An Ecumenical Moment for One

During its August 17-23 national church convention in Minneapolis, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seems poised to approve same-sex relations and the ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships. The history behind this move, which will be decided by a majority vote, is too tedious to repeat. Just call to mind the similar success of churnings within the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church and you’ll have an adequate understanding of it. Presbyterians and United Methodists have so far held off the radical assaults from the Christian left. But since ELCA Lutherans are now firmly part of the Christian left, few resources exist to turn back this latest attempt… . Continue Reading »

Tolerance and Charity

Tolerance is a nice word, but is it a Christian virtue? Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver doesn’t think so, and his claim has occasioned no small amount of protest. In a smug editorial, America magazine recently chastened Chaput for coarsening the tenor of intra-ecclesial discourse. While no call for courtesy and civility should go unheeded, an apology for toleration that ignores its niceties only furthers the intellectual and moral torpor plaguing the public square… . Continue Reading »

Our Muslim Allies

In the book of Exodus, Moses confronts Pharaoh, giving a sign of God’s power by turning his staff into a serpent. Pharaoh is nonplussed, and he gathers his magicians to prepare a counter assault. They turn their staffs into serpents as well, but the serpent that comes from the rod of Moses swallows them all (Exod. 7:8-13). In the Qu’ran, the encounter unfolds in the same way (Sura 7:103-127, with a much shorter version in Sura 79:15-25). What is fascinating however, is the ending… . Continue Reading »

Rowan Williams and the Anglican Future

Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, has issued his much-awaited response to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church: “Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future.” Although it’s not as lengthy as Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical, it’s sure to be parsed almost as carefully and debated nearly with the same intensity by Anglicans throughout the world. The letter is worthy of such scrutiny: As he has done so often in the past, Archbishop Williams has given us both a substantively theological read of the present moment and a sound and hopeful way forward for the Anglican Communion… . Continue Reading »

The Gnostic Turn

My son was still too deeply immersed in his thousandth or so re-reading of The Wind in the Willows to take an immediate interest in the copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince that I had just rescued for him from the chilly hinterlands of my library, so I decided to read it again myself. Memory, I found, had not really altered the story in my mind, but also had not quite prepared me for its total effect… . Continue Reading »

The Neglected Legacy of John Buchan

Author, administrator, historian, politician, mountaineer, and Governor-General of Canada, John Buchan is long overdue for rehabilitation as a genuine Christian intellect of the early twentieth century. A son of a minister, his favorite book after the Bible was Pilgrim’s Progress. Buchan’s progress was marked by a strong faith and catholicity of vision, and he deserves to be known for more than the ripping yarns that he fondly termed his “shockers.” . . . Continue Reading »

What Truths We Hold

A short time ago, President Barack Obama was invited to address the 2009 graduating class of Notre Dame and to be honored by the university. President Obama is an effective speaker; and his speech at Notre Dame was eloquently delivered. But Notre Dame is a Catholic University and the Catholic Church and hierarchy, and Catholics in large numbers, believe that abortion is killing an innocent fetus and a seriously sinful violation of the child’s right to life. President Obama, however, believes just as strongly that the mother has the right to kill the child in her womb… . Continue Reading »

Brave New Church

The seventy-sixth General Convention of the Episcopal Church made headlines last week for moving forward on same-sex blessings and officially opening its doors for partnered homosexuals to serve as priests and bishops. Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal bishop of Lexington and a close associate of the presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, argued that it was long past time to do it: Over thirty years ago, he said, the church had placed pastoral compassion over Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of Jesus to permit remarriage after divorce, and it would be nothing less than hypocritical for the church not to do likewise for gay and lesbian people… . Continue Reading »

Ex Corde and the Dilbert Effect

The controversy over Notre Dame’s awarding President Obama an honorary degree raised a fundamental question: What is a Catholic university? Many rich examinations of Catholic mission exist, of course, (from the works of John Cardinal Newman in the last century to Ex Corde Ecclesiae today) but they rarely have any effect on attempts to build Catholic mission. One reason for this may be that these examinations are too rich to serve as guides to definite action. Those in favor of stronger Catholic identity have difficulty maintaining focus on the best among many related concepts… . Continue Reading »

The Motivated Belief of John Polkinghorne

The word fundamentalist was first used in July 1920, and for much of the next decade American Protestants fought bitter internal battles over who would control their denominational seminaries, mission boards, and local churches. While those liberal Protestants who called themselves “modernists” sought to accommodate traditional Christian beliefs to modern science, politics, and culture, their conservative opponents were eager “to do battle royal for the fundamentals,” in the militaristic language of the Baptist preacher who coined the word… . Continue Reading »