Bishops from around the world have begun gathering in St. Louis for the much-anticipated General Conference of the United Methodist Church, scheduled to begin on Saturday, February 23rd. On the table are several proposals to deal with the issue of gay marriage and gay ordination within the church. A prominent part of their deliberations deals with the questions of congregations and conferences leaving the church: how easy or difficult will the church make it for those who dissent from whatever course of action the church takes. United Methodists claim almost 32,000 congregations in the United States and another 9,000 around the world, but the denomination in the States has been in statistical decline for years. Most observers predict a significant exodus from the church regardless of how the vote goes.
Southern Baptists are responding to the history of sex abuse reported by two Texas papers last week. First, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, went on record and in public apologizing for his sustained support for accused abuser C J Mahaney, a pastor formerly in Maryland and now in Kentucky. Second, J D Greer, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, presented recommendations from a sexual abuse advisory committee to the SBC executive committee in Nashville. These include: withdrawing fellowship from churches with a record of abuse (listing ten suspect churches including six in Texas and others in Georgia, Arkansas, and Kentucky); holding a season of lament and repentance; calling upon all SBC churches to review their policies related to sexual abuse; insisting on background checks on all persons elected to SBC committees and boards; and calling upon congregations to integrate sexual behavior and abuse issues into ordination processes.
The Roman Catholic Church is dealing with the sex issues of two fronts, as the bishops from around the world are gathering today in Rome for a four-day conference on sexual abuse in the church and a much-anticipated book on the gay culture at the Vatican is published. The first is convened by Pope Francis himself to address the still growing crisis of crime and credibility throughout the church. It comes on the heels of the defrocking of one of the most influential American Catholic leaders of the last generation, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of New York and Newark. The second is the 570-page book by French journalist Frederic Martel which is being published in twenty countries in eight languages, arising out of 1,500 interviews with cardinals, bishops, and priests, among others. It claims that 80 percent of the Vatican priests are gay, although not all are sexually active. In the midst of all this drama, the Vatican approved the canonization of three saints, including the famous and influential English scholar John Henry Newman, who converted to Roman Catholicism 1854.
The Islamic Seminary of America is set to launch officially with an opening ceremony on Sunday, February 24, in Dallas. On that date, the first such Islamic school in the United States will open its doors for student enrollment and class registration; classes begin in August of 2019. The event will be held at the North Dallas Hyatt Regency and will include a panel of scholars discussing the challenges of living and establishing Islam in the United States. The panel will be followed by Maghrib prayers and the banquet dinner. The new seminary states their ambition to be “the world’s preeminent community of scholars where generations of religious scholars and ethical leaders pursue the highest levels of knowledge, research and training, rooted in the Quran and Sunnah and integrating the rich traditions of classical Islamic knowledge with Western academic scholarship.”
Christianity Today, one of the largest religious publishing enterprises in the country, announced the selection of a new president and CEO. He is Timothy Dalrymple, currently the founder and director of PolyMath, a creative agency that helps clients with branding, marketing, and content development. Dalrymple is a graduate of Stanford University, Princeton Seminary, and Harvard University (with a PhD in modern western religious thought. He has been active in Campus Crusade (Cru) and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Dalrymple succeeds Harold B Smith who has been with the company for 35 years, the last 12 as president and CEO. Dalyrumple issued a statement: “Christianity Today possesses the legacy, the credibility, the resources, and the worldwide reach to tell the story of the global church in ways it has never been told before. I’m honored and humbled to be asked to lead it in the years ahead.”