More Trouble for Methodists, Byzantine Church Becomes Mosque, Churches and Atheists Squabble over PPP Money, Catholic Schools Close, Jehovah’s Witnesses Go Virtual With Annual Meetings

Time For Cross and Flame to Go?
Methodist Pastor Fired for Marrying LGBT CoupleThe United Methodist Church, already struggling with a split over LGBT issues and the Coronavirus, now has another divisive battle – over its logo, a cross and a flame, which in today’s hyper-senstive political climate some equate to a cross burning, and there is a call to remove it.

New Hagia Sophia Secrets Come to LightByzantine Church Converted to Mosque
Hagia Sophia, built in 537, was the world’s largest interior space under a huge dome and through history was a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral and an Ottoman mosque. In 1934, it was made a museum, but Turkey has reversed the museum decree and once again it will become a mosque. The decision was celebrated by Muslims but lamented by Christians who view the World Heritage Site as an international symbol of Greek Orthodox faith. Others feel it should remain a museum as a symbol of Christian and Muslim solidarity. According to the Turkish government, it will resume as a mosque with services scheduled for July 24.

Churches, Atheists Receive Government PPP Loan Money
The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection loan Program helps businesses maintain payroll and retain employees during the impact of COVID-19. The so-called “forgivable loans” have stirred controversy with some factions upset that the Catholic Church, for one, has received an estimated $1.4 billion in loans. But the Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist legal organization which has decried loans to churches, admitted that it too received loans of “less that $500 thousand dollars.”

Six Catholic Schools in Brooklyn and Queens to Close

Coronavirus restrictions, low enrollment, financial hardships and cancelled fundraisers have forced the closure of six Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens. The schools – Queen of the Rosary, St. Gregory the Great, Our Lady’s Catholic Academy, Our Lady of Grace, Holy Trinity Catholic Academy and St. Mel’s Catholic Academy – join some 20 closed or merged schools under the Archdiocese of New York.

Jehovah’s Witnesses Go Virtual With Biggest Events of Year
The annual multi-day Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions hosted each year at large venues across the globe will not be held in person this year, but because of Coronavirus concerns, will become a virtual series. This is likely to have a significant economic impact for host cities. Jehovah’s Witnesses held some 5,700 live conventions around the world last year, and this year in the United States alone, some 800 conventions in 700 cities have been cancelled. Some 40,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses gathered at the convention in Phoenix last year, for example, and contributed some $50 million into the city’s economy. Jehovah’s Witness spokesman Jarrod Lopes said the decision was not made lightly but “Our Creator values life highly, and we believe this arrangement honors that high standard.” Portions of the three-day “Always Rejoice” conventions will be released during July and August.