Category : Other Denominations

(America) Remembering Johann Baptist Metz

Like so many of his generation, he took as his theological labor interpreting and promoting the theological riches of Vatican II. Along with Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, O. P., and others, he was a cofounder of the journal, Concilium, which had this purpose.

For him, in particular, this work meant helping the Catholic Church make the transition from the seamlessly Catholic world of Auerbach to the techno-scientific, multicultural, religiously pluralistic and often secularized world of today. In the 1960’s he became one of the founders, along with Jürgen Moltmann and Dorothee Sölle, of a theological approach called “political theology,” which he himself named the new political theology, in order to distinguish it from the work of Nazi legal theorist, Carl Schmitt.

Political theology was a prophetic protest against the privatization of Christian faith: the reduction of its scope to one’s relationship to God and one-on-one ethical behavior towards others. For Metz, religion in general and Christianity in particular, is inherently political.

So too is Christian theology. Christianity’s privatization, Metz warned, is a principal way that it has been domesticated in the modern world, with the church too often going along, explicitly or tacitly. Yet Christian faith was not for him simply a source of meaning or a social glue in society; it was not a kind of sacred canopy, as sociologist Peter Berger once put it, a religious authorization or echo of what is going on in society anyway.

Religion is, rather, for Metz, provocative and interruptive. It breaks through our self-reliance and self-satisfaction, attitudes often purchased at the cost of ignoring the suffering of those put on the margins of society or who had been left beaten on the side of the road in its march of progress.

Remembering them is dangerous, but these dangerous memories are liberating. And they are ultimately sustained by the dangerous memory of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised by the God of the living and of the dead. It is a memory that can give rise to great hope, but only if it is put into practice, a “combative hope,” as Pope Francis puts it.

Metz followed these insights with thoroughness and integrity, realizing that for a German the dangerous memory above all others had to be the memory of the Jews and the fate they suffered under the Third Reich. He will be remembered for insisting that Christian identity, “after Auschwitz,” can only be reconstructed and saved together with the Jews and by retrieving the lost or suppressed roots of Christian faith in Judaism.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Roman Catholic, Theology

(VN) Pope Francis receives Archbishop Welby at Casa Santa Marta

[Yesterday]…afternoon, 13th November 2019, Pope Francis received in audience His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by His Grace Archbishop Ian Ernest, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and Representative of the Anglican Communion to the Holy See.

During the friendly discussions, the condition of Christians in the world was mentioned, as well as certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan.

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that if the political situation in the Country permits the creation of a transitional government of national unity in the coming 100 days, according to the timing set by the recent agreement signed in Entebbe, in Uganda, it is their intention to visit South Sudan together.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic

(NPR) U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops Elect Their First Latino President: Archbishop José Gomez

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops selected Archbishop José Gomez as their next president Tuesday, making him the first Latino leader of a group whose roots stretch back more than 100 years.

“I promise to serve with dedication and love, and to always try to follow Jesus Christ and seek his will for his Church here in the U.S.,” Gomez said, calling his election an honor.

Gomez, 67, has been the archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S., for most of the past decade. His previous posts include stints in Denver and San Antonio, Texas.

Read it all.

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

(JE) Chinese-American United Methodist Leaders Celebrate Traditional Plan, Reject “Resistance” Movement

At its recent biannual meeting, the General Assembly of the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church almost unanimously approved a resolution declaring support for the February 2019 UMC General Conference’s adoption of the Traditional Plan. The resolution also very broadly rejects actions of “resistance” to the decision that have been promoted by liberal white American caucus leaders and bishops in recent months.

The full text of this brief resolution, entitled “A Statement On Faithful Forward,” is as follows: “In light of the resistance to the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference in favor of the Traditional Plan, the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church makes this open statement: We support the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference and disagree with all actions contrary to the 2019 decision.”

This was approved on October 19 with 41 votes in favor, not one opposing vote, and just three abstentions.

The resolution was presented by the caucus’s Immediate Past Chair, the Rev. Dr. Peter Lau. Despite the same last name, he is no relation to the caucus’s current chair, Pastor Puong Ong Lau.

