NEWS FEATURE: Jewish community dealing with gay interfaith couples

c. 1998 Religion News Service BALTIMORE _ When David Steinhorn and Thom Stroschein began their relationship 12 years ago, their first date did not begin until near midnight because Steinhorn first attended a Selichot service _ a special penitential service preceding the Jewish High Holy Days which begins late on a Saturday night.”And my first response as a non-Jew was: You go to church at what time?”said Stroschein, who was raised Roman Catholic in Wisconsin. It was the first of many religious misunderstandings for the Baltimore couple. Stroschein recalled how during their first year together he”dragged”his friend to a pre-Easter service that turned out to be”very traditional, very anti-Semitic. `The people who crucified Jesus?

NEWS FEATURE: Looking for God along a psychedelic drug trip

c. 1998 Religion News Service UNDATED _ When Lewis Carroll’s Alice swallowed magical cake, she was “delighted to find that she began shrinking directly.” So was Kate Chapman, 23, a modern-day Alice on LSD. “I became smaller and smaller and smaller until I felt the molecules, subatomic particles, the quarks,” said Chapman of a memorable LSD trip. “Beyond that, there were light bodies all around, and I was a light body. I felt I went into the great white light.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service NCC matches $500,000 Helmsley gift for burned churches (RNS) The National Council of Churches said Monday (Jan. 19) it has raised the $500,000 needed to receive a matching gift from New York real estate tycoon and philanthropist Leona Helmsley for its burned churches fund. NCC officials said the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the NCC, and Luther Gatling, president of One Hundred Black Men, who represented Helmsley, deposited the $1 million at the Carver Federal Savings Bank in Harlem on Jan. 15 _ the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. At the bank, Campbell offered a meditation on King’s life and work and reported on the ongoing work of the Burned Churches Fund.”The church burnings are symptomatic of the sickness in our country, exemplifying both the racial prejudice and the lack of economic opportunity,”she said.”A society should worry greatly if its churches are being burned.”

NEWS PROFILE: Nellie Gray: 25 years behind the March for Life

c. 1998 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ In the fall of 1973, Nellie Gray and about 30 other anti-abortion activists from the mid-Atlantic region began gathering at the retired federal worker’s home on Capitol Hill to plan a January demonstration on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion. Gray recalled with amusement her naivete back then:”We just thought we were going to march one time and Congress would certainly pay attention to 20,000 people coming in the middle of winter to tell them to overturn Roe vs. Wade.” But 25 years later _ with legislation banning abortion still beyond reach _ Gray’s commitment to eradicating abortion remains steadfast, and she continues to play the key role in organizing the mid-winter protest that has over the years drawn hundreds of thousands of abortion foes to the nation’s capital every Jan.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service New Christian Coalition head pledges focus on principles, not politics (RNS) The new president of the Christian Coalition said he plans to return his organization’s focus to principles rather than politics.”It is more important for us to re-establish, without question, that we are focused on our main mission, and that we stand on certain basic values than it is to say we have to win the next election,”Donald Hodel told a group of editors and reporters Tuesday (Jan. 6) at The Washington Times. He admitted the coalition, which claims to have 1.9 million members and supporters, has lost money and members since its informal alliance with Bob Dole’s 1996 run for president and its decision to pragmatically support candidates who disagree with its anti-abortion stance, the newspaper reported.”If Bob Dole had won, we’d have a bigger problem on our hands than we have,”Hodel said.”You would have `conservative’ control of the White House and Congress, and people would be saying, `If this is what conservative governing means, we want no part of it.” Hodel said the new managers of the coalition will take a harder position on Republicans and what many GOP members call”socially sensitive”issues.

NEWS STORY: England’s fox hunting tradition condemned as unchristian

c. 1998 Religion News Service LONDON _ A small but influential English religious group, which counts Prime Minister Tony Blair among its members, has ruffled the feathers of the British gentry by condemning fox hunting and other forms of killing animals for sport.”The use of power to control and kill, diverted into pleasure, is a fundamental betrayal of the power which the (biblical) Creation story tells us is God-given,”reads a pamphlet published by the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM), a group that counts a number of cabinet members and top church officials, as well as Blair, among its supporters and members.”As the early saints showed, hunting for pleasure and Christianity cannot be bedfellows,”the pamphlet said. The attack on hunting was published on Dec. 26 _ Boxing Day _ one of the most important days in the English hunting calendar and a time when most packs of foxhounds meet for a hunt. Church observers said that while a century ago it could be assumed most Church of England priests at rural parishes would have ridden to the hounds along with their gentry neighbors, there are today only about 50 clergy who hunt regularly.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Eds: Lowercase spelling of”empty tomb”in first item is cq. Church members gave a bit more of their incomes to congregations in 1996 (RNS) Congregation members gave a slightly larger portion of their incomes to their churches in 1996 compared to the previous year, a new study reports.”The State of Church Giving through 1996,”a study by empty tomb, inc., also reveals a continuing decline in contributions to benevolences, which includes general denominational support, such as local and international missions. In 1968, church members gave an average of 3.12 percent of their income to their congregations. That figure decreased by 17 percent to 2.58 percent in 1996, the latest year for which statistics are available.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Evangelical group head urges prayer for Congress, Clintons (RNS) The chairman of the National Association of Evangelicals has encouraged members of his group to pray for the country as Congress considers impeaching President Clinton.”We are urging our members to fervently pray for our nation while the House of Representatives debates and votes on articles of impeachment against President Clinton,”said the Rev. Lamar Vest. His comments were included in a statement issued Monday (Dec. 14) ahead of traditional mid-week prayer services offered by many evangelical churches.”We know the decisions the House of Representatives will shortly make will affect the nation, now and for years to come,”Vest said.”It is lamentable that our president has put himself and our country in this position. We know world peace could also be affected if others see this defining moment in our history as a weakness.”

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c. 1998 Religion News Service East Timor bishop calls for guerrilla leader’s release (RNS) Bishop Carlos Belo, head of the Roman Catholic Church in contested East Timor and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has called on the new Indonesian government to release jailed guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao.”Xanana must be freed in order to have a dialogue … to solve the problem of East Timor,”Belo told a news conference Tuesday (June 2).”If he is not freed, the problems will continue.” Indonesia, the largest predominantly Muslim nation in the world, invaded East Timor, a predominantly Christian area, in 1975 and declared it the nation’s 27th province in defiance of the United Nations. Since the invasion, a small band of guerrillas has conducted armed resistance in the territory _ which the United Nations insists remains under Portugal’s administrative control.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Embattled Baptist leader pleads innocent to theft, racketeering charges (RNS) The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, pleaded innocent Monday (March 16) to state charges of grand theft and racketeering. Lyons has been the subject of federal and state investigations since his wife was charged last July with setting a pricey waterfront house on fire that he owned with co-defendant Bernice Edwards. Edwards, a convicted embezzler and former denominational employee, pleaded innocent to a racketeering charge Monday. Lyons has denied misusing funds or having an affair with Edwards.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Evangelical scholars say Bible calls homosexuality”abomination” (RNS) The Evangelical Theological Society, a group of scholars, have passed a resolution affirming their belief that the Bible”teaches that homosexual conduct is always an abomination,”but sharply criticizing national media for”unsubstantiated, untruthful and hateful accusations”about evangelical Christians concerning the death of gay student Matthew Shepard.”We abhor the terrible sin of doing intentional physical harm to another human being for no reason other than hate,”the scholars said in the statement passed Nov. 20 during the meeting in Orlando, Fla.”… we equally abhor using the rhetoric of hate to prejudice the power of civil government against the open and complete proclamation of moral standards revealed in God’s Holy Word _ including both God’s love for sinners as well as his judgment of sin.” The scholars specifically opposed violence against gays.”We affirm as biblical and do ourselves agree with the position that Christian moral opposition to homosexual behavior is not and can never be license for anyone to engage in any form of slander, harassment or violence against one with whom we disagree,”the resolution continued.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Criticism of Clinton’s China policy continues (RNS) Religious and political opponents of President Clinton’s China policy maintained their steady drumbeat of criticism as the president prepared for his scheduled departure for China. He was scheduled to depart Wednesday (June 24) for his 10-day China trip. Opponents of Clinton’s China policy want him to stress religious and human rights concerns while in China. Clinton has said he would bring up those issues during his visit, but insists national security and trade issues also must be considered when dealing with China.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Crouch, Dixie Hummingbirds among gospel hall of fame inductees (RNS) Gospel artists Andrae Crouch, the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Mighty Clouds of Joy are among 10 individuals and groups who will be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame next month. Crouch, a multi-Grammy Award singer and songwriter, will be honored along with other gospel celebrities at the second Annual Gospel Music Hall of Fame Induction Banquet and Awards Ceremony on Nov. 14 in Detroit. A number of the gospel legends being honored have contributed to black gospel music for many decades.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Creech says bishop won’t reappoint him to his church (RNS) The Rev. Jimmy Creech, the central figure in the United Methodist Church’s current firestorm over homosexuality, says his bishop has told him he will not be reappointed to his Omaha church. Creech, who in March barely was acquitted of charges he broke church law by performing a same-sex union ceremony, said Nebraska Area Bishop Joel T. Martinez told Creech he has been unable to lead his congregation, which has lost what Creech called a”significant number”of members opposed to last September’s lesbian ceremony.”He felt that I am not going to be able to bring about a reconciliation,”Creech told the Associated Press on Tuesday (May 5). Martinez was not available for comment and it was unclear whether Martinez would appoint Creech to another pastorate. Under Methodist rules, clergy are appointed by bishops to one year terms at a church.