Unitarians

New social-media explosion could make news: Should Protestants have women pastors?

New social-media explosion could make news: Should Protestants have women pastors?

THE QUESTION:

Should women be pastors or preachers in U.S. Protestant churches?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

The above issue erupted in recent days among U.S. evangelicals (more on this in a moment). In the interest of full disclosure, the (Protestant) Religion Guy’s personal opinion on this is yes, and in fact his own local congregation has its first female pastor. But as usual “Religion Q & A” intends to provide a non-partisan journalistic survey.

Let’s first note that Catholic and Orthodox tradition bars any realistic prospect of female priests, even as increasing numbers of U.S. Protestant women become ministers. The Association of Theological Schools reports women are 30 percent of the students (mostly Protestants) in member seminaries preparing for the M.Div. professional clergy degree.

With “mainline” Protestants, the Congregationalist ancestors of today’s United Church of Christ ordained America’s first female, Antoinette Brown, in 1853, though she later went Unitarian and few other women followed till the 20th Century. Women achieved full clergy status in e.g. predecessor bodies of the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1956 and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1970, and in the Episcopal Church in 1977 (following non-canonical protest ordinations in 1974).

Among “evangelical” Protestants, from the late 19th Century some denominations appointed women to such leadership roles as preacher, evangelist, missionary or deacon, and in certain instances to clergy status. But most congregations barred women pastors, either de facto or de jure.

Lately, a vigorous evangelical movement has formalized the belief that limiting pastors, preachers and lay officers to males is God’s mandate in the Bible. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) organized in 1987. Its founding “Danvers Statement” defined Protestant “complementarianism,” meaning the two genders have distinct roles that complement each other, over against “egalitarians.”

This document teaches that gender distinctions are part of God’s “created order.”

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Unitarian parking slots vs. the homeless makes for quirky story in The Seattle Times

Unitarian parking slots vs. the homeless makes for quirky story in The Seattle Times

Just over a week ago, I was complaining about how the massive Seattle Times project on homelessness was not spotlighting the religious element.

I spoke too soon. On Wednesday, a delicious story appeared with a cast of unusual players.

The villains are local Unitarians who are more obsessed with how the local trees are faring than the poor at their door. Everyone involved is all eco-conscious blue-state folks, but in the end, the bottom dollar is the bottom dollar.

Headlined “When do churches stop caring about people more than SUVs?” the story dishes out irony in buckets.

When University Unitarian Church leaders asked their congregation for thoughts on its $17 million renovation of their almost 60-year-old church in Ravenna, the response was mostly typical of a liberal Seattle church.
Will it have all-gender bathrooms? Could it be solar-powered, with electric-car charging stations? Is the new sanctuary ceiling too high, contributing to a corporate, rather than spiritual, feeling during worship?
Only one of the UUs -- a casual term for Unitarian Universalists, whose roots began in Christianity but count many agnostic and atheist churchgoers among their numbers -- asked about a cluster of three cottages on the property, which house 10 formerly homeless people. What would happen to them?
Preserving the houses and bringing them up to code would cost an additional million. Instead, the church will tear them down -- and replace them with 17 parking spots.

The reporter then interviews Brendi London, a resident who suffers from depression and PTSD, who will be displaced by the remodel, then a mental health specialist who tries to find housing for the poor in the city’s skyrocketing housing market. 

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Turn, turn, turn: It's time to take religious stock of the Obama Era

 Turn, turn, turn: It's time to take religious stock of the Obama Era

As journalists look back to take stock of President Obama’s legacy, religious aspects deserve some attention. The Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” blog posted an example January 12 from  Peter Manseau, co-founder of the pleasantly skeptical KillingTheBuddha.com, who scanned America’s history of pluralism in last year’s “One Nation Under Gods.”

Pursuing his book’s theme, Manseau proposed that this president “has embraced a more inclusive approach to religion than any of his predecessors.” But in making himself “the nation’s pluralist-in-chief” Obama “seems to have had an opposite effect in much of the country.” As his presidency wanes, he “leads a nation more divided along religious lines than at any other time in recent history.”

All of Manseau’s assertions are open to debate and worth pursuing by journalists.

Biographical recap: The president’s father Barack Senior, who abandoned Barack Junior, was born Muslim in Kenya but was an atheist as an adult. (Nonetheless, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law the son is automatically a Muslim, and in certain jurisdictions would be subject to execution as an apostate for forsaking his birth religion.)

Obama Junior was raised by a freethinking mother who taught her son about various religious paths. During their years in Indonesia he attended both Muslim and Catholic schools. Later, Obama was raised by grandparents who had been sometime Unitarians.

As an adult, the president-to-be converted to the liberal wing of “mainline” Protestantism. He was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, attended regularly, was married at Trinity and had his daughters baptized there.

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What’s ahead for Americans who believe in traditional marriage?

What’s ahead for Americans who believe in traditional marriage?

THE RELIGION GUY ASKS:

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandate to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, what’s ahead for religious believers in traditional man-and-woman marriage alone? (The Guy poses this timely topic now in place of the usual question posted by an online reader.)

THE ANSWER:

The historic June 26 legalization, by a one-vote majority of a deeply divided Supreme Court, demonstrates with stark clarity religion’s declining influence and stature in American culture.

The one aspect is obvious. Traditional marriage belief is firmly taught, with no immediate prospect of change, by the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, most other evangelical Protestants, many “historically black” Protestant churches, conservatives within “mainline” Protestant denominations, Eastern Orthodoxy, Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Judaism, Islam and others.

A massive 2014 Pew Research survey indicates those groups encompass the majority of Americans, something like 140 million adults.

Of course, not all parishioners agree with official doctrine or practice their faith. In a May poll by Pew, the 57 percent of all Americans supporting gay and lesbian marriages tracked closely with the 56 percent among those identifying as Catholic. That contrasted with only 41 percent of black Americans and 27 percent in the nation’s biggest religious bloc, white evangelicals.

The less-noticed aspect is the weakness of religions on the triumphant side, which generally followed the LGBT movement rather than exercising decisive leadership, unlike past church crusades that helped win independence from Britain, abolition of slavery, labor rights, child welfare, social safety nets, women’s vote, alcohol prohibition, civil rights laws, or withdrawal from Vietnam.

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Fundamental misunderstandings of 'fundamentalism'

When it comes to religious terms, you would be hard pressed to find a word more misapplied by the media than “fundamentalist.”

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Polyamory, pessimism and other same-sex marriage ink

After years of pointing out how unbelievably unprofessional the journalism of same-sex marriage coverage was, something weird happened last week. Instead of the typical media suppression and derision, we started seeing stories about the people and arguments in favor of retaining marriage as a heterosexual institution.

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Pod people: Red America and Bible Belt atheists

On the latest Issues, Etc. podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss my recent post on a Washington Post story that featured a red-state American in her natural habitat.

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