The most beautiful and inspiring moments of 2016

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A girl makes a pigtail to another girl against the sunset in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh on July 30, 2007. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Ajay Verma

A girl makes a pigtail to another girl against the sunset in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh on July 30, 2007. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Ajay Verma

(RNS) 2016 was chock-full of beautiful and inspiring news. Now that we’ve started our next trip around the Sun, it’s a good time to hand out the first and perhaps annual Literalist Awards for Goodness and Mercy.  These shining stars of 2016 deserve special recognition for all they did.

The Inter-religious Dialogue Award goes to Wheaton College. The evangelical Harvard showed why it’s held in such high esteem when professor Larycia Hawkins wore hijab and the administration awarded her with tenure!

The Organizational Unity Award goes to both the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. Their courageous leaders Pope Francis and Russell Moore modeled how to challenge their own flocks to honor the faith.  The red hats around the world fell lockstep behind Francis and the Moore’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission received record donations from local SBC churches.

The Religious Liberty Award goes to president-elect Donald J. Trump. Just as President Bush did in the days following 9/11, Trump visited a local mosque and sought to quell anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.

The Resolving Decades Old Differences Award goes to the United Methodist Church. The UMC finally reached a conclusion to its 40-plus year debate on homosexuality. The pro-equality and pro-discrimination camps decided they could live in the same denomination, if not the same churches. Three small congregations left the denomination over the “controversial” compromise.

The Outstanding Young People Award goes to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. IVCF modeled Christlike compassion by launching a yearlong initiative to address LGBT homelessness. The evangelical campus ministry addressed one of the LGBT community’s most pressing problems, one often caused by religious parents throwing their LGBT children out on the street. The campus ministry experienced an upsurge in membership as students across the nation responded favorably to their radical love and acceptance.

There’s still one award left to give: the Reader’s Choice Award. Who made you smile in 2016? Send me your nominations to theliteralist.rns@gmail.com and your selection could be added to the list!