Category : Pastoral Theology

(GR) Roman Catholic school wars (yet) again: Can teachers take public actions that defy church doctrines?

So what should editors do, if the goal is to produce accurate, fair-minded coverage on this issue?

For starters, they need to know that these fights have been raging for decades, pitting progressive Catholic educators against pro-Catechism Catholics. It would help if reporters did some homework by reading Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church)” — that’s the urgent 1990 encyclical by Pope John Paul II on reforming Catholic education. For St. John Paul II, “reform” meant asking schools to defend the basics of the Catholic faith, in words and deeds.

Journalists also need to familiarize themselves with this U.S. Supreme Court case — Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. The key: Private religious schools and institutions have the right to take doctrinal issues into account when hiring and firing teachers and staffers.

Why? Because the professionals in these academic communities are “ministers,” in that their lives and work are linked to the doctrines affirmed in their job descriptions, contracts and/or covenants.

It’s important that reporters — the USA Today story is only one example — frequently mention this “minister” status, without explaining the Supreme Court context. This “minister” status, obviously, doesn’t mean that all teachers, staffers, etc., are ordained.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

Michael Sadgrove–Walking on Water: an ordination retreat address

On your ordination day last year I asked you about your hopes and aspirations and expectations as you approached this great moment in your lives. “You wouldn’t be human if somewhere within, you didn’t tremble at this threshold” I said, recalling my own ordination more than forty years ago. Now that I look back, it felt a bit like the disciples going down to the sea, getting into a boat and setting off on their voyage. Even if the lake wasn’t rough to begin with, it was now, John points out, “dark”. Ahead of them an adventure beckoned. But there was so much that was unknown to them, so much that they couldn’t know. There is risk involved in launching out on to the deep at night, as they will tell you when you visit Galilee and learn about the storms and squalls that suddenly sweep down from Mount Hermon and churn up the water treacherously.

But I think the key question concerns what is going on inside us. Van Gogh said that the human heart is “very much like the sea; it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too”. This is a metaphor they may not recognise in poor landlocked dioceses. But we here in Newcastle know the North Sea and its fickleness, the calm still days where barely a ripple laps the pristine white beaches of Northumberland, and the storms out of the north east that crash against the basalt rocks and lighthouses and breakwaters so violently that you wonder they are still standing. We know our own selves too. On the night before Thomas Merton was ordained priest in 1949, he confided to his journal The Sign of Jonas. “My life is a great mess and tangle of half-conscious subterfuges to evade grace and duty. I have done all things badly. I have thrown away great opportunities. My infidelity to Christ, instead of making me sick with despair, drives me to throw myself all the more blindly into the arms of His mercy.” He knew about treading water at seventy thousand fathoms.

Which is, not literally but metaphorically what the disciples experienced on Gennesaret that night. “The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.” They had rowed three or four miles, says John, which can only mean that they were in the middle of the lake, out of sight of the shoreline. At the height of the tempest, they see Jesus coming to them, drawing near to the boat. “And they were terrified” says the text. You’d have thought they would already be frightened for their lives because of the storm. Yet it’s the apparition of Jesus that terrifies: that’s clear from the words Jesus speaks. “It is I; do not be afraid”.

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Serious Allegations made against the Revd Jonathan Fletcher, an influential evangelical C of E clergyman

Mr [Andrew] Wales went on to cite other factors which supported “taking the allegations seriously”. They included: “The number of disclosures received”; “their consistent nature, where, for the most part, each person was unaware of what anyone else had disclosed”; and “the identity of those making disclosures, whose testimonies we consider reliable”.

A final factor cited by Mr Wales was that “Jonathan has recently acknowledged involvement in activities of the sort described. He did so only this week to [the Revd] William Taylor [Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate]; and he’s done so to other senior leaders as well.”

Mr Wales went on to say that “all these factors, taken together, led Emmanuel to take the allegations very seriously, even though — and I stress this — nothing criminal or to do with children has been alleged.”

The Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, the Revd Vaughan Roberts, who is director of the Proclamation Trust, said of Mr Fletcher: “Sadly, it seems that he has not yet accepted the seriousness of the situation, despite the efforts of a number of senior Evangelical leaders, who have sought to engage with him, both face to face and in writing.”

Read it all. Interested readers may also find the full statement of Vaughan Roberts there.

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

The Church of England’s response to the IICSA’s report

The NSSG, on behalf of the Church of England, reiterates the apology to all those who have been abused by those who held a position of power and authority within the Church. It remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions to improve how all worshipping communities across the whole Church in its many forms – across its parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, religious communities, national church institutions and other church bodies – respond to concerns and allegations of abuse and to all victims and survivors of abuse and others affected by this, whilst at the same time working to prevent such abuse from occurring in the first place. The Church must continue to find ways to place children and young people at the centre of its response and safeguarding at the heart of its mission and culture.

The Church recognises that these responses are made to the recommendations from the Inquiry that have arisen as a result of IICSA’s work to date. The Church will need to consider carefully the evidence given to the July public hearings in respect of the national and wider church and is committed to progressing further improvements that can be made ahead of IICSA’s final report, when we anticipate additional recommendations being made.

Read it all.

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

IICSA’s report of the Inquiry Panel on the diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball

This phase of the Anglican Church investigation has examined two case studies. The first was the Diocese of Chichester, where there have been multiple allegations of sexual abuse against children. The second concerned Peter Ball, who was a bishop in Chichester before becoming Bishop of Gloucester. In 1993, he was cautioned for gross indecency, and was convicted of further offences in 2015, including misconduct in public office and indecent assault.

The Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. It failed to be so in its response to allegations against clergy and laity.

Read it all.

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

(Christian Today) Prominent evangelical minister Jonathan Fletcher accused of spiritual abuse

A report in The Telegraph has detailed allegations of spiritual abuse against prominent evangelical leader and former Reform trustee Jonathan Fletcher.

According to the report, in 2017, the Bishop of Southwark stripped Mr Fletcher of his powers to continue preaching and officiating at services following anonymous complaints.

It is understood that the complaints against Mr Fletcher did not involve criminal behaviour and related only to spiritual abuse, not physical or sexual.

Read it all.

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

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:

  • Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
  • Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
  • Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
    organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Bishop David W Parsons–An open letter to my fellow Canadian Anglicans

I would be rejecting my ordination vows if I were to agree to redefining marriage and comply with the erroneous decision made at General Synod in 2016. Synods may change the definition of marriage, but that doesn’t change God’s definition of marriage. Synods may choose to walk without the wisdom of scripture, but that doesn’t make those synods wise decision-makers. It would not be wise to think that General Synod and the 68.4% of bishops who voted in favour of changing the church’s Marriage Canon are a majority. TheAnglican Church of Canada is marginal in size, representing only 0.65% of the Anglican Communion and only 0.025% of the Christian church worldwide. It is spiritually dangerous to follow this marginal segmentof the Christian church, those who think they alone have this prophetic message from God–a message that
calls us to turn from Scripture and follow them.

As for me, I choose to remain with the Word of God and represent the gospel in the confines of the traditional Biblical doctrines of the Diocese of The Arctic, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Communion, and the Holy Catholic Church and to walk with those who choose likewise. As for those who choose to reject the Word of God and the doctrines of the Anglican Church of Canada in our Book of Common Prayer, and the Doctrines and precepts of the Anglican Communion, and choose instead to develop their own worldly doctrines and humanistic theologies, they must do so on their own. I will treat them with love and respect but as those who have walked away from the doctrines of the Christian faith. I will pray for their repentance, but I will not walk in rebellion with them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Age) Mobile phones to be banned in Victorian state primary and secondary schools

Mobile phones will be banned from Victorian state primary and secondary schools under strict new rules aimed at tackling cyber bullying and distractions in the classroom.

The Victorian government has adopted one of the world’s toughest stances on mobile phone use in schools and from the start of next year, students must switch off their devices and store them in lockers during school hours.

Students from prep to Year 12 will not be allowed to use their phones during recess and lunchtime.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said teachers and parents regularly raised concerns about mobile phones’ effect on students.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology

(LA Times) Suicide rates for U.S. teens and young adults are the highest on record

The CDC has noted that in 2017, suicide rates in the country’s most rural counties were 80% higher than they were in large metropolitan counties. While the evolving epidemic of opioid addiction and death has begun to infect the nation’s cities, it first took root in rural, largely white populations.

Across the country, rising rates of suicide, fatal drug overdoses and deaths due to alcohol abuse have collectively driven up the average American’s probability of dying at any age. In recent years, these so-called “deaths of despair” have also reduced the average life expectancy of Americans.

Suicide is now thought to be the second leading cause of death for Americans between 10 and 34.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration at all to say that we have a mental health crisis among adolescents in the U.S.,” said San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, whose research focuses on generational differences in emotional well-being.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

(Christian Today) A grotesque abortion ruling in the UK was defeated – but why was an abortion activist the judge?

You will have an abortion, she said.

You will have an abortion even though you wish to keep the baby. You will have an abortion, even though your mother has said she will care for the baby if you cannot. You will have an abortion, though your social worker has said the pregnancy should proceed. You will have an abortion, even though you are now 22 weeks pregnant.

You will have an abortion because we will not countenance the child being adopted or fostered. You will have an abortion, the judge said. And that is the end of the matter.

Except that, by the grace of God, it wasn’t. A court ruling last Friday, which sickened Christians across the UK has now been overturned by appeal judges. Hallelujah and Amen!

The original decision by Judge Nathalie Lieven in the Court of Protection was that a young woman with a learning disorder should be forced to have an abortion – against her will.

But in the Court of Appeal on Monday, Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Jackson overturned the decision. Their reasons will be made public later. But even as countless Christians rejoice over the saving of a child’s life, many questions come to mind

Read it all and follow all the links, especially to the First Things article by Obianuju Ekeocha.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology

(David Ould) Grafton Synod Indicates Rejection of Both National Constitution and Bishops’ Agreement

As we reported last week, the Synod debated asking the General Synod to introduce same-sex marriage and blessing liturgies. That motion, as expected, was passed along with a number of related matters. What surprised some delegates at Synod was that the following motion was comprehensively defeated:

27. Standard of Worship and Doctrine

That this Synod affirms the authorised standard of worship and doctrine of the Anglican Church of Australia as set out in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution.

The motion was defeated in a vote by houses with approximately 2/3 of the delegates voting against. This represents a rejection of the fundamental position of the Anglican Church of Australia with respect to doctrine and worship. The synod of Grafton has essentially said “we’ll decide for ourselves what our doctrine and liturgy is”. Those speaking against the motion included the Dean, Greg Jenks.

One member of synod observed to davidould.net that,

Numerous people at lunch time were joking that they are no longer Anglicans and so they can do as they please. There was an air of triumphalism.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(NYT Fashion) Honeymoon Hashtag Hell

“History suggests the honeymoon began in England in the 19th century when couples would travel the country visiting family and friends who couldn’t make it to their ceremony,” said Kara Bebell, who owns and operates the Travel Siblings, with her brother, Harlan deBell. (The New York-based company specializes in romantic getaways.)

Then the honeymoon evolved into the first time a couple got any prolonged alone time or to consummate the marriage. The modern honeymoon became more of an opportunity for newlyweds to celebrate alone and reconnect after the stress of a wedding.

In recent years, honeymoons have regressed, Ms. Bebell said. “Couples want validation from followers and friends,” she said, and oftentimes they do that with photos and hashtags.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Photos/Photography, Psychology, Theology, Women, Young Adults

(The Voice) Knife Crime: Calls For Churches To Be Havens For Youths

[Rosemarie] Mallett, a south London priest and prominent anti-knife crime campaigner, will speak about how the church can respond to the issue of serious youth violence and help young people affected by it at the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Dr Mallett said: “We must work with other organisations to find the best way to support young people in our parishes and our schools, and to be part of the solution to the challenges – not only of serious youth violence but the whole issue of young people who fall through the system.

“One way that churches can help is to provide safe havens for young people.

“This isn’t necessarily about running youth clubs, in many cases this may simply be providing a place where they can go, relax and feel safe, especially during the period immediately after school hours when flashpoints can occur.”

Mallett will lead the debate on combating knife crime in which she will urge parishes to open their doors after school and call on church leaders to receive training to equip them to support individuals, families and communities affected by serious youth violence.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence, Young Adults

(GC) Should Pastors Admit They Struggle with Depression?

It’s good when pastors wisely open up. But opening up about mental health? It’s one thing to talk openly about spiritual battles and temptations (though not in too much detail, except to a few close friends); it’s another matter entirely to admit to depression. Right?

But when circumstances and personal confidence allow, it can be of great benefit to a congregation when a pastor is open about this issue—for several reasons.

First, openness serves the health of the fellowship. When I first preached about depression at All Souls, the response was largely positive. A few found it difficult to cope with a minister having his own problems—they needed him to deal with theirs! But that was only a handful. Most significant for me was the number who felt they could now admit their own challenges for the first time. It gave them permission: “Well if he can say it publicly, perhaps I can too.” The fellowship of the church ought to be the place of safety par excellence for those who know they are weak, fallible, and broken.

Second, openness is crucial for witnessing to a cynical world. This obviously requires elaboration, but many today are exasperated by spin and bravado, which they can sniff a mile off. Prevailing suspicions about religious institutions will only be confirmed by leaders who appear to live in denial of their humanness and brokenness. This isn’t simply the pursuit of that political holy grail, “authenticity.” It’s a matter of realism about life’s complexities and questions. Pastors who work through, not despite, brokenness have far greater traction today than the slick schtick of TV presenters.

There is no one right answer, but I would encourage pastors with depression to consider sharing their struggles with their congregations. Your honesty could bear beautiful fruit.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(Wash Post) The sky is falling for fast food, but not for Chick-fil-A. Here’s why.

[David] Portalatin says that industry experts agree that the biggest distinguishing feature for Chick-fil-A is the customer experience.

“The level of customer satisfaction is highly differentiated from many of their fast-food peers.”

Chick-fil-A’s customer service is legendary, prompting rafts of memes enumerating real and imagined over-the-top polite employee interactions.

Global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen says some of this is about the speed of the drive-through and a culture of saying “please” and “thank you.” Some of the positive customer-service experience can be linked to an embrace of technology. In 2016, the chain debuted what it called Mom’s Valet, which let parents order at the drive-through, then go inside where a Chick-fil-A employee would have a table ready.

More recently, the company launched a successful app, and it is routine for employees to walk the drive-through line taking tablet orders to expedite.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(AS) Dr. Priscilla Turner writes an open letter to Archbishop Melissa Skelton on the proposed new sexual morality

Secondly, we need to be fully aware that if the bizarre notion that people of the same sex can be married becomes embodied in a change to the Marriage Canon in our denomination, the ACoC will have departed not just from reason but from the Church Catholic. The cause will be complex, but will certainly include the fact that a majority both clerical and lay have voted out of a profound philosophical, theological and biblical naivety. People will vote at General Synod this summer, other things being equal, who believe some or all of the following falsehoods: That the Holy Scriptures are ambiguous about same-sex physical intimacy; that we may not know what were the convictions and practice of the Lord Jesus; that the phe­nomenon was different in the ancient world; that the behaviour of those with same-sex leanings is genet­ically pre-determined; that Christian love requires us to ‘bless’ same-sex ‘unions’; that people of the same sex can consummate sexually; and that all love may legitimately find an intimate physical ex­pression. As I wrote in my Brief to the national Commission: “It is important to note that none of these positions is held by serious biblical and theological professionals: for instance, even those very few scholars who hold that the Scriptures are mistaken acknowledge that they are wholly adverse to same-sex practice. For none of these positions has the case ever been made outside advocacy scholarship, for the very sound reason that such a case cannot be made, and the most positive thing that may be said of such views is that they are less than informed. That busy bishops and other leaders unequipped with the tools of the trade have not tested them is venial. What is less excusable is that our Church has not until now asked any of the tiny handful who are so equipped to contribute.” I am one of that tiny handful world­wide who are so equipped.

