NEWS STORY: New Leader of World Council of Churches Gets a Guarded Thumbs Up

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The Rev. Samuel Kobia has struggled for greater democracy in Kenya and for peace in Sudan. But now, as the first African to lead the World Council of Churches, he faces a more complex battle from his office in staid Geneva as he seeks to heal internal rifts and to re-energize the 55-year-old ecumenical body. If the association of Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches is praised as an outspoken champion of justice and world peace, it is also an easy bait for censure. From failing to resuscitate its faltering finances and fading appeal, to preaching messages more political than religious, reproaches leveled at the Swiss-based body are many and varied.

NEWS DIGEST: Religion in Canada

c. 2003 Religion News Service Anglican Priests Charged for Defying Bishop Over Gay Unions VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Seven Anglican priests who have been at odds with their church’s stand on same-sex marriages have been charged with a variety of ecclesiastical offenses in an issue that continues to cause turmoil in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The priests have all led congregations opposed to the blessing of same-sex marriages, and tried to break away from British Columbia’s New Westminster diocese to join the more conservative Diocese of the Yukon _ a move refused as illegal under church law. No names were released when the Diocese of New Westminster announced earlier this month that clergy were charged for alleged disobedient and disrespectful conduct. But a coalition of parishes formally opposed to same-sex blessings, who refer to themselves as the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, released the names of the charged clergy Monday (Oct.

NEWS STORY: Prayer Groups Proliferate on Capitol Hill

c. 2003 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Congresswoman Denise Majette has a lot of reasons to pray. “As a freshman member of Congress in the minority party, I need to be constantly connected to the Holy Spirit to stay strong,” Majette, a Democrat from Georgia, said. Before they debate issues that affect millions of Americans’ lives, many legislators meet for informal prayer sessions and Bible studies. Organized prayer breakfasts also are held weekly for Senate and House members, which Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., called “the finest hour of the week.” Although the Constitution forbids them to tamper with religious expression and practice in their roles as elected officials, in private, congressional members feel free to bend God’s ear about some of the nation’s most pressing issues.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service United Methodist Gay Pastor Will Likely Face Trial (RNS) A United Methodist pastor in Washington state who told her bishop she is a lesbian will likely face trial for flouting the church’s ban on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. The church’s highest court ruled Monday (Oct. 27) that two lower panels made an “egregious error” by not bringing charges against the Rev. Karen Dammann, who disclosed her sexual orientation two years ago. Dammann, who is currently pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, Wash., told Bishop Elias Galvan that she was living in a “partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship” after her partner gave birth to a son in 2001.

COMMENTARY: Dialogue with Danny

c. 2003 Religion News Service (Professor Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., is author of “Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World,” published by Polity Press.) (UNDATED) I have never seen _ nor do I intend to ever see _ the video of the last minutes of Daniel Pearl’s life made by his murderers in Karachi, Pakistan. The tragedy of a young man killed brutally in his prime is too great and its symbolism too heavy to bear. So when I was invited to take part in a one-to-one public “dialogue” with Danny Pearl’s father, Dr. Judea Pearl, I was not sure how to respond and what would happen if I did. I knew, however, that for me it would be a dialogue with the ghost of Danny for what his death has come to mean to the world and its understanding of Islam.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service Muslim Leaders Seek More Discussions With Bush Administration WASHINGTON (RNS) As other Muslims planned to mark Ramadan at a dinner at the White House, the leaders of several Muslim organizations urged the Bush administration to have more substantive conversations with Muslims. “Basically, we feel that this administration has not dealt with the Muslim community in the right way,” Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, told a news conference Tuesday (Oct. 28). “This administration has primarily engaged the American Muslim community and its leadership in photo opportunities.” Bray said he thinks the administration is exercising a “double standard” by criticizing anti-Semitic comments made by the Muslim prime minister of Malaysia while permitting the U.S. defense undersecretary to remain in his position after making controversial remarks about religion. Bray, who is based in Washington, and other leaders cited concerns about the Bush administration regarding detention of Muslims, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Middle East policy.

COMMENTARY: Issues in the Robinson Consecration

c. 2003 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant, managing large-scale database implementations. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham, N.C.) (UNDATED) Until a business trip intervened, I planned to attend the Rev. V. Gene Robinson’s consecration as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire next Sunday. I wanted to voice my Yes to him as priest and pastor and my No to those who would turn this moment into a cosmic battleground for their issues of sexuality. Mainly, I wanted to be there because I think Gene is a good person, was elected for the right reasons _ he is their pastor, not their sexual role model _ and will make an extraordinary bishop.

NEWS FEATURE: Icons: Windows of the Soul Onto Heaven

c. 2003 Religion News Service PARMA, Ohio _ Jesus, Mary and John are everywhere. Walk inside Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Parma, and dramatic depictions of the Gospel story follow you through the temple. Turn one way, and the severed head of John the Baptist cries out. Turn another, and one sees a portrayal of a resurrected Christ drawing Adam and Eve from the pits of hell.

COMMENTARY: Hard Times and Traditional Values

c. 2003 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J., and a fellow of the George H. Gallup International Institute in Princeton, N.J.) (UNDATED) Several years ago, I preached at the installation service of a friend who had been called to her first pastorate. Nestled in the heart of a rural community outside Ann Arbor, Mich., the 160-year-old church and its environs evoked images of covered wagons carrying westward settlers in search of a new home. The area was dotted with century-old log cabins and square dancing remained a favorite pastime on Saturday night.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2003 Religion News Service Donations to Nation’s Charities Decline for First Time in 12 Years (RNS) Donations to the nation’s largest charities dropped in 2002, a first in 12 years, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported. Contributions decreased 1.2 percent, compared to an average annual increase of 12 percent in the previous five years, the newspaper said. The publication’s 12th annual “Philanthropy 400” ranks the nation’s largest nonprofits based on how much money they raise from private sources. Total donations amounted to $46.9 billion, down from $47.5 billion the previous year.

COMMENTARY: Ramadan and the Single Girl

c. 2003 Beliefnet (Asma Gull Hasan is the author of “American Muslims: The New Generation.” Her new book, “Why I Am A Muslim,” will be published in March by Element, a HarperCollins imprint. Her Web site is: http://www.asmahasan.com). (UNDATED) As I begin my annual Ramadan fast, I won’t be celebrating the way my mother did in Pakistan, or even the way I did as a child in Colorado. My mom’s Ramadan dining table was filled with South Asian delicacies.

COMMENTARY: Ramadan and the Single Girl

c. 2003 Beliefnet (Asma Gull Hasan is the author of “American Muslims: The New Generation.” Her new book, “Why I Am A Muslim,” will be published in March by Element, a HarperCollins imprint. Her Web site is: http://www.asmahasan.com). (UNDATED) As I begin my annual Ramadan fast, I won’t be celebrating the way my mother did in Pakistan, or even the way I did as a child in Colorado. My mom’s Ramadan dining table was filled with South Asian delicacies.

NEWS FEATURE: Christian `Zionists’ Rally in Support of Israeli Government

c. 2003 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Times are hard in Jerusalem, with many stores, restaurants and hotels shut down due to the ongoing Palestinian uprising, but you wouldn’t have known it from the rapturous smiles on the faces of the thousands of evangelical Christians who thronged to the holy city this month to support Israel. On Oct. 12, during an exuberant opening ceremony for the weeklong Feast of Tabernacles conference organized by the International Christian Embassy, more than 3,000 pilgrims from dozens of countries displayed their love of the Jewish state, its people and its policies. The Jerusalem Convention Center shook with applause and sounds of praise when organizers paid homage to 50 Israeli bus drivers, some sporting ties for the occasion, who “day after day put themselves at risk.” Like their passengers, who ride the buses despite the threat of attack, the drivers were described as “a symbol of so many in Israel who will not sit down for terror.” The pilgrims accorded Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the keynote speaker, a thunderous standing ovation when he made his way to the stage, the kind of reception he rarely, if ever, receives from his fellow Israelis.

NEWS STORY: Day of Prayer for Israel _ More Jews Welcome Evangelical Support

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As Israel’s security problems have mounted, many American Jewish leaders have strengthened their ties to evangelical Christians. On Sunday (Oct. 26), thousands of Christians observed the second annual Day of Prayer and Solidarity with Israel, an event overseen by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and involving evangelical churches from the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvary Ministries Inc. International and the International Church of the Four Square Gospel. Though conservative Christian groups have supported Israel, their stances on issues including school prayer, abortion and gay rights have long alienated many American Jews.

NEWS STORY: Day of Prayer for Israel _ More Jews Welcome Evangelical Support

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As Israel’s security problems have mounted, many American Jewish leaders have strengthened their ties to evangelical Christians. On Sunday (Oct. 26), thousands of Christians observed the second annual Day of Prayer and Solidarity with Israel, an event overseen by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and involving evangelical churches from the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvary Ministries Inc. International and the International Church of the Four Square Gospel. Though conservative Christian groups have supported Israel, their stances on issues including school prayer, abortion and gay rights have long alienated many American Jews.