Civil rights icon awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom. C.T. Vivian—a civil rights veteran who started his social justice work in the 1940s, nonviolently protesting segregated lunch counters well before Martin Luther King Jr. became involved in the movement—received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. At age 89, he joined 15 others—including former President Bill Clinton and media mogul Oprah Winfrey—in receiving the highest civilian honor bestowed by the president. In 1961, Vivian, then a pastor and editor for a Baptist Sunday school publisher, was one of the first Freedom Riders to travel by bus to Jackson, Miss., where he was arrested and beaten. He served on King’s executive staff at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta in the 1960s. In 1965, during a confrontation in front of a courthouse in Selma, Ala., Sheriff Jim Clark blocked civil rights activists’ attempts to register to vote, but Vivian, who was struck and bloodied, refused to back down. Vivian now serves as the director of the Urban Theological Institute at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of African-American seminaries. Through his C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute, he fosters innovative leadership and career development for at-risk youth and college graduates.
Methodist pastor suspended for conducting same-sex wedding. Frank Schaefer, who officiated at the same-sex wedding of his son, received a 30-day suspension from ministry by a 13-member jury of United Methodist Church clergy. The jury told him if he cannot uphold the Methodist Book of Discipline, including its provisions that forbid the ordination of avowed homosexuals and ban clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages or holding such ceremonies in their churches, he must leave the ministry. Schaefer’s trial is the first since the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in 2012 upheld its 40-year-old rule that calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” At least four other clergy cases are headed to church trials as an increasing number perform such weddings in defiance of the denomination’s rulebook.
Humanists warn public schools about Operation Christmas Child. An organization of nonbelievers is threatening legal action against public schools that participate in an evangelical Christian charity that delivers Christmas toys to poor children. The American Humanist Association sent letters to two public elementary schools after parents complained their children were asked to collect toys and money for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Christian relief organization. Toys collected by Operation Christmas Child come with an invitation for recipients to accept Christianity. Since its founding in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has sent 100 million boxes of toys.
Church of England paves the way for women bishops. The Church of England’s governing body approved proposals that would allow women bishops to be ordained by this time next year. Meeting in London, the church’s General Synod passed a motion 378-8, with 25 abstentions, that paves the way for the endorsement of women bishops. Bishops also approved a declaration that sets out guidance for parishes that reject female consecrations. Now that the General Synod approved the matter, a draft declaration is expected to be endorsed at another meeting next February, and final approval is expected by November 2014.