Daily Archives: January 24, 2014

The world's most ancient Christian communities are being destroyed ”” and no one cares

Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt’s revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble.

Ayman’s Arabic-language teacher told him to cover his tattoo in class. Instead of complying, the young man defiantly pulled out the cross that hung around his neck, making it visible. His teacher flew into a rage and began choking him, goading the young man’s Muslim classmates by saying, “What are you going to do with him?”

Ayman’s classmates then beat him to death. False statements were given to police, and two boys were taken into custody only after Ayman’s terror-stricken family spoke out.

Ayman’s suffering is not an isolated case in Egypt or the region.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) Sarah Pulliam Bailey: Back to (Divinity) School

Students under 30 still make up the largest age cohort in seminaries, according to the Association of Theological Schools. But older students are growing in representation among 74,000 or so students pursuing a seminary degree from an institution associated with the agency that accredits graduate schools of theology. The percentage of students over 50 enrolled in a seminary rose to about 21% in 2011 from 12% in 1995. The percentage of students under 30 has hovered at around 30% during the same period.

Older students bring some advantages to churches, including congregations that may not be able to afford a pastor who seeks a sizable salary, says Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools. Older pastors may have a pension from a previous career and may not carry as much debt as younger candidates.

“Those who are older identify with what people who are going through because they bring a lot of life experience,” Mr. Aleshire says. “They may not have the energy, but they may be more skilled overall.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Middle Age, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(CC) Philip Jenkins–Secular South Africa?

Twenty years ago, in 1994, democracy finally came to South Africa, the wealthiest and most powerful nation of sub-Saharan Africa. Most South Africans would agree that the subsequent years have been difficult, and levels of violence and poverty remain intolerably high. But the turn to majority rule was a massive political and moral achievement, to which Christian churches contributed mightily.

Beginning in the 1960s the antiapartheid cause featured centrally in Christian debates worldwide over political activism and the legitimacy of armed resistance to tyranny. Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu became perhaps the best-known face of the antiapartheid movement.

Obviously, the churches that struggled against apartheid did so from a sense of religious obligation and not with any thought of advancing their own power or influence. But with 20 years of political freedom behind us, what can we say about the religious consequences of the revolution? Who were the winners and losers? And has religious radicalism faded from political life?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, History, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Secularism, South Africa

William Carroll–Metaphysics and the Experience of God: The Meditations of David Bentley Hart

[David Bentley] Hart concentrates on the fundamental error of conceiving of God as some finite object in a universe of other objects: more powerful, yes, but falling within the same metaphysical order of being. As he says, the God of classical theism “is not merely one, in the way a finite object might be merely singular or unique, but is oneness as such, the one act of being and unity by which any finite thing exists and by which all things exist together.” In speaking about God, Hart uses the themes of being, consciousness, and bliss. But before turning to these topics, he points to the need to examine critically the “picture of the world,” the prevailing axiomatic cultural and intellectual assumptions, from which or through which much current discourse about God occurs.

The embrace of a materialist and mechanistic view of the world, taking its inspiration in many ways from the rise of modern science, results in a loss of the sense of transcendence, of a reality beyond, or perhaps better, fundamentally other than, the world of sense experience. As Hart observes, “in the age of the mechanical philosophy, in which all of nature could be viewed as a boundless collection of brute events, God soon came to be seen as merely the largest brute event of all.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Church History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CBS) Egyptian police targeted in series of bomb attacks across Cairo

A crude device exploded near a police station in a Cairo suburb on Friday, security sources said, hours after a car bomb killed at least four people near the Egyptian police headquarters in the center of the Egyptian capital, and a second blast in the city killed a police officer.

A loud blast was heard in the Talbeya neighborhood in Giza, a large district on the outskirts of Cairo, witnesses told Reuters. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The first and deadliest blast of the day was the car bomb at the police headquarters in the heart of Cairo — a hugely symbolic attack on the eve of the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Egypt, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Police/Fire, Violence

([London] Times) Worshippers ”˜drove out’ parish priest who tried to end drinking culture

An Anglo-Catholic priest was bullied out of his parish after challenging a cadre of “very right-wing” church- goers over a culture of binge-drinking, according to a report.

Father Simon Tibbs, 41, had been in charge of St Faith’s church in Great Crosby, Merseyside ”” which includes the former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie among its past parishioners ”” for just nine months when he was allegedly forced out last September.

An investigation into his departure found yesterday that he had offended an “inner circle” of the congregation by trying to drive through a ban on excessive drinking by worshippers who were treating the church like a “social club”.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

New supernova found during astronomy class in London

Just past midnight Indian time on 22 January, an astronomer at University College London and his students were taking a routine peek through their telescope when they noticed something odd: there was a new, bright ‘star’ at the edge of the Cigar Galaxy or M, some 11.4 million light years away. Before the London fog closed in and the view was lost, the group had taken photographs and contacted US astronomer friends. After a flurry of intercontinental activity, excited astronomers announced the discovery of a new supernova. The discovery has been announced in the scientific journal Nature.

A supernova is a star explosion. It throws out an enormous amount of energy, outshining a whole galaxy for a few days. It is estimated that mass is ejected from the exploding star at 30,000 kilometers per second. This one is of the type 1a, which happens when a white dwarf star which is old and dim, is loaded with excessive gas and dust causing a thermonuclear explosion. Two white dwarves colliding would also lead to a similar result.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Science & Technology

Nadal beats Federer in Australian open semifinal

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Men, Sports

(Church Times) Risk assessment for clergy tightened up

Bishops will have the power to demand that a priest undergoes a safeguarding risk-assessment under legislative changes proposed by the Archbishops’ Council last week. Priests who fail to comply “without good cause” will be guilty of misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure.

The proposal is one of 12, published on Monday of last week, which will be debated by the General Synod next month. They have been produced in response to the report of the Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation, which called for an “urgent” review of the Church’s safeguarding legislation.

The report that lists the proposals states that commissioning risk-assessments would be “the exception, rather than the norm”, and that bishops would need to give reasons to justify the direction. Priests would have the right to seek a review by the President of Tribunals of the diocesan bishop’s direction.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(BBC) South Sudan rivals sign ceasefire agreement

South Sudan’s government and rebels have signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia.

Under the deal, signed in a hotel in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the fighting is due to come to an end within 24 hours.

In the past week, government forces have recaptured the two main cities under rebel control.

More than 500,000 people have been forced from their homes during the month-long conflict.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --South Sudan, Africa, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Sudan, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord Jesus, who by thy first miracle didst manifest thy glory, so that thy disciples believed on thee: Give us in our measure that faith which dwelt in them. Fill us with the riches of thy good Spirit; change thou our earthly desires into the image of thine own purity and holiness; and finally give us a place at thy heavenly feast; for the glory of thy holy name.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, “Thou art my God.” My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors! Let thy face shine on thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love!

–Psalm 31:15-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Get Religion) George Conger–Where’s the religion at Washington’s National Cathedral?

…have the Anglican wars played a part in the cathedral’s financial problems? While the amount of money generated by those worshiping on site has grown, giving to support the cathedral from the wider Episcopal world has fallen off. Why? The article states fundraising was easier for the cathedral when it sought to finish construction ”” an 82 year building campaign.

Could the cathedral’s whole-hearted adoption of the progressive religious and political agenda have anything to do with the little old ladies in Alabama cutting back on their gifts? The article does not ask this question.

As written, the article could have described the problems facing any graying urban institution. Swap out the names and you could recycle this as a story about an art museum, library, orchestra, ballet or other worthy cultural institution. Perhaps the real story here is that the Washington National Cathedral is not seen as a religious institution by the Post but as a temple of ethical culture?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Media, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Parishes, Theology

Reuters: South Sudan government and rebels sign ceasefire deal

South Sudan’s government and rebels signed a ceasefire on Thursday to end more than five weeks of fighting that divided Africa’s newest nation and brought it to the brink of civil war.

Fighting between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing the vice president he sacked in July, Riek Machar, erupted in mid-December.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than half a million people have fled their homes, prompting the regional grouping of nations, IGAD, to initiate peace talks.

The pact is expected to be implemented within 24 hours of the signing, mediators said.

But making the ceasefire hold could test Machar, whose forces include loyalists as well as more autonomous groups battling the centrally controlled government forces.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Episcopal Church of the Sudan

([London] Times) The ”˜toxic digital world’ that killed 15 year old Tallulah Wilson

Tallulah, an aspiring dancer from West Hampstead in London, threw herself under a train at St Pancras Station on October 14, 2012. Her mother said she had been unable to prevent the troubled teenager from becoming increasingly withdrawn at home and at school, as she developed a fantasy cocaine-taking persona online.

Ms Wilson said: “Like any parent I sought to protect my daughter, seeking help from professionals at her school, the NHS and the Tavistock Clinic. Her sisters and I did everything we could to keep her safe, but she had fallen into a world of nightmares. She was in the c lutches of a toxic digital world where in the final few weeks we could no longer reach her.

“I was shocked by the ease with which Tallulah and other children can access online self-harm and suicide blogs. Tallulah entered a world where the lines between fantasy and reality became blurred. It is every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology, Suicide, Teens / Youth, Theology

(Gallup) Baby Boomers Put More Money Than Trust in Banks

Baby boomers make up the largest share of banking customers in the U.S., according to a December Gallup poll. Nearly nine in 10 baby boomers (89%) currently have at least one checking, savings, or money market account at a bank or another financial institution. But Gallup’s 2013 retail banking study shows that just 12% of baby boomers with active bank accounts trust banks a “great deal,” with the majority placing only “some” or “very little” trust in these institutions.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Middle Age, Personal Finance, Psychology, The Banking System/Sector, Theology