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[Oxford] Bishop Stephen Croft–Rethinking Evangelism

Over 400 people assembled in the Vatican over three weeks. The initial work of the Synod was to listen to five-minute contributions from every part of the world. There was widespread agreement that we live in a time when the passing on of Christian faith is challenging and difficult everywhere.

There was widespread agreement around two further themes. The first is that the Church therefore needs to reflect more, not less, on the reasons for this and our response. The second is that as a Church we need to begin not with techniques or methods but with Christ: dwelling deeply, seeing the face of Christ afresh, exploring again the joy of the gospel.

There have been very significant shifts in our culture and the place of the church within our culture. We understand them only in part. But I believe more and more of the Church of England recognises now that technical solutions are not the answer. I have found more and more over the last three years that when I speak about church growth and how to do evangelism the energy leaves the room.

If I show even a hint of a downward sloping graph, I lose my audience completely. But when I speak of Christ and the wonder and character of Christ and the need to begin from a place of hope and love and nurture the Church as the Body of Christ in very simple ways, the energy levels rise and there is fresh hope and vision.

This is not because people are unwilling to face reality. I think our congregations and communities understand the reality of our situation very well indeed. I think we recognise together that technique or finance or strategies cannot of themselves “solve” the problem. We need as a Church to gather again around Jesus Christ and his gospel and find there renewal and healing and life for us and for the world. These convictions undergird the vision and call we are exploring in the Diocese of Oxford, to be a more Christ like Church for the sake of God’s world: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(Christian Today) Split grows over same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church in New Zealand

The Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACNZP) passed a resolution last year stating that although there was no change to its teaching on the nature of marriage ‘as between a man and a woman’, vicars could request permission from their bishops to hold a ‘non-formulary service’ to bless a same-sex relationship.

That move has disappointed some vicars who are choosing to break away and start new churches instead of remain in a Church that they feel has strayed from the Bible.

The latest vicar to go is Andrew Allen-Johns, who stepped down from AnglicanLife Rangiora in Christchurch to lead a completely new church outside of the ACNZP.

Anchor Charismatic Anglican Church, of which he is senior pastor, has just started holding services this month. His new church is getting off the ground just as the first same-sex blessings in Canterbury – the region in which Christchurch sits – are starting to take place.

In May 2019, the church plans to apply for affiliation with the Extra Provincial Diocese which is being formed by those who have left the Anglican denomination over the issue of same-sex blessings. Under the Extra Provincial Diocese, the churches will be faithfully Anglican and yet distinct from the Province.

In a letter to his former parish, Allen-Johns said his vision for Anchor was for a ‘new church designed to be millennial-friendly, more intently focussed on evangelism and making disciples’.

‘I now view the disruption this church is going through over same-sex relationships as a major opportunity to strengthen the church for its mission in the next few decades,’ he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Saturday Food for Thought from Gerhard Ebeling

Found there:

“To pursue the problem of church discipline to the depth of its rootedness and the breadth of its branchings out is to be referred to the [very] center of theological thinking. Indeed, of all of the questions that beset the church today and demand resolution, I know of none upon which the themes of theology converge so decisively, none whose resolution is so urgent and would be of such fundamental and far-reaching significance, as that of church discipline.”

Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology, Germany, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Charles Todd Quintard

Mighty God, we bless thy Name for the example of thy bishop Charles Todd Quintard, who persevered to reconcile the divisions among the people of his time: Grant, we pray, that thy Church may ever be one, that it may be a refuge for all, for the honor of thy Name; through Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from B. F. Westcott

Almighty God who hast sent the Spirit of truth unto us to guide us into all truth: so rule our lives by thy power that we may be truthful in thought and word and deed. May no fear or hope ever make us false in act or speech; cast out from us whatsoever loveth or maketh a lie, and bring us all into the perfect freedom of thy truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott (1825–1901) as found in 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

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

–2 Timothy 4:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) John Miller–Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Daily Treasure’

But Lincoln certainly read the Bible and read it well. Lots of eyewitness accounts say so. More important, his rhetoric often drew from it in both obvious and subtle ways. One of his best-known lines—“a house divided against itself cannot stand”—is a plain reference to Mark 3:25 and Matthew 12:25. The famous opening words of the Gettysburg Address—“Four score and seven years ago”—echo Psalm 90:10. To explain the connection between the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the framework of the Constitution, Lincoln turned to Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” He meant that the purpose of the Constitution is to preserve the ideas in the Declaration.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address bursts with biblical quotes and allusions. “It sounded more like a sermon than a state paper,” wrote Frederick Douglass, who attended the 1865 speech. One of its lines, from the Gospel of Matthew, also shows up in “The Believer’s Daily Treasure” as the entry for May 13: “Let us judge not that we not be judged.”

Every biography involves acts of judgment, and Lincoln scholars have taken various stances on Lincoln’s faith, from claims that he was a lifelong skeptic who hid his unbelief to the more conventional view that his Christian convictions grew over time. Whatever the truth, there’s a good chance that Lincoln once read what a little devotional book offered for April 14, a simple admonition from John 5:39: “Search the Scriptures.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(DN) Amsterdam’s mayor: ‘prostitutes should not be a tourist attraction’

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has called for changes to the city’s red light district, arguing that turning prostitution into a tourist attraction is ‘humiliating’ and ‘unacceptable’. The mayor, who took office last June, told Het Parool she wanted to consider all options for reforming the area, including the status quo, but gave a clear signal that the current situation was untenable. ‘The circumstances in which women have to do their work have worsened. So I can understand why a lot of Amsterdammers think: this is not the way we want prostitution to be or how it was supposed to be,’ she said. There has been growing concern that the number of tourists flocking to the red light district has made it more difficult for prostitutes to work in the area and compromised their safety. Unlicensed prostitution remains a problem in the city and has been linked to human trafficking.

Read more at DutchNews.nl:

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Sexuality, The Netherlands, Urban/City Life and Issues

(The State) U.S. House committee advances bill to close ‘Charleston loophole’

The House Judiciary Committee advanced Clyburn’s legislation after a contentious, 10-hour debate on a larger, comprehensive gun background check bill that revealed deep acrimony between members of the two parties and illustrated just how partisan the gun debate has become.

There are Republicans who support closing the Charleston loophole: Along with Clyburn and South Carolina’s other Democratic member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, the bill advanced by the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night was co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has in the past indicated a willingness to back legislation to address the loophole. Earlier this week, he told The State he was interested in looking at the text of the new House bill.

“I’m interested in it,” Scott said. “I need to see what it says.”

While the bill is all but certain to pass the full House in the weeks ahead, it isn’t likely to get taken up in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate, Violence

(NYRB) Undefeated, ISIS Is Back in Iraq

Now, more than four years after the black-clad men conquered Mosul, a major city in northern Iraq, a third of the country remains pulverized, both physically and socially. Overlaid across territory that has been reclaimed from the Islamic State is a patchwork of various sectarian militias that now claim fiefdom. Thousands of families with alleged links to ISIS are exiled, their birthrights reduced to being names on militias’ wanted lists, their dignity violated in irreversible ways. Rather than address this deep residue of fears and feelings of injustice felt by many, Iraq has foolishly declared the Islamic State defeated, as though its threat were now confined to the country’s past. But the signs of the ISIS’ resurgence are troubling, and the sense of grievance that fired it in the first place remains just as palpable—and just as unresolved.

The intelligence that my colleagues and I in the Kurdistan Region Security Council have collected is disturbing. Over the past fifteen months, hundreds of attacks linked to the group took place in areas that were supposed to have been freed from ISIS. Pushed out of Mosul, Islamic State fighters have regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and parts of Anbar—territory they know well. From the city of Hawija to the westernmost town of Tal Afar, these guerrillas are mounting ambushes against Iraqi security forces in attacks the scale of which has not been seen in years.

What makes these fighters so much more of a threat now is their ability to make good on their promise to hunt down those they accuse of betraying them. In a night raid last October, after security forces had retreated to nearby bases, Islamic State assassins dragged a village chief from his home, and summoned locals to a public place, where they executed him. Even in parts of Mosul itself, reconquered in 2017 by government forces after a long and costly campaign, the ominous black-and-white ISIS flag has flown again in recent months, causing panic and fear in village after village. Credible threats have also forced the Iraqi authorities to relocate prisoners to prevent their escape in the event of a brazen attack like the prison breakouts the group has pulled off in the past.

The reasons for the return of ISIS are obvious. For years, the conventional approach to stopping the group has depended on airstrikes and local proxy forces; stripping away territory and revenues from ISIS has been the marker of success. But this is a gross misunderstanding of the group. The original synergy between former Iraqi officers and jihadists that created al-Qaeda in Iraq led to a calculating organization capable of learning from its mistakes and adjusting accordingly.

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Posted in Iraq, Terrorism

(TLC Covenant) David Goodhew and Jeremy Bonner–The Growth Of The Anglican Church In North America

ACNA faces many challenges, notably over gender in ministry and how its various traditions relate to one another. As the time lengthens since the break with TEC, the unity evoked by having a common opponent may lessen and have less ability to hold ACNA together.

A different question is how ACNA relates to wider culture. ACNA is not only at variance with TEC but, as a theologically conservative church, it is at odds with the elite culture that dominates the media and academia. Conversely, it faces the delicate question of how it relates to the polarized America of Donald Trump. Navigating the waters of popular culture can make navigating ecclesial division feel tame in comparison. At the same time, ACNA’s combination of theological conservatism with liturgy and episcopacy may have a particular appeal to American evangelicals seeking greater historic rootedness while retaining orthodox theology within an English-speaking culture. This could be a fruitful furrow for harvest in the future.

Notwithstanding all the qualifiers, members of TEC and the wider Communion need to recognize that ACNA is now of significant size and is expanding. And in terms of church planting, ACNA is streets ahead of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. There is growing evidence of its ability to connect with minority ethnic communities, especially recent migrants.

Whether ACNA could ever catch TEC up is impossible to answer — and not that important right now. It is more important for all Anglicans to recognize that, 10 years on from its foundation, ACNA is a substantial and growing force in North American Anglicanism.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)

(Church Times) Government too soft on gambling ads, warns Bishop of St Albans

Dr Smith said, however, that there were insufficient penalties for companies who ignored the new standards. “With little consequences for companies flouting the rules, and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step up their approach.

“With so many of the proposals relying on betting firms to self-regulate, I sadly have little hope for major changes to the way gambling advertises.

“This endless barrage of adverts has normalised gambling, and we now have 55,000 children who are problem gamblers and it is time for the gambling industry to take this issue seriously.

“It is our moral duty to protect young people from gambling-related harm, and I hope the Committee of Advertising Practice will support my General Synod motion demanding tighter regulation around gambling advertising.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) ‘It’s Not Getting Better’: Nigeria Braces for Election Day as Frustrations Boil

Nigeria is bracing for what could be a tight election this weekend. Threats of violence loom.

In the northeast of the country on Tuesday, a convoy heading to an election event and carrying Kashim Shettima, a state governor, was attacked by Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist group which operates in the region. At least three people were killed, officials said. Many of the governor’s entourage fled into the bush after militants dressed as soldiers and riding in stolen military vehicles attacked, local news media reported.

The incident drew attention to another of Mr. Buhari’s 2015 pledges: to destroy Boko Haram. Far from being crushed, Boko Haram has recently been gaining strength.

In the south, militants in the oil-rich Delta threatened to disrupt the economy, presumably by blowing up pipelines, if Mr. Buhari were re-elected. At a rally for the president in Rivers State this week, at least four people were killed in a stampede. Election officials reported fires in several sites where ballot materials were being stored.

Tensions have been so high that after the American ambassador to Nigeria called on both campaigns to carry out fair elections, Mr. Buhari’s party called his statements “implicit attacks against the government.”

Mr. Buhari and Mr. Abubakar, who each have pledged to accept the election results peacefully, wrapped up final appearances this week at rallies across the country, where thousands turned out wearing dresses, rings, hats and scarves plastered with their candidates’ photos.

Read it all.

Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Bray

O God of compassion, who didst open the eyes of thy servant Thomas Bray to see the needs of the Church in the New World, and didst lead him to found societies to meet those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of Christian knowledge; 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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Daily Prayer

O Thou high and lofty one that inhabitest eternity, whose name is Holy, who hast promised to dwell with those that are of a contrite and humble spirit: We pray thee to cleanse our hearts from every stain of pride, and vain-glory, that though the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee, yet thou wouldest consent to abide with us for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Charles John Vaughan (1816-1897) as found in 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 Scripture Readings

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

–2 Timothy 3:14-17

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CC) Peter Boumgarden–Christian humanism in a technocratic world: Alan Jacobs’s biography of T.S. Eliot, Simone Weil, W.H. Auden, Jacques Maritain, and C.S. Lewis

What unites these thinkers is a burning desire to build an alternative to the demonic powers made manifest within the war and to house that vision within the university. The protagonists of 1943 worried that a technocratic ideology fails to see individuals as moral persons whose vocation extends far beyond that of a citizen or worker. In his Terry Lectures, Maritain offered one of the most direct explanations of the alternative model, arguing that “the prime goal of education is the conquest of internal and spiritual freedom to be achieved by the individual person, or, in other words, his liberation through knowledge and wisdom, goodwill, and love.”

For these individuals, even the secular humanist project had its problems. Though also suspicious of technocracy, secular humanism too easily elevated the human to an almost cult-like status. A Christian humanism must decenter this anthropocentric model with an equally deep understanding of human evil.

Jacobs’s narrative is not one of social change. However ambitious, each of these reformers moved away from institutional reform. Lewis, after a time, migrated into fiction. Auden and Eliot renewed their focus on poetry. Only Maritain ended the war in something close to a political posture, working to build his personalist views into laws and institutions. Jacobs concludes:

Their diagnostic powers were great indeed: they saw with uncanny clarity and exposed with incisive intelligence the means by which technocracy has arisen and the damage it had inflicted and would continue to inflict, on human persons. Few subsequent critiques of “the technological society” rival theirs in imagination or moral seriousness. But their prescriptions were never implemented, and could never have been: they came perhaps a century too late, after the reign of technocracy had become so complete that none can force the end of it while this world lasts.

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Posted in Books, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Will Jones Responds to Bishop Andy John–Should we extend the boundaries of ‘gospel freedom’ in sexuality?

All in all then, we see that Bishop Andy’s argument, while initially plausible perhaps, falls apart on closer examination. On none of the issues he mentions has the church changed its teaching by setting aside the plain meaning of scripture in favour of ‘other sources of authority’. This means the pattern he is wishing to follow is not there, and neither is it endorsed by scripture or church practice. The inclusion of the Gentiles is not a model for the affirmation of conduct that scripture prohibits, and there is nothing in the New Testament or Christian history to suggest it should be. Scripture does not mandate us to go beyond scripture, and any move in that direction must be regarded as a move away from Christian orthodoxy.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Wales

(BBC) Cannabis use in teens linked to depression

Parents should not be complacent about the risks of teenagers using cannabis, experts are warning.

UK and Canada researchers said they had found “robust” evidence showing using the drug in adolescence increased the risk of developing depression in adulthood by 37%.

They said the findings should act as a warning to families who saw cannabis use as part of the growing-up process.

The team added that the developing brain was particularly susceptible.

The researchers – from University of Oxford and Montreal’s McGill University – said cannabis use in the young was an “important public health issue”, particularly given that cannabis available today tends to be much stronger than it was previously.

Around one in nine young adults and teenagers use the drug each year in England and Wales.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Teens / Youth

A TLC article on Jane Williams’s latest book, The Merciful Humility of God–God and the Lived Reality of Humility

“One of my big obsessions is that we shape our characters and our lives day by day in our regular choices and decisions. … I am who I am because of the life I’ve lived, the decisions we’ve made, some of which are not under our control but some of which are. The questions: What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of world to you want to live in? They’re not questions we can just sit around and hope something can happen.”

She pointed to two particular moments in her life when she felt presented with a clear choice to act on the basis of her faith. “In my early teens, I was mildly anorexic. It was a sort of real encounter with the incarnation that made a significant difference. God likes bodies. God does not think that bodies are unreal, unimportant; and there’s no way of encountering God outside of our bodies, our embodied selves. So with that sense of alienation from my bodily self, which I think is a part of anorexia, doctrine was an actual turning point.”

Williams alluded as well to the decision to lead a life of understanding amid the difficulties of the Anglican Communion: “At a point of life where my husband was undergoing some trials, I remember feeling a choice. There were one or two people in groups who were making our lives harder — that’s not what they were trying to do — and I remember in a prayer session feeling that I was almost offered this choice: You can go down the route of hating and obsessing about what they’re doing wrong, and that will affect you, that will shape you; or you can choose to try and see what they feel they’re defending. … And that will also shape you. And the simple question is: Who do you want to be? It’s very uncomfortable. It’s not nice and it spills out into other things that are not part of the same problem. I thought: I’m going to try to choose to see these people as God sees them. … It was a choice that was entirely in my hands. I think a lot of us have those choices.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

(C+L) Stanley Hauerwas–Taking The “Risk Of Education”

From [Alasdair] MacIntyre’s perspective, the fragmentation of the curriculum makes it all the more important that Catholic universities recognize the significance of philosophy for any serious education that has any pretense to inculcate in students the skills necessary for those who would love the truth. According to MacIntyre, philosophy is the discipline committed to the inquiry necessary to understand how the disciplines that make up the university contribute to, but cannot themselves supply, an understanding of the order of things. So a Catholic University cannot be such if it does not require students to study philosophy not only at the beginning of their study but also at the end.

Yet of equal importance, according to MacIntyre, is the study of theology. Catholic teaching rightly maintains that the natural order of things cannot be adequately understood by reason if reason is divorced from the recognition that all that is has been brought into being by God and is directed to the ends to which God orders creation. What is learned from nature about God, MacIntyre notes, will always be meager as well as subject to the human limitations and distortions resulting from our sinfulness. Yet it remains the case that “universities always need both the enlargement of vision and the correction of error that can be provided only from a theological standpoint, one that brings truths of Christian revelation to bear on our studies.”

I am fundamentally in agreement with MacIntyre’s account of the challenges facing us if we are to think seriously about what it means to reclaim education as a Christian enterprise. So I have nothing but sympathy for Giussani’s attempt to help us see why and how Christians must reclaim education as a task of the church.

The story he tells in the introduction to the 1995 edition of The Risk of Education, about his first confrontation with students that did not believe matters of faith had anything to do with reason, is a wonderful example of why education matters and it matters for moral formation (p. XXXVI). I think Giussani, moreover, is right to insist that faith is “the supreme rationality” (p. XL). But to so argue means you have to confront, as Giussani did, the deceits of modernity represented by people like Professor Miccinesi; that is, the teachers of the students who think faith has nothing to do with truth or this world. I fear Professor Miccinesi, moreover, is a prime example of the challenge Christians face in education today. The problem quite simply is that the secular have become so stupid that they do not even recognize they do not and, indeed, cannot understand the commonplaces that make the Christian faith the Christian faith.

So I find myself in profound sympathy not only with the general argument about education Giussani makes, but also with the finer grained arguments he uses to sustain his overall perspective. That may seem strange because I am a Protestant; that is, a representative of that form of Christianity that according to Giussani separates “faith from following.” Yet unfortunately, I fear Giussani’s characterization of Protestantism, at least the Protestantism that now exists, is correct. Put differently: Protestantism now names that form of Christianity that in the name of reform tried to separate the “essentials” of the Christian faith from the contingent. The result was to turn Christianity into a belief system available to the individual without mediation by the church. As a consequence of this separation, Protestants found themselves in modernity without resources to shape a way of life that can resist the forces that threaten to destroy any robust account of Christian “following” necessary for the education of young people as Christians. I fear this is particularly true of the most Protestant country yet founded; that is, the United States of America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Religion & Culture

RNS profiles a Flourishing South Carolina United Methodist Church ahead of the upcoming Special General Conference

(Please note: you may find basic information about this meeting there–KSH).

In November, with the blessing of his leadership team, Kersey sent out a congregation-wide letter explaining the various plans that will be up for a vote at the special session and declaring his support for the Traditional Plan, which would keep LGBT restrictions in place.

Out of a membership of close to 5,000 people, Kersey said he received three emails from people who said they disagreed with him.

Martha Thompson, who chairs the church’s leadership team and is a delegate to the special session in St. Louis, said she welcomed the letter.

“This was new to a majority of our membership. So I was glad Jeff did it,” she said. “There were some who weren’t in favor. But the overwhelming majority of people I’ve spoken to were glad that he did it.”

Thompson cited the success of the monthlong Advent offering after the letter was sent as proof of the congregation’s support. The church raised $313,000 for that one offering — more than many small Methodist churches’ entire yearly budget.

Both Thompson and Kersey said they don’t want to exclude anyone.

Kersey said he recognizes that there are LGBT people attending the church and said he sees them like he sees everyone else — as people of sacred worth.

“On any given weekend here, we see people struggling with adultery, pornography, same-sex relationship,” he said. “We don’t ask questions. Everyone is welcome to come here with the understanding that we’ll share with them God’s best plan for their life, which is based on our understanding of Scripture.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Cyril and his brother Methodius

Almighty and everlasting God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit didst move thy servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome, we pray thee, by the love of Christ, all bitterness and contention among us, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day 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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Lift up your eyes round about, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far,
and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant,
your heart shall thrill and rejoice;
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Mid”²ian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you,
the rams of Nebai”²oth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
and I will glorify my glorious house.

–Isaiah 60:1-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Parkland: A Year After the School Shooting That Was Supposed to Change Everything

In a series of interviews, nine members of the Stoneman Douglas community — students, parents, police, teachers — reflected on the past 12 months.

They did not want to relive that day. They did not want to argue about politics. They did not want to talk about the gunman’s pending trial for capital murder.


This is what they wanted to do: mourn.

In all the activity of the past year, the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, the tour across the country registering voters, the investigations, the hearings, finishing senior year, getting into college — some said they hadn’t had time to take the measure of what they had lost. As Jammal Lemy, 21, a Stoneman Douglas alumnus-turned-activist explained it, “We just had so much going on.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, History, Teens / Youth, Violence

(1st Things) Charlotte Allen–Methodist Madness

….the fact that the UMC still officially considers homosexual conduct sinful (“incompatible with Christian teaching,” according to the Book of Discipline) is another surprise. All the other major mainline Protestant denominations—the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ—have amended their canons over the years to permit gay and lesbian ordinations and same-sex weddings fairly freely (typically with a few hedges aimed at mollifying conservative churchgoers and clergy).

Nonetheless, anomalous as the UMC’s traditionalist stance on sexuality may seem when the other mainlines have capitulated to secular culture, it seems to have helped the UMC avoid the demographically catastrophic schisms that have plagued those other mainline churches. The Episcopal Church has seen breakaways of entire congregations and even dioceses over the past few decades, a trend exacerbated by the ordination of its first openly gay bishop in 2003. When the Episcopalians approved same-sex marriage in 2015, a still-unhealed rift opened in the worldwide Anglican Communion, 55 percent of whose 80 million members live in sub-Saharan Africa and hold highly traditionalist views on Christian sexual morality. The Lutherans and Presbyterians have also witnessed major hive-offs of their church’s conservative congregations into separate religious entities as their leaders have embraced increasingly progressive positions. One result has been a drastic and seemingly unstoppable decline in church membership for those mainline denominations. The PCUSA counted only 1.4 million active members in 2017, down from 2.3 million actives in 2005. The ELCA lost nearly a quarter of its membership between 1988 and 2016 (from 5.2 million to 3.5 million). The Episcopal Church’s number of baptized members fell from 2.3 million to 1.7 million between 2007 and 2017.

By contrast, the UMC, while not immune to declining membership, has held fairly steady at 7 million U.S. members (down from about 11 million in 1968), and there have been no major Methodist schisms. The UMC is currently America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. Perhaps Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymns have kept the church reasonably intact, but another key factor may have been its willingness (so far) to allow religious conservatives and religious liberals to abide side by side in uneasy peace under a traditional ethos. The status quo is also maintained thanks to avid Methodist missionary work in Africa and elsewhere during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The UMC now boasts an additional 5 million overseas members, most of whom are theologically conservative like the overseas Anglicans and thus disinclined to support relaxations of traditional Christian ideas about sexuality. Proposals to modify the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language in the Book of Discipline have regularly surfaced at UMC General Conferences since at least the year 2000 but have been decisively rejected, thanks largely to overseas votes.

All of that seems poised for change, however….

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Posted in Methodist, Other Denominations, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(Gallup) Americans’ Confidence in Their Finances Keeps Growing

Americans’ optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69% now saying they expect to be financially better off “at this time next year.”

The 69% saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation’s economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

Americans are typically less positive about how their finances have changed over the past year than about where they’re headed, and that remains the case. Fifty percent say they are better off today than they were a year ago. That 50% still represents a post-recession milestone — the first time since 2007 that at least half of the public has said they are financially better off than a year ago….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Personal Finance, Psychology

(NYT) Sharp Rise in Anti-Semitic Acts in France Stokes Old Fears

Swastikas drawn on portraits of a women’s rights champion and Holocaust survivor in Paris; the word “Juden” (Jews, in German) spray-painted on a bagel bakery; a tree planted in memory of a young Jewish man who was tortured to death, chopped down in a Paris suburb.

A spate of reports in recent days illustrates what the government officially confirmed on Tuesday: Anti-Semitic incidents have risen sharply in France. Such episodes jumped by 74 percent in 2018, to 541, up from 311 in 2017, the interior ministry reported.

“Anti-Semitism is spreading like a poison, like a bile,” the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Monday as he visited the site of the felled tree.

The tree was a memorial to Ilan Halimi, a Jewish man who was kidnapped and tortured to death after being held captive for three weeks by members of a French criminal gang in 2006. The authorities and Jewish institutions were preparing to commemorate the 13th anniversary of Mr. Halimi’s death, which falls on Wednesday, when the tree was found destroyed.

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Posted in France, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Evangelism to take centre stage at February General Synod meeting

In an unusual move, this month’s General Synod will take the subject of evangelism as its theme.

In particular, Synod members will be asked to urge every diocese to launch new missions and ministries to housing estates up and down the country.

The ‘Estates Evangelism task group’is working on plans to extend the reach of each parish to ‘hard-to-reach’places. The Rev Helen Shannon, who sits on the task group, said that there needed to be changes made to clergy selection, deployment and training to implement a change in thinking.

She said the task group wanted estates ministry to be ‘part of every diocese’s budget’.

She pointed out that while most such parishes were made up of 500 dwellings, they constituted one-fifth of all parishes. “Fifty per cent of the population of England live in these areas,”she said.

A motion on Friday 22 February will hear the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev Philip North, ask the Synod to ‘give thanks’to the Christian leadership offered from such communities. His motion calls for the establishment of a ‘serving, loving and worshipping community in every significant social housing estate in the country.’

But despite declining church numbers nationally, the secretary-general of the Archbishops’Council, William Nye, said the focus on evangelism emerged from a sense of urgency.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission