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A Prayer for the Day from Harold Riley

O Lord Jesus Christ, who on this day didst wash thy disciples’ feet, leaving us an example of humble service: Grant that our souls may be washed from all defilement, and that we fail not to serve thee in the least of thy brethren; who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

(CT) Peter Leithart–Taste and See That the Lord’s Supper Is Good

Evangelicals need to thicken our theology of the Lord’s Supper, first by drawing more of the Bible into the discussion of the Supper, and second by drawing more of the Supper into discussion of the Supper.

Even a fine recent treatment of Reformed sacramental theology, Todd Billings’s Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, is still too thin on both counts. Billings does discuss the key New Testament passages—the institution narratives, Jesus’ resurrection meals, 1 Corinthians 10-11—and makes passing references to Passover and other Old Testament passages, meals, and festivals. But the richness of Old Testament theology still feels lacking. Billings observes that Paul sees manna as a type of the church’s covenant meal, but he doesn’t follow up the clue. If manna is a type, might there be others?

Many examine the Supper through a “zoom lens,” focusing narrowly on the most disputed point in historic debates—the metaphysics of the bread and wine. Much to his credit, Billings pulls back the camera to give us a wider view. In several “congregational snapshots,” he reminds us that the Supper involves people gathered to say and do, eat and drink. He rightly shows that a theology of the Supper must be integrated with the theology of the church.

But we need an even wider angle. Communion bread doesn’t fall from heaven. Wine doesn’t come tricklin’ down the rock. As one Eucharistic prayer puts it, the bread and wine are “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” Bread and wine represent nature transformed into culture by human action. A thick theology of the Supper needs to broaden beyond the theology of the church into a theology of culture. So, I offer a suggestive, not definitive, picture of what a thicker theology of the Supper might look like—a pencil drawing, not a portrait.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Sacramental Theology

Jean Vanier gets to the Heart of Maundy Thursday

Posted in Christology, Holy Week

(Crux) Life and death with a Jesuit: Father James Schall on the important things

Lopez: What is best about life?

Schall: What is best about life? The first thing is having it, actually being in existence and knowing that we exist as this human being, that we do not cause ourselves to exist. We are given life. What is best about life is to know that it is a gift rather than some blind development with no internal meaning to itself as this, and not that, being.

Following on this realization of our own existence, what is best is knowing that we are not alone. We live among others and seek and rejoice in our friends. We discover in revelation that we are also to become friends of God. Our lives are often filled with sin and suffering, when we need others most, for forgiveness, for help, for understanding.

What is best about life is also the fact that we can walk this green earth, see things, and especially know what not ourselves is. We exist also that what is not ourselves in all its variety and complexity can be known to us. We are not deprived of the world or others because we are not they. Instead in knowledge, the world and our friends return to us. We know a world that is not ourselves; we are blessed.

What is most challenging about life?

Finding its order. My book, The Order of Things, goes into this issue. At first sight, the world seems a chaos, a disorder. But the earth and all in it reveal an order that is not there because we put it there. We find it already there. This is what we discover when we discover anything.

Modern (and Muslim) voluntarism will claim that nothing is stable (an old Greek view also). Everything can be its opposite. Therefore, there are no evils. But there are evils, due precisely to a lack of order. Moral evil is a lack of order that we put in our own thoughts and deeds because we reject that order that is given to us that constitutes our own real good. The challenge of life is to deal with the reasons for evil without despair or without affirming that evil is good.

Even in the worst circumstances, we strive to see what is in order. But when it is our responsibility to affirm or allow that order, we can prefer our own ideas. In doing so, we implicitly reject the being that is. Thanks to the redemption, this rejection can be repented and reordered, but even here, we are required to act in a way that confronts what is really wrong. We are responsible for our own lives. In the end, the story of our personal existence will be told in terms of how we lived and understood the gift of life that we have been freely given.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Philosophy, Roman Catholic, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Prayers for the Christian Year

O Lord Jesus Christ, enthroned in the majesty of heaven, who, when thou camest forth from God, didst make thyself as one that serveth: We adore thee because thou didst lay aside the garment of thy glory, and gird thyself with lowest humility, and minister to thy disciples, washing their feet. Teach us to know what thou hast done and to follow thine example; deliver us from pride, jealousy and ambition, and make us ready to be subject one to another, and with lowliness to serve one another for thy sake, O Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

–Prayers for the Christian Year (SCM, 1964)

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O Lord, thou hast deceived me,
and I was deceived;
thou art stronger than I,
and thou hast prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
every one mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
For I hear many whispering.
Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
say all my familiar friends,
watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived,
then we can overcome him,
and take our revenge on him.”
But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.

–Jeremiah 20:7-11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for the Day from the American Prayer Book

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts whereby thou hast given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

(Aleteia) Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., noted political philosopher, dead at 91

He was a member of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace at the Vatican, 1977-82; and of the National Council on the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984-90.

“The most remarkable feature of Fr. Schall as a thinker is the way he has internalized the Catholic intellectual tradition,” said V. Bradley Lewis, Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy and Fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. “He has often seemed to me to be that tradition incarnate. His erudition is enormous, and his powers of synthesis are extraordinary. He has always been one of the first persons you wanted to hear discuss any significant development because you knew he would be able to think about it in the context of his command of the tradition.”

That was true especially of political matters and issues of political theory, Lewis said. Fr. Schall was “one of the very few really deep explicitly Catholic political thinkers around because he has such a deep knowledge of the history of political philosophy itself, but also of the specifically Catholic political thinkers.”

“Even in retirement, books, columns, and articles have continued to come at a dizzying pace,” said Bradley Lewis.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Philosophy, Roman Catholic

(Spectator) Tom Holland: Thank God for western values The debt of the West to Christianity is more deeply rooted than many might presume

Christianity had revealed to the world a momentous truth: that to be a victim might be a source of strength. No one in modern times saw this more clearly than the religion’s most brilliant and unsparing critic. Because of Christianity, wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘the measure of a man’s compassion for the lowly and suffering comes to be the measure of the loftiness of his soul’. The commanding heights of western culture may now be occupied by people who dismiss Christianity as superstition; but their instincts and assumptions remain no less Christian for that. If God is indeed dead, then his shadow, immense and dreadful, continues to flicker even as his corpse lies cold. The risen Christ cannot be eluded simply by refusing to believe in him. That the persecuted and disadvantaged have claims upon the privileged — widely taken for granted though it may be today across the West — is not remotely a self-evident truth. Condemnations of Christianity as patriarchal or repressive or hegemonic derive from a framework of values that is itself nothing if not Christian.

Familiarity with the Easter story has desensitised us to what both Paul and Nietzsche, in their very different ways, instinctively recognised in it: a scandal. The cross, that ancient tool of imperial power, remains what it has always been: the fitting symbol of a transfiguration in the affairs of humanity as profound and far-reaching as any in history. ‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ It is the audacity of it — the audacity of finding in a twisted and defeated corpse the glory of the creator of the universe — that serves to explain, more surely than anything else, the sheer strangeness of Christianity, and of the civilisation to which it gave birth.

Today, the power of this strangeness remains as alive as it has ever been. It is manifest in the great surge of conversions that has swept Africa and Asia over the past century; in the conviction of millions upon millions that the breath of the Spirit, like a living fire, still blows upon the world; and, in Europe and North America, in the assumptions of many more millions who would never think to describe themselves as Christian. All are heirs to the same revolution:
a revolution that has, at its molten heart, the image of a god dead upon an implement of torture.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Theology

A Prayer for the Day from Arthur McCheane

O Lord, who didst spend this day in quiet retreat at Bethany, in preparation for thy coming passion: Help us ever to live mindful of our end; that when thou shalt call us to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, we may fear no evil, for thou art with us, who didst die that we might live with thee for ever.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

Anglicans and Catholics make joint submission to Foreign Office review on persecuted Christians

From there:

The Church of England and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have made a joint submission to the Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians.

