'Religion is always in the room:' reflections in light of a transition
Plus, Christian and Missionary Alliance move, faith leaders comment on Elijah McClain news, and local responses to Texas abortion law
Liam has an announcement to share with subscribers, so here he is in the first-person:
A friend of mine, Liz Kineke, who I met through the Religion News Association, popularized the phrase among RNA members, “Religion is always in the room.” In fact, it became so popular that RNA printed it on T-shirts, which, of course, I have one of.
I hope that’s what we are showing Coloradans through this newsletter: that many of the week’s biggest news stories could very well have a religion angle.
As a freelance reporter for the past several years covering religion, I have known this to be the case. At the same time, finding a religion angle is a little easier when one is writing about religious colleges for Christianity Today, for example. Yet, here at “Have Faith, Colorado,” we are many times looking at the biggest local stories in Colorado and finding the faith angle, which isn’t always front and center, but is very often there.
Finding those local religion angles is a skill I have refined through “Have Faith, Colorado,” and one I am excited to take with me as I start a new job as religion reporter at The Tennessean in Nashville, TN. Sure, there will be obvious religion stories to cover, especially since Nashville is the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention. But I’m also eager to learn how religion intersects with housing issues, state politics and natural disaster recovery, just as some examples.
So, my point is, “Have Faith, Colorado,” has been a great opportunity for me to expand my understanding of religion’s presence in our Colorado’s society. Carina and I hope that it’s been a similar experience for you.
“Have Faith, Colorado” will keep going and I will be on board for a little bit longer. So, perhaps expect photos in a couple weeks of me struggling to haul a small trailer through Nebraska (to. Because I have my doubts.
Faith leaders respond to Elijah McClain indictments
The biggest news out of Colorado in a week filled with major events was the Wednesday announcement from Attorney General Phil Weiser that a state grand jury has indicted the five Aurora police officers and paramedics who detained and sedated Elijah McClain two years ago while he was walking home from a convenience store. McClain died six days after the encounter, and the first responders are now facing homicide and manslaughter charges. The news was met with tentative hope from local activists, many of whom have been fighting for justice for McClain and his family long before he became a household name in the summer of 2020.
Several faith leaders weighed in on social media. “This isn’t justice. Justice would mean Elijah McClain was still here. This isn’t justice, but accountability matters,” Rev. Jasper Peters, pastor of Belong Denver, said on twitter. Eugene Downing, pastor of New Hope Denver, shared a photo of McClain with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
At the press conference announcing the indictments, Weiser said “Elijah McClain’s memory will live on as a blessing to all of us,” a version of a traditional Jewish honorific for those who have died. And while many are hoping that the indictments will help Aurora move forward, the Denver Post has a touching profile of Elijah’s mother Sheneen McClain that serves as a reminder that his loss will always be felt by his loved ones no matter what criminal charges or reforms result from his death.
“When Elijah was a baby, my bishop prayed for him and she said, ‘He has healing hands,'” Sheneen told the Post.
Local reaction to Texas abortion ban
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold a six-week abortion ban in Texas, making the procedure all-but-inaccessible in the state in a clear violation of Roe v. Wade, abortion providers in Colorado are bracing for an increase in out-of-state clients. Colorado has some of the most expansive abortion laws in the country, and according to an article in the Denver Post, local providers are making plans to increase capacity.
For some in Colorado, the news was a cause for celebration. “The right to life is more important than any other right granted to us by God,” New Life Church pastor Brady Body tweeted. Samuel Aquila, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver retweeted a tweet saying “Texas joins Poland,” a reference to the near-total ban on abortion passed in the heavily Catholic country in January. The Catholic church and other Christian pro-life groups have been at the center of several attempts in recent years to limit abortion rights in Colorado, including last year’s Proposition 115. The bill, which would have banned abortion after 22 weeks, was rejected by voters 59% to 41%.
Move from the Springs to Ohio and you …. throw tomatoes?!?!
It’s hard to say if Christian and Missionary Alliance staff threw tomatoes out of celebration for finally leaving Colorado Springs or because the building they threw the tomatoes at in Reynoldsburg, Ohio is being demolished. It’s likely the latter, but if you moved out of Colorado Springs and felt the sudden urge to throw tomatoes, we would like to know.
Either way, that’s what Alliance staff were up to recently at its new home, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The Alliance, a Protestant denomination that claims tens of thousands of locations and millions of members, had been based in Colorado Springs for 31 years, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. However, with the rising cost of living in the Springs, the organization decided to move to Ohio, a process it began this summer. The Alliance will be building a new headquarters in Ohio on top of the land where the now tomato-splattered Kmart sits.
Though the Alliance has left Colorado Springs, its departure won’t usher in a major disruption to the Springs’ entire evangelical apparatus, sources told Liam when he was reporting a story for Christianity Today on evangelicalism in the Springs. A local journalist down there, Steve Rabey, pointed out that many national and international parachurch organizations are still there. Will Schultz, historian at the University of Chicago Divinity School, had a different take, saying much of the original evangelical apparatus has already experienced disruption. Schultz told Liam, “I think the time when Colorado Springs was universally seen as the center of the evangelical universe has already come and gone. So, it’s not as if the departure of the C&MA is going to destroy that reputation.”
Colorado Christian University is the fifth-fastest-growing college in the nonprofit, master’s degree granting category, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
JEWISHColorado will be holding a virtual discussion on Monday, Sept. 13 to discuss Israel-UAE relations.
Colorado-based humanities programs and cultural organizations are eligible to receive grants through the American Rescue Plan, according to the Colorado Council of Churches’ latest newsletter.
“Have Faith, Colorado” is a weekly roundup and analysis of local religion articles in the Centennial State. It’s by Liam Adams and Carina Julig. Carina covers education and other Aurora news at the Sentinel Colorado. Liam has worked as a local journalist in Colorado and a freelancer covering religion. He’s soon making a trek to Tennessee. To connect with us about the newsletter please email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us on twitter at @liamsadams and @CarinaJulig.