religion Archive

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‘Theology After Google’ conference takes look at religion in Web era

Eclectic Claremont School of Theology event analyzes future of American Christianity, which participants say must embrace technology to survive. Just call them members of Church 2.0.

Like many Americans, Doug Pagitt grew up outside the world of organized religion. Neither his parents nor his grandparents were churchgoers, and there was no expectation that he would be any different. Today, with his goatee, ear stud and funky clothes, he could easily pass for the sort of Gen X hipster who lives an entirely secular life.

But at 17, Pagitt saw a Passion play that hit him like a thunderbolt, and he wound up becoming a Christian pastor. His church in Minneapolis, Solomon’s Porch, is blazing a trail in a new movement that could be called Church 2.0.

That was, in fact, one of the terms used last week during a three-day conference about the future of American Christianity at the Claremont School of Theology. Pagitt was among about 150 ministers, laypeople and academics who gathered to discuss “Theology After Google.”

The consensus: It’s a whole new world out there. Churches will ignore it at their peril.

“I think things like denomination and ordination are part of the old system of control and domination that has to go,” Pagitt, 42, said as he relaxed after the conference’s first day at the Theo Pub set-up for participants. Around him, beer flowed and conversation leaped from Twitter to evangelism to church formation to corn toss, a beanbag game popular in the Midwest and Appalachia that is gaining a toehold among the theologians in Claremont.

The premise of the conference had been laid out earlier in the evening by Philip Clayton, a professor at Claremont who talked about the role of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century. By making the Bible more widely available, he said, it democratized religion and led directly to the Protestant Reformation.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Clayton said, “we are talking today about a transition equally as great.”

– Source / Full Story: ‘Theology After Google’ conference takes look at religion in Web era, Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 15, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Controversial Muslim programmer new BBC head of religion

Muslim Aaqil Ahmed chosen as BBC’s head of religion

The BBC has appointed its first Muslim head of religion.

Aaqil Ahmed, who is to become jointly head of Religion and Ethics and commissioning editor for Religion TV, has made his name at Channel 4 where is he currently commissioning editor for Religion and Multicultural.

His biggest project at Channel 4 was the recent Christianity: A History series, which included programmes presented by Howard Jacobson and Cherie Blair. On his blog, Ahmed wrote: “It’s almost unheard of for a mainstream broadcaster to dedicate eight hours of prime time television to Christianity in this way. I think it’s fair to say that it’s a big risk, but a risk I really wanted to take.”

Ahmed, who is known for making difficult and potentially dull religious subjects lively and accessible and is also not afraid to ask the hard questions, also commissioned Channel 4’s The Qur’an and the BAFTA winning Saving Africa’s Witch Children.

When commenters on his blog criticised the series on Christianity as a hatchet job and accused him of error, he posted a video in response.

– Source / Full Story: Muslim Aaqil Ahmed chosen as BBC’s head of religion, Ruth Gledhill, The Times, UK, May 12, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Aaqil Ahmed will move to the corporation from Channel Four, where he upset Roman Catholic priests by commissioning documentaries that appeared to contain a pro-Islam bias.

His appointment will also raise fears at the top levels of the Church of England, which has expressed its concerns over the BBC’s treatment of religion and warned that it must not ignore its Christian audience.

Leading church figures suspect that the BBC is giving preferential treatment to minority faiths, with a Muslim now in charge of its programming on television and a Sikh producing Songs of Praise, its flagship Christian show.

Christina Rees, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, has warned: ” The vast majority of the population identifies itself as Christian and as the established Church in England we would be negligent not to take an active concern in the changes happening with the BBC’s religion and ethics department.”

Mr Ahmed is understood to have impressed BBC executives by commissioning a series on Christianity that featured high-profile names, including Cherie Blair and Michael Portillo.

However, the series, Christianity, A History, was criticised by Church figures for trivialising the religion.

Furthermore, Channel 4 was accused of being biased towards Islam and failing to show enough respect to Christianity under Mr Ahmed, who was head of religious broadcasting.

Mr Ahmed will split the role of overseeing religious broadcasting with, Christine Morgan, who has been promoted to head of Religion Radio.

– Source / Full Story: Controversial Muslim programme-maker to be head of BBC religion, Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Telegraph, UK, May 11, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Ahmed’s appointment marks only the second time in the BBC’s 87-year history that a non-Christian has been appointed to the position, following the agnostic Alan Bookbinder in 2001.

The move is likely to be controversial with some – the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was reported to have raised concerns with the BBC director general Mark Thompson that the “Christian voice is being sidelined” after Ahmed was first connected to the role last month.

The BBC has also appointed Christine Morgan as a new separate head of religion radio. A BBC spokesman declined to comment on her religion.

The BBC said the appointment of Morgan, who has been executive producer of BBC radio religion and ethics since 2004, responsible for all religious programmes on Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4, was “another measure to strengthen the BBC’s religious programmes”.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation appointed individuals “on the basis of talent and suitability to the role, regardless of their faith or background”.

The two new appointments – part of a new management structure for the BBC Knowledge department – replace the previous combined head of religion and ethics role overseeing output on both TV and radio, which was held by the Methodist preacher Michael Wakelin.

– Source / Full Story: BBC appoints first Muslim head of religious programming, Leigh Holmwood, The Guardian, UK, May 11, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog