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.
Category : Presbyterian
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Senior Anglican leaders have responded to a move by the Presbyterian Church in NSW to consider ministers handing back their marriage licences if marriage is redefined to include same-sex couples.
Kevin Murray, the moderator of the NSW Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, wrote to churches about debate at the annual assembly in Sydney last week.
“The Assembly considered what the church should do if marriage is redefined in Australia. It decided to ask the General Assembly of Australia to withdraw the whole church from the Marriage Act, so that our ministers could no longer solemnise marriages under the Marriage Act.” Mr Murray said. “The report which recommended this decision argued that if the Federal Government were to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage then it would corrupt a good gift of God into a wrong. That would mean that ministers would then be acting for the government in a system which did not reflect the biblical view of marriage. In this case the positive reason for our co-operation with the Marriage Act would have been removed, and we would be better to avoid association with evil by no longer acting as celebrants.”
The work of the church is not merely to accept those of us who are transgender, asexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, and intersex. The work of the church is to accept and celebrate that the church””the body””is itself queer. The body of Christ is queer because it isn’t defined or bound by human constructs or binaries. It transcends and subverts norms and boundaries. It contains multitudes. But the body is also queer simply because its queer members are a vital component of its identity. When I was dating a cisgender (i.e., identifying with the gender assigned at birth), heterosexual man last fall, we were in a queer relationship. My queer identity made the relationship itself queer, even though he was straight. The body of Christ is queer in this same way because it contains queer identities.
It is time for the church to sit down nervously at its own Table and confront its internalized queerphobia. It is time for the body of Christ to come out. Some of us who have come out ourselves are happy to be the friend that talks the church through it.
Coming out is not easy. It is not just about moving forward in celebration and inclusion. It is about accepting that in some ways you are just now becoming acquainted with who you really are. It means recognizing you have missed opportunities for relationship, happiness, and growth. It means grieving the years lost to fear and the heartbreak of relationships with loved ones who cannot understand. It means holding with grace the wounds you will always carry.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
The Church of the Intercession is a beautiful stone building constructed in 1915, with vaulted ceilings, large stained glass windows, and a nave that could seat several hundred. It now needs $1 million in repairs, and its members face difficult choices.
Outside this Episcopal church in Harlem is its sweeping cemetery that includes the grave of naturalist John Audubon. Inside on a Sunday only 42 worshippers, including the choir, were present. Almost everyone was elderly. There were three canes, one walker, and one child.
Those 42 seemed a megachurch in comparison with the congregation across the street in North Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). In its historic stone building Pastor Carmen Mason-Browne preached to an audience of six women in a room with space for several hundred. The women weren’t even sitting together, but spaced like strangers on an empty train.
What does directly touch church life are Pew’s numbers on generational change. Attachment to religion is declining across all age groups, but the rise of the nones is most pronounced among younger cohorts: the younger the age bracket, the less likely people are to belong to any Christian (or other religious) body. And of all Christian groups, mainline Protestants do the worst job at reaching and retaining younger generations.
One practical lesson of the Pew report, then, is on the crucial need for mainliners to focus on passing the faith on to the next generation. Mainliners may need to borrow some of the ethos of evangelical Protestants (who seem to do a better job at this) in equipping families to be primary incubators of faith and in forming identities that are distinct and (in some selective ways) more oppositional toward the culture than they have been.
Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now two Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.
The Rev. Michael Yat and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.
The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.
— PewResearch Religion (@PewReligion) May 18, 2015
Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States ”“ not to mention a majority of U.S. presidents ”“ were members of Christian denominations that fall into the mainline Protestant tradition. But in recent years, the share of Americans who identify with mainline Protestantism has been shrinking significantly, a trend driven partly by generational change.
Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that 14.7% of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition ”“ a sharp decline from 18.1% when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.
Indeed, despite overall U.S. population growth between 2007 and 2014, the total number of mainline Protestant adults has decreased by roughly 5 million during that time (from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014).
Earlier last week, the outgoing moderator, the Right Reverend John Chalmers, issued an appeal for calm in the run-up to the debate and also called for a “year of grace”.
During the debate, the Rev Gordon Kennedy from Edin-burgh said: “This has been the greatest cause for the expression of disunity in our church for 170 years. The only fruit this will bear is disharmony and disunity,”
But the Rev Dr Ian Whyte strongly disagreed and said he had witnessed the suffering of gay ministers who felt they had to hide their sexuality.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted to allow congregations to ordain gay ministers who are in same sex civil partnerships.
