Category : * Culture-Watch

(TGC) Ed Shaw–Figuring Out Faithfulness with Same-Sex Attraction

There has been a recent avalanche of books from a biblical and traditional perspective on same-sex attraction. Each brings a different viewpoint, with many writing from their own experiences of same-sex attraction. Both of us also experience same-sex attraction; we’ve benefited immensely from the variety books on this topic and trust that the church has as well.

The latest addition is from Nate Collins in All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality. Collins—a partner associate at The Sight Ministry, a Christian organization based in Nashville that provides resources and support for individuals, families, and Christian organizations regarding LGBT issues—likewise writes out of experience and from a traditional, biblical approach.

But what justifies yet another book on these subjects? More books are justified by the other, more powerful cultural avalanche that has nearly buried us all—the new attitudes and approach to gender and sexuality created by the sexual revolution of the last 50 years. More recently, acceptance of same-sex marriage has slipped in the evangelical church through the influential books of James Brownson (at an academic level) and Matthew Vines(at a popular one).

In response, those of us coming from a traditional perspective have had a lot of rescue work to do. But both avalanches have left us with a new landscape where some differences of opinion have emerged among those who espouse a traditional view on same-sex attraction….

 

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Posted in Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

Bob Mayo (the Vicar of St Stephens Shepherds Bush)–Reflections on a recent visit to America and the danger of cheap grace

I had occasion to spend 10 days in the USA before Advent. I learnt that in Oregon you can buy rifles in a supermarket and in Texas church ushers and sometimes the preacher may be wearing a pistol. I learnt that the Episcopal Church is not obsessed with finding a solution to the debate about same sex marriages. ‘Never mind sex’ I was told, ‘what about people in poverty? Economic issues are far more important’. America is not the land of mega churches: 75% of Americans worship in churches of less than 100. These churches are not full of Donald Trump supporters. People that I met were both embarrassed and hostile towards their President.

I was in Oregon for the launch of Professor Roger Newell [2017] new book Keine Gewalt! No Violence! The book outlines how the role played by the German Church in the 1940’s laid down the foundations for her part in the ending of the Cold War in the 1980’s. In the first half of the century the German church withdrew into pietism and individual spirituality leaving the political area to the Nazis. In the second half of the century the German church actively engaged in the civil society leading to the peaceful overthrow of Communism.

The underlying question in Roger’s book is how the Church relates to society. This question is especially relevant in the UK and USA with the Trump phenomenon on one side of the Atlantic and Brexit on the other. Being anti American is seen as the last acceptable form of racism but it is the American policies with which we disagree and not the people. The people are warm-hearted and, when I was there, asked me no end of times about whether I was having a ‘nice day’.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(AM) Andrew Symes–Can biblical faith flourish in an intolerant secular society?

But today, according to Farron, that doctrine of liberalism has become dominant, and like state-sponsored Christianity, instead of being ‘emancipationist’, has become oppressive. Liberalism has today become like the ‘established church’ of Constantinian or post-Reformation times, wanting a monopoly of power, no longer a philosophy which challenges the human tendency to lord it over others. For Farron, the foundation of liberalism is Christianity (and particularly non-conformist evangelicalism), not political correctness masquerading as a kind of self-evident ‘liberalism’. “Secularism is a totalising creed that reduces everyone down to either consumer or regulatory units”, he says, and cannot be a basis for ‘shared values’.

At the same time, Christianity must be ‘liberal’, sticking to the Bible’s teaching, but not seeking to impose this on society in such a way as to restrict freedom of thought and action within the law. Farron isn’t saying, as some evangelicals do, that Christians should just focus on the local church, and be indifferent to the lives and choices of society outside the Christian community and those being evangelised on the fringe. As he said: “God will judge…it is not unloving or judgmental for Christians to point that out”. But he warns against the kind of close association of church and state:

“That in Britain we have a church trapped as part of the furniture of the state is a waste of a church.  A boat in the water is good.  Water in the boat, is bad.  A church in the state is good, the state in the church is bad.  Really bad.  It pollutes the message of that church.  It compromises it.  Weakens its witness.”

This serious criticism of the Church of England’s basic DNA, which Tim Farron did not develop in his argument, puts a finger on a key issue for thinking about the future of Anglicanism in Britain. Bible believing Christians in the C of E have always argued that Establishment ensures a place for influence at the high table, and an open door into communities at the grassroots. But if Farron is right, and the state is no longer Christian-liberal, and instead has become increasingly secular-authoritarian, then the state church no longer influences positively for Christianity. It must conform to secularism in order to stay at the high table – and in doing so must of necessity shed much of its Christian character, and collude in the persecution of orthodox Christianity.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Rowan Williams: Nativity is a powerful reminder of our own vulnerability and weakness

Dr Williams is chair of Christian Aid and called for support for its Christmas appeal as he said, ‘life doesn’t have to be like this. We can build a world with deeper justice, greater fairness, greater security for all.’

He said: ‘One of the most serious forms of powerlessness that anyone can experience is, of course, hunger. Take a country like South Sudan: after years of merciless and bloody civil war, food security has become a major question in South Sudan. This year, a famine was declared. Countless young people faced starvation. It’s not the only place in Africa, or indeed throughout the world, where this is a problem. Places like Burkina Faso are facing some of the same challenges.

‘But South Sudan is particularly vivid in my own memory: I visited there a couple of times in the last 10 years. I’ve seen what life is like in the refugee camps. I’ve seen the feeding programmes, combined with educational programmes, that many local churches and charities take up. The challenge is enormous, and it’s one that we are determined to face this Christmas, and to respond to. A gift of £10 will feed a family in South Sudan for a week. A gift of £40, for a month.’

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, --South Sudan, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Christmas, Poverty, Stewardship

(NYT) Raphaël Louigene and his burial team, tending to Haiti’s Dead

Like the country itself, Burial Road stretches between those who have everything and those with nothing. Even modest funeral parlors offer elaborate services starting at $1,100 — far beyond the means of most Haitians, who live on $2 a day or less.

No matter how rich in love they may be, most people can’t pay those fees. And so, the bodies of their sons and mothers wait here so long that their faces melt, their skin unravels. They are stacked one atop another in gruesome, wet piles that resemble medieval paintings of purgatory.

The men who have finally come to their rescue aren’t friends or relatives. They don’t know their individual stories. But they recognize poverty.

“They didn’t have a chance,” says Raphaël Louigene, the burial team’s stocky, soft-spoken leader. “They spent their lives in misery, they died in misery.”

Mr. Louigene and the other men work for the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, a charitable organization started in 2000 to help the country’s poorest.

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Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Haiti, Pastoral Theology, Poverty

(Yorkshire Post) Archbishop Sentamu’s intervention could finally end Yorkshire devolution stalemate

A possible solution to Yorkshire’s long-running devolution stalemate that could see a region-wide mayor elected by May 2020 has emerged after an intervention by the Archbishop of York, The Yorkshire Post can reveal. A letter by Dr John Sentamu to Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, seen by this newspaper, sets out proposals for a two-year phased programme that would finally see vital powers for transport, housing and skills handed over from Whitehall to the region’s leaders.

The plans outlined by the Church of England’s second most senior cleric, who met last month with local MPs, council leaders, trade union leaders and bishops, are a bid to overcome the Government’s objections to the proposed ‘One Yorkshire’ solution for a mayor presiding over the whole region of more than five million people.

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Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), City Government, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Yorkshire Post) Andrew Adonis: Whole cities and towns are in grip of a social crisis

WE are in the grip of a social crisis. Half or more of the country have been left behind, while the rest of Britain went to university, modernised and globalised. This is not just about individuals and families, but communities, even whole towns and cities. The ultra-respectable Financial Times last month carried a heart-rending article by Sarah O’Connor, who had immersed herself in Blackpool and reported on what GPs there called SLS or “s*** life syndrome” — deep poverty, pervasive drugs, obesity, anti-depressants and mental illness, in a large, isolated town exhibiting alarming signs of disintegration, including the largest encampment in Britain of children expelled from school. It is euphemistically called a pupil referral unit. Even more euphemistically, it is run by an organisation called Educational Diversity, but it is basically a dumping ground for 330 children whom schools want nothing to do with. That is 330 who have been expelled from schools in one Northern town and sent to what is in many respects a giant training camp for the criminal justice system, in addition to hundreds excluded from school day by day for lower-level misbehaviour, who simply roam the streets.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Economy, Education, England / UK, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(CC)Jason Byasee–The value of apocalypse

Who is the most influential thinker in the history of American culture? A case can be made for John Nelson Darby, the 19th-century former Church of Ireland priest who cooked up what we now call premillennial dispensationalism—an es­chatological scheme by which disasters natural and supernatural presage the return of Christ.

Anthony Aveni and Lisa Vox describe how American culture, politics, and apocalypticism have been braided together in ways that tend toward paranoid conspiratorial fearmongering peddled as Christianity. Darby’s mistake—I would call it a heresy—has shaped the politics that rule our country and our world. That’s a much grander claim than these two good books by appropriately modest historians would ever let themselves make. Yet I think it’s the clear conclusion they offer.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture

(CT) Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive?

So, what does the science tell us? Are some forms of evangelical Protestantism bad for marriage and “good” at fostering domestic violence?

The answer is complicated, since some research suggests that gender traditionalism fuels domestic violence. For example, a study in the Lancet found that domestic abuse was higher in regions across the globe where “norms related to male authority over female behavior” are more common.

In general, however, the answer to these questions is “no.” In my previous book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, I found that women married to churchgoing evangelical men—compared to women married to men in other major religious traditions or women married to unaffiliated men—report the highest levels of happiness. Their self-reports were based on two markers: “love and affection you get from your spouse” and “understanding you receive from your spouse.” This same demographic of women also report the highest levels of quality couple time.

My newer book Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos, co-written with sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger, reveals similar findings. Men and women who attend church together are almost 10 percentage points more likely to report that they are “happy” or “very happy” in their relationships, compared to their peers who attend separately or simply don’t attend religious services at all. On average, then, evangelicals (as well other religious believers in the United States) who attend church regularly enjoy higher quality marriages compared to their less religious or secular peers.

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Posted in Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(Guardian) Loneliness is a ‘giant evil’ of our time, says Jo Cox commission

One of the key architects of Britain’s welfare state would have added loneliness as society’s sixth “giant evil” if he were alive today, Rachel Reeves will say after completing a year-long study into the issue.

The Labour MP, who co-chaired the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness after her friend and colleague was murdered last year, will argue that the weakening of trade union, church, local pub and workplace ties have left a disconnected society.

“When the culture and the communities that once connected us to one another disappear, we can be left feeling abandoned and cut off from society,” she will say, describing the issue as a new social epidemic.

“In the last few decades, loneliness has escalated from personal misfortune into a social epidemic. More and more of us live alone. We work at home more. We spend a greater part of our day alone than we did 10 years ago. It sometimes feels like our best friend is the smartphone.”

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Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

A Nation Answers a Sobbing Boy’s Plea: ‘Why Do They Bully?’

When Kimberly Jones picked up her son, Keaton, from school in the Knoxville, Tenn., area last week, he asked her to record a video of him in the car.

Keaton was going home early — not for the first time, Ms. Jones said — because he was afraid to have lunch at school. Classmates, he told his mother, had poured milk on him and stuffed ham in his clothes.

“They make fun of my nose,” he said in the video, which Ms. Jones posted on Facebook on Friday with a plea for parents to talk to their children about bullying. “They call me ugly. They say I have no friends.”

“Why do they bully? What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them?” he asked, sobbing. He added: “People that are different don’t need to be criticized about it. It’s not their fault.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Children, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Teens / Youth

(NBC) A Powerful example of how one parish choir director made a huge difference–Opera student raises $40,000 in performance for college tuition

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Education, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Young Adults

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Can Americans break the cycle of incomprehension and aggression tends to destroy republics? The Masterpiece Bakeshop Case provides an Opportunity

Democratic life requires accepting that your own faction may be out of power roughly half the time. But in a culture this diverse and divided we trust our fellow citizens less, we share less with them, and we fear that any political defeat will leave our communities at their mercy, that if we lose power we will be routed and destroyed.

Meanwhile because we are so distant from our rivals, we cannot recognize that they share the same fears about what will happen if power is in our hands — or else we dismiss those fears as the pleadings of a wicked claque whose destruction is entirely merited.

As a conservative Catholic who works in a liberal milieu, I watched this happen after Obergefell v. Hodges. For its opponents, the same-sex marriage ruling was less frightening for what it did than for what they feared might follow: not just legal same-sex nuptials, but a sweeping legal campaign against the sexual revolution’s dissidents, in which conservative believers would be prodded out of various occupations, while their schools and hospitals and charities would be fined and taxes and regulated and de-accredited to death.

And liberals who felt ascendant in the Obama years simply couldn’t accept this fear as something to be managed and assuaged; to them, it was either ridiculous alarmism or a cloak for bigotry. So while the Obama White House was requiring nuns to pay for abortifacients and the A.C.L.U. was suing Catholic hospitals for not performing sterilizations and state bureaucrats were trying to punish a handful of Christians in the wedding industry, what Rod Dreher called “the law of merited impossibility” dominated the liberal mind: Religious conservatives were worrying about attacks on their institutions that would never arrive, and when the attacks did arrive they obviously deserved it.

Which in turn encouraged [some] religious conservatives to vote rather desperately for a celebrity strongman named Donald Trump….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Church of England strategy to increase ordinands takes its toll on dioceses

Dioceses may struggle to cope financially with the national target of adding 50 per cent to the number of ordinands by 2020, a Church Times survey suggests.

A questionnaire sent to diocesan secretaries and directors of ordinands discovered that, although all seemed to support the target, all but one of those who responded were concerned, or very concerned, about how this might be financed. One wrote: “The desire is there, but not the funding.” Some are undermining the strategy by capping the number of people recommended for training.

Financial anxiety is focused on the cost of training, but also what happens after training: many dioceses will struggle to support and house an increased number of assistant curates, and are warning ordinands that they will not be able to return. Other dioceses are looking for cheaper training pathways, or hoping for an influx of self-supporting (i.e. non-stipendiary) clergy.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

(NR) David French–Can We Be Honest About Men?

Given the reality of male human nature, I can think of few cultural messages more destructive — more enabling for sexual predators — than the sexual-revolution ethics that urge indulgence, that often describe sexual relationships as the object of human interaction. It’s as if the sexual revolutionary looks at original sin and says, “Yes please.”

I know the sexual revolutionary objects to my critique. He rightly says that he doesn’t believe that “anything goes.” He erects moral walls against exploitation — the most prominent is consent. But if men fail (and they too often do) when the moral codes are more strict and the call to live a higher purpose is more pronounced, why do sexual revolutionaries believe men will fail less when the moral codes diminish and sexual freedom is considered part of their life’s purpose? Do they not see the linkage between handing out condoms by the armload — and celebrating “sex weeks” in college — and the number of women who feel used, abused, and exploited?

Much of the modern moral struggle is the war between entitlement and obligation. Raise a boy to live for himself, with a sense of entitlement, and he will often unleash that enormous inborn energy in the most destructive of ways. Raise a boy to live for others, with a sense of obligation, and that same energy can build a nation and sustain a culture. We can’t make a perfect world, but we do have a choice. Better or worse? It’s time to recognize and respond to human nature, or — despite the best of intentions — we will continue to choose to be worse.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Sexuality, Theology