Daily Archives: January 9, 2014

(RNS) ”˜Snake Salvation’ pastor won’t be charged with violating Tennessee Law

An East Tennessee serpent-handling pastor’s legal woes are over for now.

After a hearing on Wednesday (January 8), a grand jury decided not to indict the Rev. Andrew Hamblin on charges of violating a state ban on possessing venomous snakes.

In November, state officials seized 53 serpents ”” including rattlesnakes, copperheads, and exotic breeds ”” from the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., where Hamblin is pastor.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Animals, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Polygamy as a Lifestyle Choice, and a Reality TV Brand

Kody Brown, his four wives and 17 children want to be the new face of polygamy, what some consider the next frontier after same-sex marriage.

That is why, the Browns say, they invited TLC television cameras into their homes for their reality show “Sister Wives,” why they have written a best-selling book about their lives, and why they challenged Utah’s polygamy ban in federal court.

Fear of prosecution under that law led them to flee to Nevada. Last month, a federal judge partly overturned the ban, ruling that prohibiting “cohabitation” violates the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC Magazine) Belgium divided on euthanasia for children

On 20 April 2012, Tom Mortier, a chemistry lecturer, got a message to call a Brussels hospital. His mother was dead. Godelieva De Troyer was 64 and had been suffering from depression. She had sent her son an email three months before she died telling him she had asked for euthanasia, but he did not think doctors would allow it.

He is enraged. He does not accept the argument that his mother had a “right to die”.

“From my perspective this is not a law for patients, it’s a law for doctors so they won’t be prosecuted,” Mortier says. “Performing euthanasia is unethical. It’s killing your patients, and now they’re promoting it as the ultimate form of love. What have we become here in Belgium? I don’t understand it”¦”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Belgium, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ITV) Children targeted in Central African Republic as violence continues

ITV News has found evidence that children are being targeted in one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars.

Many have suffered horrific injuries, as violence in the Central African Republic sinks to what the United Nations calls a “vicious new low”.

Read it all and note the many video links available.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Central African Republic, Children, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) U.S. Leverage in Iraq Tested As Fears of Civil War Mount

Iraq’s Shiite-led government paused on Wednesday on the brink of a military assault against al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants that posed the risk of exacting a high civilian toll and plunging the country deeper into sectarian conflict.

Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, have urged Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to secure the support of local Sunni leaders before attacking to drive the extremists from Fallujah, which sits in the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni minority. Many Sunni tribal leaders, alienated and angered by Mr. Maliki, have refused.

The standoff tests the U.S.’s remaining leverage in Iraq, which has declined since American forces fought alongside Iraqis to subdue Islamist fighters in Fallujah in two large battles during the nearly decadelong U.S.-led occupation.

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, History, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Y. Post) Sarah Freeman–180 Yrs ago the Abolition of Slavery Act passed: why is it still ongoing?

It was the small details which made the latest case of modern day slavery such uncomfortable reading.

Life has never been particularly kind to Craig Kinsella. Suffering from moderate learning difficulties and with an IQ of no more than 85, he has often struggled to keep the frayed edges of his world from unravelling. Even before last summer he bore the emotional scars of his own abusive childhood and of having watched his own two children being taken into care and his marriage break down.

Yet nothing could match the heartache inflicted on him by David and Donna Rooke and their son Jamie.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Church History, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Theology, Violence

(Leadership) Again Boko Haram Kills Nine in Borno Villages

In what looks like another reprisal attack, Boko Haram insurgents yesterday attacked Kayamula village of Konduga local government area of Borno State. They killed nine people, while several residents received gunshot injuries.

Kayamula village is located on the outskirts of Maiduguri metropolis, a distance of about 10 kilometres away from Maiduguri Giwa military barracks where several members of the Boko Haram sect were arrested and detained by security operatives.

LEADERSHIP gathered from reliable sources that the insurgents invaded the village about 2am and opened fire on residents using AK-49 rifles and explosive devices, a situation that led to the killing of nine innocent people and injuring of several others.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Reuters) Deaths of Christian ”˜Martyrs’ reportedly Doubled in 2013

Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life.

It faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam, another Pew survey has reported.

Michel Varton, head of Open Doors France, told journalists in Strasbourg that failing states with civil wars or persistent internal tensions were often the most dangerous for Christians.

“In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war — the war against the church,” he said while presenting the Open Doors report there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(Aeon) Geel, a little town in Belgium has been successfully treating the mentally ill for centuries

Among the people of Geel, the term ”˜mentally ill’ is never heard: even words such as ”˜psychiatric’ and ”˜patient’ are carefully hedged with finger-waggling and scare quotes. The family care system, as it’s known, is resolutely non-medical. When boarders meet their new families, they do so, as they always have, without a backstory or clinical diagnosis. If a word is needed to describe them, it’s often a positive one such as ”˜special’, or at worst, ”˜different’. This might in fact be more accurate than ”˜mentally ill’, since the boarders have always included some who would today be diagnosed with learning difficulties or special needs. But the most common collective term is simply ”˜boarders’, which defines them at the most pragmatic level by their social, not mental, condition. These are people who, whatever their diagnosis, have come here because they’re unable to cope on their own, and because they have no family or friends who can look after them.

The origins of the Geel story lie in the 13th century, in the martyrdom of Saint Dymphna, a legendary seventh-century Irish princess whose pagan father went mad with grief after the death of his Christian wife and demanded that Dymphna marry him. To escape the king’s incestuous passion, Dymphna fled to Europe and holed up in the marshy flatlands of Flanders. Her father finally tracked her down in Geel, and when she refused him once more, he beheaded her. Over time, she became revered as a saint with powers of intercession for the mentally afflicted, and her shrine attracted pilgrims and tales of miraculous cures.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Belgium, Church History, Europe, Health & Medicine, History, Mental Illness, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Christian dating agency London commuters Jesus can make you a ”˜better lover’

He fed the 5,000 and walked on water but now a new advertising campaign suggests that Jesus can work miracles in another area altogether.

Advertisements for a Christian dating agency are set to raise more than eyebrows with a claim that believers make “better lovers”.

The slogan, to appear in London Tube carriages from next week, appears to be based on spam emails promoting herbal anti-impotence drugs.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Men, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Women

(Pew R. FactTank) 5 facts about Americans’ views on life-and-death issues

A 13-year-old California girl is at the center of the latest national debate about end-of-life care. Jahi McMath was pronounced brain-dead in December following complications related to a tonsillectomy to treat sleep apnea. A legal battle between McMath’s family and Children’s Hospital Oakland ensued, forcing the hospital to keep the girl on a ventilator. On Sunday, citing a court order, the hospital released McMath to her family (via the Alameda County coroner).

In another case, in Texas, Marlise Machado Muñoz collapsed in November and now has no brain activity. Her husband wants her taken off life support, citing her wishes, but Muñoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed and Texas law requires expectant mothers to be kept alive.

The two situations highlight the complicated nature of end-of-life questions. A recent Pew Research Center survey explores Americans’ views on the topic, ranging from the morality of suicide to personal preferences for end-of-life care. Here are some of the key findings…

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(WI) Carissa Mulder–Sex, Drugs, and Religious Liberty

It is no surprise, then, that people whose belief systems are a muddle of Casey’s sweet-mystery-of-life passage and Modern Family bridle at the strict sexual morality of the monotheistic religions. This is exacerbated by traditional Christianity’s refusal either to conform to the spirit of the age or to go away and be quiet. The erosion of the state’s role in upholding public morality both foreshadowed and led to the cultural rejection of religion’s right to judge the morality or immorality of certain acts.

Evangelicals still loudly proclaim that one should “wait until marriage,” even if that command is largely honored in the breach. The Catholic Church has not relaxed its prohibition on contraception, even if many of its adherents ignore its teaching or even loudly oppose it. Both Evangelicals and Catholics (and those members of mainline churches who hold to traditionalist norms) grapple with the culture on multiple fronts””praying outside abortion clinics, attending the March for Life, objecting to FDA approval of abortifacients, decrying pornography, etc. In short, they have remained a thorn in the side of an ever-more-permissive culture for over forty years. (Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and Islam also adhere to strict moral norms regarding sexual behavior, but attract less attention because of their status as minority religions.)

This cultural attitude has led to religious liberty’s current embattled position.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who by the guidance of a star didst manifest to the Gentiles the glory of thine only begotten Son: Grant us grace that, being led by the light of thy Holy Spirit, we may, in adoring love and lowliest reverence, yield ourselves to thy service; that thy kingdom of righteousness and peace may be advanced among all nations, to the glory of thy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Book of Common Order

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany

From the Morning Bible Readings

A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 121

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Charleston, S.C.'s Mere Anglicanism Conference 2014 is sold out at 650+ participants


This is what you call a good problem to have.

You may read about the conference there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Apologetics, Philosophy, Science & Technology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Brazilian sex trafficking ministers to speak at churches in the Wilmington, N.C., area

In the fall of 2012, Wilmington resident Mike Moran said a ”˜see you soon’ goodbye to his son Brendan Moran as he stepped aboard a flight to Brazil to continue his work with a sex trafficking ministry there called Shores of Grace Ministries.

Brendan sent newsletters each month letting his friends and family know how he was doing in Recife, Brazil, producing music for Nic and Rachael Billman, a Pennsylvania couple who founded Shores of Grace. Brendan was working to record the work of the ministry there as one of their music directors.

The Billman’s moved to Brazil to work with the prostitute and street children populations there in late 2010, bringing their four children with them and building a ministry staff who speak Portuguese. The ministry holds church on the streets of Recife, organizes well water projects for communities in a desert region outside of Recife and hosts Father’s Love Banquets where they invite Brazilian prostitutes to a formal dinner. Another of the ministry’s goals was to open Project Bethany to house young girls who were leaving prostitution or trafficking situations. In the fall of 2013, Shores of Grace opened its first rescue house with 10 girls.

Now the Moran family is bringing the Billman’s to the Wilmington area to speak about their sex trafficking ministry.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Brazil, Globalization, Missions, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, South America, Violence

(Cranmer Blog) Responding to the Proposed Liturgy–Is C of E ashamed to preach Christ crucified?

What on earth is wrong with ‘Christ crucified’? Does the phrase no longer resonate in the minds of the un-churched? Is it not a matter of general historical knowledge that Jesus died on as cross? Is it not generally known that this is what the Church believes? It must be the ultimate irony in liturgical development that the Church of England becomes ashamed of the exhortation not to be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Cor 1:23)

Saint Paul goes to the very heart of the gospel with this phrase. One is left in no doubt that Christ crucified is the very nexus – quite literally crucial – to the plan of salvation. We must preach Christ and him crucified, not just the man, for His death and resurrection are the beginning, middle and end of our redemption. Christ crucified is offensive; it is indeed a stumblingblock; it is undoubtedly foolishness to those who are being lost. But we do not help them by purging it from liturgy and trying to express it in “culturally appropriate and accessible language”.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Baptism, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Sacramental Theology, Theology

Julian Mann: Doctrinal Chaos In The Charismatic Movement Is Not Inevitable

…When the charismatic movement began seriously to impact on the Church of England in the 1970s and 1980s, its evangelical leaders, particularly David Watson, were very clear that ‘words of knowledge’ needed to be checked against the Bible. If they contradicted the Bible, then they were not from God.

The spiritual and moral content of human dreams surely needs to be checked against the authority of Scripture otherwise appalling chaos could erupt on local churches. It is not inevitable that evangelical charismatic churches should leave themselves open to that.

That is why the pastors of the Lord Christ’s precious flock in such churches must clearly teach and exemplify the supreme authority of God’s Word written…

… ‘The courage the church needs today’, by research fellow Nick Tucker, which looks at the example of the confessing church in Germany under Hitler, is a golden goal, one might say. Here is a golden quote:

In Germany in the 30s, the distinction between God and the creation had become blurred and broken down. God was seen as a being who was developing along with the human culture. What the writers of the Barmen declaration recognised was that, in the end, this view fatally undermines the Christian faith. The church’s identity and message, as they understood it, came from God and could not be changed at will.

That is why confessing Anglicans must resist revisionist moves to airbrush sin and repentance out of the Baptism service.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

(Northern Echo) Historic Darlington Anglican awarded £250,000 lottery grant for urgent roof repairs

An historic church placed on the heritage ”˜at-risk’ register has been awarded a £250,000 lottery grant for repairs.

The Anglican Holy Trinity Church, in Woodlands Road, Darlington, recently celebrated its 175th anniversary, but dry rot in the roof has left it in danger of serious damage.

The Grade 2* church is classed as being in a ”˜very bad’ condition by the English Heritage Place of Worship At-Risk register.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology