• Outlook Features 7 hours ago

    Saving the cross: God’s restorative justice

    Saving the cross: God’s restorative justice

    by Robert Chestnut Over the past several decades so many progressive Christian thinkers have raised so many critical problems with traditional theories of cross and atonement that one must wonder if the cross is now lost to progressive Christianity. The penal substitutionary theory of atonement — first fully developed by Anselm (1033-1109) in “Cur Deus Homo” — has received the harshest criticism. How, ask the critics, can it be either just or loving that a just and loving God would send an innocent son to suffer and die on the… continue reading...
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  • Lent Outpost Blog 7 hours ago

    Lenten fasting

    Lenten fasting

    by Emma Nickel
    This week we asked our bloggers what they had learned from spiritual practices and disciples. This is how they responded. In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting… But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret.” At the risk of disobeying Jesus’ words in this… continue reading...
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  • Outlook Reporting 1 day ago

    Where to start? Untangling governance, transparency and finances in the PC(USA)

    Where to start? Untangling governance, transparency and finances in the PC(USA)

    by Leslie Scanlon
    The Presbyterian Mission Agency has been rocked in recent months by a trifecta of investigations and a lot of criticism involving the 1001 New Worshiping Communities program, the Special Offerings 2015 advertising campaign and overspending for the last Presbyterian Youth Triennium. That’s leading some to ask harder systemic questions about why so many problems are emerging at the top levels of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). “This is a symptom of a much bigger problem,” Fritz Gutwein, who is co-director of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and was managing editor of Alban Institute’s Congregations… continue reading...
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Where did Indiana law come from? A brief history of religious freedom (ANALYSIS)

(RNS) Before this week, few people had heard of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or could even pronounce its acronym, RFRA (Riff-ra), even though there’s a federal version of the law and 20 states have passed their own versions. Is it a “license to discriminate,” as liberals claim, or a “protection of religious freedom,” as conservatives claim? In fact, it’s both. There are three sources for Indiana’s RFRA: the religious exemptions movement, RFRA’s own history and, most recently, the Hobby Lobby case. First, the idea of religious exemptions to civil rights laws is as old as civil rights laws themselves. In the 1970s, for example, conservative Christian organizations demanded exemptions to the Civil Rights Act and similar laws. The most famous of these was Bob Jones University, which maintained race-based admissions and housing policies all the way into the 1990s. The Supreme Court dealt these organizations a blow, however, when it upheld an IRS decision to strip Bob Jones … [Read more...]

The big great surprise (Stated clerk’s column)

gradyeparsons

Well it seemed impossible even on March 22nd, but it does appear that Spring may arrive after all. Back in Tennessee we could still have a succession of mini-winters, but we soften the blow by giving them names like redbud winter or blackberry winter. In South Carolina, my son-in-law has already mowed his yard. In Chicago they still have their snow shovels working. We are in the same season but not in the same way. This could be an apt metaphor for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We are in the same season of our church life but not in the same way. Some people are very happy, some are not, and some are otherwise occupied. It would be amnesia of history to say we have always had disagreements and yet stayed together. I shudder to think what our historic arguments would have looked like if modern social media had been available. So I will not appeal to history. I will not appeal to the various letters of Paul to divided congregations. I am going to cling to Easter, and here is … [Read more...]

Saving the cross: God’s restorative justice

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 12.41.52 PM

by Robert Chestnut Over the past several decades so many progressive Christian thinkers have raised so many critical problems with traditional theories of cross and atonement that one must wonder if the cross is now lost to progressive Christianity. The penal substitutionary theory of atonement — first fully developed by Anselm (1033-1109) in “Cur Deus Homo” — has received the harshest criticism. How, ask the critics, can it be either just or loving that a just and loving God would send an innocent son to suffer and die on the cross in order to satisfy God’s demands for sin’s punishment? Doesn’t this whole scheme of atonement rest upon a repugnant act of criminal abuse, even outright filicide by God? Furthermore, by elevating deadly scapegoating to a holy plan of salvation, doesn’t this traditional thinking about the cross actually condone and perpetuate the continuation of violent scapegoating throughout human history? Can progressive Christianity no longer find any … [Read more...]

Lenten fasting

Emma Nickel headshot

This week we asked our bloggers what they had learned from spiritual practices and disciples. This is how they responded. In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting... But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret.” At the risk of disobeying Jesus’ words in this passage, I share with you my Lenten practice of fasting, which I tried a couple of years ago. I’m not a huge fan of giving something up for Lent. I have often encouraged congregations not to give something up, but instead, to take on something new for this season. That year, I was actively dodging questions about what I was going to give up and kept wondering what a good spiritual practice for the season would be. In the nick of time, I came across a blog post that discussed getting back to the basics … [Read more...]

Tagged With: spiritual practice

PC(USA) anxiously awaits proposed revision to Indiana RFRA law

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, NRSV) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), rooted in the love of God through Jesus and guided by the charge to love thy neighbor, opposes any legislation that could enable discrimination and is eagerly awaiting proposed revisions to a problematic Indiana religious freedom law. We are deeply alarmed about the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) recently signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and are concerned that its current wording could provide a legal excuse for individuals and corporations to use religious conviction as a reason to discriminate. We are, however, pleased by a pledge from Pence on Tuesday to“fix” the law to make clear that it does not allow for discrimination and his charge to state lawmakers to pass clarifying legislation this week. We pray the governor and state legislators … [Read more...]

Beyond time-limited essays

In a press release sent out on Friday, March 27, 2015, the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) announced some significant changes to the standard ordination examinations in the PC(USA) that will come into effect beginning in July. Some were in response to referrals from the 221st General Assembly (2014). Over the coming weeks I will explore each of these changes in separate blog posts, going over both the details in the changes and the reasons for them. The first change that I will address relates to the time allotted for the exams in the areas of Church Polity, Theological Competence, and Worship and Sacraments. Look at survey results from any group of exam takers over recent years and you will find that the most often provided feedback was a desire for more time to complete the exams. Although many of the scenarios presented in the exams reflect ministry situations where people in real life would be expecting immediate responses to their … [Read more...]