Daily Archives: September 20, 2014

(TES) Nigel Genders: The C of E 'must urgently act to restore rigour to the teaching of RE'

Even though the government is working hard to reform the GCSE and ensure that it is rigorous and challenging, it will not be included as one of the humanities options in the English Baccalaureate. This exclusion has not stemmed the rising numbers of those young people who value and want to study the subject, but that is primarily because the Ebacc was not compulsory and schools can still offer the subject as one of the ”˜Progress 8’ that will be measured in performance tables.

But recent announcements from the Secretary of State suggest that the Conservative Party’s manifesto is likely to see the EBacc becoming compulsory, and that will have a disastrous impact on the numbers of students able to take a subject which they value so highly.

Perhaps the largest challenge is found in the desperate shortage of specialist or dedicated RE specialist teachers. It is shocking that more RE lessons are currently being taught by non-specialists than by teachers trained in the subject. One can only imagine the outcry if this was the situation with Maths or English. Encouraging new RE teachers requires the government to reconsider their current policy not to provide bursaries to PGCE students wishing to train as RE teachers. Why would anybody want to train to teach a subject which is undermined by central government in such a fashion?

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) Should The U.S. Pay Ransom For ISIS Hostages?

It is U.S. policy that the government does not pay ransom to gain the release of Americans held hostage by terrorist groups, nor does it negotiate with them. That stance was criticized by the family of James Foley, the journalist recently killed by extremist group Islamic State, or ISIS. The family felt that the Obama administration had not done enough to secure Foley’s release.

“As someone who was held and who was released in part because of a ransom,” Fattal says, “I’m forever grateful for that. It seems like it’s important to have the U.S. government be supporting U.S. citizens abroad.”

At a recent briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained that the U.S. policy to not pay ransom is one it has “pursued for a long time; it has been in place for a long time.”

In fact, Americans have been taken hostage since the very earliest days of the republic. George Terwilliger, a former deputy U.S. attorney general in the first George Bush administration, says there is good reason for the no-ransom policy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(AP) Turkish hostages freed, but questions linger

Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world’s most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo.

But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital’s airport, experts had serious doubts about the government’s story.

The official explanation “sounds a bit too good to be true,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”

Read it all.

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

”˜Joyful noise’ puts Columbia, South Carolina, pastor in jail for one day

Columbia church pastor Johnnie Clark was sentenced to one day in jail…[recently] after being found guilty in Columbia Municipal Court of violating city noise limits.

Clark leads worshipers at Rehoboth United Assemblies on Laurel Street. The church has been in its current location for a quarter-century. Recent redevelopment downtown has brought the church into conflict with some owners of newly built homes along that street.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(New Yorker) Joshua Rothman–The Church of U2

A few years ago, I was caught up in a big research project about contemporary hymns (or “hymnody,” as they say in the trade). I listened to hundreds of hymns on Spotify; I interviewed a bunch of hymn experts. What, I asked them, was the most successful contemporary hymn””the modern successor to “Morning Has Broken” or “Amazing Grace”? Some cited recently written traditional church hymns; others mentioned songs by popular Christian musicians. But one scholar pointed in a different direction: “If you’re willing to construe the term ”˜hymn’ liberally, then the most heard, most successful hymn of the last few decades could be ”˜I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ by U2.”

Most people think of U2 as a wildly popular rock band. Actually, they’re a wildly popular, semi-secretly Christian rock band. In some ways, this seems obvious: a song on one recent album was called “Yahweh,” and where else would the streets have no name? But even critics and fans who say that they know about U2’s Christianity often underestimate how important it is to the band’s music, and to the U2 phenomenon. The result has been a divide that’s unusual in pop culture. While secular listeners tend to think of U2’s religiosity as preachy window dressing, religious listeners see faith as central to the band’s identity. To some people, Bono’s lyrics are treacly platitudes, verging on nonsense; to others, they’re thoughtful, searching, and profound meditations on faith.

Christianity Today regularly covers U2, not just as another Christian rock band but as one of special significance. In 2004, the magazine ran an article about Bono’s “thin ecclesiology”””his unwillingness to affiliate himself with a church””that sparked a debate about the health of organized religion. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, addressed the issue of Bono’s belief in a fascinating 2008 lecture about the place of organized faith in secular society.

Read it all (and consider following the links also).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, History, Music, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Theology

(Chicago Tribune) Spokane bishop introduced as Chicago's next archbishop

On more serious matters, [Bishop Blase] Cupich was asked about reports that he had moderate leanings.

He response was that he was “no saint.”

“Labels are hard for anyone to live up to. … It’s not my agenda, it’s not what I feel,” he said. “I’m going to try to be attentive to what The Lord wants.”

He pressed for immigration reform, saying it was desperately needed and “every day we delay is a day too long,” he said.

He said he did not think Pope Francis was sending a message to U.S. Catholics with his appointment. “I think his priority is not to send a message but to send a bishop. … I think he sent a pastor, not a message,” Cupich said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CC) Heidi Neumark–The poor door: Class separation in the church

Having served in urban ministry for over 30 years, I see our attention shifting away from planting churches in areas of poverty. In a time of economic struggle many urban churches have had to close their doors””both front and side. It’s possible to conclude that our past efforts were ineffective and created dependency. But every pastor I know who has worked in such ministries talks about lives changed for the better and leaders who were nurtured because the church was there with open doors. I fear we are giving up on such places.

Some of the most creative church starts today are what we call emergent communities. The ones that get the most attention are doing wonderful and essential work, especially in reaching people who have felt alienated from the church. Yet many of these people are the disaffected children of the demographic we’ve always served. We need more of these communities, but we also need to take some of that out-of-the-box vision and focus it on addressing the prevailing poor-door reality of our church.

Whenever I visit our congregation’s vice president and her family of four, I sit on the chair facing the lower bunk of their bed; the space is so tight that our knees touch. The parents sleep on the bottom bunk and the daughters (in college and high school) share the top. They live in a building where families of Mexican immigrants are squeezed into single-room cubicles without kitchen or closet and use a bathroom in the corridor with dozens of other people. This building sits in the shadow of a gleaming high-rise where the penthouse sold for millions. When I say, “in the shadow,” I mean on the same block, in eyesight of public housing projects and rent-stabilized middle-income apartments.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Christology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Poverty, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

25 Years Ago Tomorrow–Remembering Hurricane Hugo

When Hurricane Hugo struck on Sept. 21, 1989, sleepy little Summerville was still adjusting to a growth spurt that would see the town grow from a village of 6,492 people in 1980 to a town of 22,519 in 1990.

It had been years since the Lowcountry had seen a serious hurricane, and many who lived through Hugo now admit they just didn’t prepare the way they should have.

“Personally, I didn’t take it seriously,” said Margaret Goodwine.

By the time she realized the gravity of the situation, “it was really too late to do anything,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * South Carolina, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Coleridge Patteson

Almighty God, who didst call thy faithful servants John Coleridge Patteson and his companions to be witnesses and martyrs in the islands of Melanesia, and by their labors and sufferings didst raise up a people for thine own possession: Pour forth thy Holy Spirit upon thy Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many, thy holy Name may be glorified and thy kingdom enlarged; 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, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Mercifully incline thine ear, O Lord, to these my prayers at the beginning of this day, and fill my heart with thy grace; that, loving thee with an unfeigned love, I may evermore be defended under thy most gracious protection, and be accepted in my prayers and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

At the set time which I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars….

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up; but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

–Psalm 75: 2-3; 6-7

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Sky News) Satellite Technology Allows For Driverless Tractors

For many farmers in the UK it was this year’s weather that helped give them their best harvest in living memory.

But in the future it will be technology that helps them get the most from every acre.

With the global population predicted to be nine billion by 2050, experts believe we will need to produce 70% more food.

Edd Banks is one of the growing number of farmers in the UK now practising precision farming.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology, Theology