TOP STORY: SPIRITUALITY: In search of inspiring stories, couple finds everyday heroics

c. 1996 Religion News Service CLEVELAND (RNS)-The difference in Bruce and Julie Madsen is undeniable. It’s discernible in their faces, which are relaxed and lapse into easy smiles. Gone is the tension so apparent in those same faces nine months ago, along with the defensiveness. Back then, the couple spent a lot of time explaining to others why they had just quit their lucrative jobs and sold their home here to embark on a cross-country journey in search of inspiring stories about”ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Global Religion Report

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Following is a collection of international religion stories compiled by RNS staff, wire and denominational reports.) Episcopal Church leaders ask prayers for Bosnia peacekeepers (RNS)-Leaders of the Episcopal Church are asking Americans to pause at noon on Thursday, Jan. 25, to pray for the Bosnian peacekeeping mission and the safety of the peacekeepers.”The peacekeeping mission to Bosnia is a historical undertaking, both because it is the first great peacekeeping effort after the end of the Cold War and because Bosnia is a particularly tortured and torn land,”said Bishop Charles Keyser, the denomination’s bishop for the Armed Forces. Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Diocese of California, who began the initiative, has invited other Christian, as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders, to participate. Swing said the long holiday season-which began with the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, includes the Christian holy days of Christmas and Epiphany, and, beginning Jan.

TOP STORY: WORLD RELIGION: Jewish political insider wages ardent fight for Christian religious liber

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Michael Horowitz has maneuvered around Washington political circles for nearly 15 years. A former Reagan administration official and current senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute think tank, Horowitz has worked on issues ranging from welfare policy to federalism to tort reform. His latest political crusade, however, is raising eyebrows worldwide. Horowitz, who describes himself as”rootedly Jewish,”has become an ardent advocate on behalf of persecuted evangelicals and Catholics.

NEWS STORY: Vatican goes interactive with museum treasures

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-Why spend richly to tour the Vatican museums, along hot, crowded and noisy corridors, when you can take in the artistic richness of the Catholic Church’s artifacts and paintings at home? The question may now be more than academic. The Vatican on Thursday (Jan. 18) unveiled the first in a series of new videocassettes and CD-ROMs for personal computers that feature its most cherished museum collections.

COMMENTARY: Remembering the chief architect of modern Israel

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-In January 1896 the weekly Jewish Chronicle of London printed excerpts from a new booklet,”Der Judenstaat”or”The Jewish State,”whose author was even more fascinating than the provocative title of his work. The publication of Theodor Herzl’s 70-page volume immediately transformed the 36-year-old journalist and playwright into the leader of the Jewish people and a world figure.”Der Judenstaat,”which has been translated into more than 20 languages, made an impact upon Jews everywhere, sparking intense ardor for an actual national rebirth, and not merely the continuation of a 2,000-year-old religious hope. Herzl was an unlikely candidate for his role in history as the founder of the modern Zionist movement, the driving force in creating the State of Israel. He was a thoroughly assimilated Austrian Jew, and his Jewish education and knowledge of Hebrew were nearly zero.

NEWS STORY: Religious groups form anti-gambling coalition

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-In a rare show of unity on a public-policy issue, the liberal National Council of Churches and the conservative Christian Coalition said Wednesday they would work together to try to stop the spread of legal gambling in the United States.”When the Christian Coalition and the National Council of Churches join together on an issue, that’s remarkable,”said Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition. Reed spoke at a news conference to announce the opening of a Washington office of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. He was joined by the Rev. Tom Grey, a United Methodist minister and executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling; Mary Cooper, associate director of the National Council of Churches’ Washington office; and representatives of the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA). The new Washington office, to be headed by Grey, is an expansion of a modest effort he began in Chicago.

TOP STORY: THE CHECHEN REBELLION NEWS ANALYSIS:Chechens fortified by mystical approach to Islam

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Chechen separatists face overwhelming odds in their fight against the better-equipped and far larger Russian military machine. Yet they persist, taking hostages on land and at sea and displaying a seemingly reckless willingness to die for their cause. Two factors keep them fighting, according to expatriate Chechens and others familiar with their motivations. The first is a burning desire to be free of Moscow’s domination, which Chechens have unsuccessfully fought for more than two centuries.”To be free of the Russians is a tradition we pass from generation to generation,”said Mohammed Shashani, who teaches electrical engineering at Pennsylvania State University and heads the 5,000-member Chechen-Ingush Society of America.”My son is 12 and he talks about growing up and going to fight for Chechen independence.

National Religion Report

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Following is a collection of domestic religion stories compiled from RNS staff, wire and denominational reports). Parishioners shun visit by female Episcopal bishop (RNS)-The Rev. Arthur Woolley of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, Md., an opponent of women’s ordination, vowed to”use every means at my disposal”to block a visit to his traditionalist parish by Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, the suffragan bishop of the Washington diocese. But on Sunday (Jan.

Pope likely to wait on Jerusalem visit until after peace talks begin

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-Pope John Paul II is likely to wait until after peace talks begin next year on the status of Jerusalem before visiting the holy city, an Israeli government minister said Wednesday following a Vatican meeting with the pontiff.”From my understanding, it (the pope’s visit) is more likely to take place in ’97 than in ’96,”Israel Religious Affairs Minister Shimon Shetreet told reporters. Since 1993 the pope has had a standing invitation from the Israeli government to visit Jerusalem. He has spoken frequently of his strong desire to visit the city and other holy sites in the Middle East. Some Palestinians have expressed concern that a papal visit prior to the beginning of negotiations over the status of Jerusalem would fortify Israel’s claim that political control of the city belongs to it alone.

COMMENTARY: Finding the simple pleasures in life

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is the author of”Turn Toward the Wind”and the publisher of Religion News Service.) (RNS)-For some it comes as an epiphany, a sudden realization that the stuff of life has outpaced the substance. Others move toward it gradually, growing tired of the”shop ’til you drop”mentality that no longer seems satisfying. Whatever the case, what started as an individual choice has become a national movement. Economists and sociologists agree that a fundamental shift is taking place in our consumer economy.

NEWS FEATURE: Proposed time change in Britain upsets Jews, Muslims

c. 1996 Religion News Service LONDON (RNS)-Some Orthodox Jews and Muslims are objecting to a proposal to advance Britain’s clocks an hour and put the entire country on Central European Time. Such a move would make carefully planned religious observances-early-morning prayers and sabbath observances for Jews, and mid-day prayers for Muslims-more difficult, the groups say. But proponents say moving up the clock would save lives on British roads by extending daylight commuting time. The proposal, contained in a bill to be debated Friday (Jan.

Murder victims’ families live with agonies that never heal

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS (RNS)-The death penalty debate yields a bitter side effect-the fresh agonies it inflicts on victims’ families, who are trying to heal the most fearful emotional wounds. Moral arguments over the basic dignity even of killers, doubts about judicial competence, and the years of public attention a killer receives while his victim lies forgotten-all seem perversely to elevate a murderer over a victim who was certainly innocent. And so it is with the debut of the movie”Dead Man Walking.””This puts us back to stage one. It hurts,”Elizabeth Harvey said softly from her home in Mandeville, a New Orleans suburb.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND POPULAR CULTURE: `Too much pain here,’ says author of death penalty bo

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-As a child in the early 1950s, Helen Prejean drifted off to sleep bathed in the security of a middle-class Catholic home, lulled by the sound of her parents murmuring the rosary.”Catholicism,”she said,”was in our DNA.” As a nun 30 years later, her faith, profoundly reshaped, led her to live and work with the poor in the St. Thomas public housing development in New Orleans, where the sound of occasional gunfire jerked her awake at night. Eventually her midnights came in yet another place: the death house at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where her encounters with three executions-and later with the enduring, unsatisfied pain of crime victims’ families-transformed Prejean into America’s most vocal opponent of the death penalty, and an advocate for increased regard for families ravaged by crime.

NEWS STORY: Black churches form corporation to aid members

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Five of the nation’s largest black church groups have announced the creation of a company that will help businesses sell a variety of consumer products and services to congregation members while earmarking part of the profits to help African-Americans buy their own homes. The denominations chose the birth date of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to unveil their ambitious plan to channel some of the $400 billion annually spent by African-American consumers back into the black community.”Dr. King wanted the African-American community to move beyond civil rights to silver rights,”the Rev. Bennett W. Smith., president of the 1.8 million-member Progressive National Baptist Convention, said Monday.”We feel we are in some degree helping today to fulfill that dream.” Revelation Corp. of America, a for-profit company, will give a variety of firms, selling everything from automobile supplies to groceries to insurance, an exclusive track to reaching the five denominations’ estimated 20 million members.

NEWS STORY: Episcopal court breaks heresy case into two parts

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Did retired Episcopal Bishop Walter Righter commit heresy when he ordained a non-celibate homosexual as a deacon in 1990? A nine-member Episcopal Church court was scheduled to decide that question Feb. 27-29 at a trial in Wilmington, Del. But now the church has announced that before the court can weigh Righter’s guilt or innocence, it first must decide an even more basic question: Does the church have a doctrine forbidding homosexual ordination?