Indonesia convicts Christian governor of blasphemy

388px-Wakil_Gubernur_DKI_Basuki_TPA court in Indonesia has found the governor of Jakarta, a Christian, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison.

His crime?  He said in an election campaign that his opponents were deceiving people by saying that the Q’uran teaches that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims.

This apparent questioning of the Q’uran sparked riots and an indictment against him.  The court drew on the statements of an Islamist radical as an expert witness.

The conviction is evidence that radical Muslims are becoming more and more influential in Indonesia, which has a large Christian minority (including some six million Lutherans).

 

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Challenges for conservative churches in Scandinavia

ScandinaviaIn Finland, I taped three programs for the Christian television network.  The host, Leif Nummela, is a well-known figure in confessional Lutheran circles and in Scandinavian Christian circles in general.  On his program, Bible Café, we had wonderful discussions of the Bible, Grace, and Vocation (Luther’s three major contributions to Christendom as a whole).  The network goes out not only to Finland but to Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.

Finland is more religiously diverse than I had realized.  There are quite a few Pentecostals–I talked to a campus pastor from that tradition who said that one of his church’s problems is combatting the Prosperity Gospel–and American style evangelicals (Reformed, Baptist, non-denominational, etc.), though that term is mostly used in the old sense to refer to “Lutherans.”  And Emil showed us congregations of Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and Orthodox.  There is even a Mormon Temple in Finland, as well as mosques.  Most of the programming on TV7 is from the Pentecostal and general evangelical perspective.

Leif told me about some of the challenges for conservative congregations and church bodies in Finland and in Scandinavia as a whole. [Read more…]

Open communion that includes Muslims

2295355354_e65354babd_zIn Atlanta during Holy Week, the entire diocese of the Episcopal Church held a Mass in which the clergy renewed their ordination vows.  This was also an interfaith service.

The Scripture readings included a text from the Quran.  A Muslim woman gave the sermon.  Then, during the Eucharist, the Bishop communed her.

He later explained that his diocese practices “open communion.”  (Even for the unbaptized?  For non-Christians?)

The Muslim woman received the Host.  But, as a good Muslim, she declined the Wine.

At least someone in the service was faithful to her religion.

 

Illustration: Interfaith Banner, photograph by Sean, Flickr, Creative Commons License
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Does mainline liberal Protestantism have just 23 years left?

512px-Ruins_of_Holyrood_Abbey,_EdinburghMore on the plight of mainline liberal Protestantism. . . .

Evangelical scholar Ed Stetzer calculates that at the current rate of decline, mainline liberal Protestant churches will cease to exist in 23 years.

He crunches the numbers and suggests the reasons.  For example, “Over the past few decades, some mainline Protestants have abandoned central doctrines that were deemed ‘offensive’ to the surrounding culture,” but that strategy doesn’t work.

Wait a minute:  Isn’t that the sort of thing that we have been hearing from the evangelical church growth movement?

Stetzer doesn’t really believe that these churches will cease to exist and he laments their decline.  But would it be good if they cease to exist, or is a liberal church better than nothing?  Is there a point to institutional religion without the religion?  Doesn’t that leave just an institution–with all its trappings of bureaucracy, self-protection, and regulation–without a purpose?

I would say that the rumors of the death of mainline churches may be greatly exaggerated.  There still have their Christian pastors, theologians, congregations, and members. But their future may be in their becoming more conservative.  This may be happening.  The Methodists, for example, have embraced the pro-life cause and show some skepticism about the gay agenda, though the church is still torn over those issues.  Conservatives in those denominations often struggle over they should stay and fight–until they are thrown out–or leave, thereby abandoning their church to the liberals.  And it is theoretically possible that some of today’s secularists might start attending the increasingly secularist church bodies.
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Making church buildings beautiful again

Version 2 Church buildings used to be made so that they would be beautiful.  This was true not only of Gothic cathedrals but also of small Protestant churches, whose simplicity and lack of adornment had a classic, elegant aesthetic impact of their own.

This is not so true of churches built over the last 50 years or so.  They tend to be utilitarian, plain, drab, unsymmetrical, and often, well, ugly.  But this appears to be changing.

I discuss what happened after the jump.  I also tell about this striking example of contemporary church architecture that we saw in Finland, which reflects the history, struggles, and victories of confessional Lutheranism in Scandinavia. [Read more…]

Shouldn’t liberals be going to liberal churches?

6209348934_ccf5e3159a_zMainstream liberal Protestantism is dying, with a decreasing number of people bothering to go to their churches anymore.  This is ironic because, in many ways, the message of those liberal congregations is now widely shared among our cultural elite:  be tolerant of all; be progressive; don’t worry about the supernatural; conform to the culture.  But though the cultural elite has embraced the social gospel of liberal Protestantism, hardly any of them bother with liberal churches.

Ross Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, argues in the New York Times that those who are liberal politically and culturally should start attending a liberal church.  Even out-and-out non-believers in the supernatural will experience little conflicts with their beliefs.  And there are benefits to church attendance that would be good for them.

Douthat says that it would be good for the cause of liberalism to be grounded once again in some kind of church.  Liberalism, to have an impact, needs an institutional home.  He also throws out this priceless line, referring to recent tendencies:  “Liberal Protestantism without the Protestantism tends to gradually shed the liberalism as well, transforming into an illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.”

Read what he says, excerpted and linked after the jump, but then consider:  Why is it that liberals tend not to go to liberal churches?  Can you have the benefits of going to a church without holding to its beliefs?  Why is mainline liberal Protestantism in such a state of decline?  What happens to a Christianity purged of its supernatural elements?

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