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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Republican leadership seemingly had enough of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive orders, with a limit on church gatherings marking the final straw.

The Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 Wednesday to strip the state of any ban on the number of people who could gather at one time to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Houses of worship in the Kansas City metro are canceling services and other activities as states, cities and businesses take drastic steps to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

Segment 1: How local churches are finding their way in the midst of coronavirus

Houses of worship have long served as a safe place for some people to gather in times of fear and uncertainty. But when large gatherings pose a threat to health, where do people turn? Today, we learn what three local churches are doing to serve their congregants while ensuring their health and safety are protected.

The comedy about moral philosophy just wrapped up its fourth and final season.

NBC's The Good Place captured the imaginations of people across all kinds of faiths because of the way it imagined what happens when we die. It also touched on existentialism and what it means to be human. After all, what does it mean to be a "good" person in our morally compromised world? What does it mean to be a "medium" person? (Listeners beware: spoilers will be aplenty).

Segment 1: Missouri Republicans want to see a "Cleaner Missouri" version of an initiative voters passed in 2018.

Missouri Republicans argue that Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, is biased when it comes to drawing legislative boundaries, and that the state's Democratic Party will get an unfair number of seats in the General Assembly. Now, a so-called "Cleaner Missouri" proposal has been introduced. Proponents say it will not only expand upon some of the original initiative's language, but it will also make redistricting more fair. 

Center School District / Facebook

School districts and churches in Kansas City, Missouri, will no longer have increased power to keep liquor stores and bars out of neighborhoods.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council unanimously passed an ordinance saying that churches and school districts have the same level of input as homeowners and other property owners when it comes to approvals for new bars and restaurants.

Previously, bars and restaurants selling liquor could not open within 300 feet of a school or church without the consent of those schools or churches.

Courtesy of the Hartsfield family

Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield Sr., a spiritual and civil rights leader in Kansas City for more than 40 years, died Thursday. He was 90.

Hartsfield served as senior pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, one of Kansas City’s largest black churches, from 1962 to 1968 and again from 1972 until his retirement on Dec. 31, 2007.

Adam Hamilton

Key Methodist leaders in the Kansas City area say it will be business as usual for them when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, after an announcement on Friday that the United Methodist Church would split to allow a new, "traditionalist-minded" denomination for congregations who don't support same-sex marriage or allow LGBTQ clergy.

Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 22,000-member, five-campus Church of the Resurrection, said he predicts only a handful of churches in the Kansas City area will split off from the existing denomination.

Segment 1: 2019 highlights from the religion beat

From Paris and Christchurch to St. Louis, Missouri, storylines on religion and faith took us around the world over the last year. We reviewed those with the most impact, including the evangelical embrace of President Donald Trump's policies.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

In 1991, when Reverend Eric Williams was new to his ministry, he was asked to perform a funeral for a young man who'd died of AIDS. The parents wanted to honor their son with a church service. Their own pastor had refused. 

An unspoken rule exists among clergy that pastors don't agree to things their colleagues have refused to do, but Williams couldn't stop thinking about the young man's family. The reckoning Williams experienced on the night of that phone call is still shaping Kansas City's approach to AIDS intervention, not to mention his work as a pastor.

What motivates a Baptist pastor to provide AIDS education, a fitness center and other unconventional services.

Reverend Eric Williams has been at the forefront of AIDS outreach since 1991, when he held a funeral for an openly gay man after a colleague refused to do it. Today, he continues to focus his ministry on health as a way of helping his congregant achieve the "abundant life" he preaches about. Hear his story, beginning with a childhood in zipcode 64130.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

The community around Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, is mostly black.

But Our Lady And St. Rose Catholic Church, at 5th and Quindaro, attracts a diverse mix congregants, often thought of as a rarity at Sunday morning services around the country.

“It’s been what our mission statement says, it’s been a faith-filled, diverse, family community,” says Sister Therese Bangert.

A journey along Quindaro Boulevard in northeast Kansas City, Kansas, takes us through history, demographic shifts, religion, and plans for economic development. Visit a black-owned bookstore in the 1960s, an integrated church and hear about one of the country's first black police chiefs. Plus, teens grapple with whether they have to leave the area to succeed.

This show is a culmination of months of reporting along Quindaro Boulevard as part of KCUR's Here to Listen initiative

Segment 1: A mass shooting on Central Avenue leaves a community grief-stricken.

Our reporter describes the weekend's shocking news from Wyandotte County, and a community leader asks Kansas Citians to understand what happened as an isolated incident that struck a growing, hard-working, tight-knit neighborhood.

Seg. 1: A KU professor is raising the bar for the standard of evidence in psychology.

A recent study reveals that a high percentage of treatments long believed to be supported by evidence don't measure up to today's standards for repeatability. What that means for the field of psychology, and why a KU professor is obsessed with learning more.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

As the homicide count in Kansas City continues to creep up and mass shootings happen regularly across the country, religious leaders from the suburbs to the city are finding it increasingly necessary to address the violence.

"We see a lot of memes, Facebook, and social media about 'thoughts and prayers are not going to take us much further' but, indeed, prayer is the foundation of the church," says the Rev. Laurie Anderson, minister of church life at Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church in Overland Park.

Segment 1: Addressing gun violence from the pulpit

Local leaders looking for a fix to the gun violence problem in Kansas City have tried policy solutions of their own, and have begged for legislative action from the General Assembly in Jefferson City. Progress, though, has been limited. Will turning to a higher power help? We ask local faith leaders what role their churches have in curbing gun violence.

Mark Manning

Kansas City artist Ryan Wilks' new exhibition at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center attracted a group of women who formed a circle and prayed. It's not uncommon, Wilks says, for Christians to offer help with eternal salvation.

Wilks used to be offended by the behavior, but in this case it only provoked a shrug.

"The title itself, 'Hell' — it's blasphemy," says Wilks (who prefers plural pronouns). So they understand the women's impulse.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The members of Northminster Presbyterian Church, north of the river in Kansas City, Missouri, pride themselves on having open doors.

The church's website says, "All are welcome in this place."

A Boy Scout troop meets here, as do some neighborhood assocations in this hilly residential area off Antioch Road. Local people also regularly rent out space for birthday parties, baby showers, and class reunions.

"This place should be different," Pastor Scott Phillips says. "A place of sanctuary, a place of safety, a place of connection." 

Courtesy of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

Updated, 10:30 a.m. Thursday: The meeting this week ended with a commitment to resist the plan approved in February at the General Conference; the church leaders present are not yet calling for a split. Some churches will continue to marry and ordain LGBTQ members.

The original post continues below.

The United Methodist Church is in crisis.

In February, the General Conference of the church held a special session in St. Louis, Missouri, to decide whether to allow marriage and ordination for its LGBTQ members.

Segment 1: Journalists discuss the Kansas City mayor's race, legislative sessions in Jefferson City and Topeka, and politics in Washington. 

In one week, Kansas City voters will narrow the field of mayoral candidates from 11 to two. Today, our political panel discusses issues on the April 2 ballot in Kansas City, Missouri, and the latest happenings in Missouri, Kansas and Washington politics.

Segment 1: The United Methodist Church is experiencing a rift among its members over LGBTQ issues.

Last week, the United Methodist Church voted to keep bans on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy, a controversial decision that exposes a divide between traditionalists and progressives. In this conversation, we talk to local members of the Methodist community about the vote's implications, their reactions, and what this means for the future of the Methodist Church. 

adamhamilton.com

Kansas City-area United Methodist congregations have denounced their church’s vote to prohibit LGBT clergy and same-sex marriages. Clergy and lay leaders voted Tuesday at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in St. Louis to reaffirm this ban, called the Traditional Plan.

Updated at 9:03 p.m. ET

Leaders of the United Methodist Church have rejected the One Church Plan, a measure that would have eased restrictions on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages, with delegates voting against it at a special session of the church's General Conference.

On Tuesday afternoon, delegates from around the world voted 438 to 384 to pass what was called the Traditional Plan, which maintains the church's rules.

Segment 1: A historic look at the conflict between faith and satire.

From court jesters of the medieval era to comedians of the modern day, humor and religion haven't exactly been the best of friends. In this conversation, a University of Kansas professor recounts a long history of standoffs between faith and wit.

Segment 1: What are local churches doing to prevent and report abuse?

Abuse in the church is a particular kind of betrayal. And it's an issue church-goers everywhere are wrestling with after news in Texas broke of pastors who could still find work despite long histories of sexual abuse allegations. In this conversation, we hear how local survivors, clergy, and advocates are responding to these stories.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Last year may have marked the beginning of a cultural shift for how people approach faith and politics . 

The passing of Rev. Billy Graham, the Pennsylvania priest sexual abuse scandal and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh are examples of the top religion stories of the past year. Two members of the Religion Newswriters Association explained why these and others made the association's  list. 

Kevin Collison / CityScene KC

A plan to demolish a prominent church on the Country Club Plaza and replace it with a 12-story, mixed-use project is unfolding as the latest historic preservation battle over the soul of the venerable district.

Legacy Development wants to redevelop the current site of the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist at the northwest corner of 47th and Pennsylvania, according to a proposal submitted recently to the City Plan Commission.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Saturday morning Shabbat at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park typically draws about 30 worshippers. But this Saturday saw a crowd at least four times that number show up, drawn to this white stone synagogue along 127th Street wanting to show solidarity against hate and anti-Semitism.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The parking lot filled fast at Kehilath Israel Synagogue. More than 1,300 people turned out Monday night for a diverse vigil in Overland Park supporting the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.

“Our hearts go out to the people in Pittsburgh, because we know what that’s like,” said Janee Hanzlick on her way into the building.

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