Century Marks

Century Marks

Religious diplomacy

The State Department has just created an office to reach out to faith communities and religious leaders around the world. It will be headed by Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theo­logical Seminary in Washington, D.C. Casey expects to focus on three areas: religion and development, international religious freedom, and conflict prevention and resolution. “I think we ignore the political impact of religion at our peril,” Casey said about the new State Department office. He was ap­pointed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, for whom Casey worked when Kerry was a U.S. senator (Washington Post, July 26).

Campus presence

Fuller Theological Seminary is the first evangelical seminary in the country to accept an on-campus group for LGBT students. Called OneTable, it was started by Nick Palacios, an openly gay student from a conservative Pentecostal background. The seminary expects gay students to be celibate and to not challenge the seminary’s stance that homosexual activity is inconsistent with scripture (USA Today, July 13).

All’s well

After the Anglicantheologian Bishop Charles Gore (1853–1932) attended a performance of one of Bach’s Brandenburg con­certos, he was overheard muttering: “If that is true, everything must be all right” (quoted by Diarmaid MacCulloch in Silence: A Christian History, forth­coming from Viking).

Mass appeal

During a mass last month with 1,000 bishops in the beehive-shaped modern cathedral in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis echoed the message he delivered to pilgrims at World Youth Day earlier—a radical call to renew the church, which has seen its numbers dwindle in Europe thanks to apathy and in Latin America because of competition from charismatic evangelicals. “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities when so many people are waiting for the gospel,” Francis said in his homily. It was a slightly more diplomatic expression of an off-the-cuff exhortation he delivered to young Argentine pilgrims, in which he urged the youngsters to make a “mess” in their dioceses and shake things up (AP).

Dirty laundry

The problem with much philanthropy is that it keeps in place a system that makes a few people wealthy and keeps many people in poverty, argues Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett. The chairman of his own philanthropic foundation, he refers to “conscience laundering”: the very rich spread around a little of their wealth to help the poor and make themselves feel better (New York Times, July 26).