COMMENTARY: Herzl’s Legacy Lives on 100 Years After Death

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) A photograph, taken in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, is one of the great iconic pictures of modern history. It shows David Ben-Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence of the Jewish state that was proclaimed that day. Fifty-six years later, most people easily recognize Ben-Gurion with his nimbus-like white hair. On Israel’s first Independence Day, B.G. wore a dress shirt, suit jacket, and necktie _ rare for someone who favored agricultural or blue-collar work clothing.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service N.H. Episcopal Church Leaves Over Clash With Gay Bishop (RNS) A New Hampshire Episcopal church that did not want to be subjected to the authority of an openly gay bishop has effectively left the church, according to local church leaders. The decision of the Church of the Redeemer in Rochester comes after months of conflict between the church and its openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, whose election last year has prompted criticism around the world. Problems began last year after then-Bishop Douglas Theuner suspended the church’s priest, the Rev. Don Wilson, because he opposed Robinson’s election as the diocese’s new bishop. Since then, the church has requested that a visiting bishop from the conservative Anglican Communion Network be given oversight over the congregation.

NEWS STORY: Ten Years After Rebbe’s Death, Lubavitchers Look to Future

c. 2004 Religion News Service QUEENS, N.Y. _ They came with babies in tow and prayers in hand, eyes red with the exhaustion of overnight flights from Russia, Uruguay, Israel and other far-off places. Weariness quickly gave way to elation, though, even as a steady rain fell through the morning, as Jews gathered at the final resting place of their hero, mentor and leader. On any given day, the “ohel,” or grave site, of the Lubavitcher rebbe hosts a steady stream of bearded men in black hats and women in long skirts. About 700 faxes arrive each day, each containing prayers that are shredded for privacy and placed on the grave.

NEWS STORY: Catholic Bishops Slam HBO `Celibacy’ Documentary

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A new documentary to be broadcast on HBO next week (June 28) raises provocative questions about the role of clerical celibacy in the Catholic sexual abuse crisis. It is drawing fire from outraged Catholic bishops who say the film uses a “stacked-deck approach” to “assault” the church’s sexual ethos. In an interview from his home in England, the filmmaker, Antony Thomas, said his interest in celibacy was spurred by a desire to go beyond the daily media coverage of the church’s abuse scandal. “Like a lot of people, I was seeing the reports of priest abuse,” he said.

NEWS STORY: Evangelicals Consider Proper Role in Politics

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The National Association of Evangelicals has drafted a proposed statement on civic engagement that urges the nation’s evangelicals to be more involved in public policy. “Never before has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy in ways that could improve the well-being of the entire world,” reads a draft released Monday (June 21). “Disengagement is not an option.” The declaration _ which touches on topics ranging from addressing poverty to practicing recycling _ is being circulated among 100 evangelical leaders for comment before the association’s board votes on it in October. The Washington-based NAE represents at least 10 million U.S. Christians in about 51 denominations and 250 other ministries.

Religion in Canada

c. 2004 Religion News Service Bank Unveils Islam-Friendly Investments TORONTO (RNS) The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has announced a new financial instrument tailored specifically to meet the needs of Muslim investors. In a press release, the bank says the Shariah-Compliant Equity-Linked Note was released after a lengthy period of research and consultation, and is backed by a fatwah (religious ruling) issued by three prominent Islamic scholars. The note, which matures in about 51/2 years, is the first of its kind in Canada and is “designed to provide a competitive investment opportunity compatible with the precepts of Islamic law,” the bank says. “Stocks are selected from the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index, avoiding all haram (forbidden) sectors, such as arms, alcohol and pornography,” said Andrew Tice, the Royal Bank’s Middle East regional director.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Anglican Leaders Consult U.S. Church Leaders on Divisions (RNS) Anglican leaders met last week (June 14-18) to discuss how to heal divisions surrounding last year’s election and consecration of openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The leaders, meeting in North Carolina, are part of the Lambeth Commission headed by Irish Archbishop Robin Eames. The task force was appointed last year by the global leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. A final report is expected in October. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said in a statement that his delegation tried to give a “full and accurate picture” of the divisions in the church by representing the “breadth of views and the depth of feeling” across factions.

