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Religious Controversies on Many Fronts in the U.S.

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Readers discuss ordaining women, separation of church and state, and Christian nationalism.

To the Editor:

Re “Southern Baptists Vote to Expand Restrictions on Women” (news article, June 15):

The efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention to prevent women from living out their calling to be ministers in their churches and in the world shows such a disappointing failure to recognize the gifts that women bring to their religious communities.

Women have always been at the heart of church ministry. They fill leadership positions at every level of local church life. They lead our religious education programs. They establish prayer groups, Bible study circles and women’s ministries outside the classroom to foster spiritual growth and strengthen our communities. And women are vital to our parishes’ ministries of charity and service, providing comfort to those who are sick, homeless or in need.

The Southern Baptist Convention is tremendously out of step with what so many Christians — especially young Christians — are calling for. Even in my home tradition, the Catholic Church, we are seeing a historic openness to considering women for some forms of ordained ministry, with the issue predicted to be taken up at the global synod in Rome this October.

The question of women in ministry is a conversation for the whole church: men, women and church leaders. Rather than coming to the table seeking to exclude, we should all be open to how we might better recognize and strengthen the ministries of women, who are already the lifeblood of our congregations and deserve to be recognized as such.

Casey Stanton
Durham, N.C.
The writer is co-director of Discerning Deacons, a project that engages Catholics in rethinking women’s participation in the church.

To the Editor:

I was raised a Southern Baptist but no longer am because of the church’s contradictory treatment of women. While women are neither allowed to preach nor to teach men, much is asked of them, including caring for and educating children, leading choir practice, planning mission trips and organizing the social life of the congregation. But when it comes to titles and positions of authority, well, that’s just for menfolk.

It’s no wonder that today’s Southern Baptist Convention struggles with membership. Unfortunately, their male leaders would rather close ministries than embrace change.

Denise Jelinek
New York

To the Editor:

Charter School Based on Faith Is Approved in Oklahoma” (news article, June 6) correctly focused on the implications for the separation of church and state of tax dollars wholly funding a religious school. It is also important to note the role of Christian nationalism in the maneuvering of Oklahoma political appointees.

Christian nationalism is a dangerous political ideology that abuses religious symbolism and claims that America was founded to be a “Christian nation” where Christians should receive special legal treatment. A public Christian school is a clear example of Christian nationalism’s end goal, because according to its agenda, government and religion are one and the same.

The good news is that Christian nationalism does not represent the majority of Christians in the United States. Multiple denominational leaders have spoken out against it, and the Christian organization I work for, Faithful America, has gathered more than 17,000 signatures denouncing the Oklahoma decision. We will be watching and stand ready to speak out again as legal challenges move forward.

(Rev.) Nathan Empsall
New Haven, Conn.
The writer is an Episcopal priest and the executive director of the online community Faithful America.

To the Editor:

Re “Oklahoma Breaches the Wall Between Church and State,” by David French (column, June 12):

In 1911 the Italian Catholic Church of New Haven, Conn., asked for an appropriation of $15,000 from the state for an orphanage and a school.

The Rev. Angelo di Domenica, a Baptist and the first Italian American graduate of Yale Divinity School, went to the state capital in Hartford to oppose this request.

Mr. di Domenica argued for the separation of church and state, saying: “If the State should grant money to one church, or to any organization connected with the church, it would identify itself with that church. Such a step is against the spirit and ideals of the Republic.”

The request for state funds was not approved.

Dennis Barone
West Hartford, Conn.

To the Editor:

Re “In Wyoming, Autonomy Is Now in Peril,” by Susan Stubson (Opinion guest essay, May 28), about the state’s growing Christian nationalist movement:

What Ms. Stubson describes she is seeing in her state, Wyoming, I saw elements of before I retired from a Christian ministry in the Mid-Atlantic.

Ministers were facing a choice: to stick with a denomination and its history and rules of order, or to step outside, serve a church with no denominational ties, and lead where the tide took them. I agree with Ms. Stubson — that tide has been taking too many houses of worship into Christian nationalism.

Alas, idolatry is alive and well in America.

Tyler Downing
Winchester, Va.
The writer is a retired ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

To the Editor:

I was impressed with Susan Stubson’s article. I do think that the shift is tied less to religiosity and more to our move toward political identification.

Ultimately, religion is a search for truth. I highly respect other members of the Christian faith, as well as Muslims, Hindus and other religious people because they are searching for truth.

Politics, however, tends to be a persuasive cacophony of half-truths and lies. You cherry-pick your facts and tell the world how to interpret them.

Today, we make decisions as Christians not based upon God’s teachings but based upon our personal political persuasion. We ignore the deaths of children because gun owners are allies in the fight against the “woke mob.”

We extol the virtues of life but absolve ourselves of any responsibility toward the quality of life. We ignore environmental responsibilities. We reject immigrants out of fear.

This is not a search for truth. It is a decision that we do not need to search, an assumption that we know God’s mind.

Paul Sparks
Waldorf, Md.

Source: nytimes

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