Government Restriction on Religious Practice Increases

Government Restriction on Religious Practice Increases

November 17, 2020 By dwayman

In this November 10, 2020 article by Pew Research Center, the world is experiencing an increase in government restrictions on religious practices.  The article is based on research done in 2018 and says in part:

“The increase in government restrictions reflects a wide variety of events around the world, including a rise from 2017 to 2018 in the number of governments using force – such as detentions and physical abuse – to coerce religious groups.

The total number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions has been mounting as well. Most recently, that number climbed from 52 countries (26% of the 198 countries and territories included in the study) in 2017 to 56 countries (28%) in 2018. The latest figures are close to the 2012 peak in the top two tiers of the Government Restrictions Index.

As of 2018, most of the 56 countries with high or very high levels of government restrictions on religion are in the Asia-Pacific region (25 countries, or half of all countries in that region) or the Middle East-North Africa region (18 countries, or 90% of all countries in the region).”

“How do restrictions on religion vary by regime type?

In this report, for the first time, Pew Research Center combined its data on government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion with a classification of regime types, based on the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

PREVENIENT GRACE and SOCIAL JUSTICE WORK

PREVENIENT GRACE and SOCIAL JUSTICE WORK

November 7, 2020 By dwayman

One of the most important Wesleyan theological concepts is that of Prevenient Grace.  In this paper by David N. Field, a research associate in the Institute for Theology and Religion, at the University of South Africa, South Africa, Dr. Field gives not only a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of Prevenient Grace, but also the application to our 21st century church.

Dr. Field’s definition of Wesley’s concept is best understood as he compares it to the Reformed theology.  He writes:

Prevenient grace in the theology of John Wesley

 John Wesley developed his theology of prevenient grace within the context of his rather heated debate with his Calvinist contemporaries. Wesley, along with Calvinistic theology, strongly affirmed human sinfulness and the inability and unwillingness of human beings, in their natural state, to seek God. If anything his description of human sin is more pessimistic than Calvin’s. However he rejected the Calvinist solution that God chose some human beings to  be saved and then through a special intervention of God’s grace called these and only these out of sin, enabling them to repent and believe. Wesley argued that God loved all human  beings; that Christ had died for the salvation of all,
RACIAL BARRIERS OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

RACIAL BARRIERS OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

October 15, 2020 By dwayman

In a compelling move by the Business Roundtable, leaders in major corporations are recognizing, accepting, and taking action to bring justice into the lives of all people, particularly those who have been hindered from economic growth.

Graphically exploring the reality between People of Color and those who are white the evidence speaks volumes for the underlying injustice of the economic systems of the United States:

“Despite some significant strides over the generations, the events of 2020 have illustrated how far we still have to go to ensure that every person can fully realize opportunity and justice in America.

As some of the country’s largest employers, Business Roundtable CEOs believe they have a role to play in driving real change. On June 5, 2020, Business Roundtable Chairman Doug McMillon of Walmart established a Special Committee of the Board to identify meaningful steps Business Roundtable companies can take to advance racial equity and justice. On July 1, 2020, the Special Committee outlined proposals for federal policing reform legislation and launched an effort to persuade Congress to pass a bipartisan bill.”

These Chief Executive Officers of major US companies have gone on record with these encouraging statements:

CEO PERSPECTIVES ON RACIAL EQUITY & JUSTICE

“The racial inequities that exist for many Americans of color are real and deeply rooted. These longstanding systemic challenges have far too often prevented access to the benefits of economic growth and mobility for far too many,

CHURCH AND STATE and the STATE of the CHURCH

CHURCH AND STATE and the STATE of the CHURCH

October 8, 2020 By dwayman

In this short work, Dr. Kang-Yup Na provides thoughts on the state of the US election with ecclesial insights.

Kang-Yup Na is an associate professor of religion at Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pa.).  An ordained minister and the son of first-generation Christian parents, he was baptized 13 June 1965 in South Korea, moved to Tennessee just before turning ten, and since then has lived, studied, taught, and served churches in various places in New Jersey, Korea, Atlanta, Germany, and New York City.

An earlier version of this article was originally published in Engage (October 2016), a publication of The Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary.  

From more than four dozen political parties and with over 1,200 candidates who have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president, it comes down once again to two people trying to persuade their fellow citizens to vote for them to preside over these United States of America.* We face the music of our republican constitutional heritage by electing our leader from among us every four years. And every four years, we seem to perform this civic dance of ours with increasing fatalism, with more and more citizens voting against candidates as much as for them, knowing that the de facto two-party system enjoys a kind of political perichoresis that will place either a Democrat or a Republican in the White House.

SHIPHRAH AND PUAH:  Defying the State

SHIPHRAH AND PUAH: Defying the State

August 23, 2020 By dwayman

When a State official, whether a Pharaoh, Emperor or President, uses the State’s power to harm, it is the Church’s responsibility to stand in protection.  This protection can be as simple as a protest or as active as a disobedience.  In this study by the Rev. Ben Wayman, PhD, the vicious decree by the Pharaoh of Egypt to kill all the newborn Hebrew boys provides a prime example of how each Christian should use their place of influence and responsibility to protect the vulnerable.  When the State’s rulers and systems are set to oppress, harm and destroy some of the least of these among us, then to do nothing is to participate in the State’s destruction.

Dr. Wayman explains based on these scriptures:  Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

“It’s time to stop fooling around. The gospel, friends, is political. Let me repeat: the gospel is political. Christianity is political. Jesus was political. That’s because politics is about people and people are at the center of God’s heart.

Two weeks ago, we received a message on our church Facebook page that said the following:

“Why would you support a hate group, why get a church into politics. You are the number one reason all churches should pay Taxes. I’m disappointed that you would follow a false narrative such as BLM. I will pray for you and the church to find wisdom and compassion for others as I have been touched by the BLM killing and destroying peoples lives.”

We responded by thanking this person for their prayers and sent them the piece we published in the Greenville Advocate explaining why we think it’s important for the church to say Black lives matter.

It’s Bias That Hobbles People of Color, Not Lack of a Leadership Pipeline

It’s Bias That Hobbles People of Color, Not Lack of a Leadership Pipeline

August 11, 2020 By dwayman

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, researchers Frances Kunreuther and Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, discovered that it is not the lack of training that is limiting people of color from top positions in the non-profit world, but rather racial bias.  This challenges the thinking and action of many organizations working to bring people of color into top positions.  They write in part:

“Why are there so few leaders of color in nonprofit organizations?

It’s because of a persistent bias in the nonprofit world that systematically weeds out qualified candidates of color, we found in a study of more than 4,000 people — not a lack of aspiring leaders ready for the job, as is commonly assumed.

Despite years of deliberating the question of diversity, little has changed. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other racial and ethnic minorities still fill fewer than 20 percent of nonprofit executive-director positions, a figure that hasn’t budged for more than a decade.

Whether you look at the 2006 CompassPoint/Meyer Foundation study “Daring to Lead,”which showed 17 percent of the top leaders are people of color, or BoardSource’s 2015 “Leading With Intent” report, which put the figure at only 11 percent, it is clear that nonprofit leaders too seldom reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

To better understand this racial leadership gap, we not only surveyed people from across the nonprofit landscape but also conducted focus groups and more than three dozen interviews with nonprofit and foundation leaders as well as management experts to hear their views of the barriers people of color face.

Charles Wesley’s Hymns Refute the Calvinist Doctrine of Limited Atonement

Charles Wesley’s Hymns Refute the Calvinist Doctrine of Limited Atonement

August 9, 2020 By dwayman

 

 

“Ye Need Not One Be Left Behind/For God Hath Bidden All Mankind”:

Charles Wesley’s Response to the Doctrine of Limited Atonement

Charles Edward White

Spring Arbor University

 

When John Wesley collected his brother’s hymns for the use of the people called Methodists, he opened the book with his brother’s birthday anthem, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.  This song serves as an overture for the hymnal, introducing many of the characteristic themes of Methodist belief.  Beginning with overwhelming gratitude and praise for Father and Son, it quickly moves to the proper human response of spreading God’s honor throughout the world.  The intense personal experience of forgiveness, liberty, and cleansing comes next and then the declaration that all is of grace by faith fills out the first six verses.  With verse six, however, Charles subtly moves from proclamation to argumentation.  It is not by accident that against his Roman Catholic opponents he sings, “Look and be saved by grace alone/Be justified by faith.”[1]  Nor is the message of verse seven any less controversial:

See all your sins on Jesus laid:

The Lamb of God was slain,

His soul was once an offering made

For every soul of man.[2]

With the introduction of the word “every” Charles arguably fires the first shot in a battle against Calvinism that will rage for the rest of his life.

Our Bodies are Evil: The Heresy of Gnosticism and Purity Culture Today

Our Bodies are Evil: The Heresy of Gnosticism and Purity Culture Today

July 20, 2020 By dwayman

In a desire to provide guidance to our children, Christian parents and churches can create an unhealthy, unbiblical and even heretical culture.  In this study by recent Greenville University graduate and St. Paul’s Free Methodist Church assistant pastor Kait Mathews, we are invited to give a thoughtful consideration of the theological heresy and psychological trauma.  Presented on July the 19th, 2020 here is Pastor Mathews’ work:

“As the Gospel began to circulate through the Roman world in the first century, the ancient heresy of Gnosticism was one of the earliest to infiltrate the Church. The word Gnosticism originates from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge. The Gnostics believed that there was a secret knowledge that was exclusive to those with a true understanding, which then would lead to the salvation of the soul. This spiritual salvation was superior to the Gnostics, because they saw the human spirit as naturally good, but imprisoned in the body which was naturally evil. Thus, the goal of the Gnostics was to free the spirit from the person embodying it and that was only possible with the mysterious knowledge of the “true understanding” that they possessed. The split between spirit and body led the Gnostics to distort the early church’s cognizance of who Jesus was. Gnostics envisioned Jesus as the messenger of the “true understanding” and they didn’t think that Jesus was fully man. Rather, His body just seemed to be human. This is also known as the heresy of Docetism. This seemingly human Jesus is a denial of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus as fully man and fully God.1  I think a danger in reading our passage from Romans today is that we might get the impression that Paul is trying to teach Gnosticism.

Repudiating Any and All Forms of White-Supremacy

Repudiating Any and All Forms of White-Supremacy

June 17, 2020 By dwayman

Bishop Emeritus David Kendall

Making clear and informed statements about racism is a necessary part of leadership.  This is true not only of those who are now leading churches, businesses and organizations, but those who influence the leaders of our world.  Free Methodist Bishop Emeritus David Kendall is one of those influencers.  Having served faithfully for many years as pastor, superintendent and Bishop, Dr. Kendall also has an earned doctorate in Biblical studies.  Writing from this wealth of experience and training, Kendall recently wrote a blog on Racism.

He says in part:

“As a follower of Jesus, I repudiate racism.  This is a matter of commitment to Jesus as Lord.  It strikes me as unthinkable that any trace of racism should lodge in my heart, mind, spirit, sentiments, tendencies, actions or reactions.  Truly.  As soon as I say/write this, though, I recall other attitudes, feelings, tendencies, responses that once lingered within me for some time before I even knew it and then remained for some additional time as I dealt with them and put them aside.  I’m talking about things that are unworthy and contrary to the way of Jesus, such as anger, envy, bitterness and unforgiveness. Likewise, there are things I once put off by the grace of God only later to resurface, sometimes worse than before.  So, I do repudiate racism, and yet I am asking what lingers in my heart that I never knew was there? 

A Neo-Free Methodism: Shadow-Work as a Model for Racial Justice

A Neo-Free Methodism: Shadow-Work as a Model for Racial Justice

May 29, 2020 By dwayman

Having the tools to heal pervasive and spiritually damaging racism requires our best thinking and practice.  In this work by Free Methodist scholar Rev. Dr. Liz Simmons, as a specialist in spiritual formation, we find a persuasive adaptation of Jungian “shadow work” to assist us in identifying and repenting from these suppressed and repressed projections.

Simmons work is stated clearly in her abstract:

“The increase of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States is on a trajectory to shift the demographic of the Church over time to majority non-white. Because of the abolitionist spirit of its genesis, Free Methodist church contexts have the historical and theological foundations to become hosts for multicultural communities and culturally engaging conversations leading to racial justice. The homogeneous demographic of many Free Methodist churches today, however, results in blindness toward privilege and resistance toward social engagement, reinforcing an insulated identity narrative.”(x)

“…this dissertation seeks to answer this question: What could it look like for white people to do their own internal work to take responsibility for their part in racial justice, particularly in majority-culture churches where the surrounding community is also majority white? First, this research recovers and analyzes the inception of the Free Methodist movement in order to understand the gap between its abolitionist beginnings and its present reality. Second, this work identifies the need for a theology of liberation in Free Methodist churches by reviewing the strengths and challenges of Liberation Theology.