college “showed signs of what would today be described as radicalisation”, said a 197-page review commissioned by the elite school into abuse carried out by John Smyth QC.

The school’s then headteacher, John Thorn, was informed of the abuse in 1982 but did not report it to police. Smyth moved to Zimbabwe, where he abused “as many as 90 boys, possibly resulting in the death of one”, the report said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

(Plough) Erika J. Ahern–Divorce Wrecks Children’s Lives Too

Just after Christmas 2021, Honor Jones, a senior editor at the Atlantic, published “How I Demolished My Life: A Home-Improvement Story.” It’s a self-portrait of a mother who, while wrangling with kitchen renovation plans, decides she doesn’t want a new kitchen.

She wants a divorce.

Jones spends the next three thousand perfectly manicured words trying to justify her decision to break up her family. She displays all the self-congratulatory bravado of middle-aged white women who read Henrik Ibsen’s Doll’s House or Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray for a high school literature class and then imagine themselves forever in the role of Brave Protestor of Victorian Oppression.

Jones describes her marriage, which produced three children who are still young, as her cage. Her imperfect suburban home is, to her, an icon of her imprisonment.

She doesn’t like the “chaos” of her house and, even with the help of sensible Luba, her hired cleaning woman, she finds the lived-in quality of a home with children irksome.

Read it all.

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

(ACNA) Firm Hired To Investigate Allegations Of Misconduct In Upper Midwest

Husch Blackwell LLP has been elected to serve as the firm contracted to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct and mishandling in the Diocese of the Upper Midwest. Husch Blackwell is a national firm and the team engaged for this investigation is based out of their Chicago, Illinois office.

In late June 2021, the Anglican Church in North America was notified that there had been an erosion of trust in the Diocese of the Upper Midwest due to allegations that the Diocese mishandled accusations of sexual misconduct. On July 10, Archbishop Foley Beach announced the Province’s acceptance of a request from the Diocese to take on oversight of the investigation and called for the formation of a Provincial Response Team. The Province is a separate legal entity from the Diocese of the Upper Midwest.

The Provincial Response Team (PRT) of experienced men and women, laity and clergy, began building a process to contract a third-party investigative firm that is trauma-informed, properly experienced, and capable of competently investigating this matter.

The PRT developed a set of criteria, with input from some of the alleged survivors, to vet potential firms. The PRT then began the process of engaging potential investigators based upon those criteria, contacting eleven firms. Out of those contacted, the PRT determined two firms sufficiently met the selection criteria. All alleged survivors known to us were sent the names of these two firms and a summary description of each and were asked to vote or to indicate no preference. These votes, along with the vote of each member of the PRT, resulted in the selection and subsequent engagement of Husch Blackwell. The Province is grateful for the time and energy the other firms gave to us as the PRT considered them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(LR) Your Pastor Cares When You Don’t Care

Pastors face unique difficulties inherent in their career, but what are their greatest needs? Pastors themselves say they’re most concerned about seeing their churchgoers grow spiritually and making connections with those outside of their churches.

After speaking directly with pastors to gather their perspectives on their ministry and personal challenges, Lifeway Research surveyed 1,000 US pastors for the 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors study to discover what they see as their most pressing issues.

“The pre-existing challenges of ministry were amplified by COVID, and it’s important we lean in and listen closely to pastors,” said Ben Mandrell, president of Lifeway Christian Resources. “This project has shed light on critical needs they have and will point the way forward in how we partner with them to fuel their ministries and improve their health in multiple areas.”

Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said his team began the study by speaking with more than 200 pastors, asking them to think beyond the current pandemic-related struggles and share some of the enduring needs of pastors and their churches today.

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

Aelred of Rievaulx for his Feast Day–What Friendship is

10. What statement about friendship can be more sublime, more true, more valuable than this: it has been proved that friendship must begin in Christ, continue with Christ, and be perfected by Christ. Come, now: propose what in your opinion should be the first question about friendship.

IVO. I think we should first discuss what friendship is, lest we appear to be painting on a void, not knowing what should guide and organize our talk.

11. AELRED. Is Cicero’s definition not an adequate beginningfor you? “Friendship is agreement in things human and divine, with good will and charity.”

12. IVO. If his definition suffices for you, it’s good enough for me.

–Aelred of Rievaulx Spiritual Friendship I.10-12 (Lawrence C. Braceland, tr., Marsha L. Dutton ed., Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2010), p.57

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Pastoral Theology, Theology

One of the best stories from this week for your encouragement–(NBC) UPS Driver Delivers Touching Tribute To New Mom

“New mom Jessica Kitchel was still recovering from a c-section and feeling a little down when a U.P.S. driver delivered a package to her Georgia home. Dallen Harrell, a new dad himself, left a simple, heartfelt message wishing them well with their newborn.”

Take the time to watch it all.

Posted in * General Interest, Anthropology, Children, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology

(Church Times) Review lists catalogue of errors in Monmouth and the Church in Wales

What happened in the diocese of Monmouth over the long absence and subsequent retirement of its former Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Pain, is described in a newly published review as a “tragedy”. Long ministries of service to the Church were curtailed, careers were damaged, and reputations were left in ruins, it says.

The review panel — the Rt Revd Graham James, a former Bishop of Norwich; Lucinda Herklots, a former diocesan secretary in Salisbury; and Patricia Russell, a former deputy registrar for Winchester and Salisbury — concluded: “We recognise that we are looking at events with the benefit of hindsight, but we do not believe there is a single malign figure on whom all that happened can be blamed.

“Rather, this is a story of people attempting to do the right thing but tying themselves in knots when they fail to revisit poor decisions and avoid risk to the extent that they create more of it. That is why this is genuinely a tragedy.”

The panel’s object was not to determine whether allegations related to the former Bishop were true. These are nowhere specified, though there are clues, and all identifying references to “Alex”, who made a disclosure about the Bishop’s behaviour, are redacted for his or her anonymity.

The in-depth report runs to more than 100 pages, and makes uncomfortable reading for the Church in Wales….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

An Ad Clerum on Domestic Violence from Bishop Martyn Minns

It all began with a knock at the kitchen door at the Truro rectory. Standing there were two women. I recognized one of them as “Karen,” a long-time, active member of the congregation, but I didn’t know the other woman standing with her. I did notice, however, that she looked as if she had been crying.

“Angela, it’s for you!” I called, and invited them in. After a few more brief words, I retreated upstairs to my study, while Angela listened to their story.

They were next-door neighbors in a nearby apartment complex. “Maria” was a recent immigrant, she and her husband both refugees from Eastern Europe. He was an angry and abusive man, and Karen had heard their arguments through the walls of the apartments. Sometimes she heard the sounds of violence. She had knocked on their door a couple of times to ask if all was well, and they had reassured her that it was. Karen had thought about speaking to the police, but she knew that Maria would have been alarmed at that, so she kept quiet and kept praying. But this night was different. The sounds of violence were more intense and the screams more piercing, and then their door slammed and there was silence and muffled sobs. Karen went to their door and this time Maria couldn’t hide the nightmare. Her husband had stormed out, carrying a gun, and she was terrified. Unsure about the best way forward, Karen had brought Maria to us. We would know what to do!

Angela listened and prayed and then invited them both to spend the night in our guest room. We would deal with next steps in the morning.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

(Church Times) Cultural change is needed at Titus Trust, says independent review

A narrow focus on public schools, a hierarchical structure in which Bible teachers enjoyed greater levels of authority, and a lack of diversity among its leaders, drawn from the conservative Evangelical wing of the Church of England, are among the factors that have increased the risk of abuse at holiday camps run by the Titus Trust, an independent review concludes.

The review, carried out by Thirtyone:eight, an independent Christian safeguarding charity, and published in full on Wednesday, was commissioned by the trust in the wake of revelations about abuse perpetrated by a former chairman of the Iwerne Trust (now part of the Titus Trust), John Smyth (News, 10 February 2017, 27 August). It focuses mainly on the past five years, and responses come largely from current leaders on holidays, campers, current staff, and supporters. Visits to camps were also undertaken this summer.

It notes that “a significant amount of contributors were happy with the culture of the trust and its camps and did not have any issues with how they had been treated, nor any concerns about safeguarding,” but cautions that few responses were received from young people who had stopped going on the holidays.

The report explores nine themes, commenting that “some of these are not problematic in themselves, but it is the way in which they interrelate which increases the potential for abuse occurring.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Violence

Ambrose for his Feast Day–The law says: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God.” It said not: “Speak,” but “Hear.”

Let us hearken, then, to the master of precaution: “I said, I will take heed to my ways;” that is, “I said to myself: in the silent biddings of my thoughts, I have enjoined upon myself, that I should take heed to my ways.” Some ways there are which we ought to follow; others as to which we ought to take heed. We must follow the ways of the Lord, and take heed to our own ways, lest they lead us into sin. One can take heed if one is not hasty in speaking. The law says: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God.” [Deut. 6:4] It said not: “Speak,” but “Hear.” Eve fell because she said to the man what she had not heard from the Lord her God. The first word from God says to thee: Hear! If thou hearest, take heed to thy ways; and if thou hast fallen, quickly amend thy way. For: “Wherein does a young man amend his way; except in taking heed to the word of the Lord?” [Ps. 119:9] Be silent therefore first of all, and hearken, that thou fail not in thy tongue.

It is a great evil that a man should be condemned by his own mouth. Truly, if each one shall give account for an idle word,[Matthew 12:36] how much more for words of impurity and shame? For words uttered hastily are far worse than idle words. If, therefore, an account is demanded for an idle word, how much more will punishment be exacted for impious language?

On the Duties of the Clergy I.ii.7-8

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

(Church Times) Evangelicals encouraged to engage in soul-searching after abuse

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has published material intended to initiate conversations about “issues of culture, power and abuse” within its constituency.

The materials, published on Wednesday, are “designed to help Evangelical churches review, repent and reshape their cultures on the back of the recent Thirtyone:eight independent reviews into two prominent Evangelical churches and their leaders”, a press release says.

The reviews to which it refers are those of Emmanuel Proprietary Chapel, Ridgway, in Wimbledon and the Revd Jonathan Fletcher (News, 26 March), and the Crowded House, a non-denominational Evangelical church in Sheffield, at which “some instances of emotional and/or psychological abuse took place as a result of persistent coercive and controlling behaviour”.

The resources include an introductory film and a “liturgy of lament” for churches to use. There is also a booklet, Church Cultures Review Questions, which contains more than 100 questions for churches.

Read it all.

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

(Deseret News) ‘We can change the air that abusers breathe’: How faith communities are addressing domestic violence

They looked like the poster couple for faith and family. He was a successful professional, who provided for his wife and children and led them in prayer. She was a stay-at-home mom with a leadership position in their religious community. They seemed to exemplify how great a life rooted in belief could be.

But behind closed doors, Amy, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, endured years of spiritual abuse as her husband turned aspects of her faith against her.

Shortly after they married, Amy says, her husband became obsessed with the idea that she wasn’t telling him the truth about her past. He forced her to pray with him about it. Constantly. He insisted she share with him every detail of her unmarried life.

After these discussions, he would manipulate and coerce his physically and emotionally exhausted wife into having sex. Only later did she realize the pattern amounted to sexual abuse, though he claimed he was driven by love and a desire to make their relationship perfect and eternal.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Men, Mormons, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(NYT front page) The Woman on the Bridge Police and prosecutors spent five years chasing a domestic violence case. Would it be enough?

Frustration was nothing new, not for any of them. Ms. Burns, who specializes in domestic violence, describes the criminal justice response to these crimes as ineffectual, like “putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds.” She spends much of her time scraping for evidence that can be admitted in court, but so many of the assaults she prosecutes take place behind closed doors, she said, that not guilty verdicts are common.

Ms. Neal’s suicide — the way she had slipped away from them — made this failure different, more agonizing.

“From the criminal justice side of it, we had a piece of paper telling Nelson not to contact her, that’s what we had,” Ms. Burns said. In domestic violence cases, she added, “the dynamics and the history are too deep” to be altered by “a piece of paper from a judge.”

Domestic violence cases are so challenging that some experts, like Rachel Teicher of John Jay College’s National Network for Safe Communities, argue that arrests and prosecutions are simply inadequate as a response, and should be supplemented with other kinds of interventions.

Perpetrators and victims become accustomed to a cycle — charges dismissed or reduced, restraining orders violated — and conclude, she said, that “these are systems I don’t have to take all that seriously.”

“The folks at the front lines are often using every tool they can,” she said. “Sometimes our tool kit isn’t big enough.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Violence, Women

(Guardian) Justin Welby admits he was wrong to say there was a cloud over George Bell

The archbishop of Canterbury has apologised for saying there was a “significant cloud” over the name of one of the most venerated figures in the Church of England who was accused of sexual abuse.

In a move that may end a protracted and acrimonious battle within the C of E over the reputation of George Bell, a bishop of Chichester and a leading 20th-century figure, Justin Welby issued a personal statement admitting his earlier position had been wrong.

In a remarkable volte-face, Welby said a statue commemorating Bell as “one of the most courageous, distinguished Anglican bishops of the past century” would be erected at Canterbury Cathedral.

In 2015, 57 years after Bell’s death, the C of E paid compensation and issued a formal apology to a woman who alleged that Bell had sexually abused her when she was a child.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Southern Baptists Agree to Open Up to Abuse Investigation

It took three weeks of scheduled meetings, at least three law firms, dozens of statements, hours of closed-door briefings, and extensive back-and-forth debates across boardooms, social media, and Zoom calls for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) to agree to the terms of a third-party investigation into its response to abuse. But on Tuesday, it did.

The EC voted 44–31 on in favor of waiving attorney-client privilege in the investigation, after a half dozen members resigned and several switched their position in favor of the waiver. For a moment, it felt like the conclusion of a long and heated process, though the decision is only the start of a long investigative process.

EC chairman Rolland Slade, who oversaw the proceedings, expressed his relief after the tally was announced. Then he remarked, “I want to express sorrow over the conduct we have displayed as Southern Baptists.”

For the EC—the denominational body tasked with Southern Baptist business outside the annual meeting—the debate pitted the desire to open fully to the investigation against concerns that such transparency would threaten its financial solvency, insurance coverage, and other fiduciary duties to protect the entity.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

Read it all and for background please see there.

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

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archbishop Beach appoints Bishops Miller and Atkinson to assist Diocese

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

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

(CEN) Safeguarding Sunday launched but ‘criticisms’ remain

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

A clergy friend of mine made this comment online:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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