Luther as populist and freedom fighter

Luther_(Wislicenus)Much of Europe, including Catholics, will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 theses.  But Great Britain, not so much.

The founder of the Church of England, King Henry VIII, hated Luther (who opposed his multiple marriages) and martyred his followers.  Later, when Anglicans became distinctly Protestant, they threw in with John Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

Even though the church followed Luther in adopting the Liturgy and emphasizing the Sacraments–thanks to Wittenberg student Thomas Cranmer–the Anglicans don’t do much with Luther.  So they are mostly skipping the October 31 celebration.

British journalist Peter Stanford, writing in the left-of-center Guardian, thinks that’s a shame.  He says Luther deserves to be celebrated as a populist, a champion of the poor, and the seminal defender of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience.  He also says Luther is a key founder of the modern era.  He was also unimaginably brave.

Now I’m not sure Mr. Stanford fully understands the religious significance of Luther, particularly, his recovery of the Gospel, and there are other things he gets wrong.  But you should read his article for an interesting secular perspective on Luther’s cultural influence. [Read more…]

A rite for changing to a new gender?

30108554503_82b923c684_zAt Baptism, among other things, a child is named.  So what about those who later get a new name along with a new gender?  Some LGBT activists in churches are urging the adoption of a new service “akin to baptism” to mark and to formally bless transgender transitions.

Officials of the Church of England have tabled a proposal to that effect.  The General Synod meeting next week will NOT change church teachings about sexuality, it has been announced, and will NOT change the definition of marriage to allow for same-sex weddings.

But transgender re-baptisms, naming ceremonies, or the equivalent, are on the agenda of progressive church activists in many denominations.  They are already happening, as a Google search will show.

How does this show a misunderstanding of Baptism? [Read more…]

Britain now has more “nones” than Christians

Great Britain now has more people who say they have “no religion” (48%) than say they are Christians (44%).  (Other religions such as Islam constitute 8%.)  And this happened fast.  Fifteen years ago, around 75% said they were Christians.  Five years ago, only 25% said they have “no religion.”  After the jump, a story about this from the London Spectator.

For a long time, most Brits still considered themselves Christians, while hardly ever attending services.  Staying Christian requires going to church.  Then again, when the churches themselves, as a whole, become so theologically liberal they stop teaching anything that could be recognized as Christianity, then of course Christianity will, apart from divine intervention, be extinguished.

Could such a religious shift happen in the USA?  Or is it already happening? [Read more…]

“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.

[Read more…]

Calling God a woman

Now that the Church of England has ordained its first female bishops, it is considering changing the Book of Common Prayer and catechetical materials to refer to God as “she” and as “mother.”  (This will probably be in formulations like “father and mother” as some liberal churches are already doing.)

Here is a good response to this effort from a Roman Catholic perspective:  Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God “Mother.” [Read more…]

New baptisms for the transgendered?

At a baptism, the baptized person is given a name.  That’s not all that happens, but that’s what a lot of people associate with the rite.  So in the Church of England, some transgendered individuals have asked to be re-baptized, so as to have the Church affirm their new name and new identity.  So far, a sympathetic vicar decided not to repeat  the baptism but has devised a new liturgy to bestow the new name.  The Church of England is discussing how to handle this. [Read more…]