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(Church Times) Visit England report: sharp drop in visitor numbers to churches and cathedrals

Visitor numbers at churches and cathedrals fell significantly last year, “largely driven” by a drop in visitors to St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, a report by Visit England states.

The report Visitor Attraction Trends in England 2016, published last week, recorded a two-per-cent rise in the number of visitors to English sites in general in 2016 compared with 2015. But the number of visitors to places of worship dropped by eight per cent.

The sharp drop came as a surprise: between 2014 and 2015 there was a decline of less than one per cent in visitors to the cathedrals and churches monitored by Visit England.

No single reason has emerged as to why churches and cathedrals could be struggling to attract visitors. The fear of terrorism, rising entry fees, a post-London Olympics lull, and different ways of counting have all been suggested.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry

(CEN) Prominent C of E evangelical group warns of possible split over same-sex Relations

A division of the Church of England would be required’ if the Church declares that ‘permanent, faithful same-sex relationships are a legitimate form of Christian discipleship’, warns the ‘realistic’ Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC).

A letter from CEEC President, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, its Chair, the Rev Hugh Palmer, Treasurer, the Rev George Curry and Secretary, Stephen Hofmeyr, warns that there are three options available for the Church of England, but that only one of them will ensure that evangelicals represented by the CEEC won’t leave.

They say that while they were encouraged that the House of Bishops sexuality report contained no proposal to change the Church of England’s doctrinal position on marriage, there have been ‘disappointing developments’. They pointed to the fact that ‘a small majority of the House of Clergy refused to “take note” of the report and so, although the majority of General Synod members wished to do so, it was not taken note of by Synod’.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Makes the heart Sad–(BBCWS) More than a million people have fled South Sudan for Uganda

Uganda is now hosting more than one million refugees who have fled civil war in neighbouring South Sudan, according to the United Nations. The conflict in the world’s newest country has created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis in more than twenty years, and women and children represent 85% of those who’ve crossed the border. BBC reporter Catherine Byaruhanga tells BBC Minute about Uganda’s unique system for welcoming refugees.

Listen to it all (60 seconds).

Posted in --South Sudan, Immigration, Uganda

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) The black Christian who converts white supremacists by loving them

Whenever white supremacists march to proclaim their Europid purity and superior cranial virtue, they are usually met with an equal and opposite force of scorn and condemnation: protest meets counter-protest; hate meets hate. The result so often is violence and injury, if not death. You can quibble over whether neo-Nazis or Antifa are the more extreme; whether to be anti-black is more evil than those who are anti whoever offends them. Ultimately, it is angry people railing against more angry people; man throwing Molotov cocktails at man; woman spitting venom at woman. And so hate stokes hate; punching and kicking breeds window-smashing and car-burning. The bigots, racists and phobes can shout their disgust, but ‘We the people’ can break bones, too: just “punch a Nazi in the mouth” or ransack his house because “property destruction does not equate to violence“. To hate is to curse, and persecution is murder.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you‘ (Mt 5:44).

There is a black Christian musician by the name of Daryl Davis. He has spent three decades befriending members of Ku Klux Klan, and hundreds have abandoned their white supremacist views because of him. He doesn’t set out to convert them: he goes to their rallies, has dinner with them, listens to them, and talks to them. Instead of protesting and yelling, he gets to know them, and asks: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”

And, of course, they can’t: over time, the white supremacists look into the black man’s eyes, and they see an equal human person.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Porcher DuBose

Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant William Porcher DuBose special gifts of grace to understand the Scriptures and to teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant, we beseech thee, that by this teaching we may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Church of England Prayer for Barcelona after Yesterday’s Awful Attack

Posted in Spain, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Liturgy of St. Mark

We render unto Thee our thanksgiving, O Lord our God, Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by all means, at all times, in all places. For that Thou hast sheltered, assisted, supported, and led us on through the time past of our life, and brought us to this hour. And we pray and beseech Thee, O God and loving Lord, grant us to pass this day, this year, and all the time of our life without sin, with all joy, health, and salvation. But all envy, all fear, all temptation, all the working of Satan, do Thou drive away, O God, from us, and from Thy holy Church. Supply us with things good and profitable. Whereinsoever we have sinned against Thee, in word, or deed, or thought, be Thou pleased in Thy love and goodness to forgive, and forsake us not, O God, who hope in Thee, neither lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one and from his works; by the grace and compassion of Thine only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

—-James Manning,ed., Prayers of the Early Church (Nashville: The Upper Room, 1953)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

More From the Morning Scripture Readings

But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered; and all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went. And it was told David, “Ahith′ophel is among the conspirators with Ab′salom.” And David said, “O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahith′ophel into foolishness.”

–2 Samuel 15:30-31

Posted in Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD: that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die; that men may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise, when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD. He has broken my strength in mid-course; he has shortened my days. “O my God,” I say, “take me not hence in the midst of my days, thou whose years endure throughout all generations!” Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.

–Psalm 102:18-27 (emphasis mine)

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NPR) In Germany, Churchgoers Are Encouraged To Tweet From The Pews

In Germany this year, the Protestant church is celebrating 500 years since Martin Luther brought about the Reformation. Today, as the number of churchgoers dwindles, the clergy is turning to new media to appeal to those with little time to attend worship in person.

In the eastern city of Magdeburg, the monotone peal of a single church bell calls a modest flock of parishioners to evening prayers at the Walloon Reformed Church of St. Augustine.

As the faithful file into a High Gothic church where Martin Luther once delivered a sermon, most fumble around in handbags and pockets, looking for their cellphones.

But instead of dutifully switching off their phones and putting them away on this Friday evening, these 40 or so churchgoers take a pew and bow their heads over their lit-up devices as if they were prayer books.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(AM) Andrew Symes–Have C of E evangelical leaders suggested that a Rubicon has been crossed?

All this indicates that a growing number of senior evangelicals are prepared to publicly draw a line in the sand over sexual ethics. Having said this, there are a number of areas which perhaps will require further work over the next few months.

Firstly, as was noted at the time, by Bishop Michael Nazir-AliGafcon UK and myself,  among many evangelicals there was relief that the Bishops’ report on sexuality GS2055 did not suggest any change in teaching or practice, but an overlooking of the report’s underlying theology which appeared to have lost confidence in authoritative Scripture providing a clear guide. CEEC will need to make sure that, for example, in seeking to provide resources teaching biblical orthodoxy on marriage, gender, sexuality etc, it grounds this in a robust re-statement for a new generation of the trustworthiness and authority of the bible by which we know the will of God. As many expressions of Christian faith become more grounded in experience, and the clear witness of Scripture is rejected, other key tenets of orthodox Christianity will also be under the spotlight, for example the sinfulness of humanity and the uniqueness of Christ.

Secondly, CEEC will need to set out clearly and in much more detail some of the options for ‘visible differentiation’, including cost and benefit. Writing a private letter to the Bishop, not taking communion with a liberal colleague who carries out same sex blessings or multi faith services, or even not turning up to Diocesan events, might be a start which costs little, but what might it achieve in the way of halting revisionism or strengthening orthodoxy? Some acts of protest such as withholding of parish share or asking for orthodox Bishops to conduct confirmations are easier for some large churches than smaller ones, and there needs to be clarity on what the goal of such actions might be. Those advocating a differentiated structure within the C of E, such as a Society or a Third Province, need to begin to make clear the pros and cons. Likewise leaving the C of E altogether, for example for Free Church of England, AMiE or some new Gafcon-aligned movement, would be much more costly for full time clergy than for laity or SSM’s: what advantages would result?

Lastly, as the CEEC letter ends with an admission of the difficulty of reading ‘the signs of the times’, it would have been good for the letter to have included some recognition that the assault on apostolic Christian orthodoxy in the Church of England is not just an in-house matter, but is a direct result of changes in Western culture, notably the carefully-orchestrated promotion and acceptance of anti-Christian philosophies on what it means to be human. Evangelical churches should not think that by maintaining biblical teaching and separating themselves from liberal Anglicans, they will be protected from paying any price in the face of these ideologies, which need to be named, understood and resisted with the weapons of spiritual warfare as well as preaching, writing and the establishment of new ecclesial models.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals

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