Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Change and Decay

from Huff Post

(RNS) For Southern Baptists, it’s happened again: Another annual report shows the denomination is losing members and baptizing fewer people.

The Rev. Fred Luter, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention, thinks old-time methods to spread the gospel have met a culture that’s younger, more diverse and doesn’t necessarily see the pew — or even sin — as a priority.

“Our society is just not what it used to be,” said Luter, who admitted he’s discouraged by the reports. “When I grew up there was a challenge by parents in the home that our sons and daughters would be in church. It was a given. … That day and time is gone.”

Luter said he and others will address the issue at this year’s annual meeting, which takes place June 10-11 in Baltimore. But beyond calls for reversing the trend, there’s little sign of agreement on a way forward.

Though some have said the 15.7 million-member denomination needs to be more racially and ethnically inclusive, Luter, its first African-American president, thinks the main reason for decline is that all congregations need to take a role in evangelism.

“We have just not been very active in doing what we can to reach the lost and the unchurched in our nation,” said the 57-year-old New Orleans pastor.

Weeks before the denomination’s annual meeting, a task force charged with helping Southern Baptists “own the problem” released a report that noted these recent signs of trouble:

one-quarter of Southern Baptist churches reported “0 baptisms”
60 percent said they had baptized no youth (ages 12-17)
80 percent reported one or fewer young adult baptisms (ages 18-29)
Task force member Dennis Kim is one of the three men who hope to succeed Luter as president.

“When about 1,000 churches close their doors every year, I believe that the need of the hour is an evangelistic tool that is simple enough to train all church members, effective enough to ignite believers’ passion for evangelism, and engaging enough to captivate the hearts of the present generation,” said Kim, 64, pastor of a predominantly Korean-American megachurch in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md.

The Rev. Jared Moore, pastor of a small church in Hustonville, Ky., is not convinced that a special method or a new way of training is the answer.

“It’s not something that any president or any individual can reverse,” he said of the trends that show seven straight years of declining membership. “It’s something that God must bring about.”

He added that “it takes a lot more time, a lot more conversations than it did 50 years ago” to succeed in evangelism when some people don’t consider themselves sinners.

“I think we’ve got to stay the course, continue preaching the gospel, even when the ears of our community is closed,” said Moore.

The Rev. Ronnie Floyd, a former SBC Executive Committee chairman who is considered to be a front-runner for the presidency, said there’s a need for “extraordinary prayer” for another “major spiritual awakening” in America. He said Baptists have determined that the Great Commission — a phrase about the biblical command to convert believers across the world — is the path they are committed to follow.

“Our problem is the pace,” said Floyd, 58, pastor of a multisite megachurch in northwest Arkansas. “We need to return to a commitment of personal evangelism.”

David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, said Southern Baptists are facing challenges, both theological — some people don’t see themselves in need of a conversion — and sociological — waning agreement with traditional conservative worldviews.

“It’s a tough world out there at this particular time and there’s not a lot of easy answers,” said Roozen, who said the Southern Baptists are joining mainline Protestants in the hand-wringing about declines. “There’s little fixes but they probably don’t address the root challenges.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

compliments

compliments

Leave a comment

June 3, 2014 · 22:28

THE GOLDEN RULE

World Scripture

THE GOLDEN RULE

The Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity is found in the scriptures of nearly every religion. It is often regarded as the most concise and general principle of ethics. It is a condensation in one principle of all longer lists of ordinances such as the Decalogue. See also texts on Loving Kindness, pp. 967-73.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

1. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Leviticus 19.18

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.

2. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 7.12

Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.

3. Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13

A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.

4. Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.

5. Confucianism. Mencius VII.A.4

One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.

6. Hinduism. Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8

Tsekung asked, “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?” Confucius replied, “It is the word shu–reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”

7. Confucianism. Analects 15.23

Leviticus 19.18: Quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22.36-40 (below). Mencius VII.A.4 and Analects 15.23: Cf. Analects 6.28.2, p. 975.

Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.

8. Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 705

One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.

9. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

One who you think should be hit is none else but you. One who you think should be governed is none else but you. One who you think should be tortured is none else but you. One who you think should be enslaved is none else but you. One who you think should be killed is none else but you. A sage is ingenuous and leads his life after comprehending the parity of the killed and the killer. Therefore, neither does he cause violence to others nor does he make others do so.

10. Jainism. Acarangasutra 5.101-2

The Ariyan disciple thus reflects, Here am I, fond of my life, not wanting to die, fond of pleasure and averse from pain. Suppose someone should rob me of my life… it would not be a thing pleasing and delightful to me. If I, in my turn, should rob of his life one fond of his life, not wanting to die, one fond of pleasure and averse from pain, it would not be a thing pleasing or delightful to him. For a state that is not pleasant or delightful to me must also be to him also; and a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?

As a result of such reflection he himself abstains from taking the life of creatures and he encourages others so to abstain, and speaks in praise of so abstaining.

11. Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya v.353

A certain heathen came to Shammai and said to him, “Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Thereupon he repulsed him with the rod which was in his hand. When he went to Hillel, he said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary; go and learn.”

12. Judaism. Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Sutta Nipata 705: Cf. Dhammapada 129-130, p. 478. Acarangasutra 5.101-2: Cf. Dhammapada 129-130, p. 478. Samyutta Nikaya v.353: The passage gives a similar reflection about abstaining from other types of immoral behavior: theft, adultery, etc. To identify oneself with others is also a corollary to the Mahayana insight that all reality is interdependent and mutually related; cf. Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life 8.112-16, p. 181; Majjhima Nikaya i.415, p. 465.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

13. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 22.36-40

 

get-attachment

 

 

1 Comment

June 2, 2014 · 12:24

14 Things the Bible Says NOT to Do, But Hypocritical Bible-Thumpers Do Anyway

The Bible bans a lot of things. Just ask right-wingers when they use it to defend their incessant attempts to discriminate against the LGBT community. As we all know, putting one’s devil stick in another man’s hell-hole is forbidden by the Bible–but other stuff is, as well. Like, umm…OK, that’s pretty much the extent of right-wingers’ understanding of the Bible.

Did you know, though, that there is more to the book than the wildly-misrepresented same-sex boom-boom verses in Leviticus? It’s true–we checked! The Bible says “no” to a lot of other things, too. Yes, it’s true that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross means that we are no longer under the particular set of laws that covers many of them but the thing about cherry-picking verses from Leviticus and the rest of the Old Testament is that if one irrational, invalid, and downright stupid “law” is valid the rest must be, as well!

Here’s a short list of some other things the Bible bans — but Bible-thumpers often do anyway!

14. Cheeseburgers

Untitled-1

Leviticus 3:17

It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.

Cheeseburgers are full of fat, which is a no-no according to Leviticus!

13. Bacon

Untitled-1

Leviticus 11:7

And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

Who doesn’t love bacon, right? Well, the Bible doesn’t!

12. Blended Fabrics

Untitled-1

Leviticus 19:19

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

Like polyester blends? Well, God doesn’t. You’re going to Hell, sinner!

11. Tearing Your Clothes

Untitled-1

Leviticus 10:6

And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled.

Yeah…it’s happened to all of us. We’ve all torn a shirt when it snags on something, or fallen and ripped the knee of a pair of pants. Well, according to the Bible…we’re gonna die!

10. Going to Church After giving Birth

Untitled-1

Leviticus 12:2

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.

Leviticus 12:4

And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

Leviticus 12:5

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

Women have it rough according to the decrees set forth in the Good Book. If your first instinct is to go to church and show off your new baby, though, you are doing it wrong! Interestingly, you need to stay away from church TWICE as long if you squeeze a little girl our of your sin oven. Your baby can go, but you can’t.

9. Creating Idols, or “Metal Gods”

Untitled-1

Leviticus 19:4

Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.

So…about all those Jesus statues and pendants…

8. Trimming Your Beard

Untitled-1

Leviticus 19:27

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

Ever thought of giving the old beard a trim? Well, sinner, G-man says “no” to that! At least we know the Duck Dynasty guys are fine…

7. Tattoos

Untitled-1

Leviticus 19:28

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

Sometimes, you get the urge to pop down to your local tattoo artist and show your love for Jesus by getting his image forever imprinted on your chest. Well, we have some news for you…

6. Mistreating Foreigners

Untitled-1

Leviticus 19:33

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.

Boy, if only right-wing Christians actually read their Bibles…

5. Rounded Haircuts

Untitled-1

Leviticus 19:27 

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

Hey Ben Shapiro…you’re going to burn for all eternity…for more than just your haircut.

4. Remarrying After a Divorce

Untitled-1

 Mark 10:11

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

Hey Newt…we have some bad news for you….

3. Pulling Out

Untitled-1

Genesis 38:9

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

Genesis 38:10

And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Not everyone wears a condom…but if you choose not to, you’d better be willing to go all the way with it or you’re gonna BURRRRNNNN.

2.Wearing Gold

Untitled-1

1 Timothy 2:9

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments.”

Ladies, pack up your gold and pearls…because Jesus no likie!

1. No Alcohol in Church

Untitled-1

Leviticus 10:9 

Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die.

OK, God, you’re confusing us now. Is Communion OK, or not?

1 Comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Great Commission – for Today’s Church

Leave a comment

April 26, 2014 · 13:06

How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation

CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by  Rachel Held Evans , special to CNN

(CNN) — On March 24, World Vision announced that the U.S. branch of the popular humanitarian organization would no longer discriminate against employees in same-sex marriages.

It was a decision that surprised many but one that made sense, given the organization’s ecumenical nature.

But on March 26, World Vision President Richard Stearns reversed the decision, stating, “our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake.”

Supporters helped the aid group “see that with more clarity,” Stearns added, “and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.”

So what happened within those 48 hours to cause such a sudden reversal?

The Evangelical Machine kicked into gear.

View original post 761 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Servant – a Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

(preached on 14 January 1996 at St.Michael’s, Inveresk – edited)

John 1 verses 29-42

Service these days – despite the efforts of Downton Abbey to semi-glamorise it – has certain negative connotations.

It implies subservience, a sense of surrendering personal rights, an abrogation of identity.

If you go to the “People’s Story” museum in the High Street in Edinburgh, you’ll see a display of how it really used to be – a tableau of a young lassie, at the crack of dawn, lighting a fire, working as a very minor servant at Carberry House – in bleak conditions.

Or perhaps some of you had a grandmother or great grandmother who, as a young woman, was in service – and although many were treated well, many others had a miserable existence.

That was the past ….. but……

When I was working in Trinidad, I was distressed by the conditions in which our church “servants” lived – our janitor and his wife. Their home was really just a basic shack with a corrugated iron roof – situated next to the church building.

I brought the situation of the Cordiners (that was their name) before the Kirk Session, only to be told that they were better housed than most in their position.

And I was further surprised when the Cordiners themselves said that they were perfectly happy, indeed “blessed”, to be living in this lean-to shed, and were honoured to be called to serve.

These are the very words that Henry and Cordelia Cordiner said to me, “We are honoured to serve”

I was thinking of these words, when I looked at today’s Gospel Reading –

– here’s John the Baptist, who had already said that, in modern terms – he was only the warm-up man for the Messiah; he said this about Jesus, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I am; whose sandals I am not worthy to carry”

And here he is again today, once more in a secondary role – handing over, as it were, to one who is greater than he is – and feeling honoured to do so.

What is our conception of greatness? Is it someone who is rich and powerful and who can bid others do his will?

H.G. Wells was once asked to select the three greatest men in history. The first thing Wells did was to decide upon a test to determine what makes someone “great”. He came up with this: what did a person do to start people thinking in new directions in a way that eventually changed the course of history? Using this criterion, he narrowed the field to three, Aristotle, The Buddha and (in first place) Jesus of Nazareth.

And should you think that Wells was biased – he was an agnostic

Jesus was the greatest who ever lived.  John the Baptizer certainly thought so, and was honoured to bow, as it were, before Christ’s greatness.

Then there was Andrew, one of the first called by Christ – who was honoured to serve and follow.

And look what he does: he doesn’t feel that his place is to feel superior – rather, he fetches his brother, Simon Peter, to meet the Christ.

I have the feeling that Andrew felt that this was an honour – as we find later in the Jesus story – an honour to be working away in the background.

And, if you look at Peter’s story several pages onward, you’ll see that we have a chain reaction of service.  And service here is regarded as the highest kind of calling and sacred duty

Christ shows us that service is the new greatness.

Let’s move on now from the very beginning of Christ’s ministry and towards its close.

Here we discover the disciples having an argument about greatness

Their minds were entangled in contemporary ideas of greatness.  When Jesus was born, the Caesar at Rome had the title “Augustus” – or “Majestic”.  The ruler at Jerusalem was Herod THE GREAT.  A common title in Syria and Egypt was “Benefactor”

The Pharisees of Jerusalem and the Galilean towns were clothed in prestige, as were the Temple Saducees

And the disciples, and especially James and John, wanted some of this status.  These two wanted to sit on Christ’s right and left side in his glory – that’s the ambition of power!

