sacraments

Old Chicago church gets converted: It's a real estate story, but there are religion questions

Old Chicago church gets converted: It's a real estate story, but there are religion questions

News consumers who have been paying attention to religion trends may have noticed this one: There are lots of church buildings for sale these days.

This is especially true with old-line Protestant sanctuaries located in older neighborhoods — often on prime property deep inside zip codes that are evolving due to gentrification.

What to do? Well, lots of urban folks — singles, cohabitating couples, married-without-kids folks — are attracted to unique condos and apartments that don’t look like they are assembled using cookie-cutters and one or two sets of design plans.

That brings us to the following real-estate headline at The Chicago Tribune: “Logan Square church gets new life as 9 luxury apartments.” Let me stress that I realize that this is a real-estate story. One should not expect that news desk to provide a lot of depth, when it comes to the religious implications of some of the information in a news report of this kind.

But let’s see if you can spot the detail that I think would have been worth a follow-up question or two — a click of a computer mouse, at least, or even a telephone call. Things start in a rather predictable manner, with a bad pun:

Living in one new Logan Square apartment building is a heavenly experience. The former church was converted into nine distinctive residences, incorporating many of the original architectural features.

The historic Episcopal Church of the Advent was built in 1926 by renowned architect Elmer C. Jensen, who designed and engineered more than two dozen of the city’s early skyscrapers. The church closed in 2016 due to dwindling membership.

That brings us to the colorful details that caught my attention. Read this carefully and think, well, sort of like a liturgist, or a religion-beat professional:

In preparation for its second life, the building interior was mostly gutted, and the space was subdivided. Stained glass art windows, ornate chandeliers, decorative millwork, and stone arches and columns are among the retained features. In one apartment, a stone altar acts as the base for a kitchen island. In another, wainscoting was installed to complement the existing millwork. The church exterior was preserved in entirety.

“Any of the elements that were left here, the developer was able to repurpose and reuse,” said Mark Durakovic, principal at Kass Management Services, which is managing and leasing the building.

Wait a minute!

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Bingo and monster trucks: Making sense of breaking news from United Methodists' high-stakes meeting (updated)

Bingo and monster trucks: Making sense of breaking news from United Methodists' high-stakes meeting (updated)

UPDATE: The Traditional Plan wins.

That’s the verdict from the United Methodists’ high-stakes meeting in St. Louis on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage

Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller reports that “the General Conference, the global denomination’s decision-making body, passed the Traditional Plan by a vote of 438 to 384.”

Here is the breaking news lede that just showed up in my email via the Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

In a contentious meeting years in the making, the United States’s third-largest faith community voted to emphasize its opposition to same-sex marriage and gay clergy — a decision which was cheered by conservatives in the global church, especially in Africa, but was deeply disappointing to many Americans who had hoped the church would change.

Many American ministers in the United Methodist Church already perform same-sex marriages and approve of the ordination of LGBT people as clergy, although the Protestant church’s rules officially forbid these marriages and ordinations. Many Methodists hoped the church would amend those rules this week. Instead, a group of more than 800 clergy and lay leaders from around the world voted to affirm the church’s traditional view of sexuality — and in fact to punish disobedient clergy more harshly than before.

“The United Methodist Church will very soon lose an entire generation of leadership in the United States,” lamented Kimberly Ingram, speaking at the meeting on behalf of Methodist seminaries and theological schools, who argued that their students strongly approve of including LGBT people fully in the church. “The future of the United Methodist Church in this country is at stake.”

But presented with several options during a four-day special session on the future of the church in St. Louis, the delegates picked the “traditional plan.” Other options would have allowed local churches to choose their stance on sexuality for themselves, or would have split the church into separate denominations.

Here at GetReligion, look for more analysis of the decision and news coverage of it in the coming days.

In the meantime, don’t miss the tweets below about monster trucks. Trust me, there’s a connection to the Methodist meeting.

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Big United Methodist questions: Has left embraced 'exit' plans? Do 'coexist' clauses work? (updated)

Big United Methodist questions: Has left embraced 'exit' plans? Do 'coexist' clauses work? (updated)

Reporters who have followed decades of fighting inside mainline Protestant churches over marriage and sex will remember that doctrinal conservatives have always been promised that they will be able to continue to believe and practice their church’s old doctrines at their own altars.

In practice, that can be summed up as two beliefs that go back to the early church and scripture: Marriage is the union of a man and a women and sex outside of marriage is sin. Both doctrines affect who can be ordained as clergy.

These promises usually took the form of "conscience clauses,” such as those given long ago to reassure Episcopalians who opposed the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Over time, these clauses have a way of being erased — a trend that is highly relevant to debates currently taking place among United Methodists at a special national conference in St. Louis. (Click here for the Bobby Ross, Jr., post on coverage of yesterday’s actions.)

Two of the plans to shape the future of America’s second-largest Protestant flock promised, to one degree or another, to allow believers on both sides of the marriage and sex divide to be able to coexist — protected by structures to protect their doctrinal convictions. A crucial aspect of these debates is that the doctrinal conservatives (who want to retain current United Methodist doctrines) are arguing:

(a) That these “conscience clause” structures will not work over the long haul, in part because the church’s bishops have already endorsed allowing doctrinal progressives to carry on with same-sex marriages and other LGBTQ changes, such as the ordination of women and men who are sexually active in same-sex relationships or other unions short of traditional marriage.

(b) Passing “agree to disagree” doctrinal plans of this kind can be linked to the demographic disasters that are shrinking liberal Protestantism, in general. (The left, of course, argues that doctrinal innovations are required to reach out to young people in a changing America.)

Reporters who are not covering these two themes in the debates are not, well, covering the debates.

This leads me to the top of the current Associated Press report — “United Methodist Church on edge of breakup over LGBT stand” — about the St. Louis meetings. Here is the overture.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The United Methodist Church teetered on the brink of breakup Monday after more than half the delegates at an international conference voted to maintain bans on same-sex weddings and ordination of gay clergy.

Their favored plan, if formally approved, could drive supporters of LGBT inclusion to leave America’s second-largest Protestant denomination.

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Valid journalism question? Yes, Callista and Newt Gingrich have a complex Catholic history

Valid journalism question? Yes, Callista and Newt Gingrich have a complex Catholic history

Before the rise of Citizen Donald Trump, it was hard to name a more complex and even bizarre character on the modern GOP stage than the thrice-married and pugnacious former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Where to start? How about the popular political myth that, long ago, he asked his first wife to sign divorce papers on her deathbed.

You've head that one? Here is how the gang at FactCheck.org parses that:

No. Jackie Battley is still alive, and the couple was already in divorce proceedings at the time of the 1980 hospital visit. But she was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor, and the former House speaker admits that they “got into an argument.”

Actually, the fine details of that first marriage are, sort of, in the news -- linked to the reports that this third wife, Callista Gingrich, is set to be nominated by Trump (if he has a few spare minutes) as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.

In case you haven't heard, divorce -- specifically the issue of divorced Catholics receiving Holy Communion -- is a hot topic in Catholic circles right now. The Gingrich situation, to be blunt, could be complex. Here is how the conservative Catholic News Agency states the basics:

Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.
He noted that he had attended Masses at the National Shrine [note: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.] where Callista sang in the choir, and she “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”
At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2011, he also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to the U.S. as a “moment of confirmation” for him. At vespers with the Pope, where Callista sang in the Shrine choir, Newt recalled thinking that “here is where I belong.” 

The key question here: What is the status, in the eye of Catholic officials, of Newt Gingrich's first marriage, long ago in Georgia?

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Journalists must look to the left, as Anglican Communion goes into 'stoppage time'

Journalists must look to the left, as Anglican Communion goes into 'stoppage time'

Over time, mainstream journalists around the world have gradually come to realize that the Archbishop of Canterbury is not the "Anglican pope." In most news coverage these days, he is referred to as the "symbolic" leader of the global Anglican Communion or as the "first among equals" when the Anglican archbishops are doing business.

Let's focus on that second image for a moment, as I point out one or two elements of the flood of news coverage of the "special," as opposed to normal, gathering of the Anglican primates in Canterbury the last few days.

If Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the first among equals, then it is important for journalists to realize that the other archbishops really do see themselves as, well, equal among the equals. Thus, when you are working through the tsunami of global coverage of the vote by the Anglican primates to "suspend" the U.S. Episcopal Church from many official roles in the Anglican Communion (don't forget Father George "GetReligionista emeritus" Conger at Anglican Ink), it helps to focus on the previous actions taken by the primates on issues linked to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Yes, we are back to that complicated Anglican timeline thing. There is no way to avoid it.

When you look at the current events in the context of an accurate timeline, it's clear that (a) the Episcopal Church has merely been placed in "time out," (b) that the global primates really do think this dispute is about the Bible and marriage, (c) that the state of sacramental Communion among Anglican leaders remains as broken as ever and (d) that all Canterbury has really achieved, with this meeting, is send the contest into extra innings (or perhaps "stoppage time" is a better term among global Anglicans).

So where to start?

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Washington Post offers another 'omniscient anonymous voice' clinic in synod report

Washington Post offers another 'omniscient anonymous voice' clinic in synod report

One of the most frustrating things in journalism these days (your GetReligionistas write about this all the time) is the blurring line between news and commentary.

It's not simply a matter of snarky material on Twitter by reporters about topics, institutions and people that they are also covering in hard-news stories. That's a problem, but not the biggest problem, from my point of view.

Meanwhile, I'll be honest. If I was a reporter right now, instead of a columnist and an opinion blogger, I do not know how I would handle Twitter.

No, I'm talking about the material that is actually being produced by newspapers, wire services and major news websites. Some use clear labels for "analysis" work and others do not. There are reporters who do straight news and also analysis and, at times, there are no graphics or labels to clearly tell you which is which and what is what.

Some standing online features with titles are news and some are not. There are "reported" blogs and blogs that are totally opinion. The logos often look the same to me. There are online-only features that look like news, but they are not, and people who only see certain newspapers in digital forms have no way to know which is which.

I don't think this digital swamp will be cleared up anytime soon. Still, I want to confess my frustration. This leads me to another example of a related trend, the writing style that your GetReligionistas call "omniscient anonymous voice." Here is how I described this journalistic trend in an earlier post:

Normally, hard-news journalism is written in third-person voice in past tense, with a heavy emphasis on the use of clear attributions for quoted materials, so that readers know who is speaking. That crucial "comma, space, said, space, name, period" formula is at the heart of traditional, American Model of the Press journalism.
The bottom line: It's a key element in retaining the trust of readers. Traditional journalists are, as a rule, going to tell the reader the sources for the information they are reading.

So what are we dealing with when journalists publish copy with paragraph after paragraph of material with little or no clear attribution? You know that this material has sources; but you also know these sources, for some reason, are not being cited. What does this look like?

Consider this recent story in The Washington Post.

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Will Indiana's new religious freedom law open up the state to a pot-smoking church?

Will Indiana's new religious freedom law open up the state to a pot-smoking church?

Will Indiana's new religious freedom law open up the state to a pot-smoking church?

In the last week, the Indianapolis Star became the latest major news organization to pose that question (in a story picked up nationally by sister Gannett paper USA Today).

The Star reports:

The newly formed First Church of Cannabis appears to some observers as an excuse for potheads to get together and light up.
But the "grand poobah" of what followers describe as a new Indiana religion insists there is sanctity in the self-described ministry.
"This is what I live by, and I have more faith in this religion than any other," said Bill Levin, the founder who plans to hold the group's first official service on July 1 — the day Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect.
"This is my lifestyle. This is millions of people's lifestyle."
Levin, whose church titles include grand poobah and minister of love, is daring police to arrest him and his followers in what will likely be one of the first tests of the state's new RFRA protections.

Way back in late March, the story received other prominent attention.

But can someone really get away with starting a new church as a detour around Indiana's law against marijuana smoking?

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New York Post: Pope Francis finally opens door to reconciliation for women after abortions?

New York Post: Pope Francis finally opens door to reconciliation for women after abortions?

You know you are in for a wild ride when a GetReligion reader sends you a URL from The New York Post (or The New York Daily News, for that matter) with one of those, "Yeah, consider the source, BUT" notes that basically is warning you to duck and cover. Incoming.

So here is the headline on this one: "The Catholic Church will now forgive your abortion."

The loyal reader noted: "The title is bad, but it gets worse from there. Wouldn't have wasted your time with it, but it is such awful dreck that it seemed to me a perfect crystallization of what your site is so admirably attempting to combat -- sort of a 'why we fight' type of example."

At the heart of this story is a journalistic virus that seems to be affecting journalists around the world. You know the one, the "Everything Pope Francis touches is brand new" bug. As you could see from that headline, this one is an instant classic. Here's the top of the story:

Pope Francis will send an army of globe-trotting priests -- his “missionaries of mercy” -- to absolve women who’ve had abortions, in the latest Vatican bid to catch up with modern times.
The effort, which includes reaching out to doctors and nurses who’ve performed abortions, will commence in the Holy Year of Mercy, which Francis has declared will be celebrated between Dec. 8, 2015, and Nov. 20, 2016.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, announced the bold initiative and said the church should always be in the absolution business.

Catholic readers, you can get back up into your chair now or clean the computer screen onto which you spewed your morning source of caffeine.

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You can confess -- but not to an Anglican priest

The Adelaide Advertiser reports the Anglican Church of Australia has lifted the veil of secrecy between priest and penitent, no longer requiring its clergy to maintain the seal of the confession. I expect many people will be surprised and some upset by this development. Not least of all the writers of mystery thrillers who will see one of their favorite plot devices disappear.

Alfred Hitchcock used this motif in his 1953 picture I Confess. In the film a priest, Montgomery Clift, hears the confession of his gardener, who has just killed a shady lawyer. A police inspector, played by Karl Malden, investigates and comes to suspect the priest — who may have been blackmailed by the lawyer. The killer plants evidence in the priest’s room and our hero is arrested and brought to trial.

The Quebec jury finds Clift not guilty, but a mob assembles outside of the court house and threatens him. This proves to be too much for the killer’s wife, who shouts that her husband the gardener was the killer. The gardener tries to kill the priest, but is himself shot and fatally wounded by the police. The film ends with the killer dying in Montgomery Clift’s arms after he gives him absolution. Classic.

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