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Midday Mental Health Break–the Irkutsk ethnic percussion group “ethnobeat” plays on the frozen water of Lake Baikal

Posted in * General Interest, Music

(Economist Erasmus Blog) A look at America’s latest report on religious persecution

Lobbying for human rights, in a universalist spirit that holds all countries to the same standards and avoids singling out any particular group or country for attention, is not something that comes naturally to the Trump administration. Civil-liberty advocates were disappointed back in March, when Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, failed to turn up in person to present his department’s annual survey of human rights all over the world. But they were pleased to observe that he did make a personal appearance this week to deliver another encyclopedic document: an annual survey of freedom of religion and belief, taking in more than 190 countries and territories.

Mr Tillerson’s strongest words were reserved not for any recognised government but for an ultra-militant movement, the so-called Islamic State (IS). Both in the report he unveiled and his own remarks, he stated that it was “clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled”. The terrorist faction was also deemed responsible for “crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing” (that is, misdeeds which do not fit the term “genocide”) against fellow Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other groups.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(TLC) Cameron Nations–The future of the Episcopal Church’s clergy

Of all full-time clergy in TEC, 55.4 percent are older than 55, and almost 80 percent of all full-time clergy in TEC are older than 45….Particularly noteworthy are the figures for Millennial clergy, which, depending on where you want to place the cutoff in your definition of Millennial, comprise roughly 6 percent of all full-time clergy in TEC.

Only 20 percent of full-time clergy younger than 45 equals 100 percent of a problem for a denomination struggling to grow and thrive in the decades to come.

If you were to think, Well, at least we have experience going for us, you would be a little off target. The average age of ordinands has held pretty steady at about 50 years of age according to recent CPG Annual Reports (which are different than the Compensation Report). That means that a significant amount of those in the older age brackets are no more seasoned in ministry than many of their younger colleagues; they were ordained later in life.

Read it all and follow the footnotes.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Christian Today) Thousands of people are turning out to hear free choral music around Britain

The ancient church music has been around for centuries – but is getting a new audience due to a new website set up to enable people to find choral evensong services at cathedrals, colleges and churches anywhere in Britain and Ireland.

The website is now receiving about 8,500 unique visitors a month, and 11,500 visits a month, and that number is rising. There are now 481 churches, chapels and cathedrals with their own pages on the website, and the number keeps growing.

And the effect on congregations is staggering.

One poorly-attended church in London found attendance shot up from 10 people to nearly 200 at one evensong alone.Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

Philippa Rowen–The Church can be the eyes and ears that spot modern slavery

A new report from the National Crime Agency says modern slavery is now “prevalent” across the UK, affecting “every large town and city in the country”. The more they look, the more they find according to William Kerr, NCA Director of Vulnerabilities. He says “we need those communities to be our eyes and ears”. People in the UK may be shocked to hear that this crime is so widespread, but for those working to raise awareness of modern slavery, today’s revelations from the National Crime Agency are not surprising.

For years, the numbers of potential victims found have climbed, in 2016 hitting 3805. They came from 108 different countries, including the UK, and were exploited in all sorts of ways; from car washes, to fruit farms, to brothels.

We need communities that have their eyes open, who are aware enough of their surroundings that they can say when something doesn’t look right. When the man cleaning their car has no safety equipment, and looks underfed and tired. When their neighbours live-in nanny never seems to leave the house, and is too frightened to talk to them. When the holiday let at the end of the road is being visited by different men all through the day and night.

The Church of England, with a presence in every parish, is uniquely placed to be those eyes and ears, and to spread this message further.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

Chilling but Important Reading–In Charlottesville, the Local Jewish Community Presses On

On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).

Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.

For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.

Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the American BCP

Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honour thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!

–Psalm 105:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(ACNS) Welsh electoral college to choose next archbishop and primate

An electoral college of the Church in Wales will meet in the small town of Llandrindod Wells next month to choose the province’s next archbishop and primate. Three lay people and three priests from all six Welsh dioceses will join the six bishops as they pray and vote on a successor to the former Bishop of Llandaff, Barry Morgan, who retired in January.

The electoral college will meet in the Victorian Spa Town’s Holy Trinity Church on 5 September. After a public Holy Communion service, the church will be emptied of everybody who is not a member of the college or their support staff. The church doors will then be locked before the conclave begins with a discussion about the needs of the province.

After a period of prayer and reflection, the president of the college – senior bishop John Davies of Swansea and Brecon – will invite nominations. The bishops nominated for the post will then withdraw while discussion takes place, returning when members of the college cast their vote. A nominee with two-thirds of the votes of the college will become the province’s next archbishop. If no nominee receives the required number of votes, the process is repeated.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Wales

(Timeout) Things you only know if you’re a London parish priest: a profile of the Rev Niall Weir

The church has got London covered

‘Every inch of the UK has its own parish church and I think that’s rather wonderful. Being a parish priest has taught me the value of longevity. St Paul’s West Hackney has been here since 1824: five years before the first London bobby appeared on the beat, before the NHS, before state schools, and we intend to stay!’

Priests aren’t all po-faced

‘I appeared in drag on a calendar one year that was made by some local sex workers. Each one of them appeared as a female icon and I dressed up as Dame Edna. I think I scrub up rather well, but my children were very embarrassed….’

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NBC) Wonderful Story–Man Travels 10,000 Miles to Return Flag to Fallen Soldier’s Family

During World War II, Marvin Strombo found a flag on the body of a fallen Japanese soldier. 73 years later, the 93-year-old veteran is bringing it back to that man’s family.

Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Japan, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–When ‘Freethinkers’ Persecute the Faithful: Soft totalitarianism

The State Department on Tuesday released its annual International Religious Freedom Report, and the grim upshot was that people of faith face persecution around the globe. This year’s report, the first under President Trump, called out usual suspects such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. It also notably used the “G” word–genocide–to describe Islamic State’s crimes against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Authoritarian regimes and jihadists aren’t the only ones who mete out anti-religious repression these days. Nominally free societies, particularly in Europe, are increasingly guilty of it as well. Yet because it is less visible, carried out by governments with impeccable liberal credentials, such persecution receives far less attention, including in the State report.

Consider tiny Belgium, which has been roiling with controversy this month over whether Catholic hospitals can be required to permit euthanasia on their premises. Belgium’s pro-euthanasia lobby and its political and media allies seek to bring to heel the country’s last bastion of opposition, the Roman Church.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

Economist Erasmus Blog on a little noticed case involving a prisoner gardener, religion and the law

The case concerns Barry Trayhorn, a man who was employed as gardener in an English prison, HMP Littlehey…, with 1,200 inmates, including sex offenders and young offenders. Although it wasn’t his job to do so, he liked to preach in the prison chapel, sometimes rather spontaneously. In another part of his life he is a Pentecostal minister.

In May 2014, for example, he read aloud a passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which lists the wrongdoers who will be denied entry to the kingdom of God, including idol-worshippers, adulterers, and people described as arsenokoitai. (Scholars dispute the word’s exact meaning: it could refer to boy-prostitutes, to child-abusers, to practitioners of anal intercourse regardless of gender, or else generically to any sexual activity between men.) The claimant was of the latter persuasion and according to several people present, delivered this view rather stridently. The prison’s full-time chaplains agreed that he should have presented the passage more gently and “contextually”. Several prisoners complained, and disciplinary action against the zealous gardener was started; this prompted him to take sick leave and eventually quit the job.

In a ruling on August 1st, the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed his contention that he had been unfairly treated because of his religious views. It found that a lower court had been completely correct in reaching a similar conclusion.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Pentecostal, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

Camp St. Christopher announces Intercessory Prayer Day & Vigil for the Diocese of South Carolina


With the next regularly scheduled Intercessory Prayer Day planned for Saturday, August 19, in view of the recent South Carolina Supreme Court decision regarding St. Christopher and the Diocese of South Carolina, the Intercessory Prayer Day has been expanded to include an opportunity for all to participate, either here at St. Christopher or from your own home and workplace. With the legal process of the SC Supreme Court still unfolding, we will pray for faithfulness in our Lord Jesus Christ and walk in step with the Holy Spirit. A Prayer Vigil will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday, August 18 and continue through to 3 p.m.on Saturday, August 19.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Spirituality/Prayer

(ERoB) Joseph Johnson reviews Peter Kreeft’s new book “Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other?”

For me, Kreeft is most moving when talking about the need for Catholics and Protestants to clear away the pernicious stereotypes and caricatures that have built up over the centuries. In order to move towards reunion, he rightly urges us to really listen to each other with more depth, patience, and humility (72). When this happens, we can discover deeper levels of mutual understanding and better remember that, despite the differences, we still ultimately belong to the same Body of Christ. We may even find echoes of perspectives that we hold dear in unexpected places. Now of course, it’s true that merely listening to each other better (as necessary as that is) won’t automatically dissolve the theological issues that continue to divide Catholics and Protestants. But, Kreeft dares to hope that as we better understand one another, and seek together to follow Christ more closely, we may be surprised to find eventual healing for these areas of division (80). As evidence of this, he points to the joint Catholic-Lutheran Decree on Justification, which Kreeft is convinced shows that, “The single greatest obstacle to reunion, by far the most important religious difference between Protestants and Catholics, has essentially been overcome” (17).

The latter part of the book contains a number of longer chapters exploring some of the central issues that stand in the way of reunion, including Catholic doctrines about Mary, the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, and matters of ecclesiology. In these chapters, as in the earlier parts of the book, Kreeft’s style is personal and aimed at making the subject matter understandable for the non-specialists among us. I’ll admit that I wasn’t persuaded by all of his arguments, but I incline to think that that isn’t especially the point. If a necessary step towards ecumenical reunion is better understanding each other, then Protestants like me must value our Catholic friends enough to spend time honestly letting them explain how the issues look from their point of view, with the presuppositions they bring to the table. I think that is one of the best ways to get past simplistic misunderstandings about how the “other side” practices their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology