Religion Today Daily Headlines - July 10, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - July 10, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Episcopal Church Moves Closer to Allowing Transgender Ministers
  • Southern Baptists See Membership Decline for Fifth Straight Year
  • Couple Can Sue for Right to Abort
  • Study: Kids Experiment with Drugs, Alcohol in Summer


Episcopal Church Moves Closer to Allowing Transgender Ministers

A legislative body of the Episcopal Church approved on Saturday a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgenders the right to become ministers, the Chicago Tribune reports. The House of Bishops voted at the denomination's triennial General Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., to include "gender identity and expression" in its "non-discrimination canons" -- meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, could not be used to exclude candidates for lay and ordained ministry. The resolution must now be approved by the church's House of Deputies. As the convention continues, the church's leadership is also due to consider approving a liturgy to use in same-sex weddings. The move comes nine years after the denomination -- which now allows gays and lesbians to join the ordained ministry -- approved its first openly gay bishop.

Southern Baptists See Membership Decline for Fifth Straight Year

Membership numbers for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reflect disturbing trends for America's largest Protestant denomination, WORLD News Service reports. Although the SBC saw slight increases in baptisms and the number of congregations in 2011, its overall membership dropped for the fifth straight year, to just under 16 million. Ed Stetzer, vice president for research at LifeWay Christian Resources, says the patterns behind the raw numbers are of even greater concern. Many have noted the long-term decline of America's mainstream denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, but Stetzer argues that the SBC is locked in its own cycle of stagnation. Unless the denomination changes its approach to evangelism and church planting, he says, Baptists should expect the numbers to get even worse. Based on the current trajectory, Stetzer writes, "we are catching up with the Methodists, and will match their decline rate consistently by 2018." Duke Divinity School professor Curtis Freeman counters that the SBC's traditional commitment to evangelism had forestalled the numerical freefall experienced by mainline denominations, but that growth in any church was simply becoming more difficult. "The tide is going a different way," he said. "[America is] increasingly becoming a secular culture, not a Christian culture."

Couple Can Sue for Right to Abort

A Montana judge has ruled that a couple who would have aborted their unborn daughter had they known she had cystic fibrosis can sue their healthcare providers, Baptist Press reports. District court judge Mike Salvagni in Bozeman said a suit by Joe and Kerrie Evans can go to court. The Evanses sued Livingston HealthCare and medical professionals for failing to offer a test to see if they carried the recessive gene for cystic fibrosis and for failing to order a test during 38-year-old Kerrie Evans' first trimester of pregnancy though she had expressed concerns about her baby having the disease, according to the Great Falls Tribune. The healthcare providers urged Salvagni to dismiss the suit, describing it as a "wrongful birth" lawsuit. The Evanses are requesting damages "for a missed opportunity to abort their daughter," said Julie Lichte, a lawyer for the defendants. Permitting the suit to go to court "will ask a jury to award them damages for the very existence of their daughter," she said. Salvagni, who rejected the use of the term "wrongful birth," said dismissing the case would "immunize from liability those in the medical field providing guidance to persons who would choose to exercise their constitutional right to abort their fetuses, which, if born, would suffer from genetic [or other] defects."

Study: Kids Experiment with Drugs, Alcohol in Summer

A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are most likely to experiment with alcohol, tobacco and marijuana for the first time during the summer months, WORLD News Service reports. "Monthly Variation in Substance Use Initiation Among Adolescents," based on SAMHSA's study of 231,000 teens from 2002 to 2010, showed that more than 11,000 of them tried alcohol for the first time in June, July or December; in any other month, only 5,000 to 8,000 try it. The numbers for first-time smokers also peak in summer months -- 5,000, compared to 3,000 to 4,000 during the rest of the year. And more than 4,500 kids will try marijuana for the first time during summer break, compared to 3,000 to 4,000 in any other month. "More free time and less adult supervision can make the summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse," said SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "That is why it is critically important to take every opportunity we can throughout the year to talk to our young people about the real risks of substance abuse and effective measures for avoiding it, so they will be informed and capable of making the right decisions on their own."

Publication date: July 10, 2012