Daily Archives: February 27, 2014

S. Frederick Starr–Moderate Islam? Look to Central Asia

Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Central Asians, America’s interest does not extend beyond gas and oil. Washington’s decision to pull back from Afghanistan in 2014 will likely erode American influence at the very moment when it could do the most good ”” especially as rising prosperity increases pressure for governments to loosen their grip. Greater freedom presents great dangers, as the disillusions of the Arab Spring have so sadly demonstrated.

Yet it may be in Central Asia, rather than the Middle East, Pakistan or Indonesia, where the ideals that both Presidents Bush and Obama have espoused will be most actively pursued in coming years. This is not to suggest that Washington pay less attention to the Arab world, but perhaps it is time for us to listen to our own lectures on the possibilities of a peaceful and intellectually open version of Islam, and to back those societies that are trying most successfully to advance it today.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Forward in Faith North America: Nashotah House Statement

The National Council of FIFNA endorses and affirms the ACNA College of Bishops’ statement (See below) issued on Feb 25, 2014, regarding the invitation to Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach at Nashotah House.

In the interest of restoring “the trust that this particular invitation has seriously shaken,” we request that the invitation either be rescinded or that the venue be changed to an academic lecture by Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori in a non-liturgical context, followed by a time for discussion and response.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

GAFCON Chairman’s February pastoral letter

One of the marks of bold leadership is clarity. The faith we proclaim is the truth as it is revealed in Holy Scripture, not a human invention, and it presents us with a choice between two ways. One leads to life, the other to death. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls those who would follow him to enter by the narrow gate, not the wide gate that leads to destruction, (Matthew 7:13,14) and I believe it is significant that his warning about false prophets follows in the next verse. This is what false teaching in the Anglican Communion today is like. It is the wide gate that accommodates secular permissiveness and breaches biblical boundaries in doctrine and morals.

After the praise that greeted the news that Oxford University is to honour the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States with an honorary Doctorate in Divinity, it was helpful to be reminded of the sober facts in the Statement issued by the Global South Primates Steering Committee last week. It was recognized that ”˜the fabric of the Communion was torn at its deepest level as a result of the actions taken by The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada since 2003’ and the Communion’s London based institutions were described as ”˜dysfunctional’.

The breadth of the wide gate can be dangerously appealing as an easy choice, avoiding the need for theological discernment and church discipline. This is why I have already written a response (http://gafcon.org/news/a-response-to-the-statement-by-the-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york) earlier this month to the Statement of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about pastoral care for people who engage in same sex relationships.

Sadly, the lack of clarity in that statement about the biblical understanding of such relationships has been repeated in the pastoral guidance issued subsequently by the Church of England’s House of Bishops as same sex ”˜marriage’ becomes legal in England and Wales next month. While the Church’s official teaching on marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman is affirmed, it is effectively contradicted by the permission given for prayers to be said for those entering same sex ’marriages’.

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

(Mercury News) Rick Warren acts on mental health in son's death

Warren, founder of Saddleback Church and a best-selling author, will team with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to host a daylong event next month focused on helping church leaders reach parishioners who are struggling with mental illness.

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church grew out of private conversations Warren had with the local Catholic bishop, Bishop Kevin Vann, after his son’s death and his own writings in his journal as he processed his grief. Matthew Warren, 27, committed suicide last April after struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts for years.

“I’m certainly not going to waste this pain. One of the things I believe is that God never wastes a hurt and that oftentimes your greatest ministry comes out of your deepest pain,” Warren said Monday as he met with Vann to discuss the March 28 event. “I remember writing in my journal that in God’s garden of grace even broken trees bear fruit.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Mental Illness, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

The WSJ's Jonathan Cheng Argues that perhaps the Smartphone has reached Its Peak

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology

Arcbp Cranmer Blog–inadequacy, ambiguity, obfuscation and internal contradictions in HoB Guide

As Prime Minister David Cameron enters into tortuous negotiations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the future shape of Europe; and as Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson threatens to resign over certain secret assurances given to Irish Republican terrorists classified as “On The Run”; and as the Ukraine descends into a bloody civil war about historic matters of ethnicity, identity, religion, and whether or not Russia is more Christian and free than the EU; and as Syria (remember that?) pours out a vast sea of destitute and diseased humanity, where Christians are beheaded and mothers die in childbirth; spare a thought for Church of England as it continues to agonise over the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to move on (with an ecumenical focus on social action projects), but the Bishop of Oxford has written a letter to his clergy in which he pours out his anguish and sorrow over the House of Bishops’ statement, and explains his personal torment and the torture deep within his soul over the limbo caused by the statement. For Bishop John, civil partnership is not and can never be the same thing as marriage, and he has long trodden a narrow path which has pleased neither wing of the sexuality divide. It is not so much a question of sheep and goats, as which pasture is most conducive for spiritual grazing and where the theological grass is greener. But the inadequacy, ambiguity, obfuscation and internal contradictions contained in the Bishops’ Dog’s Breakfast Pastoral Guidance would do Sir Humphrey proud. For some, it comes as a great relief; for others, it is cruel and absurd. God reveals Himself in His Word, which requires exegesis, interpretation and a grasp of its fundamental Sitz im Leben. But the Bishops cloak Him in shadowy puzzlement and shroud the Word in smog. Doing theology in this context is nigh impossible.

This guidance permits the Church of England to begin the facilitated conversations that were advocated in the Pilling Report. There is no predetermined outcome, but the distrust and suspicion on both sides clouds understanding, makes prayer a profound spiritual struggle, and fellowship a depressing hassle.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Jenni Russell–We Must be Careful When Discussing Poverty and Responsibility

The impression is that if only poor people would organise their lives more effectively, work harder at work or at finding work, and help each other out a little more, the problems would disappear.

This is not just a comforting fantasy for the comfortably-off, it’s a dangerous delusion. It ignores the huge structural changes affecting the British economy, thanks to technology, international competition and immigration. The top 1 per cent have seen their share of earnings increase from 7 to 10 per cent in two decades, but median pay has been static or falling for ten years. The decline is sharpest for those at the bottom of the scale.

Poor people are getting poorer because full-time jobs are disappearing or wage rates are being cut. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the income of those in the bottom tenth of the income range peaked in 2004 and has been falling ever since. At the same time there have been above-inflation rises in essential costs. Since 2008 gas and electricity prices have risen by almost two thirds, food by a third, transport by a quarter. The result is that incomes and wealth are being squeezed as never before. Half of all families on average to low incomes have no savings whatsoever.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(LA Times Op-ed) Craig Garner–Another healthcare crisis: Closing hospitals

For healthcare reform to mature unimpeded, the debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act require concentrated, nonpartisan attention. And for reform to succeed, we also need hospitals to flourish, especially in places with few options.

Every hospital has a story to tell. Lower Oconee Community Hospital will not keep the nation’s attention for long, but its absence and that of other hospitals that close will certainly leave profound voids throughout their communities. Rather than ignore these continuing cracks in the foundation of our evolving healthcare system, there is much to be learned from these now-defunct facilities. We would do well to address the underlying problems behind the closures.

As any medical practitioner will tell you, it is wiser to treat the cause today than alleviate the symptoms tomorrow.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, City Government, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, State Government, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Anglican Ink) Presiding Bishop will not rule out possibility of a second term run

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has not ruled out seeking a second nine year term as Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the USA.

Her comments came amidst a wide ranging interview broadcast on 25 Feb 2014 interview Kansas City National Public Radio affiliate station KCUR.

Asked about the sharp decline in membership since the 1960s, Bishop Jefferts Schori said the decline did not worry her. While there were fewer Episcopalians today, they were nonetheless better Episcopalians. The “membership levels of 50 years ago are not reflective of the faith” of the people in the pews she noted.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Presiding Bishop, Theology

(AL.com) Baptist piano player turned priest writes history of Alabama Episcopalians

Leaders of the Episcopal Church in Alabama were vocal in their belief that slavery was a benign institution. “Its members tended to be disproportionaately slaveowners,” Vaughn said. “They believed there wasn’t any discrepancy between the Christian message and slave ownership. They didn’t see any conflict at all. They were blinded by their financial self-interests.”

One of the towering but controversial figures in Alabama’s church history was Bishop C.C.J. Carpenter, who was scolded by both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and by Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who took part in marches in Selma in 1965 and was killed in Hayneville protecting a black girl from a shotgun blast. Daniels defied Carpenter, coming to Alabama in spite of Carpenter’s warning to outside agitators. Daniels and other Episcopal seminarians picketed Carpenter House, the diocesan headquarters in Birmingham, and wrote that “The Carpenter of Birmingham must not be allowed to forever deny the Carpenter of Nazareth,” in a harsh letter to Carpenter.

“I think Carpenter was a great bishop in many ways,” Vaughn said. “He’s remembered as a kindly, warm grandfatherly figure. He increased membership; he increased the budget. He just didn’t get it though when it came to the civil rights movement.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops, Theology

(ABC Aus.) Peter Comensoli–How to Reform the Church: Learning the Lessons of Vatican II

The elements of Benedict’s “hermeneutic of reform” are nothing new in the life of the Church. Both Yves Congar in the 1960s and John Henry Newman in the late 1800s made exactly the same arguments for genuine reform: the application of a principle of internal ressourcement is the only way to a true expression of catholicity. Here I quote from Congar and Newman respectively:

“There are only two possible ways of bringing about renewal or updating. You can either make the new element that you want to put forward normative, or you can take as normative the existing reality that needs to be updated or renewed … You will end up with either a mechanical updating in danger of becoming both a novelty and a schismatic reform, on the one hand, or a genuine renewal (a true development) that is a reform in and of the Church, on the other hand.”

“Those [developments] which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.”

It is no mere coincidence that both Newman and Congar are universally recognised as being two of the great “prophets” who shaped the reforming agenda taken up by the Second Vatican Council.

Any analysis of the reception of the Council in the life of the Church today, any contemporary call for reform in the life of the Church precipitated by current events and times, and any reform proposed by Pope Francis, would do well to keep in mind the elements by which genuine ecclesial reform will happen. As a theological friend from outside of the Catholic tradition has recently put it, “No one who has not learned to be traditional can dare to innovate.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A list of priests and others murdered or kidnapped in Syria, compiled by Damascus Archbishop

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, Middle East, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education, Syria, Theology, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of George Herbert

Our God and King, who didst call thy servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in thy temple: Give unto us the grace, we beseech thee, joyfully to perform the tasks thou givest us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for thy sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church History, Poetry & Literature, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Almighty God, eternal, righteous, and merciful, give us poor sinners to do for thy sake all that we know of thy will, and to will always what pleases thee; so that inwardly purified, enlightened, and kindled by the fire of thy Holy Spirit, we may follow in the steps of thy well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

–Francis of Assisi

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 131

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Dr Ian Paul: State of the Church: sociology or theology?

One of last week’s articles analysed the social impact of the Church of England, and made some provocative suggestions.

Imagine, for a moment, that all regular Sunday worshippers disappeared overnight, leaving only the clergy. Obviously there would be a financial crisis, the current parochial system would have to be radically reformed, a great number of churches and vicarages would need to be sold off, and the Synod would have to cease or change.

But the Church would remain, and its most influential activities could continue”¦

Yes, you read that! ”˜Its most influential activities could continue’! My first response was to think this was an incredibly ”˜clericalised’ view of the Church: its most important and influential activities are the ones done by its clergy and officials. It reminded me of my bishop in a previous diocese, who once commented:

Imagine what would happen if each parish hired 50 actors, dressed them in clerical collars, and paid them to wander around the parish. What an impact this would have on the profile of the Church!

What a hideous idea!

Linda Woodhead’s article does contain some encouraging news, but do look carefully at what is being measured

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

Church of Nigeria: Primate's Address – 2014 Standing Comittee

The head of the Anglican Church in Nigeria reiterated that the Church of Nigeria tenaciously upholds the traditional Biblical understanding of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman. He told the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England some home truth on the letter they wrote by affirming that homosexuality and the ministry of ordained and lay homosexuals have no force in Nigeria. He vowed that it is not and will not be applicable in Nigeria. He therefore called on all African Church leaders to reject the obnoxious letter and to lead their people without any foreign moral imposition.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria

Andrew Symes: The best way to help minorities in Africa

The Gospel holds up a mirror to culture ”“ it affirms but also judges, refines and purifies. This is especially true in certain key areas, for example tempering the instinct to solve problems through violence, instilling a sense of value for all human beings, especially the most vulnerable, and bringing order to sexual impulses. The narrative of the Old Testament shows this: God making his will known in relationship with his obedient people, whether Noah, Abraham or Moses and Israel is contrasted with the sin of the surrounding peoples. Conversely as the people of God turn away from his Word, society returns to its primal state with dangerous characteristics: sexual immorality, reduction in care for the vulnerable, violence, and occult religion. So those who would like African countries to get rid of biblical Christianity on the grounds that it might make the continent safer for gay people, should be careful what they wish for…

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary

ACNA: A Statement on Nashotah House from the College of Bishops

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)

WSJ Readers Weigh in–Do SAT Scores Belong on Your Resume?

As we report in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, a number of companies, including elite banks and consulting firms, regularly ask job applicants to list their SAT scores along with GPAs, extracurricular activities and work experience. Though the practice is most common for new college hires, some firms request scores from candidates in their 40s and 50s….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Education, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(AFP) Brunei Sultan hits back at rare criticism over Sharia

Brunei’s all-powerful sultan, stung by rare criticism, has ordered social media users to stop attacking his plans to introduce harsh Islamic criminal punishments in the placid oil-rich kingdom.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah — one of the world’s wealthiest men — announced last October that Brunei would phase in sharia law punishments such as flogging, severing limbs and death by stoning beginning April 1.

The move has sparked a growing outcry on social media, the only outlet for public criticism of authorities in the Muslim country where questioning the 67-year-old sultan is taboo.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Brunei, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

F.D.A. Weighs Fertility Method which Combines the Genetic Material from 3 People

Scientists have already experimented with combining genetic material from cells of three people. In 2001, researchers in New Jersey did so using material from the cytoplasm, the material that surrounds the nucleus of the egg and directs its development after fertilization, from fertile women into the eggs of infertile women. More than 17 babies have been born this way in the United States.

The practice raised questions and eventually led the F.D.A. to tell researchers that they could not perform such procedures in humans without getting special permission from the agency. Since then, studies have been confined to animals.

But a researcher in Oregon, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, has performed the mitochondrial procedure in monkeys and has said that it is ready to be tried in people.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CT) The Case for Big Change at Calvary Chapel–An interview with Brian Brodersen

In his first major interview as senior pastor in Costa Mesa, Brodersen says his relationship with Smith goes back to the early days of the Calvary Chapel movement, when Brodersen was a new disciple and manager of a surf shop. That’s when Smith invited him to minister as an intern, and within a few years Brodersen became pastor of Calvary Chapel in San Diego.

In the last half century, Calvary Chapel has grown from a single Bible study to a worldwide fellowship of more than 1,500 churches and ministries, yet not without its problems. In a 2007 CT interview, one pastor said of Calvary Chapel, “The Titanic has hit the iceberg. But the music is still playing.” Calvary Chapel is, however, still afloat, and has survived not just growing pains, but also allegations of pastoral misconduct, lawsuits, and scandals.

In a historic transition in 2012, Calvary Chapel officially established an association with a 21-member leadership council, which now guides the worldwide organization Chuck Smith fostered. In December, CT’s senior editor, global journalism, Timothy C. Morgan interviewed pastor Brodersen.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture