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49 Killed at Mosques in “One of New Zealand’s Darkest Days”

posted on March 15, 2019

From Christchurch, New Zealand, the Associated Press’ Nick Perry and Mark Baker report, “At least 49 people were shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers Friday — most if not all of them gunned down by an immigrant-hating white supremacist who apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook.” Three suspects were taken into custody after what “was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.”

Read at Associated Press

Improper Voting Discovered at Methodist Vote on Gay Clergy

posted on March 15, 2019

The New York Times‘ Elizabeth Dias reports that there was improper voting at the United Methodist Church’s recent General Conference, which strengthened the denomination’s bans on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy. “But at least four ballots were cast by individuals who were not authorized to vote, according to interviews and a review of the church’s records,” Dias writes. She adds, “The final 54-vote margin against gay clergy and same-sex marriage exceeds the number of unauthorized votes discovered so far. But the voting irregularities raised questions about the process behind the divisive decision, which devastated progressive members.”

Read at The New York Times

Church Elders Let Confessed Abuser Attend Services; Now Judge Has Banned Him

posted on March 4, 2019

Religion News Service’s Bobby Ross Jr. reports, “After a longtime youth minister’s recent conviction on corruption of minors and indecent exposure charges, a judge in this western Pennsylvania community did what the Uniontown Church of Christ’s elders refused to do. The judge told Clyde E. Brothers Jr. to stay away from church services.” The church elders’ refusal to ban Brothers from the church illustrates broader problems in how religious authorities address sexual abuse in their churches. Bob Coldren, one of the church’s three elders and Brothers’ brother-in-law, said, “Just like anybody else who comes forward at church, is it my place to judge him on his sins…or is it God’s to judge him of those?”

Read at Religion News Service

Pope Francis to Open World War II-Era Vatican Archives to Scrutiny

posted on March 4, 2019

The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan and Paul Schemm report, “The Vatican announced Monday that it would open up its secret archives on the World War II papacy of Pope Pius XII, whom some scholars have accused of keeping silent about the Holocaust.” Pope Francis said, “The church is not afraid of history.” Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, said, “It is particularly important that experts from the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the U.S. objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as the valiant efforts made during the period of the [Holocaust].”

Read at The Washington Post

Anti-Muslim Signs at W. Va. Capitol Roil State, Draw Outrage

posted on March 4, 2019

The Associated Press’s Anthony Izaguirre reports, “An anti-Muslim poster outside the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber falsely connecting a freshman congresswoman to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has drawn strong rebukes from local and national lawmakers, while causing the resignation of a Capitol staffer and the reported injury of another.” The sign, which was displayed on a table with other Islamophobic flyers, depicted an image of the burning World Trade Center next to Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim. Izaguirre writes, “One lawmaker admitted to getting so mad that he kicked a House door open, which resulted in a doorkeeper being physically injured, according to the speaker of the House. Another delegate grew furious, saying he had heard a staffer make an anti-Muslim remark.”

Read at The Associated Press

United Methodists Pass Traditional Plan, Keep Ban on LGBTQ Clergy, Same-Sex Marriage

posted on February 28, 2019

Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller reports, “A special session of the United Methodist Church decided Tuesday (Feb. 26) to strengthen the denomination’s ban on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ people.” Of three proposals before the church, fifty-three percent of the delegates at the St. Louis meeting voted to approve the so-called “Traditional Plan,” which took a harder line against LGBTQ inclusion. McFarlan Miller writes, “LGBTQ United Methodists and those who support their full inclusion in the church have to decide what comes next, said the Rev. Gregory Gross, a delegate from the Northern Illinois Conference and organizer with the Queer Clergy Caucus. There may no longer be room for them in the denomination, he said. So LGBTQ Methodists may have to envision ‘a new expression of Methodism.'”

Read at Religion News Service

Australian Cardinal Pell, Top Vatican Official, Found Guilty of Sexual Abuse

posted on February 26, 2019

Reuters’ Sonali Paul and Philip Pullella report, “An Australian court has found Cardinal George Pell, one of the highest ranking Vatican officials and a former top adviser to Pope Francis, guilty on five charges of child sexual offences committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys.” Pell was found guilty on December 11, but the court made the verdict public on Tuesday after it lifted a suppression order on the trial. A victim said in an emailed statement, “Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life.”

Read at Reuters

In Fight Over Protestant-Only Foster Agency, Lawsuit Asks: Who is a Christian?

posted on February 26, 2019

Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron writes about a February 15 lawsuit against the federal government and South Carolina, which alleges that Miracle Hill Ministries unconstitutionally discriminates against non-Protestants. Aimee Maddonna, a Catholic, applied four years ago to mentor foster children at the Greenville ministry before being denied, allegedly because of her faith. Shimron writes, “The suit challenges a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exemption that allows all foster care agencies in South Carolina to disregard a regulation barring religious discrimination in federally funded foster care programs.” Shimron adds that the lawsuit reveals a degree of bias against Catholics in the South, and it poses a question: Who is the right kind of Christian?

Read at Religion News Service

The Most Talked About Non-Topic at the Vatican? Homosexuality

posted on February 25, 2019

The New York Times’s Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo write that conflicting views about homosexuality in the church distracted discussions at the Vatican conference on the sexual abuse of children, despite the lack of connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. They write, “Each day at the meeting, reporters from conservative Catholic news outlets peppered the meeting’s organizers with questions about why they are dodging the topic of homosexuality. Their short answer: because it is irrelevant.” They add, “Cardinal Raymond Burke of the United States and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller of Germany published an open letter to the presidents of bishops’ conferences representing various countries at the meeting, urging them to end their ‘conspiracy of silence’ about the ‘plague of the homosexual agenda.’”

Read at The New York Times

United Methodists From Around the World Unite in St. Louis for Fight Over Sexuality

posted on February 25, 2019

St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jesse Bogan reports on a special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, being held in St. Louis, which is focusing on homosexuality, a topic that is dividing congregants. Bogan writes, “The uproar boils down to this line in the denomination’s Book of Discipline: ‘The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.’ Officially, United Methodist pastors aren’t supposed to preside over same-sex marriages and, although gay and lesbian clergy can be ordained, they must be celibate.” The John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics Director Marie Griffith said, “They are trying to hold everyone together, and ultimately some difficult choices are going to have to be made, because the issues are too important on all sides.”

Read at St. Louis Post-Dispatch