Daily Archives: September 12, 2012

(Ministry Matters) Incentives to Decline: Why Some Churches Really Don't Want to Grow

The slow death of certain denominations has been charted by polls, study groups, seminaries, and think tanks. Countless sermons are preached, classes are taught, books are written, and consultants are hired, in order to revitalize congregations. Denominational executives establish committees, task forces and study groups. Conferences are held and encouragement is given lip service, while privately, everyone knows the sad truth: few congregations will ever reverse decline once they are in its grip. The money, time, and effort are better spent on starting new congregations, because the old ones seem incapable of rebirth.

How can this be true for a faith founded on new life? If the gospel can prevail against the gates of hell, why can’t it prevail against the massive decline facing our congregations?

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(RNS) Activists hail release of Christian pastor in Iran, teen in Pakistan

Religious rights activists are hailing the release over the weekend of an Iranian pastor accused of apostasy and a Pakistani girl who was charged with blasphemy.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released Saturday (Sept. 8) after a six-hour hearing, reported the American Center for Law and Justice, which worked to garner American support for the minister’s release. The Christian convert had faced possible execution.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

President Obama condemns attack that killed U.S. ambassador to Libya

The attack on the Benghazi consulate took place as hundreds of protesters in neighboring Egypt scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down and replaced the American flag with a black Islamic banner.

The attacks in Benghazi and Cairo were the first such assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either country, at a time when both Libya and Egypt are struggling to overcome the turmoil following the ouster of their longtime authoritarian leaders, Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak, in uprisings last year.

The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over a film ridiculing Muhammad produced by an Israeli filmmaker living in California and being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Egypt, Foreign Relations, Libya, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

Microfinance Brings Hope to Myanmar’s Farmers

After decades of grinding poverty under successive military dictatorships, Myanmar’s rice farmers have a chance at a better future through rural reforms ushered in by the country’s quasi-civilian government. Microfinance is at the root of it.

The guarantees of small, low-interest loans to this least developed country’s debt-ridden farmers turn a page in the ledger of rural credit, which had virtually dried up within the small agriculture banking system during the 50 years of military rule, forcing farmers to borrow from money lenders at usurious interest rates.

Small loans ranging from 60 to 600 dollars are being offered to the agriculture sector by organisations like the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), a Western donor-backed microfinance initiative facilitated by the introduction last November of a microfinance law in Myanmar (also known as Burma).

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Myanmar/Burma, Personal Finance, Rural/Town Life

(WSJ) Israel Blasts U.S. Over Iran

The rift between top U.S. and Israeli leaders appeared to deepen Tuesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leveled the sharpest attacks in years by an Israeli leader against Washington, over differences on how to address Iran’s nuclear program.

Tensions had so escalated that President Barack Obama spent an hour on the phone with the Israeli leader in a hastily arranged call hours after both governments said the White House wouldn’t agree to an Israeli request for a meeting between the two leaders at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this month.

The Israelis said their request was refused; the White House said there was a scheduling conflict and there could be a meeting elsewhere at another time.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Theology

(Gleanings) Embattled Indonesian Church Must Relocate Despite Supreme Court Support

A West Java church which has become emblematic of record-breaking religious intolerance in Indonesia will now be relocated by the Indonesian government.

Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) legally acquired permission to build a church in Bogor in 2006 but has been shuttered for years due to opposition from neighboring Muslim extremists. The Constitutional Court, the archipelago’s equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled in 2011 that the church be allowed to occupy its building. The mayor of Bogor refused to comply.

The government’s recent decision came after a closed-door meeting between the Indonesian Minister of Internal Affairs and Bogor city leaders excluded GKI Yasmin church representatives but did include representatives from a local Muslim extremist group. According to ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek, the government is preparing replacement land for the church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Indonesia, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(RNS) How the Lord’s Prayer saved a 9/11 survivor

For John Mahony, a retired U.S. Army colonel who was managing projects for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, instinct came before analysis as he fought to stay on his feet the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The building jerked hard, throwing everyone off balance,” remembers Mahony in the account he has written of surviving the 9/11 attacks.

Mahony was working on the 19th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center that morning.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, History, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

Philip Johnston–Black Wednesday (20 years ago this week): The day that Britain went over the edge

A funny thing sticks in my mind about Black Wednesday. As dusk arrived, I was standing in the media scrum outside the Treasury, waiting for Norman Lamont to read the last rites over sterling’s membership of the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM). The photographers wanted the chancellor to deliver his statement standing next to a drain; but when a government official saw what they were up to, he taped a piece of paper over it. “They are not going to get their ‘pound goes down the drain’ picture now,” he said proudly. They didn’t need to, of course: the defeated look on the chancellor’s face said it all.

September 16, 1992 ”“ 20 years ago next Sunday ”“ had been a convulsive day. It dawned bright and sunny and ended with a dark cloud hanging over John Major’s government, which had been unexpectedly re-elected just five months earlier. The economy was in recession, the House of Commons was in recess and the Liberal Democrat conference, under way in Harrogate, was about to become even more irrelevant than usual.

We had known for days, if not weeks, that a reckoning was coming….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector

(NY Times) Libya Attack Brings Challenges for U.S.

The violent deaths of four American diplomatic personnel in Libya during a heavily armed and possibly planned assault on a flimsily protected consulate facility on the Sept. 11 anniversary provoked an uproar in Washington on Wednesday, presenting new challenges in the volatile Middle East less than two months before the American presidential election.

The killings of the four Americans on Tuesday, including the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, also raised basic questions about security and intelligence in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where the assault took place, as well as other American diplomatic facilities elsewhere in the region, where deep-seated anti-American sentiment remains a potent force despite United States support for the Arab Spring uprisings that have transfixed the region for nearly two years.

President Obama denounced the attack, promised to avenge the killings and ordered tighter security at all American diplomatic installations. The administration also dispatched 50 Marines to Libya for greater diplomatic protection, ordered all nonemergency personnel to leave Libya and warned Americans not to travel there, suggesting further attacks were possible. A senior defense official said Wednesday night that the Pentagon was moving two warships toward the Libyan coast as a precaution.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Egypt, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Islam, Libya, Media, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

UK Govt Distances Itself From Anna Soubry Comments on Assisted Suicide

Newly-appointed health minister Anna Soubry has delivered an outspoken attack on the laws governing assisted suicide.

She told The Times: “I think it’s ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home.”

Her intervention coincides with legal appeals for new guidelines, following the death of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Theology

The Latest London Bookmakers' Odds on the Next Archbishop of Canterbury

Check it out. For those of you following this closely and seeing Richard Chartres still being high up on the list, you may be interested in this little noticed tweet.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK

Who will the next Archbishop of Canterbury be?

When Dr Rowan Williams announced his intention to stand down as Archbishop of Canterbury in March, the long process of finding his replacement began. The end is now almost in sight, with a decision expected later this month.

The hunt for the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury is far removed from the pomp and ritual associated with the election of other religious leaders.

There will be no black smoke or secret conclave, and no Holy Altar Lottery. Instead the election is governed by committees and parliamentary process.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE)

Nigeria: Anglican Church Rejects N5000 Note

[The] primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh has rejected the proposed introduction of N5000 notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the coining of some lower denominations.

Speaking in Abuja at the weekend at the consecration of Nathaniel Oladejo Ogundipe as Bishop of Ifo, Most Reverend Oko said there are other economic challenges for the CBN to tackle than the introduction of [a] higher denomination….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Economy

(ENI) New Zealand clerics seek an official measure of child poverty

Child poverty in New Zealand is drawing attention from several denominations after a recent report outlined legislative plans to help children through tax and welfare changes.
The New Zealand government has cited difficulties with measuring child poverty, due to some families’ fluctuating income levels, but clergy from seven denominations said accurate measurement is urgently needed.
“It is essential that this is done,” the Salvation Army’s Major Campbell Roberts told ENInews. “Otherwise you don’t know what you are dealing with.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Children, Poverty

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Henry Hobart

Revive thy Church, Lord God of hosts, whensoever it doth fall into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders, like thy servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember this day; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken thy people to thy message and their mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Spirituality/Prayer, TEC Bishops

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, who for the well-being of our earthly life hast put into our hearts wholesome desires of body and spirit: Mercifully increase and establish in us, we beseech thee, the grace of holy discipline and healthy self-control; that we may fulfill our desires by the means which thou hast appointed, and for the ends thou ordainest; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Euchologium Anglicanum

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now when Jesus came, he found that Laz’arus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, [and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

–John 11:17-23

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Day in pictures: 11 September 2012

Look at them all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Globalization, History, Terrorism

Images: National 9/11 memorial services today

There are 40 in all–take a look.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, History, Terrorism

Tim Keller's "Sermon of Remembrance and Peace for 9-11 Victim's Families" in 2006

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection….

Read it carefully (noting especially the original setting as described) and read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Evangelicals, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology