The Lord’s Prayer, revised for Moral Therapeutic Deism With thanks and apologies to Dorothy Sayers:   Our ungendered parent, You who dwell beyond time and space, Unnumbered are your names, Your new world order come, Our vision of your will be done, On earth, as it accords with our preferences.   Give us this day Confidence in our basic goodness, And forgive us the minor errors we may have made, Just as we forgive those who agree with us.  … Read more

Sociologist Robert Wuthnow observed some years ago that American Protestants are increasingly alienated from denominational structures. In a useful set of distinctions that may say more about the perception of self and of others, than it does about social realities, Wuthnow explained that the vast majority of American church-goers consider themselves as residents of America’s Main Street: A cohort of people who, by and large, occupy the middle of the country, who are of relatively modest means and for whom… Read more

Several weeks ago the bishops of the United Methodist Church concluded their deliberations on the future of the United Methodist Church. With an eye to the 2019 General Conference, the bishops have been weighing how to navigate the thorny issues facing their church, concerning same sex relations and the ordination of openly gay clergy. Before them were three options for resolving the dispute: The One Church Plan, The Traditionalist Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan. In the end, the Council… Read more

Suicide has many causes. But we also make it intrinsically more likely by insisting that we have the right to end our lives, as so many do now under the rubric of “assisted dying.” Once we arrogate that power to ourselves, instead of leaving it in the hands of God, then ending our lives at anytime, in any place in life becomes intrinsically more likely. Who is left to say, “you aren’t old enough, miserable enough, sad enough, weak enough,… Read more

In a recent article, entitled “Searching for Ithaca,” writer Rod Dreher featured a letter from a reader who outlined in poignant terms his desire for and failure to find the sacramental in the world. Longing to believe it was possible to believe in God — for his own sake and for his family — Dreher’s reader asks: How can we make our lives sacramental when we cannot bring ourselves to accept the ontological basis of the sacraments? Is there hope…sacramental… Read more

Like most Episcopalians, I am delighted that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding sermon received such a warm reception this last week. In a fashion true to his own formation, Bishop Curry delivered a sermon that was, at once, true to his convictions and tailored to the occasion. What has received too little attention is the potential sea change that it signaled. Under the jurisdiction of the monarch, St. George’s Chapel has been the site of royal weddings dating back to… Read more

Increasingly the leaders of mainline denominations have been emphasizing the bi-vocational nature of ministry. After centuries of elaborating on models based on Roman Catholic practice and professional training in other disciplines, the church in the United States has begun to back away from the models that inspired both the modern ordination process and the contemporary seminary curriculum. But the retreat from that model has been ad hoc and indiscriminate. Denominational leaders haven’t discussed what this brave new world might mean… Read more

According to a recent Gallup poll, Clergy credibility is at an all-time low. There can be little doubt, as the report suggests, that the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church did a good deal to set that trend in motion, beginning in 2002. But after recovering slightly in the years that followed, the numbers have continued to decline. Gallup says little more about the trend than that, and it is difficult to be adamant about the causes. But… Read more

The death of Stephen Hawking led to predictable observations and storylines: “He is free now,” and “Look at what he accomplished in spite of his disability” were among the most common. Understandably writers who deal with their own handicaps had some trenchant criticism for people who drew on those tropes. Ellis Palmer, who writes for the BBC and is himself confined to a wheelchair, was particularly telling in his outline of the dangers in framing Hawkins life in this fashion…. Read more

Growing up, I was told that fundamentalists were judgmental. The implication, of course, was that people who were not fundamentalists were free from that particular sin. It wasn’t true, of course. In the reactive dialectic that is the relationship between fundamentalist and progressive Christianity, each one has its object for judgment. Only the criteria and the targets differ. And, over eight decades of strife, those judgments have inevitably included their opposite number in the Protestant world. The prejudices are so… Read more

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