“The one who has hope lives differently.” – Pope Benedict XVI pic.twitter.com/INLliBhm5L
— Catholic Thinker (@ThinkerCatholic) July 12, 2020
“The one who has hope lives differently.” – Pope Benedict XVI pic.twitter.com/INLliBhm5L
— Catholic Thinker (@ThinkerCatholic) July 12, 2020
Speaking after the Angelus in Rome, the pope said the pandemic had made people reflect on the relationship between humankind and the environment.
“The lockdown has reduced pollution,” he said. It had enabled people to rediscover the beauty of many places free from traffic and noise.
“Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for the care of the common home,” he continued. Mentioning the many emerging grass-roots environmental movements, he called for citizens to be “increasingly aware of this essential common good”.
In Percy’s novels, the heroes do not change the world, and they minimally change their lives and behaviors. What changes is their vision and their motivation. On the outside, Binx Bolling seems to alter very little from the beginning of The Moviegoer to the end: yet, he has opened himself up to the possibility that “God himself is present here.” He is attentive to the possibilities of God’s presence, and thus, not in despair. Barrett goes a step farther by answering his own question, moving from potential to acceptance. In his conversation with Father Weatherbee about marrying Allison, he wonders, “Is she a gift and therefore a sign of a giver? Could it be that the Lord is here, masquerading behind this simple silly holy face? Am I crazy to want both her and Him? No, not want, must have. And will have.”
What changes when we look for God in our daily activities or when we seek his face in those around us? Does it not make a great deal of difference to how you treat your child? For instance, if you see her as participating in God’s incarnation, a fellow pilgrim on the road to paradise, versus your property, your image, and thus your charge to form into a success story? And, when we consider the day before us not as an empty schedule to be filled, but God’s gracious and gratuitous gift of time, how then might we live differently?
With a true vision, we may offer back to the Giver our minutes in gratitude, thankful for what we have been given to love and enjoy. Just as I, in my quiet office alone behind bars of yellow tape, hear the cathedral bells ring, so too, if we all attend more to the bounty than to the deprivation, then, in this season of uncertainty and potential desperation, perhaps it will be possible, even here, to find God?
Read it all from March.
God may be good, family & marriage & children & home may be good, the Thanksgiving table may be groaning with God’s goodness & bounty, all the folks healthy & happy, but something is missing. What’s this sadness here?
— Church Life Journal (@ChurchLifeND) June 6, 2020
Beyond the glass lay a man, unconscious in the electric blue light, shrouded in tubes. His family was not allowed to visit. His body could not be touched.
Father Ryan Connors stood at the door watching, his Roman collar barely visible beneath his face shield.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, he had gone to the bedsides of Covid-19 patients across the Boston area to perform one of the oldest religious rituals for the dying: the Roman Catholic practice commonly called last rites.
For centuries, priests have physically anointed the dying with oil to heal body and soul, if not in this life, in the next. Many Catholics have spent their entire lives trusting that in their most difficult hours a priest, and through him God, would come to their aid.
On this Tuesday morning, in the intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, west of the city, all that Father Connors knew about the patient was his name, and that his family had called for a priest.
He had a clear plastic bag with a cotton ball containing a few drops of holy oil. He carried a photocopy of pages from a liturgical book.
At 10:18 a.m., he slid open the door. He walked over to the bed, careful to avoid the tubes on the ground.
He stretched out his hand, and began to pray….
Jesuit Brian Conley SJ quoted in NY Times article “The Last Anointing” about the importance of the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick to Catholic COVID patients and the challenges faced by hospital chaplains during the pandemic. https://t.co/vKHdmfP2Fg pic.twitter.com/3WD4CgadSA
— Jesuits West (@jesuitswest) June 8, 2020
Pope Francis is to take part in an online service alongside senior UK church leaders, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for the first time.
He is set to call on people to turn away from the “selfish pursuit of success without caring for those left behind” and to be united in facing the “pandemics of the virus and of hunger, war, contempt for life and indifference to others”.
His special message is to mark Pentecost Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.
The virtual service is the finale of this year’s global prayer movement, called Thy Kingdom Come, which is usually filled with mass gatherings and outdoor celebrations involving 65 different denominations and traditions.
It has had to be adapted due to the pandemic so people can take part in their homes.
Pope to take part in online service with UK church leaders for first timehttps://t.co/D4XCASERMB
— Premier Christian (@PremierRadio) May 29, 2020
In her room on Saint Joseph’s, Flo would often stay up until 2 a.m. trying to finish her prayers. For a while, she had run a fever, suffered from diarrhea, and kept coughing, but her symptoms didn’t last long. Surrounded by statues of Jesus and Mary, beneath pictures of her six kids, 23 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, Flo prayed for courage, for the health of the staff, for everybody who was sick in the home. She especially prayed for Karen, her friend from the dining hall. “I was really worried about her. We have different things wrong with us,” Flo told me this week, her voice quiet over the phone. For weeks, she didn’t have much information about how her neighbors were doing, even those who lived just feet away. After a month of separation, toward the end of April, Flo finally left a couple of messages on Karen’s phone.
Since then, the two women have spoken just once, mostly about nothing. They aren’t afraid of death, but they don’t want to talk much about it. Karen told me that she didn’t ask Flo about the coronavirus outbreak, because she was scared she’d start crying. Flo didn’t ask Karen about it either. “Maybe a part of me didn’t want to know,” Flo said.
Karen constantly imagines what it will be like to return to the dining hall when the outbreak is over. Her table, like so many others, will be a little emptier: Pat, who was 87, is among the residents who have died. There was no memorial service where the women could say goodbye to their friend. Pat’s son, a priest in a Delaware beach town, was not even able to celebrate Mass at her funeral.
Both Flo and Karen are lifelong Catholics, and they believe firmly in the promise of Christianity. “When you’re people of faith, heaven is not a scary place,” Karen said. “It’s a place you’re looking forward to, that you’ve been working for all your life.” The residents encourage one another. They’re ready to go home, she said. “Just maybe not today.”
The metropolitan archbishops of England and Wales acknowledged the pain of Catholics who cannot receive the Sacraments because of the coronavirus lockdown in a message issued Friday.
In the message, entitled “A People who Hope in Christ”, published May 1, the archbishops said that while livestreamed Masses nourished faith, they were no substitute for public liturgies.
“None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves,” they wrote. “While the livestreaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”
Writing on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the five archbishops continued: “Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognizes the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts.”
“We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”https://t.co/NE25JkXrh8
— National Catholic Register (@NCRegister) May 2, 2020
Holy Saturday is the day of God’s concealment, as one reads in an ancient homily: “What happened? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and solitude. Great silence because the King sleeps … God died in the flesh and descended to make the kingdom of hell (‘gli inferi’) tremble” (“Homily on Holy Saturday,” PG 43, 439). In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; he descended into hell (‘negli inferi’), and the third day he rose again from the dead.”
Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. At the end of the 18th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we have killed him!” This celebrated expression, if we consider it carefully, is taken almost word for word from the Christian tradition, we often repeat it in the Via Crucis, perhaps not fully realizing what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday: the darkness of this day questions all those who ask about life, it questions us believers in a special way. We too have something to do with this darkness.
And nevertheless, the death of the Son of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive; it is a font of consolation and hope. And this makes me think that the sacred Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with a “positive” and a “negative.” And in effect, this is exactly how it is: The most obscure mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a hope without limits. Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.”
Read it all from Benedict XVI.
#HolySaturday, Sabbatum Sanctum, the day of the entombed Christ, suspended between two worlds, darkness and light. An in-between space where grief and rest can settle upon our hearts. May it be so for us, as it was for the disciples. pic.twitter.com/jUHjc181vh
— Melanie Harrington (Clark) (@revdrmelclark) April 11, 2020
Father Epicoco also noted how often Pope Francis speaks of evil, and he asked Pope Francis where he sees evil at work today.
“One place is ‘gender theory,'” the pope said. “Right away I want to clarify that I am not referring to people with a homosexual orientation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church invites us to accompany them and provide pastoral care to these brothers and sisters of ours.”
Gender theory, he said, has a “dangerous” cultural aim of erasing all distinctions between men and women, male and female, which would “destroy at its roots” God’s most basic plan for human beings: “diversity, distinction. It would make everything homogenous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, on the creativity of God and on men and women.”
Pope Francis said he did not want “to discriminate against anyone”, but was convinced that human peace and well-being had to be based on the reality that God created people with differences and that accepting – not ignoring – those differences is what brings people together.
To some UMC constituencies, particularly those in Africa, the Protocol looks like traditionalists raising a white flag on the verge of victory. With their emphasis on parachurch organizations and networks, the traditionalists seem to have the spirit of the “come-outism” that formed holiness denominations like the Church of the Nazarene in the late 19th century. As Chris Ritter has noted, the rapid growth of Methodism in Africa means that UMC African delegates will soon outnumber all other parties at the General Convention—in which case, they could orchestrate a massive takeover of UMC structures. If only it were that easy.
First, when the UMC was originally formed it had a massive bureaucracy that ultimately morphed into the major agencies currently promoting the national and international mission of the church. Progressives largely occupy the positions within these agencies. This means that any traditionalist victory at a General Conference would be resisted in the official agencies (setting aside the issue of progressives in the Council of Bishops). When you add in the centrists who prefer the status quo of institutional unity driven by theological pluralism, the obstacles become clear. Viewed from this angle, one can understand why traditionalists negotiating the Protocol opted for an exit that would allow them to build a new organizational structure and staff it immediately with like-minded persons.
Second, traditionalists are betting that many local churches will leave to form a new traditionalist denomination. How many, of course, remains to be seen, but the Protocol does not allow local churches or conferences to remain neutral any longer. In its current configuration, the Protocol requires that a choice be made—even if that choice is not to vote and thus remain in the post-separation UMC after the dust settles. The fight will now be taken to the local level.
Finally, there is the question of whether traditionalists want to be stuck with such a heavy bureaucracy even if they could clean house. One consequence of any separation will be dismantling agencies that simply are no longer financially viable. Any churches and conferences left in the post-separation UMC will have to engage in that task quickly if they are to survive.
— Dale M. Coulter (@DaleMCoulter) January 8, 2020
Wait a minute. The crucial language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was just approved this past February? That hasn’t been the language in church discipline documents for many years before 2019 and affirmed in multiple votes?
But here is the most crucial point. What, precisely, are the “fundamental differences” that the United Methodists involved in these negotiations — leaders from left and right — cited as the cause of the upcoming ecclesiastical divorce? Was it really LGBTQ issues, period?
Consider this commentary from David French (an evangelical Presbyterian) of The Dispatch:
The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands — as focused on “LGBT issues” — but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause. …
Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues — even hot-button cultural and political issues — but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.”
Ah, there’s the rub. Who wants to put “Scripture, theology and practice” in a news report — especially at NBC Out and similar structures in other newsrooms — when you can blame the whole denominational war over conservatives refusing to evolve on LGBTQ issues?
After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future? https://t.co/o1OptQUJJ9
— GetReligion (@GetReligion) January 6, 2020
The eight-page statement details the terms of the split for the nation’s largest mainline denomination:
The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.
The protocol will still need to be approved by the UMC’s legislative body, but has unanimous support from a diverse 16-member mediation team, including representatives from “UMCNext; Mainstream UMC; Uniting Methodists; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; the Wesleyan Covenant Association; Affirmation; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world.”
“This is very likely to bring to an end this dysfunction that we have suffered through for the past 47 years,” said Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News and pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands UMC outside of Houston. “We were never going to find a way to move forward together. Our ultimate goal of setting each other free to do ministry as we believe God would have us do has come to fruition.”
The 12.5-million-member UMC has been in a standoff over LGBT issues for decades, culminating in a vote in favor of its traditional position against same-sex marriage and gay clergy during a special session last year. As a result, some left the UMC, some continued to defy the UMC positions outright, and some challenged the legality of the vote in the denomination’s court—ultimately putting the question of how to move forward before the delegation once again in 2020.
The result of months of negotiation, the new protocol creates a quick, “clean break” for a new, traditionalist denomination that has yet to be created but will receive a $25 million sum at its inception.
After years of division within the denomination, this is the latest for The United Methodist Churchhttps://t.co/xB95JVrOLX
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) January 5, 2020
Dear friends, this is the question that the Church wishes to awaken in the hearts of all men: who is Jesus? This is the spiritual longing that drives the mission of the Church: to make Jesus known, his Gospel, so that every man can discover in his human face the face of God, and be illumined by his mystery of love. Epiphany pre-announces the universal opening of the Church, her call to evangelize all peoples. But Epiphany also tells us in what way the Church carries out this mission: reflecting the light of Christ and proclaiming his Word. Christians are called to imitate the service that the star gave the Magi. We must shine as children of the light, to attract all to the beauty of the Kingdom of god. And to all those who seek truth, we must offer the Word of God, which leads to recognizing in Jesus “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
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.
[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.
— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) November 14, 2019
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.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has selected Archbishop José Gomez as their next president — making him the first Latino leader in the group’s more than 100-year history.https://t.co/egvGlQXVqt
— NPR (@NPR) November 12, 2019
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.
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.
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).
— Cathedral Brentwood (@cathedralb1) October 31, 2017
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.
“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.
Leaders from three of the world’s major religions have joined forces against assisted suicide and euthanasia, in a declaration issued at the Vatican.https://t.co/tOw08ASiwp
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) October 28, 2019
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.
The Catholic Church is currently meeting to discuss how to better minister in the Amazon region. One of the biggest issues on the table: climate change and environmental degradation https://t.co/jpeVVurGuy
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) October 10, 2019
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.
Pope Francis in Africa: Is the continent the Catholic Church’s great hope? https://t.co/n3SfiI3LUW
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) September 3, 2019
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?
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.
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!
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.”
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”.
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.”
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.