Archive for December, 2011

Christmas concerns: a pope, a queen and a couple of archbishops

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Having trawled through the Christmas messages of leading Church figures, there was only one glimmer of light; only one person used the occasion of the birth of the Son of God to communicate joy to the world. And it wasn’t a cleric in a pulpit.

After the Prime Minister had issued his challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury that the UK is a Christian country ‘and we should not be afraid to say so’, Dr Williams duly responded, saying: “Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost.” He urged people not to build lives based on selfishness and fear. He lamented: “Whether it is an urban rioter, mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.”

Merry Christmas to you, too.

The Pope did no better, choosing to focus on the increasing commercialisation of Christmas. He opined: “Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.”

Of course, one man’s ‘superficial glitter’ is another’s sacred tradition.

The most egregious Christmas message came from the Roman Catholic leader in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who saw fit to use the occasion of the birth of the Son of God to criticise Israel for constructing a security barrier. He spoke of the shadow that falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem: “At this moment,” he said, “the people of the parish of Beit Jala prepare for their legal battle to protect their land and homes from further expropriation by Israel.”

Of course, one’s man’s ‘expropriation’ is another’s historic and legal right. But note this is ‘further expropriation’, without any context of on-going terrorist atrocities or understanding of the security concerns. “We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort,” the Archbishop said, adopting the narrative of ‘Jesus the Palestinian’. One wonders why Archbishop Vincent did not see fit to mention those Jews are slaughtered in their own homes, because Jesus was a Jew, too. And he also faced one or two bloody atrocities.

And what of the Coptic Christians, Archbishop? Or the Assyrian Christians? Or the Palestinian Christians? Perhaps the Nigerian Christians bombed to kingdom come by Islamists on Christmas Day came a little too late for his sermon, but there are many thousands of believers all over the Middle East who must wonder why such a senior bishop would chose to ignore their plight and focus instead on 50 Arab families in Beit Jala.

Love your neighbour? Perhaps so. But one’s neighbour is also the Jew who lives in Israel, who is dependent on the security wall for his life. But perhaps the Archbishop is ignorant of those who are victims of ethnic and religious cleansing by successive Palestinian authorities. And the little town of Bethlehem, which 20 years ago was 60 per cent Christian, is today less than 15. Perhaps he has forgotten the Church of the Nativity, which Palestinian gunmen stormed and defiled in 2002. How many Christian families have been ejected from their homes, Archbishop? How much land has been ‘expropriated’ by Arab Muslims?

There was only one Church leader who spoke inspirationally of courage and hope; only one who used the occasion to speak of the importance of family, friends and the indomitable human spirit. Only one who spoke of the gospel of forgiveness, the uniqueness of Jesus the Saviour, the love of God through Christ our Lord:

posted byArchbishop Cranmer at 12:54 PM Permalink 112 comments

Egypt: Organization headed by sheikh of al-Azhar demands shutdown of Christian TV station, says it offends Muslims

Friday, December 30th, 2011

From Jihadwatch

This case demonstrates one of the many problems with curtailing “offensive” free speech and criminalizing hurt feelings. Simply expressing a belief at variance with Islam can be seized upon as “blasphemy,” or as “offending religious sentiments,” and simply being visible in daily life as an adherent of a non-Islamic faith can be seized upon as “proselytizing.” It is all in the eye of the overlord/beholder.
The move against this station is just a higher-tech extension of Sharia’s traditional ban on the display of crosses, ringing of bells, preaching in public, and of course, evangelization. “Egypt Muslim group orders Christian TV station off air: report,” from the South African Press Agency and Deutsche Presse Agentur, December 29:

An offshoot of Egypt’s top religious institution, Al Azhar, has called on the government to take a Christian television station off the air, allegedly for offending Muslims, the semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper reported Thursday.

The Islamic Research Centre, which made the demand, is headed by Ahmed al-Tayeb, the sheikh of Al Azhar, which is the Sunni Muslim world’s oldest seat of religious learning.

It is based in the U.S. They can’t shut it down, but they might attempt to block it or get its transmission arrangement canceled:

The Church, Women Bishops and Provision – Book Review

Friday, December 30th, 2011

The Ven Norman RussellBy Norman Russell

This book (Latimer Trust, 2011) was commissioned by a group of conservative evangelical members of the General Synod of the Church of England with support from prominent traditional catholics who believe that the theological issues surrounding the consecration of women as bishops have not yet been adequately examined. It is hoped that it will inform the debates planned for February and July 2012 on the Draft Measure for the Consecration of Women as Bishops. The book marshals a range of theological arguments, particularly those related to the biblical material at issue. Some of the contributors are opposed on biblical grounds to the principle of the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Others, although generally conservative on their reading of scripture, are not necessarily opposed to women being ordained as priests or consecrated as bishops.

The primary purpose of this timely book is not to rehearse the arguments for and against the ordination of women. Its prime purpose is to convince the majority of Synod members who support the consecration of women that it will also be necessary to make adequate provision in primary legislation for faithful Anglicans who cannot accept the oversight of a woman bishop. From the perspective of traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals, the present draft legislation fails to do this. Synod procedures do not allow further amendments from the floor of the Synod prior to final approval, but it remains open to the House of Bishops, with their particular responsibilities as guardians of doctrine and the unity of the Church, to amend the draft legislation before it returns to the Synod. It is therefore hoped by the authors of this book that their arguments will persuade the House of Bishops to amend the draft legislation before its return to Synod in July.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Atomised’ Britain is urged to seek God’s forgiveness

Friday, December 30th, 2011

By Ed Thornton, Church Times

CHRISTMAS sermons expressed concern at social divisions; and the Queen’s broadcast focused on the reconciliatory power of forgiveness.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, preaching in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day, spoke of a society where “bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost”. Society was “much the poorer” for forgetting the 1662 Prayer Book, which “gives us words that say where and who we are before God”.

Dr Williams said that the Prayer Book had “defined what a whole society said to God together. . . If you thumb through the Prayer Book, you may be surprised at how much there is that takes for granted a very clear picture of how we behave with each other.”

Dr Williams continued: “The most pressing question we now face, we might well say, is who and where we are as a society. Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost. Whether it is an urban rioter mind­lessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spin­ning apart in the dark.

“And into that dark the Word of God has entered, in love and judg­ment, and has not been overcome; in the darkness the question sounds as clear as ever, to each of us and to our Church and our society: ‘Britain, where are you?’ Where are the words we can use to answer?”

Read here

The Postmodern Pedophile

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

By Anne Hendershott, Witherspoon Institute

Meet the academics who try to redefine pedophilia as “intergenerational intimacy.”
The anger and disgust that most of us experienced when we learned of the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the sports programs at Penn State and Syracuse University suggest that our cultural norms about the sexual abuse of minors are intact. Yet it was only a decade ago that a parallel movement had begun on some college campuses to redefine pedophilia as the more innocuous “intergenerational sexual intimacy.”
The publication of Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex promised readers a “radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children’s and teens’ sexuality.” The book was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2003 (with a foreword by Joycelyn Elders, who had been the U.S. Surgeon General in the Clinton administration), after which the author, Judith Levine, posted an interview on the university’s website decrying the fact that “there are people pushing a conservative religious agenda that would deny minors access to sexual expression,” and adding that “we do have to protect children from real dangers … but that doesn’t mean protecting some fantasy of their sexual innocence.”
This redefinition of childhood innocence as “fantasy” is key to the defining down of the deviance of pedophilia that permeated college campuses and beyond. Drawing upon the language of postmodern theory, those working to redefine pedophilia are first redefining childhood by claiming that “childhood” is not a biological given. Rather, it is socially constructed—an historically produced social object. Such deconstruction has resulted from the efforts of a powerful advocacy community supported by university-affiliated scholars and a large number of writers, researchers, and publishers who were willing to question what most of us view as taboo behavior.

Opportunities and Perils for the Church of England

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

This month’s ‘Anglican Update’ for Evangelicals Now:
As never before in my own lifetime, the Church of England is at a crossroads moment of great opportunity and yet great peril.
I have mentioned before in these columns the opinion of a colleague on the Crown Nominations Commission that the senior ministers of the Anglican Church are “staring into the abyss” when it comes to declining numbers.
Consequently, a new breed of bishops is emerging who are ambitious for church growth. At the same time, existing bishops and their dioceses are being required to come up with proposals to reverse the decline.
Just a month ago in our own diocese of Chelmsford, I thus found myself for the first time sitting listening to a bishop, who had just come from speaking at an evangelistic event himself, telling a gathered group of his clergy how to do evangelism.
Wherever this is happening, it clearly presents even the most conservative of Evangelical Anglicans with the opportunity for involvement not just in the evangelism itself but in the structures of their diocese.
Some may find this extraordinary — not that a bishop should be doing such a thing, but that it took so long for it to happen. Surely the Church of England has had Evangelical bishops before now? And indeed it has, but sadly they have almost to a man failed to produce a more ‘evangelizing’ denomination. In our case, that has been achieved by a man from (formally speaking) a Liberal-Catholic tradition.
And therein lies the peril, for at the same time as these developments are taking place, the Church is under immense pressure, both from without and within, to change its teaching and practice on human sexuality.
Early in December there were headline reports about the Church’s refusal to allow the registering of civil partnerships on its premises. But in a subsequent interview on Radio 4’s Sunday programme, the Bishop of Burnley made it clear that this prohibition could be overturned by the General Synod.
At present that would not happen, but already on the bench of bishops there are several, including some self-identified as Evangelicals, who would not uphold orthodox teaching. Moreover, the House of Bishops itself has recently set up a ‘review group’ to look at the whole issue of civil partnerships and specifically to consider whether clergy in such partnerships could be made bishops.
Furthermore, back in July the House announced the commencement of “further work on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality more generally”. It would be surprising if none of the ‘unorthodox’ bishops found themselves involved in these processes and (sadly) just as surprising if the orthodox stood up to them robustly.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of churches are openly identifying themselves as ‘inclusive’ regarding sexuality. Doubtless the pressures for this come from the clergy. The laity are generally more traditionalist. But as society as a whole has shifted ground on the subject, so it is becoming easier for Liberal clergy to persuade their congregations to accept the changes. The significance of this will be seen, no doubt, in Synod elections a few years hence.
The orthodox therefore face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, it is vital that they do not withdraw from the institution just at the point where the whole issue of gospel proclamation can be brought to the fore. At the same time, they must develop and make the case for sexual orthodoxy and, if necessary, must be willing to confront even those bishops who are leading the evangelistic charge in their dioceses.
These are difficult days indeed, but in God’s plans nothing that hasn’t been thought of already.

John Richardson

International condemnation after Nigeria church attacks

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

by Jeremy Reynalds, ASSIST News ServicePosted: Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 12:48 (GMT)

International condemnation after Nigeria church attacks A destroyed building at the site of a bomb blast at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla AP

There has been widespread condemnation in the international community of a series of Christmas Day bomb attacks in Nigeria that killed almost 40 people.

The White House said the attacks were “senseless violence,” and the British foreign secretary called them “cowardly.”

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A blast outside a church near the capital Abuja claimed 35 lives, while a police officer died in the city of Jos and four people were killed in Damaturu.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has described the attacks as “an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom.”

He added, “Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day. We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people, and especially those who lost family and loved ones.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed “solidarity in (Nigeria’s) fight against terrorism”.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “Even on Christmas Day, the world is not spared from cowardice and the fear of terrorism.”

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolizes harmony and goodwill towards others. I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured.”

Israel said it would send medical aid to Nigeria, and that it “condemned in the strongest terms these attacks carried out on Christmas Day.”

The Vatican condemned the “blind hatred” of the attackers in seeking to “arouse and feed even more hatred and confusion”.

President Jonathan, who is a Christian, said “I want to reassure all Nigerians that the government will not relent in its determination to bring to justice all the perpetrators.”

According to the BBC, the first attack, outside St Theresa’s Church in Madalla, near Abuja, killed 35 and wounded more than 50.

The church and surrounding homes were badly damaged.

Father Christopher Barde told AFP news agency the blast occurred as the Christmas morning service was ending.

“It was really terrible,” he said. “Some (wounded) people ran towards me (saying), ‘Father anoint me.'”

The BBC said crowds grew angry over the attack and the slow response of the emergency services.

In Jos, a blast close to the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church was followed by gunfire that left one officer dead, government spokesman Pam Ayuba told the Associated Press.

The BBC said two explosive devices found in a nearby building were disarmed as military were deployed to the site.

In Damaturu, in the north-east, there were two explosions. One was a suicide car bomb attack on a convoy of the State Security Service. There were reportedly four people killed there, including the suicide bomber.

There was also an explosion in the nearby town of Gadaka.

Damaturu and Gadaka are both in Yobe state, which has been the epicentre of violence between security forces and Boko Haram militants. The BBC said more than 60 people have died in fighting there this week.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden”, wants the imposition of Sharia law.

The group also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja in August, in which more than 20 people were killed.

Last year, it carried out a string of bomb blasts in Jos on Christmas Eve