Baptist take on spirituality

Don Whitney knows what happens when people hear that a Southern Baptist seminary is offering a doctor of philosophy degree in spirituality."For many people, connecting 'Baptist' and 'spirituality' is like 'military' and 'intelligence.' They just can't picture those two words together," said Whitney, director of the new Center for Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.But for Baptists, he stressed, it's crucial to underline the word "biblical" in … [Read more...]

Memory eternal: Healer for the healers

Some of the seminarians in the Bible Belt chapel were shaken when Dr. Louis McBurney described -- in gentle, but clear terms -- the hurdles and pitfalls that awaited them in their first churches."I talked about ministers' problems and how, sometimes, professional counseling was what was needed," said the witty physician, whose counseling work was built on his evangelical faith, as well as psychiatric credentials from the Mayo Clinic. "When I was through, the seminary president strode to the … [Read more...]

Seminaries, celibacy and doctrine

When it comes to nightlife in Washington, D.C., Dupont Circle is one of the places where people go to be seen.So Amy Welborn wasn't surprised to see familiar faces while visiting the hot spots with a friend in the late 1970s. It was easy to spot the Catholic University seminarians -- with their girlfriends -- even though the future priests were not wearing clerical garb."It was the spirit of the times," said Welborn, now a popular Catholic writer and online apologist. "Dating was pretty normal … [Read more...]

Can’t ask. Can’t tell.

If a Catholic child steals a candy bar, church doctrine calls this a small sin.But if a priest embezzles a large amount of money, this act is much more serious -- a sin that severely corrupts and threatens the soul.Both of these acts involve theft, but Catholicism does not believe they have equal weight. They do not have the same "parvity of matter," noted Father Donald Cozzens of John Carroll University, who once led a seminary in Ohio."It doesn't help to look that up in a dictionary," said … [Read more...]

Symbols & Substance in Alabama

Susan Pace Hamill's colleagues on the law faculty at the University of Alabama were puzzled when she decided to spend her hard-earned sabbatical studying the Bible.Why study Greek at Samford University's evangelical Beeson Divinity School? What was a tax-law specialist who had worked in New York City and Washington, D.C., supposed to do with a Masters in Theological Studies degree?Hamill wasn't exactly sure herself, but she certainly wasn't trying to start a political crusade."If you divide the … [Read more...]

Plagiarism and the pulpit

One thing great preachers enjoy about traveling is that they can hear other people preach.But the American orator A.J. Gordon received a shock during an 1876 visit to England. Sitting anonymously in a church, he realized that the sermon sounded extremely familiar -- because he wrote it."The man in the pulpit was reading it verbatim without saying a word about the source. After the service, Gordon introduced himself and we can just imagine the pastor's reaction," said the Rev. Scott Gibson, di … [Read more...]

Degrading the Catholic bishops

Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings rarely cover religious rites, but they would certainly show up if Rome decided to use Pope Benedict XIV's "Degradatio ab ordine pontificali." This 1862 rite for the "Degradation of a bishop" is not for the liturgically faint of heart. In it, a bishop who had committed disgraceful acts was stripped of the symbols of his office -- mitre, crosier and ring. The prelate leading the rite would say: "Rightly do we pull off thy ring, the sign of fidelity, since … [Read more...]

It’s the doctrine, stupid

Rome would not issue a bishop a red hat and send him to New York City unless he had demonstrated at least some ability to stay cool in a media firestorm.So reporters in Rome must have been baffled last week when Cardinal Edward Egan uttered this twisted response when asked about his views on gays in the priesthood."I would like to say this," the cardinal told the New York Times. "The most important thing is to clean up the truth. And the truth is that I have never said anything."Yes, most U.S. … [Read more...]