The Wesleyan Covenant Association, an organized, conservative movement within the United Methodist Church, (meeting in Tulsa) endorsed the so-called Indianapolis Plan for addressing the conflicts within the UMC. It allows for congregations and conferences (regional associations of United Methodist congregations) to decide by majority vote which of several versions of United Methodism they which to join (traditional, centrist, and progressive). At the same time, Union College in Kentucky became the first institution of higher education to formally affiliate with another network within in the denomination, Reconciling Ministries Network whose mission it is to support LGBTQ persons. And out west, the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC has announced they will provide Safe Harbor to all LGBTQ persons including clergy who are under pressure to renounce either their sexual orientation or their ordination.
The U S Conference of Catholic Bishops convened in Baltimore for its annual three-day meeting. They have elected recent vice president Jose Gomez as the new president, to serve a three-year term. Gomez is a Hispanic (Mexican) immigrant who has written forcefully about the treatment of immigrants and those seeking entrance into the United States. Asked about this week’s Supreme Court hearing on the Dreamers (undocumented persons brought here at a young age by their parents), he said: “So we’re praying for the good result of the Supreme Court decision in favor of the possibility of the Dreamers to be in the United States, obviously, in a legal way.” Gomez succeeds Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Houston. Among those not attending is Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the Conference preceding DiNardo, of Louisville, who is in Durham, North Carolina, recovering from cancer-related surgery.
Clarksville and Germantown
Two Southern Baptist Minister are now in the hot seat over accusations of sexual misbehavior. Dr. Wesley Feltner, an adjunct professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville (from which he earned both MDiv and PhD degrees—the latter for a 145-page dissertation!) was removed from consideration by the Pastor Search Committee at the First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Tennessee, when two women came forward and accused him of sexual abuse when he was their youth minister. Another Southern Baptist church in Tennessee, Germantown Baptist, near Memphis, was asked by a women to revoke the ordination of Andy Savage, a Memphis area minister planning to start a new church in the area, claiming he abused her when she was a youth and he was her minister. Both these situations continue the surge of sexual abuse allegations within the Southern Baptist Convention over the last several years.
Kanye West is again in the news—or at least his music is. Last week he released his new CD, entitled “Jesus is King” and this week it registered historic success by topping the sales and play charts in five categories: All Genre, R&B, Rap, Christian, and Gospel. In addition, it is the first album to monopolize all ten slots on both the Hot Christian Songs and Hot Gospel Songs charges. This follows the much-publicized worship tour that has taken West and his entourage of musicians to a series of high-profile black churches throughout the country leading Sunday morning worship services. West has testified to a recent conversion to Christianity, which has also generated much conversation and not a little controversy.
The life and ministry of Mr. Fred Rogers inspired the first ever World Kindness Day this past week. Kindness is a hallmark of both religious and human values, and it was especially a hallmark of Mr. Rogers. Rogers (1928-2003) was an ordained Presbyterian minister, a graduate of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Seminary who claimed Pittsburgh as his home and ministry site. He hosted for fifty years the children’s daytime television program, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. His signature line was “Won’t you be my neighbor?” A movie about the show, starring Tom Hanks, is set to be released this month. People are encouraged to celebrate World Kindness Day by wearing a cardigan sweater, which Rogers did daily on his show, and performing random acts of kindness. It sounds like a very good plan!