The National Chinese Caucus includes all of the Chinese-speaking United Methodist congregations scattered around the United States (mainly serving immigrant populations), as well as a number of Chinese American clergy and laity from other congregations. It convenes a General Meeting and Leadership Training Event for dozens of Chinese-American United Methodist leaders every other year.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(WSJ) Russell Moore on an important new law that prevents discrimination against Catholics and evangelical Protestants in adoption services

It’s no secret what happens when faith-based providers get pushed out. A year after Boston stopped working with them, the percentage of youth in foster care who left the Massachusetts system because they aged out rose more than 50%. With fewer available homes to place children in, aging out is one of the worst outcomes as it increases a child’s likelihood of homelessness and unemployment. The rate still has not returned to pre-2006 levels. In 2011 Illinois passed a law discontinuing its partnerships with faith-based agencies—then lost more than 1,500 foster homes between 2012 and 2017. All this when the world desperately needs more providers.

And it made this week’s news even more encouraging. On Thursday, the White House announced a new rule that will help faith-based organizations remain a vital part of the child-welfare system. The Obama-era provisions redefined federal nondiscrimination policies in a way that excluded faith-based groups. The new rule brings regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services back in line with all other federal nondiscrimination law and Supreme Court precedent.

This is not a narrowing rule that excludes gay people and others from serving children. Instead, the regulation merely ensures that no one is kept from serving, while ending an attempt to stop religious organizations from doing so consistent with their convictions. It’s a welcome statement that the child-welfare system is about the welfare of children—not proxy culture wars.

Communities of faith have a lot to offer to children in foster care. Barna research shows that practicing Christians may be more than twice as likely to adopt compared with the general population—with Catholics three times as likely and evangelicals five times as likely.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A Homily for All Saints Day from Pope Benedict XVI

Our Eucharistic celebration began with the exhortation: “Let us all rejoice in the Lord”. The liturgy invites us to share in the heavenly jubilation of the Saints, to taste their joy. The Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly. We are unacquainted with the faces and even the names of many of them, but with the eyes of faith we see them shine in God’s firmament like glorious stars.

Today, the Church is celebrating her dignity as “Mother of the Saints, an image of the Eternal City” (A. Manzoni), and displays her beauty as the immaculate Bride of Christ, source and model of all holiness. She certainly does not lack contentious or even rebellious children, but it is in the Saints that she recognizes her characteristic features and precisely in them savours her deepest joy.

In the first reading, the author of the Book of Revelation describes them as “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rv 7: 9).

Read it all.

Posted in Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ecclesiology, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

(UMNS) Bishop Kenneth H. Carter reflects on the journey to the United Methodist General Conference in 2020

UM News: What do you make of the responses to the special General Conference both in the U.S. and the central conferences?

Carter: I preached in three successive churches the next three weeks in Florida — Ft. Myers, Clearwater, Jupiter. And I found increasingly that many people felt like they needed to create a counternarrative, to say, but that’s not who I am, or that’s not who our church is in the U.S.

Now many people were in favor of the outcome. Many traditionalists were. I found that they needed a great deal of, at times, pastoral care. They just felt like they were the object of this response, this emotionally intensive response.

And then many LGBTQ persons and some who talked to me were wondering: Do I have a future in the church? Can I go through the candidacy process for ministry?

UM News: I’ve heard from a number of Africans who feel like they’re being blamed for what happened. But of course, Africans are about a third of the voters. What are you hearing?

Carter: So some of the African leaders have talked to me about a couple of things. One, just that their experience is that the U.S. church at times exports its divisions into the African context. The second thing they sometimes say is that they are more than one-issue people. The connection is important in Africa because, for many African leaders and people, mission is not ideological. It’s life and death.

It’s whether you have water or a hospital or access to education for a girl or child. And so that conversation is maturing. I would say the strength of the African relationship to the United States (and I wrote about this in the summer) is the incredible missional partnerships that exist between annual conferences of the U.S. and Africa, and they’re mutual.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

(Vatican News) Abrahamic religions: no to euthanasia, assisted suicide, yes to palliative care

“We oppose any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician-assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.”

Representatives of the Abrahamic religions made the statement in a position paper that they signed and released in the Vatican on Monday regarding end-of-life issues, such as euthanasia, assisted suicide and palliative care.

The term, Abrahamic monotheistic religions, derives from the Old Testament biblical figure Abraham who is recognized by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others.

They categorically condemned any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CT) At the Upcoming Amazon Synod, Roman Catholic Leaders Are Discussing Married Priests, Female Church Leadership, and Climate Change

Right now, the Roman Catholic Church leaders are in the midst of a three-week long meeting discussing the future of their ministry in the Amazon. Among the issues the synod is investigating are how church leaders should respond to chronic priest shortages, the role of women in official church leadership, and environmental degradation.

Under the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, synods—or meetings convening all of the top brass of the Catholic church—were largely symbolic, says Christopher White, the national correspondent for the Catholic publication Crux. Not so with Pope Francis.

“His two synods on the family wrestled with, among other issues, communion. And in the end, after two synods and two years of deliberation, Pope Francis issued a document that allowed for a cautious opening to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, which did move forward the Church’s pastoral teaching on that particular issue,” said White.

White suggested that the Amazon synod may conclude with similar progress.

“Among the many issues that they’re going to be discussing in Rome over the next three weeks is perhaps relaxing the celibacy requirement for priests because there is such a shortage of priests in the particular region of the Amazon. And they’re grappling with what to do about it,” he said.

White joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the real or symbolic importance of synods, what makes the Amazon region particularly vexing to the Church, and why Protestants should stay abreast of an important Catholic meeting.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

(BBC) Pope Francis in Africa: Is the continent the Catholic Church’s great hope?

Pope Francis begins a three-nation visit to Africa later on Wednesday.

It will be his fourth visit to the continent since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, compared to the two his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made during his eight-year papacy.

The importance of Africa to the Catholic Church can be summed up in a word – growth.

Africa has the fastest growing Catholic population in the world, while Western Europe, once regarded as the heartland of Christianity, has become one of the world’s most secular regions, according to the US-based Pew Research Center.

And many of those who do identify themselves as Christian in Western Europe do not regularly attend church.

In contrast, Christianity, in its different denominations, is growing across Africa. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2060 more than four in 10 Christians will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Globalization, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A Forward in Faith Statement on the Anglican-Methodist Proposals

In our own February 2018 statement, we noted questions about whether the proposals would lead to unity, and whether the office of ‘President-bishop’ (to be held for one year only) could be recognized as a ‘local adaption’ of the historic episcopate of the catholic Church. We are grateful to note some progress with regard to the question of unity, but our question as to whether what is proposed is in fact episcopacy remains.

Our third and greatest concern was about the proposal to set aside the requirement that those who minister as priests in the Church of England should have been episcopally ordained to the office of priest. In response to this concern, which was shared by others, the General Synod asked the Faith and Order Commission to ‘explore and elucidate further the relationship between episcopal ordination and eucharistic presidency’. That the Commission has not attempted to offer such an elucidation is a deep disappointment.

The requirement of episcopal ordination was fundamental to the 1662 settlement, which is in turn fundamental to Anglican identity. The Preface to the 1662 Ordinal makes clear that this requirement is a matter of doctrine. If this doctrine is set aside for a ‘temporary’ period that could last for sixty or seventy years, as is proposed, it will effectively have been abandoned. If a central tenet of Anglican doctrine can be abandoned in this way, what other tenets of Anglican doctrine might follow?

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Methodist

(UMNS) In-Sook Hwang on the Way forward for United Methodists

We wait for people to fill our pews. We say, “Our doors are open. We welcome you. We are friendly people IF you look and act like us. We accept you IF you agree with us about what to believe and how to live.” We have forgotten how Jesus reached out to people. He walked in towns and along seashores and visited people in their homes. Jesus ate with sinners, touched the untouchable and healed the sick. We also have forgotten how John Wesley reached out to people. He came out of the church building and became a walking church in the middle of fields where poor and marginalized people were.

Just as Jesus Christ was the bridge between God and all humanity through his incarnated life, the church’s role is to connect God and people. It takes risks, sacrifice and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to break down walls and barriers and to build bridges.

Inclusion is easy to talk about, but hard to practice.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Stephen Mannion on the Way forward for United Methodists

Here is what I want to communicate to the reader: This denomination needs to unite! We unite, as United Methodists, around the Book of Discipline. That is what sets us apart as a denomination. I have never seen a denomination completely disregard their defining document to the extent I have seen in my short stint as a United Methodist. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).

A relativistic, obey-it-if-you-like-it treatment of a denomination’s defining document leads to nothing but chaos. As someone who was reared Lutheran, was Roman Catholic, attended a Presbyterian seminary, was licensed with the Church of the Nazarene and ordained in a non-denominational setting, I have never seen such disregard toward a governing document, and such a lack of respect for the lawmaking body elected and charged to form that document. This is why we are in this position now.

This is my advice, for what it’s worth: United Methodists must decide who we are and begin to consistently uphold and enforce it. To do so is not unloving or ungracious, but orderly and consistent. The denomination went too long passively upholding its foundation of unity, and is now a hot mess.

My first impressions of The United Methodist Church: It is one dysfunctional family. But there is hope. God will have the victory! Praise be to God! His mercy endures forever! The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church!

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

An NPR article on United Methodists and the Future

Many of the U.S. meetings were marked by sharp exchanges between progressive and conservative delegates, with presiding bishops trying in vain to keep the discourse civil.

“I beg of you, listen with open minds,” implored Bishop LaTrelle Easterling on the opening day of the Baltimore-Washington conference, as she convened a session on the divisive issues facing her Methodist family.

Before long, however, the deep disagreements over LGBT issues became clear. Rev. Kevin Baker of Olney, Maryland, representing the “traditional” UMC view on marriage and sexuality, objected to the suggestion that the church’s position means it does not welcome LGBT people. “The narrative that I know is that we want all people here,” Baker said, “but that we see that God calls us out of behaviors that are not in line with his words.”

A few feet away, Rev. Michele Johns of Silver Spring, Maryland, identifying herself as Queer, grew visibly upset at the suggestion that God does not approve of her behavior.

“I don’t know how much more I can bear listening to hate,” she said. “I don’t believe God hates me. I believe there are those in the Methodist church who do. And I feel it. Right now, I feel it.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Pope Francis: Church of Acts a paradigm for every Christian community

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see the early Christians listening to the apostolic preaching, practicing “a high quality of interpersonal relationships through communion of spiritual and material goods”, remembering the Lord in the celebration of the Eucharist, and dialoguing with God in prayer.

The communitarian dimension of the Christian community stands in marked contrast to the individualism of the world, the Pope said. Through the grace of Baptism, Christians were able to share what they had – not only the word of God, but also material goods – with their brothers and sisters in need. It is precisely because of “the way of communion” and concern for the needy that the Christian community “can live an authentic liturgical life,” the Pope explained.

Finally, the Pope said, the story of the early Church reminds us “that the Lord guarantees the growth of the community.” Remaining united to God and to one another is an “attractive force that fascinates and conquers many”.

Read it all.

Posted in Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(Vatican News) Vatican document on gender: Yes to dialogue, no to ideology

The third main section of the document offers the proposal that comes from Christian anthropology. “This is the fulcrum on which to support” an integral ecology of man. The document recalls the verse from Genesis, “male and female He created them”. It argues that human nature is to be understood in light of the unity of body and soul, in which the “horizontal dimension” of “interpersonal communion” is integrated with the “vertical dimension” of communion with God.

Turning to education, the document stresses the primary rights and duties of parents with regard to the education of their children — rights and duties which cannot be delegated or usurped by others. It also notes that children have the right to a mother and a father, and that it is within the family that children can learn to recognise the beauty of sexual difference.

Schools, for their part, are called to engage with the family in a subsidiary way, and to dialogue with parents, respecting also the family’s culture. It is necessary, the document says, to rebuild an “alliance” between family, schools, and society, which can “produce educational programmes on affectivity and sexuality that respect each person’s own stage of maturity regarding these areas and at the same time promote respect for the body of the other person.”

Read it all.

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

(LC) Will debate over embracing a New Sexual Ethic Affect Episcopal-Methodist Communion?

Nearly a century of ecumenical dialogue between Episcopalians and Methodists is approaching a crossroad. In May, United Methodist bishops cleared the way for a 2020 General Conference vote on a full communion agreement that would allow the two churches to share clergy. If the Methodists approve the proposal, the Episcopal Church could take it up at General Convention in 2021.

But the proposal faces new obstacles in the wake of the Methodists’ bitterly contested Special Conference in St. Louis in late February. At that meeting, the UMC reaffirmed its stance barring “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordained ministry and toughened sanctions for clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings.

Some now worry full communion could become a casualty of tense, politically charged times in churches at risk of breaking apart. But others say it is time to keep building on ecumenical momentum and not let sexuality debates interfere with a larger witness.

“There will have to be a great educational plan for people to understand it and to not let the one discussion derail the other discussion,” said Bishop Gregory Palmer, cochair of the Episcopal Church–United Methodist Dialogue Committee, which moved full communion forward at an April meeting in Austin.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

([London] Times) Pope Francis is interviewed by the Archbishop of Canterbury

A groundbreaking video message by the Pope has been recorded by the Archbishop of Canterbury on his personal mobile phone during private talks in the Vatican.

It is the first time an Anglican archbishop has interviewed a pope, and marks an extraordinary warming of relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches as well as the personal friendship between the two church leaders, who have met five times. In the video, to be broadcast to a rally of Christians in Trafalgar Square next month, the Pope expresses his support for a campaign, launched four years ago by the Most Rev Justin Welby and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, to mark the 11 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost as a time of intensive prayer for Christians across the world.

