Powerlifter Flexes Spiritual Muscles for Ministry

c. 2005 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ Walk into the Rev. John Black’s storefront church, Jesus Speaks Ministries, and there is nothing unusual about the faded carpet or the mix of old upholstered chairs in the simple sanctuary. What stands out is the pastor, a 54-year-old tree trunk of power, his arms bursting out of a short-sleeve white shirt as he goes over his sermon notes. This is powerlifter John Black, the man who alone and with Black’s Powerlifting Team has won several national and international titles. The John Black who Men’s Journal magazine in 2004 named to its dream team of personal trainers across the nation, and who celebrities from Bruce Springsteen to big-name wrestlers such as Ric Flair, Triple H and The Undertaker have chosen to work out with when they are in town.

COMMENTARY: England’s Other State Religion, Multiculturalism

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Most people think Voltaire said that. He didn’t, but I will defend your right to say he did. It’s a nice sentiment anyway, deployed by those who regard themselves as the unswayable advocates of Frank and Open Debate. But everyone has limits.

After a Lively Start, Synod Affirms Priestly Celibacy and Other Traditions

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ As more than 250 bishops filed into St. Peter’s Square for a Sunday (Oct. 23) Mass that concluded the first synod of Pope Benedict XVI’s reign, there were few signs of the lively debate that shook up the assembly’s launch. After weeks of soul-searching that identified Catholicism’s global priest shortage and the sacramental status of remarried Catholics as top concerns, the bishops came full circle, reaffirming traditional teaching, based on Christ’s example, as the best answer to the challenges of modernity.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Decides to Open Financial Books to Public (RNS) In a move expected to inspire imitation far beyond Massachusetts, the Archdiocese of Boston has pledged to disclose all of its finances to the public next year, even if the state Legislature doesn’t require it. “During the first quarter of 2006, we will release consolidated audited reports for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 with full disclosure and explanation of the archdiocese’s organizational structure,” Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley wrote in the Friday (Oct. 21) edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot. He explained his hopes in an interview with The Boston Globe.

Remembering Rosa Parks

Quote of the Day: Coretta Scott King “Surely Mrs. Rosa Parks was sent to us by God, because few among us were so well prepared to play such a momentous role in history.” -Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., on the Monday death of Rosa Parks, a woman whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus launched the civil rights movement. Mrs. King was quoted by The Birmingham News

State School Teaches the Bible and Quran Without Endorsing Either

c. 2005 Religion News Service ATHENS, Ala. _ The Bible and the Quran are among textbooks used in religion classes offered at Athens State University, a public school. Some are surprised this could happen, illustrating the confusion many people, even some teachers, have over the role religion and religious books can legally have in the public classroom. Across the country, such classes are increasingly common, without constitutional controversy, as long as they don’t endorse a particular religion.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Decides to Open Financial Books to Public (RNS) In a move expected to inspire imitation far beyond Massachusetts, the Archdiocese of Boston has pledged to disclose all of its finances to the public next year, even if the state Legislature doesn’t require it. “During the first quarter of 2006, we will release consolidated audited reports for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 with full disclosure and explanation of the archdiocese’s organizational structure,” Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley wrote in the Friday (Oct. 21) edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot. He explained his hopes in an interview with The Boston Globe.

Catholic Actor Portrays Pope John Paul II With Devotion

c. 2005 Religion News Service ROME _ Between takes, actor Jon Voight walked the movie set with a string of rosary beads laced between his fingers, occasionally raising his hand to make the Catholic sign of the cross at a captivated extra or onlooking nun. The cameras had stopped rolling, but Voight was still in action. Voight, a Catholic, isn’t the first actor who tried to step into the shoes of Pope John Paul II, a thespian himself who transformed the papacy into one of history’s most telegenic roles. But Voight might be the first to take an almost devotional approach to the part.

Rosa Parks, `Sent to Us by God’

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Rosa Louise Parks, a woman of faith whose soft-spoken refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus launched the civil rights movement, died Monday (Oct. 24) at age 92. The Tuskegee, Ala., native, who in 1999 received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, died in Detroit, where she had lived since 1957. Parks died at home of natural causes, said Karen Morgan, a spokeswoman for Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Pakistan’s Acceptance of Earthquake Aid from Jewish Groups Gets Mixed Reviews

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Depending on whom you ask, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s agreement to accept earthquake relief from American Jews and Israel was either a diplomatic step forward in Muslim-Jewish relations or another setback in a thorny global relationship. While some see interfaith progress in the agreement, others take offense at Pakistan’s condition that Israeli aid be delivered indirectly, through an intermediary like the United Nations or Red Cross. Here’s how the aid agreement unfolded. On Oct.

COMMENTARY: For Christians, It’s Usually About Control, and It Shouldn’t Be

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Until recently, the most effective stewardship talk I had heard took place in California, where a preacher said the heart of stewardship is breaking our “addiction to control.” Too often, he said, our primary goal in life is to gain control, or to nourish the illusion of control, with wealth as the No. 1 enabler. Then I heard an even better stewardship talk. The speaker was a tall woman whom I first noticed the day she heard someone shouting from a back pew that her husband was having an attack, and she strode quickly from the choir’s alto section down the side aisle, and used her skills as a physician to keep the man stable until an ambulance arrived.

The marketing power of the Christian community

Quote of the Day: Marketing Firm President A. Larry Ross “With 330,000 churches in America, it’s potentially the largest distribution network in the country and probably in the world.” -A. Larry Ross, president of a Dallas public relations and marketing firm, on the marketing power of the Christian community for recent religious films such as “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Left Behind: World at War.” He was quoted in the Washington Post.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Cardinal: Issue of Divorced and Remarried Catholics Still Open VATICAN CITY (RNS) An influential Vatican cardinal says a rethinking of church policy on divorced and remarried Catholics is still possible, despite the findings of a worldwide synod of bishops. Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads Vatican relations with other Christian churches, told a news conference Monday (Oct. 24) that the status of divorced and remarried Catholics represented “an emerging pastoral problem” that should be studied beyond the synod. The assembly of more than 250 bishops on Saturday submitted a list of 50 proposals to Pope Benedict XVI.

Katrina and Rita Paralyze More Than 900 Congregations

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) More than 900 houses of worship on the Gulf Coast have been destroyed, seriously damaged or forced to suspend services by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, leaving many clergy without salaries. Interviews with more than a dozen faith leaders indicate hundreds more congregations had at least minimal damage. Even as Monday’s Gulf Coast damage from Hurricane Wilma begins to be assessed, Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups are spearheading efforts to help congregations affected by the previous hurricanes. “One reality of these storms that is different from other recent hurricanes is that many of our churches will not be meeting for several months,” wrote Robert H. Bohl and Rick Ufford-Chase of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in a fund-raising letter.

Catholic Actor Portrays Pope John Paul II With Devotion

c. 2005 Religion News Service ROME _ Between takes, actor Jon Voight walked the movie set with a string of rosary beads laced between his fingers, occasionally raising his hand to make the Catholic sign of the cross at a captivated extra or onlooking nun. The cameras had stopped rolling, but Voight was still in action. Voight, a Catholic, isn’t the first actor who tried to step into the shoes of Pope John Paul II, a thespian himself who transformed the papacy into one of history’s most telegenic roles. But Voight might be the first to take an almost devotional approach to the part.