Category : Presbyterian

Sunday Morning Food for Thought–Who are We anyway

What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more

–Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Scotland, Spirituality/Prayer

(TGC) Alastair Roberts–Lessons from the Collapse of American Protestantism

Up through the 1960s, members and institutions of the Protestant mainline dominated American public life. To be sure, this dominance was not without serious issues””most notably, the exclusion of “Catholics, Jews, blacks, and atheists from nearly every position of influence in American life.” The significant demographic changes brought about by post-war immigration did nothing but exacerbate this problem.

Through these developments, influential mainline thinkers such as Harvey Cox and Paul Tillich responded by abandoning Christian particularism. Gleason writes:

They focused on the church’s social obligations, which they emphasized at the expense of the exclusivity and particularity of traditional doctrinal claims. In one famous formulation, Tillich argued that Christianity was just one of many ways to touch “the ground of being.” Symbols, religious and otherwise, all inadequately represented their ineffable subjects, but they also pointed beyond themselves to this ground of being, which Tillich called God. If Tillich was right, then mainline Protestants had no reason to distrust people of other faiths. Perhaps their beliefs were not so different after all.

This liberal thought was disseminated to millions of congregants by mainline Protestant clergy. They taught the values of “individualism, tolerance, pluralism, and emancipation from tradition”””and, in so doing, played a pivotal role in creating the culture in which we now live.

By virtue of their very “success,” however, mainline churches became a “vanishing mediator.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology, United Church of Christ

A 24/7 Webchat For the Spiritually Searching: Church Of Scotland Looks To Reverse Decline

The Church of Scotland is to launch a webchat service to help those looking for spiritual guidance but unwilling to come to church on a Sunday.

The initiative will go live in the new year and is the Kirk’s latest effort to reach beyond its traditional audience as figures show a continued trend away from organised religion.

The digital congregation will be able to book an online chat with a minister but may have to wait up to three hours for a reply. A separate 24-hour chatline to discuss religious questions has also been set up.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Scotland

(Scotsman) Chaplain creates blessing for each hole at Royal Dornoch

Golfers at one of the world’s most prestigious courses are being given spiritual advice by a Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen.

[The] Rev Susan Brown, who also wed Madonna and Guy Ritchie, has written thought provoking reflections for each of the 18 Championship Course holes at Royal Dornoch Golf Club in the Highlands to help inspire players and “exercise the body, mind and spirit”. The 57-year-old walked the course at different times of the day to capture the unique feel of the stunning landscape to create the so-called “Holy Round” as part of celebrations to mark 400 years of golf in the area.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Sports

(NYT Magazine) Saul Austerlitz–How the Berenstain Bears Found Salvation

Mike Berenstain became a designer at Random House and then a children’s-book writer and illustrator for about 10 years before being called in by his overworked parents to help out with the family business in the mid-1980s. Stan died in 2005, and after that, Mike was left in charge of the writing; his mother continued to co-illustrate the stories along with Mike until she died in 2012. Mike took over as sole author and illustrator, and the books began to reflect more of his own personality, even as he served as the faithful executor of his parents’ vision. This led to a disconnect between his family’s stolid, universalist postwar morality and his own.

Stan Berenstain had been born to a secular Jewish family in West Philadelphia, and Jan Berenstain, née Grant, was Episcopalian by birth. Mike and his brother were not raised in any particular religious faith. “They taught me morals and traditions and ethics, but not a particular spiritual identity,” he says. Mike didn’t find religion until he enrolled his children at Quaker schools near his suburban Philadelphia home, which led him to the Presbyterian Church and a mature religious faith of his own.

In 2006, Mike Berenstain, with the agreement of his mother, approached HarperCollins with an idea for a new book series. They had noticed an unusual volume of letters and emails from devoted Christian readers, writing to share their appreciation for the timeless values of the Berenstain Bears books. A light went off: How about an entire series for religious readers?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Children, History, Judaism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology

In landslide, First Presbyterian Bethlehem Pennsylvania members vote to break from national church

Members of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted overwhelmingly…[recently] to break from their national denomination, underscoring a schism that has developed over Presbyterian Church (USA)’s embrace of same-sex marriage and the ordination of [non-celibate] gay ministers.

Out of 1,048 votes, 802 members supported bolting to the more conservative Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a super-majority of 76.5 percent that church leaders say made clear the congregation’s wishes.

“We’re ready to get back to our most important thing, which is our ministry,” the Rev. Marnie Crumpler, pastor of First Presbyterian, said after the vote. “We’re just looking forward to moving forward as an ECO Presbyterian Church.”

But amid a bitter divorce, the results of the vote will not be accepted by the mainline denomination, said the Rev. David Duquette, an official of the Lehigh Presbytery, a regional arm of the national church.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Stewardship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Vancouver Courier) On Christian approaches to the Old Testament+Iain Provan

Over his life as a scholar and an ordained minister, [Iain] Provan says he has had cause to nuance many things he was taught as a child, and to reject some entirely. But viewing the Old and New Testaments as a cohesive whole is not one of these. Provan believes you can’t understand the latter without the former.

“I think the New Testament everywhere presupposes that people know the old and that what the New Testament offers is fresh exegeses of the Old Testament in the light of Jesus and his life and teaching, his death and resurrection,” he says.

What about contradictions between the two? Provan doesn’t see any.

“I think what we have is a developing story that is not the same at different points because stories develop in time,” he says. “In the Old Testament, you largely have the story of God working in the world through one people group and then in the New Testament, of course, it’s a rather different situation. A lot of what people think of as contradictions are simply the story having different phases and moving on.”

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Canada, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Scotland, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Church of Scotland reacts to decision to leave the European Union

The natural inclination of the Church has been internationalist, because our Christian faith does not recognise borders but sees the world and all its people as one. We are part of a world-wide community with a responsibility to one another and the whole of creation. Over recent years, the urgency of taking that international responsibility seriously has become more clear as global poverty, environmental degradation, and the refugee catastrophe call us to find co-operative and international responses.

It feels as though this vote is a vote against that spirit of international co-operation and those who have campaigned to leave have rarely addressed some of the issues that we in the Church of Scotland feel are crucial. Least of all,this vote hardly seems to be an act of solidarity even with our friends in places like Greece, which is going through so much turmoil at the moment both economically and in bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis.

Today, it is important to recognise that those who were our neighbours yesterday are still our neighbours today.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Theology

Antonin Scalia's letter to a Presbyterian Minister about Funerals and preaching

In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted””though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person””indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person””praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology

Presbyterian Church (USA) on Track to Lose Over 400K Members by 2020

Presbyterian Church (USA) is expecting to see a loss of over 400,000 members between 2015 and 2020, according to a reported internal document.

“The slide [from the meeting] also showed that COGA is predicting membership losses of 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016,” reported The Layman.

PCUSA’s Office of the General Assembly and Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Executive Committee held a meeting last Wednesday when projected losses were discussed, according to a recent account by the conservative Presbyterian publication The Layman.

Read it all from the Christian Post.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Telegraph) Church of England and Church of Scotland forge pact

The Church of England and Church of Scotland are preparing a landmark pact committing the UK’s two official “national” churches to work closely together for the first time.

Leading clerics hope the move could help forge new ties between the people of England and Scotland in the wake of last year’s independence referendum and the 2015 General Election.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that a formal agreement between the two churches ”“ which emerged separately from the Reformation in the 16th Century ”“ is set be put before their two governing bodies, the General Synod and General Assembly, early next year.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland

(BBC) The Church of Scotland welcomes largest number of trainee ministers in five years

The Church of Scotland is welcoming its largest number of trainee ministers in five years, with 27 new candidates accepted for training so far this year.
With further applicants due for assessment next month, it could be the largest intake for 10 years.
The Kirk expects hundreds of ministers to retire in the next 10 years.
“We’re no different to other professions facing up to retirement challenges, like GPs and teachers” said Rev Neil Glover.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Young Adults

First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio votes to Depart from PCUSA

First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio overwhelmingly voted Sunday to leave its denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), citing what supporters of the outcome called an increasingly progressive social justice agenda and a drift from the authority of Scripture.

Read it all and you can find the links to all the key documentation there.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Will Pope Francis bring a Springtime for Liberal Christianity?

He is certainly not a Marxist, and he’s not a “liberal” as American politics understands the terms. But he has been a gift to liberals who are also Christians, to religious believers whose politics lean left.

It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.

Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism ”” abortion and same-sex marriage ”” while elevating other causes and concerns.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, United Church of Christ

Some Gainesville Area church leaders speak about variety of touchy issues

It was a formal church setting with nine area Christian leaders present, but no formal sermons were given or messages with the Bible cracked open to a particular passage.

Instead, the clergy spoke off the cuff in a Christian “conversation” Wednesday night on issues of faith and belief.

And that led them into some areas of modern-day debate and concern, such as marriage equality, race and the church’s relevance in a digital age.

“We’ll be having a great debate next April about same-sex marriage and transgender (issues),” said the Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, at “Christianity Beyond the Catchphrases,” held at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Baptists, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Lutheran, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture