Monthly Archives: June 2018

([London] Times) Act now on civil partnerships, urge mixed-sex couple after court win

The extension of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is one of the planks of The Times’s campaign with the Marriage Foundation to reform family law.

Lord Kerr, announcing the court’s decision, said the government “does not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples. To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified.” He said that the government sought “tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it. That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim.” He added that it was “salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the government or parliament to do anything”.

However, there is mounting support for the change. Tim Loughton, MP, who has led a campaign for a change in the law, said that he was seeking an urgent meeting with ministers to amend a private member’s bill that is going through parliament at present, and was confident of support. “We now have a decision; we need to act on it,” he said.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Secularism, Women

(Independent) Sirena Bergman–Civil partnerships for straight couples are a good start – but next let’s abolish marriage altogether

I never thought I would sympathise with those who got teary-eyed with excitement over the royal wedding – who cares about two strangers signing a contract to not cheat on each other? – but perhaps we’re more similar than I thought: the news that Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan may soon be getting civil partnershipped is more exciting to me than many weddings of people who I’ve actually met.

Steinfeld and Keidan have been campaigning for this for years – as a heterosexual couple they had thus far been denied the opportunity to enter into a civil partnership, which applied only to same-sex couples. Because marriage is – unarguably – a sexist and patriarchal institution, they didn’t feel comfortable applying it to their relationship, but they also didn’t want to give up all the additional benefits and legal securities associated with it.

Civil partnerships in the UK are not historically a bastion of progressive views either: they were offered to gay couples as a consolation prize when a homophobic society deemed them unworthy of actual marriage. But at the very least it is a modern creation which allows for a rethinking of what love and relationships should be, and how we exist as partnered people in today’s world….

We should be outraged that it’s taken this long to offer people an alternative to marriage, and that it’s had to come from the Supreme Court rather than the government. But now that civil partnerships are legal perhaps it’s time to dispense with the concept of civil marriage ceremonies altogether. Those who have a true desire to buy into the religious origins of marriage can do so of their own volition, but our laws should not be based around a made-up concept which the capitalist machine has conned us into believing is about love.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Religion & Culture, Theology, Women, Young Adults

(CEN) Gafcon names new leadership for movement after Jerusalem meeting

Gafcon announced new officers at its close on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of the Province of Jos Nigeria will immediately assume a transitional post in partnership with the current General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, whom he will succeed when he retires (for a second time!) on January 1 2019.

Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA will succeed Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria as chairman of the Primates Council in 2019.

Archbishop Kwashi has been Bishop of Jos for twenty five years. His wife Gloria convenes the new Women’s Network which was formally established with eight others this week.

Together they have provided a home at Bishopscourt for scores of orphaned children. They also keep a pet donkey, a horse, an ostrich, peacocks, goats, cows, pigs and chickens. One night, while home alone, Gloria was badly beaten up and almost lost her sight. On another occasion intruders took Bishop Ben outside and made him kneel down with a gun pointed at his head. While he prayed, for unexplained reasons the intruders went away.

Archbishop Kwashi is on the Board of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge Pennsylvania and is International Chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad.

“My goal”, says Archbishop Kwashi,” is to focus on World Evangelisation, taking the gospel not only in words but in deeds, in humility with simplicity and integrity; to take the love and compassion of Jesus genuinely to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality or condition of life. We have a securely bible-based ministry of reconciliation, uncompromisingly Holy Spirit led and missional.”

Read it all.

Posted in GAFCON, Globalization, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(Economist Erasmus Blog) For those who fight sex-trafficking, dark rituals compound the problem

People who campaign against the ghastly phenomenon of human trafficking and sex slavery soon become aware that they are contending not only with flesh-and-blood wrongdoers but also with invisible forces which, if nothing else, are very much alive inside people’s heads.

One of the most notorious North-South rackets involves transporting young women, often minors, for sex work in Italy and beyond from Nigeria, in particular the southern area around Benin City. That part of the country has a powerful Christian presence, from Catholic to Pentecostal, but it is also a stronghold of traditional animist practices, including witchcraft. Its sex-slave trade has existed for three decades but it seems to have burgeoned recently. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that in 2016, some 11,100 Nigerian women landed in Sicily, and 80% entered a life of forced prostitution.

