Daily Archives: February 18, 2016

General Synod votes to approve historic agreement with Church of Scotland

An historic agreement recognising the longstanding ecumenical partnership between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England and paving the way for future joint working between the two churches has been backed today by the General Synod.

Members voted to approve the Columba Declaration and welcome Growth in Communion, Partnership in Mission, a report by the Joint Study Group of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, as a ‘significant development’ in the relationship between the two churches.

The General Synod also called on the Council for Christian Unity to oversee the implementation of the commitments in the Declaration and to set up a Contact Group to coordinate future work between the two churches.

The motion backed by the General Synod also notes the Church of England’s valued relationship with the Scottish Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion and requests that the Council for Christian Unity ensures that the Scottish Episcopal Church is invited to appoint a representative to attend meetings of the Contact Group.

Read it all – there is some informal background from Stephen Lynas here. The Moderator’s address to General Synod may be watched here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

The Welcome of the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to the Columba Declaration

Read and watch it all and there is a press release from the Church of Scotland here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

The Welcome of the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church to the Columba Declaration

I watched the debate in which the Columba Declaration was approved by the Church of England with a sense of unreality. The Scottish Episcopal Church was like a ghost at the party ”“ often referred to and talked about but not present. Concerns which have been voiced within the Scottish Episcopal Church about the Columba Declaration focus significantly on the Church of England. The Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are partner-Provinces in the Anglican Communion. We are the presence of the Anglican Communion in Scotland and we expect the Church of England to respect that. The concerns are that the Columba Declaration places the Church of England in a compromised position in relation to the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Read it all and a previous statement from the SEC is here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

(CT) Thomas Berg–Antonin Scalia: Devout Christian, Worldly Judge

“He was a man. Take him for all in all. [We] shall not look upon his like again.” Those words from Hamlet seem appropriate on the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He had a powerful effect on the Court and on the law more broadly. Scalia was the most eloquent and prominent proponent of the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the “original meaning” of its words: the meaning they had at the time of their adoption. He argued, in his inimitable style, for a “dead Constitution”””whose meaning is fixed until changed by formal amendment””over a “living Constitution” that a judge can manipulate into whatever shape he wishes.

Moreover, except for Ruth Ginsburg, it is hard to imagine another justice becoming so visible in the broader culture. Many who hated Scalia’s rulings could not help but be entertained by his razor-sharp writing, which he used especially in his dissenting opinions to carve up the majority’s reasoning (my favorite is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where among other things he referred to the majority’s “Nietzschean vision of us unelected, life-tenured judges””leading a Volk who will be ”˜tested by following’” the Court’s rulings obediently). In a talk at my law school last November, he said that he wrote his dissents “mainly for you guys, for law students.” His eloquence inspired generations of lawyers and students convinced by his judicial philosophy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Supreme Court, Theology

[Al Monitor] Jewish shrine reminds Iraqis of religious coexistence

UZAIR, Iraq ”” Jews reportedly built the tomb of the Prophet Ezra in Iraq in the fifth century, and the site has undergone many changes since.

The tomb is in the town of Uzair, which is the Arabic version of the name Ezra,
Ezra lived from about 480 to 440 B.C.

Some Muslim Iraqis still have good memories about the Jews who lived in Iraq until the 1950s. The ancient conflict was replaced during that time with peace and cooperation. Ali al-Saadi, a teacher who was born in Uzair and is interested in its history, told Al-Monitor that the senior citizens of the city still remember the names of dozens of their Jewish neighbors. He confirmed that Jews and Muslims lived together in peace and that Jews freely practiced their religious rituals.

Jews lived in Iraq more than 2,500 years ago in Babil, Baghdad and Mosul, among other places. But in the 1940s and 1950s, they were the victims of theft and murder, and they left the country for two reasons. First, they thought that the 1941 Iraqi coup d’etat happened in collusion with the Nazis. Second, Iraqi Jews faced a wave of anger in the wake of the global Jewish emigration to Palestine to build a Jewish state. Most of them were displaced between 1949 and 1950 after Israel was established.

Saadi said, “Jews owned houses and green fields that surrounded the shrine. These are still officially registered in their names in the real estate departments, although Jews are no longer present in Uzair. These houses have a special architecture characterized by wooden ornamented columns and oriels [bay windows].”

The shrine of Ezra has withstood centuries in an area inhabited by a deeply religious Shiite majority…

Read it all

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iraq, Middle East

[John Bingham] No growth for 30 years – Church of England predicts

The Church of England is facing at least another 30 years of decline according to internal projections revealed for the first time.

Even if it sees an influx of young people to services, the sheer numbers of older worshippers dying in the next few decades mean it is unlikely to see any overall growth in attendances until the middle of this century, officials now believe.

The stark calculations were revealed during discussions at the Church’s decision-making General Synod, which has been meeting in London, about ambitious plans to tackle declining numbers.

It is preparing to pump £72 million into a “reform and renewal” drive which includes plans to ordain 6,000 more clergy in the 2020s to build a younger priesthood which is less male dominated and less white.
Mr Spence, chairman of the Church’s finance committee, said that current attendance figures suggest that an 81-year-old is now eight times more likely to attend services than an 18-year-old.

Currently around 18 in every 1,000 people in England regularly attend Church of England services ”“ a figure which includes mid-week and other special services.

But Mr Spence said that in 30 years time that proportion is likely to drop to 10 in every 1,000 ”“ or one per cent.

That rate of decline suggests that attendance at Sunday services across the whole of England would dip to just 425,000.

Recent figures published by the Church showed that Sunday morning congregations stood at 764,700, with total weekly attendances ”“ which include week-day services – just slipping below one million.

Mr Spence said that “on all likely measures of success” the demographic reality meant that the Church is unlikely to see net growth in the next 30 years.

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

GAFCON Chairman's February 2016 Pastoral Letter

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
”“ Luke 9:51
….For the GAFCON Primates in Canterbury last month, it was the light shining from Jerusalem that enabled us to give a lead in the steps taken to sanction the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) as a step towards restoring godly faith and order. Sadly, the meeting had hardly finished before it was made very clear that there would be no repentance or change of direction on the part of TEC and their delegation to the Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in April expect it to be business as usual.

As the GAFCON Vice Chairman, Archbishop Okoh of Nigeria, has already said, it is now clear that nothing has changed as a result of the Canterbury meeting. The fabric of the Communion is still badly torn and there can be no true walking together until there is repentance for what is acknowledged even by TEC as a breach of core doctrine. There is a strong possibility that this year we shall see other Provinces taking the same step.

Some of you are asking what GAFCON’s approach will be during the three years that TEC are subject to sanctions and what will happen at the end of that time, given that TEC appear to have moved well beyond the possibility of changing course.

At our Primates Council in April, we will take counsel together on these matters, but I can say that all of us in the GAFCON movement need to set our faces to go to Jerusalem. While we honour Canterbury as the mother See of the Anglican Communion, it was at Jerusalem that we placed our hope for the future in Jesus and the truth of the Bible.
The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration reflects that reality and expresses the core truths that guide us today: the rise of a false gospel in the Anglican Communion, that our identity is found first and foremost in the faith we confess, the need to support and recognise those who have been excluded from their Anglican homes, and the duty to reject the authority of churches and leaders who deny orthodox faith in word or deed.

In a compromised Communion these are not comfortable truths, but we must set our faces to Jerusalem and keep to them, because this is the way of the cross and therefore of true resurrection.

Finally, may I ask you to remember especially in your prayers the people of Uganda as they go to the polls in a presidential election on 18th February. Pray that there will be honesty, calmness and restraint, that whatever leadership results will be a blessing to all the people of Uganda, and for my brother GAFCON Primate Archbishop Ntagali as he and other Christian leaders urge their their people to pray and to pursue peace.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Primates, Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016

(CN) In Uganda, Anglicans Are Casting Out Demons

Last Friday in the dusty town of Kabwohe, Uganda, more than 5,000 people crammed into an enclosed field to worship Jesus. They stayed from 7 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. for an all-night celebration that included dancing, singing, shouting, speaking in tongues and an altar call that resulted in dozens of conversions. A few times during the evening, someone was set free from demons.

You might expect this in Africa, where Pentecostal churches have been growing for decades. But this event, which happens in Kabwohe once a month, is sponsored by All Saints Anglican Church. Right after a demonized woman was carried away from the rickety wooden stage, Rev. Gordon Karuhanga led the congregation in the Apostles’ Creed. Then he and other robed clergy served Communion.

It took more than an hour to serve the bread and grape juice to the crowd.

This is the new face of revival in Uganda, where hundreds of traditional Anglican churches have been set on fire by the Holy Spirit.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(LA Times) Tim Cook's stance on privacy could define his Apple legacy

Unlike his predecessor Steve Jobs, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has never shied away from taking a political and social stand.

He was the first head of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay. He pledged to one day donate his personal fortune to charity, and he talks passionately about the importance of social justice, diversity and the environment.

But it’s his hard-line stance on privacy that could define his legacy at Apple and set the tone for the way big corporations deal with big government at a time when so much of our lives unfold on the devices we use every day.

How far Cook is willing to take the fight is being tested on a national level now. He ramped up the debate Wednesday when he publicly and vehemently opposed a federal judge’s order to provide access to encrypted data on an iPhone belonging to the terrorist couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino last year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology, Terrorism, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Nicholas Kristof-America’s Stacked Deck

“Correctly, we suspect that the system is rigged, our government has become coin-operated and that we’ve been sidelined,” Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman write in their eye-opening new book about money in politics, “Nation on the Take.” They call for a “profound course correction,” like those the United States has periodically undertaken before.

So it’s healthy for American voters to be demanding change. But when societies face economic pain, they sometimes turn to reforms, and other times to scapegoats (like refugees this year). So the historic question for 2016 is which direction the popular revolt among American voters will ultimately take.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

Martin Luther for his Feast Day–A Sermon on the Gospel of John 2:1-11

But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us. Then indeed there is humble longing and knocking, prayer and search, in order to be rid of sin, death and dread. And then he acts as if he had only begun to show us our sins, as if death were to continue, and hell never to cease. Just as he here treats his mother, by his refusal making the need greater and more distressing than it was before she came to him with her request; for now it seems everything is lost, since the one support on which she relied in her need is also gone.

This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious–as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9. For if Christ’s mother had allowed those harsh words to frighten her she would have gone away silently and displeased; but in ordering the servants to do what he might tell them she proves that she has overcome the rebuff and still expects of him nothing but kindness.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin Luther

O God, our refuge and our strength, who didst raise up thy servant Martin Luther to reform and renew thy Church in the light of thy word: Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of thy grace, which thou hast made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Gregorian Sacramentary

O God, who willest not the death of a sinner: We beseech thee to aid and protect those who are exposed to grievous temptations; and grant that in obeying thy commandments they may be strengthened and supported by thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

–Psalm 50:14-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

[Canon Phil Ashey] Anglicanism in spite of Canterbury?

I read with some interest the remarks of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on the Primates gathering we returned from just a few weeks ago. In his recent address to the Church of England’s General Synod he made a number of significant statements””significant because they are signs of the future that lies ahead for a deeply divided Anglican Communion. You can find his whole address here, but let me focus on three significant statements:

1. “The meeting was set for Canterbury because that would recall to people the way in which Canterbury, and especially its cathedral, represent the center of the Anglican Communion.”

Really? Is the center of the Anglican Communion really an Archbishop, or a Cathedral? For the vast majority of Anglicans now living in the Global South, the center of the Anglican Communion is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, where the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” is being accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, and where peoples’ lives are being transformed spiritually, emotionally and physically by the love of Jesus Christ. The center of the Anglican Communion is where Jesus is being exalted as Savior and Lord, and where people are faithfully living their lives as Jesus would according to the Scriptures. And if that place has a geographic center, it is the Global South””not Canterbury…
3. “The Anglican Communion finds its decisions through spiritual discernment in relationship, not through canons and procedures.“

It is very discouraging that the Archbishop of Canterbury seems unwilling and unable to affirm the Holy Scriptures as the ultimate rule and standard of faith and practice””and therefore as the basis for defining “the limits of Anglican diversity.”

Instead, he spoke of a way forward in which he, seemingly, invites Anglicans to replace Scripture, tradition and reason with a new trio of authorities:

“We rightly talk of scripture, of tradition and reason; but in the tension in which we live in a Global Church, there is another trio ”“ of freedom, order and human flourishing ”“ set out by Tim Jenkins in an article in 2002. As a Communion (and as churches) where authority is found in discernment, and expressed in relationship, this trio is of huge importance. It anchors us in the breaking down of barriers, in facing each other, in the beauty of human interaction in love.”

Under this new trio of authority, our focus will be on “human flourishing,” and on “setting free those who are bound by rules which Jesus could never have imagined, nor Paul”¦ [rules] which have emerged out of a desire for power rather than the expectation of the kingdom of God.”

I am hearing echoes of the same ad hominem arguments I heard for so many years in TEC””ad hominem attacks on those who sought in good faith to be faithful to what the Bible actually says. These attacks hardly ever addressed what the Bible actually says. These ad hominem attacks swept Biblically faithful teachings aside because they were “rules which Jesus could never have imagined,” rules which “emerged out of a desire for power.”

The most charitable thing I can say about Archbishop Welby’s new trio of authorities is that it may be a bit premature to replace Hooker’s “Scripture, tradition and reason” with Jenkins “freedom, order and human flourishing” as the basis for determining the limits of Anglican diversity. “Freedom, order and human flourishing,” are not the Biblical tests. They are not confessional. They are not catholic. They are not evangelical. I don’t even remember hearing them in ALPHA.

Should the Archbishop continue on the path he’s going down, it may be necessary to imagine an Anglicanism in spite of Canterbury.

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Primates, Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016

(WABE) Georgia House Overwhelmingly Passes 'Pastor Protection Act'

The Georgia House of Representatives [last] Thursday passed, in a 161-0 vote, a bill known as the “Pastor Protection Act,” to reassure clergy they will not be forced to perform same-sex weddings. The vote is unlikely to end debate over as many as nine other bills meant to expand religious freedom that are currently pending in the Georgia legislature.

In a rare speech before the chamber, House Speaker David Ralston called for lawmakers to come together.

“It is my hope on an issue of this importance, and charged with such deep emotion, that this bill can be the first productive discussion,” he said.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, State Government, Theology

Sarah Coakley–'Teach Us to Pray': The Impossibility of Christian Prayer

That brings us…to the matter of Jesus’s own instructions on prayer, which at first seemed to be in tension with Paul’s, but on reflection are the reverse side of the same coin. Admittedly, it is disconcerting in comparison with Paul how little Jesus has to say by way of advice: just, “When you pray, say Father …” One can imagine the disciples meeting Jesus when he comes down from a whole night of prayer alone and asking, “What is it that you do in prayer – is it something very secret and special?” But Jesus opts for the most simple and direct approach: a mere turning over of the will, a handing over of the depths of all our longing, to the very source of our being: “Father, may your name be hallowed.”

That’s it – that’s prayer. You have to ask, but not before you’ve first adored, before you’ve first acknowledged your utter dependence and your human creatureliness. This is where it all starts, in this tiny pause, this surrender, this turning of the will to God.

So prayer is impossible, but only on the human spectrum. It becomes not only possible, but the galvanizing lifeline of my existence when I realize that I do not come to prayer to remind God about what he might have forgotten, or to tell him something from the evening news that he might perhaps have missed; rather, I come to prayer to prepare myself to receive what he is always already giving me – the gift of Himself.

Read it all from ABC Australia.

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