COMMENTARY: Developments Old and New Inform Orthodox `Diakonia’

c. 2004 Religion News Service (A longtime ecumenical leader, the Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky is the Orthodox Church in America’s assistant to the chancellor for interchurch relations and ecumenical witness. He is vice chairman of the board of directors of International Orthodox Christian Charities.) (UNDATED) On May 1, when 10 new member countries joined the European Union, some 80 people were meeting at the historic Valamo Monastery in Finland. They came from Africa and the Middle East, from Europe and South America and North America, to participate in a conference, “Orthodox Diakonia: The Social Witness and Service of the Orthodox Church.” The conference was the fruit of the collaboration of three organizations: the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, the world’s most inclusive ecumenical organization and forum; International Orthodox Christian Charities, a Baltimore-based humanitarian organization of Orthodox Christians of North America; and Ortaid, the Orthodox Church of Finland’s two-year-old relief and development office. It is well known there is no end to the convening of conferences.

NEWS STORY: Bush Tells Conservative Religious Editors He’s Cultural `Change Agent’

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ President Bush described himself as a cultural change agent in a group interview with editors and writers of conservative Christian publications. “… The job of a president is to help cultures change,” Bush told the nine writers and executives, according to an edited transcript posted Friday (May 28) on “Governments cannot change culture alone.

NEWS STORY: Poll: Most Catholics Oppose Bishops’ Political Pressure

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The vast majority of U.S. Catholics want their bishops to stay out of politics, and an even larger number say political pressure from prelates will not affect their vote in November, a poll released Thursday (May 27) shows. The poll by Quinnipiac University of registered voters nationwide offers a glimpse of growing discomfort among Catholics as some bishops threaten to deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights. “`Thou shalt not pressure the politicians,’ American voters, including Catholic voters, are telling the bishops,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. The poll showed that two-thirds of Catholics disapprove of pressure from bishops, specifically threats to deny Communion to presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Catholic who supports abortion rights.

NEWS FEATURE: Actor Stephen Baldwin Now Leading Christian Man

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Before leaving for his 11-year-old daughter Alaia’s ballet recital, actor Stephen Baldwin had to fend off 8-year-old daughter Hailey, who began calling for him as he talked on the telephone with a reporter. “Tell your mother we’re going to leave in nine minutes,” he told Hailey. Soon, Baldwin was driving his wife, Kennya, and their daughters in the Volvo station wagon through Nyack, N.Y., on the way to the ballet recital. A man in a BMW convertible pulled up beside them at a stoplight and yelled that he loved Baldwin’s recent documentary on Christian skateboarders.

NEWS FEATURE: RNS Religion Calendar

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Here is the RNS calendar of religious holidays, events and meetings for June and July. It is updated monthly. June 1-4 International Church of the Foursquare Gospel: annual convention, San Francisco. Contact: Ron Williams at 213-989-4221; e-mail: ron(at); Web site: June 2-5 National Black Evangelical Association: 40th anniversary celebration, Los Angeles.

NEWS FEATURE: Gifts To Nourish The Graduate’s Soul

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) ‘Tis the season for graduation, and while you can’t go wrong with practical gifts like laundry bags and quarters, sometimes you’re looking for something a little more ethereal. Still, shopping for the intangible can be tricky. Here are 10 graduation gift ideas that will nourish the soul. Milk and honey: The Israelites long anticipated “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Once they arrived there, they were directed to build an altar, offer sacrifices and rejoice in God’s presence.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Billy Graham’s Crusades Postponed as Evangelist Recuperates (RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham’s two 2004 crusades have been postponed until the fall to allow the 85-year-old preacher time to recuperate from a fractured pelvis. The event originally scheduled for June 17-20 in Kansas City, Mo., is now planned for Oct. 7-10, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced. The dates for the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade in Pasadena, Calif., have shifted from July 29-Aug.

NEWS FEATURE: Exhibits Explore Faith of `Greatest Generation’

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Two exhibits highlighting faith during World War II are already drawing visitors as veterans and others around the country travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend (May 29-30) for the dedication of the National World War II Memorial. The exhibits are part of “America Celebrates the Greatest Generation,” a hundred-day tribute to the World War II generation that begins after the memorial is dedicated on Saturday (May 29). One exhibit, called “Faith of our Fathers and Mothers,” is housed at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a set 10 triptychs _ three decorated hinged panels _ that were used as portable altars during the war.

COMMENTARY: If Sorrow Is Invisible, Why Do We See So Much Of It?

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of “Cardinal Bernardin’s Stations of the Cross,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) Norman Mailer once observed of a political convention whose atmosphere was heavy with “do-gooder” overtones that there was “insufficient evil in the room.” Nobody will ever say that about sorrow. There is no cartel holding back the supply, waiting for a higher price, because the supply always exceeds the demand. And despite contemporary theorists who believe that everything, including sex and marriage, can be reduced to economic exchanges, nobody barters or borrows sorrow.

COMMENTARY: Book Takes on Charge that Jews were `Christ-Killers’

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) France’s World War I premier, Georges Clemenceau warned, “War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military.” Similarly, some religious issues are too serious to be entrusted solely to professional theologians and scholars whose main concerns are frequently the number of footnotes and the length of the bibliography. But Judith Civan’s new book, “Abraham’s Knife: the Mythology of the Deicide in Antisemitism” (Exlibris) is different. Although Civan holds a graduate degree from Columbia University and is knowledgeable about Christianity and Judaism, her book was not written to score academic debating points. Instead, Civan directly confronts an issue that has plagued Western culture and civilization for centuries: the deicide or “Christ-killer” charge.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Pope Names Cardinal Law to Post in Rome VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope John Paul II has named Cardinal Bernard Law, the controversial former archbishop of Boston, to the ceremonial post of archpriest of the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Vatican said Thursday (May 27). Law, 72, has been resident chaplain at the convent of the Sisters of Mercy of Alma in Clinton, Md., since the pope accepted his resignation as head of the 2.1-million-member Boston archdiocese on Dec. 13, 2002, amidst criticism of the cardinal for failing to discipline priests accused of pedophilia.

NEWS STORY: Bishops Moderate Stance on Communion, Politics

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) One week after a Colorado bishop shocked Catholics by saying it was a sin to vote for abortion-rights politicians, other prominent bishops have urged caution in denying Communion through more moderate statements. While not wavering in their opposition to abortion, leading bishops have indicated that dissenting lay Catholics should not immediately be banned from the Communion table. Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, a respected leader in Catholic education, said the church has a “long-standing practice” of not judging the “state of the soul” of those who present themselves for Communion. “Historically, the people in the United States, including Catholics, react with great disfavor to any effort of a church body that appears to tell people how to vote, or to attempt to punish people for the manner in which they vote,” Wuerl said on Tuesday (May 25).

NEWS FEATURE: Transhumanism Takes Technology to the Level of Faith

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Humanity is on its way out. Post-humanity _ technologically enhanced and perhaps even immortal _ is coming. The stuff of science fiction? No, it’s creed to transhumanists, a diverse group of technological optimists who advocate the transformation of homo sapiens into a new species, one “better than human.” Transhumanists see our era of rapid technological advance as the transitional phase between our human past and post-human future.

NEWS FEATURE: Jimmy Carter _ Still the World’s Most Famous Sunday School Teacher

c. 2004 Religion News Service PLAINS, Ga. _ A little more than 100 miles and several light-years southwest of Atlanta lies a bucolic hamlet surrounded by pine trees, pecan groves and peanut farms. A short row of turn-of-the-century buildings, including an antiques store, trading post and modern post office, form the downtown. Across the silent railroad tracks and a little ways down the road, at the other end of town, is a small Baptist church where a faith-driven man is about to begin teaching his weekly Sunday School lesson. As soon as a battery of somber but stylishly dressed Secret Service agents signal the room is secure, the class commences.

NEWS DIGEST: Religion in Canada

c. 2004 Religion News Service Faith to Cause Most Tension, Poll Shows MONTREAL (RNS) For the first time in years, religion has surpassed language as the expected cause of social strife in the coming years, according to a poll conducted for the Association for Canadian Studies. The poll, conducted by Environics between March 29 and April 18, surveyed 2,014 Canadians. Forty-three percent of respondents felt conflict between religious groups would be the greatest source of tension in the years ahead. Residents of Quebec, Ontario and Alberta were most likely to think this, while the majority of those polled in Saskatchewan (52 percent) said friction between aboriginal and nonaboriginal groups would be the greatest source of tension.