Church of Scotland

Have others asked WWHPD? Harry Potter and the Harvard Humanist phenomenon

Have others asked WWHPD? Harry Potter and the Harvard Humanist phenomenon

Once more, into the Harry Potter religion debates!

But first, a word from long ago, care of one of the featured speakers at Nimbus 2003 in Orlando, the first global convention dedicated to academic (and semi-academic) studies of the canonical texts of J.K. Rowling. Yes, I was there, with a notepad and my marked-up copies of a Potter text, or two.

The speaker was Lee Hillman of Rochester, N.Y., a pagan believer known as "Gwendolyn Grace, Minister of Magic" to the throng of 600 gathered at Disney’s Swan Hotel. She was dressed in a spectacular purple witch’s robe and hat. Let us attend:

"There is no relationship set up in the Harry Potter books between magic and religion," said Hillman. … "This had to be a deliberate decision by J.K. Rowling. ... She is using literary conceits drawn from throughout Western culture."
She scanned the crowd at a panel discussion last weekend entitled "Harry Potter: Witchcraft? Pagan Perspectives." ...
"There is nothing in these books that relates magic to any particular religion," said Hillman. "There is no connection. None. None. Zero. ... They are not really about witchcraft."

Ah, but what are the books about? All kinds of people have found all kinds of messages in these books in the past and that phenomenon, clearly, is continuing. I say that because of an interesting Boston Globe news feature that ran the other day under the head, “Could Harry Potter become a spiritual leader?

Could? Is there any question that many people have already treated Rowling’s work as semi-holy? The key to this story shows up really early on:

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Beam me up, Church of Scotland: Some details missing in mini-feature about online baptism

Beam me up, Church of Scotland: Some details missing in mini-feature about online baptism

Religion News service had me at the headline on this report from the other side of the pond: "Church of Scotland to consider online baptisms, Communion."

I think that's part of my problem with this very, very short news story.

Now, when you hear the phrase "online Communion," what image do you get in your mind's eye? At the very least, is has to be a rather Protestant image in that it involves worship taking place in a digital, online, visual environment -- with the person on the other side of this liturgical encounter actually consuming analog bread and wine (or something).

Where do the Communion elements come from? Are they shipped to the online flock members, perhaps through a liturgical variation on Amazon Prime? Do the worshippers provide their own elements (raising the previously "or something" issue).

These are questions that any journalist would ask, right? I mean, don't we need to define our terms?

This brings me to the totally new sacramental concept -- at least for me, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian -- that is included in this report. What, precisely, is a rite of "online baptism"? Here is the context:

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) -- The Church of Scotland will launch a two-year investigation into the possibility of introducing online baptisms, Communion and other Christian sacraments.
The church, known as The Kirk, has seen its rolls fall by almost one-third between 2004 and 2015, to just under 364,000 members. 

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Instructing v. reporting on gay clergy from The Times

What’s the difference between advocacy journalism and classical, liberal, some would say “objective” journalism? Advocacy journalism tells you what you should think about a news story while old-school liberal journalism sets out the facts of the story and lets you make up your own mind. The first method produces copy that fits a pre-determined template. The second is rooted in professional standards in which professionals strive for accuracy, balance, fairness, etc.

A comparison of the coverage by The Times and The Scotsman of this week’s vote by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to allow gay clergy succinctly illustrates the assumptions and agenda of these two schools. While both articles give the same essential fact pattern, The Times tells you what you should think about the vote, while The Scotsman lays out the facts and gives voice to the participants — letting you decide.

The story entitled “Desire for church unity opens way for gay clergy” on the front page of the Scottish edition of The Times begins:

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Pod people: Presby-speak again

The meaningless drivel that passes for public language these days was the major theme of my chat last week with Todd Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc.  In our conversation broadcast on 24 May 2013, Todd and I discussed my article “Scotland the confused: Did Presbyterians back gay clergy?”, posted at GetReligion and talked about all that double-talk.

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Scotland the confused: Did Presbyterians back gay clergy?

Something happened on Monday at the General Assembly the Church of Scotland — they appear to have become Anglicans. No — they didn’t change from a Presbyterian to Episcopal form of church government. They did something more Anglican than combining bishops with Calvinism.  They’ve accepted the sacred “yes/but”  Anglican doctrine of deliberate confusion,  and have adopted a policy on gay clergy that no one quite seems to understand.

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