In a joint letter accompanying the submission, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said that in many places “our Christian sisters and brothers face persecution of an intensity and extent unprecedented in many centuries.”

However, the Archbishops added that these threats to freedom of religion or belief are not restricted to Christians alone, but are a widespread experience of the followers of other faiths.

“We ask Her Majesty’s Government to take note of the practical recommendations offered by our Churches in this Submission and to take meaningful action not only in protecting Christians facing persecution but also in promoting freedom of religion and belief more widely,” they said

(follow the link to see the 2 full letters).

Posted in Church of England, Ecumenical Relations, Globalization, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Roman Catholic

(Eleanor Parker) On ‘Spy Wednesday’ of Holy Week, a 13th-century English poem with an unusual story about Judas’ betrayal

The Wednesday of Holy Week, sometimes called ‘Spy Wednesday’, is traditionally considered to be the day on which Judas went to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver. There’s a fascinating Middle English poem about Judas’ betrayal, dating to the end of the thirteenth century, which gives us an unusual take on the story: Judas is forced into betraying Christ to regain money which has been stolen from him.

The poem tells how Judas is sent by Jesus to buy food for the apostles with thirty pieces of silver, but on the way he meets his sister, who berates him for supporting a false prophet. She lulls him to sleep, and when he wakes up the silver has been stolen. Judas, in despair at having lost the money Jesus entrusted to him, is taken before Pilate, who asks him what it will take to make him betray his lord. Judas says he will never betray Christ, except to regain the thirty pieces of silver. The poem doesn’t tell us what happens next – a very pregnant pause – but the scene cuts to Christ and the apostles dining together. Christ tells them that one of them has betrayed him, and Judas denies it. Peter speaks up to deny it too, but Christ tells him “Peter, I know you well; you will forsake me three times before the cock crows”.

Read it all and make sure to read and ponder the translation of the poem.

Posted in Church History, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(Psephizo) Isabelle Hamley–Why does Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral matter?

It was therefore deeply moving, last night, to hear journalists groping for words they had almost forgotten—words that speak of faith and what faith had meant to the nation over the years. Many of them were trying to put into words the sense of connection they felt to the cathedral, how moved they were to hear hymns and prayers from Christians surrounding them, and find words that would nurture hope. This morning, journalists were tentatively using the word ‘miracle’ as they contemplated the picture of the inside of the cathedral, the cross illuminated from the side windows, still intact, and heard of the news that many windows had survived, and the organ maybe too. To hear these words spoken with awe and genuine interrogation is nothing short of a miracle – and it may be short lived. But as I listened, I realised that Notre-Dame had lived up to its destiny: it reminded a people of its past, and of the hope of new life we find at the foot of the cross.

France has tried very hard to push God away, and forget the faith of centuries. But when the people fell silent, the very stones cried out. The question is, now that we remember, what will we do with these memories for the future? There is a small window of opportunity for the nature of public discourse to change. For the derision and suspicion of faith to morph into respect and attentive listening. Yesterday, the French president embraced the rector of the cathedral. Church and state in a long forgotten embrace? It was a fleeting image, and yet a hint that new life, new ways of imagining our life together are always possible.

And for me, this is the real question of the rebuilding. What is it we are rebuilding? What kind of vision will animate the endless years of work ahead? Will we listen to the memory of stones, and honour the God whose cross triumphed over destruction, fire and ashes? Notre-Dame held memories we had forgotten; will we accept God’s gift of memory, and reshape some of the distorted, incomplete stories we tell ourselves, so that we can move into a better future? I hope and pray that we do; and I believe that we can, because I believe in the God of Good Friday and of Easter Sunday, who ultimately holds all memory, all past and future in his hand.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Police/Fire, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Archbishops of Canterbury and York ask cathedrals and churches to toll bells Tomorrow for Notre Dame

From there:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are today encouraging, where possible, all cathedrals and churches across England to toll a bell for 7 minutes at 7pm this Thursday, as a mark of solidarity following the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. This initiative has been suggested by the British Ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn, and it is hoped that many will take part.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), France, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire

A Prayer to Begin the Day from L. Tuttiet

O God our heavenly Father, who to redeem the world didst deliver up thine only Son to be betrayed by one of his disciples and sold to his enemies: Take from us, we beseech thee, all covetousness and hypocrisy; and so strengthen us, that, loving thee above all things, we may remain steadfast in our faith unto the end; through him who gave his life for us, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

–Jeremiah 17:5-10

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for the Day from the American Prayer Book

Lord God, whose blessed Son, our Saviour, gave his back to the smiters, and hid not his face from shame: Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

(Patheos) Rick Snedeker–Nonreligious surge hits already deeply secular United Kingdom

Citizens of the United Kingdom, already generally far more secular than their American “cousins,” have grown exponentially even less religious in the past few years, according to a new report from the Humanists UK.

In its April 9 newsletter, the organization reported that the number of Britons — citizens of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — “increased by a staggering 46 percent over the past seven years, making non-religious people the fastest growing group in the country.”

The newsletter said nearly 8 million more Britons today claim no religious affiliation than did in 2011, quoting new data from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Because the data is unsummarized, it’s difficult to double-check and verify the accuracy of Humanists UK’s report, but the organization’s recent newsletter claims track trends confirmed in other reputable reports in recent years.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–What can happen when a Pope kisses your feet?

It was moving to watch Pope Francis kiss the feet (or, to be absolutely accurate, the shoes) of the warring leaders of South Sudan last week. In human terms, it was particularly touching because the Pope is an old man, so his physical effort added to the gesture of humility.

As it happens, I met one of those leaders, Riek Machar, when I visited South Sudan a few years ago. Despite holding a PhD in “Philosophy and Strategic Planning” from the University of Bradford, he is something of a rough diamond. I would not have risked kissing his feet myself. But that, of course, is only 
the more reason for Pope Francis 
to have done so: great sinners have great need.

The story of South Sudan shows how much divine help is required. 
At the time I met Dr Machar, his country had just emerged from many years of tyranny under the government of North Sudan – whose appalling ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was finally removed in a coup last week after 30 years of wrongdoing. South Sudan thus became a place enjoying new freedom.

That feeling came partly from the fact that it is mainly Christian: the Khartoum government which oppressed it had once harboured Osama bin Laden. It was run by extreme Islamists who persecuted Christians. So when the leaders of this new Christian country later turned on one another and began killing, this represented spiritual as well as political failure.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(BBC) Anti-Semitism threatens Romania’s fragile Jewish community

Ugly scenes of smashed and toppled headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Romania have shocked the country’s dwindling Jewish community and prompted international condemnation.

Vandals badly damaged 73 gravestones in the north-eastern town of Husi earlier this month, amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks across Europe.

“It’s a very disturbing event, but it’s nothing surprising,” said Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of the Centre for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism in Romania.

“It shows that anti-Semitism is alive, it doesn’t matter who did it,” he told the BBC.

“They didn’t knock down two or three gravestones, they knocked down 73 gravestones – that takes some determination and it takes time.”

A criminal investigation has been opened.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Romania

(RNS) Beth Allison Barr–History lends plenty of hope for the resurrection of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral

Henry VI of England was crowned also king of France here, a mostly empty title for him in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War. More than 300 years later, Napoleon Bonaparte would crown himself emperor of France here, a title which meant a bit more, at least for a short while. Here, the bells would ring the end of World War I and World War II.

As I watched the flames engulf the 19th-century spire, I could almost see the medieval world. Fire was an ever-present reality for both the timber frames of medieval towns and the inner frames of buildings like cathedrals.

Just this past summer I was studying a manuscript at the Weston Library in Oxford, a medieval liturgical book belonging to St. Chad’s, one of the four parish churches in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. A small note written on the bottom of one of the folios describes a 14th-century tragedy: “a fire burnt the whole parish of St. Alkmund’s starting at daybreak on the eve of Pentecost….anno. 1312.”

The comment was written without much fanfare, but as I watched the fiery spire of Notre Dame crumble and collapse into the burning building, my thoughts strayed to the desperate medieval bodies who would have worked tirelessly on that holy night in 14th-century Shrewsbury. They would have struggled to bring water from the River Severn, snaking silver around their town, trying to contain a fire quickly consuming the heart of their town and endangering the lives of their families and friends. Just like the fire of Notre Dame, they would only be partially successful. They would save the town at the cost of a parish.

Stories of catastrophic fires fill the pages of medieval and early modern history.

In 1174, a fire spread from a nearby cottage in Canterbury, England, to the wooden roof of Canterbury Cathedral. The heat was so intense that it melted the roof and caused significant damage to parts of the cathedral. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London burned at least three times in its long history, the most famous of which was the Great Fire of 1666.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, England / UK, Europe, Police/Fire

A Prayer for the Day from Arthur McCheane

O Lord Jesu Christ, who as on this day of the Holy Week didst teach the people in the temple at Jerusalem, and also instruct thy disciples on the Mount of Olives: Grant us the ready mind at all times to learn what thou wouldest teach us, that thy word may dwell in us richly in all wisdom; for the glory of thy holy name.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

(NPR) Little-Remembered Religious Preachers Get Their Due In Adam Morris’ new book ‘American Messiahs’

There was the preacher who told his followers he could teach them to defy gravity. And another who insisted the sun is actually at the center of the earth. Then there was the Quaker who became delirious, died, and then was said to have come back to life as the reincarnated Jesus Christ.

It is little wonder that the succession of messianic prophets who emerged over the first two centuries of U.S. history have not been taken seriously. Jim Jones gained notoriety only by overseeing the massacre of 900 of his followers. The Shakers are famous mostly for their furniture. Who knows of George Baker, Cyrus Teed, or Jemima Wilkinson? The characters that come to life in American Messiahs, as author Adam Morris writes, have appeared “irrelevant to American historians, aberrant to contemporary evangelicals, and abhorrent to the average consumerist.”

Morris is wise to give these forgotten messiahs the attention they deserve. Bizarre as they were, many were stunningly successful, leading movements that flourished over many years, due in good part to their success at identifying sources of social distress in the country and offering responses that actually made sense to people.

The evolution of American politics and American religion is “a single intertwined history,” as Morris writes. Protestantism in particular, from the Puritans to the evangelicals, emphasized individual responsibility and celebrated financial success, providing thereby a moral foundation for capitalism. Those Americans who felt marginalized and powerless, meanwhile, were drawn to more eccentric religious teachings, ones that spoke to their alienation and sense of vulnerability.

Read it all.

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

Canon Deborah Sellin Announced as the New Bishop of Southampton

Debbie is currently the Vicar of St John the Baptist, Wonersh with Blackheath in the Diocese of Guildford and is also the Area Dean for the Deanery of Cranleigh. She was ordained 12 years ago after spending time working as a Family and Children’s Worker in a Church of England parish in Guildford, and as a Manager in the NHS. She succeeds the Right Reverend Dr Jonathan Frost who moved on to become the Dean of York in January after over eight years of service as the Bishop of Southampton.

The Bishop of Southampton is a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Winchester and works alongside the Bishop of Basingstoke to support the Bishop of Winchester in the Diocese, with a particular focus on serving the areas of Southampton and South Hampshire, and Bournemouth and East Dorset.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

A Prayer to Begin the Day from W. E. Scudamore

Lord Jesus, who as on this day didst curse the fig tree bearing leaves, and nothing but leaves: Grant that we, warned by this example, may never seek to make a fair show in the flesh, but strive to bring forth the fruit of a holy and godly life, acceptable in thy sight; who with the Father and the Holy Ghost art one God, world without end.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O LORD, rebuke me not in thy anger, nor chasten me in thy wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is sorely troubled. But thou, O LORD–how long? Turn, O LORD, save my life; deliver me for the sake of thy steadfast love.

–Psalm 6:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NBC) 4th grader gives moving classroom speech about his experience with autism

During a lesson on Autism Awareness Month, 11-year-old Rumari asked his teacher if he could speak about what it’s like to have autism. His powerful speech ended with a big group hug from his peers.

Watch it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Theology

([London] Times) Archbp Justin Welby says ban of bishops spouses in same-sex marriages from the partial Lambeth Conference of 2020 was ‘painful’ but necessary

The American, Canadian and Scottish churches in the Anglican communion have backed same-sex marriage. Most Anglican churches, including from countries such as Uganda, remain firmly opposed.

Every Anglican bishop has been invited and they can all invite their spouses, with the exception of married gay bishops. It has prompted criticism from MPs, the Most Rev Michael Curry, the American bishop who preached at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the University of Kent, the conference host.

Speaking on a tour of the diocese of Peterborough, the archbishop said that he had met university bosses to discuss their concerns. He told The Times: “Well over 90 per cent of the Anglican communion are conservative on issues of sexuality. I’ve invited all the bishops, including those in same-sex marriages. And I had to consider . . . getting as many people as possible there and excluding as few as possible. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

He added: “I had to take what is a really difficult and painful decision to say, in order for the conference to be as representative as possible and get all the bishops there and not have the risk of some provinces not coming because they felt I was pushing the envelope too far, that I couldn’t ask all the spouses.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Kristel Clayville–Immunotherapy’s believers and skeptics

One of the most compelling moments of the book comes when physician and researcher Bob Schreiber describes a lab meeting at which he presented evidence from an experiment that he had finished. The findings: animals with suppressed immune systems developed more tumors more rapidly than animals with normal immune systems. His colleagues responded that “cancer cells are too close to normal cells to be recognized as non-self,” arguing that cancer cells “are not subject to immune notice.” In short, they responded with their previous beliefs about how the immune system works; they did not think Schreiber’s data challenged their previously held beliefs. It was as if he had no data. His colleagues simply didn’t believe that the immune system could recognize the tumor, and no amount of data could change their minds.

The believers, like Schreiber, redoubled their efforts, sought out more data, ran more experiments, and developed a more nuanced picture of how the immune system works. This nuanced picture was enough to get their first drug into clinical trials.

However, those trials were designed to capture short-term results. The cancer immunotherapy drug worked on a different time scale and with different evidence of success. Previous cancer drugs had to show improvement in tumor size on medical imaging, while the immunotherapy approach relied on patient feedback in the short term. Patients reported feeling better and being able to do more, though their initial imaging looked worse. In order to demonstrate the power of immuno­therapy for cancer, the FDA would have to design a new kind of clinical trial, one that took into account patients’ reports early in treatment and their alignment with imaging much later in the treatment.

The history of cancer immunotherapy is still unfolding. Graeber notes that immunotherapy is a “science built on stories.” He tells these stories in a way that honors the complexity of the roles of belief and evidence in medical and scientific research. His narrative encourages us to imagine what we could achieve if we were willing to believe more patient stories and incorporate the messiness of human life into the research process.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, History, Psychology, Science & Technology

(CT) The Gospel of AI: Evangelicals Want Tech to Remain Good News

As artificial intelligence (AI) makes its way into social media and smart devices, markets and health care systems, military and public policy, evangelicals are raising big questions about its revolutionary potential.

“We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care,” state the authors of the new Evangelical Statement of Principles on Artificial Intelligence, unveiled today in Washington, DC. “We desire to equip the church to proactively engage the field of AI, rather than responding to these issues after they have already affected our communities.”

The statement was initially endorsed by about 65 leading evangelical voices, including Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president J. D. Greear; pastors Matt Chandler and Ray Ortlund; professors Wayne Grudem, Michael Horton, and Richard Mouw; as well as leaders of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which released the document. (CT’s editor in chief, Mark Galli, also signed the statement.)

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology