NEWS STORY: Religious groups stepping up call for end to Kosovo violence

c. 1999 Religion News Service UNDATED _ The Vatican says its diplomats are working behind the scenes in an effort to halt the NATO military campaign against the former Yugoslavia as well as Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic’s”ethnic cleansing”of Kosovo, and religious groups across Europe stepped up calls for an end to the fighting. On Monday (March 29), Pope John Paul II, for a second straight day, addressed the crisis in the Balkans, arguing violence”is never the way of out a crisis”and Geneva-based international religious groups appealed to the United Nations to impose a moratorium on the military campaign.”The NATO-led intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia manifests the failure of the international community to achieve a credible negotiated solution,”the leaders of the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches said in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.”Each day of bombing makes the solution more distant, and increases the risk of regionalization of the conflict,”the leaders said.”It also enhances the danger of a renewed divide within Rome.” Separately, in Istanbul, Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew II, invoking the current and imminent religious holidays of Islam (the feast at the end of the Hajj), Judaism (Passover) and Christianity (Easter, the Pascha of the Orthodox) said that he”on bended knee, fervently appeal from the tormented depths of my heart to all world government leaders … that they cease fire immediately and permanently.”

NEWS STORY: Methodist pastor suspended from ministry for same-sex ceremony

c. 1999 Religion News Service DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. _ The Rev. Gregory Dell, the Chicago pastor suspended from ministry late Friday (March 26) by a United Methodist Church court for performing a same-sex wedding ceremony says the decision was a victory of legalism over compassion. “Part of the church made a statement, but it’s not the final word”about the legitimacy of such”holy union”ceremonies, said Dell, pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago and a minister for almost 30 years. The ruling, he added,”part of an ongoing process throughout this denomination.”

NEWS FEATURE: MILLENNIUM WATCH: Israel braces for end-of-the-world sects

c. 1999 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Brother David shakes a tambourine while a lady named Grace plays the harpsichord, and the group breaks into an old gospel tune. It is a blustery cold winter evening in the Holy Land. But some two dozen men, women and children from all over the world have gathered here in this tiny living room in Bethany, an Arab enclave on the edge of Jerusalem to pray and wait _ wait for the Messiah to return. There is Sharon, a 53-year-old grandmother from California; Kalite, a mother of two from Australia; and Emma, a Hungarian Jew who believes in Jesus _ all of whom decline to give their last names.

NEWS FEATURE: Author argues for keeping science and religion apart

c. 1999 Religion News Service CAMBRIDGE, Mass. _ In recent years, a spate of books, news reports and academic papers has appeared maintaining that science and religion, after centuries of conflict, finally seem to be coming together. But there is at least one respected voice saying that not only was this conflict false, but that science and religion should remain separate. Stephen Jay Gould, a renowned Harvard University paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and best-selling author, writes in his new book,”Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life”(Ballantine), that it is a mistake to interpret science and religion as ever having been at war, much less in need of total integration.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Episcopal leader invites critics to America to talk with gays (RNS) Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of the Episcopal Church has invited eight overseas Anglican leaders who have criticized his church’s stance on homosexuals as too liberal to visit the United States and talk with gays and bishops who support them. The pointed invitation, in a March 19 letter, came in response to a late February letter from the Anglican leaders expressing”sorrow and disappointment”that the Episcopal Church in the United States remains”at variance”with the stance of an anti-gay resolution adopted last summer at the Lambeth Conference, the worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops. The resolution, which was urged on the conference principally by bishops from Africa, said abstinence was the only possibility”for those not called to marriage”and that the church cannot ordain gays or bless same-sex marriages. Opponents came largely from North America and Europe.”Some (U.S. bishops) even appear to repudiate resolutions before they are fully published,”the overseas church leaders said.

COMMENTARY: What would Jesus do about Easter?

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is publisher of Religion News Service.) UNDATED _ Ever since I was a little girl I have loved everything about Easter. I don’t mean the chocolate bunnies and the marshmallow eggs. I mean the church celebration of Easter. It always seems wonderfully extravagant to spend so much energy on this one day.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service An ill Farrakhan takes four-month leave from Nation of Islam (RNS) Controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has taken a four-month sabbatical to recover from prostate cancer treatment compounded by the flu and anemia, his personal physician said Friday (March 19). Speaking at a Chicago news conference, Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad said Farrakhan’s cancer _ first made public in 1991 _ remained confined to his prostate and a nearby seminal vesicle. “The minister’s life is not in imminent danger from any medical cause,”Muhammad said.”This should serve notice to all the vultures who are hovering over what they expect to be a dead carcass that you can go home. There is no death vigil.

COMMENTARY: God’s new story

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a pastor, writer and software developer living in Winston-Salem, N.C.) UNDATED _ This flight from Newark to Rome is full and the passengers restless. Rome is merely eight hours away. I anticipate a hot meal and a feature film. What I don’t expect is sleep in this tightly wedged-together crowd.

NEWS STORY: Canada’s religious newspapers under government scrutiny

c. 1999 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Four major Canadian Catholic newspapers say their future is in jeopardy after the federal government told them this week they no longer deserve a postal subsidy because they fail to meet Canadian-content regulations. The National Catholic Register, with a circulation of 20,000; the British Columbia Catholic, with a circulation of 20,000; the Prairie Messenger, with an 8,000 circulation; and New Freeman of New Brunswick, with a circulation of 7,000, all received letters from the Department of Heritage saying they are having their 80 percent postal subsidy revoked because they do not publish enough Canadian material written solely for their publications. The editor of the B.C. Catholic, Paul Shratz, exemplified the defiant tone of journalists at all the Catholic newspapers when he said:”We’re not going to pay the federal government an extra $225,000 a year in postage. Even if we won the lottery and had that kind of money, I can think of lots better uses for it.”