RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service National Catholic Reporter faces $30 million libel suit for labor story (RNS) Briggs & Stratton, the Milwaukee, Wis.-based manufacturer of lawn mower and other small engines, has filed a $30 million lawsuit against the independent National Catholic Reporter (NCR), alleging the newspaper defamed the company and some of its top officials. The suit, filed June 14 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, stems from a Dec. 2, 1994, article and editorial in the Kansas City, Mo.-based newspaper about the company’s announced plans to move 2,000 jobs out of Milwaukee. Among other things, the article contended that the firm”illegally”was expanding its operations in Mexico.

COMMENTARY: In defense of Gypsies

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and a sociologist at the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center. His home page on the World Wide Web is at http://www.agreeley.com. Or contact him via e-mail at agreel(AT)aol.com.) (UNDATED) Victor Hugo would not see much connection between his novel”Notre Dame du Paris”and the new Disney film,”The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” But in the experiences of the two Gypsy characters in the film _ the lovely Esmerelda and the loathed hunchback, Quasimodo _ the novelist would agree the Disney film did get one thing right: The evil prejudice against Gypsies was as rampant in Victor Hugo’s day as it is today.

TOP STORY: THE METHODIST CHURCH: Congregations seek to make a difference with `Holy Boldness’

c. 1996 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The Rev. Dennis O. Rinehart feels trapped. As pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Warren, Ohio, he watched his operating costs jump 250 percent when he traded rented school space for a church building. Now, instead of writing the school one check that covered heat, light, parking, security and maintenance, Rinehart has a $1,600 loan payment to meet on his building before he buys the other services. “Our congregation has grown to the point where we desperately need more staff,” Rinehart explained during the recent annual meeting of the Eastern Ohio Conference of United Methodists at Lakeside.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Ancient Buddhist scrolls obtained by the British Library (RNS) What are believed to be the earliest surviving Buddhist texts, dating back to the first century A.D. and written on pieces of brittle bark, have been acquired by the British Library and are in the process of being translated. The texts, according to scholars, are the Buddhist equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Graham Shaw, deputy director of the library’s Oriental and India Office Collection, said the texts”will allow scholars to get nearer to what Buddha said than ever before.” The Indian prince Siddartha Gautama, known as the Buddha after he achieved enlightenment, died in 486 B.C., about 600 years before the dates ascribed to the texts.

NEWS STORY: `United Religions’ summit shows signs of division

c. 1996 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO _ As delegates assembled here this week (June 24-28) for meetings to create a global, interfaith”United Religions”organization, three conference participants showed just how difficult a task they are confronting. California Episcopal Bishop William Swing, who is hosting the United Religions summit, said the initiative aims to establish a permanent deliberative body of religious leaders modeled after the United Nations. A United Religions would make religions a more potent force for global peace, organizers says. The goal of this week’s meeting, which ends Friday (June 28), is to plan a charter-writing conference in San Francisco in 1997.”We are on the threshold of a new global civilization,”Swing said.

NEWS STORY: `United Religions’ summit shows signs of division

c. 1996 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO _ As delegates assembled here this week (June 24-28) for meetings to create a global, interfaith”United Religions”organization, three conference participants showed just how difficult a task they are confronting. California Episcopal Bishop William Swing, who is hosting the United Religions summit, said the initiative aims to establish a permanent deliberative body of religious leaders modeled after the United Nations. A United Religions would make religions a more potent force for global peace, organizers says. The goal of this week’s meeting, which ends Friday (June 28), is to plan a charter-writing conference in San Francisco in 1997.”We are on the threshold of a new global civilization,”Swing said.

COMMENTARY: Southern Baptists will fail in their attempt to convert Jews

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (UNDATED) It’s too bad Andrew Marvell, the 17th-century English poet, wasn’t in New Orleans recently when the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution calling for an active conversion campaign aimed at the Jewish people. Had the poet been present, he could have taught America’s largest Protestant denomination a profound spiritual lesson. In the poem,”To His Coy Mistress,”Marvell compared the impossibility of winning a woman’s love to the futility of making Jews into Christians:”… I would love you ten years before the Flood, and you should, if you please, refuse until the conversion of the Jews.”

TOP STORY: ETHICS AND SOCIETY: Idaho prosecutor’s use of fornication law to fight teen pregnan

c. 1996 Religion News Service EMMETT, Idaho _ A note arrived from the principal’s office as Amanda Smisek, great with child, sat in class this spring at her high school here. The message: A detective at the city police station wanted to speak with her. “I thought someone must have got into trouble and they were going to question me to see if I knew anything about it,” Smisek says. “So after school I went down there and talked to him, and he asked if I was pregnant.

NEWS ADVANCE: Sex, money top Presbyterian assembly agenda

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After three years of keeping the volatile issue of homosexuality off the agenda of the national church, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) next week faces another critical decision point on the role of gays and lesbians in the denomination. When the 568 elected commissioners, as delegates are called, gather in Albuquerque, N.M., for the June 29-July 6 annual gathering of the 2.7 million-member denomination, they will face at least 45 resolutions dealing with the issue. At least two dozen of those resolutions will seek an absolute bar on any ordination of gays or lesbians as ministers, elders or deacons. In addition, the 208th General Assembly will face potentially controversial decisions such as filling key leadership posts, constructing a budget in the face of declining giving by congregations, and voting on recommendations that would draw the denomination into closer ties with other mainline Protestant churches.

NEWS ADVANCE: Sex, money top Presbyterian assembly agenda

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After three years of keeping the volatile issue of homosexuality off the agenda of the national church, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) next week faces another critical decision point on the role of gays and lesbians in the denomination. When the 568 elected commissioners, as delegates are called, gather in Albuquerque, N.M., for the June 29-July 6 annual gathering of the 2.7 million-member denomination, they will face at least 45 resolutions dealing with the issue. At least two dozen of those resolutions will seek an absolute bar on any ordination of gays or lesbians as ministers, elders or deacons. In addition, the 208th General Assembly will face potentially controversial decisions such as filling key leadership posts, constructing a budget in the face of declining giving by congregations, and voting on recommendations that would draw the denomination into closer ties with other mainline Protestant churches.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Disney, under attack by religious groups, puts Catholic cleric on board (RNS) The Walt Disney Co., under attack by some religious groups for straying from the path of family values in its entertainment and personnel policies, has named the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, president of the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington to its board of directors. But in a statement, the company said there was”absolutely no connection”between O’Donovan’s appointment and the criticism. O’Donovan, in a statement issued through Georgetown, said he viewed his appointment to the board as”an important opportunity to influence and help one of the world’s largest communications companies.”As a Jesuit priest, a theologian, an educator and a university president, I hope I can contribute to Disney’s ongoing interest in providing family-oriented entertainment and recreation.” Disney, which built a reputation for providing family-centered entertainment in its movies and theme parks, has come under growing criticism from conservative groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, because of the firm’s attitudes toward gays and the content of films distributed by some of its subsidiaries.

COMMENTARY: Standing together in the ashes

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J.) (UNDATED) In December 1955, Robert Graetz was an idealistic 27-year-old minister, five months into his first pastorate. Like most young pastors, he, his wife and two children were adjusting to a new church, a new town and a new environment. But for the Graetz family, there was an additional complication: They were white, their congregation was black, and the town in which they had settled was Montgomery, Ala.

COMMENTARY: Standing together in the ashes

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J.) (UNDATED) In December 1955, Robert Graetz was an idealistic 27-year-old minister, five months into his first pastorate. Like most young pastors, he, his wife and two children were adjusting to a new church, a new town and a new environment. But for the Graetz family, there was an additional complication: They were white, their congregation was black, and the town in which they had settled was Montgomery, Ala.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND HISTORY: Historic Trinity Church in New York marks 300th year

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Nestled in the canyons of Wall Street, where narrow sidewalks bend in the shadows cast by buildings rising to spectacular heights, sits the unlikely progenitor of Manhattan’s famed financial district _ the parish of Trinity Church. From its inception in 1697, when England’s King William III granted the charter for New York City’s first Anglican church, Trinity’s unique place in American history was secured. President George Washington worshiped there when New York served as the capital of the new nation. Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first treasury secretary, is buried in the churchyard next to soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Unitarians endorse same-sex marriages (RNS) _ The Unitarian Universalist Association voted Tuesday (June 25) to endorse the legalization of same-sex marriages, the first U.S. denomination to do so. Meeting in Indianapolis, delegates to the liberal religious group’s annual convention voted overwhelmingly to”proclaim the worth of marriage between any two committed persons.” With the vote, support of same-sex marriage becomes official policy of the Boston-based denomination of 205,000 members. But under church rules, each of the church’s 1,040 congregations can decide for itself whether it will endorse the marriage of gay and lesbian couples and whether it will host such weddings.