The Pope makes annullments easier

Roman Catholics don’t allow for divorce, the dissolution of a marriage.  They do, however, allow for annullments, which deny after the fact that a valid marriage ever took place (despite how long the couple has lived together, if they had children, etc.).  After an annullment, the marriage is considered never to have existed.

The process to get one has been arduous, time-consuming, and expensive, given the tortuous logic that has to be engaged in, with couples having to provide evidence, for example, that they too young to know what they were getting into and so didn’t really have informed consent to the marriage, and similar rationalizations.

But now Pope Francis has issued the biggest changes to annulment proceedings in hundreds of years, making the whole process much easier.  This will surely mean that more Catholics will end their marriages.  But at least they won’t get a divorce! [Read more...]

Muslim refugees converting to Christianity

Thousands of refugees from Syria–as well as Iran, Afghanistan, and other Islamic countries–have been pouring into Europe, creating big problems and provoking all kinds of controversy.  But many of these Islamic refugees have been converting to Christianity.

Some Europeans are skeptical, thinking the conversions are simply a facade to get asylum.  Religious beliefs aren’t supposed to be factors in immigration decisions, but a Muslim who converts to Christianity can make a good claim that deportation would mean a death sentence.  But taking that step, for a Muslim–publicly renouncing Islam and becoming Baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–would surely be existentially difficult unless it is sincere.

And 90% of the newly baptized keep coming to church, unlike much of the nominally Christian populations.  Perhaps this will be a way of revitalizing European Christianity!  After the jump, an Associated Press story on the subject.

UPDATE:  The “priest” Gottfried Martens referred to in the article is actually a pastor in the SELK church, a confessional denomination unaffiliated with the state church that is in fellowship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Thanks to commenter Bror Erickson for that information.  And to sapling_Alex for pointing out that these Lutherans are taking the lead in refugee evangelism.  I would also add a reminder to the discussion about immigration that “Islam” is not a race but a religion, so that when Muslims convert to Christianity they are no longer Muslims.

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Conservative Catholics revolting against the Pope?

The Washington Post reports that a backlash against Pope Francis is taking place among many conservative Catholics who disapprove of his seemingly liberal stances on homosexuality, immigration, climate change, divorce, and the like.  Details after the jump.

This must surely create a great sense of cognitive dissonance, since a “conservative” Catholic would seem to be most committed to the authority of the Pope.  I’d like to hear from any of you readers who are conservative Catholics frustrated with this Pope about how you navigate these waters. [Read more...]

Support for Rubio surges among evangelical leaders

World Magazine has been surveying the candidate preferences of over 100 evangelical leaders.  As we blogged about a month ago, their pick was Marco Rubio.  Today that support is even greater, with 53% of the churchmen saying he is their #1 or #2 choice.  The support for Jeff Bush, though, has plummeted.

And Donald Trump is at the very bottom of Republican contenders, with only 5% saying he is #1 or #2, and 81% saying they would never vote for him.  That’s rather different from rank-and-file evangelicals, 23% of whom support Trump, though Ben Carson–that other outsider who is also near the top of the polls–has passed him with that demographic at 29%.  Carson, the African-American surgeon who is a devout Christian of the Seventh Day Adventist tradition, must not be forgotten. [Read more...]

One of the heroes on that French train is a Lutheran

You know those three unarmed Americans who took out the armed-to-the-teeth terrorist on that French train?  One of them was a Missouri Synod Lutheran.  What difference does that make?  Not much on one level.

But surely when you heard about this, if you are from the USA, you felt a surge of connectedness that these guys were fellow Americans.  When a fellow Christian does something, the tie is even stronger, because of what the Apostle’s Creed calls “the Communion of the Saints.”  According to 1 Corinthians 12, we are all different organs of the same body, so that what happens to one member happens to all of us.  So, for me, a part of the body that writes and blogs in safety, I rejoiced at the part that had the courage to tackle a terrorist with an AK-47 who was shooting a pistol, saving who knows how many lives.  And that he shares my confession and that we commune with each other makes for a particularly close kind of unity.

So my fellow Lutherans who read this blog, as well as my fellow Christians and my fellow Americans, can all claim a connection to what happened on that train, though the heroism of those young men is all their own.

Details about Army National Guardsman Aleksander Skarlatos of St. Paul Lutheran, Roseburg, Oregon, after the jump. [Read more...]

Pope will allow priests to forgive abortion

Pope Francis will allow priests to forgive the sin of abortion during the upcoming Holy Year, from December 8 to November 26.  Normally, abortion incurs automatic excommunication.  Bishops must give special permission before a priest can absolve a penitents of that particular sin.

That abortion cannot be forgiven, apart from an elaborate bureaucratic process, is another example of the Gospel-denying effects of the Roman Catholic penitential system.  Christ died for all sins, including abortion, and He bore every woman’s abortion in His body on the Cross.  So every woman who has committed this sin can know that she has forgiveness in Him.  Now for one year, such women can find forgiveness in the Roman Catholic Church.

But this action by Pope Francis is being interpreted as another example of the pontiff’s “tolerance” and will be taken as a weakening of the church’s position on abortion. [Read more...]