c. 2004 Religion News Service WAYNE, N.J. _ Last weekend an estimated 500,000 people across the United States took to the streets and raised over $90 million for the March of Dimes’ WalkAmerica campaign. But for Jan Fredericks, the annual event, the largest walk for charity in the country, is offensive. At the Sunday (April 25) walk at a high school in Wayne, Fredericks and a few other activists handed out leaflets and held up posters urging donors to rethink their support of the charity, which fights birth defects. “They think they’re doing a good thing.
c. 2004 Religion News Service Top U.S. Bishop Says Denying Communion Is Last Resort (RNS) The nation’s top Roman Catholic bishop said denying the sacrament of communion to a dissenting Catholic politician should be the last option considered, “not the first response.” Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that Catholic politicians should not be automatically shunned for dissenting from church teaching. “In the nature of the church, the imposition of sanctions is always the final response, not the first response, nor the second or maybe even the 10th,” he said in Rome. Gregory made his comments on Friday (April 23), the same day that Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, indicated that Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, should be refused the sacrament for his support of abortion rights. Gregory said bishops are called to teach “the doctrine of the church faithfully and truthfully,” including church opposition to abortion.
c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) There was a time, more than half a century ago, when the chaplain at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., was a crusader for the faith in his various roles: campus preacher, religion instructor and pastor for keeping the majority of students true to their Methodist roots. Today the Rev. Charlie Wallace holds the job, but he doesn’t recognize that job description. With just 5 percent of students claiming a Methodist heritage, Wallace ministers in a setting where much of his flock isn’t even Christian. Yet rather than evangelize as his predecessors of yesteryear may have, Wallace considers it his duty to discourage on-campus proselytizing of any kind.
c. 2004 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) A reader of my weekly newspaper column blisters me with abusive language and names me among those demons who vex his faith world and need to be silenced. He says he is praying for my soul. I get these every Saturday.
c. 2004 Religion News Service KEARNY, N.J. _ Ron Green was puzzled when a pastor he had once met briefly at a retreat called and asked to meet him at the Oakwood Baptist Church in Kearny, where Green was office manager. Oakwood’s new leader, Bruce Roberts, had been away for more than a week, having told the congregation he had served for just 10 weeks that he had to return to upstate New York to attend a wedding. The pastor, who knew Roberts from a Baptist Bible Fellowship group, told Green that Roberts would never return to lead the church. But he wouldn’t say why.
c. 2004 Religion News Service Supreme Court Allows Military Institute Prayer Ruling to Stand WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to consider an appeal of a lower court ruling that mealtime prayers at Virginia Military Institute are unconstitutional, drawing praise and criticism from opposing sides of the church-state debate. Justice Antonin Scalia issued a strong dissent to the high court’s Monday (April 26) refusal, saying the case raised key questions about church and state, the Associated Press reported. “VMI has previously seen another of its traditions abolished by this court,” wrote Scalia, referring to the court’s 1996 decision mandating that VMI admit women. “This time, however, its cause has been ignored rather than rejected _ though the consequences will be just the same.” Virginia’s attorney general had appealed the case after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the suppertime prayers violated the First Amendment.
c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Not so long ago, Awni Abu-Hadba felt invisible. The Palestine-born jeweler, who moved to Paterson, N.J., as a young man in 1971, remembers asking the city’s mayor for a favor. He will never forget the mayor’s response: “Your community doesn’t vote, so why should I help?” Today Abu-Hadba is deputy mayor of Paterson, a post he gained two years ago after the local Arab-American community organized to support a city councilman named Jose Torres for mayor. “When Torres won, he wanted to pay tribute to the people who helped get him elected,” Abu-Hadba says.
c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Standing at a worship service shortly before the official start of the March for Women’s Lives, pastry cook Theresa Helfrey held two signs stapled together, one declaring the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s call for justice and another supporting NARAL, a prominent abortion rights organization. She said the juxtaposition of the two signs was completely appropriate for her participation in the massive rally for reproductive rights that brought throngs of supporters to the nation’s capital Sunday (April 25). “We believe in our God,” said Helfrey, 22, of Hollywood, Fla. “And we also know that that being gave us the power to choose and for the government to take that away from us is just ridiculous.” Helfrey joined hundreds of others next to the U.S. Capitol’s reflecting pool for the “Prayerfully Pro-Choice Interfaith Worship Service” that the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice hosted hours before tens of thousands of people marched and rallied through downtown Washington.
c. 2004 Religion News Service Christian Leaders Say Bush Environmental Policy is Immoral (RNS) One hundred Christian leaders told President Bush in a pointed Earth Day rebuke on Thursday (April 22) that they have “grave moral concern” about his clean air policy. The letter, coordinated by the National Council of Churches, accused Bush of weakening air quality standards and putting the elderly and young children at particular risk through his “Clear Skies” initiative. “He says that moral values are a cornerstone in this administration, but this administration is failing the call to protect God’s children,” said the Rev. Bob Edgar, the NCC’s general secretary. The letter faulted Bush’s plan for not setting reduction standards for carbon emissions from power plants, which are believed to be the primary source of global warming.
c. 2004 Religion News Service (Dr. Gary Roark is an anesthesiologist and director of clinical services at the Beit Trust CURE Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, a teaching hospital for disabled children. He, his wife, Karina, and two children Erica, 14, and Daniel, 10, were sent to Malawi by CURE International. (http://www.cureinternational.org)) BLANTYRE, Malawi _ Blantyre by day: dirty little boys in tattered clothes, some orphaned, some cast out, some looking for an easy Kwacha (Malawian money). Crippled men and women crawling across the street.
c. 2004 Religion News Service ATLANTA _ Catholic priests, demoralized by the past two years of the clergy sex abuse scandal, asked a leading archbishop to convey their concerns about priests’ rights to the church hierarchy. Some 240 priests who gathered here for the annual National Federation of Priests’ Councils convention grilled Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee on celibacy, false abuse accusations and priestly life. One priest argued for due process and the rights of priests accused of sexual abuse. Another told Dolan, head of the bishops’ Priestly Life and Ministry Committee, that bishops act like “deer in the headlights” whenever priests dare to question them.
c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ People of faith who support reproductive rights for women gathered Friday (April 23) for an interfaith prayer breakfast, timed as a preview to the March for Women’s Lives that is expected to draw crowds to the nation’s capital Sunday. More than 300 clergy and other supporters of Planned Parenthood Federation of America gathered at the Renaissance Washington Hotel and made a point of distancing themselves from the opposing views on abortion held by more conservative religious leaders. “The people who will be organizing against choice hold this book real close,” said the Rev. James Forbes of New York’s Riverside Church, holding up a large red Bible. “I got a Bible, too.” He drew cheers when he preached that those preparing to march need to move the national debate beyond whether someone should have an abortion or stem cells should be taken from embryos for research purposes.
c. 2004 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Vatican’s highest authority on worship and the sacraments, issuing comprehensive new instructions against liturgical abuses, indicated Friday (April 23) that Sen. John Kerry should be refused Communion because he supports abortion rights. Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, declined to comment directly on the case of the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, saying he considers it a matter for American bishops to decide. “The norm of the church is clear. The Catholic Church exists in the United States, and there are bishops there.
c. 2004 Religion News Service MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio _ Pastor Rainnell Vernon is not just trying to grow a church. He’s also trying to grow a city. Less than four years after the ambitious young pastor was bounced from a Cleveland church for butting heads with more traditional leaders, the lively church he started in a suburban city-hall basement has fast become a spiritual magnet in Maple Heights. And a commercial one.
c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Intense focus on Sen. John Kerry’s Catholic credentials in his race for the White House has spilled over onto Capitol Hill as lawmakers from both parties debate whose voting records are more “in sync” with Catholic teaching. Two Democratic House members _ Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Rick Lampson of Texas _ have drafted an internal research paper that apparently shows their party is more in line with church teaching than Republicans. According to The Hill newspaper, the “scorecard” compares the votes of Catholic House members with policy positions taken by American Catholic bishops on cloning, partial-birth abortion, taxes, gay marriage, the minimum wage and other issues. The Hill reported that the 67 House Democrats who are Catholic voted in accordance in church positions an average of 76 percent of the time, while the 49 Catholic Republicans averaged 64 percent.