Category : Pastoral Theology

Bishop Robert Innes offers Reflections on the recently Concluded C of E General Synod

One of the things that would most effectively undermine the church’s mission would be a serious split over issues of human sexuality. Over the course of the long weekend, the Synod was bowled two difficult questions that would (again) test the church’s unity. Neither motion came from the bishops: one was a private member’s motion on ‘conversion therapy’, the other was a motion from Blackburn Diocese on ‘Welcoming Transgender People’. Both motions could be viewed as totemic of the relative influence of different groups or proxies for other issues. And, of course, both could be spun.

I have to say I found myself rather uncomfortable debating ‘conversion therapy’. The ethics of therapy offered to gay/lesbian people (and all the more transgender people) is something which challenges even those who are experts in their field. Only a very few members of synod have this kind of expertise. And I was nervous discussing a subject in the adversarial style of a full synod which bears upon issues affecting individuals and families so deeply and personally.

In the event, I think we managed to discuss the issue with openness and compassion. Two amendments had been proposed, both of which in my view significantly improved the original motion. One was defeated, the other was accepted. The final motion endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding signed up to by all the relevant professional bodies, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It can be found here. This MoU, describes ‘efforts that try to change or alter sexual orientation through psychological therapies as unethical and potentially harmful’. The motion was passed overwhelmingly.

The second issue in the sexuality area was a motion ‘recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church’ and calling on the House of Bishops to ‘consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition’. During this debate we heard several stories of people who had transitioned between gender identities, and of the mental anguish that gender variance can cause to an individual and their family/community. There was considerable debate as to how to best to respond. I felt the Bishop of Worcester expressed well the mind of the Synod when he said: ‘Our response needs to be loving and open and welcoming and the passing of this motion would be a very important factor in that.’ The motion was duly passed by a big majority.

I hope that gay, lesbian and transgender people feel reassured and encouraged by these votes. Neither vote changes the church’s doctrine….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Deseret News) What the loss of a father in the home does to a child’s health

Children who grow up without a father in the home have shorter telomeres, the protective chromosome caps that are believed to affect health and longevity, a new study says.

The findings are particularly troublesome for boys, whose telomeres were 40 percent more affected than girls’ by the loss of their father.

The effect of father loss was most pronounced in children whose fathers died or were incarcerated before they turned 5, according to the study, published Tuesday in the medical journal Pediatrics. Nine-year-olds whose fathers are dead had a 16 percent reduction in telomere length, compared to children whose fathers are alive and living with their children.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) Carl Trueman–The Church of England’s Nietzschean Proposal

In a world of change and flux, it is reassuring to know that some things remain the same. Take, for example, the motion passed by the Church of England General Synod, calling for a liturgy to help transgender people celebrate their transitions. This motion is consistent with liberal Protestantism’s age-old calling, that of baptizing the moral norms du jour of the respectable chattering classes, presumably in hopes of enhancing the appeal of religion to its cultured despisers. Transgenderism was bound for liturgical acceptance.

By now, experience should have taught even the moderately self-aware that, where religion is concerned, cultural relevance is a cruel mistress, always promising the Church a place at her table but never quite delivering. Alas, self-awareness has never been the strong suit of those liberal Protestants who have perfected the art of always being belatedly in support of whatever nonsense the sexual revolution is now declaring a self-evident truth that only a hate-filled bigot would deny. And so we have this liturgical proposal which, as with all liturgies, tells us a lot about the General Synod’s understanding of its church’s purpose. It points toward a view of the Church as offering a religious idiom for the therapeutic concerns of modern Western society. So far, so conventional.

But the proposal is actually far more sinister than the usual capitulation to the latest sexual hobby-horse. What is missing in this doubtless well-intentioned move is any reflection upon the deeper philosophical implications of transgenderism. To treat it as yet one more legitimate human choice, which can be included in the pantheon of human freedoms, is to miss the real issue. Transgenderism challenges traditional notions of human personhood at the deepest level. For that reason, it is perhaps appropriate to recognize transgenderism in a liturgy: A liturgy reveals a church’s deepest beliefs as it articulates the dialogical relationship between a people and God, and thus dramatizes who they are in relationship to each other. For the Christian, liturgy presupposes identity. Indeed, the Christian liturgy legitimates identity.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Bishop Peter Selby: Hearing the cries of the abused

THOSE of us who once bore the responsibilities that now rest on the shoulders of our successors will be praying for them as they struggle with the issues raised by the in­­dependent review of the Peter Ball case, chaired by Dame Moira Gibb….

They have not only to respond to the individuals who rightly expect that there will be an outpouring of compassion, repentance, and care. Their responsibilities are made the graver because this report illumin­ates a culture: one in which we, their predecessors, were in our time com­plicit, and for which, therefore, we remain accountable. Our prayers for all who bear these responsib­ilities now need to be characterised by self-examination, and, in particu­lar, examination of the part that we played in forming the communal life of the Church.

Survivors do not really trust that the Church of England is capable of the depth of change that is needed, and they ask that we entrust safe­guarding issues to some external body — a request as understandable as it is shocking. Has the Church really come to a point where it has to rely on the wisdom of others to make it a safe place for its vulner­able and its children? It seems so.

It seems that we — not just the individuals who are named, but all who have ever played a part in the formation of this Church’s culture — have to ask ourselves how this culture of abuse and cover-up ever came to be. Those who are the victims and survivors of it imagine, plausibly enough, that we must have sensed the culture within which we were operating, and which we chal­lenged too little, if at all. What they are rightly asking is how we failed to name that culture and give to the remedying of it our fullest energy of heart and mind.

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

Al Mohler–The Agonizing Ordeal of Eugene Peterson — You Might Be Next

Consider these lessons from Eugene Peterson’s ordeal.

First, there is nowhere to hide. Every pastor, every Christian leader, every author — even every believer — will have to answer the question. The question cannot simply be about same-sex marriage. The question is about whether or not the believer is willing to declare and defend God’s revealed plan for human sexuality and gender as clearly revealed in the Bible.

Second, you had better have your answer ready. Evasive, wandering, and inconclusive answers will be seen for what they are. Those who have fled for security to the house of evasion must know that the structure has crumbled. It always does.

Third, if you will stand for the Bible’s clear teachings on sexuality and gender, you had better be ready to answer the same way over and over and over again. The question will come back again and again, in hopes that you have finally decided to “get on the right side of history.” Faithfulness requires consistency — that “long obedience in the same direction.”
That is what it means to be a disciple of Christ, as Eugene Peterson has now taught us. In more ways than one.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Mark Lukach–A moment that changed me: listening to, rather than trying to fix, my suicidal wife

“Doing something” meant reminding her of all the reasons it was worth staying alive – how good we had it, how much our families loved us, how much there was to look forward to. It almost became a script, a choreographed dance: she told me she felt suicidal; I tried to overwhelm her feelings with why she shouldn’t feel that way. It never convinced her of anything. But on that afternoon, exhaustion had beaten me down into shutting up. I sat quietly and held her hand.

She looked at me in surprise. Cautiously, she ventured with another thought. “I hate myself so much, and I want to die,” she said, and I said nothing.

“I wish I had never been born,” she said.

More silence.

She continued through her tortured feelings. I listened, and hated what I heard, but I knew that at this moment she was safe. We weren’t actually there on the bridge railing. We were at home, together, and there was no way she could act upon her pain. These were just words.

Read it all (used in the morning sermon by yours truly).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Mental Illness, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide

(The Goodbook) Sam Allberry–Same sex relationships: should we just agree to disagree?

Not taking a side on this issue is to take a side. To decide it is a matter of indifference is to risk having Jesus against you. Read the description of him in Revelation 1 and consider if you would ever want to risk that Jesus being against you.

This is a gospel issue. When so-called evangelical leaders argue for affirmation of gay relationships in the church, I’m not saying they’re not my kind of evangelical, I’m saying they are no kind of evangelical. This is not an easy position to hold, for I have friends who hold to different views on this subject. But it is the right position to hold. For the five reasons given above, we must never allow ourselves to think of this as just another issue Christians are free to differ over.

This will inevitably bring faithful Christians into conflict with our culture. When John Stott first published Issues Facing Christians Today, he said:

“I have sought with integrity to submit to the revelation of yesterday within the realities of today. It is not easy to combine loyalty to the past with sensitivity to the present. Yet this is our Christian calling: to live under the Word in the world.”

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

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh–The Gafcon Chairman’s July 2017 letter

Chicago was therefore a foretaste of what we can expect in Jerusalem as we gather in June 2018 on the tenth anniversary of the founding of this great movement and the publication of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. Our theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and invitations will be going out this month. We look forward with great eagerness to another wonderful gathering as we come together in true communion under the Word of God and in the power of the Spirit of God.

As a global family we do not want any to be excluded through lack of resources. We are looking to fund some bursaries for those in real need and I urge those of us who are materially blessed, whether as provinces, dioceses, parishes or individuals, to be generous so that our fellowship will not be hindered.

Gafcon began in 2008 as what my predeccesor, Archbishop Peter Akinola, described as a ‘rescue mission’ for the Anglican Communion. That rescue was not limited to North America. There is still much to do because history is repeating itself in other parts of the world, as the recent capitulation of the Scottish Episcopal Church to secular ideas about marriage has demonstrated.

False teaching is restless and relentless, and the Church of England itself is in grave spiritual danger. It is much to be regretted that there has been far more concern about alleged ‘boundary crossing’ than about the contempt of God’s Word that made a missionary bishop necessary. In fact, the Bishop of Edinburgh, who has strongly supported the Scottish Episcopal Church’s adoption of same sex ‘marriage’ was invited as a guest of honour to the Church of England’s July General Synod meeting.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Marriage & Family, Missions, Pastoral Theology, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The General Synod of the C of E has passed a motion on welcoming transgender people

Members of Synod, meeting in York, supported a call for the House of Bishops to consider preparing nationally commended liturgical materials to mark a person’s gender transition.

The motion also recognises the “need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church”.

It was moved by the Revd Christopher Newlands on behalf of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology

(Anglican Taonga) New Zealand Working Group Interim Report on Same-sex Blessings Released

The report says the working group believe the General Synod’s role “is to support amorangi and the dioceses in their work”.
So decisions about whether or not to bless “should rest with amorangi and diocesan bishops” who may, in turn, authorise clergy in specific parishes to conduct those services if they wish.
The report also notes that there is scope (under Title G, Canon XIV) for a bishop to authorise “a non-formulary service” for such a purpose.
The working group also recommends a change in the declarations of adherence and submission which would have the effect of freeing clergy from having to submit to top-down resolutions.
At present, a clergy person must declare his or her submission to the authority of General Synod, and consent to be bound by its regulations.

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Posted in Anthropology, Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Provinces Other Than TEC, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Church of England to vote on transgender services

The Church of England’s governing body is due to vote on whether special services should be held for transgender people.
Supporters of the services say the Church should offer a welcome to people to mark their transition.
Others suggest the services would be counter to some parts of the Bible which state that humans are created as either male or female.
The Church’s four-day general synod meeting in York started on Friday.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

C of E General Synod backs ban on conversion therapy

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(NPR) They Quit Their Office Jobs in Nigeria’s Parliament To Teach Kids In A Camp For Displaced People

Zachariah Ibrahim dreams of being a pilot. That’s not so unusual for a 13-year-old kid. But not that long ago, Zachariah didn’t have many dreams for the future.

Two young Nigerians helped give him hope again.

Awofeso Adebola, 23, and Ifeoluwa Ayomide, 22, had well-paying jobs in the Nigerian parliament. Then Adebola visited the displaced person camp in Durumi, outside the capital city of Abuja, to donate relief materials. That’s where Zachariah lives. The camp is home to some 2,000 people who’ve fled from the attacks of Boko Haram, which is fighting to carve out an Islamic state in the north of the country.

“They were shooting people and burning down homes,” the bristly-haired teenager says, tears welling up in his eyes. “My family trekked for four days with little food and water.” That was in June 2014.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Nigeria, Pastoral Theology, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Young Adults

(Church Times) Beware C of E free-for-all, new Anglican Missionary bishop recently consecrated at the ACNA Assembly to Europe, Andy Lines, warns

After the announcement of Bishop Lines’s preferment, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke against “cross-border interventions and ordinations”. Canon Lines argued that ACNA was not a member of the Anglican Communion “and there­fore it cannot by definition be crossing borders. . . Bishops have always sought to meet needs where other bishops have been heterodox, and that overrides our structures: the gospel need.”

It was the Scottish Episcopal Church that had broken com­mu­nion, he argued. While he did not foresee a change in doctrine in the C of E soon, he was con­cerned about changes in practice: “What is being allowed is kind of a free-for-all.”

A message from two C of E bishops — the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, and the Suffragan Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair — was read aloud at the consecration: “We pray for you today, especially for Canon Andy Lines, consecrated as a Bishop in the Church of God. It has been good to meet and pray with Andy over recent years and to know his heart for the gospel and the wit­ness of the Church. Please pray for us in the Church of England for faith­fulness and fruitfulness in these days.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology

(EC) George Clifford–The 1979 Book of Common Prayer needs revision–is it time for an electronic prayer book?

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer badly needs revision:

It is sexist, e.g., in its presumption that clergy and God are male;
It is exclusionary, e.g., the marriage rite is only for heterosexual couples;
It is limited, as evidenced by the proliferation and popularity of authorized alternative liturgies.
Others may add additional theological and liturgical reasons to that list.

[Also] printing a revised Book of Common Prayer is inadvisable [for the following reasons]….

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Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Anthropology, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture