RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Study: Vast Majority of Teens Believe Prayers Are Answered (RNS) The vast majority of U.S. teenagers who pray believe their prayers are answered, a new study by the American Bible Society has found. Ninety-one percent of teens said they believe their prayers are answered, the New York-based society said. But teens had varying views on how often their petitions received a response: 24 percent believe their prayers are answered all the time; 24 percent believe they are answered most of the time and 44 percent said they are answered at least some of the time. They also vary in the kinds of prayers they utter: 54 percent say they most often say a personal prayer; 22 percent say the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father; and 1 percent say the rosary.

NEWS STORY: Review Board Members Say Catholic Bishops Stalling on Abuse

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Attempts by some Catholic bishops to delay a second round of oversight audits on sexual abuse runs the risk of returning the church to a dangerous era of “business as usual,” the head of a lay review board said. Justice Anne M. Burke, chairman of the church’s appointed National Review Board, warned that parishioners would find it “reprehensible” if the bishops stalled on a second round of national surveys to measure compliance with sex abuse reforms. “Those who said that the bishops were never serious about breaking free from the sins, crimes and bad judgments of the past will be vindicated,” Burke wrote in a March 30 letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Burke’s letter, along with a flurry of correspondence from more than 30 bishops urging Gregory to delay, was posted online Tuesday (May 11) by the independent newspaper National Catholic Reporter. “A decision to backslide …

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Survey: Percentage of `Unchurched’ Adults Up Sharply Since 1991 (RNS) The portion of adults who generally do not attend church has risen sharply in the last 13 years, a Barna Group study shows. The percentage of Americans who are “unchurched” grew from 21 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2004. Researchers defined unchurched as those who have not attended a church service in the past six months, other than for a holiday service, such as Easter or Christmas, or for a special event, such as a wedding or funeral. In a typical week, unchurched people are less likely than all adults to read or to pray.

NEWS FEATURE: Experts: U.S. Marriage Model is not Universal Norm

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As the debate over same-sex unions rages, particularly in Oregon and Massachusetts, some central questions about the meaning and manner of marriage swirl through the air like a thrown handful of rice. Here’s what anthropologists, sociologists, legal scholars, historians and religious leaders have to say. Q: Is there a single definition of marriage? A: No.

NEWS STORY: For Some Justices of Peace, Conflict in Carrying Out Gay Weddings

c. 2004 Religion News Service FRANKLIN, Mass. _ Gay couples are set to walk down the aisle in Massachusetts on Monday (May 17), when a court decision legalizing same-sex marriage takes effect. And that creates a quandary for people like John Vozzella. Vozzella is a justice of the peace who took an oath to uphold the law, which will require that he officiate at gay weddings.

NEWS FEATURE: Churches Ready Themselves for Bay State Gay Wedding Day

c. 2004 Religion News Service NEEDHAM, Mass. _ For the 15 pastors who came here on May 7 to learn “the nuts and bolts of planning a gay wedding,” the first lesson was clear: Expect wedding dynamics unlike any you’ve ever seen. The Rev. Heike Werder listed the novel but likely possibilities: You might have a man who wants to be called “the bride.” You might do premarital counseling with a couple who’ve been together 50 years. Or you might have to arrange for a police detail to keep angry protesters at bay.

COMMENTARY: Why Doesn’t the Sexuality Debate Run Out of Steam?

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. Visit his Web site at http://www.onajourney.org) (UNDATED) Now that Methodists have joined other denominations in dancing close to schism over sexuality, two questions arise. Can the center possibly hold? When extremes square off, can anything find life in the scarred ground between them?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Leaders Urge Bush to Push Plight of Holy Land Christians (RNS) Fifty Catholic and Protestant leaders have appealed to President Bush on behalf of the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land, who they say are under economic and physical assault from Israel. In a May 7 letter coordinated by the advocacy group Churches for Middle East Peace, the signers said “the endangered indigenous Christian population in the Holy Land could well disappear” unless Bush intervenes. “We need your help in convincing the Israeli government that thriving Christian institutions are vital to all of our interests and to the future of a secure Israel,” the letter said. The signers said denials and delays of visas for church workers are leaving social service agencies without “the spiritual and the professional staff that they need.” They also said an effort to tax humanitarian agencies may put many of them, including the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, out of business.

NEWS FEATURE: Televangelist Meyer _ A New Breed Preaching Healing, Prosperity

c. 2004 Religion News Service HERSHEY, Pa. _ Televangelist Joyce Meyer, down-home despite her trim purple corporate suit, talks about her listeners’ troubles with the intimacy of a sister sufferer. She knows they lose patience with their husbands and kids and feel bad about it; they worry all the time; they overeat. She knows they have unresolved pain _ from childhood abuse, troubled marriages.

NEWS FEATURE: Nigerian Feminists See Gradual Progress

c. 2004 Religion News Service KANO, Nigeria _ Nafisat Usmaan draws a thick line under the word “sexuality,” scrawled in felt-tipped marker on a pink flip chart. “Should you talk to your parents about this?” she asks some two dozen teenage students, slouched in plastic chairs before her. Dead silence. “What about your family doctor?” “What about my girlfriend?” shoots back one young man.

NEWS STORY: Justice Department Warns About Muslim Extremism in Prisons

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Justice Department has issued a detailed report recommending the federal Bureau of Prisons make significant changes in its handling of providers of Muslim religious services to increase security and reduce possible extremism. “Our review found that while the BOP has not identified widespread problems with inmate radicalization and terrorist recruiting, chaplaincy services in the BOP remain vulnerable to infiltration by religious extremists, and supervision practices in BOP chapels need strengthening,” the report concluded. Released Wednesday (May 5), the 60-page report includes 16 recommendations from the Office of the Inspector General related to how the prison system screens and recruits religious services providers, relies on Muslim chaplains and supervises religious activity. Bureau spokesman Dan Dunne said prison officials support the recommendations and expect to enact those that are not already in place.

NEWS STORY: Divided Methodists End Meeting With Vows of Unity

c. 2004 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ Conservative leaders on Friday (May 7) insisted there is no organized campaign to force a split in the United Methodist Church, but said the denomination can no longer ignore deep divisions over homosexuality and other issues. As delegates wrapped up their General Conference legislative meeting, evangelicals downplayed a call issued Thursday by one of their own for an “amicable separation” within the 10 million-member church. “I don’t want us to talk about separation,” said the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary and a conservative leader. “That’s not a game where our energy needs to be focused.” Dunnam said a resolution circulated Thursday that urged a churchwide divorce was premature.

NEWS FEATURE: Brazilian Healer Edemir Rossi Connects People to God

c. 2004 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ Meeting with Brazilian healer Edemir Rossi is like entering an inner sanctum, peaceful and calm. New Age music plays softly in the background as he extends a warm hand. He speaks gently with each client before guiding him or her into meditation. Then he directs the person to lay fully clothed on a massage table.

COMMENTARY: A Call for Repentance

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is a consultant to humanitarian organizations.) (UNDATED) And so the spinning begins. It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t technically illegal, no one told me it was wrong. From Martha Stewart to teens downloading music to soldiers guarding prisoners in Iraq, we are a nation proficient at excuses and seemingly unable to mourn our ethical and moral failings _ let alone repent. We would like to believe the American soldiers pictured in those horrific photos from the Iraqi prison are not like the rest of us.

NEWS STORY: Bush, Religious Leaders Call Nation to Prayer

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Religious and political leaders marked the annual National Day of Prayer on Thursday (May 6) with programs on Capitol Hill, at the White House and across the nation in settings such as government buildings, parks and shopping malls. President Bush observed the day at an East Room ceremony, describing prayer as a tradition for presidents and ordinary Americans. “We recognize that all that we have and all that we are come as gifts and it is natural to be grateful to the giver,” the president told an interfaith audience of about 150. The president had earlier issued an official proclamation and U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black wrote a “prayer for the nation” for the 53rd annual observance.