Category : Theology

(Fulcrum) Andrew Goddard–Synods, Sexuality and Symbolic and Seismic Shifts

Jayne Ozanne posted on Facebook that what had happened in Synod was “a seismic shift – inclusion is now mainstream!”. Whether or not that is the case and if so what is meant by “inclusion”, or, in the Archbishops’ words, “radical new Christian inclusion in the Church”, remains to be seen. We simply do not know the consequences if her hopes as to where this will lead prove accurate. However, there are signs that if they are realised then this could presage a fundamental realignment in Anglicanism including in England.

On the same day as Jayne’s FB post, Sean Doherty, the proposer of the failed amendment to her motion, posted “Here are two words I have not heard at #synod this weekend: Anglican Communion”. While not strictly true (it was briefly mentioned in relation to the Teaching Document) it does appear the Communion was largely forgotten. That is even more surprising, bordering on denial, given another Synod that took place only a few weeks before – that of ACNA. Although not part of the Anglican Communion, many leaders of Anglican Communion provinces were present and, even more significantly, they consecrated, against the wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, an English clergyman, Andy Lines, to serve as a missionary bishop within the British Isles. The symbolic, perhaps seismic, significance of this has it seems yet to sink in. It means we now face the prospect of a growing number of churches in England which, although clearly not part of the Church of England, self-identify as Anglican and have a very credible claim to such a designation as they are served by a bishop recognised by a large number (perhaps even the majority) of Anglicans worldwide. If the CofE continues to appear to be shaped more by its surrounding culture than theology and particularly if its bishops fail to clearly teach the sexual ethic supported by the wider Communion and summed up in the Higton motion then it may be that the ACNA Synod will come to be seen as representing an even more seismic shift than that which some hope and others fear occurred at General Synod.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Tim Keller: The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: A Review Article

A third line of reasoning in these volumes and others like them involves recategorization. In the past, homosexuality was categorized by all Christian churches and theology as sin. However, many now argue that homosexuality should be put in the same category as slavery and segregation. Vines writes, for example, that the Bible supported slavery and that most Christians used to believe that some form of slavery is condoned by the Bible, but we have now come to see that all slavery is wrong. Therefore, just as Christians interpreted the Bible to support segregation and slavery until times changed, so Christians should change their interpretations about homosexuality as history moves forward.

But historians such as Mark Noll (America’s God [Oxford, 2005] and The Civil War as a Theological Crisis [University of North Carolina, 2006]) have shown the 19th-century position some people took that Scripture condoned race-based chattel slavery was highly controversial and never a consensus. Most Protestants in Canada and Britain (and many in the northern U.S. states) condemned it as being wholly against the Bible. Rodney Stark (For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch Hunts, and the End of Slavery, 2003) points out that the Roman Catholic church also came out early against the African slave trade. David L. Chappell, in his history of the civil rights movement (A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, 2003), goes further. He proves that even before the Supreme Court decisions of the mid-1950s, almost no one was promoting the slender and forced biblical justifications for racial superiority and segregation. Even otherwise racist theologians and ministers couldn’t find a basis for white supremacy in the Bible.

So we see that the analogy between the church’s view of slavery and its view of homosexuality breaks down. Up until very recently, all Christian churches and theologians unanimously read the Bible as condemning homosexuality. By contrast, there was never any consensus or even a majority of churches that thought slavery and segregation were supported by the Bible. Chappell shows that even within the segregationist South, efforts to support racial separation from the Bible collapsed within a few years. Does anyone really think that within a few years from now there will be no one willing to defend the traditional view of sexuality from biblical texts? The answer is surely no. This negates the claim that the number, strength, and clarity of those biblical texts supposedly supporting slavery and those texts condemning homosexuality are equal, and equally open to changed interpretations.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Holly Ordway–Why Evangelism Requires Both Logic and Loveliness

As an apologist, I appreciate the value of the imagination in no small part because of the role it played in helping me come to Christian faith. I was once an atheist, and a hostile one, who agreed with the New Atheists that Christianity was not just false but irrational and harmful.

Although I was not interested in apologetic arguments at the time, I had, without knowing it, been experiencing the work of grace through my imagination. As a child, I fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. At the time, of course, I didn’t know that I was encountering God’s grace through those books. Years later, as an atheist and graduate student, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on fantasy novels and had J. R. R. Tolkien’s great essay “On Fairy-stories”—with its powerful statement of the evangelium, the Good News—at the heart of it. When I became a college professor, I was deeply moved and intrigued by the writings of Christian poets. In time I realized that the faith of these writers was more complex and more interesting than I had thought, and I decided to learn more.

Like C. S. Lewis, I had a two-step conversion. I came to belief in God but then struggled with the idea of the Incarnation. All the evidence pointed toward the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as historical facts, but I found that I was unable to accept the idea of Jesus as God incarnate. At that point, I turned very deliberately to the Chronicles of Narnia: I went looking for Aslan, the lion who is the great Christ-figure of the Chronicles. Through my experience of those stories, my imagination was able to connect with what my reason already knew, and I was able to grasp as a whole person that God could become incarnate. That imaginative experience removed the last stumbling block for my acceptance of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

From the Morning Bible Readings

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

–Mark 4:30-32

Posted in Theology: Scripture

A Letter in tomorrow’s [London] Telegraph concerning “two opposed expressions of Anglicanism”

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) England’s unique national experiment–Free Talk Therapy to anyone who desires it

England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses.

The rapidly growing initiative, which has gotten little publicity outside the country, offers virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics throughout the country: in remote farming villages, industrial suburbs, isolated immigrant communities and high-end enclaves. The goal is to eventually create a system of primary care for mental health not just for England but for all of Britain.

At a time when many nations are debating large-scale reforms to mental health care, researchers and policy makers are looking hard at England’s experience, sizing up both its popularity and its limitations. Mental health care systems vary widely across the Western world, but none have gone nearly so far to provide open-ended access to talk therapies backed by hard evidence. Experts say the English program is the first broad real-world test of treatments that have been studied mostly in carefully controlled lab conditions.

The demand in the first several years has been so strong it has strained the program’s resources.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

The Rev. David Booman’s sermon on Genesis 22– Does God Ask For To Much?

‘He’s not a tame lion,’ wrote CS Lewis of Aslan, the Christ-figure in his children’s books. Which was Lewis’ way of saying that God is not a tame god. A good God, yes. Safe and
predictable, no. But, one who will often lead his people into unthinkable, seemingly untenable places. Where our faith is stretched to the breaking point.

And you know, if God doesn’t sometimes shock us and make us really uncomfortable, He’s probably a god made in our image. Because, what are the chances that the God of the universe, reigning over all times and all cultures, is perfectly in lockstep with our worldview, our belief system, our morals, our political agenda.

No, if God is anything, we should expect that His ways are not our ways. That He’s not a tame lion.

Read it all and you can also listen to or download the sermon there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture

Kendall Harmon’s July 2 Sermon: Wrestling with the Strange but Important story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Blessed is he who considers the poor!
The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
thou dost not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness thou healest all his infirmities.

–Psalm 41:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture

An Interesting Look Back in History–President Woodrow Wilson’s April 1917 Speech to Congress urging them to join the allies in World War I

We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security for the democratic governments of the world. We are now about to accept gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Just because we fight without rancour and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Germany, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President

Irwin Stelzer–Time to Break Up Amazon? Americans have a schizophrenic attitude toward successful big businesses

“The trusts are hijous monsters. On the one hand they must be crushed underfoot; on the other hand not so fast.” So spake Mr. Dooley, the fictitious Irish bartender and font of wisdom created by Finley Peter Dunne in the late 19th century. Trusts were the form monopolies took at the time. Dooley captured Americans’ schizophrenic attitude toward successful big businesses. We make them big and successful by buying their products-J.D. Rockefeller’s petrol, Andrew Carnegie’s steel, J.P. Morgan’s loans, Ma Bell’s telephone network, American Tobacco’s cigarettes-then worry that they have too much power and call in the trust busters.

In fact, schizophrenia is something of a misdiagnosis. Bigness alone has never been considered by the courts to be an evil. In the language of the Supreme Court, monopoly power that is the result of “a superior product, business acumen, or historic accident” in unobjectionable. So why, then, are some hedge funds shorting the stock of Amazon in anticipation of a government move to break up Jeff Bezos’ creation or somehow restrain its growth? And why do we see articles in the New York Times headlined ” Amazon’s Growing Monopoly Bite” and ” Is it Time to Break Up Google?” And why is the Wall Street Journal warning that “Tech Companies Spread Their Tentacles” thus “concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few companies in a way not seen since the Gilded Age.” Not to be outdone by the Economist, which leads with “A giant problem” and goes on to what for it is a near-hysterical statement, “The rise of the corporate colossus threatens both competition and the legitimacy of business … using the dark arts of management to stay ahead.”

Let’s start with some facts, using Amazon as the poster boy for a possible new documentary, The Company That Ate the U.S. Economy. Statistics about the company are hard to come by, so we must rely on probably the best guesses available, those of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP). Amazon Prime, the offering that provides “free” shipping, exclusive access to movies, television shows, photo storage and a host of other goodies, costs $99 per year, counts as members some 80 million U.S. households, about two out of every three in the country, up from 58 million only one year ago. That certainly is a lot of customers.,,,

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues

The Living Church article on the panel draft decision about Bishop Jon Bruno

In a scathing rebuke of the Bishop of Los Angeles, a disciplinary hearing panel of the Episcopal Church has voted to suspend the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno from ministry for three years….

According to Title IV 14.5 of the church’s canons, the presiding bishop is charged with reviewing this sentence and then pronouncing it or lessening it.

In a 4-1 decision, the panel wrote that “the scope and severity of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct … have unjustly and unnecessarily disturbed the ministry of a mission of the Church. St. James the Great is a casualty of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct.”

Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer for the Episcopal Church, said late that evening, “This document is marked as a draft, and that is what it is. We will offer no comments as the Hearing Panel’s work continues.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

(Christian Today) Clergy burnout: Why stress affects church ministers, and what they can do about it

The BBC series Rev was brilliant but at times silly and, doubtless, wildly inaccurate. But there was one memorably authentic scene in which the vicar, Adam Smallbone, really is at rock bottom. Tears roll slowly down his cheeks as Smallbone, played by Tom Hollander, lies slumped on his dishevelled bed. Exhausted and alienated from his wife, Smallbone clings on – just – to his faith by reciting the Beatitides. The moment serves as a momentary glimpse into the apparently unusual concept of clergy depression.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the debate on clergy wellbeing at the General Synod earlier this month, he made headlines – but he also won the hearts of many a church minister when he recalled that he was at his most stressed when he was a parish priest.

‘The hardest work I’ve ever done and the most stressful was as a parish priest – mainly because it was isolated, insatiably demanding and I was on the whole working without…close colleagues, particularly in the first few years,’ Justin Welby said.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is.
So I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and glory.
Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee.

–Psalm 63:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Church of England ‘withdrew emotional support for abused’

Victims of abuse by clergy have criticised the Church of England’s close relationship with the insurer advising it on compensation claims.
They said the Church had cut contact and emotional support from them on the advice of Ecclesiastical – which has a senior clergy member on its board.
An independent reviewer said in one victim’s case “financial interests were allowed to impact practice”.
The Church said it aimed to separate pastoral care from insurance issues.’

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Violence