Daily Archives: January 3, 2015

(TLC) Christopher Smith’s 17-year odyssey to set John Newton’s life to music

Christopher Smith had never heard of John Newton when, with a little time to spare and in search of some air conditioning, he browsed through the children’s section of a library in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, looking for inspiration for his church youth groups.

The police officer and religious education director had no idea that this experience of “just killing time” would be his life-changing moment, one that would lead him from small-town life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the Great White Way. As it turned out, he was the one who was inspired.

Reading through a book about Newton, Smith was fascinated by the story of the British slave trader, the shipwreck, his enslavement, then his religious conversion and new life as an Anglican priest and outspoken abolitionist. Smith was so captivated by the story that he had skipped the foreword and had not realized the man he was reading about had composed one of the world’s most beloved hymns, “Amazing Grace.” It was then that Smith felt the beginning of his own conversion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History

(ARDA) Older seminarians, especially minority women, face tough job market with rising student debt

The substantial increase in middle-aged Americans seeking second careers in the pulpit has been a godsend for seminaries faced with overall declines in enrollment and budget shortfalls.

And for many pursuing a clerical career in their 40s and 50s, it is a dream come true, a chance to follow what they consider God’s call and do meaningful work in their later years.

But the realities of a shrinking clergy labor market, and seminary tuition costs outpacing inflation, leave some facing debts of $80,000 or more trying to find work in a relatively low-paying profession.

The burden is falling particularly hard on prospective minority clergy with the fewest resources, analysts state.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(Christian Today) Coptic bishop warns that Middle East is losing hope

More must be done in 2015 to combat the “suffering, destruction and devastation” of ancient Christian and other communities in the Middle East, according to a leading bishop from the region.

Bishop Angaelos, leader of the UK’s Coptic Orthodox Church, warns that it is becoming “increasingly difficult” to give hope to those suffering gross violations of their human rights.

He says in his New Year message that much has been done to help already, but it still went nowhere near far enough.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Violence

Philip Yancey on Christianity’s Negative Stereotypes

Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace? has been a modern classic in Christian reading for more than 15 years. In it, Yancey explored what grace in action truly looks like.

This fall, the best-selling author released Vanishing Grace, in which he argues that the American church has often failed at communicating grace and shows how we can get back on track.

We talked to Yancey about his new book Christians in politics and what it looks like to live in grace in a “post-Christian” society.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Evangelicals, History, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Happy Birthday to J R R Tolkien

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Books, England / UK, History

Jeffrey Miller's Sermon for Christmas 2014–Will You Miss Christmas This Year?

Listen to it all (and note there is a downloadable option).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology

Al Mohler–Newsweek on the Bible–So Misrepresented It’s a Sin

When written by journalists like Newsweek”˜s former editor Jon Meacham or TIME reporters such as David Van Biema, the articles were often balanced and genuinely insightful. Meacham and Van Biema knew the difference between theological liberals and theological conservatives and they were determined to let both sides speak. I was interviewed several times by both writers, along with others from both magazines. I may not have liked the final version of the article in some cases, but I was treated fairly and with journalistic integrity.

So, when Newsweek, now back in print under new ownership, let loose its first issue of the New Year on the Bible, I held out the hope that the article would be fair, journalistically credible, and interesting, even if written from a more liberal perspective.

But Newsweek”˜s cover story is nothing of the sort. It is an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity. It is one of the most irresponsible articles ever to appear in a journalistic guise.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(USA Today) A reversal of health care fortunes under ACA as costs crippling middle class

Physician Praveen Arla is witnessing a reversal of health care fortunes: Poor, long-uninsured patients are getting Medicaid through Obamacare and finally coming to his office for care. But middle-class workers are increasingly staying away.

“It’s flip-flopped,” says Arla, who helps his father run a family practice in Hillview, Ky. Patients with job-based plans, he says, will say: ” ‘My deductible is so high. I’m trying to come to the doctor as little as possible. ”¦ What is the minimum I can get done?’ They’re really worried about cost.”

It’s a deep and common concern across the USA, where employer plans cover 60% of working-age Americans, or about 150 million people. Coverage long considered the gold standard of health insurance now often requires workers to pay so much out-of-pocket that many feel they must skip doctor visits, put off medical procedures, avoid filling prescriptions and ration pills ”” much as the uninsured have done.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Theology

Heartwarming NBC Video– Syrian Refugee Children Find Hope and Laughter in a New School

The school was started just two years ago by a woman who couldn’t look away after feeling like ‘the whole world let them down.’

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Education, Europe, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty God, as we keep the festival of the divine humility of thy Son Jesus Christ, we beseech thee to bestow upon us such love and charity as were his, to whom it was more blessed to give than to receive, and who came not to be ministered unto but to minister; that in his name we may consecrate ourselves to the service of all who are in need; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his burial.

–Hebrews 11:13-22

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BNG) Finding the Christian response in the death of a congregation

The death of a church isn’t an easy subject, particularly to those who are losing their spiritual home.

But it is something being talked about more and more as church closings are becoming an increasingly regular occurrence ”” some estimates are nine a day in the United States.

The trend took on a very high profile Dec. 28 when Baptist author and pastor Rick Warren gave the final sermon at Mars Hill Church, the Seattle-based megachurch that dissolved after Mark Driscoll, its lead pastor of 20 years, resigned amid church discipline and leadership issues.

In a pre-recorded video beamed to Mars Hill’s numerous campuses, Warren urged members of the dissolving church to be gracious and forgiving to Driscoll and other church leaders during their grief. He urged an avoidance of bitterness and gossip, and an embrace of forgiveness and gratitude.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Daily Mail Online) Sue Reid–The country where death is now just a lifestyle choice

Everyone in the Netherlands, where a right-to-die law was passed in 2002, seems to know of someone who has lost a loved one through a mercy killing.

As many as one in 33 people now use euthanasia to end their lives, and the number of cases rose from 1,923 in 2006 to nearly 5,000 in 2013. It is thought that in 2014 around 6,000 people could have chosen to die by this means.

You might be entitled to think that what people do in Holland is their business and nothing to do with us in Britain. But you could not be more wrong.

If campaigners have their way, the law will be changed here, too, to allow those who wish to end their life to do so at a time of their choosing. For opponents of euthanasia, this raises grave moral questions, as well as concerns that unscrupulous relatives might take advantage of elderly family members ”” whose estates they might covet ”” by encouraging them to end their lives.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, The Netherlands, Theology

(CC) Michael Yandell–The war within: A veteran’s moral injury

For me, moral injury describes my disillusionment, the erosion of my sense of place in the world. The spiritual and emotional foundations of the world disappeared and made it impossible for me to sleep the sleep of the just. Even though I was part of a war that was much bigger than me, I still feel personally responsible for its consequences. I have a feeling of intense betrayal, and the betrayer and betrayed are the same person: my very self.

Calling my experience “disillusionment” does not describe how I feel about those with whom I shared military ser­vice. Nor have I become disillusioned with the ability and dedication of the U.S. military to meet specifically identified objectives.

What began to erode for me in Iraq in 2004 was my perception of good and evil. What I lost was a world that makes moral sense.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Ebola Doctors Are Divided on IV Therapy in Africa

Medical experts seeking to stem the Ebola epidemic are sharply divided over whether most patients in West Africa should, or can, be given intravenous hydration, a therapy that is standard in developed countries. Some argue that more aggressive treatment with IV fluids is medically possible and a moral obligation. But others counsel caution, saying that pushing too hard would put overworked doctors and nurses in danger and that the treatment, if given carelessly, could even kill patients.

The debate comes at a crucial time in the outbreak. New infections are flattening out in most places, better-equipped field hospitals are opening, and more trained professionals are arriving, opening up the possibility of saving many lives in Africa, rather than a few patients flown to intensive care units thousands of miles away.

The World Health Organization sees intravenous rehydration, along with constant measuring of blood chemistry, as the main reason that almost all Ebola patients treated in American and European hospitals have survived, while about 70 percent of those treated in West Africa have died.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Guinea, Health & Medicine, Liberia, Science & Technology, Sierra Leone

(RNS) Cathy Grossman–What is the Episcopal Church?

Has this church has gone from influential to afterthought, from elite to obscure, in record time? Yes and no.

It was always a small church but at least people knew it was an American Protestant denomination without being told. And they knew many of the Founding Fathers and 11 U.S. presidents prayed in Episcopal pews.

Now, when even the U.S. Supreme Court has no Protestant justices, that’s no longer common knowledge. Hence, the Post’s rare-bird-sighting treatment complete with taxonomy.

We have seen whole American religious landscape shift, denominational lines blur and points of religious distinction ”” theological and cultural ”” flatten out.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Media, Religion & Culture