NEWS STORY: In Southern India, Ancient Aramaic Makes a Slow Comeback

c. 2004 Religion News Service KOCHI, India _ Every Saturday night, six old men crowd together on a wooden bench in a damp church foyer with pens and notebooks. Some are small-time traders, some retired clerks. Two of them are over 60 years old. Some take notes while others throw queries at the Rev. Raphael Rappai, a 63-year-old priest tutoring them.

COMMENTARY: Home-schooling: A Viable Alternative for African-Americans

c. 2004 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) One of the blessings of a good, book-length testimonial is in the comfort it brings to those who are traveling the same road as the author. Such is the joy I received in once again reading selected portions of “Morning by Morning” by Paula Penn-Nabrit. Whenever I peruse the book, I am reminded anew and afresh of the parallels between her family’s experience and mine.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Poll: Confidence in Organized Religion Inches Back Up (RNS) The public’s confidence in organized religion has inched back up after reaching a historic low in 2002, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday (June 22). The percentage of Americans who said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the church or organized religion” reached 53 percent in May, up from 50 percent last year. Confidence sank to 45 percent in 2002 _ the lowest point since Gallup began polling on the subject in 1973. The drop-off “was probably driven largely by high-profile child sexual abuse scandals that shook the Catholic church,” said the Rev. Albert Winseman, Gallup’s religion and values editor.

NEWS STORY: Muslim Civil Rights Group Marks 10 Years of Advocacy

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Well before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 put American Muslims in the center of a political and religious melee, two men opened a small office in Washington, D.C., with a mission to advocate for civil and political liberties for the nation’s Muslim community. Since its founding 10 years ago on June 1, 1994, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has become the leading Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group in the nation. With 26 regional offices in Florida, New Jersey, California, Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio and other states and a D.C-based staff of 25, the group is in a unique position to track discrimination against Arabs and Muslims, and educate the American public about the world’s second-largest religion.

NEWS FEATURE: Elvis Chaplain Brings a Little `Love Me Tender’ to the Hospital

c. 2004 Religion News Service ANNISTON, Ala. _ Elvis impersonator Joseph Thomas was the first person to undergo open-heart bypass surgery at Regional Medical Center here. “They treated me like the king I am,” he said. Now Thomas walks around the hospital wearing his colorful jumpsuits, lamb-chop sideburns and dangling sterling silver jewelry, saying “Thank you very much” as a volunteer chaplain.

COMMENTARY: Dreaming of an America Ray Charles Couldn’t See

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 (UNDATED) I rarely thought about Ray Charles, who died June 10. I just assumed he would always be there. I remember Fourth of July, fireworks at the ballpark, the memory of 9/11 still fresh, and, above the rockets’ glare, the sweet sound of Ray Charles, sitting alone at the piano, singing a dream: “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, “For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Tomato Pickers’ Group Returns Taco Bell Check as a Ploy (RNS) Calling the offer a public relations ploy, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has returned a $110,000 check from Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell. The check was “the equivalent of a penny a pound for every pound of Florida tomatoes Taco Bell purchased in 2003,” stated a letter from the corporation. But $110,000 is just a drop in the bucket and does not satisfy the workers’ underlying demands, said a spokeswoman for the tomato pickers, whose cause has been championed by a number of mainline Protestant churches.

NEWS STORY: `Wonder-Working’ Icon Returns Home to Russia

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The Gospel writer and early apostle Luke is believed to have painted it. For centuries, it was considered the source of miracles, protecting Russia from foreign invaders. It survived looting by the Soviets and the Nazis. And now, more than a half-century after it was smuggled to the United States by a Latvian bishop, the wonder-working Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God is going home.