President Barack Obama named 12 new members for his advisory council for the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office the first week of February, including Katharine Jefferts Schori, the head of the Episcopal Church. Schori in 2003 voted to approve the consecration of the church's first gay bishop, which was a final straw for theologically conservative churches that then left the denomination by the hundreds. Schori became the first female primate (or head) of the Episcopal Church in 2006.
The Salvation Army has elected its third female general, Commissioner Linda Bond, as the world leader of an organization that has a presence in 123 countries. Bond helped the Salvation Army assist flood victims in Australia and has worked across the world in Canada, Bermuda, the United States, and London. The first female general, Eva Booth, was elected in 1934.
The Israeli government has indicted four Palestinian men in the December death of American missionary Kristine Luken. The indictment says the men stabbed Luken and her friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, because they thought the women were Jewish. Israeli authorities say the men are part of a cell that is responsible for multiple killings, rapes, and robberies since 2009.
Seven Christians were released on bail on Jan. 29, a little over a month after the Iranian government imprisoned them for their religious beliefs. Twenty-six Christians remain in prison in Iran, including four who have been imprisoned for over four months.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, just retired, and his wife Midge, a federal appeals court judge, announced that they are separating a few months before their 40th year of marriage. In a letter to family friends, the couple said their separation was "amicable." They have one son, who practices law in Philadelphia. Midge serves on the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and Ed, a Democrat, served two terms as governor. Previously, he was mayor of Philadelphia.
On Feb. 6, friends, family, and fans celebrated the 100th birthday of the late former president Ronald Reagan. The Simi Valley, Calif., festivities included a $10,000, 400-pound, 6-foot-tall birthday cake with 20,000 jelly beans and a 50-pound chocolate eagle as the topper.