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Kyle Norris/Michigan Radio

St. Henry’s in Lincoln Park held its first Mass on June 3, 1923 and its last Mass on March 2, 2014.

At the end of the church’s final Mass, parish members took the most important objects and walked them out the door.

The holy oils were carried by five members of the Olive family. Jackie and Bill Balmes carried out the marriage registry (they’ve been married for 65 years). Four men, including Jim Bomia and his two grandsons, lifted the crucifix off the wall (it weighed several hundred pounds), and walked it down the aisle and out the door.

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

There can be little doubt that we are living at a time when our attitudes as a society are undergoing a tremendous shift in what we think of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Recently, we spoke on this show with Michigan State University professor Charley Ballard, who directs the state of the state surveys. The most recent MSU survey found, for instance, that 54% of Michiganders support gay marriage, with 36% opposing it.

Just four years ago, gay marriage was opposed by 51% and favored by 48% of those surveyed.

That is the view from social science. But what about the view from the pulpit?

Ken Wilson is pastor of Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. The evangelical minister has spent years wrestling with this question:  Where do we – as a Christian faith community – draw the line on the gay marriage issue?

His journey to rethinking his beliefs about where LBGT people fit into what he calls “the company of Jesus” is spelled out in his new book “A Letter to my Congregation:  An evangelical pastor's path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender into the company of Jesus.”

Listen to the full interview above. 

Central Michigan University

A college class that involves poring over ancient biblical texts might not inspire much excitement.

But a college class that teaches some of the same lessons using zombies? Ah, that's going to grab 'em!

That's the idea behind a religion class at Central Michigan University that has, indeed, grabbed a lot of attention. It's called "From Revelation to 'The Walking Dead,'" and it’s taught by religion professor Kelly Jean Murphy.

CMU student Carl Huber is a junior who is double-majoring in Comparative Religion and Sociology, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Nation of Islam's Farrakhan to speak in Detroit

Feb 23, 2014
NOI/Facebook

DETROIT (AP) - Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan will deliver the keynote speech on the final day of the movement's four-day convention in Detroit.

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones told participants at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday that Farrakhan had some "awesome words" when he addressed the council earlier.

Farrakhan's address is titled "How Strong is Our Foundation: Can We Survive?"

prison bars
Flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The St. Clair County Jail has installed new procedures for inmates who request religious diets.

Until now, inmates who wanted religious diets were required to pass a written exam that tested their knowledge of their faith.

A lawsuit filed last year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed that policy was unconstitutional.

The case concerned Aaron Utley, a Muslim man and a former inmate at the jail, who was denied a Halal diet – in keeping with Islamic tradition – after failing a test on Islam.

Mark Halonen / Brighton High School

Maybe more than any other, high school can be a time when what you choose to wear has a huge impact on your sense of identity.

As students take their first steps into adulthood, they walk a fine line between fitting in with their peers and developing a unique sense of self.

Earlier this fall, a group of AP language students at Brighton High School were asked to read a memoir by Iranian author Azar Nafisi. The book detailed the experiences of women during that country's religious revolution, including dealing with new standards of modesty in the way they dressed.

To experience the material first-hand, several girls in the class in Brighton chose to spend a full school day wearing hijabs, the head-scarves worn by Muslim women in many parts of the world.

The exercise gave students a chance to learn about an unfamiliar culture and religion. But in a school community where no students and only one teacher outwardly practice Islam, wearing the scarves was a good way to draw curious looks, questions and a few unfriendly comments.

Teacher Diana Mason and three students at Brighton who took part recently told Stateside about the experience.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Myra Klarman

There is no questioning the data: Buddhism is a force to be reckoned with. Estimates of the number of practicing Buddhists around the world ranges from 350-million all the way up to 1.6 billion.

 Buddhism is also recognized as one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. A University of Michigan professor has spent the past 12 years putting together what's being hailed as the most authoritative and comprehensive reference on Buddhism ever produced in English. It is "The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism," co-authored by Robert Buswell of UCLA, and Donald Lopez. He is the Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and he is a Distinguished Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan.

Christus Vincit / Flickr

It has been seven months since the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

He took the name Francis. And since then, the Argentinean pontiff has caught the world's attention, ruffling more than a few conservative feathers with his words on abortion and gay rights, attempts to reform the way the Vatican runs, and how the Catholic Church connects with the people.

We wondered how much impact Pope Francis is having on Catholics in Michigan, and how he’s seen by members of other religions.

We began the conversation with Dave Willey, the Rome correspondent for the BBC.

Then, we hear from Jesuit priest Father Karl Kiser, and Baptist minister Ural Hill.

You're not alone, billboard tells nonreligious

Oct 6, 2013
Center for Inquiry

A billboard alongside a highway in western Michigan is spreading the message that religion is something people can live without.

The billboard went up Monday and is to remain in place through Oct. 27 along U.S.-131 in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

It's sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and carries the message "Millions of Americans are living happily without religion."

Facebook

It’s been written "you will know them by their fruits." And what some congregations of faith are harvesting these days is energy - saving energy, and producing energy from the sun and from the wind.

Julie Lyons Bricker is the executive director of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that aims to get Michigan faith communities involved with promoting and implementing energy efficient practices. 

Bricker joined us in the studio today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Howard Books

One of the most frustrating aspects of living in American in 2013 is the way we seem to have lost a sense of being on the same team. 

Instead of thinking of ourselves as Americans or Michiganders, it's all too often Democrats or Republicans, Christian, or Muslim. 

This deep sense of division leads to gridlock in Congress and in Lansing. 

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced he will not run for re-election. What does this means for the city moving forward while currently under emergency management?

And we took a look at what's behind Michigan's high infant mortality rate.

And author, theologian, preacher, and social activist Jim Wallis joined us to talk about his book and The Common Good for America.

But first in the show, we got an update on the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, where crews are trying to figure out what caused the release of slightly radioactive water.

The plant was shut down a little over a week ago because of the leak, and crews say they have discovered a new crack in a water tank that has been leaking on and off for at least two years. Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith discussed the issue with us.

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist / Facebook

Sure, the three sisters from Ann Arbor's Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist are probably going to beat you in a game of trivia about the Bible.

But you wouldn't expect them to take you on the physical challenges as well.

It turns out Sister Evangeline, Sister Peter Joseph and Sister Maria Suso are pretty darn good at flipping forks into glasses:

Good Friday

Mar 29, 2013
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Christians across Michigan are observing Good Friday.

Observances are taking place in many different places.

Beginning outside the state capitol building, a few hundred members of Lansing’s Christo Rey church followed a group of actors through the streets of the state capitol as they recreated the biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  

Holy week observances conclude on Easter Sunday.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Democratic Michigan lawmaker wants to ensure that students are not penalized for missing school to observe a religious holiday.

Democratic Rep. Kate Segal of Battle Creek recently introduced a bill that would prohibit public school officials from counting days students take off to observe religious holidays against them when handing out perfect attendance or other awards.

Segal said in a statement that if children make up their missed work they should not have to choose "between observing their faith and boosting their academic resume."

2012 was a pretty terrible year for Michigan farmers.

On today's show, we'll take a look at what 2013 has in store, and what it means for the state's economy.

And, a few days before Saint Patrick's Day, we meet a Michigan musician who is immersed in both Irish music and Techno music.

But first, ever since last month when the world was stunned by Pope Benedict the 16's resignation, and today's announcement of a new Pope, religion has been on the minds of many, and that includes  Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst.

We spoke with Jack about the religious views of Michigan's legislators.

DETROIT (AP) - A Michigan judge has approved a delay in closing a $700,000 settlement between McDonald's and Muslims who were mistakenly told that food at a restaurant conformed to Islamic dietary rules.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald on Monday granted a 28-day extension of a notice period in the case and lifted an injunction against a lawyer not originally connected with the case from making public statements. A final settlement hearing is scheduled April 17.

The Jaafar and Mahdi Law Group filed the suit and agreed to the judge's actions.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state Senate committee took testimony Thursday on a bill that would allow doctors, nurses and other health care providers to opt out of providing medical care if they feel it violates their personal or religious beliefs.

The legislation could affect patients seeking a variety of treatments, including approval for medical marijuana or a prescription for the ‘morning after’ pill.

Tim Schultz is the legislative policy director of the group, American Religious Freedom. He says the legislation respects an individual’s ‘conscience’.

What religion does your legislator follow?

Mar 6, 2013

Bill Ballenger, who has been watching politicians in Lansing for close to half a century, had an interesting survey last week in his biweekly newsletter, Inside Michigan Politics.

He decided to find out how many members of the legislature are members of each religious denomination, something he does every few years.

What struck me as most interesting is that some people didn’t want to be pinned down as to what religion they were.

That was, he said, because some politicians prefer “to give the impression that the legislator could be affiliated with any number of faiths with whose parishioners she or he might actually worship from time to time.”

Zaineb Al-Kalby / Eastern Michigan University's Muslim Student Association

Forty Eastern Michigan University students spent a day this week dressed as Muslim women as part of "Hijab Day."

The hijab is a scarf that covers the head and neck and is worn by some women who practice Islam.

"Hijab Day" was started three years ago by EMU’s Muslim Student Association who hoped to spread awareness about Islam.

Group president Zaineb Al-Kalby helped participants put on the scarf she wears every day.

When the non-Muslim students looked in the mirror, she said they were surprised at their reflections.

"I really feel like they had that second of 'I'm actually in her shoes,'" she said.

EMU senior Emily Keyes, who was raised Catholic, participated in the event. She says she got mixed responses while wearing the hijab; some strangers looked away from her, while Muslim classmates told her they appreciated the gesture.

"I think it opened my mind to the way people perceive people that wear hijabs," she said.

After spending one day wearing the headscarves, the women met up to discuss their experiences and learn more about Islam's history.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Islamic Center of America will hold a "Rally against Hate" even this afternoon at 3 p.m.
Islamic Center of America

One of the largest mosques in the United States plans a rally at 3 p.m. this afternoon against hateful speech and violent acts.

The "Rally Against Hate" is in response to the violence in the Middle East stemming from the low-budget, privately made anti-Islam video, Innocence of Muslims, the film mocks the prophet Muhammad. The AP reports the video "resulted in at least 30 deaths in seven countries, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya."

The Islamic Center of America is inviting people of all faiths. Organizers say they hope to call attention to those who provoke violence in their speech.

More from WDIV:

"The level of freedom to express one's views in any country is judged by how all expression is protected, including abhorrent speech that is considered hateful. However, those who produce and promote expression that is hateful and which has no redeeming value, other than to promote division and encourage bigotry, should be put on notice that good people of faith will not stand idly by and allow hate to triumph over truth, love and respect," organizers said.

The Reformed Church in America has been ordaining women for more than 30 years. But there have always been ways for people who conscientiously object to female ministers to remove themselves from the process. On Monday night, the church’s governing body voted 143 to 69 to strike those policies.

A survey of female ministers shows about one in four experiences setbacks because of inappropriate use of those rules.

Reverend Stacey Midge heads the RCA’s Commission for Women. She believes the changes could cause some upheaval in the short term.

"In the long run however, I believe that we have more integrity as a denomination if we just say ‘we ordain women.' And if you can’t live within a system that ordains women, then there are a lot of denominations, and perhaps this isn’t the one for you," Midge said. 

The Reformed Church in America has been ordaining women for more than thirty years. On Monday the church’s governing body will consider dropping rules that outline ways people can conscientiously object during the process of ordaining women ministers.

The compromise, once struck to maintain unity within the church, may be causing more division now.

The Reformed Church in America has a large membership base in Michigan. The RCA has some administrative offices in Grand Rapids. Hope College in Holland is affiliated with the RCA, as is the Western Theological Seminary.

Flickr user/jemasmith

The Roman Catholic church says a newly formed prayer caucus in the Michigan Legislature that specifically endorses Judeo-Christian tradition should open itself to officials of "any faith." About 30 lawmakers and Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley sang "God Bless America" and prayed at Wednesday's launch.

The caucus says in its founding statement that it's "a bipartisan body of believers of Scriptural Truth, adhering to established Judeo-Christian principles."

The statement has drawn criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations based on what the group's state director Dawud Walid says is its "exclusionary language."

 The Michigan Catholic Conference has weighed in as well, saying it hopes that "elected officials of any faith are made to feel welcome." Caucus co-founder Rep. Ken Kurtz says anyone may join.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new group is trying to organize clergy members statewide to address the problem of youth violence in Michigan.

The group Prophetic Voices gathered a Christian, Muslim and other religious leaders to a meeting in Lansing this past week. 

Reverend Ira Edwards is the spokesman for Prophetic Voices.   He says youth violence is hurting more than just young people in Michigan.

Premshree Pillai / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A Muslim rights advocacy group says it's filing suit against the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for what it says is the mistreatment of Muslims at the U.S.-Canada border.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced plans for the lawsuit Thursday, saying it will release details at a news conference Friday in Detroit.

The council says the suit is based on "the repeated detention and questioning of Muslims" on religious matters at and near the border.

In a statement, the group says the suit is by four U.S. citizens who say that Customs and FBI agents "detained and handcuffed them without evidence of wrongdoing and questioned them about their
religious beliefs and worship habits."

The Associated Press has asked the U.S. Justice Department for comment.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids has released plans to merge and close some of its churches. The diocese includes 99 churches in 11 West Michigan counties.

“Every Parish is in one way or the other affected," said Bishop Walter Hurley. He approved the restructuring plan that's been three years in the making. It’s supposed to help the diocese face future challenges, like changing populations, a growing Hispanic community, and fewer clergy.

“Right now we’re not at a crisis point but what we do need to know as we look to the future, now what happens if we don’t have a pastor assigned to this Parrish or this Parrish," Hurley said. 

Hurley says a few churches in more rural areas up north have already closed. Another handful will close as priests retire. Others will merge together. Hurley says the plan is a living document and subject to change. The Diocese of Grand Rapids isn’t the only one grappling with fewer priests.

There's no set timeline for when many changes will take place, but they're expected over several years.

You can find the full approved "Our Faith, Our Future" plan here. 

If you like gospel music you might want to check out the 20th Annual Gospelfest in Ann Arbor.

The idea behind the event is to celebrate the diversity of music among different communities and faiths in southeast Michigan. Participants seek to bridge cultural, racial, and religious gaps between different churches, and develop friendships.

Jean Wilson is the co-founder of Gospelfest, and choir director at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Saline. She sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the event’s 20-year history.

Wilson says the event offers a variety of music, from traditional black gospel to contemporary Christian, pop-rock, and more. And she says the event is about diversity and unity.

“Although we are so diverse in our different ways of worship, we are all headed in the same direction; we are all children of the same creator. Although we have so many differences, we do have that thing at the core of our very being that really says that we are all related and are one, and we get to celebrate it.”

On Saturday March 10, choirs from Ann Arbor and Detroit will come together for the 20th Annual Gospelfest at Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor.

The gospel choir of New Prospect Baptist Missionary Church in Detroit will also participate in this year's event. Here's a video of the choir during a Saturday morning practice.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

The Romneys and Religion

Mar 2, 2012

I was a teenager back when Mitt Romney’s father, George, was governor of Michigan, and made his own run for the Republican Presidential nomination. I was already fascinated by politics, and followed that race closely. And here’s something you may find interesting. Back in nineteen-sixty-eight, nobody seemed to care that George Romney was a Mormon. Now, his formal campaign didn’t last very long. He dropped out of the race at the end of February.

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - The city of Dearborn has paid $100,000 in legal fees to attorneys for a Christian evangelist whose free-speech rights were violated at a popular Arab-American street festival.

Dearborn has a large Muslim population and one of the nation's biggest concentrations of people with roots in the Arab world. (Photo above of the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the U.S. by Flickr user ruffin_ready.)

City police in 2010 barred George Saieg and his allies from freely walking sidewalks with literature to convert Muslims to Christianity. Chief Ron Haddad says he was just controlling foot traffic, but a federal appeals court says the city violated the First Amendment.

The court says allowing the evangelists on the festival's perimeter wasn't good enough.

As the prevailing party, Saieg was entitled to legal fees and other costs from Dearborn. His lawyers say the money was paid last week.

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