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c. 1997 Religion News Service British Methodists, Anglicans look to re-start theological talks (RNS) Against the backdrop of two traumatic failures to heal the 18th-century breach between British Methodists and Anglicans, the Church of England’s general synod will be asked later this month to approve new, formal conversations with the Methodist Church of Great Britain. However, they will not _ as in the past _ be aimed at merger but will instead seek to draw up a common statement setting out points of agreement and outstanding differences between the two denominations. Such a statement would be expected to affirm the legitimacy of each body as a church and include a recognition of each other’s sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. Among the points of difference such a statement would acknowledge, however,is that of the role of bishop, an office that does not exist in the British Methodist church.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Lawyer says Kevorkian helped woman die in Catholic church (RNS) The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit has rejected as untrue a claim by the lawyer for Dr. Jack Kevorkian who said the assisted suicide-advocate had helped a woman die at an archdiocesan church led by a”sympathetic priest.” Attorney Geoffrey Fieger said Kevorkian helped 74-year-old Nadia Foldes of New York, who was suffering from liver cancer, die by inhaling carbon monoxide Thursday (Nov. 13). Fieger told the Detroit Free Press that Kevorkian had helped the woman die in a Catholic church, as she wished, even though she was reportedly Eastern Orthodox.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Study: Russian church exerts minimal influence on believers (RNS) Although the Russian Orthodox Church remains the dominate faith among Russians, it exerts minimal influence on the values and behavior of young believers, according to new research by a Columbia University professor. According to sociologist Susan Goodrich Lehmann, while half of young Russians consider themselves religious, few attend church regularly after they marry because church-sponsored family activities, such as Sunday School, do not exist. Lehmann’s findings were based on a survey of 3,400 Russians aged 17 to 32.”Marriage and childbearing may bring Russian couples (but) without the widespread availability of religious instruction for children or other social benefits from church involvement which we typically find in America, the parents’ interest in the church is not sustained beyond a child’s first five years,”Lehmann said. In the survey, Lehmann said she found that 13 percent of those surveyed said they both believe in and actively observe religious rituals.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Alabama official seeks to block enforcement of prayer ban (RNS) Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor has filed papers seeking to block enforcement of a portion of a federal court order banning state-sanctioned prayer in public schools. Pryor said he took the action so the state can appeal parts of U.S. District Court Judge Ira DeMent’s Oct. 29 ruling blocking vocal prayer, Bible devotionals and Scripture readings in public school classrooms. The order also banned school employees from distributing religious literature and other material in schools, on school grounds and at commencement ceremonies. It also said school public address systems may not be used to deliver religious messages.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Bishops hit Oregon assisted-suicide vote (RNS) Cardinal Bernard Law, head of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-life Activities said Wednesday (Nov. 5) the decision by Oregon voters to retain their state law authorizing physician-assisted suicide was”a tragedy for all Americans.” The Oregon vote was the most closely watched contest by faith groups in a spate of elections, ballot initiatives and referendum questions across the nation Tuesday. In 1994, Oregonians voted to legalize assisted suicide but opponents, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other religious groups and conservative advocacy organizations, mounted a vigorous repeal campaign.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Mennonite church expelled for accepting gays (RNS) Germantown Mennonite Church, a congregation which dates back to 1683 and is the oldest continuous Mennonite church in the country, has been thrown out of its regional conference for its policy of accepting homosexuals. In a 178-40 vote, members of the Franconia Conference expelled the Germantown Mennonite Church for its position on sexuality, denying it voice and vote at the conference and stripping its pastor, the Rev. Richard Lichty, of his clergy credentials. The shunning will take effect in January.”This is my church of birth, my church of choice,”Lichty said of his Mennonite denomination.”But the church for a long time has been a follower of the general culture’s fear of sexuality and this just plays into it.” Mennonite Church policy says congregations may only accept celibate homosexuals as members, according to the Rev. Jim Lapp, conference pastor.”The Germantown church has received people into membership who are living in covenanted relationships, and that became a point of disagreement with the membership of our conference,”Lapp said during an Oct.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Nobel Peace Prize goes to effort to ban land mines (RNS) The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which under the direction of its U.S. leader and co-winner Jody Williams turned the quixotic vision of a handful of activists into a powerful movement on the brink of political success, has been awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. The award, announced Friday (Oct. 10), was swiftly hailed by religious groups active in the campaign, which is close to its goal of making banning the weapons a feasible reality.”While we celebrate this honor, we also recognize the fact that the work of the campaign is only just beginning in its efforts to promote a truly global treaty bringing into practical effect the cherished aim of complete eradication of anti-personnel land mines,”said Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Ishmael Noko. The LWF has has been a member of the campaign since its inception.”The success of the campaign, against seemingly insurmountable human-made obstacles, is cause for praise and thanks to God,”Noko added.

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c. 1996 Religion News Service Burma bars religious leaders from meeting Nobel laureate (RNS) An international delegation of church leaders was blocked by Burma’s military regime from meeting with Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Rev. Larry Tankersley, director of the National Council of Churches Southern Asia Office, who has just returned from Burma, said the delegation had been scheduled to meet with Burma’s leading dissident on Nov. 16. Instead, when on the way to her house, they found the military had closed the road to traffic.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Clinton criticized for plans to speak at gay fund-raiser (RNS) President Clinton, scheduled to address a Saturday (Nov. 8) fund-raiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights organization, is being sharply criticized by social conservative for agreeing to speak at the event.”The president’s action is an unfortunate misuse of the highest office in the land,”said Robert H. Knight, director of cultural studies for the Family Research Council, a Washington-based advocacy group.”To use the bully pulpit to glamorize behavior that offends the values of millions of Americans, behavior which is also unhealthy and destructive to individuals, families and communities, is a disservice to the American people.” Knight also said Clinton is putting the agenda of”a well-heeled special interest”group _ gays _ above”the well-being of America’s young people.” Clinton, who won the majority of gay and lesbian voters in his 1992 and 1996 campaigns, will be the first president to speak at an event sponsored by a gay and lesbian organization.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Clinton urged to raise Russian religion bill with Yeltsin (RNS) Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., has urged President Clinton to discuss the Russian parliament’s preliminary passage of a bill protecting that nation’s historical faiths at the expense of missionaries and non-traditional religions with Boris Yeltsin during the G-7 meeting this weekend in Denver.”This proposed law represents a serious step back in the direction of the restrictions of the Soviet period,”Lugar wrote Clinton in a letter released Friday (June 20). Lugar asked Clinton to urge Yeltsin to veto the legislation, should it receive final approval in the Russian parliament. The Russian president, along with Clinton and other leaders of the world’s major economic powers, have gathered in Denver for their annual meeting, which ends Sunday. The Duma, the communist-dominated lower chamber of parliament, voted 337-5 in favor of the bill on Wednesday (June 18).

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Interfaith delegation to bring medical supplies to North Korea (RNS) A high-level interfaith delegation from the United States will travel to North Korea in early November to bring sorely needed medical supplies to the famine-stricken country and to express solidarity with its people. The delegation represents members of the Interfaith Hunger Appeal (IHA) _ Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The team will carry with them more than $100,000 in vitamins and dietary supplements. In the past three years, IHA, which was formed in 1977, has given nearly $2.6 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea.

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c. 1997 Religion News Service Gore criticized for defense of”Ellen”TV show (RNS) In a speech to the Hollywood Radio and Television Society, Vice President Al Gore supported the controversial television show”Ellen,”saying it forces America to look at sexual orientation more openly. On Thursday (Oct. 16) Gore said the lesbian character on ABC’s sitcom teaches the public to face their prejudices.”And when the character Ellen came out, millions of American were forced to look at sexual orientation in a more open light,”Gore said. The lead character, played by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, told friends and family on the sitcom last season she was homosexual.

NEWS STORY: Supreme Court rejects Religious Freedom Restoration Act

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ To the dismay of many of the country’s religious leaders, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) Wednesday (June 25), saying Congress unconstitutionally usurped power belonging to federal courts and the states when it passed the measure. The 4-year-old law _ supported by a broad swath of religious groups _ forced the government to show a compelling interest before it could interfere with religious practices. It was passed in reaction to a 1990 Supreme Court decision that permitted government officials to overlook the compelling interest criteria. But, by a vote of 6-3, the high court ruled its decision takes priority.”It is this court’s precedent …

NEWS STORY: Court strikes down clinic `floating bubble zone’

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday (Feb. 19) that abortion protesters may be kept outside a 15-foot”bubble zone”protecting clinic entrances and driveways, but may approach clients and workers on public property outside the zone. In a split opinion, the justices upheld two of three provisions in a federal judge’s order against abortion protesters in western New York. However, the justices struck down the idea of a 15-foot”floating bubble zone”around all people entering and leaving abortion clinics.

NEWS FEATURE: Conservative Christians split on China trade status

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Their goal is the same: ending the religious repression suffered by millions of evangelical Protestants and Catholics in China. But as Congress gears up for its annual debate over granting trade privileges to China, conservative Christians are discovering that moving from principle to policy remedies can be a complex endeavor. Sharp disagreements are emerging among several Christian groups about whether renewing China’s preferential trade benefit, known as”Most Favored Nation”(MFN), status will help or hurt Chinese churches. Over the past year, several evangelical groups have been urging Congress and the Clinton administration to develop new policy initiatives to combat religious persecution around the world.