Daily Archives: June 20, 2014

(WSJ) Two Cases of Latter-Day Apostasy are roiling Mormons

…the pending actions against both people represent the church’s established response to certain forms of dissent. Stretching back to the early years of the church under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, church leaders have demanded obedience and punished those who publicly challenged their authority. In 1979 the church excommunicated Sonia Johnson, who engaged in public protest against the church’s role in preventing the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. In September 1993 the church disciplined six scholars (known as the “September Six”), several of whom were outspoken feminists.

Mormon excommunications cause tremendous trauma for individuals, families and the church as a whole. Latter-day Saint theology and ritual focus on sealing together couples and families for eternity. Excommunication imperils those sealings. On Ordain Women’s website, Ms. Kelly refers to the penalty as “spiritual death” and “evict[ion] from your forever family.”

Church discipline also means unwanted negative attention for a church that carefully manages its image. Thus, although other church critics also report heightened ecclesiastical pressure, the recent measures probably do not augur a wave of excommunications. Instead, by disciplining Ms. Kelly church leaders hope to quash Ordain Women while permitting and even engaging more moderate voices for change. While the church has on occasion changed course abruptly””as in 1978 when it ended the ban on men of African descent holding the priesthood””more often change comes slowly and incrementally.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(A Nichols) Why should a parent choose church over football? How good are we in saying why we exist?

Why don’t people make time for church? This is a question I have often read about, discussed with others or heard talks examining the reasons.

Could it be that people don’t know what it’s about any more? Do parents or carers not see why it would be worthwhile for their child to go to church? At a small group for 9- to 10-year-olds, two churched children shared how their friends thought that ‘church was for babies’ and ‘there were more important things to do’. Churches have become much better at making our communities aware that we exist, but are we as good at telling them what we exist for? What would a child gain from coming to church?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sports, Theology

(NYT) What to Call Iraq Fighters? ISIS? ISIL?

Everyone seems to agree that the Sunni extremists who are striving to carve out a caliphate in Syria and Iraq have upended the region, but there is no consensus on what to call the militant group, in English at least.

Many news outlets, including The New York Times, have been translating the group’s name as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS for short. But the United States government and several news agencies call it the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or I.S.I.L. (The BBC, curiously, uses the ISIS acronym, but “Levant” when spelling the name out.)

Neither way is an exact rendering of the group’s Arabic name, الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام, or al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil-Iraq wa al-Sham. The difficulty comes from the last word.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Iraq, Islam, Media, Middle East, Other Faiths, Terrorism, Theology

(FT) ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) unleashes digital offensive

In the first day of the assault on Mosul, 40,000 pro-Isis tweets were unleashed, according to analysis by JM Berger, an author who researches extremism and social media, in a co-ordinated campaign of Twitter hashtags and digitally manipulated imagery.

Mr Berger this week discovered that Isis has its own web app, catchily named the Dawn of Glad Tidings. Downloadable by its digital footsoldiers, it allows Isis’ social media command to beam co-ordinated messages into their Twitter feeds, allowing a diffuse, but co-ordinated, mass messaging programme.

“They have used social media to great effect,” says Nigel Inkster, former assistant chief of MI6, the UK intelligence service, and now director of transnational threats at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank. “And its success was undeniably one of the factors in the collapse of the Iraqi army ”“ they have been comprehensively psychologically bested.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Media, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

AP Story on the Presbyterian Church same-sex marriage Decision

The top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted by large margins Thursday to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution, adding language that marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”

The amendment approved by the Presbyterian General Assembly requires approval from a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries, which will vote on the change over the next year. But in a separate policy change that takes effect at the end of this week’s meeting, delegates voted to allow ministers to preside at gay weddings in states where the unions are legal and local congregational leaders approve. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.

The votes, during a national meeting in Detroit, were a sweeping victory for Presbyterian gay-rights advocates. The denomination in 2011 eliminated barriers to ordaining clergy with same-sex partners, but ministers were still barred from celebrating gay marriages and risked church penalties for doing so. Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a gay advocacy group, said the decisions Thursday were “an answer to many prayers.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Anglican Bishop of Akoko 'Re-Writes' National Anthem to argue Nigeria now in 3-Fold War

He observed that the country is facing a tripartite war from the Islamic religious sect known as Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and unknown gun men adding, ” hundreds of innocent Nigerians have lost their lives to these elements in the last few years. Nigeria is now facing full blown war.”

While reading out major headlines from a national Newspapers starting from February 17, [Gabriel] Akinbiyi he observed, “From the headlines you will find out that the country has consistently come under the attack of terrorists. Nigeria is at full blown war”

He observed that “Boko Haram has become a sophisticated and well established international organization. Even if the inventors themselves should be given Nigeria to govern today they would not be able to do better that what obtains now in terms of curbing them.

He however added that only God can deliver Nigeria from their hands. “for God do it for us as a nation, we must return to Him as a nation in repentance and faith, call upon him in earnest prayers and He will do it.” He said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Christian Today) Jeff Lucas: Five reasons to be nice to your pastor

I know. I’m biased, because I’m a pastor, and given the choice between engaging with pleasant, encouraging, smiling souls, and those carping critics who make piranhas look like tame goldfish, I’d obviously choose the latter. But it’s worth thinking about why we should be nice to the women and men who lead us, for one simple reason: encouragement takes thought and strategy, and shouldn’t just happen because it just happens. Years ago Ian Dury (together with his Blockhead friends) sang about ‘Reasons to be cheerful’. Here are 5 reasons to be nice to your local pastor:

1. They frequently take the blame for God

It’s true: Christian leaders represent God, who is currently invisible, and, at times, seems unavailable, especially when things go horribly wrong in life. When people get angry with God, there’s no customer support line to call, and so they frequently take out their frustration on the person they most associate with God, which might be their vicar, pastor, leader or priest. Getting slapped on behalf of the Almighty is not a happy experience.

2. They are required to say some things that they’d prefer not to say

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

SE Asia Anglican head questions [Malaysian Prime Minister] Najib’s silence on seized-Bibles issue

The head of the Anglican Church in Southeast Asia has questioned Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s silence on the seized-Bibles issue and said it appeared to be a political strategy.

“I am inclined to think that he is conveying that the whole charade is not worthy of his comment. To do otherwise is to dignify what is plainly wicked,” Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok said today.

Lapok, who is also chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, also questioned the prime minister’s refusal to condemn the action of the extreme minority “that is poisoning inter-religious tolerance”.

“The prime minister’s inaction may be politically smart. But is it morally right?” he said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Malaysia, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The Anglican Church in South East Asia, Theology

(JE) Jeff Walton writes about ACNA as the leaders meet to choose a successor to Bob Duncan

The denomination’s path has not been without conflict: in 2010, the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA), a founding organization of ACNA and part of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, announced it was transitioning to “missionary partner” ”“ a lower level of affiliation with ACNA. Eighteen months later, the AMIA experienced a crisis when its officials unilaterally severed their connection with the Rwandan church, forfeiting ACNA missionary partner status. The dispute was partly resolved when two-thirds of AMIA congregations opted to affiliate with ACNA by directly joining its dioceses or through a new Rwandan-sponsored missionary jurisdiction. The remaining third of AMIA congregations recast themselves as a mission society with connections to the Anglican Church of Congo.

Many ACNA congregations that departed the Episcopal Church have also endured litigation over disputed church properties with their former denomination. While Duncan has acknowledged the pain of the past split for many congregations and the difficulty of contentious litigation, he has encouraged congregations to prioritize evangelism and not to dwell on past disputes.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology

(Church Times) Survey reveals falling numbers of those who identify themselves as Anglican

The proportion of the British population who identify themselves as Anglican has more than halved in the past ten years, according to data collected by NatCen Social Research and released to the Church Times.

At the same time, the percentage of people who attend religious worship is largely unchanged.

The data was compiled by NatCen as part of its research for the 31st British Social Attitudes Survey, but was not included in their report, which was published this week.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Bishop of London promotes young vocations in the Diocese of London

Last week, the Bishop of London and the General Secretary of the Diocese, Andy Brookes, joined young would-be clergy from across the Diocese of London in the Wren Suite of St Paul’s Cathedral, to promote young vocations. Young people from a number of vocational schemes around the Diocese, including the North London, Kensington and Stepney Schemes, attended the event.

These schemes offer one- or two-year programmes of theological teaching, practical experience, vocational discernment and personal development for young people exploring their calling and considering future ministry in the church. As part of these schemes, regular sessions are run for the pastoral assistants, offering a programme of Christian formation as well as specific support for those who are at different stages on the journey to test a call to ordained ministry.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(NYT Op-Ed) Murong Xuecun–China's Clampdown on 'Evil Cults'

On June 1, my friend Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Reformed Church in Chengdu was arrested while distributing anti-forced-abortion leaflets. The stated grounds for detaining him were “illegal advertising.” He was let go after half an hour. Three days later, Mr. Wang was detained again. This time the arresting officers produced no identification and gave no reason for taking him in. After 12 hours of interrogation, he was finally released at midnight.

When I posted an account of the harassment on Weibo, a microblogging platform, several people protested against the injustice ”” and many wrote in support of the government’s actions. One netizen commented, “The cops have done a beautiful job!”

I wondered how many of the hostile comments were sincere and how many were made for money: The government employs a cyberpolice force of propagandists known as the 50-Cent Party. But given other recent events, and China’s agonizing history with organized religion, I believe that a good number of the pro-government comments reflected genuine opinion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Strengthen us, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in us thy manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and strength; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill us, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, now and for ever.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and

–Romans 2:25-28

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Presbyterian Church USA will allow same-sex marriages

Ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can preside at same-sex marriages in states where they are legal following a vote this afternoon at the denomination”˜”s top legislative body.

And in the coming year, the denomination’”s regional presbyteries will vote on whether to change its marriage definition church-wide to include two people regardless of gender.

Strong applause broke out after the overwhelming votes, which came after debate of more than two hours at the denomination”˜”s General Assembly here at the Detroit Cobo Center. But the decisions also came with plenty of anxious words about the looming possibility that more conservatives will join an exodus of estimated 350 congregations that have left for more conservative denominations in recent years as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shifts to increasingly liberal stances on sexuality. In 2011, the denomination voted to authorize the ordination of gays and lesbians in non-celibate relationships.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Heartbreak for English Football Fans Again in World Cup Loss to Uruguay 2-1

They not only lose they find a way to break your heart while doing it.

In fairness, the offense had moments of light, but the defense just wasn’t good enough–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Brazil, England / UK, Globalization, Men, South America, Sports