Thinking Out Loud

May 14, 2014

Wednesday Link List

not entirely dead to sin cartoon

from Church is Stranger Than Fiction by Mary Chambers an IVP book from 1990

If it’s Wednesday, it’s time for another list of things you may have missed from the Christian corner of the web.  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE where the list officially resides. Then click the story you wish to read.

From CBD, for women who don’t have the joy of the Lord:

Joy of the Lord Lipstick

 

February 19, 2013

Ben Witherington’s Seven Papal Suggestions

I considered this for the link list, but decided it was truly worth a re-blog. You can read it at source at Ben Witherington III’s blog Bible and Culture.  (If you want your comment to be seen by the author, leave it at the source blog, not here.)

I was caught totally off guard. When was the last time a Pope stopped poping while still wearing his Papal slippers? The answer is almost six hundred years ago. No wonder I didn’t realize this could even happen. On further review, shock turned to understanding. A Pope who was PUP (physically unable to perform the job) decided it was time to step down, and hopefully let younger healthier folks do the job. One of the great problems of course with electing Popes is that it has tended to be based on seniority and experience. And this in turn means that old folks who already have their AARP status become Popes. But frankly the job of Pope is too demanding even just physically for almost any 75-85 year old person, and it became so for Pope Benedict.

Benedict, as we now know, had had a pacemaker inserted into his heart recently. He was tired, worn out. I am not referring to world-weariness or even the weariness that comes from fighting things like the scandal of pederasty again and again in the church. I have no say whatsoever over who should be the next Pope, but if I did here is what I would use as criteria:

1) Pick someone over 50 but under 65 for a change. We need a younger person with fresh ideas not to mention someone in the peak of physical health.

2) If you can find someone who is as good and critical a thinker and theolog as Pope Benedict, by all means pick that person;

3) Pick someone who is not so wed to Catholic traditions that have not been part of ex cathedra pronouncements that he would tend to avoid some serious changes— like for example the option of a priest to be married if he did not have the gift of celibacy. This in itself would probably reduce the danger of pederasty considerably.

4) Pick someone who is prepared to continue the ecumenical discussions with Evangelical Protestants, working towards more concordats on faith and praxis.

5) Pick someone who is prepared to continue the process of weeding out superstitious practices and inessential ideas. For example, the recent dropping of the expectation that a good Catholic ought to believe in limbo is a good thing. In short, a more Biblically focused faith, and one less steeped in traditions that do not comport with the Bible (for example Jesus’ descent to the dead) would be a welcome development.

6) Pick a Pope more concerned with protecting his sheep than his shepherds when crisis arises, especially when the crisis is caused by the behavior of the shepherds themselves. Continue to set up accountability structures to protect the young, the innocent, the naive, the poor, and so on.

7) Pick a Pope from somewhere other than Europe. It would be nice to have a North American one for once, considering that English both on the Internet and off of it is the lingua franca of an increasingly global community, society, market.

March 6, 2012

Us, As Seen By Them

When the broader world looks at Christianity, they don’t see the distinctions that to us are so obvious: Evangelicals, Reformers, Pentecostals, Mainline Protestant. They may not even make an absolution distinction as to Christian versus religious.

Media reports on what we call ‘church life’ are usually hampered by a lack of familiarity with the subject matter or a misapplication of the right terminology.

Still, if all your understanding of what’s going on in the capital ‘C’ Church comes from Christian media itself — Christian periodicals, the Christian blogosphere, Christian television, things your pastor says in sermons — then you really don’t get to see (a) how it all fits together in the context of the broader world, and (b) how that broader world perceives us.  

So most of my time online is spent in a mixture of the Christian blogosphere, and coverage of ‘religious’ stories in the mainstream media.  (That, and Pretty Good Solitaire, containing over 400 variants on the game, but not sophisticated enough for my sons, who wish I would play role play and strategy games.)

Therefore, because Saturday’s sermon link list was such a hit — though most of the comments came off the blog — I’m today sharing another part of my personal internet bookmarks, the part dealing with news sources.


USAToday Religion — One of the first media outlets to give increased online profile to faith based stories. Should be read in tandem with reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman’s Faith and Reason blog.

FaithWorld — The religion page of news gathering agency Reuters International. Basically, this is often where your local newspapers get their stories.

Christian Post — While there’s a U.S. edition page, the one linked here is your best source for stories from outside North America, or even ‘western’ countries.

Christian Today — The UK’s online Christian newsmagazine. 

Christianity Today — The popular American Christian magazine founded by Billy Graham also has a number of other publications including Leadership Journal.

World — Covering more than just religious-interest stories, but frequently employed as a reliable news source by Christian publications and bloggers.

Get Religion — A blog which exists to critique and clarify the secular press’ handling of religious news.

Christian Newswire — You just get headlines, and then link for the stories; this is often what is referred to as an aggregator.

Religious News Service — Strongly U.S.-oriented; like many such sites, currently overrun with the religious aspects of the forthcoming Presidential election.

Holy Post — A faith news and opinion page from The National Post, one of Canada’s two national newspapers.

Christian Week — Canada’s national Christian newspaper. I try to include a few of their stories each month in the Wednesday link lists here.

CNN Belief Blog — A mix of stories and opinion pieces. Don’t even bother trying to read the comments on the various stories because all their readers go off-topic from the minute a new item is posted.

On Faith — The religious news section of The Washington Post. Many large city newspapers are adding coverage of faith stories.

Belief — Similar to the one above, this one is based at the Houston Chronicle. 

Do you have a source for news you’d like to share?  Feel free to add a comment. 

Also, I should add that these are the “dry and boring” news sources; there are others that specialize in faith-based news stories related to family, finance, politics, entertainment, environment, persecuted church, Christian education, etc.

February 1, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Ideas are always welcomed, but I’d especially like to hear from people who are in touch with electic Christian bloggers from outside North America. 

As for the drum kit (above) the blog where I sourced it (click image) says it’s claimed to be the largest drum set in the world by a church in New York state.  Can someone verify this?

  • Okay, I can’t say I’ve read every single word, but this exhaustive article on the subject of tithing is probably the best I’ve seen — author and Canadian financial consultant Leo De Siqueira really poured himself into this — but you have to read  all  three  parts.
  • Despite the popularity of the recent TV series “Big Love” and the current Broadway hit, “The Book of Mormon,” a Reuters special report quotes Mormon leaders admitting that people are currently “leaving the church in droves.” Apparently all the pop-culture attention is a double-edged sword.
  • The news story playing out about an hour down the road from where we live — involving the ‘honor killings’ of four family members — got worldwide coverage this week, and Get Religion looks closely at press coverage both in and outside Canada.
  • A tarp now covers a prayer in a high school auditorium after a federal judge ruled its presence unconstitutional; … a poem a seventh-grader wrote in 1963 that begins with the words “Our Heavenly Father”  Karen Spears Zacharias sees an irony involving the 16-year old who brought the complaint.
  • Jeff Bethke, the guy who did the viral video, Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus (now at 18,000,000 views) is back with Sex, Marriage and Family. “You might share a checkbook and a house, but are you actually friends?”
  • If The Shoe Fits Department: At least one Roman Catholic blogger thought the Bethke video was directed at his denomination, and filmed a response. Then he disabled comments, though a few got through.
  • Call me old fashioned, but you just don’t expect to see “Allah” in a scripture translation project sponsored by Wycliffe Bible Translators.  But before Jack VanImpe is all over this, let’s hear the explanation.
  • If you go to a certain ministry job-finding site, the greatest need right now is for worship pastors. But Jim Greer thinks we’re putting too much emphasis there and advancing the wrong paradigm.
  • Meanwhile, Willow Creek (and former Mars Hill Grand Rapids) worship guy Aaron Niequist as released A New Liturgy. Brad Lomenick introduces the project and its promo video.  If you already know Aaron’s music, check out (and download) Liturgy #2.
  • Pete Wilson sits down with Will, a friend and neighbor, who describes living with the consequences of childhood sexual abuse.
  • When times get tough and the pews get barren, the church gets resourceful, but blogger Josh Rhone thinks they’re taking The MacGyver approach to church.

    Wednesday List Lynx arrives late to the party

  • In the modern church, especially the American megachurch, kids are conspicuously absent, doing their own thing in a Kid Min program.  But that doesn’t fit every situation, hence the need for the Messy Church template.
  • Brett Harrison explains carefully his decision about his tattoo, which, for the record, he didn’t actually get yet.  (Not sure about the one he wants to give his 2-year old,  though.)
  • Kerri Weems offers some fasting recipes.  Wait a minute, I’m confused, isn’t that a contradiction?
  • Speaking of food, while Christianity Today isn’t switching to a format featuring restaurant reviews, they do pay a visit to The King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.
  • Meanwhile, in other part of the galaxy: This is Your Wake Up Call Online is the website of Chief Inspiration Officer, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie. Research it and get back to me, okay?
  • The graphic below originates with the photoblog Spiritual Inspiration. There are some you can use on your blog or Facebook page which are perhaps better quality than the one I chose, but I was really struck by the quotation.

November 4, 2010

So Why Exactly Does Scandal Hit Pastors and Religious Leaders?

Mark Barger Elliott tries to deal with this question — “How can we clergy explain such egregious transgressions?”  this week on the CNN Belief Blog.   He feels there are two culprits, “the work and the person.”

Take the first one:

As a pastor I identify with the pitfalls of “the work.” Fifteen years ago I took vows “to love God, my neighbor, and to serve the people of God with energy, intelligence and imagination.”

Today, however, my job description reads like the director of a mid-size non-profit. A million dollar budget needs to be raised and a monthly payroll of 12 employees met. To tread the churning waters of shrinking resources and demands for excellent programs, I take classes on strategic planning as often as classes on the Bible.

As to the second issue:

How do we explain the moral transgressions of a profession charged to teach morality?

In my years as a pastor I have witnessed marriage vows made and betrayed. I have visited those in prison and those trapped in a prison they have made for themselves. I’ve prayed with the lost and the found, watched fortunes flow and ebb.

“Broken” is a word that describes many of the people I have been privileged to walk alongside as a pastor.

I have also spent a great deal of time with other clergy; from preaching stars who soak up acclaim for their oratory gifts to pastors in inner-city churches barely making ends meet.

The solution to the first problem seems more simple:

One option is to intentionally separate the clergy from the church’s financial matters. Teaching people about God’s love while shaking a fundraiser’s tin cup seems to ultimately undermine one’s credibility. People suspect a bait and switch.

I wish he had been given more space to flesh this out.    He identifies a tension here, but it’s just one, and pastors are stretched physically and emotionally in so many different directions.  Is the point financial responsibility specifically, or the inconsistencies of the job?

The second solution is not so easily dealt with:

Clergy typically fall into one of two camps.

Those who, in the face of the brokenness that surrounds them, come to identify their own brokenness and in humility choose to “live with the questions,” to borrow the poet Rilke’s phrase. This person is reluctant to offer quick answers to the hard questions of life.

The other camp is clergy who choose instead to offer confident solutions to life’s struggles. The clergy I have watched transgress their ordination vows typically fall into the second camp. The temptation is to shift from speaking about God to speaking for God. When that line blurs in a pastor’s mind, all bets are off.

On this point, I wish he’d had space to discuss the “personality” as well as the “person.”   I’ve heard it said that the very personality traits which cause someone to want to be in the pulpit are the very personality traits that leave them vulnerable to temptation.   (My personal belief is that anyone in business leadership, or in a position where they are “upfront” before a crowd of people is equally prone to the same conditions.)   The second paragraph above is certainly an interesting insight into how that might play out.

To me, this is the question all of us — laity and church staff — need to be asking each time we hear a story about another fallen leader.   And “hearing” is key, because we tend to focus here in North American on Canadian and American stories, but Elliott points out there are similar stories in Europe that we’re not always being told.

I also wish he’d had time to broaden out the ending.  While pastors have made vows to serve God vocationally, each one of us has promised to honor God’s name and serve Him with devotion.   The moral collapse of a Christian leader may make headlines, but when it happens to any one of us, it is not any less significant to God.

To read the full piece, in context, which I encourage you to do, click here.

Mark Barger Elliott is Senior Pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and author of Creative Styles of Preaching.

Comments left at the original article come from the widest possible readership at CNN and should be read with discernment.

“Collapse in the Christian life is rarely caused by a blowout, but is usually the result of a slow leak. ” ~source unknown

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