“My identity is founded in who I am in Christ”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England, recently learned that his father was not really his father, that he was the product of an affair between his mother and Winston Churchill’s private secretary.  What’s notable, though, says Eric Metaxis in a Breakpoint commentary, is how Welby took this potentially traumatic news.

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The case of the atheist pastor

Mainline Protestants have been casting away traditional Christian teachings with great abandon.  Pastors can now be female, gay, rejecters of Christ’s deity, atonement, and resurrection, etc., etc.  One wonders if, in liberal Protestantism, there is any minimum religious belief that is necessary in a pastor.  Or in a Christian or a member of the church.  For example, does a pastor (or Christian, or church member),  have to believe in God?

The United Church of Canada is having to make a decision about this, as it reviews the case of one of its ministers, Greta Vosper, who is an atheist and who teaches atheism from her pulpit.

PREDICTION:  Pastors in the United Church will not be required to believe in God.  Nor will church members.  Christians may be atheists.  And atheists will be considered Christians.  To their great annoyance. [Read more…]

The separation of doctrine from practice

After much study and debate among the bishops, Pope Francis has issued a letter on the family entitled Amoris Laetitia (the joy of love).  In wrestling with how to minister to gays, the problems of modern families in a time of sexual revolution, and  whether or not to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, the Pope is characteristically unclear.

He upholds traditional morality, pro-life ethics, and historical Catholic teaching on the family, and yet he speaks much about “individual conscience” (which is usually problematic in Catholic theology) and pastoral discretion.  As usual, his pronouncement is controversial and is being taken differently by all sides.  (See this and this.)

The best thing I’ve read on the document is from Ross Douthat, who says that Catholics have been upholding doctrine (pleasing the conservatives) while allowing great flexibility in actual practice (pleasing the liberals).  He says that what is new in Amoris Laetitia is that the Pope is giving official sanction to that separation of doctrine and practice.

I would add that this is not just a Catholic phenomenon.  We certainly see this in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod when it comes to official insistence on, for example, closed communion, even as many congregations ignore that teaching in practice without any official consequences.  (Can you think of other examples in non-Catholic churches?)

Is this a necessary accommodation in a fallen, complicated world?  Or is it evidence that churches don’t really believe their own teachings? [Read more…]

Finding out how the IRS investigates churches

Two years ago, the atheist group the Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the IRS in order to make it enforce the law that would take away a church’s tax exemption if it got involved in politics.  The IRS settled, to the atheists’ satisfaction, by drawing up rules and procedures that it would follow in investigating churches.

But those rules have not been made public, despite Freedom of Information applications.  So some religious liberty organizations have filed a lawsuit to make the IRS disclose how it will handle churches. [Read more…]

The 49 days of Easter

The somber season of Lent seems to last forever (40 days, not counting the six Sundays), but the joyful season of Easter lasts even longer (49 days).  Eastertide, or the Easter Season commemorates the 40 days that the risen Christ remained on earth:

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

Then comes His ascension, also considered part of Easter, and a total of nine more days when He is at the right hand of the Father.  The fiftieth day after His resurrection is Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon His Church, beginning a new season, the time of the Church.   [Read more…]

How ISIS observed Good Friday

ISIS observed Good Friday by crucifying a priest.  After attacking a nursing home in Yemen, shooting four nuns and killing seven others, ISIS kidnapped an Indian Catholic priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil.  ISIS promised to crucify him on the day that his Savior was crucified.  After torturing him for several weeks, ISIS reportedly carried out their promise.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slainfor the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.  (Revelation 6:9-11)

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