2012's most important stories on faith
In 2012, a diversity of faiths were represented in the news on the national level. East Texas was no exception. Here are the top ten religion stories for the year:
• The Samaritan Counseling Center in Tyler opened its doors at the first of the year, and now serves hundreds of clients. The nonprofit organization touts its focus on incorporating all faiths into its counseling services and has a spiritual director on staff.
• A new mosque was built in Longview this year, raising concern from neighbors about the traffic it will create in the residential area.
• Church Under a Bridge, a group of Christians who gather under an overpass every Sunday to minister to the homeless, began holding services at the first of the year.
• Catholics and Protestants in Tyler joined others across the nation in protest of the Obama administration's mandate that employers cover contraceptives in employee insurance. The debate is ongoing.
• Congregation Beth El, the Reform Jewish synagogue in Tyler, celebrated their 125th anniversary this year.
• The majority of bishops at the Episcopal General Convention voted to approve a churchwide ceremony Tuesday to bless same-sex couples, but church leaders in Texas don't agree with the decision.
"I'm deeply disappointed," the Rev. David Luckenbach of Christ Episcopal Church in Tyler said. "I believe it will do harm and create confusion about the teaching of the church."
At the Episcopal General Convention, which is divided into two voting bodies, about 80 percent of the House of Deputies voted to authorize a provisional rite for same-sex unions for the next three years. A day earlier, the House of Bishops approved the rites 111-41 with three abstentions during the church meeting in Indianapolis.
Teen Mania Ministries celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Hannah Luce, the daughter of the ministry's founder, Ron Luce, was badly injured in a plane crash that killed three others who were headed to a ministry event.
Churches with primarily black congregants were torn about voting for Obama this year because of the president's stance on gay marriage. While others around the country were so dissatisfied they were considering not voting at all, black churches in Tyler were registering people to vote and said that not voting is not an option.
On Oct. 7, thousands of pastors around the country, and a few in East Texas, participated in "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," an initiative to challenge the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment, which bans pastors from endorsing a political candidate from the pulpit. Pastors gave purposefully politicized sermons, the recordings of which they then sent to the IRS.
The newest Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Joseph Strickland, was ordained on Nov. 28. Strickland was chosen from the same diocese he'd been serving in for decades, a rare move from Pope Benedict XVI. The Diocese of Tyler also celebrated their 25th anniversary this year.