Eye on World Christianity


two-hands-see-all-the-peopleThe Fall 2013 issue of Concordia Journal (CJ) focuses on renewed interest and effort among confessional Lutherans in taking part in wider ecumenical discussions. To that end, it begins with a reference to an article I wrote for First Things some months back:

This past summer, a blog by Mathew Block at First Things noted that the LCMS under President Matthew Harrison’s administration has actively pursued conversations and developed good relationships with the leaders of other Christian traditions both here in North America as well as round the world. This is a very good thing!

From there, Charles Arand (executive editor for CJ) goes on to note that “our Lutheran Confessions have bequeathed to us an ‘ecumenical obligation’ (Robert Kolb) to engage in conversations with other Christians in order to remove stereotypes of each other, clarify our confession, cooperate where we can, and work toward resolving long-standing disagreements for the sake of the church’s witness in the world.”

After discussing a number of recent issues affecting the Church—and especially Lutheranism—both in North America and around the world, Dr. Arand reflects that “we live in an exciting and uncertain time as the Christian landscape shifts before our very eyes.” For that reason, he writes, “it is fitting in this issue of Concordia Journal that we reflect on what has taken place up to this point and where things are going as seen through the eyes of those outside the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. In a sense, this issue provides some context for what is happening in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church and for how the LCMS is finding a wider place at its table.”

We may, of course, expand on Dr. Arand’s words here to confessional Lutheranism on a global scale. Indeed, his introduction to the issue itself highlights Lutheran Church–Canada’s contributions to ongoing dialogue with the North American Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church in North America, as well as the International Lutheran Council’s emerging discussions with the Roman Catholic Church on the world-level. Important things are happening in Christendom worldwide; “we are witnessing a seismic shift in the Christian landscape resulting in realignments of churches around the world,” Dr. Arand writes. Confessional Lutherans, it seems, are committed to taking part in the resulting discussions.

There is much in this issue worth pondering. If you’ve got a print-edition, why not take a look now? For everyone else, it doesn’t seem to be online just yet, but you should be able to find it here eventually. Dr. Arand’s introduction to the issue is already online here. For those of you with immediate access, Jeffrey Kloha’s article “The Lordship of Christ and the Unity of the Church” makes for excellent reading.

———————

Two pieces of news worth noting:

1) I’ve recently been named Editor for the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) news service, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. I’ll be taking on this position in addition to my current roles as Communications Manager for Lutheran Church–Canada and Editor of The Canadian Lutheran (making room for the new work by shuffling off some of my previous duties to others). For more information on what I’ll be doing with the ILC, check out this news release here.

2): In other ILC news, I’ve written an article for First Things discussing Catholic-Lutheran dialogue in light of a recent meeting at the Vatican between the ILC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. While noting that some hopes in Catholic-Lutheran discussions have faded from the optimism of decades past, I suggest that the entrance of confessional Lutherans on a global level to dialogues with the Roman Catholic church may breathe new life into discussions. Check it out in my article “A New (Confessional) Direction in Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue.”

That’s all for now.

———————

Year-of-Martyrs

“2013 has been a deadly year for Christians across the world.”

So begins a recent article of mine at The Canadian Lutheran, in an attempt to remind us all that, in many places of the world, bearing the Name of Christ is still deadly serious. These Christians need our prayers, that Christ would support them in the midst of persecution. He who suffered for them suffers with them. May He give them strength.

After a few days offline, we’re back. Here’s the news you might have missed in recent days:

– I’ve got a post considering the work of angels over at A Christian Thing.

If you’re anything like the vast majority of Protestants (and I include myself in this condemnation), you seldom think about angels. If pressed on the matter, most of us could no doubt offer up some fluff on what these beings are. But the idea that they are constantly at work in the Christian’s life—that we are, in fact, constantly in contact with these creatures today and yesterday and all the days of our lives—this is seldom a subject of thought.

– Over at First Thoughts, I discuss the re-election of President Matthew C. Harrison (of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) and what it might mean for Lutherans’ ecumenical relations (in light of ongoing talks with Roman Catholics, the Anglican Church in North America, and the North American Lutheran Church.

If the past few years are anything to go by, this growing interest in strong relationships between the LCMS and other confessing Christian churches is likely to continue into President Harrison’s second term. I for one couldn’t be more pleased.

Update: The First Things post above has also been reprinted at the LCMS’ “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” blog: http://wmltblog.org/2013/07/president-harrison-the-lcms-and-ecumenical-dialogue-first-thoughts-a-first-things-blog/.

———————

Just a note about a post I wrote for First Things last week that discusses the difficulty facing Christians in the Middle East, in light of recent news of the murder of a Syrian monk. A grim topic, but martyrdom usually is. See it here: “Staying in the Face of Persecution: The Martyrdom of a Syrian Monk.”

Last week Statistics Canada released the new numbers on faith in Canada. See my article at First Things discussing the changes here. The big news? From 2001 to 2011, the percentage of the Canadian population identifying as Christian dropped ten percent—from 77% to 67.3%.

Read more here.

———————

holy-postLast week the Canadian Government announced the creation of a new Office for Religious Freedom, an entity devoted to highlighting the rights of those suffering religious persecution internationally. The online reaction to the office has, to put it mildly, been mostly negative. In so doing it highlights a growing Canadian intolerance for the religious and the belief that religion is something best confined inside believers’ homes—that one should not dare to bring it out in the open.

That concern lies behind my recent article for the National Post’s “Holy Post” blog. It’s entitled “Disagree with Christians? That’s fine. But do not silence them.”

Faith, it seems, is now to be understood as a concession made to backwards, backwoods yokels. If you must be religious, then for heaven’s sake do it in the privacy of your own home, where no one else has to see or hear you; religion has no place in the public sphere. Having government step forward to publicly defend religious freedom abroad, therefore, has critics gnashing their teeth.

Even those who have been cautiously optimistic about the office have betrayed a surprising indifference to the plight of persecuted religious minorities. Some pundits have warned against the office spending “too much” attention on Christian issues. To be sure, other groups facing religious persecution — Buddhists, Muslims, Bahai, Sufis, and, yes, atheists — must be just as vigorously defended. But what exactly is so verboten about speaking honestly about the severity of Christian persecution in the world and seeking to redress these wrongs?

I go on to discuss the current level of persecution facing Christians worldwide, before declaring my own faith and explaining that these beliefs “make me who I am” and “inform my decisions and actions in the world.” “Disagree with me?” I pose the question. “That’s fine. But do not silence me. Do not tell me my voice is not allowed in the public forum.” Especially when its raised in support of those who have no voice of their own—those suffering for their faith elsewhere in the world.

Read it all over at the National Post.

Note: There’s an error in the text as it currently stands over at The National Post. It says that Open Doors counts one hundred thousand Christians as suffering persecution. It should read one hundred million.

———————

« Previous PageNext Page »