NEWS STORY: Hillary Clinton urges Methodists to take their faith into the world

c. 1996 Religion News Service DENVER (RNS)-In a speech laced with references to Jesus, John Wesley and her recent book,”It Takes A Village,”Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday (April 24) told United Methodists to take their faith out into the world but warned that the world”is complex … and maybe hostile.” The First Lady’s 31-minute speech to the nearly 1,000 delegates and 3,000 visitors attending the denomination’s 10-day General Conference, was interrupted by applause a dozen times. She received standing ovations at both the beginning and end of her talk.”One of the reasons I’m a Methodist is because I believe disagreements are a part of life,”Mrs. Clinton said in an oblique reference to a host of disputes such as homosexuality and the role of the church in the world that have divided the denomination for two decades.

COMMENTARY: These strange things we call bodies

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is the author of”Turn Toward the Wind”and publisher of Religion News Service.) (RNS)-In light of the recent allegation that Princess Diana has dimpled thighs, and her tearful denial that any fat has invaded her body, I have a confession of my own. I have cellulite. I am not proud of this, but neither do I cry or lose sleep over it. If people want to judge me by the smoothness of my thighs, I don’t want to know them.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND MEDICINE: Israeli researchers take a new look at an ancient healing traditio

c. 1996 Religion News Service JERUSALEM (RNS)-In antiquity, health and healing were the domain of monks, shamans and priests. But that intimate link was broken long ago in most parts of the world. One exception was the Tibetan highlands, where geographical isolation from the West helped preserve a 1,700-year-old medical tradition that combined spiritual healing and native herbal remedies. Now, interest in traditional Tibetan medical remedies is being rekindled in another ancient religious center-Israel.

NEWS FEATURE: Tortured nun begins hunger strike

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Sister Dianna Ortiz began a bread-and-water fast Monday to pressure the Clinton administration to release information about possible U.S. government involvement in her 1989 abduction, rape and torture in Guatemala. Sitting through cold, rainy nights in a makeshift encampment in front of the White House, the Roman Catholic nun has been a compelling figure during the first three weeks of her vigil to force the administration to tell her what it knows about her ordeal. Now, she said, “I dare to place my life in the hands of the U.S. government.” The White House has made dramatic shows of support for Ortiz, all the more striking given her suggestion of U.S. complicity in her torture. In the midst of turmoil in China and North Korea, White House National Security Adviser Anthony Lake stopped by Ortiz’s encampment three times in the late-evening hours to check on her welfare.

TOP STORY: JUDAISM IN AMERICA: New Jewish culture center rivals museums in Israel

c. 1996 Religion News Service LOS ANGELES (RNS)-The world’s fourth-largest Jewish museum opened here Sunday (April 21), with its founding president expressing the hope that the teaching of Jewish history will help Jews recover their waning sense of community. Built at a cost of $65 million, funded largely through donations from the Jewish community, the Skirball Cultural Center is a 125,000-square-foot museum complex that includes a children’s center, temporary exhibition space, an auditorium, a conference center and classrooms. With 25,000 artifacts gathered over 120 years by Hebrew Union College, the Skirball center’s collection rivals the holdings of Jewish museums in Prague, New York and Jerusalem. The museum is named for Jack and Audrey Skirball. He was a Reform rabbi who later became a motion-picture producer and real estate developer.

NEWS STORY: Methodists vote to strengthen ties with other denominations

c. 1996 Religion News Service DENVER (RNS)-Representatives of the United Methodist Church, meeting here for the denomination’s quadrennial General Conference, voted Tuesday (April 23) to deepen ecumenical ties with a number of other Protestant denominations. Church leaders also continued to debate the issue of homosexuality, which has stirred strong emotions in the 8.9 million-member denomination. Delegates voted 661-288 to adopt a”covenanting proposal”of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), a group that promotes closer ties between Methodists, Presbyterians and other Protestant groups. The vote sets the stage for the 36,771 Methodist churches throughout the nation to begin holding joint worship services with certain other Protestant churches.

Church of the First Born practices a strict faith

c. 1996 Religion News Service ALBANY, Ore. (RNS)-It is written in the Bible’s book of Esther and again in Ezra that the people fasted by the river so they might merit protection from the Lord. More than 100 members of the Church of the First Born gathered this week (April 21-27) in Brownsville, Ore., to fast and pray with Loyd and Christina Hays. The 44-year-old roofer and the 38-year-old homemaker, parents of four surviving children, stood trial in Albany, charged with breaking secular law as they obeyed religious law.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Church should add religious insights to scientific advances, bishops say (RNS)-The U.S. Catholic bishops have issued a statement on genetic testing, declaring its importance but noting that some of its uses”invite serious moral reflection.” The statement, called”Critical Decisions: Genetic Testing and Its Implications,”was developed by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Science and Human Values.”Genetic testing is an important tool, but many will suffer if wisdom and sound morality do not guide its uses,”the bishops said. The statement notes positive uses of genetic testing, including prenatal testing and screening for diseases. The bishops, who condemn abortion, said prenatal tests to determine genetic abnormalities in a fetus are”morally licit,”but”disturbing test results can also tempt individuals to make decisions not in accord with sound morality.”

COMMENTARY: Resurrecting the spirit of the village

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Paul C. Fox is a practicing physician and a member of the Bruderhof Communities. He lives in Farmington, Pa. He is also editor at large of Plough magazine, the quarterly publication of the Bruderhof Communities.) (RNS)-It takes a child to raise a village. This sentence is not a misprint.

NEWS STORY: Christian Coalition offers reward in church arsons

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-The Christian Coalition today (April 22) offered a $25,000 reward to anyone who can prove that racism motivated a series of arsons of African-American churches in the South and called on government officials to strengthen their probes of the fires.”Terrorism practiced against the church-any church-is the ultimate act of bigotry and hatred,”Ralph Reed, the coalition’s executive director, said at a news conference here.”It is a symptom of a deeper evil in our society that we have a moral obligation to combat.” About 23 African-American churches in the South have been victims of arson since January 1995, prompting a number of religious and civil-rights groups to push for resolution of the mysterious series of incidents. Federal investigators have said they lack evidence to conclude that there is a regional or national racial conspiracy behind the attacks. But many civil-rights leaders and church leaders believe racism underlies the rash of fires.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service NAACP leader calls for bringing young blacks and Jews together (RNS)-Jewish and African-American leaders need to work together to help young Jews and blacks better understand the history of pain and cooperation shared by the two communities, the head of the NAACP said Monday (April 22). NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, addressing some 300 Jewish leaders at a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League in Washington, said young blacks and Jews have become alienated from each other because of”racism and anti-Semitism.” He blamed the current climate of”hate radio, hate speech, hate groups and hate crimes”for the gulf separating young blacks and Jews. Mfume said black and Jewish young people need to be made sensitive to the bias that each community has suffered, and to their shared attempts in the civil-rights era to overcome discrimination in society.

NEWS STORY: Bishops, pope seek land-mine ban as U.N. takes up issue

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are asking the Clinton administration to”act boldly”and quickly to ban the production, sale and use of anti-personnel land mines.”The United States should move quickly and unambiguously to ban the production, sale and use of anti-personnel land mines,”Bishop Daniel P. Reilly of Worcester, Mass., said in a letter to Anthony Lake, President Clinton’s national security adviser. Reilly chairs the international policy committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference, the U.S. bishops’ social policy arm. The bishops’ call came as the United Nations began a two-week meeting today (April 22) in Geneva to rewrite the land-mines protocol of the 1980 treaty on Certain Conventional Weapons. The meeting opened with a renewed appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for a total ban on what he called”loathsome weapons.””We must ban the use of land mines.

NEWS FEATURE: Missionary in India lives in fear of Hindu extremists

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW DELHI (RNS)-American Christian missionary Max Strong has been stalked by tigers and rogue elephants, and had to kill a 13-foot king cobra while clearing 100 acres of jungle in a malaria-infested district on the India-Nepal border. But Strong, 81, says the greatest danger he has faced has not been from wildlife but humans. He has been living in fear after learning of a bounty on his head offered by Hindu extremists who have been harassing his mission for more than a decade.”Fundamentalists opposed to our work are offering $2,860 for the murder of either me or several other leaders in my mission,”he said, after arriving in New Delhi April 1 to present a human-rights complaint to the representative for Christians on India’s minorities commission. Strong, an Oklahoman ordained in a Presbyterian church in New York, came to India in 1940 to set up the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, a non-denominational Christian fellowship for training abandoned children in farming and homemaking.

COMMENTARY: Clinton should speak out on Kuwaiti persecution case

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)-President Clinton has shown admirable solidarity with beleaguered people around the world, whether in war-torn former Yugoslavia, politically unstable and thoroughly impoverished Haiti, or Africa, where multiple horrors are under way. There is another case that begs his urgent attention, one that is symbolic of what I consider the chief human-rights issue of our day: the worldwide persecution of Christians.