Category : T19 Categories

(Spectator) Melanie McDonagh–Justine Greening should keep out of the C of E’s business in the area of Gender and Identity

There’s no nice way of saying this: Miss Greening should mind her own business. When parliament legislated for gay marriage the then Equalities minister, Maria Miller, went out of her way to make clear that the CofE would not be obliged to conduct gay marriages; indeed just to prove it, she went out of her way to bar it from doing so. End of, people thought at the time, though some wondered why they would need a safeguard. Which didn’t, I have to say, stop some blessings of gay marriage in various CofE churches turning into something indistinguishable from a trad, heterosexual kind of wedding.

It turns out that Anglicans were wrong to think that this was the end of the story. For it’s a short step from Miss Greening’s assertion that ‘people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes’ to enabling the church to conduct those marriages and then obliging them to do so. It’s the authoritarian aspect of modern liberalism, outside the church and in it. I remember Yvette Cooper, at the Home Office, saying when civil partnerships were introduced that there was no possibility that this would end up turning into marriage for gay people – but it did. When Harriet Harman introduced the Equality Act it turned out that non-discrimination in the provision of goods and services ended up driving Catholic adoption agencies (which did a manifestly good job) out of business because they were obliged to treat homosexual couples the same as married heterosexuals. They refused, closed up shop, and children needing homes are the poorer for it.

That’s the inevitable progression in liberalism: first toleration, within strict limits, followed swiftly by the marginalisation or proscription of the opposition.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Daily Telegraph Article about the Letter in Today’s Telegraph about two Church of Englands

The Rev Dr Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark’s Church in Tunbridge Wells, said that a lot of Anglican leaders are concerned “not just about votes at the General Synod regarding sexuality but also votes against the uniqueness of Christ and against urging all ministers to share the gospel with the nation”.

Dr Sanlon, who also helped to organise the letter, added that “increasing numbers of orthodox Anglicans have lost confidence in the archbishops. Clergy like me are in touch with senior leaders of ACNA.”

Dr Ashenden resigned earlier this year after publicly criticising a church that allowed a Koran reading during its service as part of an interfaith project, saying the reading was “a fairly serious error” which he had a duty to speak out about.

A Church of England spokesman said: “As with any debating chamber, Synod often debates controversial issues and members can sometimes disagree strongly with each other. That is the nature of debate. If there is an issue the Chair will intervene. The expectation is that Synod members are courteous at all times both to each other and invited guests.”

Read it all.

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

(Snakes+Ladders) A homily to remember by Jessica Martin

She turned her eyes towards him for the first time… — & he was looking at her with all the Power & Keenness, which she beleived no other eyes than his, possessed…. — It was a silent, but a very powerful Dialogue; — on his side, Supplication, on her’s acceptance . — Still, a little nearer — and a hand taken and pressed — [and her name, spoken] — bursting forth in the fullness of exquisite feeling — and all Suspense & Indecision were over. — They were re-united. They were restored to all that had been lost.

Only — it wasn’t like that, quite, — was it? Perfect happiness, the same writer observed, even in memory, is not common. Yet how the soul yearns for that moment, for the overplus of bliss that comes when you turn, blinded by tears, and your beloved that you thought lost for ever is there before you speaking your name, and you say, ‘How could it ever have been otherwise? My life has been a dream until now. How was it that I did not know that you were there all the time?’

The dying woman who, in Winchester, in the relentlessly rainy spring of 1817, wrote that scene of fulfilment beyond loss, was of course Jane Austen. We mark the bicentenary of her death this year at the time and place of her dying. Some among you will recognise the encounter as being from the close of her last novel Persuasion, but some will not know it — because she discarded the draft….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

(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

(SC Featured) Jackie Robinson’s Daughter Narrates the Moving Story of Claire Smith, Sports Journalist soon to be honored at Cooperstown

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Media, Sports, Women

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint James the Apostle

O gracious God, we remember before thee this day thy servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that thou wilt pour out upon the leaders of thy Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among thy people; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(TLC) David Goodhew–Facing Decline in TEC (the Episcopal Church)

[Jeremy] Bonner’s analysis shows how TEC has dramatically declined in recent years. There is a sense that the wider Anglican Communion has not awakened to how far and fast that decline has happened. In significant parts of the United States, TEC has ceased or will soon cease to have a meaningful presence. That said, those who write TEC off are overstating their case. Despite severe decline, it remains a substantial presence in parts of the nation, especially in some major cities.

Estimating the size of TEC’s decline and understanding its causes is complex. Suggesting remedies is beyond the scope of this short article. But a few things can be said.

First, churches need to face demographic realities. If, for example, a city’s or town’s ethnic make-up shifts, wise dioceses and congregations will adapt, not pretend everything is the same.

Second, denominations have to learn to value the local church theologically. If the local church is seen only as an adjunct to some higher good, often called the kingdom, it is not surprising that little effort is made to multiply such congregations or seek their growth. Seeing kingdom as different from, and better than, church is against the grain of the New Testament, in which local churches are integral to the kingdom. The things that we value are the things that tend to flourish. If we want to see growing local churches, we need a theology that values the local church more.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Data, TEC Departing Parishes

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

(America) Drew Christiansen: Catholic-evangelical relations are richer than the conspiracies Civilta Cattolica described

In a recent editorial, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism,” Civilta Cattolica identified cooperation between Protestant fundamentalists and conservative American Catholics as “a problematic fusion between religion and state, faith and politics, religious values and economy.” Civilta particularly attacked the Prosperity Gospel as a stream of popular theology opposed to Catholic social teaching as advanced by Pope Francis.

Catholic-evangelical relations in the United States, however, are richer and more nuanced than the fearsome conspiracies Civilta described. Take, for example, the Evangelical Environmental Network.

EEN is a nimble coalition of some 700 congregations. Whatever the issue, it has been quick out of the blocks with arresting public relations campaigns. Were gas-guzzling autos a threat to clean air? EEN offered America “WWJD,” the “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign. Were animal species threatened with extinction? Then an EEN spokesman would appear on late-night TV a wildcat draped across his shoulders.

Read it all and make sure to read the piece he is responding.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas a Kempis

Holy Father, who hast nourished and strengthened thy Church by the writings of thy servant Thomas a Kempis: Grant that we may learn from him to know what we ought to know, to love what we ought to love, to praise what highly pleaseth thee, and always to seek to know and follow thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer