Daily Archives: March 7, 2016

Deep in debt? Birmingham Alabama Church pays off payday loans for 48 of its members

The Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham announced during services on Sunday morning that it will pay off the payday loans of 48 people struggling with debt.

Those whose loans are being paid off owe a combined total of more than $41,000 and are paying high interest rates of 36 percent and much higher. Payday loans are unsecured cash advances that people use to make it through to the next payday. Payday loan centers proliferate throughout Alabama.

“It’s kind of a ticking time bomb with high interest rates,” Senior Pastor Van Moody said in an interview after the service. “That’s why many people never get out.”

Those having their loans paid off will be required to undergo financial counseling and attend financial workshops so they don’t get in the same fix again, Moody said.

Read it all.

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

[ACNS] Draft programme for Anglican Consultative Council meeting published

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Kendall Harmon's Sunday Sermon–Praying with the Apostles for the Gift of Boldness (Acts 4)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there. Please note that the sermon proper begins after an introduction and a reading from Acts 4 by three parish members.

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

(NYT) Taking Baby Steps Toward Software That Reasons Like Humans

Richard Socher appeared nervous as he waited for his artificial intelligence program to answer a simple question: “Is the tennis player wearing a cap?”

The word “processing” lingered on his laptop’s display for what felt like an eternity. Then the program offered the answer a human might have given instantly: “Yes.”

Mr. Socher, who clenched his fist to celebrate his small victory, is the founder of one of a torrent of Silicon Valley start-ups intent on pushing variations of a new generation of pattern recognition software, which, when combined with increasingly vast sets of data, is revitalizing the field of artificial intelligence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, Science & Technology, Theology

[Justin Taylor] Stott on the essence of Evangelicalism

[from 2009 but may be helpful in the current debates]
What is an Evangelical?

For a thoughtful answer””a masterful example of clear thinking and concise expression””I’d recommend listening to this lecture by John Stott. (It’s 47 minutes long; I’m not sure what year it was delivered. If you know the provenance, please let us know in the coments below.)

A few years ago, when Stott was 85, he gave an interview to CT where he was asked to define the essence of evangelicalism. It’s a good summary of his classic lecture:

An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, there are two particular things we like to emphasize: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation on the other.

For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

. . . [W]hat God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax””meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God’s word in Christ, and there is a finality about God’s work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the lecture Stott operates with four main headings:

1.The claim of evangelicalism
2.The distinctives of evangelicalism
3.The concern of evangelicalism
4.The essence of evangelicalism

What follows is a brief summary of what Stott said in his important talk:

Read it all and listen to Stott’s talk if you wish

Posted in Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

[David Robertson] Jesus: The Ultimate Reason to Believe

David Robertson is Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and a contributor to Christian Today
..If you want to communicate the Gospel better, you need to get to know Christ better. I am intrigued by the rather bizarre fashion of some who state that they don’t go to church because they want to stay home and witness to their neighbours. But what is that witness? It is far too often about how nice I am, or my tribe is… not about Christ. How can it be? We don’t know Him. We don’t long for Him. We don’t even miss Him. If the apostle Paul could say, towards the end of his life, “I want to know Christ,” this man who wrote a third of the New Testament, who had met Jesus and who had planted half the churches in the world, why are we not aware that our greatest need is to know Christ better? To know the love that surpasses knowledge. To know how long, deep, high, and wide is the love of Christ.

Let me give a wonderful testimony that I received from an older Christian last week – I want to share how I’m beginning to see the might and majesty of Jesus. I’ve longed for this all my life. The first part of Colossians vibrates and pulsates as never before. I am beginning to see Jesus as never before. Why has it taken so very long? A benefit of old age? I am now beginning to understand why He is your Magnificent Obsession and of so many others. Now He lives in a wonderful new way. The Bible is coming alive. I thought I loved it, but this is new! Praise Him!

Do you not think that this lady will be a far more vibrant and effective witness to Jesus because of what she is experiencing in and through his Church? We testify to what (who) we have seen and heard.

People need to see the beauty of Christ. They don’t need a course, or Christian values, or Christian tradition or even the Church, valuable and useful though all of those may be. They need Christ ”“ and then along with Him, they graciously get all things. How strange that we so often present the ‘all things,’ and so rarely present Christ.

Read it all

Posted in Christology, Theology

[Canon Phil Ashey] What we believe & why it matters

What you and I believe really matters! As we read I Corinthians 15, our class realized that what Paul believed gave him the courage and confidence to face savage opposition, relentless persecution and even death itself. The same is true today. Christians who believe that Jesus rose from the dead and raises us with Him have that same confidence and courage to face deprivations of all kind, persecution, and even death.

What we believe””or refuse to believe””is at the heart of the crisis within Anglicanism today. Everybody thinks the issues we face are about sex. But as has been demonstrated “sex” is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the tip of the iceberg that gets all the attention, we see huge challenges to faith that really matter. Beneath the surface of that iceberg we see a direct challenge to the Biblical doctrines of Creation (what God defines as “good”), marriage, the authority of the Scriptures, who gets to make decisions in the Church about what we believe and, ultimately, the message of Christ’s Gospel itself (is Jesus saying “come as you are and stay as you are” or “Come as you are and let me change you from the inside out so that you find your identity in ME alone”?).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis

[Trevin Wax] Can We “Agree To Disagree” On Sexuality and Marriage?

..Today, one of the common complaints from the progressive side is that evangelicals are always “drawing lines” and “making distinctions” and “policing boundaries” and declaring “who’s in and who’s out.” One wonders what they’d say about the apostles, whose concern about boundaries stands out in so many of their letters, right in line with Jesus’ frequent warnings against false teachers.

Like Jesus, the New Testament writers made constant appeals to unity, but they also drew bold, dark lines regarding what constituted genuine Christian teaching. Flip through any of the letters of Paul, Peter, Jude, and John, and you can’t help but notice the contrast between sound doctrine and error, unity and schism, what constitutes true teaching versus false.

Where Did the Schism Start?

Schisms are indeed tragic, and Christians are right to resist them and seek any other avenue of resolution. But in our efforts to avoid schism, we must not fail to ask the question: Where is the division coming from?

Back in 2009, N. T. Wright, then the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, wrote that the actions of the Episcopal Church (USA) had initiated a schism would tear apart the fabric of the Anglican Communion. “The Americans know this will end in schism,” he wrote.

“Jesus’ own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behavior outside heterosexual monogamy,” Wright went on, and then, explaining why this is not and can never be an “agree-to-disagree issue,” he wrote:

“This isn’t a matter of ”˜private response to Scripture’ but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.”

Wright is right..

Read it all

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

Bishop Grant LeMarquand writes in the Church Times on the mission impact of TEC and ACoC actions

The impact of the consecration of Gene Robinson, and the blessings of same-sex unions in Canada and the United States has been enormous, writes Grant LeMarquand.

In Muslim-majority countries in our diocese, Bishop Mouneer was immediately faced with a situation in which Muslims condemned Anglicanism and Christianity, as a whole, on the basis of the actions of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada. Relationships between the Anglican and the Muslim community became very strained. Bishop Mouneer spent countless hours mending those relationships.

Similarly, the Orthodox Churches (Coptic in Egypt and Ethiopia, Orthodox in Ethiopia) found the American actions incomprehensible, and assumed that Anglicans everywhere agreed, especially since, it seemed, that the Communion as a whole did nothing to discipline the US and Canada.

Relationships with Protestant Churches have likewise been difficult. For example, recently, in one town in Ethiopia where a new Anglican church was being planted, members of another denomination went door to door telling people not to join our church because “They will make you into homosexuals.”

Before my time, the former bishop had a large group of Amharic speakers in the church in Addis Ababa who were on the verge of being confirmed. When Gene Robinson was elected and then consecrated, they left en masse. In short, ecumenical and evangelistic efforts have been damaged terribly by these actions.

I must add that no one in our Church has starved to death because of the Episcopal Church’s actions. In fact, our partnerships around the world have strengthened as a result of our stand.

Dr Grant LeMarquand is the Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa.

Read it all

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

The TEC Bishop of Indianapolis writes to her diocese about end of Sudan link

14-Year Partnership with Diocese of Bor Ends

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to share the sad news that our fourteen year partnership with the Diocese of Bor, South Sudan, has come to an end.

For the past few years the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Sudan and South Sudan has been concerned over the actions of several Provinces of the Anglican Communion in which same-sex blessings have taken place.In December of 2015 they passed a resolution requiring that no formal partnerships can be sustained with Dioceses where such blessings occur.

I received a letter from Bishop Ruben Akurdid in mid-February, explaining their position, and thanking me for the partnership we were able to have for these many years. I have responded with a letter expressing my deep disappointment, my hope that in the future such partnerships will again be possible, and assuring him that our hearts and doors are always open to him and our brothers and sisters in Bor.

Read it all [h/t The Lead] and note also the February 2015 letter from the CofE Bishop of Salisbury to his diocese

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Perpetua and Her Companions

O God the King of saints, who didst strengthen thy servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frederick Macnutt

O Lord and heavenly Father, who hast given unto us thy people the true bread that cometh down from heaven, even thy Son Jesus Christ: Grant that our souls may so be fed by him who giveth life unto the world, that we may abide in him and he in us, and thy Church be filled with the power of his unending life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.

–Psalm 89:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

[The Nation Nigeria] Kidnapped Lagos school girls freed

The three girls kidnapped from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary (BMJS) Ikorodu, have regained freedom.

Oluwatimehin Olusa, Tofunmi Popoolaniyan and Deborah Akinayo were abducted from their classroom on Monday night by suspected pipeline vandals.

It was gathered that the girls were rescued at about 9:45am on Sunday by a team led by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni.

Read it all and give thanks

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria