The United Methodist Church’s highest court gathers for its semiannual meeting in Baltimore on Wednesday, as the denomination confronts a growing movement of defiant clergy members opposed to church doctrine on gays and unwilling to back down.
“Martin Luther King said there are risks when you stand up to unjust laws,” said Ogletree, 80, an ordained elder in the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s collection of law and doctrine, forbids the ordination of “avowed” homosexuals and bans clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages or holding such ceremonies in its churches.
As a boy growing up, Joanna Maria Cifredo wasn’t like her brothers.
“My brothers looked at females because they wanted to be with a female,” Cifrado says, in new video resource by the Human Rights Campaign that premiered Oct. 1. “I looked at females more like, ‘Oh, I wish I was her.’ ”
Now, Joanna has decided to physically identify as a woman full time.
Her voice joined many others in Before God: We are All Family, a new film focused on the experiences of Latina LGBT people. She also participated, along with her mother Maria Vega-Cifredo, in a discussion panel that included the filmmaker at the first public viewing of the resource at the GALA Hispanic Theater in Washington, D.C.
Focusing on the important role family and faith play in Latino communities, the video resource is the newest component to a bilingual discussion guide produced by the HRC and the National Latina/o LGBT Human Rights Organization, among others. The organizations developed the guide with the aim of helping Latinos have a conversation about faith and LGBT inclusion.
The guide, written by Rev. Dr. Miguel A. de la Torre, with help from Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera and Lisbeth Melendéz Rivera, gathers 14 testimonies into six chapters, each with stories, questions, and exercises focused on what it means to be LGBT and Latina. Inside the guide, created in 2011, are sections on family, the gift of our bodies, the Bible, and solidarity.
In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings, and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod — two rabbis were charged in New Jersey in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces.
Two others were also charged in the case, which grew out of an undercover sting operation involving a female FBI agent who posed as a member of the Orthodox community seeking a divorce.
As many as six others may also be charged, officials said.
A California Christian university has asked a professor who was once its chair of theology and philosophy to leave after he came out as transgender.
Heather Clements taught theology at Azusa Pacific University for 15 years, but this past year, he began referring to himself as H. Adam Ackley. “This year has been a transition from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man,” he said.
Ackley, who is in his third year of a five-year contract at a school that does not use the tenure system, said university policies seem to be silent about transgender issues, except that “Humans were created as gendered beings.”
Abercrombie & Fitch will change its “look policy” and allow employees to wear hijabs after a three-year legal battle with two Muslim women was settled out of court.
The settlement requires Abercrombie to report religious accommodation requests and discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for three years, and includes $71,000 in compensation for the two women. The settlement also averts a Sept. 30 trial.
Abercrombie fired Umme-Hani Khan, a stockroom worker in its San Mateo, Calif., store, in 2010 for refusing to work without her religious headscarf. Khan, who had worked at the store for four months without incident, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC, which sued the retailer in 2011.
The Baby Veronica case, named for the girl at the center of a contentious child custody dispute, has stirred powerful emotional responses from many groups, including some Christian evangelicals.
Motivated by their faith in God and a distrust of federal Indian policies, a few evangelical organizations are campaigning to abolish the federal Indian Child Welfare Act at the heart of the dispute.
Congress enacted the law in 1978 to address the abuses that separated Indian children from their families through adoption or foster care. The law gives related tribes a preference in custody proceedings involving Indian children.
Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s best-known and outspoken atheists, has provoked outrage among child protection agencies and experts after suggesting that recent child abuse scandals have been overblown.
In an interview in The Times magazine on Saturday, Dawkins, 72, he said he was unable to condemn what he called “the mild pedophilia” he experienced at an English school when he was a child in the 1950s.
Referring to his early days at a boarding school in Salisbury, he recalled how one of the (unnamed) masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts.”
He said other children in his school peer group had been molested by the same teacher but concluded: “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”
Looking back over five decades, the evidence is clear that everything has changed. We elected black mayors in the South and fought to end apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years and became president of South Africa. Segregation was outlawed and black people began to enjoy better lives.
But new challenges, including HIV/AIDS, drugs and gun violence, undermine our progress. We’ve come a long, long way, but we still have a long, long way to go. For too many young people, the “movement” is distant history. But we see a new birth of energy around the criminal justice system and voting rights. We take great pride in the fact that black youth overwhelmingly helped elect the first black president. We have come to the end of our tolerance of the killing and demonization of young black men — it is the most pernicious holdover from an ugly past.
Mary Priniski wrote in the August 2013 Sojourners magazine about churches responding in solidarity with garment workers, disproportionately women, after the terrible fires in Bangladesh’s garment factories. Now, a global church alliance has been established. Ekklesia reports:
[The alliance] provides an action plan for grassroots campaigning, and a letter for consumers to send to their retailers demanding improvements to the pay and working conditions of garment workers. Real-life stories from garment workers in Bangladesh also highlight the oppression they face and the struggle to survive.
Licensed therapists are banned from using conversion therapy to try to change a child’s sexual orientation from gay to straight under a bill Gov. Chris Christie signed Monday, making New Jersey the second state to prohibit the practice.
But a national Christian legal group that blocked an identical law from taking effect in California earlier this year vowed to sue New Jersey, saying the legislation violates the First Amendment rights of parents and therapists.
The new law prevents any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker or counselors related to these professions from using sexual orientation change efforts with a children under age 18.
On this World Humanitarian Day, Kid President thinks the world needs more hugs. What about you? Join SoulPancake + the United Nations as they host a Google hangout from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PST today to chat about what the world needs more of.
Support for a Roman Catholic high school teacher fired for marrying his same-sex partner continued to grow Monday as the number of people signing an online petition topped 58,000 people.
Ken Bencomo taught English at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendora for 17 years. He was fired last month after an article in the Southern California newspaper Inland Valley Daily Bulletin published a story and video about his wedding.
Bencomo, 45, and his husband, Christopher Persky, 32, were one of the first gay couples to marry on July 1, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.
Jerry Argetsinger never felt a twinge of tension between being gay and being Mormon.
Nobody talked about homosexuality in his Oregon congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was growing up in the 1960s. Nobody asked him about his attractions. Nobody made cruel or even not-so-subtle comments about him. Nobody made him feel guilty.
It came as a bit of a shock, then, when Argetsinger was beginning his sophomore year at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University in 1965 and heard university President Ernest L. Wilkinson say that the school didn’t want any gays on campus.
Opponents of Obamacare like to talk about how long it takes to get a hip replacement in, say, Canada —even though the Affordable Care Act is nothing like the Canadian health plan. Let's put this in perspective. How about a system that charges so much that some middle-class insured people can't afford a hip replacement at all?
... Unless they fly to a Western European country with "socialized" medicine and pay out-of-pocket?
Check out this story about Michael Shopenn, a man whose artificial hip was manufactured in Warsaw, Indiana, a "global center of joint manufacturing." Shopenn, who had health insurance, could not get coverage for a hip operation because his insurer deemed it a pre-existing condition (note: that should no longer be a problem under the ACA). So he ended up flying to Belgium.
In some African countries, tribes have shunned circumcision because it was seen as a Muslim practice or was simply considered primitive.
“We thought they were born differently and had to reconfigure the way they were,” said African Chief Jonathan Eshiloni Mumena.
So the tribal chief was not prepared for his son’s declaration that he wanted to get circumcised.
The King Center is urging communities around the world to participate in a bell-ringing ceremony next month to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech.
King Center officials say they have reached out to all 50 governors and to cities across the globe asking them to participate in the bell ringing at 3 p.m. ET on Aug. 28, or at 3 p.m. in their respective time zones.
“My father concluded his great speech with a call to ‘let freedom ring,’ and that is a challenge we will meet with a magnificent display of brotherhood and sisterhood in symbolic bell-ringing at places of worship, schools and other venues where bells are available from coast to coast and from continent to continent,” said Bernice King, King’s daughter and CEO of the King Center.
The British government plans to investigate whether other Jews were denied employment benefits after an Orthodox Jew who refused to work on the Sabbath won a landmark appeal.
Jacob Slinger, a 19-year-old who lives in Greater Manchester, won an appeal against the Department of Works and Pensions after he’d been denied a jobseeker’s allowance of 56.80 pounds ($86.67) a week because he refused to work on Saturdays. He told the tribunal he had to rely on the generosity of his grandmother to survive.
After listening to his case, tribunal judge David Hewitt ordered the DWP to pay Slinger 1,500 pounds ($2,288) in benefits and called on other Jewish people who had been denied benefits to come forward.
An Austrian priest who’s been banned from speaking at Roman Catholic churches during his three-week U.S. tour said Pope Francis could be an ally in reforming the Catholic Church, but said it will take more than the pope to open the priesthood to married men and women.
The Rev. Helmut Schuller, founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, has been drawing crowds of several hundred people with his call for greater participation from the church’s lay “citizens” and a married priesthood.
“We are trying to open the church to a real approach to modern society,” Schuller said Monday in a speech at the National Press Club. “There are a lot of questions to our church in these times, and the answers are really old-fashioned.”