Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

Emily McFarlan Miller writes for the Religion News Service.

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United Methodists to Hold Special Session on LGBTQ Inclusion in 2019

Image via UMNS/Mike DuBose

The United Methodist Church will hold a special session of its General Conference to settle questions of LGBTQ inclusion that have vexed the global denomination for years.

The announcement came on April 25, the same day the denomination’s highest court held a hearing on whether an openly gay pastor can serve as bishop.

The General Conference, the United Methodist Church’s top legislative body, typically meets every four years. At last year’s meeting in Portland, Ore., it voted to defer all decisions about human sexuality to a specially appointed commission and left the door open for a special session.

Joan Chittister on Humility, Fake News, and Social Media

Images via RNS/Crown Publishing Group

Sister Joan Chittister opens her latest book with the story of Abba Zosimas, a fifth-century monk in Palestine. Abba Zosimas taught his followers, “The soul has as many masters as it has passions.” Chittister wants her readers to look “gently, kindly but clearly,” at those masters and passions in their lives, she said.

Study: Uptick in Worldwide Restrictions on Religion

Image via RNS/Pew Research Center 

A total of 40 percent of surveyed countries registered “high” or “very high” levels of restrictions, according to Pew Research Center’s annual study on global restrictions on religion, released Tuesday. That’s up from 34 percent in 2014, according to the data. The percentage had declined during the previous two years.

Lutheran Refugee Agency Is ‘Cautiously Hopeful’ Following Blocked Immigration Order

Image via RNS/Emily McFarlan Miller

It was her desire to hear the stories of real people — “not just faceless refugees or immigrants” — that brought the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton to a refugee resettlement agency that provides a range of services to refugees in the Chicago area.

“Especially now, when there’s this fear that’s been stirred up, and anti-refugee sentiment, it’s really critical to say, ‘No, these people are our grandparents, our aunts and uncles,” said the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination.

Trump to Speak at Liberty University Commencement

Image via RNS/Reuters/Dave Kaup

The May 13 speech at Liberty’s football stadium in Lynchburg, Va., will be Trump’s first commencement address as president, but it won’t be his first at Liberty, which describes itself as the largest Christian university in the world.

The then-presidential candidate spoke last year at the university’s Convocation, promising, “I will protect Christians,” and famously stumbling over a reference to “Two Corinthians.”

A Battle with Islamophobia

3 Muslim Americans on Their Lives Today

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Nancy Wiechec/ RNS

This wave of Islamophobia has hit hard. Anti-Muslim sentiment was never absent from America. From the time Muslims first came as slaves in the 1600s, there have been times when anti-Muslim attitudes have bubbled over. This is one of those times.

Are We Alone In the Universe?

Throughout the history of theology, Mix said, Christians have swung between the idea that Earth can be the only inhabited planet because God favors humans, and its counterpart, that to assume Earth is the only inhabited planet is the height of human pride because God is limitless and all-powerful.

Christians in the Pew and Pulpit Diverge Over Trump Policies on Refugees

Photo via Craig Hendrickson/ RNS 

A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center suggested a very different view of the presidential actions, especially among white Protestant Christians.

There was strong support among white evangelical Protestants, with more than three-quarters (76 percent) saying they approve of the policies outlined in Trump’s order. Among white mainline Protestants, 50 percent approved.

Many Christians now are asking the question Helena Leffingwell of Arlington, Texas – not a pastor or ministry leader, just a regular member of Gateway Church, a nondenominational megachurch – put into words: “How can we see things so differently?”

Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, A Tribe Called Quest Bring Religion to Grammys

Image via RNS/Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

From the depiction of the divine mother in Beyonce’s imagery to Busta Rhymes’s jab at President Trump’s “Muslim ban,” religion took center stage at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

As he accepted the first award – for best new artist – of the televised broadcast on Feb. 12, Chance the Rapper declared:

“Glory be to God. I claim this victory in the name of the Lord.”

Ken Starr on Shortlist to Head Office of International Religious Freedom

Image via RNS/Robert Rogers/Baylor Marketing and Communications

President Trump is reportedly considering naming former Baylor University President Ken Starr to head the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.

The ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and develops programs to promote religious freedom, according to the State Department website.

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