NEWS STORY: Divided Methodists Consider `Amicable Separation’

c. 2004 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ Conservative United Methodists, frustrated by three decades of painful debates over homosexuality, unveiled a surprise proposal Thursday (May 6) calling for an “amicable separation” from liberals. Supporters of the plan, drafted by the Rev. Bill Hinson, leader of the evangelical Confessing Movement, said a mutual parting would allow both sides to leave with both their consciences _ and their property _ intact. The proposal caught many at the General Conference meeting here off-guard, including bishops who received no advance warning. Many were skeptical that the proposal could be brought to a vote before the meeting here ends Friday.

NEWS FEATURE: Author: `Soul of Church’ at Stake in Global AIDS Fight

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ With an estimated 46 million people in the world living with HIV/AIDS, some Christian communities say it’s time to step up their efforts in the fight against the global pandemic. Recently, the Rev. Donald Messer of Denver, Colo., a United Methodist minister and theology professor, issued his own call to action with the release of his book, “Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence: Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis” (Fortress Press). “I hope it would be read by both laity and clergy who are attempting to understand the mission of the church in terms of what God is calling this community of faith to do at this … critical time,” Messer said.

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c. 2004 Religion News Service Lay Activists, Greek Orthodox Church Continue Skirmishes Over Suit (RNS) Lay activists in the Greek Orthodox Church continue to skirmish with the church hierarchy over a lawsuit alleging the church imposed a new constitution in 2002 that ignores the will of parishioners and clergy. More than 30 parishioners filed suit in New York on Feb. 3, charging that a charter “imposed” by the overseas overseers of world Orthodoxy in 2003 is substantially different from the one approved by American lay and clergy delegates in 2002. The court action asked a judge to force the U.S. church to abide by its previous constitution _ adopted in 1977 _ and declare the new charter null and void.

NEWS STORY: Images of Prisoner Abuse Perfectly Attuned to Assault on Muslim Values

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As soon as Ingrid Mattson saw the photo of the smiling American woman soldier pointing at the genitals of a hooded, naked Iraqi prisoner, she knew it would touch a deep, inner chord in Muslims, no matter where they are. That image and others like it assault on a visceral level core Islamic values such as modesty and dignity while evoking feelings of humiliation that non-Muslims may not fully understand, say Mattson and other scholars of Islam. “This is definitely symbolic,” said Mattson, a professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. “This soldier is symbolic of American force and the prisoner is symbolic of Muslim peoples.

COMMENTARY: An Old Pastor’s Advice for Archbishop O’Malley

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) Boston’s Archbishop Sean O’Malley has now explained why he washed only men’s feet on Holy Thursday: “I’ve done it that way for 34 years.” He has also apologized to women for the sermon _ “I didn’t mean it THAT way” _ in which he listed feminism right after the drug culture and the sexual revolution and just before the breakdown of authority and divorce on a list of the spoiled inheritance of baby boomers, whom he described as “religious illiterates.” This response, in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, reminds one of the old pastor’s advice to a jittery young priest before his first sermon, “Take a drink first and I’ll listen from the sacristy and review you afterwards.” The pastor began his review with encouragement: “You were great,” quickly adding, “just a few things to note. Peter is known as the Rock, not Rocky. The Blessed Mother’s name is Mary, not Marian.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Are Methodists Headed for a Baptist-Style Conservative Takeover?

c. 2004 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ The United Methodist Church, with congregations in all but 133 of the nation’s 3,350 counties, prides itself on being the quintessential American church. Its 10 million members are black and white, north and south, George W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton. As someone once said, if you want to find out what America is thinking, start by asking the Methodists. But now, some in the nation’s second-largest Protestant church say conservatives have planted the seeds for a hostile takeover that would move the solidly middle-America church hard to the right.

COMMENTARY: Remembering D-Day

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) The 60th anniversary of D-Day _ June 6, 1944 _ and the upcoming dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., open the floodgates of personal memory. In the spring of 1944, my grade school classmates and I in Alexandria, Va., eagerly anticipated the American-led military assault on Nazi-occupied Europe. Our teacher added two new words to our limited vocabulary: “invasion” and “liberation.” Back then my grandfather, Louis Rosenbloom, visited us each year from his home in Pittsburgh. During his early June 1944 visit, I woke up each day to join “Papa Louie” in reciting the Jewish morning prayers.

