TOP STORY: DISSENT AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Excommunication decree sows confusion, outrage

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Three U.S. Catholic bishops are among the members of Call to Action, a liberal Catholic organization targeted in a sweeping excommunication threat by Lincoln, Neb., Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz. Bruskewitz said March 19 he would excommunicate Catholics in his diocese who refuse to quit Call to Action and 11 other groups he said were dangerous to Catholicism. Call to Action, which advocates female ordination and married clergy, includes as members Bishop Raymond Lucker of New Ulm, Minn., Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and retired Bishop Charles A. Buswell of Pueblo, Colo., the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal biweekly Catholic newspaper, said in its current edition, to be published April 5. Call to Action, based in Chicago, has a total of 16,000 members, including more than 5,000 nuns and priests.”I am a member of Call to Action,”Lucker said.”I was invited to speak at their conference last November.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Reform rabbis seek to tighten patrilineal descent policy (RNS)-Reform Judaism’s rabbinic body is undertaking a review of its controversial policy of patrilineal descent because of concerns it has been misunderstood by the laity. Patrilineal descent is the acceptance of a Jewish father’s children as Jews, even if the mother is a non-Jew. Until the Reform movement adopted the policy in 1983 in response to the rise of interfaith marriages, only those born to Jewish women or someone who had undergone a formal conversion were considered Jewish. The review is not expected to result in a reversal of the policy.

COMMENTARY: Catholic dissent and a bishop’s abuse of power

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist at the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. His home page on the World Wide Web is at http://www.greeley.com. Or contact him at his e-mail address: agreel(at sign)aol.com.) (RNS)-The Irish have a word that perfectly describes Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb. The word is”amadon.”It is applied to someone who makes a laughingstock of himself.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service All-white Southern Baptist church decides to keep biracial child in grave (RNS)-The top social policy official of the Southern Baptist Convention has harshly criticized an all-white Southern Baptist church in Georgia whose leaders wanted to exhume the body of a baby from a church cemetery after learning the child was biracial. Officials of Barnetts Creek Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ga., reversed their plan after pressure from congregants who were alerted by news media to the situation. Nevertheless, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, criticized the church for its original intentions.”I am confident that most Southern Baptists join me in finding the proposed actions of Barnetts Creek Church reprehensible and an embarrassment to the gospel of Christ,”Land said in a statement issued Thursday (March 28). The leaders of Barnetts Creek Baptist Church decided that the body of Whitney Elaine Johnson could remain in the cemetery, where no blacks had been buried.”For the record, we are not going to exhume the baby,”said the Rev. Leon VanLandingham, according to Associated Press.

NEWS STORY: Pope urges `new feminism’ for women in Catholic Church

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-Pope John Paul II appears to have opened the door a bit further to the role of women in the Catholic Church, stating in a document released Thursday (March 28) that they should be encouraged to promote a”new feminism”in educational and decision-making roles. But the pope, in a 200-page”apostolic exhortation”on religious life that he said was under increasing strains from modern society, showed no sign of softening his opposition to women’s ordination. In fact, he didn’t mention it. Instead, he wrote,”It is urgently necessary to take certain concrete steps, beginning by providing room for women to participate in different fields and at all levels, above all in matters which concern women themselves.”

COMMENTARY: In America, there’s room for all religions

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau offers powerful evidence that America is undergoing a profound demographic shift, which promises to transform not only the social, political and economic landscape, but religious communities as well. Today, more than 73 percent of our population is white, but in 50 years, according to the report, their numbers will shrink to 52 percent of the population. As a group, white Americans will be significantly older than the Asians, Hispanics and blacks who will comprise nearly half the population. Hispanics will register the sharpest increase in the next five decades, from 10.2 percent to just under a quarter of the U.S. population.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Eco-theologian says fate of the Earth hangs in the balance

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Nearing the end of his intellectually rich life, Thomas Berry, 81, cultural historian, Catholic priest and scholar, comes now to the conclusion that we, too, are perilously near the end. We, the human species, he means. “The peril of the planet, if not its tragic fate,” he calls us. Having burned a hole in the atmosphere, depleted the Earth’s genetic stock through mass exterminations and threatened the planetary oxygen supply by clear-cutting its rain forests, man is close to tipping Earth into a biological implosion not seen since the death of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, Berry believes.

Revisiting the sites where Jesus last walked

c. 1996 Religion News Service JERUSALEM (RNS)-It was in or near Bethpage, a Herodian-era cemetery marking the city limits of ancient Jerusalem, that the Easter story began on Palm Sunday. And from a similar site the Resurrection story unfolded a week later-a week marked by nadirs of agony and despair and pinnacles of joy. Even today, Bethpage, a small field of fruit trees and pasture tumbling down from the Mount of Olives toward the Judean desert, remains apart from the hum and din of the modern city-an oasis in time. The rocky, arid ground is rich with grass after the end of the winter rains.

NEWS FEATURE: Reform Jewish leaders increasingly concerned by interfaith marriages

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Reform Judaism-the faith’s largest branch in North America with some 1.4-million members-has long been characterized by its liberal approach to interfaith marriages, accepting them as a fact of life in an open society. Currently, about 60 percent of Reform Jews are marrying non-Jews. In some southern and western states, the rate tops 75 percent. For many Jews, the high intermarriage rate is a clear sign of their acceptance by an overwhelmingly Christian nation.

TOP STORY: PALM SUNDAY AND EASTER: Revisiting the sites where Jesus last walked

c. 1996 Religion News Service JERUSALEM (RNS)-It was in or near Bethpage, a Herodian-era cemetery marking the city limits of ancient Jerusalem, that the Easter story began on Palm Sunday. And from a similar site the Resurrection story unfolded a week later-a week marked by nadirs of agony and despair and pinnacles of joy. Even today, Bethpage, a small field of fruit trees and pasture tumbling down from the Mount of Olives toward the Judean desert, remains apart from the hum and din of the modern city-an oasis in time. The rocky, arid ground is rich with grass after the end of the winter rains.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Orthodox dispute prompts WCC concern (RNS)-World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary Konrad Raiser says the world body is watching with”profound concern”the dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul over the status of the Orthodox Church in Estonia. Raiser, an ordained minister of the Evangelical Church in Germany, told RNS in a recent interview that he has written to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksy II, urging that the dispute be speedily resolved. Both bodies are members of the World Council of Churches, the international ecumenical agency of 324 Orthodox and Protestant churches, based in Geneva. The breach between the two Orthodox bodies became glaringly visible on Feb.

COMMENTARY: On Good Friday, did Jesus feel like a failure?

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is the author of”Turn Toward the Wind”and publisher of Religion News Service.) (RNS)-Jesus was fully human and fully divine. It is one of the basic tenets of Christian theology and one of the great paradoxes of history. And during this Christian holy season, much of the pomp and passion is meant to emphasize the dual nature of Jesus. As a child I remember shuddering as preachers described the crucifixion in gory detail in order to emphasize the pain Jesus experienced.

A gourmet Seder reveals chef’s Jewish roots

c. 1996 Religion News Service VAIL, Colo. (RNS)-Why is this night different from all other nights? On this night we hold the Passover Seder at a posh ski resort in the Rockies. Like devoted Jewish cooks around the world, award-winning chef Jim Cohen will be in his kitchen Thursday, April 4, lovingly preparing a Seder, the Passover feast described in Chapter 12 of the biblical Book of Exodus and the most beloved of Jewish family rituals.

SIDEBAR: Nouvelle Jewish cuisine for Passover

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-The following recipe for Passover Moroccan Lamb is also a delicious Easter dish, says Chef Jim Cohen of Wildflower, the signature restaurant of the Lodge at Vail, Colo., a Rocky Mountain resort that offers an annual “Ski and Seder” package. For dessert, Cohen serves Chocolate Nut Cake with Grilled Oranges. PASSOVER MOROCCAN LAMB Serves 6-8 Two New Zealand rack of lamb, 6-8 pounds each (Kosher shoulder of lamb may also be used) Salt and pepper to taste A few strands saffron 2 peeled, chopped garlic cloves one-fourth cup olive oil 1 teaspoon grated ginger 2 onions, diced one-fourth cup celery with leaves, chopped 1 carrot, diced 2 Roma tomatoes 1 pound pitted green olives 1 quart chicken stock 2 peeled canned Italian tomatoes, diced Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Rub lamb with salt, pepper and saffron.