San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral has found a novel way of showing love and mercy to the least of these: by installing a watering system that floods their front steps, drenching anyone underneath it and any makeshift shelters that may have been set up. "They actually have signs in there that say, 'No Trespassing,'" a homeless man named Robert told local news station KCBS. "We're going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in." The news station reported that the water turned on every 30 to 60 minutes near every entrance of the church—they also noted it drenching homeless people and their belongings.
KCBS spoke with a church staffer who confirmed that the sprinkler had been installed "to deter the homeless from sleeping there." They also found that the installation had been illegally installed.
Chris Lyford, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, told the news station that he was not aware of the flooding system, but defended its purpose. "We do the best we can, and supporting the dignity of each person," he said. "But there is only so much you can do."
This week, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially amended its church constitution to expand its definition of marriage as a more inclusive “commitment between two people,” allowing for gay marriage. The new wording also includes the phrase “traditionally a man and a woman.” The move isn’t entirely surprising. Last year, the church’s general assembly granted approval for the change, but a vote among local leaders was still necessary for it to be ratified. Since last fall, the church says, “members of congregations elected to serve as ruling elders have come together to pray, discuss, and try to discern the mind of Christ” on the issue.
Yesterday, the church announced that it had the votes among presbyteries (local districts) to ratify the measure: “While the Office of the General Assembly is still awaiting official tallies, it appears that a majority of the 171 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have approved a change to the current description of marriage in the PC(USA)’s Constitution.” The announcement also said, “The General Assembly also included in those changes clear language that no teaching elder or session can be forced to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony if they do not believe it is appropriate.” The change goes into effect this summer ... Discuss
As new numbers show that Americans are losing their religion at record rates, the Public Religion Research Institute looked at how “religiously unaffiliated” major cities across the U.S. were. Portland was far-and-away America’s most non-religious city (evidently Bicycle Rights does not count as a formal religion), with 42% of all residents classifying as unaffiliated. The West Coast cities of Seattle and San Francisco tied for second, at 33% religiously unaffiliated. Bible-belt buckle Nashville was named America’s most religious major city, with only 15% of residents claiming no religion, though it was followed closely by mostly other southern metropolitan areas including Charlotte at 17% and Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Orlando and Pittsburgh at 18% ... Discuss
According to the 2014 General Social Survey, which was released last week, 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their religion since 2012. The findings also reveal that nearly a quarter of Americans classify as “nones”—those who claim no religion at all. As RNS notes, “If this growth continues, in a few years, the largest ‘religion' in the U.S. may be no religion at all.” The study also found that the number of people in the U.S. who do not attend church, 35 percent, is at an all-time high. Considering that church attendance and religion in general are on the decline, the survey’s other finding may be somewhat surprising: Just 17 percent say they never pray (though that number too, is a new record high) ... Discuss
Creflo Dollar, a televangelist who founded World Changers Church International, needs your help. His current private jet is getting old. The only solution is to replace that plane with a new one—a Gulfstream G650, to be precise, described by Bloomberg as "the holy grail of private jets." Alas, the holy grails of anything don't come cheap (other than the original holy grail, but let's not get sidetracked here) and Pastor Dollar (his real name, conveniently) can't afford the jet's sixty-five million dollar price tag. That's where we come in. Pastor Dollar is raising money, asking for us all to pitch in and give him a hand in affording this ministerial necessity. By his calculations, it will only take 200,000 people donating ("sowing," to use his words) $300 each. Three hundred dollars sounds like a lot, but it's a small price to pay for what certainly will be among the fanciest ministry tools in the sky. The Christian Post says Dollar needs "one of the most luxurious private jets made today in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ," so there you have it. "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use a private jet," to paraphrase St. Francis of Assisi. So give generously. Discuss
An interesting legal case is brewing in the tiny North Carolina county of Graham, where Sheriff Danny Millsaps has banned sex offenders from churches. Citing laws that prohibit registered sex offenders (of which there are twenty in Graham County) from being near schools and daycare centers, Millsaps said the same laws will apply to church, where children are often present. “This is an effort to protect the citizens and children of the community of Graham (County),” he wrote in the Asheville Citizen-Times. “I cannot let one sex offender go to church and not let all registered sex offenders go to church.” He suggested sex offenders interested in attending church could go to services in the county jail.
A bit of a firestorm erupted around the decision, with many claiming that sex offenders' right to religion was being violated. Millsaps has since said that he has the county attourney looking into the issue, and may walk back his statements. “I understand I can’t keep them from going to church,” he said. “That may have been misunderstood. I’ll be the first one to say I might have made mistakes in the wording of that letter.” Discuss