Category : * Religion News & Commentary

News and commentary from / about other (non-Anglican) Christian churches and denominations

(PD) Things Worth Dying For: The Nature of a Life Worth Living

Family, friends, honor, and integrity: These are natural loves. Throughout history, men and women have been willing to die for these loves. As Christians, though, we claim to be animated—first and foremost—by a supernatural love: love for God as our Creator and Jesus Christ as his Son. St. Polycarp, for all his caution and prudence, eventually did choose martyrdom rather than repudiate his Christian faith.

The issue at hand is this: Are we really willing to do the same; and if so, how must we live in a way that proves it? These aren’t theoretical questions. They’re brutally real. Right now Christians in many countries around the world are facing the choice of Jesus Christ or death. Last year the German novelist Martin Mosebach published an account of the 21 migrant workers in Libya who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and executed for their faith. Twenty were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One was another African who refused to separate himself from his brothers in the faith.

The murder of those 21 Christians is captured on video. It’s hard to watch—not just because the act is barbaric, but also because, in our hearts, we fear that, faced with the same choice, we might betray our faith in order to save our lives. Put frankly, the martyrs, both ancient and modern, frighten us as much as they inspire us. And maybe this reaction makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a version of the biblical principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of martyrdom is the beginning of an honest appraisal of our spiritual mediocrity.

So I think we should consider this fear for a moment, rather than repressing it, as we so often do.

The Christian men beheaded on the Libyan beach are not really so remote from us. The worry we naturally feel, that we might fail a similar test, is a concrete and urgent version of the anxiety we rightly feel when we think about coming before the judgment of God. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know that we’re likely to fail that test too. After all, we’re barely able to live up to the basic demands of the Ten Commandments. Many of us have trouble following even the minimal norms of a Catholic life: regular confession and Mass attendance, kindness to others, and a few minutes of daily prayer. If those very simple things are struggles, how can we possibly have the spiritual strength to face martyrdom? Or the judgment of a just God?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(America) One man, two churches: John Henry Newman’s legacy lives on for both Catholics and Anglicans

What is the significance of the Anglican Communion including John Henry Newman on its liturgical calendar?

John Henry Newman has been commemorated in the liturgical calendar of the Church of England for a number of years. There is no central sanctorale for the entire Anglican Communion, but he is also commemorated in the calendars of other provinces, among them the U.S., Canada and Australia. The Churches of the Anglican Communion do not have a tradition of canonization as it is understood in the Catholic Church, but they do have liturgical calendars that mark and honor the lives and legacy of holy men and women, including many from the period after the Reformation.

As someone who was an important figure in the development of the life of the Church of England in the 19th century, as well as a figure of prayer, holiness and dedication to Christ, Newman is an example of godly life. As is most common with commemorations of holy men and women the date of his commemoration in the Church of England calendar is Aug. 11, the date of his death.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Roman Catholic

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(PR FactTank) In the U.S. and Western Europe, people say they accept Muslims, but opinions are divided on Islam

At the same time, there is no consensus on whether Islam fits into these societies. Across Western Europe, people are split on Islam’s compatibility with their country’s culture and values, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. And in the U.S., public opinion remains about evenly divided on whether Islam is part of mainstream American society and if Islam is compatible with democracy, according to a 2017 poll.

The vast majority of non-Muslim Americans (89%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The same survey finds that most people (79%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as members of their family.

In Western Europe, most people also say they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbors. However, Europeans are less likely than Americans to say they would be willing to accept Muslims as family members. While about two-thirds of non-Muslim French people (66%) say they would accept a Muslim in their family, just over half of British (53%), Austrian (54%) and German (55%) adults say this. Italians are the least likely in Europe to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (43%).

The vast majority of people across 15 countries in Western Europe and in the United States say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors. Slightly lower shares on both sides of the Atlantic say they would be willing to accept a Muslim as a family member.

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(WSJ) John Garvey: John Henry Newman–A New Saint for the Age of Loneliness

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job, and the results don’t surprise me. I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other. I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby. Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames. The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone; we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes, noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship. Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people, but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship. The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic, someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality. Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial, thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble. Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful. Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness. He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism, at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence, some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Roman Catholic

(BBC) Church of Scotland considers selling half Aberdeen’s churches

Almost half of Aberdeen’s churches are being considered for sale as part of a “once in a generation” review.

The 10-year plan recommends 15 buildings for disposal, with 15 being retained and the future of a further three under consideration.

The Church of Scotland report said it aimed “to reshape the church estate”.

Rev Scott Rennie, planning convener for the Presbytery, said there were “many more” church buildings than needed and that “difficult choices” lay ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(NR) German Interior Minister: Yom Kippur Shooting was Anti-Semitic Attack

German officials called a live-streamed shooting at a synagogue Wednesday in the city of Halle an anti-Semitic attack after the gunman denied the Holocaust and denounced Jews on the stream before embarking.

Two people have been killed and another two are seriously injured, according to Reuters, and a suspect is in custody. The gunman attempted to force his way into the synagogue, but was unsuccessful after finding the gates shut. The man then went on a shooting spree, killing a woman outside and a man in a nearby kabob shop.

Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper that approximately 75 people were in the synagogue observing Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement which is the holiest day of the Jewish year and is marked by fasting and solemn prayer.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” he said. “We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police.”

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Carey

Merciful God, who didst call William Carey to missionary work in India and didst endue him with a zeal for thy Word that led him to translate Scripture into many local languages and dialects: Give us a heart for the spreading of thy Gospel and a thirst for justice among all the peoples of the world; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who sheds thy light and peace throughout humanity, and who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Baptists, Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

Rabbi Sacks’ pre-Selichot address: “An Unforgiving Age”

Please take the time to listen to it all–carefully.

Posted in Judaism, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Andrew Towner–5 summary Points from Renew 2019

4. Gospel ‘positives’ must drive and motivate gospel ‘negatives’ so that love for truth drives concern with falsehood, and the glory of Jesus as sufficient Saviour motivates engagement with the multi-faith movement and so on.

  • we will all be actively pursuing positive gospel partnership(s) as well as visible differentiation, and especially through the ReNew network locally, regionally and nationally.

5. Unavoidable avoidance / visible differentiation from false teaching and teachers is a non-negotiable for an evangelical. This is not a call to a communal witch-hunt, but false-teaching and error must be contended with and the faithful must distance ourselves from such things.

  • united across ReNew with Jesus as our glorious focus
    • in our different context
    • with our consciences to be both obeyed and taught by the Bible
    • and pursuing the gospel positives joyfully
    • we will be prayerfully working out visible differentiation in various different ways
    • Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals

Gafcon General Secretary Ben Kwashi and his Wife Gloria Honoured with Religious Freedom Award

Randel Everett, former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and former pastor of First Baptist Church of Midland, is the founder and President of 21Wilberforce. Randel Everett says, “their life story is one of courage, faith and boundless love.”

Archbishop Kwashi is the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jos, Nigeria and General Secretary of GAFCON. He is well known as an evangelist throughout Nigeria, Africa, England, and the United States. Dr. Gloria Kwashi has been Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union, Women’s Guild and Girls’ Guild, and is the Provincial Trainer for the Mothers’ Union (Church of Nigeria).

For many years Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world, has spawned unrest, displacement, and death in northern Nigeria. The Kwashi’s have not escaped the violence. Their vicarage and church were burned to the ground and they have survived several assassination attempts. In response, the Kwashi’s took in 50 orphans who lost their parents due to the violence. Dr. Gloria Kwashi also founded the Zambiri Outreach and Child Care Centre. The primary and secondary school serves 400 pupils – all of whom receive free education, free feeding, uniform, and medical care.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(CEN) A remarkable ministry–Chris Sugden reviews ‘Michael Green Remembered’

Michael Green was decisive. He made decisions, sometimes impulsive, often intuitive, occasionally spur of the moment. And he encouraged thousands of people, many in their late teens and early 20s, to make the most important decision of their lives, to live for, with, and in the power of Jesus.

It is quite natural, that within nine months of his death in January 2019 at the age of 88, 35 people who had known him at various stages of life should, encouraged by his family and editor Julia Cameron, contribute to a book of remembrances that was formally launched at his memorial service in Coventry Cathedral, where he was a canon theologian, on 7 September.

Some will read this book to discover more about a valued friend and colleague in Christian ministry, and others because his combination of sharp apologetics and winsome evangelism won them to Christian discipleship and they want to find out about other phases of his life.It is not a book to be read end to end, but from which to pick out gems here and there.

And they abound….

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(NYT) China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.

When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government.

Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China.

Backed by its diplomatic and economic might, China has largely succeeded in quashing criticism. Chinese officials have convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue, most notably Muslim ones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have played to the discord within the West over China. And they have waged an aggressive campaign to prevent discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way; it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope–hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian–I’m speaking for the Christian now–the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Evangelicals, History, Terrorism

Richard John Neuhaus for 9/11–September 11th, Before and After

Fourth, after some initial sortings out, America will identify itself even more closely with Israel. Disagreements over the justice of how Israel was founded and how it has maintained itself in existence will not disappear. But the diabolical face of the evil that threatens Israel, and us, is now unveiled. Among Americans and all who are part of our civilization, it will be understood that we must never surrender, or appear to be surrendering, to that evil. Finally, the question of “the West and the rest” will be powerfully sharpened, including a greatly heightened awareness of the global threats posed by militant Islam. Innocent Muslims in this country and Europe are undoubtedly in for some nastiness, and we must do our best to communicate the distinction between Islam and Islamism, knowing that the latter is the monistic fanaticism embraced by only a minority of Muslims. But almost inevitably, given the passions aroused and the difficulties of enforcing the law among people who are largely alien in their ways, such distinctions will sometimes get lost. We can only try to do our best by those Muslims who have truly chosen our side in “the clash of civilizations.” It seems likely also that, after September 11, discussion about immigration policy will become more intense, and more candid.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Islam, Israel, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

A Prayer for the Feast Day of ‘the beautiful-sounding nightengale of the church’ Kassiani

O God the Father of boundless mercy, whose handmaiden Kassiani brought forth poetry and song: Inspire in thy church a new song, that following her most excellent example, we may boldly proclaim the truth of thy Word, even Jesus Christ, our Savior and Deliverer, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen (slightly ed.).

Posted in Church History, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Allan Ripp–The Life of a Rabbi With ALS

Using the same eye-gazing program, Yitzi painstakingly writes his weekly Torah commentaries. It sometimes requires a day to complete a column that once would have taken two hours. One recent piece addressed whether someone can be commanded to love another in the same way as loving God. “To be loved, is to be understood,” Yitzi concludes. While he has rabbinical dispensation to use his computer on Shabbat, Yitzi often refrains and rests his strained eyes from the intense workouts. “He communicates differently on Shabbat, looking at everyone’s faces directly; it’s more pleasant,” Dina says. She adds that she still detects the mischief and happiness of the man she married in 1996.

Shlomo Bistritzky —a fellow Chabad rabbi in Westlake Village, Calif.—grew up in Brooklyn with Yitzi. “If you want to see what a beautiful soul looks like, go meet Rabbi Yitzi,” he says. “Everyone who visits approaches nervously with acid reflux but leaves feeling uplifted. As his body has failed him, his joyous spirit shines through.”

When his symptoms first appeared in 2012, Yitzi and Dina were living in the California desert town of Temecula. They had moved there in 1999 to establish a Chabad house, which grew from their living room to a storefront serving a growing Jewish community. Yitzi was an active pulpit rabbi—overseeing Hebrew school and adult education, along with weddings, births, funerals and daily prayer services. He composed songs on guitar and was usually the last one dancing on holidays. He counseled families during the financial crisis and took extra jobs to support his own brood. This included work as a chaplain in a state hospital for the criminally insane and as a supervisor of kosher operations at a dairy farm a half-hour up the road.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Pope Francis in Africa: Is the continent the Catholic Church’s great hope?

Pope Francis begins a three-nation visit to Africa later on Wednesday.

It will be his fourth visit to the continent since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, compared to the two his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made during his eight-year papacy.

The importance of Africa to the Catholic Church can be summed up in a word – growth.

Africa has the fastest growing Catholic population in the world, while Western Europe, once regarded as the heartland of Christianity, has become one of the world’s most secular regions, according to the US-based Pew Research Center.

And many of those who do identify themselves as Christian in Western Europe do not regularly attend church.

In contrast, Christianity, in its different denominations, is growing across Africa. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2060 more than four in 10 Christians will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Globalization, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Telegraph) 80 per cent decline in religious funerals as mourners opt for golf courses and zoos over churches

An all-black dress code, pallbearers marching in unison, and a steady stream of tears are not often associated with golf courses, zoos and Chinese takeaways.

Yet according to the most extensive ever report on UK funeral trends which, the religious funeral is dying a death.

Instead of services in crematoriums, churches and cemeteries, Britons are instead opting for increasingly quirky ways to mourn their loved ones.

The Co-op, the UK’s largest national funeral provider which conducts more than 100,000 every year, has today published a report revealing that since 2011 there has been a 80 per cent decline in religious funerals.

Eight-years-ago 67 per cent of people requested traditional religious services and just 12 per cent were non-religious. However by 2018, just 13 per cent wanted a religious funeral.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(AM) Rod Dreher–[Following up on the FT article already posted] Putin & The Patriarchs

UPDATE: An American reader in Moscow says there’s a lot wrong with the FT piece, at least as I have reported it. He writes:

I can’t access Max Seddon’s piece, so I am sure most of my corrections are problems with his article. In any case, there are some serious factual errors and lack of context for a lot of the information in this post.

To begin, the main problem is the narrative of the Ukrainian Church breaking from the Russian Church. This simply did not occur. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the rest of the Local Orthodox Churches, remains within the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Onuphry, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who consistently is left out of Western coverage of this crisis, is to this day a member of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. There simply has been no change on this front.

Very basic proof: Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Onuphry concelebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Saint Sergius Lavra outside of Moscow in June of this year: https://pravlife.org/uk/content/predstoyatel-upc-spivsluzhyv-patriarhu-v-prestolne-svyato-troyice-sergiyevoyi-lavry

That’s right. The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church flew from Kiev to Moscow to attend a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of which he continues to be a member. While there his Beatitude Onuphry served the Liturgy with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, which in the Orthodox world means everything. The Archbishop of Greece refused to serve the Liturgy with “Metropolitan Epiphany” Dumenko because that would mean legitimizing his controversial status.

The basic fact pulls the carpet out from under the narrative of Seddon’s piece (what you have quoted) as well as most of the Western coverage. The Churches did not split. This is a classic case for Terry Mattingly at GetReligion — journalists who don’t know enough about the religion they are writing about simply cannot resist the temptation to bend the narrative so that it perfectly reflects the political narrative. In this case, that would be “Russia is mad that Ukraine wants independence.”

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia

(FT) Putin and the Patriarchs–how geopolitics tore apart the Orthodox Church

Kirill thought his status as post-Soviet patriarch would earn him a key role of peacemaker, according to people close to the church. But when Russia annexed Crimea in February 2014, a rift opened between Kirill’s and Putin’s conceptions of the “Russian world”. Keenly aware that Putin’s actions severely undermined his authority in Ukraine, Kirill refused to absorb Crimea’s parishes and boycotted a ceremony in the Kremlin to celebrate Russia’s annexation.

Later that year, Putin underscored the rift by declaring that the Crimean town of Khersones — where Vladimir the Great, the first Christian ruler of Rus, was baptised in 988AD — was “Russia’s Temple Mount”.

The notion has no grounding in Orthodox theology and, by implication, undermines the primacy of Kiev and the Lavra. According to Roman Lunkin, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, it was an attempt to justify the annexation by presenting Putin as the protector of all Russian-speaking people.

The growing divide between Ukraine and Russia was underscored by the war with ­Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shortly afterwards, where more than 13,000 have died. Filaret backed Ukraine’s offensive, saying the local population “must pay for their guilt [in rejecting Kiev’s authority] through suffering and blood”. Rebels in Donetsk, meanwhile, enjoyed support from Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch and prominent member of Moscow’s Orthodox elite.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia

(ESPN) [Must-Not-Miss story]–Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? ‘So I made this deal with God.’

Twenty-five years old and not far removed from her All-America days at Villanova, [Shelly] Pennefather was in her prime. She had legions of friends and a contract offer for $200,000 to play basketball in Japan that would have made her one of the richest players in women’s basketball.

And children — she was so good with children. She had talked about having lots of them with John Heisler, a friend she’d known most of her life. Heisler nearly proposed to her twice, but something inside stopped him, and he never bought a ring.

“When she walked into the room,” Heisler said, “the whole room came alive.

“She had a cheerfulness and a confidence that everything was going to be OK. That there was nothing to fear.”

That Saturday morning in 1991, Pennefather drove her Mazda 323 to the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Virginia. She loved to drive. Fifteen cloistered nuns waited for her in two lines, their smiles radiant.

She turned to her family.

“I love you all,” she said.

The door closed, and Shelly Pennefather was gone

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sports

(Local Paper Front Page) A Lowcountry South Carolina Parish gets its steeples back 30 years after Hurricane Hugo toppled them

For David Shorter, Thursday morning brought back a monumental memory.

He was in the seventh or eighth grade at West Ashley’s Blessed Sacrament School in the 1960s when a construction crew installed the twin spires atop the new Catholic church next door. The schoolchildren were allowed to step over the steeples before they were hoisted into place.

Of course, Shorter also remembers them being blown down by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the church’s brick towers have stood unadorned ever since. At least until Thursday.

Shorter was among a few dozen who gathered just outside the church to watch as a construction crew hoisted the first steeple back into place.

“I ain’t missing this for no reason,” he said. “Twice in a lifetime.”

The spectacle was so dramatic that those involved waited until after the morning rush hour on Savannah Highway, reducing the chance of causing any wrecks. Thursday’s weather was near perfect: clear skies and only the slightest breeze. But a computer glitch with a construction crane ended up delaying the lift until the lunch hour.

But by 1:20 p.m., the first one — weighing almost 3 tons — was stood up and hoisted off the ground….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Taking a New Look at the Book of Deuteronomy

Hence the program of Deuteronomy, which is fundamentally about the creation of a good society based on collective responsibility, or, as the opening phrase of the Preamble to the United States Constitution puts it, forming a group of “We, the people” under the sovereignty of God. The good society is the essential precondition of spiritual individuals, “since man, as is well known, is by nature social.”

Such a society is to be based on justice and tzedaka, meaning more than merely procedural justice, but in addition what we would call equity or fairness. Nor is that society to be based on abstract principles alone. Instead it is grounded in collective memory and active recall, in particular through celebrations at the Temple at various points of the year.

Underlying this thesis — that the life of faith requires a society dedicated to goodness as a whole — is the poignant story of Noah in the book of Genesis. Noah is the only person to be called righteous in the entire Hebrew Bible, but in the end Noah saved only his family, not his generation. He kept his own moral standards intact but failed to be an inspiration to others. Individual righteousness is not enough.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) China Says It Has Released Most Muslims Held in Camps. That’s Difficult to Prove.

Senior Chinese officials made the surprising announcement on Tuesday that the authorities had released most detainees held in the government’s mass internment program for ethnic minority Muslims in China’s far west, but provided no firm numbers or specific details to support their assertion.

Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman of the government of the region of Xinjiang, said 90 percent of people held in what the government calls vocational training centers had been returned to society. It was a contention that would be nearly impossible to independently verify in the tightly controlled region and flew in the face of accounts of disappearances and detentions that have been compiled by relatives abroad and human rights groups.

Detainees who have been released from the camps say they were subjected to a high-pressure indoctrination program with the goal of removing any devotion to Islam and encouraging loyalty to China and its ruling Communist Party.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(The Tablet) Both Wimbledon champions are committed Orthodox Christians

“For many young people today Simona is a symbol of diligence, perseverance and hope”, the Patriarch said at the ceremony. “Besides all that, the Romanian Church greatly appreciates the fact that you profess your Orthodox faith by making the sign of the Cross in public thus showing that you faithfully represent the devout, sacrificial and skilled Romanian people”, he added.

Halep received the Romanian Patriarchate’s Cross of St Andrew last year (2018). In an interview a few days after winning Wimbledon, she said that her Christian faith was “most important” for her in her life. “I believe in God even if I cannot attend the liturgy every Sunday”. (Unlike Sunday Mass attendance in the Catholic Church which has been compulsory since the Council of Trent, attending the Sunday Liturgy is not compulsory in the Orthodox Church.)

Novak Djokovic (aged 33), the number 1 tennis player in the world, belongs to the Serb-Orthodox Church. He already received the Serb-Orthodox Church’s Order of St Sava 1st Class in 2011 above all because he promotes many religious and social church initiatives. “This is the most important award in my life as, before being an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian”, he said at the time on receiving the award from the hands of Patriarch Irenaeus of the Serb-Orthodox Church.The Order of St Sava is the Serb-Orhtodox Church’s highest distinction.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Christian Today) Baroness Caroline Cox–Genocide in Nigeria: does anyone care?

I have visited many of the worst affected areas and seen the tragedies of death and destruction.

One survivor told me: “The Fulani militants took my brother, his wife and all their six children. They tied and slaughtered them like animals. My sister was raped, and her wrists cut off before she was shot through the heart”.

A lady from a neighbouring village shared a similar story. She said: “The Fulani were hacking and killing people, making sure that those that were shot were finished off. They wore red to conceal blood on their clothes as they butchered their victims.”

In every village, the message from local people is the same: “Please, please help us! The Fulani ​are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.” Yet time and again, we have ignored their cry for help. We are indifferent to their suffering.

International law is clear: when something is a genocide, it is appropriate to act. No more excuses. The UK must give greater effect to our obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention and our duty to protect. For the longer we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.

Read it all.

Posted in Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Violence

(BBC) Choosing between God and the gang in El Salvador

A church deep in La Dina, San Salvador is holding a service with a difference: many of the men here used to be in a gang.

Eben-ezer is a functioning church but also runs a rehabilitation project for men who repent their past gang life.

Watch it all (about 3 3/4 minutes).

Posted in --El Salvador, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Violence