Before she is spirited off to Europe, the bond between a victim and her trafficker is often sealed with a voodoo ritual in which she surrenders pieces of clothing, fingernails and body hair; these fragments may be combined with drops of blood into a mixture which the victim is made to drink. This terrifies the young woman into thinking that curses will befall her family unless the debt to the trafficker, which can be around $50,000, is paid off.

According to Eugenia Bonetti, a Catholic religious sister who heads an NGO called Slaves No More, one of the many tragic consequences of all this is that young Nigerian women who are expelled from Italy or are helped by charities to return home can find themselves ostracised by their own families. Christian religious orders in Nigeria try to look after these returnees but they are treated as social pariahs.

In March, an attempt was made to tackle this problem by fighting fire with fire….

Read it all.

Posted in Italy, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

A Church Times Article on the recent Gafcon Conference in Jerusalem

Church of England bishops and priests are among the participants — estimated to number almost 2000 — at the third GAFCON meeting this week.

It concluded with a statement that urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite to the Lambeth Conference in 2020 the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church in Brazil, and not to invite “Provinces which have endorsed by word or deed sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture and Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, unless they have repented of their actions and reversed their decisions.”

If this did not occur, the statement added: “We urge GAFCON members to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion.”

The statement also reiterated the assertion that GAFCON was not leaving the Anglican Communion, referring instead to a “reordering” of the Communion.

The gathering has returned to Jerusalem, the site of the first Global Anglican Future Conference a decade ago (News, 27 June 2008).

Read it all.

Posted in GAFCON

Irenaeus for his Feast Day–“The heretics follow neither Scripture nor tradition”

1. When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world.”And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent,who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself.

2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.

3. Such are the adversaries with whom we have to deal, my very dear friend, endeavouring like slippery serpents to escape at all points. Wherefore they must be opposed at all points, if perchance, by cutting off their retreat, we may succeed in turning them back to the truth. For, though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it.

Against Heresies: Book III, Chapter 2.

Posted in Church History, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Irenaeus

Almighty God, who didst uphold thy servant Irenaeus with strength to maintain the truth against every blast of vain doctrine: Keep us, we beseech thee, steadfast in thy true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from John Calvin

My God, my Father and Preserver, who of thy goodness hast watched over me during the past night, and brought me to this day, grant also that I may spend it wholly in the worship and service of thy most holy deity. Let me not think, or say, or do a single thing which tends not to thy service and submission to thy will, that thus all my actions may aim at thy glory and the salvation of my brethren, while they are taught by my example to serve thee. And as thou art giving light to this world for the purposes of external life by the rays of the sun, so enlighten my mind by the effulgence of thy Spirit, that he may guide me in the way of thy righteousness. To whatever purpose I apply my mind, may the end which I ever propose to myself be thy honour and service. May I expect all happiness from thy grace and goodness only. Let me not attempt any thing whatever that is not pleasing to thee.

Grant also, that while I labour for the maintenance of this life, and care for the things which pertain to food and raiment, I may raise my mind above them to the blessed and heavenly life which thou hast promised to thy children. Be pleased also, in manifesting thyself to me as the protector of my soul as well as my body, to strengthen and fortify me against all the assaults of the devil, and deliver me from all the dangers which continually beset us in this life. But seeing it is a small thing to have begun, unless I also persevere, I therefore entreat of thee, O Lord, not only to be my guide and director for this day, but to keep me under thy protection to the very end of life, that thus my whole course may be performed under thy superintendence. As I ought to make progress, do thou add daily more and more to the gifts of thy grace until I wholly adhere to thy Son Jesus Christ, whom we justly regard as the true Sun, shining constantly in our minds. In order to my obtaining of thee these great and manifold blessings, forget, and out of thy infinite mercy, forgive my offences, as thou hast promised that thou wilt do to those who call upon thee in sincerity.

(Ps. 143:8.)””Grant that I may hear thy voice in the morning since I have hoped in thee. Show me the way in which I should walk, since I have lifted up my soul unto thee. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, I have fled unto thee. Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God. Let thy good Spirit conduct me to the land of uprightness.

–John Calvin (1509-1564)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.

–Romans 5:1-11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NPR) U.K. Supreme Court Rules It’s Unfair To Offer Civil Unions Only To Same-Sex Couples

On Wednesday, Britain’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that heterosexual couples should not be banned from entering civil partnerships and that making them only available to same-sex couples is discriminatory and “incompatible” with human rights laws.

The decision comes after Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a British couple who objected to the traditional institution of marriage because of its “patriarchal nature,” fought a legal campaign for years, according to Reuters.

Though the ruling does not require the British government to change the law, supporters are hopeful that the decision could pave the way for more legalized heterosexual civil partnerships.

Read it all and you may find David Pocklington’s initial post on it there.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Supreme Court, Women

(Bloomberg) Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.

Then came Google’s turn. An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Today’s Prayer from the Church of England

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Spirituality/Prayer

(Washington Post) ‘What’s next?’ Muslims grapple with Supreme Court ruling that they believe redefines their place in America

“For all my life, I’ve felt that this is my country,” said [Ramy] Almansoob, a 34-year-old structural engineer who was born in the United States and raised in Yemen, returning in 2015 to the suburbs of Washington to build a new life for his family. “We all knew that the United States is the place where you have freedom, and that’s what I always had in my mind. It’s not how it used to be.”

Almansoob applied to bring his wife and daughters to the United States a few months before Trump took office in January 2017. The ban, which seemed to echo Trump’s campaign call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” quickly followed. And after two amended versions and a number of court battles, the Supreme Court in December allowed for the temporary implementation of the ban on Yemenis, Syrians, Iranians, Somalis and Libyans.

Now the court has upheld the policy, a decision that added permanence to the sentiment among many American Muslims that the government views and treats them differently from other Americans.

“It has put me in the position of second-class citizenship,” said Abrar Omeish, a Libyan American in Virginia who recently ran for a spot on the school board in Fairfax County.

Civil rights and religious advocacy groups across the country reacted to the court’s decision Tuesday in a passionate uproar.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Supreme Court

(Gafcon) Mama Gloria: A Mother to the World

When Mama Gloria wakes in the middle of the night it is her children who arise in her heart. At this point, 50 children under the age of 16, plus a group of older teenagers, live with Mama Gloria and her husband Archbishop Ben Kwashi in their home in Jos, Nigeria.
As she lies awake she does what the Apostle Paul encourages us to do: shape our worries and concerns into prayers. So, she prays that she and Archbishop Ben will do a good job teaching their children the ways of God and educating them so they will stand firm in Jesus, love his ways, serve, be kind in a hostile culture, and be grateful.

Gratitude captures Mama Gloria’s heart. Gratitude to God for his great rescue of her own life and the grace he has poured out on her. Her story has its fill of opposition, shame and violence. But God’s goodness and mercy have captured her heart. She gives her life away in response. Porridge every morning for a household of 70+ is a large way to begin a day. But that is just the beginning; besides caring for her children, she is a pastor to the women in her Province and beyond.

An important visitor came to their home recently and she felt the need to apologize; the courtyard around the bishop’s house was not a garden as one might expect it to be but the working yard of a large family. The Kwashi’s have built small rooms against the courtyard walls to house the older children and all the supplies and equipment it takes to care for and feed a family of this size. “I’m sorry,” she said, “that we have turned to Bishop’s house into a place that looks like this.”

Her visitor replied, “Mama Gloria, this is exactly what a bishop’s house is for.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON

Bishop Charles Grafton on Cornelius Hill for his Feast Day

From here:

Not unworthy of record among these devoted servants of Christ is the name of the Rev. Cornelius Hill. He was the oldest and last of the Oneida Chiefs and from an early age had taken his seat in the Indian Councils. He bore the name of Chief Onon-Gwat-Ga, or Great Medicine, and was one of the most influential in the tribe. He became converted to Christianity, studied at one time at Nashotah, was the interpreter in the Church for many years until the day of his death; was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood by myself; at one time was sent to the General Convention from this Diocese and was ever a most earnest and devoted and faithful Christian and Churchman.

It is owing, in no small measure, to his example and teaching that the tribe has so progressed in temporal civilization and in its spiritual life. There is, as it is well known, no remaining party of heathen on the reservation. The Indians are for the most part loyal and devoted children of the Church.

By their zeal and devotion they are, in many ways, an example to us white Americans. I cannot speak of Father Hill’s loving loyalty to myself without much feeling. His name will ever be cherished amongst his people and held in high regard in our Diocese.

Posted in Church History, TEC Bishops