These men needed a new idea of greatness and Jesus gave it to them.

And he did so by washing the feet of his disciples.  A menial task.  And Peter quibbled at this; but Christ replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no part of me”

And he says to US – May the leader be the one who serves.

Greatness is to be found in service!

Since he said that, this new concept of greatness has inspired such servants as Peter and Andrew, Francis of Assisi, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, pope Francis ….and so many unheralded others.

And to us today

A personal remininiscence:  in my first charge in 1974,  I visited this particular parishioner, an elderly lady who was housebound.

On one particular visit, it was desperately cold and her home-help hadn’t managed to come along that day; as a result, the fire wasn’t lit.

The obvious thing was for me to go to the coal bunker outside, bring in the coal, and light the fire.

She would have none of this!  Scandalised: “you CAN’T do that!”  Explaining that a “man in your position” should not stoop …. etc

Of course, the word “Minister” comes from the same root as “minor” – lesser, and so one who serves.

In our ministry, as the people of God and as disciples of Christ, let’s never lose track that we have been called to serve – the highest calling, the greatest honour any of us could possibly have.

And that is to bring light to the World and news of salvation to all.

Was there ever a day when such need for such service was so great and pressing?

(a post note:  after almost half an hour and virtually a whole box of matches and umpteen firelighters, I still couldn’t get the elderly lady’s fire to light – maybe she was right when she  asked me not to bother!)

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Resolutions – Sermon preached in Bishopton Parish Church, a Church of Scotland congregation in Renfrewshire on 5th January 2014, Second Sunday of Christmas. Bible passage: John 1:10-18.

Leave a comment

January 5, 2014 · 19:50

Jesus and Homosexuality

What Jesus says about homosexuality is..

 

o-BLANK-PAGE-570

 

 

.. he doesn’t mention it.

Comments Off on Jesus and Homosexuality

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

(from the Independent). Christian (un)Concern

World, meet Andrea Minichiello Williams: the bafflingly misguided founder of UK group Christian Concern, who told conservative crowds in Jamaica that Tom Daley came out because his father died
Why? To persuade the Caribbean country not to repeal its rampantly homophobic laws on gay sex.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Coalition for a Healthy Society in Kingston to lobby against a possible repeal last week, Williams claimed Daley was “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends” until he tragically lost his father to cancer.

“And he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States,” she continued, referencing rumours surrounding Daley’s reported romantic relationship with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

She was joined by the equally absurd Peter LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality: a group which, incidentally, deals very little with truth at all.

Agreeing with LaBarbera that same-sex attraction is not something people are born with, Williams went on to tell the crowd that homosexuality, like Daley’s, can be “caused” by “the lack of the father”, and “sometimes a level of abuse”.

Tom Daley: ‘It was love at first sight’ with Dustin Lance Black

She urged Jamaica to turn down aid from countries in Europe and the US, too, in order to stand firm against any possible repeal of homosexuality laws. At the moment, same sex activity is illegal in Jamaica for both men and women. Those found guilty can face up to 10 years in prison.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families… If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

Hammering home his pal Williams’ point while taking a sly jibe at the US and the UK at the same time, LaBarbera continued: “Homosexuals are made, they’re not born.

“The dirty little secret that the media and homosexual activists are desperate — desperate — to squelch is that people are coming out of homosexuality every day. This is the work of God, this is the work of Jesus.”

But it didn’t stop there. After banging on about “gay conversion therapy” for a bit, Williams then claimed there was a link between homosexuality and paedophilia – a subject LaBarbera is currently busy turning into a book.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … Nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

So, residents of the United Kingdom – prepare for her imminent re-arrival. Williams heads back to the UK just next week to host a series of ‘Gay Conversion Conferences’ in London and Belfast. She’ll sit on a panel with Dr Michael Davidson, the founder of Core Issues Trust.

The conference will debate: “Homosexual orientation and practice – what did Jesus say? Straight, gay, bisexual – what about ex-gay and post-gay? ‘Don’t want to be gay anymore? Sorry we’re not allowed to help you!’ Is that ethical?”

The first event is taking place at Ballynahinch Baptist Church County Down, Northern Ireland on 4 January. However the location of the London conference on 9 January has so far only been listed as Westminster.

Tom Daley himself is yet to comment on her claims. But something tells us he’ll be far from impressed by her diagnosis.

Comments Off on (from the Independent). Christian (un)Concern

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic