Category : * Culture-Watch

(AJC) Mary Richards–The black Georgia school teacher who turned out to be a Union spy

A local Richmond newspaper wrote a profile of Van Lew when she was near death. The article describes a formerly enslaved woman who worked for the family, had been educated in the Northeast and sent to Liberia then returned to Richmond. That woman was later placed by the Van Lews as a domestic worker in the Confederate White House, according to the article, though it’s unclear whether Van Lew relayed all this on her deathbed. What specific secrets did she overhear? What documents did she read? It’s unclear. Years later, Van Lew’s niece identified the woman in the article as Mary Richards Bowser.

Secrecy and public vagary are essential to spycraft, said the writer Leveen, who is working on a biography of Richards and who wrote “The Secrets of Mary Bowser,” a fictionalized account of Richards’ life.

“We can’t say, ‘These are the battle plans Mary smuggled out of the Confederate White House,’” said Leveen. “It’s not like in a Hollywood movie. But I have no doubt Mary was instrumental in helping to undermine the Confederacy.”

For her part, Richards — who by the time she began teaching in Freedmen’s schools had dropped her married name and, apparently, her husband — gave a series of talks in New York City after the war in 1865. She used pseudonyms when presenting, Leveen said, such as Richmonia Richards. In those presentations, covered by the local press, she talked about her time in Liberia and her wartime exploits, taking care of Union prisoners in a Confederate prison in Richmond, and some forms of espionage in the Confederate White House. But she was apparently short on details, something that has frustrated historians.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Race/Race Relations

(BBC) Faith in ruins: China’s vanishing beards and mosques

“The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – including the widespread destruction of mosques.

Authorities provided rare access to religious sites and senior Islamic officials to support their claim that their policies only target violent religious extremism, not faith itself.

But after his official tour was over, China Correspondent John Sudworth set out to investigate.”

Watch it all (about 5 1/3 mins).

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(ABC Aus) Hong Kong Christians turn ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ into unlikely protest anthem

In Hong Kong there have long been links between the pro-democracy activists and in particular the Catholic Church, which has a decades-long unresolved dispute with China’s Government over the right to ordain bishops.

The city’s most prominent young political activist, Joshua Wong, is a devout Christian, as are many older members of the pan-democratic camp.

“Some Christians, including me, are afraid that if the extradition bill is passed, it could affect freedom of religion in Hong Kong and freedom of religious activities,” Mr [Edwin] Chow said.

He believes it is this fear that has mobilised a larger-than-normal turn-out among the city’s Christians, who number around 900,000 — or about 12 per cent of the population.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(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

(AI) New TEC Diocese in South Carolina sues TEC’s insurance company for alleged wrongful payment of claims to parishes of the Historic Diocese of South Carolina

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship

((BBC) Sperm donor is child’s legal father, Australian High Court rules

The 49-year-old man and the child’s mother, who was single at the time, had been friends when he agreed to donate his semen in 2006.

They arranged to raise the child together but the pair later had a falling out, his lawyers said. The woman’s lawyers argued he was not the father.

However, the man was identified as a parent on the girl’s birth certificate and she called him “Daddy”.

On Wednesday, the High Court of Australia ruled that he had the legal status of a parent, effectively preventing the family from moving to New Zealand.

The judgement said: “To characterise the biological father of a child as a ‘sperm donor’ suggests that the man in question has relevantly done no more than provide his semen to facilitate an artificial conception procedure on the basis of an express or implied understanding that he is thereafter to have nothing to do with any child born as a result of the procedure.

“Those are not the facts of this case.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Men, Sexuality, Women

(Washington Post) Jamie Aten–How A Stephen Curry produced documentary explores forgiveness in the 2015 Charleston church shooting

Q: What first drew you to the “Emanuel” project?

A: I had just gotten married in June 2015, and I was on my honeymoon in New York. I walked into the bedroom, and my wife was crying. She told me nine people had been shot in their Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.

Then she looked at me and said, “You don’t understand, they’re forgiving him. The family members are forgiving the murderer.” I remember looking at her and saying, “I hope whoever tells that story doesn’t skip that part.” It was that moment for me — encountering this radical, scandalous forgiveness and love for the murderer — that drew me into the story. I wanted the world to know that part of the story.

Q: What was different in this story?

A: It was that they loved him. It was this moment when (survivor) Felicia Sanders said something to him that really changed me: “We enjoyed you.”

When I go out and talk about the film, I’m not just talking about them forgiving him because they wanted to be emotionally free from him. I’m talking about a kind of love you rarely see. Their love for the shooter was a love that said, “I will bear the full weight of the wrong,” which is the highest kind of love — a love for your enemy.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT) A Muslim Family Sought Help at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing. The Police Dragged Them Out.

The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. Suddenly, plainclothes police officers burst into the room, cutting off the couple’s video call.

Mr. Tursun says he has not heard from her since.

His wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, 43, had gone to the Belgian Embassy to seek visas so the family — from the Uighur Muslim minority group — could be reunited with Mr. Tursun, 51, in Brussels, where he won asylum in 2017.

But instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy.

Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken. It illustrates how, two years after China began detaining Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps, the group has limited protections — even from Western democracies — against persecution by the Chinese government.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(USA Today) David Curry–Global Christian persecution is worsening while American churches slumber

On May 18, extremists in Nigeria interrupted a church choir practice and abducted 17 Christians. They are being ransomed and might never see their families again. Some of the Christian women may be sold into slavery or raped and forced to marry the jihadist. It’s the latest attack in the escalating violent war on Christians within Nigeria, where 3,731 Christians were killed last year.

If such violence had occurred in Nashville rather than Nigeria, it would dominate nightly news broadcasts and saturate social media feeds. American churches would be launching fundraising campaigns for victims’ families and addressing it in their weekly gatherings. In this case, however, the American church has barely acknowledged it. Unfortunately, when violence occurs somewhere “over there” instead of in our backyard, it is often dismissed as just another story. American churches must do better.

I constantly bear witness to this sort of violence and the corresponding malaise by the nature of the organization I lead, Open Doors USA. We track such incidents of Christian persecution around the world through our annual World Watch List, a comprehensive ranking of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. To us, this is more than just “another story”; it is another data point in a global crisis of persecution. One of every nine Christians experience high levels of persecution and suffer for their faith, and it’s picking up pace.

It’s not just in Nigeria.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(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

(CNBC) Charitable contributions take a hit following tax reform

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.

Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.

Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

“We certainly do have a pretty stark picture that tax reform took effect and charitable giving declined,” said Laura MacDonald, the president of Benefactor Group and vice chair of the Giving USA foundation board. However, a volatile stock market, which took a dive near the end of the year, may have also played a role, she said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Stewardship, Taxes

Great NBC Piece for Father’s Day–Father and daughter duo reunited in song

‘Singer-songwriter Jenni Alpert grew up with a supportive adoptive family who encouraged her to pursue music. She reunited with her birth father Don Logsdon nearly 30 years after he gave her up for adoption. After helping him through his recovery, Jenni and Don are bonded by their love for music.’

Watch it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Men, Music

(The Witness) Jemar Tisby–Reflections on the Anniversary of the Murder of the Emanuel Nine

The slayings at Emanuel AME sparked a surge or long-overdue reforms. It served as the impetus to finally remove the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Charleston. Black people and their allies have long viewed the Confederate flag as the symbol par excellence of white supremacy. The murder of nine black people in a Bible study finally convinced enough white people that the Confederate flag might actually represent not heritage but hate.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu cited the Mother Emanuel tragedy as part of the motivation for his bold stand to take down the Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Landrieu first started calling for the monuments to come down less than a week after the Emanuel Nine were killed.

Racial progress is not a myth, but neither is it a completed project. We have come a long way from race-based chattel slavery. We have come a long way from signs over drinking fountains and riding the back of the bus. We have come a long way from preventing black people from sitting in the pews alongside white people.

But let’s not use racial progress as a reason to ignore the ways racism reinvents itself….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Tablet) Ashley Beck–Theology battles the nonsense of today

Those of us who teach or research in theology and related disciplines have a responsibility to try and support the whole Church – laypeople, clergy and bishops. Theological reflection about the world in which we live is constantly being deepened, and this can and should strengthen the faith of the People of God. The consequences of lacking theological literacy are serious. “The majority of those raised as Catholics find their way out of the Church, in part, I suspect, because the version of Christian faith to which they have been exposed has been so poorly articulated that it is not worth taking seriously at all,” the theologian John McDade has pointed out. “Good theology is necessary for the life of faith and the spread of the Gospel.”

Good theology is not always sought. In many places catechetical programmes are promoted that are intended to be “simple”, sometimes a shorthand for skirting around critical reflection. Some courses are offered because they are cheaper than those that are properly accredited; many programmes are imported. And there is a worrying decline in religious studies programmes in Catholic secondary schools. This has serious consequences for our future ability to provide RE teachers, and even more serious consequences for university departments. The new report from the British Academy alarmingly reveals that there were 6,500 fewer students on theology and religious studies degree courses in the UK in 2017/18 than there had been in 2011/12. In recent years, we have seen the closure of Heythrop College and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, and the possible closure of theology departments elsewhere, including in Catholic institutions.

If you’re a theologian, falling student numbers gives rise to anxieties about redundancy. And for a Catholic theologian there can be the added feeling that what you do is not really valued by the Church, either because some people think academic theology is highbrow or irrelevant, or because others don’t like your views and think you’re a heretic. If you feel under threat, it is hard to feel confident about offering yourself to the Church as a resource.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education

(Globe+Mail Editorial) Quebec passes a terrible law, and for the worst reasons

That lack of a clear definition will make it difficult to apply the law evenly; given that the law also fails to provide clear penalties for violating the ban, a court could rule it is too vague to stand.

But the worst thing Mr. Legault has done is to undermine religious freedom in Canada. Even if the notwithstanding clause provides him with the tool to do so, that won’t prevent Canada’s name from being tarnished around the world for an abuse of so fundamental a human right.

There is no question that the Quebec state, as with all governments in Canada, should be secular. But Ottawa and the other provinces are proof that governments can preserve the right of public employees – police officers, judges and teachers included – to display their religious affiliation without compromising the separation of church and state.

It is monstrously unjust that a Muslim woman or Jewish man is now forced by the Quebec state to choose between their employment and their personal beliefs, while a person with government-approved beliefs about the sanctity of laicity is exempt from such a dilemma. This is a terrible day for Quebec, and for Canada.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Globe and Mail) Groups launch challenge of Quebec’s secularism bill one day after it becomes law

Twelve hours after the Quebec government passed a law banning some public servants from wearing religious symbols, a Muslim student has launched a court challenge, saying it is a blatant violation of fundamental civil rights.

Ichrak Nourel Hak, backed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Montreal lawyer Catherine McKenzie, filed the lawsuit on Monday morning asking Quebec Superior Court to suspend the law.

The lawsuit says the new law, passed late Sunday night, is vague, invites arbitrary application, excludes minorities from certain professions and encroaches on federal jurisdiction. Ms. McKenzie’s legal pleadings describe these legal failings as an attack on the fundamental architecture of the Constitution, including equal application of the law and separation of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

The lawsuit does not challenge the law as an attack on freedom of religion. Premier François Legault’s government used the notwithstanding clause to protect it from this most obvious route of challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Monday Night Inspiration–Stay in the Game

On his own in Costa Rica, Max had figured out how to get Chica into the US, and convinced someone at American Airlines to let her fly on his lap, because they wouldn’t let dogs fly in the hold due to the heat. Thereafter, he and Chica settled in to their little apartment downtown near the White River canal, and each of them began their new life, together. Max had saved Chica. And Chica had saved Max.

One afternoon three months later, when Max was walking Chica, she saw something she hadn’t seen in Costa Rica. It was a squirrel, and before Max could stop her, Chica chased that squirrel straight out onto Indiana Avenue. Right in front of a speeding car.

The car ran over Chica. My son screamed. In that brief moment everything that Max had worked for, everything he had overcome, everything that he was living for, was gone.

Read it all.

Posted in Animals, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Young Adults

(Globe+Mail) Quebec passes bill banning public servants from wearing religious symbols

François Legault’s government passed a ban on some public servants wearing religious symbols in a final vote late Sunday night, enshrining into law a measure decried by opposition parties, minority groups and human-rights observers as an affront to personal liberty.

The National Assembly debated Bill 21 under closure in a marathon special weekend session that ended with Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government forcing passage of the law by a 73-35 vote, with backing of the Parti Québécois. Earlier Sunday, the CAQ used its majority to push through Bill 9, a law that enables new French-language and values tests that the government says will protect Quebec identity while refocusing immigration on economic interests.

The weekend in the legislature was marked by acrimony reflective of the debate that has roiled Quebec for more than 10 years over the place of religious minorities in the province. Some exhausted MNAs cursed at each other, others said they were on the verge of tears at times.

At the very last minute Mr. Legault’s government added a provision to allow inspectors to verify the law is being followed. “Securalism police!” shouted Quebec Liberal member Marc Tanguay in one of the final outbursts of the debate. Another last-minute amendment said the inspector could impose corrective measures and supervision. A final addition said “the targeted employee could be subject to disciplinary measures for failing to comply.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NPR) A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

[Dr. Ayaz] Virji says he “had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more.” Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. “So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?” he says.

He moved with his family to Dawson, Minn., in 2014. As far as he knew, they were the only Muslims in town. Virji describes the small city — population 1,500 or so — as filled with “very gracious” people who welcomed the family to the community.

“People there are kind, you know, many of them are far better than I am as a person.”

But something seemed to change when Donald Trump started whipping crowds into a frenzy with anti-Muslim rhetoric. For Virji, the 2016 election was a turning point. He wondered how his neighbors, who had been so welcoming, could vote for someone who said that “Islam hates us” and had proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Mandy France, who was training to be a local pastor at the time, invited Virji to give a lecture about his faith. He ended up giving a series of talks about Islam to his neighbors and people in surrounding communities in 2017. Virji wrote about the experience in the book Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America. He talked with NPR’s Michel Martin.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

Remembering Especially the Charleston 9 who died 4 years ago today in the Mother Emanuel Church Shooting

Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Local Paper) Emanuel AME church, shooting survivors form bonds with other traumatized houses of worship

Monday will mark four years since an angry young man with murderous intent slipped into Emanuel and headed for 12 people settling in for Bible study. He sat with them for about an hour, not speaking, until they shut their eyes for closing prayer.

Then he pulled out a gun.

Nine people died that night, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator who was sitting beside the killer.

And the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., a retired minister who led the study most Wednesdays.

And Myra Thomson, who led it for the first time that night.

And Susie Jackson, at 87 the oldest among them to die.

And her nephew Tywanza Sanders, the youngest at 26.

And their cousin Ethel Lance, the church’s sexton, a mother of five.

And the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, mother of four.

And the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, mother of three.

And Cynthia Graham Hurd, mother of none but mentor to hundreds in her decades as a beloved librarian.

Nine families, the survivors and the church’s entire congregation found themselves thrust into a journey through what the Bible calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” Then they relived their losses anew with each mass shooting in America, including the Pulse nightclub massacre almost one year to the day after their loved ones died.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(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

A Friday Afternoon Spirit Raiser–10-year-old wins handwriting prize against all odds

’10-year-old Sara Hinesley was born without hands, but takes a lot of pride in her perfect penmanship. Today, her hard work paid off when she was awarded a national prize for handwriting.’

Posted in Children, Education, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(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

St Silas Church Glasgow takes action as a result of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s departure from Chrsitian theology and standards

The Church has made the following statement:

Recent decisions of the Scottish Episcopal Church have made clear to us that the denomination does not regard the Bible as the authoritative word of God. With deep sadness, we have therefore decided that for reasons of integrity we can no longer continue as part of the Scottish Episcopal Church. We want to leave with goodwill towards those with whom we are parting company, and sincerely pray for God’s blessing for the SEC in the future, and its renewal around God’s word.

Mr [Martin] Ayers, said:

“There are many presenting issues that have caused difficulty within the Scottish Episcopal Church in recent years, but for us this is simply about the central place of Jesus and his words in the life of our church. We feel that the Scottish Episcopal Church has moved away from the message of the Bible, and that we cannot follow them.”

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Scottish Episcopal Church, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Man Accused of Burning Louisiana Churches Is Charged With Hate Crimes

A Louisiana man accused of setting fire to three churches this past spring has been charged in an indictment with federal hate crimes, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

In an indictment that was returned this month but first unsealed on Wednesday, the Justice Department accused the man, Holden Matthews, of intentional damage to religious property — which the government classifies as a hate crime — and using fire to commit a felony.

Mr. Matthews, who was arrested in April, had already been charged with hate crimes by a local prosecutor, and the federal indictment came as little surprise. But federal prosecutors used the six-count indictment to suggest their theory of a motive for the fires: “the religious character” of the properties where they were set. They did not elaborate.

“Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana,” David C. Joseph, the United States attorney for the area, said in a statement. “Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community. Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(DM) Former BBC boss Michael Grade will lead a probe into the effects of problem gambling on society and the £1bn cost to the taxpayer

The House of Lords probe will look in particular at the effect of online gambling on society and the ‘gamblification’ of sport. It will also consider whether participation in lotteries can push people towards gambling problems.

The panel into the ‘social and economic impact of gambling’ will be chaired by Lord Grade, chairman of the BBC between 2004 and 2006 and now a Tory peer. It follows a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research think-tank, which found the cost of problem gambling to the Government could be as much as £1.2 billion a year.

The report said problem gambling may impose health costs through pressure on mental health services, welfare and employment costs through Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing costs and criminal justice costs. It said the impact on families can be devastating.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General

(Economist) The gripping case of Scott Warren Is offering assistance to illegal immigrants a protected religious practice?

One trouble with liberty is that you never know what people will do with it. In recent years, American conservatives have been passionate defenders of individual religious freedoms, such as the right to have nothing to do with same-sex weddings. But Scott Warren (pictured), an idealistic geographer who is facing felony charges for succouring migrants in the Arizona desert, has now become a standard-bearer for a very different sort of conscientious objection.

On June 11th his trial, which has been closely watched at the liberal end of America’s religious spectrum, reached deadlock after jurors failed to agree despite three days of deliberation. That was a better result than Mr Warren and his many supporters feared. Prosecutors may seek a retrial.

Lawyers for Mr Warren, who has taught at Arizona State University, have insisted that a generically spiritual motive lay behind the actions he took, which involved feeding and sheltering two migrants. He has been charged with conspiring to harbour and transport illegal aliens, crimes punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

With the help of some eminent scholars, his defenders had made an unsuccessful but plausible enough effort to shelter him behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a measure intended to protect a broad variety of religiously motived acts from the heavy hand of the law.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, 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