Category : Pastoral Care

(C of E) Statement following IICSA preliminary hearing

Read it all:

Bishop Peter Hancock, lead safeguarding bishop for the Church of England said:

“We welcome the comments today from Fiona Scolding QC* on the wider church hearing scheduled for July which outlined the focus of the Inquiry.

We fully support the emphasis on the present and future of safeguarding in the Church of England which will help with our commitment to make the Church a safer place for all. Miss Scolding QC said the Inquiry will be looking at whether changes being implemented by the Church of England are relevant and purposeful. I believe this part of the Inquiry will be critical in helping us ensure that our safeguarding work is effective and rigorous and that survivors’ and victims’ views are heard.

We continue to be committed to working closely with the Inquiry in a constructive and transparent way.”

*Fiona Scolding is the counsel to IICSA for the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

(Interested readers will note the link to the full transcript of the hearing at the end to read more).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Church Times) More than 100 Oxford clergy criticise bishops’ LGBTI guidance

Their main concern, they write, is with the “direction of travel” of the diocese. “In its desire for new expressions of ‘inclusion’, it could end up excluding those who hold to the traditional teaching of scripture, and doing a great disservice to those of us who experience same-sex attraction.

“We are not here simply stating an aversion to change; we are, however, convinced that failing to hold the Bible’s teaching out to everyone, including those who identify as LGBTI+, is to show a lack of that very love the letter urges us to exhibit.”

The signatories disavow any sense of being “morally superior” and acknowledge that they have “much to learn from others, including those with whom we disagree”; but they conclude that “the issue concerns the teaching of Christ’s Church, however lacking we may be as disciples of Christ. . .

“We would love our bishops to articulate clearly God’s love for us in helping us see both the attractiveness of deep friendships, but also the appropriate setting for sexual intimacy — namely in marriage between a man and a woman. However, if they are unwilling to do this, we would ask them to recognise the seriousness of the difference between us: advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(CT) Skye Jethani–What an alcoholic pastor taught me about administering the presence of God

When Bill finally finished talking it felt like it was my turn to speak, to offer advice, to minister. I stayed silent. I could feel myself shrinking even more within my borrowed chaplain suit. Looking for an escape from the room and the awkwardness, I spoke timidly.

“Thank you for sharing so honestly,” I said. “I appreciate your advice.”

Bill looked away as I rose and moved for the door. Like everyone else in Bill’s life, I knew I’d be more comfortable once I didn’t have to look at him anymore, once he was invisible again. It wasn’t until I grabbed the door handle to exit that I remembered my calling. “In this room you represent the presence of God.” I was not there to represent the chaplaincy office of the hospital. I was not there to represent a young seminary student named Skye. I was there to incarnate the presence of God, if only for a few minutes, to an utterly broken man who had lost his dignity.

I looked back at Bill and was reminded of Peter’s encounter with the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate. “I have no silver or gold,” the apostle said, “but what I do have I give to you” (Acts 3:6). I had no advice or wisdom for Bill, but I did have the presence of Jesus. I could give him that. I returned to my chair by his bed.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

One of my favorite stories of the week–Jermaine Gresham helps out stranger at airport

On Wednesday, Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham helped a random stranger out at the airport.

Delilah Cassidy, an American Airlines passenger, had trouble when her bag came in over the weight limit.

She explained on Twitter that she had just gotten back from Europe and couldn’t pay the $50 the airline was trying to charge her because her cards were being declined, and the airline wouldn’t take cash.

Then a stranger stepped in to help Cassidy.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Pastoral Care, Sports, Travel

(C of E) Towards a Safer Church: Liturgical Resources

Safeguarding resources, for use in churches across the country, including Bible readings, prayers and suggested hymns, chosen in consultation with survivors, have been published…[yesterday].

Many of the resources are already in general use and are supplemented by new material, including prayers suggested by survivors. The materials, to support a variety of pastoral circumstances, range from a safeguarding prayer that could be used to conclude a day of safeguarding training, to a litany of penitence for past failures. They have been put together and published by the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission and commended by the House of Bishops. They will be updated by the Commission as new materials evolve.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Baptist Apocalypse

As a non-Baptist with a fellow Christian’s interest in evangelical battles, I’d like to tell a simple story that describes the Patterson scandal as an inflection point — after which Moore’s kind of Baptist will inevitably increase while Jeffress’s kind diminishes, as the “judgment” that Mohler describes leads to a general reckoning with the pull of sexism and racism within conservative-leaning churches.

But to assume that’s necessarily going to happen is to fall into the same inevitabilist trap that ensnares both arc-of-history progressives and providentalist Trump supporters. Instead it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed. A discredited “old guard” doesn’t automatically lose power; a chauvinism revealed doesn’t just evaporate. And the temptation to dismiss discomfiting revelations as fake news, to retreat back into ignorance and self-justification, is at least as powerful as the impulse to really reckon with the truth.

So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?

For Baptists as for all of us, the direction of history after Trump will be determined not just by Providence’s challenge, but by our freely chosen answer.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Men, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

(CT Gleanings) Southern Baptist Women Launch Petition Against Paige Patterson

A growing group of Southern Baptist women called for Paige Patterson to be removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) on Sunday, due to what they claimed was his “unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality.”

Patterson, one of the most influential leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has faced widespread criticism in recent weeks for old remarks, including a discussion of divorce in cases of abuse and multiple comments on women’s appearances.

“We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks,” stated an open letter to SWBTS trustees, which grew from 100 to more than 1,000 signatories on Sunday night. “No one should.

“The fact that he has not fully repudiated his earlier counsel or apologized for his inappropriate words indicates that he continues to maintain positions that are at odds with Southern Baptists and, more importantly, the Bible’s elevated view of womanhood,” states the letter. “The [SBC] cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way.”

The letter comes from scores of Southern Baptist women, including leaders such as: Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University professor and research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention; Lauren Chandler, an author, worship singer, and wife of The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler; Jennifer Lyell, a vice president at SBC-affiliated B&H Publishing Group; Amanda Jones, a Houston church planter and daughter of Bible teacher Beth Moore; and Mary DeMuth, an author, speaker, and victims’ advocate.

Read it all and there is more related material here.

Posted in Anthropology, Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence, Women

(San Antonio Express-News) Six months later, Sutherland Springs residents count their blessings

Sherri Pomeroy’s hair hung around her face. She took a deep, shaking breath and began to speak.

“Lu White. Robert Marshall. Karen Marshall. Annabelle. Bob Corrigan. Shani Corrigan. Peggy Warden. Dennis Johnson. Sara Johnson. Keith Braden. Joann Ward, with Emily and Brooke. Haley Krueger. Therese and Richard Rodriguez. Karla and Bryan Holcombe. Tara McNulty. Danny Holcombe, and Noah. Crystal Holcombe, with Greg and Emily and Megan. And Carlin Brite ‘Billy Bob’ Holcombe.”

Then 26 soft bell chimes.

And then silence.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Kate Bowler–What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party

A tragedy is like a fault line. A life is split into a before and an after, and most of the time, the before was better. Few people will let you admit that out loud. Sometimes those who love you best will skip that first horrible step of saying: “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” Hope may prevent them from acknowledging how much has already been lost. But acknowledgment is also a mercy. It can be a smile or a simple “Oh, hon, what a year you’ve had.” It does not ask anything from me but makes a little space for me to stand there in that moment. Without it, I often feel like I am starring in a reality program about a woman who gets cancer and is very cheerful about it.

After acknowledgment must come love. This part is tricky because when friends and acquaintances begin pouring out praise, it can sound a little too much like a eulogy. I’ve had more than one kindly letter written about me in the past tense, when I need to be told who I might yet become.

But the impulse to offer encouragement is a perfect one. There is tremendous power in touch, in gifts and in affirmations when everything you knew about yourself might not be true anymore. I am a professor, but will I ever teach again? I’m a mom, but for how long? A friend knits me socks and another drops off cookies, and still another writes a funny email or takes me to a concert. These seemingly small efforts are anchors that hold me to the present, that keep me from floating away on thoughts of an unknown future. They say to me, like my sister Maria did on one very bad day: “Yes, the world is changed, dear heart, but do not be afraid. You are loved, you are loved. You will not disappear. I am here.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) A residential ministry deals with the sex offender registry

Baptist minister Glenn Burns calls the evening of April 7, 2016, the “crucifixion.” It was the toughest test of his 40-year career.

Burns leads a Christian social services ministry in northern Florida called the Good Samaritan Network. Until last April, the nonprofit was headquartered in the town of Woodville, just outside Tallahassee. Its food bank served 7,000 people a month. It also ran a thrift store and a home for women transitioning off the street from sex work. And it operated a Christian home for men reentering society after prison who had no other place to live. Many of them were on Florida’s registry of sex offenders.

It was that last program that got Burns in trouble. As in other states, Florida’s state-run registry puts the names, photos, and addresses of those convicted of sex crimes on a public website. In Woodville, a few neighbors had searched the site and found that 11 of the 16 men at Good Samaritan’s home for ex-offenders were on the list. They called the program to find out why it served people they thought were dangerous. There was a school less than a quarter of a mile away….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(CEN) C of E General Synod to be asked to back rights of people with Down’s Syndrome

Next month’s General Synod will hear a call for the Government to improve the regulation of commercial providers of tests that determine a woman’s likelihood of having a child with Down’s Syndrome.

The call will come in a debate on ‘Valuing people with Down’s Syndrome’ on Saturday 10 February.

The Bishop of Carlisle will move a motion that encourages the Church to ensure that all parishes provide a ‘real welcome’ for people with the condition as well as their families.

Synod will be asked to ‘affirm the dignity and full humanity’ of people with the syndrome, but, reflecting the Church’s opposition to abortion, will call for ‘comprehensive, unbiased’information about it.

A background paper prepared for Synod members ahead of the 2.30pm debate notes that people with Down’s areliving longer than ever before, are receiving better healthcare and are experiencing better social inclusion.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–On the C of E and welcoming transgender people

What, then, should the House of Bishops have done? I think the statement they issued says some helpful and positive things, and I particularly appreciate the focus on the primacy of identity in Christ that is effected by the baptism of believers.

The emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone but on their faith in Jesus Christ. The Affirmation [of Baptism] therefore gives priority to the original and authentic baptism of the individual, and the sacramental change it has effected, allowing someone who has undergone a serious and lasting change to re-dedicate their life and identity to Christ. The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic, and our shared identity as followers of Jesus is the unity which makes all one in Christ (Galatians 3.27-28)

 

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Church Times) Christina Beardsley–The (House of Bishops) decision not to provide a liturgy for trans people undermines the Church’s claim to welcome them

How much better, though, if the Church of England could authorise a form of prayer that busy clergy could take off the shelf when needed.

As well as being convenient for clergy and lay minsters, authorising a liturgy for trans people would also demonstrate that the Church was serious about the welcome mentioned in part one of the motion, aware of trans people’s specific needs, and willing to respond to their requests appropriately.

That was the basis of the Blackburn Motion and it passed by a huge majority in all three of Synod’s houses (Bishops, Clergy, and Laity) seven months ago. Since then, we have heard nothing, until last weekend when The Mail on Sunday leaked the story that the House of Bishops had decided that a liturgy for trans people should, in the Mail’s words, “be blocked”.

A hastily issued statement followed from the Church of England, in response to the leak, which insisted that it was welcoming to trans people, but would not be issuing a liturgy. Instead, clergy were advised to adapt the existing Affirmation of Baptismal Faith rite on these occasions and to be creative. Further guidance is promised later this week.

Like many trans people, I am deeply disappointed, and not a little angered, by this outcome. I’m sure that I will have further reflections once we hear the reasons for this decision, but here are my initial thoughts about what has happened and what we can learn from it….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(C of E) Services to mark gender transition – House of Bishops response

Following the debate and vote at General Synod in July 2017 on Welcoming Transgender People, the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition.

The Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. New guidance is also being prepared on the use of the service.

The paper discussing the decision is now available.

Read it all and follow all three links.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CEN) Andrew Carey–The problem of of defining ‘spiritual abuse’

Spiritual abuse is a thorny and difficult subject.

The recent case in Oxford Diocese was a clear-cut example of spiritual abuse. An Abingdon Vicar took an intense interest in mentoring a teenage boy to the extent of moving into the family home and ordering him to stop an adolescent relationship.

This kind of spiritual ‘mentoring’ in which a priest manipulated a young life under the guise of prayer and counselling resembles ‘heavy shepherding’ — one of the charismatic movement’s worst episodes. But even at the time this was not a very widespread phenomenon in Anglican circles and this kind of controlling behaviour has always been thought to be the preserve of new cults rather than established churches.

But according to an ‘online survey’ (two words that always raise alarm bells for me) conducted by academics from Bournemouth University on behalf of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) a very high number of Christians have personally experienced spiritual abuse.

Of 1,591 responses, 1,002 said they had personally experienced spiritual abuse. This is too high a number to be believable and there must be widespread caution about the survey. In fact, all it is really useful for is to make the point that more research would be extremely valuable with a wider and more representative sample of Christians.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(AI) University of Exeter to offer trauma response training for clergy

Ministers have supported hundreds of people in the UK after traumatic events like terrorist attacks, fires, flooding and revelations of child abuse. The new training will help them support large numbers of people in such circumstances.

Ministers who have worked with communities experiencing difficult situations have helped create the course, which is being run by Dr Christopher Southgate, from the University of Exeter

Clergy were trained in Exeter and Plymouth in November and further training will be held in Cumbria in January, with further courses around England within the next three years.

Dr Southgate said: “Events we have seen this year – the attack in Manchester and the fire in Grenfell Tower – make it clear that this training is very much needed. Horrific situations like this pose challenges for ministers which their current training doesn’t include. We hope this new course will help them feel prepared when their communities are traumatised.”

Read it all.

Posted in Education, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture

(Dio of London) Memory Café: How to Engage with Memory Loss and Build Community

The Vicar of a North London Church has published a new book sharing his experiences of running a Memory Café in his parish in the hope of encouraging other churches to do the same.

The Revd Steve Morris, Vicar of St Cuthbert’s Church in Wembley, established a memory café in May 2015 as a way to help tackle loneliness and isolation in his parish, and enable the church to play a central role in the heart of community life in Brent.

The memory café concept brings together isolated people from different backgrounds and faiths in a safe environment, allowing them to forge connections, share companionship, and keep mentally active and physically fit through chair aerobics and healthy eating projects. Such has been the success of the initiative that St Cuthbert’s have even assembled a memory café choir, which recently performed with the choir of the Metropolitan Police Service.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(ACNS) Anglican commission begins work to develop global safeguarding procedures

An international commission established to make the Churches of the Anglican Communion safe places for children, young people and vulnerable adults has begun its work. The Anglican Communion’s Safe Church Commission was established by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) at its meeting last year in Lusaka; in one of four resolutions on safeguarding.

The establishment of the commission was recommended by the Anglican Communion Safe Church Network – a global group of clergy and laity which “emerged out of a concern that a number of Anglican Provinces have seen highly publicised lapses in behaviour by some clergy and church workers with tragic consequences for those who have been abused.” The network, which was recognised by the ACC at its 2012 meeting in Auckland, “is a growing international group of people committed to the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people involved in churches throughout the Anglican Communion.”

While the network has an on-going brief to educate people about abuse and misconduct in churches, and to equip and support people working to make their churches safe, the commission has been given a specific time-sensitive task.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Violence

An interview with Bishop Clark Lowenfield about Hurricane Harvey

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Pastoral Care

(WSJ) Cardinal Robert Sarah–How Catholics Can Welcome LGBT Believers

Among Catholic priests, one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality is Father James Martin, an American Jesuit. In his book “Building a Bridge,” published earlier this year, he repeats the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers.

Father Martin is correct to argue that there should not be any double standard with regard to the virtue of chastity, which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians. For the unmarried—no matter their attractions—faithful chastity requires abstention from sex.

This might seem a high standard, especially today. Yet it would be contrary to the wisdom and goodness of Christ to require something that cannot be achieved. Jesus calls us to this virtue because he has made our hearts for purity, just as he has made our minds for truth. With God’s grace and our perseverance, chastity is not only possible, but it will also become the source for true freedom.

We do not need to look far to see the sad consequences of the rejection of God’s plan for human intimacy and love. The sexual liberation the world promotes does not deliver its promise. Rather, promiscuity is the cause of so much needless suffering, of broken hearts, of loneliness, and of treatment of others as means for sexual gratification. As a mother, the church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Houston Churches Fight Flooding After Harvey Cancels Services

Almost all Houston-area churches—including the Bayou City’s biggest congregations such as Second Baptist, Houston’s First Baptist, Church Without Walls, Wheeler Avenue Baptist, and Woodlands Church—canceled all Sunday activities as a precaution.

The congregations were glad they did when unprecedented rain levels ended up blocking many routes and leaking into some church buildings by Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“We have five services on the weekend, and I cannot ever remember canceling all services,” said Chris Seay, lead pastor at Ecclesia. “We asked our community to stay home with family and to look out for their neighbors.”

Gregg Matte, pastor at Houston’s First Baptist, spent the weekend checking in with members of his congregation—from elderly evacuees to a local TV meteorologist—with whom he has been texting Bible verses in between broadcasts.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed like that, like I prayed today, just asking God to have mercy on us,” Matte said in a Facebook video Sunday evening. “Just make the rain stop.”

Read it all.

Posted in Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) The black Christian who converts white supremacists by loving them

Whenever white supremacists march to proclaim their Europid purity and superior cranial virtue, they are usually met with an equal and opposite force of scorn and condemnation: protest meets counter-protest; hate meets hate. The result so often is violence and injury, if not death. You can quibble over whether neo-Nazis or Antifa are the more extreme; whether to be anti-black is more evil than those who are anti whoever offends them. Ultimately, it is angry people railing against more angry people; man throwing Molotov cocktails at man; woman spitting venom at woman. And so hate stokes hate; punching and kicking breeds window-smashing and car-burning. The bigots, racists and phobes can shout their disgust, but ‘We the people’ can break bones, too: just “punch a Nazi in the mouth” or ransack his house because “property destruction does not equate to violence“. To hate is to curse, and persecution is murder.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you‘ (Mt 5:44).

There is a black Christian musician by the name of Daryl Davis. He has spent three decades befriending members of Ku Klux Klan, and hundreds have abandoned their white supremacist views because of him. He doesn’t set out to convert them: he goes to their rallies, has dinner with them, listens to them, and talks to them. Instead of protesting and yelling, he gets to know them, and asks: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”

And, of course, they can’t: over time, the white supremacists look into the black man’s eyes, and they see an equal human person.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Fulcrum) Southwark Cathedral and the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance

For some the Cathedral’s approach falls far, far short of what the church should do to welcome and celebrate same-sex couples.  From this perspective, if this is all that can be offered to gay and lesbian couples within the current law then it is, in truth, unjust and insulting.  If even this is not permitted by current teaching and guidance then all talk of “welcome” and “radical Christian inclusion” is simply pious, prelatical platitudes.

For a second group this solution represents an acceptable, even admirable, Anglican via media of legitimate pastoral accommodation and compromise for the sake of unity.  It should, therefore, be commended more widely (as apparently it is to enquiring parish clergy in Southwark dioceses).  It is a good example of what the Bishop of Chelmsford set out as his vision in his March Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod, leading to widespread concerns among evangelicals in the diocese:

Let me plain: LGBTI+ people are welcome in the churches of the Chelmsford diocese. They are welcome and we want to listen to them and work with them so as to find appropriate ways of expressing their love – for it is not good for human beings to be alone – in permanent, faithful, stable relationships. At the moment there is no consensus in the Church of England for those relationships to be formally blessed in Church, or for the Church of England to embrace same-sex marriage, but the current arrangements do welcome lay people and clergy into civil partnerships and there is no reason why prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered.  We do not want same-sex couples to be cut off from the Church, and we want those who come to us seeking God’s blessing for their love to receive the guidance, challenge and support of the Church.

For this to happen, however, it either needs to be clearly shown that such services are (as the Cathedral claims but Davie disputes) within the bishops’ guidance or that guidance needs to be adapted to enable this form of accommodation.

For a third group, however, as the widespread concern among evangelicals in Guildford and Southwark dioceses shows, such services clearly reject the spirit and probably the letter of the church’s current teaching and guidance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(WmTF) Chris Baker–Dog Collars, Tower Blocks and Nation-building

As the traumatic aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues to unfold, the rawness of the anger and grief of the victims of the disaster remans undimmed in the absence of obvious milestones to justice and restitution. A recent Guardian report has looked at the role of the faith communities in the vicinity of the tower since the very earliest hours of the tragedy. They not only co-ordinated emergency relief and ongoing needs such as bereavement and trauma counselling, but now act as a bridge of communication and outreach between local residents and the local authority. Churches and mosques are trusted as safe spaces to not only kick-start the very delicate task of reconciliation, but also in which to hear and hold the rawness of the pain and anger still swirling within the community. They have also offered quiet spaces where many people have come to simply reflect on what this has meant to them, and to remember in silent thought and prayer those who have died, been injured or made destitute.  They know as well that this is no quick fix response, but that they will need to be doing this for many years to come – they are in it for the long haul, long after the media circus has left. In addition, these churches and mosques have also been platforms for a determined denunciation at the corporate greed and inequality that contributes to the housing crisis on cities like London.

Key to the power of these responses has been the renewed visibility of religion and religious identity (already very strong in the North Kensington area) to the external world, especially the media and politicians. One of the most telling remarks from the Guardian piece came from local Methodist minister Mike Long, who said that until a month ago, he rarely wore a dog collar. However, at 4.30 on the morning of the fire he put it on and has never taken it off at any public engagement since. ‘Now’ he says, ‘my role is much more public and I need to be identifiable’.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CT) Mark Yarhouse–Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon

Let’s say Sara walks into your church. She looks like a man dressed as a woman. One question she will be asking is, “Am I welcome here?” In the spirit of a redemptive witness, I hope to communicate to her through my actions: “Yes, you are in the right place. We want you here.”

If I am drawn to a conversation or relationship with her, I hope to approach her not as a project, but as a person seeking real and sustained relationship, which is characterized by empathy as well as encouragement to walk faithfully with Christ. But I should not try to “fix” her, because unless I’m her professional therapist, I’m not privy to the best way to resolve her gender dysphoria. Rather, Christians are to foster the kinds of relationships that will help us know and love and obey Jesus better than we did yesterday. That is redemption.

If Sara shares her name with me, as a clinician and Christian, I use it. I do not use this moment to shout “Integrity!” by using her male name or pronoun, which clearly goes against that person’s wishes. It is an act of respect, even if we disagree, to let the person determine what they want to be called. If we can’t grant them that, it’s going to be next to impossible to establish any sort of relationship with them.

The exception is that, as a counselor, I defer to a parent’s preference for their teenager’s name and gender pronoun. Even here I talk with the parent about the benefits and drawbacks of what they want and what their teenager wants if the goal is to establish a sustained, meaningful relationship with their child.

Also, we can avoid gossip about Sara and her family. Gossip fuels the shame that drives people away from the church; gossip prevents whole families from receiving support.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

NYT:”As Church Shifts, a Cardinal Welcomes Gays; They Embrace a ‘Miracle’”

The word “pilgrimage” usually evokes visions of far-off, exotic places, but for some 100 gay and lesbian Catholics and their families, a pilgrimage to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart here on a recent Sunday was more like a homecoming.

The doors to the cathedral were opened to them, and they were welcomed personally by the leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin. They were seated on folding chairs at the cathedral’s center, in front of the altar in the towering sanctuary, under the blue-tinted glow of stained glass.

“I am Joseph, your brother,” Cardinal Tobin told the group, which included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics from around New York and the five dioceses in New Jersey. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”

The welcoming of a group of openly gay people to Mass by a leader of Cardinal Tobin’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church in this country would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But Cardinal Tobin, whom Pope Francis appointed to Newark last year, is among a small but growing group of bishops changing how the American church relates to its gay members. They are seeking to be more inclusive and signaling to subordinate priests that they should do the same.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CT) Joy Beth Smith reviews Gina Dalfonzo’s book providing an insider’s perspective on the frustrations of long-term singleness in the Church

Somehow, despite many friends getting married, the single among us are still here, clinging to a community that seems to view us as more of a nuisance than a necessity. And we long for a place in the church—besides standing up at the altar while other people’s vows are being exchanged.

Gina Dalfonzo has lived this storyline as well, but a bit longer and with more grace than I have. As a lifelong single, she’s endured passive-aggressive advice, negligent married friends, hurtful generalizations, and the inevitable shaming that comes with prolonged singleness. The path just wide enough for one is familiar to her feet, though not always welcome. But bitterness has no place in Dalfonzo’s journey, and that alone is refreshing.

Her book, One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church, is the result of extensive interviews, hours of research, and years of living the harsh realities the book describes. Dalfonzo highlights the experiences of others as she discusses the state of singleness, touching on everything from the stereotypes and stigmas of the unmarried to the hope we have for a unified church that seeks to celebrate every phase of life.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Young Adults

(The Goodbook) Vaughan Roberts on assisted dying, dignity and dependence

How should Christians bring our perspective into the public debates about assisted dying?

Well for a start, we need to make sure that we are involved in these discussions, even if it’s just closer to home—in our offices, in our communities, among our friends, as well as in the national debate. We’ve got good news to share—so let’s get engaged. So much of this discussion assumes that some lives are just not worth living—and Christians need to say, no, every life has dignity.

Second, we’ve also got something important to say about suffering. Our culture can’t cope with suffering—it wants to reduce suffering as much as possible and at all costs. Christians say suffering is bad—it’s a result of the fall—but God can be wonderfully at work in and through it.

And third, I think one key assumption underlying the argument for assisted suicide is that there’s just nothing worse than being dependent on others. But a Christian worldview says that actually our dependence on God and on one another is fundamental to our humanity. It’s a good thing! Illnesses brings that dependence to the fore, and that can be mutually very uplifting—for the carer and the one being cared for—even in the midst of very hard times. My father found the loss of independence the hardest aspect of his illness to cope with. At the very end of his life he was paralysed and unable to speak. Those last few days were intensely sad and yet also, in a strange way, profoundly beautiful. He had given so much to us and now we in the family had the privilege of caring for him, stroking and kissing him, singing his favourite hymns and praying. Such dependence is not undignified. This is being human.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Books, Children, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Theology

(CT) Sunday Bobai Agang–The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us

I appreciate our Christian patriotic interest in guarding the Christian faith from being supplanted by Islam. However, the church should not allow that concern to distract it from keeping its house in order. God does not call us to compete with Islam. Rather, he calls us to holy living. “It is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Pet. 1:16). As it is, the Christian faith in Nigeria is suffering public disgrace and disrepute because of our lack of self-control, ungodly living, and compromised integrity.

Jesus declared that he is the truth, the way to eternal life (John 14:6). Christians can be confident in our salvation by faith in our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ; we have nothing to fear. Our source of power and authority is God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:18–20). We are given power and authority to combat satanic and demonic oppression, to destroy the works of the flesh, to heal obsession with material things, and to create just structures and systems that guarantee human flourishing. By the power and authority God has vested in us, we have nothing to fear and no excuse for failure. We have in us what we need to create fertile environments for social and spiritual transformation, in Nigeria and around the world.

The fear of an Islamization agenda is very real, but it must not be allowed to distract us from our primary concern: Christlikeness, holy living, hard work, and moral integrity. If we are concerned about the spread of Islam, let us be equally concerned about the lack of Christian public integrity and witness in our society. We must not allow fearmongering or conspiracy theories to prevent us from recognizing the true threat.

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Posted in Christology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(CEN) The Bp of Chichester appoints a LGBTI liaison officer

A Bishop’s Liaison Officer for the LGBTI Community has been appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to ‘build bridges.’

The aim of the post is to identify what ministry among this community ‘might look like if it is to be more effective’ and to provide the bishops and parishes with up to date information about the pastoral needs of LGBTI people.

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, announced the appointment of the Rev Andrew Woodward, Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Kemp Town and Rural Dean of Brighton, as the first holder of the post.

Mr Woodward will help the church to ‘build bridges and enable pastoral support for a substantial group of people who feel the Church is alienated from them. Many feel they are tolerated but not included.’

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture