Friday, November 17, 2017

Churches hope to see the end of Mugabe’s rule

From The Church Times-

CHURCHES in Zimbabwe have spoken with hope about “the birth of a new nation”, after military action on Wednesday appeared to curtail the rein of President Robert Mugabe.

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the Zimbabwean Council of Churches said: “We see the current situation not just as a crisis in which we are helpless. We see the current arrangement as an opportunity for the birth of a new nation. Our God created everything out of chaos, and we believe something new could emerge out of our situation.”

In the hours that followed the military intervention, the general secretary of the Zimbabwean Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Kenneth Mtata, called on all political and civil actors to rebuild a broken society.

More here-

Same-sex marriage result was a defeat for only one type of Christianity - and a triumph for the grassroots sitting in church pews

From Australia-

For many, the answers to these questions were rapidly flipped and fried on Tuesday when the postal survey results were announced and the entire country was briefly bathed in a carnival of colour; an antipodean Munchkin land.

It would be entirely wrong to see Australia's decisive support for marriage equality as a defeat for Christianity. After all, Liberal senator Dean Smith, whose bill legalising same-sex unions is about to be made into law, is a Christian. Labor senator Penny Wong, too, is a woman of faith who has worshipped at Uniting churches.

Wednesday was, she said, a "day of grace".

It was, though, a defeat for a certain brand of public, conservative Christianity, one that has focused on sexuality, morality and traditional views of men and women.

And a triumph for the grassroots, those in the pews who – as polls repeatedly showed – quietly tolerated but did not share the views of their church leaders, and for those who continually asked why the unelected Australian Christian Lobby is viewed as the voice of Christianity in this country when its membership is so small (and, as researcher Stephanie Judd found, is dominated by Baptists and Pentecostals).

More here-

First World Day of the Poor message released

From Vatican Radio-

This Sunday, November 19th marks the first World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis called for at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation on Tuesday announced a number of special events that are taking place throughout the week to highlight this annual initiative.

On Sunday morning in St Peter’s Basilica, some four thousand poor and needy people, accompanied by volunteers from Italy, France, Spain, Brussels, Luxembourg and Poland will take part in a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

Following the Eucharist, 1.500 of the visitors will be invited to lunch in the adjacent Paul VI Hall, while the other 2.500 guests will be taken to lunch in some of the Catholic colleges, seminaries and charitable organisations in the vicinity of the Vatican.

More here-

and here-

Fort Worth in impaired communion with some ACNA dioceses

From Anglican Ink-

The second event on the Provincial level is the completion of the five-year study of the Task Force on Holy Orders, concerning the ordination of women, and the meeting of the College of Bishops to discuss the report for the first time at a conclave in Victoria, British Columbia, in early September. At the end of the meeting, a Statement was released stating where we are in this continuing controversy that divides us. It was the first time that all the Bishops went on record by stating their position on this issue. It was evident that no Bishop had changed his mind as a result of the study and that a majority of the Bishops are opposed to the ordination of women priests on biblical and theological grounds.

It is interesting to note that when Archbishop Robert Duncan appointed the Task Force, he charged them with doing a study of the issue of women in holy orders, but instructed them not to come to a conclusion or to make any recommendation as to how to resolve the debate. The report simply summarizes the arguments for and against. This is in stark contrast to a similar study done by the Anglican Mission in America several years ago, known as the Rodgers Report, which concluded that women cannot be ordained bishops or priests, while leaving open the door to the possibility of women deacons. Those of us who agreed to the formation of the ACNA in 2009 did so with the clear understanding that a serious theological study would be done and that a decision would be made at that time.

More here-

Christians & the Death Penalty

From Commonweal-

I would be lying if I claimed that my initial approach to By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed was an unprejudiced one—I am firmly convinced that no Christian who truly understands his or her faith can possibly defend the practice of capital punishment—but I was not unwilling to give the book a fair hearing. My convictions on the matter may be fixed, but they are not always passionate. There have been various occasions over the years when I have found myself desiring the deaths of some especially vicious criminals, including two who casually murdered an exceptionally gentle friend of mine when I was in college. And I have never shed a tear over the Nazis executed by the Allies after the Second World War. I am quite able to be heartless toward the heartless. But this book would exhaust the ruthlessness of Torquemada.

I might have guessed that something was terribly amiss just from the title. There is nothing especially mysterious about it: it is more or less inevitable that any substantial attempt at a Christian defense of capital punishment will repeat two tediously persistent exegetical errors—a misuse of Genesis 9:6 (hence the title) and a misreading of Romans 13:1–7. But it makes some difference which of the two is accorded priority. If the latter, then in all likelihood the argument being made is merely that the death penalty is theologically licit; if the former, that it is morally necessary. And so it is in this case: the claim Feser and Bessette advance is not simply that Catholics may approve of capital punishment, but that they must, and that it actually borders on heresy not to do so. Needless to say, an assertion that bold requires a formidable array of corroborating evidence, and this Feser and Bessette fail to provide. What they have produced instead is relentlessly ill-conceived. Its arguments, philosophical and historical, are feeble. Its treatment of biblical texts is crude, its patristic scholarship careless. And all too often it exhibits a moral insensibility that is truly repellant.

More here-

Thursday, November 16, 2017

How the ACNA helped me become an Episcopalian

From The Living Church-

Yet the persistence of Christian faith within the Episcopal Church, and especially the persistence of the witness of the Communion Partners, shows that the formation of ACNA was not necessary, and therefore not justified, because there is no justification for breaking fellowship with other Christians. Christ is not divided; his people are still in the Episcopal Church; even his people who hold to the very priorities that ACNA and GAFCON claim (viz., on human sexuality) remain in the Episcopal Church. If ACNA deems a commitment to traditional conceptions of sexuality and marriage necessary, it cannot claim that leaving the Episcopal Church was necessary to hold those commitments.[6]

My theological vocation has demanded that if I am to be an Anglican in the United States, I need to be an Episcopalian. The Anglican Communion actually is something; there is a given-ness to its life and structures, and a part of this given-ness is that the Anglican Communion is a communion of churches in communion with the See of Canterbury. In the United States, the Anglican province is the Episcopal Church. I found that in my theological research and writing, when I was engaged in Anglican ecclesiology, I could only write with reference to the Episcopal Church. I know no other way to do ecclesiology. In order to exercise this vocation with integrity, and in order to work for the flourishing of the Anglican Communion, and in order to seek the highest degree of communion possible with the greatest number of Christians possible, I have stepped away from the ACNA for the Episcopal Church. I am not suggesting that others in the ACNA come over into the Episcopal Church;[7] I’m simply explaining my route.

More here-

Same-sex marriage Yes vote threatens to cause rift in Anglican Church

From Australia-

The Anglican Bishop of Western Australia's North West has warned of a split within the church if it were to consider allowing same-sex marriage.

It comes after the Anglican Dean of Perth, the Very Reverend Richard Pengelley, said he believed the church would discuss the issue of changing its policy at the next National Synod.

"I think it will come, I think it's inevitable," he said.

"I think it's the trajectory of inclusion and compassion which is the way I see religion being out of step with society — not hardening, but being more inclusive.

While the Federal Parliament continues to debate Senator Dean Smith's bill, which is expected to legalise same-sex marriage, the Anglican Church still deems it illegal to marry a same sex couple.

More here-

Unique congregation of two different Christian traditions celebrates 40 year anniversary

From Southern Virginia-

Erwin and Mary Thomas moved to Hampton Roads in 1980 because Erwin Thomas had accepted a teaching position at Norfolk State University. They were expecting their first child, so they began searching for a church to christen the baby.

This search was complicated because Erwin Thomas was a devout Episcopalian, and Mary Thomas was just as faithful to the Catholic Church, so they didn’t attend church together.

Then the couple attended Church of the Holy Apostles, and they knew that they had found a spiritual home, said Erwin Thomas. Their son, Matthew, was christened as a Catholic, and the family became very active in the church.

Inclusivity and acceptance are what that church is all about, said Lynne Bouvier Graham, a church parishioner and co-chairman of the 40th anniversary celebration, which was held Nov. 5.

More here-

A Muslim named Moses saw this Christian church struggling. He built a farm to save it.

From Miami-

Neighbors wondered what was going on when the privacy fence went up around St. Simon in the Weeds.

Joggers speculated the squat Episcopalian church had finally been sold to developers after almost 70 years. Or maybe that the church was going to try to put up a cell tower again on its four acres of mostly overgrown land. Was the tiny school the church rented out expanding? What was going to happen to the unofficial dirt track for weekend ATV riders?

“I’ll bet you it’s more houses,” one speed walker said to another as they cruised by.

More here-

Why Religion Is Not Going Away and Science Will Not Destroy It

From Big Think-

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: ‘belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge’. Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularisation as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria and Turkey have either had their secular governments replaced by religious ones, or have seen the rise of influential religious nationalist movements. Secularisation, as predicted by the social sciences, has failed.

More here-

Boys should be free to wear tutus and tiaras, says Church of England

From The Guardian-

Boys should be free to choose to wear a tutu, tiara or heels, and girls to wear toolbelts and superhero capes, the Church of England has said in new guidance issued to its schools.

The advice also calls on teachers to avoid using labels that might alienate children’s behaviour “just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes”.

The updated guidance for its 4,700 schools, titled Valuing All God’s Children [pdf], follows advice issued three years ago that covered homophobic bullying. It has now been expanded to include transphobic and biphobic bullying.

The church advises that nursery and primary school should be a time of “creative exploration”, and that pupils should feel free to “try out the many cloaks of identity” and “explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgment or derision”.

In the guidance, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warns that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes “profound damage leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide”.

More here-

U. S. Episcopalians and African Anglicans Explore What the Bible Says About Sexuality

From The Chicago Consultation-

“On Sexuality and Scripture” includes scholarly essays, Bible studies and personal reflections

In 2011, at the height of divisions in the Anglican Communion over same-sex relationships, a group of Anglicans from Africa and Episcopalians from the United States gathered in Durban, South Africa to read and discuss the Bible together.

Called together by the Chicago Consultation and the Ujamaa Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, most shared a conviction that the sacred Scriptures of the Christian faith were being misused as cudgels by church leaders and politicians who sought to criminalize same-sex relationships and exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from fully participating in the life of the church.

From that meeting, and subsequent gatherings in Limuru, Kenya in 2013 and Elmina, Ghana in 2015 comes “On Sexuality and Scripture,” a book from Church Publishing Incorporated that challenges narrow, punitive readings of Scripture and makes the case that LGBTI people are beloved children of God who desire they be loved, honored and respected.

More here-

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ACNA’s “impaired communion”

From The Cafe-

In his address to convention last weekend, the Rt Rev Jack L. Iker of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, described the “impaired communion” of an Anglican Church in North America that continues to wrestle over women’s ordination.

"So where are we? Most ACNA bishops and dioceses are opposed to women priests, but as it presently stands, the ACNA Constitution says each diocese can decide if it will ordain women priests or not. We now need to work with other dioceses to amend the Constitution to remove this provision. As you know, women bishops are not permitted in any diocese, and no bishop wants to change that prohibition.

I would underscore that the recent Bishops’ statement declares that the ordination of women “is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order” and that “there is insufficient warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice.”  Needless to say, the women priests and their supporters are very unhappy about that."

More here-

How Will the Sydney Anglican Diocese Make Up for the $1 Million of Charitable Funds It Squandered Opposing #MarriageEquality?

From Patheos-

For the past several months, the nation of Australia has been locked in a bitter debate about whether or not to support same-sex marriage. The conservative government gambled by holding a mail-in, non-binding plebiscite vote, which was supposed to favor elderly, more conservative voters who actually still use snail mail. Unfortunately for the conservatives, through a highly organized campaign, the Yes voters were able to get support from 61.6% of the voters, which is pretty well a crushing landslide statistically speaking. The majority favored Yes in every Australian province.

In the midst of the campaign, the Anglican diocese of Sydney donated $1 million from its social justice coffers to the No campaign. Archbishop Glenn Davies publicly announced the donation and defended it, saying that opposing marriage equality is a “social justice issue.” In other words, they spent money that is normally earmarked to support refugees, the poor, and other vulnerable people groups on television advertisements and flyers that sought to stir up fear against a queer “agenda.” I’d like to know how the diocesan end-of-year fundraising letter is going to explain this wasteful and evangelistically disastrous expenditure. How many widow’s mites that were tossed into the offering plate on Sundays to support marginalized people were snatched away to create anti-queer propaganda?



From USC-

This week’s allegations of predatory sexual behavior toward children by Alabama Republican Senate nominee, Roy Moore, are suffused with Christmas spirit, and I don’t just mean the detail that one of the 14-year-old girls he propositioned and later “dated” against her mother’s will had been working as a Santa’s Helper at the mall when she first caught his eye.

Incredibly, Moore’s evangelical defenders are turning to the original Christmas story of Jesus’ nativity to explain his behavior in what they claim to be Biblical terms. On Thursday afternoon, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler defended Moore’s actions using Zachariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist, and Mary and Joseph, who he called the “parents of Jesus.” His statement about Moore is worth quoting in full:

"He’s clean as a hound’s tooth. . .Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. . Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual."

More here-

Why We Should Expect Our Politicians to Be Moral People

From Sojourners-

This week, Newsweek published polling data showing that “nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they're now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children.”

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Last October, a PRRI/Brookings study found that white evangelicals were increasingly likely to support politicians who commit immoral acts. According to the poll, 72 percent of white evangelicals at the time believed that private immorality does not disqualify a public official from fulfilling their duties in the public sphere — an increase from only 30 percent in 2011. This trend is as worryingly significant now as it was then, especially in light of the Alabama Senate race and its disturbing revelations about many leaders’ and voters’ priorities.

More here-

The Enduring Appeal of Creepy Christianity

From The National Review-

Speaking broadly, there are two great, competing temptations that tug at the Christian Church. Both of them are based on the fear of man. The first is the one that the theologically orthodox discuss and battle the most: the temptation to forsake Christian doctrine to seek the approval of a hostile culture. This is the old argument that the world would embrace the Church if only the Church were more like the world. It is embraced by much of Mainline Protestantism, and it’s the path to religious extinction. In the effort to appeal to the world, the Church becomes the world, and the logic for its distinct existence disappears. Thus the rapid decline of denomination after denomination that has decided to essentially merge with America’s secular culture.

The second temptation is one that attracts the theologically orthodox: the temptation to run toward a form of hyper-legalism as a firewall to protect your family from the sins of the world. Mothers and fathers are desperate for a way to guarantee that their children will grow up to love the Lord. They want to build high walls against sin, so they seek to create distinct communities that are free of the world’s filth and moral compromise.

More here-

Inside America’s Largest Religious Revival You Know Nothing About

From The Federalist-

For decades, demographic studies have indicated the steady decline of religion in America, but new measures suggest that, on the contrary, at least one religion in America is alive and well, thriving in every community, and claiming devoted adherents in nearly every household.

This new religious revival has remained under the radar in large part because its adherents do not claim any religious attachment to this social institution, but by every measure of behaviors typically associated with religion, it is deceitful to label it as anything less. Although it shies away from adopting an overarching organization or name for itself, for the purposes of this study, it will be considered under the name Athletica.

More here-

12 Things that your Pastor, Priest, or Minister Wishes You Knew

From Patheos-

1. YOU are a source of encouragement to us. All too often the people in our pews imagine that clergy are islands of devotion – except, of course, when we fail spectacularly and publicly. We aren’t. Like everyone else we draw encouragement from others who are faithful and courageous. You shouldn’t be that way for our sake, of course, but don’t forget, there are days when we draw renewed strength from your example.

2. Don’t forget to show up. A bishop or a search committee may have been instrumental in our coming to your parish, but we count on your presence. In one ancient Rabbinic story God tells the children of Israel, “If you obey the Law, I am God. If you don’t, I am not.” The story didn’t mean that literally, but it makes an important point. God works through people and through God’s church. That work requires your presence.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Former Anglican Dean of Newcastle facing child sexual assault charges

From Australia-

The former Anglican Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence has been arrested and charged with alleged sexual assaults on a 15-year-old boy.

The alleged offences occurred in the NSW Hunter region in 1991.

In 2016, police in Newcastle received a referral from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and Strike Force Arinya was formed to investigate.

Mr Lawrence was one of a number of current and former Anglican Church officials to give evidence at the royal commission hearing into the Anglican Church in Newcastle last year.

This morning, officers from the strike force arrested the 75-year-old former dean at his home in the Newcastle suburb of Kotara.

More here-

Study Finds Churchgoers Are Less Stressed, Happier In Life

From Western New York-

Does faith have any impacts on one’s longevity and stress relief? A recent study suggests it does.

A study recently published by the Public Library of Science, “Church Attendance, Allostatic Load and Mortality in Middle-Aged Adults,” found that churchgoers have a significantly lower risk of dying at the time of follow-up. The subjects of the study were tracked for 14 years, and were surveyed on church attendance, as well as their allostatic load, which is the exposure to elevated or repeated stress and its consequences.

The study found that non-churchgoers had higher Allostatic Load rates, as well as higher rates of blood pressure, “good” cholesterol called HDL cholesterol and a higher rate of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio. In the study, 36 percent said they never attended church, while 64 percent said they attended church at least once a year. The frequency of attendance didn’t seem to matter, however. People who attended church regularly and those who attended once a year didn’t have a big difference in Allostatic Load.

More here-

Episcopalian revival: Hold the fire and brimstone

From San Joaquin-

There will be no tents, torches or sermons threatening hell and damnation.

The Episcopalian Church doesn’t do revivals that way.

That it’s doing a revival at all is a startling break from tradition, but it’s holding a three-day revival in the San Joaquin Valley beginning Friday at University of the Pacific.

“It’s not typically something coming out of the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Anna Carmichael, Canon to the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. “We’re usually heady, not so emotive. We don’t do a lot to get anyone’s attention.”

All of that is changing under Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, who was elected to lead the national church for a nine-year term in 2015.

Curry has called on Episcopalians to join the Jesus Movement and said the three-day San Joaquin Revival — which continues with events Saturday in Fresno and Sunday in Bakersfield — is just the beginning. More revivals are planned across the country.

More here-

How a refugee eager to be in the U.S. found help from the Miami faithful

From Miami-

Nima Masoumi left the city of Esfahan in Iran because he wanted to be free to choose his religion — even if that meant choosing no religion at all.

Masoumi left behind his parents, two sisters and a brother, hoping to reach the United States. He spent nearly three years in Turkey while being vetted by the U.S. State Department and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Unable to work legally in Turkey, he toiled in the Turkish “underground,” washing dishes, working construction and doing whatever he could to survive.

“It was really tough,” said Masoumi, now 33. “You don’t know anybody. You don’t know the language. You have to pay rent. You have to eat.”

Read more here:

The Babel story is about the dangers of uniformity

From Christian Century-

The Tower of Babel story is among the best known and most frequently cited stories in the Torah. And yet most of the conventional interpretations of the narrative are, I think, mistaken.

Genesis 11 is not a simple morality tale about a human attempt to storm the heavens and displace God. Nor, conversely, is it a primitive allegory about an insecure deity who is so threatened by human achievement that God needs to wreak havoc on the best-laid human plans. The narrative is also not placed where it is in the Torah in order to explain the vast multiplicity of human languages. Nor is it a lament about some lost primeval unity. The story of Babel is, I would suggest, about something else: the importance of individuals and the horrors of totalitarianism.

The fact that the nine verses that make up the narrative are often de­scribed as the “Tower of Babel” story is misleading, since the crime of the builders at Babel is not their desire to build a tower. “A tower with its top in the sky” (Gen. 11:4) is not, in and of itself, any kind of assault on God’s authority. The term is, rather, simply a biblical Hebrew expression for a very tall building, what we would similarly call a “skyscraper”—it does not actually scrape the sky; it is just extremely tall.

More here-

Bishops told to stop acting as CEOs 'chasing growth targets' and instead help depressed clergy

From Christian Today-

Church of England bishops must stop acting as CEOs 'chasing growth targets' and return to being shepherds of their flocks, clergy are being told.

The Church's increasingly 'organisational and bureaucratic' approach leaves clergy feeling 'guilty' if they don't meet growth targets, a priests' support group was told, as the CofE desperately tries to halt decades of decline.

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, said a target and business-like approach instilled under the current Archbishop of Canterbury, a former oil executive, was contributing to clergy stress and mental health problems.

He called for an end to 'blue-sky' thinking and warned that 'every step that the church takes down the road of managerialism and organisation is a step away from the public'.

It comes as the Church's ruling general synod is planning a Military Covenant styled deal between clergy and the wider CofE after vicars reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion than other professions.

More here-

More Than 50 Pastors Sign Letter of Support for Roy Moore

From Sojourners-

Fifty-three pastors have signed a letter of support for Roy Moore amid several accusations of sexual assault and harassment, including statutory rape, against the Republican Senate nominee, according to the

The letter refers to Moore as an "immovable rock in the culture wars ... Judge Moore has stood in the gap for us, taken the brunt of the attack, and has done so with a rare, unconquerable resolve."

The letter shows a distrubing trend of Christian conservatives defending Moore, further evidenced by recent polling in Alabama that reveals a rising evangelical support for Moore, though overall support for Moore seems to be decreasing. 

More here-

and here-

Monday, November 13, 2017

Via Media: The Middle Way, or the Episcopal Gift of Confusion

From The Cafe-

The Anglican Communion is a wonder of balance, even though sometimes we seem like the Pushmi-Pullyu two headed beast of Dr. Doolittle’s Zoo. Not too Roman Catholic, not too Protestant. We love our sayings, such as “All may, none must, some should,” a perfect reflection of our theology, liturgy, and just about everything else.

The Daily Office readings leading up to Advent have been mostly pretty grim. The occasional flights of heartbreaking beauty in the vision of the throne of God in Revelation. But then there is Judgment Day, and the whore of Babylon. Even stripping “her” from the misogamy and saying Rome or the greedy world of today, it is still pretty nasty. The Old Testament lesson has been focused on wars and the struggle to regain Jerusalem after the exile, but also dire warnings about obeying every jot and tittle of the 613 commandments of the Jewish law. And the parables chosen tend to be the opaque ones.

More here-

Roy Moore's alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles

From The LA Times-

We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose: He pursued a 14-year-old-girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage. That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.

I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms. That’s how I was introduced to these relationships as a home-schooled teenager in the 1990s, and it’s the language that my friends and I would use to discuss girls we knew who were in parent-sanctioned relationships with older men.

One popular courtship story that was told and retold in home-school circles during the 1990s was that of Matthew and Maranatha Chapman, who turned their history into a successful career promoting young marriage. Most audiences, however, didn’t realize just how young the Chapmans had in mind until the site Homeschoolers Anonymous and the blogger Libby Anne revealed that Matthew was 27 and Maranatha was 15 when they married. Libby Anne also drew mainstream attention to Matthew Chapman’s writings, in which he argued that parents should consider marriage for their daughters in their “middle-teens.” At that point the Chapmans stopped receiving quite so many speaking invitations.

More here-

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hundreds Gather For First Sunday Service Since Texas Church Shooting

From NPR-

Members of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas held their first Sunday service following last Sunday's mass shooting there.

In an emotional sermon, Pastor Frank Pomeroy spoke of the 26 killed on Nov. 5., including his 14-year-old daughter, invoking a sense of both personal and communal loss.

"I know everyone who gave their life that day. Some of whom where my best friends and my daughter. I guarantee they are dancing with Jesus today," said Pomeroy, according to the Associated Press.

Pomeroy also reflected on the gunman, Devin Patrick Kelly, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

"Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life," Pomeroy said.

More here-

Genuflection on the gridiron: protest in the liturgy

From Pittsburgh-

Genuflection has its origins not in the medieval church but in the medieval court. Bending on one knee expressed obeisance to the monarch. The church, ever given to eclecticism, was quick to adopt the practice, reasoning that what was good for the king was good for the King of Heaven. Since then, genuflection has been a standard aerobic exercise in liturgical churches.

I grew up in a high-church Episcopal parish in New York, where we were taught by our acolyte master and by the clergy in confirmation class that genuflection is an act of reverence by which we displayed bodily our theological belief in the Real Presence. Accordingly, we genuflected upon entering and leaving our pews, acknowledging the Blessed Sacrament reserved at the high altar. Genuflection also has been a sign of reverence for the mystery of the Incarnation. Accordingly, the congregation “took the knee” at the words of the Creed “and became incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

But the topic here is what we might dub “genuflection on the gridiron.” For we must recognize that football has a sacred liturgy of its own, complete with rites, rubrics, colorful vestments, participants playing various roles, masters of ceremonies, musicians and a choir and congregation that intone prescribed chants.

More here-

One nation, divided under God

From The Church Times-

SIX days after it was confirmed that the United States had elected Donald John Trump as its 45th President (News, 11 November 2016), the President of the US Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, warned the Church of the baptismal promise to “resist evil”.

“The desire to foster ‘reconciliation’ is deep in Christians’ bones,” she wrote. “But too often the Church preaches reconciliation when what we really want is to avoid unpleasantness, or get approval from worldly powers and principalities. . . Reconciliation is holy work. Resistance is, too. We need to watch and wait to see what God is calling us to do.”

In the 12 months that ensued, Episcopalians and their leaders proved ready to take the latter course of action. Among the presidential actions opposed by bishops were the withdrawal from the Paris agreement on tackling climate change (News, 2 June); the proposed ban on transgender people in the military (News, 4 August); and the halving of refugee resettlement numbers (News, 3 February).

In September, 125 Episcopalian bishops signed a full-page ad in The New York Times, asking the President not to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protected from deportation undocumented immigrants who first came to the United States when they were children — the “Dreamers”. They also filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case challenging the travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries (News, 22 September).

More here-

No, Christians Don't Use Joseph and Mary to Explain Child Molesting Accusations

From Christianity Today-

There are times when Christians bow our heads in prayer and lament. When we see unbelievable tragedy and suffering, we find ourselves asking how much longer God will wait. This past week, I found myself calling out to God in this respect in the wake of the Texas church shooting, as I read more and more stories of faithful loved ones who lost their lives in a senseless act of violence.
There are other times, however, when we shake our heads in response to the sheer foolishness from those who claim to represent him.

Yes, this is again our reality, this time coming from a defender of Roy Moore.

Today, allegations of sexual assault against Moore broke in the Washington Post. This time, the allegations involved sexual advances against a 14-year-old girl.

Now, let me be clear. I know these are allegations and that everyone gets their day in court. I don’t write articles every time there is an allegation.

Yet, in this case, we need to clear something up.

Simply put, it is important to make clear that Christians don’t believe the message that is coming from some of Moore’s supporters. Actually, most of us find it really creepy.

More here-

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Story behind the Navy Hymn: In Honor of Veterans Day

From Christian Headlines-

It’s one of the most famous hymns in Christendom: “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” It’s often called “the Navy hymn” because it’s sung at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  But how many of us know the story behind this moving hymn?

The hymn’s author was an Anglican churchman named William Whiting, who was born in England in 1825. As a child, Whiting dodged in and out of the waves as they crashed along England’s shoreline. But years later, on a journey by sea, Whiting learned the true and terrifying power of those waves. A powerful storm blew in, so violent that the crew lost control of the vessel. During these desperate hours, as the waves roared over the decks, Whiting’s faith in God helped him to stay calm. When the storm subsided, the ship, badly damaged, limped back to port.

The experience had a galvanizing effect on Whiting. As one hymn historian put it, “Whiting was changed by this experience. He respected the power of the ocean nearly as much as he respected the God who made it and controls it.”

The memory of this voyage allowed Whiting to provide comfort to one of the boys he taught at a training school in Winchester.

More here-

Episcopal Diocese of Ohio celebrates bicentennial, holds 201st convention

From Ohio-

 For the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the years ahead could mark a "new Reformation" for Episcopalians.

"This is a diocese and this is a bishop... for whom their leadership is helping the Episcopalian church broadly to begin to understand anew our witness to the gospel of Jesus in our time," he said.

The Episcopalian Church is governed by two bodies, the House of Bishops, and the House of Deputies, which is made up of appointed clergy members and lay leaders from each diocese.

Both Curry, the leader of the House of Bishops, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, traveled to Cleveland for the 201st convention of the Diocese of Ohio, this weekend. 

More here-

Authorities in California ask church to stop feeding the homeless

From CBS-

A Malibu church that has helped the homeless for years has been asked to stop feeding people who are down on their luck.

CBS Los Angeles spoke to the people at the United Methodist Church about the request.

Workers at the church say they are able to serve as many as 100 people. They've been serving meals on Wednesdays since 2014.

But now, the food service will come to an end after Thanksgiving at the city's request.

"It's a safe place," said Michah Johnson, who is homeless. "And everyone is welcome. And the food is really good. It's home-cooked. And there's TLC involved."

"The church is very helpful," he added. "They keep my spirits up. They keep me accountable. When you're homeless, it's very easy to slip off and become jaded."

More here-

Humor in the Bible

From Church Life-

We rightly approach Scripture with reverence and a certain solemn spiritual hunger. Therefore, we do not often think of these inspired texts as having any sort of humor or laughter in them. This is especially true if we are Fundamentalists, or, take every word of the Bible literally.

Nonetheless, there are a number of Scripture passages that make me pause every time I hear or read them. These are in the Bible itself. They are not just the result of insufficient preparation on the part of the lector in regard to a particular text. One passage in particular comes to mind as an example of the latter: Luke 2:16.  The text may say, “The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger,” but the lector almost always proclaims instead that they “found Mary and Joseph and the baby, lying in the manger.” I will leave to your imagination how the “flaming brazier” of Genesis 15:17 comes across from some lectors.

What I am considering is something rather different. The Bible has a special status as the Word of God, but it is also quite simply literature and needs to be considered, at least at times, in that light if we wish to properly understand the manner in which each author wrote. Reflect on the fact that Shakespeare himself would include humor even in tragedies like Hamlet or Macbeth, and you will not be surprised to raise an eyebrow (or the corners of your lips) when you encounter certain biblical passages.

More here-

Friday, November 10, 2017

Church Members Stage Protest As Anglican Bishop Drags 3 Priests To Court In Imo

From Nigeria-

A peaceful protest was on Wednesday staged by the members of the Anglican Diocese on the Lake in the Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State over a crisis rocking the diocese.

the Bishop of the diocese, Rt. Rev. C.B.N. Otti, had dragged three senior priests of the church, Ven. Canon Eugene Onwubie, Rev. Eugene Iheanacho and Ven. Caleb Udom, to court for refusing to vacate the church premises where they resided with their families.

It was gathered that the priests who were officially in charge of St. Mathias Anglican Church, Nkwesi and Emmanuel Church, Izombe, were sued for refusing to submit their ordination certificates to the bishop, a situation that made him to issue the priests a one week notice to vacate their official residences.

The members carried placards with inscriptions such as, ‘Bishop Otti, stop this intimidation now or face our anger’, ‘Bishop Otti, is Diocese on the Lake your private business?, ‘Bishop Otti, pay your priests, ‘Oguta youths say no to your intimidation, harassment and humiliation’, among others.

 More here-,348246.0.html

and here-

Assault and abuse are rife in the Church of England, women say

From The Church Times-

THE Church of England has a blindspot when it comes to the sexual abuse, assault, or harassment of women, a growing group of women are saying.

Increasing numbers, clergy and lay, are coming forward to tell of their experiences after the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo campaign, which encourages women to tell their stories of abuse.

Several have warned that adult women who are abused in this way are slipping through the cracks in the safeguarding procedures of the Church, which focus largely on protecting children and adults deemed to be “vulnerable”.

Jo Kind, who works with Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS), the clerical-abuse survivors network, said this week that about half of all those who approached MACSAS were reporting abuse that had taken place while they were adults, not children.

More here-

Episcopal election makes it three firsts for Scotland’s first female bishop

From ACNS- (more links below)

Fourteen years after the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) formally opened the doors to the consecration of women to the episcopate, it has elected its first female bishop. Canon Anne Dyer, currently the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Haddington, East Lothian, was elected as the new Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney by the Province’s Episcopal Synod. It is the third “first” for Canon Dyer: In 1987 she was amongst the first group of women to be ordained to the diaconate in the Church of England’s Diocese of Rochester; and also amongst the first group of women in Rochester to be ordained to the priesthood in 1994.

Prior to ordination Anne Dyer read Chemistry at St Anne’s College, Oxford and was a business systems analyst with Unilever before training for ordained ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and studying theology at King’s College London.

More here-

and here-

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Boston University creates new denominational program for Episcopalians

From The Cafe-

Perhaps sensing a gap in the wake of Episcopal Divinity School’s departure for New York City to join with Union Theological Seminary, Boston University School of Theology (BUSTH) has announced the formation of a new Episcopal denominational learning community.

In collaboration with the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts, the intent of the learning community is to form a community of students, faculty, and staff dedicated to nurturing and preparing Episcopal students for future leadership and service in and through the church. The Anglican Episcopal Community of Learning (AECL) is a specialized program that aims to provide the best possible education in an ecumenical community that values the unique gifts, histories, and ministerial legacies of the denominations represented.

Who Is Satan?

From Biblical Archeology-

From the most comical of cartoons to the most grotesque of gargoyles, the majority of the population today can immediately recognize an image of the devil. But does our modern conception of Satan have any resemblance to the devil in the Bible? Just who is Satan? Is this horned, red-skinned monster with a pitchfork ruling hell truly the great enemy of God envisioned by the writers of the Biblical texts?

The short answer: no, not really.

In the Hebrew Bible, YHWH’s greatest enemies are not fallen angels commanding armies of demons, nor even the gods of other nations, but, rather, human beings. It isn’t the devil that spreads evil across the face of creation—it is mankind. Other than human beings, YHWH has no nemesis, nor are there malevolent spiritual forces not under his authority. YHWH is ultimately a god of justice. He is behind the good and the bad, behind the blessings and the curses. It is within this divine court of justice and retribution that Satan has his origins.

More here-

Bishop Smith Announces Retirment

From Arizona-

November 9 , 2017

Dear People of God,

This afternoon, I have met with the priests of the Diocese to let them know that I have announced my retirement and am calling for the election of my successor.

This was, of course, an announcement of mixed emotions for me. It has been the greatest honor and joy for me to serve as your bishop for almost 15 years. We have accomplished some great things together, and thanks to your hard work and prayers, the diocese overall is healthy and growing. By the time I retire I will be almost 68 years old. It is time for the diocese to move on to a new mission with younger leadership. It is also time for me to enjoy some new adventures before I get too old to do so! I am excited to share with you that one of these first adventures will be as a visiting professor of church history at General Theological Seminary in New York for the fall of 2019. Teaching is something which I very much enjoy, and having my two kids (and grandson!) nearby will be an added pleasure.

More here-

Thursday, November 9, 2017

One year after the election of Trump, the U.S. bishops shift focus

From Crux-

Two weeks after the surprising election of Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, Bishop Mark Seitz convened the priests of his border diocese of El Paso, Texas.

“There was a great deal of fear because of all of the rhetoric,” he told Crux. “I was receiving calls from teachers asking what do I say to my schoolchildren that are coming to school crying and some of them are having panic attacks…There was a lot of fear and it began from the day of the election.”
“At that time we began to think about what we should be doing as a Church and what we could do,” Seitz recalled.

“To be honest with you, we were feeling kind of helpless…We couldn’t go to the people and say ‘don’t worry, there’s nothing to worry about.’ We really asked ourselves what can we say? What can we do?”

At that meeting his priests suggested the formation of a diocesan committee that could rapidly respond to decisions being made in Austin, the state’s capital, and in Washington, D.C.

More here-

What’s behind the New Testament?

From Christian Century-

When I took my first New Testament course at Fuller Theologi­cal Seminary, the professor, Robert Guelich, opened the first class by asking who, after Jesus and Paul, was most responsible for the spread of Chris­tianity. Eager students raised their hands and offered various answers: Peter, Mary, Augustine.

“No,” Professor Guelich countered, “It was Alexander the Great.” He went on to explain how the young conqueror, dead for three centuries by the time Jesus was born, had laid the roads upon which the Roman Empire was built, and over which the gospel was subsequently spread. “Without Alexander the Great,” he told us, “no missionary journeys for Paul, and no Christianity.”

If Alexandrian roads provide a geographical map for the promulgation of Christianity, Philip Jenkins has provided us with a political-spiritual-textual map in his outstanding new book. Jenkins, a trusted historian and observer of the ebbs and flows of Christendom, has set his sights on a little-known period, which he dubs the “Crucible Era,” 250–50 BCE. It was in these two centuries, he argues, that the table was set for the emergence of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. (He says it paved the way for Islam, too, but here I think he’s stretching his thesis a bit.)

More here-

The Last of the First Christians

From Plough-

It’s been several years since I quit my job as director of Freiburg Seminary to live and work among the poor in Leipzig, Germany, along with three other members of the Little Brothers of Jesus, a religious order inspired by Charles de Foucauld. At an open house for our neighbors, many of them refugees from the Middle East, a thickset man of about forty comes up to me. Beside him is a boy with jet-black hair who looks about eleven. Yousif – as the broad-shouldered stranger turns out to be called – addresses me. I don’t understand him, but the boy already speaks excellent German and translates for him, “We are from Iraq, from Mosul. Please help us!”

The tasks awaiting me flash before my eyes: my duties in the parish and as a chaplain at a prison and a college. I feel like saying, “Sorry, I’d love to, but I haven’t got time.” But I can’t do it. The next day, I call to arrange a visit. My life hasn’t been the same since.

A few days later, I ring the doorbell of an eleven-story apartment block. Yousif lives on the third floor with his wife, Tara, and their two children, Amanuel and Shaba. They invite me into their living room. Yousif’s request for help, I learn, concerns his children. There are problems at school. Amanuel, a slightly built boy, confides to me that he is regularly bullied by his Muslim schoolmates because of the small cross he has always worn around his neck, even when things got dangerous for Christians in Mosul. Spotting it, an older Muslim boy had begun calling him names, then pretended to point a machine gun at him: “Ratatatata! Shoot the Christians!”

More here-

The stand

From The Economist-

IN THE summer of 1974, a 26-year-old Mayan villager lay drunk in a town square in the Guatemalan highlands. Suddenly he heard a voice that was to change the course of his life and that of his home town, Almolonga. “I was lying there and I saw Jesus saying, ‘I love you and I want you to serve me’,” says the man, Mariano Riscajche. He dusted himself down, sobered up and soon started preaching, establishing a small Protestant congregation in a room not far from the town’s ancient Catholic church.

Half a millennium earlier, a 33-year-old German monk experienced something similar. At some point between 1513 and 1517, Martin Luther had a direct encounter with God and felt himself “to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise”. His moment of being born again was private. The day on which he is said to have nailed a list of 95 complaints about ecclesiastical corruption to the church door in Wittenberg, Saxony—widely thought to have been October 31st 1517—made the private public and, soon, political. A mixture of princely patronage, personal stubbornness and chance led what could have ended up as just another minor protest in a remote corner of Europe to become a global movement.

More here-

New Debates, Few Insights

From The Living Church-

In the United Kingdom, two seemingly unrelated topics regularly cause fractious and polarized debate, with few fresh insights into the divide between secular and religious life. The first is presence as of right of 26 bishops in the House of Lords. The second is the 2-minute, 45-second Thought for the Day heard at peak time on Today, BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs program.

First, the House of Lords: With plans in place to reduce membership of the House of Commons from 650 to 600, few disagree that the Lords with 800 members is bloated and urgently needs slimming down. Fueling debate are regular media revelations of members who make no contribution but contrive to show long enough to collect the prescribed £300 allowance for daily attendance. People become truly animated, however, about the 36 bishops (Lords Spiritual) who sit in the Lords.

More here-

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Atheist Convention cancelled due to Lack of Intrest

From Australia-

To be honest, I'm disappointed.

"Reason to Hope", the third Global Atheist Convention scheduled for Melbourne in February 2018, has been cancelled because of "lack of interest" (according to my sources).

The conference was to be headlined by Sir Salman Rushdie, the highly esteemed – one might even say revered – novelist. In 1989 the Iranian cleric Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him after his novel The Satanic Verses was published. It was the Islamic world that took offence for what it said about the Prophet, but the novel took aim at Sikhs as well, and at religion in general.

Rushdie once called religion a "poison in the blood". He argued that respect for religion is not deserved:

"What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion's dreaded name? How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them."

Rushdie is himself totemic; not simply an artist but a piece of history himself. If anyone knows what damage excessive religious zeal can do, it is he.

More here-

First step towards Covenant for Clergy Well-being

From Church of England News-

Plans for a new deal between clergy and the wider Church of England - modelled on the ideas behind the Military Covenant - have taken a step forward after a panel was established to begin drafting.

The Church of England's Appointments Committee has set up a group, made up of members of General Synod, both lay and ordained, alongside others with expertise in areas such as health and education, to draw up a Covenant for Clergy Well-being.

It is being produced in response to a vote in the General Synod in July of this year after a debate which heard of the impact of stress, isolation and loneliness on clergy's lives and ministries.

The debate heard how the Military Covenant recognises that the nation relies on the sacrificial service of those in the armed forces and in return has a duty to support and value them in practical ways.

Although the parallels with the Church are not exact, Synod heard how a similar pattern of mutual commitment could be recognised in the Church.

The working group will begin work later this month and aims to bring proposals for such a Covenant back to this Synod by July 2019.

More here-

Forget the Guy Fawkes propaganda - the English Reformation was a violent catastrophe

From The Telegraph-

At this time of year, it is traditional to burn things. Tonight especially people will gather in gardens, parks and fields to apply a match to anything combustible. Highlights of the evening’s conflagrations will include re-enactments of a good deal of religious killing.

There will be Roman Candle fireworks, an allusion to the Emperor Nero dousing Christians in accelerants and burning them alive to light his gardens. The 18-year-old Saint Catherine of Alexandria will make her annual appearance, fizzing around a sparkling wheel in memory of her condemnation to death on a spiked breaking wheel (although, so the story goes, it shattered at her touch so she was beheaded instead). And the pièce de résistance will be the immolation of a life-size Jacobean Yorkshireman, or - in some parts of the country - the Pope.

Anyone visiting from abroad might be forgiven for thinking that they have chosen to spend their early winter holiday in a country with more than a hint of unresolved religious tension. They may well twig — even if most of us do not — that the one thing all these historical characters being symbolically executed have in common is that they are Catholics. And they would have a point. Historically,
Guy Fawkes Night was created as an explicit celebration of the death of Catholic England on the pyre of the Protestant Reformation.

More here-