Daily Archives: March 21, 2014

(WSJ) Nina Shea–President Obama and the Churches of Saudi Arabia

When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia next week, he will have an opportunity to follow through on his inspiring words at the Feb. 6. National Prayer Breakfast. There, he told thousands of Christian leaders that “the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose” is central to “human dignity,” and so “promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.”

The freedom so central to human dignity is denied by the Kingdom. The State Department has long ranked Saudi Arabia among the world’s most religiously repressive governments, designating it a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act. Yet the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has not pressed Riyadh to respect religious freedom.

Saudi Arabia is the only state in the world to ban all churches and any other non-Muslim houses of worship. While Saudi nationals are all “officially” Muslim, some two to three million foreign Christians live in the kingdom, many for decades. They have no rights to practice their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Theology

(FT) Few of US long-term jobless find work

America’s long-term jobless face huge obstacles in returning to steady full-time employment, with just 11 per cent succeeding over the course of any given year, according to new research that raises alarm bells about structural problems in the US labour market.

The study by Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist who served as a top economic adviser to Barack Obama between 2011 and 2013, shows that even in good times and in healthy states the long-term jobless are “at the margins” of the labour market with little hope of regaining their footing.

A big spike in long-term unemployment ”“ defined as joblessness extending beyond 26 weeks ”“ has been one of the defining features of the US recession and its aftermath. There were 3.8m long-term unemployed in February 2014, according to the latest labour department data, more than double the pre-financial crisis level of 1.9m in August 2008. The share of the jobless who have been out of work for more than six months has nearly doubled over that timeframe, from 19.8 per cent to 37 per cent.

Read it all (if necessary another link may be found there).

Update: There is more from the Washington post there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, Psychology, Science & Technology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

([London] Times) Christians should use human rights laws to defend their freedoms, says top judge

Britain is one of the least religious countries in Western Europe because the Church of England is a “very undemanding church”, the UK’s most senior woman judge has said.

“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,” said Baroness Hale of Richmond, a Supreme Court justice.

England was a “parodoxical country” when it came to religion, she added. Despite having an established church, half the population did not belong to any religion. Affiliation to the Church of England fell from 40 per cent in 1983 to 20 per cent in 2010.

Read it all (subscription required) and there is an article from the Telegraph there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

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….

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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

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Lichfield for Lent

We’re beginning the season of ”˜giving up’ things ”“ a tradition of Lent. So what to give up? For us Christians, it is about self-denial, yes, and making time for deeper prayer and repentance too.

But Lent isn’t simply about giving up something for a while, just to start it again when Easter arrives. We certainly shouldn’t be giving up good service to our neighbours, though we may wish to postpone excessive meetings about that work.

We certainly don’t give up meeting together to worship and study God’s Word. Repentance is about ”˜doing sorry’ ”“ turning away from wrong (sin) and in Lent we can take extra time to think about whether we’re living as God would have us live ”“ or, as the first of our themes puts it, discovering the heart of God.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops, Lent, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Church Times) Bishops start quizzing their clergy

Gay clergy have this week been describing the ramifications of the pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage, issued by the House of Bishops last month. Bishops have begun meeting gay clergy, at least five of whom are reported to be planning to marry.

The Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said on Tuesday that speaking publicly about his plans to marry his partner of 14 years ( News, 21 February) had resulted in an “uncomfortable” meeting with his bishop, the Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, on Wednesday last week.

“It was very uncomfortable for both of us,” he said. “He was with HR, and I was with a union rep. That would not be normal for a meeting between a bishop and a priest. I could not honestly say it was particularly pastoral. It was awkward.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Leon Morris–The Person of Christ

In His teaching Jesus continually made claims for Himself both explicitly and by implication, and claims that we should regard as fantastic did any other make them. He said He could forgive men’s sins, and indeed, on one occasion worked a miracle to prove His point (Mark 2: 10ff.). He said that He would raise men up at the last day (John 6:40). He said that He would be the Judge of men at that day (John 5: 25ff.), and that men’s attitude to Him and His words now would be the criterion by which they will then be judged (Mark 8:38). He spoke of Himself as the bread of life (John 6: 35), as “the light of the world” (John 8: 12). He said that He was “the way, the truth, and the life” and He added, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14: 6).

He issued the gracious invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28f.). We have come to take these beautiful words very much for granted. But when we reflect on them they involve an extraordinary claim. We cannot imagine anybody else making them, not Confucius nor Mahommet, not Julius Caesar nor Francis of Assisi nor the Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact not any of the sons of men. But the words sound natural enough as an utterance of Jesus. Furthermore, through the centuries all sorts of weary and heavy laden people have been coming to Him and finding, as He said they would, rest unto (their) souls.”

The making of such claims demands that one of three things be true, namely Jesus was an impostor, or He was deluded, or He was divine. There seems no other possibility.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Christology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Alban Institute, a resource for mainline institutions, to shutter

As mainline Protestant denominations continue decades of decline, one of the main institutions helping educate its leaders announced Wednesday (March 19) that it will shut its doors.

Since it was founded four decades ago, the Virginia-based Alban Institute has guided mostly mainline congregations through consulting and publishing. Its founder and former president, the Rev. Loren Mead, became well-known for his speaking and writing about the future of U.S. denominations and was one of the first to predict denominational decline.

“When I started as a parish pastor, I found there wasn’t much help or continuing education,” said Mead, a retired Episcopal priest. “I am glad I have been able to contribute to the church, but I have not been able to solve its turnaround.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology, United Church of Christ

Ashley Null on Thomas Cranmer Day–Conversion to Communion: Cranmer on a Favourite Puritan Theme

In the end, repentance, not love, has come to symbolise Cranmer himself, his life’s work being interpreted by his last days. In the eyes of his critics, Cranmer’s recantations prove that at best he was weak and vacillating. In the hearts of his admirers, however, Cranmer’s last-minute renunciation of his recantations proved his true commitment to the Protestant faith. But what of Cranmer himself, how did he interpret his last days and the meaning they gave to his life? According to a contemporary account, having previously been distraught, Cranmer came to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind.

Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right Hand, and thrust it into the Flame, and held it there a good space, before the Fire came to any other Part of his Body; where his Hand was seen of every Man sensibly burning, crying with a loud Voice, This Hand hath offended. As soon as the Fire got up, he was very soon Dead, never stirring or crying all the while.

His Catholic executioners surely thought Cranmer was making satisfaction to his Protestant God. Yet his doctrine of repentance would have taught him otherwise, for the God he served saved the unworthy.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Lord, for thy tender mercies’ sake, lay not our sins to our charge, but forgive us all that is past; and give us grace to amend our lives, to decline from sin and incline to virtue, that we may walk with a perfect heart before thee, now and evermore.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Cranmer

Merciful God, who through the work of Thomas Cranmer didst renew the worship of thy Church by restoring the language of the people, and through whose death didst reveal thy power in human weakness: Grant that by thy grace we may always worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

–Mark 4:35-41

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Latest Edition of the Diocese of South Carolina Enewsletter

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Media

Peter Moore–Peter’s Surprising Turn Around (John 21:1-19)

Let’s not fool ourselves. A lot of what gets called ministry is motivated by guilt. Peter was not reconciled to Jesus yet. So his efforts out on the lake that morning were driven by a desire to prove something, to compensate for a weakness in himself that he didn’t want to face. Peter was avoiding having that all important conversation with Jesus that thankfully he eventually did have. It is that conversation that will bring Peter back to his beginnings. Through that conversation he will relearn what we all need to learn that even if we’ve been Christians for a while, we never cease being sinners saved by Grace.

“Do you love me, Peter?” What a painful question that was. “You know that I love you, Lord.” “Feed my lambs.” Peter had to go back over his three denials of the Master and relive the agony of them. Three times Jesus asked him: Peter, do you love me? Peter do you love me? Peter do you love me? Only when Peter grasped that Jesus still accepted him, despite his huge failure, could his shame be absolved, and could he move on.

A failure to get this can affect whole churches….

Read it all or there is an audio link here if you want that instead.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Tsunami's Ghosts Haunt Japanese Earthquake Survivors

…the earthquake also had quieter consequences that didn’t make headlines. In the London Review of Books, Richard Lloyd Parry investigates a peculiar phenomenon revealed in the aftermath of the storm. His piece is called “Ghosts of the Tsunami.”

RICHARD LLOYD PARRY: People reported neighbors – neighbors who died in the tsunami – appearing at their houses and coming and sitting down in puddles of water.

MARTIN: Parry has lived in Japan for 18 years and has known it to be a mostly secular culture. In global polls, Japan ranks as one of the least religious countries in the world.

PARRY: But there’s a bit more to it than that. I mean I’d got used to seeing, in the homes of friends, these little altars you find to the family ancestors. And I’d always assumed they were nothing much more than a quaint piece of interior decoration. But I realized in following this story and returning to the tsunami zone, that actually the religion of the ancestors is alive and well and very strong.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Japan, Marriage & Family, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry

(NYT) Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap–“Poverty is a thief”

There have long been stark economic differences between Fairfax County and McDowell. But as their fortunes have diverged even further over the past generation, their life expectancies have diverged, too. In McDowell, women’s life expectancy has actually fallen by two years since 1985; it grew five years in Fairfax.

“Poverty is a thief,” said Michael Reisch, a professor of social justice at the University of Maryland, testifying before a Senate panel on the issue. “Poverty not only diminishes a person’s life chances, it steals years from one’s life.”

That reality is playing out across the country. For the upper half of the income spectrum, men who reach the age of 65 are living about six years longer than they did in the late 1970s. Men in the lower half are living just 1.3 years longer.

This life-expectancy gap has started to surface in discussions among researchers, public health officials and Washington policy makers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Poverty, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology