This week Rev. Teresa Hord Owens was elected General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), becoming the first African-American woman installed as head of a denomination (although there have been moderators like Belva Brown Jordan, leading pastors, and bishops of other denominations over the decades).

Much can and should be made of the firsts represented by her election.

Avery Davis 7-13-2017

We will need both lament and hope to cope with the existential crisis of climate change. Go read New York Magazine writer David Wallace-Well’s piece for your dose of lament. Then read the stories below for a briefing on where to look for hope.

Abby Olcese 7-12-2017

Image via The Big Sick trailer 

But really, the best performance in the film belongs to Nanjiani —no surprise, since it’s partly his own story. The affection he feels for his parents makes him afraid to upset them, but to really come into his own as a person, and as a comedian, he has to be honest with them about what he wants for his life.

John Carr 7-12-2017

Health care activists with Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress protest in opposition to the Senate Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill, June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
 

As Congress returns and as leaders of the Senate and House continue their desperate search for ways to pass their health and budget proposals, I have one simple question for those whose votes will decide these matters: Is this really why you came to Washington, to take health care from the sick and food from the hungry?

Jazmine Steele 7-12-2017

America as a largely Christian nation is under scrutiny for its values and integrity. It’s an interesting time to be a person committed to faith in action. How does Christian faith inspire a response to these chaotic times? 

Kaitlin Curtice 7-12-2017

It is a scary thing to let the ones who have been at the bottom rise to the top.
It’s scary when privilege begins to lose.
It’s scary when those that have been “other” for so long get a place at the table.
It’s scary when things get uncomfortable and messy.

But then, that’s Kingdom.

Sam Codington 7-11-2017

If we have learned anything from the past several decades, healing from a 500-year heritage of slavery will take more than a generation or two. I am humbled when I think of this because I realize that the relentless, demonic agony inflicted for 500 years will not be undone or healed by a single generation. My body will have flitted through the breeze as dust many times over once this 500-year heritage has been unwound and restitched. Healing takes more than just time.

Image via RNS/Carlo Allegri/Reuters

In the midst of a raging discussion about what it means to be American, it is worthwhile to reflect on the profound ambivalence of American civil religion — perhaps the most powerful force for creating a shared national identity.

In 1967, Robert N. Bellah’s seminal essay, “Civil Religion in America,” created a template for how both the right and the left defined civil religion to cultivate a sense of belonging, particularly in an era of turbulence. During this period of increasing polarization, Bellah’s words are more relevant than ever.

Mihee Kim-Kort 7-10-2017

The focus of [Jas Singh]'s farm is not production, but invitation — to allow all manner of flesh-and-blood to participate in the mysterious and divine but simple work of God’s kingdom — one where everyone who is fed, and those who typically don’t have the means to provide actually find they have an abundant harvest to share with their neighbor. It is a way to radically engage in leveling the field for all to give, receive, and partake in a way that doesn’t match our unjust economic structures.

Joe Kay 7-07-2017

Liberty and freedom aren’t fancy words or individual guarantees. They’re a process that requires everyone’s participation. We can’t have liberty and justice for all until we’re willing to see the injustice and the lack of liberty all around us, and commit ourselves to doing something about it.

Adam Ericksen 7-07-2017

President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, in Warsaw, Poland July 6. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
 

The United States is exhibiting all the symptoms of a nation in a death spiral. We see the evidence everywhere, but the crisis extends beyond the U.S. I don’t agree with Donald Trump very often, but he’s right about one thing. At the beginning of his European trip, he said in Poland, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive."

Abby Olcese 7-06-2017

Nick Hamm, director of ' The Journey'  

Olcese: In the creation of the film, did you find yourself sympathizing with one character or the other? Was one character easier to make more sympathetic?

Hamm: No. I couldn’t. I absolutely wanted to make the film balanced and fair to both sides. That was completely essential. Don’t forget, both these figures were not liked in Europe before they became statesmen. They were both radical. McGuinness was an ex-member of the IRA, Paisley was a firebrand preacher on the right. These were two men who were pretty much despised universally outside of their own base. It’s like The Odd Couple in the back of a car. I think what the humanity of that is when you take all that away, when you remove from the politician the artifice, and you get a chance to look at them as people, and I think that’s what happens in the movie.

Abby Olcese 7-06-2017

Image via The Journey trailer 

Unfortunately, the script, by writer Colin Bateman often tends toward the bland, with the exception of a couple of pivotal scenes. Both Paisley and McGuinness were big, powerful personalities, with many facets to explore. The script, however, takes what could be a truly interesting exploration of two dynamic characters, and often reduces them to a pair of old men arguing in the back of a car. There are some standout moments where beliefs are challenged and moments of real emotional honesty are reached, but it takes some waiting to get there.

For the brilliant theologians who teach and research at seminaries or divinity schools, part of their work is training the next generation of future pastors for church leadership. Catholic and many Protestant church leaders have received a thorough theological education (though not all). They possess Masters and Doctoral degrees that solidify their ability to grasp the tenets of theology. But for those theologians interested in changing the world for the better, they must offer work that is easily understood by the masses, especially the marginalized population they are seeking to assist.

Andrea Syverson 7-06-2017

In Zuckerberg’s mind, the days of institutions like “churches and Little Leagues” are over. Using Facebook’s new artificial intelligence software, the social media giant can organize its users into groups that will serve the same purpose.

While Zuckerberg missed some important purposes a church community serves, he was right about one thing: Christians are leaving their traditional, brick-and-mortar churches — in droves.

I have never been in a church that failed to recognize the missional nature of faith. But I have also never been in a church that sought to systematically uproot the sources of oppression that caused the need for mission in the first place. If being a disciple means following Christ, then it means following him in his life’s work to invert the power structures of the world.

Guy Nave 7-05-2017

This year, America celebrates 241 years as a nation. And while racial and ethnic oppression has been a defining characteristic of the nation since the first colonists landed on the shores of this land, I hold out hope that because of her youth, America can change course.

Celia Riley 7-05-2017

Jason Chaffetz. 
Via personaldemocracy / Flickr.com

I have spent the majority of my career working for Republican and conservative organizations. Trust me when I say this is not about political party. This is about public service and deeper than that, a heart issue of how we view “entitlements” in this country.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) officially resigned last week, and we should all rejoice in his decision to step down. Over the course of his eight years in Congress, Chaffetz has become everything citizens should be weary of: A politician who is paid $174,000 plus generous benefits, including a health care subsidy, complains about not having enough money, and proposes taxpayers cover more perks.

Kaitlin Curtice 7-03-2017

We pass our indifference down generation to generation. To fix that, it is not that we create a generation of religious zealots, but we raise up young people who are aware of the world around them, who are not blanketed by their privilege, who learn to take hold of what God has given them instead of complaining about it. We raise our children to ask questions, to live in love, to value human life and our created world in every country, in every situation.

Menachem Wecker 6-29-2017

Image via Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

The book’s text and photographs, which profile 15 Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities, collectively demonstrate what Patel views as “something that I believe cities all over the United States and the world should seek to emulate.”

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