Category : * International News & Commentary

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Followers of Jesus fail to agree about his homeland

Hundreds of millions of followers of Jesus Christ are about to celebrate the annual feast of Pentecost, which celebrates an event in Jerusalem roughly 2,000 years ago, when it is believed that cultural and ethnic barriers were miraculously overcome. The festival, which falls on May 20th in this year’s western Christian calendar and a week later in the Orthodox one, commemorates what many regard as the establishment of the Christian church. A new kind of divine inspiration, including the ability to communicate with speakers of any language, is said to have come over the disciples who had gathered in the holy city for the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which falls seven weeks after Passover.

So there is sad irony in the fact that people who cherish that sacred story seem more divided than ever, with some rejoicing in Jerusalem’s rising earthly status and others expressing the very opposite view.

Read it all.

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture

The Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing some Ministers and Deacons to conduct same-sex marriages

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.

But commissioners agreed that the committee should only act if, in its opinion, said safeguards “sufficiently protect against the risks they identify”.

The committee will report its findings to the General Assembly of 2020.

The motion calling for legislation to be prepared was put forward by Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark.

It was amended to ensure the committee had the power to recommend withdrawal following a call from Rev Peter White of Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church in Glasgow.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Washington Post) Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101

Bernard Lewis, a preeminent scholar of Middle Eastern history whose work profoundly shaped Western views of the region — including fears of a “clash of civilizations” — but also brought scorn from critics who considered his views elitist and favoring Western intervention, died May 19 at an assisted-living facility in Voorhees, N.J. He was 101.

The death was confirmed by his romantic partner and co-author, Buntzie Churchill, who did not cite a specific cause.

Dr. Lewis’s prolific scholarship — including more than 30 books, hundreds of articles and competence in at least a dozen languages — traced fault lines that define the modern Middle East, such as sectarian divisions, the rise of radical Islamists and entrenched dictatorships, some backed by the West.

Along the way, Dr. Lewis often gained a privileged vantage point for events in the region during a life that spanned the era of T.E. Lawrence, oil discoveries in Arabia and showdowns against the Islamic State.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Middle East, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Married

Prince Harry, 33, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, married Meghan Markle, 36, an American actress, at a ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, which is (you might have guessed) in Windsor, an ancient town west of London.

• Oprah Winfrey was there. So was Elton John. Serena Williams was spotted, as were the Clooneys and the Beckhams. The dress was by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. The big moment was the rousing address by the Most Rev. Michael Curry.

• Harry is now the Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Ms. Markle will be known as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex. For more photos from the royal couple and their wedding, go here.

• In the scheme of things, this particular marriage is not that important. Harry is only sixth in line to the throne. But Ms. Markle is a highly unusual royal bride: She’s American, three years older than Harry, had a high-profile career and is biracial.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Marriage & Family, Politics in General

(Christian Today) Worried Church of England urges ministers against scrapping civil partnerships

The Church of England’s stance on sexuality would be thrown into disarray if the government pushes ahead with scrapping civil partnerships.

Officials within the CofE are urging ministers against the move which came as figures suggest this form of union has been made almost obsolete by the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Civil partnerships legislation was introduced in 2004 to give same-sex couples legal recognition of their relationship without changing the definition of marriage. But the Marriage (Same-Sex couples) Act in 2013 allowed gay couples to marry, or convert their civil partnership into a marriage.

This meant that in 2016 there were just 890 civil partnerships registered in England and Wales, down from 6,305 from 2007 to 2013.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(C of E) Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: £2 maximum stake is ‘right decision’, says Bishop Alan Smith

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, has welcomed Government plans to limit the maximum stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to £2.

Dr Alan Smith said the decision was an “essential” step in curbing the harm done by the machines, which he said have “taken advantage of the vulnerable for too long”.

He thanked ministers for their action, announced today as part of a package of measures in response to a Government consultation.

Bishop Alan had previously written to all members of the Church of England’s General Synod, encouraging them to respond to the consultation with evidence of the consequences of these machines for their communities.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(ABC Nightline) Dying to deliver: The race to prevent sudden death of new mothers

“If I wanted to describe her to someone, I’d describe her as all woman,” Shabazz said. “She was very generous, motivated, dedicated to her family, her work ethic was amazing… she was just a caring loving person.”

Her pregnancy had been going well, Shabazz said. She was not high risk and had been regularly going to her prenatal visits.

“I was excited… because this is what I always wanted, I always wanted a family,” he said.

But during labor, Dickey began having trouble breathing. Within minutes, she went into cardiac arrest and doctors performed an emergency c-section to try to save her and the baby.

“[I thought] this can’t be happening, it seemed like a dream,” Shabazz said. “They asked me to step out. I stepped outside of the room and I could just hear him saying … we’re trying to bring her back, trying to grab a pulse.”

Doctors delivered the baby, but for Dickey, it was too late.

Read it all (the video is highly recommended if you have time).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Women

(Gafcon) Gafcon Installs Primate of Anglican Church in Brazil

On Saturday, 12 May 2018, Brazilians packed the Paróquia Anglicana do Espírito Santo (Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit) to celebrate the launch of the Anglican Church in Brazil and the installation of The Most Rev. Miguel Uchoa Cavalcanti as their first Archbishop and Primate.

In 2005, the Bishop of Recife, The Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, and ninety percent of the clergy of the diocese were excommunicated by the liberal Episcopal Church of Brazil. Though they lost some of their buildings, the Diocese carried on with a robust program of social action, evangelism, church planting, and discipleship. From 2005 to 2009, the Diocese doubled in size. In succeeding years, despite the tragic murder of Bishop Robinson, the Diocese continued to grow, and their leaders worked with the Gafcon Primates to organize the election of a new Bishop. On December 8, 2012, The Rt. Rev. Miguel Uchoa was consecrated as Diocesan Bishop.

Over the next years, the regions of the Diocese of Recife developed into Dioceses. This has led to the formation of a new Biblically orthodox Province which has been recognized by the Gafcon Primates Council not only as part of Gafcon, but also as a Province of the Anglican Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Brazil, GAFCON

(Guardian) Simon Jenkins–‘The Quakers are considering dropping God from their meetings guidance as it makes some feel uncomfortable’

The Quakers are clearly on to something. At their annual get-together this weekend they are reportedly thinking of dropping God from their “guidance to meetings”. The reason, said one of them, is because the term “makes some Quakers feel uncomfortable”. Atheists, according to a Birmingham University academic, comprise a rising 14% of professed Quakers, while a full 43% felt “unable to profess a belief in God”. They come to meetings for fellowship, rather than for higher guidance. The meeting will also consider transgenderism, same-sex marriage, climate change and social media. Religion is a tiring business.

I am not a Quaker or religious, but I have been to Quaker meetings, usually marriages or funerals, and found them deeply moving. The absence of ritual, the emphasis on silence and thought and the witness of “friends” seemed starkly modernist. Meeting houses can be beautiful spaces. The loveliest I know dates from 1700 and is lost in deep woods near Meifod, Powys. It is a place of the purest serenity, miles from any road and with only birdsong to blend with inner reflection.

The Quakers’ lack of ceremony and liturgical clutter gives them a point from which to view the no man’s land between faith and non-faith that is the “new religiosity”. A dwindling 40% of Britons claim to believe in some form of God, while a third say they are atheists. But that leaves over a quarter in a state of vaguely agnostic “spirituality”. Likewise, while well over half of Americans believe in the biblical God, nearly all believe in “a higher power or spiritual force”.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(HC) Houston Area Muslims say retailers can help bring Ramadan into the mainstream

Children’s Ramadan books were stacked on Asma Malik’s dining table, soon to be wrapped and placed in a gift basket. Colorful lights bought during an after-Christmas sale framed a paper plate scissored into the shape of a crescent moon. A similarly handmade message etched in gold on a wall heralded the coming season.

“It’s Ramadan time!!!”

As the sacred, monthlong tradition begins this week for the world’s estimated 1 billion Muslims — and upward of 60,000 across the Houston area — a growing number of Americans who practice Islam are decorating their homes by repurposing items purchased at craft stores and Christmas closeouts. It’s how Malik, 30, has decorated her southwest Houston home for years.

But big retailers now see opportunity as well, following the lead of companies like Mattel, which makes a Barbie with a hijab, and Macy’s, which offers a line of women’s wear designed with Islamic sensibilities in mind.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

(Axios) 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance

(ACNS) Anglican Church of Burundi helps improve rice growing techniques

The Anglican Church of Burundi has been training farmers to improve rice yields as part of efforts to combat food insecurity in the country. The two-year project has been run in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, the overseas development agency of the US-based Episcopal Church. Growing rice has been the main activity for people living along side Lake Tanganyika for many years; but the lack of improved techniques and seeds has caused low production and farmers could not expect to gain much from it.

Through the project, farmers have been trained and equipped with agricultural techniques and materials to improve rice production. “Already the farmers are seeing changes in agricultural production and consequently in their daily lives,” the province said in its newsletter.

“Our situation has improved since we no longer cultivate the rice just for consumption,” farmer Esperance Ndayishimiye, said. “I’m now able to meet easily my family’s needs. I pay school fees for my children. I have bought lands and built houses.” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Burundi, Burundi, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Energy, Natural Resources, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Stewardship

(Christian Today) Meg Warner–The church in crises: How national disasters reveal its surprising necessity

For the nation’s churches, the experience was a little more complicated. Many congregations, of course, were situated near the disaster sites and lost members or suffered as a result of these events in a whole range of ways. But something very positive for the churches happened over that period also. The nation suddenly discovered that churches were there, and that they had some quite valuable things to offer.

This was nowhere more apparent than in the devastating aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire. The difference between the responses of the local council and the churches (together with synagogues and mosques) could hardly have been more marked. Those things that residents immediately looked to the secular authorities to provide – places to congregate, cups of tea, food, emergency supplies, venues for meetings and media conferences, collection and distribution points for donations, a caring word or a hug – were provided instead by the churches. Here was a network of buildings with on-site staff, catering facilities and willing armies of volunteers that could be mobilised at a moment’s notice, even in the middle of the night. Black and purple shirts became familiar, prominent, sights on the news reports in the days that followed – immediately recognisable.

That is not to suggest that the experience was different elsewhere. Following each one of these events churches played a significant role – sometimes observable and sometimes behind the scenes – and this was not lost on the secular authorities in each place. Most cities, towns or areas have disaster-response plans that are made by local authorities, together with policing, fire-fighting and other civic and community organisations. In the past churches have been sometimes consulted and sometimes not. That has changed. Religious leaders are now typically central partners in the making of such plans and religious buildings are being marked for key roles. And now when disasters occur, for the first time, clergy are being invited inside disaster cordons, to counsel and support victims and responders.

Read it all.

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

(Telegraph) Christine Odone–There’s a modern case for marriage – so why isn’t the government making it?

Marriage may have changed over millennia, but it still offers partnership to two individuals. Given that loneliness is the scourge of our times would it not make sense to campaign for a relationship that counters isolation? Even uber-feminists might be reconciled to such a support network.

Then there are the health statistics. Married people are less likely to suffer strokes, stress or heart attacks, and more likely to adopt safer behaviour, like driving within the speed limit, and drinking the right number of units. Studies also continue to show that marriage is good for mental health – boosting confidence and communication skills. Think of the savings to the NHS, if our parliamentarians could fog-horn the benefits of getting hitched.

But it is children, most of all, who benefit from marriage. Children thrive when their biological parents stay together and marriage is almost twice as likely to survive a child’s birth than cohabitation. A recent study found that children of married couples did better on a vocabulary test than those of cohabiting or single parents. Marriage, especially now that it is being freed from expensive trappings like white weddings and Magaluf-bound hen parties, could emerge as the secret weapon in the battle for social mobility.

A social enterprise that promotes well-being normally has politicians rushing to champion it. What are you waiting for, Mrs May? Give us some policies that show marriage tops your agenda. Like the forthcoming Royal Wedding, this is a good news story. That’s a rare thing, these days: let’s celebrate it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General

Diocese of South Carolina Canon Jim Lewis’ letter about Yesterday’s Supreme Court Filing

From there:

Dear Friends,

Today, the Diocese of South Carolina filed a Reply Brief with the U.S. Supreme Courtin response to last week’s Brief in Opposition by TEC.  The Reply succinctly addresses each of TEC’s legal objections to our Petition for Certiorari by the Court and reinforces the appropriateness of their granting review.

The Reply demonstrates that:

1. The State Court ruling does NOT rely strictly upon state law and precedent.
2. Four of the five justices in their opinions demonstrate their reliance upon the “hybrid” approach to neutral principles of law to reach their conclusion.
3. The TEC brief actually affirms the split in the lower courts on this issue, further reinforcing the need for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant our Petition.

The conclusive statement from the Argument is an apt summary.  “Respondents’ remaining arguments against certiorari all lack merit.  Four decades after Jones, the time has come for this Court to bring order out of chaos and resolve the meaning of  the “neutral principles” approach to church property disputes.”

This filing represents the final step before our case will be scheduled for Conference by the Court.  We anticipate that will come in the next several weeks, with a decision on our Petition soon thereafter.

As we now move to the conclusion of this critical process, I would encourage the intentional prayers of you and your parish for a timely conference, a favorable review and the opportunity to argue our case before the court in full.  And continue to pray God’s grace for our legal counsel, in the midst of the many demands of this litigation, to argue effectively in the defense of this Diocese and its congregations.

Easter blessings,

(The Rev.) Jim Lewis is Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court