While in Washington D.C. last month, Pope Francis took time to visit a former student, who is openly gay, as well as his partner. The meeting came just one day before the pope met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who made national headlines for refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her opposition to the Supreme Court’s legalization of same sex marriage. Since the encounter between Davis and the pope, the Vatican has said, “his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”
The meeting with Yayo Grassi and his partner Iwan Bagus appears to have been planned for some time. Grassi told CNN, "Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug.” Grassi, 67, was a student at a Catholic school where the pope served as a teacher in the ‘60s. According to CNN, he is also an atheist, but has maintained a close relationship with his old teacher for decades. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the meeting, saying, ”As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue.” Grassi told the cable news outlet, "Obviously he is the pastor of the church and he has to follow the church's teachings. But as a human being he understands all kinds of situations, and he is open to all kinds of people, including those with different sexual characteristics.” Discuss
Addressing Vatican Radio this weekend, Pope Francis told members of the Catholic Church Europe that “the Gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned,” asking leaders to consider housing Syrian refugees who are fleeing “death in conflict and hunger.”
Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled violence from the civil war and the spread of ISIS in the country, seeking safety in European countries. The crisis has been continuous among some political leaders who have limited the number of Syrians refuge-seekers their countries will accept. In his address, Pope Francis said, "May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” adding that, “the two parishes in the Vatican these days will welcome two families of refugees." Discuss
R.C. Sproul Jr., the son of theologian and Ligonier Ministries founder R.C. Sproul, has been suspended by the ministry after admitting to “visiting” adultery website Ashley Madison “to leave an old email address.” He said "the revelation of the hack has come the revelation of my sin," referencing the recent leak of hacked user information. Sproul Jr. served as a leader in the theology and philosophy departments at Ligonier’s Reformation Bible College. His wife passed away in 2011 after battling cancer. In an apology statement (which you can read in its entirety here), he explained,
In August 2014, in a moment of weakness, pain, and from an unhealthy curiosity, I visited Ashley Madison. My goal was not to gather research for critical commentary, but to fan the flames of my imagination. There I found two gracious judgments. First, I felt the grace of fear. Second, I felt the grace of shame. I was there long enough to leave an old email address. And within minutes I left, never to return. I did not sign up for their service or interact with any clients. I have always remained faithful to my wife even after her passing … With the revelation of the hack has come the revelation of my sin. I recently informed the board of Ligonier Ministries, which has handled the matter internally, having suspended me until July 1, 2016. I also informed my presbytery which is also handling the matter internally.
Yesterday, Sproul Jr. updated an article he first wrote on July 22 called “Hacking Ashley Madison” in which he said that he “only recently learned about” the site. He called it a “website which exists to facilitate adultery” and brings people together by “tearing homes apart.” This was before the release of the public data, when the hackers were stilling threatening to release it. He wrote, “I wonder how many are going to publicly object and declare the immorality of this hack and this threat. But in doing so, we miss the immorality of the site itself. This is not merely about the private behavior of private citizens, because we are dealing with married people. Marriage, friends, is never only private.”
He has since posted an update to the article that says “In light of my public statement here, I believe I should have withheld comment on this matter.” Discuss
The Ashley Madison hack will have a serious effect on churches. According to Ed Stetzer, as many as 400 pastors, deacons, elders and church staff members may resign this Sunday after their names surfaced on the list of users revealed in the Ashley Madison hack.
In a post on his Christianity Today blog, The Exchange, Stetzer said the number is based on “conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada,” adding, “To be honest, the number of pastors and church leaders on Ashley Madison is much lower than the number of those looking to have an affair.” Along with being a contributing editor for CT, author and professor, Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research, and a well-regarded expert on church leadership. He is also the executive editor of the Christian leadership publication Facts & Trends. All that to say, Stetzer is well-informed, and his number is likely accurate. Former social conservative lobbyist and Christian reality TV star Josh Duggar and Christian vlogger Sam Rader recently released their own statements, acknowledging that they were both users of the site, which facilitates adultery. Discuss
When Pope Francis visits inmates at Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility next month, he’ll be presented with a special gift: A chair constructed by prisoners currently serving time in the city’s jail system. The director of one of the jail industry shops told Mashable, "I really don't know how it will be presented to him, or at what point will he actually sit in the chair. But the fact that I got the privilege to do the chair is good enough if I never see him sit in the chair. So I'm happy." The pope will visit 100 inmates and their families during his time in the city on Sept. 27. Discuss
The Christian parody of Bruno Mars' and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” you probably weren’t waiting for has arrived. The video appears to be a promo for International Church of Las Vegas’ upcoming “Holy Spirit Conference,” hence the references to “Tongues of fire take you higher man … So good, Amen. Make Benny wanna retire man.” Presented without further comment: Discuss