Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

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On Darwin Day, Evolution Debate Is Still Evolving

In 2005, a federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” — the idea that life is so complex it must have involved some sort of supernatural creator — isn’t science, but religion in disguise.

Science educators heralded the decision, and many thought it spelled the end of creationism in public schools.

They were wrong.

Phoenix Opts for Silence Over Prayers at Public Meetings

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The city of Phoenix has decided to replace prayer at its public meetings with a moment of silence. The move comes after a representative from the Satanic Temple was approved to say a prayer, or invocation, before a council meeting scheduled for Feb. 17.

'The Birth of a Nation' Takes Sundance by Storm

Screenshot via sff/Youtube

Reserve the hashtag #Oscarssoblack for next year’s awards. That’s because if viewer response is any indication, “The Birth of a Nation,” an independent biopic about a black slave, preacher, and rebel-leader, seems destined for Academy Award nominations in 2017.

 

Atheist Seeks Removal of 'God' From U.S. Currency — Again

Image via Sally Morrow/RNS

A California atheist who once argued against the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court has launched a federal legal challenge to the phrase “In God We Trust” on American currency. Michael Newdow , 62, a Sacramento-based emergency-room doctor, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strip reference to God from paper money and coins in an Ohio court earlier this month. Newdow claims the motto is a violation of his religious freedom.

New Director of Secular Group Identifies as 'Unaffiliated Christian,' Aims to Reach 'Nones'

Larry Decker. Image via Secular Coalition for America/RNS

The Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group with atheist, humanist and other nonbeliever member organizations, has hired a Christian as its new executive director. Larry Decker, 40, was raised in an independent Baptist church but now identifies as a “none” — one of the 23 percent of Americans who say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. Like the majority of nones, Decker is not an atheist; he still identifies as a Christian, albeit a nominal one.

Is the Star of Bethlehem for Real?

Tree lighting ceremony in Bethlehem. Image via REUTERS / Ammar Awad / RNS

The Star of Bethlehem is the name given to an event in the night sky that the Gospel of Matthew says heralded the birth of Jesus. Three wisemen — or magi, or kings — come to King Herod and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

New Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Guidelines Provoke Feeling of Whiplash

Image via Jim Urquhart / REUTERS / RNS

Gay marriage is now the law of the land and, increasingly, a line in the sand conservative churches say they will not cross.

The latest is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Nov. 5, it issued new guidelines, saying Mormons in same-sex relationships will face possible excommunication and their children will not be permitted to join the church until they are 18 — and then only if they reject their parents’ relationship.

The new policies make the LDS church, with about 15 million members globally, the largest Christian denomination to enact such a formal — and some say draconian — policy. Children of same-sex couples are effectively denied baptism and other ordinances of the church.

“I am sure everyone feels regret about this,” said D. Michael Quinn, a scholar who was excommunicated by the LDS church in 1993 but still considers himself a Mormon.

“The leaders who have instituted this have done so without any relish. They have done so with regret. All Mormons down the line will look at it as regrettable.”

Evangelical Pastor to Peers: 'Don't Kill a Muslim'

Image via Cascade Books / Wipf and Stock Publishers / RNS

When a half-dozen activists and community leaders sat down to address interfaith relations in the increasingly diverse heartland city of Nashville, Tenn., one paused before his turn to speak, took a breath and said:

“As a white, male, evangelical pastor on this panel, I guess I represent everything that is wrong.”

The speaker, Joshua Graves, the 36-year-old senior pastor of Otter Creek Church, an 1,800-member suburban megachurch, had a point. Evangelicals like him have had a rocky relationship with American Muslims.

But then again, he may also represent everything that could be right in Christian-Muslim understanding.

Modern Orthodox Judaism Says 'No' to Women Rabbis

Image via Eric Thayer / REUTERS / RNS

Women who would be Orthodox rabbis were handed a major setback Oct. 30 when the highest religious body for Modern Orthodox Jews ruled against their ordination.

The Rabbinical Council of America officially prohibited the ordination of women, or the use of the term “rabbi” or “maharat” for women, in what it described as a direct vote of its membership.

The prohibition comes six years after the founding of a yeshiva, or religious school, for women in New York City. The school, Yeshivat Maharat, has ordained less than a dozen women who use the honorific “maharat” instead of rabbi and has placed graduates and interns at 17 Orthodox synagogues in the U.S. and Canada.

Parliament of World's Religions Convenes in Mormon Country — At Last

Image via Jim Urquhart / REUTERS / RNS

When the World’s Parliament of Religions first met in Chicago in 1893, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and even Spiritualists prayed together.

But Mormons were kept out.

What a difference 122 years make. On Oct. 15, when the Parliament of the World’s Religions — a slight adjustment of the name was made a century after the first meeting — convenes in Salt Lake City, it will not only feature a slate of Mormon voices, it will sit in the proverbial lap of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its global headquarters only a five-minute walk away.

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