Category : Religion & Culture

C of E General Synod backs motion to tackle food waste

The Church of England’s General Synod has called upon the Government to tackle food poverty and take steps to minimise waste throughout the supply chain.

Members backed a motion brought by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich outlining ways retailers and Church of England members can attempt to tackle food poverty in Britain.

The motion calls for the Government to consider steps to reduce waste in the food supply chain. It also urges parishes to help lobby retailers on food waste.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Dieting/Food/Nutrition, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(WSJ) Mark Simon: Who Made Xi Jinping Pope? A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table….

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Christian Today) Entrenched opposition to women priests blocks Church’s diversity efforts, synod told

Entrenched opposition to women’s ordination is still blocking the Church of England’s attempts to improve diversity among its senior leadership, its ruling general synod was told today.

The Archbishop of York said the CofE was beset with a ‘spiritual problem’ in its failure to appoint more women and black, asian and ethnic minority clergy to high profile roles and insisted the Church must do more.

It came after Caroline Spelman MP, who as second church estates commissioners acts as a liaison between the government and the Church, said she came under regular pressure from the House of Commons, including the speaker John Bercow, to ‘get on with it’ in improving diversity.

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

(Christian Post) Why Does Christianity Exalt the Human Body and Secularism Seek to Destroy It?: Nancy Pearcey

Arguably no subject divides Americans more passionately than what it means to be a human being, especially when it comes to sexuality, identity, and the body.

What lies beneath the bitter cultural squabbles over physician assisted suicide, abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism is a secularist ideology that wages war against the human body, argues Nancy Pearcey, a former agnostic who teaches at Houston Baptist University in her book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, which was released last month.

“We live in a moral wasteland where human beings are desperately seeking answers to hard questions about life and sexuality, “Pearcey, who The Economist describes as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” stresses in the book’s Introduction.

“But there is hope. In the wasteland we can cultivate a garden. We can discover a reality-based morality that expresses a positive, life-affirming view of the human person — one that is more inspiring, more appealing, and more liberating than the secular worldview.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) Church of England facing more than 3,000 abuse cases

The Church of England is facing more than 3,000 abuse complaints, the vast majority of which relate to children or vulnerable adults.

Peter Hancock, the lead bishop on safeguarding will reveal the full extent of the scandal the Church faces when he answers questions from the ruling general synod later today. Of roughly 3,300 ‘concerns or allegations’ dealt with by the Church in 2016 alone, ‘the vast majority of which related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within church communities,’ he will say.

The revelation comes as the CofE’s general synod, or parliament, meets in Westminster for three days that are set to be dominated by questions around abuse.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Stewardship, Theology, Violence

(Tablet) Anglicans deny obstructing Ofsted

The Church of England insists it is not resisting inspections of out-of- hours school settings to combat extremism and that it supports “targeted interventions.”

[The] Revd [Nigel] Genders said the “blanket regulation” and powers of inspection that Ofsted is calling for are a massive burden, unhelpful and ineffective: “It would be creating a massive haystack and never being able to find the needle.” He argues there is confusion over the issue of tackling extremism because a distinction needed to be made between voluntary church settings and illegal schools. He stressed that the church wanted to work with the government to keep children safe and if they have got concerns about particular settings “they should intervene.” But, he added: “It’s not for the state to tell churches how to behave or to get into state regulation of religion.”

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Kate Bowler–What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party

A tragedy is like a fault line. A life is split into a before and an after, and most of the time, the before was better. Few people will let you admit that out loud. Sometimes those who love you best will skip that first horrible step of saying: “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” Hope may prevent them from acknowledging how much has already been lost. But acknowledgment is also a mercy. It can be a smile or a simple “Oh, hon, what a year you’ve had.” It does not ask anything from me but makes a little space for me to stand there in that moment. Without it, I often feel like I am starring in a reality program about a woman who gets cancer and is very cheerful about it.

After acknowledgment must come love. This part is tricky because when friends and acquaintances begin pouring out praise, it can sound a little too much like a eulogy. I’ve had more than one kindly letter written about me in the past tense, when I need to be told who I might yet become.

But the impulse to offer encouragement is a perfect one. There is tremendous power in touch, in gifts and in affirmations when everything you knew about yourself might not be true anymore. I am a professor, but will I ever teach again? I’m a mom, but for how long? A friend knits me socks and another drops off cookies, and still another writes a funny email or takes me to a concert. These seemingly small efforts are anchors that hold me to the present, that keep me from floating away on thoughts of an unknown future. They say to me, like my sister Maria did on one very bad day: “Yes, the world is changed, dear heart, but do not be afraid. You are loved, you are loved. You will not disappear. I am here.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Psephizo) Mary Cole–Valuing people with Down’s Syndrome: a parent’s response

Our eldest son Ben is ten years old. He plays football and cricket, cycles and swims. He enjoys cartoons, playing Minecraft and other computer games, likes music and reading. Ben has a well-developed sense of humour which tends towards the absurd. He is an expert at annoying his younger brother, is passionate about ice cream and for years has been fascinated by dinosaurs. He also happens to have an extra copy of his twenty first chromosome – he has Down’s Syndrome.

Ben was diagnosed postnatally and at the time it was a shock. This was due in part to the diagnosis being unexpected. Blood tests and a nuchal scan during the pregnancy revealed a low probability of Down’s Syndrome. More to the point, I had absolutely no idea what the diagnosis meant. I had never met anyone with Down’s Syndrome. I had seen an episode of Inspector Frost which featured a character with Down’s Syndrome. This, and the rather dated leaflets handed to us at the hospital were all I had to go on. Things have improved since then. People with Down’s Syndrome are more represented in the media, (although there is still a very long way to go). There are several blogs with the stated aim of raising awareness of the realities of Down’s Syndrome[1] and there are online parent forums which have grown with the rise of social media. None of these sources of information and help were available to me when Ben was born. We were wonderfully supported by friends and family but they were also unsure of what the diagnosis meant for us. Indeed, Ben was about eighteen months old before my first thought each morning ceased to be ‘my baby has Down’s Syndrome’.

Learning to adapt to Ben’s diagnosis has been the most profoundly enriching but also challenging experience of my life. I have had ten years of disrupted nights, do more laundry than would seem physically possible, have a filing cabinet of paperwork just for Ben and a great deal of my time is spent attending appointments. However, Ben touches people’s lives.

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Did Lambeth Palace know the ‘fresh information’ about Bishop George Bell before Lord Carlile published his report?

So, we may have endured considerable turbulence based upon a hearsay delayed allegation which cannot be corroborated and which no authority took seriously when it was first published.

It could still be true, of course: one of the victims could come forward with credible testimony, but this is not what we are currently being told. If it changes, we start all over again.

Meanwhile, victims of more contemporary and proven abuse will be standing outside General Synod asking us to support their quest for justice with just a fraction of the time we are currently expending arguing about events of 60 years ago. The sooner we get all this out into the open and settled, the faster we can turn our attention to their long neglected current needs.

To do that quickly we need real transparency, and the sooner the better.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

C of E releases Setting God’s People Free Resource for parishes

Setting God’s People Free (SGPF) is a programme of change to enable the whole people of God to live out the Good News of Jesus confidently in all of life, Monday to Saturday as well as Sunday….

—SGPF looks beyond and outside Church structures to the whole people of God at work in communities and wider society – not to ‘fixing’ the institutional Church.

—SGPF challenges a culture that over-emphasises a distinction between sacred and secular to a fuller vision of calling within the all-encompassing scope of the Gospel – not to limit vocation to church based roles.

Read it all download the whole booklet (16 page pdf).

Posted in England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(ACNS) Global prayer urged as tribal violence continues to claim lives in Congo

Anglicans around the world are being asked to pray for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo as tribal violence continues to claim lives in the Ituri Province in the north-eastern area of the country. The Ituri city of Bunia is home to one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces in Africa as international troops seek to intercede between the warring Lendu and Hema peoples. At the weekend, 26 people were killed when a Hema village 31 miles (50 km) north of Bunia was attacked by Lendu tribes people. The Revd Bisoke Balikenga, national youth co-ordinator of Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo – the Anglican Church of Congo – is urging Anglicans to pray for the country.

In 2016, the church established a peace centre in Bunia as part of its care for women and girls who have been raped by combatants. Bisoke, who is helping to run the centre, responded to the weekend’s violence by asking people to pray. He said that 200 houses in the Hema village were burned before residents were killed by machete, creating “a lot of trauma among the Hema.”

He said that some shops and petrol stations in Bunia had been closed and that there are “some young people who like to make chaos”. The state governor is leading a delegation to the affected area to see what is happening. “Please pray for him in order he can bring peace there in that place,” Bisoke said.

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Posted in Anglican Church in Congo/Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo, Religion & Culture, Republic of Congo, Violence

(CT) Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations Internally?

We obviously need to do what we can to prevent sexual abuse, but we also need to have a plan in place for how to respond if it does occur. Once your real interests are at stake and your church’s reputation is on the line, it can become far too easy to rationalize bad behavior.

“But what about 1 Corinthians 6:1–6?” some will ask. That’s the passage where Paul reprimands the Corinthian believers for taking their disputes to court. I would submit that this passage—like all biblical passages—should be read with careful attention to the context that surrounds it, chapters 5 and 6, in which Paul is especially severe on sexual sins. They are not among the “trivial cases” being taken to court that he refers to in 6:2; on the contrary, he goes so far as to instruct perpetrators to be handed over “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (5:5). It seems that certain transgressions are beyond the church’s power to address adequately.

That is especially true of sins of abuse. As Owen Strachan wrote in a Christianity Today article on domestic violence, “The civic ruler, Paul says, acts as an ‘avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer’ (Rom. 13:4, ESV). When churches teach otherwise, they not only fail to provide psychological and emotional care, they also fail theologically. Divine vengeance cries out to be exercised against evil.”

Given all this, and given how difficult it is to evaluate our own leaders objectively, it is essential to have sexual abuse allegations investigated by an independent party that does not have a vested interest in the church. If we want the church to be a safe place of healing, we can’t afford to cover up the truth. The first step, though, is finding it.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(CH) Festus Iyorah–Why are young Nigerians abandoning the R Catholic Church for Pentecostalism?

Susan Onyedika was born 22 years ago into a Catholic family in Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial city. When she was a child, she took part in the Block Rosary Crusade (where an image of the Virgin Mary visits family homes), as well as catechism classes in her parish. But as she matured into a teenager she started having doubts about the faith she had practised from childhood. In her secondary school, she met Pentecostal Christians and began to compare their beliefs with those of Catholics.

“I needed more spiritually,” she tells me. “I needed to understand the Scriptures. They [the Catholic Church] don’t break down the Bible for you. They don’t pray the way most Pentecostals pray.

“I also had issues with praying through Mary because I feel that you can reach God directly, you can talk to him directly. You don’t have to go through someone to intercede for you.”

Susan joined her secondary school fellowship without telling her parents or siblings. “They didn’t know I joined the Pentecostals,” she remembers. “They were not aware. Just my close friends were.”

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Posted in Africa, Nigeria, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(C of E) Mental health in English communities a leading concern for clergy, survey finds

Mental health problems in local communities are now one of the biggest social issues Church of England clergy encounter, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,000 senior clergy has found that the proportion reporting that mental health is a ‘major’ or ‘significant’ problem in their local area increased sharply from 40% in 2011 to 60% in 2017.

Mental health is second only to loneliness as a key concern, with more than three quarters, or 76%, of clergy reporting that loneliness was a major or significant problem in their local communities, a rise of 18 percentage points on 2011.

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

(CT) Matthew Arbo reviews Matthew Kaemingk’s new book–A Wall of Security or a Table of Fellowship?

[Abraham] Kuyper’s brand of pluralism, however, is refreshingly Christocentric. Jesus Christ alone is the true and ultimate sovereign. His jurisdiction is all-encompassing. As Kuyper affirms, “Sin alone has necessitated the institution of government.” As such, governance is a delicate affair and should in principle remain limited, especially where religious communities are involved. (There are two exceptions: first, when one community intrudes upon another, and second, when a “weak one” within a community is vulnerable to exploitation.) In a truly pluralistic culture, government exists not to define and enforce a particular vision of ultimate truth but to protect and nurture vital social institutions that pursue their own, doubtless very different, moral and religious commitments. If they are rightly structured, according to Kaemingk, “institutions can equip Christians to go out into public life to embody a different way of living between Mecca and Amsterdam.” Or, as he puts it later, “to pursue moments of commonness, connection, and cooperation.” Kuyper’s theological vision offers a Christian politics of solidarity that prevails over a politics of suspicion.

The third and fourth parts of Kaemingk’s book are perhaps the strongest and most illuminating. If, as he argues, Christians embrace the Kuyperian vision of pluralism, then they should feel a corresponding obligation to show hospitality toward Muslim immigrants, perhaps even becoming vocal advocates and activists on their behalf. Kaemingk also emphasizes the importance of treating hospitality as “a way of life.” Hospitality involves ordinary people willing to do ordinary things faithfully. It describes how we live with others in the world as it is given.

Kaemingk gives several splendid examples of ordinary hospitality that, as they develop into consistent practice, make an extraordinary impact: Christian and Muslim women gathering weekly to sew together, universities welcoming instructors and students of diverse religious backgrounds, civil institutions fostering (rather than forcing) inter-religious dialogue, eating ethnic foods in minority neighborhoods, and extending free or subsidized medical care to underprivileged migrant communities. Hospitality involves more than speaking up for the oppressed or disenfranchised—it also requires humble, hopeful, persevering action for another’s flourishing. Through hospitality, Christians demonstrate that Muslims have a place to belong.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology