Daily Archives: February 1, 2016

UK sees sudden surge in churchgoing after years of decline

As many as six in 10 British adults visited a church, chapel or religious meeting house in the last 12 months, according to a new survey. The survey results counter the more usual narrative of perpetual decline that has dominated surveys in recent years.

Although too soon to give certainty, the survey is one of the first to give affirmation that the more confident, outward-looking evangelistic strategies of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Pope Francis in Rome could be yielding tangible results.

Adults in the North East of Engand were the most likely to visit a church or chapel, with 64 per cent saying they had done so. Those in Wales were the least likely, but even there nearly half, 45 per cent, had done so.

Read it all from, Ruth Gledhill at Christian Today.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Walter Russell Mead–Surprise: A new study finds firing bad teachers improves student performance

But a new NBER working paper from economists at Stanford and the University of Virginia suggests that, when done right, one kind of teacher turnover, at least, can be highly effective: programs for aggressively replacing bad teachers. The authors collected data from a unique Washington, D.C. program called IMPACT, which assesses teachers based on student outcomes and ratings from their peers, rewards those who perform well, and replaces those who persistently perform poorly. In a nutshell, it worked: The teachers pushed out for poor performance were consistently replaced with teachers who performed significantly better. “Under a robust system of performance assessment,” the authors write in their conclusion, “the turnover of teachers can generate meaningful gains in student outcomes, particularly for the most disadvantaged students.”

As we’ve written before, the idea that all teachers must be teachers for life needs to be questioned more often. That’s especially true when one is talking about replacing poorly performing teachers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, City Government, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Theology

[Sat 7] Fresh reshaping of political alliances key to Middle East in 2016

The fresh reshaping of alliances in the Middle East will be a major factor that decides what happens in the region in 2016, from dealing with so-called Islamic State (IS) to determining the future of Syria, says Middle Eastern Christian TV broadcaster SAT-7 in its Middle East Forecast for 2016.

This rapidly-changing face of the Middle East is already apparent, says SAT-7. The five key political concerns are:

The deepening clash between the Middle East’s superpowers, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The execution of a leading Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia before Christmas prompted international condemnation with the fiercest reactions coming from its longstanding rival in the region, Iran. A further complication is the lifting of sanctions against Iran. Both countries will want to maintain their client and ally relations in the region, including Yemen and Syria.

Increasingly assertive Russian involvement in the region. Russia has begun reaching out to the PKK and has attacked Turkish-backed groups in Syria. Turkey responded by making positive overtures towards Israel, stressing the importance of good relations, and began to build bridges with Saudi Arabia.

The conflict between Turkey and Kurdish militants. The collapse of the peace process with the PKK has brought a resurgence of violence and heavy-handed government crackdowns.

The continued status of Yemen and Libya as chaotic failed states. Both face acute humanitarian crises, with desperate food, water and electricity shortages, and air strikes taking a high toll on Yemeni civilians. They join Syria as the main sources of the region’s refugee crisis.

In North Africa, Tunisia and Algeria will see political changes and continue to have terrorism concerns.
However, both are enjoying relative stability in the state and political structures. Sadly, 2016 will continue to see high terror risks across Europe, linked to developments in the Middle East.

SAT-7 also believes there are three key issues for the church in the Middle East in 2016:

Read it all and the report referred to is here

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Middle East

David Booman–The Anglican Leadership Institute: The Chance of a Lifetime

I write this article after having completed the first week of the Institute. If possible, it has already exceeded my expectations. Several things have especially stood out to me this first week.

First, the Beauty of Christ’s Global Body. Upon meeting my fellow participants the first day, I was surprised to discover that we had many mutual friends from places like India, South Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. This was especially surprising in light of the fact that as a young priest I haven’t lived very long, haven’t traveled very far, and haven’t had a whole lot of life experience. In short, this instant connectedness was not about me but was simply a beautiful testament to how Christ’s body has grown””from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth””and to how the spiritual unity we have in Christ is being made visible by advances in modern technology.
Stemming from this unity, the fellowship has been both rich and challenging. With regards to the richness, one cannot hear eyewitness stories of martyrdom and persecution without being touched in the deep places of one’s soul and inspired to follow Christ more faithfully in one’s own walk (Heb. 11). Many of the participants have tread the path of persecution, and as a Westerner, their stories put my own ministry challenges in healthy and humbling perspective.

On the other hand, the diversity of the fellowship has challenged us to wrestle honestly with the unique cultural lenses we bring to ministry. Whether we’re asking questions after a lecture, breaking down a passage of scripture in a small-group preaching exercise, or analyzing a case study from mission field, it has been eye-opening to see just how pervasively our cultures influence our perspectives. Fortunately, as we wrestle honestly with these issues, our blinders begin to fall away, and we are able to more clearly see the pure and undiluted Gospel, in all of its glory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Christology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Globalization, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Annie Duflo+Dean Karlan–What Data Can Do to Fight Poverty

“…go-getters” also outperformed the “do-gooders” on the job, seeing the same number of patients in their health clinics while conducting 29 percent more home visits and twice as many community health meetings. (After being recruited, everyone was told about the opportunities for career advancement, so that no differences in performance could be attributed to differing incentives.)

More important, updated data show that communities served by the “go-getters” are doing better on key health benchmarks such as facility-based childbirth, breast-feeding, vaccinations and nutrition. Based on these findings, the Zambian government changed its recruitment advertising as it looks to expand its health-worker program.

These two insights ”” committing to cash savings, recruiting “go-getters” for community service jobs ”” are just the tip of the iceberg. We have found that pairing experts in behavioral science with “on the ground” teams of researchers and field workers has yielded many good ideas about how to address the problems of poverty. Hope and rhetoric are great for motivation, but not for figuring out what to do. There you need data.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology, Zambia

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Brigid of Kildare

Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of thy blessed servant Brigid, and we give thee thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve thee all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frank Colquhoun

O Lord, who art Master of the stormy winds and alone canst order them to be still: Be with us in all the voyage of our life; for our boat is small and the ocean is wide. When the winds are contrary, give us to know that thou rulest the raging of the sea; and when our faith is little and we cry to thee out of the midst of our fears, hear thou our prayer and grant us thy peace; for the glory of thy great name.

–Prayers for Every Occasion (1974), no. 130 (adapted by Frank Colquhoun)

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

When I am afraid, I put my trust in thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear. What can flesh do to me?

–Psalm 56:3-4

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

"Young, single, idle males are dangerous. Work and wedlock can tame them"

Globally, the people who fight in wars or commit violent crimes are nearly all young men. Henrik Urdal of the Harvard Kennedy School looked at civil wars and insurgencies around the world between 1950 and 2000, controlling for such things as how rich, democratic or recently violent countries were, and found that a “youth bulge” made them more strife-prone. When 15-24-year-olds made up more than 35% of the adult population””as is common in developing countries””the risk of conflict was 150% higher than with a rich-country age profile.

If young men are jobless or broke, they make cheap recruits for rebel armies. And if their rulers are crooked or cruel, they will have cause to rebel. Youth unemployment in Arab states is twice the global norm. The autocrats who were toppled in the Arab Spring were all well past pension age, had been in charge for decades and presided over kleptocracies.

Christopher Cramer of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London cautions that there is no straightforward causal link between unemployment and violence. It is not simply a lack of money that spurs young men to rebel, he explains; it is more that having a job is a source of status and identity.

Read it all from the Economist.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Men, Nigeria, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults