Category : * Religion News & Commentary

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

(CH) David Mills–The Ecumenical Dog That Doesn’t Bark

I’m all for praying for Christian unity and making a big deal of it for a week. But we should be clearer about what this means than the ecumenically-minded tend to be. They prefer the dog not to bark, but the barking dog warns us of something we need to remember.

Jim Packer remembered it. He wanted me to give in. I wanted him to give in. In our own circles, we both barked, and I think felt that a bond. We each knew what the other wanted and remained friends, with a deep respect for each other as well as affection. We enjoyed a great degree of unity despite our differences.

We should pray for Christian unity. But also offer the old-fashioned prayers that our Protestant friends would convert. And be the kinds of Catholics whose lives encourage people to join us.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, Soteriology

(Guardian) ‘I only know one god – and that’s me’: non-believers on the meaning of life

Religion may once have been the opium of the people, but in large swaths of the world the masses have kicked the habit. In countries once dominated by churches characterised by patriarchy, ritual and hierarchy, the pews have emptied and people have found other sources of solace, spirituality and morality.

In the US, those who say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” is up from 17% in 2009 to 26% last year. In Britain, according to the most recent data, more than half the population proclaimed no faith in 2018, a figure that rose from 43% to 52% in a decade.

But there are many different ways of being an unbeliever – among them labels such as atheist, agnostic, humanist, free thinker, sceptic, secular and spiritual-but-not-religious. According to Understanding Unbelief, an academic research project based at the University of Canterbury in Kent, “unbelief in God doesn’t necessarily entail unbelief in other supernatural phenomena… Another common supposition – that of the purposeless unbeliever, lacking anything to ascribe ultimate meaning to the universe – also does not bear scrutiny”.

Read it all.

Posted in Atheism, England / UK, Other Faiths

(PRC FactTank) Biden is only the second Roman Catholic president, but nearly all have been Christians

Much has been written about President Joe Biden’s Catholic faith. He often speaks of his religious convictions and quotes the Bible, and he attends Mass regularly.

Although about one-in-five U.S. adults are Catholic and Catholicism has long been one of the nation’s largest religious groups, John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic president until Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20. Aside from Biden, only one other Catholic, John Kerry, has been a presidential nominee on a major party ticket since Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and many have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations.

Read it all.

Posted in Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Let us pray – the gift of life from the Church of Scotland

From here:

We praise you, living God
And cry: ‘Abba’, Father!
For you are the One who creates life
And loves all that your hand has made.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, living Christ
And confess that Jesus is Lord!
For you are the crucified and risen One
Through whom we have peace with God.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, Spirit of the living God
And thank you that we are adopted as children of God.
For you are the One who shares in all our struggles
And inspires in us hope.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
And worship and glorify your name.
We cry: ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.’
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Posted in --Scotland, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Yahya Cholil Staquf–How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical

The world isn’t going to banish Islam, but it can and must banish the scourge of Islamic extremism. This will require Muslims and non-Muslims to work together, drawing on peaceful aspects of Islamic teaching to encourage respect for religious pluralism and the fundamental dignity of every human being.

The most enduring way to address an extremist religious ideology is to recontextualize its teachings and reform it from within. Four centuries ago, Catholics and Protestants routinely killed each other; now they coexist. I believe the same type of change can occur within Islam in one or two generations. What’s needed is a credible alternative that is consistent with Islamic orthodoxy and developed and promulgated by those with religious and political authority in the Muslim world.

Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest independent Muslim organization, for which I serve as general secretary, is promoting such an alternative. Positioned firmly within the spiritual, intellectual and legal traditions of orthodox Sunni Islam, we recognize that much of the fiqh constitutes not the unchanging, spiritual essence of religion, known as thawabit, but rather its historically contingent expressions, or mutaghayyirat. These latter expressions of Islam may be changed.

Countless Indonesian Muslims have taken up this task of reform in recent decades. Starting in the 1980s, prominent heirs to this tradition led Nahdlatul Ulama officially to sanction collective ijtihad: the application of independent reason to renew temporal elements of fiqh and ensure that Islamic teaching and practice embody universal love and compassion, the primary message of Islam.

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Commentary) Adam White–The Turn Against Religious Liberty

America’s history of tolerance and accommodation, which the late Justice Ginsburg invoked at oral argument, reflected America’s constitutional institutions. When legislators representing diverse people and values meet on equal footing to debate and deliberate, the product is informed by values of toleration. The legislative process’s inherent tendency toward compromise and moderation is itself a crucial institution for the perpetuation of tolerance. But in dominance, intolerance.

And when Americans see the lawmaking power as a weapon to be won in warlike presidential elections and then wielded against one’s opponents for the four years that follow—not the shared responsibility of legislators—they too lose their capacity for tolerance and their memory of toleration.

Rebuilding that capacity, and restoring that memory, requires a return to Madison—not a “Madison’s Razor” of Rakove’s creation, but the genuinely republican constitutional institutions that Madison himself labored to help create, and the republican virtues that Madison knew undergirded those institutions.

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

(The World) Undeterred by ICC decision, Uighurs hail EU, UK steps toward holding China accountable

After more than 70 years of Chinese rule over the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, there’s mounting evidence that in recent years, their occupation has intensified into an environment of strict surveillance, with more than a million Uighurs held in internment camps.

Reports show many are forced to pick cotton and work in factories that supply international brands and that some Uighurs are even subjected to forced sterilizations and organ harvesting.

For several years, Beijing repeatedly denied those allegations, while companies like Nike said they’ve made sure they’re not using Uighur slave labor. But some recent developments suggest 2021 may see a breakthrough in the Uighurs’ long struggle for justice, with help from a new group of international lawmakers.

“I’m accusing the Chinese authorities of the worst crime of the 21st century. I am also accusing the international community for being a part of this crime, for abetting it through its silence,” European Parliament Member Raphaël Glucksmann of France said during a Dec. 17 debate, through an interpreter. “I’m also accusing Nike and other multinational corporations that are taking advantage of slavery.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “broken partnership” with House of Bishops

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead theHouse of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England.

Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and
marriage is in marked contrast to theHouse of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with theHouse of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Ecumenical Christmas Letter 2020

As the early teacher of our faith Justin Martyr wrote:

He became a human being for our sakes, that becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. (Second Apology, Chapter XIII)

Christ came to a suffering world to bring healing, reconciliation and hope. As I hear stories of the response of the Church to human suffering in different parts of the world I see that hope made real. Churches and individual Christians are reaching out in love to those in need: most often not from a position of power, but in vulnerability. That is exactly the sort of love that we celebrate at Christmas. Love that gets its hands dirty. Love that is open and generous. Love that, without great ceremony, makes a difference. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, shines even in the darkest times: for that we are thankful and in that we rejoice.

For many in different parts of the world this will be a different Christmas. I pray that wherever Christians are they may find that hope, comfort and joy that comes from Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Advent, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas, Ecumenical Relations, Theology

(WSJ) Timothy Dolan and Toufic Baaklini–Remember the Persecuted at Christmas

For the first time in their lives, millions of Americans have been ordered by their government not to attend church. For millions of persecuted Christians across the globe, this is the only reality they know.

The theme of persecution lies at the heart of the Christmas story. The Holy Family were forced to flee their native land due to state-sponsored oppression. As citizens of a global superpower whose lawmakers are responsive to their citizens, we are called to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians. The U.S. government has shown during this difficult year that it is responsive to such advocacy.

The House unanimously passed a resolution in November calling for continued humanitarian assistance to Christians, Yazidis and other communities that survived the ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria. Also last month, the State Department and the Polish government hosted the third annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, an international forum for governments and civil society.

At the same time, 2020 has presented unprecedented challenges for persecuted Christians world-wide.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) Jessica Hooten Wilson reviews Esau McCauley’s new book ‘Reading While Black–African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope’

What does it mean to exercise hope while reading the Bible? Esau McCaulley approaches this question through the perspectives and questions Black readers bring to the interpretation of scripture. Reading While Black is a much-needed addition to the shelves of hermeneutic resources available to preachers, students, and teachers. Its insights, although designed for Black readers, should be read by others as well.

As a military spouse who attended many events meant for the wives of soldiers, McCaulley learned that there are advantages to being the one man listening to the conversations in a room full of women. In this book, he offers a similar advantage to White readers: the chance to visit a majority Black space and see how Black people talk differently than they would if they were the minority in the room. For both insiders and outsiders to its conversations, Reading While Black opens up fresh ways of seeing ancient truth.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper front page) Summerville Ministerial Association sees Unity Services as a way to fix cultural gaps

During the Unity Services lunch, the tables aren’t separated by church or race.

“Whatever comfort zone we had was torn down,” [Louis] Fowler said. “It wasn’t a racial thing. It was fellowship.”

Simmons agrees. Having the chance to bring up subjects like Floyd’s death is what really pulled him in. He is new to the Ministerial Association and has only been the pastor of Central Missionary Baptist for two years.

While connecting with different community members through the Unity Services, he is able to relay how serious and scary things like police violence can be for the Black community.

“Those are tough subjects to talk about,” he said. “But that’s what Christian unity is all about.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ecumenical Relations, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews ‘J.I.Packer – His Life in Thought’ by Alister McGrath

McGrath outlines Packer’s views on a number of issues. He was an enthusiastic champion of the Puritans, believing that they have much to teach us today. As McGrath puts it, Packer believed ‘the wisdom of the past can be re-appropriated by today’s Christians allowing it to enrich and challenge our own ideas and lives’. Although McGrath does not draw the parallel, there is much in common with Packer’s approach and the way of ‘ressourcement’ advocated by Catholic theologians who sought to learn from the early church and whose work was a major influence at Vatican II.

To the wider Christian community Packer was known as the author of ‘Knowing God’. This book really expressed the heart of Packer’s theology. Knowing God does not just mean knowing about him; to know God is to enter into a transforming relationship. His account of what it means to know God is cognitive, experiential and relational. There is an emotional element as in all close personal relationships and also deep change within us just as those we love change us.

As years went by, Packer gained a reputation as a conservative in the church. Many were surprised that he cooperated with two Anglo-Catholics, Eric Mascall and Bishop Graham Leonard, in opposing Anglican-Methodist reunion but Packer saw both Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics as allies in defending orthodoxy and the importance of doctrine in Christianity. He would have no truck with the WCC slogan ‘doctrine divides, ministry divides’. This led him to play an important role in the dialogue between evangelicals and Roman Catholics in the US.

It could be said that conservatism led Packer to a progressive attitude to ecumenical relations with Catholics. He showed the same progressive attitude in his readiness to engage with the charismatic movement although early life he opposed the holiness teaching of the Keswick Convention.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Books, Evangelicals, Theology

(WSJ) Christopher Caldwell–Macron Seeks an Enlightened Islam

Devout Catholics have often chafed under laïcité. But having either lived through or studied the Dreyfus era, they understood laïcité’s historic logic. Today’s young Muslims have no such folk memory. And history has moved on. In 1905, mass movements—socialism above all—were ready to provide antireligious muscle for the state. Today they are weaker, and they face a different religion, one that does not feature “turn the other cheek” among its precepts.

Nor does Islam have any hierarchy through which the state’s commands can efficiently resonate. When Combes told the church to close thousands of schools, bishops obliged. Laïcité requires such institutional interlocutors. Where France once tore down Catholic institutions, it must now build up Muslim ones. The CFCM is one example. As part of his antifundamentalist push, Mr. Macron has called for more Arabic instruction in schools.

The French leaders who invented laïcité knew the church. They were often lapsed Catholics themselves. Now when they sing the praises of an “Islam of the Enlightenment,” one wonders whether this is a realistic prospect or a figment of their ideological imaginations. Muslims may prefer the real Islam they have studied and lived to the licensed, accredited Islam of “Republican values” that Mr. Macron is proposing.

Every Western country has a version of this problem. All our treasured “values” were formulated for a society more uniform and more orderly than today’s. Why do we assume these values will survive diversity? Why does France assume that a system devised to subordinate its historic religion can serve just as well to mediate between its more recent secularism and a (rising) foreign religion? For a long time laïcité has rested less on its own logic than on the forbearance of its citizens. Under conditions of globalization, mass migration and the ethnic and religious recomposition of that citizenry, such forbearance can no longer be assumed.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(BBC) France launches checks on dozens of mosques

The French authorities have launched inspections of dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of links to Islamist extremism.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced the crackdown, saying some could be closed if found to be encouraging “separatism”.

It comes a week before the unveiling of a new law to combat such extremism.

It is a response to attacks in October, blamed on Islamists, including the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty.

In a note to regional security chiefs, reported by French media, Mr Darmanin said there would be special checks and surveillance for 76 mosques and prayer halls, 16 of them in the Paris region.

He ordered “immediate action” concerning 18 of them, with the first checks set to be done on Thursday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Rowan Williams–The Joy of Jonathan Sacks

Just over twelve years ago, Sir Jonathan Sacks, as he then was, gave an address to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops—the first Jewish speaker to be invited to this event. He spoke with all the energy and clarity he invariably displayed as a lecturer, and had a palpable effect on all. The atmosphere of the conference was a bit fragile—a lot of absentees, frustration on the part of many that we were not planning to pass resolutions, even a cynicism that the event was an exercise in evading unwelcome decisions. We were discussing the idea of an Anglican “covenant” to affirm the vision (and the limits) of our shared identity, often with more heat than light.

Jonathan (unprompted by the organizers) spoke precisely about covenant, and transformed the word for us. From the Jewish point of view, he said, a covenant could be a “covenant of fate,” a solidarity grounded in shared trauma and pain, or a “covenant of faith,” the free decision to risk mutual commitment and to be implicated in one another’s acts and sufferings. The unchosen common experience of slavery in Egypt was the foundation of one profound strand in Jewish identity; but only at Sinai, when Israel says yes to God’s invitation to seal the human side of the covenant, is the full nature of covenantal identity established, as the people make their promise to one another as they do to God.

He had spelled out some of this a year or so earlier in what is surely one of his best books, The Home We Build Together. In it, he explains how social solidarity cannot be secured just by the market, or just by the coercive authority of the state; it needs the conscious investment of covenanting with one another for the common good. This is significantly more than just a social “contract” because it presupposes a continuing sympathetic regard for one another, a willingness to make constant adjustments to maximize the well-being of the community as a whole. It needs attention, flexibility, and, above all, loyalty.

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Serbia coronavirus: The Church losing its leaders to the pandemic

Few organisations have taken a bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic than the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Over the past two months, Covid-19 has deprived the religious institution of its top leadership in both Serbia and Montenegro. But critics say the blows are self-inflicted, with traditional acts of worship the likely cause of infection.

The chain of events is extraordinary:

Last month, the Church’s senior bishop in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije, died after contracting coronavirus
Then, the Church’s leader, Patriarch Irinej, tested positive for Covid-19 days after presiding at his colleague’s funeral, and died
Last week, Bishop David of Krusevac, who conducted part of the service marking the Patriarch’s death, confirmed that he had contracted coronavirus for the second time
Amfilohije’s successor in Montenegro, Bishop Joanikije, has been unable to take up his duties due to his own struggle with the disease
Regardless of the decimation of its leadership, the Orthodox Church remains central to many people’s lives. And while schools in Serbia have mostly moved online because of the epidemic, communion is still performed in person, often in breach of the ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Serbia

(LA Times) Muslims reel over a prayer app that sold user data: ‘A betrayal from within our own community’

Five times a day, tens of millions of phones buzz with notifications from an app called Muslim Pro, reminding users it’s time to pray. While Muslims in Los Angeles woke Thursday to a dawn notification that read, “Fajr at 5:17 AM,” users in Sri Lanka were minutes away from getting a ping telling them it was time for Isha, or the night prayer.

The app’s Qibla compass quickly orients devices toward the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia — which Muslims face when praying. When prayers are done, the in-app Quran lets users pick up reading exactly where they left off. A counter tallies the days of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Listings guide users to halal food in their area.

These features make it easier to practice the many daily rituals prescribed in Islam, turning Muslim Pro into the most popular Muslim app in the world, according to the app’s maker, Singapore-based BitsMedia.

But revelations about the app’s data collection and sales practices have left some users wondering if the convenience is worth the risk.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(RNS) Katelyn Beaty–Carl Lentz and the ‘hot pastor’ problem

Granted, churches can’t control whether church members find a pastor attractive. Physical appearance aside, power, talent and money — all of which can come with a megachurch pastorate — are pretty intoxicating, too. What churches can control, or at least monitor and scan for in hiring decisions, is whether a pastor clearly wants to be found desirable. Professor and author Alan Noble said it well, that he can tell when “ministers desire to be desired. … The way the person carries themself, dresses, speaks, gestures, and posts images signal to me that the(y) desire other people to desire them.”

This desire is at the heart of the hot pastor formula. Megachurches recruit spiritual leaders who are designed to be found desirable by congregants. Their mission becomes bound up in their need to fill their ego, a need to be loved and desired.

Christian humility is about forgetting oneself. “True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself,” writes the Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller, who has planted several successful churches in New York himself. “In fact, I stop thinking about myself.”

It’s hard for anyone standing under the bright lights of a megachurch stage to forget about themselves. Maybe the problem isn’t the hot pastors like Lentz but a toxic megachurch culture that makes narcissism a prerequisite.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(WSJ) Some Churches Push Back Against Coronavirus Restrictions

Religious leaders in Europe and the U.S. are pushing back harder against coronavirus restrictions than during the pandemic’s first wave, invoking their right to religious freedom and arguing churches are safe.

Protests in France and Britain, where bans on communal worship are now in place, have brought governments to the negotiating table with religious leaders. The Catholic diocese of Brooklyn, one of the largest in the U.S., is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court against numerical limits on worshipers.

Church leaders were largely deferential during the spring lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19. Many are taking a different tack now, convinced churches shouldn’t be treated more strictly than secular activities.

“We have demonstrated, by our action, that places of worship and public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission,” wrote a group of British faith leaders to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Gareth Atkins’ new book ‘Converting Britainnia – Evangelicals and British Public Life, 1770-1840’

‘God Almighty has set before me two great objectives’, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary in October 1787, shortly after his conversion, ‘the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners’. As Gareth Atkins comments in this wide-ranging account of evangelical influence on public life in England from 1770 to 1840, it is important not to let the spotlight fall only on Wilberforce or his allies in Parliament. Historians have often failed to give enough attention to extensive networks that supported Wilberforce and to the care he took to form alliances with other groups that were not completely of his way of thinking.

Not that Atkins seeks to play down Wilberforce’s importance. The picture he paints of a politician seeking lobbying William Pitt and others to influence legislation as well as trying to secure promotion for evangelicals in the church is extraordinary. His energy was enormous. Atkins describes the money and support he raised to secure re-election to his Yorkshire constituency and in an amusing touch adds that the evangelical author, Hannah More, was so anxious about the outcome that she had to be prescribed opium.

Wilberforce’s evangelical faith did not mean that he could not be forceful and cold-blooded if he situation demanded it, even thinking about wrecking an opponent’s career. ‘It is the fashion to speak of Wilberforce as a gentle, yielding character’, remarked one official at the Colonial office, ‘but I can only say that he is the most obstinate, impractical fellow with whom I ever had to do’.

But supporting Wilberforce and the other ‘saints’ in Parliament were large networks of evangelicals which Atkins describes in the church, in the City, in the empire, in the Royal Navy and in the East India Company.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture

(Theos Think Tank) Zaki Cooper–A Tribute to Rabbi Lord Sacks

For all his intellectual prowess, Rabbi Sacks was not a bookish don, who wanted to hide away in an ivory tower. He engaged with people, and was interested in meeting them, and learning from them. He developed a worldwide following. It included princes, Prime Ministers and other leaders but also multitudes of people without titles, people of all faiths and none. One of his many catchy sayings was “good leaders create followers, great leaders create leaders.” He was not talking about himself, but he could have been. He had millions of followers but at the same time also acted as a spur to inspire a generation of rabbis, teachers and community leaders.

One of the notable things in the last few days have been the many, many stories of the way so many people were touched by him, on a personal not just an intellectual level. When someone had a bereavement or another personal crisis, he was there for them. When they got engaged or a baby was born, again he was there for them. He understood human joy and pain and found the right words to augment the former and assuage the latter. He was a man of compassion and kindness, described by the Jewish Chronicle in a tribute editorial as “a mensch.” He was steadfast in Orthodox Judaism, but incredibly non–judgemental about Jews who were not as religious. At his core, he was a family man, who was devoted to his wife of over 50 years, Elaine, who sustained and supported him, as well as his three children and many grandchildren.

Rabbi Sacks was a one–off. His death leaves a huge unfillable hole. Jews, he once said, have not been so much interested in “the idea of power, but the power of ideas.” Through his incredible legacy, we will continue to learn from him and be inspired by his ideas, as future generations of disciples, of Sacks–ites. Whilst his death is painful, we must celebrate the majesty of his achievement and life.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Judaism

A Special Tribute to JI Packer is coming Wednesday

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education

(Churchman) J I Packer–Expository Preaching: Charles Simeon and ourselves

[Charles] Simeon himself is our example here. The feature of his preaching which most constantly impressed his hearers was the fact that he was, as they said, “in earnest”; and that reflected his own overwhelming sense of sin, and of the wonder of the grace that had saved him; and that in turn bore witness to the closeness of his daily fellowship and walk with his God. As he gave time to sermon preparation, so he gave time to seeking God’s face.

“The quality of his preaching,” writes the Bishop of Bradford, “was but a reflection of the quality of the man himself. And there can be little doubt that the man himself was largely made in the early morning hours which he devoted to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures. It was his custom to rise at 4 a.m., light his own fire, and then devote the first four hours of the day to communion with God. Such costly self-discipline made the preacher. That was primary. The making of the sermon was secondary and derivative.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Preaching / Homiletics

John Piper on Charles Simeon: We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering

He grew downward in humiliation before God, and he grew upward in his adoration of Christ.

Handley Moule captures the essence of Simeon’s secret of longevity in this sentence: “‘Before honor is humility,’ and he had been ‘growing downwards’ year by year under the stern discipline of difficulty met in the right way, the way of close and adoring communion with God” (Moule, 64). Those two things were the heartbeat of Simeon’s inner life: growing downward in humility and growing upward in adoring communion with God.

But the remarkable thing about humiliation and adoration in the heart of Charles Simeon is that they were inseparable. Simeon was utterly unlike most of us today who think that we should get rid once and for all of feelings of vileness and unworthiness as soon as we can. For him, adoration only grew in the freshly plowed soil of humiliation for sin. So he actually labored to know his true sinfulness and his remaining corruption as a Christian.

I have continually had such a sense of my sinfulness as would sink me into utter despair, if I had not an assured view of the sufficiency and willingness of Christ to save me to the uttermost. And at the same time I had such a sense of my acceptance through Christ as would overset my little bark, if I had not ballast at the bottom sufficient to sink a vessel of no ordinary size. (Moule 134f.)

He never lost sight of the need for the heavy ballast of his own humiliation. After he had been a Christian forty years he wrote,

With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God’s having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually. (Carus, 518f.)

Please do read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

John Stott gives an introduction to the life and work of Charles Simeon

John Stott on Charles Simeon at Taylor University from Randall Gruendyke on Vimeo.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals

Charles Simeon as described by (Bishop of Calcutta) Daniel Wilson

He stood for many years alone, he was long opposed, ridiculed, shunned, his doctrines were misrepresented, his little peculiarities of voice and manner were satirized, disturbances were frequently raised in his church or he was a person not taken into account, nor considered in the light of a regular clergyman in the church.

–as quoted in William Carus, Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. Charles Simeon (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), p.39

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Charles Simeon

O loving God, who orderest all things by thine unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see thy hand; that, following the example and teaching of thy servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve thee with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Spirituality/Prayer

(RNS) After Nice attacks, Pope Francis and French Catholics call for peace with Muslims

After a man killed three people Thursday (Oct. 29) at the Catholic cathedral in Nice, France, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the French Catholic community, offering prayers for the victims as well as wishes that “the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

The attack, one of three on Thursday attributed to Muslim extremists, took place in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice as a man reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” stabbed the cathedral’s custodian and two women, one of whom was taken to a nearby café but later died, according to The Associated Press.

“It’s a moment of pain, in a time of confusion,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni in a statement to reporters. “Terrorism and violence must never be tolerated. Today’s attack sowed death in a place of love and consolations, such as the house of the Lord.

“The pope is informed of the situation and is close to the grieving Catholic community,” the Vatican statement continued. “He prays for the victims and their loved ones, so that the violence will cease, and they may return to see each other as brothers and sisters and not enemies so that the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(BBC) Vienna shooting: Austria hunts suspects after ‘Islamist terror’ attack

A gunman shot dead by police has been identified as a 20-year-old “Islamist terrorist” who was released early from jail in December.

Two men and two women died of their wounds after gunmen opened fire at six locations in the city centre on Monday evening.

Twenty-two people were wounded.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the four who died were an elderly woman, an elderly man, a young male passer-by and a waitress. Witnesses described how the gunmen had opened fire on people outside bars and chased them as they fled inside.

It was clearly an attack driven by “hatred of our way of life, our democracy”, the chancellor said. He earlier spoke of a “repulsive terror attack”.

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Terrorism