Category : Religion & Culture

Disappearing churches: Downtown Charleston, South Carolina, congregations cope with big changes

The Greater Macedonia Church building on Alexander Street in downtown Charlesston is for sale. So is the Mount Carmel AME Church building on Rutledge Avenue. The old Zion-Olivet Presbyterian Church at the end of Cannon Street sits empty.

The congregation of Plymouth Congregational Church has relocated to the West Ashley area of Charleston. Shiloh AME Church is moving, too.

The Charleston peninsula is losing churches, even as new residents stream into the three-county metropolitan area.

Other religious institutions downtown are managing to hang on, even thrive, in this dynamic period of change.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * South Carolina, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Statement of solidarity from the City of Westminster Interfaith Leaders

1. We are members of Pathways, a group of faith leaders and representatives in St John’s Wood and Marylebone in the City of Westminster, who regularly meet together to foster good relations between our communities and to work on matters of mutual concern.

2. Fundamental to all our religions is the message of peace. We believe that human beings have a duty to work for peace and seek to build good relations with their neighbours.

3. We deplore the attack which took place in and around the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday. Anyone claiming a religious motive justifies an attack of this nature has repudiated the tenets of their faith.

4. We wish to express our sympathy and solidarity with those who have suffered and also those who are bereaved. We will pray for them in our churches, mosques and synagogues.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Inter-Faith Relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(RNS) Russell Moore faces a challenging road ahead

For Russell Moore, whose sharp criticisms of Donald Trump voters nearly cost him his job as the public voice for America’s largest Protestant denomination, the path to regaining a prophetic platform is just beginning.

Moore started down that trail this week. After apologizing for being “unnecessarily harsh” during the campaign, he received a vote of confidence from the executive committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Moore, the ERLC’s president, also apologized individually to at least seven prominent Baptists who felt he had mismanaged his public platform, according to Southern Baptist and Trump campaign adviser Johnnie Moore (no relation).

“The gesture of unity was absolutely real,” Moore said in an email. “The warning shot that Moore was sent was also real, it was intentional, it was effective, and I don’t believe it will be forgotten.”

Read it all.

Posted in Baptists, Religion & Culture

(CEN) The Bp of Chichester appoints a LGBTI liaison officer

A Bishop’s Liaison Officer for the LGBTI Community has been appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to ‘build bridges.’

The aim of the post is to identify what ministry among this community ‘might look like if it is to be more effective’ and to provide the bishops and parishes with up to date information about the pastoral needs of LGBTI people.

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, announced the appointment of the Rev Andrew Woodward, Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Kemp Town and Rural Dean of Brighton, as the first holder of the post.

Mr Woodward will help the church to ‘build bridges and enable pastoral support for a substantial group of people who feel the Church is alienated from them. Many feel they are tolerated but not included.’

Read it all (may require subsciption).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture

Christianity is ‘over’ in Iraq, but ‘God is not dead despite terrible persecution,’ says ‘Vicar of Baghdad’

An eminent Anglican priest known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” has just presented two contrasting images of Christianity in Iraq.

First, in a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Canon Andrew White said Christianity is “over” in the region from which the faith originated.

However, on the same day, he posted a message on his Facebook page, saying, “God is not dead … despite the terrible persecution of much of the Church today in Iraq and the Middle East.”

White went on to say that God “is alive and doing the greatest things ever. Resurrections, healing and angels are part of daily life. We in the western world just do not know of the real majesty, glory and presence of Jesus.”

Read it all from Christian Today.

Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Der Spiegel) Targeting Terrorists: Germany’s Dilemma in Dealing with Islamist Threats

…. [This] case is a good example of just how difficult it can be for the German government to deal with people it considers a threat but who cannot be convicted of a crime due to insufficient evidence. The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has identified 602 individuals who are so-called “Islamist threats.” Some 300 of them live abroad — in Syria or in Iraq, often as fighters for terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS) — while around 100 are currently in jail in Germany. Of the 200 remaining suspected enemies of the state, most have not yet committed any prosecutable crimes, but authorities nevertheless believe them to be capable of “politically motivated crimes of considerable significance.” That’s how the BKA and the 16 state criminal offices have defined these individual threats since 2004. Put more simply, they believe these 200 identified individuals are capable of committing terrorist acts at any time.

“Threat” is a vague working term. And the individuals who have been identified as such often aren’t even aware of it. The decision to classify a person as a threat is made by the state offices of criminal investigation, and the person’s name is then added to a national list kept by the BKA. According to the definition, threats are identified “on the basis of certain established facts” which fall short of being actual crimes. Unable to prosecute them, the most the state can do is keep these individuals under close surveillance to the greatest degree possible.

But they often aren’t successful, as seen in the case of Anis Amri, the perpetrator behind the December attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. Officials had also classified him as a threat, but authorities were unable to prove he had committed any terrorist acts and they also couldn’t deport him to Tunisia. He was a free man who used his freedom to shoot a semi-truck driver, steal the vehicle and murder 11 more people.

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(First Things) Patrick Deneen–Moral Minority: A Look at Three recent Books on Christians in America

Thirty years later, the mood has changed. Three books have appeared almost simultaneously that assume the opposite of what Falwell believed: America is populated by an immoral majority. Not only is its leadership class dominated by progressive elites, but the American public more generally has been corrupted by constant saturation in a media of skepticism and irony, pervasive consumerism, unavoidable pornography, and incessant distraction fostered by entertainment centers in every person’s pocket. America has lost its faith, and so the faithful have begun to question their belief in America.

Published within months of each other—by a popular blogger and author who has journeyed from Protestantism to agnosticism to Catholicism to Orthodoxy, Rod Dreher; by one of America’s most prominent and intellectually accomplished Catholic bishops, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput; and by a Catholic professor of English at Providence College and renowned translator of Dante, Anthony Esolen—the books share the belief that traditional Christians are a moral minority. All three books were written in the midst of a political campaign that was expected to result in the election of Hillary Clinton. All three reflect the pessimism that accompanied that prospect.

The outcome of that election, surprising as it was, does not change the argument of these books: Politics will not save us. What is first of all necessary is to rebuild a culture in disarray. Compared with recovering the basic requirements of virtuous civilization—healthy communities, flourishing family life, sound education, a deep reservoir of cultural memory and practice, and formative religious faith—remaking the Supreme Court is a cinch. Philosophers who have described culture as the first requirement of a healthy civilization, from Plato to Burke to Tocqueville, have generally believed that the most one can consciously strive to achieve is preservation of a healthy culture, should one be fortunate enough to possess one. Once a culture is corrupted from within, however, they saw little hope of reversing its decay.

Read it all.

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

Princeton Seminary Rescinds its Award of the Kuyper Prize to Tim Keller

Dear Members of the Seminary Community,

On March 10 I sent a letter to the seminary community addressing the emerging objections to the Kuyper Center’s invitation to the Reverend Timothy Keller to speak at their annual conference and receive the Kuyper Prize. Those who are concerned point to Reverend Keller’s leadership role in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament.

As I indicated in my previous letter, it is not my practice to censor the invitations to campus from any of our theological centers or student organizations. This commitment to academic freedom is vital to the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community. In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom. Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions.

I have also had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality

Jeremy Pemberton: On infidelity, broken promises and hounding: why Elaine Storkey is wrong.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(JE) Opposing Tim Keller at Princeton Seminary

Unfailingly thoughtful and cerebral, frequently appearing in secular media as a religious and cultural commentator, Keller is one of the most influential pastors and Christian thinkers in America today. He is a guru of the rebirth of urban evangelical Protestant Christianity. His theology like his denomination’s is orthodox and Reformed. Keller typically avoids culture war issues and hot button debates. He affirms traditional Christian sexual ethics and marriage teaching but rarely speaks about it. His churches are full of New Yorkers who are socially liberal but drawn to his intellectually vibrant presentation of Christianity.

One Princeton graduate, a minister in the liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), has been quoted in The Christian Post denouncing Keller’s scheduled appearance at her alma mater in her blog, which declares:

…An institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings.

She also complains that “he (and the denomination he serves) is also very clear in its exclusion of LGBT people.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

(PD) Nathaniel Peters–Not Benedictine Enough: Rod Dreher’s Diagnosis and Prescription for American Christianity

Benedictines were grammarians. They cared deeply about words and their meanings and usage. Instead of calling Leah Libresco Sargeant an “effervescent Benedict Option social entrepreneur” they would recognize her for what she is: a Christian with a gift for hospitality and community-building. Sargeant notes that this kind of hospitality is not new, and neither is the Benedict Option:

People are like, ‘This Benedict Option thing, it’s just being Christian, right?’ And I’m like, “Yes! You’ve figured out the koan!” But people won’t do it unless you call it something different. It’s just the church being what the church is supposed to be, but if you give it a name, that makes people care.

She’s right about what is best about the Benedict Option—it’s just Christianity. But she’s wrong about the effect of the name. The Benedict Option is not a mystery designed to break open the mind; it’s a catchphrase that expresses a feeling of alarm and an intuited need for redirection. If the Benedict Option is just Christianity, it is neither inherently Benedictine nor is it optional. If it is a feeling and intuition, it needs to be guided by careful, prudent thought so that it bears good fruit. Dreher describes the question facing today’s Christians as “not whether to quit politics entirely, but how to exercise political power prudently, especially in an unstable political culture.” But that has always been the question facing Christians—and it is one to which Dreher never offers a clear answer.

These reservations aside, many readers will find Dreher’s counsel on practical spiritual matters helpful, even as they wish for clarity in his argument. Living the Christian faith intently in communities has been the heart—and challenge—of Christianity from the beginning. For like the monastic life, the Christian life has one ultimate goal: quaerere Deum—to seek God.

Read it all.

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

A Church Times article on Jeffrey John’s Response to the outcome from Llandaff in Wales

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, has accused the Bishops of the Church in Wales of “anti-gay discrimination”, after he was informed that his name will not be taken forward as a candidate for the See of Llandaff.

The president of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, wrote on Friday to Dr John to assure him that “neither homosexuality nor participation in a civil partnership were a bar to any candidate being either nominated or elected”. In his reply to the Bishop, made public this weekend, Dr John rejected this assurance as “hypocritical and untrue”.

The appointment of the next Bishop of Llandaff fell to the Bench of Bishops — comprising the six diocesan Bishops — after a meeting of the Electoral College in February ended with no candidate receiving enough votes — two-thirds — to be declared Bishop-Elect. In addition to the diocesan Bishops, the College comprises six members elected by each diocese (three lay members and three clergy), and twelve members elected by the diocese to which the Bishop is being elected. Its proceedings are confidential.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church of Wales, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Missionaries Dreamed Of This Muslim Moment. Will Trump’s Travel Ban End It?

“It has to do with the fact that the evangelical church is in touch with Christian churches in the Muslim world. More than any other religious group, they’re hearing the horror stories,” said Cashin, the CIU professor, who has seen three of his friends and colleagues martyred as they attempted to bring the gospel to Muslim-majority nations. “For that reason, they tend to respond more negatively to the faith of Islam.”

Many associate the violent acts of ISIS extremists, who target Christians and other religious minorities, with Islam itself. In a LifeWay Research survey, slightly more than half of evangelical pastors saw ISIS as a true indication of what Islamic society looks like. They also disagreed with the notion that “true Islam creates a peaceful society.”

Warren Larson, former director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, called such beliefs “very damaging for ministry and mission among Muslims.” The survey statistics indicating Christians’ negative attitudes towards Muslims have played out in his experience among believers.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Immigration, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Missions, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Ian Paul responds to the Bp of Chelmsford: Sex and morality in Church and society

This leads to a third surprising comment. On the one hand, the new teaching document will explore what is possible ‘within current arrangements’, and that prohibits the offering of public prayer which would give the appearance of a blessing of a same-sex sexual relationship. Yet on the other hand, Bishop Stephen cannot see any reason why ‘prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered.’ It seems strange to me that any bishop should feel so relaxed about contradicting the current position of the House of Bishops, without offering any account of this—and why he does notice that it is, in fact, contradictory.

But perhaps the most astonishing and surprising comment comes earlier on. In reflecting on the relationship between sexuality and missional engagement, Bishop Stephen makes this startling claim:

As I have said before, I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set.

For some reason, Bishop Stephen sees the issue of the Church’s teaching on sexuality as a unique turning point in relation to culture, as if we have never experienced this sense of being out of step with prevailing morality and criticised, on moral grounds, because of it. I cannot really make sense of this statement, since even a moment’s reflection on some current areas of debate illustrates how implausible this is.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Tim Challies review of The Shack: ‘the book has a quietly subversive quality to it’

So where does all of this leave us? It is clear to me that The Shack is a mix of good and bad. Young teaches much that is of value and he teaches it in a slick and effective way. Sadly, though, there is much bad mixed in with the good. As we pursue his major theological thrusts we see that many of them wander away, by varying degrees, from what God tells us in Scripture.

Despite the great amount of poor theology, my greatest concern is probably this one: the book has a quietly subversive quality to it. Young seems set on undermining orthodox Christianity. For example, at one point Mack states that,despite years of seminary and years of being a Christian, most of the things taught to him at the shack have never occurred to him before. Later he says, “I understand what you’re saying. I did that for years after seminary. I had the right answers, sometimes, but I didn’t know you. This weekend, sharing life with youhas been far more illuminating than any of those answers.”

Throughout the book there is this kind of subversive strain teaching that new and fresh revelation is much more relevant and important than the kind of knowledge we gain in sermons or seminaries or Scripture.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Evangelicals, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology