Category : Other Churches

(AFP) A New bishop brings hope to some of Syria’s Christians

Syriac Orthodox Christians in Syria’s northeastern city of Hasakeh celebrated the inauguration of the community’s new bishop on Saturday, four years after the last one left the country.

Six years of conflict have ravaged Syria and displaced more than half of its population, including millions who have become refugees.

Christians in some parts of the country have been particularly targeted by the jihadists of the Islamic State group, who have torn down and desecrated churches and Christian icons.

In the Saint George Cathedral in Hasakeh city, worshippers said Archbishop Maurice Amseeh’s arrival was a sign that their community remained resilient despite the war.

Read it all.

Posted in Middle East, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Syria, Violence

(CEN) Prominent C of E evangelical group warns of possible split over same-sex Relations

A division of the Church of England would be required’ if the Church declares that ‘permanent, faithful same-sex relationships are a legitimate form of Christian discipleship’, warns the ‘realistic’ Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC).

A letter from CEEC President, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, its Chair, the Rev Hugh Palmer, Treasurer, the Rev George Curry and Secretary, Stephen Hofmeyr, warns that there are three options available for the Church of England, but that only one of them will ensure that evangelicals represented by the CEEC won’t leave.

They say that while they were encouraged that the House of Bishops sexuality report contained no proposal to change the Church of England’s doctrinal position on marriage, there have been ‘disappointing developments’. They pointed to the fact that ‘a small majority of the House of Clergy refused to “take note” of the report and so, although the majority of General Synod members wished to do so, it was not taken note of by Synod’.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AM) Andrew Symes–Have C of E evangelical leaders suggested that a Rubicon has been crossed?

All this indicates that a growing number of senior evangelicals are prepared to publicly draw a line in the sand over sexual ethics. Having said this, there are a number of areas which perhaps will require further work over the next few months.

Firstly, as was noted at the time, by Bishop Michael Nazir-AliGafcon UK and myself,  among many evangelicals there was relief that the Bishops’ report on sexuality GS2055 did not suggest any change in teaching or practice, but an overlooking of the report’s underlying theology which appeared to have lost confidence in authoritative Scripture providing a clear guide. CEEC will need to make sure that, for example, in seeking to provide resources teaching biblical orthodoxy on marriage, gender, sexuality etc, it grounds this in a robust re-statement for a new generation of the trustworthiness and authority of the bible by which we know the will of God. As many expressions of Christian faith become more grounded in experience, and the clear witness of Scripture is rejected, other key tenets of orthodox Christianity will also be under the spotlight, for example the sinfulness of humanity and the uniqueness of Christ.

Secondly, CEEC will need to set out clearly and in much more detail some of the options for ‘visible differentiation’, including cost and benefit. Writing a private letter to the Bishop, not taking communion with a liberal colleague who carries out same sex blessings or multi faith services, or even not turning up to Diocesan events, might be a start which costs little, but what might it achieve in the way of halting revisionism or strengthening orthodoxy? Some acts of protest such as withholding of parish share or asking for orthodox Bishops to conduct confirmations are easier for some large churches than smaller ones, and there needs to be clarity on what the goal of such actions might be. Those advocating a differentiated structure within the C of E, such as a Society or a Third Province, need to begin to make clear the pros and cons. Likewise leaving the C of E altogether, for example for Free Church of England, AMiE or some new Gafcon-aligned movement, would be much more costly for full time clergy than for laity or SSM’s: what advantages would result?

Lastly, as the CEEC letter ends with an admission of the difficulty of reading ‘the signs of the times’, it would have been good for the letter to have included some recognition that the assault on apostolic Christian orthodoxy in the Church of England is not just an in-house matter, but is a direct result of changes in Western culture, notably the carefully-orchestrated promotion and acceptance of anti-Christian philosophies on what it means to be human. Evangelical churches should not think that by maintaining biblical teaching and separating themselves from liberal Anglicans, they will be protected from paying any price in the face of these ideologies, which need to be named, understood and resisted with the weapons of spiritual warfare as well as preaching, writing and the establishment of new ecclesial models.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals

Economist Erasmus Blog on a little noticed case involving a prisoner gardener, religion and the law

The case concerns Barry Trayhorn, a man who was employed as gardener in an English prison, HMP Littlehey…, with 1,200 inmates, including sex offenders and young offenders. Although it wasn’t his job to do so, he liked to preach in the prison chapel, sometimes rather spontaneously. In another part of his life he is a Pentecostal minister.

In May 2014, for example, he read aloud a passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which lists the wrongdoers who will be denied entry to the kingdom of God, including idol-worshippers, adulterers, and people described as arsenokoitai. (Scholars dispute the word’s exact meaning: it could refer to boy-prostitutes, to child-abusers, to practitioners of anal intercourse regardless of gender, or else generically to any sexual activity between men.) The claimant was of the latter persuasion and according to several people present, delivered this view rather stridently. The prison’s full-time chaplains agreed that he should have presented the passage more gently and “contextually”. Several prisoners complained, and disciplinary action against the zealous gardener was started; this prompted him to take sick leave and eventually quit the job.

In a ruling on August 1st, the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed his contention that he had been unfairly treated because of his religious views. It found that a lower court had been completely correct in reaching a similar conclusion.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Pentecostal, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(ERoB) Joseph Johnson reviews Peter Kreeft’s new book “Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other?”

For me, Kreeft is most moving when talking about the need for Catholics and Protestants to clear away the pernicious stereotypes and caricatures that have built up over the centuries. In order to move towards reunion, he rightly urges us to really listen to each other with more depth, patience, and humility (72). When this happens, we can discover deeper levels of mutual understanding and better remember that, despite the differences, we still ultimately belong to the same Body of Christ. We may even find echoes of perspectives that we hold dear in unexpected places. Now of course, it’s true that merely listening to each other better (as necessary as that is) won’t automatically dissolve the theological issues that continue to divide Catholics and Protestants. But, Kreeft dares to hope that as we better understand one another, and seek together to follow Christ more closely, we may be surprised to find eventual healing for these areas of division (80). As evidence of this, he points to the joint Catholic-Lutheran Decree on Justification, which Kreeft is convinced shows that, “The single greatest obstacle to reunion, by far the most important religious difference between Protestants and Catholics, has essentially been overcome” (17).

The latter part of the book contains a number of longer chapters exploring some of the central issues that stand in the way of reunion, including Catholic doctrines about Mary, the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, and matters of ecclesiology. In these chapters, as in the earlier parts of the book, Kreeft’s style is personal and aimed at making the subject matter understandable for the non-specialists among us. I’ll admit that I wasn’t persuaded by all of his arguments, but I incline to think that that isn’t especially the point. If a necessary step towards ecumenical reunion is better understanding each other, then Protestants like me must value our Catholic friends enough to spend time honestly letting them explain how the issues look from their point of view, with the presuppositions they bring to the table. I think that is one of the best ways to get past simplistic misunderstandings about how the “other side” practices their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(TGC) Tim Keller–Race, the Gospel, and the Moment

Twentieth-century fascist movements that made absolute values out of “Blut und Boden” (“Blood and Soil”)­—putting one race and one nation’s good above the good of all—also claimed to champion traditional family values and moral virtues over against the decadence of relativistic modern culture. Even though they were no friends of orthodox Christianity (see Adolf Hitler’s heretical “Positive Christianity” movement), they could and can still appeal to people within our own circles. Internet outreach from white nationalist organizations can radicalize people who are disaffected by moral decline in society. So it is absolutely crucial to speak up out about the biblical teaching on racism—not just now, but routinely. We need to make those in our circles impervious to this toxic teaching.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Roman Catholics are now largest faith group among inmates in England and Wales

Anglicanism has been toppled as the biggest religious denomination among prisoners in England and Wales for the first time.

Roman Catholics are the largest group of believers behind bars after years of steady decline in the number of Anglicans, official figures show. There are also only 1,500 fewer Muslim prisoners than Anglicans after their number rose more than sixfold since 1993.

The figures point to a huge change in the make-up of the jail population, which calls into question the historical role of the Church of England in the prison service.

Read it all and Christian Today also has an article there.

Posted in England / UK, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Let Christian chastity be our guide, not the world, Scottish R Catholic Bishop says

A chaste life and closeness to Christ is the vocation of every Christian, Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell has said in response to questions about ministry to people with same-sex attraction.

“Our saints are our models in this journey of faith and life, and it is good to be led by the example of their commitment to fulfilling God’s will rather than our own particular desires,” Bishop Toal said July 26. “As Catholics we pray always for the wisdom to make wise choices and to be guided by Christ rather than the world around us.”

He cited recent questions about possible approaches to pastoral care to people who experience same-sex attraction, noting that the apostolate of Courage has been recommended to him. This ministry “encourages those who live with same-sex attraction to live a chaste life – which is also expected of all heterosexual Catholics who are not married – supported by the sacramental and prayer life of the Church.”

“Many scoff at this option as unrealistic in today’s societies in which intimate same-sex relationships are condoned and have been afforded the status of marriage in some countries, but that is the way of life proposed in the Church’s tradition and the Church invites her children to abide by it,” he continued.

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

David Frost–The Influence of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer on the Orthodox: Opening a Can of Worms?

You will recognize it, though my quotation is in fact from an internet version of that Orthodox ‘Western Rite’, The Liturgy of Saint Tikhon. The passage appears in THE COMMUNION DEVOTIONS as a congregational response to the priest’s invitation to ‘draw near with faith, and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.’

R. Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men; we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which wefrom time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed,against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A side of me still thrills to that. Brought up in a guilt-culture, I still want to binge on selfabasement,followed by the ‘high’ of unmerited, almost magical release. But long before Ibecame Orthodox, I began to have doubts, especially in an Anglican parish thatencouraged frequent communion. How could the sacrifice of Christ be failing to createthat serving and pleasing of God in ‘newness of life’ for which I pleaded each Sunday?Why did I have to come back week after week, making the same old complaints of badmemories and intolerable burdens? When would I, ‘reflecting as in a mirror the glory ofthe Lord’, be ‘transformed’ (as St Paul said happened to all Christians) ‘into the same image from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3: 18 in the Revised Version)?

Returning to my difficulties in reciting the ‘Jesus Prayer’, I realized that phrases in it –‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ – had unconsciously triggeredthat image of the wrathful monarch and his princeling son, whose royal dignity andhonour I had offended since childhood, ‘provoking most justly’ their ‘wrath andindignation against me’. Immediately, as from behind a cloud, the Lordship of Christ revealed itself simply as leadership: of the leader I loved and whose commands I sought to obey because I loved him. Any plea for his ‘mercy’ became an asking for the immeasurable benefits of his grace and for his sympathetic understanding of my shortcomings, together with my acceptance of his generous offer of transformation and new life. And as for the last phrase about ‘me, a sinner’, that was just an obvious statement of fact. I’ve been able to use the prayer ever since.

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Anthropology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Orthodox Church, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

(National Affairs) Alan Jacobs–When Character No Longer Counts

These leaders have replaced a rhetoric of persuasion with a rhetoric of pure authority — very like the authority that Trump claims for himself. (“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”) Consequently, their whole house of cards may well collapse if the Trump presidency is anything other than a glorious success, and will leave those who have accepted that rhetoric bereft of explanations as well as arguments. Presumably the most fervent supporters of Trump will argue (as Trump himself will argue) that his failures have occurred because others have betrayed him, have rejected the man that God raised up to rescue America, but this will require the replacement of the Cyrus analogy with another one yet to be determined. We can only hope that no one compares a failed Trump to an American Jesus betrayed by American Judases.

If all this sounds like a strange fantasyland of narrative, an imaginative world of what members of the Trump administration have taken to calling “alternative facts,” that’s because it is just that. The larger, and longer-term, effect of accounts like this is to encourage Christians to abandon the world of shared evidence, shared convictions, and shared possibilities, and such abandonment is very bad news for Christians and for America.

What is required of serious religious believers in a pluralistic society is the ability to code-switch: never to forget or neglect their own native religious tongue, but also never to forget that they live in a society of people for whom that language is gibberish. To speak only in the language of pragmatism is to bring nothing distinctive to the table; to speak only a private language of revelation and self-proclaimed authority is to leave the table altogether. For their own good, but also for the common good, religious believers need to be always bilingually present.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Tablet) The Australian R Catholic Church opposes Victoria euthanasia legislation

Archbishop Hart commended efforts to strengthen and better resource Palliative Care but said that was a minimum necessity.

“While the report recommends what it calls safeguards, the truth is that these safeguards are never going to be enough and that there are no flawless medical procedures,” he said. “All procedures and interventions can have complications. I have watched supporters of this proposal and they are going out of their way to convince us that assisted suicide is acceptable, seeking to lessen our human, moral and natural distress because of suicide.

“It seems that on the one hand we are seeking to lessen suicide in our society – an admirable aim – but here we have this report looking to normalise it. When viewed from the perspective of the whole Victorian community these two objectives cannot be reconciled.”

The archbishop said the legislation would impose extraordinary and unreasonable responsibilities on medical professionals, who would be called upon to determine which patients were eligible and how the safeguards were to be applied. This then became a matter for decisions by medical practitioners and not the patients for whom they were required to care.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(CT) Haddon Robinson RIP, Champion of Biblical Preaching

In his books, classes, and radio instruction, Robinson taught that sermons should be guided by the biblical text and focus on one idea or theme.

Christianity Today featured Robinson—formerly the senior editor of a fellow CT site, PreachingToday.com—in a 2002 article on the neglected craft of expository preaching:

Robinson has been teaching students about expository preaching for decades. His classic (and recently updated) tome Biblical Preaching, which is used in more than 150 seminaries and Bible colleges, has become the go-to text for aspiring expositors.

“The number of preachers who really begin with the text and let it govern the sermon is relatively small,” laments Robinson. “Today, the danger is that some preachers will read the latest psychology book into the text. They’re not driven by a great theology but, instead, by the social sciences.”

In addition to Biblical Preaching, Robinson wrote more than a dozen books on the topic and regularly taught through radio ministries Discover the Word and Our Daily Bread. He warned preachers about veering into heresy with biblical application; distracting the congregation with sermon illustrations; or ostracizing parts of the audience with tone.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics

(America) Drew Christiansen: Catholic-evangelical relations are richer than the conspiracies Civilta Cattolica described

In a recent editorial, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism,” Civilta Cattolica identified cooperation between Protestant fundamentalists and conservative American Catholics as “a problematic fusion between religion and state, faith and politics, religious values and economy.” Civilta particularly attacked the Prosperity Gospel as a stream of popular theology opposed to Catholic social teaching as advanced by Pope Francis.

Catholic-evangelical relations in the United States, however, are richer and more nuanced than the fearsome conspiracies Civilta described. Take, for example, the Evangelical Environmental Network.

EEN is a nimble coalition of some 700 congregations. Whatever the issue, it has been quick out of the blocks with arresting public relations campaigns. Were gas-guzzling autos a threat to clean air? EEN offered America “WWJD,” the “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign. Were animal species threatened with extinction? Then an EEN spokesman would appear on late-night TV a wildcat draped across his shoulders.

Read it all and make sure to read the piece he is responding.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic

(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.

Read it all (may require subscription).

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….”

Read it all.

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