Emily McFarlan Miller of Religion News Service reports that the United Methodist Church will delay its General Conference meeting for the third year in a row because of the pandemic. Delegates at the conference were set to discuss the inclusion of LGBTQ members in the denomination. The delay prompted a conservative faction of the denomination to announce their separation. They will form the Global Methodist Church on May 1. The Rev. Keith Boyette, one of the conservative leaders, said, “Theologically conservative local churches and annual conferences want to be free of divisive and destructive debates, and to have the freedom to move forward together.”
Adam Liptack of The New York Times reports, “The Supreme Court on Friday unanimously rejected an argument that could have limited the sweep of the state secrets doctrine in a case arising from the surveillance of Muslims in Southern California in 2006.” Justice Samuel Alito authored the opinion in the case, F.B.I v. Fazaga, in which the court sided with the F.B.I.’s surveillance program and declined to rule on the larger religious liberty issue. He wrote, “We have never suggested that an assertion of the state secrets privilege can be defeated by showing that the evidence was unlawfully obtained.”
For Religion News Service, Diana Butler Bass writes, “The conflict in Ukraine is all about religion and what kind of Orthodoxy will shape Eastern Europe and other Orthodox communities around the world.” Bass argues Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to use the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict to assert his version of Orthodoxy and regain control over Kyiv, which Bass dubs the Jerusalem of Russian Orthodoxy.
Ruth Graham, Elizabeth Dias, Miriam Jordan, and Karen Zraick of The New York Times report that some Americans feel a personal connection to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Ruth Salton, a Holocaust survivor who fled to the United States, said, “I feel for them, I hurt for them, and I exactly know how they feel. We were running, we were on trains, it was the same thing. You do not know how it feels when you have to run and to be afraid. The worst thing in life is not death, it’s being frightened.” Alex Telischak, a Jehovah’s Witness whose mother and father-in-law live in Ukraine, said, “Having a community, or a religion that is borderless, that is a tremendous comfort to us.”
Gal Beckerman of The Atlantic writes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become a symbol of Jewish hope in a region that has long harbored antisemitic sentiments. His leadership during the war in Ukraine has made him a national and global hero, given his determination to remain in the country. Beckerman writes, “If Zelensky has now become synonymous with the blue-and-yellow flag of his country, it might signal an unexpected outcome of this conflict that has found Jews feeling finally, improbably, one with a land that has perpetually tried to spit them out.”
Claire Giangravé of Religion News Service reports, “Pope Francis called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday to express his sadness and desire for peace as the conflict in Ukraine rages through the country’s borders and city streets.” Francis also visited the Russian embassy to the Holy See to express his opposition to the war. During prayer services on Sunday, Francis said. “Those who wage war forget humanity. They don’t consider people, don’t look at the concrete life of people, but place before everything partisan interests and power.”
For Sojourners, Bekah McNeel reports that some Texas clergy members are speaking out after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate cases of gender-affirming treatment for children. Abbott also labeled gender reassignment surgery and other gender-affirming care as “child abuse.” The Rev. Natalie Webb, the head pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin, said, “My commitment to the body of Christ and to the children who are created in God’s image is definitely more important than what the governor thinks.” As clergy, Webb and other pastors are required to report all cases of child abuse as defined by the state. Some, however, have pledged noncompliance with Abbott’s order.
Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reports that Novavax’s Covid vaccine may appeal to religious, unvaccinated individuals. Some people have opposed Covid vaccines because of a link between their development and aborted fetal cell lines from the 1970s and 1980s. A spokesperson for Novavax wrote in an email, “No human fetal-derived cell lines or tissue, including HEK293 cells, are used in the development, manufacture or production of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate.” The company submitted its emergency use authorization request to the FDA last month and has already begun distribution in other countries.
Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post reports that Jim Wallis, the progressive Christian leader and founder of the evangelical organization Sojourners, is now focusing his work on voting rights. He said, “We were all made in God’s image and likeness. Voter suppression on the basis of skin color is a throwing away of Imago Dei.” Wallis has recently taken a post at Georgetown’s Center for Faith and Justice. Boorstein writes, “He thinks if he can frame the topic of protecting elections in moral and religious terms, it could bring even a few lawmakers back to the table on voting rights.”
Heather Hollingsworth of the Associated Press reports that some health care workers who oppose the Covid-19 vaccine are utilizing religious exemptions to avoid vaccine mandates. Vaccine mandates have left hospitals in difficult positions, forcing them to choose between granting religious exemptions while having unvaccinated employees or suffering staffing shortages. Some medical workers fear that their coworkers are abusing the religious exemptions. Marcella Dahl, a primary care physician in Sidney, Montana, said, “Half of the people saying this don’t even go to church. I think it puts everybody at risk.”