COMMENTARY: The danger of using death to solve dilemmas

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Frederica Mathewes-Green is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. She is the author of the recent book”Real Choices”and is a member of the board of the National Women’s Coalition for Life and a frequent contributor to Christianity Today magazine.) (RNS)-In the aftermath of President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion bill, one word hangs ringing in the air: infanticide. In a rare joint statement, eight Roman Catholic cardinals charged that the act would not merely allow”children, almost completely born, to be killed brutally.”The veto would point toward the future as well.”It moves our nation one step further toward acceptance of infanticide,”the cardinals wrote. At the time of the 1973 Roe vs.

NEWS STORY: Christian youth gather for two-day `Washington for Jesus’ rally

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Armed with picnic coolers, Bibles and”Jesus”pennants, thousands of Christian youth gathered for a”Washington for Jesus”rally at the U.S. Capitol Monday, rejoicing that they were not alone in their faith.”Sometimes I get discouraged, thinking there are not other Christians,”said Ben Blemahdoo, 16, of Calvary Gospel Church Conqueror’s Club Gospel Team, an evangelistic teen outreach in Newark, N.J. Looking around at the crowd, Blemahdoo added,”You can see that you are not alone and that there are other people who have struggles like you.” Candace Spinazzola, 14, who attended with 33 others from Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., said she was glad to be part of a gathering of”teens coming from all over America to stand for God.””We know we’re not the only ones,”she said.”We’re just encouraged.” The two-day rally concludes Tuesday (April 30) with prayers and speeches on such issues as AIDS, abortion and homosexuality and appearances by such figures as the Rev. Jerry Falwell and evangelist Benny Hinn. The event follows two similar ones, in 1980 and 1988.

COMMENTARY: Let moral renewal begin with me

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Charles W. Colson, former special counsel to Richard Nixon, served a prison term for his role in the Watergate scandal. He now heads Prison Fellowship International, an evangelical Christian ministry to the imprisoned and their families. Contact Colson via e-mail at 71421.1551(AT) (RNS)-In synagogues, churches and meeting halls across the nation Thursday (May 2), Americans will gather for the National Day of Prayer. The centerpiece of the occasion is an all-day prayer vigil in the U.S. Capitol at which I, among others, will speak.

TOP STORY: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Poles look to West—not the Church—for moral guidance

c. 1996 Religion News Service KRAKOW, Poland (RNS)-It’s Friday night, and Kasia, 16, Marek, 17, and their gang are eating pizzas and drinking sodas at the Pizza Hut across from Krakow’s Baroque 17th-century Saints Peter and Paul Church, one of more than 50 in this bastion of Polish Catholicism.”Sure, I’m Catholic,”says Kasia, who has radio headphones hanging from her neck.”But I only go to church because I have to. I think the Church is old-fashioned. They don’t understand what young people like to do.” Marek, a high school senior, wants to go to college in the United States.”It’s so hypocritical here.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Scholars ponder whether Shakespeare was Roman Catholic (RNS)-British scholars are discussing the possibility that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a”church-papist,”one who outwardly conformed to the established Protestant Church of England while secretly harboring Roman Catholic beliefs. Shakespeare wrote at the height of the Elizabethan era, named after Queen Elizabeth I, when Anglican Protestantism was becoming the established church, Catholicism was persecuted, and Catholic priests were executed. The debate began this spring with the publication of an article in the annual Shakespeare Yearbook by Margarita Stocker, a professor at St. Hilda’s college of Oxford University.

TOP STORY: DENOMINATIONS: Methodists remain divided on gays, but meeting forges ecumenical ties

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Still divided over homosexuality but unified in seeking stronger ties with other religious bodies, the United Methodist Church’s General Conference drew to a close Friday after a series of decisions that could reshape the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination. The subject of the role of homosexuals in the church dominated much of the most visible aspects of the 10-day policy-making meeting in Denver, which was scheduled to end this evening (April 26). But the nearly 1,000 delegates also acted on a host of other topics, ranging from the doctrine of baptism and the ordained ministry to the future structure of the 8.6 million-member denomination. Homosexuality has been a fiercely contested issue at every quadrennial meeting of the church since 1972, when delegates adopted a resolution asserting that homosexuality is”incompatible with Christian teaching,”a stance that has effectively barred practicing homosexuals from ordination.

Vocal ensembles star at Dove Awards ceremony

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Vocal ensembles-rather than individual artists-walked away with many of the the big awards Thursday night at the Dove Awards, an annual event honoring Christian music. The modern-rock group dc Talk was named Artist of the Year, and group member Toby McKeehan won Song of the Year for”Jesus Freak,”with co-writer Mark Heimermann. The group, a male trio, also won Rock Recorded Song of the Year for”Jesus Freak.” Other big winners included Point of Grace, a female pop quartet, which was honored as Group of the Year.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service U.N. human-rights panel denounces religious intolerance (RNS)-The United Nations Commission on Human Rights says it is”alarmed that serious instances of intolerance and discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief”are occurring around the world. But the resolution, adopted by consensus during the annual meeting of the 53-nation panel, did not name specific places where such acts are occurring. The resolution, passed this week (April 21-27), called on nations to ensure that their legal systems provide”adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without discrimination.” In addition, the resolution, also without naming specific occurrences, expressed”grave concern”at attacks on religious sites and shrines.

COMMENTARY: Do more than cheer for urban youths

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rodolpho Carrasco, 28, is a writer in Pasadena, Calif., and a consultant to church groups nationwide on youth ministry and internet outreach. Contact him via e-mail at genxlatino(AT) LOS ANGELES (RNS)-Four thousand teen-age boys-black, white and Latino-burst into the L.A. Coliseum recently, to the cheers of 50,000 men. They had gathered here recently to kick off the 1996 season of Promise Keepers, the Colorado-based evangelical Christian organization that holds mass rallies in sports arenas designed to help men be better husbands, fathers and role models. Running, leaping and hopping, the teens traversed the length of the coliseum, roisting the men to their feet.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Methodists reaffirm homosexuality is”incompatible”with Christianity (RNS)-An effort to soften the United Methodist Church’s 24-year-old stance declaring that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching was soundly defeated Wednesday (April 24) by delegates attending the denomination’s General Conference. The proposal, brought by the 8.6 million-member church’s Board of Church and Society, was defeated 577-378. Since 1972, the church’s Book of Discipline, its rule book, has included the statement:”Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all.” The defeated proposal would have dropped that language and substituted an acknowledgment that United Methodists are”unable to arrive at a common mind”on the subject.”Some of us think that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching; others think it is acceptable in covenantal relationship.

NEWS STORY: Pope, Yugoslav ambassador renew diplomatic tie

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-Three years of acrimony between the rump Yugoslav federation and the Vatican appeared a faded memory Thursday (April 25), as Pope John Paul II and Belgrade’s new envoy to the Holy See both promised respect and understanding. The new Yugoslav ambassador to the Holy See, Dojcilo Maslovaric, did not refer to his government’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1992 or the decision to renew them last February. Appearing upbeat about their relations, he said,”It is possible to develop a bigger collaboration with the Holy See to achieve good and peaceful cohabitation of the people.” Presenting his credentials at the formal Vatican ceremony, he added,”In keeping with its tradition and with its legal system, today’s Yugoslavia supports the fundamental importance of tolerance and of religious freedom guaranteed to all religions.”

COMMENTARY: Shedding light on Luther’s dark side

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-This year marks the 450th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther, the German monk who left the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 to become the leading figure in the Protestant Reformation. Now that Germany is unified, for the first time in decades it is possible to visit the towns, universities and churches in eastern Germany that are intimately associated with Luther. Indeed, the travel sections of many American newspapers are filled with itineraries and descriptions of”Lutherland.” But beyond all the tourist enthusiasm and the genuine reverence for Luther’s achievements, it is important to remember that there was a dark side to this historic reformer.

TOP STORY: RELIGION IN CUBA: Relations between church and state improving dramatically in Cuba

c. 1996 Religion News Service HAVANA (RNS)-From his pulpit in the landmark Our Lady of Carmen Church, the Rev. Theodoro Becerril watched for years with alarm as the Catholic Church declined, withered and nearly died in communist Cuba. From his vantage point, over a span of 38 years, Becerril witnessed the slow but steady disappearance of his flock. Elderly churchgoers, traditionally the most dedicated parishioners, died or fled Cuba, and the young never seemed to show the same interest. For Becerril, a Spanish-born priest who was assigned to Our Lady of Carmen a year before Fidel Castro’s rebels took power in 1959, it was all he could do to attract enough people to Mass.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Southern Baptist relief group to help feed North Koreans (RNS)-A Southern Baptist relief agency plans to feed a flood-ravaged area in North Korea for the next six months after North Korean officials asked for help.”We were asked to help from now until October in the rescue of a city,”said Bill Cashion, a member of a team sent to the region in April by the Baptists’ Cooperative Services International.”We would supply one meal a day to about 50,000 people.” North Korean officials asked the team to provide food to one of a number of cities and villages in the nation’s disaster area, according to Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptist Press report did not name a specific location for the planned assistance. As many as 5 million people have been affected by food shortages in flood-stricken areas of North Korea.”This is one of the highest priorities for Southern Baptist relief work,”Cashion said.”From what we saw, literally thousands of people will starve this winter without our help.”