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Vernon Hooks is the pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, a church in Clarksville, Tenn. where a burned cross was discovered on Tuesday morning. The church, just outside of Nashville, has a mostly black congregation and anywhere from 100 to 200 members, one of whom contacted Hooks when they saw the cross. "It was devastating," Hooks told USA Today. "I was somewhat hurt, but then I took time out to ask God to forgive whoever did this."

"Whoever did it, we forgive them," Hooks told reporters while gathered with various church members. "That's the message, that we are a forgiving church and we'll let the police do their job."

It's been classified as a hate crime, but the case is murky. "It was assigned to a detective, but we have no leads," said Sgt. Charles Gill of the Clarksville Police Department. "We've got nothing" ... Discuss

 

Book designer Adam Greene wants to turn the modern, printed Bible into a visually beautiful, easy-to-read, redesigned work of art. Greene’s Kickstarter has raised more than $750,000 for the intensive project that—by drawing inspiration from the dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant—turns the Bible into a re-organized, four volume series, each the size of a contemporary novel. As he explains, the vision of the Bibliotheca project is taken from the history of scripture:

The literature of the Bible was experienced by its ancient audiences as pure literary art—written or oral—with none of the encyclopedic conventions we are accustomed to today (chapter divisions, verse numbers, notes, cross references, etc.). Furthermore, the texts were appreciated as individual works of literature, which gradually accumulated into what we recognize as the biblical anthology. By separating the text into several volumes, and by applying classic & elegant typography, Bibliotheca is meant to provide a fresh alternative to the reader who wants to enjoy the biblical library anew, as great literary art.

You can learn more about the project, and see images of the four-volume set here ... Discuss

 

The General Synod of the Church of England has just voted to allow female bishops for the first time in history. Women have been allowed to be priests since 1992, but a vote to allow them to become bishops was struck down in 2012. However, today's vote was a different story. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican leader, supported today's legislation. And clergy member Meg Gilley said: "I think we look ridiculous. God has been calling us on this road for a long time and we need to get on with it." The BBC is saying the Church could have female bishops by the end of the year ... Discuss

 

An interview with Pope Francis conducted by the founder of the Italian La Repubblica newspaper is making some serious waves. During a conversation with editor Eugenio Scalfari, the Pope reportedly said his advisors have told him that about 2 percent of Catholic Clergy are pedophiles, adding, "Among the 2% who are pedophiles are priests, bishops and cardinals. Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason. I find this state of affairs intolerable."

The Vatican, however, has taken issue with the article, noting that Scalfari doesn’t record interviews, and instead reconstructs them from memory afterward. Church officials say the three-page interview isn’t Pope Francis’ exact words and specifically disputes that he said that that cardinals were among the 2 percent of clergy that are pedophiles. Pope Francis was also quoted as saying that the crimes were “a leprosy in our house,” and vowed continued action against it. The headline for the piece read, "Pope says: Like Jesus, I shall use a stick against pedophile priests" ... Discuss

 

For the first time ever, victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priest were invited to the Vatican to meet with the pope. In addition to asking for forgiveness directly for the “sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you,” Pope Francis also acknowledged that the church leadership structure, which has been widely criticized for how they handled abuse cases, was also in the wrong. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made.” Though some have praised Pope Francis’ willingness to meet with victims, the outreach director of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priest (SNAP), told The Daily Beast that if the Vatican does not punish the abusive priests and do more to prevent abuse (along with their list of demands), than they aren’t going far enough. “If it’s not preventing abuse, it’s probably meaningless or almost meaningless" ... Discuss

 

Lifeway Research has put together a sobering look at how often America's pastors address domestic abuse from the pulpit. While the research found that most Protestant pastors say they know victims of domestic abuse, they very rarely discuss it in sermons. When asked how often they preach on domestic violence, 42 percent of pastors answered "rarely/never" while less than a quarter speak about it once a year. When asked if they considered domestic violence to be a problem in their community, 72 percent answered "yes" and a full quarter said they believed it was a problem in their church.

Perhaps just as troubling is how ill-equipped pastors feel to address domestic violence. Slightly over half of senior pastors don't have training to address physical or sexual abuse, but 62 percent of pastors have attempted to counsel couples experiencing domestic abuse—a practice experts say can actually lead to more violence. Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research Division, said"When two-thirds of pastors address the issue of domestic violence in church one time a year or less, we have a serious disconnect with the realities of American life. Pastors cannot ignore or downplay the issue, when lives are being ruined—and sometimes lost—through sexual and domestic violence right in their own communities and churches" ... Discuss