Saturday’s Stray Thoughts

Lots of material to close with this week, much of it probably worth pursuing in more depth. I am including a few links for those who would like to delve more deeply into some of the subjects to which I have strayed.

The Church of England to Get New Leadership
While many readers may not have given much thought to the state of the Anglican Church over the years, there was news this week out of England that Rowan Williams is stepping down from his post as the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide communion. He was something of an enigma to many observers; some expected a very liberal leaning under his leadership, but he has been much less predictable than expected. One British publication described his task as impossible—bringing together the very conservative Anglican Church in Africa and the very liberal Episcopal Church in America. See the article at http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/shk7XQ0GEr_7e3RtcOrYA_w/view.m?id=15&gid=commentisfree/belief/2012/mar/16/rowan-williams-failed-bridge-chasm&cat=most-read. Sorry, no short link provided. One of the people suggested as a possible replacement is from that African expression of English Christianity, and would bring a more conservative bent to be sure. Liberals would howl in protest; but the undeniable fact that this is where growth is occurring (along with conservative pockets in America initially directed by African bishops). Stay tuned; this will get interesting.

Is There Moral Decline?
I’m a follower of Scot McKnight (in the facebook and twitter sense of the word). His blog (Jesus Creed) has encouraged many serious discussions and has introduced significant new books and arguments to audiences that might not see them otherwise. I also resonate, as noted in an earlier series here, with his book The King Jesus Gospel. Today “Jesus Creed” posted a question: Is there a measurable moral decline in America? The post cites declines in statistics in murder, property crimes, vandalism, abortion, divorce, infidelity, and teen pregnancy, and then asks where the evidence of moral decline might be found. The implication seems to be that it may not be so. Count me not among the skeptics, but among the protesters to such a thought. I would point to several other factors that impact these statistics. Divorce and infidelity, for example, are down only because fewer people are bothering to get married in the first place. Births outside of wedlock now outnumber those within. There’s the entertainment of America, or so it is called, with many Christians sucking it up right along with the rest of the culture. There is the overall lack of civility and grace. Granted, this is not quantifiable; but this morning’s local news included an incident in which a woman was followed by car to her destination, verbally abused, then punched in the face and hospitalized because the assailant thought she had cut him off on the road. No accident; just the taking of offense so common in our world. What do you think? Here’s the link: http://ow.ly/9llky

Santorum Stirs a Larry Flynt Citing
Remember Larry Flynt, the “hero” of free speech as a covering for the pornography industry? Hadn’t heard from him for a while. On one hand, that might well be perceived as a good thing; on the other, his cause didn’t seem to need his voice, as pornography has flourished quite well without his sympathy-driving appearances (he’s in a wheelchair). But in one of the few substantive policy statements of the campaign, Rick Santorum has declared a war on hard-core porn, and Flynt was sufficiently roused by such a specter to make public statements about such a idea. The facts about pornography and its detrimental effects are very well documented. The 1986 (I think) report of the Reagan administration’s report on the subject made this very clear. Yet Flynt and his cries of free speech–along with dollars to the coffers of many legislators from the porn “industry” prevented any meaningful action on the recommendations of the commission. Is it time for another try? Santorum thinks so; I agree.

Whither Pastoral Education?
Changes are afoot in education across the board these days. Some of the changes are economically driven, as it costs more and more to do what we’ve always done. Some is due to the availability of alternative means and methods of teaching and learning. Some is due to an attitude suggesting that we do not really need what the educational process was delivering. All of these factors are seen in the seminary version of education–yes, seminaries, the places designed to provide pastoral candidates with the wherewithal to competently fulfill there Spirit-given calling. Many seminaries, however, are finding finds in shorter supple as expenses continue to climb; many are trying out the technological alternatives to delivering the good. But it could be that the third of the changes mentioned above is what is most responsible for the hard times many such schools are facing. Churches and individual believers think they can do without a trained ministry. Yes, I am quite biased on this matter. In my own denomination, the statistics clearly demonstrate that the untrained approach is not working. The need for deep engagement of the questions to be faced in life and ministry in this world is undeniable, unless one is content with a faith that simply preaches eventual escape from this evil world. The manner in which that deep thinking and wrestling with texts and ideas, how those of the biblical story conflict with or walk together with those of culture is not sacrosanct; but that it happens in a meaningful way is critical to having a vibrant and relevant witness in this world. Ideas are most welcome.

I’ve strayed far enough for one Saturday. There’s March madness to consume, yard work to be done and my daughter’s in-laws-to be to meet. May God bless you well today.

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