c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-A bitter dispute currently unfolding in a small Michigan town has profound implications for Christian-Jewish relations everywhere. Richard Rhem, the 61-year-old pastor of Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, may be expelled from his denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA), because he does not believe that faith in Jesus is the sole pathway to salvation. In late February Rhem was issued an ultimatum by his ecclesiastical authorities: Publicly change your views or leave the RCA. But Rhem, who has served his 3,000-member church for more than 25 years, has refused to back down from his conviction that God’s love is so pervasive that it offers salvation to every person.
c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-In a strongly worded letter, American cardinals and the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned President Clinton’s recent veto of a proposed law banning a controversial late-term abortion procedure. “Your veto of this bill is beyond comprehension for those who hold human life sacred,” they said. The Catholic leaders, who said their writing in unison was “virtually unprecedented,” vowed to continue to educate people about the procedure and to urge Congress to override Clinton’s “shameful veto.” The two-page letter was sent to the White House today (April 16). House Republicans have delayed a vote on overriding the veto, which had been expected on Thursday (April 18).
c. 1996 Religion News Service Report charges China with suppressing Tibetan Buddhism (RNS)-A new report released Monday (April 15) by the International Campaign for Tibet says Tibetan Buddhists are undergoing the worst wave of religious repression since martial law was imposed in 1989. The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet was formed in 1988 to promote human rights and democratic freedoms in Tibet. The Chinese government has denied the accusations. On Tuesday (April 16), the AP quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang as saying the report was based on information from people whose”main goal was to create chaos.”
c. 1996 Religion News Service ANKARA, Turkey (RNS)-In Turkey, it’s nearly impossible to escape the steely glare of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), the father of the modern Turkish republic. His grainy black-and-white portrait adorns schools, shopping centers, post offices and bath houses. Every Turkish village, no matter how small, has at least one street bearing the name of the man who, with an iron fist, forged a secular, national state from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. So revered is Turkey’s national hero that his legacy-termed Kemalism-had long appeared unshakable.
c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-The nuns are annoyed. The satire in “Nunsense” seems a generation outdated. The insipidness of Sally Field in “The Flying Nun” still makes them cringe. And the hapless convent dwellers in “Sister Act” may be great as foils for Whoopi Goldberg, but they insult a cadre of women who rank among the best-educated in the world.
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 frequent contributor to Christianity Today magazine.) (RNS)-The latest animal-rights action spreads beyond usual bounds: Members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plan to disrupt a sport-fishing tournament by throwing rocks in the water to warn the fish. (Presumably they hope not to hit any fish in the process.) The impulse of human affection spreads like ripples from a dropped rock, to love not only the warm and fuzzy but the cold and slimy as well. Though fish are kind of hard to hug.
c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Five years after the Gulf War, politicians and human-rights groups from the United States and other Western-allied nations are urging the government of Kuwait to intervene in an unprecedented apostasy case against a Kuwaiti convert from Islam to Christianity. On Wednesday (April 17), a legal hearing is scheduled in Kuwait City to determine what court has jurisdiction to hear apostasy charges against Hussein Qambar Ali, 44, a Kuwaiti citizen who converted to Christianity two years ago. Some observers say the case will be an important test for the extent of religious freedom in the moderate Sunni nation. Hussein, who has taken the Christian name Robert, made his conversion to Christianity public in December during a legal battle with his ex-wife over whether he should be allowed to visit their two children.
c. 1996 Religion News Service Southern Baptists, largest Protestant denomination, keep growing (RNS)-The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, continues to grow, with a slight increase in membership and a 4 percent increase in baptisms last year. Newly released statistics show that church membership reached 15,668,077 in 1995, an increase of 48,165 or 0.3 percent over 1994. Baptisms for the year totaled 393,811, an increase of 4.1 percent or 15,348 over 1994, according to Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. With a gain of 210 Southern Baptist churches over the 1994 total of 39,910, the denomination has 40,120 churches.
c. 1996 Religion News Service EAST LONDON, South Africa (RNS)-Dramatic first-day testimony during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings was interrupted today (April 15) when security police cleared the main hearing room because of a bomb threat. When the hearings proceeded about 30 minutes later, an angry Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the commission, said,”there are some people who will stop at nothing to prevent the commission from carrying out its work.” The emotionally charged day, with witnesses eager to tell their stories and others apparently determined to try to stop them, underlined what the 17- member commission may find in store over at least the next 18 months. The session also highlighted differing opinions that South Africans still have over the hearings, which aim to find out as much as possible about human- rights abuses during the apartheid era.
c. 1996 Religion News Service PARIS (RNS)-Like thousands of other immigrants, Slimane Lahiane is never caught without his French residency permit. But the document is not foolproof insurance against trouble.”I get asked for my papers all the time, and once I was beaten by a cop for no apparent reason,”said the 21-year-old, who like many native Algerians does not have a job. His fellow Algerian nationals would hardly be surprised by the incident.”I know a lot of people who are hassled by the police,”said Sami Azlow, 25, who emigrated from Algeria 10 years ago and works legally as a waiter.”I’ve never been stopped because I have a job, don’t hang around at night and always look like I’m going somewhere,”he said, sipping mint tea at a bar filled with cigarette smoke. Many of France’s immigrants from North Africa are not so fortunate.
c. 1996 Religion New Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-National Security Adviser Anthony Lake left the White House at about 10:30 last Wednesday night (April 10) and walked across the street to Lafayette Square, where a handful of homeless men were weathering the cold. For the third time that week, he stopped at an encampment of umbrellas covered with plastic sheets and inquired about the welfare of the woman inside: Sister Dianna Ortiz, 37, a North American nun who was raped and tortured in Guatemala. It was day 11 of her silent vigil to demand that the U.S. government release the results of its investigation into her 1989 abduction-and any information about “Alejandro,” a man present at her torture who she believes may have had U.S. government ties. “Are you with the Secret Service?” a supporter of Ortiz asked Lake.
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)compuserve.com.) (RNS)-President Clinton’s veto of a bill outlawing abortions in the last stages of pregnancy is another one for the history books-but hold the fireworks. Who would have imagined even 10 years ago that an American president could not bring himself to oppose the act of crushing a fetus’ skull in the birth canal (the rest of the child already having been delivered) and vacuuming out its brains?
c. 1996 Religion News Service (WASHINGTON) Determined not to relinquish the moral high ground to the Christian Coalition, a who’s-who of leftist intellectuals, community activists and religious leaders are gathering this weekend to foment a Religious Left. “The Summit on Ethics and Meaning” in Washington, D.C., is a rally for activists appalled by the political muscle of the Religious Right and longing for a reinvigorated, authentic moral voice on the left. The liberals convening this three-day summit on Sunday also admit that sometimes, in an effort to keep church and state separate, they have drained their own vision of moral content. They want God back.
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)-Media-wise, Jesus is doing pretty well these days. He made the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines during Holy Week, no small achievement.
c. 1996 Religion News Service CHICAGO (RNS)-Doug Hansen first realized that he contributed to, and must repent of, racism at a prayer meeting for evangelist Luis Palau’s “Say Yes, Chicago” crusade. To prepare for the crusade, which began last week, about 75 pastors-half of them black, the rest white-gathered late last year at a church in Chicago’s predominantly African-American south side. The topic: “Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges.” It sparked a flashback for Hansen, the minister of discipleship and evangelism at Chicago’s Rock Church. He remembered his basketball-playing days at the mostly white Eisenhower Junior High School in Rockford, Ill.