Category : Pastoral Theology

(TGC) Trevin Wax–The Call to Repentance and the Championing of Grace

“We’re losing the nerve to call people to repentance.”

That’s what a retired pastor recently told me, expressing his concern that while the next generation loves to champion the unconditional love and grace of God, rarely does their message include Christ’s call to repentance. Younger pastors, he said, want to meet people where they are, in whatever mess they’re in, and let the Spirit clean them up later. God will deal with their sins down the road.

But in the Gospels, Jesus seems much more extreme. His good news was the announcement of God’s kingdom, and the first word to follow? “Repent!” No wonder Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler to walk with Him for a while until he stopped coveting. No, He got to the root of an unrepentant heart when He said, “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” In other words, Repent. Turn around.

“I’m cheering for the next generation,” the pastor said, “but I feel like an ogre for stressing repentance all the time….”

Here’s where we so easily take a wrong turn. Wherever did we get the notion that the call to repentance is opposed to the championing of grace? When did truth and grace get separated? Or repentance and faith?

To think that the message of grace and the call of repentance are opposed to one another is to miss the beautiful, grace-filled nature of what repentance actually is. The call to repent is one of greatest expressions of the love of God.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon) [emphasis mine].

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(Good News) Rob Renfroe on the United Methodist Crisis over the new Sexual Morality–Respect or Contempt

The bishops have reported that three plans have been put before them. One would strengthen the church’s present position against homosexual practice and would allow progressive churches to leave the denomination. Another, often referred to as “the local option,” would let individual pastors determine whether they will marry gay couples, and each annual conference would be free to determine if it will ordain practicing homosexuals. A third option would create three branches within the UM Church, each with a different sexual ethic, ranging from thoroughly progressive to fully conservative (the latter of which is actually nothing more than maintaining the church’s present position).

The details of the third option have not been made public, probably because they have not been fully determined. And they have probably not been determined because they are numerous and challenging. How will churches and pastors decide which of the three branches they will join? What if there are more fully committed progressive pastors than there are progressive churches willing to receive them? What if there are more progressive bishops than there are progressive annual conferences – must conservative conferences accept a bishop whose sexual ethic is different than its own? Will all churches be expected to pay apportionments to national boards that promote policies contrary to their beliefs? Can a conservative conference live with a partnered lesbian bishop on the Council that oversees the entire church? Or must there be three different councils? This third “multi-branch” option cannot be the plan Bishop Ough had in mind when he called for a plan that was simple rather than complex, with little ambiguity, and few disciplinary changes.

Where does that leave us? Option one – a more tightly-enforced Book of Discipline and liberal churches exiting the denomination – will never be recommended by a Council that leans left and largely believes we need to liberalize the church’s position (there are notable exceptions within the Council). The only plan remaining and the one Bishop Ough seems to be suggesting is the “local option.” Annual conferences vote. Pastors make their own decisions. The church stays together. And it’s done. Simple and with little ambiguity.

Except for one small detail. It will create schism, not unity. At its first national conference in Chicago, October 2016, with over 1400 pastors in attendance, The Wesleyan Covenant Association approved a statement that said, “A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the “local option” around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.” Good News sent a similar statement to the Commission on a Way Forward. So did the Confessing Movement. So did UM Action.

I’m not troubled that the Council might recommend a plan that conservatives disagree with. I expect they will. What does disturb me is that it appears the Council will propose a plan that all of the denomination’s conservative leaders have said will fracture the church and lead to a mass exodus. Why would it do that?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: Learning to Pray When Words Fail–Disorders like aphasia pose a challenge for adherents of speech-based faiths

Julie Shulman decided to study linguistics because she wanted to help people with speaking disorders. She never imagined how personal this mission would become. After graduating from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in 2000, the Maine native headed to Massachusetts for a master’s degree and job in speech therapy. Her husband, Ayal Shulman, worked as a business-development manager for an Israeli startup in Brookline. They returned to Israel in 2009—with promising careers and three young children.

Two weeks after their return, Mr. Shulman, then 37, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Despite the initially grim prognosis, his cognitive function is intact. But his speech is limited to sentences of three or four words, and his reading and writing abilities are limited.

Along with Mr. Shulman, at least two million people in the U.S. live with aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. Some 180,000 acquire the disorder every year. The condition, which produces a disconnect between what the brain wants to convey and what is actually expressed, often strikes survivors of strokes or head trauma without affecting their intelligence. The incidence is growing because medical advancements enable people with such maladies to survive at higher rates. Yet cures for the ensuing handicaps remain elusive.

Ms. Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation.


Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Martin Davie–‘Transgender, reality and pastoral care’

The fact that ‘I’ am a unity of body and soul means that it makes no sense to suggest, as we have seen Judith does in the Church of Scotland report, that ‘I was born in the wrong body.’ There is no ‘I’ separable from the body we possess. What ‘I’ means is the person who exists in this particular combination of body and soul. The suggestion that I should have been born in a different body really means that I should have been a different person, but in that case I would not exist, so the suggestion is asking for the impossible.

What is also impossible is for someone to change their body from male to female or vice versa. It is possible through the use of hormones and plastic surgery to change to a certain extent the way our bodies function and their outward appearance, but we cannot change the fundamental character of our bodies as male or female. We can produce what Paul McHugh calls ‘feminized men or masculinized women, ‘ [13] but we cannot make a man into a woman or a woman into a man.

The evidence of Scripture agrees that human beings are bodily creatures that are male and female and are able to reproduce as such, but it supplements the witness of natural reason in this regard in two key ways.

First, it teaches in the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 and also in the words of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6) that we are not a dimorphic species by accident, but because God in his goodness and wisdom created us as such so that men and women together can rule over and care for the world on God’s behalf and together can produce offspring who can continue this vocation in their turn.[14] Scripture as a whole further teaches that the dimorphic structure of the human species is also the basis for marriage (Genesis 2:23-24) through which human beings are called to bear witness to the marital relationship between God and his people, which has begun in this world, but will be finally consummated in the world to come (see Ephesians 5: 21-33 and Revelation 19:6-9, 21:2-4).

Secondly, it teaches that our bodies are an eternal part of who we are.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Lord Williams backs abuse survivors’ demand for independent safeguarding body at IICSA

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, has given his support to one of the key demands of survivors of clergy abuse: the creation of an independent body to deal with safeguarding cases.

Speaking at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on Wednesday, Lord Williams said that there was a “strong case” for handing over safeguarding issues to a new agency outside of the normal Church of England structures.

“There’s a strong case for having some such arms-length body,” he replied, when asked about it by the lead counsel to the Inquiry’s investigation into the Anglican Church, Fiona Scolding QC.

Lord Williams said that such a move would, in theory, free the Archbishop to take more of a leadership position in safeguarding for the whole Church, but admitted that the reform might never appear high on “any Archbishop’s list of priorities”.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(Tablet) Rowan Williams Admits Failings Over C Of E Child Abuse

The Church of England was “naive and uncritical” when in came to abuses of power by clergy, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

On day eight of a three-week hearing on the Anglican church as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Lord Williams of Oystermouth said that a mindset in which the authority of an ordained minister was thought to be “beyond criticism” was a “definitely a problem” when it came to preventing abuse.

“So much of this turns on how we understand the exercise of power in the Church, in which we have often been in the past — myself included — naïve and uncritical,” he admitted. “It did take us an unconscionably long time for us to really focus on the need of the complainant and the proper care,” he told the inquiry.

He added that this “top down model of authority” leaves “little mental or spiritual space for a victim to speak out in the confidence that they will be heard”.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(CEN) Abuse survivor calls for senior Anglican bishops to resign over failures

[Matthew] Ineson points out that in the statement by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team ‘it is claimed that the Archbishop did not fail to act on any disclosure made, because the responsibility to respond and act lay with the diocesan bishop, namely Steven Croft’.

“The National Safeguarding Team are clearly stating here that Steven Croft should have acted,”he adds.

He points out that his alleged perpetrator, Trevor Devamanikkan,was charged in May 2017 with six serious charges of sexual abuse against Ineson. However, he committed suicide before the case could come to court.

“Steven Croft has admitted on several occasions that I disclosed my abuse to him in the media over the past 16 months. I have pursued the complaint against Steven Croft’s failures several times with the Church, who have blocked any attempt at investigation into his failures.

“The National Safeguarding Team now acknowledge those failures and I call on Steven Croft to resign with immediate effect,” said Ineson.

He also calls on Archbishop Sentamu to resign with immediate effect ‘for failing to act on my disclosure to him’.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(Wash Post) In Oregon, pushing for assisted suicide for patients with degenerative diseases

Relatively modest drives are afoot in Washington state and California, where organizations have launched education campaigns on how people can fill out instructions for future caregivers to withhold food and drink, thereby carrying out an option that is legal to anybody: death by starvation and dehydration. (It is often referred to as the “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” method.)

The boldest bid is taking place in Quebec. Prompted by a 2017 murder case involving the apparent “mercy killing” of a 60-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s by her husband — who smothered her with a pillow — the provincial government is studying the possibility of legalizing euthanasia for Alzheimer’s patients. Unlike medically assisted suicide, a medical doctor would administer the fatal dose via injection. A survey in September found that 91 percent of the Canadian province’s medical caregivers support the idea.

“The process that could lead to [legislative] changes has already begun,” said Marie-Claude Lacasse, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Somewhere between these points is Oregon, where several lawmakers are trying to push the right-to-die envelope.

Under the current law, eligible patients can obtain prescriptions for lethal barbiturates. Qualified patients must be diagnosed with a terminal illness, have a prognosis of six or fewer months to live, and self-ingest the drug. The vast majority — more than 70 percent, according to the Oregon Health Authority — have cancer; most others have either heart disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Telegraph) Teach pupils the value of abstinence and celibacy, says Church of England

Pupils should be taught about the value of abstinence and celibacy as part of their sex education lessons, the Church of England has said.

In its submission to the Government’s overhaul of sex and relationships education the church also said that its lessons will also focus on “the Christian understanding of marriage as the context for sexual relationships”.

In a blog the Church’s chief education officer, the Rev Nigel Genders, says that relationships and sex education in schools should teach students about “healthy relationships and lifestyle choices”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology

(BBC) Abingdon vicar who ‘spiritually abused’ boy gets two-year ban

A Church of England vicar who “spiritually abused” a boy has been banned from ministry for two years.

The Reverend Timothy Davis is understood to be the first priest to have been convicted of such abuse by the Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal.

Mr Davis, of Christ Church, Abingdon, held two-hour private prayer sessions in the teenager’s bedroom after moving in with his family in 2013.

He also told his victim his girlfriend was “evil” and a “bad seed”.

Mr Davis lived with the family, who were members of his congregation, for six months after meeting the boy during a mentoring programme.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Gafcon Chairman Archbishop Nicholas Okoh’s March 2018 letter

That is why it is so important that we, as disciples of Jesus, maintain the integrity and disciplines of the household of God. The Gafcon movement came into being nearly ten years ago because godly leaders recognised that the Anglican Communion was being divided by leaders who rejected the authority of the Bible, denied the uniqueness of Jesus and promoted patterns of life which defy Scripture and reject the pattern of creation.

These divisions are deepening and will not be healed by the techniques of the corporate world. They are spiritual problems which need spiritual solutions and the first step is repentance, which requires that the unchanging truth of God’s Word is clearly taught and acted upon. This is what we have sought to do in Gafcon and where there is no repentance, there must be realignment. This involves new jurisdictions coming into being where necessary, such as the Anglican Church of North America, and changing patterns of relationship, both within and beyond the Gafcon movement.

For example, I commend the recent decision of the Provincial Synod of South East Asia to both declare itself in broken fellowship with the Scottish Episcopal Church in the light of its adoption of same sex ‘marriage’ and to recognise the Anglican Church of North America as a full Anglican Province.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Survivors tell IICSA hearing of child abuse by Church of England clerics

Harrowing details of child sex abuse carried out by Church of England clerics were described at a public hearing conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), on Tuesday.

Two witnesses, both survivors of clerical sex abuse when they were children, were questioned by the Counsel to the Anglican investigation, Fiona Scolding QC.

The first witness, known only as AN-A15, a woman, confirmed that she had been sexually abused at the age of nine by Canon Gordon Rideout, who was the army chaplain and a commissioned officer on the army base where her father, a sergeant, was stationed. Rideout was jailed for ten years in 2013 for 36 separate counts of sex abuses against 16 children in Hampshire and Sussex in the 1960s and 1970s (News, 24 May 2013).

The abuse and subsequent events affected her education and her ability to form relationships with others as an adult, the witness said. “I became very withdrawn and moody; I didn’t want to engage with anyone; I didn’t trust anyone; I was very much on my own; so I stopped taking an interest in my education. I think I am intelligent enough that I could have gone on and gone to college.”

Read it all.

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

(CT) America’s Surrogacy Bump: Is Fertility a Blessing to Be Shared?

[Meg] Watwood is part of America’s rapidly growing surrogacy movement. The number of babies born through surrogacy in the United States, though still relatively small, has quadrupled in just over a decade. And despite ethical questions surrounding the practice, demand isn’t slowing.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, surrogates gave birth to 2,807 babies in 2015, up from 738 in 2004. Nearly all were conceived by IVF and carried by women with no genetic connection, a process called “gestational surrogacy.” (In “traditional surrogacy,” the only option prior to IVF but one rarely used today, the carrier would also be the genetic mother of the baby.)

IVF and surrogacy are becoming more normalized in the US just as other countries have shut down foreign surrogacy enterprises, dual trends that have made the US a top surrogacy destination. High demand for surrogates, who typically earn more than $20,000 per birth, has attracted many evangelical women, who often fit the profile of the “ideal” surrogate and are drawn to the idea of using their fertility to bless others.

But laws and ethical discussions surrounding surrogacy haven’t kept up with the industry’s growth, and pastors and churches appear largely ill-equipped to guide women and couples through the high-stakes decisions involved in third-party reproduction.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

A Glimpse of Life at Harvard these days–Secularism and Its Discontents by Henry Brooks

In the past month, student group Harvard College Faith in Action endured two serious public relations debacles, both regarding the group’s relation to the BGLTQ community. The first incident arose when HCFA invited renowned ex-lesbian Jackie Hill-Perry, who became famous for claiming that her rebirth into faith saved her from a “lifestyle of homosexual sin,” to speak at its weekly Doxa meeting. Then, in the wake of a public outcryand several opinion pieces, news broke that HCFA had dismissed one of its Bible study group leaders after she dated someone of the same gender—though group leaders citedreasons of “theological disagreement.” After the latter incident, the College put the group on “probation,” reportedly marking the first instance of such disciplinary action in the history of the College.

Much of the response among community members and the wider public has echoed a familiar array of sentiments. One student interviewed by The Crimson chastised the non-denominational Christian group for exemplifying “institutional backlash against queer people.” An op-ed judged HCFA “complicit in promoting dangerous homophobic rhetoric” and threatening “the emotional and physical safety of LGBT people here on campus.” One commenter following the story on a BGLTQ news site staked out a more extreme position: “Virginal births, talking snakes, boats with two of every species on board… Enough judging people through the prism of fairy tales.”

It seems to this author that these reactions, some more respectfully than others, leave unexamined the purchase that faith still holds in people’s lives—and the lives of BGLTQ people no less. To identify “dangerous homophobic rhetoric” as the object of our frustration means leaving the underlying problem—the way faith is often framed as contending with our secular sensibilities—unaddressed. Attributing homophobia to a belief in “virginal births [and] talking snakes” only exacerbates that problem, affirming categories like “religious-and-straight” and “secular-and-queer” that constrain nonconforming expressions of identity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(NZ Herald) Anglican Church’s Christchurch branch votes for acceptance of same-sex marriages

The Christchurch arm of the Anglican Church has voted to push national leadership to pass a blessing of same-sex marriages.

A special meeting was convened at St Christopher’s church at Avonhead on Saturday, attended by about 250 people.

The purpose was to discuss and vote on what the synod’s position was on same-sex marriage, ahead of a general synod vote in May.

The general vote will be participated in by regional synods including the Christchurch diocese following a 2016 report prepared to pave the way for same-sex marriage within the church.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture