The Bible as Fiction, Methodist LGBT Activists, and More: This Week In Religion

In case you missed it, here are some top religious stories from the past week: Pope Francis continued to wow the world with his compassionate outreach. Soon after he was seen embracing and kissing a man plagued by disfiguring boils, the Pope met with another disfigured man. The man from the first story, Italy's Vinicio Riva, was profiled in the Daily Mail. The article noted that Riva is afflicted by a hereditary disease that also affected his mother, and that his sister has a milder form of the same condition. They said the Pope showed him more affection than the man's own father.

Costco accidentally labeled the Holy Bible as a work of fiction, but the chain quickly apologized and promised to correct the offending tags.

A loving father who is also a minister in the United Methodist Church refused to back down after a church jury reprimanded him for officiating at the wedding of his gay son. The reverend said he feels called to be an activist for LGBT rights.

"America's pastor" Billy Graham's health continues to decline. The 95-year-old was hospitalized with respiratory problems this week.

Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned in Iran for proselytizing, has gotten some congressional backing. Both chambers have passed resolutions calling for his release.

Iran's supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khameini, has blessed peace talks with Israel — though with some strict preconditions.

The Church of England has cleared the the way for women bishops!

The Episcopal Church's mother church has often been more conservative than its American counterpart, in part because leadership felt the need to reflect differing sensibilities around the world on issues like ordination of LGBT people. It defeated a similar measure last year.

And in Chicago, a Catholic bishop exorcised... same-sex marriage? Yep. Perhaps more surprisingly, a spokeswoman for the diocese said that the church performs "minor exorcisms" regularly.

Longreads

Don't miss these longform pieces on religion from the past week:

In a revealing article for Vanity Fair, Michael Joseph Gross lifts the curtain on the Vatican's so-called "gay lobby." (Spoiler: it's not an Illuminati-esque group.)

This is the sort of idea that lights up the tinfoil hats of conspiracy theorists, and it doesn’t capture the slow, feudal, inefficient workings of the Vatican. “Gay lobby” is really shorthand for something else. At the Vatican, a significant number of gay prelates and other gay clerics are in positions of great authority. They may not act as a collective but are aware of one another’s existence. And they inhabit a secretive netherworld, because homosexuality is officially condemned. Though the number of gay priests in general, and specifically among the Curia in Rome, is unknown, the proportion is much higher than in the general population.

(Sidenote: Don't search Tumblr for "gay pope gif." Seriously NSFW.)

Tablet's podcast series explores how Thanksgiving became a sacred holiday for an Iranian-Jewish family. The story is one of eight from the Saffron and Rosewater: Songs and Stories From Persian Women collection.

The Utah Statesman took a look at post-Mormon lives, and what happens to people after they leave the church. For many of those profiled in the piece, the conflict between their faith and their sexuality was a key reason why they left:

Panelist Adison Pace grew up in the Salt Lake area. He said he went through the first two decades of his life as a strong member of the Mormon church, serving a two-year mission in the Dominican Republic. Pace, an openly gay member of the USU community, said he had long battled with hiding his homosexuality before his mission, and upon returning home, he decided to leave the church."In my process of coming out, I decided to no longer attend LDS meetings," he said. "I found for my emotional health that it was a lot healthier for me, and I've been a lot happier outside of it."