RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Bulgarian Orthodox to quit World Council of Churches (RNS) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has announced it will withdraw from the World Council of Churches, the Geneva-based international ecumenical body, citing the WCC’s style and direction.”We have no intention of ending ecumenical church contacts or cutting links with other Christian organizations,”a spokesman for the Bulgarian church told Ecumenical News International, the Geneva-based religious news agency.”But our church took the decision to leave last April and will circulate its explanation shortly.”We have not consulted other Orthodox churches about this announcement and cannot comment on their intentions,”the spokesman added. The WCC counts more than 330 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches as members. In recent years, however, a number of the Orthodox denominations have expressed unhappiness with what they see as Protestant domination of the WCC’s agenda and the ecumenical body’s preoccupation with what the Orthodox consider Western liberal issues such as women’s ordination, sexuality and modern, ecumenical liturgies. The flooding of Eastern Europe by Protestant missionaries _ not necessarily affiliated with WCC churches _ has also exacerbated tensions.

NEWS FEATURE: Unique summer camp brings together secular humanist youths

c. 1998 Religion News Service OREGONIA, Ohio _ At Camp Quest _ where the motto is”It’s Beyond Belief”and the camp song proclaim’s”Reason’s Our Way”_ the discussion preceding the toasting of marshmallows for s’mores one hot and humid July evening focused on proving the nonexistence of unicorns. Camp director Edwin Kagin, playing the foil, stubbornly insisted on their existence and challenged the more than 50 campers and counselors arrayed before him on wooden bleachers to prove him wrong through rational argument. When a gaggle of Canada geese glided past overhead before landing on a nearby lake, Kagin declared it a sign he was speaking truth. When campers pressed him on how he could be sure unseen unicorns were real, his only defense was that it had been”revealed”to him.

NEWS STORY: Pope tightens control over national bishops’ conferences

c. 1998 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Pope John Paul II is attempting to exert greater control over national bishops’ conferences in a new apostolic letter some church observers say has the potential to create ecclesiastical gridlock in Rome. The papal declaration requires action on major statements of faith and practice from the world’s 108 national bodies of bishops to be either unanimous _ a near impossibility in the United States with some 300 voting bishops _ or submitted to Rome for approval. Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the Washington-based National Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the statement’s affirmation that bishops’ conferences can exercise appropriate teaching authority on important issues. But he said Friday (July 24) unanswered questions raised concerns about the conference’s “ability to act in a timely manner.” Major policy statements could be delayed for years if hundreds of documents from around the world started being dropped on administrative desks in Rome, where quick action is not the norm, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

NEWS STORY: Bioethicist’s views generate controversy at Princeton

c. 1998 Religion News Service PRINCETON, N.J. _ Princeton University has hired a bioethicist best known in this country for his views on animal rights but who has described people with birth defects and some disabilities as “defective,” leading to national attention on his controversial writings on euthanasia. Australian Peter Singer, 52, has been named to the Ira W. DeCamp Professorship of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton, and will assume his post next July. While he is well known in the United States for his defense of animal rights, in Europe Singer has become a target for advocates for the disabled, who object to his assertion that children with birth defects have less moral value than many animals and can be euthanized. Singer’s work rejects the sanctity of human life, a concept central to many systems of ethical and religious thought.

COMMENTARY: Is it too easy to be a Catholic these days?

c. 1998 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. Check out his home page at http://www.agreeley.com or contact him via e-mail at agreel(at)aol.com.) UNDATED _ According to some conservative commentators, it has become too easy these days to live a Roman Catholic life. The Catholic identity, they say, has become soft and vague, resulting in a declining sense of Catholicism as different. This, they say, is the reason for the dwindling number of priests and nuns.

NEWS ANALYSIS: What would Jesus do _ with a $2 billion retailing industry?

c. 1998 Religion News Service DALLAS _ It started with teens who traded bracelets with the acronym”WWJD?”_ What Would Jesus Do? Now the question is turning up all over the place. At last week’s enormous trade show of the CBA _ the premier Christian retailing association _ retailers displayed post-it notes, day planners, devotional readers, memo pads, remembrance coins made from genuine, U.S.-minted pennies, necklaces, bracelets and even skateboards asking WWJD? By accident not design, the acronym for What Would Jesus Do?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service State Department seeking religious leader exchanges with China (RNS) The State Department’s chief human rights staffer said Washington hopes to arrange future exchanges of religious leaders with Beijing to”deepen the dialogue”on religious freedom in China. Assistant Secretary John Shattuck, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said Friday (July 10) the hoped-for exchanges would seek to build on last February’s”ground-breaking”visit to China by three American clerics. Speaking to reporters at his State Department offices, Shattuck said his discussions with Chinese religious affairs officials during President Clinton’s recent visit to China gave him”good reason to believe”the exchanges will take place. However, he provided no information as to when the exchanges might begin or whether they are even close to being finalized.