Category : Church/State Matters

A Transcript of Exchanges this past week in Parliament on the Establishment of the Church of England

Lord Lexden (Con): Does my noble friend agree that one of the reasons why an established Church should be retained is that its prelates are needed in this House, not least in order to be held to account for the occasional serious lapse, such as the destruction after a deeply flawed investigation of the reputation of the great Bishop George Bell, who died 60 years ago—an investigation castigated by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in a report published a year ago, to which the Church has yet to make any redress?

Lord Young of Cookham: Well, without getting drawn into the second half of my noble friend’s question, I agree with the first half that it is important that the ​bishops are represented in your Lordships’ House. They add a spiritual dimension to our discussions. They speak with a moral authority that escapes most of us, and they are the only Members of your Lordships’ House with a specific geographical remit.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his affirmation. When the country came together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice earlier this month, the Church of England led events of solemn remembrance and thanksgiving in pretty much every community up and down the land of England. The convening power of the Church in bringing together people of different faiths and none is a central feature of its established status that is greatly valued by those of other faiths, who appreciate such a hospitable establishment. Does the Minister agree that at a time when healing divisions must be a priority in our society, the established Church is a significant force for good?

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues

(Observer) Church and state – an unhappy union?

How is it, they might wonder, in the 21st century, in a country where by every measure the number of people defining themselves as non-religious is growing and the number identifying with the C of E is shrinking, that we have a God-ordained monarchy pledging to preserve the privileges of a religious institution rejected by the vast majority of the population?

According to David Voas, professor of social science at University College London (UCL) and co-director of British Religion in Numbers, there are many ways of defining religious affiliation. “But, very clearly, we’re at a point where, under any definition, a minority of the population – in practice, single figures – is Anglican. There can no longer be a majoritarian argument for an established church.”

The most visible manifestation of establishment, which dates back to the reformation, is the monarch’s dual role as head of state and head of the church. But there are many elements: the 26 seats in the House of Lords reserved for Anglican bishops (the only other country to ringfence seats in its legislature for clerics is Iran); the formal appointment of bishops and archbishops by the monarch; the need for church laws to be approved by parliament; the requirement for the Church of England to minister to the whole population, with every inch of the country divided into C of E parishes; Anglican prayers at the start of parliamentary business each day; the legal requirement for every state school to hold an act of daily worship that is “broadly Christian in character”. The legal prohibition on the monarch marrying a Roman Catholic was lifted only five years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) Giles Fraser–The disestablishment of the church is now necessary and inevitable

I always used to think that no political party would be prepared to give disestablishment the time and effort that it would require. But Prime Minister Corbyn might just be the man to do it. And far from being a fusty move for constitutional committees, disestablishment could be framed as an attempt to rationally redesign a Britain fit for a global role beyond the EU. After all, who needs Christian morality in the age of human rights?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not warm to the state of affairs that I have just described. Indeed, I feel profoundly alienated from such a country. It is just that I think something like this is unavoidable and that the established church has to get ahead of the situation by transforming itself, rather than play a continuous rearguard action against the inevitable.

But there is opportunity here for the church, as well as loss. What we give up is our traditional role as courtiers. Good, I say. The banners of the New Model Army would proudly proclaim that there is no king but Jesus. And to say that Jesus is the supreme authority is to say that no one else can be – not the Romans, not the pope, not the House of Stuart or the House of Windsor. The Church of England was specifically designed to soften that thought, to make it less dangerous. Christians were to be housetrained. We were to give up all our revolutionary talk of bringing God’s kingdom to earth and settle instead for a warm vicarage and being nice to our parishioners. That settlement is about to be ripped up.

I do not believe that disestablishment will revive the numerical fortunes of the church. Looking at our disestablished cousins, I think it may well mean we will decline at an even faster rate – at least in the short to medium term (and that means centuries in church terms). But please, my fellow Anglicans, we need to go before we are no longer welcome. And go in the knowledge that, as people of the resurrection, we do not fear death – either personally or institutionally.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Andrew Carey–Disestablishment is now the only option

It was around the time of the same-sex marriage legislation that it finally became clear that the establishment of the Church of England had become harmful. The very fact that the state had to legislate the so-called quadruple lock, which banned the Church of England from being bound by the state’s redefinition of marriage, highlighted the absurdity of the arrangements.

In turn, politicians themselves are endangering the establishment by their attitudes. Theresa May has every right as a communicant member of the Church of England to an opinion on the theology of same-sex marriage, but no right to use her position as a Prime Minister to prevail or persuade the Church of England. In spite of the headlines, she probably has not overstepped the mark but her colleagues have.

Justine Greening, Equalities Minister, in her enthusiasm for transsexual rights, positively advocates the Church to change its position. Her religious illiteracy was trumped, though, by the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, who famously urged the Church to ‘get with the programme’. Cameron once compared his faith to the dodgy radio reception in the Chilterns – ‘it comes and goes’. And it was Cameron who presided over the ever-building pressure for a change in the Church’s relationship.

By interfering in the Church of England’s own decision-making with his indefensible ‘lock’ he made it impossible to defend the Church’s establishment. His breezy, braying Etonian interventions were representative of religious illiteracy that is now widespread in the Palace of Westminster.

In a matter of five years or so, conservative religious attitudes to marriage are now regarded as extremism or hate speech. The Church of England has no choice but to flee the relationship it has with the state. To stay is to risk having a relationship like the official Chinese church has with the Communist Party.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Disestablishment is now the C of E only option

Justine Greening, Equalities Minister, in her enthusiasm for transsexual rights, positively advocates the Church to change its position. Her religious illiteracy was trumped, though, by the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, who famously urged the Church to ‘get with the programme’. Cameron once compared his faith to the dodgy radio reception in the Chilterns – ‘it comes and goes’. And it was Cameron who presided over the ever-building pressure for a change in the Church’s relationship.

By interfering in the Church of England’s own decision-making with his indefensible ‘lock’ he made it impossible to defend the Church’s establishment. His breezy, braying Etonian interventions were representative of religious illiteracy that is now widespread in the Palace of Westminster.

In a matter of five years or so, conservative religious attitudes to marriage are now regarded as extremism or hate speech. The Church of England has no choice but to flee the relationship it has with the state. To stay is to risk having a relationship like the official Chinese church has with the Communist Party.

We need to beware the temptation of becoming a tame, domesticated state Church that desperately yearns for official approval and gains influence by supporting the short-term interests of politicians. The other danger is to be forced by the state to change doctrine because of the pressure to conform to new secular orthodoxies.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

IRS commissioner promises not to revoke tax-exempt status of colleges that oppose same-sex marriage

After the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, religious leaders feared that religious universities, nonprofits and other institutions could lose their tax-exempt status. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has promised the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee that his agency would not go after the tax-exempt status of religious colleges and universities that oppose gay marriage.

During a hearing Wednesday conducted by the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked Koskinen whether the IRS would “not, in the absence of a directive by Congress or by the courts,” take action to remove religious schools’ tax exemption.

“I can make that commitment,” Koskinen said, explaining that “we see no basis for changing our examination criteria as a result of this Supreme Court case.”

Read it all from the Washington Post.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church/State Matters, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, Theology

Bishop Richard Chartres–The Tenth Anniversary of the London Bombings: A Service of Commemoration

Soon after 7/7 the families and the friends of the victims compiled a Book of Tributes. It is a taste of the ocean of pain surrounding the loss of each one of the victims. The tribute book is also very revealing about the character of the London which the bombers attacked.

The majority of the victims were young. They came from all over the UK and all over the world. There were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Humanists. There are in the book tributes in Italian, French, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Tamil, Polish, Farsi, as well as English.

London is an astonishing world-in-a-city but beyond the diversity the book also conveys a unifying agonised outcry ”“ this was a terrible crime which robbed us of beloved sons and daughters, partners and friends.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(First Things) Dominic Bouck–An America Without Churches?

As the Supreme Court prepares to announce its decision on same-sex marriage, religious people are wondering: will we lose our tax-exempt status for our religious institutions? Justice Samuel Alito raised this question during the oral arguments, citing the 1983 Supreme Court case that ruled Bob Jones University could lose its tax-exempt status if it continued to oppose interracial dating and marriage.

The solicitor general, arguing the case for same-sex marriage, responded that it would “depend on how states work out the balance between their civil rights laws.” This sort of reply should do nothing to calm the nerves of those who object to same-sex marriage. When the conscientious objectors become a minority of the voting population, will our rights be protected?

The issue of the tax-exempt status of religious organizations is already a hot topic in some quarters. Those in favor of taxing religious organizations point out the huge financial impact that it would have, anywhere from tens to hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

The confiscation of church property is no new thing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Irish Times) Voting underway in landmark Irish referendum

Voters will be given two ballot papers: a white ballot paper for the marriage referendum and a green ballot paper for the age of presidential candidates referendum.

In the marriage referendum people may vote Yes or No to the proposal to include a new clause about marriage in the Constitution.

This new clause provides that two people may marry each other regardless of their sex.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ireland, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(GC) Trevin Wax–Why Christian Pastors Are Divided On “The Marriage Pledge”

In Romania, the civil and religious ceremonies of marriage are not the same, due primarily to the fact that evangelical ministers do not have the authority to act as ministers of the state. (And I don’t think my Baptist friends there would accept the authority if it were offered to them.)

Our December 6 journey to the Courthouse with friends, family, and witnesses was a hoop to jump through. We’ve never considered the 6th to be our anniversary because the civil ceremony was simply a precursor to the real moment of marriage, which took place in Corina’s church.

I’m not saying that now is the time for a divorce between civil and Christian marriage. I haven’t signed the pledge. (I’m with Tolkien, not Lewis on this issue.) But I do think we can learn something from brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who have never had nor sought the ministerial privileges of authorizing civil marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Sunday Telegraph) Anglican clergy support greater separation between church and state

More than four in 10 Anglican clergy would support loosening ties between church and state or severing them altogether, a major new study on attitudes in the pulpit in the UK shows.

The research also found that a significant minority of serving clerics would support breaking up the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion and even the Church of England itself along doctrinal lines amid disputes over issues such as homosexuality and the interpretation of the Bible.

Polling by YouGov for the Religion and Society Programme, an academic unit based at Lancaster University, also found that just over half of serving Anglican clergy believe Christians in Britain are suffering discrimination from the Government through the application of equality laws.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

[Christianity Today] "The Wrong Kind of Christian"

A powerful article at Christianity Today by Tish Harrison Warren. The subtitle: “I thought a winsome faith would win Christians a place at Vanderbilt’s table. I was wrong.” It’s an excellent read from one who was at the center of Vanderbilt University’s decision to rescind recognition of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other Christian groups.

Kendall posted several entries on the Vanderbilt situation in 2011-2012. Links here, here, and here.

Tish Harrison Warren/ August 22, 2014
The Wrong Kind of Christian
Image: KEVIN VANDIVIER / GENESIS

I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.

I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.
We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.

Being a Christian made me somewhat weird in my urban, progressive context, but despite some clear differences, I held a lot in common with unbelieving friends. We could disagree about truth, spirituality, and morality, and remain on the best of terms. The failures of the church often made me more uncomfortable than those in the broader culture.

Then, two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians.

[…]

At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression””an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas””then surely they’d see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren’t homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.

But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used””a lot””specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, “Creedal discrimination is still discrimination.”

Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, “But we’re moderates!” We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.

For me, it was revolutionary, a reorientation of my place in the university and in culture.

I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast, and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space.

The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad””not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

The whole article is highly recommended

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Church/State Matters, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture

Peter Berger–Archbishop Welby Smiled; some thoughts on the recent Women Bishops' Decision

Grace Davie, the distinguished British sociologist of religion, has proposed an interesting idea: A strong establishment of a church is bad for both religion and the state”“for the former because the association with state policies undermines the credibility of religion, and for the latter because the support of one religion over all others creates resentment and potential instability. But a weak establishment is good for both institutions, because a politically powerless yet still symbolically privileged church can be an influential voice in the public arena, often in defense of moral principles. Davie’s idea nicely fits the history of the Church of England. In earlier centuries it persecuted Roman Catholics and discriminated against Nonconformist Protestants and Jews. More recently it has used its “bully pulpit” for a number of good causes, not least being the rights of non-Christians. Thus very recently influential Jewish and Muslim figures have voiced strong support for the continuing establishment of the Church of England, among them Jonathan Sacks, the former Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and the Muslim Sayeeda Warsi, currently Minister of Faith and Communities in David Cameron’s cabinet.

Of course it would be foolish to recommend that the British version of state/church relations be accepted in other countries””as foolish as to expect other countries to adopt the very distinctive American form of the separation of church and state. However, as I have suggested in other posts on this blog, the British arrangement is worth pondering by other countries who wish to combine a specific religious identity with freedom for all those who do not share it. For starters, I’ll mention all countries who want legislation to be based on “Islamic principles” (not full-fledged sharia law); Russia, struggling to define the public role of the Orthodox Church; Israel trying to define the place of Judaism in its democracy; India, similarly seeking to fit hindutva into its constitutional description as a “secular republic”. In a globalizing world, cross-national comparisons can be surprisingly useful.

Read it all from the American Interest.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology, Women

(Independent) Stefano Hatfield–Complete disestablishment of church and state necessary

Being more cynical, one might buy into the famous Marx quotation: “religion is the opium of the people”. While it’s true that Marx was articulating his belief that religion was a way of “power” saying “don’t worry if you’re downtrodden in this life, you will find a reward in the next”, in the wider quotation from which those words are taken, he was actually being more sympathetic: acknowledging the potential of religion to give solace where there is distress.

That’s how I feel when I look on in bemused fascination at members of my own family’s religious devotion despite their never-ending series of trials in this life. As a callow, arrogant youth I would try the Marx line out on them, only to be dismissed. And rightly so, because back then I was merely trying to provoke them.

Today, the conversation is different. I respect their beliefs because I can see the solace they have brought them, whilst absolutely rejecting any attempts to continue to force those beliefs upon others, or to marry them to the state.

The need for complete dis-establishment of church and state not only in this country, but in all countries, appears so obvious in the face of the many inequalities that accompany “establishment” that it is mystifying that in the 21 Century that there can be any argument against it. But then, what do I know? Apparently, my heart is closed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(RNS) IRS agrees to monitor churches for electioneering

The Internal Revenue Service said it will monitor churches and other houses of worship for electioneering in a settlement reached with an atheist group.

The settlement was reached Friday (July 18) in federal court in Madison, Wis., where the initial lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist advocacy group that claims 20,000 members nationwide.

The suit alleged the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, The U.S. Government

A Little Noticed Alan Jacobs Post on where Faith and the Public Square may be Headed in America

I care very much about the future of religious liberty, and I don’t think, over the long run and in this country, there will be much of it…American liberalism more generally, is committed to the idea that freedom to worship is sufficient, and is trying, gradually but consistently, to discourage Christians and other religious believers from acting out their religious convictions anywhere outside the walls of the church ”” at least, in any ways that might interfere with the power of the State to arbitrate and dispense justice and charity.

It’s possible that in the coming years there will be at least a temporary slowing in the erosion of religious liberty, but I can’t see the long-term trends altering. All Americans, including those who call themselves conservatives, are gradually growing accustomed to the elimination of the “third sector” of civil society and will find it increasingly difficult to understand why either the free markets or the State should be restrained from exerting their powers to their fullest. I expect that quite soon most Christians will cease even to ask for anything more from the State than freedom to worship.

For those of us who believe that civil society should be stronger, not weaker, and especially if our primary concern is for the health of religious institutions as the most important mediating forces in society, this change will pose a wide range of problems. For instance, the removal of tax breaks for religious institutions will surely be complete within a generation, and a range of policies will discourage charitable giving, which will make generosity harder ”” but not impossible for most of us. That’ll be a way for us to discover what we are made of.

–from his Snakes and Ladders blog; I encourage you to read it all. This was quoted in the late sermon this morning by yours truly in worship–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Church/State Matters, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes, Theology

The Full Text of Lady Hale's Address at Yale's Comparative and Administrative Law Conference

England (and I mean England) is a paradoxical country when it comes to religion. We have an established church. This means that our head of state, the Queen, is also head of the Church of England and 26 of its bishops have seats in the upper House of Parliament. The Church of England also has special privileges and duties in relation to marriages and to burials. Until recently it also enjoyed the special protection of the law of blasphemy. But England is one of the least religious countries in Western Europe. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey (No 28, 2011), half the population do not belong to any religion and affiliation to the Church of England fell from 40% in 1983 to 20% in 2010. Politicians are not encouraged to wear their religion , if any, on their sleeves. Religious observance is much more common amongst minority communities than it is amongst the majority, who would once unhesitatingly have described themselve s as “C of E” even if they never went to church. One reason for this loss of interest, of course, could be that the Church of England is a very undemanding church. It has no dietary
laws, no dress codes for men or women, and very little that its members can say is actually required of them by way of observance….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Andrew Goddard) CofE HOB’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Part II ”“ Qtns and Challenges

The sad reality is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Although it is reported that only one bishop voted against the guidance, it is also being claimed that a significant number, even a majority, are not personally happy with it. The reactions to the guidance make clear just how extensive the divisions are in the wider church and thus how difficult the environment for the facilitated conversations is going to be. They also perhaps highlight two areas where the conversations need to focus their attention but which were largely unaddressed by the Pilling Report:

(1) What doctrine of marriage should the Church have and how should it then bear faithful witness to that in ordering its own life and in mission in a wider society which recognises same-sex marriage? and

(2) What is to be done, what new church structures may be needed, so that those who find themselves unable to accept the conclusions on the doctrine of marriage and its practical implications can faithfully bear witness to their understanding of marriage without undermining the mind of the majority or condemning the Church of England to continuing destructive conflict over this issue?

Read it all and Pt I is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper) Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy celebrates 25 years counseling those facing life's traumas

It all started when the Rev. Rob Dewey, police officer turned Episcopal priest, saw a need for chaplains at police scenes to counsel and support those affected, from first responders to victims and their families.

The need became an unfunded dream that became Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, a growing nonprofit Judeo-Christian ministry turning 25 years old.

Its chaplains have counseled countless residents who have landed, by choice or by fate, at the doorstep of violent death and life’s other most devastating traumas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire

A NY Times Editorial on the Case Coming to the Supreme Court this Week–A Prayer in the Town Hall

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled for the plaintiffs. While prayers before legislative sessions do not necessarily violate the Constitution, the court said, the “overwhelming predominance” of the prayers was explicitly Christian, leading a reasonable observer to understand the town to be endorsing that religion over others, regardless of the town’s intent. (After the suit was filed, the board invited representatives of other religions, including Judaism, the Baha’i faith and Wicca, to deliver the prayer, but after four months the prayers were almost exclusively Christian again.)

Defenders of the board’s practice rely on a 1983 Supreme Court case that upheld prayers before legislative sessions ”” including those of Congress ”” because they are “deeply embedded” in American history. The prayers in Greece are constitutional, the defenders say, because they may be delivered by anyone, and the town does not compel citizens to pray.

But compulsion is not the only issue. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in a 1984 case, when a government appears to endorse one religion, it “sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.” After the Greece lawsuit was filed, one of the plaintiffs received a letter, signed “666,” that read, “If you feel ”˜unwanted’ at the Town of Greece meetings, it’s probably because you are.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, City Government, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

An LA Times Editorial that has received much attention–The pulpit should be free of politics

Churches and other nonprofits long have been forbidden from endorsing political candidates. But erratic enforcement of the law has emboldened supporters of legislation in Congress that would end the restriction. Far from needing to be repealed, the ban on politics in the pulpit ought to be enforced more aggressively.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) would repeal a 1954 amendment to the tax code sponsored by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. The amendment says that churches and other so-called 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations may not “participate in, or intervene in ”¦ any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Jones’ legislation seeks to restore the “1st Amendment rights” of churches, but that’s misleading. Churches may have a 1st Amendment right to endorse candidates, but there is no constitutional right to a tax exemption. Congress is free to condition such exemptions ”” which can be worth millions of dollars ”” on an agreement by churches and charities to refrain from partisan political activity. And it’s the IRS’ responsibility to enforce compliance….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

R. Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales respond to Recent Law Passing

Marriage has, over the centuries, been publicly recognised as a stable institution which establishes a legal framework for the committed relationship between a man and a woman and for the upbringing and care of their children. It has, for this reason, rightly been recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection.

The new Act breaks the existing legal links between the institution of marriage and sexual complementarity. With this new legislation, marriage has now become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, are no longer central. That is why we were opposed to this legislation on principle.

Along with others, we have expressed real concern about the deficiencies in the process by which this legislation came to Parliament, and the speed with which it has been rushed through.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

Macedonia Sentences Orthodox Archbishop To 3 Years Jail

A Macedonian court sentenced the archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in Macedonia to three years in prison on what his denomination and activists called Wednesday, July 3, “false charges” of money laundering, while fourteen co-defendants received suspended jail terms.

Additionally Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, also known as Zoran Vraniskovski, must handover SOC properties, including church buildings, to the state for allegedly laundering some 250,000 euro ($325,000), his church said. Bishop Marko of Bregalnica, whose civilian name is Goran Kimev, Bishop David Ninov of Stobi as well as fourteen “priest-monks, abbesses, nuns and other faithful people of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric” each received two years suspended sentences for financial wrongdoing, the SOC added.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

Hamilton-based Anglican bishop suing Oakville blogger

The Bishop of Niagara is suing a blogger over online material he claims was fashioned to hold the spiritual leader of 25,000 Anglicans up to ridicule and contempt.

The defamation lawsuit claims that Michael Bird, Hamilton-based bishop for the 90 parishes in the diocese, which includes Hamilton, has been pilloried on the blog as a weak, ineffectual leader, portrayed as a thief, described as having a sexual fetish and labelled an atheist.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Blogging & the Internet, Canada, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

North Carolina has the power to establish official religion, a resolution from 2 State Reps. says

Two Rowan County lawmakers drew nationwide attention Wednesday for pushing a resolution that says North Carolina and its counties and towns have the right to establish an official religion.

Republican state Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren filed the measure this week as Rowan commissioners gear up to fight a lawsuit that seeks to end their habit of opening meetings with specifically Christian prayers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, State Government

(The State) Methamphetamine Cases soar in South Carolina as cooks get trickier

The tell-tale empty box of decongestant pills lay crumpled and damp in the woods behind an abandoned trailer, and the people who used it to make methamphetamine were long gone.

Their trash pile was evidence of a quick method of cooking methamphetamine that is gaining popularity in South Carolina ”“ causing the number of meth cases to skyrocket and allowing “cooks” to be more mobile.

Last year, six years after South Carolina made people show an ID to buy pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in meth, the State Law Enforcement Division reported 538 meth-related incidents in the state. That’s four times the number reported in 2010.

Read it all–makes the heart sad; KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Church/State Matters, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Law & Legal Issues

R. Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales on the same-sex marriage Bill

This Bill, for the first time in British history, fundamentally seeks to break the existing legal link between the institution of marriage and sexual exclusivity, loyalty, and responsibility for the children of the marriage. If the Bill passes, several previously foundational aspects of the law of marriage will be changed to accommodate same sex
couples: the common law presumption that a child born to a mother during her marriage is also the child of her partner will not apply in same sex marriages (Schedule 4, para. 2); the existing provisions on divorce will be altered so that sexual infidelity by one of the parties in a same sex marriage with another same sex partner will not constitute adultery (Schedule 4, para. 3); and nonconsummation will not be a ground on which a same sex marriage is voidable (Schedule 4, para. 4).

Marriage thus becomes an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, is no longer central to society’s understanding of that institution (as reflected in the law). The fundamental problem with the Bill is that changing the legal understanding of marriage to accommodate same sex partnerships threatens subtly, but radically, to alter the meaning of marriage over time for everyone. This is the heart of our argument in principle against same sex marriage….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Wales

(ACLJ) Free Saeed Abedini: Time for a Unified National and International Response

Our government is coalescing around Pastor Saeed, but it is still moving too slow and engaging at too low a level. Two weeks ago 49 Members of Congress (37 from the House and 12 Senators) sent letters to the State Department urging “strong and sustained” advocacy on Saeed’s behalf. On Friday we reported that the State Department and White House made near-identical comments within moments of each other that clearly and unequivocally called for Pastor Saeed’s release.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church/State Matters, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Avi Schick: Separation of Church and State, Disaster Edition

One would have hoped that the Seattle opinion and common sense would be sufficient, but FEMA has apparently reverted to a position that provides less than full participation for religious institutions. Its reasons for doing so are not entirely clear but seem to include a mix of constitutional, statutory and regulatory concerns.

Many of these concerns should have been put to rest by the Oklahoma City experience and Congress’s approval of aid to religious organizations there. Nobody suggests that government should entirely rebuild sanctuaries or pay for the printing of prayer books. But if roofs are being repaired and other structural damage is being remediated, the religious nature of what might occur below shouldn’t matter. That is consistent with the reasoning of a 2003 Justice Department opinion that permitted the federal government to provide assistance to help restore the landmarked Old North Church in Boston.

In essence, federal disaster relief is a form of social insurance meant to help repair a tear in our social fabric. Houses of worship are an important part of that social fabric and are often where people turn for comfort and support after a disaster. After Hurricane Sandy, they are equally in need of repair and should be equally eligible for assistance.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Church/State Matters, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government

(BBC) C of E drops opposition to bishops in civil same-sex partnerships

The Church of England has dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops.

The announcement, from the Church’s House of Bishops, would allow gay clergy to become bishops if they promise to be celibate.

Conservative evangelical Anglicans say they will fight the move in the Church’s ruling general synod.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)