Archive for June, 2014

John Piper: Same-sex marriage is ‘a mirage in our culture’

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

By Carey Lodge, Christian Today:

US church leader and theologian John Piper has addressed a controversial topic in the latest ‘Ask Pastor John‘ segment on his blog – would he marry a couple who have chosen to live together before they wed?

Those who do not support pre-marital unions suggest that by agreeing to marry a co-habiting couple, a pastor endorses sin. Some even suggest that it is no different to marrying a gay or lesbian couple, which remains a hotly-debated topic within the Church.

Piper – a staunch opponent of homosexual marriage – however, differentiates the two. “I would marry them in certain circumstances,” he reveals of co-habiting heterosexual couples.

The pastor notes his conviction that “sexual relations outside marriage is sin”, but that “it is not unforgiveable”. Piper shares that he would suggest that such a couple “repent and bear the fruit…And that fruit would be move out and stop living together until you are married. Now, if they refuse I tell them: ‘No, I won’t do the wedding’.

“But here is the other situation. If they see the wrong of what they are doing and repent and bear the fruit of purity and public display of the lordship of Jesus in their lives, then I would move forward with their wedding plan, all other things being in proper order,” he says.

“They are really serious about repenting of their sin. They are sorry for what they have done. They are turning to God for forgiveness through Jesus. And that bears a beautiful testimony of the grace of God in their lives. In that case, yeah, I will follow through with the wedding.”

Piper adds that the “failure to offer pure and virgin bodies to each other at the altar of marriage” brings him “a great sadness”, but that “purity on the other side of sin is possible through the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ”.

“That is what I want these couples who have sinned to embrace,” he says.

“The fact that they in their past have the sin of fornication…doesn’t diminish the possibility of purity and holiness in the present and in the future.”

Piper then goes on to distinguish between this and the marriage of same-sex couples, noting that true repentance results in transformation and change.

Read here

Lords debate on English Parish Churches

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

 

By David Pocklington, Law & Religion UK:

On 12 June, the House of Lords debated the Motion to Take Note moved by Lord Cormack

“That this House takes note of the importance of the English parish church”.

 

The noble Lord noted that almost exactly two years ago he had a similar opportunity to speak about the importance of English cathedrals, here.  Many of the speakers in the debate declared a personal interest in aspects of the life of the English Parish Church, reflecting the extent and variety of its influence: Lord Cormack, (Con), National Churches Trust as well as local groups; Baroness Wilcox, (Con), Chair of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches in the diocese of London, and an oblate of the CSMV, Wantage; Lord Mawson (CB), a non-conformist minister and director of the agency One Church, 100 Uses;The Lord Bishop of Norwich,  who commented “standing here dressed like this is probably a visual declaration”; Lord Lloyd-Webber, (Con), who  founded the charity Open Churches Trust; and Lord Mawson, (CB), a non-conformist minister.

Reference was also made to the Demos report, largely authored by Stephen Timms MP, (Lab. East Ham), well-known to many as being very interested in issues of faith; and indirectly to the Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP, (Lab. Paisley and Renfrewshire South), Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs through Lord Ahmad’s quotation of “All things bright and beautiful”, the words of which were composed by his great aunt, Cecil Frances Alexander, (a.k.a. “Mrs Alexander”).

Introducing the debate, Lord Cormack suggested [Col.  542] that

“the parish churches of our land that we come closest to the soul and history of each community that the individual church serves. You can trace the ups and downs of the community economically by the extensions and reductions in size to churches. You can follow the history of the worthies of that community by studying their monuments and memorials.

Even in this secular age, everyone who lives in England is a parishioner, lives in a parish, is entitled to the ministrations of the Church of England—whatever his or her race, creed or colour—and can enter the only public buildings that are always open and welcoming to people.

Every single one of our fellow citizens has this inalienable right. They are buildings that speak of their communities, to their communities, for their communities. In almost every case, they remain the most prominent public buildings. They are not just places of worship, although that is their prime purpose and concern. They are places where the community can come together.

They are places where concerts can be held. They are the focal point. In almost every village and small town in England, the parish church is the most prominent building”.

The debate which lasted over two hours and included references to many of the churches with which their Lordships were associated, and the issues of importance to the CofE, of which financial issues, maintenance of the country’s Grade 1 listed buildings; and, inevitably, bats were extensively covered, the Lord Bishop of Norwich giving a summary of the more important facts and figures relating to the Church.

Read here

Episcopalians Diss Catholic Archbishop Over Marriage March

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Episcopal bishop signs letter denouncing the Archbishop’s planned participation in March for Marriage

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (IX San Francisco) is taking it on the chin for his strong stance on Christian marriage, defined as a lifetime union between one man and one woman.
He is scheduled to be a main speaker — one of four — at Thursday’s (June 19) March for Marriage and traditional marriage rally in Washington, DC. He is to be joined on the National Organization for Marriage platform by former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas), former US Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), and New York State Senator Rubén Díaz (D-The Bronx). Both Gov. Huckabee and Sen. Díaz are ordained clergymen. The Governor is an ordained Southern Baptist minister and Sen. Díaz was ordained by the Church of God-Cleveland, TN.

However, it is only Archbishop Cordileone who is receiving pressure from all sides to back down as he is being painted as “anti-gay,” a “hate monger” and “bigoted,” and labeling the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which champions the traditional understanding of holy wedlock, as an ” anti-gay hate group.”

Last week, a letter urging the San Francisco archbishop not to participate in the pro-marriage rally was openly signed by 80 politicians, community representatives, faith leaders, and LGBT advocates including: California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom; San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee; the Very Rev. Brian Baker, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento; Episcopal Bishop Wendell Gibbs (X Michigan); and Vivian Taylor, Executive Director, Episcopal Integrity-USA.

As a Roman Catholic herself, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-California) weighed in on the growing controversy. The House Minority Leader, representing San Francisco in California’s 12th Congressional District, characterized the March for Marriage as “venom masquerading as virtue” and charged that her own archbishop was participating in an event that showed “disdain and hate towards LGBT persons.”

At the time that the letters were being delivered to Archbishop Cordileone’s San Francisco chancery, he was in New Orleans participating in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) General Assembly, the Catholic version of the Episcopal House of Bishops. So the controversy churning around his participation in this week’s March for Marriage was in full swing when he returned to the Golden Gate City.

Other news agencies also report that the Episcopal bishops of California and Wisconsin signed a petition requesting that the San Francisco archbishop stay home. They have not signed the aforementioned letter, but there is another Internet petition circulating entitled “Don’t Speak at Hateful Anti-gay Rally” by Faithful America which has garnered almost 30,500 signatures. However, those names are not being published.

“Why is one of the nation’s most prominent Catholic archbishops scheduled to speak at a virulently anti-gay rally?” the online petition asks.
Posted on Faithful America’s “About Us” page is a picture in which Episcopal Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire) clearly stands out in his purple shirt.

He is standing next to a woman who is shouting in a blow horn at a rally. However, it is curious to note that Bishop Robinson, who is a champion par excellence of the gay rights agenda and marriage equality, seems to remain silent as the controversy swirls around Archbishop Cordileone. The NOM Marriage March is taking place in Washington, DC, his new backyard. He settled in the nation’s capital following his retirement from his episcopal duties in New Hampshire and the collapse of his own gay marriage.

Faithful America seems to be a militant pro-gay online social justice website. It takes a hardline against conservative Christians. Recent petitions include: Christians Don’t Want a Right-wing Judge who Misuses Faith (20,368 signatures); Sarah Palin Doesn’t Speak for Christians (66,872 signatures); Anti-gay Hate is Unchristian — Quit World Vision (17,730 signatures); Anti-gay Hate Isn’t Religious Freedom (23,004 signatures); Don’t Use the Bible to Bash Gay Athletes (25,645 signatures); Bigotry Isn’t Christian and Doesn’t Belong on Duck Dynasty (26,181 signatures).

Monday (June 16) Michigan Bishop Gibbs, a signatory of the political letter, joined the other three Michigan Episcopal bishops in signing an amici curiae supporting marriage equality. The other Michigan bishops include: Todd Ousley (II Eastern Michigan); Rayford Ray (XI Northern Michigan); and Whayne Hougland (IX Western Michigan).

In February 2013, all the Episcopal bishops in California, lead by the Episcopal bishop in San Francisco Bishop Marc Andrus (XIII California), signed two amici curiae briefs — one to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the other to undo California’s Proposition 8 recognizing lawful marriage between a man and a woman.

In addition to Bishop Andrus, the Episcopal ordinaries of California are: Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real); Bishop James Mathes (IX San Diego); Bishop Jon Bruno (VI Los Angeles); Bishop Berry Beisner (VII Northern California) and Bishop David Rice (III Provisional TEC San Joaquin). Los Angeles also has two bishops suffragan — Bishop Diane Bruce and Bishop Mary Glasspool, a lesbian. At the time of the signing of the twin amici curiae briefs, Bishop ChesterTalton (II Provisional TEC San Joaquin) had not yet retired. Wisconsin bishops include: Steven Miller (XI Milwaukee); Matthew Gunter, (VIII Fond du Lac); and William Lambert, Eau Claire). All Episcopal dioceses in California accept same-sex blessings while the practice hasn’t fully spread to Wisconsin. The Dairy State is still struggling with the concept of gay marriage where it is just getting a rocky foothold.

Archbishop Cordileone, on the other hand, was a strong proponent of DOMA and Proposition 8. As the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Defense and Promotion of Marriage, he is in direct theological opposition to his Episcopal counterpart in San Francisco, Bishop Andrus.

The Catholic archbishop and the Episcopal bishop have crossed swords before. When Archbishop Cordileone was reassigned to San Francisco from Oakland in October 2012, he was “welcomed” to the neighborhood by Bishop Andrus who touted the wonders of the Millennium Development Goals, which are more geared to social justice than the Gospel message.

Bishop Andrus also showed up late for Archbishop Cordileone’s enthronement, missing the entrance procession at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. Although he was an invited guest — one of 2000 — he was asked to wait until all had processed in the cathedral where upon he would be seated. The Episcopal bishop left in a snit and turned to the blogosphere to decry the Archdiocese’s unwillingness to immediately seat him without mentioning his own tardiness. The Archdiocese concluded that San Francisco’s Episcopal bishop was spoiling for a fight.

The Episcopal bishop feels that the Catholic view of marriage is oppressive and that the Archbishop’s affirmation of Catholic teaching on holy wedlock and his support of Proposition 8 is “suppressing the rights of others who, too, have been created in God’s image.” So the Episcopal bishop invited any disenchanted Catholics to cross over the divide and become Episcopalians. He would welcome them with open arms and enter into solidarity with them. The Episcopal Diocese of California is inclusive and fully embraces all.

Archbishop Cordileone is holding his ground. Monday (June 16) he released a letter to some of the signatories of the original letter to him, including Dean Baker at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, addressing them as “Dear Fellow Citizens”, in which he made several specific points. The Archbishop’s personal reply apparently was not sent to Michigan’s Episcopal Bishop Wendell Gibbs nor Vivian Taylor from Episcopal Integrity-USA. as they were not mentioned in the list of recipient addresses.

The San Francisco archbishop thanked the letter writers for their thoughts about his upcoming participation in the March for Marriage. He reiterated that as a bishop, he had to “proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing … in season and out of season, even when truths that it is my duty to uphold and teach are unpopular, including especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

He poignantly pointed out that the March for Marriage was not an ‘anti-gay” event but rather a “pro-marriage” happening.
“…it is not anti-anyone or anti-anything,” he explained. “Rather, it is a pro-marriage March. The latter does not imply the former. Rather, it affirms the great good of bringing the two halves of humanity together so that a man and a woman may bond with each other and with any children who come from their union.”

Much of the media coverage surrounding Archbishop Cordileone’s participation in the March for Marriage paint the event as “anti-gay” rather than “pro-marriage,” giving the headlines a built-in negative slant and the story a biased spin.

“Lawmakers ask S.F. archbishop not to attend anti-gay marriage rally” (LA Times); “San Francisco Archbishop Urged to Miss Anti-Gay March for Marriage” (LA Frontiers); “San Francisco Archbishop Outrages Community With Plans To Join Anti-Gay Rally” (Huffington Post) “San Francisco archbishop defends decision to join D.C. rally against gay marriage” (National Catholic Reporter); “SF Archbishop Makes No Apologies For Attending Anti-Gay Rally, Yet Asks For Open-Mindedness” (San Francisco Chronicle); and “San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Spurns Appeals to Skip Anti-Gay Rally” (Associated Press)
“Unfortunately, many conclusions are being drawn about those involved in the March for Marriage based on false impressions,” Archbishop Cordileone wrote, noting that if the point of the March for Marriage were to single out a group of individuals and target them for hatred, he would not go.

He also uncategorically stated that he and his distractors “share a common disdain for harsh and hateful rhetoric.”

“It must be pointed out, though, that there is plenty of offensive rhetoric which flows in the opposite direction. In fact, for those who support the conjugal understanding of marriage, the attacks have not stopped at rhetoric,” the San Francisco archbishop reasoned. “Simply for taking a stand for marriage as it has been understood in every human society for millennia, people have lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods, and have suffered other types of retribution, including physical violence.”

Finally he pleaded, “Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings. I myself am willing to meet personally with any of you not only to dialogue, but simply so that we can get to know each other. When all is said and done, then, there is only one thing that I would ask of you more than anything else: before you judge us, get to know us.”

Last year, the San Francisco archbishop travelled to Washington, DC, to lead the 2013 March for Marriage participants in prayer. This year he encouraged his brother bishops to support the March for Marriage in an April letter he penned jointly with Bishop Richard Malone (XIV Buffalo).

“The March for Marriage will be an important means to promote and defend marriage for the good of our culture,” the bishops wrote. “… to pray for our federal and state governments and to stand in solidarity with people of goodwill.”

When Dads Don’t Stay

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

 

When Dads Don't Stayrain0975 / Flickr


Confronting the reality of fatherlessness in America.

The first clear memory I have of my father exemplifies every moment after. The lake lapped softly against the posts of weathered, bone-dry dock upon which I stood. I curled my toes into the splintery wood, blinked back the intense, hot Texas sun and leapt blind, for the first time, into waters well over my head. I didn’t have to see my father to know he’d be there, in the water, to catch me. All my life, my father’s presence has been certain as the sun; I’ve never wondered if he’d be there for me when I needed him.

But one out of three children in the United States—more than 15 million—live without the certainty of their father’s presence. Among industrialized countries, the United States is a world leader of fatherless homes, surpassed only by Belgium, Estonia, and the United Kingdom, with single mothers heading up a quarter of all U.S. households. Since the 1960s, the number of single-parent homes have more than tripled, and the bulk of those households (76%) are fatherless homes. Tragically, this number doesn’t include circumstances in which the father technically lives with the family, but is emotionally or physically absent.

Whether through abandonment, incarceration, death, or workaholism, fatherlessness is a root of many of our contemporary social ills. According to a widely cited report from the U.S. Department of Justice, children from fatherless home are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison than children from homes with a mother and father present.

Since fathers (though not mothers) have a mediating effect on impulse control and risk-taking behaviors of adolescent girls, fatherless females are 53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, 711 percent more likely to have children as teenagers, 164 percent more likely to have a pre-marital birth, and 92 percent more likely to get divorced themselves.

How did we go, in a short span of 50 years, from “father knows best” to “who knows where father is”?

In a culture such as ours, in which moral virtue is sacrificed at the altar of self-indulgence, there is certainly something to be said about a pervasive lack of moral fiber. Many men lack the character to commit, to follow through self-sacrificially, because they’ve never been told it’s important or it’s never been modeled to them. Fatherlessness is a component of the alarming breakdown of the family; roughly 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and most divorced fathers (83%) only receive limited visitation of 5.5 days a month.

Peter Berger—Is the Chinese Regime becoming more Hostile Toward Christianity?

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

 

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Intense Protestant missionary activity, most of it from America and Britain, began [in Wenzhou] in the late nineteenth century. Wenzhou now has the largest percentage of Christians in the country—estimated at 15%. No wonder it has been called a “Christian Jerusalem”! What is particularly interesting is that the Christian community, most of it Protestant, has a large number of successful business people, known locally as “boss Christians”. Some of them expressed the opinion in a study that Protestantism would become the majority religion in China, and that this would not only be good for the economy but would help China become a great power (a prospect they welcomed). Until now, there have been relaxed relations between the Christian churches and the local power structure (state and party).

Christianity in China has exploded in numbers in recent decades. The phrase “Christianity fever” was used to describe this. I generally rely on two demographers of religion, Todd Johnson and Brian Grim. In their book The World’s Religions in Figures (2013), they estimate the total number of Christians in China at 67 million (about 5% of the country’s population). There are other estimates, the highest, by the World Christian Data Base (an Evangelical outfit), at 108 million (about 8%). This may be wishful thinking. Official Chinese government figures are much lower (possibly wishful thinking too, as is typical of all statistics released by authoritarian governments). Johnson and Grim estimate that the total of Protestants is 58 million (4.3 of the country’s population), with Catholics far behind at 9 million (0.7%). I would think that the Protestants are mainly Evangelical, many of them Pentecostal/charismatic. All these estimates include both churches that have been officially registered by the government, and those that have not. The distinction is important: The latter category of Christians (often referred to as belonging to “underground” or “house” churches—rather a misnomer, as some of them are very much “above ground” and worshipping in large buildings). However, even if tolerated by local authorities, the members of unregistered churches are very hard to count. I would therefore guess that totals of Christians including both categories are under-estimated.

Just what happened in Wenzhou? And what does it mean beyond that charming little town of nine million people?

Read it all.

Getting into trouble for calling female vocations ‘supposed’

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

 

By Julian Mann:

 

With the innovation of women’s ordination becoming ever more entrenched in the Church of England and the Sirens of political correctness poised to whoop in triumph once the women bishops’ measure succeeds at July’s General Synod, it could be costly for licensed clergy of the traditional integrity to describe a woman’s vocation to Christ’s ministry of Word and Sacrament as ‘supposed’.

 

Under Common Tenure, orthodox clergy are under a much higher expectation to be clubbable with fellow deanery clergy across the churchpersonships and to be perceived as a ‘good colleague’. Clergy who are wanting to put God’s revealed truth above collegial relations and indeed above their ‘careers’ could find themselves getting into trouble with diocesan senior staff.

 

Pressure, subtle or otherwise, could be exerted at mandatory ministerial reviews: “Your tenure is coming up for renewal next year…I’ve had a complaint from the Revd Doris about you calling her vocation ‘supposed’.”

 

Very disturbing in the new climate is the fact that bowing before the altar of women’s ordination is increasingly becoming a sine qua non or, in the dreadful trendy phrase of some clerical apparatchiks, a ‘deal breaker’ for appointments. On the ground, conservative evangelical men are being turned down by parishes because a woman in the congregation has a supposed vocation and the parish representatives are frightened of his conviction that God does not act contrary to his Word written and therefore is not calling women into presbyteral ministry.

 

Read here

IRAQ: Nation is in crisis. Conditions worst they have ever been – Canon White

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

“Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been. The Islamic terrorists have taken control of the whole of Mosul which is Nineveh the main Christian stronghold. The army have even fled. We urgently need help and support,” says Canon Andrew White Vicar of Baghdad.

“Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group), a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.

“The area is the heartland of the Christian community. Most of our people come from Nineveh and still see that as their home. It is there that they return to regularly. Many Christian’s fled from back to Nineveh from Baghdad, as things got so bad there. Now the Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. The ISIS militants are now moving towards Kirkuk, major areas to the Oil fields that provide the lifeblood of Iraq. We are faced with total war that all the Iraqi military have now retreated from.

“People have fled in their hundreds of thousands to Kurdistan still in Iraq for safety. The Kurds have even closed the border, preventing entry of the masses. The crisis is so huge it is almost impossible to consider what is really happening.

Mosul residents fleeing the ISIS takeover.“The summer is by far our worst time of the year for support. Both our Foundation in the UK and US have seriously had to reduce our funding. We are in a desperate crisis. So many of our people had returned their homes in Nineveh for the summer now they are stuck in this total carnage unable to even escape. We desperately need help so that we can help the Christians of this broken land just get through this new crisis. Please can you help us, we are desperate.

“The terrible fact is that ISIS are in the control now of Fallujah in the South and Mosul in the North they could now move down towards Baghdad between the two and cause a total crisis there. So to be honest I don’t know what to do, do I stay or go back? I have a huge amount of commitments here. If I go back, I cannot change the situation but I want to be with my people. Here we are with this huge crisis and need and we do not even have the resources to help those most in need. So the crisis is huge and we need help, will you please help us?

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FURTHER READING

Shea – The Cleansing of Iraq’s Christians Is Entering Its End Game by Nina Shea (10 June 2014).
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/380032/cleansing-iraqs-christians-entering-its-end-game-nina-shea