Archive for the ‘Religious Leaders’ Category

Dick Blount

Dick Blount, retired Methodist minister

If you’ve been around Columbia for much time, it’s likely that you’ve heard about Dick Blount and his work at Missouri United Methodist Church and the larger faith community.

Blount is a former Methodist minister who works to promote social justice and the idea of “open door” policy for churches. He’s been instrumental in the work of the Open Door Ministry at MUMC.

“I love the church, and I believe in the church. But I wanted to take the church’s teaching of love into the streets where Jesus’ friends live.”

And he’s doing just that by helping to plan an interfaith service during the Mid-Missouri Pridefest celebration on June 13. The service will be at 2 p.m. at Peace Park.

For a longer profile of Blount, read a profile on our sister site, Missourian Neighborhood News and a 2009 story on ColumbiaMissourian.com, published after Blount drew the ire of Westboro Baptist Church for his support of Columbia’s domestic partnership registry.

Do you know people who are making a difference in their faith community? Let us know and we’ll consider them for a future feature post. E-mail faith editor Laura Johnston at johnstonlc@missouri.edu.

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Sunday marked a farewell for the Rev. Bill Haney and members of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Columbia. After 21 years as minister for the church, Haney retired.

The Rev. Bill Haney of Columbia

The Rev. Bill Haney retired Sunday as minister at Columbia's Unitarian Universalist Church.

As the Columbia Missourian reported Sunday:

Haney also worked to bring young adults into his church. He said it’s important that when young people, such as college students, are seeking their identity, they have an environment to explore, free from guilt or pressure about joining a different religion.

Stephanie Doorman said Haney inspired her to go into the ministry. She said Haney, who allows church members to give guest sermons, was a great listener and source of joy for the church community.

Haney will serve at a Unitarian Church near Tucson, Ariz., for two years and then move nearer to his son in Oklahoma City.

The Rev. Dr. Suzanne Spencer, currently serving in Danbury, Conn., will be the interim minister for the Columbia congregation.

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Time published as article today on their Web site detailing the top 10 controversial popes in history. I found it to be a fascinating read full of interesting facts and plenty of scandal. If you have a minute I recommend taking a look.

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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

The fifth annual Evolution Weekend begins today, Feb. 12, and continues until Sunday, Feb. 14.

Faith communities from across the globe are gathering for sermons, discussions, lectures and classes recognizing that religion and science complement one another.

The Evolution Weekend is sponsored by the Clergy Letter Project, which was founded by Michael Zimmerman in 2004. He is currently a professor of Biology at Butler University in Indianapolis.
The project has been officially endorsed by a number of Christian denominations, including the United Methodist Church of Minnesota, the Episcopal Church of Southeast Florida, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America of southwest Washington. So far, there have been more than 12,000 signatures from clergy supporting the effort. Missouri clergy represent 278 of those signatures.
Fun facts about this weekend:
  • Faith communities from 12 countries on 5 continents are participating
  • 870 scientists from 29 different countries
  • It’s the third century since the birth of Charles Darwin
  • It’s been 151 years since “The Origin of Species” was first published

Columbia Friends Meeting in Columbia will be participating in the event. The group gathers for worship at 10 a.m. on Sundays at 6408 E. Locust Grove Road.

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Chicago Cardinal Francis George, far right, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses the group's fall meeting Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, Baltimore. (AP Photo/Rob Carr) (h/t to Whispers in the Loggia)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops held their fall general meeting in Baltimore this week. Among the hottest topics during the public portion, which adjourned yesterday:

In his remarks, Francis Cardinal George, USCCB president and Chicago archbishop, emphasized the role of the priest and his relationship to his bishop, a nod to the Year of Priests theme Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed for 2009. However, he also touched on strengthening ties to Catholic media, universities, and other organizations. Could this be interpreted as a renewed effort to standardize or homogenize the various Catholic messages of these groups?

News outlets tied directly to the Catholic Church and granted access to the meeting used new media heavily to cover the meeting — some techniques innovative, others rapidly becoming part of the status quo for live news coverage. The USCCB tweeted the meeting and provided live streaming coverage via Catholic TV network Telecare. Catholic News Service, the news arm of the USCCB, live-blogged the first day of the meeting (but claimed unforeseen difficulties when they could not similarly cover the second day). And leading Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia offered CoverItLive streams, analysis, and embedded Telecare streaming (from which you can access on-demand video of the meeting).

Might seem like just another conference, but here, as with any conference of a religious group’s governing body, is where decisions are made that trickle down to the way Americans worship each week and live out their personal faith. Here, too, as with any conference, is where news outlets can experiment with new and fresh ways of covering events live.

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On Sunday, Oct. 11, the City of St. Louis will present Joyce Meyer Ministries with a special resolution for outstanding humanitarian and community service. City alderman Antonio French will present the honor to Joyce Meyer during a 10 a.m. worship service at the St. Louis Dream Center.

“Wanting nothing more than to be a blessing to others, we intentionally established the Dream Center in the 21st ward because we want to make a difference in our own community, not just other parts of the world …,” Meyer said, according to Christian Newswire.

Dr. Kelvin Adams, St. Louis Public Schools superintendent and supporter of the Dream Center’s youth programs, is expected to be in attendance.

Joyce Meyer Ministries provides “global humanitarian aid to hurting people and teach(es) Christians and non-Christians alike how to enjoy everyday life by applying biblical principles in all they do,” according to the group’s Web site.

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I’m working on a longer-form story about the evolution of MU scholars’ study of women in religion, with this semester’s “The Sacred Feminine, Prehistory to Postmodernity” exhibit and symposium at MU’s Museum of Art & Archaeology as a news hook and springboard. (Disclosure: I work as a graduate assistant for one of the exhibit’s sponsors, MU’s Center on Religion & the Professions.) A sidebar to the story will address the evolving role of women in churches and religious institutions, still a hotly debated and divisive issue, especially when it comes to the ordination of women as clergy.

The religion news out of St. Louis this week echoed my thought process when the Post-Dispatch ran a story Wednesday about the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis (to which our local Diocese of Jefferson City is subordinate) about the unprecedented selection of a lay woman for an archdiocesan leadership role usually held by a priest. Newly-minted St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has stated he wants to shake up the structure and status quo of the archdiocese and its leadership, and longtime youth minister Nancy Werner’s appointment as chancellor (chief of staff, essentially) makes the greatest stride yet toward that objective. Several dioceses across the country have employed lay chancellors, some of them women, since the Vatican began allowing it in 1983. Carlson has employed a lay woman as chancellor in two of the three dioceses he has led so far — in both cases it has been Werner (whom he promoted to vice chancellor from her role as director of youth ministry in the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., soon after arriving there as bishop in 1994 and whom he subsequently invited to join his staff in the Diocese of Saginaw, Mich., and now in St. Louis). But in the 174 years St. Louis has been an archdiocese, it has never had a lay chancellor, much less a woman. What’s routine for Carlson, whom Werner described in the Post-Dispatch story as “as generous to women as the church allows,” is completely new for Carlson’s new archdiocese.

The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally limited the role of women in church leadership, with the relatively recent ordination of female priests in St. Louis sparking what archdiocesan leaders characterized as a scandal in the strictest sense of the Church term.  The Post-Dispatch’s religion editor titled the Werner story “A Catholic tradition ends here.” It was this headline that really stood out to me and that raises some questions at the heart of this branch of my story on women in religion. Questions I pose to you, dear reader:

  • What does your faith tradition say about the role of women in the church?
  • What do you personally believe about the role of women in the church?
  • Do you consider the ascent of women to church leadership the end of an essential religious tradition, a long-awaited change, or something on the broad spectrum in between?

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