Posted by Kendall Harmon

But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)

And even in the secularizing West, the rash of “religious freedom bills”—which essentially decriminalize discrimination—are the latest front in a faith-tinged culture war in the United States that shows no signs of abetting anytime soon.

Within the ranks of the unaffiliated, divisions run deep. Some are avowed atheists. Others are agnostic. And many more simply don’t care to state a preference. Organized around skepticism toward organizations and united by a common belief that they do not believe, nones as a group are just as internally complex as many religions. And as with religions, these internal contradictions could keep new followers away.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, is looking to stop the publication of a new tell-all memoir written by his father Ron Miscavige.

In a document first published by Tony Ortega, noted Scientology reporter, lawyers from Johnsons Solicitors, working on behalf of David Miscavige, contacted Silvertail Books, the publisher responsible for “Ruthless” in the U.K. and Ireland asking them to halt release of the book, scheduled to debut May 3.

Asserting that they were “putting them on notice,” the letter claimed the material contained in the memoir was “highly defamatory” and that “in the event that you proceed with the release of this book, in total disregard for the truth, our client will be left with no alternative but to seek the protection of UK/Irish defamation and other laws.”

The letter sent by David Miscavige’s counsel also suggests that a similar missive had been sent to St. Martin’s Press, the publisher in charge of the book’s U.S. release.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

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Posted April 28, 2016 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With temperatures in the region of 40C/100F, Iraq is in a terrible way, both politically and economically. The parliament has not been meeting, there are violent protests in Baghdad, and the oil revenue is starting to dry up. Despite this, we are still working on the front line. Yesterday, Dr Sarah Ahmed, FRRME’s Director of Operations in the Middle East, gave out 25 kg bags of flour to over 1,000 Iraqi IDP families in Erbil, Northern Iraq.

Read it all and do not miss the pictures.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyEnergy, Natural Resources* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqIsraelJordan* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther Faiths* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 28, 2016 at 7:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Bishop of the Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, on Wednesday led a peaceful protest against the recent killings by herdsmen in the South East.
Joined by other clergymen and concerned Enugu State residents, the group marched through the major streets of Enugu to protest Monday’s attack of Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The group urged security agencies in the state to live up to their duty of protecting people’s lives and property.
Speaking with newsmen, Chukwuma encouraged Christians to intensify their prayers to conquer the challenge as “the Igbo cannot stay in their land and become strangers”.
He added: “The people of South East should stop patronising, empowering and engaging strangers in menial jobs so that they will stop killing our people.
“The state Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, said that we should pray and fast but prayer without action is nothing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 28, 2016 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Tunde] Adeleye who is also the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria, Calabar Archdiocese of the Anglican Communion, said: "Continued silence by the president over this violence and deadly attacks by Fulani herdsmen could be seen as if he is supporting his tribe's men. He needs to speak now to calm frayed nerves in the country.

"The Fulani herdsmen are now everywhere in the country, not only with their cows but with sophisticated arms. Where or how did they come about such weapons without the knowledge of the security agencies?"

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 28, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the desert climate of Scottsdale, Arizona rest 147 brains and bodies, all frozen in liquid nitrogen with the goal of being revived one day.

It's not science fiction — to some it might not even be science — yet thousands of people around the world have put their trust, lives and fortunes into the promise of cryonics, the practice of preserving a body with antifreeze shortly after death in hopes future medicine might be able to bring the deceased back.

"If you think back half a century or so, if somebody stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating we would've checked them and said they're dead," said Max More, CEO of the Scottsdale-based Alcor. "Our view is that when we call someone dead it's a bit of an arbitrary line. In fact they are in need of a rescue."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyEschatology

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Posted April 27, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The last two decades have seen an explosion of church planting and multiplication ministries and networks. Most church startups are planted by leaders in urban core or inner suburban neighborhoods—and this trend, among others, has financial implications for church planters and their families. But what other factors shape their financial reality?

In a study of 769 planters from across the nation, Barna assessed the general financial condition of church startups and their leaders; how different funding models hamper or facilitate various facets of ministry and family life; and what resources leaders need to effectively manage their personal and church finances. The findings from the full study release today in a new Barna report produced in partnership with Thrivent Financial, Church Startups and Money: The Myths and Realities of Church Planters and Finances.

Here are a few of the standout findings.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* Theology

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Posted April 26, 2016 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

RNS: What would you change about “Wild at Heart” if you were writing it today? Anything?

JE: Here’s the fascinating thing – the proof is in the pudding. “Wild at Heart” is still the #1 book for men in spirituality on Amazon. We still fill every conference we hold. More importantly, “Wild at Heart” is being used in prisons all over the world to help men; it is being taught in Catholic monasteries in Europe and in rural villages in Uganda. What does that story say? [tweetable]There are deep and lasting truths about men that transcend time and culture.[/tweetable] More importantly, the thousands of letters we receive every year are stories of men who have become good dads, loving husbands; stories of men getting free from addiction and living a life of genuine integrity. Isn’t that what society needs? Human trafficking and particularly the sex trade are fueled largely by men with evil intent; men with deeply distorted sexuality. If you can heal a man’s soul he doesn’t support that industry. That is our only hope for lasting justice.

Read it all from RNS.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchBooksMenPsychology* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When I took over from my mother the organization of Passover for our family what I felt most keenly was the paradox—the incongruity of it all. The cleaning and cooking preparations for Passover are so demanding that in the weeks leading up to it, obsessive-compulsive personalities come into their own. I could not get beyond these questions: If we were breaking for freedom, why these weeks of preparation? If we were recalling harsh conditions, which was it—the dry matzo and bitter herbs, or the chicken soup with matzo balls and the best meal of the year?

And that is how the association of conservatism with hopefulness began for me, and how it is further reinforced every year. Freedom was not decamping to Hawaii to become a surfer, not experimenting with drugs or with sexual conquests—not getting away from, but readying oneself for, the enjoyment of freedom. The Passover ritual of re-experiencing the Exodus helped me figure out the constituent elements of freedom that were crafted over many centuries....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States is in a cultural crisis. There are gaping fissures between the rich and poor, growing tensions between races, disunity among faith groups, increasing resentment between genders, and a vast and expanding gap between liberals and conservatives. Generation, gender, socioeconomics, ethnicity, faith, and politics massively divide the American population.

And the Christian community has not been immune. Just look at the current election cycle. Candidates like Donald Trump have fiercely divided faith “tribes,” especially evangelicals. In recent research on the presidential race, Barna found that the five unique personal faith segments in America—evangelicals, non-evangelical born again Christians, notional Christians, people associated with non-Christian faiths, and religious skeptics—hold substantially different attitudes and candidate preferences, causing deep tensions and divides.

This splintering and polarization of American culture has made it more difficult than ever to have a good conversation. In research conducted for David Kinnaman’s new book Good Faith, Barna discovered just how difficult it is for most people to reach across these cultural divides. Most Americans indicate that they think it would be difficult to have a natural and normal conversation with minority groups who are different than them.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith Relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

..There is a character in Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd who says, 'There is this to be said for the Church [of England], a man can belong to the Church and bide in his cheerful old inn, and never trouble or worry his mind about doctrine at all'. Now, that is something of a caricature but there is a good deal of truth in it to make it work. True that a life of Christian devotion and duty - of rendering unto God the things that are his, that is, our whole selves - has room in it for the odd gin and Dubonnet and pale ale and smiles when a horse wins at Ascot or (and I find this hard to say) when England win at cricket, just as it has for sitting with Secretaries day after relentless day poring over correspondence, or with almost superhuman tact and wisdom steering her way through the weary maze of political life or attending to those many duties that fill the Court Circular of the Daily Telegraph.

It seems to me at any rate, that Her Majesty the Queen has understood what many people (including many religious people) fail to grasp, that all life is God's, and that it is the manner that we do the ordinary things of life, which is a true discipleship. It is not everything that has to be said about the Christian Faith, and it presupposes a trust in Him, but it is a great deal.

In finishing if I may use those quaint old words from 1662 The Litany of the Book of Common Prayer; today we give thanks to God that it has pleased Him to guard and bless His servant Elizabeth our most gracious Queen and Governor these 90 years and to have ruled her heart in His faith, fear and love; and we pray that she may evermore have affiance in Him, and ever seek His honour and glory as long as she shall live. Vivat Regina. Long live the Queen.

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryChurch-State Issues

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Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:36 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken control of six churches in the war-torn southeastern city of Diyarbakir in his latest move to squash freedom of speech and religious movement.

The state-sanctioned seizure is just the latest in a number of worrying developments to come out of increasingly hardline Turkey, which is in advanced talks with the EU over visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens.

Included in the seizures are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, one of which is over 1,700 years old.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkey* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Approval was given at a senior level of the prison service for Muslim inmates in British jails to raise money for an organisation linked to the alleged funding of terror attacks against Israel.

The discovery was made by an official probe into Islamist prison radicalisation that identified widespread failings at the top of the National Offender Management Service (Noms).

The Times revealed yesterday that state-appointed Muslim chaplains at more than ten prisons distributed extremist literature that encouraged the murder of apostates and contempt for fundamental British values.

It has now emerged that prisoners in at least four jails were encouraged by chaplains to participate in sponsored fundraising activities for “inappropriate” causes.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 21, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

It is not known what prompted the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) publicly to announce a U-turn in the blasphemy law.

Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, announced in January that if formally requested by the government, the CII would be prepared to review the controversial law.
-------------
The recent judgment of the three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the case of Mumtaz Qadri has had a salutary effect. Mumtaz Hussain Qadri was an official bodyguard of the Governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, when he assassinated him in 2011, deeming him a blasphemer for criticizing the blasphemy law and expressing support for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who had been sentenced to death in a blasphemy case.

The sentence against Qadri was upheld by the High Court. The bold observations made in this judgment include that the blasphemy law was a manmade law and any criticism or comment about its reform could not be termed as a blasphemous act. It went on that no one could be allowed to take the law into their own hands ‘as a door would open for religious vigilantism that would deal a mortal blow to the rule of law in the country in which divergent religious interpretations abound, and tolerance stood depleted to an alarming level’.

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted April 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

..Before 2011, Syrian Christians comprised around 8-10% of a 22 million population, notes the report, though 40-50% of those Christians have since left. Meanwhile, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but estimates now range from 200,000 to 500,000.

“Approximately 30-35 million Christians worldwide are members of Middle Eastern church families, but only 15 million of these reside in the Middle East,” it adds. “While there is a high level of emigration, there are also many Christians committed to staying in their countries.”

Why are they leaving?

International Christian organisations have been trying to “source the support needed to stem a growing sense of hopelessness”, it says, but “increased poverty is one of many factors encouraging emigration”.

Increased marginalisation is another factor. “In many countries Christians face increasing marginalisation, and perhaps nowhere is this strain felt as strongly as in Syria and Iraq,” the report states. “Whoever has the ability to leave is leaving. The Christians have a greater sense of insecurity because they cannot integrate into the changing scenery. Other community members could integrate into the new social scene, but not the Christians.

Read it all and the report, 'Hope for the Middle East', compiled by Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Served and the University of East London is here

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted April 20, 2016 at 12:13 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The present state of affairs, however, is that the theological and ethical diversity of United Methodism has reached a breaking point. I attribute this to what Jonathan Merritt has called America’s “new moral code.” Whereas conservatives have long bemoaned the rise of moral relativism, before our eyes there is occurring a sea change. Relativism is becoming a thing of the past. Absolutism is coming quickly upon us, and it is no less fraught with problems than the relativism it is replacing. From the perspective of our diverse denomination, the arrival of the new moral code presents the greatest danger to unity we have yet faced. Moral absolutism has exposed the holes in our polity that have allowed for an unauthorized regionalization of ethical decision making in the UMC.

Our denomination’s way of ordering its life assumes disagreement, a push and pull worked out through political processes, such as the legislative sessions of our various conferences. This is, as David Brooks has written, the very essence of politics, and our system is inherently political. No one gets everything they want, but the result is that we are able to live, worship, and work together. We resist the old Protestant impulse to part ways when we disagree, and we thereby avoid further fracturing the body of Christ. While the system is not perfect, it does in theory compel us to recognize the perspectives and interests of others. For diversity of thought to inhere within one community, the various factions of that community must abide by the recognized processes for dealing with disagreement.

In recent years, however, the rejection of the church’s way of ordering its life, and hence the theological diversity protected by that order, has undermined our unity with devastating effectiveness. Note that while conservative groups in the UMC have called for division before, they have never had as realistic a chance of accomplishing this as they do today. This desire for division itself was perhaps an early indicator of the trend toward moral absolutism. We might say the same thing about churches that for one reason or another refused to pay apportionments. Yet the primary rationale for division is not now, as it once was, rooted in a call for a more doctrinally and ethically conservative church. It is based on the breakdown of denominational governance that has become increasingly prevalent since 2013.

Read it all and follow the links.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistSexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 19, 2016 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are signs that more Islamic State inspired militants have been sent to Belgium and Europe, Belgian authorities said on Tuesday, maintaining the country's threat status at the second-highest level.

Belgium's alert level was cut to three from the maximum of four just two days after the March 22 attacks which killed 32 people at the airport and on the metro in Brussels. It has remained at that level since.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When an intrepid IU student confronted the threat at a local frozen yogurt shop—that’s your first clue—he did not find a Klansman, complete with hood and whip. Instead, he found a Dominican friar, Father Jude McPeak, whose “hood” turned out to be his habit and whose “whip” was his rosary.

And far from looking for someone to assault, Father McPeak was on his way back from a meeting with students. It wasn’t the only time he had been on campus: He often walks around IU praying for students.

For his part, Father McPeak chuckled and said it wasn’t the first time his appearance had ruffled some feathers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* Theology

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Posted April 16, 2016 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram's use of child bombers has increased over the last year with one in five suicide attacks now done by children, the UN's child agency says.
Girls, who are often drugged, were behind three-quarters of such attacks committed by the militant Islamist group in Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad.
It is an 11-fold increase with four attacks in 2014 compared to 44 the next year, including January 2016.
The change in tactics reflects the loss of territory in Nigeria by the group.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 13, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

He lived under the rafters in a small attic apartment in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, and became known to some followers as the Santa Claus of jihad. He had the bushy beard and potbelly, and generously offered money and advice to young Muslims eager to fight in Syria and Somalia, or to wreak havoc in Europe.

When the Belgian police seized the computer of the man, Khalid Zerkani, in 2014, they found a trove of extremist literature, including tracts titled “Thirty-Eight Ways to Participate in Jihad” and “Sixteen Indispensable Objects to Own Before Going to Syria.” In July, Belgian judges sentenced him to 12 years in prison for participating in the activities of a terrorist organization, and declared him the “archetype of a seditious mentor” who spread “extremist ideas among naïve, fragile and agitated youth.”

But only in the months since then has the full scale of Mr. Zerkani’s diligent work on the streets of Molenbeek and beyond become clear, as the network he helped nurture has emerged as a central element in attacks in both Paris and Brussels — as well as one in France that the authorities said last month they had foiled.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgiumFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 13, 2016 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

Sudanese authorities have, apparently against their own law, continued to keep two church leaders incommunicado since mid-December, with no official charges yet filed against them; recently Sudan has also increased the number of church leaders who must report every day to its security services.

Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of Khartoum North (Bahri) Evangelical Church, and Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour of the Sudan Church of Christ (SCC) continue to be detained, even though Sudanese law says that 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. It is now 120 days since Rata’s arrest on 14 December, and 115 days since Taour’s arrest.

Initially Rata’s detention was suggested to be “on religious charges”, but sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge Sudan has eventually resorted to before, after prolonged detentions of Christians.

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted April 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 8, 2016 at 7:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis has published new guidelines on family life that argue the Church should show more understanding of modern realities.

The document, based on two Synods on the issue, was eagerly awaited by the world's 1.3bn Roman Catholics.

Entitled "On Love in the Family", it does not change Catholic doctrine.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyMenReligion & CultureWomen* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 8, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mercy has been the animating force of Pope Francis’ three-year pontificate. And the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Catholic Church has been celebrating since December, is the greatest expression of the pope’s interest. Millions of Catholics are taking the opportunity to renew their faith and receive plenary indulgences during what Francis has called “a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God.”

Vatican City’s judicial system, however, is not taking the year off. Msgr. Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda has spent the Jubilee in a Vatican City jail cell, and he could face up to eight years behind bars for crimes against the Vatican City State. He and his co-defendants won’t be the first to be prosecuted by the world’s smallest state.

There are two types of courts within the Vatican: religious and civil. Religious courts punish heretical priests, for example, and their jurisdiction extends beyond the Vatican’s walls. Penalties follow the principle of salus animarum, the salvation of souls. They come in the form of invitations to repentance, expulsion from the priestly state or, in severe cases, excommunication.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 1, 2016 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us...Yes, verily, it is a pledge,

Of Christ's power to raise us to a spiritual life — The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." And then he says, concerning them, "God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^" Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, " I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again...."

--"Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEasterParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologyEschatology

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Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the real target is not Christianity but freedom. Nor is this a war. Wars are fought between nations, by armies, and the intended victims are combatants. Terrorists wear no uniforms, and their intended victims are innocent civilians. I for one will never forget the episode two weeks ago on the Ivory Coast where terrorists gunned down a five-year-old child begging for his life.

There have been ages of terror before, but never on this scale, and never with the kind of technology that has given the jihadists the ability to radicalise individuals throughout the world, some acting as lone wolves, others, like the attackers in Paris and Brussels, working in small groups, often involving family members.

The aim of Isil is political: to re-establish the Caliphate and make Islam once more an imperial power. But there is another aim shared by many jihadist groups: to silence anyone and anything that threatens to express a different truth, another faith, a different approach to religious difference. That is what lay behind the attacks on the Danish cartoons; on Catholics after a speech by Pope Benedict XVI; the murder of Theo van Gogh; and the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. The calculation of the terrorists is that, in the long run, the West will prove too tired to defend its own freedoms. They are prepared to keep committing atrocities for as long as it takes, decades if need be.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPhilosophyPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 30, 2016 at 5:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Many atheist, agnostic, and non-religious kids and parents credit social media with helping them realize there are others like them. In nearly every place in the U.S. where there are homeschoolers, there are organized “park days” where kids get together weekly to play with other kids, go on field trips, or participate in sports. The California Homeschool Network, an extensive but incomplete compendium of resources in the state, lists 47 Christian homeschool-support and park-day groups, and seven that are secular. But across the state and country, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of secular homeschool Facebook groups where moms and dads post photos, hatch ideas for social gatherings, and discuss their struggles and successes with state laws.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Lara Corbell has homeschooled her daughters, a seventh grader and a fifth grader, for two years. She left her job as a merchandiser for Hallmark to teach her kids because her younger daughter was performing poorly in public school. The family doesn’t attend church, although they celebrate a secular version of Christmas and Easter. The kids like the gifts and Easter baskets, Corbell said, but “we had issues with lying about Santa.” Corbell stopped attending church when she was five after she told her dad she “didn’t like it,” and services are largely foreign to her girls.

“I was thinking I’d just plug these words into Google and get some resources but every single thing I would delve into would have some religion in it. It was so frustrating,” Corbell, 45, said of her first foray into homeschooling. “It’s not about being anti-religion. It's just that you want to teach kids your own belief system. I just wanted unbiased resources.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheismSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 30, 2016 at 3:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

.. today, according to some estimates, there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members. Up to 100 million will be celebrating across China this Easter weekend.

But what it failed to destroy, the Party still wants to control. So, an officially atheist government effectively runs its own churches and controls the appointment of its own priests.

Like Pastor Wu Weiqing from Beijing's Haidian Church.

"We have to remember first of all we are a citizen of this country," he says. "And we are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That comes second."

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted March 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The suicide bombing Sunday in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, along with published comments attributed to the militant Muslim group that claimed to carry it out, have served to grimly underscore the precarious position of Pakistan's Christians.

At least 70 people were killed in the Easter attack, mostly women and children.

Ahsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a breakaway Taliban faction in Pakistan, said the attack specifically targeted Christians.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Archbishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have condemned an Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan which killed at least 70 people.

"The targeting of the innocent, in this case Christians celebrating Easter, is the hallmark of terrorism and such cowardice should be condemned," the Archbishops said.

They said people of peace from all faiths should stand in solidarity to condemn the bombing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistanAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith Relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Indian priest Tom Uzhunnalil was reportedly crucified by Islamic State (ISIS) on Good Friday. The gruesome act was committed by the Yemen unit of the dreaded terror outfit.

Father Uzhunnalil was abducted by ISIS on March 4 in the aftermath of an attack on a church in Aden. At least 16 people were killed in the Catholic prayer hall by the Islamic militants. Eyewitnesses reveal that Father Uzhunnalil was dragged out of his room and loaded into a van. The militants were not to be seen again in the region again following the attack.

Read it all.

Update: CNA is reporting the news is still unconfirmed.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 28, 2016 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.

Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, "Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: "O Crux, ave, spes unica" (Hail, O cross, our only hope)."

--Benedict XVI

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyChristology

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Posted March 25, 2016 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The only path to the hope of Easter is through the struggle of Holy Week. Like the assurance offered in the 23rd Psalm, we’re not given a shortcut around the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

The only way out is through.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted March 24, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Fifty years ago, on March 22nd 1966, a new centre was set up in the heart of Rome dedicated to the building up of Anglican-Catholic dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey presided at the dedication ceremony in the ancient Doria Pamphilj palace, the day before his first historic encounter with Pope Paul VI that took place in the Sistine Chapel.

Exactly half a century on, Christians of many different denominations gathered in the Anglican Centre chapel on Tuesday to give thanks for those events and to commit themselves anew to the task of reconciling their divided Churches.

Read and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted March 24, 2016 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, officials have told The Associated Press.

The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq. The officials, including European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker who follows the jihadi networks, described camps in Syria, Iraq and possibly the former Soviet bloc where attackers are trained to attack the West. Before being killed in a police raid, the ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed he had entered Europe in a multinational group of 90 fighters, who scattered "more or less everywhere."

But the biggest break yet in the Paris attacks investigation — the arrest on Friday of fugitive Salah Abdeslam— did not thwart the multipronged attack just four days later on the Belgian capital's airport and metro that left 31 people dead and an estimated 270 wounded. Three suicide bombers also died.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Black Mountain Missionary Baptist Church absolutely gleams in the sunshine with a fresh coat of paint on the outer walls and brilliant yellow daffodils blooming on the manicured lawn.

The handiwork of an arsonist has been entirely erased. There are no signs of the flames that charred the insides of the historic church, which dates back to the days when this was a working coal camp. The soot and stain and odor of acrid smoke are long gone. So, too, are the water-logged furnishings, ruined in the mad dash by firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

Church members refused to leave Black Mountain in shambles.

“They never missed a worship service because of the fire,” said Bill Wallace, director of missions for the Upper Cumberland Baptist Association. “They never gave up. That says so much about their determination to serve the Lord and to reach this community with the gospel.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/Fire* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptists* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted March 23, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is not at all to say that most Muslims are violent. The vast majority of Muslims do not live their lives based on chapter 9 of the Quran or on the books of jihad in the hadith. My point is not to question the faith of such Muslims nor to imply that radical Muslims are the true Muslims. Rather, I simply want to make clear that while ISIL may lure youth through a variety of methods, it radicalizes them primarily by urging them to follow the literal teachings of the Quran and the hadith, interpreted consistently and in light of the violent trajectory of early Islam. As long as the Islamic world focuses on its foundational texts, we will continue to see violent jihadi movements.

In order to effectively confront radicalization, then, our tools must be similarly ideological, even theological. This is why I suggest that sharing alternative worldviews with Muslims is one of the best methods to address radicalization. Indeed, this is what happened to me. As I faced the reality of the violent traditions of Islam, I had a Christian friend who suggested that Islam did not have to be my only choice and that there were excellent reasons to accept the gospel.

As more and more Western Muslims encounter ISIL’s claims and the surprising violence in their own tradition, many will be looking for ways out of the moral quandary this poses for them. We need to be equipped to provide alternatives to violent jihad, alternatives that address the root of why so many Muslims are radicalizing in the first place. Any solution, political or otherwise, that overlooks the spiritual and religious roots of jihad can have only limited effectiveness.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyApologetics

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Posted March 23, 2016 at 4:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first questions raised will focus on Belgium’s response to the problem on their home ground. Authorities may have scored a victory by capturing Salah Abdeslam, one of the Isis-aligned plotters linked to the Paris attacks, but they missed a network planning an atrocity with heavy weapons and explosives. This suggests gaps in the understanding and surveillance of the terrorist threat. Given that Brussels sits at the political heart of Europe, this points to a problem that can no longer be described as Belgian alone.

While for some the terrorist atrocities in Paris was a wake-up call, for security forces it had been expected for a while. Terrorist groups, from al-Qaeda to Isis, have long sought to launch a terrorist attack in the style of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and a string of plots have been disrupted or launched from a francophone network emanating from Brussels. The Paris attack was the realisation of these fears from a depressingly predictable place.

The networks of radicalised individuals with links to Isis have grown as the group continues to hold sway on the battlefield and send back people and plots to their original bases in western Europe. Given the tempo of attacks and the ease with which the networks appear able to acquire weapons and move freely around the continent, Europeans will ask themselves how much longer they will face this threat. I

Read it all or there is another link here.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsImmigrationPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Briefly, how many books are there in the Old Testament? The standard Protestant answer is 39 books, although Catholics would respond differently, because they also include several Deuterocanonical works, like Sirach, Wisdom, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. So would Orthodox churches. The Ethiopian Biblical canon includes several truly ancient items unknown to churches anywhere else on the planet, including Jubilees and 1 Enoch.

That is straightforward enough, but the Jewish answer would be different again. They would describe the Bible as having 24 books, including all the texts in the Protestant Christian Bible, but structured and divided differently....So, the number of Old Testament books is 24 or 39, and that is no great problem. But here we turn to Josephus, also writing around 95 AD in the Against Apion. He divided the books somewhat differently than the later Jewish canon, but also gives us a different total, namely 22

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted March 22, 2016 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church said with regret, – spiritual and religious life in the West has undergone radical changes in the recent years. Western civilization and Western countries ceased to indentify themselves with Christian tradition and adopted an idea of society in which Christian moral values should not be dominant. And then, legislative solutions were taken in many countries, the United States of America including, which allow same-sex marriage, equaling it to natural marriage that the Lord has given us in commandment. People who do not want to abide by these solutions may be subjected to repressions. Today, Christians who uphold the intransient importance of Christian moral values had to become confessors of the faith living under various kind of pressure, on the part of mass media including.”

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association courageously confessed its faith and defended Christian values. “This gives us a sign of hope: there are people among Western Christians akin to us in ethic principles, sharing them with the Russian Orthodox Church,” His Holiness said and reminded his listeners that the Moscow Patriarchate had suspended any contacts and dialogue with Christian Churches and communities which perform same-sex marriages in church and even ordain people of non-traditional sexual orientation as priests and bishops. For instance, we had to break off contacts with the Episcopal Church in the USA, but we support the Anglican Church in North America which remains faithful to Christian ethics. I would like to note once again the role played by the conservative evangelicals in the United States as their position gives us an opportunity to continue our dialogue with Christians in America.”

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox Church

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Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:38 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This sort of public call-and-response has its appeal, but it runs several risks. The first and most obvious is that the very act of documenting one’s every move on the spectrum away from or toward belief will influence and alter that trajectory. It’s similar to what is called the observer effect in science. In life, as in science, you can’t watch something without changing the qualities of the thing being watched.

The risk is compounded when the process takes place in a forum that is entirely your own, unvetted by voices other than the ones you allow. In spite of the Internet’s potential to connect us to the diversity of Christian faith, past and present, too often it becomes a set of claustrophobic corners.

The young Christian becomes limited by a context in which time is always immediate, history is limited to one’s own personal existence, and the only readily available responses consistently confirm one’s own experiences. Theological difficulties are mediated through self-expression. It’s a waiting room full of people echoing what you just said, and little else. No wonder faith narrows and chokes, maybe even suffocates, in this setting. Everybody is trapped in the same room and nobody seems to know where the exit is. Maybe we should amend Sartre this way: hell is relentless, real-time commentary by other people just like yourself.

Read it all from S N D Kelly in Christianity Today.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

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Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If we ask what is driving this assault on the free exercise of religious conviction, the answer is that it is in large part driven by a human rights agenda which sees religion and human rights as antithetical not simply on specific issues, but across the board. As the legal scholar Louis Herkin puts it: ‘The human rights ideology is a fully secular and rational ideology whose very promise of success as a universal ideology depends on its secularity and rationality.’

In addition, there is also deep seated fear about religiously inspired violence. The growing threat of terrorist activity driven by an Islamist ideology has led many governments across the world, including the government in this country, to conclude that religion can be dangerous and that the best way to counteract this danger is seek to suppress the dissemination of ‘extremist’ religious ideas.

What this combination of a secular rights ideology and fear of Islamic terrorism is in danger of leading to, if indeed it has not led to it already, is the undermining of the very rights that human rights advocates and Western governments say that they support.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 21, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Harvard University Episcopal pastor and chaplain Luther Zeigler said the Anglican view of the Christian hope in the afterlife is for a new age when heaven and earth merge in a newly created and embodied life.

"God will reframe the cosmos," Zeigler said. "We're not just mere bystanders in this re-creation but collaborators to make the kingdom real. Our job is to now become kingdom-bearers."

Several hundred people attended at three sessions Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium on campus. The conference was sponsored by BYU Religious Education's Office of Religious Outreach.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsMormons* TheologyEschatology

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Posted March 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is not the fact that the French Revolution attacked clerical celibacy that is revealing, then, but which arguments they deployed against it. Earlier opponents attacked the institution as a crime against innocent bastards and faithful concubines, or as unscriptural Roman overreach, or as an implicit denigration of family life. In the case of the French revolutionaries, their arguments were primarily either utilitarian or legalistic—which may be why they sound familiar today....

More modern-sounding still, in our age of "marriage equality," are the legalistic arguments. Insofar as clerical celibacy was a form of discrimination on the basis of profession, it was deemed a violation of egalité. The most rhetorically powerful ploy of all was to elevate parenthood to the status of a basic human right, which vows of celibacy infringed upon. One abbé Cournand, upon presenting a motion in favor of clerical marriage in a Paris suburb's local assembly in 1790, said that obligatory celibacy violated clerics' "inalienable right … to exist as father and spouse." A 1795 treatise by a married priest argued that becoming a père de famille was a basic right and any act prohibiting it was "fundamentally invalid [and] an attack on liberty."

The debate over clerical celibacy was at its liveliest during the period of ambiguity following the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790, since the issue of clerical marriage is not actually mentioned in that document and would not be settled until the Constitution of 1791. One pamphleteer of the uncertain interim argued that the National Assembly did not even need to clarify its position on clerical marriage, since the right to marry was implicit in the egalitarian decrees already enacted. "Lay people can marry, therefore priests can marry as well." In his eyes, it was a constitutional fait accompli. Eulogius Schneider, a former Franciscan monk who would become a prosecutor of the Terror, echoed this line of argument in 1791: "Priests are men and citizens, and by consequence, they must enjoy the rights of man and of citizen." In the hands of such innovators, the Rights of Man and Citizen proved as accommodating as our Fourteenth Amendment in the search for a never-before-dreamed-of right to marry.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistoryMarriage & Family* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The meeting on 23 March 1966 led to a half-century of ecumenical dialogue through the formation of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic) and the setting up of the Anglican Centre in Rome. The Centre was dedicated on 22 March and opened a few months later. A series of events have been set up to marks its fiftieth anniversary. On Tuesday 22 March, there will be a Holy Communion service in London at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, where the preacher will be Revd Barry Nichols, secretary and former governor of the Anglican Centre, and on the same day a Eucharist service in Rome at the Anglican Centre. Bishop Stephen Platten, the chairman of governors, will preach and use the original order of service used by Archbishop Ramsey to rededicate the Centre’s chapel. In June, ecumenical Evensong will be held at Westminster Abbey to mark the anniversary with the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted March 19, 2016 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“It is a very promising initiative. You could even say it is groundbreaking,” said Medhat Sabry, the Anglican Communion’s dean for Morocco and one of several non-Muslim observers (alongside Roberts) to the declaration’s signing. “But it is way too early to tell.”

This is because—from Cairo to Amman to Nazareth to Baghdad—the news caused barely a ripple in Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa, whom the document is meant to comfort. Some Arab Christians saw a headline in the local news. Others didn’t hear of it at all.

One who did was Andrea Zaki, president of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches. He joined Sabry in praising the declaration.

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted March 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anyone who calls women “pigs,” “ugly,” “fat” and “pieces of a–” is not on my side. Anyone who mocks the handicapped is not on my side. Anyone who has argued the merits of a government takeover of banks, student loans, the auto industry and healthcare is not on my side. Anyone who has been on the cover of Playboy and proud of it, who brags of his sexual history with multiple women and who owns strip clubs in his casinos is not on my side. Anyone who believes the government can wrest control of the definition of marriage from the church is not on my side. Anyone who ignores the separation of powers and boasts of making the executive branch even more imperial is not on my side.

I’m a conservative. I believe in conserving the dignity of life. I believe in conserving respect for women. I believe in conserving the Constitution. I believe in conserving private property, religious liberty and human freedom. I believe in morality more than I do in money. I hold to principles more than I yearn for power. I trust my Creator more than I do human character. I’d like to think that all this, and more, makes me an informed and thoughtful citizen and voter. I’ve read, I’ve listened and I’ve studied and there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing, in this man’s track record that makes Donald Trump “on my side.”

I refuse to let my desire to win “trump” my moral compass. I will not sell my soul or my university’s to a political process that values victory more than virtue.

Read it all.

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

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture


Posted March 17, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. officials say Secretary of State John Kerry has determined that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 17, 2016 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

On the night of Feb 21, at least 500 people were killed in the mainly Christian area of Agatu in the central Benue state of Nigeria. That’s according to local sources, although the figure could rise even higher - due to continuing violence and the fact that locals and relief workers still cannot get full access to the area due to security concerns.

Eleven days after bands of Muslim Fulani nomads launched systematic attacks on local communities, they still occupied at least six villages they’d seized, confirm relief and media workers - the first who managed to reach the area. Local media report that spokespeople for the herdsmen’s association told the police chief their action was provoked by the Agatu people killing "10,000” cows.

Members of this first mission said they saw no dead cattle at all. One of the team, carrying an amateur video camera, captured disturbing evidence of the human deaths, however, and sent this report, voiced by WWM staff.

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bishop Angaelos, a U.K.-based leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, stood before the media holding up a thick report on “genocide” in the Middle East that featured a 2015 photo of Islamic state extremists preparing to behead 21 members of his faith in Libya.

“They were not killed for any other reason but they were Christians,” he said Thursday (March 10), joining with others calling attention to religious persecution.

Hours later, he addressed board members of the National Association of Evangelicals, explaining the basics of his 15 million-member faith — “Coptic Orthodox just means Egyptian Orthodox” — and telling them that what they have in common “far, far exceeds” their differences.

A year after losing 21 fellow Copts, Angaelos continues his bridge-building work, seeking support for persecuted people of many faiths, visiting Muslim refugees and helping evangelicals realize that the Orthodox are part of the Christian flock.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchEvangelicalsOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 15, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rowan Wlliams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has urged the government to intervene to halt the rise of “poisonous” anti-semitism on British campuses.

In a letter to a student victim of anti-semitic comments, Lord Williams, now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, disclosed that he had written to Jo Johnson, the universities minister, because of the “muted” official response so far to rising anti-semitic behaviour.

It follows complaints by Jewish students that they feel isolated or silenced after incidents at a growing number of universities that include Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and York.

In a letter to Zachary Confino, a Jewish law student at York University who received anonymous anti-semitic comments on social media — including the remark “Hitler was onto something” — Williams said he had been “very shocked” by what he had seen. “It is truly appalling stuff but sadly seems not to be that unusual at the moment,” he writes.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan WilliamsAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchEducationHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 13, 2016 at 6:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just as it is starting to turn the tide against Isil, Iraq is running out of money.

Behind the front lines of the Iraqi desert, where the Nineveh provincial police are training to retake their homes in and around Mosul, they are short of one thing: weapons.

“We have been regrouped here since the fall of Mosul,” said Major Ayman, standing over his line of men in blue uniforms. “We have been waiting here for five months but we have no weapons.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural ResourcesPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 13, 2016 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

A Kent magistrate who publicly opposes adoption by same-sex couples on religious grounds and sits in the family courts has been sacked for serious misconduct.

The decision to remove Richard Page, 69, following an interview he gave on BBC television last year, was authorised by both the justice secretary, Michael Gove, and the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.

Page, who had been on the bench for 15 years, had only a month more to serve as a justice of the peace, according to the Christian Legal Centre, which has supported him.
.....
[Page] continued: “In the case of same-sex couples adopting children, it has only been a relatively short time that same-sex couples have been able to adopt and foster, and therefore there has not been time for a proper analysis to be carried out into the effects such placements have on the children’s educational, emotional and developmental wellbeing.

“As a magistrate I have to act on the evidence before me and, quite simply, I believe that there is not sufficient evidence to convince me that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple can be as holistically beneficial to a child as placing them with a mum and dad as God and nature intended.

“I am surprised that this lord chancellor should seemingly pander to the new political orthodoxy when what it amounts to is social experimentation on the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities.

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted March 11, 2016 at 11:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Union organizers now have their sights set on America’s largest Catholic university, DePaul University in Chicago. But the school’s president, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, won’t let labor bureaucrats usurp his authority without a fight. Writing online for Inside Higher Ed in January, he noted that “whether or not a particular faculty member chooses to incorporate religion in his or her classroom overtly, the point is that it is up to the university, not the government, to decide what counts as religious perspective.” Ultimately, he wrote, “the freedom to determine what is or what is not religious activity inside our church is at stake.”

In recent years many faith-based schools have wrestled with questions about the religious and secular mix in their missions—and labor bureaucrats have noticed. Some schools have seemed to neglect their identity when hiring professors. “I’m not Catholic,” Alyson Paige Warren, a Loyola adjunct professor, told America Magazine in January, “and I don’t teach Jesuit spirituality.”

Pope Francis will have none of that ambivalence. In January 2014 remarks to a delegation from the University of Notre Dame, Francis insisted upon the “uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom.” He reminded his visitors from Notre Dame—and by extension administrators at other Catholic colleges—to protect their schools’ “identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness.”

If more religious educators prayed over that, labor bureaucrats wouldn’t stand a chance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 11, 2016 at 11:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a prosperous New Jersey suburb about an hour west of Manhattan, a retired AT&T executive decided with some friends to open a mosque in the town where he has lived for nearly 40 years, been on the board of education, led a task force to create the town’s community center and even served as mayor.
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About 65 people attended the congregation’s Friday prayer services, which were held in rented halls or sometimes in parks.

On the surface, the process seemed straightforward: In November 2011, the group, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, led by the former mayor, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, bought a four-acre plot in an area of Basking Ridge where zoning permitted houses of worship. The group’s architects and engineers argued that the plan complied by a wide margin with every conceivable building requirement.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 11, 2016 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A major report released Thursday by two US-based Christian organizations argues for including Iraqi, Syrian, and Libyan Christians as victims of genocide perpetrated by ISIS, ahead of a March 17 deadline for the US State Department to make a finding about whether, and to which categories of ISIS victims, the term “genocide” applies.

Although experts say a finding of genocide would not immediately trigger changes in US foreign policy or the acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers, it’s nevertheless important since both domestic and international law require that acts of genocide be investigated and those responsible indicted and prosecuted.

The 278-page report was released by the Knights of Columbus in partnership with “In Defense of Christians,” a US-based research and advocacy organization devoted to protecting Christians in the Middle East.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 10, 2016 at 5:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A massive leak of top-secret Islamic State documents has exposed details of the terrorist network’s global recruitment programme.

Security services were last night examining files alleged to contain names, addresses and family contacts of 22,000 jihadist fighters, including at least a dozen British recruits.

The leak was hailed as a severe setback for Isis, providing vital intelligence on the war effort in Syria and Iraq. Will Geddes, managing director of International Corporate Protection, a threat management company, said that the leak, if verified, would be a blow to the group. “They will be in massive crisis mode, worried about what is in there, who is in there and how it will disrupt their activities,” he said.

Read it all (requires subscription) or Christian Today covers the story here (open access) and the original report from Sky is here

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 10, 2016 at 6:03 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Persian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi recently made history. On the tiny island of Sir Bani Yas, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Christian mon­astic complex dating from around 600. After some res­toration, authorities opened the place to the public as a tourist attraction and heritage site.

This decision may not sound surprising, but it stands in stark contrast to the em­barrassment and contempt with which other nations in the region—above all, Saudi Arabia—treat their own pre-Islamic heritage. And that same relative tolerance also applies to the practice of faith today in the Gulf states. If the smaller Gulf nations do not practice freedom of religion in anything like the Western sense, Christianity has nevertheless secured a surprisingly strong foothold in these coastal states.

When the monastery of Sir Bani Yas was built, Chris­tianity had a strong presence throughout eastern and southern Arabia, mainly through the (“Nestorian”) Church of the East. No later than the fifth century, a diocese covered the lands that we would today call Oman and the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE), and Bah­rain had a major church. In Mu­ham­mad’s time, five sees covered the Gulf’s western shores. By the end of the first millennium, that Christian history had come to an end, leaving the churches in ruins.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted March 10, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

..what cannot be disputed is the budding friction between the state and Chinese Christians: Over the past two years, Chinese authorities — citing building code violations — have torn down more than 1,200 crosses from churches across the country, destroyed several churches, and rounded up Christian activists.

There has been some resistance. Chinese Christians in Zhejiang either rebuilt or replaced some of those crosses after the authorities tore down the originals, and other worshippers hung small crosses outside the windows of their homes or from car mirrors.

More intriguingly, provincial branches of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, two of the three government-approved Christian organizations in China, sent letters to party leaders condemning the crackdown on Christian symbols.

Against this backdrop of alleged persecution and violence, Chinese Christians and government leaders eye each other warily, both sides unsure of what the future of Christianity in the Middle Kingdom might be..

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted March 9, 2016 at 9:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the great legacies of Jerry Bridges is that he combined—to borrow some titles from his books—the pursuit of holiness and godliness with an emphasis on transforming grace. He believed that trusting God not only involved believing what he had done for us in the past, but that the gospel empowers daily faith and is transformative for all of life.

In 2009 he explained to interviewer Becky Grosenbach the need for this emphasis within the culture of the ministry he had given his life to:

When I came on staff almost all the leaders had come out of the military and we had pretty much a military culture. We were pretty hard core. We were duty driven. The WWII generation. We believed in hard work. We were motivated by saying “this is what you ought to do.” That’s okay, but it doesn’t serve you over the long haul. And so 30 years ago there was the beginning of a change to emphasize transforming grace, a grace-motivated discipleship.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

1 Comments
Posted March 7, 2016 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

At least 15 people have been killed at the Mother Teresa Home in Aden, including four of the nuns. On Friday 4 March armed intruders raided the compound, where 70 or 80 old people, many found destitute on the streets, have for years been in the care of the Missionaries of Charity. One nun survived. Her sisters who died came from India, Kenya, and Rwanda. Also killed were Yemenis and Ethiopians who helped at the home or guarded the premises.

Doubtless the murderers are from the pernicious ultra-fundamentalist fanatical puritan strand of Islam that encompasses IS or Da’esh and takes inspiration from the Wahhabi sect. Their actions will be met with revulsion by true Muslims, especially native Adenis, whose respect for the works of charity and service by Christians in their city is great.

Hearing of these killings in the middle of the season of Lent, those of us who have often visited the sisters and prayed with them will reflect that all Christians are called to walk with Christ the way of the cross, and that that Way is none other than the way of glory and the gate of heaven.

We join Bishop Paul Hinder, the Christians of the Yemen, and all who know God to be the God of mercy and compassion in praying for the eternal repose of the souls of these faithful departed servants of the Lord.

+ Michael Cyprus & the Gulf

Read it all [h/t Anglican Ink] and there is a BBC Report here

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

1 Comments
Posted March 6, 2016 at 12:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mr. Ellis, 39, welcomed the dozen men and women seated before him. “This is a space,” he said, “for people who consider themselves non-Christian and are coming in from the outside.”

His weekly sessions, called the WS Café in a reference to the neighborhood, are at a new frontier of evangelism, one that seeks converts among a fervent and growing number of atheists in this country. The sessions started in September as a push by Redeemer Presbyterian’s prominent pastor, the Rev. Tim Keller, to preach the gospel to skeptics.

Such efforts proceed amid a rare moment in both Christian and American history. At the origin of Christianity, its apostles sought to convert adherents of other faiths, whether Judaism or Roman paganism. Missionaries of the last few centuries journeyed to China or Africa or the Americas to encounter the followers of other faiths, whether Buddhist or Yoruba or Aztec. In every case, the Christian evangelist seeking converts was at least dealing with listeners who embraced the concept of a divine being involved in the world.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and Issues* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther Faiths* TheologyApologetics

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Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jewish students will turn their backs on leading universities en masse as they react to growing campus antisemitism, it has been claimed.

Jews disproportionately attend a small number of universities, which they have nicknamed “Jewnis”. The University of Manchester was once one of the most favoured but lost its place to Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham after pro-Palestinian motions by its student union. These included twinning with An-Najah University in the West Bank.

Bristol has rapidly grown in popularity among Jews. Cambridge and Oxford also have significant numbers, as do University College London, King’s College London and LSE.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationGlobalizationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The resolution on genocide, introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, "expresses the sense of Congress that the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide."

"ISIS commits mass murder, beheadings, crucifixions, rape, torture, enslavement and the kidnapping of children, among other atrocities," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, R-California. "ISIS has said it will not allow the continued existence of the Yezidi. And zero indigenous Christian communities remain in areas under ISIS control."

The Islamic State "is guilty of genocide and it is time we speak the truth about their atrocities. I hope the administration and the world will do the same, before it's too late," Royce added.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Secularization is not about rejecting all religion. Taylor urges that people in the current hyper-secularized culture in America often consider themselves to be religious or spiritual. Secularization, according to Taylor, is about belief in a personal God, one who holds and exerts authority. He describes the secular age as deeply “cross-pressured” in its personal experience of religion and rejection of the personal authority of God.[2] The issue is binding authority.

Christians are the intellectual outlaws under the current secular conditions. Entering a discussion on the basis of a theistic or theological claim is to break a cardinal rule of late Modernity by moving from a proposition or question to a command and law and authority and to do so in the context of a culture now explicitly secularized, and a culture that either reduces such claims to something below a genuine theistic claim or rejects them to court. Secularization in America has been attended by a moral revolution without precedent and without endgame. The cultural engines of progress driving toward personal autonomy and fulfillment will not stop until the human being is completely self-defining. This progress requires the explicit rejection of Christian morality for the project for human liberation.

The story of the rise of secularism is a stunning intellectual and moral revolution. It defies exaggeration. We must recognize that it is far more pervasive than we might want to believe, for this intellectual revolution has changed the worldviews of even those who believe themselves to be opposed to it. Everything is now reduced to choice, and choice is, as Taylor reminds us, central to the moral project of late modernity, the project of individual authenticity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPhilosophyPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* Theology

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Posted March 4, 2016 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, has been awarded the Templeton prize.

Sacks, 67, has written more than two dozen books targeted at bringing spiritual insight to the public. He has spent decades revitalizing Britain’s Jewry during his tenure as chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013.

Sacks has been an outspoken advocate of religious and social tolerance throughout his career. His most recent book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” argues that violence in the name of God is the exact opposite of what any deity would expect of followers....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

0 Comments
Posted March 2, 2016 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves


Archive picture from Mere Anglicanism 2016

Listen to it all if you wish

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted March 1, 2016 at 9:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A growing number of Chinese students in American universities are discovering Christianity and Jesus.

According to Foreign Policy, more than 304,000 Chinese were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in 2015, many coming from Beijing and Shanghai.

While there are no definite numbers of Christian converts from mainland China, students who are immersed in campus spiritual life said the number is growing.

Gregory Jao, national director of campus engagement for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, said the organisation serves up to 1,800 overseas Chinese of the total 5,000 international students under it.

Read it all from Christian Today.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaChina* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 1, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ultimately, Rafi’s life was transformed because his eldest brother, Akhtar, pinched pennies and sent Rafi to the best public school in the family’s home province, Balochistan. Rafi had an outstanding mind and rocketed to the top of his class. But he also fell under the spell of political Islam. A charismatic Islamic studies teacher turned Rafi into a Taliban sympathizer who despised the West.

“I subscribed to conspiracy theories that 9/11 was done by the Americans themselves, that there were 4,000 Jews who were absent from work that day,” Rafi recalls. “I thought the Taliban were freedom fighters.”

I’ve often written about education as an antidote to extremism. But in Pakistan, it was high school that radicalized Rafi. “Education can be a problem,” Rafi says dryly.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationGlobalizationMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesUnited Church of Christ* TheologySeminary / Theological Education

1 Comments
Posted February 29, 2016 at 6:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

A Christian postgraduate student has been expelled from his course, effectively ending his chances of a career as a social worker, for voicing opposition to gay marriage in a Facebook discussion.

Felix Ngole, a 38-year-old father of four, expressed support for Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky in the US who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licences after the introduction of same-sex unions in September last year.
...................
he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing at Sheffield University after a fellow student complained about his post.

He said he was initially not even told what he was accused of doing. He was eventually told that it involved breaching social work guidelines on "personal conduct" and "bringing the profession into disrepute".

At a further hearing, a university "fitness to practise" panel concluded that he was entitled to his opinion on the issue of gay marriage but that there was a danger he "may have caused offence to some individuals" by voicing it.

They concluded that, even though he was not yet even qualified as a social worker, his comment on the Facebook thread would affect his ability to operate in the profession.

As a result he was effectively expelled from the university, ordered to hand in his student ID and even his library card..

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

0 Comments
Posted February 28, 2016 at 8:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

A court in southeastern China has sentenced a Protestant pastor to 14 years in prison and his wife to 12 years after convicting them of corruption, financial crimes and gathering people to disturb social order, an official provincial newspaper reported on Friday.

The sentences for the pastor, Bao Guohua, and his wife, Xing Wenxiang, were among the harshest imposed recently on clergy members and their associates in China. The newspaper reported that a court had sentenced an additional 10 people who were members of Mr. Bao’s church or a Christian group in the same city, Jinhua, in Zhejiang Province, but it did not give details of those sentences.

The newspaper, Zhejiang Daily, also said that the court had ordered the confiscation from Mr. Bao of 600,000 renminbi, or about $92,000, and fined him $15,300. It said his wife also had $92,000 confiscated and received a fine of less than $14,000.

Officials have removed more than 1,200 crosses from churches and other buildings and in some cases have destroyed entire churches. The government is especially concerned about so-called house churches, which are neither approved nor overseen by officials.

Mr. Bao had official approval to lead a congregation, and he oversaw a government-sanctioned church. Zheng Leguo, a house church preacher now living in the United States, said in an interview on Friday that he believed that Mr. Bao, who has been in detention since at least August, was being persecuted because he had tried to defend his church against an order to take down its cross. Few other government-approved pastors in Jinhua have opposed the campaign of cross removals..

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

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Posted February 28, 2016 at 8:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

The US says a purported confession from a prominent Chinese lawyer on state television runs counter to the rule of law.

Zhang Kai admitted to various crimes including disturbing social order in a broadcast on Thursday.

He has been helping defend Christians resisting government orders to remove crosses from buildings.

China says it guarantees religious freedom but there are concerns about a crackdown on Christian activities.

On Friday a pastor was jailed for refusing to remove a cross from his church's roof.

The authorities have justified the tearing down of crosses by saying they break planning rules.

Zhang Kai was arrested last year shortly before a planned meeting with the US envoy on religious freedoms.

Read it all and there is more here and here

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

0 Comments
Posted February 28, 2016 at 7:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three theologically conservative church bodies released a report championing progress in their latest round of ecumenical dialogue.

Representatives from the Anglican Church in North America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Lutheran Church-Canada have been engaging in an ongoing dialogue for the past six years.

Titled "On Closer Acquaintance", the interim report on ecumenical dialogue charts the progress made thus far on conversations between ACNA, LCMS, and LCC.

"The report is intended as an aid for ACNA folk wishing to get a deeper understanding of their counterparts in LCMS–LCC and vice versa, and as a resource that will help us determine the nature and goals of our relationship in the years ahead," reads the report.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Church in North America (ACNA)* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesLutheran

0 Comments
Posted February 26, 2016 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More than a year of U.S.-led airstrikes and financial sanctions haven’t stopped Islamic State from ordering supplies for its fighters, importing food for its subjects or making quick profits in currency arbitrage.

This is because of men such as Abu Omar, one of the militant group’s de facto bankers. The Iraqi businessman is part of a network of financiers stretching across northern and central Iraq who for decades have provided money transfers and trade finance for the many local merchants who shun conventional banks.

When Islamic State seized control of the region in 2014, the world’s wealthiest terror group made him an offer he decided not to refuse: You can keep your business if you also handle our money.

“I don’t ask questions,” said Abu Omar, whose money-exchange offices in the Iraqi cities of Mosul, Sulimaniyah, Erbil and Hit charge as much as 10% to transfer cash in and out of militant territory—twice normal rates. “Islamic State is good for business.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted February 24, 2016 at 11:21 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To be blunt: The last thing this funeral Mass was about was "spirituality." So search the [New York] Times story and look for the role that terms such as "Christian" and "Catholic" played in its contents. What about "Jesus," you ask? Forget about it.

The strongest religious language in the [New York] Times piece linked a kind of vague, Americanized faith with a nod to current fights over religious liberty.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / FuneralsMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyChristologyEschatologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

..A group of 42 Assyrian Christians, including women and children, were handed over after months of negotiations between Assyrian leaders and the radical Sunni jihadist group.

IS captured around 250 members of the ancient Christian community last February after the terror group overran parts of northeastern Hassakeh province in northern Syria.

Much of the Assyrian homeland has since been retaken by Syrian Kurdish forces and allied Arab and Christian militia (pictured above).

Members of the religious community that still speaks the language of Jesus have been periodically released in exchange for ransom payments.

Earlier releases had reportedly been arranged through the mediation of Arab tribes in the region, but an Assyrian organization said a priest had been involved in the last release...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

0 Comments
Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

Prosecutions for contempt of religion, common under former President Hosni Mubarak, increased dramatically after the 2011 uprising that deposed him, with many observers saying it was correlated to the rise to power of the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.

But in 2015 under Mr. Sisi, the former general who unseated the Islamists and is overseeing an unprecedented crackdown on the Brotherhood, authorities prosecuted or investigated at least 20 contempt of religion cases, says Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher on religious freedom at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. That’s more than at any time under Mr. Mubarak or since.

Religious minorities, particularly Christians, Shiites, and atheists, are often targeted. But recently prominent Sunni Muslim public figures who have voiced criticism or questions of prevailing religious doctrine have also been convicted of insulting religion.

Read it all

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryReligious Freedom / Persecution

0 Comments
Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The people of Westworth United Church have already opened up their lives to Syrian Muslims, and now they’re inspired to open up their hearts.

"We thought because we are in the middle of a one-year sponsorship of Syrian refugees, this was the perfect opportunity to learn about Islam," says Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd about a five-week study series on Islam and Christianity.

Last fall, the River Heights church, along with members of Muslim and Jewish communities, sponsored six adults and 18 children from Syria. The multi-faith sponsorship group, called REFUGE, has raised about $100,000 of the $120,000 needed to sponsor these three families for their first 12 months in Canada.

Running during the Christian season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter, the free series covers topics such as violence, reading difficult passages in the Qur’an and the Bible, and issues of hate, violence and racism in both faiths, says MacKenzie Shepherd.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryAdult Education* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

3 Comments
Posted February 21, 2016 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterian* TheologyChristologyEschatologySoteriology

1 Comments
Posted February 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a majestic Mass at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Feb. 2, history was made for the Anglican ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI: Their first bishop was ordained.

“In a nutshell, it means we’re here to stay,” summarized Msgr. Harry Entwistle, the ordinary of Australia’s ordinariate, which is under the patroness of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

The new bishop, Steven Joseph Lopes, 40, a native of California, was in fact instrumental in the creation of the ordinariate that he now leads — the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

1 Comments
Posted February 20, 2016 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Antonin Scalia attended the traditional Latin Mass nearly every Sunday, at St. John the Beloved church near his home in McLean, Va., or at St. Mary Mother of God church in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C. When he went to the latter location, it was usually followed by a day of reading in his nearby Supreme Court office, which he did for decades on certain Sundays during the court’s term.

In the 20 years I saw him at Mass, not once was he protected by Supreme Court police or by U.S. Marshals. The associate justice with his home number still listed in the telephone book was surprisingly down to earth, true to his New Jersey roots. It was not uncommon to see him park his BMW on G Street in the District before Mass and put on his necktie using the car’s mirror. He would walk into St. Mary’s with his pre-Vatican II handmissal, always sitting in the same general area, near Patrick Buchanan, about halfway up the aisle on the far left side of the nave.

Justice Scalia loved music, especially opera. So when I was the director of an amateur choir at St. Mary’s in the late 1990s (in a Verizon Center-less neighborhood far different from today), we were under increased pressure during the Sundays when he attended High Mass. Our choir was admittedly awful, and even though we rehearsed every Thursday night and Sunday morning, it didn’t seem to help much....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted February 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

From the Catholic Herald
Vatican Cardinal George Pell has accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of adopting a “poisonous form of radical moral liberalism”.
Writing in a foreword to The Nation that Forgot God, a collection of essays edited by Sir Edward Leigh MP and Alex Haydon, the cardinal criticises Cameron’s push to legalise same-sex marriage in 2014.

“Cameron has been formed by, or at least adopted, that poisonous form of radical moral liberalism which has sapped the religious vitality of many Christian communities as it endorsed the weaknesses and mistakes damaging, and even destroying, the family,” he writes.

“His confusion is typical of many Christians. It does not speak well of those Christian leaders who never lifted a finger to resist these siren voices.”

The cardinal, who is prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, emphasises that he does not think that the Prime Minister is intentionally setting out to undermine Christianity. He writes: “In the words of Pope Francis, commenting on the move to introduce same-sex marriage in his own native country, ‘Let’s not be naive: this isn’t a simple political fight, it’s an attempt to destroy God’s plan’....

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryChurch-State Issues

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Posted February 19, 2016 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“He was a man. Take him for all in all. [We] shall not look upon his like again.” Those words from Hamlet seem appropriate on the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He had a powerful effect on the Court and on the law more broadly. Scalia was the most eloquent and prominent proponent of the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the “original meaning” of its words: the meaning they had at the time of their adoption. He argued, in his inimitable style, for a “dead Constitution”—whose meaning is fixed until changed by formal amendment—over a “living Constitution” that a judge can manipulate into whatever shape he wishes.

Moreover, except for Ruth Ginsburg, it is hard to imagine another justice becoming so visible in the broader culture. Many who hated Scalia’s rulings could not help but be entertained by his razor-sharp writing, which he used especially in his dissenting opinions to carve up the majority’s reasoning (my favorite is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where among other things he referred to the majority’s “Nietzschean vision of us unelected, life-tenured judges—leading a Volk who will be ‘tested by following’” the Court’s rulings obediently). In a talk at my law school last November, he said that he wrote his dissents “mainly for you guys, for law students.” His eloquence inspired generations of lawyers and students convinced by his judicial philosophy.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralSupreme Court* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 18, 2016 at 11:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Now the new tolerance does not start with the assumption that there is such a thing as objective truth or objective right and wrong or objective beauty and ugliness. And, therefore, it does not start with the assumption that any given viewpoint or belief is objectively better than one that believes something different, because there is no objective truth or morality out there for an idea to conform to. And so the old tolerance becomes impossible. Tolerance no longer means defending a person’s freedom to tell me I am wrong, but now means renouncing the right to tell anyone they are wrong. The very concept of labeling a person’s idea as wrong or defective or harmful or evil is considered intolerant.

So the new tolerance is the requirement that nobody pass judgment on another person’s beliefs or ideas as less true, less right, less beautiful. And the reason I say this is a new form of intolerance is that in the new tolerance I am forbidden from expressing my belief that certain things are so; namely, that your beliefs are wrong or harmful — dangerous. In fact, the new tolerance sometimes goes so far as not just to forbid the expression of my belief that your belief is wrong, but goes further and forbids me even from believing that you are wrong because, they would say, believing that shows I am hateful and a danger to society and eventually may be locked away or punished in some other way for simply holding a viewpoint. If you want to read more about the development of this new tolerance, then Don Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance is the place to go.

So my answer to the question that was asked is: Absolutely, Christians should be tolerant of other people’s religious beliefs; namely, with the old tolerance, not the new tolerance.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMulticulturalism, pluralismPhilosophyPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther Faiths* TheologyApologeticsEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 16, 2016 at 4:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Harvard Divinity School senior lecturer Diane Moore has modest goals for her upcoming online course, “World Religions Through Their Scripture.” She merely wants to increase religious understanding, open up crucial dialogues, and change the world — or at least to create a MOOC that will examine religion in a uniquely enlightening way.

The course, which launches this spring, will bring together Harvard’s leading scholars in the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. As a HarvardX MOOC (massive open online course), it was designed to attract an international, multicultural audience.

Moore, a senior lecturer on religious studies and education, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions, and director of the Religious Literacy Project, has long been an advocate of “religious literacy,” meaning an understanding of how religion works in its cultural and political contexts. Thus her goal is not to champion one religion over another, but to heighten the study of religion itself. And it’s not often that scholars of each leading religion interact in the real world, much less online.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetGlobalizationReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* Theology

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Posted February 14, 2016 at 2:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Quite aside from his legal views, what came through that night four years ago was just how keenly interested Scalia was in Church affairs, and how central reflection on his faith was to his life and his worldview.

There are, of course, Catholics who don’t believe Scalia drew the correct conclusions from his religious convictions, seeing his “originalist” view of the Constitution as more about conservative political ideology than genuinely Catholic sensibilities.

What can’t be denied is that Antonin Scalia was a serious Catholic, someone whose faith was a defining element of his life. His passing is a reminder that Catholicism’s contribution to public life in the United States may not always be ideologically coherent or predictable, but it’s profound, and he was a lifelong embodiment of that truth.

Read it all frp, John Allen in Crux.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted February 14, 2016 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis on Friday became the first pontiff to ever meet a patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, as the two Christian leaders set aside centuries of division in a historic encounter that was held in an unlikely setting: a room at the Havana airport.

Having announced the meeting only a week ago, Francis landed in Havana about 2 p.m. for a stopover that lasted a few hours, before he continued to Mexico City for his six-day visit to Mexico. Awaiting him in Havana was Patriarch Kirill, who was making an official visit to Cuba at the invitation of President Raúl Castro.

As he approached the Russian patriarch amid the clicking of news cameras, Francis was overheard to say, “Brother.” A moment later, he added, “Finally.”

The two men embraced, kissing each other twice on the cheeks and clasping hands before taking seats. “Now things are easier,” Kirill said. Francis responded, “It is clear now that this is the will of God.”

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyEcclesiology

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Posted February 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The 21 [Coptic] men executed that day [in Libya] were itinerant tradesman working on a construction job. All were native Egyptians but one, a young African man whose identity is uncertain—reports of his name vary, and he was described as coming from Chad or Ghana. But the power of his example is unshakable. The executioners demanded that each hostage identify his religious allegiance. Given the opportunity to deny their faith, under threat of death, the Egyptians declared their faith in Jesus. Steadfast in their belief even in the face of evil, each was beheaded.

Their compatriot was not a Christian when captured, apparently, but when challenged by the terrorists to declare his faith, he reportedly replied: “Their God is my God.” In that moment, before his death, he became a Christian. The ISIS murderers seek to demoralize Christians with acts like the slaughter on a Libyan beach. Instead they stir our wonder at the courage and devotion inspired by God’s love.

While we remember these men’s extraordinary sacrifice, is there not more that we can do to stop this genocide against Christians in the Middle East?

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgyptIranIraqSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 12, 2016 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

New research suggests that not only is there no end in sight, but there are few signs of hope for revival in rapidly aging, shrinking groups such as the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Consider these findings from two of the largest surveys of U.S. congregations:

• In just the last five years, the percentage of mainline Protestant congregations where more than one-fifth are ages 18 to 35 has decreased dramatically. In 2010, some 4.8 percent of mainline congregations reported having that large a proportion of young adults in the pews; by 2015, just 1.3 percent reported that high a percentage, according to initial findings from the 2015 Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey.
• Children made up just 16 percent of regular attenders in mainline Protestant congregations, compared to an average of 29 percent in other Christian traditions, according to a new analysis of the 2012 wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS).
• Mainline Protestants recorded a nearly 30 percent decline – from 24 percent in 1998 to 17 percent in 2012 – in the proportion of its members filling U.S. pews, the NCS study found.
• In the 2005 FACT survey, a little more than half of mainline churches said fewer than 100 people on average were at weekend worship; in 2015, nearly two-thirds attracted less than 100 worshippers. Sociologist David Roozen, a FACT study director, reported the findings at the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association.

How serious are the numbers?

“It might already be beyond that point” where a significant recovery is possible, said Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves, NCS director and author of “American Religion: Contemporary Trends.”

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSociology* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodistPentecostal* Theology

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Posted February 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterian* Theology

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Posted February 9, 2016 at 3:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hamtramck, Michigan was once the home of Polish Catholics and an auto manufacturing plant that employed 45,000 workers. Today it is a much smaller community, more than half of which is Muslim, and it is the only American town with a Muslim-majority city council. Lucky Severson reports from Hamtramck on how dramatically it has changed.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 9, 2016 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We live in a world so weary of violence and strife, so hardened against rhetoric and marketing, and so soporific from our long dark night that we are tempted to conclude that there is nothing left but boredom and silliness.

But if we can get our own act together, this can be the church’s finest hour.

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyApologeticsChristology

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Posted February 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Why now? What world events made this historic meeting possible?

Behind closed doors, the pope and the patriarch will almost certainly talk about Ukraine and other issues. They may talk about the remaining doctrinal barriers that prevent shared Communion, in every sense of that word, between the Orthodox and Catholics.

But all signs are that they are meeting because, to be blunt, Christians have few if any safe havens right now in the lands in which they have lived and worshiped since the birth of Christianity. What happens if Damascus falls to ISIS or even to the American-backed "moderate" forces that have been killing and kidnapping Christians and members of other religious minorities at a slower rate than ISIS?

Stay tuned to see what is in the joint declaration in Cuba. I imagine that U.S. State Department leaders will be reading it carefully.

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicPope Francis

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Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Which brings us to the multi-layered complexity of the situation: How to help create a context such that people can return to their ISIS-occupied homes 30 miles away? We spent a lot of time listening. The words that kept coming: Rescue. Restore. Return. So we designed a long-term strategy, consistent with their environment, that builds on short-term impact:
Rescue: We wanted to help those in immediate need, providing relief to them so that they could make it totomorrow. In so doing, we were also able to discern who was doing the best work locally, like the Dominican Sisters, or Assyrian Aid Society (which is just incredible). Besides helping people, we found partners whose yes is yes, and no is no. We are in relationship with them. We trust each other in a part of the world where there is no trust.

Restore: All of those who have fled ISIS have been traumatized in some fashion. They need a way to address the internal if they are to become whole again, and thus serve as peace-builders in a post-ISIS world. So we have sought to invest in education as well as trauma training, seeking to build internal reconciliation such that external reconciliation might one day take place.

Return: This is the tricky part, on two counts....

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissionsParish MinistryPastoral Care* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted February 5, 2016 at 3:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Belgian government, reacting to the major role terrorists from Brussels played in the Paris terror attacks, unveiled a program Friday to combat Islamist radicalization in and around the city.

The plans include the hiring of 1,000 new police officers across the country by 2019, with 300 of them added this year and deployed in eight municipalities in the Brussels region.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the additional police force in Brussels would focus on cutting off revenue sources for extremist groups by countering illicit trade in arms, drugs and false travel documents. Brussels police will also increase the monitoring of places of worship known for extremist preaching, he said.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 5, 2016 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In summary, said Dr. Anis, Christians who witness to Muslims must depend entirely on the Holy Spirit, and should be authentic, humble and generous in all their dealings. Muslims who convert frequently must pay a heavy price in loss of family relationships and everything they had held dear; the Christian community must be prepared to do all that it can to mitigate those losses. He closed his talk with a short film that showed the various kinds of Christian outreach his own diocese is sponsoring, with an emphasis on providing the best possible loving care to Egyptians from all walks of life in Christian-run hospitals, and offering testimonies from those whose lives had changed in consequence. God's love, shown to Muslims and others through freely given medical and other care, brings results on God's timetable. "Our job is to witness to Christ's love, to pay the price when asked, and to involve the local community of believers."

Another perspective on witnessing to Muslims was offered by Fouad Masri, a Lebanese-born, third-generation pastor who trained in the United States, and then in 1993 founded the Crescent Project, based in Indianapolis, through which he has taught more than 21,000 Christians how to share their faith sensitively and caringly with Muslims. He stressed that Muslims generally do not know what Christians believe, that they never read the Bible for themselves, and have repeatedly been told that it is unreliable (its text is, e.g., hopelessly corrupt in comparison with the Qu'ran that was dictated directly from Allah).

"Because you have been at this conference," he predicted, "God will put a Muslim in your path. Be an ambassador for your faith: represent it truly, humbly, and without apology or evasion. Be friendly -- don't criticize Muslim beliefs; build bridges, biblical bridges, from your faith to theirs, with which you can reach them. Invite them to your home, and share what you have. Remember that God, not us, makes people Christians; we are God's humble servants, and our involvement is His involvement with the world."

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* South Carolina* TheologyApologeticsChristologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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Posted February 5, 2016 at 7:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Vatican says Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in a major step to heal the 1000-year-old schism that divided Christianity between East and West.

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Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox ChurchRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

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Posted February 5, 2016 at 5:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The theme of this year's Mere Anglicanism Conference in Charleston, South Carolina was "The Cross and the Crescent: the Gospel and the Challenge of Islam." Over the course of four sessions, seven speakers gave the sold-out audience a comprehensive view of Islamic ideology and history, along with the understanding and tools which Christians need in their personal dealings with Muslims.

The Conference was carefully balanced. Two of the speakers analyzed the tenets of Islam and their contrasts with those of Christianity; two of the speakers spoke to the historical and present-day conflicts between Islamic countries and Western ones; two offered insights and approaches to discussing religion with followers of Mohammed, garnered from their years of experience in dealing with Muslims from all walks of life; and the seventh speaker offered a moving personal testimony to his own conversion from Islam to Christianity -- a decision which cost him his closest ties to his own family. In order to keep my report easier to follow, I shall divide it into two parts. I will first discuss those speakers who gave analytical and historical critiques of Islam, and then cover those who offered pragmatic advice in the second part.

Dr. William Lane Craig, a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (La Mirada, California), and also a Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptists University, opened the Conference on Thursday evening with a talk on "The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity." He explained that he had been interacting with Islam, both academically and in debates with leading Muslim advocates, for over thirty years. In that time, he learned how to address the issue of the God that each religion worships. We should not ask: "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?", because that approach gets tied up in differences over terminology and semantics. A more useful inquiry is: "What is the concept of 'God' in Islam, and in Christianity? Are they the same? And if not, which one is true?"

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* South Carolina* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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Posted February 4, 2016 at 3:51 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Melbourne's Anglican churches say they cannot offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing immediate deportation to Nauru because they are not equipped to provide accommodation.

It puts the Melbourne Anglican diocese at great odds with its counterparts around the rest of the country, who are willing to face police raids and possible charges to shield asylum seekers.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsImmigration* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted February 4, 2016 at 3:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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