Category : * International News & Commentary

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

Mark Woods–Pray for Westminster: the injured, the bereaved and the traumatised

We always knew, if we had any sense, that this was coming. Outrages in France, Belgium and Germany last year were uncomfortably close to home, though at least they were on the other side of the Channel. But Britain has always been just as much of a target for terror, and it’s only the skill of our intelligence services that has kept us safe so far.

Now that illusion of invulnerability, if it existed, has been shattered. We do not know for certain at the moment who’s behind this horror. But that it’s some kind of terror attack at the heart of our democracy appears certain.

It’s very tempting, when such things happen, to look immediately at the big picture. This is Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments. It has a huge symbolic value. Whoever did this could hardly have struck at a more significant target.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

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

(Guardian) Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter 86, RIP

Author Lee Child described Dexter as “revolutionary”. “He wrote a character without any concessions at all to likely popularity – Morse was bad tempered, cantankerous, esoteric and abstruse – and thereby showed us that integrity and authenticity work best,” Child said. “His literary descendants are everywhere. When our genre’s family tree is drawn, he’s the root of a huge portion of it.”

Author Peter James said “all of us who love crime fiction owe Colin Dexter a very great debt”.

“There are few writers of whom it can be genuinely said that they changed – or indeed created – a genre. But Colin Dexter did. Morse was unique, both in the pages of the novels and in the subsequent television adaptations,” James said. “In many ways he mirrored characteristics of Sherlock Holmes, with his fierce brain and quiet nature, and. like Holmes, he came off the page and stepped out of our screens to become a living person, someone any of us could imagine meeting for a drink in a pub.”

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Posted in Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK

(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.

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

(Coloradoan) A hidden horror: Heroin deaths rise fourfold in Colorado since 2002

Rebecca Waechter doesn’t need to listen to people talk about heroin and prescription opioid addiction to understand its far-reaching effects. She need only remember the night she almost died of an overdose in a friend’s Fort Collins bathroom.

Nine years after that near-death experience, the 35-year-old Loveland resident remains painfully acquainted with addiction’s deadly toll. As she sifts through a small binder stuffed with wrinkled letters and old photos of friends and lovers alike, she utters a phrase no amount of practice makes easier: “no longer with us.”

She’s lost track of the toll, though she estimates losing more than a dozen friends and loved ones to the deadly grip of opioid addiction.

“It’s terrifying to me,” Waechter said, her voice tinged with frustration over the ignorance in places like Fort Collins of the prevalence of opioid and narcotic abuse. “It is next door. It’s everywhere. It’s here.

“You don’t need to travel anywhere to get it. It is everywhere. And it’s cheap and just readily accessible. And people aren’t aware.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(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.

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

(ACNS) Sudan is announced as a new Province within the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion has announced that Sudan will, in a few months from now, become a separate Province is its own right. Currently, Sudan is an internal province within the Anglican Church of South Sudan and Sudan.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, described it as a “welcome development” that will help connect Christians there with Anglicans in the worldwide Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will travel to Sudan for the inauguration of the new Province on July 30th.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, Sudan

Boko Haram’s Leader Abubakar Shekau reappears, criticises alleged Cameroon ‘lies’

Boko Haram’s elusive leader has made his first appearance in months, claiming responsibility for a spate of suicide bombings and rejecting claims scores of his fighters have been killed.

Abubakar Shekau spoke for nearly 20 minutes of a 27-minute video obtained by AFP on Friday, in a trademark pose in front of a sub-machine gun, flanked by two masked militant fighters.
Speaking in the local languages Hausa and Kanuri, as well as Arabic, Shekau said the recording was made on Thursday and that he was “in good health”, contrary to claims he may be injured.

Read it all.

Posted in Cameroon, Nigeria, Terrorism

Edith Humphrey–St. Patrick, Natural Icons and the Sacramental Creation

To Patrick’s sanctified eyes, the natural world, however, was not just a source of worry, or lurking danger, but an icon of the Almighty—from the “old eternal rocks” to the fragile shamrock that blooms copiously on the Irish hillside, but only for a day or two. His were the same eyes of a St. Basil, whose prayer during the Anaphora asks God to show the bread and wine to be the body and blood of our Lord. His were the same kind of eyes as Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who speaks about the created things that God has made as having both an iconic function, for to opened eyes, God can be revealed in what he has made, and as actually sharing in the wonder of God:

[There is] a sacramental character of the world and of man’s place in the world. The term ‘sacramental’ means here that …the world …is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence and power…We need water and bread and wine in order to be in communion with God…By being restored through the blessing to its proper function, “holy water” is revealed as the true, full, adequate water, and matter becomes again means of communion with and knowledge of God.”

Schmemann insists that when bread, wine, oil and water are blessed, they are released to do what they always were intended to do—lead us to God.
St. Patrick saw this, too. Even the wild things of the created order are meant, by their nature, to give glory to God, and to show this glory to humankind: star-lit sky, the light of the sun, the lightening, the waves.

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History

(WSJ) Nathan Diament–What Neil Gorsuch Sees That Antonin Scalia Didn’t

What comes through in these opinions is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: The law is meant to be a bulwark against the infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs.

Accommodations for religious observance are welcome from the legislative or executive branches, but the Framers put freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights to guarantee it. The First Amendment applies to people of all faiths, and shouldn’t depend on political power. What is required is enforcement by jurists sensitive to the needs of religious minorities.

Whether Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But his record suggests that those who care about religious liberty may want to pray that he gets the chance to rule on it.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Economist Erasmus Blog) European Court of Justice rules Employers may sometimes ban staff from wearing headscarves

The ECJ judges were looking into the cases of a Belgian woman who was fired from her job as a receptionist at a security company after she started wearing a headscarf, and of a French IT consultant who was told to remove her scarf after a client complained, and then dismissed when she declined.

In both cases, the ECJ suggested that national courts needed to investigate further to establish whether the women had been discriminated against. In the Belgian case, the court recommended working out if there might have been a simpler solution such as transferring the employee to a role where she was not in contact with the public. Regarding the French consultant, it considered it necessary to establish whether the disciplinary action was purely a response to the client’s whim (which appeared to be the case and would be insufficient grounds for a dismissal) or a legitimate consequence of a broader policy. Taken as a whole, today’s decision upheld the right of employers to enforce ideological neutrality in the workplace as long as it was done fairly and consistently.

This marks a contrast with the thinking of America’s Supreme Court, which in 2015 vindicated a Muslim woman who had been turned down for a job by the clothing chain Abercrombie and Fitch on the grounds that her headscarf was out of step with the look the company was promoting. Since 1964, American civil-rights legislation has told employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” of their workers’ religious needs, unless it would be unbearably burdensome to do so. Today’s decision also reflected a more secularist spirit than did one by the European Court of Human Rights in 2013, which upheld the right of a Christian woman to wear a discreet cross with her British Airways uniform.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(AP) Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers

Pakistan said Thursday it has asked Facebook and Twitter to help it identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so that it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy has approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

Read it all. Also, WWM has a look at Pakistan’s blasphemy laws there.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture