Kendall Harmon on January 30th, 2015

Thus says the LORD:
“Where is your mother’s bill of divorce,
with which I put her away?
Or which of my creditors is it
to whom I have sold you?
Behold, for your iniquities you were sold,
and for your transgressions your mother was put away.
Why, when I came, was there no man?
When I called, was there no one to answer?
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?
Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make the rivers a desert;
their fish stink for lack of water,
and die of thirst.
I clothe the heavens with blackness,
and make sackcloth their covering.”
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him that is weary.
Morning by morning he wakens,
he wakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I turned not backward.

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Sure, anti-Christian bigots will sometimes act like intolerant thugs, demanding that a Brendan Eich be fired, or calling for a conservative Christian college to conform to ideological liberalism in every respect. But when that happens, critics (like me) will denounce the bigots, drawing on resources from within the liberal tradition to defend the principle of tolerance for every American, secular and devout, against the illiberal do-gooders who prefer moral purity (as they define it) to freedom.

But that’s not good enough for Hanby, Weigel, and Dreher. They are in mourning for Christianity’s loss of cultural hegemony in the United States.

I’d like to suggest that they should get over it — that, rightly understood, Christianity can be most fully itself when it relinquishes political and cultural rule, when it ceases to identify itself so closely with any particular political order.

Read it all.

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General Synod Communications on January 29th, 2015

Gathering input from dioceses across Canada and material from around the world, developers of a supplementary collection of congregational hymns are ready to bring their project into the limelight. The Hymn Book Supplement Task Force was formed approximately two years ago through the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee of General Synod to explore the creation more »

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editors@thinkinganglicans.org.uk on January 29th, 2015

The website of York Minster carries this notice. The Service of Consecration for the Reverend Philip North Tuesday 27 January The Reverend Philip North, will be consecrated as the Bishop of Burnley on Monday 2nd February 2015. The Reverend Philip…

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Dartmouth College, a school with a notoriously rowdy and widespread Greek culture, is taking action to curb misconduct on the Hanover, N.H., campus by banning hard liquor.

On Thursday, school President Philip Hanlon announced that starting March 30, all students, regardless of age, will be prohibited from possessing hard alcohol on campus. The school’s Greek societies have also been warned that they need to improve their behavior or risk being banned.

The measures come at a time when school officials across the United States are considering ways to crack down on a culture of excessive partying found at many colleges. The White House says the behavior has led to an “epidemic” of sexual assault on school campuses.

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Andrew Symes on January 29th, 2015

By Martin Davie, CEN.

 

Why is the Church debating homosexuality? In his review of Alan Wilson’s More Perfect Union? and Sam Allberry’s Is God Anti-Gay?, which was published in the December edition of the Oxford Diocesan newspaper The Door, Martyn Percy declares that the Church’s debate about homosexuality is increasingly:

“… not about sexuality. It is about how to read the Bible with care and wisdom. And it is a debate about the kingdom of God that Jesus both preached and practised; and whether the church can ever come close to embodying the unequivocal love of God for all humanity which Jesus so richly and fully expressed.”

In my view, Martyn Percy is wrong. The heart of the debate remains sex. Clarity about this central issue gives proper focus to the debate.

 

The debate is not about (or at least should not be about) whether it is right for there to be love and friendship between two people of the same sex. The answer to this is unequivocally ‘yes.’ Nor is the debate about whether people who experience same-sex attraction can be ordained. Again the answer is ‘yes.’ People with same-sex attraction are neither more nor less qualified to be considered for ordination than anyone else. The debate is about whether it is ever right for two people of the same sex to have sex and, following on from this, whether it is right for two people of the same sex to be married, or for the Church to ordain someone who engages in sexual activity with someone of the same sex.

 

I do agree with Martyn Percy, however, when he says that the debate is also about how we should read the Bible, about the nature of the kingdom of God and about whether (and how) the Church can embody God’s love for the human race. The debate about the central issue of sexual behaviour involves considering these other issues, since they provide the context for thinking rightly about this central issue. What I want to suggest in the rest of this article is that considering these issues highlights why Sam Allberry’s book provides a more helpful approach to the issue at the heart of the debate than the book by Alan Wilson.

 

First of all, then, what does it mean to ‘read the Bible with care and wisdom?’ Reading the Bible with care means seeking to understand as accurately as possible the original meaning of the words used in the Bible in their canonical context since nothing in the Bible was included by accident, but all was inspired by God himself (2 Timothy 3:16). Reading the Bible with wisdom means reading it reverently as a single, unified, authoritative communication from God so that, as Colossians 1:9 puts it, we may be ‘filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.’

 

So if we apply care and wisdom in this way to Martyn Percy’s key term ‘kingdom of God’, we discover two things: first that although the term appears relatively rarely, it can be seen to permeate the whole of Scripture; and second, that the heart of the message of the kingdom is the doing of God’s will. That is why we get the parallelism in the Lord’s Prayer ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). Thus the coming of the kingdom is about God’s people, living in God’s place, in obedience to God’s rule. That is what we see in Eden, that is what is lost at the Fall, that is what is partially realised in the history of the people of Israel and finally it is what is made fully possible by the work of Jesus Christ and will be experienced by God’s people for ever in the life of the world to come.

 

God’s love for the human race is his desire that his human creatures should inhabit his kingdom, but the fact that being an inhabitant of the kingdom involves submission to God’s rule means that we cannot see God’s love in terms of God merely accepting and affirming people as they are. Rather, it means God acting through Christ and the Spirit to re-create people so that they turn away from their old sinful selves and become instead the holy people God has always willed them to be, and it means people being willing to submit to this process of re-creation (this is what is meant by the repentance to which Jesus summons people in Mark 1:15).

 

The Church embodies God’s love in two ways: first, when it proclaims the coming of God’s kingdom and the call to repentance this involves and second, equally importantly, when it encourages and supports people as they go through the painful and difficult process of dying to their old selves and adopting a new way of life in obedience to God. So, returning to the debate about sexuality, we see that the Church’s privilege and responsibility is to proclaim the message of the Bible that God has created human beings in his image and likeness as men and women (Genesis 1:27) and that he wills that sex should only take place between men and women in the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24). All other forms of sexual activity, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are explicitly or implicitly viewed as contrary to God’s will and therefore to be avoided by God’s people.

 

The reason that Sam Allberry’s book is preferable to Alan Wilson’s is that, on the basis of reading the Bible with care and wisdom, Allberry re-affirms this biblical teaching and calls upon the Church to apply it in its teaching and its pastoral care. Wilson, on the other hand, interprets the Bible in a way that distorts the biblical teaching and effectively calls upon the Church to abandon people in their sinfulness by arguing that the Church should accept people’s same-sex activity and even bless it through marriage. This is not loving, because if acted upon, this would cut people off from experiencing God’s re-creative love and participating in his kingdom.

 

Dr Martin Davie is Academic Consultant to the Church of England Evangelical Council and the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. A full review of Alan Wilson’s More Perfect Union? by Dr Davie can be found here.

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Kendall Harmon on January 29th, 2015

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has struck down a decision by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society to deny graduates of British Columbia’s Trinity Western University the right to practise law in the Maritime province.

The Christian university had asked the court to review the society’s decision to deny accreditation to its graduates. It argued the law society overstepped its jurisdiction and failed to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Niger

By Paula Bolyard, PJ Media:

And he makes a bold prediction about the future of Christianity in his country.

In case you missed it, Muslim protesters, angry about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, have destroyed more than 70 churches, killing at least ten people since January 16th. The protesters, angry over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, have attacked not only Christian churches, but also Christian homes and schools — and even an orphanage. Various sources reported that there was little protection offered to Christians by security forces in Niger, which made them an easy target. Christians whose homes were destroyed fled with just the clothes on their backs.

But in the midst of the heartbreak and destruction — and the attempt to annihilate the tiny Christian church in the 98% Muslim country of Niger — one pastor has a message of hope and even expressed his gratitude for what the church has experienced.

“They burned our church, they burned my house, only we emerged safely and we glorify God for that,” he said. “All that I can say is this: may the name of the Lord be glorified right now in Niger.”

Instead of complaining about the suffering, the pastor took to heart the Apostle Paul’s instructions to rejoice in it. “So it is a glory and a joy that they burned our church,” he said. “We are moving forward and this is the time for the harvest. Many souls will come to Christ in Niger. I believe that!”

In other words, the pastor knows that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. Just as Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” the pastor in Niger knows that history has demonstrated over and over and over again that the Christian church grows — often exponentially — during times of persecution. So instead of looking at the immediate circumstances and the temporary suffering, he is able to find hope, believing that God will ultimately triumph over evil.

Read here

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Ukip is an “anti-politics” movement, appealing to voters who see the old parties as socially liberal, politically correct and captured by minority interest groups. Major party membership has haemorrhaged and many people no longer believe in the messages coming from Westminster, proclaimed by baby-faced politicians who speak as if they are members of another species.

This disengagement from mainstream politics echoes the growing detachment from mainstream religious groups. White, working-class Brits have deserted the pews, which are now occupied by immigrants from India, Nigeria and the Philippines. In England’s former Catholic heartlands, such as Liverpool archdiocese, fewer than one in 10 baptised Catholics attend Mass. Nearby in Preston – the very heart of recusant Catholicism – a historic church was about to close before the Syro-Malabar faithful from India agreed to take it on.

The trend is clear: more and more British people no longer belong to our country’s great institutions and care little for our leaders, whether they are bishops or politicians. Instead, they believe in nothing and everything.

Out of this political wasteland has emerged Nigel Farage, whose chief attraction is his very unpolitical way of saying what many think and his ability to annoy the po-faced liberal establishment.
….
Nigel Farage is not especially religious, though he describes himself as an Anglican. But recently he has started talking about Britain’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage, a phrase associated with the American religious Right. Woolfe also drops the term into our conversation. For him, the party is more than just a working-class protest vote. He regards Ukip as a true “one-nation party”, with support across the country, and “a natural party for Roman Catholics like myself”.

Catholic bishops would dispute that – but not, it seems, by engaging with representatives of Ukip. If they do regard voting for the party as un-Christian, they have yet to explain precisely why. The same is true of their Anglican counterparts. Ironically, the only Church leader to have met representatives of Ukip, and debated Britain’s Christian heritage with them is the Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a Pakistani immigrant.

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David Fischler on January 29th, 2015

Sometimes I can’t help but laugh at “progressive” Christians. They are people with no reason to exist. Mark Sandlin, who is a PCUSA minister and who bills himself modestly as “a co-founder of The Christian Left” (Walter Rauschenbusch is not impressed), nicely illustrates the point with his latest post at his Patheos blog “The God [sic] Article”:

Christianity has it wrong.
We are not broken.
We are not fallen.
We are not flawed.
We are simply fragile.
We are beautifully distractible.
We are self-invested because of love, and that love gives us a slight bias toward justice.
We are not broken.
We are human.
We are flesh and blood, and we are experiential.
Sometimes that makes us better. Sometimes that makes us worse. It never makes us less.
Or sinful.
Or unredeemable.

(Yo, Mark: if we aren’t sinful, then why do we need to be redeemed? Sorry to interrupt, just had to ask, please go on.)

YOU —
You are not broken.
You are a unique expression of God’s love here on Earth.
You are bursting with potential that has not yet been expressed.
You are God’s beloved.
You are NOT broken.
You are in process.
You?
You are Love hoping to not only be expressed but to be recognized.

Isn’t that extra special? Completely pointless–New Age droolings and pop psychology do it better, or at least more honestly–but nevertheless special, as in snowflakes and unicorns special. Sunshine and rainbows special. Diabetic coma special.

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