MH News March 13, 2019

The highest-ranking female in the Southern Baptist Convention has gone public with her own story of sexual abuse, this time at the hands of a professor at her seminary. Jennifer Lyell, vice president at Lifeway Christian Resources of Nashville, has named Dr. David Sills, then a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, as the person who abused her for more than a decade, beginning when she was attending school there in 2004. Lyell reported this to the seminary president, Al Mohler, in the spring of 2018, after which Sills was quietly and quickly dismissed. He then took a position with Global Outreach International, in New Jersey, from which he has now been terminated.


United Methodist Churches nationwide are going public with their resistance to the decision two weeks ago at a General Conference to sustain the denomination’s resistance to gay marriage and ordination and to stiffen penalties for those ministers, congregations, and conferences that do not comply. Many have adorned their signage, both outdoor and digital, with versions of the rainbow banner that has come to be identified with the gay movement. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC church in the country (Church of the Resurrection in metro Kansas City) has called for resisting churches to join him in creating a version of United Methodism hospitable to gays, either within the current UMC or in another yet-to-be version of United Methodism.


New York
Controversy swirled around Fox News after its popular legal analyst Jeanine Pirro questioned whether U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Michigan should wear the traditional Muslim hijab. Omar wears the headdress as a matter of religious faithfulness including when she was sworn into office after her election last fall. Pirro suggested on air that the attire was inappropriate in America and was “antithetical” to the constitution. The backlash was swift and included a call from the Council on American-Islamic Relations for Fox News to fire Pirro: “Such an open and un-American expression of religious bigotry should be rejected by any media outlet seeking even a modicum of credibility,” said Nihad Awad, their executive director. Fox News rebuked Pirro privately and publicly and apologized to their viewing public.


Washington DC
The Department of Education announced that they will not enforce part of a federal law that limits the distribution of tax dollars to religious institutions simply because they are religious. A letter from the Secretary of Education to the Speaker of the House explained that the law, passed in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson was president, had certain limits which, in the judgment of the U. S Justice Department, now fail to pass constitutional muster in the light of a 2017 Supreme Court decision known as Trinity Lutheran versus Comer that struck down similar restrictions. The secretary wrote: “Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization.”


Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints traveled to Rome and met with Roman Catholic Pope Francis. Church president Russell Nelson and the 14 other men who make up the elder leadership cohort of the group commonly known as Mormons were in Rome for the dedication of their large, new temple. It was the first time leadership of their church had met with a pope and the first time the entire leadership team had met together anywhere outside the United States. Nelson tweeted his assessment: “We have much in common. The differences in doctrine are real and they’re important, but they’re not nearly as important as the things we have in common.”