Bishops have voiced scepticism over Biden’s viewpoints, distancing themselves from the incoming president.
Texas bishop Joseph Strickland went further than most on Friday (19 November) as he tweeted: “As a bishop I beg Mr Biden to repent of his dissent from Catholic teaching on abortion and marriage for his own salvation and for the good of our nation.
“He aspires to the highest office in our land and must be guided by the truth God has revealed to us. I pray for him to find truth.”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops also had icy words for Biden.
Los Angeles archbishop José Gomez, head of the body, said: “For only the second time, we are anticipating a transition to a president who professes the Catholic faith. This presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges.
“The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies of immigration reform, refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change.
“He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics.”
Gomez cited Biden’s support for the Equality Act, which would amend civil rights laws to outlaw discrimination against LGBT+ people.
The archbishop insisted: “These policies pose a serious threat to the common good whenever any politician supports them. We have long opposed these polices strongly and we will continue to do so.
“When politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them there are additional problems, and one of the things it creates confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.”
It is possible that church leaders could take the provocative stance of ordering that Biden should be denied holy communion, as some archbishops have previously for politicians who support equal marriage and abortion.
Thomas Groome, a theology professor at Boston College, said it is likely that conservative bishops would push for the measure, even though polling suggests Biden’s views are shared by the majority of US Catholics.
He told AP that the archbishop’s statement was “dreadfully unfortunate” and said the bishops “should be helping bring us together rather than driving us apart”.
Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions was taken out of context, Vatican officials have claimed as they sought to clarify that the church does not support LGBT+ rights.
The Pope’s comments featured in the documentary Francescodid not signal a change in church doctrine, neither did they support a wider endorsement of marriage equality, according to guidance issued to apologetic ambassadors by the Vatican secretariat of state.
Vatican nuncio to Mexico, Franco Coppola, posted on Facebook Friday (October 31) unsigned guidance which claims that the pontiff’s remarks were “edited” and lacked “proper contextualisation”.
In the guidance, the Vatican says that the Pope was referring to his position in 2010 when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
They said that the quote itself was not recent and was taken from a May 2019 interview that was never broadcast. The church claimed two of Francis’ answers were spliced together in Francesco.
More than a year ago, during an interview, Pope Francis answered two different questions at two different times that, in the aforementioned documentary, were edited and published as a single answer without proper contextualisation, which has led to confusion,” the guidance said.
Pope Francis praised for endorsing same-sex civil unions. Not quite, the Vatican clarifies.
Francesco made global headlines when it released an interview with the Pope in which he endorsed same-sex civil unions. The remarks were hailed by LGBT+ advocates but startled many religious leaders, prompting furious attempts to undermine them.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family,” Pope Francis said in the interview. “They are children of God and have a right to a family.
“Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.”
According to the Vatican guidance, Francis was referring to parents with queer children and the need not to kick them out or discriminate against them.
The second part of his remarks – “What we have to create is a civil union law, that way they are legally covered, I stood up for that” – was again skewed, the guidance claimed.
It was him reiterating his position from nine years ago, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Vatican claimed.
“It is clear that Pope Francis was referring to certain state provisions and certainly not the doctrine of the church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years,” the guidance said.
It had already emerged that the Pope’s comments were cherry-picked from a 2019 interview with Mexican television station Televisa.
But despite his apparent passion for religion, when Pompeo paid a visit to the Vatican this week, he was unceremoniously rejected for a meeting with the Pope.ADVERTISING
According to Reuters, on Wednesday (30 September), the day before he was set to meet with Vatican officials, Pompeo spoke at the US embassy to the Holy See and denounced China’s record on religious freedom.
In an article and series of tweets in September, Pompeo criticised the Catholic Church for working with Beijing to appoint Chinese bishops, claiming Vatican officials were putting their “moral authority at risk”.
An outspoken Christian preacher and activist is accusing his daughter’s school of violating her First Amendment rights by forcing her to change out of a shirt proclaiming that “homosexuality is a sin.” He is contemplating legal action. Brielle Penkoski, the daughter of Rev. Rich Penkoski, attends Livingston Academy, a public high school in Livingston, Tennessee. During the school day on Tuesday, Aug. 25, she was allegedly asked to change out of a black T-shirt shirt bearing white letters asserting that “homosexuality is a sin.”
The shirt references the New Testament passage of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. When she refused to change out of the shirt, she was sent home from school, her father told The Christian Post in a recent interview. Penkoski, who regularly speaks out in opposition to things like homosexuality and Drag Queen Story Hour events, runs an organization called Warriors for Christ, which describes itself as a “pre-denominational ministry” that has a global online presence.
The Trump administration is siding with religious leaders who ordered a Catholic school in Indiana to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage, saying the church’s actions are protected by the First Amendment.
In a 35-page amicus brief filed on Tuesday, the Department of Justice argued that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis — which fired gay high school teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott last year — is, like other religious employers in the U.S., “entitled to employ in key roles only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent” with its “religious precepts.”
In addition, the brief states, the “Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of religious organizations.” Payne-Elliott’s battle with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis started last spring, two years after he married Layton Payne-Elliott, who teaches at a different Catholic high school in Indianapolis.
Rivky strolled through the Zara store in Manhattan’s fashionable SoHo neighborhood, one eye examining the racks of skirts and blouses and the other looking out for anyone she might know. She was looking for something that would fit her broad frame. Rivky made her way to the women’s dressing room line, dresses and skirts piled on her forearms. The female attendant looked confused and then chuckled. Why was this male-presenting person — wearing traditional Hasidic Jewish men’s attire — walking into the fitting room with women’s clothing?
Rivky, 41, is not your typical gender-conforming religious observer. Her white dress shirt, black vest and black slacks — the daily dress code for Hasidic men — serve as culturally acceptable covers for the bra and women’s underwear she frequently wears underneath. She feels her best when dressed in women’s attire, and at home she regularly strips down to just a bra, panties and nylon tights when she knows her wife will not be back for hours.
“It makes me feel like I want to dance for joy,” said Rivky, who asked that her full name not be published because she is not out to friends and family about her gender identity.
“If you take a magnifying glass and look into my heart, you will see 100 percent I am a girl.”
Rivky identifies as transgender but deeply buries these emotions and feelings away from her ultra-Orthodox community in Borough Park, Brooklyn. She fears that if she were to come out of the proverbial closet, she would face social expulsion or, worse, abandonment by her wife and four children. While there is no set Hasidic policy regarding those who come out as transgender, the community’s strict code of living does not condone even the slightest deviation from the Hasidic norm.
Neither biblical nor rabbinical literature points to changing one’s sex, but the Torah does discuss cross-dressing, said Rabbi Ethan Witkovsky of Park Avenue Synagogue, a prominent Conservative congregation in New York.
Deuteronomy 22:5 reads, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”
Witkovsky said some rabbinical teachings might support the literal translation of this verse, while others would interpret it otherwise.
From a young age, Rivky was in tune with her womanhood, but always in secret. As a child, she mirrored her sisters and female cousins, and she dressed like a girl when she had the chance. When her mother was away, Rivky, as young as 6 years old, would sneak into dresser drawers and try on her mother’s undergarments. They were large on Rivky’s child-size body but nonetheless “amazing,” she recalled with a smile.
When she grew older, Rivky ventured to women’s stores outside her community and glanced around the racks, wistfully. She was ashamed to admit her presence and found herself telling salespeople that she was shopping for her mother or sister. That prevented her from entering fitting rooms to try on clothes, denying her the satisfaction she craved.
“I should’ve been born a girl,” she said.
Despite temptations, Rivky kept her desires clandestine, believing they were sinful thoughts that needed to be purged.
“I would pray to God, ‘Take this away from me,'” she recalled.
But the more she pushed her womanhood away, the stronger her feminine wishes would return. Rivky continued to fight them off and kept to tradition when the Hasidic community arranged her marriage at 18. More than two decades and four children later, concealing her true identity left Rivky feeling incomplete. Only in the past 10 years has she realized that the only way to make peace with herself is to embrace those thoughts. Her urge to be the woman she has always wanted to be — after decades of hiding — grew stronger and stronger.
“I wanted to take off my beard,” she said. “I wanted to grow my hair.”
Rivky’s face glowed under tangled facial hairs when she discussed how she wants to take hormones some day. She also dreams of growing her hair long and styling it. She does, however, already shave her legs and chest hair from time to time, she confessed.
In small and subtle ways, Rivky increasingly started to express her gender identity, while keeping her friends and relatives in the dark. Her wife, however, had her suspicions and conveyed her disapproval. The couple have not discussed Rivky’s identity as a transgender lesbian, but Rivky said she knows that if she were to come out, she would lose her wife and children.
While coming out to those within her religious community is still a bridge too far for Rivky, she has taken steps to open up to those outside her Hasidic circle.
On a recent Sunday, Rivky attended a monthly feminist gathering in Brooklyn called Sacred Space, which celebrates and empowers women of all and no religious backgrounds. Women of various ages flashed smiles, exchanged hugs and gathered in a large circle around pastel furniture at the meeting room in the borough’s trendy DUMBO neighborhood. Attendees began introducing themselves, and Rivky, dressed in slacks and a dress shirt with her long curly sidelocks falling from her balding head, spoke up.
“If you take a magnifying glass and look into my heart, you will see 100 percent I am a girl,” Rivky announced in a Yiddish accent. She attended the event to see the co-host, Abby Stein, an openly transgender woman who was once an ultra-Orthodox rabbi. Rivky listened to Stein attentively, admiring her courage and openness, and then ducked out of the meeting early, as confidentiality was a concern.
Rivky yearns to assimilate into a larger society that extends beyond Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community, and without blowing her cover, she relies on Facebook as an outlet. Hasidic Jews typically do not use social media, but Rivky’s account is disguised, and it is strictly used for expressing her womanhood. Her Facebook cover image is of a rainbow flag with the words “love is love,” and her profile photo is of a polished woman’s hand holding a red rose. Her tag line reads, “A transgender girl who appreciates seeing a smile on her friends lips when they are painted hot red!”
An estimated 1.4 million adults identify as transgender in the United States, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, although it is unknown how many trans Americans, like Rivky, are not open about their gender identities. For those who do come out, living openly is not without its challenges: According to the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, transgender people often face discrimination in housing, employment and health care, among other hurdles.
Stein, 28, is no stranger to the challenges of both the proverbial closet and coming out as transgender in the Hasidic community. A former rabbi, Stein said she struggled with her gender identity since she was at least 5 years old, recalling anger toward her parents at the time for not letting her wear dresses and telling her mother that the genitalia she was born with “doesn’t belong there.”
Stein was born into a large family of 12 children, and she socialized with no one outside her close-knit Hasidic circle in Brooklyn growing up. She divorced her wife, pursued a secular education and then came out as transgender in 2015. Stein was ostracized by her religious community, and her ex-wife severed ties, as well, because Hasidic leaders forbade their remaining in contact. She does, however, get to visit with her son from time to time. Now, five years after having left the community, she still savors the freedom fueled by that difficult decision.
“Even sometimes just waking up in the morning and walking in the streets you can be yourself,” she said. “Being yourself every day is really powerful. I can’t overstate that enough.”
She finds value in the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life rather than be confined to one group that shares the same religious and cultural values.
“I could never form strong friendships before I came out,” she said, adding that now, after having traveled to six continents and becoming friends with diverse groups of people, that aspect of her life is thriving. Over the past few years, Stein has become a global LGBTQ rights activist and has given lectures in more than 20 countries, hoping to inspire courage, resilience and inclusion. Her autobiography, “Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman,” was released in November.
But while Stein has found beauty and inspiration in her expanded world, the loneliness that comes from the loss of her Hasidic friends and family still creeps in from time to time. Stein said that for years after she was shunned by her religious community, she would call her mother every Friday, even though her mother would avoid answering the phone or answer and immediately hang up when she realized Stein was on the other end of the line. Stein called less frequently, reaching out only on holidays, and eventually she stopped calling altogether.
“Being yourself every day is really powerful. I can’t overstate that enough.”
The fear of alienation and losing her family is what kept Rivky on guard during her SoHo shopping trip. But despite the uneasiness, the experience was a mini-vacation, because her wife was out of town.
“Just walking into this environment makes me feel womanized, girlish,” she said while walking into Club Monaco.
“I like heels. Something pointy,” she said before settling on a pair of pink pumps at a nearby shoe store. Her size was not available, but that did not stop her from squeezing what she could of her foot into the shoe and admiring the dainty look in the mirror.
Rivky abides by social distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she said the most difficult part has been the lockdown on self-expression. Her family is home more than usual now, which means bras, panties and other expressions of her gender identity are relegated to their own version of quarantine.
There’s “very little time to express my feminine self,” she said dejectedly. A quick trip to the market is her excuse to escape the social construct and at least call her non-Hasidic friends to discuss her frustration. Rivky said her fear of “remaining a man” is greater than her fear of contracting a dangerous virus.
Rivky remains caught between two worlds, and she yearns to one day reconcile her inner gender identity with the person she presents outwardly. On some days, she feels that her coming out is closer, but for now, she continues to sneak out for short shopping trips and to message people through her secret Facebook account.
“Keeping the FEMININE flame’s burning and it gets stronger and wider,” she recently wrote on Facebook. “I am getting closer to living my feminine dream.”
A group of hard-right religious-right leaders is hosting “America at the Crossroads: A 911 Call for Pastors,” which will be held at a resort near Dallas, Texas, at the end of the month. The event page describes the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering as “three days of R & R, fellowship, food and training on Black Lives Matter, White Privilege, Critical Race Theory, Cultural Marxism, Covid-19 and the calls for Global Government!” Guests will be welcomed by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
“America at the Crossroads” is being organized by Liberty Pastors, which is led by the Oklahoma-based pastor Paul Blair, a right-wing nullification activist who urges state officials to ignore Supreme Court rulings like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell, the marriage equality ruling. Blair promotes the Christian reconstructionist idea that the Bible does not give the government authority to care for the poor: “There’s nowhere in the Bible where God commands the civil authority to use the sword to take from those who are working hard and then redistribute to those that simply refuse to work.”
Here’s more from the event’s registration page, which describes the event as sold out:
America is in peril! We see rioting in the streets with showing no regard for life or personal property. For the first time in America’s history, we intentionally collapsed our economy over a viral threat originating in Communist Red China. Mayors and Governors are demanding that Churches and businesses close, while abortion clinics, liquor stores and big box stores are open. People are gripped with fear, yet where is the Prophetic voice of Almighty God?
The event shows the extent to which conservative evangelical support for President Donald Trump has further blurred distinctions between what might have once been considered “mainstream” and fringe religious-right groups.
Blair and his clergy colleague Dan Fisher, who is also scheduled to speak at this month’s conference, are both on the organizing committee of Gone 2 Far, an aggressively anti-LGBTQ coalition launched last year with a press conference that smeared advocates for LGBTQ equality, including the late civil rights icon John Lewis.
He has supported anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda, Russia, and around the world. Last year he helped launch an extreme anti-LGBTQ group with comments charging that the transgender movement is really about promoting the “pedophilia agenda.” In 2015, he said homosexuality was worse than murder and genocide and warned that if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, it could lead to the rise of the Antichrist by the end of the year.
Lively recently told WND readers, “Reelecting President Trump is not a political choice but an act of self-defense for every American who loves the Holy Bible and the U.S. Constitution.”
Lively has also called for defiance of public health restrictions on churches, which he says are invalid because the church is a separate “sovereign.” Lively explained in an Aug. 10 WND column:
Government attempts to regulate church attendance and worship practices violate not only the law of our land, the US Constitution, they violate the law above the law, and because of that every Christian pastor should individually be in open defiance of restrictive “mandates” and collectively in active civil rebellion against the state and local governments issuing them.
While other churches and congregations might have acquiesced to the court’s illegitimate authority, I am not bound by their decisions, having newly established my own church totally independent of them. I have not registered First Century Bible Church with the government and have no intention to do so.
As an Ambassador of the Church of Jesus Christ I do not recognize the authority of the Supreme Court — an arm of the state — to legislate from the bench on church/state matters. It retains authority to regulate the state in church/state matters, but not the church.
Scheduled “America at the Crossroads” speakers include the following individuals:
Bob McEwen is a former member of Congress who heads the Council for National Policy, an influential and secretive network of right-wing officials and activist leaders.
E.W. Jackson, right-wing pastor and radio host and Republican nominee for Lt. Gov. in Virginia in 2013, said earlier this year that he sees no substantive difference between American progressives and the totalitarian regime in North Korea. Jackson has warned that a “homovirus” is devastating the family and American society. Jackson promised members of his congregation that God would prevent them from becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus and called Rep. Adam Schiff “treasonous” for suggesting a commission to examine the federal government’s response to the pandemic.
Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz and a religious-right activist, is an anti-LGBTQ zealot who has claimed falsely that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling—which he charged was the work of Satan—legalized marriage “between two men and a horse.” Rafael Cruz had supported his son’s presidential bid by saying that God had raised Ted up and that electing him would spare America from divine judgment. In 2016, he said that President Barack Obama had been trying to take people’s guns away as part of a plan to install a communist dictatorship.
Dan Fisher, who co-pastors Blair’s church, calls for “bringing back the Black Robed Regiment,” a reference to colonial-era pastors who mobilized support for the revolt against Great Britain. He served two terms in the state legislature before running unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 on a platform that including abolishing and criminalizing abortion and asserting state sovereignty to disobey “wrong” Supreme Court rulings. He drew just under 8 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.
Rick Scarborough called AIDS “God’s judgment on a sinful generation” and said that marriage equality is part of Satan’s effort to “destroy this country.” He falsely claimed that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “made it unlawful and illegal for Christians to hold position” in government; years earlier he falsely claimed that the passage of the federal Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Act in 2009 would “criminalize pastors and ordinary citizens who speak out biblically against homosexuality.” At the 2013 Values Voter Summit, he warned that “infidels” in the Obama administration were “hell-bent on silencing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” His Recover America Now has abandoned its plans to hold 75 gatherings across Texas this year and, according to the group’s website, has “entered into a partnership with the Jonathan Project to register and mobilize thousands of Christian Voters across America, targeting with special outreach Texas, Florida and North Carolina.” The Jonathan Project is a voter identification, registration and mobilization effort. RAN has hosted online calls with Jeffress, David Barton, Mat Staver, and others in an effort to maximize conservative Christian turnout this fall. Scarborough hosts a podcast that describes separation of church and state as a “myth.”
When the coronavirus lockdown left a group of transgender sex workers in a beach town near Rome without work, they turned to a local Catholic priest for help to buy food.
But his parish’s resources were already stretched by the health crisis so the priest turned to the cardinal known as “the Pope’s Robin Hood” who runs the Vatican charities. He wired money to the parish for them.
“I don’t understand why this is getting so much attention,” Cardinal Konrad Krajewski told Reuters by phone on Thursday. “This is ordinary work for the Church, it’s normal. This is how the Church is a field hospital.“
Krajewski, whose formal title is “papal almoner,” or distributor of alms, said the sex workers most likely were undocumented, making it difficult for them to seek help from Italian state welfare offices.
“Everything is closed. They don’t have any resources. They went to the pastor. They could not have gone to a politician or a parliamentarian. And the pastor came to us.
“They are really in difficulty because sometimes their passports were taken away by the mafia pimps who control them,” he said. “We follow the gospel.”
Krajewski, at 56, one of the youngest cardinals in the world, said it was what Jesus would have done. And it was not the first time the Polish cardinal has made the news with his sometimes unorthodox ways of distributing the pope’s charities. Last year, he clambered down a manhole, broke a police seal, and re-connected electrical circuit breakers to restore electricity to hundreds of homeless people, many of them immigrants, living in an occupied building in Rome.
Although Krajewski ran afoul of then-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and his anti-immigrant policies, an Italian newspaper dubbed him “The Pope’s Robin Hood.“
Although he tries to shun the limelight, Krajewski has become a minor celebrity in Rome. Since Pope Francis named him to the Vatican charity post in 2013, he became known for dressing down into simple layman’s clothes at night and bringing food to the city’s homeless in a white van.
He has also opened shelters near the Vatican where the homeless can wash, get haircuts, and receive medical care.
Had there been no coronavirus pandemic, America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination would be convening this week for a likely vote to break up over differences on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ pastors.
Instead, the United Methodist Church was forced to postpone the potentially momentous conference, leaving its various factions in limbo for perhaps 16 more months. The deep doctrinal differences seem irreconcilable, but for now there’s agreement that response to the pandemic takes priority.
“The people who are really in trauma right now cannot pay the price of our differences,” said Kenneth Carter, the Florida-based president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops. “What is in our minds and hearts is responding to death, illness, grief, loss of work.”
The conference was to have taken place at the Minneapolis Convention Center starting Tuesday, running through May 15. Instead, bishops are proposing to hold it there Aug. 31-Sept. 10 of next year.
The differences have simmered for years, and came to a head in February 2019 at a conference in St. Louis where delegates voted 438-384 for a proposal strengthening bans on LGBTQ-inclusive practices. Most U.S.-based delegates opposed that plan and favored LGBTQ-friendly options; they were outvoted by U.S. conservatives teamed with most of the delegates from Methodist strongholds in Africa and the Philippines.
In the aftermath of that meeting, many moderate and liberal clergy made clear they would not abide by the bans, and various groups worked throughout 2019 on proposals to let the UMC split along theological lines.
There have been at least four different proposals for how to implement a split.
The most widely discussed plan has a long name — the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation — and some high-level support.
It was negotiated by 16 bishops and advocacy group leaders with differing views on LGBTQ inclusion. They were assisted by renowned mediator Kenneth Feinberg, who administered victim compensation funds stemming from the 9/11 attacks and the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the protocol, conservative congregations and regional bodies would be allowed to separate from the UMC and form a new denomination. They would receive $25 million in UMC funds and be able to keep their properties.
Formed in a merger in 1968, the UMC claims about 12.6 million members worldwide, including nearly 7 million in the United States. Leaders of the various factions have avoided making predictions of how many members might leave for a new denomination.
In hopes of minimizing friction, the protocol calls for a moratorium on enforcement of bans related to LGBTQ issues. Most bishops seem comfortable with that proposal, although Virginia-based Bishop Sharma Lewis approved initial disciplinary proceedings against a pastor in her region who officiated at a same-sex marriage.
There have been tangible benefits for one of the protocol negotiators, the Rev. David Meredith, who entered into a same-sex marriage with his long-time partner while serving as a pastor in Cincinnati.
The bishop of Meredith’s West Ohio region, Gregory Palmer, also served on the protocol team and endorsed the moratorium that freezes ongoing judicial proceedings against Meredith.
“Everything that has been a threat is now in a drawer collecting dust,” Meredith said.
Some conservatives worry that further flouting of the bans will occur ahead of the rescheduled national conference.
“For any clergy to try to use this interim to willfully violate their own vows … would demonstrate an extreme lack of integrity and self-control,” said John Lomperis, who works with the conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy and will be a delegate at next year’s conference.
Lomperis is among a faction of UMC conservatives, now eager to form a new denomination, who worry that bishops supporting LGBTQ inclusion will use the delay to tilt outcomes in their favor during decision-making by regional bodies.
The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, general manager of the conservative Methodist magazine Good News, said he and his allies have heard of instances where liberal pastors were appointed to lead conservative congregations and where small conservative churches were closed.
“We will be vigilant to call out such behavior after the coronavirus crisis passes,” Lambrecht said via email.
Some conservatives complain that the proposed $25 million payment to a new traditionalist denomination is unfairly small.
But the Rev. Tom Berlin of Herndon, Virginia, a supporter of LGBTQ inclusion who served on the protocol team, says the proposal is generous in allowing departing churches to keep their property.
“The majority of the wealth in the UMC is found in the real estate and bank accounts of the local churches,” he said. “The protocol allows them to retain that.”
Berlin says debate over LGBTQ policies “is on the back burner for now.”
“Once we get out of this, we’ll get back to the future of the UMC,” he said. “But now, churches of all varieties are working to respond to this pandemic in positive ways.”
Support for the protocol is far from unanimous, though its backers predict it will win majority support next year. One dissenting faction, known as the “liberationists,” believes the proposal doesn’t go far enough in curbing racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ sentiment within the UMC.
A leaders of that faction, the Rev. Jay Williams of Union Church in Boston, hopes local churches will use the coming year to “innovate and adapt” without awaiting top-down directives.
“I hope that we might claim this moment as an opportunity to courageously confront the systemic oppressions that have plagued our denomination since its beginning,” he said via email.
When the conference does convene, the African delegates will be a key voting bloc. In St. Louis, they were pivotal in approving the strengthened bans on LGBTQ-inclusive practices.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association and one of the protocol negotiators, has met with many African delegates. He says they have pledged support for the protocol, but want some changes – for example, giving them the option of retaining the words “United Methodist” in the name of whatever new traditionalist body they join.
Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone, the lone African among the protocol negotiators, said the proposal was “by no means perfect” but seemed to be the most acceptable option.
In an email, he depicted the pandemic as “a holy call to action from God…. to make make Christian disciples for the transformation of the world.”
Brigham Young University in Utah has revised its strict code of conduct to strip a rule that banned any behavior that reflected “homosexual feelings,” which LGBTQ students and their allies felt created an unfair double standard not imposed on heterosexual couples.
The university is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members that being gay isn’t a sin, but engaging in same-sex intimacy is.
BYU’s revisions to what the college calls its honor code don’t change the faith’s opposition to same-sex relationships or gay marriage. The changes were discovered by media outlets Wednesday.
Students found out Wednesday, too. BYU student Franchesca Lopez, tweeting under the handle @fremlo_, wrote, “It’s confirmed. Gay dating is okay, kissing and hand holding from the mouth of an HCO [Honor Code Office] counselor,” and included a photo of her kissing a friend in front of the campus statue of Brigham Young.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said an email that the updated version of the code aligns with a new handbook of rules unveiled by the faith, widely known as the Mormon church. She didn’t elaborate on the thinking behind the change, saying only that the changes removed “prescriptive language” and “kept the focus on the principles of the Honor Code, which have not changed.”
The faith has tried to carve out a more compassionate stance toward LGBTQ people over the last decade, while adhering to its doctrinal belief that same-sex relationships are a sin.
An entire section in the code that was dedicated to “homosexual behavior” has been removed. The clause that upset people was the part that said “all forms of physical intimacy that that give expression to homosexual feelings” is prohibited.
Students had previously complained about the clause that was eliminated was interpreted to be a ban on gay couples holding hands or kissing. Those behaviors are allowed for heterosexual couples, though premarital sex is banned.
Former BYU student Addison Jenkins had advocated for years for the college to remove the language, which he said codified homophobic ideas. He said he’s glad the section is gone.
“It treats queer students the same as straight students, which is something we have been begging the university for,” said Jenkins, who is gay.
But he said he still has major concerns about how school administrators will implement the change after seeing BYU officials issue a series of tweets late Wednesday afternoon about what the college called some “miscommunication” about what the changes mean.
“The Honor Code Office will handle questions that arise on a case by case basis,” BYU tweeted. “For example, since dating means different things to different people, the Honor Code Office will work with students individually.”
BYU’s Honor Code bans other things that are commonplace at other colleges — including drinking, beards and piercings. Students who attend the university in Provo, Utah, south of Salt Lake City, agree to agreed to adhere to the code. Nearly all students are members of the faith. Punishments for violations range from discipline to suspension and expulsion.
Last year, several hundred students rallied to call on BYU officials to be more compassionate with punishments for honor code violators.
The code was criticized in 2016 by female students who spoke out against the school opening honor-code investigations of students who reported sexual abuses to police. The college changed the policy to ensure that students who report sexual abuse would no longer be investigated for honor code violations.