Monthly Archives: February 2018

(Church Times) Angela Tilby–Funerals should not deny the reality of death

Death is awful and awe-ful. We know that; and yet current practice seems determined to deny both the fact and the solemnity of death. We say “We are sorry for your loss,” and talk about the deceased’s “passing”. When I conduct funerals, I feel unnerved if people say that a tribute “summed him or her up to a T”, as though my job had been to conjure the deceased’s spirit for one final grand appearance before the tea and cakes appeared.

What was remarkable about Judith’s funeral was that it was so Christian. The body was honoured; and Judith was prayed for both as a sinner and as one redeemed. There was a real parting, but it was a parting in hope, not a shadowy lingering.

I have been to a humanist funeral, and found it moving and reverent. But real Christian funerals now are rare: even Christians prefer not to call a funeral what it is.

It seems obscene, when so many die randomly in violence and war around the world, that we try so hard to domesticate the deaths of our friends and loved ones, denying both the majesty and the mercy of our final public engagement.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Battle over religion in public schools waged in one of America’s fastest-growing cities–Mckinney, Texas

Public school officials in one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities are being accused of violating the separation of church and state.

The controversy has been simmering in this once-tiny cotton-farming community, about 30 miles north of Dallas, since last summer when Rick McDaniel, superintendent of the McKinney Independent School District, prayed at a pulpit adorned with a Christian cross — during a mandatory school employee meeting at a church.

Last month, under pressure from concerned parents, the 24,500-student school district decided to end a decade-plus practice of conducting high school commencement ceremonies at the same church, Prestonwood Baptist, a Southern Baptist megachurch in nearby Plano.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Roman Catholic Church Considers Married Priests to Ease Amazon Clergy Shortage

In the remote Brazilian town of Tabatinga, João Souza da Silva helped construct the Roman Catholic church where he got married 31 years ago, a wedding that officially ended his boyhood dream of becoming a priest.

He may get a second chance, as Catholic leaders in the vast Amazon basin consider whether the church should let married men become priests in certain cases. The issue is likely to be discussed at a gathering of bishops Pope Francis has called for next year about the church in the Amazon.

The Vatican is contending with a shortage of clergy to serve isolated communities in the region, as well as a growing challenge from evangelical Protestantism, which allows married ministers. Pope Francis has said the “door is always open” to married priests, though recent predecessors have rejected the idea.

Mr. da Silva, a 53-year-old teacher and father of three, said the change would make it easier to serve people in communities around the Amazon, some of which priests only visit two or three times a year.

Read it all.

Posted in Brazil, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, South America

(Time) Teen Sexting Has Become Even More Common, Research Says, with about 1 in 4 now saying they receive such photos

73% of teenagers today have a smartphone, giving them access to all types of communication over text or social media. For many kids, that includes sexting—the sharing of sexual messages, images or videos—according to a new study.

The new report, published in JAMA Pediatrics, analyzed 39 studies with a total of about 10,300 young men and women under age 18. It found that sexting has become increasingly more common in recent years. Though the majority of teenagers don’t report sexting, 15% of teens say they send sexts and 27% receive them. The activity is also more common as young people get older, the study authors report.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Photos/Photography, Pornography, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth

(Anglican Taonga) New Zealand Anglican leaders speak out against a proposed euthanasia Bill

Eight Anglican bishops have called for a halt to the End of Life Choice Bill, which proposes legalising medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In their submission to the Justice Select Committee on David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill this week, the bishops recommended no change to existing laws, and called for more funding of palliative care and counselling support for patients and their whanau.

Rather than introducing assisted dying as proposed in the Bill, the bishops believe our government should ensure New Zealanders have access to the best quality palliative and psycho-social care when faced with terminal illness.

They cite Australian doctor Karen Hitchcock who in her 12 years of work in large public hospitals has often heard patients express a wish to die, but says the cause of that desire is seldom physical pain,

“[It] is often because of despair, loneliness, grief, the feeling of worthlessness, meaninglessness or being a burden. I have never seen a patient whose physical suffering was untreatable,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics

(NPR) Same-Sex-Marriage Flashpoint: Alabama Considers Quitting The Marriage Business

[Republican state Sen. Greg] Albritton says he’s a traditionalist who believes marriage should be between one man and one woman. But he says since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Alabama’s system hasn’t worked.

“I disagree with that opinion. However, they make the law,” says Albritton. “I’m trying to accommodate that and trying to find a way that we can accommodate as many people and hurt no one.”

But not everyone agrees that the legislation does no harm.

“I just think it cheapens the value of the most sacred relationship in the world,” says Republican Phil Williams, the lone senator to vote against the bill.

“When you take marriage and you reduce it to a mere contract, it’s almost like you’re just doing nothing more than recording the deed to your property at the courthouse,” he says. “You’re just taking the contract down there and the probate judge is just the clerk.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology

A S Haley: Supreme Court Orders new Episcopal Church Diocese in South Carolina and TEC to respond to Historic Diocese of South Carolina’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari

As is well known, the historic diocese of South Carolina filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court known as a Petition for Writ of Certiorari dated February 9. 2018 (if needed, further links can be found here and there). As is part of this process the respondent may file a response within the normally allotted time of 30 days ‘but is not mandatory except in a capital case.’ Sometimes, however, the US Supreme Court may order the respondents to do so.

A S Haley explains that exactly this order has come from the US Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court has ordered the respondents — ECUSA and ECSC — to file a brief in response to the petition by March 29. This means that the Court did not want to act on the petition before hearing from both sides. (Ordinarily, a respondent in the Supreme Court has the option of waiving the filing of a response to a petition for certiorari [review]. But not this time.)

With respondents’ brief due on March 29, any reply brief from the petitioners will be filed by April 9, and the Justices could consider the petition at one of their Friday conferences on April 20 or 27. If the respondents ask for an extension of time, this sequence will stretch out by thirty days or more.]

You can find the page concerning these matters on the US Supreme Court website there.

(Readers interested in all the rules involved in a Petition for Writ of Certiorari may go to Part III here and examine rules 10-16).

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

A Prayer for the Day from John RW Stott

O God, our heavenly Father, who so loved the world that thou didst give thine only Son to die upon the cross: Pour thy love into our hearts, we humbly beseech thee; that we loving thee above all things, may give up ourselves, our time, our money, our talents, to thy service; for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

–Mark 4:18-20

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(DJ) Ruth Perrin–Losing My Religion: Millennials and Faith Loss

What causes faith loss?

There is no rule, it’s not a predictable pattern but there were some core factors that came up in their stories and which mirror other research findings.
1. An existential reshaping of their worldview

For many, exposure to a convincing alternative worldview caused them to question beliefs they had never previously queried. Various things triggered this process:

New relationships in professional environments or further study
Ethical concerns – particularly around sexuality, Christian claims of exclusivity or divine judgment
Doubts about the credibility of the Bible
A gap between their lived experience of suffering and the simplistic theological answers they were given

Often the dominant cultural narratives of pluralistic tolerance and secular rationalism were just more convincing or appealing than Christianity. It was different for each person – but the result was that for all of them, eventually Christian faith no longer seemed credible.
2. An experience of personal difficulty or trauma

A second contributing factor was some sort of personal struggle. It’s fair to say that this is a normal part of most young adult’s twenties (In fact part of developing a stable adult faith is finding a way to make sense of where God is in the challenges of life). However for these individuals it combined with and exacerbated their existential doubts.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Young Adults

Anglican bishop of Egbu urges Christians to preach the gospel undaunted

Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egbu, Right Reverend Geoffrey Okorafor, has encouraged Christian adherents to be consistent in their belief.

He urged them not to waver in the pursuit of their Christian faith, rather remain undaunted in preaching the gospel.

Bishop Okorafor, who gave the charge in his homily during the pastoral visit to St. Matthias Church, Umuchima, Ihiagwa in Owerri West Local Government Area, Imo State, stressed that as believers they should be proud of being identified with Christ.

While advising against self-righteousness, he maintained that they should not allow anything to shake and deflate their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria

(Abingdon Journal) In the TEC Diocese of Bethlehem, Tunkhannock, Glenburn parishes share a priest

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Tunkhannock and The Church of the Epiphany in Glenburn began a new ministry relationship in January.

Rev. Lou Divis will remain as the pastor of St. Peter’s, and has become the Priest-in-Charge at The Church of the Epiphany. Both positions are part-time. This is a new era in The Episcopal Church as people become more involved in various ministerial activities with pastoral oversight.

In the not so distant past, every parish wanted “their own priest” for sacramental, missional, administrative and teaching needs. There are now several parishes in The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem using one priest for two parishes. The people in these parishes take on some of the responsibilities of mission, administration, home visitations and teaching, while the priest continues with sacramental, worship, mission and other duties.

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

(Gafcon) Archbp Peter Jensen–Slipping into the slumber of the spirit

Whenever the Bible mentions the matter of same sex activity, it is to warn against it. The boundaries within which sexual relations may occur are clearly delineated. We should not have sex with a person married to another (adultery), or with a person to whom we are not married whether of the same or the opposite sex (fornication), or with a person to whom we are closely related (incest), or to any other than another human (bestiality).

We ought not to think that these boundaries are given to oppress us. God is in favour of sex in the right place, and he gives joy in its expression. The boundaries protect us; they give us wisdom as to what is best for our humanity. They are immensely important in an age where sex has become a divinity and those who do not have sex are regarded as deprived and eccentric. The return to paganism brought in by the sexual revolution of the 1960s, is not a return to the good. The harm it has done, from abortion to sexually transmitted diseases and relational hurt is horrendous. In many ways, the debts incurred are yet to be paid.

All you need is love? Is this the truth?

Love is, of course, the greatest of all virtues. But Christian love is not undiscriminating. Its wisdom is the law of God. Without love, the law becomes rigid and cruel. Without the law, love becomes mere sentiment. Even great misdeeds may be adorned with virtues such as courage, integrity, honesty, self-sacrifice and, yes, love itself. Thus an army bent on illegal destruction can be marked by love between the troops; an adulterous affair can be the scene of a deep and powerful love; love can commit suicide in order to be with a loved one at the end.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Kate Bowler’s new book ‘Is there a Cure for Tragedy?’

[Kate] Bowler tells how while she was still in hospital a neighbour came the door and told her husband ‘Everything happens for a reason’. ‘I’d love to hear it,’ the husband replied. ‘Pardon?’ said the woman. ‘The reason my wife is dying,’ was the response. The neighbour said nothing but handed over a casserole.

Bowler lists three life lessons that people try to teach her. The first is that death is just the gateway to heaven. The second is that suffering is ‘an education in mind, body and spirit’. And the third is that attitude determines destiny; just have faith and you will survive. Even atheists find a lesson in suffering. It can show us that we live in an uncaring world and should give up any search for meaning.

Bowler finds no explanation for her suffering but this does not destroy her faith in God. She tells of a ‘free-floating feeling’ that stayed with her for months and conveyed God’s presence to her.

“At a time when I should have felt abandoned by God, I was not reduced to ashes. I felt like I was floating, floating on the love and prayers of all those who hummed around me like worker bees, bringing notes and flowers and warm socks and quilts embroidered with words of encouragement. They came like priests and mirrored back to me the face of Jesus.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Books, Health & Medicine, Theodicy, Theology

(ACNS) Bishop Mouneer Anis receives Archbishop of Canterbury’s award for peace and reconciliation

The Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, has received an official award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for his “invaluable” contribution to the work of peace and reconciliation. The Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Inter Faith co-operation was presented to Bishop Mouneer last night (Wednesday) during a meeting of the Anglican Inter Faith Commission in Cairo. He was presented with the award by Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, on behalf of Justin Welby at Cairo Cathedral.

The citation for Bishop Mouneer’s award recognises his relationship with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the leading Islamic mosque and educational institution in Alexandria. It says that Bishop Mouneer “has made a unique contribution and example through his ability to establish deep relationships; this is largely because of his openness, creativity and ambition to move people towards reconciliation. At times, this inevitably makes him a counter cultural voice within his setting.

“Particularly of note is his role as a bridge builder between the most important official international Christian-Muslim dialogue that the Anglican Church has with al-Azhar al-Sharif and is a most highly trustworthy representative for Archbishop Justin to the Grand Imam himself.

“Moreover, Bishop Mouneer is incredibly generous with his time: cultivating relationships with those from different faiths and background whilst running the Cathedral in Cairo, all within a context in which Christians are a vulnerable minority. He also maintains good contact across different institutions, with charitable and political leaders and is able to bring together all of these networks for the common good.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Egypt, Inter-Faith Relations, Middle East, Pastoral Theology, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East