MH News December 5, 2019

The North Atlanta Church of Christ (Dunwoody) has revised their operational guidelines to affirm that women are now “included in all areas of leading worship, and teaching and service except for the eldership.” This move is part of a small but growing number of the historically restrictive congregations of the conservative Churches of Christ (largely in the region from Ohio through Kentucky and Tennessee into Texas) that are opening many if not most leadership positions to women. This mirrors similar movements in the Southern Baptist Convention and also in the Roman Catholic Church (where, in Germany and Brazil, efforts are underway to expand ordained leadership beyond the traditional priest as a single, celibate male).


New York
The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America has been arrested and charged with financial crimes. Jerry Dimitriou is his name and he was at the center of efforts to raise money to replace the Orthodox church that was destroyed in the 9-11 attack in New York City. The new church, known as the St. Nicholas National Shrine, was projected to cost between $50 million and $80 million. Construction was suspended in 2017 when the archdiocese ran into financial problems. Dimitriou was charged with wire fraud and accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  He is free on $150,000 bail.


The large and influential Fuller Seminary in California has been named in a lawsuit by one of its former students. Joanna Maxon was a few classes shy of earning her MA in theology when she received a letter dismissing her from the school. The school had discovered she was in a same-sex marriage, which is a violation of the school’s code of conduct. Now, Maxon is suing the school, contending that the seminary violated federal rules barring discrimination against students on the basis of sex. Maxon lives in Texas and has taken classes at the Houston campus of the school and also through the seminary’s on-line offerings.


November saw a series of small events that, cumulative, make for a significant story: a traditional focus, a presidential decree, a published book, an authors’ event, and a national holiday, all tied to a fifteenth century royal decree in Rome. November has for decades been recognized as Native American Heritage Month. But President Trump issued a call for November to be National American History and Founders Month. Days later Intervarsity Press published Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. The authors are Mark Charles, a Navajo speaker, and Soong-Chan Rah, a university professor. They led a conversation hosted by Wilson Abbey College in Chicago in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. All of these things deal with the papal decrees of 1452 and 1493 that give “Christian” European explorers permission to claim possession of lands not already occupied by other European powers, regardless of how long native people had lived in the region.


Charleston, Illinois
Social scientist Ryan P. Berge has crunched some important numbers and discovered some unsettling trends in American Christianity: poor people are dropping out of church (and indeed, out of many social networks and organizations). From his post as an instructor in political science at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, Berge draws attention to the trends that over the last 30 years have shown increased social isolation for people at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale. “Consider this’, he writes in an on-line article, “40 percent of individuals who are in the bottom quartile of the income spectrum and engage in few social activities never attend church. That’s twice the rate of someone in the top income bracket who has an active social life.”