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(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) Craig Barnes–Everyone in ministry gets their feelings hurt

After that he took a stab at the administration for not being very responsive to his problem. I indicated that I was at least the third administrator who had seen him in two days. Finally, he slumped his shoulders and said, “This really hurts my feelings.”

That was his final appeal for me to allow him to graduate. It would hurt his feelings if we upheld the requirements for his degree.

The vast majority of our students would never come to me with such an appeal. They are very conscientious about fulfilling the expectations of their rigorous academic programs. But this was a rare student who wasn’t paying attention. The subtext of his appeal was that I should now do anything I could to avoid hurting his feelings, as if this were one of the standards of leadership.

I was a parish pastor for a long time before I became a seminary president, and through most of those days I was wading through hurt feelings, including my own. So I responded to the student by saying, “You do realize that your feelings are going to get hurt all of the time when you become a pastor, don’t you?” He just picked up his backpack and walked out of my office….

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Seminary / Theological Education

(CNBC) Charitable contributions take a hit following tax reform

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.

Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.

Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

“We certainly do have a pretty stark picture that tax reform took effect and charitable giving declined,” said Laura MacDonald, the president of Benefactor Group and vice chair of the Giving USA foundation board. However, a volatile stock market, which took a dive near the end of the year, may have also played a role, she said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Stewardship, Taxes

Great NBC Piece for Father’s Day–Father and daughter duo reunited in song

‘Singer-songwriter Jenni Alpert grew up with a supportive adoptive family who encouraged her to pursue music. She reunited with her birth father Don Logsdon nearly 30 years after he gave her up for adoption. After helping him through his recovery, Jenni and Don are bonded by their love for music.’

Watch it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Men, Music

(The Witness) Jemar Tisby–Reflections on the Anniversary of the Murder of the Emanuel Nine

The slayings at Emanuel AME sparked a surge or long-overdue reforms. It served as the impetus to finally remove the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Charleston. Black people and their allies have long viewed the Confederate flag as the symbol par excellence of white supremacy. The murder of nine black people in a Bible study finally convinced enough white people that the Confederate flag might actually represent not heritage but hate.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu cited the Mother Emanuel tragedy as part of the motivation for his bold stand to take down the Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Landrieu first started calling for the monuments to come down less than a week after the Emanuel Nine were killed.

Racial progress is not a myth, but neither is it a completed project. We have come a long way from race-based chattel slavery. We have come a long way from signs over drinking fountains and riding the back of the bus. We have come a long way from preventing black people from sitting in the pews alongside white people.

But let’s not use racial progress as a reason to ignore the ways racism reinvents itself….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Tablet) Ashley Beck–Theology battles the nonsense of today

Those of us who teach or research in theology and related disciplines have a responsibility to try and support the whole Church – laypeople, clergy and bishops. Theological reflection about the world in which we live is constantly being deepened, and this can and should strengthen the faith of the People of God. The consequences of lacking theological literacy are serious. “The majority of those raised as Catholics find their way out of the Church, in part, I suspect, because the version of Christian faith to which they have been exposed has been so poorly articulated that it is not worth taking seriously at all,” the theologian John McDade has pointed out. “Good theology is necessary for the life of faith and the spread of the Gospel.”

Good theology is not always sought. In many places catechetical programmes are promoted that are intended to be “simple”, sometimes a shorthand for skirting around critical reflection. Some courses are offered because they are cheaper than those that are properly accredited; many programmes are imported. And there is a worrying decline in religious studies programmes in Catholic secondary schools. This has serious consequences for our future ability to provide RE teachers, and even more serious consequences for university departments. The new report from the British Academy alarmingly reveals that there were 6,500 fewer students on theology and religious studies degree courses in the UK in 2017/18 than there had been in 2011/12. In recent years, we have seen the closure of Heythrop College and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, and the possible closure of theology departments elsewhere, including in Catholic institutions.

If you’re a theologian, falling student numbers gives rise to anxieties about redundancy. And for a Catholic theologian there can be the added feeling that what you do is not really valued by the Church, either because some people think academic theology is highbrow or irrelevant, or because others don’t like your views and think you’re a heretic. If you feel under threat, it is hard to feel confident about offering yourself to the Church as a resource.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education

(Globe+Mail Editorial) Quebec passes a terrible law, and for the worst reasons

That lack of a clear definition will make it difficult to apply the law evenly; given that the law also fails to provide clear penalties for violating the ban, a court could rule it is too vague to stand.

But the worst thing Mr. Legault has done is to undermine religious freedom in Canada. Even if the notwithstanding clause provides him with the tool to do so, that won’t prevent Canada’s name from being tarnished around the world for an abuse of so fundamental a human right.

There is no question that the Quebec state, as with all governments in Canada, should be secular. But Ottawa and the other provinces are proof that governments can preserve the right of public employees – police officers, judges and teachers included – to display their religious affiliation without compromising the separation of church and state.

It is monstrously unjust that a Muslim woman or Jewish man is now forced by the Quebec state to choose between their employment and their personal beliefs, while a person with government-approved beliefs about the sanctity of laicity is exempt from such a dilemma. This is a terrible day for Quebec, and for Canada.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Globe and Mail) Groups launch challenge of Quebec’s secularism bill one day after it becomes law

Twelve hours after the Quebec government passed a law banning some public servants from wearing religious symbols, a Muslim student has launched a court challenge, saying it is a blatant violation of fundamental civil rights.

Ichrak Nourel Hak, backed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Montreal lawyer Catherine McKenzie, filed the lawsuit on Monday morning asking Quebec Superior Court to suspend the law.

The lawsuit says the new law, passed late Sunday night, is vague, invites arbitrary application, excludes minorities from certain professions and encroaches on federal jurisdiction. Ms. McKenzie’s legal pleadings describe these legal failings as an attack on the fundamental architecture of the Constitution, including equal application of the law and separation of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

The lawsuit does not challenge the law as an attack on freedom of religion. Premier François Legault’s government used the notwithstanding clause to protect it from this most obvious route of challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Bernard Mizeki

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; 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, South Africa, Spirituality/Prayer, Zimbabwe

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Christina Rossetti

O GOD Almighty,
by whom and before whom we all are brethren:
Grant us so truly to love one another,
that evidently, and beyond all doubt we may love thee;
through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord and brother.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.

–Psalm 78:39

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Monday Night Inspiration–Stay in the Game

On his own in Costa Rica, Max had figured out how to get Chica into the US, and convinced someone at American Airlines to let her fly on his lap, because they wouldn’t let dogs fly in the hold due to the heat. Thereafter, he and Chica settled in to their little apartment downtown near the White River canal, and each of them began their new life, together. Max had saved Chica. And Chica had saved Max.

One afternoon three months later, when Max was walking Chica, she saw something she hadn’t seen in Costa Rica. It was a squirrel, and before Max could stop her, Chica chased that squirrel straight out onto Indiana Avenue. Right in front of a speeding car.

The car ran over Chica. My son screamed. In that brief moment everything that Max had worked for, everything he had overcome, everything that he was living for, was gone.

Read it all.

Posted in Animals, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Young Adults

(Globe+Mail) Quebec passes bill banning public servants from wearing religious symbols

François Legault’s government passed a ban on some public servants wearing religious symbols in a final vote late Sunday night, enshrining into law a measure decried by opposition parties, minority groups and human-rights observers as an affront to personal liberty.

The National Assembly debated Bill 21 under closure in a marathon special weekend session that ended with Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government forcing passage of the law by a 73-35 vote, with backing of the Parti Québécois. Earlier Sunday, the CAQ used its majority to push through Bill 9, a law that enables new French-language and values tests that the government says will protect Quebec identity while refocusing immigration on economic interests.

The weekend in the legislature was marked by acrimony reflective of the debate that has roiled Quebec for more than 10 years over the place of religious minorities in the province. Some exhausted MNAs cursed at each other, others said they were on the verge of tears at times.

At the very last minute Mr. Legault’s government added a provision to allow inspectors to verify the law is being followed. “Securalism police!” shouted Quebec Liberal member Marc Tanguay in one of the final outbursts of the debate. Another last-minute amendment said the inspector could impose corrective measures and supervision. A final addition said “the targeted employee could be subject to disciplinary measures for failing to comply.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Foley Beach Elected to Second Term as the Leader of the Anglican Church in North America

The College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America has re-elected the Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach to serve as its archbishop and primate for a second term.

According to the Church’s Constitution, an archbishop may serve up to two 5-year terms.

In the Anglican Church in North America, the archbishop oversees bishops, dioceses, and parishes in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. He has certain responsibilities and duties beyond that of other bishops in the province but does not hold unilateral authority.

Beach was recently installed as the Chairman of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon). Gafcon is a global movement of orthodox Anglicans representing over 70% of the denomination’s active members.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)

A Prayer at Midday from Daily Prayer

Eternal God, who by the life of thy dear Son hast shown us that there is no minute of our own but we may be doing thy will: Help us to use our time aright, that howsoever we be engaged, in work or leisure or play, we may stand before thee with a pure conscience, acting, speaking, and thinking as in thy presence; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Daily Prayer, Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs, eds. (London: Penguin Books 1959 edition of the 1941 original)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(NPR) A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

[Dr. Ayaz] Virji says he “had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more.” Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. “So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?” he says.

He moved with his family to Dawson, Minn., in 2014. As far as he knew, they were the only Muslims in town. Virji describes the small city — population 1,500 or so — as filled with “very gracious” people who welcomed the family to the community.

“People there are kind, you know, many of them are far better than I am as a person.”

But something seemed to change when Donald Trump started whipping crowds into a frenzy with anti-Muslim rhetoric. For Virji, the 2016 election was a turning point. He wondered how his neighbors, who had been so welcoming, could vote for someone who said that “Islam hates us” and had proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Mandy France, who was training to be a local pastor at the time, invited Virji to give a lecture about his faith. He ended up giving a series of talks about Islam to his neighbors and people in surrounding communities in 2017. Virji wrote about the experience in the book Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America. He talked with NPR’s Michel Martin.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

Remembering Especially the Charleston 9 who died 4 years ago today in the Mother Emanuel Church Shooting

Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Local Paper) Emanuel AME church, shooting survivors form bonds with other traumatized houses of worship

Monday will mark four years since an angry young man with murderous intent slipped into Emanuel and headed for 12 people settling in for Bible study. He sat with them for about an hour, not speaking, until they shut their eyes for closing prayer.

Then he pulled out a gun.

Nine people died that night, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator who was sitting beside the killer.

And the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., a retired minister who led the study most Wednesdays.

And Myra Thomson, who led it for the first time that night.

And Susie Jackson, at 87 the oldest among them to die.

And her nephew Tywanza Sanders, the youngest at 26.

And their cousin Ethel Lance, the church’s sexton, a mother of five.

And the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, mother of four.

And the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, mother of three.

And Cynthia Graham Hurd, mother of none but mentor to hundreds in her decades as a beloved librarian.

Nine families, the survivors and the church’s entire congregation found themselves thrust into a journey through what the Bible calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” Then they relived their losses anew with each mass shooting in America, including the Pulse nightclub massacre almost one year to the day after their loved ones died.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Kendall Harmon Sermon on the Trinity–3 Basic Questions about the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Daily Prayer

Lord God Almighty, who hast given to us the vision of thy holiness, and therewith of our unworthiness to be thy witnesses: Touch, we pray thee, our lips with thy cleansing fire; that so cleansed and hallowed, we may go forth amongst men as those whom thou hast sent; for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Daily Prayer, Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs, eds. (London: Penguin Books 1959 edition of the 1941 original)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunken? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman sorely troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your maidservant as a base woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her countenance was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elka′nah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her; and in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

–1 Samuel 1:12-20

Posted in Theology: Scripture

A Trinity Sunday Doxology

To God the Father, who first loved us, and made us accepted in the Beloved; to God the Son, who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; to God the Holy Ghost, who sheddeth the love of God abroad in our hearts: to the one true God be all love and all glory for time and for eternity.

–Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Blue Lobster Found in Cape Cod Restaurant Shipment

A Cape Cod restaurant saw a rare sight Monday when it received a brilliantly blue lobster as part of a shipment.

Nathan Nickerson, owner of Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham, received the colorful crustacean in a batch order from Ipswich Shellfish Group.

Read it all.

Posted in Animals

A Prayer for Trinity Sunday from the book of Common Order

Almighty God, most blessed and most holy, before the brightness of whose presence the angels veil their faces: With lowly reverence and adoring love we acknowledge thine infinite glory, and worship thee, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternal Trinity. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto our God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

A Prayer for Trinity Sunday from the Scottish Prayer Book

O Lord God Almighty, eternal, immortal, invisible, the mysteries of whose being are unsearchable: Accept, we beseech thee, our praises for the revelation which thou hast made of thyself, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three persons, and one God; and mercifully grant that ever holding fast this faith we may magnify thy glorious name; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Blessed Trinity Sunday 2019 to all Blog Readers

Posted in The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

From the Morning Bible Readings

And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

–Ephesians 4:11-16

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Katelyn Beaty–How Should Christians Have Sex?

As I continue to date with hopes of meeting a partner, I yearn for guidance on how to integrate faith and sexuality in ways that honor more than my own desires in a given moment. Here, the Christian teaching on sacramentality is helpful. All creation, including human bodies, by grace reveals deeper spiritual truth. In other words, matter matters. So when a person engages another person sexually, Christians would say, it’s not “just” bodies enacting natural evolutionary urges but also an encounter with another soul. To reassert this truth feels embarrassingly retrograde and precious by today’s standards. But even the nonreligious attest that in sex, something “more” is happening, however shrouded that more might be.

This is why a sexual ethic centered on consent, which is what those of us who’ve lost purity culture are left with, feels flimsy. To be sure, consent is a nonnegotiable baseline, one that Christian communities overlook. (I never once heard about consent in youth group.) But two people can consent to something that’s nonetheless damaging or selfish. Consent crucially protects against sexual assault and other forms of coercion. But it doesn’t necessarily protect against people using one another in quieter ways. I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.

Purity culture as it was taught to my generation hurt many people and kept them from knowing the loving, merciful God at the heart of Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches still promote some version of purity culture, even as others have tried to disentangle it from the sexism and shame of its earlier iterations. Purity culture as it was modeled for evangelical teenagers in the 1990s is not the future of Christian sexual ethics. But neither is the progressive Christian approach that simply baptizes casual sex in the name of self-expression and divorces sex from covenant faithfulness and self-sacrificial love.

Occasionally I think about my purity pledge and the letters to my mystical future husband, and find those practices naïve and manipulative. But part of me wishes that the fairy tale of purity culture had come true. While I hate the effects that purity culture had on young women like me, I still find the traditional Christian vision for married sex radical, daunting and extremely compelling — and one I still want to uphold, even if I fumble along the way.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

More Saturday Food for Thought–John Wenham on Liberal Theology

It needs to be re-emphasized that liberalism is the arch-enemy of the Gospel. Biblical theism stands for the clearest distinction between Creator and creature, for the absolute distinction between right and wrong, for the reward of well-doing and the punishment of wrong, for the unity and perspicuity of revelation. Liberalism is pantheizing, blurring the distinctions between God and man, between right and wrong, embracing contradictions and ambiguities within its system of truth.

When liberalism takes on the cloak of ecumenism, it is the enemy of clear doctrinal statement. It has no idea of the unity and perspicuity of revelation, so it never expects to reach doctrinal agreement. It finds contradictory beliefs within the Church, but is not worried by them and does not think that they are capable of resolution. It deliberately seeks unity by ambiguity. It sets no store by the value of a clear, united declaration of the one and only Gospel of God. It is this characteristic of the Theological Considerations of the Anglican Methodist Conversations which is so deeply distasteful to all who are looking for a clear statement of biblical principles. The whole statement is about as clear as mud, in marked contrast to the clarity of the dissentient statement.

–John Wenham, A Conservative Evangelical looks at the Ecumenical Movement, Churchman 79,3 (1965), p.192 [found there.]

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Saturday Food For Thought–JC Ryle on the Doctrine of Hell

I call on all who profess to believe the Bible, to be on their guard. I know that some do not believe there is any hell at all. They think it impossible there can be such a place. They call it inconsistent with the mercy of God. They say it is too awful an idea to be really true. The devil of course, rejoices in the views of such people. They help his kingdom mightily. They are preaching up his old favorite doctrine, “Ye shall not surely die.” I know furthermore, that some do not believe that hell is eternal. They tell us it is incredible that a compassionate God will punish men for ever. He will surely open the prison doors at last.

This also is a mighty help to the devil’s cause….

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Eschatology