Daily Archives: May 16, 2014

(RNS) Fred Shapiro–It turns out Reinhold Neibuhr really was the source of the Serenity Prayer

The 1932 partial Serenity Prayer is the data point that clinches the argument for “R.N.” (Reinhold Niebuhr) as Wygal’s source for the prayer and as its originator.

Many of the early occurrences of the prayer were in YWCA contexts; Wygal, a longtime YWCA official, is a highly plausible disseminator for those YWCA usages. Beginning in 1937, other commentators ascribed the origination to Niebuhr, including an attribution in a booklet titled “Prayers for a Busy Day,” published by the YWCA in 1938, and there were no competing claims of authorship until some years later.

Perhaps now we can be serene knowing that the long-standing dispute over who wrote this beloved prayer has at last itself attained serenity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Theology

(WSJ) [former U.S. senator from Connecticut] Joseph Lieberman: A Divine Lesson in Governing

Together Passover and Shavuot also teach that accepting the Ten Commandments at Sinai endowed the world with a sense of purpose and destiny. That acts as a guide for how to use freedom. The Passover story makes clear that God did not liberate the Jewish people merely to free them from bondage. God emancipated the Israelites to serve God in the desert, accept the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and then strive to live them out in their daily lives.

The exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the law at Sinai have permeated cultures well beyond Judaism for centuries. These two events are in fact cornerstones for the modern global civilization. They gave civil society a code by which to conduct personal lives and create legal systems. They motivate people to lead what Rev. Rick Warren calls a “purpose-driven life.” And they may be in part what President John F. Kennedy meant in the closing words of his 1961 inaugural address: “Let us go forth to lead the land we love asking his blessing and his help but knowing here on Earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

Shavuot begins after sunset on Tuesday, June 2. Let us gather together that evening with believers of all persuasions and discuss what Sinai and the Ten Commandments mean to each of us””our history, our responsibility and our destiny. Call it a Sinai Seder.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Fleet Street's last religious affairs postn axed as Ruth Gledhill leaves London Times after 27 years

Fleet Street is to lose its last religious affairs correspondent next week when Ruth Gledhill leaves The Times.

Gledhill has confirmed her position is being made redundant as she leaves the paper after 27 years.

The Daily Telegraph has a social and religious affairs editor, John Bingham, but Gledhill is believed to be the last full-time UK national newspaper reporter dedicated to covering religion.

Meanwhile, Caroline Wyatt was appointed as the BBC News’s religious affairs correspondent after seven years working as a defence correspondent for the corporation last week. She replaces Robert Pigott, who is moving to become a BBC news correspondent.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture

Morgan Sperling's Inside Man profile of the religious Landscape in Nashville, Tenn.

Morgan travels to Nashville, TN ”“ the buckle of the Bible Belt ”“ to become a guest preacher at an atheist church, a controversial and growing movement in the U.S. Along the way, he visits evangelical mega-churches, Baptist gospel churches, mosques, Mormon gatherings, and more to try and figure out exactly why people need religion in their lives, why it creates so much conflict in this world, and what his own message is for his Sunday sermon.

(You can also find a brief Tennessean article there).

Read the program transcipt here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Roman Catholic Bishop of Richmond, Va.: Parishioners should switch to different church

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has urged Roman Catholics attending a one-of-a-kind Catholic and Episcopal church to worship at a nearby parish because he has not been able to find a “suitable priest” to serve the blended congregation.

It was the latest round of adversity for a church that has battled to maintain its ecumenical mission in the face of flagging support in the Catholic hierarchy.

In a letter read Sunday to members of the Church of the Holy Apostles, DiLorenzo noted that the 36-year-old congregation’s interim Catholic priest is in poor health and has been unable to serve consistently.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Gallup) View of Death Penalty as Morally OK Unchanged in U.S.

The recent news about the botched execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate has not affected the way Americans view the death penalty. Sixty-one percent say the death penalty is morally acceptable, similar to the 62% who said so in 2013, although both figures are down from a high of 71% in 2006.

The results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 8-11. On April 29, an Oklahoma death row inmate given a lethal injection appeared to suffer for an extended period of time until finally dying of a heart attack. That incident led to the postponement of a second execution scheduled in Oklahoma that day and raised questions about the methods used to execute prisoners.

The case did not fundamentally alter Americans’ perceptions of the death penalty, however, with a solid majority viewing it as morally acceptable. This percentage is similar to the 60% who say they favor the death penalty as punishment for murder in Gallup’s October update.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Capital Punishment, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

(WSJ) Chinese Weapons Supplier Denies Selling Gas to Syria

A Chinese weapons supplier on Friday rejected claims that it sold Syria chlorine gas, an unusual statement from a tight-lipped company that reflects Beijing’s desire to distance itself from chemical weapons.

In a statement, China North Industries Corp. said a “comprehensive review” of company records revealed that it has never exported chlorine or chlorine products to Syria. The company, known as Norinco, said it is “a responsible major international defense company” that conforms to the Chinese government’s goals on non-proliferation.

The statement followed a report Tuesday from the group Human Rights Watch that documented what it said were signs of the use of chlorine gas in northern Syria in April. Images on the group’s website showed yellow canisters with the markings “CL2,” the chemical symbol for chlorine gas, and “NORINCO.” Chlorine is lethal in high concentrations and was used in chemical warfare as early as the World War I.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Syria, Theology, Violence

(BBC) India's BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] with a historic win: "scale of victory is truly gigantic"

India’s main opposition BJP has risen like a phoenix from the depths of despair.

As the leads poured in on Friday morning, it was clear that the party is steaming ahead to its biggest victory in 30 years. This, after two losing two elections in a row – the party was able to mop up only 116 seats in 2009.

Today, the BJP on its own is on course to win more than the 272 which it needs to gain a simple majority, and its 28-party coalition is leading the vote count in over 300 seats.

Read it all.

Update: From an SMH article:

“It’s a tsunami … the BJP has levelled the Congress and this is a new era in Indian politics,” BJP chief media spokesman Srikant Sharma told Fairfax Media.

“The Gandhi family is finished. They are no longer a force in Indian politics. India has moved past them, they are history,” he said.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, India, Politics in General

(CC) B. J. Hutto–Why a church wedding? Truth telling about Christian marriage

The truth is that fewer young couples are choosing traditional church weddings. An increasing number of couples choose a small civil ceremony, or a Christian ceremony offsite, or no wedding at all. Many establish a household and a life together without any official civil or religious sanction. These changes in relationships and in commitment decisions feed a growing apprehension that young people are divorcing themselves from the church. If couples are not choosing typical church weddings, doesn’t that indicate the marginalization of the church in these people’s lives and, by extension, in society at large? And so congregations like Matthew’s ask anxiously: Why wouldn’t a pastor unquestioningly embrace a couple asking to be married? Why would a pastor pass up a chance to draw a young couple into the church?

But perhaps that’s the wrong question. Perhaps the question we should be asking is, What does it mean for a couple to get married in the church? One of my seminary professors once recited the nursery rhyme: “Here is the church, and here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.” Then he added, “Of course, it’s only when you open the doors that you see the church. The church is the community.” Viewed in that light, Matthew did not deny the engaged couple a church wedding but instead offered them one.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Young Adults

(Church Times) Missing schoolgirls: Archbp Justin Welby warns against Western force

The whereabouts of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in northern Nigeria remain unknown a month after their kidnapping. Never the less, the Archbishop of Canterbury has cautioned against military intervention by Western nations to find them.

Writing in the Church Times (below), Archbishop Welby says that defeating Boko Haram, the Islamist militants who snatched the teenagers from their school in Chibok, would take a combination of local police work, winning the hearts and minds of Muslims inthe region, and economic development.

He also writes: “External intervention is always difficult. In the first place, our history as the colonial power, and the role of the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan, makes both countries (and indeed much of the ‘Christian West’) suspicious for many Muslims.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence, Women

(L Times) Headmaster of Castle House School–“Schools are turning out too many amoral children"

State schools are creating amoral children because they spend more time on academic studies than learning right from wrong, a leading independent school headmaster will say today.

The pressure to get excellent results is distracting teachers from imparting good values to pupils, according to Richard Walden, chairman of the Independent Schools Association.

Private schools, by contrast, turn out young people with emotional intelligence and moral understanding, he is due to tell the association’s annual conference in Warwickshire .

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Children, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Sudan

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plenteous harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Sudan

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Eternal God, look mercifully upon the broken body of thy Church. Draw its members unto thee and one to another by the bands of thy love; that its restored unity may bring healing to the nations, and the life of mankind may glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–The Pastors Prayerbook

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

–1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Atlantic) Baptists, Just Without the Baptisms

For several years, membership in Southern Baptist churches has been in decline. The American denomination hit its peak in 2005 with 16.6 million members, and since then, communities have seen a steady drop, hitting 15.8 million members in 2012. That’s nearly one million members lost in roughly a decade””a period during which the overall U.S. population grew by more than 18 million.

But arguably, the more significant decline is happening within church communities: They’re not performing as many baptisms anymore. The top baptismal year was 1999; since then, the ritual has become more and more infrequent, dropping by about 25 percent.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Baptists, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Ecnmst) New Europe is as divided about Russia as old Europe, with bad consequences for all

The lands lying between the Baltic and the Black Sea have had many names: the “bloodlands” of the second world war, the “captive nations” of the cold war, the “ex-communist” countries of the post-Soviet era and, for many, the “new members” of the European Union. Before the 2003 Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld, America’s defence secretary, praised “new Europe” as pro-American, unlike “old Europe” (ie, France and Germany). The French president, Jacques Chirac, then chided the easterners as having “missed a great opportunity to keep quiet”.

The nomenclature must now change again, because of Ukraine. In its response to Vladimir Putin’s revanchism, Mr Rumsfeld’s new Europe is remarkably similar to the old one: divided roughly between north and south. Poland and the Baltic three are hawkish, believing that Russia has irrevocably changed the post-war order; Bulgaria and Hungary are among those opposed to tough sanctions who hope that business with Russia will somehow return to normal.

This spectrum might be a welcome sign of normality, if only the stakes were not so high. The divisions of eastern Europe aggravate those of the EU as a whole. Nobody tells easterners to shut up any more; even France is wooing them. But if the countries closest to Russia, with direct experience of Soviet occupation, cannot agree on sanctions, why should others endanger their still-fragile economies?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Theology, Ukraine, Violence

British Columbia apologizes for past discriminatory policies towards Chinese Canadians

The Province of British Columbia formally apologized to Chinese Canadians Thursday for historical wrongs and racism dating back to Confederation.

Premier Christy Clark read the apology into the legislature, which was supported by the Opposition NDP and other MLAs.

“On behalf of the Province of British Columbia, and on behalf of the entire legislative assembly, we sincerely apologize for the provincial government’s historical wrongs,” said Clark.

“We are sorry for the discriminatory legislation and racist policies enacted by past provincial governments. We will ensure that this never happens again.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Asia, Canada, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Pastoral Theology, Theology