Category : * Religion News & Commentary

News and commentary from / about other (non-Anglican) Christian churches and denominations

(CEN) Foreign Office report ‘could cause threat to evangelicals’

Christian aid agency the Barnabas Fund haslodged a formal complaint against the Foreign Office over concerns that implementation of recommendations in a report may cause a ‘threat’ to evangelical churches.

The report, Opportunities and Challenges: the intersection of faith and human rights of LGBTI+ persons,’ was the result of a meeting convened by Wilton Park, an executive agency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in September 2016.

Barnabas Fund has claimed that the report ‘describes evangelical Christians in disparaging terms’.

The report, a result of a roundtable discussion between 64 people from 27 countries including faith communities,sought to focus on practical ways to promote greater understanding of, and tolerance for, sexual minorities in the context of faith and the inter-face between LGBTI rights defenders, religious leaders and LGBTI people of faith.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(WSJ) The Martyrdom of Jacques Hamel; After the murder, his archbishop asked God for help loving his enemies. It worked

Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, France, was attending the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Poland last July when the news came. One of his priests, 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, had been murdered by Islamic State-inspired terrorists while celebrating morning mass on July 26.

Archbishop Lebrun soon received an urgent request from François Hollande, then the French president. Fearful of civil unrest between the nation’s Christians and Muslims, Mr. Hollande requested the archbishop speak with him before making any public statements. “What will you say?” the president asked the archbishop. “I am going to pray and ask God to help me love my enemies,” he replied.

A few months later, Mr. Hollande admitted the prelate had stunned him: He actually seemed to believe what he was saying, and his tone of forgiveness and reconciliation was crucial after the attack. The following week Muslims throughout the country were encouraged by Islamic leaders to attend Mass as a show of solidarity with their Catholic neighbors.

The killing moved millions of people, including Pope Francis. In September the pope described Hamel as a martyr. He urged Catholics to ask for the intercession of the late priest so that he “gives us the courage to say the truth: to kill in the name of God is satanic….”

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, France, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Muslim same-sex marriage is thriving, says drag queen Asifa Lahore

There have been “countless” same-sex marriages between gay and lesbian Muslims, Britain’s first Muslim drag queen says.

According to Asifa Lahore, 34, the country has a “thriving” Muslim LGBT community.

Ms Lahore was brought up in west London by a devout Muslim family with a Pakistani background. She was born Asif Quraishi and married another gay man of Pakistani heritage in July 2014, months after same-sex marriages were permitted in March that year.

Ms Lahore appeared on Channel 4’s Muslim Drag Queens in 2015, billed as Britain’s first Muslim drag performer. She began the process of gender transition to become a woman this year.

She spoke to The Times about her same-sex wedding after Jahed Choudhury, 24, claimed last week that his wedding to Sean Rogan, 19, at a register office in Walsall last month was the first same-sex marriage in the UK involving a Muslim. “There are countless,” Ms Lahore said. “In the last three years I’ve been to dozens of gay Muslim, same-sex marriages. I attended one last Thursday, of two gay British Bangladeshi guys.

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

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, History, Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(WGBH) Boston Posters Produced to Fight Against abuse of Islamic citizens generates Discussion

The cartoon guide recommends that the bystander engage in non-confrontational behavior to diffuse a potentially unsafe situation for the person being harassed. It shows the bystander choosing to sit next to a woman in a hijab who initially appeared uncomfortable around a man leaning toward her on the bus.

The cartoon’s author, Maeril, encouraged onlookers to use the guide not only for diffusing Islamophobic harassment, but for any other type of harassment as well. Suzan El-Rayess, the civic engagement director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, agreed.

“We encourage all of our fellow Bostonians to apply the approach in these posters to anyone targeted — whether Muslim, Latino or otherwise,” El-Rayess told the AP.

Elise Whitney, 28, thought that the poster may have the opposite intended effect and attract more unwanted attention toward hijab wearers.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Growing Anglican parish buys 133-year-old Waco. Texas, Lutheran church

Father Lee Nelson, pastor of Christ Church Waco, said his growing church is looking forward to “putting down some roots” at the new location after meeting for the past eight years at the Junior League House, the Clifton House, the Dr Pepper Museum, the chapel at First Baptist Church and other locations.

Nelson said the church currently has more than 200 members, adding that the congregation has grown 70 percent annually for the last three years.

Christ Church likely will spend more than $200,000 on the former First Lutheran building before the congregation moves in, including asbestos abatement, major heating and air-conditioning repairs, new flooring, ceilings and light fixtures and painting, Nelson said.

He said the church is fortunate that included in the deal were the sanctuary’s beautiful stained-glass windows, which Bain said have been appraised at $500,000.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Lutheran, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

Neil Young–“Evangelical” Is Not a Political Term-a review of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald

As the wide swath of American evangelicalism becomes increasingly flattened into the Christian Right and its opponents, the vibrancy and vitality that marked the first half of The Evangelicals steadily lessens. FitzGerald devotes lengthy sections to events like Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and the 2008 Republican primaries, but such explorations highlight how much of the lived experience of modern evangelicalism is missing. Aside from Pentecostalism, evangelical worship receives scant attention yet it is significant how much the worship experience has changed for conservative Protestants over the last 50 years. Beginning with the Jesus People in the 1960s and soon spreading through the burgeoning nondenominational churches of the West Coast, contemporary Christian music (CCM) and a relaxed worship style has remade Sunday services for all evangelicals, from Southern Baptists to Anglicans. Mainline Protestants have often tut-tutted the informality of evangelical worship, but the casualization of conservative churches has helped strengthen evangelical identity in part by further underscoring the basic evangelical premise that the Christian faith is not some Sunday morning ritual but an entire way of being.

FitzGerald comments that Joel Hunter grew his Northland Church in Orlando from 200 members to 5,000 in a decade (and more than 10,000 today) “because of its worship services.” (Hunter, it should be noted, is on the national advisory board of the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, which publishes this journal.) His church’s stunning rate of growth is shared by hundreds of evangelical congregations around the country over the last thirty years, but FitzGerald dwells instead on Hunter’s un-conservative politics and his “challenge [of] the Christian right,” as if that is what has made him one of the most important names in contemporary evangelicalism.

At the close of her introduction to The Evangelicals, FitzGerald writes, “the Christian right no longer dominated evangelical discourse” by 2016. It’s a throwaway line, perhaps, but an entirely revealing one. The Christian Right—nor politics in general—has never dominated evangelical discourse. Imagining so betrays an inability (or unwillingness) to fully understand the complex and varied lives of American evangelicals and, importantly, what matters most to them. Even as an author of a recent history of the Christian Right, I would still stress how low nearly all evangelicals rank politics on their list of priorities. Instead, they pray for their children’s salvation and focus on their own spiritual development. They devote themselves to running their churches and participating in community Bible studies. They volunteer with local ministries and send spare dollars to relief work in Africa. They labor each day with the tension of being in this world but not of it. Evangelicals do all of this out of the desire not only to strengthen their personal faith but also with the hope that they might make some difference in their sphere of influence, however small it might be. For evangelicals, that is the real “struggle to shape America,” and it takes place far beyond the rare moments they find themselves in a voting booth in November.

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

(Globe+Mail) Quebec City Muslim community vows to continue fighting for rejected cemetery

In the aftermath of the bloody mosque shooting that took the lives of six Muslim men in Quebec City this year, Mohamed Kesri said he was struck by the outpouring of support and solidarity from fellow Quebeckers.

“The cards, the flowers, the visits to our mosque, the hugs. It was incredible,” he said. “We started to build closer relations. We felt encouraged about living side-by-side.”

On Monday, Mr. Kesri said he wondered where the spirit of kinship had gone, and how to repair it. A project to create a cemetery for Quebec City Muslims had been defeated by three votes in a referendum. Mr. Kesri, who spearheaded the project on behalf of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec, said he was disheartened but adamant about pursuing the fight.

“We will not give up,” he said on Monday. “It’s insane. Three votes. We speak for thousands of Muslims in Quebec City.”

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Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Economist) 2 documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife between the Rohingya and Buddhists

Though these films neatly complement each other, they are being received rather differently. “The Venerable W.” was shown with pomp at Cannes, while “Sittwe” was banned from the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. This year’s edition was dedicated to Miss Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, with censors deeming the movie “religiously and culturally inappropriate”. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, brands the decision as “ludicrous”. The ban, he explains, reveals the government’s authorities persistent bias against the Rohingya and the reluctance to present them as victims in any capacity. “The Rohingya have been put in a separate, untouchable category by the government, and any real discussion of their situation gets tarred with the same brush.”

“Sittwe” found an audience in Thailand instead. For Lia Sciortino Sumaryono, the director of Southeast Asia Junction, a non-profit organisation which hosted the screenings in Bangkok, the issue is relevant to the whole region. “Extremists movements are increasingly regionalised,” she says, pointing at the several contacts between extremist Buddhist networks in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and those of Islamist groups in the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The Venerable W.” and “Sittwe” offer some insight into a social and religious quagmire. Were the country open to talking meaningfully about relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the films could form part of the discussion. As it is not, acts of violence are likely to continue.

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Posted in Buddhism, History, Movies & Television, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(CH) The incredible story of the priest ordained amidst the horrors Dachau


Following on from my blog last Thursday on the book The Priest Barracks by Guillaume Zeller, it is worth recording one other extraordinary circumstance that took place in the concentration camp: the ordination of a young deacon, Karl Leisner. Born in 1915, he grew up in Kleve, and entered the Munich seminary in 1934. In 1939 he was ordained a deacon prior to ordination. Shortly afterwards, he was diagnosed with TB and was sent to a sanatorium. While there, he was reported by a fellow patient for making a brief remark critical of Hitler and was arrested and interned.

On 14 December 1941, he was moved to Dachau and assigned to the priests’ block. Under the harsh conditions of the camp his TB worsened and his hopes of being ordained a priest seemed unachievable. Then, as Providence would have it, Bishop Gabriel Piguet of Clermont-Ferrand arrived in Dachau as a fellow-prisoner on 6 September 1944 – and only a bishop is authorised to confer the sacrament of ordination. This was duly requested for Leisner by a Belgian priest, Fr de Coninck.

Bishop Piguet agreed, on condition that the ordination was authorised by the bishop with whom Leisner was affiliated and also that of the Archbishop of Munich, as Dachau was in his diocese. These authorisations were obtained clandestinely through the good offices of a young woman, Josefa Imma Mack (she was later to become a nun). She used to visit the plant shop at the edge of the compound at Dachau, where flowers and food grown by the prisoners was sold to the public, and where she was able to communicate with priest-prisoners assigned to work there.

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Posted in Church History, Germany, Roman Catholic

Al Mohler–The Agonizing Ordeal of Eugene Peterson — You Might Be Next

Consider these lessons from Eugene Peterson’s ordeal.

First, there is nowhere to hide. Every pastor, every Christian leader, every author — even every believer — will have to answer the question. The question cannot simply be about same-sex marriage. The question is about whether or not the believer is willing to declare and defend God’s revealed plan for human sexuality and gender as clearly revealed in the Bible.

Second, you had better have your answer ready. Evasive, wandering, and inconclusive answers will be seen for what they are. Those who have fled for security to the house of evasion must know that the structure has crumbled. It always does.

Third, if you will stand for the Bible’s clear teachings on sexuality and gender, you had better be ready to answer the same way over and over and over again. The question will come back again and again, in hopes that you have finally decided to “get on the right side of history.” Faithfulness requires consistency — that “long obedience in the same direction.”
That is what it means to be a disciple of Christ, as Eugene Peterson has now taught us. In more ways than one.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A 2016 First Things Article by Carl Trueman about Evangelicals and Trinitarian Doctrine

Many readers of this blog will be blissfully unaware of a storm that erupted recently among conservative Protestants over the doctrine of the Trinity. For those interested in the details, Christianity Today offers a good account of the issues here. As the dust now settles, it is clear that a number of influential evangelical theologians have for decades been advocating a view of the Trinity that radically subordinates the Son to the Father in eternity and often rejects the idea of eternal generation. They have used this revised doctrine of God to argue for the subordination of women to men in the present, in a manner that has at times had terrible pastoral consequences.

What this recent debate has revealed is that conservative Protestantism is fundamentally divided on the identity of God. Some conservative Protestants hold to the ecumenical doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Creed of 381; others wish to use Nicene rhetoric but actually hold positions that run counter to that Creed. Reactions to this revelation have varied—from serious and constructive engagement to bewilderment that anyone would regard a complicated doctrine like the Trinity as being of any importance. So what are the implications?

It seems clear now that the evangelical wing of conservative Protestantism has been built on a theological mirage. Typically, evangelicalism focuses on Biblicism and salvation as two of its major foundations and regards these as cutting across denominational boundaries, pointing to a deeper unity. But now it is obvious that, whatever agreement there might be on these issues, a more fundamental breach exists over the very identity of God.

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Posted in Evangelicals, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

(WSJ) Michael Ledeen–After 500 Years, an Italian Jewish Rebirth

Italian historians, archaeologists and anthropologists are hard at work to document the presence of Jews from ancient times into the early modern period. There is no lack of evidence, some of which dates back to the first century, following the Roman conquest of ancient Israel. Yet many museums are not aware of the considerable quantity of evidence they have in their archives and deposits. In recent years, Sicilian cities have begun to publish catalogs of this material, and I recently attended a public meeting in southeastern Sicily that featured professors and government officials intent on creating a tourist guide to Jewish Sicily, from Taormina to Siracusa and Noto.

It is hard to overstate the enthusiasm for the Jewish revival. Cooperative ventures between Italian and Israeli universities are under way. These efforts should produce new experts and new historical finds in the coming years. Such activities will be reinforced as other communities emulate the Catania model and new centers of Jewish life are created.

There is a lot of work to be done before the Italian Jewish revival is fully realized. Anti-Semites are particularly active in northern cities like Milan and Turin. The country is also a landing point for many Islamic immigrants, many of whom are openly anti-Semitic. Possible descendants of the old communities will want to formalize their faith by converting, and there is a shortage of rabbis qualified to do that. But in an era when European Jews are under siege, that’s not a bad problem to have.

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Posted in Italy, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Reuters) Egypt’s Coptic Christians to halt activities after security threat, sources say

Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians have been told by church leaders to cancel all events and activities outside churches in July because of a security threat, church and security sources said on Thursday.

The warning followed an attack in May by Islamic State on Copts traveling to a monastery in central Egypt that killed 29 people. A month earlier, 44 people were killed in bomb attacks at a cathedral and another church on Palm Sunday.

Sources said the warning was given to individual church leaders by a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. Copts on trips or youth camps had been told to cut short their activities and return home early.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(CT) Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-Sex Marriage

A day after a Religion News Service interview portrayed retired pastor and author Eugene Peterson as shifting to endorse same-sex marriage, the evangelical leader retracted his comment and upheld the traditional Christian stance instead.

“To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything,” he said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Peterson, best known for creating The Message Bible, also regrets the “confusion and bombast” in the fallout of his remarks, which were widely shared and commented on online yesterday.

Peterson stated:

Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.”
To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Nathan Söderblom

Almighty God, we bless thy Name for the life and work of Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala, who helped to inspire the modern liturgical revival and worked tirelessly for cooperation among Christians. Inspire us by his example, that we may ever strive for the renewal of thy Church in life and worship, for the glory of thy Name; who with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Spirituality/Prayer