NEWS FEATURE: Clinton has a special affinity with African-American religiosity

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ President Clinton, a white Southern Baptist with a Roman Catholic education, likes to call Bishop Donne L. Lindsey, the leader of some 135 black Pentecostal churches in Arkansas,”my bishop.” The two men have laughed, cried, worshiped and eaten barbecued ribs together ever since Clinton’s first term as governor of Arkansas.”He just made himself one of the brethren,”said Lindsey, prelate of Arkansas’ Second Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC).”It wasn’t nothing artificial and it wasn’t a strain. It’s just a part of him.” If Lindsey is an example of Clinton’s rapport with individual African-American Christians, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in the nation’s capital is a symbol of his link with the institutional African-American church.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Billy Graham to give eighth inauguration invocation (RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham is scheduled to give the invocation at President Clinton’s Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony, marking the eighth time he has participated at such an event.”I am both humbled and honored to be invited by President Clinton to again lead the invocation at his inauguration,”Graham said. The 78-year-old evangelist has known Clinton and Vice President Al Gore since before they entered national office.”This is a critical time for our nation and our world,”Graham said.”And yet such historic occasions provide opportunity to reflect on the moral and spiritual foundations of our country, our responsibility to pray for its leaders and the need for renewal across our land, which can only come from God.” The ceremony will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the U.S. Capitol and the swearing in is expected to begin at noon.

NEWS STORY: Muslim group issues guide to eliminating job disputes

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Last year, a Muslim woman working for a discount retailer in Enfield, Conn., was fired from her job for refusing to remove a head scarf she wore as a sign of Islamic modesty. In Sugarland, Texas, another Muslim woman was threatened with the loss of her job at an office supply store for declining to remove her head scarf. All told, more than 80 such cases of workplace conflicts involving Muslims were reported during 1996 to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Muslim defense organization. Friday (Jan.

NEWS STORY: Vatican, fearing”relativism,“acts more harshly on dissent

c. 1997 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Rev. Tissa Balasuriya is not a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church’s definition, but the recently excommunicated Sri Lankan priest says he is a victim of the church whose teachings he has spent a lifetime following and promoting.”I act according to my conscience,”Balasuriya said in an interview from Colombo, Sri Lanka.”I am ready to be a victim. That’s how I continue. For the sake of human rights, justice and understanding Jesus.” Last week, the Vatican said that the 72-year-old priest, author and theologian had”deviated from the integrity of the truth of the Catholic faith”and formally expelled him from the church.

COMMENTARY: The best bishops are experts in two-way communication

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _”Whatever is going to happen to our poor church?”a woman asked me at a recent dinner party. Like virtually all the social encounters I had with Catholics over the holidays, the conversation was about the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.”What do you mean?”I replied.”All those dried-up old men in their funny hats who are our leaders.” Her words provoked me to rise in admittedly limited defense of the lords spiritual.”Not all of them are old,”I told her.”Some of the old are not dried-up. But I take your point about the miters: they do look weird in those things.”

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Word Records purchased for more than $100 million (RNS) Gaylord Entertainment Company has completed its purchase of Word Records and Music, a contemporary Christian music company previously owned by Thomas Nelson, for more than $100 million. Initially, the purchase price was $110 million, including working capital and other assets, but it has increased to about $120 million due to an unexpected increase in the business’ working capital, Gaylord announced Tuesday (Jan. 7). With annual sales of about $100 million, Word Records and Music is one of the largest contemporary Christian music companies in the world.

TOP STORY: MAKING A MAP FOR PEACE: A grieving Israeli father draws a map for peace

c. 1997 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ He talks about God rather than territory, prayers rather than holy sites. Yitzhak Frankenthal’s religious message stands in stark opposition to the likes of religious fanatics such as Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir and now Noam Friedman, who have used violence in the name of Jewish sovereignty over West Bank and Gaza territory. Frankenthal, the driving force behind Israel’s small religious peace movement, Oz Ve Shalom, has as much reason to hate Arabs as any of those young men. In 1994, his son, Arik, was kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian members of the Islamic group Hamas as he was hitchhiking home from his army base in the Negev.

TOP STORY: CHURCHES AND THE MENTALLY ILL: Churches often fail to minister to mentally ill and their

c. 1997 Religion News Service HUNTSVILLE, Ala. _ In biblical times, people suffering from mental illness were considered to be demon possessed, and no one dared to go near them. The Gospels report that one person _ Jesus _ broke the rules when it came to mingling with the mentally ill. Not just once, but on several occasions he is said to have driven out the “evil spirits” and put the people in their “right mind.” Today, when a physical illness such as cancer or heart disease strikes a church member, fellow congregants often rush to the person’s aid with food, cards, visits, phone calls and other means of support.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Pope names priest accused of sexual abuse to Synod for America delegation (RNS) Pope John Paul II has named an influential priest, accused of child sexual abuse in Spain and Italy, to be a special delegate to the major Synod for America, which will meet beginning next month in Rome. The priest, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, is founder and head of the Legionaries of Christ, a semi-secret religious order established in 1941 and one of the fastest growing religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church. No criminal charges or lawsuits have been filed against Maciel. The sexual abuse complaints against the priest were made public in February by the Hartford Courant.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Aid workers reported abducted in Chechnya (RNS) Leaders of the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation said Friday (Oct. 24) two more aid workers have been taken prisoner in Chechnya. The WCC and LWF, parent organizations of Action by Churches (ACTS), said the kidnapped humanitarian workers are Hungarian nationals _ Gabor Dunaijsky, 44, and Istvan Olah, 47. They were abducted Thursday (Oct.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service School prayer amendment passes House subcommittee (RNS) A proposed constitutional amendment that would restore state-sanctioned prayer in the public schools and insert the word God into the Constitution has been approved by a House Judiciary subcommittee. The proposal, known as the Religious Freedom Amendment, passed on an 8-4 party-line vote, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats opposing.”This is a key step forward to restore the full protection for our American values and beliefs,”said Rep. Ernest J. Istook, R-Okla., the amendment’s chief sponsor.”We wish it did not require a constitutional amendment, but unelected judges have changed it for us, distorting our First Amendment religious liberties.”It is wrong to say that our children cannot start the day with simple prayers if they wish,”he said. Critics, however, said the proposal _ drafted by a broad coalition of conservative groups including the National Association of Evangelicals _ would undermine religious freedom and impose state-sponsored Christianity in the schools.”Far from a `religious freedom’ amendment, this is a full frontal assault on the separation of church and state,”said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”It would usher in a dark era of taxpayer-supported religion and would saturate public institutions with whatever religion dominates the community.”The amendment, he said,”promotes religious tyranny, not religious liberty.” Action by the full committee is not expected until the spring.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Promise Keepers founder committed adultery two decades ago (RNS) Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney committed adultery more than two decades ago, a spokesman for the ministry confirmed Friday (Oct. 31). Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for Promise Keepers, said McCartney’s actions took place about 25 years ago and the former University of Colorado football coach confessed them to his wife, Lyndi, in 1993. But McCarney’s forthcoming second autobiography,”Sold Out: Becoming Man Enough to Make a Difference”(Word Publishing), fails to mention the adultery.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Report: Chinese detain underground Catholic church leader (RNS) After 17 months in hiding, Roman Catholic Bishop Su Zhimin, a prominent leader of the underground church movement in China, has been detained by the government, a U.S.-based Catholic organization has reported. According to a spokesman for the Cardinal Kung Foundation in Stanford, Conn., the bishop was taken into custody on Wednesday (October 8) in Baoding, a town about 80 miles south of Beijing. The Cardinal Kung Foundation is an advocacy group for religious freedom in China and supports the underground Catholic movement that swears allegiance to Rome and refuses to register with the government. Su Zhimin’s disappearance comes at a sensitive time in Chinese politics as President Jiang Zemin prepares to visit the United States later in October.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Seminary librarian fired over letter to SBC president (RNS) A librarian at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was fired Sept. 26 apparently because he wrote a letter questioning the accuracy of remarks denominational president Tom Elliff made in a chapel address. Paul Debusman, 64, was dismissed from the Louisville, Ky., seminary after writing a personal letter to Elliff about what he felt were historical inaccuracies in a chapel speech made on Sept. 16.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Deborah Lyons, wife of Baptist leader, pleads guilty to arson (RNS) Deborah Lyons, wife of the president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, pleaded guilty Monday (Oct. 20) to first-degree arson in a case that led to controversy for her husband, the Rev. Henry J. Lyons and the nation’s largest black Baptist denomination.”I am responsible for setting the fires,”Mrs. Lyons said as she entered her guilty plea for committing arson at a $700,000 house in St. Petersburg, Fla., that her husband owned with another woman. She was sentenced to five years probation, given 200 hours of community service and ordered to have an evaluation for alcohol and psychological treatment.