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

A 24/7 Webchat For the Spiritually Searching: Church Of Scotland Looks To Reverse Decline

The Church of Scotland is to launch a webchat service to help those looking for spiritual guidance but unwilling to come to church on a Sunday.

The initiative will go live in the new year and is the Kirk’s latest effort to reach beyond its traditional audience as figures show a continued trend away from organised religion.

The digital congregation will be able to book an online chat with a minister but may have to wait up to three hours for a reply. A separate 24-hour chatline to discuss religious questions has also been set up.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Scotland

(Scotsman) Chaplain creates blessing for each hole at Royal Dornoch

Golfers at one of the world’s most prestigious courses are being given spiritual advice by a Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen.

[The] Rev Susan Brown, who also wed Madonna and Guy Ritchie, has written thought provoking reflections for each of the 18 Championship Course holes at Royal Dornoch Golf Club in the Highlands to help inspire players and “exercise the body, mind and spirit”. The 57-year-old walked the course at different times of the day to capture the unique feel of the stunning landscape to create the so-called “Holy Round” as part of celebrations to mark 400 years of golf in the area.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Sports

(NYT Magazine) Saul Austerlitz–How the Berenstain Bears Found Salvation

Mike Berenstain became a designer at Random House and then a children’s-book writer and illustrator for about 10 years before being called in by his overworked parents to help out with the family business in the mid-1980s. Stan died in 2005, and after that, Mike was left in charge of the writing; his mother continued to co-illustrate the stories along with Mike until she died in 2012. Mike took over as sole author and illustrator, and the books began to reflect more of his own personality, even as he served as the faithful executor of his parents’ vision. This led to a disconnect between his family’s stolid, universalist postwar morality and his own.

Stan Berenstain had been born to a secular Jewish family in West Philadelphia, and Jan Berenstain, née Grant, was Episcopalian by birth. Mike and his brother were not raised in any particular religious faith. “They taught me morals and traditions and ethics, but not a particular spiritual identity,” he says. Mike didn’t find religion until he enrolled his children at Quaker schools near his suburban Philadelphia home, which led him to the Presbyterian Church and a mature religious faith of his own.

In 2006, Mike Berenstain, with the agreement of his mother, approached HarperCollins with an idea for a new book series. They had noticed an unusual volume of letters and emails from devoted Christian readers, writing to share their appreciation for the timeless values of the Berenstain Bears books. A light went off: How about an entire series for religious readers?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Children, History, Judaism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology

In landslide, First Presbyterian Bethlehem Pennsylvania members vote to break from national church

Members of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted overwhelmingly…[recently] to break from their national denomination, underscoring a schism that has developed over Presbyterian Church (USA)’s embrace of same-sex marriage and the ordination of [non-celibate] gay ministers.

Out of 1,048 votes, 802 members supported bolting to the more conservative Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a super-majority of 76.5 percent that church leaders say made clear the congregation’s wishes.

“We’re ready to get back to our most important thing, which is our ministry,” the Rev. Marnie Crumpler, pastor of First Presbyterian, said after the vote. “We’re just looking forward to moving forward as an ECO Presbyterian Church.”

But amid a bitter divorce, the results of the vote will not be accepted by the mainline denomination, said the Rev. David Duquette, an official of the Lehigh Presbytery, a regional arm of the national church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Stewardship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Vancouver Courier) On Christian approaches to the Old Testament+Iain Provan

Over his life as a scholar and an ordained minister, [Iain] Provan says he has had cause to nuance many things he was taught as a child, and to reject some entirely. But viewing the Old and New Testaments as a cohesive whole is not one of these. Provan believes you can’t understand the latter without the former.

“I think the New Testament everywhere presupposes that people know the old and that what the New Testament offers is fresh exegeses of the Old Testament in the light of Jesus and his life and teaching, his death and resurrection,” he says.

What about contradictions between the two? Provan doesn’t see any.

“I think what we have is a developing story that is not the same at different points because stories develop in time,” he says. “In the Old Testament, you largely have the story of God working in the world through one people group and then in the New Testament, of course, it’s a rather different situation. A lot of what people think of as contradictions are simply the story having different phases and moving on.”

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Canada, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Scotland, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Church of Scotland reacts to decision to leave the European Union

The natural inclination of the Church has been internationalist, because our Christian faith does not recognise borders but sees the world and all its people as one. We are part of a world-wide community with a responsibility to one another and the whole of creation. Over recent years, the urgency of taking that international responsibility seriously has become more clear as global poverty, environmental degradation, and the refugee catastrophe call us to find co-operative and international responses.

It feels as though this vote is a vote against that spirit of international co-operation and those who have campaigned to leave have rarely addressed some of the issues that we in the Church of Scotland feel are crucial. Least of all,this vote hardly seems to be an act of solidarity even with our friends in places like Greece, which is going through so much turmoil at the moment both economically and in bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis.

Today, it is important to recognise that those who were our neighbours yesterday are still our neighbours today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Theology

Antonin Scalia's letter to a Presbyterian Minister about Funerals and preaching

In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted””though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person””indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person””praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology

Presbyterian Church (USA) on Track to Lose Over 400K Members by 2020

Presbyterian Church (USA) is expecting to see a loss of over 400,000 members between 2015 and 2020, according to a reported internal document.

“The slide [from the meeting] also showed that COGA is predicting membership losses of 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016,” reported The Layman.

PCUSA’s Office of the General Assembly and Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Executive Committee held a meeting last Wednesday when projected losses were discussed, according to a recent account by the conservative Presbyterian publication The Layman.

Read it all from the Christian Post.

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

(Telegraph) Church of England and Church of Scotland forge pact

The Church of England and Church of Scotland are preparing a landmark pact committing the UK’s two official “national” churches to work closely together for the first time.

Leading clerics hope the move could help forge new ties between the people of England and Scotland in the wake of last year’s independence referendum and the 2015 General Election.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that a formal agreement between the two churches ”“ which emerged separately from the Reformation in the 16th Century ”“ is set be put before their two governing bodies, the General Synod and General Assembly, early next year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland

(BBC) The Church of Scotland welcomes largest number of trainee ministers in five years

The Church of Scotland is welcoming its largest number of trainee ministers in five years, with 27 new candidates accepted for training so far this year.
With further applicants due for assessment next month, it could be the largest intake for 10 years.
The Kirk expects hundreds of ministers to retire in the next 10 years.
“We’re no different to other professions facing up to retirement challenges, like GPs and teachers” said Rev Neil Glover.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Young Adults

First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio votes to Depart from PCUSA

First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio overwhelmingly voted Sunday to leave its denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), citing what supporters of the outcome called an increasingly progressive social justice agenda and a drift from the authority of Scripture.

Read it all and you can find the links to all the key documentation there.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), 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.

Read it all.

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

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.

Read it all.

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

(TMC) 1st Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem seeks to leave national Presbyterian Church

The largest Presbyterian church in the Lehigh Valley has begun a process that could lead to a split from the most visible national denomination ”” a move initiated after a survey showed most of its congregants disagree with church positions, including those allowing same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay ministers.

The leadership of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted on June 15 to enter the discernment process to leave Presbyterian Church (USA), or PC (USA), and seek affiliation with ECO: a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians after spending years considering the move.

The 140-year-old church on Center Street in Bethlehem has 2,609 members and would be the largest congregation to leave the Lehigh Presbytery, the group of congregations covering seven counties in eastern Pennsylvania.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), 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.

Read it all.

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