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Posted by | Apr 13, 2019

Eighty years ago, a 33-year-old Christian theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer returned to his native Germany after a short stay in the United States. He would not live to see his 40th birthday.

The Lutheran and Episcopal Churches, as well as other religious bodies worldwide, recently commemorated the annual remembrance of German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and resister of Nazi totalitarianism and terrorism. On April 9, 1945, after being in held prisoner for two years, Bonhoeffer was hanged for his association with others who resisted Hitler and the atrocities his party committed against Jews, Germans, among others.

Evidence showed the group he worked with also plotted to assassinate Hitler. A week later the Allies liberated that very POW Camp. As he was being led away to what all knew would be his death, Bonhoeffer said, “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.”

Bonhoeffer wrote a book “The Cost of Discipleship,” that is now a classic. He compares “cheap grace,” which is like a head nod or an “atta boy” to the ethics of following Jesus, without actually getting in the water and risking a swim – with “costly grace,” that throws people into the deep end because they are formed by and live out the ethics of Jesus.

This is not a church and state issue. It is the involvement of a person of faith, regardless of religion, using politics, political action, and involvement to change the world for the poor, needy, oppressed, voiceless and powerless. Such costly grace brought Bonhoeffer into the resistance movement against the Nazis.

Bonhoeffer was also a founder and leader in a church-based resistance movement, the Confessing Church. When he was imprisoned, he refused the prayers of that Church. At a 50th Anniversary commemoration of his death, Klaus Engelhardt, then Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Germany, lifted up Bonhoeffer’s reasoning, and challenged the church on it.

Bonhoeffer felt that exercising political means to resist evil and injustice set him outside the circle of prayer. Only those imprisoned for their proclamation and work on behalf of the church, not political resistance, should be prayed for, and that exempted him. Engelhardt challenged the religious communities to reconsider Bonhoeffer’s position that separated resistance and faith.

Today what does “costly grace” look like? How do we separate holding religious principles from applying those principles, regardless of their origin, on behalf of the poor, needy, oppressed, threatened, and voiceless? What drives many who risk speaking up in our country against while privilege and nationalism, threats to Muslims, Jews, and law-abiding immigrants?

People of religion and no-religion share a vision of a common good for all. Almost daily tragedy strikes a blow to our hearts and vision for a better world – whether in New Zealand, threats to synagogues, mosques and churches here and worldwide, the continuing rise of gun violence and absence of adults to stand with our children against it. Health care costs for the needy and elderly rise. The opioid epidemic – suicides…

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Popular and prolific Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe died on the evening of May 2, 2019, at the age of 89.

Warren Wendel Wiersbe was born on May 16, 1929, the third child of Fred and Gladys Anna (Forsberg) Wiersbe, in East Chicago, Indiana (25 miles southeast of Chicago). At that time, the steel town of East Chicago was the most industrialized city in the United States. His mother was of Swedish descent, and his father was of German descent. He was a lactose-intolerant milkman.

Wiersbe traced his conversion to May 1945 during high school sophomore. Just before his sixteenth birthday he attended a Youth for Christ rally and heard the ministry’s first full-time evangelist, 26-year-old Billy Graham. Though he was raised in the church and had attended Vacation Bible School, he trusted in Christ for the first time that night in response to Graham’s altar call.

A few years later, the president of Youth for Christ, Torrey Johnson, asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Wiersbe responded, “I wanted to go to school and get some Bible training and then preach the gospel.” Johnson responded: “Young man, find the one thing you do that God blesses, and stick with it! Around that time, Wiersbe later wrote, “I had developed an insatiable appetite for the Word of God, and I wanted to study and understand the Bible more than anything else in all the world.” He began acquiring and using his first books: the Scofield Reference Bible, Strong’s Concordance, Cruden’s Concordance, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, The Christian Worker’s Commentary by James M. Gray, Notes on the Pentateuch by C. H. MacIntosh, using tools from a dispensational perspective.

After attending Indiana University in Indianapolis for a year and then Roosevelt University in Chicago, Wiersbe enrolled at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, a northwest suburb of Chicago. He entered a five-year program that enabled him to get a college degree and seminary degree at the same time. As a seminary student, he was ordained in 1951 and began serving as pastor of Central Baptist Church, a blue-collar, 150-member neighborhood church in East Chicago. In June of 1953, he received his bachelor of divinity degree from Northern and married Betty Warren, whom he had met at Northern. (She was a librarian, and he practically lived in the library.) Together they had four children—two boys (David and Robert) and two girls (Carolyn and Judy). He once said of marriage: “Getting a wife is something like being saved. You make a decision and then you discover you’ve been chosen. And this is what happened. We just knew we were made for each other.”

In 1957, he left his pastorate at Central to become Director of the Literature Division for Youth for Christ International.

From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio. A local Cincinnati radio stations broadcast his Sunday sermons as the “Calvary Hour.” His Sunday During his tenure the church grew from a capacity of 800 people to one that could hold 2,000 worshipers.

In 1971 he received a call from the famed Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, succeeding George Sweeting, who became the president of Moody Bible Institute. Wiersbe’s sermons were featured on Moody’s “Songs in the Night” national radio program. Wiersbe served at Moody from 1971 to 1978, during which time he wrote for Moody Monthly, penning the “Insight for the Pastor” column, where he offered not only practical theology counsel but also wrote biographical sketches of noted figures in church history, which formed the basis for his books Listening to the Giants (1976) and Walking with the Giants (1980). Each of the entries included bibliographic information for further reading—a feature that encouraged and guided many pastors to explore primary sources for themselves. Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, writes: “The backbone of my library today consists of books he introduced me to. He sparked my interest in Lloyd-Jones, the Puritans, and preaching—among other things.”

During his time in Chicago, Wiersbe also served as board chairman for the Slavic Gospel Association.

The staff at Moody Church quickly discovered Wiersbe’s sense of humor. He recalled:

God has a sense of humor. If you don’t believe that, go to the shopping mall, sit there and look at the people. It will convince you that God has a sense of humor. Humor is based on contradiction, seeing the other side of a situation. In one of the churches I pastored, we would have our staff meeting on Monday morning. We’d spend the first twenty minutes laughing over what happened the day before. Because people are people and situations are situations. I remember the Sunday morning at Moody Church when John the Baptist came in. This guy came in wearing a white robe and carrying a big pole and he said he was John the Baptist. We knew he was a fraud because he had a head.

Beginning in 1978, Wiersbe began teaching practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and authored materials for a DMin course on “Imagination and the Quest for Biblical Preaching,” used at both Trinity and also Dallas.

In 1980 the Wiersbes moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he became Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Radio Ministries. In the course of the move, Mrs. Wiersbe told the real estate agent, “We are looking for a library with a house attached.” Their house would eventually have the entire basement devoted to Warren’s collection of more than 10,000 books. During that time he wrote a bi-weekly column for Christianity Today. From 1984 to 1990 he served as general director of Back to the Bible.

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Dr. Jim Garlow has traveled the world imparting to global leaders the powerful truth that God’s Word provides instructions for every area of life, including government.

In a recent interview with My Faith Votes, Dr. Jim Garlow, Founder and CEO of Well Versed, provided some great takeaways for us to bring biblical change to our spheres of influence.

1. Is America headed in the right direction?

“According to a Barna study from 2013, 90% of pastors acknowledge that the Bible speaks to the cultural, political, and social issues of the day. But ask those same pastors if they have or would speak on those issues, 90% said no. Therein lies the problem.

“It’s really up to the church if the nation heads in the right direction. The problem is not the progressives and the liberals, it’s not the baby killers and it’s not the LGBTQ, the real problem is the pastors of America and the churches of America — will they rise to the occasion? So, I’m answering your question with an ‘if.’ That’s what will determine whether or not this nation can be saved or not.”

2. When you look at the culture and assess where things are headed, what concerns you the most?

“The absence of the understanding of the word of God and the lack of capacity to apply it. 92% of the people in the pew do not have a biblical worldview. What worldview do they have then? They have a secular worldview. If you go to millennials, you are down to only 4% having a biblical worldview.

“Those are really jolting numbers. Everyone is responsible to study the word and become a careful steward of the word, but where is the primary source of the word? It should be from the pulpit, from the church.”

3. We’ve come out of a hyper election season with a record number of dollars spent and record turnout. How can Christians continue to take bold steps to change culture?

“Number one, care. Care about the nation. Care about what’s happening in the community. We operate under this myth that the way things are are the way things are going to stay. That is not true.

“Cultures come and cultures go. Nations come and nations go. All the great nations that once existed never thought they would be done, but they ended, every one of them. America is not going to last forever. And we can bring it to a painstaking close by simply defaulting and not showing up for the game.

“For example, the reason we know the stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? They were bold!

“The reason we know the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer? He was bold! Everybody likes to preach about him, it’s time to start acting like him. April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothes in the German cold air and hung by a piano wire — killed. Why do we remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Was it because he had the largest church? Was the most popular guy? No. Wrote a bestseller? No. Had a big radio and TV ministry? No. We remember him because he stood for truth.

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This morning (Saturday) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, I sat down with Dr. Haddon Robinson and Dr. Sid Buzzell to defend my thesis on the impact of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on twenty-first century preaching and preachers.

I am thankful to the Lord to pass it.

I am also thankful to everyone who offered feedback of some kind to the bonhoefferblog. Your contribution helped me to complete my thesis.

I plan to continue to add posts to this blog. It has become part of my life and routine.

Bryan

I am on D.Min. display table at Gordon-Conwell!

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Psychoneurologist and founding member of the Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) organization, Denise Buchanan, right, and member Leona Huggins, second from right, participate in a protest outside the St. Anselm on the Aventine Benedictine complex in Rome on the second day of a summit called by Pope Francis at the Vatican on sex abuse in the Catholic Church on Feb. 22, 2019. Pope Francis has issued 21 proposals to stem the clergy sex abuse around the world, calling for specific protocols to handle accusations against bishops and for lay experts to be involved in abuse investigations. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

These scandals stand alongside abuses by prominent male church officials that have occurred in independent Christian communities, such as Harvest Bible ChapelWillow Creek Community Churchand Mars Hill Church.

Such scandals have led to widespread doubts about church officials and institutions. And this is not for the first time. As a scholar of early Christianity, I know that in the fourth century, Christian churches in North Africa faced a similar crisis of trust in their leaders.

Known as the Donatist controversy, it caused a schism that lasted for centuries and offers a parallel for thinking about the impact of these crises on contemporary Christian communities today.

Traitors during Christian persecution

Christians in the Roman Empire occasionally experienced periods of imperial persecution. These periods were often memorialized in Christian tradition through stories of famous martyrdoms. The stories often portrayed Christians as courageous and virtuous in the face of imperial violence.

The most infamous period of persecution occurred in the early fourth century A.D. Spearheaded by the emperor Diocletian, it was also the final imperially sponsored persecution of Christian communities.

While persecutions were sporadic, local and rare, they often put difficult choices before Christian clergy and laity.

Some renounced Christianity. Others handed over sacred books or church property and outed fellow Christians to the authorities. Christians called the latter “traditores,” a Latin term meaning “those who handed over,” the root of the word “traitor.”

Whether and how to welcome such traditores back into Christian communities after the persecutions was a topic of intense debate among Christians.

Traditores were considered to have betrayed their communities to save themselves. This sense of betrayal was particularly felt with respect to clergy members who had become traditores.

The issue came to a head in A.D. 311 in North Africa when Caecilian, the bishop of Carthage, became embroiled in controversy after it was alleged that one or more of the bishops who presided at his consecration had been traditores.

In the eyes of many Christians in North Africa, Caecilian’s virtues did not matter. The presence of a traditor among those who ordained him invalidated his ordination.

The Donatist schism

Caecilian was supported politically and financially by the imperial administration. Caecilian’s opponents pressed their case in regional councils and before local magistrates.

They even appealed to the Emperor Constantine, who wrote in a letter to the Vicar of Africa in A.D. 314 that he had grown tired of receiving requests from Caecilian’s opponents.

They brought charges, which ultimately proved to be false, against Felix of Aptunga, one of the bishops that had ordained Caecilian. Charges against other bishops soon followed.

In A.D. 313, Donatus was consecrated bishop of Carthage and became the leading voice of Caecilian’s opponents. These “Donatists,” as they came to be called, created their own massive network of churches that stood in opposition to those allied with Caecilian and the Roman state.

Constantine soon grew fed up with the Donatists and the schism that they had created in the church. From A.D. 316-321, Constantine used the force of the state to coerce the Donatists back into the fold.

Constantine’s attempts to intervene led to violence that resulted in the deaths of Donatist Christians. His intervention did little to end the schism. Constantine soon gave up state-sponsored persecution of the Donatists.

In A.D. 346, the Emperor Constans, who succeeded Constantine, tried again to end the schism. His agents used imperial funds to woo clergy back, but also used violence. Macarius, one of Constans’s agents, led a campaign of suppression, in which Christians killed other fellow Christians.

Macarius became infamous among Donatist communities. The Donatists considered those who died to be martyrs. These martyrs and their memory were celebrated by Donatist communities.

Donatus was said to have questioned the very role of the emperor in the controversy, saying, “What has the emperor to do with the church?”

By the fifth century, Donatist churches were thriving and sparring with Catholics. And Donatist churches remained active in North Africa until the Islamic conquests of the seventh century.

Donatist beliefs

The Donatists believed the sins of traditores risked the salvation of individual members and the health of the community.

“How,” they asked, “could sacraments administered by an offending priest be recognized by a holy God?” And if those sacraments were not effective, the salvation of the individual and the community were at risk. For the Donatists, only sacraments performed by uncompromised clergy were effective.

In their attempts to respond to Donatist critique, the Catholic Church settled on a strategy developed by Augustine, an influential fifth-century Catholic bishop in North Africa.

Augustine, who describes the sparring between Donatists and Catholics in his writings, argued that the sacraments were effective regardless of the morality of the clergy involved – a church doctrine known as “ex opere operato.” He said that as the sacraments were the work of Christ, they did not depend on the moral character of the officiating priest.

What can be learned today

Today, in the face of the sex abuse crisis, contemporary Christian communities find themselves asking questions about institutions that condoned, hid and promoted abusive clergy.

This might be a moment to revisit the Donatist critique. They created their own churches because they feared not only for the efficacy of the sacraments but also for the character of a church that made it too easy for traditores to continue to remain leaders.

Widespread sexual abuse by Christian clergy represents a very different crisis from that faced by the betrayal of the traditores.

However, I believe the Donatists offer a lesson for Christian communities…

For the rest of the post…

I was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dannebrog from 1985 to 1993…

Mar 08, 2019 by Alyssa Duvall
William McLeod (Photo: KSTU-TV)

A Catholic fourth grader in the Davis School District of Bountiful, Utah received a harsh lesson in tolerance and inclusivity in the public school environment this week, demonstrating the increasing hostility toward professing Christians in the public square.

In post-Christian America, even the smallest demonstration of faith becomes an act of microaggression and hate that must be sanitized and stamped out.

This is exactly the experience of William McLeod, a little boy who came to class this week with an apparently hideously offensive symbol smeared onto his forehead: an ashen cross, commemorating Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

When McLeod got to school that day, he quickly realized that he was the only one of his class bearing the symbol, but the young man was happy to entertain his classmates’ questions about it.

“A lot of students asked me what it is. I said, ‘I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday,’” William recounted to Fox 13.

While his interactions with his peers seemed to be going fine—in spite of committing the academic capital crime of standing out and being different—McLeod’s teacher abruptly marched over to the boy’s desk and demanded that he wipe off the cross.

McLeod attempted to explain the importance of wearing the ashes to his teacher, but to no avail. The fourth grader found out that day precisely how unwelcome even the most subtle public displays of Christian faith are in many public schools, including his own.

“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” the boy described. “She gave me a disinfection wipe—whatever they are called—and she made me wipe it off.”

To be clear, the adversarial attitude toward Christianity belonged solely to that particular teacher, as the administration has been quick to clean up the incident and offer apologies and investigations. In fact, upon learning of the incident, the school’s principal made a call to William’s family to apologize.

“I was pretty upset,” said Karen Fisher, William’s grandmother, who says she also received a call from the teacher who forced him to remove the ashes.

“I asked [the teacher] if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, no,” Fisher recalled in frustration. Had the teacher been aware of perhaps one of the greatest laws of the country in which she teaches children, she might have known that public institutions are prohibited from establishing or preventing the free exercise of anyone’s religion.

For their part, the Davis School District is apologizing for the unacceptable incident and declaring that students of all faiths should feel welcomed there.

“Why that even came up, I have no idea,” said Chris Williams, a spokesperson for the district. “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say ‘Please take off.'”

The district is reportedly “taking this incident seriously” and conducting an investigation.

For the rest of the post…

 

Pro-life and pro-gun? Evangelical minister talks faith and firearms in Charleston

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Standing in the spot where a German pastor was hanged decades ago for resisting the Nazi regime, the Rev. Robert Schenck experienced a conversion.

Schenck, an Evangelical minister and former anti-abortion activist who now considers the conservative Christian right as a “Ronald Reagan Republican religion,” drew inspiration years ago from European theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Nazi resister, who preached ethics and the responsible life and was ultimately executed by Adolf Hilter’s regime.

“As I stood there, it was as if the scales were shed from my eyes,” Schenck said, referring to his change of heart regarding some of the positions held by conservative evangelicals. “I saw something I had not seen in more than three decades of work. I had been part of a spiritual corruption of the Gospel.

It occurred around the same time the 2015 documentary “The Armor of Light” was released. Schenck is prominently featured in the short film about Evangelicals and gun culture. Today, he serves as president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington, D.C., and travels the nation advocating for gun control, using Scripture and Bonhoeffer’s teachings to bolster his more moderate arguments.

On Tuesday, standing before several dozen pastors and parishioners from various denominations in Charleston, Schenck raised the question at a Lunch-and-Learn event held by local nonprofit Arm-in-Arm. The topic: Can a community be pro-life (anti-abortion) and pro-gun?

“For me, the gun question in our own culture is a gateway question on Christian ethics,” Schenk said at the event, held at All Saints Lutheran Church in Mount Pleasant.

Though mass shootings have impacted houses of worship, Evangelicals are among the most avid supporters of gun rights and most also are against abortion, the Pew Research Center reported.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraged students of the conservative Christian college some years ago to arm themselves, citing the need to protect against violent perpetrators.

But for others, the Evangelical view on abortion and gun rights represents a contradiction where the community calls for life preservation at one stage while life at later stages remains at risk.

“I see an inherent conflict,” Schenck said. “I’m not anti-gun. But I do believe whenever someone takes a weapon to himself or herself, they (raise) supreme ethical questions.”

Referencing abortion, Schenck said fictional narratives were drawn around ending pregnancies. For example, the claim that every woman seeking an abortion was either being bullied or was selfishly intending to save herself is false, he said.

“It took me some very painful encounters to realize that was not reality at all,” the minister said.

Spike Coleman, who pastors St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in West Ashley, said at the event that the anti-abortion and pro-gun views are “hard to fit together.”

He pointed to moral injury, the damage that can be done to a shooter’s conscience after they’ve taken a life.

For the rest of the post…

I replied to his post. Is Schenck pro-choice now? Can a follower of Jesus use a gun to protect his/her family. self and others? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

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