MH News July 2, 2020

Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary joined a growing list of schools naming, for the first time, persons of color as their lead executive. Javier A. Viera, a native of Puerto Rico, was named president of the United Methodist school. Other new presidents include Barbara Holmes at United Theological Seminary in Ohio and Angela D Sims at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Kelly Brown Douglas is the Dean at the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary. Valerie Bridgeman is dean at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.


Washington DC
The Supreme Court decided an important case, declaring unconstitutional a Montana law that barred the state from spending tax money to support students at religious schools when, at the same time, they provide similar financial help to other students in private but non-religious schools. The 5-4 ruling penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the four conservative justices—making it an all Catholic decision—broke with more than a century of tradition and opens the door to the tax support of religious schools throughout the nation. Religious organizations cannot not be denied public support just because they are religious in nature.


Washington DC
American Christians are very reluctant to return to public communal worship, according to a new study by the conservative American Enterprise Institute. They surveyed 3,504 people a month ago; almost two thirds of those interviewed were “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” in returning to worship. And more than half of the people whose churches have restarted worship have chosen not to attend. The only group that deviated from this national norm were white Evangelicals; 61% of them—especially the men—expressed strong confidence or some confidence in returning to worship.


On a more personal note, perhaps, I report the passing of Dr. John R. Wimmer, program director in the religion division of the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis. Dr. Wimmer, an ordained United Methodist pastor with a PhD from the University of Chicago, was responsible for distributing more than a half billion dollars in grants to religious organizations around the country. Before his tenure with the Endowment, Wimmer was on the faculty and administration of the University of Indianapolis and, later, helped launch the Center for Congregations, both in Indianapolis. Wimmer died at age 63 after a long battle with cancer.


Christianity Today reports the findings of social scientists associated with the “Religion in Public” platform that a strong majority of American Evangelicals support a much more prominent role for women in church, including as teachers and preachers. This confirms data reported almost a decade ago by the Barna Group. While Evangelical leaders have been sparring over this trend, engaging such people as Beth Moore, John MacArthur, and Albert Mohler, the people in the pew have been quietly moving in the direction of more acceptance of female leadership. While as many as 90% favor a wide range of platform roles, more than 70% support women as Sunday morning preachers. Currently 9% of Evangelical pastors are women, up from 3% in 1992.