Category : Presbyterian

(CC) Carol Merritt–The church’s new foundation

The church’s best days are still ahead,” said Cam­­eron Trimble. I shared a conspiratorial smile, as I often do when with her. She is executive director of the Cen­ter for Progressive Re­newal, where I am a consul­tant. She was telling me about Con­vergence, a network that she is dreaming up with a group of people, including authors Brian Mc­Laren and Diana Butler Bass.

As Trimble talked about Convergence, I imagined her standing in that long pattern of creation which reverberates through our ancient texts. God spoke into the chaos, and the words formed order as they gathered waters, brought forth vegetation, gave rise to animals, and molded humanity. The birth of Jesus Christ, the answer to longing prayers, is described as the Word made flesh.

We see creation in these grand narratives, and we also watch it unfold in our everyday lives. A 13-month-old toddler has not begun to speak, so she stands before the refrigerator, with her arm out and her tiny fist grabbing at air, and grunts. The guttural noises let her parents know that she wants. Eventually her “meh, meh, meh” will become “milk.” When her parents deliver the magical liquid, longing becomes word, and word becomes object.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(Scotsman) David Maddox: Lords Spiritual fight for survival

Hanging on by a wing and a prayer, the Lords Spiritual fight for their survival, writes David Maddox

For constitutional geeks the years 1871 and 1920 bear a special significance in terms of reform of that much debated body the House of Lords. The first date was the removal of the Irish Episcopalian bishops from the Upper Chamber, when it was finally accepted that Roman Catholicism and Presbyterian Protestantism were the churches of its peoples. The second was the removal of Welsh bishops, making the Lords Spiritual ”“ as they are collectively known ”“ an English-only body.

It is worth noting that there were never any Scottish bishops given seats in the House of Lords, because of the success of Scotland’s politicians in keeping the Church separate in their negotiations for the 1707 Act of Union.

So with this in mind, Archbishop Justin Welby’s appearance at the Press Gallery lunch yesterday was poignant at a time when political reform, devolution and English votes for English laws are so high on the agenda.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Scotland, Theology

Presbyterian church in Milwaukee with roots in 1800s to close

A struggling Presbyterian congregation with roots going back more than a century has decided to close its doors.

Beset by financial problems ”” brought on in part by a for-profit day care center it opened ”” New Life Presbyterian Church at 3410 W. Silver Spring Drive voted last month to dissolve itself. The church is the latest iteration of a Milwaukee congregation founded as Newminster Presbyterian in the late 1800s.

Now, the Presbytery of Milwaukee will take up the issue at a special meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Greenfield Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1455 S. 97th St., in West Allis. The presbytery, which has contributed some $250,000 to New Life over the years, will spend an additional $60,000 to get its financial affairs in order.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Kirk calls for Scots to work together after referendum decision

The Church of Scotland’s most senior cleric has urged unionists and pro-independence campaigners to respect the outcome of the referendum and work together towards a stronger future.

In the hours after the result both sides must publicly declare that the matter has been democratically settled, the Moderator of the Kirk’s General Assembly said.

The Rt Rev John Chalmers also suggested replacing posters and badges from the Yes and No campaigns with a “One Scotland” image, while opposing voters should pose together for selfies and share them on social media.

Read it all and please note there is a Service of Reconciliation at St Giles planned for this Sunday.

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

(Former Ch of Scotlnd Modrtr) Lorna Hood–A simple Qtn with enduring and far-reaching Consequences

I look no further than the disciples of Jesus; a group of disparate, argumentative and fickle individuals. We have Matthew a tax gatherer, who worked for the Roman army of occupation and alongside him Simon the Zealot sworn to obliterate them by whatever means possible. They were divided in their politics and divided on how Jesus could achieve his mission. Yet with God’s guidance and a common purpose they took his message of love to the ends of the earth.

May we also find a new common purpose beyond the vote.

Read (or listen to) it all (from BBC Thought for the Day).

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

(Guardian) Scottish referendum campaign 'permeated by something ugly' says senior cleric

The Church of Scotland’s most senior cleric has expressed fears that “something ugly” is permeating the referendum campaign, as a new poll finds that voters believe the country will be divided after 18 September regardless of the outcome of the vote.

The Right Rev John Chalmers, moderator of the General Assembly, said: “I am repelled by the name-calling and rancour we have seen in recent weeks. We need to behave as though we are paving the way for working together whatever the outcome.

“I have faith that despite divergent views most Scots are behaving courteously during the runup to the referendum. However, it has become clear that some are not. I fear that something ugly may be beginning to permeate the independence debate.”

Read it all.

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

Jacob Lupfer does some analysis on the Presbyterian Same Sex Marriage Vote

Two trends made the PCUSA shift so quickly.

First, as the AP reports, the PCUSA has lost thousands of members and hundreds of churches in recent years. Some of this decline is purely demographic. Presbyterians, like most Mainline Protestants, are aging (dying) and have low rates of fertility, intramarriage, and adult retention. But a significant number of churches have left the denomination over its liberal stances. Some are large, like the Reverend Dr. John Ortberg’s Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. Many others are small.

As traditionalists leave the PCUSA for more conservative denominations like the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO), the theology and politics of those who remain in the PCUSA will move to the left. Think about how the realignment of Dixiecrat politicians and other conservative Democrats to the Republican Party moved the Democrats’ median ideology to the left. It’s the same principle at work.

I also want to offer an additional explanation that no one else is talking about, one that helps explain why the Mainline churches are liberal and becoming more so as they decline. Clergy are significantly more polarized than laypeople. (This 2008 survey of Mainline Protestant clergy is worth studying.) We now know that a bare majority of Americans supports same sex marriage (53%). Surveys indicate that 62% of Mainline Protestants approve of same sex marriage. Mainliners, who comprise only 14% of the population, are more liberal than Americans as a whole on this issue.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sociology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Kenya's Christian leaders warn against ethnic violence

We call upon all Kenyans;

To cease from spreading rumours, incitement and inflammatory and derogatory remarks of any kind that may spiral to ethnic violence due to the volatile atmosphere . The name calling, and ethnic profiling on social media and other public places should stop.
To obey the the rule of law, respect and uphold the Constitution of Kenya and all its instituions.
To exercise patriotism and seek to uphold national unity for the sake of development and the well-being of all. With the political, social, economic, religious and any other differences amongst us, we should acknowledge that we are united by one country- Kenya.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Kenya, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Violence

Presbyterians, Debating Israeli Occupation, Narrowly Vote to Divest Holdings

After passionate debate over how best to help break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Friday at its general convention to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.

The vote, by a count of 310 to 303, was watched closely in Washington and Jerusalem and by Palestinians as a sign of momentum for a movement to pressure Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and end the occupation, with a campaign known as B.D.S., for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Israel, Middle East, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stock Market, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology

AP Story on the Presbyterian Church same-sex marriage Decision

The top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted by large margins Thursday to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution, adding language that marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”

The amendment approved by the Presbyterian General Assembly requires approval from a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries, which will vote on the change over the next year. But in a separate policy change that takes effect at the end of this week’s meeting, delegates voted to allow ministers to preside at gay weddings in states where the unions are legal and local congregational leaders approve. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.

The votes, during a national meeting in Detroit, were a sweeping victory for Presbyterian gay-rights advocates. The denomination in 2011 eliminated barriers to ordaining clergy with same-sex partners, but ministers were still barred from celebrating gay marriages and risked church penalties for doing so. Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a gay advocacy group, said the decisions Thursday were “an answer to many prayers.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Presbyterian Church USA will allow same-sex marriages

Ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can preside at same-sex marriages in states where they are legal following a vote this afternoon at the denomination”˜”s top legislative body.

And in the coming year, the denomination’”s regional presbyteries will vote on whether to change its marriage definition church-wide to include two people regardless of gender.

Strong applause broke out after the overwhelming votes, which came after debate of more than two hours at the denomination”˜”s General Assembly here at the Detroit Cobo Center. But the decisions also came with plenty of anxious words about the looming possibility that more conservatives will join an exodus of estimated 350 congregations that have left for more conservative denominations in recent years as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shifts to increasingly liberal stances on sexuality. In 2011, the denomination voted to authorize the ordination of gays and lesbians in non-celibate relationships.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Presbyterians plan to buy Lutheran church in Charleston, West Virginia

Although parishioners at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church held their last service there in November, hymns might be heard again from the nearly 100-year-old church as soon as this fall. Riverview Presbyterian Church, now on Kanawha Boulevard, plans to buy the church building and move in.

“It had always been the hope of folks from St. Paul and Trinity [Evangelical Lutheran Church] that it would be purchased by a church or a community organization, so this is a real godsend,” said Trinity Lutheran’s Rev. Randy Richardson.

The Trinity and St. Paul congregations joined last year because of St. Paul’s dwindling membership. There were only about 40 voting members when the church closed.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Lutheran, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

John Calvin on John 15:1-8 for his Feast Day

There is scarcely any one who is ashamed to acknowledge that every thing good which he possesses comes from God; but, after making this acknowledgment, they imagine that universal grace has been given to them, as if it had been implanted in them by nature. But Christ dwells principally on this, that the vital sap ”” that is, all life and strength ”” proceeds from himself alone. Hence it follows, that the nature of man is unfruitful and destitute of everything good; because no man has the nature of a vine, till he be implanted in him. But this is given to the elect alone by special grace. So then, the Father is the first Author of all blessings, who plants us with his hand; but the commencement of life is in Christ, since we begin to take root in him. When he calls himself the true vine the meaning is, I am truly the vine, and therefore men toil to no purpose in seeking strength anywhere else, for from none will useful fruit proceed but from the branches which shall be produced by me.

–Commentary on John, Volume II

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Switzerland, Theology, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Hundreds leave the Church of Scotland in row over clergy in Same-sex Unions

Hundreds of worshippers from one of the Church of Scotland’s biggest congregations have left en masse to join the Free Church amid dissent over the issue of ..[clergy in same-sex unions]….

The moves follow the decision by the General Assembly to allow the ordination of openly-gay ministers if this has the support of the congregation. At its General Assembly in May last year, the CoS voted to uphold its historic doctrine on same sex relationships but to also consider a policy of permitting individual congregations to choose ministers in stable same-sex relationships.

Although some Christians will continue to oppose the move at the Kirk’s General Assembly this week, the decision is expected to be ratified as a means of keeping most congregations within the fold.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(Sightings) Martin Marty–on the End of Elite Denominational Headquarters

Once upon a time, from the UUA on down, “Headquarters” buildings were statements of power: “Look! We are important! ”˜Notice us!’” But just as cathedrals don’t tower in an age of skyscrapers, so impressive-looking headquarters no longer draw notice. And “secularization” is only part of the reason for this change.

When we look at secular analogues, we see that newspaper and other publishing empires are down-sizing for many reasons, including digitalization and the demands and opportunities that come with the internet. Today denominational and agency business is largely transacted in ways that permit employees to work from home, committees to meet by Skype, Conference Call, and other digital means. Many in the “secular” public make up their minds about the power and value of religious works and workings not based on images of huge Interchurch Centers or denominational Power Houses, but based on what they do….

Planners in religious agencies may regret turning the key to close the Big House doors for the last time, but wise planners are using their skills and energies to advance their work through non-elite, less-strategically-located bases of operation.

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

(FT) Dale Coulter–John Piper's new Calvinism

It is the revivalist style of at least some members of the New Calvinism punctuated by constant references to Jonathan Edwards and the rise of charismatic Calvinism that has many Old School Presbyterians concerned. Piper side-stepped the main issue between the two camps: from an Old-School perspective the New Calvinism smacks of the evangelical revivalism of a D. L. Moody, or, more to the point, the baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday (insert Mark Driscoll reference here). Sunday once called the novelist Sinclair Lewis “Satan’s cohort” in response to Lewis’s 1927 satirical novel Elmer Gantry, whose main character””a hypocritical evangelist””was modeled on Sunday’s flamboyant style.

That older coalition of Congregationalists, Baptists, and New School Presbyterians combined dispensationalism, celebrity revivalism, and fundamentalism””the very traits that Old School Presbyterians disliked then and now. It is not without some irony that Piper acknowledged the important role of Westminster Seminary while not even mentioning that it was the epicenter of Old School Presbyterianism with its anti-revivalist and cessationist stance (at the end of his lecture Piper got a laugh when he said, “you don’t even want to know my eschatology.” Indeed!).

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Church History, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Reformed, Religion & Culture, Theology

(RNS) Alban Institute, a resource for mainline institutions, to shutter

As mainline Protestant denominations continue decades of decline, one of the main institutions helping educate its leaders announced Wednesday (March 19) that it will shut its doors.

Since it was founded four decades ago, the Virginia-based Alban Institute has guided mostly mainline congregations through consulting and publishing. Its founder and former president, the Rev. Loren Mead, became well-known for his speaking and writing about the future of U.S. denominations and was one of the first to predict denominational decline.

“When I started as a parish pastor, I found there wasn’t much help or continuing education,” said Mead, a retired Episcopal priest. “I am glad I have been able to contribute to the church, but I have not been able to solve its turnaround.”

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

Menlo Park Presbyterian's John Ortberg Preaches Last Sunday–"Imagine"

A writer named Cheryl Forbes once said people who live imaginative lives are what if? people. They respond to ideas and events with a what if? attitude. They behave in what if? ways.

What if? is a big idea, as big as God, for it is the practice of God. That’s our God. Our God thinks, “What if I make a universe? What if I make people in my own image? What if, when they sin, I don’t give up on them?…”

You guys all know next week we’re going to walk together through a really important vote, and we’re asking every member of our church to pray, because we’re seeking together to discern God’s leading for our church. We’re asking all of you who are members to come back next weekend. Come early. Come at 8:30. We have to get registered. We have a 9:30 service. We’re asking everybody to come early….

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

One of America's Largest and Most influential PCUSA Parishes Votes to Leave and Join ECO

After an extended, mediated negotiation, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, which has over 3,300 members, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University academia, and those in the Silicon Valley…[voted by 93% to]… move forward with the recommendation by their elders and pastors.

In a sermon delivered on Feb. 2, MPPC’s senior pastor John Ortberg explained how the $8.89 million was arrived and explained why the elders still voted unanimously against the option of simply staying in PCUSA.

“As you all know, we have a vision. We have a mission. We want to reach thousands of people for Jesus Christ around this Bay Area that needs him so much,” he said. “We want to launch new sites to help us do that.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology

Passions in a Pastor’s Wake–Lafayette Ave. Presbyt. Church does not renew Interim's Contract

When Mr. [David] Dyson announced his retirement in 2011, a committee was formed to find someone to fill in during the arduous process ”” involving exhaustive surveys and self-examination ”” of finding a permanent pastor. The Session, 15 people elected by the congregation, chose Ms. Mason-Browne and gave her the standard contract for a one-year term. It was later renewed for a year.

Many saw parallels between the pastors. “Both have big personalities,” Joy Bell, a member since 1997, said. “Both are well read, well educated and demonstrate what Christianity should be about.”

But when her contract came up again at the end of 2013, the Session declined to renew it. With that, the number of black female pastors, like Ms. Mason-Browne, leading Presbyterian congregations in New York City dropped to five, though minorities are close to half of church members citywide. Nationally, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is 90 percent white.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(JS) Presbyterians seek unity ”” or amicable split ”” on clergy in same sex partnerships

Oostburg’s pastor, the Rev. Brian Jacobson, said he feels a sense of hopefulness about the process.

“It feels like a genuine attempt ”” in Christian language ”” to make room for the spirit,” Jacobson said. “It feels to me like this could be a way forward that would honor both sides.”

First Presbyterian is seeking to affiliate with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a theologically conservative denomination that formed after the 2011 vote.

Since then, about 260 congregations have left the 2.8 million-member Presbyterian Church USA, said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, who serves as the stated clerk of the church’s general assembly in Louisville. Similar schisms have erupted in the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

Irish Church Leaders Encourage Politicians To Sustain Momentum Generated By Haass Talks

Church leaders are encouraging politicians to sustain the momentum and energy generated by the Haass talks.

In a joint statement from the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches together with the Irish Council of Churches they applaud the ”˜strenuous and sincere efforts put in by all involved in seeking to find solutions to some of the most contentious issues we face’.

They also recognise the ”˜profoundly challenging’ nature of the issues to be addressed but firmly believe that ”˜a peaceful and reconciled society is possible’.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ireland, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Violence

“What I knew about God kept me from God” and then God rescued David Redding

I found a divinity school [where] we didn’t come to the Bible until about two weeks before commencement…[and as a result of my theological education] during the first years of my ministry what I knew about God kept me from God.

[Later when I was reading I learned that] Rembrandt had a powerful painting on”¦ [the subject of the raising of Lazarus in John 11], and it was quite obvious that Lazarus was not being raised in spirit only. The reanimated and bandaged corpse was realistically coming to life. Then I happened to turn to the back of the painting to see what the critic said of it. Critics have done much harm, but the words of that critic left there helped me into the Lord’s bright blessing: “Rembrandt did everything he could think of to intensify the miracles of Christ.” I had intended to dampen their effect, but Rembrandt did everything he could think of to enhance them, to give them glory. For some reason those words of that unknown critic did me in. From then on, I too tried to do everything I could think of to intensify the effect of the miracles. When I turned that page, I changed sides. I had never raised my voice in.. [the] Presbyterian pulpit [in the parish where I served] before, but that day, since John said Jesus shouted, I shouted [the words “Lazarus, Come out!”] as loudly as I could. And for the first time in my life someone asked me for a copy of my sermon.

–David Redding, Jesus Makes Me Laugh (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), pp.14-18, my emphasis

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Inspire) Kellen Smith–A week of Silence and Service in the Taizé Community

While at Taizé, I felt called by God to choose the unique experience of spending the week in silence. This meant that I would join a small group of other pilgrims staying in the quiet and quaint village of Taizé in a house near the main grounds. The accommodations were simple and comfortable, providing a private room to be fully immersed in the gift of silence.

Spending a week in silence may not immediately sound like the kind of experience to put at the top of your bucket list. Yet this experience was so formational, I would not hesitate to do it again. It was initially challenging to allow my mind to become quiet and my spirit to settle, but after the first few days, my rhythm became one of great joy in silence. I would spend the morning reading scripture and in the afternoon, I would take time for personal prayer, enjoy a holy nap, and walk through the beautiful French countryside. While the days themselves seemed to pass slowly, the week went by very quickly.

Besides the inspiring prayer services, a poignant part of my week was sitting at the table and sharing meals with my fellow pilgrims. We gathered for meals in a beautiful common room that overlooked the hills of Burgundy. As each meal began, the aroma of freshly peeled tangerines filled the room. The only spoken words that broke the silent fellowship were the Taizé prayers we sang before eating. Each face around the table was of a different nationality””French, German, American, and others. As we served each other in the sacred silence, the real blessing was that we spoke the common language of service to one another. In these moments at mealtime, it was as if I were joining Jesus and the disciples at the table of servanthood.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Seminary / Theological Education, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(Citizen-Times) Rob Neufeld looks start of churches in Western North Carolina

“In the western section of the diocese,” the Rev. John Stark Ravenscroft told North Carolina Episcopalians in 1825, “the prospect (of advancing the faith) is very discouraging, though not without hope.”

“Spiritual destitution” is how Bishop Levi Silliman Ives characterized our region’s religious landscape 19 years later, though the physical landscape was “beautiful and striking, far beyond my powers of description.”

Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians had made great spiritual progress in Western North Carolina as early as the 18th century. Samuel Edney, head of the Methodist church’s Swannanoa circuit, established the first camp meeting west of the Blue Ridge in what is now Edneyvillle in the 1790s; in 1797, the Rev. George Newton turned Asheville’s Union Hill Academy into a Presbyterian school named after him. The French Broad Baptist Church was organized in Henderson County in 1780, and regional churches formed the French Broad Baptist Association in 1807.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ

(RNS) Cathy Grossman–Mainline Protestants: Vintage or vibrant?

Half a century ago, the denominations under the mainline umbrella dominated the American faith landscape. Now, after decades of declining numbers, only about one in five U.S. adults identifies with a mainline denomination such as United Methodists, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and American Baptists.

Could replacing the “mainline” name help stem the slide? The challenge came from scholar and Presbyterian pastor Carol Howard Merritt. Writing in the venerable Christian Century magazine, she called for a new brand that conveys her view of the mainline’s rising diversity and social justice leadership.

“The image of an all-white, elitist church is not going to fly for generations to come,” said Merritt, an author and speaker who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. “’Mainline’ was a good historic marker but the future needs to reflect who we are now.”

Read it all.

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

(First Things On the Square) James Rogers–Credit the Calvinists

….it’s this point that I think provokes most of the reaction to Calvinism in the popular mind today (and to Augustinianism and Lutheranism to the extent that they are identified with the teaching as well): Modern man does not want to be transparent before God, or before anyone else. We deem it an invasion of our privacy and of our autonomy. We want our hearts to be the one place in creation so sacred that even God dare not tread there.

For whatever reason, Calvinism is the school that gets most of the attention to taking on this preference. For better or for worse, it’s the Calvinists who are taken to be “in your face” in asserting a Christian anthropology in direct opposition to the spirit of the age. While I don’t count myself among their number, they should be credited more broadly by Christians for taking so much heat on their view of the will.

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

([London] Times) Archbishop plans to drive out moneylenders

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is preparing a “ten-year plan” to put payday lenders such as Wonga out of business.

A Church of England task force will, in collaboration with the Church of Scotland, make church buildings available to credit unions and recruit expert churchgoers as volunteers to help to run them. A leading financier is to meet the archbishop this week on whether he would lead the task force, which will include academics who, it is hoped, will produce a radical new theology of finance.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Personal Finance, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

Largest Presbyterian Church in Texas Filing Suit to Keep Property Should They Leave Denomination

Presbyterian Church USA’s largest congregation in Texas has filed a lawsuit to seek legal protection for their property should they seek dismissal from the denomination.

The Highland Park Presbyterian Church, a Dallas-based congregation with approximately 4,000 members, filed the suit on Tuesday in Dallas County District Court.

Mark Annick of Androvett Legal Media in Dallas is working with Highland Park Presbyterian on the suit over the property.

“Regarding the status of the lawsuit, the court granted the temporary restraining order”¦and set a hearing date on the matter for September 23,” Annick told The Christian Post.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian

(Christian Century) Martin Marty–From declinism to discovery

Finitude, contingency, transience. These three linked words signal basic elements of what it is to be a human””and especially to be a historian. David Tracy, noted theologian and next door study-neighbor, taught me this connection, and I’ve let it color my life and scholarly preoccupations. It will help us interpret the almost reflexive use of the rubric “decline” in relation to the western Christian presence. Specifically, do a search for “mainline Protestant” and “decline” and you will get the picture, millions of times over.

Everything and everyone dies, is subject to accidents and change, and all human endeavor will pass and be forgotten. What can a church historian do with this obvious insight at such a time as ours? Given my parallel calling as a peregrinating lecturer, I use the vantage acquired there to try to sense the comings and goings of topics for inquiry. One way to measure public curiosity is to listen to questions asked after a lecture.

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