Category : * Religion News & Commentary

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

(AP) Some Religious Leaders to Invoke Frederick Douglass on July 4th

About 150 preachers, rabbis and imams are promising to invoke Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass on July 4th as they call for the U.S. to tackle racism and poverty.

The religious leaders are scheduled this weekend to frame their sermons around “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” on the 168th anniversary of that speech by Douglass. The former slave gave his speech at an Independence Day celebration on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York. The address challenged the Founding Fathers and the hypocrisy of their ideals with the existence of slavery on American soil.

The initiative to remember Douglass is led by the Poor People’s Campaign, a coalition of religious leaders seeking to push the U.S. to address issues of poverty modeled after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last crusade.

“(The Declaration of Independence) was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson. Yet he owned hundreds of human beings, and enslaved them,” Rabbi Arthur Waskow plans to tell The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks. “The contradiction between his words and his actions has been repeated through all American history.”

Read it all.

Posted in History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Sun Times) Asian American churches hold march through Chinatown, calling for unity with Black communities

Chinatown’s Chinese Christian Union Church and Bronzeville’s Progressive Baptist Church have existed for more than a century just 1.5 miles apart on Wentworth Avenue.

But the two churches have rarely interacted or helped each other — until Sunday.

With coordination from the Asian American Christian Collaborative, leaders and members of the two churches — as well as many other Asian religious organizations in the area — marched through Chinatown to call for increased unity between the Asian and Black communities.

“For too long, the Asian American Christian church has been silent on tons of matters, especially when it comes to race,” said CCUC deacon Chris Javier, one of the organizers.

“This is the end of silence. This is us pledging to stop that, to start using our voice on behalf of those that are hurting, even if they don’t look like us.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecumenical Relations, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Carl R. Trueman–The Road to Bostock

It is here that Farrow’s book is so singularly helpful. The essay “Autonomy: Sic transit anima ad infernum” is worth the price of the book all by itself. In it he traces with both remarkable depth and enviable conciseness the rise of the modern self: the autonomous self-creator to whom reality must bend or, better still, for whom reality is merely what works best for the individual concerned. With roots in Rousseau and Nietzsche, this self lies behind Anthony Kennedy’s oft-cited fantasy of selfhood in Casey and lurks in the background of all the subsequent Supreme Court rulings on matters involving sexuality, up to and including Bostock. Indeed, Farrow makes the necessary point:

The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will.

Transgenderism is the logical outcome of all this. In fact, the annihilation of gender as a stable category tout court is the logical outcome—a point that seems to have eluded Justice Gorsuch, who apparently wants to keep his binary categories while not realizing the metaphysical depths of the revolution he has now placed into law.

The shock and awe surrounding the Bostock ruling perhaps indicates that the old task of apologetics is now being oddly reversed. The pressing pastoral need of the hour for the church is not to explain the faith to the world but rather first to explain the world to the faithful. If Richard Rorty’s famous quip—the truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying—works as a descriptive rather than prescriptive principle in terms of cultural dynamics, in terms of which arguments work and which do not, then it behooves us to ask in what kind of culture the stated logic of the Bostock decision has come to make sense. If Christians do not understand the wider context, then they will continue to underestimate the true depth of the cultural problem, be perplexed at the speed of apparent change, and be disturbed by new developments. And that will make it very hard to navigate this world as both good citizens and good stewards of the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism, Supreme Court

(TGC) Americans Don’t See Human Life as ‘Sacred’—But See Humanity as ‘Basically Good’

The Story: A new study finds that a majority of Americans no longer believe human life has intrinsic value, with six out of ten rejecting the idea that “human life is sacred.” Yet a majority also say that humans are “basically good.”

The Background: According to new research from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, only 39 percent of Americans today view human life as “sacred,” or as having unconditional, intrinsic worth. Groups that still hold this view include adults with a biblical worldview (93 percent); those attending an evangelical church (60 percent); born-again Christians (60 percent); political conservatives (57 percent); people 50 or older (53 percent); and Republicans (53 percent).

Some religious groups had only a minority who viewed life as sacred, including those attending Pentecostal (46 percent), mainline Protestant (45 percent), or Catholic (43 percent) churches. Evangelicals were the group most likely (60 percent) to say that life is sacred, while spiritual skeptics were the least likely (13 percent).

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(HDS) Brett Malcolm Grainger reviews Bruce Hindmarsh new book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World’

The evangelical reversal on spirituality has happened alongside scholarly reappraisals. In recent decades, historians such as W. R. Ward (Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, 1670–1789, 2006), Isabel Rivers (Vanity Fair and the Celestial City: Dissenting, Methodist, and Evangelical Literary Culture in England, 1720–1800, 2018), Tom Schwanda (Soul Recreation: The Contemplative-Mystical Piety of Puritanism, 2012), John Coffey (ed., Heart Religion: Evangelical Piety in England and Ireland, 1690–1850, 2016), and Phyllis Mack (Heart Religion in the British Enlightenment: Gender and Emotions in Early Methodism, 2012) have issued a torrent of insightful studies on the lived religion of early evangelicalism, looking into topics as diverse as dreaming, hymnody, emotions, attitudes toward nature, and the influence of Catholic spiritual traditions.1 Bruce D. Hindmarsh’s recent book, The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism, builds on these accomplishments, offering what is perhaps the most complete and far-ranging assessment of early evangelical spiritual life as it relates to contemporary developments in science, law, art, and literature. In some ways, the book functions as a companion to Hindmarsh’s The Evangelical Conversion Narrative, which explored traditions of spiritual autobiography in evangelical narratives of conversion. In this earlier volume Hindmarsh revealed how conversion often worked as a kind of viral outbreak within religious ecosystems. These sudden spiritual awakenings promoted novel forms of religious community built around the central ritual of narrating a personal experience of the new birth. The Bible played a crucial role in these spiritual practices. For early evangelicals, the Bible never constituted a divine download of impersonal dogma: scripture communicated a direct and personal message in God’s own voice to men and women willing to listen to it.

Another distinguishing mark of evangelicalism, Hindmarsh argued, was its historical liminality. The movement emerged, he wrote, “at the trailing edge of Christendom and the leading edge of modernity,”2 helping people move from collective identities rooted in church membership to stronger notions of the self, individual, and personal faith. If his previous work stressed the internal diversity of early evangelicalism—demonstrating the disparate constructions of selfhood that emerged among Methodists, Moravians, Anglicans, and Baptists—the new book sees more forest than trees. Evangelicals, regardless of their sectarian affiliation, Hindmarsh writes, perceived “one thing needful” in the Christian life: “the democratized pursuit of the new birth.” In other words, while conversion remains the focus of The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism, this new work offers a more expansive cultural account of the practical implications that flowed from making “true religion” (3) a matter of transformative personal religious experience.

As Hindmarsh describes the spiritual ambitions of early evangelicals, what emerges is something more intellectually substantive and expansive than “I saw the light.” (Sorry, Hank.) Evangelical spirituality encompassed the preparation for, experience of, and the practical repercussions that flowed from the relentless pursuit of what Henry Scougal called “the life of God in the soul of man.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Evangelicals

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Isabel Hapgood

Loving God, we offer thanks for the work and witness of Isabel Florence Hapgood, who introduced the Divine Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church to English-speaking Christians, and encouraged dialogue between Anglicans and Orthodox. Guide us as we build on the foundation that she gave us, that all may be one in Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church, Spirituality/Prayer

(Bloomberg) Religion Meets Profit Generation in a Slew of New Faith-Based ETFs

As much as Samim Abedi loved his job as part of the team that managed Google’s corporate investment portfolio, he couldn’t always square the work with his Muslim faith. He worried that some of the companies whose securities he traded had ties to alcohol or tobacco or gambling.

So he quit to join Wahed Invest, which in July 2019 launched the first exchange-traded fund in the U.S. that’s compliant with Sharia, Islam’s religious law. It’s one of eight ETFs introduced in the U.S. last year that incorporate faith-based principles, raising the total to 11. More are coming: In June, money manager Global X filed to launch a bond fund aligned to Catholic values. “We’re all trying to solve the same question,” says Abedi, the global head of portfolio management for Wahed. “How do we invest our wealth in ways that align with our ethics?”

Religion-based funds can differ on what they consider ethical. A stock fund that caters to Catholics shuns companies that sell weapons or exploit child labor. Several ETFs for Muslims steer clear of anything related to interest-based finance, which the religion frowns upon. Those funds invest in a Sharia-compliant alternative to bonds called sukuk, which provide regular payments that are considered profit-sharing rather than interest.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Other Churches, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(WSJ) Saudi Arabia Shrinks Hajj Pilgrimage Because of Coronavirus Pandemic

Saudi Arabia said it was curtailing this year’s hajj pilgrimage to only a small number of people already in the kingdom, rather than the millions who usually flock to Islam’s holiest sites, amid concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

The hajj, the Muslim world’s most important religious pilgrimage, is considered a pillar of Islam and has been held since the seventh century in Mecca. All Muslims who are able to are required to make the journey at least once in their lifetimes.

The five-day event, which begins in late July this year, is a source of great political and religious prestige for Saudi Arabia, while also generating an estimated $8 billion in revenue for the kingdom each year.

The smaller umrah pilgrimage, which takes place in Mecca throughout the year, and international travel to and from the kingdom remain suspended.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Islam, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Travel

(CT) Legal experts worry that ruling in landmark workplace discrimination cases can’t provide the nuanced exemptions evangelicals have advocated for

In an article for Christianity Today’s ChurchLawAndTax.com, attorney and senior editor Richard Hammar said churches retain important protections with employment decisions pertaining to clergy, despite Monday’s ruling. However, Monday’s decision fosters greater uncertainty for churches with employees in nonministerial roles, he said.“

Churches that take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for employment based on religious considerations should describe their action appropriately,” Hammar said. “Refer to the religious or doctrinal principle at issue, and avoid generic labels like ‘sex’ or other gender- or sexuality-based labels.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that the ruling will have “seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.”

“This Supreme Court decision should hardly be surprising, given how much has changed culturally on the meanings of sex and sexuality,” he said. “That the ‘sexual revolution’ is supported here by both ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ on the court should also be of little surprise to those who have watched developments in each of these ideological corners of American life.”

Read it all and there is a lot more there as well.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(NYT Op-ed) Issac Bailey–I’m Finally an Angry Black Man

You see, for a long time I was one of the “good blacks,” whom white friends and colleagues and associates and neighbors could turn to in order to be reassured that they weren’t racist, that America really had made a lot of racial progress since its founding, that I was an example of that progress because of the success I had attained after all I had faced and overcome.

For a long time, I wasn’t an angry black man even after growing up in an underfunded school that was still segregated four decades after Brown v. Board of Education in the heart of the Deep South.

I wasn’t angry even when I watched my oldest brother, my hero, be taken away in handcuffs for murdering a white man when I was a 9-year-old boy. He served 32 years, upending our family forever. Guilt is what I felt instead of anger. It’s akin to the guilt white liberals who go overboard in their efforts feel and are often guided by as they try to appease black people because of the racial harm they know black people have suffered since before this country’s founding.

Mine was a black guilt, a guilt stemming from the knowledge that my black brother had irreparably hurt a poor white family, guilt that helped persuade me to try to make it up to white people as best I could.

That’s why for a long time in my writings, I was more likely to focus on all the white people who didn’t yell “Nigger!” out their windows as they drove by as I jogged along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, S.C., instead of those who did. That’s why I spent nearly two decades in a mostly white evangelical church. That’s why I tried to thread the needle on the Confederate flag, speaking forthrightly about its origins, but carefully so as not to upset my white friends and colleagues who revered a symbol of the idea that black people should forever be enslaved by white people.

Still, for a long time, none of that turned me into an angry black man….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Wa Po) State Department rebukes China as one of the worst abusers of religious freedom

A State Department official singled out China on Wednesday as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom, saying it backslid the most last year as thousands more people of faith were subjected to imprisonment and forced labor.

The accusation by Sam Brownback, the ambassador of international religious freedom, represented the latest salvo in an exchange of recriminations between Washington and Beijing. In recent months, tensions have grown as the two countries have sparred over the coronavirus, Hong Kong, press freedoms and trade. China has accused the United States of hypocrisy amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans who have died in police custody, and the Trump administration’s response to massive demonstrations.

The State Department used Wednesday’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom to increase the crescendo of criticism of China, which has been designated a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom since 1999.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Please pray for Tim Keller who has Been Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer

Posted in Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary for Peter Moore

Age 83, peacefully entered into eternal life May 30 in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Born in Scarsdale, NY, Peter was an innovative leader, mentor, preacher and author for more than 50 years. He currently served as the director of the Anglican Leadership Institute since 2016, training leaders in the world-wide Anglican Church in servant leadership, all the while serving as a scholar in residence at St. Michael’s Church, in Charleston, SC. Peter served as director of the Council for Religion in Independent Schools in New York City and at that time, started FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools) in 1962. FOCUS seeks to bring Christ to students attending independent Secondary Schools along America’s East Coast. He then served as the fourth dean/president of Trinity School for Ministry and as its first president of the board of trustees, before moving to Charleston, SC.

Decade after decade, Peter was an unswerving, tireless agent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Al Zadig on the Death of Peter Moore

From there:

Please keep the family and loved ones of the Very Rev. Dr. Peter Moore, Director of the Anglican Leadership Institute, in your prayers. Peter died on the Eve of Pentecost, May 30, following a battle with cancer. Details for a service have not yet been announced.

The following is a message from the Rev. Al Zadig, Rector of St. Michael’s Church Charleston, where Peter served as Scholar-in-Residence.

Saying Goodbye to a Hero

Just minutes after our Annual Meeting/Festival of Faith on Zoom today, I received word that our Scholar in Residence and dear friend the Rev. Dr. Peter Moore had died. My brothers and sisters in Christ, we lost a hero of faith this weekend. A hero of the faith who always stood for the bedrock truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the foundation of Scripture against all odds, powers and principalities.

In addition to writing books, pastoring, and leading, Peter poured his life into the ancient art of mentoring the generations. Whether students at FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools), Trinity School for Ministry, St. Michael’s Church, or the Bishops and clergy of the Anglican Leadership Institute, he loved coming alongside to make disciples!

I therefore marvel at the fact that Peter died on the eve of Pentecost. Why? He simply lived and breathed through the power of the Holy Spirit. I know we all have our Peter Stories, but I especially remember that when he first came to St. Michael’s he would walk around with the pictorial directory of the parish just so he could memorize all your names and pictures! He had that kind of love for you!

While Peter’s obituary is being prepared as I write this, I just wanted you to know now so you can be praying for Peter’s wife Sandra as well. Funeral plans are being arranged and the service will take place at St. Michael’s Church at a date and time to be announced. In the meantime dear brothers and sisters, please pray with me:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Peter. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive Peter into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

The Rev. Alfred T. K. Zadig, Jr
Rector
St Michael’s Church
 

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

(RNS) US Roman Catholic bishops, Southern Baptists, grieve death of George Floyd, call for justice, condemn abuse of police power

Leaders from two of the largest faith groups in the United States issued statements lamenting the death of George Floyd and calling for an end to racial inequality.

“We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes,” wrote a group of U.S. Catholic bishops who head committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”

Bishops drafting the letter include Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, and numerous others.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(PA) On Pentecost, Pope to take part in online service with UK church leaders for first time

Pope Francis is to take part in an online service alongside senior UK church leaders, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for the first time.

He is set to call on people to turn away from the “selfish pursuit of success without caring for those left behind” and to be united in facing the “pandemics of the virus and of hunger, war, contempt for life and indifference to others”.

His special message is to mark Pentecost Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The virtual service is the finale of this year’s global prayer movement, called Thy Kingdom Come, which is usually filled with mass gatherings and outdoor celebrations involving 65 different denominations and traditions.

It has had to be adapted due to the pandemic so people can take part in their homes.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pentecost, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Pastor Dwight Nelson Preaches for an Ascension Sunday Joint Service with Wesley United Methodist Church+Christ Saint Paul’s

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ascension, Ecumenical Relations, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

(Sun Times Front Page) Chicago clergy on seeking God in the age of COVID: ‘The church has left the building’

Safety is also top of mind for the Rev. Shannon Kershner, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church at 126 E. Chestnut St. along the Magnificent Mile. It’s why the church livestreams its 11 a.m. Sunday services from Kershner’s living room rather than the sanctuary.

“The empty sanctuary is really a statement of our love and action,” Kershner said. “It’s an expression of God — love your neighbor, essentially — love for our health care professionals and other essential workers who would be harmed if we were to somehow contribute to the spread.

“I’m going to be in my living room, just as all my members are. There’s an intimacy to it, as well as a solidarity that’s been really interesting to discover.”

Along with its worship services, the church in the wealthy downtown community moved online the many classes offered through its Center for Lifelong Learning — 700-plus church members are over 70. Kershner and seven ministers try to do phone checks on each of them.

“Church meetings are on Zoom,” Kershner said. “Bible study is on Zoom. Prayer meetings are on Zoom. In the beginning, we were thinking: If we can just get through Easter, things will go back to normal. Then, we realized that wasn’t going to happen and that we were going to have to remain in this adaptive mindset.

“Then, it was: OK, how can we sustain the ministry that we’re doing in all these new ways, getting clearer about what needs to be our priorities? One thing that became clear is that people really want to feel connected.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CT) Kamesh Sankaran–The Humbling of a Proud Hindu: How God got my attention when I thought I was too good for grace

My experience of becoming a Christian wasn’t like flipping a switch. Believing the gospel didn’t automatically lead me to conformity to Jesus Christ or produce the immediate fruit of righteousness in me. While I desperately desired the gift of forgiveness, I was reluctant to change anything else about my life or worldview. Given the enormous differences between Christianity and my earlier Hindu beliefs, my new life had to be nurtured before spiritual growth could occur.

Intellectually, I wrestled with three fundamental questions: Who is God? Who am I? What is my relationship with God? The more I pondered these questions, the clearer it became that the answers offered by Hinduism and Christianity are utterly incompatible. I had to reject the former to receive the latter. Functionally, I had to rethink all of life from a clean slate because I simply did not have a framework or vocabulary to make sense of my new identity.

Paul needed an Ananias to spark his conversion, but he also needed a Barnabas to accompany him in his new journey of faith. God similarly ordained the support I needed to grow as a disciple. While Hinduism ties one’s religious standing to one’s birth status, Christianity teaches that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. My new Christian community cared not about my first birth but about my new birth: my confession of faith, my commitment to fellowship, and my desire to live wholly for Christ.

Every genuine Christian conversion is a miracle—a transition from spiritual death to eternal life, from enmity with God to adoption into his family. Yet God seems to take special delight in seemingly impossible cases—like Paul, a former persecutor—so that the riches of his grace might shine all the brighter. When I consider the chasm between my old outlook on life and my new life in Christ, I can only marvel at God’s work of redemption—and fall down at his feet in praise.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Hinduism, Other Faiths, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) ‘My rabbi’s tools now include a phone’: UK Jewish burials changed by Covid-19

Minutes before the rabbi started intoning funeral prayers over a shrouded coffin, his phone rang. The dead man: 90 years old, a victim of coronavirus, had been lying in a morgue for a couple of weeks while the authorities and his synagogue had tried to trace his relatives.

The man was one of 440 British Jews who had died from coronavirus by Monday, a statistic that belies the impact of the virus on the Jewish community, which has been disproportionately hit by Covid-19. Figures compiled by the Board of Deputies of British Jews suggest that more than 1% of all coronavirus deaths are Jewish, while Jews are only 0.4% of the total UK population.

Now the man’s grandson was on the line from Dubai. Although he had lost touch with his grandfather 30 years ago, he was able to give Rabbi Daniel Epstein valuable biographical information to supplement the man’s name, age and cause of death. Even so, the only people present to witness the coffin being lowered into its grave were the rabbi and staff of Waltham Abbey Jewish cemetery, in Essex, on the edge of London.

In normal times, it is rare to conduct a funeral without mourners, but not now. The number of burials conducted by the United Synagogue Burial Society more than tripled in April, Epstein said. Some rabbis have officiated at three or four funerals a day – and in many cases, relatives and friends were unable to say a last goodbye to their loved one due to self-isolation or restrictions on travel.Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) A ‘Breakdown of Trust’: Pandemic Corrodes Church-State Ties in Russia

A physics student at Moscow State University, Dmitri Pelipenko turned away from science in 2018 to devote himself to God, enrolling as a novice monk at Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church.

His spiritual journey, derailed by the coronavirus, came to an abrupt and gruesome end shortly after the Orthodox Easter.

Admitted to the hospital after testing positive for the illness, Mr. Pelipenko smashed a window on April 24, jumped outside, doused his body with fuel from a church lamp and set himself on fire. He died from his burns two days later.

His monastery swiftly blamed the suicide on “mental illness.” Others, however, asked whether the monk’s clearly fragile mental state had been broken by the apocalyptic mood gripping wide swaths of the Russian church, some of whose leaders have challenged the state’s stay-at-home orders as the work of the devil.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Russia

(NYT) 15 Funerals a Day: The Pace of Death Stuns Brooklyn Muslims

All day long, wood coffins are carried in and out of Al-Rayaan Muslim Funeral Services in Brooklyn. What is meant to be a peaceful, reflective moment for grieving families has given way to a chaotic rhythm. Workers climb into a refrigerated truck and carefully carry the dead into the funeral home for a prayer, then back out to be transported to their final resting place.

They do this an average of 15 times a day in recent weeks. Before coronavirus hit, the home was holding only 20 to 30 funerals a month.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Islam, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Albert Mohler–The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel

As the disciples preached in the earliest Christian sermons, “This Jesus God has raised up, of whom we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:32,36].

The Resurrection was not a dawning awareness of Christ’s continuing presence among the disciples, it was the literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. The Church is founded upon the resurrected Lord, who appeared among His disciples and was seen by hundreds of others.

The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

So, as the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should look backward in thankfulness to that empty tomb and forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in us. For Resurrection Day is not merely a celebration”“it is truly preparation as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection from the dead, and of Christ’s total victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Christian gospel. The empty tomb is full of power.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Evangelicals, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Monday food for Thought from Lutheran Theologian Robert Jenson

Posted in Lutheran, Theology

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Ecumenical Easter Letter for 2020

The world this Easter finds itself in strange and unusual times. The global Coronavirus pandemic has claimed many lives and continues to inflict pain, suffering and hardship on our world. We grieve with those who grieve and mourn with those who mourn. We pray for those who suffer and for those who care for them, and we commit the nations of the world and their leaders to God’s gracious care and protection.

In many countries around the world church buildings are closed and the observances of Holy Week and Easter must take place in a very different way. Around the world Churches and congregations are not able to gather together. Yet the people of God, in their homes, join their prayers and praises with the Church throughout the world. Our Alleluias are not silenced, but dispersed….

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Easter, Ecumenical Relations

(NYT) Their Calling Was to Lay Hands on the Sick. Then Came the Coronavirus

He has also wrestled with his own fear. Walking the halls of temporary coronavirus wards amid the pumping hiss of mechanical ventilators and shellshocked hospital workers, he said: “I started to think about, maybe I could get this. Maybe it could kill me.” Yet Father Devaney still finds avenues of grace. “What gives me hope is that in the Catholic funeral liturgy, it says, life hasn’t ended, it has changed. So for me the hope is that there is a supernatural reality we can’t see, that there is eternal life, life in eternity. And that death doesn’t have the final word.”

Yet these sacrifices make up the core of the faith. The Gospel of John recounts that after arising from his tomb, Jesus Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, who had come to tend to his body. He called to her by name, and recognizing her beloved teacher, she rushed to embrace him. “Do not touch me,” he said. How jarring that must have been to hear, and how painful to refrain — impossible, perhaps, save for the belief, held close in her heart, that the time would soon come to touch him again.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(PC) Tim Keller: People will say ‘I came to Christ during the virus’

Why has God allowed Coronavirus to happen?
There’s three things to say. The first thing is: why weren’t you asking that question before? In other words, when something bad happens to me, that’s when I start wondering about God, when actually bad things have been happening for centuries. The Bible is filled with discussions about it. The book of Job is all about that. Job had a terrible life, way worse than anybody I know.

Secondly, there’s a philosophical answer. The philosophical answer is, if you have a God big and powerful enough to be mad at for not stopping suffering, then you also have a God big and powerful enough who has some good reasons – that you can’t think of – for why he hasn’t stopped it. You can’t say ‘because I can’t think of any reason why God hasn’t stopped all the suffering, there can’t be one’. That doesn’t make sense. If you have a God big enough to be mad at, you’ve a God a big enough to be wiser than you. Philosophically that works, but it’s cold comfort to a person who’s actually in pain.

Thirdly, the more personal answer is, I don’t know the reason for your suffering. But I do know what it’s not. It’s not that God doesn’t love you. Christianity, uniquely among all the religions of the world, says that God actually came to earth and got involved in our suffering in order to someday end it without ending us.

Over the years, as a pastor and a sufferer, that has been the thing that’s helped my heart. Jesus suffers, he understands. I don’t have a God who’s remote. He must have a good reason why he hasn’t stopped it yet. It can’t be that he doesn’t love me, because look what he did on the cross.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Al Mohler) Obedience to God and Love of Neighbor in the Face of a Coronavirus: A Christian’s Mandate

But then, quite unexpectedly, Jesus said, “The second greatest commandment is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We should note that Jesus drew this from the book of Leviticus 19:18. The very same Book of Leviticus that included the quarantine of the diseased.

Love of neighbor means that we would not do anything to compromise, weaken, or endanger our neighbor—and that certainly includes our neighbor’s physical health. Applying all of these passages—Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Matthew, and Romans—we come to understand that faithfulness today means full and unwavering compliance with all rightful orders seeking to control the spread of COVID-19.

Interestingly, the command to “love your neighbor” ends with two words of enormous significance: “as yourself.” We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Often, we are told to not think about ourselves—that true virtue is found in self-sacrifice and having no regard for our own lives. That is true, but in this command from the words of Jesus himself, we are told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Actually, endangering ourselves also endangers others. We regard our own lives, so we must regard the lives of others. We protect our lives, so we protect the lives of others. In the context of this pandemic, if we do not comply with the government’s guidelines and fall ill, then someone will have to take care of us. We will tie up resources, time, and put others at risk of catching what could be for some people a deadly virus. Furthermore, we are not able to contribute to the commonweal—to the larger community.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Look Back to 1918–Francis James Grimké–“Some Reflections: Growing Out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza that Afflicted Our City”

So Jehovah sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even unto the time appointed; and there died of the people from Dan even unto Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Jehovah repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough; now stay thy hand.
—Samuel 24:15–16

We know now, perhaps, as we have never known before the meaning of the terms pestilence, plague, epidemic, since we have been passing through this terrible scourge of Spanish influenza, with its enormous death rate and its consequent wretchedness and misery. Every part of the land has felt its deadly touch—North, South, East and West—in the Army, in the Navy, among civilians, among all classes and conditions, rich and poor, high and low, white and black. Over the whole land it has thrown a gloom, and has stricken down such large numbers that it has been difficult to care for them properly, overcrowding all of our hospitals—and it has proven fatal in so many cases that it has been difficult at times to get coffins enough in which to place the dead, and men enough to dig graves fast enough in which to bury them. Our own beautiful city has suffered terribly from it, making it necessary, as a precautionary measure, to close the schools, theaters, churches, and to forbid all public gathering within doors as well as outdoors. At last, however, the scourge has been stayed, and we are permitted again to resume the public worship of God, and to open again the schools of our city.

Now that the worst is over, I have been thinking, as doubtless you have all been, of these calamitous weeks through which we have been passing—thinking of the large numbers that have been sick—the large numbers that have died, the many, many homes that have been made desolate—the many, many bleeding, sorrowing hearts that have been left behind, and I have been asking myself the question, What is the meaning of it all? What ought it to mean to us? Is it to come and go and we be no wiser, or better for it? Surely God had a purpose in it, and it is our duty to find out, as far as we may, what that purpose is, and try to profit by it.

Among the things which stand out in my own mind, as I have been thinking the whole matter over, are these…

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Tevi Troy–A Minyan in the Time of Social Distancing

Losing a parent is always difficult, especially as important financial and religious arrangements must be made during a time of intense grief. A global pandemic doesn’t help. But when my mother died on March 3, my family still had no idea how difficult it would be to stay safe while still honoring her in the Jewish tradition.

The Jewish response to death is communal. The local community comes together to support the mourners, who open up their home for a week of shiva. During this time the kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited at services three times a day. The mourner then may leave the home but remains obligated to say the kaddish three times daily for 11 months. According to Jewish law, these obligations must be fulfilled in the presence of a minyan, or prayer quorum of 10 men over the age of 13.

The current coronavirus crisis creates a challenge for those wishing to adhere to these Jewish mourning customs, especially in light of Judaism’s prioritization of public and individual health over ritual obligation. In Maryland, where I live, synagogues closed their doors last weekend to services and other community activities. In New Jersey, communities could not have communal prayer services in the home or even outdoors. In the interest of safety, similar changes are occurring throughout the country.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture