Lutherans and Anglicans together

While liberal Lutherans and liberal Episcopalians have gone the way of mainline Protestantism in its anything-goes ecumenism, it is a different story with church bodies that still hold to their historical doctrines.  The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has broken away from the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.), joining other global Anglicans in affirming a more conservative theology.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church Canada has been in talks with the new American Anglican church, and the three church bodies have just released an Interim Report on their discussions.  The document is extremely interesting, especially in tracing the historical connections and parallels between Lutherans and Anglicans.  The report also details the doctrinal agreements (some of which you might find surprising), as well as the disagreements.

A sample and links to the report after the jump. [Read more…]

Did a Massachusetts court ban Christian schools?

A court in Massachusetts ruled that a Catholic school is guilty of discrimination against an employee who was let go because he is gay.  The religious exemption doesn’t apply, said the judge, because the school admits non-Catholic students.

According to one observer, “This court decision makes it impossible for faith-based institutions to survive.” [Read more…]

Lutheranism & ethnicity

Lutheran churches in America have an ethnic origin–they were usually started by communities of German, Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian immigrants–and that has definitely shaped the culture of local congregations, sometimes putting off new people who want to join.  I remember marveling at the Germanness of our congregation in Wisconsin, with its Men’s Club singing “Sie Leben Hoh” on birthdays and drinking beer and eating cannibal sandwiches while playing Sheepshead, after an extremely brief devotion from Herr Pastor.  This didn’t bother me–I got a kick out of it and actually liked it–though I was highly conscious that I was an outsider.

The distinguished sociologist of religion Peter Berger, an ELCA Lutheran, writes about this phenomenon, though he concludes that today the ethnic identity stuff is largely absent from American Lutheranism.  It is still a factor, he says, in American Orthodoxy.  Also, I would add, in the various ethnic Catholic parishes and in black churches.  I would further add that cultural identity is a factor in distinctly “American” churches too, with the upper class WASP Episcopalians and obviously southern Southern Baptists.  There is also the distinct culture of middle class white suburbanites in the megachurches of the land.

Is this a problem, or not?  Or are churches preserving something precious, something distinctly “cultural” in our current society that is actually “anti-cultural”?  Do you agree with Berger that ethnic identity is mostly gone from Lutheran congregations, or can you still see it, and, if so, where?  Where it persists, are there ways congregations can help newcomers navigate these cultural shoals?

What Peter Berger says, after the jump.  His article will also serve as a map for people trying to figure out the Lutheran landscape. [Read more…]

A Copt responds, on their not being Monophysites

I recently posted about the Lutheran video tribute to the 21 Coptic Martyrs of Libya, going on to address the accusation that the Copts are monophysite heretics.  Reader Ori Pomerantz shared the post with Medhat Ghabrial, a Coptic Christian, who wrote a fascinating comment on Facebook that I had to share with you (with his permission).

You can read it after the jump, but basically he says that the heresy charge was a political maneuver by the Church of Rome against its rival, the Church of Alexandria.  (Recall the prominence of Alexandria in the Early Church.)  Mr. Ghabrial points out that Alexandria was the center of Nicene orthodoxy.  After all, St. Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria!  And the Copts to this day recite and consider authoritative the Athanasian Creed!  The Coptic Church is emphatically not monophysite, as the Roman Church itself now admits.

I still hear that charge, though, among Protestants, so Mr. Ghabrial’s point needs to be better known.  He also acknowledges that Coptic Christology is much like that of the Lutherans, a subject that needs to be better known as well! [Read more…]

The sermon at Justice Scalia’s funeral

At Justice Scalia’s funeral, his son, Rev. Paul Scalia, a priest, gave the sermon.  Compare it to other funeral eulogies and sermons that you have heard lately.  This one was not about his father’s accomplishments, his good works, and sentimental memories about him.  It was about Jesus. [Read more…]

Pope condones contraception to avoid Zika?

Pope Francis told reporters that women threatened with the Zika virus, which causes birth defects, could use contraception.  Abortion, though, he emphasized, is an “absolute evil,” which should never be committed.

This is extraordinary.  It seems to me that if you make this exception, in which the end justifies the means, the whole fabric of the Roman Catholic ethical system and its reading of  natural law, becomes unravelled.

Every time the Pope has said something radical, the Vatican comes back with an explanation that this is not what he really meant.  We’ll see if that happens this time. [Read more…]