Category : * Religion News & Commentary

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

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 America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology

A new Book from Tim Keller to be on the Lookout For

Posted in Books, Evangelicals, Theology

Tuesday Inspiration–John Stott on William Wilberforce’s Great Example of Perseverance

It was in 1787 that he first decided to put down a motion in the House of Commons about the slave trade. This nefarious traffic had been going on for three centuries, and the West Indian slave-owners were determined to oppose abolition to the end. Besides, Wilberforce was not a very prepossessing man. He was little and somewhat ugly, with poor eyesight and an upturned nose. When Boswell heard him speak, he pronounced him ‘a perfect shrimp’, but then had to concede that ‘presently the shrimp swelled into a whale.’ In 1789 Wilberforce said of the slave trade: “So enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition…. let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.

So abolition bills (which related to the trade) and Foreign Trade Bills (which would prohibit the involvement of British ships in it) were debated in the commons in 1789, 1791, 1792,194, 1796 (by which time Abolition had become ‘the grand object of my parliamentary existence’), 1798 and 1799. Yet they all failed. The Foreign Slave Bill was not passed until 1806 and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill until 1807. This part of the campaign had taken eighteen years.

Next, soon after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, Wilberforce began to direct his energies to the abolition of slavery itself and the emancipation of the slaves. In 1823 the Anti-Slavery Society was formed. Twice that year and twice the following year, Wilberforce pleaded the slaves’ cause in the House of Commons. But in 1825 ill-health compelled him to resign as a member of parliament and to continue his campaign from outside. In 1831 he sent a message to the Anti-Slavery Society, in which he said, “Our motto must continue to be PERSEVERANCE. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.” He did. In July 1833 the Abolition of Slavery Bill was passed in both Houses of Parliament, even though it included the undertaking to pay 20 million pounds in compensation to the slave-owners. ‘Thank God,’ wrote Wilberforce, that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give 20 million pounds for the abolition of slavery.’ Three days later he died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in national recognition of his FORTY-FIVE YEARS of persevering struggle on behalf of African slaves.

— John R W Stott, Issues facing Christians Today (Basingstoke: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1984), p. 334 (cited by yours truly in the Sunday sermon)

Posted in Church History, England / UK, Evangelicals, Race/Race Relations

Saturday Food for Thought from Harry Blamires

“There is no longer a Christian mind. It is a commonplace that the mind of modern man has been secularized. For…

Posted by Kendall Harmon on Saturday, August 29, 2020

Posted in Books, Secularism, Theology

(AC) J.I. Packer: A Remembrance

Already in his 70s at the time, he preferred not to travel on a Sunday, but to travel earlier and serve a local church on Sunday, preaching to and teaching the faithful gathered in that place. He would fly in on a Friday, spend the weekend relaxing and recreating with us, preach and teach on Sunday, and then head off to CT Monday morning. He was always the perfect houseguest.

The first visit was arranged by my friend and parishioner Mark Galli, then editor at Christianity Today. It was thrilling to have him as a guest and to introduce him to my parishioners. The epistle for that Sunday was from Philippians 4, and he urged us not to neglect the important Christian work of rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness. But it was his second visit, rather the arranging of that visit, that opened a particular window onto his character.

I was in my office at the church one afternoon when the phone rang. I answered and heard a soft, British voice say, “Hello Chip, this is Jim Packer. I hope you remember me…”

I hope you remember me? Are you kidding me? But there you are, Jim Packer was perhaps the least presumptuous person I have ever known. He never felt that the renown his work had earned him was his entitlement to any special recognition or treatment.

Here’s another thing about Jim Packer: that man could eat! I never remember him turning down seconds at a meal, or refusing dessert because he was full. Oddly, he didn’t drink water, didn’t like it at all, but ate his food as spicy as he could get it. Once, at the airport in Dallas, we shared a breakfast of eggs and bacon. Lots of folks, myself included, like a bit of hot sauce on a scrambled egg. I remember Jim drowning his eggs in Tabasco Sauce, creating what looked like a sort of Tex-Mex Egg Drop soup.

Another time, driving from Columbia, SC to Tallahassee, FL for a Prayer Book Committee meeting, we stopped at an old Boarding House restaurant in south Georgia for lunch. At those places, you don’t order, they just bring what they have prepared that day: a variety of vegetables and rolls, and a choice of three meats. Jim chose all three. And when the two dessert options were offered, he asked if he might be permitted to have both.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Canada, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education

(CT) Bruce Hindmarsh–J.I. Packer Was the Robin Hood of Evangelicalism

J. I. Packer was my teacher at Regent College when I was a young graduate student. Some years later, he became my colleague and next-door neighbor in the hallways at the college and a fellow church member at St. John’s Anglican Church in Vancouver. I will forever be grateful to have known him. He shaped my life and thought in many ways, and I am not alone in this experience.

In light of his recent passing, I have been thinking more about his wider legacy and especially his significant contribution to evangelicalism as a whole. In the present political culture, however, the word “evangelical” or “evangelicalism” is freighted with a good deal of baggage that’s worth shedding immediately.

We can do so by going back in time. The Old English word “gospel” never got a proper Old English adjective and had to steal a Greek one: “evangelical.” But the noun and the adjective belong together. And as the great Bible translator William Tyndale put it, “evangelical” is a word that “signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.”

This vibrant relationship between word and life, message and experience, doctrine and devotion was absolutely central to the evangelical movements in Germany and English-speaking lands that emerged at the beginning of the modern period.

Evangelicals today claim some sort of genealogical or theological continuity with these movements. But wherever we see the preaching of Jesus Christ generate new life and set people in joyful motion, that is where we properly use the adjective “evangelical” in its most important and basic sense. It is why we cannot, I think, abandon the term. Again, the words “gospel” and “evangelical” ought always to be kept together. Indeed, Jim Packer played a significant role in evangelicalism over the past six decades precisely because he helped those who identify as social evangelicals to be theological and spiritual evangelicals as well.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education

JI Packer RIP

Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet — which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! — declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 ESV

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr. J.I. Packer, a treasured faculty member, author, churchman, and friend.

James Innell Packer died July 17th in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was ninety-three, and humorous, gracious, and prayerful even in his final days.

One of the most widely-respected systematic theologians of the twentieth century, Jim drew his inspiration primarily from Scripture, but was deeply influenced by the works of John Calvin and the English Puritans. Jim brought seventeenth-century Puritan devotion to life for his twentieth- and twenty-first-century students. While named as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals by Time Magazine in 2005 and author of one of the best-selling Christian books of all time, Knowing God, Jim Packer’s description of himself was as an “adult catechist.” “Theology, friends, is doxology” is a phrase students recall, and in many respects, the adage that shaped his lengthy career.

From his youth as the son of a railway clerk in Gloucester, England, Jim won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he was noted as a remarkable student with a brilliant intellect. Growing up in a nominal Anglican home, Jim became a Christian early in his time at Oxford, largely through the InterVarsity Fellowship Christian Union and St. Aldate’s Anglican Church.

Following his undergraduate degree, Jim taught Greek at Oak Hill Theological College in London. He quickly felt drawn to further study, and commenced his studies in theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was awarded an MA and DPhil, writing his dissertation on Puritan Richard Baxter’s doctrine of salvation under Geoffrey Nuttall. “It was the Puritans,” Jim noted, “that made me aware that all theology is also spirituality.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Church of England, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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