RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Southern Baptist Membership Increases After One-Year Drop (RNS) Membership in Southern Baptist churches increased again in 1999 after a decline in 1998 that marked the first drop in more than 70 years. The 1999 total stands at 15,851,756 members, according to the denomination’s Annual Church Profile. That is an increase of 122,400, or 0.78 percent, from 1998. The 1999 figure remains slightly below the all-time high from 1997 of 15,891,514 members, reported Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Southern Baptist Membership Increases After One-Year Drop (RNS) Membership in Southern Baptist churches increased again in 1999 after a decline in 1998 that marked the first drop in more than 70 years. The 1999 total stands at 15,851,756 members, according to the denomination’s Annual Church Profile. That is an increase of 122,400, or 0.78 percent, from 1998. The 1999 figure remains slightly below the all-time high from 1997 of 15,891,514 members, reported Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Vatican offers to help return Elian Gonzalez to his father (RNS) The Vatican confirmed Thursday (April 13) that at the request of the United States it has offered its embassy in Washington to serve as a neutral site for the return of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father. “At the request of the two interested parties, the Holy See has put its nunciature in Washington at their disposition for the consigning of the child Elian Gonzalez to his father,” chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. It was the Vatican’s first intervention in the case of the boy, who has lived with Miami relatives since being rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day. His mother and 10 other refugees drowned while trying to reach the United States in a small boat.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Vatican offers to help return Elian Gonzalez to his father (RNS) The Vatican confirmed Thursday (April 13) that at the request of the United States it has offered its embassy in Washington to serve as a neutral site for the return of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father. “At the request of the two interested parties, the Holy See has put its nunciature in Washington at their disposition for the consigning of the child Elian Gonzalez to his father,” chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. It was the Vatican’s first intervention in the case of the boy, who has lived with Miami relatives since being rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day. His mother and 10 other refugees drowned while trying to reach the United States in a small boat.

NEWS FEATURE: Call to Renewal Unites Diverse Groups to Fight Poverty

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At the height of the longest economic boom in the nation’s history, there are 34.5 million people living below the official poverty line _ $16,660 for a family of four. The seeming contradiction of poverty amid prosperity has propelled the Call to Renewal, a 5-year-old alliance including liberal Protestants, conservative evangelicals, Roman Catholics and African-American church leaders. Convened by the Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical minister in Washington, the coalition is staging a two-month series of “town meetings” in 20 cities around the country, running through May. It is also forming local “roundtables” that aim to bring candidates for public office before church audiences to explain their positions on poverty and the poor.

NEWS FEATURE: Call to Renewal Unites Diverse Groups to Fight Poverty

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At the height of the longest economic boom in the nation’s history, there are 34.5 million people living below the official poverty line _ $16,660 for a family of four. The seeming contradiction of poverty amid prosperity has propelled the Call to Renewal, a 5-year-old alliance including liberal Protestants, conservative evangelicals, Roman Catholics and African-American church leaders. Convened by the Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical minister in Washington, the coalition is staging a two-month series of “town meetings” in 20 cities around the country, running through May. It is also forming local “roundtables” that aim to bring candidates for public office before church audiences to explain their positions on poverty and the poor.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Falwell Differs With Robertson On Death Penalty Moratorium (RNS) The Rev. Jerry Falwell said he is at odds with religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and does not support Robertson’s recent call for a moratorium on the death penalty. Falwell says the appeals process for prisoners needs to move more quickly, the Associated Press reported. “Pat and I do not disagree on many things, but on this one we do,” Falwell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “While courts do make mistakes, I do not believe the mistake level is at the point where we need to rethink our whole system, and I personally believe that we need to reduce the time between conviction and execution.” At a symposium Friday (April 7) at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Robertson said he believes the death penalty is morally justified but he believes it is being administered in a way that discriminates against poor people and blacks.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Falwell Differs With Robertson On Death Penalty Moratorium (RNS) The Rev. Jerry Falwell said he is at odds with religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and does not support Robertson’s recent call for a moratorium on the death penalty. Falwell says the appeals process for prisoners needs to move more quickly, the Associated Press reported. “Pat and I do not disagree on many things, but on this one we do,” Falwell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “While courts do make mistakes, I do not believe the mistake level is at the point where we need to rethink our whole system, and I personally believe that we need to reduce the time between conviction and execution.” At a symposium Friday (April 7) at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Robertson said he believes the death penalty is morally justified but he believes it is being administered in a way that discriminates against poor people and blacks.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Graham Honored With Ronald Reagan Freedom Award (RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham has been honored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation for his contributions to freedom. Former first lady Nancy Reagan presented Graham with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award at a dinner Wednesday (April 5) in Beverly Hills, Calif. “As one of the century’s most thoughtful spiritual leaders, Billy Graham has led a life singular in its purpose and powerful in its message,” said Mark Burson, the foundation’s executive director, in a statement. “He is a leader for all ages whose achievements evidence a lifelong commitment to the cause of religious freedom _ a cause shared and held sacred by Ronald Reagan.” Past recipients of the award include former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and the late King Hussein I of Jordan.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Graham Honored With Ronald Reagan Freedom Award (RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham has been honored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation for his contributions to freedom. Former first lady Nancy Reagan presented Graham with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award at a dinner Wednesday (April 5) in Beverly Hills, Calif. “As one of the century’s most thoughtful spiritual leaders, Billy Graham has led a life singular in its purpose and powerful in its message,” said Mark Burson, the foundation’s executive director, in a statement. “He is a leader for all ages whose achievements evidence a lifelong commitment to the cause of religious freedom _ a cause shared and held sacred by Ronald Reagan.” Past recipients of the award include former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and the late King Hussein I of Jordan.

COMMENTARY: Catholics Should Make Jubilee Pilgrimage Back to Vatican I

c. 2000 Religion News Service (Eugene Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author most recently of “My Brother Joseph,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) In this Jubilee year, Catholics can make pilgrimages without going very far from home. They gain the same spiritual benefits as they would from traveling to Rome by visiting designated churches in their own dioceses. The initial theme is the worthy and traditional one of forgiveness.

COMMENTARY: Catholics Should Make Jubilee Pilgrimage Back to Vatican I

c. 2000 Religion News Service (Eugene Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author most recently of “My Brother Joseph,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) In this Jubilee year, Catholics can make pilgrimages without going very far from home. They gain the same spiritual benefits as they would from traveling to Rome by visiting designated churches in their own dioceses. The initial theme is the worthy and traditional one of forgiveness.