Category : * Religion News & Commentary

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

(NYT Saturday Profile) Bashir Mohammad–The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus

When 22 Christian refugees gathered in the basement of an apartment in Istanbul early on a recent Sunday afternoon, it was quickly clear that this was no ordinary prayer meeting. Several of them had Islamic names. There was an Abdelrahman and even a couple of Mohammads. Strangest of all, they jokingly referred to their host — one of the two Mohammads — as an irhabi. A terrorist.

If Bashir Mohammad took the joke well, it was because there was once some truth to it. Today, Mr. Mohammad, 25, has a cross on his wall and invites other recent converts to weekly Bible readings in his purple-walled living room. Less than four years ago, however, he says he fought on the front lines of the Syrian civil war for the Nusra Front, an offshoot of Al Qaeda. He is, he says, a jihadi who turned to Jesus.

It is a transition that has surprised everyone, not least of all himself. Four years ago, Mr. Mohammad tells me, “Frankly I would have slaughtered anyone who suggested it.” Not only have his beliefs changed, but his temperament has, too. Today, his wife, Hevin Rashid, confirms, with a hint of understatement, that he is “much better to be around.”

Read it all.

Posted in Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Terrorism

Charles Henry Brent for his Feast Day–his 1925 Sermon “the Authority of Christ”

(This sermon was preached at the consecration of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island–KSH

Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I com­manded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:18-20.

I wish I could hear these words for the first time. Familiar as they are, they thrill me with their exult­ant strength whenever I read them anew. They open up new vistas of hope and happiness, of greatness and immortality, of a world exalted, completed, uni­fied, made Christian wholly and irrevocably. They set their own seal upon their authenticity. Under their spell we move out into life with the joyous sting of certainty goading us on to renewed effort to do the great bidding of winning the nations of the earth to Him.

How hedged in with finality that bidding is! Before the commission comes the charter under which it is issued. He who bids us to the new creative act of making disciples has been given authority over and possession of all things in heaven and on earth.

We are familiar with authority in piecemeal fashion—authority over a nation, an institution, a department. But this is authority over all things seen or unseen. It is the unifying authority for which human life had been waiting. It is final and exercised by Man over man. There is no separation of the religious from the secular in His jurisdiction. It includes in one vast sweep the whole universe—nations and all their contents, the realm of thought ramifying into ten thousand specialisms, the domain of activity running into a myriad vocations, fast slipping time past, present and future, the tiny sphere of the known and the endless stretches of the un­known from Alpha to Omega, from the beginning to the end.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Bishops

Charles Henry Brent for his Feast Day–Time Magazine’s Cover Story on him, August 29, 1927

In the past few weeks, the Christians of the world have been holding their first major conference in some 500 years for the specific purpose of seeing what can be done about unifying Christianity as the sum of its world-wide parts.

Preparation. Today the parts (denominations) number 200-odd, all of them organized as distinct entities. The practical necessity of relating so many parts, of discovering identity among so many entities, was established by the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. The logical necessity was established later the same year, at a convention of the Episcopal Church in Cincinnati. The man who then proposed a world conference on Faith & Order lived to see such a conference actually held, after 17 years of preparation, and to preside over it as chairman, at Lausanne, Switzerland, the past three weeks.

Chairman Brent. This man was Bishop Charles Henry Brent of the Episcopal diocese of Western New York. Canadian-born and educated, naturalized in the U. S., an obscure worker in the awkward robes of the Cowley Fathers among the poor of Boston, later (under Bishop Phillips Brooks) an Episcopal rector who was made a missionary bishop and sent to the Philippines because of his earnest simplicity, rugged strength and adaptability among people of other races, it was Bishop Brent who confirmed General Pershing in the Philippines and subsequently became Chaplain-in-Chief of the A. E. F.

First in war, first in peace, Bishop Brent had had experience in handling international conferences, as president of opium parleys at Shanghai (1909) and The Hague (1911). He declined the bishoprics of Washington, D. C., and New Jersey, to preserve for his world ministry the freedom of action he enjoys at Buffalo, N. Y. When his world ministry reached its peak this month, he was not content merely to preside over the hundreds of churchmen he had brought together, but went with them into their councils; explained, directed, adjusted and dictated daily despatches on their progress to the New York Herald Tribune.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Missions, TEC Bishops

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

(WSJ) Case Thorp–A Seminary Snubs a Presbyterian Pastor

Today’s identity theology merely replaces northern European, male, cisgendered theology with another set of adjectives seeking to exercise power over others in the name of justice. But this is a false justice, because it lacks the divine righteousness that gives meaning to all lesser forms of justice. Call it retribution theology, a form of tribalism at its worst.

Christians need a theology that prophetically denounces sexism, homophobia and racism—in the past and in the present—without the divisiveness inherent to identity theology. This sort of inclusive theology is central to Mr. Keller’s preaching and ministry, which is done in one of the most diverse places in the world, New York City. Theologians like Mr. Keller focus on God, scripture, loving others, and missionary work. They’re not very concerned about their own navels.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” Martin Luther King said in 1964. Is Mr. Keller not our brother? I am sad that my alma mater chose to undermine King’s vision and succumb to the demands of identity theology. When Mr. Keller stands before the seminary community next month, he will not deliver an acceptance lecture for the Kuyper Prize. Instead, he’ll demonstrate grace and magnanimity, for Mr. Keller’s unity with his detractors will truly be in Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality

(CT) The deadliest incident faced by the persecuted church last Christmas wasn’t radical Islamists. It was alcohol.

