Category : Presbyterian

(NYT Op-ed) Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good

Once, as Tom Junod described in a profile for Esquire, Rogers met a 14-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy left him sometimes unable to walk or talk. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.

The boy was thunderstruck. He had been the object of prayers many times, but nobody had asked him to pray for another. He said he would try since Mister Rogers must be close to God and if Mister Rogers liked him he must be O.K.

Junod complimented Rogers on cleverly boosting the boy’s self-esteem, but Rogers didn’t look at the situation that way at all: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

And here is the radicalism that infused that show: that the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer than the healthy; that the poor are closer than the rich and the marginalized closer than the celebrated.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ministry of the Ordained, Presbyterian

(Star-Tribune) Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations face unprecedented declines

For 100 years, Lutherans in this farming community on the Minnesota prairie have come to one church to share life’s milestones.

They have been baptized, confirmed and married at La Salle Lutheran. Their grandparents, parents and siblings lie in the church cemetery next door.

But the old friends who gathered here early one recent Sunday never imagined that they would one day be marking the death of their own church.

When La Salle Lutheran locks its doors in August, it will become the latest casualty among fragile Minnesota churches either closing, merging or praying for a miracle. Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.

“Sunday used to be set aside for church: that’s what families did,” said Donna Schultz, 74, a church member since grade school at La Salle, in southwest Minnesota. “Now our children have moved away. The grandkids have volleyball, dance on weekends. People are busy with other things….”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, United Church of Christ

(LA Times) ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’: The documentary that shows how Mister Rogers made goodness desirable

It had a simple set and minimal production values. As a host, it employed an ordained Presbyterian minister whose flashiest move was changing into a cardigan sweater. A likely candidate for legendary television success “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was not.

Yet for more than 30 years, Fred Rogers’ Pittsburgh-based public television half-hour was a small-screen powerhouse, entrancing generations of wee fans and even influencing public policy. Not bad for a man who believed “love is at the root of everything … love or the lack of it.”

Although Rogers died in 2003 at age 74, the excellent “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is the first documentary on him, and Morgan Neville is the ideal filmmaker to do the job.

A documentary veteran who won the Oscar for the entrancing “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” Neville is an experienced professional who knows what questions to ask and, working with editors Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden, how to assemble the answers.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing some Ministers and Deacons to conduct same-sex marriages

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.

But commissioners agreed that the committee should only act if, in its opinion, said safeguards “sufficiently protect against the risks they identify”.

The committee will report its findings to the General Assembly of 2020.

The motion calling for legislation to be prepared was put forward by Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark.

It was amended to ensure the committee had the power to recommend withdrawal following a call from Rev Peter White of Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church in Glasgow.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Theology and Ethics) A fabulous teaching and preaching resource from Scotland

I was blessed to grow up in St George’s Tron Church in Glasgow under the teaching ministry of people like Eric Alexander, Sinclair Ferguson, David Ellis, Richard Buckley and others. Some time ago I found the great Tapes from Scotland website which has literally thousands of expository sermons and talks by them and other great (mainly Scottish, all male, broadly Reformed) preachers such as James and George Philip and William Still.

I’ve adapted their spreadsheet of the recordings so as to include links to each recording on their site and you can access and search through them below.

You can scroll through the whole dataset 15 recordings at a time using the arrows at the top and bottom or you can order any column alphabetically by clicking on its title but it is obviously better to use the quite elaborate search and filter process on the left hand side.

Check out the whole thing (Hat tip:AG).

Posted in --Scotland, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Presbyterian

(Tel) Former Moderator of Church of Scotland says it ‘must switch from hymns to smartphones or face obscurity’

The Church of Scotland faces a “drift into irrelevance and obscurity” unless its focus moves from traditional church services with hymns to smartphones, an Honorary Chaplain to the Queen has warned.

Dr John Chalmers, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, argued the Kirk is failing to connect with younger generations and “the traditional patterns of church life (with which I have been so comfortable) are not going to change that.”

He said the one-size-fits-all model of focusing the Kirk’s activities around church buildings is not suited to attracting modern worshippers and called for a radical transformation “so far reaching that the church of tomorrow may bear little resemblance to the church of recent generations.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(TGC) How America’s Largest White Presbyterian Church Became Multiethnic

Within 20 years, Hope was the largest church in Memphis, regularly drawing 7,000 worshipers each weekend. But in a city that was nearly 60 percent black, less than 1 percent of them were African American.

At first, Hope reflected its neighborhood. The city to Hope’s south—Germantown—was 93 percent white in 2000, and 90 percent white in 2010. But its county—Shelby—fell from 47 percent white in 2000 to 41 percent white in 2010. And Cordova, the small suburb where Hope sits, dropped from nearly all white in 1988 to 68 percent white in 2010.

So Strickland and Morris set out to do what had never successfully been done before—to convert a white megachurch into a multiracial congregation.

They’re doing it.

Today, one out of five people who attends Hope is black. Of the 106 staff, 18 are nonwhite—including the senior pastor. The congregation sings hymns, contemporary Christian, and black gospel. Members work in predominantly black, underresourced neighborhoods in north Memphis together through Hope’s community development corporation. They attend biannual three-day urban plunges and regularly spend eight weeks eating dinner with someone of another ethnicity.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(The Record) A transgender minister’s ‘long, painful, joyous, happy and dizzying’ road to acceptance

Her transformation at church was slow but noticeable.

She let her wavy hair grow out, and occasionally allowed herself to replace the transparent nail polish she wore on her manicured hands with a more vivid pink. Her eyebrows were thinner and more defined, and her cheeks seemed rosier, drawing puzzled looks from congregants at the church she had led for 15 years.

She was known as Peter Strand then, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ridgefield Park. A married man and the father of two.

But after a year of hormone replacement therapy, Strand, who now uses the name Petra, decided in April 2015 to let the congregation know what she had known for some time. She was a woman.

She addressed a four-page letter to the members of her church to explain the physical changes they may have noticed. She invited them to a meeting after a Sunday service, where she offered to talk to them about her transition….

Read it all.

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

Posted in Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology

The Chicago Sun Times Interviews the pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Johnson Kershner

On tackling street violence, as some Chicago-area congregations have tried: “We have adopted a posture of humility and of waiting to be brought into those conversations to see how we can be of assistance.

“These are our kids, too.”

                                                             ***

“I’ve never lived in a city so defined and segregated by neighborhood before as Chicago.”

                                                             ***

Is Christianity the only way to heaven?

“No, God’s not a Christian. I mean, we are . . . For me, the Christian tradition is the way to understand God and my relationship with the world and other humans . . . But I’m not about to say what God can and cannot do in other ways and with other spiritual experiences.”

 

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Theology

Andrew Lightbrown–Scottish lessons for the English church (or at least the C of E)

Both the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church appear to be on the march towards marriage equality. Compared to the Church of England our Scottish neighbours seem to be more progressive and, enlightened. There again Scotland has a long and proud history of enlightenment! Of course I write this as a progressive on matters relating to sexuality and, gender. Some conservatives in the Church of England are no doubt somewhat less sanguine.

Such conservatives will no doubt argue that the Scottish churches have ceased to be orthodox churches. But, surely the counter view is that orthodoxy and progression can be perfectly natural bed fellows? My orthodoxy is rooted in belief in the creed as a communal declaration of faith. The creeds are the kite mark of orthodoxy. The Scottish churches have recognised this. This doesn’t mean that progressives within the Scottish churches have won; unless that is a determination exists to regard issues of human sexuality, particularly as they relate to marriage, in win-lose terms.

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Scotsman) Church of Scotland moves closer to letting ministers perform same-sex marriages

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing ministers to perform gay marriages. The Kirk’s governing body backed calls for a study into how same-sex ceremonies in church could be allowed.

The proposal was outlined in a report by the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland. It also called for the Church to apologise for its “history of discrimination” of gay people. Convener of the forum, The Very Reverend Iain Torrance, said: “We say that after reflection we can see no sufficient theological reason for the Church now not to authorise specific ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings, if doing so does not prejudice the position of those who decline to do so for reasons of conscience.”

Read it all (another from the long line of should have already been posted material).

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

(Scotsman) Princess Royal: Scotland’s churches have ‘major role in welcoming strangers’

The Princess Royal has praised the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly as a place for “reasoned debate” in her opening address at the annual event.

Her remarks come ahead of a debate at the assembly later this week which could move the Kirk a step closer to allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

The Church of Scotland releases its report on ‘An approach to the theology of same-sex marriage.’

The General Assembly is being asked to consider two key issues.

Authorise the Legal Questions Committee to undertake a further study on the legal implications of conducting same-sex marriages and report back to the General Assembly in 2018. *
Invite the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better.

In releasing the report the Convener of the Theological Forum, the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance, said: “The Report addresses what has been a long running argument in all the churches.

“In years past there has been an idea that in time one side in this argument would emerge as the sole victor.

“We don’t think like that now.

“That is why we are arguing for what, last year, the Forum called ‘constrained difference’.

“This is saying that within limits we can make space for more than one approach.

“It is closely similar to what the Archbishop of Canterbury calls ‘mutual flourishing’.

“This is a centrist report, aimed at encouraging mutual flourishing.”

Read it all and make sure to see the whole report found at the link at the bottom.

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology: Scripture

Sunday Morning Food for Thought–Who are We anyway

What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more

–Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Scotland, Spirituality/Prayer

(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.”

Read it all.

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