MH News March 7, 2019

New York
Trinity Church Wall Street has acquired the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. The Episcopal church in New York City with land and assets valued at six billion dollars has purchased the Episcopal seminary on the west coast. It is the just the latest in the growing list of mergers, closings, and relocations in the national network of some 267 seminaries. The vestry of the church is now the governing board of the seminary with hopes of expanding the offerings to train a new generation of leaders for the changing nature of church leadership. “This is about forming leaders for a Jesus movement committed to living, proclaiming and witnessing to his way and message of unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, liberating love,” explained Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.


Hospice professionals in the Pittsburgh area have documented over 14,000 cases over a ten-year period of what dying patients see and say in their last hours. Team lead Dr. Christopher Kerr admits he was skeptical at first but could not refute the evidence: eighty percent of his patients report dreams or visions as they neared death. “Everybody but me was able to prognosticate death in part based on what people were seeing or experiencing,” he said. When asked about an explanation, Dr. Kerr said, “I don’t have one.” He explained that his goal is just to record what’s happening and he not sure there needs to be an explanation.”


Research released late in 2018 reveals that Christianity in America is not shrinking but actually growing, asserts a fresh assessment of that data. Contrary to wide-spread media reports which lead people to think “religious faith in America is going the way of the Yellow Pages and travel maps,” The Federalist reports that information gathered by both Harvard University and Indiana University shows that “the percentage of Americans who attend church more than once a week, pray daily, and accept the Bible as wholly reliable and deeply instructive to their lives has remained absolutely, steel-bar constant for the last 50 years or more, right up to today.”  Further, it points to a growing divide between those that are categorized as “devout” and those who are merely nominal.


New Orleans
The city at the lower end of the Mississippi is traditionally cited as the place of note when reporting the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, largely because the evening before is known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. This marks the end of Carnival (which technically begins on Epiphany—January 6) and the beginning of Lent, which is a 40-day preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Carnival is often a garish and frivolous celebration complete with parades, parties, and performances. Lent, which began this week, is solemnized by services of prayer and scripture with the marking of the forehead with the sign of the cross in ashes. It is practiced by Christian communities all over the world.


Washington DC
The Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling prohibiting the use of tax revenue to renovate historic buildings that happen to be religious. The decision was announced in an order and thus carried little or no weight as precedent for other cases in the contentious church-state dynamic. The order was written by new Justice Brett Kavanaugh and included this statement: “At some point, this Court will need to decide whether governments that distribute historic preservation funds may deny funds to religious organizations simply because the organizations are religious.” Justices Alito and Gorsuch joined in his statement.