Century Marks

Century Marks


Dawn Gikandi, 31, is a rarity in Kenya—a female pastor, a theologian, a social media devotee, and a disabled person in a country that often stigmatizes people who are physically impaired. In April, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa ordained Gikandi and sent her to her first post, Bahati Martyrs’ Church in Nairobi, where she and another pastor care for more than 4,000 congregants. Since then, the news of her ordination has spread and become an inspiration to Kenya’s disabled community (RNS).


In June a mob of hundreds of people brutally attacked a group of Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 20 church leaders and Bible college students, who had gathered for a religious retreat. More than 300 plainclothes police and security forces stormed the host church at night under the pretext of conducting an “administrative search.” The pastor, known for defending the rights of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth. For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppressing Protestants and other religious groups. These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and evangelizing openly (Ecumenical News).

Born believers

While God exists, it may be true that atheists do not. Cognitive scientists are increasingly finding that belief in some kind of god may be so hardwired into the brain that it can’t be expunged. “Atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, who is an avowed atheist himself. Studies show, for example, “that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.” According to a Pew Research survey in the United States, 38 percent of people who identified themselves as atheist or agnostic claim belief in some kind of higher power (Science 2.0, July 6).

Home with prayer

When he’s at home, Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, begins each day with a short meditative walk, or sometimes with some slow prostrations, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of sitting on a low stool to repeat the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Usually he repeats the words silently, saying them while breathing out. “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” says Williams (New Statesman, July 8).

Point, counterpoint

George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, says he is ready to back legislation that would legalize assisted dying for the terminally ill in England and Wales. Admitting it’s an about-face for him, Carey now argues that by “strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.” Justin Welby, the current archbishop, is strongly opposed to assisted dying. “What sort of society would we be creating if we were to allow this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of every vulnerable, terminally ill person in the country?” Welby said (Ecumenical News).