NEWS STORY: Christian Peacemakers Report in January Previewed Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Nearly four months before the publication of photos of Iraqi detainees abused by their coalition captors, a small Christian peace organization issued a report detailing incidents similar to those now sparking outcries from North America to the Middle East. “That (CPT) report reflects a pattern. That (Iraq) is not a situation that has secrets,” said Gene Stoltzfus, director of Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, a Brethren, Mennonite and Quaker organization that has maintained a five- to six-person presence in Baghdad since October 2002. The report, covering the cases of 72 detainees, was released in January and addressed coalition raids of Iraqi homes, damage to and confiscation of personal property and treatment of detainees.

NEWS FEATURE: From Boxer to Sailor, Artist Finds New Ways to Paint Jesus

c. 2004 Religion News Service ERLANGER, Ky. _ The congregation at the Erlanger Baptist Church listened in hushed silence as Stephen Sawyer gave his testimony about one of his portraits of Jesus holding a young boy that he painted at the request of the ill child’s mother. “When the boy saw the painting, he said, `That isn’t me. That isn’t Jesus.’

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c. 2004 Religion News Service Priests in Nine Dioceses Form Celibacy-Petition Group (RNS) A petition drive that started last summer with 163 Catholic priests in Milwaukee asking for a discussion on celibacy has resulted in a new group of about 1,000 priests who want the church to consider married clergy. According to The New York Times, organizers of Priests’ Forum for Eucharist met in the Bronx April 20-21. They claim to represent about 1,000 priests from at least nine dioceses. Together, the new group represents about 2 percent of the country’s 45,000 Catholic priests.

COMMENTARY: The Centrality of Forgiveness

c. 2004 Religion News Service (David P. Gushee is the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.) (UNDATED) The couple sits in front of me, weary with life and with each other. They barely glance at each other as we talk. Their problems are many, but their most central issue is forgiveness. Bill has wronged Jill and Jill is unwilling to forgive.

NEWS STORY: Methodists Leave Gay Policy Intact, Uphold Acquittal of Lesbian Pastor

c. 2004 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ The United Methodist Church voted Tuesday (May 4) to keep its policies on homosexuality intact, while its highest court said it had no power to overturn the controversial not-guilty verdict of a lesbian pastor who was charged with violating a ban on gay clergy. In a series of votes, delegates to the church’s General Conference meeting rejected moves to acknowledge deep divisions on homosexuality, or allow local church bodies to set their own standards for gay pastors. The church’s official position, first adopted in 1972, remains that homosexual activity is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing” homosexuals are banned from pulpits. At the same time, the church’s Judicial Council said it “does not have authority” to review the March 20 acquittal of the Rev. Karen Dammann, who tested church law by telling her bishop she was gay.

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c. 2004 Religion News Service CAIR Report Finds Steep Increase in Anti-Muslim Incidents WASHINGTON (RNS) Complaints of harassment, violence and discrimination against Muslims in the United States rose 70 percent last year while reported instances of profiling Muslims in airports fell 10 percent, according to a report released Monday (May 3). The report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations was based on more than 1,000 complaints the organization received from Muslims across the nation during 2003. “The findings of the report are alarming and disturbing because we live in a civil society (where) hate and discrimination are still a reality,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR. The report asserted the large increase in discrimination complaints resulted from lingering fear in a post-Sept.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service CAIR Report Finds Steep Increase in Anti-Muslim Incidents WASHINGTON (RNS) Complaints of harassment, violence and discrimination against Muslims in the United States rose 70 percent last year while reported instances of profiling Muslims in airports fell 10 percent, according to a report released Monday (May 3). The report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations was based on more than 1,000 complaints the organization received from Muslims across the nation during 2003. “The findings of the report are alarming and disturbing because we live in a civil society (where) hate and discrimination are still a reality,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR. The report asserted the large increase in discrimination complaints resulted from lingering fear in a post-Sept.

NEWS FEATURE: Relics of Sainthood Candidate Seelos Discovered

c. 2004 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ As often occurs in stories like this, Monte Kniffen was looking for something else in the regional archives of an order of Catholic priests in Denver when he happened on two folded paper packets bearing the precise, gorgeous penmanship of a 19th century hand. He knew the 1-by-2-inch packets had never been cataloged into the inventory of the Redemptorist order of Catholic priests. But he immediately recognized their import: Folded inside, the notations said, were locks of hair clipped from Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos: a hero of the order who, 137 years later, now stands on the threshold of sainthood. The packets were dated Oct.