MH News July 11, 2019

The president and dean of Methodist-affiliated United Seminary of Dayton, Ohio, issue a call for splitting the United Methodist Church. President Kent Millard, a progressive, and dean David Watson, a conservative, made a public case for ending the impasse in the Church: “The two of us write this article in a spirit both of lament and hope,” they wrote. “We have both come to believe, then, that the best course of action would be for the United Methodist Church to enter a formal process of separation.” They did not lay out any suggestions as to how that “formal process of separation” might work.


New York City
Amy Butler is stepping down at the end of her five-year contract as pastor of The Riverside Church in New York City. Butler, a single mother with three children, came to Riverside Church after 11 years as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC. She was the first female pastor of both the DC and NYC churches. Earlier this year, Butler was honored as the “Pastor of the Decade” by the Academy of Preachers during their annual meeting in Atlanta. Rev. Michael Livingston, the executive minister at the Riverside Church since 2014, will serve as interim minister.


Chapel Hill
Rosa del Carmen Ortez Cruz is one of 44 undocumented immigrants around the country taking refuge from ICE in sanctuaries of sympathetic congregations. While federal authorities have shied away from invading such spaces, they have levied fines against the immigrants who continue to defy orders to leave the United States. Cruz herself received a letter saying she owes more than $300,000. Cruz fled Honduras to escape the dangers of an abusive lover and partner. To justify their failure to obey federal authorities, some Christians are using the “religious freedom” appeal made popular by conservatives wanting to repudiate homosexuals; the government is forcing them, they say, to violate their religious convictions by surrendering undocumented immigrants for prosecution or deportation.


Rome, Italy
Pope Francis named an American woman to a permanent position on the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, a world-wide administrative and supervisory committee overseeing the scores of religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church. She is Sister Kathleen Appler, superior of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Appler, of the St. Louis Province, was elected in 2015 as the first American to hold the position of Superioress General of the order, headquartered in Paris, France. The order includes some 18,000 women serving in 94 countries addressing needs of food, water, sanitation, and shelter plus focused work in health care, education, and migrant and refugee assistance. Appler was one of 21 new appointees (including six other women) to the Congregation.


Stetson Baptist Church of Deland, Florida, took up a special offering and received enough to pay off $7.2 million in medical debt owed by 6,500 people in the five counties in the region. Because companies that buy such debt pay a drastically reduced price, it took only $153,867 to do the job, all of it collected on the 53rd Sunday of the 2018-2019 fiscal year. That offering amount was also enough to fund three foster homes for a year! Stetson got the idea from a church in Kansas, all of which has shed light on other organizations that have done the same, including churches, a nurses’ association, two high school students elsewhere in Florida, and comedian John Oliver.


It was a very busy week in the world of religion: a prominent Pentecostal pastor in California was arrested and charged with sexual crimes; a New York pastor filed a lawsuit claiming that federal authorities put her on a watch list because of her ministry to migrants; the pastor-led Christians United for Israel gathered in Washington DC for their annual meeting; and who knows what else?