Delegates voted 309 in favour and 183 against.
The vote followed a church-wide debate and consultations with all 45 presbyteries, which voted 31 to 14 in favour of change.
A further vote will be held this week on whether or not to extend ordination to ministers in same sex marriages.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the national Presbyterian Lay Committee, said that in the same way the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ became inhospitable environments for evangelicals to serve, the Presbyterian Church is becoming much the same way.
“We are seeing the environment within the PCUSA change following the affirmation of this particular vote,” she says. “That environment is changing pretty rapidly. Presbyteries are becoming inhospitable to pastors who hold traditional views not only on this issue but on underlining issues related to the biblical authority of Jesus as the only way to salvation.”
While sexuality might be the presenting issue in this case, LaBerge argues that the real division is rooted in a theological cleansing – fueled by a growing intolerance toward traditional, biblical views.
A Presbyterian Church (USA) regional body located in California has been accused of putting a Korean congregation’s effort to leave the mainline denomination to a standstill.
Last year, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church of Rowland Heights voted overwhelmingly to seek dismissal from PCUSA over the denomination’s growing acceptance of homosexuality.
Out of 817 votes casted in the March 2014 vote, 738 voted to leave, 74 voted to stay, and 5 votes were dismissed.
Despite that, the PCUSA Presbytery of San Gabriel has not apparently finalized the dismissal as of this month, according to the Korean-American Christian publication Christianity Daily.
Read it all from the Christian Post.
The evening concluded with the story of how Wendy Stovall, an assistant pastor in Utah’s Unification Church, started by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, found her way from Zimbabwe to a London park, where she met a friend from that faith.
Raised as an Anglican, Stovall found little comfort in that tradition after her divorce as a young woman. The Unification Church, she said, held many answers to the theological questions that troubled her. “God,” she said, “was taking a role in my life.”
That view was a common thread in the evening’s tapestry.
The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African-Americans, has broken its fellowship with Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) following its recent vote to approve same-sex marriage.
The Presbyterian General Assembly, the top legislative body of the PCUSA, voted last June to revise the constitutional language defining marriage. This arbitrary change of Holy Scripture is a flagrantly pretentious and illegitimate maneuver by a body that has no authority whatsoever to alter holy text.
Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI President noted:
“NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ. We urge our brother and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship.”
Calvinist-inclined Baptists and Presbyterians attending this year’s upcoming national conference of the Gospel Coalition are adding a place at the table for a new constituency: conservative Anglicans who have broken with the Episcopal Church.
Joining mainstays like Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Albert Mohler and Russell Moore scheduled to speak at the April 13-15 gathering in Orlando, Fla., is John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church Anglican in suburban Washington.
Other Anglican leaders are offering seminars and workshops at the Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, and there will be an informal gathering one evening for Anglicans to come together for fellowship and encouragement, Yates said in a Gospel Coalition blog titled “Who Are These Anglicans in TGC?”
For example, I believe that:
Religion is a human construct
The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife
In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.
And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.
It’s church time, close to 9 a.m. last Sunday.
Katherine Milligan, 66, walks through the central hallway of the Presbyterian Church of Stanley, feeling more uncomfortable, more spurned and more angry than she has in all her 33 years attending this Overland Park church.
“I’m too old. I don’t care what people think,” the Olathe woman said later, defiant in the battle she has joined. “No one is going to tell me I can’t worship in my sanctuary.”
Yet in late April a trial scheduled in Johnson County District Court will effectively determine exactly that. Judge Kevin Moriarty will hear arguments on who owns this $4.4 million house of God, a white modernist building erected in 1978 on a grassy rise at 148th Street and Antioch Road.
For six months, two factions of the church have been embroiled in what both sides agree has been an ugly and hurtful conflict.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article14448485.html#storylink=cpy
The Presbyterian Church approved redefining marriage in the church constitution Tuesday to include a “commitment between two people,” becoming the largest US Protestant group to formally recognize gay marriage as Christian and allow same-sex weddings in every congregation.
The new definition was endorsed last year by the church General Assembly, or top legislative body, but required approval from a majority of the denomination’s 171 regional districts, or presbyteries. The critical 86th “yes” vote came Tuesday night from the Palisades Presbytery in New Jersey.
After all regional bodies vote and top Presbyterian leaders officially accept the results, the change will take effect on June 21. The denomination has nearly 1.8 million members and about 10,000 congregations.
This year is an ignominious anniversary for Mainline Protestantism, commemorating a half century of continuous decline since their membership peaks in the early 1960s. Fifty years ago one of every six Americans belonged to the Seven Sisters of Mainline Protestantism. Today it’s one of every 16 and plunging. Membership has dropped from 30 million to 20 million during a time when Americas population has nearly doubled. And it did so despite Gallup Poll’s insistence that overall church attendance has remained essentially the same for about the last 80 years.
In our current post denominational age, many question why this decline matters. Who cares about the Mainline except the dwindling and increasingly aged members who remain? After all, haven’t evangelical churches, especially nondenominationals, plus Catholicism, more than filled the void? Wasn’t it time for the Mainline to leave the stage, having more than played its part in American and Christian history across 4 centuries? And in the end, didn’t they deserve their own demise?
The answers are yes and no.
Writing for Life and Work magazine, he said that churchgoers should embrace digital technology as they set about engaging a new kind of recruit.
He went on: “It might pain me to say it, but it’s time for a radical change and I don’t mean a change of hymns, or a visually aided sermon or a new time of day for traditional forms of worship ”””“ I mean something much more far reaching than that.
“I’m looking for a way of including the many hundreds of people who are fully engaged in the practical and project work that our churches are doing throughout Scotland, but whose belonging to the faith community is not necessarily complemented by regular attendance at Sunday worship.”
Read it all (requires subscription)
A majority of presbyteries in the Church of Scotland have agreed to a historic legal change, enabling individual congregations to opt out of traditional teaching on marriage and appoint a gay minister who is in a civil partnership.
While official returns will not be released until the new year, it was revealed last night that at least 27 of the 45 voting presbyteries had already accepted the principal of a “mixed economy” within the church, the compromise agreed at this year’s general assembly.
The policy laid out in an “overture” ”” or proposal ”” was drawn up as a way of maintaining the doctrinal position of the Church, to the satisfaction of some of its evangelical members, while allowing more liberal congregations to break with tradition and appoint gay clergy.
Read it all (requires subscription).
It was not as if these congregations chose the most theologically conservative new homes.
The great majority of congregations leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) chose to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Few chose to join the larger Presbyterian Church in America, which does not permit women clergy.
Similarly, congregations leaving the ELCA overwhelmingly bypassed the more conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod denominations for the new Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the North American Lutheran Church.
Still, the future does not look bright for reconciliation, analysts noted.
“There is an exhaustion factor of having fought for decades,” Thompson said.
Among some denominational leaders, he said, there is a sense, “The bad guys have left.”
And leaders of congregations departing their former mainline Protestant denominations told Carthage researchers they were happy to be in a new place.
When the church leaders were asked if they had any regrets about their decision to leave, “The only thing they’d ever say is we should have left sooner.”
On a Sunday morning this past October, some 1,500 preachers and ministers across the country joined in a nationwide protest they called Pulpit Freedom Sunday. They spoke defiantly from their pulpits about political campaigns and pending legislation. They even endorsed politicians, knowingly violating laws meant to prevent such mixing of church and state. Organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, this group of evangelicals targeted the Johnson Amendment, which forbids tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates and getting involved in campaigns. By violating these rules in an act of civil disobedience, they hoped to trigger a court case to get the amendment overturned. The issue, as they see it, is too much involvement by the government in religious life. The government should not tell Christians how to run their businesses, how to teach their children, or””as the Pulpit Freedom Sunday protesters asserted””how to write their sermons.
These sermons of protest were part of a broader political mobilization among religious institutions in the United States in recent years. The number of “Nones”””those professing no religious affiliation””is on the rise, and a small but vocal group of atheists are challenging Christian displays in public spaces. And the Christian Right appears to be losing the battle on gay rights. In response, many of the leading conservative religious organizations are mobilizing politically while also shifting their strategy. Their new aim is to mark off a part of life that can remain Christian, to protect Christians as a minority that can stand apart from the demands of a national culture they see as being dominated by secularism. The Hobby Lobby case was only the most prominent example of this trend.
On the other hand, a broad swath of American Christians sees things entirely differently. Although they receive far less attention, members of the religious left do not feel besieged by their country. Instead, they are pushing law and politics in the very directions the religious right is resisting. The United Church of Christ filed suit in April 2014 to overturn the prohibition on gay marriage in North Carolina. In the same state, many ministers are participating in the “Moral Monday” campaigns, a movement that is saturated in religious language. And Jim Wallis and Cornel West were arrested last month for protesting police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri. Although the left differs with the right on cultural policy, both groups see political mobilization as being at the heart of religious thought and practice.