Daily Archives: March 14, 2015
What exactly does it mean to you to be a priest?
It’s a funny thing in a way, probably atypical, but from the time I began to think about being anything I wanted to be a priest. Don’t ask me why. It’s the grace of God and I can’t explain it all, but I kept that through grammar school and high school. When I was going into high school, one of the Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame was giving a mission at our parish in Syracuse, and he told my mother that I ought to come out to Notre Dame and do my high school in the seminary. And she said, “He’s not going to pick up at age 12 and go that far away. He’s going to high school here.” And the priest said, “Well, he might lose his vocation.” And she said, “Let me tell you something Father. If he loses his vocation growing up in a Christian family, where he goes to mass and communion every day and is an altar boy, in the Church, I’ll tell you something””he doesn’t have one.” So when I finished high school, I came here.
Anglican Church leaders from across Africa are being hosted at meetings in Cape Town by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.
The leaders include Archbishops, Bishops and other members of the Council of African Provinces of Africa (CAPA), a body which coordinates and articulates issues affecting the Church and communities across the continent.
The council, chaired by the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi, represents Anglicans in 26 countries from 12 church provinces.
The meetings, which are happening in South Africa for the first time, include Primates (the leaders) of churches and members of the CAPA Standing Committee.
A local church sought my advice a few years ago in reversing their decline in attendance. All their questions were programmatic””What kind of music does your church play? What do you wear on Sundays? How do you present announcements? Do you serve coffee and donuts?
All they seemed to be looking for was the right tweak in methodology that would attract people.
While methods can make a difference, programmatic changes alone are not going to turn a church around. When a church is in decline, the problem has a much deeper root. So I told that church that what needs to be addressed is not a program, a method, or a ministry, but the church’s soil.
The soil is the church’s culture””the complex blend of norms, beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and (yes) practices that define a congregation.
On a damp and dreary Saturday two months ago, several hundred mourners gathered outside City Hall here for a memorial service honoring Dr. Maher Hathout. Born in Egypt and trained as a cardiologist, Dr. Hathout, 79, had devoted decades to espousing a moderate version of Islam and reaching across denominational lines to other faiths.
So there was nothing surprising about the presence of rabbis and priests, Sikhs and Episcopalians at the service. The unexpected moment came when a man in a different sort of vestment, the dark blue uniform of the Los Angeles Police Department, knelt before Dr. Hathout’s widow and presented her with the carefully folded triangle of an American flag.
For the man in the uniform, Deputy Chief Michael Downing, that moment distilled the uncommon role he has within the department. While his full title aptly describes his investigative mission ”” commanding officer of the counterterrorism and special operations bureau ”” it omits what has become the signature element of his 33-year career. In a city with a history of traumatic, adversarial relations between the police force and various minority groups, Muslims among them, Chief Downing has forged bonds that are both durable and contentious.
Nigerian troops discovered a Boko Haram bomb factory this week after they seized a northern town from the extremists, the military said.
The factory was tucked inside a fertilizer company in Buni Yadi town in Yobe state, according to officials.
Islamist fighters took over the town in August, one of many seized in the troubled northeast. Troops have battled the militants for months to regain control, and said they recaptured it last week.
Militants planted explosive devices along the highway on their way out, which delayed the soldiers’ advance. Four soldiers were killed during the operation.
Father Trevor Smyth has been vicar of All Saints Church, Exeter Road, for over 14 years.
Now the town is set to lose him to a parish in East Sussex.
For 45 years, Fr Trevor, 69, the son of a former Church of England priest, has dedicated his life to the church.
In that time, he has earned a deserved reputation for being extraordinarily hard working.
“Better communicated” is a masterpiece of understatement. Not telling your elders that you’re performing a same-sex marriage? And saying that the Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopal Church have seen “small but significant” losses? The Episcopalians have been in statistical free-fall even before the 2003 ordination of their first gay bishop. During a 50-year time span, they’ve lost half of their members (from 3.6 million in 1966 to 1.8 million today), as a chunk of the denomination ”“ including whole dioceses ”“ have walked away to form a new Anglican branch. After the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow gay clergy in 2009, the denomination had to immediately cut 7.7 million in staff salaries because of budget cuts due to departing members. Presbyterians only voted to bless gay unions last June, so it’s a bit soon to tell who’s leaving and who’s staying, but some of their most historic churches are saying good-bye.
There is very little actual reporting in this piece representing those who oppose Mitchell’s actions. There’s three sources who agree with Mitchell, plus a list of churches and authors who also agree with him. We get a reaction from one departing elder, which is better than a similar story in The Tennessean that had no opposing voices, but how about something from the Southern Baptist Convention, which is based in Nashville? Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has spoken out a lot about this issue and is pretty media-accessible.
1. Cultivate gratitude, not entitlement.
Newbigin suggests that churches need to be communities of praise and thanksgiving and that this, perhaps, is the church’s most distinctive character. So how are you cultivating a culture of praise and thanksgiving in your church? Are you being intentional with your preaching/teaching and the rest of your ministries? If you cultivate that culture of praise and thanksgiving in your church, you’ll actually see that translate into a heart of gratitude ”“ and with gratitude, you’ll be slaying the idol of entitlement. If that happens, you’ll see your church’s “me” culture translate into a “we” culture, where the focus will be less on personal comfort and wellbeing, and more towards the wellbeing of your city and the salvation of those who are far from God.
2. Share truth, not gossip.
The fuel that drives pop culture seems to be gossip and scandals. This isn’t just true for entertainment shows, late night shows and sitcoms, but this pervades the news as well….
Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and scores of other awards, John Updike (1932”“2009) is best known for his graphic but lyrical portrayal of the sexual infidelities of middle America. It was not for nothing that he was called the poet laureate of modern adultery. The most famous of his sixty-some books is Couples, the story of a band of spouse-trading friends, one of whom greeted her lover with the legendary words, “Welcome to the post-pill paradise.”
In his December Public Discourse article, Daniel Ross Goodman wrote that Updike’s two favorite themes were theology and adultery, and that in his writings religion “seems to overpower everything, even sex.” While Goodman deftly explored Updike’s literary brilliance and “wager” for faith, he did not unpack the inner dynamics of Updike’s religion or consider the possibility that it might be problematic. The truth of the matter is that Updike’s religion involved inner contradictions that were resolved only by forging a Christianity subordinated to the spirit of the age.
Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.
Sadly, the landscape is littered with theological institutions that have poorly taught and have been poorly led. Theological liberalism has destroyed scores of seminaries, divinity schools, and other institutions for the education of the ministry. Many of these schools are now extinct, even as the churches they served have been evacuated. Others linger on, committed to the mission of revising the Christian faith in order to make peace with the spirit of the age. These schools intentionally and boldly deny the pattern of sound words in order to devise new words for a new age ”” producing a new faith. As J. Gresham Machen rightly observed almost a century ago, we do not really face two rival versions of Christianity. We face Christianity on the one hand and, on the other hand, some other religion that selectively uses Christian words, but is not Christianity.
How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
For the first time since the courts confirmed…[they] could keep the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina name and churches, the group began a convention Friday.
All the clergy of the diocese as well as representatives from each congregation are taking part in the group’s 224th convention.
Some 54 congregations are being represented by about 400 people, who will set priorities for the diocese for the coming year.
Eight new clergy and two new churches are joining the event, which is considered a family reunion of sorts.
Read it all and watch the video report which includes comments from the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis.
Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh wisdom and understanding: Be present, we humbly beseech thee, with thy servants assembled to deliberate in council upon those things that make for the maintenance, wellbeing, and extension of thy holy Church; and grant that they, seeking only thine honour and glory, may be guided in all their consultations to perceive the more excellent way, and may have grace and strength to follow the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.
Americans continue to name the government (18%) as the most important U.S. problem, a distinction it has had for the past four months. Americans’ mentions of the economy as the top problem (11%) dropped this month, leaving it tied with jobs (10%) for second place.
Though issues such as terrorism, healthcare, race relations and immigration have emerged among the top problems in recent polls, government, the economy and unemployment have been the dominant problems listed by Americans for more than a year.
The latest results are from a March 5-8 Gallup poll of 1,025 American adults.
I have been exploring the history of Christianity within the Persian Empire, a subject very well known to specialists working on that area, but less so to their counterparts who study the story in its “mainstream” (Mediterranean and European) forms. Before writing about this in any more detail, it’s important to understand the geographical setting, which means locating some very famous names. Geography may or may not be destiny; but it is very important indeed for the fate of religions.
Anyone even slightly familiar with the ancient world, or with the Old Testament, knows certain names of peoples, regions and great cities ”“ Medes, Persian and Parthians, Susa and Persepolis. Actually placing them in relation to each other is quite a different matter. It matters enormously, though, because each of those regions was differently situated in relation to other nations and cultures. Some, like the Persians, looked west and south, towards Babylonia and the world of the “Persian” Gulf. Others, like the Parthians, never lost touch with Central Asia. At different times, different parts of the broader Persian world dominated, and that shifting emphasis gave a different political and cultural coloring to the empire’s outlook.
“These women,” she said, “had become a quiet, potent force for change. The white community didn’t want black children educated out of their place. Classrooms were spaces where the outside world did not intrude. Within these spaces, Miss Ruby nurtured dignity, self-awareness and obligation to God. She served as a light to others and worked against the mental and spiritual boundaries imposed by Jim Crow. She challenged the students to succeed and understand they were part of a larger world and develop independence and self-sufficiency. She did not call attention to herself while preparing generations of students for their futures.”
Miss Ruby achieved national recognition during her career. Life Magazine and “60 Minutes” featured her. She was a guest on NBC’s Today Show and on ABC’s Good Morning America. She also appeared on the Tonight Show with host Johnny Carson. She received four honorary degrees ”” from Winthrop, University of the South at Sewanee, the University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University.
When she was very ill, she was visited by her close friend, Bishop Fitz Allison, who was accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Allison said she was the perfect host. “I think he found as much dignity in that room as in Buckingham Palace,” Allison said.