Monthly Archives: October 2018

(BBC) Can artificial intelligence help stop religious violence?

Software that mimics human society is being tested to see if it can help prevent religious violence.

Researchers used artificial intelligence algorithms to simulate actions driven by sectarian divisions.

Their model contains thousands of agents representing different ethnicities, races and religions.

Norway and Slovakia are trialling the tech to tackle tensions that can arise when Muslim immigrants settle in historically Christian countries.

The Oxford University researchers hope their system can be used to help governments respond to incidents, such as the recent London terror attacks.

However, one independent expert said that the tool needed more work before it could be used in real-life situations.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Violence

(PewR) Eastern and Western Europeans Differ on Importance of Religion, Views of Minorities, and Key Social Issues

The Iron Curtain that once divided Europe may be long gone, but the continent today is split by stark differences in public attitudes toward religion, minorities and social issues such as gay marriage and legal abortion. Compared with Western Europeans, fewer Central and Eastern Europeans would welcome Muslims or Jews into their families or neighborhoods, extend the right of marriage to gay or lesbian couples or broaden the definition of national identity to include people born outside their country.

These differences emerge from a series of surveys conducted by Pew Research Center between 2015 and 2017 among nearly 56,000 adults (ages 18 and older) in 34 Western, Central and Eastern European countries, and they continue to divide the continent more than a decade after the European Union began to expand well beyond its Western European roots to include, among others, the Central European countries of Poland and Hungary, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Religion & Culture, Sociology

The Four Bishops in Oxford release a letter to the diocese on matters of anthropology, sexual ethics and hospitality in the diocese

We want to commend to the Diocese of Oxford the five principles recently commended to the Diocese of Lichfield by Bishop Michael Ipgrave and his colleagues. These are founded on the basic principle that all people are welcomed in God’s Church: everyone has a place at the table. Such radical Christian inclusion brings practical consequences for our local churches and for our Diocese as a whole:

  1. It is the responsibility of all Christians, but especially those who hold the Bishop’s Licence as clergy or lay ministers, to ensure that all people know that there is a place at the table for them. Preaching, teaching and pastoral responsibilities need to be exercised sensitively, and with this core principle in mind.
  2. Intrusive questioning about someone’s sexual practices or desires, or their experience of gender, is inappropriate. It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith.
  3. We want to make clear that nobody should be excluded or discouraged from receiving the Sacraments of Baptism or the Lord’s Supper on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  4. We wish to affirm that LGBTI+ people are called to roles of leadership and service in the local church. Nobody should be told that their sexual orientation or gender identity in itself makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.
  5. Finally, we wish both to acknowledge the great contribution that LGBTI+ Christians are making, and have made, to the Church in this diocese, and to highlight the need for mission within the LGBTI+ community more broadly.

Liturgy and prayers

The House of Bishops Guidelines on Same Sex Marriage acknowledge that “same sex couples will continue to seek some recognition of their new situation in the context of an act of worship” (19).

As Bishops we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries seeking guidance in this area. There is no authorised public liturgy for such prayers. The Guidelines are clear that “Services of blessing should not be provided” (21). However, there is positive encouragement for clergy to respond pastorally and sensitively.

We warmly welcome dialogue and conversation with clergy across the Diocese who are looking for further guidance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(NPR) Pakistan’s High Court Acquits Asia Bibi, Christian Woman On Death Row For Blasphemy

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has roiled the country.

In the courtroom, it took less a minute for the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, to upturn a series of legal rulings that had kept Bibi on death row for eight years.

In terse remarks to the hushed, packed courtroom, he said that Bibi’s conviction and sentence had been voided.

In a 56-page verdict issued after the ruling, the three-judge bench appeared to side with Bibi’s advocates. They have maintained that the case against the 51-year-old illiterate farmhand was built around a grievance by her fellow Muslim workers, who appeared angry that she might drink from the same vessel as them. She was ordered by a local landlord to bring water to the women on a day while they were picking berries.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

O God our Father, grant unto us according to the riches of thy glory to be strengthened with might by thy spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of thy glorious purpose, and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with the fullness of God.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

–Revelation 12:1-6

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) Jude Smith–For the sake of the poor, is it time for the Church of England to get out of the marriage business?

Today’s Budget will outline plans for couples to be able to legally marry in a wider variety of venues. The fact that this is in the Budget serves as a healthy reminder that for much of British history the legal institution of marriage has been a lot about money and power. For a fair while women were seen as chattels (as they remain in some parts of our diverse world). My own employer (the Church of England) is the child of an upsurge in new theology and the very practical desire of a king to increase his security and power. All of this came together in a fight about marriage and the emergence of a state church.

In our material culture most do not marry for money, but marriage has money implications. At an average of £30,000 a time, marriage is a significant industry. Philip Hammond’s proposals, allowing for civil ceremonies to be held outside and so on, are a ‘sort of’ attempt at reducing those costs. As a cynic I suggest that they are a sop to the couples who simply want their event to be more unique and Instagrammable than their friends’. However, on paper, they open up the possibility of couples being able to marry without prohibitive venue costs.

Some may argue that in such a world, the church needs to hold and hold fast to a ‘traditional’ or ‘biblical’ view of marriage, with ceremonies in sacred spaces that mix joy and solemnity, character and covenant. I feel duty bound to remind us that in the Bible most marriages were political, polygamous or both and that most of the New Testament either modelled single life (Jesus) or encouraged it for the sake of the Gospel….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry

(TR) The Church of England has accused Fortnite of “dubious morality” that encourages children to gamble

Dr. Alan Smith, the bishop of St.Albans has said that Epic Games’ hugely popular free-to-play title is encouraging children to gamble based on chance.

“Behind some of these games is some dubious morality,” said Dr Smith, who talks on behalf of the church on these matters.

“Whilst they are within the letter of the law, they have moved the goalposts significantly in the direction of normalising and socialising gambling among young people.”

“All the signs are that we are going to have an epidemic because the games like Fortnite are socialising gambling through ‘skins’ and winning prizes.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Gambling

(GR) Ira Rifkin–Pittsburgh surprised many: But not those who repeatedly reported rising American anti-Semitism

Some 15 years ago I wrote a piece on anti-Semitism for an online Jewish publication that began as follows: “It is an irony of Jewish life that it took the Holocaust to give anti-Semitism a bad name. So widespread was international revulsion over the annihilation of six million Jews that following World War II anti-Semitism, even of the polite variety, became the hatred one dared not publicly express. But only for a time.”

Saturday’s synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh underscored how anti-Semitism is no longer the hatred one dares not publicly express — though that’s been obvious for some time to all who cared to recognize it. I’ve tried to make the point in numerous GetReligion posts.

The details of what happened in Pittsburg, on the Jewish Sabbath, are by now well known, thanks to the wall-to-wall coverage, much of it sympathetic, detailed and excellent — including their understanding of the Jewish religious and communal aspects.

The extensive coverage is entirely appropriate, I’d say. Because more than just a display of vicious anti-Semitism, what happened in Pittsburg was an American tragedy. It underscored how threatened the nation is today by our corrosive political environment.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Wyclif

O God, whose justice continually challenges thy Church to live according to its calling: Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on thy Church, and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body; through the same Jesus Christ, who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the Way, the Truth, and the Life; We pray thee suffer us not to stray from thee, who art the Way, nor to distrust thee, who art the Truth, nor to rest in any other thing than thee, who art the Life. Teach us, by thy Holy Spirit, what to believe, what to do, and wherein to take our rest.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

“We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast,
that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.
The nations raged, but thy wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear thy name, both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

–Revelation 11:14-19

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper front Page) Slain Florence, South Carolina, deputy was “source of hope to many’

The second law enforcement officer killed during what authorities have described as an ambush-style mass shooting earlier this month was laid to rest here on Sunday.

Mourners, more than 1,000 strong, packed into the Florence Civic Center to pay their respects to Farrah Burdette Godwin Turner, 36, who loved ones remembered by her “brilliant and courageous” smile and fierce devotion to protecting and bettering the lives of those she served, particularly children. Turner joined the Florence County Sheriff’s Office in 2006. She would go on to be named investigator of the year by the department in 2016.

Turner, a deputy with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, and Florence Police Sgt. Terrence Carraway were fatally shot Oct. 3 at a home in an upscale subdivision outside city limits.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Police/Fire

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) ‘We will not be broken:’ Emotional vigil held for victims of Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting

To an audience of more than 2,000 inside Soldiers & Sailors Hall and many more gathering in the damp weather outside, after all the dignitaries had spoken, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told of his night of restlessness, of wrestling with Scripture.

When he has sleepless nights, he said, he often turns to the Psalms. But there was no night like Saturday night, just hours after Rabbi Myers survived the deadly gunman’s attack on his Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

He thought of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

“Well God, I want!” he said, his voice reverberating through the hall during Sunday’s interfaith vigil in honor of 11 victims killed and the six wounded Saturday at the Squirrel Hill synagogue building shared by three congregations.

“What I want you can’t give me,” he continued. “You can’t return these 11 beautiful souls. You can’t rewind the clock.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Simon and Saint Jude

O God, we thank thee for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray thee that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer