June 2015 Book Recommendations

My reading the last month has included a number of texts published this year (2015), including (5) Religion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents by Gary Scott Smith (Oxford University Press) (5) Contemporary Churches: Spiritual Transformation of Congregations by Louis F. Kavar (Louis F. Kavar) (4.5) My Church is NOT Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century by Greg Garrett (Morehouse Publishing) (4) Walking with Jesus: A Way Forward for the Church by Pope Read More …

Learning from Others

Last week the Dallas Morning News ran an article comprised of answers to a question asked by Fr. Joshua Whitfield at St. Rita Parish (Catholic) in Dallas, Texas: Who is someone from another faith tradition either another denomination or another faith altogether that has inspired you, shaped you, or formed you in your own faith? And why is it a good thing to read and study others outside your own faith tradition? Answers A sampling of responses includes Darrell Bock, a Christian who Read More …

Recent Reading – May

Busy is a buzzword.  It is, however, also an accurate description of my world at the moment.  With this in mind, I offer ratings rather than reviews for the last four books I read (listed by rating, on a scale of 5.0).  For those awaiting regular weekly reviews, stay tuned! I hope to return to that feature in July. (5+) The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown by Paul Taylor (2014). (5) Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor Read More …

Pope Francis Goes to Confession

Popes going to Confession is nothing new, and the current Pope going to confession isn't newsworthy.  Pope Francis decision, however, to go off script yet again in a penance service is. Rather than heading for the confessional to which he was being escorted in order to hear confessions, Pope Francis chose to make his way to another confessional where he "spent about three minutes kneeling before the priest’s open confessional and received absolution."  Only after doing so did he hear Read More …

The Francis Effect

Pope Francis has been incredibly popular, especially for considering the radical shift he represets.  Despite high favorability ratings, early research from the Pew Research Center suggests there isn't strong evidence for a "Francis effect" that is leading to changes in how American Catholics approach their religion.  More specifically:  There has been no measurable rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic. Nor has there been a statistically significant change in how often Read More …

Pope = Person of the Year

Earlier this week, TIME named Pope Francis as the 2013 Person of the Year.  I encourage you to read their article and watch the brief video explanation of why he was selected. So What? Pope Francis is a change agent.  In his talking and in his doing, he continues to clearly communicate what he understands the role of pope to be as well as how the church should be participating in and caring for the world. I have blogged more about Pope Francis in 2013 than I have about all Catholic Read More …

Sermon: Faith in Naples

A few Sundays ago I had the privilege of preaching a sermon on faith at Naples United Church of Christ.  My text was Hebrews 11:1-3 and 8-16. Scripture The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living (Hebrews 8:1, The Message). Sermon Text I have a confession to make: I am a neat freak.  In my world, everything has a place, and everything lives in the place I have assigned to it.  While I Read More …

An Easter Correction

On Easter Sunday I expect a great deal of news focused on the Pope.  Given the way Pope Francis has sought to be a different kind of Pope than any in my lifetime, I wanted to learn what he had to say on Easter.  In addition to satisfying that quest for knowledge, I also learned of an incredible error in Elisabetta Povoledo's New York Times article: "Pope Francis Calls for 'Peace in All the World' in Easter Message."  A correction to the article's final paragraph was posted the day after the Read More …