RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Gonzalez Aid Fund Shifted to National Council of Churches (RNS) The embattled fund set up by a United Methodist Church agency to pay for lawyers for Juan Miguel Gonzalez has been shifted to the National Council of Churches, in part because Florida Methodist churches were upset that church leaders were wading into the custody dispute. The Methodist church’s General Board of Church and Society set up the fund in March to collect donations to pay for lawyers for Gonzalez, who is in the center of a battle to have his son, Elian, returned with him to Cuba. Church officials stressed that no offerings or general church funds were being used to pay for Gonzalez’s legal team. The church announced Tuesday (April 25) that the NCC had assumed control of the fund on April 19.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Gonzalez Aid Fund Shifted to National Council of Churches (RNS) The embattled fund set up by a United Methodist Church agency to pay for lawyers for Juan Miguel Gonzalez has been shifted to the National Council of Churches, in part because Florida Methodist churches were upset that church leaders were wading into the custody dispute. The Methodist church’s General Board of Church and Society set up the fund in March to collect donations to pay for lawyers for Gonzalez, who is in the center of a battle to have his son, Elian, returned with him to Cuba. Church officials stressed that no offerings or general church funds were being used to pay for Gonzalez’s legal team. The church announced Tuesday (April 25) that the NCC had assumed control of the fund on April 19.

NEWS STORY: Seminaries Are Not Known to Their Neighbors, Study Finds

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Religious educational institutions across the United States are nearly invisible in their communities, a new study by the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education has concluded. “Many of the seminaries we studied are known only to a fairly small circle of insiders of their own religious tradition _ denominational executives, clergy and the members of some congregations that are either large or located close to the seminary’s campus,” said the report “Missing Connections: Public Perceptions of Theological Education.” “… Whatever the reason, seminaries are not viewed as civic assets in their communities or beyond. Nor are seminaries widely viewed as educational assets.” In its survey of six seminaries in four cities _ Indianapolis, Atlanta, Portland, Ore., and Shreveport, La.

NEWS STORY: Court to Hear Gay Scouts Case

c. 2000 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A coalition of religious groups from Roman Catholics to Orthodox Jews and Mormons to Southern Baptists has sent a clear message to the Supreme Court: Don’t force the Boy Scouts of America to accept gays as Scoutmasters. When the justices convene this week to review a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that said the Boy Scouts cannot ban homosexuals, the legal arguments will center on questions dealing with civil rights and freedom of speech and association. James Dale, a 29-year-old gay activist barred from a Boy Scout troop in Matawan, will argue through attorneys that the Boy Scouts of America is a public organization that may not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Attorneys for the Scouts maintain the organization is private and entitled under the First Amendment to establish its own membership rules and code of behavior.

NEWS STORY: Court to Hear Gay Scouts Case

c. 2000 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A coalition of religious groups from Roman Catholics to Orthodox Jews and Mormons to Southern Baptists has sent a clear message to the Supreme Court: Don’t force the Boy Scouts of America to accept gays as Scoutmasters. When the justices convene this week to review a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that said the Boy Scouts cannot ban homosexuals, the legal arguments will center on questions dealing with civil rights and freedom of speech and association. James Dale, a 29-year-old gay activist barred from a Boy Scout troop in Matawan, will argue through attorneys that the Boy Scouts of America is a public organization that may not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Attorneys for the Scouts maintain the organization is private and entitled under the First Amendment to establish its own membership rules and code of behavior.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Humanitarian Groups Tackle Global Relief Challenges (RNS) Recent natural disasters, the African AIDS crisis and a burgeoning refugee population have stretched resources and complicated assistance efforts, representatives of global relief agencies said at a Washington conference. More than 160 U.S.-based international humanitarian organizations met in Washington this week (April 17-19) under the banner of InterAction, the American Council for Voluntary International Action. Conferees lamented the daunting global issues facing relief agencies, and learned about innovations in technology that will either help those in need or further marginalize them. It has been a difficult year for the group, which includes most of the front-line relief and development voluntary groups such as CARE, the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Humanitarian Groups Tackle Global Relief Challenges (RNS) Recent natural disasters, the African AIDS crisis and a burgeoning refugee population have stretched resources and complicated assistance efforts, representatives of global relief agencies said at a Washington conference. More than 160 U.S.-based international humanitarian organizations met in Washington this week (April 17-19) under the banner of InterAction, the American Council for Voluntary International Action. Conferees lamented the daunting global issues facing relief agencies, and learned about innovations in technology that will either help those in need or further marginalize them. It has been a difficult year for the group, which includes most of the front-line relief and development voluntary groups such as CARE, the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Complaint Filed Against Bishop In Same-Sex Union Decision (RNS) A California woman has filed charges against the Rev. Melvin Talbert, bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, for not taking proper action against 68 pastors who participated in a same-sex union ceremony last year. Jacque Vance, a lay member of Orangevale United Methodist Church, filed the complaint against Talbert for failing to uphold the church’s Book of Discipline, which prohibits United Methodist clergy from officiating or participating in same-sex union ceremonies. After 68 clergy gathered for the Jan. 16, 1999, ceremony, members of Vance’s church filed a formal complaint with Talbert’s office.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Complaint Filed Against Bishop In Same-Sex Union Decision (RNS) A California woman has filed charges against the Rev. Melvin Talbert, bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, for not taking proper action against 68 pastors who participated in a same-sex union ceremony last year. Jacque Vance, a lay member of Orangevale United Methodist Church, filed the complaint against Talbert for failing to uphold the church’s Book of Discipline, which prohibits United Methodist clergy from officiating or participating in same-sex union ceremonies. After 68 clergy gathered for the Jan. 16, 1999, ceremony, members of Vance’s church filed a formal complaint with Talbert’s office.

NEWS STORY: Falwell Leads Effort to Plant Urban Megachurches

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even as he attempts to regain his political kingmaker status with a campaign to register 10 million new voters, the Rev. Jerry Falwell knows he was a pastor before becoming a political powerbroker. He knows the importance of planting new churches _ he started his own church 43 years ago with 35 members _ so he has signed on to help lead a charge by the Southern Baptist Convention to plant “megachurches” in the nation’s urban centers. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination with 15.7 million members, has targeted cities as the mission field of the 21st century. They plan to start churches they hope will grow to about 2,000 people in at least four major cities.

NEWS STORY: Falwell Leads Effort to Plant Urban Megachurches

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even as he attempts to regain his political kingmaker status with a campaign to register 10 million new voters, the Rev. Jerry Falwell knows he was a pastor before becoming a political powerbroker. He knows the importance of planting new churches _ he started his own church 43 years ago with 35 members _ so he has signed on to help lead a charge by the Southern Baptist Convention to plant “megachurches” in the nation’s urban centers. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination with 15.7 million members, has targeted cities as the mission field of the 21st century. They plan to start churches they hope will grow to about 2,000 people in at least four major cities.

NEWS FEATURE: `Eco-Judaism’ Catches on as Earth Day Turns 30

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At the Shalom Institute Camp in the Malibu mountains of California, Rabbi Arthur Waskow sits before a group of environmental professionals, scientists, health practitioners, rabbis and educators. He outlines his plan: a strategy for making the end of global warming a Jewish imperative. Waskow, a leader in the Jewish renewal movement and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, is a leader among Jews turning their religious sensibilities to the plight of the natural world. Creating a distinctly Jewish response to ecological crises, they are drawing environmental teachings and practices out of a Jewish tradition that once revolved around the agricultural calendar of the land of Israel.

NEWS FEATURE: `Eco-Judaism’ Catches on as Earth Day Turns 30

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At the Shalom Institute Camp in the Malibu mountains of California, Rabbi Arthur Waskow sits before a group of environmental professionals, scientists, health practitioners, rabbis and educators. He outlines his plan: a strategy for making the end of global warming a Jewish imperative. Waskow, a leader in the Jewish renewal movement and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, is a leader among Jews turning their religious sensibilities to the plight of the natural world. Creating a distinctly Jewish response to ecological crises, they are drawing environmental teachings and practices out of a Jewish tradition that once revolved around the agricultural calendar of the land of Israel.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Harry Potter Wins a Vote of Approval From Opus Dei (RNS) Harry Potter, the young wizard-in-training whose adventures top best-seller lists but have been denounced by conservative religious groups, has won a vote of approval from the Roman Catholic Opus Dei association. The magazine Studi Cattolici (Catholic Studies), closely associated with Opus Dei, praised the three Harry Potter books by English writer Joanne K. Rowling for teaching children that good can prevail over evil. The three books published so far have sold 30 million copies worldwide, but conservative religious groups in the United States and England attacked them for glorifying the occult powers that Harry Potter and his friends are learning to use at a school for wizards. Reviewer Riccardo Caniato disagreed, saying the books’ message is positive and that Harry Potter’s adventures teach young readers to face “the challenges of everyday life with a look that reveals faith and passion for all that the good life promises.” In an imaginary interview with Harry Potter, the Rev. Michele Dolz wrote that the basic theme of the books is “the struggle between good and evil,” which agrees completely with evangelical ideals.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Harry Potter Wins a Vote of Approval From Opus Dei (RNS) Harry Potter, the young wizard-in-training whose adventures top best-seller lists but have been denounced by conservative religious groups, has won a vote of approval from the Roman Catholic Opus Dei association. The magazine Studi Cattolici (Catholic Studies), closely associated with Opus Dei, praised the three Harry Potter books by English writer Joanne K. Rowling for teaching children that good can prevail over evil. The three books published so far have sold 30 million copies worldwide, but conservative religious groups in the United States and England attacked them for glorifying the occult powers that Harry Potter and his friends are learning to use at a school for wizards. Reviewer Riccardo Caniato disagreed, saying the books’ message is positive and that Harry Potter’s adventures teach young readers to face “the challenges of everyday life with a look that reveals faith and passion for all that the good life promises.” In an imaginary interview with Harry Potter, the Rev. Michele Dolz wrote that the basic theme of the books is “the struggle between good and evil,” which agrees completely with evangelical ideals.