Methodists Reverse Decision on Defrocked Lesbian Minister

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A Methodist appeals court on Friday (April 29) reversed a decision in the case of a defrocked lesbian pastor, restoring her clergy credentials because the church has not clearly defined its terms in banning homosexual ministers. In an 8-1 ruling, the nine-member regional appeals court of The United Methodist Church rejected a Dec. 2 jury verdict that Irene Elizabeth Stroud was in violation of a church prohibition of “self avowed practicing homosexuals” in the ordained ministry. The regional appeals court, which met in Baltimore, covers an Eastern region of the church from West Virginia up to New England.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Islamic Satellite Will Impact Moon Sightings, Holiday Observances (RNS) An Islamic satellite is expected to go into orbit by the end of the year to help determine the exact timing of a “new moon” to begin the holy month of Ramadan. Ali Jama, the mufti of Egypt and head of the Islamic Supreme Committee of the Islamic Satellite, told the Emirates News Agency that “the satellite would solve many problems like crescent sighting due to differences over the lunar months, a fact which prompted Arab and Muslim countries to support the project.” Muslims rely on sighting of the new moon to determine the beginning of each month. Particularly during the holy month of Ramadan, when a precise declaration of the sighting of the moon determines when the daily fasts begin, moonsighting is a central practice in Islam worldwide. Different countries, however, have different standards of determining that the new moon is visible.

Report: Ignorance of Bible Stifles Education of American Students

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Was Moses one of Jesus’ 12 apostles? One out of 10 teenagers erroneously thinks so, according to a report that argues lack of biblical knowledge could be a huge educational disadvantage for the nation’s youth. According to the nonprofit Bible Literacy Project, 98 percent of the country’s “best” high school English teachers said students need to know about the Bible to fully understand numerous religious references in Western literature. “Leading English teachers reported students without Bible knowledge take more time to teach,” said Marie Wachlin, the report’s author.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Colorado Senator, Focus on the Family in Verbal Fight (RNS) A Colorado senator has apologized for comparing Focus on the Family, a prominent conservative Christian ministry in his state, to the Antichrist. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said he still thinks the ministry founded by James Dobson, is involved in un-Christian behavior after it targeted him in recent advertisements, reported The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper. “After being relentlessly attacked in telephone calls, e-mails, newspapers and radio stations all across Colorado, having my faith questioned, and having my wife’s business picketed as part of these attacks, I spoke about Jim Dobson … and his efforts and used the term `the Antichrist,”’ said Salazar in a Wednesday (April 27) statement.

NEWS STORY: Priest Shortage Is One of New Pope’s Biggest Challenges

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As Pope Benedict XVI begins his papacy, one of the most troubling issues he faces is a growing priest shortage. In the United States, as the number of priests and nuns has declined steadily since the 1960s, the Roman Catholic population has steadily risen. This has led to more parishes without full-time priests and, in many dioceses, the closing of churches. The issue has worried church leaders and provided ammunition to reform groups that want to end celibacy requirements and see women ordained. John Paul II did not budge on those issues during his 26-year papacy, and there are no indications Benedict XVI will, either.

COMMENTARY: Let’s Keep the Bombs Out of World War II Rhetoric

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Sixty years have passed since the end of World War II in 1945, but in many ways, the war is still with us. In New York City, real estate agents still describe certain desirable apartment buildings as “pre-war.” Everyone immediately knows which “war” they mean. Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” brought us the stories of Americans who, between 1941 and 1945, fought an “Axis of Evil” that existed years before George W. Bush was born: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and militaristic Japan. Even the late Pope John Paul II was shaped by the war, as he witnessed the mass deportation and murder of Jews in his native Poland, including some of his classmates.

COMMENTARY: The Real Reason the World Is Fascinated by the Pope

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Why was it almost impossible for the world to look away from the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI? The cynic might say that it gave Americans just what they love: power pitted against mortality, in a reality show that was far more suspenseful and consequential than Donald Trump’s hammy firing and hiring on “The Apprentice.” Visually, it is hard to improve on Monet-like sunsets behind St. Peter’s Basilica, combined with vast crowds that are real rather than digitized. It’s more Michelangelo, less George Lucas.

NEWS STORY: Pope Benedict Shows New Style, Familiar Content in First General Audience

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Holding the first general audience of his reign in a sun-swept St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday (April 27), Pope Benedict XVI showed a change in style, but not content, from his predecessor, John Paul II. Some 20,000 pilgrims gathered in a festive atmosphere to applaud the white-haired pontiff as he was driven slowly around the square for 15 minutes, standing up in a white jeep, smiling, waving and blessing the crowd. The most striking contrast between Benedict and John Paul was physical.

NEWS FEATURE: Make a Joyful Noise: Professor Links Southern Black, Scottish Singing Styles

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When 10 members of the all-black choir at Mount Zion Church in Killen, Ala., flew to Scotland in January on their first overseas trip, they were treated like long-lost family members. “They really, really loved us,” recalled the Rev. Docary Ingram, pastor of the Presbyterian congregation in northwest Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley. “Everything we did, they paid for. We did more kissing in one day than I did in the U.S. in my whole life.

NEWS ANALYSIS: New Pope Revives Dispute Over AIDS and Condoms

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even before Pope Benedict XVI was installed as the 265th pope, he was already under pressure from African AIDS activists _ including some in his own church _ to ease up on Catholicism’s strict ban on the use of condoms as a means of combatting AIDS. Catholicism, along with Pentecostal churches, is growing fast in sub-Sahara Africa and is therefore one of the continent’s most influential institutions. But even those calling for the church to relax its teaching don’t expect any loosening of the ban under the new pope. “I believe that under Pope Benedict XVI, there won’t be any opening to consider the possibility of the use of condoms in the AIDS pandemic.


(Editor’s note: This April list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of March. Copyright 2005 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren. (Zondervan, $19.99) 2.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Reform and Conservative Rabbis Say Gays Have Right to Festival in Israel JERUSALEM (RNS) Rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative/Masorti and Reconstructionist movements in Israel announced on April 19 that they support the right of gay and lesbians to hold a controversial festival in Jerusalem in August. Slated to take place August 18-28, the International WorldPride festival _ which will include a parade in downtown Jerusalem _ has been denounced by leading Orthodox Jewish clerics in Israel, along with Muslim and Christian clerics in Israel and abroad. Evangelical Christians in the U.S. have launched a petition campaign to prevent the event from taking place. The non-Orthodox rabbis said they felt compelled to back the event to counter the “intolerance” and “homophobia” of some of their colleagues.

COMMENTARY: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Enough of politicians, preachers and their seductive tango of moralistic rage. It’s time to watch our Triple-A Durham Bulls usher in the promise of summer. Long lines at ticket windows suggest that my son and I aren’t alone in savoring the familiar thwack of bat hitting baseball and fielders dancing their elegant ballet. First assignment for this early-season outing: figure out who has the good food this year.