G. Jeffrey MacDonald is an award-winning reporter and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
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Secession Theology Runs Deep in American Religious, Political History
Corruption has gone too far. The righteous must break away. Hope now rests with a holy remnant that will honor foundational texts.
The message sounds familiar. A church schism? No, mounting calls for secession from the United States.
Since President Barack Obama won re-election, more than 750,000 Americans have petitioned the White House website to let their respective states secede, from Alaska to Iowa to Maryland and Vermont. Those leading the charge are framing it, observers say, in terms that suggest a deep-seated religious impulse for purity-through-separation is flaring up once again.
But this time, it’s playing out on a political stage.
“Today's secessionist movements are just the latest example of a long parade of breakaway groups [in American history] seeking to restore some lost ideal,” said Peter J. Thuesen, professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “The problem is that the ideal is invariably a mirage.”
Bishop Gene Robinson Sets Sights on D.C. as Retirement Looms
CONCORD, N.H. -- When V. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2003, his controversial election triggered shock waves and fears of schism across the worldwide Anglican Communion. Hundreds of parishes left the Episcopal Church in protest.
Now, as this lighting-rod figure prepares to retire on Jan. 5, he’s leaving New Hampshire for a city that knows polarization all too well: Washington, D.C.
But rather than throw fuel on the culture wars, Robinson foresees a new role as a bridge builder for a nation strained by divisive issues. First up: helping his new church home, St. Thomas’ Parish in Dupont Circle, found a Center for Non-Violent Communication.
“Our big goal is to change the nature of the debate in Washington,” Robinson said during an interview at his Concord office. “We’re mostly shouting at each other these days. We’d like (the center) to become a place where people can learn about and commit themselves to a different kind of tone.”
After Winning Free Campus, Grand Canyon University Says 'No Thanks'
Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.
Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.
"We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield," Mueller said. "Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area."
The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed.
The Greens, who bought the property in 2009 with plans to give it to a Christian institution, initially offered it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a C.S. Lewis College on the site. But fundraising efforts for the college fell short last year. In January, the Greens began soliciting new proposals, and in September named GCU the recipient.
The other finalist to receive the campus was the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, which later withdrew.
Miss America Uses Platform for Kids of Prisoners
Laura Kaeppeler has a fantasy gig: traveling nonstop, wearing stylish new outfits each day and attracting TV crews in every city she visits as Miss America 2012.
But the glamorous appearances go for a most unglamorous cause. As someone who saw her father hauled off to prison for a white collar crime, Kaeppeler uses her high-profile platform to shine a spotlight on the 2.7 million, largely unseen kids who have an incarcerated parent.
"I feel like I've been called to do this," said Kaeppeler, a 24 year old from Kenosha, Wis. "I believe my life was pre-written and predestined by a higher power before I was born. ... What happened in my past is part of that, and (being) Miss America is part of that."
Vatican Denies Bid to Keep Boston Catholic Churches Open
Groups of Boston-area Catholics who have waged an eight-year battle to block the sale of parish buildings are running out of options as the Vatican has rejected their appeals.
In rulings dated March through May, Rome's Congregation for the Clergy upheld the Archdiocese of Boston's plans to convert six parish buildings from sacred to profane (non-church) use.
Now parishioners, including vigil keepers who've occupied two church buildings round-the-clock since a wave of parish closures began in 2004, must decide whether to appeal one more time to the Vatican's top court.
Churches Tread Lightly on Politics in 2012 Election
With the 2012 election less than six months away, congregations are getting the message that Americans want religion out of politics. But that doesn’t mean they plan to keep mum in the public square.
Instead, they’re revamping how congregations mobilize voters by focusing on a broader set of issues than in the past. Preachers are largely avoiding the political fray, and hot-button social issues are relegated to simmer in low-profile church study groups.
Why? For one, Americans are growing impatient with religious politicking: 54 percent want houses of worship to keep out of politics (up from 52 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 1996), according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Churches seem to be responding.
Mass. Alumni Don’t Want Liberty to Get Free Campus
Rankled at the prospect that "extremist" Liberty University might soon own the campus where they spent their prep school years, alumni of Northfield Mount Hermon School are petitioning to stop it.
In a letter posted Monday (March 5), more than 570 NMH graduates are calling on Mark Chardack, chair of the NMH board of trustees, to help ensure that when the 217-acre property is given away by a wealthy Christian family, it doesn't end up in the hands of a "homophobic and intellectually narrow institution."
"We consider the institutional presence of Liberty University on the Northfield campus fundamentally incompatible with the spiritual breadth, academic depth and community diversity we know and cherish at Northfield Mount Hermon," the letter says.
Where the Heart Is
Socially responsible investing has morphed into a $2 trillion mainstream industry.