Top Ten Religion News Stories of 2012

Catholic bishops testify against Obamacare

According to the Religion Newswriters Association, the top religion news story of the year was the way that religious leaders responded to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. But they’d already voted on their Top 10 prior to that. So, here are the Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year, from the RNA:

1. U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Obamacare requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. The government backs down a bit, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.

2. A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that “nones” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.

3. The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. President Obama, at the U.N., calls for toleration tolerance of blasphemy, and respect as a two-way street.

4. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain, in the U.S. presidential race.

5. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it

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Presbyterians Reject Same Sex Marriage

Yesterday, at their General Assembly, the PC(USA) followed the United Methodists and rejected a proposal to change the definition of marriage in their official book. According to the responses I got on Twitter, some see it at the last stand of older and more conservative Presbyterians, while others think it was a last ditch effort to keep large, white, conservative congregations from leaving for the new ECO denomination. It seems that the oldy-but-goody pedophilia argument came up.

By Associated Press, Published: July 6

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly rejected a proposal to revise the traditional definition of marriage on Friday, a year after it struck down a barrier to ordaining gays.

The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Pittsburgh, voted 338-308 against changing how marriage was defined in the church constitution from a “civil contract between a woman and a man” to a “covenant between two people.” The assembly also rejected measures that would have affirmed a traditional definition of marriage or sought more theological study of the issue.

The AP adds this little dig to the story:

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Watching Denominations Implode

It’s summertime, which means it’s the time for denominations to have their annual clusterf meetings.

The United Methodists already had theirs. At the 11th hour, a deal for new governance, allowing increased participation in denominational affairs for younger clergy, unraveled. They also reaffirmed their stance against gay clergy and gay marriage.

The Presbyterians are currently meeting (for 8 days — seriously, 8 days?!? — over the 4th of July(!)). They don’t seem to want young delegates, and the vice moderator resigned just a few days after her election, citing “pervasive, poisonous activity” in the PC(USA). You see, she solemnized the marriage between two women, in Washington, D.C., where that kind of thing is legal.

And now the Episcopalians have begun their meetings, and they’re arguing about the way that they come up with the budget. The same sex issues are on the agenda for later in the week. Steve Pankey has a valuable post on the generational divide that vexes his denomination, and I think the rest as well.

I’m watching all of this from afar, via the tweets, blogs, and Facebook posts of many dear friends — friends who are committed to these bureaucracies in spite of their sins. I don’t begrudge my friends their loyalties, and I take no joy in the inevitable in-fighting that these denominational meetings engender.

Honestly, I think it’s all pretty sad, and I know it really hurts many people involved. It also costs millions of dollars to have these meetings — money given by earnest church members. Money that could be spent on the mission of the gospel.

Leaving a Denomination with Honor

 

This may be the worst denominational logo ever.

Jason Stellman recently left the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative, Reformed denomination that is the home to the likes of Tim Keller, R.C. SproulTullian Tchividjian. Stellman was an ordained clergyman in the denomination who, from the looks of his resignation letter, took his ordination vows very seriously.

He left, he writes, because of two growing and gnawing doubts. The first:

I have begun to doubt whether the Bible alone can be said to be our only infallible authority for faith and practice, and despite my efforts (and those of others) to dispel these doubts, they have only become more pronounced. In my own reading of the New Testament, the believer is never instructed to consult Scripture alone in order to adjudicate disputes or determine matters of doctrine (one obvious reason for this is that the early church existed at a time when the 27-book New Testament had either not been begun, completed, or recognized as canonical).

And the second:

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