In the summer of 430, the great Christian writer and bishop Augustine of Hippo lay dying as barbarians besieged his North African city – basically a mop-up operation in the slow-motion fall of the Roman Empire.
Today, in the fall of the year 2016, a lot of Christians can relate.
Some Protestant churches mark the day as Reformation Sunday, and celebrate it on the Sunday just before, or just after, Oct. 31. More often than not, the hymns sung in church that day include “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” with words and music composed by Luther himself. But most members of Lutheran churches — the direct descendants of Luther’s movement — wait until Oct. 31. And that, as we know, is also Halloween, and has led to some creative celebrations for kids.
Pope Francis leaves on Monday, Oct. 31 for an overnight trip to Sweden, a historically Protestant country that today is one of the most secular in the world.
The visit is to mark the start of observances of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which traditionally dates from Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral.
In Jerusalem, Boehm said, there was a “very thin membrane” between the earthly and metaphysical.
That porousness is the origin of all the show’s marvelous art and of many of the city’s troubles, past and present. Almost lost on one wall of the show is a photograph of a glorious pulpit that stood in the Al-Aqsa Mosque from 1188 until 1969, when a delusional Australian torched it. He was trying to destroy the mosque so that the temple could be rebuilt to facilitate Jesus’ return.
While some European beaches are banning women dressed in “burkinis” and other modest swimwear, and Americans are challenging women’s-only swimming hours at public pools, this Israeli beach has long been a haven for women whose strict religious beliefs, community norms or fears of sexual harassment, among other reasons, make swimming or sunbathing alongside men undesirable, even impossible.
EASTERN ORTHODOX churches often pass beneath the media radar, despite their status as truly ancient. The attacks by ISIS on Orthodox communities in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere have brought into focus dwindling populations of Christians in the Middle East. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and popular uprisings in Kiev raised the alarm on the tenuous position of Ukrainian Orthodox churches.
In February, headlines were made again when Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba, the first-ever meeting of a pope and a Moscow patriarch. Additionally, a historic meeting will be held in June on the Greek island of Crete, bringing together leaders of all 14 loosely linked Orthodox churches for the first time in 12 centuries.
Both the pope-patriarch encounter and the troubled preparations for the convening of the pan-Orthodox leaders are extremely complex; one might call them Byzantine.
The meeting between the pope and the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church was years—and several papacies—in the making. There were always obstacles, not the least of which was the Soviet system and bitter internecine church wars in Ukraine that pitted the Roman Catholic-affiliated Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church against the Russian Orthodox Church. After the end of the Soviet regime, the UGCC entered a renaissance and the Orthodox churches in Ukraine splintered, which Moscow has cited as a reason for refusing any meeting between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church.
Claude Chiche doesn’t wear a skullcap, but he has strong opinions about them. “There are some here want to take off their kippah because they’re afraid,” said Tunisian-born Chiche, referring to the Hebrew word for yarmulke or skullcap. “But they shouldn’t accept this; they shouldn’t give in to fear.”
A religious summit last held more than 1,200 years ago suddenly risks being downgraded or postponed because of Syria’s four-year civil war. This unexpected twist has come as the world’s Orthodox churches, the second-largest ecclesial family in Christianity, were supposed to be only months away from their first major council since 787.
Now it is no longer clear when or where the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, a summit first proposed at least as far back as 1961 and provisionally scheduled for May in Istanbul, will be held.
With its traditional icons and complex liturgies, Orthodox Christianity can seem like an unchanging remnant of a long-lost era. But it lives very much in today’s world and its 14 autocephalous (independent) member churches can be wrapped up in its politics and subject to its pressures.
A statement by a group of Orthodox rabbis calls Christianity part of a divine plan in which God would have Jews and Christians work together to redeem the world.
Although signed so far by 28 rabbis mostly from the more liberal wing of the most traditional branch of Judaism, the statement marks a turning point for Orthodox Jews, who until now have limited interfaith cooperation to working on social, economic and political causes. But this statement puts Christianity in a distinct Jewish theological perspective — and an extremely positive one.
“(W)e acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations,” the seven-paragraph statement, issued on Dec. 3, asserts.
In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings, and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod — two rabbis were charged in New Jersey in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces.
Two others were also charged in the case, which grew out of an undercover sting operation involving a female FBI agent who posed as a member of the Orthodox community seeking a divorce.
As many as six others may also be charged, officials said.
JERUSALEM — In a stunning reversal, a feminist Jewish prayer group said it will consider a government proposal to allow a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall — but only after the government agrees to their conditions.
For 25 years, Women of the Wall has demanded access to pray at the sacred site that is home to the remnants of the Jewish Temple and is overseen by the Orthodox religious establishment. The group objects to the restrictions placed on them when they pray in the women’s section. They want to continue to pray in that section but will consider a compromise.
After a “comprehensive and emotionally trying decision-making process,” the group’s executive board on Monday overwhelmingly decided “to create a future in which, under the right conditions,” its members will pray “in an equal and fully integrated third section of the Kotel,” the Hebrew word for the Western Wall.
Women of the Wall has demanded the right to pray directly from a Torah scroll, wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries — practices and rituals that strict Orthodox Judaism reserves for men.
JERUSALEM — Religious leaders from around the world have stepped up their pleas for the safe return of two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped April 22 by armed men as they were driving near the war-torn city of Aleppo.
The kidnappers, who have not been identified, abducted Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Youhanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, while they were undertaking a “humanitarian mission” to help Syria’s Christian minority, according to Syrian Christian expatriates in the U.S.
The bishops’ Syrian Orthodox driver was killed in the attack.
Since 2011, more than 70,000 Syrians have died in fighting in the bloody civil war between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust Assad’s strong-arm regime.
Amid a finance scandal that touched the heart of France’s Socialist government, a quieter drama played out this month as the country’s top rabbi resigned his post after admitting to plagiarism.
Rabbi Gilles Bernheim offered his apologies for “borrowing” the work of others and lying about his academic credentials, ending a leadership crisis that has rocked the country’s 600,000-strong Jewish community, the largest in Europe.
Now, as the search begins for a new grand rabbi, questions are mounting about which direction the religious leadership will take — notably whether it will continue Bernheim’s move toward a more “modern” and perhaps more inclusive French Judaism, or return to a more inward-looking faith.
Fifty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged white church leaders to confront racism, an ecumenical network has responded to his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
“We proclaim that, while our context today is different, the call is the same as in 1963 — for followers of Christ to stand together, to work together, and to struggle together for justice,” declared Christian Churches Together in the USA in a 20-page document.
The statement, which is linked to an April 14-15 ecumenical gathering in Birmingham, Ala., includes confessions from church bodies about their silence and slow pace in addressing racial injustice.
“The church must lead rather than follow in the march toward justice,” it says.
Nearly 50 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line (that is $22,000 for a household of four) and half of them are working full time jobs.
In our current economic system, the "happiness" of the super-elite is secured while the lives, liberty, and access to basic needs of the rest suffer. This isn't the American Dream and it isn't God's dream either.
"Where my feminists at?" on #OccupyWallStreet. Test your global hunger knowledge. Race and OWS. Poverty in your backyard. How to be a "1 Percenter." OWS to march on banks. Romney embraces climate change denial. Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as little more than "hocus-pocus." Catholic University sued by Muslim students. And faith, political leaders find out how far food stamps actually go.
The "sermon" consisted of reflections by five participants from different regions and traditions who were attending the Global Christian Forum for the first time. They each spoke of the joy, and often the surprise, in what they discovered here -- some of them interacting with delegates from Christian traditions they barely knew even existed.
The unity of heart and Spirit they experienced at the forum had a profound effect, they said. Emily Obwaka of Kenya, a staff member from the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, whom I met on the bus the first day of the forum, was one of those who shared. She said the forum felt like "a preamble to heaven." Such sentiments might seem excessive but they were not uncommon among the 287 forum participants from 65 countries. Joy and affirmation were among the greatest takeaways from the five-day gathering.
Albania was perhaps the most closed society in the world during the Cold War, with absolutely ruthless persecution of all religion. Churches were destroyed in every corner of that country. Clergy were eliminated. Worship was outlawed. And enforcement was brutal.
When Communism fell, and the country opened for the first time in decades, the Albanian church began a miraculous process of rebirth. We heard the moving story of the Albania Orthodox Church, rebuilding countless church structures, but even more importantly, restoring faith in the hearts of its people. I've known its leader, Archbishop Anastasios, from past encounters at the World Council of Churches, and he surely is a saint. The revival of religious faith in Albania and its compassionate service to those in need is a magnificent story of the church's witness, and the Spirit's power.
The Christian world is broad and spacious, and within its circumference, like a large bowl holding a variety of colorful fish, swim a surprisingly diverse spectrum of believers. The secular media mistakenly seem to view "the evangelical movement" as a sort of monolithic structure akin to a well fortified garrison ranged to repel the attacks of "liberals" or "progressives" or "mainline churches." Or a right-wing political force often equated with Republicanism.