Category : Lutheran

Archbishop Welby to mark agreement with Catholic and Lutheran Churches on 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to mark an act of reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant churches on the 500thanniversary of the Reformation.

During a service at Westminster Abbey on 31 October, the Archbishop will present copies of a text supporting an agreement resolving the theological dispute behind the Reformation to the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation

The text is a formal resolution approved by representatives from the Anglican Communion, who have welcomed the substance of the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification, signed by the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council and World Communion of Reformed Churches.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Roman Catholic

Martin Luther for his Feast Day–A Sermon on the Gospel of John 2:1-11

But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us. Then indeed there is humble longing and knocking, prayer and search, in order to be rid of sin, death and dread. And then he acts as if he had only begun to show us our sins, as if death were to continue, and hell never to cease. Just as he here treats his mother, by his refusal making the need greater and more distressing than it was before she came to him with her request; for now it seems everything is lost, since the one support on which she relied in her need is also gone.

This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious–as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9. For if Christ’s mother had allowed those harsh words to frighten her she would have gone away silently and displeased; but in ordering the servants to do what he might tell them she proves that she has overcome the rebuff and still expects of him nothing but kindness.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Martin Luther for Christmas 2016–Lay hold of this picture deep in your heart

This Gospel is so clear that it requires very little explanation, but it should be well considered and taken deeply to heart; and no one will receive more benefit from it than those who, with a calm, quiet heart, banish everything else from their mind, and diligently look into it. It is just as the sun which is reflected in calm water and gives out vigorous warmth, but which cannot be so readily seen nor can it give out such warmth in water that is in roaring and rapid motion.

Therefore, if you would be enlightened and warmed, if you would see the wonders of divine grace and have your heart aglow and enlightened, devout and joyful, go where you can silently meditate and lay hold of this picture deep in your heart, and you will see miracle upon miracle. But to give the common person a start and a motive to contemplate it, we will illustrate it in part, and afterwards enter into it more deeply.

First, behold how very ordinary and common things are to us that transpire on earth, and yet how high they are regarded in heaven. On earth it occurs in this wise: Here is a poor young woman, Mary of Nazareth, not highly esteemed, but of the humblest citizens of the village. No one is conscious of the great wonder she bears, she is silent, keeps her own counsel, and regards herself as the lowliest in the town. She starts out with her husband Joseph; very likely they had no servant, and he had to do the work of master and servant, and she that of mistress and maid, They were therefore obliged to leave their home unoccupied, or commend it to the care of others.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Michael Schuermann–Luther’s Morning Prayer ”“ A Model for the Christian’s Daily Life

St. Paul’s exhortation to pray “without ceasing” highlights the importance of regular prayer in the life of the Christian. Luther’s years of monastic life modeled a regulated daily life of prayer. The various monastic daily prayer offices seem to have influenced Luther’s teaching of prayer in the Small Catechism. Not only is a prayer for morning provided, but Luther places that prayer within a simple liturgy: first, the name of the Triune God is spoken and the sign of the holy cross is made, then the Creed and Lord’s Prayer (two of the Chief Parts!) are spoken. Finally, Luther suggests his little prayer may be said “if you choose.” Humbly, Luther considers his own contribution optional and the handed-down texts of the Faith essential.

Luther’s modeling of prayer seems deliberately designed to avoid the type of praying that Jesus warns against: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) With many words comes much work; Luther aims at a simple liturgy of prayer that can be adopted in the daily lives of Christians both in his time and in our present day.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Lutheran, Other Churches, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AJ) Churches should do more to end racism, says Lutheran partner

Anti-racist activism could be an excellent opportunity for Lutheran and Anglican congregations to engage in grass-roots ecumenical action, says Pat Lovell, representative to Council of General Synod (CoGS) from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

“We have this close relationship, we have power together, and I’d like to see us do more work together at the grassroots,” Lovell told CoGs in a November 19 partner’s reflection, noting that while both churches are involved in initiatives around responsible resource development, homelessness and poverty, there has been less co-operation on anti-racism.

Lovell said the recent defacement of a synagogue, a church and a mosque in Ottawa, is a reminder that racism and anti-Semitism remain problems in Canada.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canada, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(TGC) Alastair Roberts–Lessons from the Collapse of American Protestantism

Up through the 1960s, members and institutions of the Protestant mainline dominated American public life. To be sure, this dominance was not without serious issues””most notably, the exclusion of “Catholics, Jews, blacks, and atheists from nearly every position of influence in American life.” The significant demographic changes brought about by post-war immigration did nothing but exacerbate this problem.

Through these developments, influential mainline thinkers such as Harvey Cox and Paul Tillich responded by abandoning Christian particularism. Gleason writes:

They focused on the church’s social obligations, which they emphasized at the expense of the exclusivity and particularity of traditional doctrinal claims. In one famous formulation, Tillich argued that Christianity was just one of many ways to touch “the ground of being.” Symbols, religious and otherwise, all inadequately represented their ineffable subjects, but they also pointed beyond themselves to this ground of being, which Tillich called God. If Tillich was right, then mainline Protestants had no reason to distrust people of other faiths. Perhaps their beliefs were not so different after all.

This liberal thought was disseminated to millions of congregants by mainline Protestant clergy. They taught the values of “individualism, tolerance, pluralism, and emancipation from tradition”””and, in so doing, played a pivotal role in creating the culture in which we now live.

By virtue of their very “success,” however, mainline churches became a “vanishing mediator.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology, United Church of Christ

(NYT) Long Before Twitter, Martin Luther Was a Media Pioneer

Americans may know the basics of how Martin Luther was said to have nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, condemning the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences, but they probably don’t realize how Luther strategically used the media of his time: books, paintings, prints and music.

This monk in a town at the edge of Germany took on the Holy Roman emperor and the pope ”” then the most powerful men in Europe ”” 500 years ago, and won, dividing the church, setting in play “one of the most successful media campaigns in history” and altering Western society and culture, said John T. McQuillen, assistant curator of printed books and bindings at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.

That message and its resonance are being celebrated at three institutions in honor of the coming 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s action and the beginning of the Reformation. Each of the shows ”” in Manhattan, Atlanta and Minneapolis ”” is unique. Featured among them are hundreds of objects: liturgical vestments; illuminated manuscripts; satirical woodcuts; one of six existing single-sheet printed copies of the 95 theses; the pulpit where Luther last preached; personal belongings, like Luther’s traveling spoon and beer stein; and items from recent archaeological excavations in Germany, including household goods and toys linked to Luther’s childhood.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, History, Lutheran, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(NA) Matthew Rose–The Liberalism of Richard John Neuhaus

In 1990, Neuhaus was invited by the Christian Century to contribute to an ongoing series called “How My Mind Has Changed….”

He catalogued his frustrations: the betrayal of the Civil Rights movement by the rise of identity politics; the abandonment of the poor to a failed War on Poverty and the devastations of the Sexual Revolution; the disparagement of patriotism and the natural family; and most worrisome, acceptance of the lethal logic of Roe v. Wade. “I experienced the illiberality of certain liberalisms,” he reflected. But if readers expected a political conversion story, they would be disappointed. Neuhaus instead pointedly reaffirmed his commitment to the liberal tradition. Mourning the “lost dignity of liberalism,” he expressed hope that religious believers would remain committed to “modernity’s greatest political achievement.”

This is advice we do well to remember and heed, especially those of us tempted to opt out of the “civilizational circle” by declining participation in democratic debate. The advances of secular liberalism might seem unstoppable, but they are not. They depend entirely on the credibility of the claim that religion and religiously informed moral judgment are incompatible with open deliberation. Neuhaus dedicated his life, in word and deed, to refuting this assertion. His goal was not to replace liberal politics with political religion. It was to replace an unsustainable arrangement of moralities in conflict with a common morality whose deliberations could draw on transcendent meanings.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, History, Lutheran, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

Communique of the Anglican Lutheran International Coordinating Committee

During this meeting the Committee substantially completed a daily devotional resource called Grace upon Grace: Voices around the World. This book will be available late in 2016, in both hardcopy and online as a PDF-file. It is intended to assist Lutherans and Anglicans to commemorate together the
500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. This material illustrates the constant need for all churches be open to reform and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This is a six-week daily devotional resource, with contributions by Anglicans and Lutherans; men and women; lay and ordained from
around the world.
The themes are:

”¢ God’s mission in the world (Mission Dei)
”¢ Liberated by God’s Grace
”¢ Salvation ”“ not for sale
”¢ Human beings ”“ not for sale
”¢ Creation ”“ not for sale
Ӣ Freed to serve (Diakonia)

Each day has its own theme, a Scripture passage and a reflection. In addition, there is a Eucharistic liturgy, inviting Anglicans and Lutherans to worship together. It is the Committee’s hope that this resource will be used by Anglicans and Lutherans in joint groups as well as by individuals. Above all, it is an encouragement for us to pray for and with one another.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Reports & Communiques, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches, Theology

(CP) Conservative Anglicans, Lutherans Make Progress in Ecumenical Dialogue

Three theologically conservative church bodies released a report championing progress in their latest round of ecumenical dialogue.

Representatives from the Anglican Church in North America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Lutheran Church-Canada have been engaging in an ongoing dialogue for the past six years.

Titled “On Closer Acquaintance”, the interim report on ecumenical dialogue charts the progress made thus far on conversations between ACNA, LCMS, and LCC.

“The report is intended as an aid for ACNA folk wishing to get a deeper understanding of their counterparts in LCMS”“LCC and vice versa, and as a resource that will help us determine the nature and goals of our relationship in the years ahead,” reads the report.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches

(WSJ) How one Pastor Seeks to Forge a New Path in Brooklyn

From the Lower East Side, St. Lydia’s went to a borrowed space at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Two years ago, the church took over a small storefront space, using about $140,000 to renovate the room into a daytime co-working space complete with an open kitchen and windows overlooking the street. Much of St. Lydia’s funding comes from her denomination, and she hopes to grow the co-working side.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, an author and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, is part of Ms. Scott’s denomination. She described Ms. Scott’s participatory style of worship as drawing in a generation accustomed to user-generated content.

“There’s a whole population that is culturally millennial that is used to participating in the content of their lives, in a way that a generation before them were only consuming products that religious authorities were distributing,” said Ms. Bolz-Weber.

Yet to create that kind of church, she said, you need a charismatic leader who other people want to hang around. “It demands everything of you,” she said.

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

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Eucharist, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

Canadian Anglican+Lutheran leaders encourage support for refugees in Christmas message

In their annual joint Christmas greeting posted on YouTube December 4, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Bishop Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, urge church members to “give an extra gift” in support of refugees.

The message begins with Hiltz’s reflection on the story of the birth of Jesus, focusing on the rather negative light in which we often see the innkeeper.

“As I read the Christmas story I’m always taken by the way in which we portray the innkeeper as the one who said to Mary and Joseph, ”˜No room here,’ when in fact he did provide them a warm and safe place for the birth of the holy child,” Hiltz says. “Yes, it was a manger, but for them it was a warm place, and a safe place.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canada, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Baltimore Sun) North Baltimore Episcopal, Lutheran churches combine

As the Sunday service began, two leaders stepped forward with pitchers full of holy water from their two churches. As the congregation gave thanks for the gift of baptism, they poured the water into one vessel.

The unusual ceremony was meant to mark the joining of two North Baltimore churches, the Episcopal Church of the Nativity and the Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter, that had faced declining congregations and financial struggles. The leaders of the two churches see their melding as crucial to their survival and ability to attract new congregants.

“People are saying that we’re moving to a post-denominational time, that young people don’t care if you’re Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian,” said the Rev. T. Stewart Lucas, the rector of Nativity. “They just want good, authentic worship and service to those who are in need. So, in a way, we’re going back to the basics of studying the Word, praying together and serving together, and I think there are lot of people who are hungry for that message.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Other Churches, TEC Parishes

(WSJ) Joseph Loconte–When Luther Shook Up Christianity

When an obscure German monk hammered his indictments to the door of All Saints’ Church at Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, he did not intend to impugn the authority of the Catholic Church, or malign its leaders, or rupture the spiritual unity of medieval Europe. Martin Luther wanted reform, not a Reformation.

But that’s what he got. On Reformation Sunday, nearly 500 years after Luther published his 95 Theses, Protestants will celebrate his revolution to recapture the meaning of the gospel and the authority of the Bible against that of popes or princes. As Luther told his accusers at the 1521 council known as the Diet of Worms: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason””I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other””my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

Luther is either credited or blamed for shattering Catholic hegemony and plunging Europe into religious wars. But the Reformation is more complex than that, and speaks to today’s religious violence and political instability.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, History, Lutheran, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Gnesio) The Cross Alone is Our Theology

Theologians of the cross are those from whom all support other than the cross has simply been torn away. The situation is not that we might sit back and upon reflection calmly chose to be this or that sort of theologian. If we look at instead of through it or behind, the cross tears away all other possibilities. So as theologians of the cross we operate on the premise that faith in the crucified and risen one is all we have going for us. All the supports of the theology of glory are destroyed by the cross. The cross is then end result of the theology of glory. So it is finished. There are no escape hatches. By faith we become a human being, a person of this world, a truly historical being, because there is nothing to do now but wait, hope, pray, and trust in the promise of him who nevertheless conquers, the crucified and risen Jesus. By faith we are simply in Christ, waiting to see what will happen to and in us. As Luther could put it in his most famous saying in the commentary on the first twenty-two Psalms from about this time, “The cross alone is out theology” (CRUX sola est nostra Theologia). [WA 5.176.32]

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Lutheran, Other Churches, Soteriology, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Will Pope Francis bring a Springtime for Liberal Christianity?

He is certainly not a Marxist, and he’s not a “liberal” as American politics understands the terms. But he has been a gift to liberals who are also Christians, to religious believers whose politics lean left.

It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.

Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism ”” abortion and same-sex marriage ”” while elevating other causes and concerns.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, United Church of Christ

Faith communities urge U.S. to resettle more Syrian refugees

Church World Service (CWS), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and other faith communities are urging the U.S. government to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees this coming fiscal year, in addition to increasing the total U.S. resettlement commitment to 100,000 refugees from other parts of the world.

The CWS and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are cooperative ministries by churches based in the United States, including member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“More than 60 million people have been displaced from their homes,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Program for CWS. “Syria is the largest crisis we are facing but let’s not forget Somalia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Lutheran, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology

Some Gainesville Area church leaders speak about variety of touchy issues

It was a formal church setting with nine area Christian leaders present, but no formal sermons were given or messages with the Bible cracked open to a particular passage.

Instead, the clergy spoke off the cuff in a Christian “conversation” Wednesday night on issues of faith and belief.

And that led them into some areas of modern-day debate and concern, such as marriage equality, race and the church’s relevance in a digital age.

“We’ll be having a great debate next April about same-sex marriage and transgender (issues),” said the Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, at “Christianity Beyond the Catchphrases,” held at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Baptists, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

William Smith–Who’s Scared of Polygamy? A Restrained Case for the “Slippery Slope” Argument

Polygamy may well make for a coalition of strange bedfellows drawn from across the religious and non-religious spectrum in the United States. If the so-called “mainline” churches repeat their same-sex marriage trajectory, they could well provide polygamy some hefty cultural and political ballast (though the impact of that support may not be quite as big as it was for same-sex marriage in light of the continued demographic decline of these denominations).

These Christians would, of course, also need to square their religious heritage around polygamy with the kinds of feminist critiques that informed the overhaul of monogamy during the past 50 or so years. The Reformation proponents of polygamy, after all, only had polygyny in mind, and a very male-dominated version at that. Protestants today would almost certainly need to consider polyandry and, to use a clunky term, polygynandry.

I agree with Douthat and Silk that Americans are going to need to think seriously about polygamy. Douthat is probably right in arguing that many of the arguments liberals put forth on behalf of same-sex marriage will be deployed on behalf of polygamy, but Silk is probably also correct that religious freedom claims will play a role as well. In any case, rather than let fear guide the conversation, perhaps we should embrace an honest, thorough, and thoughtful debate that will likely generate a new set of pro- and con- alliances from a diverse range of people and groups in the United States. It wouldn’t be a reformation of marriage without one.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Lutheran, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Philosophy, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Psychology, Sexuality, United Church of Christ

Poetry for a Monday Morning–Allen Jorgenson: There are no Mirrors in Heaven

There are no mirrors in heaven, no
self-reflection on
tied tongues, pride
rung and hung before
eyes to see or
on ears marred by wounding words

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Eschatology, Lutheran, Other Churches, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(World Magazine) Church, Inc: Mainline denominations with empty buildings enter the real estate Bus

The Church of the Intercession is a beautiful stone building constructed in 1915, with vaulted ceilings, large stained glass windows, and a nave that could seat several hundred. It now needs $1 million in repairs, and its members face difficult choices.

Outside this Episcopal church in Harlem is its sweeping cemetery that includes the grave of naturalist John Audubon. Inside on a Sunday only 42 worshippers, including the choir, were present. Almost everyone was elderly. There were three canes, one walker, and one child.

Those 42 seemed a megachurch in comparison with the congregation across the street in North Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). In its historic stone building Pastor Carmen Mason-Browne preached to an audience of six women in a room with space for several hundred. The women weren’t even sitting together, but spaced like strangers on an empty train.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, United Church of Christ

(CC Editorial) Counting the faithful

What does directly touch church life are Pew’s numbers on generational change. Attachment to religion is declining across all age groups, but the rise of the nones is most pronounced among younger cohorts: the younger the age bracket, the less likely people are to belong to any Christian (or other religious) body. And of all Christian groups, mainline Protestants do the worst job at reaching and retaining younger generations.

One practical lesson of the Pew report, then, is on the crucial need for mainliners to focus on passing the faith on to the next generation. Mainliners may need to borrow some of the ethos of evangelical Protestants (who seem to do a better job at this) in equipping families to be primary incubators of faith and in forming identities that are distinct and (in some selective ways) more oppositional toward the culture than they have been.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Adult Education, Children, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Youth Ministry

(Pew R) Methodists, Lutherans+Episcopalians all have declined as % of U.S. adults in recent years

Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States ”“ not to mention a majority of U.S. presidents ”“ were members of Christian denominations that fall into the mainline Protestant tradition. But in recent years, the share of Americans who identify with mainline Protestantism has been shrinking significantly, a trend driven partly by generational change.

Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that 14.7% of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition ”“ a sharp decline from 18.1% when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.

Indeed, despite overall U.S. population growth between 2007 and 2014, the total number of mainline Protestant adults has decreased by roughly 5 million during that time (from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014).

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(CT) Richard Mouw reviews Randy Boyagoda's new biography of Richard John Neuhaus

….Neuhaus had an extraordinary talent for bringing people together””to discuss, debate, and strategize. He regularly convened intellectually and theologically diverse groups to spend a couple of days discussing topics of interest. (In my own case the topics included, civil religion, multinational corporations, ecumenism, faith and politics, and “culture wars,” among others.)

But the most important of these projects was the 1990 founding of First Things. While Neuhaus had previously edited two similar journals, Worldview and This World, they had each been sponsored by larger foundations, the Carnegie and Rockford Institutes respectively. This time around the journal was Neuhaus’s own, to shape as he wished. And shaped it he did, with great talent and flair, bringing together like-minded writers representing Catholicism, evangelicalism, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, along with fellow travelers from Judaism and Islam.

First Things was the flagship publication of Neuhaus’s Institute on Religion and Public Life, and the concept of “public life” was foundational to his efforts. Neuhaus always insisted that politics is only one aspect of a larger “public square”””one that makes room, as best it can, for a variety of religious, moral, and communal traditions. Boyagoda reminds us that Neuhaus and Berger actually coined the term “mediating structures,” now commonly used in social science, in their 1977 book To Empower People. That short book (just over 50 pages) showed how a wide range of smaller institutions””families, churches, professional associations, teams, guilds, neighborhood organizations, book clubs, schools””can offer a protective, nurturing space between individual and the power-hungry state.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Christology, Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

Martin Luther for Easter 2015–A Sermon on the Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Christ himself pointed out the benefit of his sufferings and resurrection when he said to the women in Mt 28, 10 – “Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” These are the very first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he therefore anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection.

The risen Christ waits not until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Do we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples all fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with its young. He should have called them deserters, yea, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also, when we are mired fast in our sins, temptations and condemnation.

These are words full of all comfort that Christ receives desperate villains as you and I are and calls us his brethren. Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of? Just as it is among natural brothers, so is it also here. Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance, otherwise they would not be brothers: so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, and have in common with him one Father and one inheritance, which never decreases by being distributed, as other inheritances do; but it ever grows larger and larger; for it is a spiritual inheritance. But an earthly inheritance decreases when distributed among many persons. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance, has it all.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Eschatology, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(JE) Mark Tooley–Mainline Protestant Decline and Hope

This year is an ignominious anniversary for Mainline Protestantism, commemorating a half century of continuous decline since their membership peaks in the early 1960s. Fifty years ago one of every six Americans belonged to the Seven Sisters of Mainline Protestantism. Today it’s one of every 16 and plunging. Membership has dropped from 30 million to 20 million during a time when Americas population has nearly doubled. And it did so despite Gallup Poll’s insistence that overall church attendance has remained essentially the same for about the last 80 years.

In our current post denominational age, many question why this decline matters. Who cares about the Mainline except the dwindling and increasingly aged members who remain? After all, haven’t evangelical churches, especially nondenominationals, plus Catholicism, more than filled the void? Wasn’t it time for the Mainline to leave the stage, having more than played its part in American and Christian history across 4 centuries? And in the end, didn’t they deserve their own demise?

The answers are yes and no.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology, United Church of Christ

Prominent Lutheran Russ Saltzman to become a Roman Catholic

While certainly Neuhaus was..-[indeed] still is – a tremendous influence on me, [my wife] Dianne’s announcement set me to examining my Lutheran life, and in some ways it’s not as Lutheran as it once was. I write regularly for a Catholic magazine. Everybody senior on the staff at First Things is Catholic. I know as many priests as I do pastors, people I hang out with on email and the like, and I point out not a few of those priests were once Lutheran pastors. Not to slight you or anyone you know, it has just happened in my life that my intellectual and best theological compatriots these days are largely Roman Catholic.

What I have always sought – since seminary on – is to be in a church that finally gives expression to the catholicity of the Augsburg Confession. There is no Lutheran expression doing that. Most of my 17 years as editor of Forum Letter was spent, so it seems, showing Lutherans how far we have fallen from the practice of parish life described in our own confession.

There are evangelically catholic centers of Lutheran congregational life, and some that are deeply so, And there are evangelically catholic-minded pastors seeking parish renewal by Creed, Catechism, Confession, and praise God for it. The Church must continually struggle “against forces that always strike the Church and gospel: the fashions and fads of Gnosticisms ancient and new . . . the devaluation of the sacraments through neglect, the socially accommodating spirit of Church Growth excitements, and the gross appetite of a politicized bureaucracy.” (Forum Letter 19:9, September 1990). It may be, I’ll find out, the best field for the contestation in that struggle is with Rome.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecclesiology, Lutheran, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

Anglican-Lutheran International Co-ordinating Committee Communique

The Anglican-Lutheran International Co-ordinating Committee (ALICC) held its second meeting at the Mariners’ Club, Hong Kong, 19 to 25 November 2014, under the leadership of the Rt Revd Dr Tim Harris of the Anglican Church of Australia (acting co-chair as Archbishop Mauricio was unable to attend), and of Bishop Michael Pryse of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

The meeting was hosted by the Anglican Communion and the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. The Committee warmly appreciated the generosity and the hospitality received from the Mission to Seafarers.

The Committee continued its work of mapping Anglican and Lutheran relationships around the world. In order to fulfill its role to be a catalyst for such relationships, it drew up a template of the differing patterns of relationships and the contexts in which they are lived out. For example, some are national churches meeting with other national churches, while others share the same geography. Some have relatively the same demographics, while in other places one church is much larger than the other. The Committee hopes to provide examples of the kinds of joint initiatives which might be appropriate for some rather than others.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Reports & Communiques, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches, Theology

(ARDA) David Briggs–Why hundreds of congregations made the final break with mainline denominations

It was not as if these congregations chose the most theologically conservative new homes.

The great majority of congregations leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) chose to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Few chose to join the larger Presbyterian Church in America, which does not permit women clergy.

Similarly, congregations leaving the ELCA overwhelmingly bypassed the more conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod denominations for the new Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the North American Lutheran Church.
Still, the future does not look bright for reconciliation, analysts noted.

“There is an exhaustion factor of having fought for decades,” Thompson said.

Among some denominational leaders, he said, there is a sense, “The bad guys have left.”

And leaders of congregations departing their former mainline Protestant denominations told Carthage researchers they were happy to be in a new place.

When the church leaders were asked if they had any regrets about their decision to leave, “The only thing they’d ever say is we should have left sooner.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sociology, TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology, United Church of Christ

(R+P) Gene Zubovich–The Protestant Mainline Goes to Washington

On a Sunday morning this past October, some 1,500 preachers and ministers across the country joined in a nationwide protest they called Pulpit Freedom Sunday. They spoke defiantly from their pulpits about political campaigns and pending legislation. They even endorsed politicians, knowingly violating laws meant to prevent such mixing of church and state. Organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, this group of evangelicals targeted the Johnson Amendment, which forbids tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates and getting involved in campaigns. By violating these rules in an act of civil disobedience, they hoped to trigger a court case to get the amendment overturned. The issue, as they see it, is too much involvement by the government in religious life. The government should not tell Christians how to run their businesses, how to teach their children, or””as the Pulpit Freedom Sunday protesters asserted””how to write their sermons.

These sermons of protest were part of a broader political mobilization among religious institutions in the United States in recent years. The number of “Nones”””those professing no religious affiliation””is on the rise, and a small but vocal group of atheists are challenging Christian displays in public spaces. And the Christian Right appears to be losing the battle on gay rights. In response, many of the leading conservative religious organizations are mobilizing politically while also shifting their strategy. Their new aim is to mark off a part of life that can remain Christian, to protect Christians as a minority that can stand apart from the demands of a national culture they see as being dominated by secularism. The Hobby Lobby case was only the most prominent example of this trend.

On the other hand, a broad swath of American Christians sees things entirely differently. Although they receive far less attention, members of the religious left do not feel besieged by their country. Instead, they are pushing law and politics in the very directions the religious right is resisting. The United Church of Christ filed suit in April 2014 to overturn the prohibition on gay marriage in North Carolina. In the same state, many ministers are participating in the “Moral Monday” campaigns, a movement that is saturated in religious language. And Jim Wallis and Cornel West were arrested last month for protesting police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri. Although the left differs with the right on cultural policy, both groups see political mobilization as being at the heart of religious thought and practice.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology, United Church of Christ