The campaign, called Thy Kingdom Come, will focus on empowering Christians to be witnesses for their faith. It offers themes that they can explore on each of the 11 days. These include the person of Jesus, thanks, being sorry, offering, praying for someone, help, celebration and silence. The days of prayer will be marked in 114 countries, with much of the material being distributed online. Resources will be published in seven languages on various websites. About 65 Christian denominations, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists and the Salvation Army, have agreed to take part.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic

A pastoral word offered by the United Methodist Council of Bishops

There is a sense among the Council that we are in untenable times. To this end the Council is exploring models and plans of new forms of unity, including work being done in Africa, Europe, the Western Jurisdiction, a new Methodism, the gifts of the black church, among creative experiments in annual conferences and a connection of new expressions of United Methodism.

The Council has nominated a Servant Listening Team to accompany these conversations across the church. At the same time, the whole Council is called to a season of deep listening.

We grieve the brokenness in our relationships, and confess that we are complicit in this. Amidst pervasive dynamics of “evil, injustice and oppression” in the church and the world, we pledge to work for reconciliation in order to demonstrate the way of Christ, which is to love and serve one another. As we approach Pentecost, we call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit to “make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.”

Read it all and there is a UMNS article there.

Posted in Methodist, Religion & Culture, Theology

(United Methodist Theologian) William Abraham–Mountains are there to be Climbed: The Next United Methodism

Our critics have effectively framed the debate in terms of inclusion and exclusion.[4]This is a godsend because it allows them to run a narrative about slavery and women in ministry that puts us on the defensive. It allows them to exploit the natural opposition to any idea of exclusion, for the default position will always initially be in favor of inclusion. It also allows a virtuous narrative about the moral arc of history which requires that we be identified as obsolete and out of step with the times. Add to these considerations that the default position in explaining the Traditional Plan will be to latch on to the ‘punitive’ provisions and the picture of the traditionalist makes everyone cringe. Add a further element, namely, the idea that the very discourse of exclusion is a source of pain, hurt, and even trauma, and we are dragged deeper into a black hole from which there appears to be no escape….

This whole way of thinking needs initially to be seen for what it is, namely, a toxic combination of persuasive definition, virtue-signaling story-telling, and fallacious reasoning. The ultimate issue for the conservative is none of these moves, much less a combination of them. The crucial issue at the end of the day is one of faithfulness to our Lord and to the tested tradition of the church. The failure to recognize this is an egregious error. It is the old game of Sein and Schein, much practiced by the mode of thought beloved of the Frankfurt School of philosophy, so that what seems to be true is not true. Of course, what counts as faithfulness is contested. And, of course, it would be wonderful if we could find a neutral ground on which this contested issue could be publicly resolved. However, the disagreement goes all the way to the bottom so that appeals to the Gospel, notions of justice and equality, scripture, tradition, experience, reason, inclusion, and the like, have been exhausted. To speak technically, ‘faithfulness’ is an essentially contested concept. However, to ignore that faithfulness is the real issue for conservatives is to poison the wells at the outset. Moreover, to frame the Traditional Plan as being essentially punitive is to miss the point at issue. The real issue is accountability to church teaching and practice. Failure to frame this issue initially in this way constitutes an elementary blunder in the interpretation of what is at stake. To put it simply, conservatives are not for sale precisely because they believe for better or worse that they cannot among other things walk away from our Lord’s teaching on marriage. So generally, we need to repudiate aggressively the persistent practice of describing our position in ways that we find utterly fallacious and unconvincing.

A couple of further points stand in the neighborhood. The whole effort to present our position as one of causing harm is also a toxic way to proceed. Thus we are constantly scolded and reprimanded because our discourse and speech is intrinsically harmful; merely to take the stance that we do and to speak as we do is the cause of pain and trauma. It is small wonder that in these circumstances we simply stay quiet and say nothing. Here we face an unavoidable dilemma. We speak, and we are accused of causing harm; we stay silent, and we are accused of collusion with oppression. At one level, the best policy is simply to stay silent, for this way we avoid causing pain; we simply take a hit on being accused of collusion. What is happening here is there we are forced to fight a blindfold battle because the terms of the dispute are never clarified.[5]

Perhaps we can make progress on this front by means of several distinctions. In this respect I intend to operate at a more neutral level.

What is at issue here is the complex nature of identity. At one level, it is perfectly obvious that gender identity cuts deeply into the experience and conception of ourselves as persons….[6]

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Methodist, Theology

Pope Francis’ Easter 2019 Homily

Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones? Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he comes to make all things new, tooverturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?

Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction: the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!

There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Pope Francis, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–What can happen when a Pope kisses your feet?

It was moving to watch Pope Francis kiss the feet (or, to be absolutely accurate, the shoes) of the warring leaders of South Sudan last week. In human terms, it was particularly touching because the Pope is an old man, so his physical effort added to the gesture of humility.

As it happens, I met one of those leaders, Riek Machar, when I visited South Sudan a few years ago. Despite holding a PhD in “Philosophy and Strategic Planning” from the University of Bradford, he is something of a rough diamond. I would not have risked kissing his feet myself. But that, of course, is only 
the more reason for Pope Francis 
to have done so: great sinners have great need.

The story of South Sudan shows how much divine help is required. 
At the time I met Dr Machar, his country had just emerged from many years of tyranny under the government of North Sudan – whose appalling ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was finally removed in a coup last week after 30 years of wrongdoing. South Sudan thus became a place enjoying new freedom.

That feeling came partly from the fact that it is mainly Christian: the Khartoum government which oppressed it had once harboured Osama bin Laden. It was run by extreme Islamists who persecuted Christians. So when the leaders of this new Christian country later turned on one another and began killing, this represented spiritual as well as political failure.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(America) What does Catholic Social Teaching say about the economy? It’s more complicated than you think.

The political common good is of interest to the church because it is an incomplete but real fulfillment of the eschatological unity to which we are all called. The comparison with the unity of Jesus and the Father calls attention not simply to outcomes but also to the character of relationships. “Gaudium et Spes” states that humans “cannot fully find themselves except through the sincere gift of themselves” (24). Finally, “Gaudium et Spes” challenges limited notions of the common good, expanding it beyond the local community or nation, making clear that we have rights and duties regarding the “whole human race.”

In its treatment of the role of the church in the contemporary world, “Gaudium et Spes” considers and distinguishes economic and political aspects of society, which it discusses in separate chapters. As the theologian David Cloutier notes, each has its own associated good. The treatment of economics focuses on the universal destination of goods, and the discussion of the political order centers on the common good. Here we find the oft-excerpted definition: “The common good embraces the sum of those conditions of social life whereby men and women, families and associations may more adequately and readily attain their own perfection” (74).

Lifted from its context, there is always the danger of reading “conditions” here as if they are purely external situations in which we pursue individual flourishing. But the context in the document makes clear that the common good is the collective work of the community. Individuals, families and groups “are aware that they cannot achieve a truly human life by their own unaided efforts. They see the need for a wider community, within which each one makes his or her specific contribution every day toward an ever-broader realization of the common good” (74). Awareness of this need drives the establishment of various forms of government or “political community” that exist “for the sake of the common good.” This expresses the ancient Catholic judgement that government is not a response to human sinfulness but an essential consequence of our social nature created by God.

Thus, Catholicism views the common good as a particular kind of good that concerns the whole of society. It corresponds with a particular form of agency: collective and political action. The common good is distinct from the economy but related to it as both address different aspects of social life.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Roman Catholic

Terry Mattingly–After wars over Bible, marriage and sex: is Union possible for Reappraising Episcopalians and Methodists?

So far, leaders on the United Methodist left haven’t announced plans to leave. But that doesn’t mean that Episcopal clergy and other liberal Protestant leaders shouldn’t be prepared to help United Methodists who come their way, said the Rev. David Simmons of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, Wis., a leader in several regional and national ecumenical efforts.

“We have to start with the fact that lots of United Methodists are really hurting,” he said, in a telephone interview. “What we should be doing is providing a safe harbor. Our primary motivation shouldn’t be to grab members from other churches. … If we do that then we’re not being a safe harbor. We can’t go around saying, ‘United Methodists hare having trouble, so let’s recruit them.’ ”

Thus, Simmons recently posted an online essay entitled, “How to Deal With Methodists at your Red Church Doors” – referring to the front doors at most Episcopal parishes. His subtitle was even more blunt: “Don’t be a Jerk.” His suggestions to Episcopal leaders included:

* Remember that Methodists have their own traditions and history. It’s wrong to hand them a Book of Common Prayer and try to instantly “make them Episcopalians. … ANY language about ‘Coming Home’ or ‘Returning to the Mother Church’ is harmful, insensitive and historically inaccurate, since American Methodism and the Episcopal Church are both technically equal children of the Church of England.”

* “Lay off the smugness!” Episcopalians, for example, should not brag about “how much further ahead we are” on LGBTQ issues, noted Simmons. Some United Methodist congregations have “been way ahead of us in this in spite of the discipline of the UMC. … Don’t attempt to score cheap points….”

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

More analysis on the United Methodist Special General Conference–Riley Case

One would wish a report of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis February 23-26 could be made that would go something like this:

The United Methodist 2019 special called General Conference is over. Charged with directing the church on a Way Forward and after nearly three years of discussion, meetings and prayer, the conference debated several options and finally chose the Traditional Plan as its directional path for United Methodism’s future. The plan calls for reaffirming the church’s historic stance on marriage and human sexuality but added several accountability features that should help to reinforce the church’s connectionalism in matters of faith and practice. The final decisions were painful for numbers of persons who wished the conference might have taken a different direction but there was a sense that because this conference was bathed in prayer, the decisions made represented God’s will for the church at this time. The conference closed with the singing of the Doxology and a commitment that United Methodism was now ready to walk in unity and direct its energy toward its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

That report, unfortunately, is not the one being made. It is true the conference was held after nearly three years of discussion, meetings and prayer. It is true the Traditional Plan was chosen. But It is also true that the General Conference decisions were not the decisions preferred by bishops nor Mainstream UMC nor the Association of UM Theological Schools nor the presidents of UM-affiliated colleges nor a number of church agencies nor various progressive caucuses nor the several thousand visitors recruited by gay advocate groups who were in the stands to celebrate what they believed would be the church’s new movement toward sexual permissiveness. These people and groups were (and are) unhappy. The unhappiness was expressed on the final day when progressives sought to create as much confusion as possible in hopes that the Traditional Plan would not be able to come to the conference floor for a vote. The unhappiness was also expressed at the close of the conference when, instead of singing the doxology at the close of the final session with a prayer of blessing on the church, the chair of the session honored an earlier request by the “leadership team” of the Western Jurisdiction to be given the floor of the conference. It was at that time the “leadership team” basically announced as a Jurisdiction they did not intend to abide by the decisions of the conference. With that the conference ended.

Time for reflection.

The conference from the evangelical or traditionalist perspective.
The church has reaffirmed its historic stance. It was under great pressure to go in a different direction but the center held. The secular press and others may even pronounce the conference as a victory for conservatives. In the church we ought not to be talking about victories and defeats. We want the church to unite and be Christ’s presence in the world. We do not wish to be known for our infighting. Having said that, it can be said that the historic moral and doctrinal teachings of the church are still intact. And that is a positive.

Also a great positive; we are demonstrating that we are a global church. United Methodism outside the United States is growing and is in the process of assuming more leadership in the connection. The African presence had much to do with the outcome of the conference. In that respect the future for United Methodism is bright.

The conference from what should be a general unbiased perspective.
If the truth be known; the conference never had a chance to fulfill its purpose to bring together the church in unity. The expectations were unrealistic. There was good talk about A Way Forward and finding a solution that all groups in the church could live with but the goal was an impossible goal given the present divisions in the church. The one solution that might have promised some hope was one that would involve some form of amicable separation, but the bishops would not allow that solution even to be considered. It is premature to assess the General Conference as a failure (despite the cost of 6 or so million dollars and much time and effort) since it is quite possible that out of the ashes of St. Louis there may now be a willingness to consider options that previously have been ruled off-limits. But that is not apparent at the moment.

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A CNA Article on the recently concluded United Methodist Special General Conference

A major gathering of the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed its teaching on homosexuality, rejecting same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals, prompting predictions that some American congregations who reject this teaching will leave the denomination.

The international gathering, called a Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC, drew over 800 ministers and lay leader delegates to St. Louis Feb. 22-26.

The debate drew out different approaches to the authority of Scripture, marriage, and sexuality, but ultimately left the ecclesial community’s official teaching unchanged.

Scott Jones of the Methodists’ Texas Conference said the decision resolves a longstanding debate and is consistent with the ecclesial community’s teachings on human sexuality, which it has listed in its Book of Discipline since 1972.

That teaching states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination.

“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth,” said Jones, according to the United Methodist News Service. “I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ.”

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (IV)–Thomas Lambrecht’s summary of the main points

  • By a vote of 438 to 384 (53.3 percent), adopted the Traditional Plan, parts of which will not be able to go into effect because they are unconstitutional. Parts that willgo into effect are:
  • Expanded definition of “self-avowed homosexuals” to include persons living in a same-sex marriage or union or who publicly proclaim themselves to be practicing homosexuals
  • Explicitly prohibits bishops from consecrating bishops, ordaining or commissioning clergy who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals
  • Requires all persons nominated to serve on the annual conference board of ordained ministry to certify that they will uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline’s standards for ordained clergy
  • Establishes a minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding of a one year suspension (first offense) and loss of credentials (second offense)

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (III)–a UMNS postscript article

United Methodists tried to come to terms with a General Conference that was meant to unify but instead underscored divisions and had all sides acknowledging a high level of pain.

“Catastrophic” was the summary judgment of the Rev. James Howell, a Western North Carolina Conference delegate.

“The church as we’ve known it will not be. It’s going to fracture in ways — different ways,” he said.

Patricia Miller served on the Commission on a Way Forward that bishops appointed to help come up with legislative options for addressing the denomination’s impasse on homosexuality, and the Traditionalist Plan she supported prevailed.

“There is no joy for any of us in this whole debate,” said Miller. “It’s painful for all of us.”

The special legislative session was called by bishops to try to deal with the denomination’s long conflict over how accepting to be of homosexuality. General Conference is The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly, comprising delegates from around the world.

In the end, delegates passed by a 438-384 margin the Traditional Plan, which retains church law restrictions against…[homosexual practice] and seeks stricter enforcement.

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (II)–John Lomperis of JE

Here is what WAS passed in the Traditional Plan that the Judicial Council has already upheld as constitutional, and so which will be our new church law before too long:

First, we enacted a Traditional Plan petition (#90032) that clarifies the definition of what we mean when we say we forbid “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” to be ministers, candidates, or appointed pastors in our denomination. It was widely understood what the church meant by this. However, for many years, liberal bishops and others had treated this as a loophole, and claimed that unless even openly partnered gay ministers said the precise words “I am a practicing homosexual” or answered uncomfortable direct questions about their regular “genital contact” with someone of the same sex, then there was “no evidence” that they had actually violated our moral standards. Through such word games, some clergy in some liberal areas have been allowed to remain in good standing while knowingly violating our moral standards. This petition closes this loophole, by saying that from now on, anyone who “is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union,” or “who publicly states that she or he is a practicing homosexual” automatically meets the definition of who is in violation of our ministry standards, with no required further questions about “genital contact” or awkward reliance on whether or not someone says the magic words. This will make enforcement of this longtime standard much simpler and easier to prove than it has ever been.

Secondly, we enacted another Traditional Plan petition (#90044) that limits the ability of bishops to dismiss complaints against clergy accused of wrongdoing. Our process for disciplining wayward clergy begins when someone files a complaint with his or her bishop. However, in recent years, we have seen liberal bishops simply dismiss complaints against clergy who violated sexual-morality standards with which the bishop did not agree. Such abuses of their ability to dismiss complaints had the potential to let each bishop unilaterally both nullify any part of our standards for clergy with which they disagree and also perhaps protect personal friends from facing accountability. But now this petition forbids bishops from dismissing complaints unless the complaints have “no basis in law or fact.” This petition also requires that any time bishops dismiss a complaint, they must share a written explanation with the person who filed the complaint, something which bishops had not always readily done. And all of this also applies to complaints against bishops.

Thirdly, we enacted another Traditional Plan petition (#90046) that reforms the “just resolution” process (the UMC equivalent of out-of-court settlements) that had been subject to such abuse by liberal bishops in recent years. This petition prevents how some liberal bishops had arranged “just resolutions” for violations of our sexuality standards that completely cut out the person who filed the complaint (the complainant) from the process. This new church law makes the complaint filer a party to the process, and requires that “every effort shall be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution before it may take effect.”

Fourthly, we enacted half of another Traditional Plan petition (#90045) on “just resolutions.” This one requires that all just resolutions must “state all identified harms and how they shall be addressed.” This is an improvement over how previous “just resolutions” with clergy who violated our sexuality standards have avoided any pretense of addressing the concerns of the complainants.

Fifthly, we finally adopted another, particularly significant Traditional Plan petition (#90042), that has been filibustered for seven years since the 2012 General Conference, which requires mandatory penalties for clergy found in a church trial to have violated our covenant against performing pastorally harmful same-sex union ceremonies.

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (I)–A NYT Article

After three days of intense debate at a conference in St. Louis, the vote by church officials and lay members from around the world doubled down on current church policy, which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote served as a rejection of a push by progressive members and leaders to open the church to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Now, a divide of the United Methodist Church, which has 12 million members worldwide, appears imminent. Some pastors and bishops in the United States are already talking about leaving the denomination and possibly creating a new alliance for gay-friendly churches.

“It is time for another movement,” the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, said in a phone interview from the floor of the conference. “We don’t even know what that is yet, but it is something new.”

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)