samedi, juillet 05, 2008

Are you (oh my) dogmatic?

Pew report finding poses evangelical dilemma


Focus on Faith
A walk through the religion or self-help section of your local bookstore can be an instructive experience.Blended in with the classic texts of the world's larger religions are popular texts that, frankly, defy easy categorization.Topics include conversations with God (but what or whose God?), descriptions of life after death experiences, a potpourri of Jewish and Christian mysticism, and advice on how to practice disciplines like Christian yoga.If they are on a shelf at your local Barnes & Noble, it's a pretty good bet that someone is buying them.Perhaps even you.Thus it may not be a surprise that the recently released Pew Foundation Landscape Survey of more than 35,000 Americans tells us that most Americans have what they characterize as a "non-dogmatic approach to faith."Many religions can lead to salvation or eternal life, say seven out of 10 surveyed. That includes 57 percent of those who are members of evangelical Protestant congregations.These findings concern some U.S. evangelicals, who say it contradicts their belief that salvation is exclusively found through faith in Jesus Christ.To mine these statistics and discuss what they mean to U.S. evangelicals, I called up Steve Nichols.The research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College, Nichols is the author of "Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ."I asked him: How could it be that such a high percentage of evangelicals subscribe to the belief that salvation can be found elsewhere than in faith in Christ?On the one hand, the phenomenon is understandable, says Nichols.In a pluralistic, globalized culture, it is more likely that evangelicals, like other Americans, will run into non-Christians, and be sympathetic to their traditions.On the other hand, asserts the professor, the results speak to a general, and alarming, lack of a theological center among American evangelicals.Historically, doctrinal statements have defined many denominations, making it clear what they do or do not believe, Nichols says.Evangelicals, on the other hand, come from different Christian traditions and non-denominational faith communities.Having a "thin doctrinal center," they are defined more by experience, associations and activities than by a particular confession of faith, he says, citing parachurch activities, Promise Keepers, music groups and political causes as examples.In recent years, it has become even more challenging to define the term "evangelical" as Nichols points out. "It's an elastic terms, meaning different things to different people."A member of Lancaster's Westminster Presbyterian Church who terms himself an evangelical, Nichols affirms the authority of Scripture as a hallmark of the evangelical tradition."It's God's word that stands over us, and we need to submit to it."The challenge for evangelicals in a pluralistic culture is how to maintain belief in salvation solely through Christ, while showing respect for other traditions, he says.Living under Roman persecution, the New Testament writer Peter urged Christians to "always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you," (I Peter 3:15), but to do it with gentleness and reverence, says Nichols.Holding on to our beliefs, but showing respect for the beliefs of others, is rather difficult for us, says Nichols.In reflecting on my conversation with Nichols, I thought about how often parishioners in my congregations had seemed a little murky about their own beliefs, let alone those of others.Before engaging practitioners from other culture in fruitful dialogues, it would be helpful if Christians had a clear sense of what their own faith tradition teaches.Only then would they be able to genuinely affirm that they actually believe it.That is a challenge, not solely for the faithful, but for those who serve as their shepherds.Another Pew survey finding tells us what we probably already know: many of us see ourselves as very religious. According to the survey, "more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives, attend religious services regularly and pray daily."How does this faith commitment play out in the American political arena? In my column next month, I will take up that question with Nichols and other students of American culture.

vendredi, juillet 04, 2008

Thank you, Fathers

Read this very cool article on the Declaration of Independence. I'm sorry I didn't see it before so I could post it. I love learning more about our Founding Fathers and the women who helped form our country.

What do you remember?

I wonder if you read this column (see link) of Judith Warner's differently if you are a dad.

Are we moms more sentimental?

I wonder if my ex remembers how C would climb on our laps when he came downstairs in the morning?

How he and I read "Good Night Moon" over and over? Sometimes S still asks for "Fox in Socks"-but only when she's being my daughter and not trying to be so over it.

Does she still miss her bunny, Buddy? We lost him on the way back from
Vermont many years ago.

Are we moms the keepers of childhood? I hope we aren't guarding those moments by ourselves. If we are, dads are missing out on something really special.

mercredi, juillet 02, 2008

What did we do to deserve...

Ok, I'm not going to talk about it.

I'm not going to share how it started, looking so innocent, on my knee, appearing like an cluster of Glenmoore biters on a spree. I won't complain about how it somehow ended up near my triceps (I know where they are now thanks to my trainer).

I wont tell you how thrilled I was when it began to go away-and how disgusted when it came back on my other arm. Or how somehow it made its way to places covered with much modesty that I can't figure out how it got from here to there. Nor will I rant about I seem to attract it in the garden-somehow the intruder always seems to know I'm there.

Or confide about how it wakes me in the small hours...ah, I shall be very quiet about the three weeks it can take to recover.

All I want to know is: how may this be a part of God's plan for us?

lundi, juin 30, 2008

My Bennison story from RNS

^Episcopal court finds Pa. bishop guilty of hiding abuse<

PHILADELPHIA _An Episcopal Church court on Thursday (June 26) unanimously found Bishop Charles E. Bennison guilty of not responding appropriately to sexual abuse committed by his brother against a teenage girl more than three decades ago.
The 64-year-old Bennison, who has led the Philadelphia-based Diocese of Pennsylvania since 1998, was convicted by the nine-member panel of ``conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.''
The panel of five bishops, two clergy and two laypeople will now decide the bishop's punishment, which can range from an admonishment to ousting him from the clergy.
As a married youth minister at Bennison's parish in Upland, Calif., in the early 1970s, his 24-year-old brother, John Bennison, initiated a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl that continued for more than three years.
Charles Bennison walked in on two encounters between his brother and the girl in church offices and Sunday school rooms at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, the victim, now 50, testified in the four-day trial.
In 1975, Charles Bennison presented his brother for ordination to the priesthood. After sexual relationships with several other women, the younger Bennison renounced his orders, was reinstated, and finally renounced them again in 2006.
Six of the nine members of the Church Court for the Trial of a Bishop _ a required two-thirds majority _ also voted to convict Bennison for ``suppressing'' what he knew until the abuse became public in 2006.
In his defense, the bishop testified that he had not known about the abuse until a few years after it started, and when he confronted his brother, the younger Bennison denied the allegations.
Bennison, one of the church's most liberal bishops, has been barred from acting as bishop since last fall, when a church review committee presented the two-count indictment against him.
The diocesan Standing Committee, which has been overseeing the diocese since Bennison's inhibition in November, said in a statement that they share ``in the grief of the victims and all whose lives have been impacted by those events.''
``We are proud of the Episcopal Church for holding Bishop Bennison accountable,'' said Lawrence White, the lead prosecuting attorney for the Episcopal Church, in a statement.
John McDonald, a spokesman for Bennison's legal team, said the bishop is ``obviously ... very disappointed.''
``We plan on appealing this decision and look forward to Bishop Bennison's exoneration,'' the lawyers said in a statement released yesterday.

Bennison, the victim and her lawyers have until July 30 to submit suggestions on an appropriate punishment. It is unclear when a sentence will be imposed.
Neva Rae Fox, a spokeswoman for Episcopal Church headquarters in New York, said she knew of only three other such trials in church history. In 2001, the former bishop of Montana was convicted of a 20-year affair with a parishioner, although he was eventually reinstated to the clergy.