Read it all and follow all the links.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Church of England finds 50% rise in abuse claims and concerns

The number of situations where the Church of England dealt with “concerns and allegations” about abuse rose by 50% between 2015 and 2017, figures show.

Incidents relating to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, including some allegations of serious criminal offences, increased to 3,287 in 2017, compared with 2,195 in 2015. They related to both current and past events, and about one-third of them required reporting to statutory agencies.

The figures were published on Wednesday (pdf), less than two weeks before the C of E faces scrutiny in a further round of hearings at the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA). Last month, the C of E was heavily criticised for putting its reputation above the needs of abuse victims in a report published by the inquiry into the case of a former bishop, Peter Ball.

According to the latest data, 12% of concerns and allegations related to clergy. Others against whom concerns and allegations were made included church wardens, employees, volunteers, congregation members and people with church connections.

Read it all.

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

(David Ould) Grafton Synod to Debate Provision of Same-Sex Marriage Liturgy

The Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, meeting this weekend 21-23 June, is to debate a motion asking the General Synod to implement same-sex marriage.

The full text of the motion, proposed by Dean Greg Jenks, is

24. That this Synod encourage the 2020 General Synod to adopt optional provisions for the blessing of civil marriages as well as an optional liturgy for the solemnization of Holy Matrimony where the parties to the marriage are of the same gender.

Moved: The Very Reverend Greg Jenks

Seconded: Canon Lee Archinal

Read it all.

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

(CC) Craig Barnes–Everyone in ministry gets their feelings hurt

After that he took a stab at the administration for not being very responsive to his problem. I indicated that I was at least the third administrator who had seen him in two days. Finally, he slumped his shoulders and said, “This really hurts my feelings.”

That was his final appeal for me to allow him to graduate. It would hurt his feelings if we upheld the requirements for his degree.

The vast majority of our students would never come to me with such an appeal. They are very conscientious about fulfilling the expectations of their rigorous academic programs. But this was a rare student who wasn’t paying attention. The subtext of his appeal was that I should now do anything I could to avoid hurting his feelings, as if this were one of the standards of leadership.

I was a parish pastor for a long time before I became a seminary president, and through most of those days I was wading through hurt feelings, including my own. So I responded to the student by saying, “You do realize that your feelings are going to get hurt all of the time when you become a pastor, don’t you?” He just picked up his backpack and walked out of my office….

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Seminary / Theological Education

(NYT Op-ed) Katelyn Beaty–How Should Christians Have Sex?

As I continue to date with hopes of meeting a partner, I yearn for guidance on how to integrate faith and sexuality in ways that honor more than my own desires in a given moment. Here, the Christian teaching on sacramentality is helpful. All creation, including human bodies, by grace reveals deeper spiritual truth. In other words, matter matters. So when a person engages another person sexually, Christians would say, it’s not “just” bodies enacting natural evolutionary urges but also an encounter with another soul. To reassert this truth feels embarrassingly retrograde and precious by today’s standards. But even the nonreligious attest that in sex, something “more” is happening, however shrouded that more might be.

This is why a sexual ethic centered on consent, which is what those of us who’ve lost purity culture are left with, feels flimsy. To be sure, consent is a nonnegotiable baseline, one that Christian communities overlook. (I never once heard about consent in youth group.) But two people can consent to something that’s nonetheless damaging or selfish. Consent crucially protects against sexual assault and other forms of coercion. But it doesn’t necessarily protect against people using one another in quieter ways. I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.

Purity culture as it was taught to my generation hurt many people and kept them from knowing the loving, merciful God at the heart of Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches still promote some version of purity culture, even as others have tried to disentangle it from the sexism and shame of its earlier iterations. Purity culture as it was modeled for evangelical teenagers in the 1990s is not the future of Christian sexual ethics. But neither is the progressive Christian approach that simply baptizes casual sex in the name of self-expression and divorces sex from covenant faithfulness and self-sacrificial love.

Occasionally I think about my purity pledge and the letters to my mystical future husband, and find those practices naïve and manipulative. But part of me wishes that the fairy tale of purity culture had come true. While I hate the effects that purity culture had on young women like me, I still find the traditional Christian vision for married sex radical, daunting and extremely compelling — and one I still want to uphold, even if I fumble along the way.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Naomi Schaefer Riley–Christians Are Pro-Life After Birth, Too

Legislation restricting abortion in Georgia, Alabama and other states has helped bring a decadeslong conflict back to the center of American politics. Some worn-out arguments have come along with it. One is that the pro-life movement cares too much about limiting abortion instead of improving the lives of babies born into difficult situations.

This critique is increasingly out of date. Many evangelical Christians believe that caring for children without loving parents is an integral part of the pro-life movement, and over the past 15 years an impressive network of organizations has grown to do just that.

This was clear at last month’s Christian Alliance for Orphans, or CAFO, summit at the Southeastern Christian Church in Kentucky. Hundreds of faith-based organizations attended—their missions ranging from the recruitment and training of foster parents to providing assistance for kids aging out of foster care. (I spoke at the conference and was reimbursed for some of my travel expenses.)

The summit had an entrepreneurial feeling, as different groups’ leaders networked and searched for ways to improve their models. Some organizations—such as Focus on the Family and Bethany Christian Services—have been around for decades. Others sprouted up in recent years: Replanted Ministries offers postplacement support for adoptive and foster families. Patty’s Hope provides counseling, training and housing for biological mothers of kids in foster care. Reece’s Rainbow advocates for children with special needs and awards grants to families who adopt them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Albert Mohler) Would You Trade Eternal Life For A Ferrari? The False Gospel of Prosperity Theology

Edward Luce, the American Editor for the Financial Times, penned [an] article [in the Financial Times in April], which chronicles his visit to Lakewood Church, the most significant temple to the prosperity gospel in America. Luce marshals all his prowess and analytical skill to craft this insightful article—a story that explores the friction between the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen and the historic, orthodox Christian faith.

Luce’s report not only details what is present in prosperity theology, but what is absent. He attended a men’s support meeting and wrote, “Optimism, hope, destiny, harvest, bounty—these are Lakewood’s buzzwords. Prosperity too.” Then, he reveals the glaring absence of crucial theological terms: “Words that are rarely heard include guilt, shame, sin, penance and hell. Lakewood is not the kind of church that troubles your conscience.” The supervisor of the men’s support group said to Luce, “If you want to feel bad, Lakewood is not the place for you. Most people want to leave church feeling better than when they went in.”

This statement distills the essential message of prosperity theology—a theology not centered on God and his glory, but an anthropocentric psychological message aimed at making individuals merely feel better about themselves.

Indeed, self-promotion undergirds the success of the prosperity gospel. All meaning and significance in the universe revolves around the self. Thus, meaning and identity have shifted away from the self-revealing, self-existing God and towards the self-important, self-worshiping individual whom God loves.

God certainly loves us. Indeed, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The prosperity gospel, however, shifts the impetus of that love away from the praise and glory of the Creatortowards the praise and glory of the creature. Luce captures this sentiment in his report, noting that Osteen said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a computer, your face would be the screen saver.”

Osteen has reversed the entire theological order of biblical Christianity—an order that begins with the supreme priority, glory, and holiness of God.

Read it all (and please note you need an FT subscription to read the Luce article).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(USA Today) ‘Deaths of despair’ from drugs, alcohol and suicide hit young adults hardest

Young adults were more likely than any other age group to die from drugs, alcohol and suicide over the past decade, underscoring the despair Millennials face and the pressure on the health care system to respond to a crisis that shows little sign of abating.

Drug-related deaths among people 18 to 34 soared 108% between 2007 and 2017, while alcohol deaths were up 69% and suicides increased 35%, according to an analysis out Thursday of the latest federal data by the non-profit Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.

The analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found the increases for these three “deaths of despair” combined were higher than for Baby Boomers and senior citizens.

The Millennial generation is typically defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 – so are 23 to 38 years old today – although some definitions include young people born through 2000. They make up about a third of the workforce and the military.

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

(NPR) Southern Baptists Launch New Guidelines For Addressing Sexual Abuse In The Church

[MARY LOUISE] KELLY: Talk to me about the culture. I’m thinking of some reporting that our religion correspondent, Tom Gjelten, has been doing this week. He’s been interviewing Southern Baptist women. And they describe a culture that is resistant to change. Has that been your experience as you’ve interacted with church leaders?

[RACHAEL] DENHOLLANDER: You know, the honest truth is I think there’s a quite significant divide. Many of the leaders that I have interacted with are very committed to change. They recognize and understand the damage of sexual abuse. They are broken over what has taken place. That being said, there is certainly a faction within the SBC that remains resistant to change and that most importantly does not really understand some of the theological misinterpretations that so often lead church leaders to mishandle abuse, misunderstanding concepts of forgiveness and grace and dealing with abuse in the church instead of relying on outside experts to handle both the investigation and the counseling dynamics.

KELLY: What made you want to take this on?

DENHOLLANDER: You know, there are a lot of reasons. You know, the issue of abuse is obviously something that is very personal to me. I have lived the damage. I have seen the damage. In addition to that, I do come from a Christian perspective, a faith perspective. And so in many ways, this is part of my community. And you are most able to make change in the communities that you hold closest to you.

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Posted in Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(AP) Maine Becomes 8th State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Maine’s bill would allow doctors to prescribe terminally ill people a fatal dose of medication. The bill declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

The proposal had failed once in a statewide vote and at least seven previous times in the Legislature. The current bill

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

The full Vatican Document– “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education”

Read it all (31 page pdf).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(Vatican News) Vatican document on gender: Yes to dialogue, no to ideology

The third main section of the document offers the proposal that comes from Christian anthropology. “This is the fulcrum on which to support” an integral ecology of man. The document recalls the verse from Genesis, “male and female He created them”. It argues that human nature is to be understood in light of the unity of body and soul, in which the “horizontal dimension” of “interpersonal communion” is integrated with the “vertical dimension” of communion with God.

Turning to education, the document stresses the primary rights and duties of parents with regard to the education of their children — rights and duties which cannot be delegated or usurped by others. It also notes that children have the right to a mother and a father, and that it is within the family that children can learn to recognise the beauty of sexual difference.

Schools, for their part, are called to engage with the family in a subsidiary way, and to dialogue with parents, respecting also the family’s culture. It is necessary, the document says, to rebuild an “alliance” between family, schools, and society, which can “produce educational programmes on affectivity and sexuality that respect each person’s own stage of maturity regarding these areas and at the same time promote respect for the body of the other person.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(Church Times) Priest resigns in transgender-pupil row

The rector, the Revd John Parker, accused both the Church of England school and the diocese of silencing his concerns over transgender issues and how the school’s leadership was handling the topic.

The clergyman and the other governors and staff were informed earlier this year that the eight-year-old wished to return to school as a girl, not a boy.

Concerned by the school’s approach, Mr Parker secretly recorded a training session at the school led by the transgender education charity Mermaids.

In the recording, Mr Parker can be heard trying to ask questions and challenge some scientific and legal issues that are raised, but is told by the head teacher and others that he should not speak out and instead send his concerns in an email.

“Throughout the training session, there was an implicit threat to us that if we did not implement Mermaids’ ideology and affirm LGBTQI+ children, it would result in children committing suicide, self-harming, and police and OFSTED would enforce the policy,” Mr Parker said later.

“After the head told us about the plan to allow the pupil to transition, the school suddenly turned into a place where you did not even have the freedom to question or express a view. I felt it was no longer a Christian place of truth but a place of fear and intimidation.”

Read it all and there is a lot more about this story on the Archbishop Cranmer blog there.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Best story of the week–the Retirement of Floyd, the North Carolina mailman, after 35 years

Make sure to follow the thread all the way until the end.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology