Category : Pastoral Theology

(CT) Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations Internally?

We obviously need to do what we can to prevent sexual abuse, but we also need to have a plan in place for how to respond if it does occur. Once your real interests are at stake and your church’s reputation is on the line, it can become far too easy to rationalize bad behavior.

“But what about 1 Corinthians 6:1–6?” some will ask. That’s the passage where Paul reprimands the Corinthian believers for taking their disputes to court. I would submit that this passage—like all biblical passages—should be read with careful attention to the context that surrounds it, chapters 5 and 6, in which Paul is especially severe on sexual sins. They are not among the “trivial cases” being taken to court that he refers to in 6:2; on the contrary, he goes so far as to instruct perpetrators to be handed over “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (5:5). It seems that certain transgressions are beyond the church’s power to address adequately.

That is especially true of sins of abuse. As Owen Strachan wrote in a Christianity Today article on domestic violence, “The civic ruler, Paul says, acts as an ‘avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer’ (Rom. 13:4, ESV). When churches teach otherwise, they not only fail to provide psychological and emotional care, they also fail theologically. Divine vengeance cries out to be exercised against evil.”

Given all this, and given how difficult it is to evaluate our own leaders objectively, it is essential to have sexual abuse allegations investigated by an independent party that does not have a vested interest in the church. If we want the church to be a safe place of healing, we can’t afford to cover up the truth. The first step, though, is finding it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(C of E) Mental health in English communities a leading concern for clergy, survey finds

Mental health problems in local communities are now one of the biggest social issues Church of England clergy encounter, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,000 senior clergy has found that the proportion reporting that mental health is a ‘major’ or ‘significant’ problem in their local area increased sharply from 40% in 2011 to 60% in 2017.

Mental health is second only to loneliness as a key concern, with more than three quarters, or 76%, of clergy reporting that loneliness was a major or significant problem in their local communities, a rise of 18 percentage points on 2011.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(Times Picayune) Ted Jackson offers a stunning portrait of a former NFL star who played in 2 Super Bowls–The search for Jackie Wallace

One foot in front of the other, the hulking old man trudged up the ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway. A cold wind stiffened his face, so he bundled tighter and kept walking. His decision was made. A life full of accolades and praise meant nothing to him now. A man who was once the pride of his New Orleans hometown, his St. Augustine alma mater and his 7th Ward family and friends was undone. He was on his way to die.

The man was tired. In his 63 years, he had run with the gods and slept with the devil. Living low and getting high had become as routine as taking a breath. A hideous disease was eating his insides. He was an alcoholic, and he also craved crack cocaine. He was tired of fighting. He was tired of playing the game.

He crossed the last exit ramp and continued walking the pavement toward the top of the bridge. He dodged cars as they took the ramp. No one seemed to notice the ragged man walking to his suicide. If they did notice, they didn’t stop to help.

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

How did it come to this? This was long after Jackie had turned his life around, or so we both thought….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Sports, Theology

(CT) Matthew Arbo reviews Matthew Kaemingk’s new book–A Wall of Security or a Table of Fellowship?

[Abraham] Kuyper’s brand of pluralism, however, is refreshingly Christocentric. Jesus Christ alone is the true and ultimate sovereign. His jurisdiction is all-encompassing. As Kuyper affirms, “Sin alone has necessitated the institution of government.” As such, governance is a delicate affair and should in principle remain limited, especially where religious communities are involved. (There are two exceptions: first, when one community intrudes upon another, and second, when a “weak one” within a community is vulnerable to exploitation.) In a truly pluralistic culture, government exists not to define and enforce a particular vision of ultimate truth but to protect and nurture vital social institutions that pursue their own, doubtless very different, moral and religious commitments. If they are rightly structured, according to Kaemingk, “institutions can equip Christians to go out into public life to embody a different way of living between Mecca and Amsterdam.” Or, as he puts it later, “to pursue moments of commonness, connection, and cooperation.” Kuyper’s theological vision offers a Christian politics of solidarity that prevails over a politics of suspicion.

The third and fourth parts of Kaemingk’s book are perhaps the strongest and most illuminating. If, as he argues, Christians embrace the Kuyperian vision of pluralism, then they should feel a corresponding obligation to show hospitality toward Muslim immigrants, perhaps even becoming vocal advocates and activists on their behalf. Kaemingk also emphasizes the importance of treating hospitality as “a way of life.” Hospitality involves ordinary people willing to do ordinary things faithfully. It describes how we live with others in the world as it is given.

Kaemingk gives several splendid examples of ordinary hospitality that, as they develop into consistent practice, make an extraordinary impact: Christian and Muslim women gathering weekly to sew together, universities welcoming instructors and students of diverse religious backgrounds, civil institutions fostering (rather than forcing) inter-religious dialogue, eating ethnic foods in minority neighborhoods, and extending free or subsidized medical care to underprivileged migrant communities. Hospitality involves more than speaking up for the oppressed or disenfranchised—it also requires humble, hopeful, persevering action for another’s flourishing. Through hospitality, Christians demonstrate that Muslims have a place to belong.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Telegraph Editorial–The police should have no truck with the Church’s hounding of Bishop George Bell

There is an old political law that states: “When you are in a hole, stop digging”. It is a maxim that should have an ecclesiastical application, too.

The case of Bishop George Bell has damaged the reputation of the Church of England and of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although Bishop Bell died in 1958, allegations of sexual abuse against the prelate were accepted by the Church with no evidence.

When an independent report concluded he had been unjustly treated, the Church declined to exonerate him while accepting the process it had undertaken was flawed. But instead of leaving matters there (which Bishop Bell’s supporters were reluctant to do in any case) the Church has become even more resolute in its pursuit….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Church accused of launching new ‘shameful’ attack on memory of Bishop George Bell

The Church of England has been accused of launching a ‘shameful and foolish’ new attack on one of its most revered bishops, by making public an uncorroborated child sex abuse allegation almost 70 years old.

The Church announced on Wednesday it had referred to the police a second claim of sexual assault made against Bishop George Bell, who died in 1958.

It made the allegation public amid growing pressure on Archbishop Justin Welby to apologise for the Church’s handling of a previous claim against Bishop Bell, which shredded his reputation.

The General Synod is to discuss the Church’s treatment of Bishop Bell with some suggestion that Archbishop Welby should have resigned over his refusal to say sorry.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

William Witt–Eating and Idols: A Sermon About the Church in a Post-Christian Setting

How then might what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians provide guidance for us as we seem to be moving into a post-Christian culture? Should we listen to Rod Dreher or to Jamie Smith?

First, I would say that Paul does not give us clear-cut advice about whether we should do things like bake wedding cakes for gay weddings. He leaves it up to us to figure out how to sort out these kinds of disagreements. However, he does provide us with some basic principles.

Second, we need to be concerned about both Christian identity and Christian mission. In issues that are genuinely connected with basic Christian faith or practice, the church needs to remember who we are, and we cannot compromise. At the same time, we need to remember that the church does not exist for itself, but for those outside the church. If there can be no mission without identity, neither can there be identity without mission.

Third, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. Christianity is about Jesus Christ crucified, what Paul calls the “foolishness of the cross.” To follow Jesus does not mean that we will never have to suffer or experience pain or discomfort. We will. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “The cross is laid on every Christian. . . . The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”6

However, because the cross is the main thing, we can relax a bit about things that are not the main thing. In times of confusion and strong disagreement, we in the church need to live with a certain humility. There is something more important even than being right, and that is to love our brother and sister for whom Jesus Christ died, even if that means that we might have to let someone have their way when we are certain that we are right and they are not.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Rachel Denhollander–My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness.

Do you remember reaching a point where you doubted God’s goodness?

My biggest struggle was understanding God’s perspective on sexual abuse, ultimately a conclusion I really had to come to myself through a lot of wrestling, a lot of tears, and a lot of studying.

Where did you find an answer?

Going to Scripture directly.

Was there a particular Bible verse or passage that you felt spoke to your situation?

One was from John 6, where Jesus asks Peter, “Do you want to leave too?” Peter says, “Where else would I go, Lord? You have the words of life.” There was a point in my faith where I had to simply cling to the fact that although I didn’t understand or have the answers, I knew that God was good and that he was love. Whatever else I didn’t understand couldn’t be a contradiction to that.

Beyond that, it was learning more about God’s justice, that contrast between darkness and light, and how to properly interpret God’s sovereignty and Bible verses that command us to give thanks or reveal God’s promises of bringing goodness out of evil. When those verses are interpreted properly they are glorious and beautiful truths. More often than not, particularly in the case of sexual assault, they’re really used to mitigate and to minimize—almost as if the victim handles it “properly,” if the victim just forgives, all of the feelings are going to go away. That’s not true and that’s not what Scripture teaches.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sports, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(Darton, Longman and Todd) A Liturgy for a Renaming Ceremony Suitable for use with transgender participants

Opening Statements

Friends, we come here today to mark a change of name. It is a recognition of a pre-existing truth that has been obscured, one in which we have all played our part in uncovering. Today we witness a sacred transformationin which the true purpose of PN’s (natal name) life has been revealed.

What we do here has echoes in the Bible. God called barren Abram and Sari, struggling Jacob and the murderous Saul and transformed them into Abraham and Sarah whose descendants are more numerous thanthe stars, the patriarch Israel whose name became a nation and the Apostle Paul genius missionary of the Early Church. Both true nature and God’s purpose was recognised in a change of name and recognition of thecalling the new name symbolised. Today PN joins this honoured and holy tradition.

We come to watch God’s sacred purpose fulfilled in calling PN to their true identity. From this timeon they will be called N (changed name) as a male/female/nonbinary/gender queer (use appropriate term)servant of God.

Let us pray

Loving God, there are times when we need to mark that things have changed significantly in our lives. There are times when old ways of living need to be put to aside so that new and affirming ways of living, loving and being can be taken up.Be with us as we celebrate the journey that PN has made and bless this faithful step they are making this day. Bless each one of us that are here to witness this miracle of faith and transformation and keep us in love with each other now and in the future. Amen

Read it all, it is an excerpt extract from the soon to be published book Transfaith: A transgender pastoral resource by Chris Dowd and Christina Beardsley (hat tip:FC).

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(RNS) In Germany, Some in the Roman Catholic Church grapple with blessings for same-sex marriage

The country’s Protestant churches already offer gay couples at least a blessing ceremony, if not a full church marriage, and even the main association for lay Catholics supports allowing blessings. While Pope Francis has ruled out approving gay marriage, he raised expectations of some kind of reform early in his papacy by famously asking “who am I to judge?” about gay people.

“Even though ‘marriage for all’ clearly differs from the church’s understanding of marriage, it is now a political reality,” Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, the deputy chairman of the German Bishops Conference, said earlier this month.

“We have to ask ourselves how we should deal with people who tie this knot. Some of them are active in the church. So how are we going to accompany them with pastoral care and in the liturgy?” Bode asked. “We could think about giving them a blessing.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(CC) A residential ministry deals with the sex offender registry

Baptist minister Glenn Burns calls the evening of April 7, 2016, the “crucifixion.” It was the toughest test of his 40-year career.

Burns leads a Christian social services ministry in northern Florida called the Good Samaritan Network. Until last April, the nonprofit was headquartered in the town of Woodville, just outside Tallahassee. Its food bank served 7,000 people a month. It also ran a thrift store and a home for women transitioning off the street from sex work. And it operated a Christian home for men reentering society after prison who had no other place to live. Many of them were on Florida’s registry of sex offenders.

It was that last program that got Burns in trouble. As in other states, Florida’s state-run registry puts the names, photos, and addresses of those convicted of sex crimes on a public website. In Woodville, a few neighbors had searched the site and found that 11 of the 16 men at Good Samaritan’s home for ex-offenders were on the list. They called the program to find out why it served people they thought were dangerous. There was a school less than a quarter of a mile away….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

The stunning Christian portion of Rachael Denhollander’s full victim impact statement about Larry Nassar

From there:

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.

Throughout this process I have clung to a quote by CS Lewis where he says,

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of unjust and just? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was, and I know it was evil, and wicked, because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means, I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation and I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.

And this is why I pity you, because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.

Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world, that could have, and should have brought you joy and fulfillment. And I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child. Real genuine love for you and it did not satisfy.

I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love, and safety, and tenderness, and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joy’s and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious and that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing and I pity you for it.

You really should read the whole statement in full. There is a reason Judge Aquilina praised Ms. Denhollander for opening the floodgates…[and said] “You are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom”–KSH.

Posted in Children, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Sports, Teens / Youth, Theology: Scripture, Violence, Women

(CEN) C of E General Synod to be asked to back rights of people with Down’s Syndrome

Next month’s General Synod will hear a call for the Government to improve the regulation of commercial providers of tests that determine a woman’s likelihood of having a child with Down’s Syndrome.

The call will come in a debate on ‘Valuing people with Down’s Syndrome’ on Saturday 10 February.

The Bishop of Carlisle will move a motion that encourages the Church to ensure that all parishes provide a ‘real welcome’ for people with the condition as well as their families.

Synod will be asked to ‘affirm the dignity and full humanity’ of people with the syndrome, but, reflecting the Church’s opposition to abortion, will call for ‘comprehensive, unbiased’information about it.

A background paper prepared for Synod members ahead of the 2.30pm debate notes that people with Down’s areliving longer than ever before, are receiving better healthcare and are experiencing better social inclusion.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–The George Bell saga evidences a CofE legal culture which is not merely incompetent, but predisposed toward deception and injustice

Anyone can make a mistake. What I find mystifying within the church is why we seem to be intent on replicating many of the errors of the past without ever consulting those who have ‘been there, done that, and got the T-shirt’. When I have occasionally allowed my deep frustrations to be seen on the floor of the Synod, it is only because I am in the position of a bomb disposal officer holding the map of a mine field while nobody takes any notice and starts wandering around as they see fit. Bad things predictably happen.

The problem may be succinctly put: Archbishop Justin has a handful of advisors to guide him in these matters – not one of whom has a credible claim to expertise in this increasingly complex specialism. What is especially ironic is that, in the person of the President of Clergy Discipline Tribunals, Lord Andrew McFarlane QC, the Church of England has the country’s leading expert on Safeguarding Law. The legal tome Hershman and McFarlane’s Children Law and Practice is every child practitioner’s bible: it runs to four volumes and is updated every three months with interchangeable loose-leaf inserts. This is a fast evolving field for the specialist: what major institutions do not need is people from other disciplines doing their incompetent best.

When I suggested that the newly passed (and flawed) Clergy Risk Assessment scheme be referred to Sir Andrew to clarify whether “the victim must be believed” is a sound basis for good practice, I was told this was not the done thing, which was a shame. I knew Sir Andrew; I used to brief him. He is one of the kindest and least stuffy people you could ever wish to meet. I cannot believe that he would refuse our Archbishop a few wise words of counsel which he desperately needs at this time.

When I referred to the incompetence of the church in this field, the journalist asked if I could be quoted as saying that Archbishop Justin is incompetent, to which I replied: “Why would I expect an Archbishop to be competent in Safeguarding law?” That is partly why there is no point in seeking his replacement or a personal apology. He is a man of integrity. He rightly believes that we must change the church’s culture toward greater victim sensitivity, but where he is let down is by the lack of competent advice and a misreading of what a good outcome might look like. You do not create justice by reversing a bias against complainants and installing a bias against the accused. You especially do not improve the situation if you do this mindful that the new injustice might improve the church’s image.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Amid #MeToo, Evangelicals Grapple With Misconduct In Their Own Churches

In the Andy Savage case, Jules Woodson alleged in her blog post that the senior pastors in whom she had confided did not discipline Savage adequately or report him to the authorities and even threw a going away party for him when he moved to another community.

Kelly Rosati of Focus on the Family insists it’s important to separate the evangelical belief about distinctive gender roles in the church from the exploitation of power differentials between a pastor and his flock.

“What you saw in that [Andy Savage] incident was a conflating of those two issues,” she says, “and a failure to understand that what one person might describe as a sexual incident is really about those other things, power and abuse and violation.”

The reaction among evangelical women to the #MeToo movement, Rosati says, suggests it may be a watershed moment for them that will end up “shaking out the ground a little bit in the evangelical community.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence