Summer is prime time for religious conventions, and already quite a few faith-based groups have been in the national spotlight as they debate and pass resolutions at their major conferences on some controversial social and political issues. Here’s a look at some of the newsmakers.
The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church drew an estimated 30,000 people to Nashville, Tenn., June 27–July 4 for its 49th quadrennial general conference. The convention caused a flurry of headlines when the church adopted a resolution at the meeting condemning the contempt of Congress vote against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by the House of Representatives. The AME resolution sought to draw a connection between the House vote and Holder’s plan to look into whether recent legislation on voter fraud was driven by an effort to suppress voter turnout.
More headlines followed when the convention’s keynote speaker First Lady Michelle Obama praised the church’s role in fighting slavery, segregation, and the disenfranchisement of blacks at the ballot box. She urged AME, one of the country’s most influential black churches, to become more involved in the issues that affect their lives.
At its biennial general assembly in Pittsburgh, June 30–July 7, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) voted 308-338 against a resolution to change the definition of marriage from “a woman and a man” to between “two people” in the church’s constitution. By another narrow margin, the group also rejected proposals to divest funds from three firms whose products help Israel enforce occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. While rejecting divestment, the General Assembly voted to recommend a boycott of Israeli exports that are produced in occupied Palestinian territories.
The 77th triennial General Convention of The Episcopal Church is in full swing in Indianapolis today, where some 5,500 attendees are registered for the July 5–13 event. Church leaders and delegates are working their way through 300 resolutions on everything from recycling to Israel-Palestine issues. Yesterday the convention made nationwide news when delegates voted to approve a blessing for the unions of same-sex couples. This blessing is distinct from that used by the church to marry a man and a woman.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans in June, however, probably generated more headlines than any other religious meeting this summer (so far). Seventeen years after apologizing for the denomination’s racist past, the SBC made history at its annual meeting with the official election of New Orleans pastor Fred Luter Jr. as the church’s first black convention president.