The deadliest incident faced by the persecuted church last Christmas wasn’t radical Islamists. It was alcohol.

Liquor mixed with aftershave killed about 50 people at Christmas parties in a Pakistani village, and sickened about 100 more.

In Pakistan, as in many Muslim-majority nations where Shari‘ah law forbids drinking, alcohol is closely identified with Christianity. The nation’s primary alcohol producer, for example, riffs on the Bible in advertisements. Founded in 1860 by the British, Murree Brewery’s slogan, “Eat, drink, and be Murree,” echoes the repeated biblical idiom for short-term pleasures.

Perhaps as surprising as the existence of a Pakistani brewery is the fact that 12 Muslims were among the victims of the fatal Christmas parties.

Read it all.

Posted in Alcohol/Drinking, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pakistan, Race/Race Relations

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

(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

For Thomas Cranmer’s Feast Day: Ashley Null–Thomas Cranmer and Tudor Evangelicalism

If More’s self-fashioned persona was as a Renaissance worthy with easy wit and worldly wisdom in equal measure, Cranmer’s model, as befitting a spiritual rather than temporal magnate, was public monastic self-mortification. According to Ralph Morice, his principal secretary,

he was a man of such temperature of nature, or rather so mortified, that no manner of prosperity or adversity could alter or change his accustomed conditions: for, being the storms never so terrible or odious, nor the prosperous estate of the time never so pleasant, joyous, or acceptable, tothe face of [the] world his countenance, diet, or sleep commonly never altered or changed, so that they which were most nearest and conversant about him never or seldom perceived by no sign or token of countenance how the affairs of the prince or the realm went. Notwithstanding privately with his secret and special friends he would shed forth many bitter tears,lamenting the miseries and calamities of the world.

Alexander Alesius, one of Cranmer’s ‘secret and special friends,’confided to Elizabeth I that those tears were shed on at least two occasions by severe setbacks for his Gospel of justification by faith, namely, the death of Anne Boleyn and the Act of Six Articles. While More hid the intense traditional piety of his mortifying hairshirt under the fine robes of his high worldly status, Cranmer wore mortification on his face to hide his hopes and fears for the new piety that had captured his heart.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals

(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

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

(NPR) With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights

The group goes by the name La Asociación Latino Musulmana de América and supports a growing number of Hispanic converts to Islam in Southern California. This gathering reflects the merging of cultures in a part of the country where neighbors are often from different parts of the world.

Like many Latinas, Guadalupe Fernandez grew up Catholic. Then around a decade ago, she moved from Mexico to the U.S. and met a guy in English class.

“In the beginning, we were just friends because I was afraid of the fact that he was Muslim,” she says, as translated from Spanish.

But the pair began to date and Fernandez became more interested in her partner Hamada Abdallah’s religion. Eventually, she converted.

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks on Rod Dreher’s new Book–The Benedict Option

Rod is pretty conservative. “There can be no peace between Christianity and the sexual revolution, because they are radically opposed,” he writes.

Specifically, “L.G.B.T. activism is the tip of the spear at our throats in the culture war. The struggle over gay rights is what is threatening religious liberty, putting Christian merchants out of business, threatening the tax-exempt status and accreditation of Christian schools and colleges.”

Rod shares the fears that are now common in Orthodox Christian circles, that because of their views on L.G.B.T. issues, Orthodox Christians and Jews will soon be banned from many professions and corporations. “Blacklisting will be real,” he says. We are entering a new Dark Age. “There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization….”

Maybe if I shared Rod’s views on L.G.B.T. issues, I would see the level of threat and darkness he does. But I don’t see it. Over the course of history, American culture has tolerated slavery, sexual brutalism and the genocide of the Native Americans, and now we’re supposed to see 2017 as the year the Dark Ages descended?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Evangelicals, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NR) David French–The Baptist Battle over Russell Moore Really Matters—Here’s Why

Did Trump’s zealous supporters “embrace and act” on this conviction in 2016? It’s clear that Moore most certainly did. If the Baptists do fire Moore (or force his resignation), I hope they also have the integrity to revoke and rewrite their 1998 resolution. Insisting on “consistent honesty, moral purity, and the highest character” will be left to the primaries, at best. After that, it’s all partisanship, and the “lesser of two evils” will be the only moral guide that matters.

Baptists should consider carefully the consequences of their decisions. Some might say that it’s “just about politics,” and one shouldn’t judge the nation’s largest Protestant denomination on the basis of how it handles what some dismissively call its “lobbying arm.” But for the church, every part of its operation is measured against the standard of Christ, not realpolitik or populism.

Moore may have offended with his rhetoric (some of it was harsh, but some Christians are snowflakes). Was he wrong, though, to argue that the church fundamentally should have a more prophetic than partisan role in our culture? How much is God calling Christians to compromise other values for the sake of perceived progress on life and religious liberty? Should the church defend the liberties of others that it would like to exercise itself? Was Moore wrong to cling to the principles outlined in the church’s own resolutions

These are the questions at issue not just for Southern Baptists but for all Christians. Moore’s fate matters because these questions matter. The church is not a partisan interest group. Moore understands this reality. Do his critics?

Read it all.

Posted in Baptists, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture