Daily Archives: February 23, 2015

(RNS) Losing their Faith: More women join the 'no religious identity' category

Nadia Bulkin, 27, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, spends “zero time” thinking about God.

And she finds that among her friends ”” both guys and gals ”” many are just as spiritually disconnected.

Surveys have long shown women lead more active lives of faith than men, and that millennials are less interested than earlier generations. One in three now claim no religious identity.

What may be new is that more women, generation by generation, are moving in the direction of men ”” away from faith, religious commitment, even away from vaguely spiritual views like “a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” according to some surveys.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology, Women

Bishop Mark Lawrence–Peace: Here and Now–an Ash Wednesday Reflection

What do all these words read this day and resonating in my ears have to do with my observance of holy Lent? This I believe:

”¢ If grace-filled obedience not self-imposed deprivation is the pathway to God’s blessing shouldn’t one’s Lenten discipline focus on this?
”¢ If God’s call, not the driven life, is for each of us our apostolic mission shouldn’t that be the place out of which we live our lives and do our work and ministry?
Ӣ If we are dust and to dust we shall return (as the words of the Ash Wednesday liturgy reminds us) why am I, and so many of us, in such a hurry?

Then there was this word that came like a lightning bolt across my mind illuminating my whole being: “”¦ you think you have to be some place elsewhere or accomplish something more to find peace. But it is right here. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.” Once again this was a word spoken years ago by Dr. Dallas Willard to John Ortberg’s striving and spiritually dry soul; I noted these words in my journal and then wrote this confession: I repent of this, Lord. I renounce the life tape that has played within me for years that makes peace something relegated to some place “where” or some time “when” and other than here and now in You.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Gender, violence and religion When north and south agree

A couple of days ago, a senior African cleric was holding forth on the need to combine religious instruction with, in the broadest sense, sex education. Both at home and at school, declared Archbishop Henri Isingoma, boys must be taught about the higher purpose of sex as “the way God wanted to make the human race continue”. Another acute problem, he added, was “ignorance of the responsibilities of men towards women.” He was speaking in a webinar organised by a department of the global Anglican church, drawing in clergy and church workers from their own and other Christian confessions.

So…was this one more depressing display of the giant cultural gap between the liberal north and the traditional south, especially over sexuality, which is tearing apart the 80m-strong Anglican Communion, and many other religious bodies?

No, it was nothing of the kind, and that’s what made the discussion more worthwhile. The topic was “gender-based violence” which is a catchall term that describes both domestic cruelty and the still-greater horrors that take place on battlefields when soldiers run amok and commit rape. Victims of GBV are mainly female, but they also include men and boys. And the striking thing was that on this exceptionally grave subject, “conservatives” and “liberals” plainly find it useful to talk and cooperate, and the talk goes well beyond platitudes.

Mara Luz, an Anglican church worker from Brazil, said 40% of women in her country experienced some kind of violence; there were well-written laws, but implementation was very poor, especially in remote areas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

([London] Times) Lethal self-harm–Why are teenage boys so prone to severe depression?

We can only imagine the agony of Edward Mallen’s parents, for whom “a normal Monday afternoon became a horrifying nightmare where one is staring into this appalling abyss of grief” when police knocked on their door last week to say that their 18-year-old son had been killed by a train. Intelligent, gifted, kind and humble, head boy twice over ”” by all accounts, Edward was a remarkable young man. Twelve A*s at GCSE, a place at Cambridge to read geography, grade eight at piano and popular.

Yet shortly after Christmas depression consumed him. His father said: “Often there is a trigger, some trauma, but there didn’t seem to be in this case. My son had a sickness ”” a biological sickness ”” that overtook him very rapidly. It happened over six to eight weeks.” The shocking fact is that this is not an isolated incident. Talking to experts and parents, I get a sense that self-harm, a destructive way of coping with emotional pain, has reached epidemic proportions.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ 2010 report on public mental health, half of those who suffer mental-health problems in adult life display difficulties by the age of 14. Three quarters of mental illness is present by the mid-twenties. While three times as many women as men attempt suicide, Office for National Statistics figures show that 78 per cent of suicides in 2013 were male (up from 63 per cent in 1981).

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Education, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Men, Psychology, Stress, Suicide, Teens / Youth

Kendall Harmon's Sermon from Sunday–'Father Forgive them for they know not what they do'

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

In S.C. Charleston, Dorchester students battle it out in underwater robotics competition

West Ashley High student Christian Bohn shouted words of encouragement as his classmate James Williams guided an underwater robot ”” weighted down with a wobbly peg ”” across a slotted box at the bottom of the pool.

“You got it, you got it!” Bohn exclaimed, as Williams plopped the peg into a tiny hole.

The West Ashley seniors were among more than 50 middle and high school students from six Charleston and Dorchester county schools who competed Thursday in the Charleston Regional SeaPerch Competition at Danny Jones Pool in North Charleston. Students battled it out for a chance to compete in the 2015 SeaPerch National Challenge in May at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Children, Science & Technology

Archbishop Justin Welby's speech at the recent Think, Pray, Vote conference

I am going to speak today, principally, about why discipleship compels us to be concerned with matters of politics and active participation in politics, and a little about some of the issues we face.

We should never lose sight of the fact, when we are engaging in politics as to why it matters so much. We have the great good fortune, whichever party we support, whichever part of politics we come from, to be able to do that without fear in this country. And let us today remember that in many parts of the world, and particularly in Northern Iraq, in parts of Libya, in Northern Nigeria, that were we to gather in a room like this today, it would be almost certainly the cause of our death. And usually in a very terrible way.

And so the business of engagement in politics is in part a celebration of what we have in this country. And a proclamation that we are deeply committed to a society where freedom of expression and justice are at its heart. Where nobody is excluded because they are poor or rich, or one ethnic background or another or a sexuality. But they are all included with equal value in their opinions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Notable and Quotable–from a new book Examining the R. Catholic Church in Ireland

The Irish Church today is still marked by relatively high levels of religious adherence and participation compared to most of its fellow European countries. Two of the book’s contributors, Elizabeth Oldmixon and Brian Calfano, find most Irish Catholic priests do not feel “burned-out” and report reasonably high levels of job satisfaction, in line with ministers in other religious traditions.

Another contributor, Bernadette Flanagan, finds a lively spirituality still at work within the Church, one that can now be informed by practices from other cultures as well as from the country’s own past.

Throughout the essays, the writers agree the potential is great for an Irish Catholicism that otherwise stands liberated from long relationships to political power and social privilege.

Read it all from the Irish Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, History, Ireland, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(ARDA) David Briggs–How religion matters in the face of death

Most Americans hold on to the hope of eternal life. This belief has remained relatively unchanged in recent decades despite a rise in secularism and the visibility of prominent atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins decrying such ideas as delusions.

In the 1976 General Social Survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they believed in a life after death. The percentage holding that belief was unchanged in the 2012 survey.

And for many people, this is a great resource. In general, a number of studies indicate a strong faith and a deeply held belief in the afterlife allows individuals to better cope with their own fears of mortality.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

A Portion of the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp for his Feast Day

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Cæsar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, Chapter IX.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Polycarp

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who didst give to thy venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Saviour, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, after his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from John Cosin

O Lord our God, grant us, we beseech thee, patience in troubles, humility in comforts, constancy in temptations, and victory over all our spiritual foes. Grant us sorrow for our sins, thankfulness for thy benefits, fear of thy judgment, love of thy mercies, and mindfulness of thy presence; now and for evermore.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Blessed is he who considers the poor!
The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
thou dost not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness thou healest all his infirmities.

–Psalm 41:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

An Internet Language Quiz: Are You on Fleek?

I only managed 7/12–see how you do.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Blogging & the Internet

(Wash Post) Mixing faith and finance: Churches put faith in followers’ creditworthiness

About a year and a half ago, [Nina} McCarthy took out another, different kind of loan. She went to her pastor, Rodney Hunter, at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Richmond. Hunter helped her borrow $700 so she could make a dent in paying off her mounting credit card debt, then about $8,000.

Here’s how it worked: McCarthy’s church offered funds as collateral so she could qualify for a loan through the Virginia United Methodist Credit Union. McCarthy agreed to repay the loan at an annualized interest rate of about 6 percent ”“ meaning monthly payments of $25 for about 2 1/2 years, drawn right out of her bank account.

McCarthy is one month behind on the church loan, but she’s confident she’ll catch up this month. “I’m real grateful for it,” she said.

The program is called the Jubilee Assistance Fund. In 7 1/2 years, it has helped parishioners of the United Methodist Church secure 14 loans ”“ from $500 to $8,800 ”“ according to Carol Mathis, chief executive of the credit union.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

Food for Thought from Ashley Null–'the glory of God is to love the unworthy'

Here is the truly revolutionary nature of the Gospel they [The Anglican reformers] found in Scripture. The red thread that runs throughout Cranmer’s writings is this simple truth: the glory of God is to love the unworthy. For the early English Protestants, nothing established that principle as clearly as God’s decision not to base salvation on personal merit….

–Ashley Null, Divine Allurement: Cranmer’s Comfortable Words (Latimer Trust: 2014), p.8; quoted by yours truly in this morning’s sermon

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

(Economist) Amidst the rise of Anti-Semitism, Europe has an obligation to protect its Jews

To state the obvious, Europe does not have state-sponsored pogroms or discriminatory Nuremberg laws. In western Europe Jews are more integrated than ever; often their real worry is of decline through assimilation. In much of the east, there has been a flowering of Jewish life since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Berlin itself boasts Europe’s fastest-growing Jewish community. The far right in Hungary really is anti-Semitic, but in France and the Netherlands these days populists now abjure anti-Semitism, even as they denounce Muslim migrants.

Moving to Israel may fulfil a religious, cultural or political longing for some Jews””but it is hardly safer. As the Danish chief rabbi rightly put it, emigrating to Israel should be out of love, not fear. European democracies must ensure that this remains so. Given their dire history of Jew-hatred””from the Norwich blood libel in 1144 to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 to the Nazi Holocaust””Europeans must be ever-vigilant against any sign of anti-Semitism, whether of the old endemic Christian sort or the newer Islamist variety.

Like all Europeans, Jews must be able to live free from the fear of violence. This means greater protection for Jewish institutions. Security forces must try to protect innumerable soft targets, and these days these almost always include Jews.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(CC) Ruben Duran+Evan­gelical Lutheran Church in America try a strategy of Shut up and learn

“Luther says we live in and through our neighbor,” Duran explains. “Most of our congregations were planted for the neighborhood.” But when neighborhoods changed, congregations often resisted trans­formation. Members be­gan commuting to attend church. Then, Duran said, “the neighbors became the object of the church’s ministry rather than the subject.” Duran wants the neighbors to be the subject again.

The church’s strategy is to “shut up and learn”””to listen and reconnect with diverse neighborhoods, in­cluding the working poor and young adults who grew up in the suburbs but are now relocating in cities. “There are so many people in our neighborhoods who are doing God’s work,” Duran said, “but they just don’t know it yet.”

The ELCA has set up a process by which men and women who have the gifts and skills for ministry but who haven’t attended seminary can be full-time pastors””“lay mission developers”””serving with the blessing of the community and the bishop.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Douglas Groothuis–Six Enemies Of Apologetic Engagement

My modest purpose is briefly to lay out six factors that illegitimately inhibit apologetic engagement today. If these barriers are removed, our apologetic witness may grow into what it should be in Christ.
1. Indifference

Too many Christians don’t seem to care that Christianity is routinely ridiculed as outdated, irrational, and narrow-minded in our culture. They may complain that this “offends” them (just as everyone else is complaining that one thing or another “offends” them), but they do little to counteract the charges by offering a defense of the Christian world view in a variety of settings. Yet Scripture commands all Christians to have a reason for the hope that is within them and to present this with gentleness and respect to unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15). Our attitude should be that of the Apostle Paul who was “greatly distressed” when he beheld the idolatry of sophisticated Athens. This zeal for the truth of God led him into a fruitful apologetic encounter with the thinkers gathered to debate new ideas (see Acts 17). It should for us as well. Just as God “so loved the world” that he sent Jesus to set us right with God (John 3:16), Jesus’ disciples should so love the world that they endeavor to reach the lost by presenting the Gospel and answering objections to the Christian faith (John 17:18)….

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(LA Times) Homeland secretary warns Americans on mall threat

President Obama’s top homeland security advisor issued two warnings Sunday as he urged Americans to be “particularly careful” about terror threats at shopping malls and called on Congress to prevent a funding crisis that leaves his department with no money to operate.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson tied the latest round of threats from an al-Qaeda-linked terror group with the pending DHS funding crisis by mentioning them in the same breath on several Sunday morning talk shows.

“It’s imperative that we get it resolved, because if we don’t, by Friday at midnight, homeland security, the homeland security budget for this nation basically evaporates,” Johnson told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Terrorism, Theology