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By David W. Virtue, DD
December 28, 2022

1. The overthrow of Roe v. Wade and The Episcopal Church's lament at the prospect that women cannot obtain an abortion on demand. The Anglican Church in North America defended the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in Roe V. Wade decision.
2. Queen Elizabeth II dies after 70 years as monarch and head of the Church of England. Tributes poured in about her Christian faith. She was dispatched with a High Church liturgy that is becoming increasingly alien to many in religiously pluralistic Britain.
3. TEC's COVID decline in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) drops below 300,000, resulting in the closing of 63 congregations. Churchwide tallies of baptized members and Sunday attendance have declined nearly every year since 2001.
4. Anglican Diocese of South Carolina's mixed victory for Anglicans in court decision with more than $1 billion worth of properties at stake. Legal costs ran into the tens of millions of dollars.
5. The slow but inevitable merging of Episcopal dioceses across the country, notably Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and in the Midwest.
6. Archbishop of Canterbury says both sides of the homosexual debate are right at Lambeth Conference, causing fierce debate and pushback from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican churches. The GSFA stands its ground at the Lambeth Conference against revisionist trends in the Church of England and Western Anglicanism. Calls for reformation and revival.
7. Living in Love & Faith (LLF) report threatens to split the Church of England if approved.
8. Uganda and South Sudan threaten to split from Archbishop Justin Welby and the Church of England if homosexual marriage is normalized in the church of England.
9. Continued massive decline could see most Western Anglican provinces out of business by 2040, while independent evangelical Anglican congregations grow in the face of the woke left.
10. Non-denominational Christian churches soar in growth, according to the newly released 2020 U.S. Religion Census, a decennial survey conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. There are now more non-denominational churches than any denominations' churches but Southern Baptists, and their 21 million adherents outnumber every group but Catholics.


You can read more top stories from different sources here: https://www.rna.org/news/626651/RNA-Members-Name-Supreme-Courts-Roe-v.-Wade-Decision-Top-Story-of-2022.htm?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

RNA Members Name Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade Decision Top Story of 2022.

The Iranian women who lead in protests against their nation's theocracy named newsmakers of the year

The Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade was named the top U.S. religion story of 2022 by members of the Religion News Association, while the Russian invasion of Ukraine was named the top international religion story.

The Iranian women who have led protests against their nation's theocracy were named the top religion newsmakers of the year in the association's annual survey of top religion stories and newsmakers. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturning Roe, was the runner-up for newsmaker, followed by Moscow Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who defended the Russian invasion on spiritual and moral grounds.

Other top U.S. stories included the mixed success of Christian nationalist candidates in the midterm primaries and elections and a blistering report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Other top international stories included the Iranian women's protests and Pope Francis' historic apology in Canada for the Catholic Church's role in running residential schools for Indigenous children.

Members of the Religion News Association, a 73-year-old trade association for reporters who cover religion in the news media, have been voting on the annual story poll for decades.

The survey marks the first in which the association compiled separate lists of U.S. and international stories.

"With so many major religion stories across the world, we decided to offer two categories for the first time in 2022 -- Top Ten U.S. and Top Ten International," said RNA Treasurer Ken Chitwood. * "While in previous years we combined domestic and international stories into a single list, we recognized that our increasingly interconnected world might call for distinct categories for voters' consideration."

Lists of the top stories and newsmakers appear below.


The Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent and says there is no constitutional right to abortion, sparking battles in courts and state legislatures and driving voters to the November polls in high numbers. More than a dozen states enact abortion bans, while voters reject constitutional abortion restrictions in conservative Kansas and Kentucky and put abortion rights in three other states' constitutions.

Candidates embracing Christian Nationalist themes gain numerous Republican nominations but fare less well in the general midterm elections, while experts and activists debate the extent and alleged danger of a fusion of American and Christian identity. After smaller-than-expected Republican electoral wins, attributed by some to the long shadow of Donald Trump, many religious leaders who formerly supported him voice wariness over his announced campaign to regain the presidency.

An outside report on the Southern Baptist Convention says denominational leaders mishandled sex abuse claims and mistreated victims. Multiple other revelations energize the #ChurchToo movement, calling for accountability for sexual abuse or harassment in organizations ranging from Kanakuk Camps to Christianity Today magazine to the Anglican Church in North America. In a viral video, a woman confronts her Indiana pastor and longtime abuser.

Many religious congregations struggle to return to pre-pandemic attendance levels after resuming in-person worship.

Supreme Court issues a raft of religious-freedom rulings, allowing a death-row inmate greater access to his chaplain at his October execution, requiring Boston to allow a Christian flag to be flown at city hall and requiring Maine to allow religious schools access to tax-funded tuition aid.

Amid rising antisemitism, Adidas ends partnership with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and social-media companies restrict his accounts over his antisemitic remarks. Former President Trump's dinner with Ye and openly antisemitic guest Nick Fuentes spurs denunciations from his Jewish supporters. NBA star Kyrie Irvin is suspended after posting a link to an antisemitic film.

An Interior Department report documents how the U.S. government collaborated with churches in operating boarding schools for Indigenous children during the 19th and 20th centuries, when the federal government saw Christianizing Native children as part of a project to sever them from their culture, identities and land. The Episcopal Church establishes a commission to research the denomination's role in operating such schools, while Oklahoma Catholic dioceses host listening sessions for school survivors.

A slow-motion schism widens in the United Methodist Church with the launch of a conservative Global Methodist Church and the decisions of several hundred congregations to start or complete the process of leaving the denomination. A 2020 agreement for an amicable separation -- following decades of controversies over LGBTQ issues and theology -- loses its once-broad support.

Non-denominational Christian churches soar in growth, according to the newly released 2020 U.S. Religion Census, a decennial survey conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. There are now more non-denominational churches than any denominations' churches rather than Southern Baptists, and their 21 million adherents outnumber every group but Catholics.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorses the Respect for Marriage Act, breaking with other conservative denominations in saying it would support rights for same-sex couples as long as these rights didn't infringe upon religious groups' rights. Congress approves the act, which is signed by President Biden, reflecting a revolutionary cultural shift toward support of same-sex marriage.

More than a dozen states enact or consider laws restricting public-school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, policies supported by many religious conservatives but decried as "don't say gay" laws by critics.

Religious groups respond to a migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border and as far away as Martha's Vineyard, where a church responds to the needs of migrants flown there in an attempt by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to publicize the issue.

A rabbi and three worshipers at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, survive a 10-hour hostage standoff by a captor voicing antisemitic prejudice. The hostages eventually escape and the captor is killed.

Mass shootings claim lives at churches in Alabama and California. Faith leaders provide consolation and call for an end to gun violence and hate crimes after mass slayings targeting Black shoppers in Buffalo, New York, schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, and LGBTQ patrons of a Colorado Springs nightclub.

Author Salman Rushdie is seriously injured in a stabbing attack at an event on free expression at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. The suspect claimed in a jail interview that he believed Rushdie -- the "Satanic Verses" novelist who was targeted for death by a 1989 edict of Iran's late supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini -- "attacked Islam."

New York State's Board of Regents strengthens oversight of studies at religious and other private schools amid concerns -- highlighted by a New York Times report -- that scores of Hasidic Jewish schools deny students a basic secular education while receiving public funding.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, who often cites the importance of her Christian faith without divulging specifics, is confirmed as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. She describes herself as a non-denominational Protestant, becoming only the second sitting justice with a Protestant affiliation.

Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter -- inspired in part by its suspension of the conservative Christian site Babylon Bee for an antitransgender satirical piece -- spurs fears among religious groups of unmoderated hate speech, while many religious figures agonize over whether to leave or stay on the platform.

Pastor Rick Warren retires after 42 years of leading the startup Saddleback Church in Southern California to become one of the nation's largest megachurches. Warren, whose advocacy for women in ministry put him in tension with his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is succeeded by Andy Wood, who also advocates for women pastors but arrives amid criticism of alleged authoritarian leadership at his previous church.

U.S. Supreme Court reimposes death penalty on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and upholds the conviction and death penalty of Dylann Roof for the 2015 racist massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.


Russia invades Ukraine and meets fierce resistance in a war causing an estimated 240,000 casualties, including many Ukrainian civilians, amid allegations of war crimes. Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow defends the action as part of a metaphysical battle against Western liberalism. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church declares independence from the Russian Orthodox Church but faces growing government scrutiny over clerics' alleged ties to Moscow. Faith-based aid groups respond to Europe's biggest refugee flight since World War II.

Protests in Iran, sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman detained by the country's morality police, escalate into calls for the downfall of the Islamic republic's theocracy. Girls and women of all ages remove mandatory headscarves in the protests. Rights groups say security forces have killed hundreds of protesters.

Pope Francis issues a historic apology for the Catholic Church's cooperation with Canada's "catastrophic" policy of Indigenous residential schools. He visits the site of a former school and says the forced assimilation of Native peoples into Christian society destroyed their cultures, severed families and marginalized generations.

Queen Elizabeth II dies after 70 years as monarch and head of the Church of England. The mourning is marked by tributes to her Christian faith and by a High Church liturgy that is becoming increasingly alien to many in a secularizing and religiously diversifying Britain.

The U.N. accuses China of serious human rights violations that may amount to "crimes against humanity" in its crackdown on Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in China's western Xinjiang region. Beijing denounces the assessment and leads an effort to block debate on the issue before the U.N.'s top human rights body.

Religious tensions grow in India and spill over to the diaspora in the West amid attacks by Hindu nationalists on Muslims and other minority groups. Tensions escalate after two Muslim men were accused of slitting a Hindu tailor's throat and posting the video on social media as retaliation for the man's support of a government spokesperson who was fired after making blasphemous remarks. Factions of Hindu nationalists bulldoze Muslim properties in some areas, react violently to Hindu-Muslim marriages and call for hijab bans in some parts of the country.

In its first full year after resuming power in Afghanistan, the Taliban faces international isolation, an economic downturn, losses in foreign aid and attacks by the Islamic State group on pro-Taliban mosques and minority religious targets such as a Sikh temple. Taliban sharply curtails girls' education, requires women to cover themselves head-to-toe in public and resumes public capital and corporal punishments.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken determines that members of Myanmar's military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the minority Muslim Rohingya population. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh since a military crackdown began in 2017.

Israel's designated prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, moves to create a decidedly right-wing and religious government, with coalition partners whose agendas include West Bank settlement expansion, tougher punishment for Palestinian attackers, anti-LGBTQ proposals and restrictions on recognition of non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism. U.S. Jews, predominantly more liberal religiously and politically, fear the new government will strain their ties to Israel.

Controversies surround the World Cup hosted by Qatar. The country bans stadium beer sales and faces scrutiny over its human rights record and whether LGBTQ visitors would be welcome in the conservative Islamic emirate, where gay sex is illegal. Displays of rainbow colors by players and fans are curbed. The nation says all are welcome but should respect its culture.

Germany's Catholic bishops vow to continue a reform process despite fierce resistance in Germany and at the Vatican from those warning it could lead to schism. Preliminary assemblies in what's known as the Synodal Path have approved calls to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons, though the proposals would require further debate and approvals to be enacted.

Brazilians elect leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva president over far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, despite Bolsonaro's strong support from Brazil's growing evangelical constituency. Lula makes his own appeal to evangelicals, denying claims he planned to persecute the church and saying he heard their concerns on social issues.

The suspect in the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly tells police he targeted the former leader because of his links to the Unification Church, which he said took large amounts of money from his mother, bankrupted his family and ruined his life. The attack is followed by revelations of widespread ties between the controversial church and Japan's ruling party.

Pope Francis, increasingly using a wheelchair due to a painful knee injury, cancels a planned trip to Africa but completes other trips and keeps active. He puts more of his stamp on the College of Cardinals with appointees including a relative progressive, Robert McElroy of San Diego, and the first-ever cardinal from Brazil's Amazon region.

Affiliates of the so-called Islamic State claim responsibility for attacks on Shiite mosques that kill at least 63 in Pakistan and at least 15 in Iran, wounding many more. Nigerian authorities say a Pentecost Sunday attack on a church, killing at least 40, bears "the imprints" of the Islamic State of West African Province.

The Vatican acknowledges it imposed disciplinary sanctions on Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo -- a hero of East Timor's independence movement -- after receiving allegations of sexual abuse against him in 2019. French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard withdraws from religious duties after admitting he abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago. A German report faults Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for his handling of four cases when he was archbishop of Munich in the 1970s and 1980s.

In an ongoing corruption trial, Vatican prosecutors accuse 10 people of fleecing the Holy See of tens of millions of euros through ventures such as a failed investment in London real estate.

France's top administrative court rules against allowing body-covering "burkini" swimwear in public pools for religious reasons, arguing that it violates the principle of government neutrality toward religion. Some Muslim women decry the ruling as unfairly targeting their faith and their bodies, and based on outdated misconceptions about Islam.

Newly opened Vatican archives paint a complex portrait of Pope Pius XII, with one book portraying a timid pontiff who wasn't driven by antisemitism but rather by a conviction that Vatican neutrality was needed to protect the interests of the Catholic Church as World War II raged on.

A special French court finds 20 men guilty of involvement in the Islamic State terrorist attacks on the Bataclan theater, Paris cafes and France's national stadium in 2015, which killed 130 people. A gunman, whom authorities believe was radicalized to join an extremist Islamist group, kills two and wounds 21 others in Oslo, Norway, in which participants of an LGBTQ pride event may have been targeted.


The Iranian women who lead in protests against their nation's theocracy, publicly burning veils and cutting their hair after a 22-year-old woman dies in the custody of the Islamic republic's morality police.

Justice Samuel Alito, who writes the historic Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent, setting off a religiously charged, state-by-state battle over the legality of abortion.

Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who supports Russia's invasion of Ukraine as part of a wider metaphysical conflict against alleged Western liberal encroachment, a stance that contributes to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's declaration of independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Christian nationalists leaders, including elected officials, clergy and other public figures who play an outsized role in making Christian nationalism an increasingly mainstream part of Republican politics.

Christa Brown, whose advocacy for fellow survivors of sexual abuse helped force a reckoning over the Southern Baptist Convention's history of mishandling cases of sexually abusive ministers and of mistreating victims.

Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy, the public face of Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion and who, though secular, speaks in terms of light triumphing over darkness and of defending religious pluralism -- while also raising concern over his proposed restrictions on the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Pope Francis, who apologizes to Indigenous peoples in Canada for abuses at residential schools, continues to reshape the College of Cardinals in his image and curtails travels due to a painful knee injury.

Queen Elizabeth II, who dies after 70 years as monarch and head of the Church of England and whose mourning is marked by tributes to her Christian faith and by a High Church liturgy that is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to many in a secularizing and religiously diversifying Britain.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist who is mourned worldwide after his death at age 95.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, who offered a cup of tea to a guest and then navigated a 10-hour hostage siege by the armed visitor before Cytron-Walker and three other congregants reached safety.


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