John A. Azumah, Professor of World Religions at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta has published an important article in which African Christianity serves as mirror by which American Christians–especially those of us in the PC(USA)–can see themselves. Read the entire article here.

According to Azumah attitudes toward the Bible are difference-makers in the ways that churches approach a variety of religious issues:

… I have come to the conclusion that the doctrinal differences between American liberals and African traditionalists originate in deeper conflicts. We may argue about what the Bible says about sexuality, but there is a broader, unstated disagreement over the Bible itself. For mainstream Western society, the Bible is an ancient text that might arouse intellectual curiosity or become the subject of historical analysis, but it is hardly a sacred book. It has no more authority in American culture than the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King’s speeches, and other notable historic statements. Dropping the language of “obedience to Scripture” and “conformity to the historic confessional standards” from the PC(USA) Ordination Standards underscores this point.

From the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

The Supreme Court opened it’s 2015-2016 term this week. There are several cases involving social issues that will affect issues of concern to Christians. Here are three cases you should know about:

The Case: Whole Woman’s Heath v. Cole (pending)

Subject: Abortion

What the case is about: The court is likely to hear this challenge to a Texas law that would reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10, down from more than 40. The question in the case is whether two parts of a 2013 state law imposed an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to abortion. According to the New York Times, “One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ‘ambulatory surgical centers,’ including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.”

What to expect: The last time the court hear an abortion case was eight years ago when it upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. If they do take up this case, the ruling will likely be closely divided and not determined until June 2016.

The Case: Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Subject: Affirmative action

What the case is about: In 2008, Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas and asked the courts to declare the schools race-conscious admissions policy to be unconstitutional. The court could decide to eliminate or even end affirmative action in college admissions.

What to expect: A decision barring the use of race in admissions would undo the 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the Supreme Court said that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity.

Because Justice Kagan is recused from this case (she worked on it when she was the Solicitor Genera) it will be decided by only eight of the Justices. Four justices are likely to vote in favor of Fisher and hope to sway Justice Kennedy, who has never voted to uphold an affirmative action program.

The Case: Carr v. Kansas

Subject: Capital Punishment

What the case is about:  This case is concerned with the sentencing requirements and jury instructions in consolidated cases from Kansas, involving a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court to overturn death sentences for crimes that Justice Samuel Alito said “rank as among the worst.

What to expect: The case could be decided solely on the technical merits or it could be used to question the constitutionality of the death penalty under the Eight Amendment. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg wrote in an opinion in the Court’s last term that they believe it is time to consider “whether the death penalty itself is constitutional.” If they are able to convince three of their colleagues, capital punishment may once more be prohibited in the U.S.


The purpose of preaching

September 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Garwood Anderson of Nashota House (Episcopal Seminary) has an wonderful post about preaching at (link below). I’ve pulled out a couple of quotes below:

Let’s say — and I think this is about right — that there are three kinds of preachers. There are preachers who are interesting. There are preachers who imagine themselves interesting. There are preachers who aspire to be interesting. The first category is relatively small, and the discipline of homiletics can claim neither responsibility nor blame for the sparse population. Interesting people were interesting before they took any training in homiletics and would still be interesting without it. They are interesting because they read and think and wonder and care and long and probably have people in their lives who tell them the truth. They don’t try to be interesting; they can’t help it.

Preachers who think they are interesting understand the pulpit not as a sacred and holy trust of which they are unworthy but as their gift to the congregation. More importantly, the pulpit meets a need for them as well. God anoints them for fifteen minutes as week — or sometimes longer, it seems — such that things that have happened to them, movies they have watched, and opinions they cherish become opportunities of transformation for people who might have been preachers themselves if only they too had watched movies, had life experiences, and held opinions.

Read the post here.

3“Necessity demands that one should carefully examine who it is that comes to the position of spiritual authority; and coming solemnly to this point, how he should live; and living well, how he should teach; and teaching rightly, with what kind of self-examination he should learn of his own weakness.
― Gregory the GreatThe Book of Pastoral Rule