Category : Religion & Culture

(Christian Today) Pressure mounts on Boris Johnson to approach Pope and Archbishop over British mother jailed in Iran

A former foreign office minister and a senior Catholic have urged Boris Johnson to heed the advice of Tom Tugendhat MP and approach Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury to help negotiate the release of the British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is imprisoned in Iran.

The support for Tugendhat’s suggestion comes as Christian Today has learned that neither Lambeth Palace nor Pope Francis has, at the time of writing, received any approach from the Foreign Office. Christian Today has approached the Foreign Office for comment.

Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs committee of MPs and Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, put it to the Foreign Secretary that religious leaders be used to negotiate Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release with the Islamic clerics who run Iran’s judicial system.

‘This poor woman is being used as a political football not only sadly here but in Iran,’ Tugendhat, who is a Catholic, told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(C of E) Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying tackled in new guidance for Church schools

Guidance for the Church of England’s 4,700 schools published today aims to prevent pupils from having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.

The report makes 12 recommendations for schools including ensuring schools’ Christian ethos statements offer “an inclusive vision for education” where “every child should be revered and respected as members of a community where all are known and loved by God. ”

Clear anti-bullying policies should include HBT behaviours and language, policies on how to report incidences should be accessible, staff trained on recognising bullying, curriculum and collective worship should support the vision and the wider church ensure that schools are responding well to the guidance.

Commending the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide.

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

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Telegraph) Pressure to grow congregations leads to ‘clergy self-harm’ says Christ Church Dean

Pressure on bishops and clergy to grow their audience is leading to “clergy self-harm”, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, has said.

Speaking to an audience at the charity Sons & Friends of the Clergy, Professor Martyn Percy, who also teaches in the theology faculty, said that bishops “need to stop being the CEO of an organisation that is chasing growth targets”.

He said that clergy stress was “fuelled by anxiety about growth and organisation and professionalism.

“The church has become too organisational and bureaucratic.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

Leicester is the most ‘exciting’ city in the UK – says Archbishop of Canterbury as he arrives for three-day visit

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, has arrived in the city as part of a three-day visit.

He was officially welcomed by city mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, at the Guildhall, in front of a host of dignitaries.

Mr Soulsby recalled the Archbishop’s last visit to Leicester for the reinterment of King Richard III.

He said: “I remember there were some nerves on that occasion, but it was an amazing day and it’s wonderful to have you back here.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, speaks on the outcome of the postal survey on same-sex marriage in Australia

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Australia Votes for Same-Sex Marriage, Clearing Path to Legalization

A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.

Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots.

“The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ for marriage equality,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the survey in a move described by advocates as a delay tactic devised to appease his party’s far-right faction. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love.”

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(WSJ) This Sunday, Some Churchgoers May Choose to Pack Guns With Their Bibles

As he does every Sunday, the Rt. Rev. Council Nedd II, an Anglican rector, put on his collar and robes to offer Mass at his central Pennsylvania church. Now, he is considering wearing something else with his religious vestments: his handgun.

As a Pennsylvania state constable, Dr. Nedd can bring his gun just about everywhere—to the grocery store, to the park and to synagogues and other houses of worship, where he often acts as security. His church was the one place where he went unarmed.

“Weapons do not belong in church,” he said. But, as a bishop, he has “a responsibility to protect the flock,” he added.

Dr. Nedd said he didn’t bring his weapon to church this Sunday, but plans to in the future.

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Posted in Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Violence

Amicus Brief Filed By Religious Leaders in Support of the Diocese of South Carolina

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:   

“Friday’s brief illustrates well two essential problems with the current ruling of the Court. Because there is no legal consensus among the Justices, the ruling as it stands is, as stated in the brief, a “recipe for endless litigation.” As a consequence of misapplying neutral principles of law as intended by the U.S. Supreme Court, it violates rather than preserves, the First Amendment protections of religious liberty they are meant to ensure. Resolving these significant issues merits rehearing by the Court.”

The Diocese also provided the following list of additional details from Friday’s filed Brief:

  • “For over 300 years, since before the Founding of this Nation, members of the Respondent’s congregations contributed land, money and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law – only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination. This outcome was possible only because the Court fashioned a new rule of law solely for this case, and this denomination. But that rule of law departs from this court’s precedents and imposes special burdens on religious associations relative to secular ones. Those burdens violate the First Amendment.” [p. 1]
  • Amici believe strongly that churches freely associated with each other can also freely choose to disassociate. And the exercise of that freedom should not come at the price of the tools for ministry established by local sacrifice… ” [p. 4]
  • “… the Court’s fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion…. This confusion is a recipe for endless litigation.” [p. 2]
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Jones vs. Wolf established the use of neutral principles of law to settle church property disputes… “A court applying a neutral principles approach can only apply state law as it normally would; any other approach would be the opposite of neutral principles.” [p. 9]
  • As the Court has done in this case, “Giving legal effect to trusts declared in denominational documents is not even mere deference. It is giving denominations power to rewrite civil property law.” [p. 14] and that is in violation of the free exercise of religion.
  • “If that conception of “neutral principles” is correct, then no church can join a denomination without jeopardizing its property.” [p. 16]
  • “Any denomination could pass a retroactive internal rule that would appropriate congregants gifts and church property.” … “Without secure property ownership, many rounds of future litigation are inevitable.” [p. 18]
  • “If ownership no longer turns on publicly recorded deeds and trust instruments, but on the meaning of internal church rules and relationships, no one can know for certain who owns church property.” [p. 18]
  • “Moreover, the Court’s ruling could eviscerate otherwise clear titles” and harm “the rights of insurers and lenders” all with “not a single justice agreeing as to exactly how State title and property law apply in this dispute.” [p. 19]

Read it all and please take the time to read the full brief.

Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Church of England Cathedrals attract record numbers at Christmas

Christmas attendance at services in cathedrals last year reached its highest figure since records began, statistics published today show. A one year rise of 5%, meant that 131,000 people came to cathedrals to worship last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Increased attendances were also recorded at services in Advent with 635,000 coming to worship during the busy pre-Christmas build-up. Average weekly attendances at services on a Sunday also increased to 18,700.

Meanwhile, over 10 million people visited cathedrals and Westminster Abbey with half donating or paying for entry.

The Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, and lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, said: “Behind these figures lie stories of worship, learning, exploring faith and spirituality and encountering God at times of joy and despair.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(PRC) Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century

Over the last century, the Orthodox Christian population around the world has more than doubled and now stands at nearly 260 million. In Russia alone, it has surpassed 100 million, a sharp resurgence after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Yet despite these increases in absolute numbers, Orthodox Christians have been declining as a share of the overall Christian population – and the global population – due to far faster growth among Protestants, Catholics and non-Christians. Today, just 12% of Christians around the world are Orthodox, compared with an estimated 20% a century ago. And 4% of the total global population is Orthodox, compared with an estimated 7% in 1910.

The geographic distribution of Orthodoxy also differs from the other major Christian traditions in the 21st century. In 1910 – shortly before the watershed events of World War I, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the breakup of several European empires – all three major branches of Christianity (Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism) were predominantly concentrated in Europe. Since then, Catholics and Protestants have expanded enormously outside the continent, while Orthodoxy remains largely centered in Europe. Today, nearly four-in-five Orthodox Christians (77%) live in Europe, a relatively modest change from a century ago (91%). By contrast, only about one-quarter of Catholics (24%) and one-in-eight Protestants (12%) now live in Europe, down from an estimated 65% and 52%, respectively, in 1910.

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Posted in Church History, Globalization, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture

(The Atlantic) The Quiet Religious-Freedom Fight over Zoning Laws That Is Remaking America

A Church outgrows its building. It finds a vacant warehouse in a middle-class neighborhood, close to the highway and convenient for its congregants. Mortgage money is raised, plans are drawn up, the sale is approved. All that remains is a technicality: securing a zoning-code exemption.

Three years and two lawsuits later, the church is at last in its new building—and out $1.2 million. It holds services in the lobby because it ran out of money to renovate the room that was to be the sanctuary.

This problem was supposed to be solved. Seventeen years ago, Congress unanimously passed a law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, to prevent cities and towns from using zoning as a weapon against groups that want space to worship. At the time, everyone cheered a rare moment of legislative success. In practice, though, few congregations have the time, knowledge, money, or energy to pursue the legal process set up by RLUIPA, leaving many in a desperate limbo with no place to pray.

By the time they take on a zoning challenge, many religious groups are already struggling to find and retain members, and to get by on shoestring budgets. Without an adequate place to gather, they miss opportunities to assemble in study, service, and prayer. The stakes are high for towns, too. Churches, synagogues, and mosques influence life well outside their walls: People who belong to religious institutions are more civically engaged than their secular neighbors. They are more likely to serve on school boards, volunteer at charities, and join clubs. In the absence of these institutions, communities can become fractured and isolated. Neighborly infrastructure decays…

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

(NYT) In Places of Worship Scarred by Bullets, Long Memories and Shared Pain

The worshipers, hundreds of them, had gathered Sunday for the afternoon meal in the vast, bright dining hall at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, just as they do every Sunday.

But before long, the happy din of the congregants was interrupted by a grim bulletin from Texas. People pushed away their plates of cauliflower and rice as the horrific news chirped across their cellphones. A gunman in a house of God. Multiple fatalities. Multiple injuries.

The Sikh temple was 1,300 miles and worlds away from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex. But at the temple, where a mass shooting left six dead five years ago, it felt sickeningly familiar, as it had at congregations in South Carolina and Tennessee and New York, places on the grim list of religious congregations that have become victims of gun violence. As different as they are, they share both a tragic past and a continuing struggle to move beyond it.

“Every time this happens, we feel the pain again,” said Harjinder Singh, a priest, as he sat in the quiet temple on Tuesday. “It is like when you have a bandage on your body, and it is ripped away.”

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

(Baltimore Sun) Maryland churches ponder security in wake of Texas shooting: ‘This evil can happen anywhere’

The Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway says it’s the duty of any church to do all it can to ensure the safety of its congregants, so he has long had security cameras in place throughout Union Baptist Church in West Baltimore.

But after yet another mass shooting left 26 people dead at a Texas church Sunday — the worst such incident at a place of worship in American history — the church and community leader is feeling a special urgency.

Hathaway was hard at work Monday on an email to other local religious leaders to urge action across denominational lines on matters of security.

“It’s tragic to think that this anger, this violence, is now invading our sacred spaces, the places where we try to foster peace and reflection, especially in a country that espouses religious freedom,” he says. “But this is clearly a fact of life now. We must think about security over and against our freedoms.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Violence

YouGov Poll–Most Brits think only six of the Ten Commandments are still important

The Ten Commandments have been central tenets of Biblical teaching for several millenia. But how many Britons believe that they are good rules for life in the 21st century?

New YouGov research reveals that only six of the original Ten Commandments are still seen by most British people as important principles to live by. This is even true of Britain’s Christians, although they are more likely than the general population as a whole to think any given Commandment remains important.

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Christianity Today) the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting raises important qtns about security in places of worship

Violent incidents in churches are on the rise, including high-profile shootings in sanctuaries. In September, a shooter killed one person and injured seven others after Sunday worship at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ outside Nashville.

“The prevailing problem is denial,” said [church security expert Carl] Chinn. “People think, ‘It won’t happen here.’ If they were following the news, they would know it’s happening at small churches in small towns and big churches in big cities.

“The denial is worse in churches because we believe God will protect us,” he told CT. “I believe God will protect us … but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to be intentional about security.”

Chinn previously reported that 2015 marked a record year for violence on religious property or involving senior pastors, with 248 incidents and 76 deaths.

“I don’t know how many wakeup calls it will take,” he said.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Violence