Black pastor leaves Southern Baptists over critical race theory

A megachurch pastor pursuing a doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Theo­logi­cal Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, an­nounced in a published article on December 16 that he was withdrawing from his degree program and severing his church’s affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention over a recent statement by its seminary presidents on critical race theory.

Russian Jehovah's Witness sentenced to prision for religion

A 66-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in Russia has re­ceived a six-year sentence for practicing his faith, a particularly harsh penalty in a country where rape is punishable with a three- to six-year prison term and kidnapping with a five-year term.

Yuriy Savelyev had already been in pretrial detention for two years before his sentencing on December 16.

Savelyev is the fifth member of the religious group to receive a six-year sentence since the country declared the faith group “extremist” in a 2017 Supreme Court ruling.

Episcocal Diocese of Chicago elects first African American, first woman diocesan bishop

The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has elected Paula E. Clark as its next bishop. She will be both the first African Ameri­can and the first woman to serve as diocesan bishop in Chicago.

“I am overwhelmed. I’m humbled and filled with so much joy, people of the Diocese of Chicago. I can hardly believe it,” Clark told the convention in a video posted later on the diocese’s search and transition website.

Clark, a native of Washington, DC, is canon to the ordinary and chief of staff in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

New documentary on slain Guatemalan bishop debuts on HBO

A new HBO documentary on the legacy of Guatemalan Catholic bishop Juan Gerardi, who was murdered in the aftermath of the country’s long civil war, highlights the role of Catholic clergy in the fight for democracy in Central America.

“There are a lot of negative stories, films, and documentaries about the Catholic Church that get made. I was attracted to the idea of this not being that,” said director Paul Taylor. “I started to see that some of the issues at the heart of the case were still very relevant today and still very relevant outside of Guatemala,” he added.

Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants get warm welcome in Israel

On December 3, hundreds of Ethio­pian immigrants arrived at a festive ceremony at Israel’s international airport as the Israeli government took a step toward carrying out its pledge to reunite hundreds of families split between the two countries.

Some 300 people landed on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, many of them waving flags or stopping to kiss the ground as they streamed off the aircraft onto a red carpet. Many were dressed in traditional Ethiopian robes, and many women held babies in their arms. Festive Hebrew songs were blasted over loudspeakers.

Keyword tags

SCOTUS rules Muslims can sue over no-fly list

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled on December 10 that Muslim men who were placed on the government’s no-fly list because they refused to serve as FBI informants can seek to hold federal agents financially liable.

The justices continued a string of decisions friendly to religious interests in holding that the men could sue the agents under the 1993 Religious Free­dom Restoration Act for what it calls “appropriate relief.”

Trump administration eases rules for religious social service providers

On December 14, the Trump administration moved to loosen Obama-era restrictions on religious organizations that receive federal money to provide social services.

In new rules coordinated across nine federal agencies, the administration said it was clearing barriers that make it difficult for religious groups to participate in federal programs.

Chief among the changes is the elimination of a rule requiring faith-based groups to tell clients about their religious affiliation and to refer clients to a different program upon request.

Proud Boys burn BLM signs at DC churches

People reportedly affiliated with the hate group Proud Boys tore down Black Lives Matter signs belonging to churches in Washington, DC, on December 12, setting at least one aflame.

The damage to the signs came as the city endured a wave of violence after supporters of President Donald Trump flocked to the nation’s capital to pro­test President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.

Indigenous spiritual leader Eddie Benton-Banai dies at 89

Eddie Benton-Banai, who helped found the American Indian Movement, partly in response to alleged police brutality against Indigenous people, died on November 30. He was 89.

Benton-Banai, who was Anishi­naabe Ojibwe, was born and raised on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in northern Wisconsin. He made a life of connecting American Indians with their spirituality and promoting sovereignty. He was the grand chief, or spiritual leader, of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge.

Groundbreaking Lutheran educator Cheryl Stewart Pero dies at 69

Cheryl Stewart Pero, one of the first Black Luth­eran women to be ordained in the United States, died on October 28 after a short illness and hospitalization. She was 69.

In 1980, Pero became the second Black woman ordained in the Lutheran Church in America, a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She was also the first Black woman to receive a PhD in biblical studies, which she earned at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.