Spring Cleaning

Students, Many Motivated by Faith, Clean Up New Orleans on Spring Break Some college students, many motivated by faith, have given up beach and beer to spend their spring breaks in New Orleans assisting in the hurricane cleanup, as Bruce Nolan reports in this week’s full-text RNS article (linked above). Quote: “It’s very clear to us that the government has failed. It’s up to the people to restore the community,” [veteran activist Lisa] Fithian said.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Leaders of Struggling Holiness Tradition Issue `Manifesto’ ASUZA, Calif. (RNS) National leaders from 10 denominations have released a “Holiness Manifesto,” pledging to get back to the basics of their historical roots _ the Holiness tradition _ to recover their zeal, overcome lagging attendance and increase their influence in society. The manifesto said pastors have lost the ability to lead because they have “no compelling message to give, no compelling vision of God.” “Therefore, in this critical time, we set forth for the church’s well-being a fresh focus on holiness. In our view, this focus is the heart of Scripture concerning Christian existence for all times _ and clearly for our time.” The denominations, which recently completed the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project at Azusa Pacific University, represent about 20 million adherents worldwide and include the Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene and Foursquare Gospel.

Bush Promises to Help Christian Convert on Trial for Rejecting Islam

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) President Bush warned Afghanistan Wednesday (March 22) that he expected the conservative Muslim country to “honor the universal principle of freedom” in the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghan who faces the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. “I’m troubled when I hear _ deeply troubled _ when I hear the fact that a person who has converted away from Islam may be held to account. That’s not the universal application of the values that I talked about,” Bush said during a visit to Wheeling, W.V. “I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship.” Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested in February after he was found with a Bible and charged with rejecting Islam. Authorities in Afghanistan contend Islamic law prescribes the death penalty for apostasy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Pope Drops Centuries-Old Title `Patriarch of the West’ VATICAN CITY (RNS) In a departure from more than 1,300 years of papal tradition, Pope Benedict XVI is no longer going by the title “patriarch of the West.” In a move aimed at clarifying his job description, the Vatican announced Wednesday (March 22) that Benedict had cut the title from a list that currently includes “servant of the servants of God,” “vicar of Christ,” “successor of Peter” and “pontifex maximus,” Latin for the supreme pontiff. In a statement, the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity said the title was too vague to accurately represent the geographical reach of the papal office. “Since its creation, the title `patriarch of the West’ has been unclear and has become obsolete and practically useless with the evolution of history,” the statement said. “It therefore appears senseless to insist on dragging this on.” Adopted by Pope Theodore I in the year 642, the title reflected the growing estrangement between eastern and western Christians that climaxed with the Great Schism of 1054, officially dividing the faith into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Southern Baptist Mission Board Drops Effort to Remove Critical Member

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A Southern Baptist board voted unanimously Wednesday (March 22) to drop its effort to oust a fellow trustee who had defended the right of missionaries to speak in tongues and had taken his case to the Internet. The move by the International Mission Board, meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., means trustee Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., will not be the subject of a controversial vote at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, in Greensboro, N.C., in June. Wednesday’s public vote, however, does not mean Burleson is out of trouble with fellow board members. On Feb.

Former Gaza Settlers Feel Abandoned on the Roadside

c. 2006 Religion News Service YAD MORDECHAI, Israel _ The row of tents that includes Yossi Levy’s temporary refuge is a roadside blur to those driving north of the Gaza Strip. The tent city, pitched in the shadow of a gas station in August after residents were evicted from a settlement three miles away, was supposed to be packed up in a matter of days. Instead, Levy and about 80 other former Elei Sinai settlers hunkered down in sleeping bags, fired up electric generators, and held out in their negotiations with the Israeli government on their future homes. “It’s not easy living in a tent, but we’re surviving,” Levy said.

`Munich’ Film, World Events Show Nature of Revenge

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the movie “Munich,” Steven Spielberg tells the story of five covert hit men, recruited to avenge the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists during the Olympic Games in 1972. The film has been controversial because, blending fact and fiction, the avengers wrestle with the ethics of their mission and Spielberg appears to argue for moral equivalence between Israeli and Palestinian motives. While he has been quoted in the media as being “always in favor of Israel responding strongly when it’s threatened,” the director seems to believe that a righteous revenge is hard to pull off. “A response to a response doesn’t really solve anything,” he said in a Time interview.

COMMENTARY: A Rabbi’s Momentary Encounter With a Muslim Jeweler

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I am a sucker for lapis lazuli. Perhaps that’s because my simplistic taste in colors draws me to the Crayola-crayon blue gemstone. Perhaps it’s that I fell in love with its alliterative name the first time I read it in the book of Exodus. Regardless, I own about 15 pairs of lapis cuff links, most purchased off eBay during a manic episode.

O’Malley goes from Archbishop to Cardinal

Quote of the Day: Catholic Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston “It’s unlikely that I will experience a bloody persecution, but there’s always more subtle forms of persecution that people have to endure for their beliefs and to be able to witness to the Gospel. … And certainly one of them is to be ridiculed.” -Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley, who will become Cardinal Sean O’Malley on Friday (March 24), reflecting on his new cardinal’s vestments that are red to symbolize a willingness to shed blood for the church. He was quoted by The Boston Globe.

Ex-Gaza settlers; and the nature of revenge

Ex-Gaza settlers feel abandoned on the roadside, according to a story by Joshua Mitnick in Wednesday’s RNS report: The row of tents is a roadside blur to those driving north of the Gaza Strip. The tent city’s 80 inhabitants were among 8,200 Jewish settlers removed from the Gaza Strip last August. That they have been almost forgotten serves as an important lesson ahead of Israel’s March 28 parliamentary elections. There have been two important shifts in Israeli public opinion: an unprecedented demand for a unilateral divorce from the Palestinians, and a growing acceptance that settlements must be sacrificed so the break can be made as cleanly as possible. Residents of the tent city say they feel betrayed by politicians and settler leaders, so they aren’t expecting much on election day.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Descendant of Jonathan Edwards May Face Gay Wedding Trial (RNS) A Presbyterian minister who is a distant relative of famed Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards could face a church trial on charges that she officiated at a wedding for two women. No formal charges have yet been filed against the Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh, but a church investigation committee will meet March 29 to consider whether she should face trial for marrying two women last year. If church leaders decide to pursue a trial and Edwards is found guilty, she could face a range of penalties, from censure to defrocking. The Presbyterian Church (USA) allows same-sex unions as long as they are not equated with traditional marriage.

Activists Refuse to Leave Closed Historic Church

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Activists opposed to the closure of historic St. Augustine Parish who occupied its vacant rectory before dawn Monday (March 20) said they would not leave until the Archdiocese of New Orleans promises to reopen the parish, which had operated for 165 years. An activist inside the rectory in the Treme neighborhood declined to say in a telephone interview how many people were inside. He said they belonged to a hurricane relief organization not affiliated with the parish.

COMMENTARY: Plenty of Christian Work to Do When Not Arguing About Sexuality

c. 2006 Religion News Service CARDIFF, Wales _ “Don’t forget in all your structuring and institution-building,” said the Swedish preacher, “love first.” After three days marked by familiar controversies like homosexuality, women in leadership and use of Scripture, leaders from Anglican, Nordic and Baltic churches knew what Archbishop Karl Gustav Hammar, of Uppsala, meant. “We love one another as different and as friends,” he said in Cardiff’s Llandaff Cathedral, “not because we resemble each other.” Speaking to an undercurrent in this conference called to celebrate 10 years of inter-communion, speaking as well to bitter divisions within Christianity around the world, he added, “Love conquers fear.” At a parallel meeting of communicators from the national Anglican and Lutheran churches that signed the Porvoo Agreement, I watched a cheerful gathering grow instantly tense when the sexuality topic came up. Faces tightened, including mine. Doctrinal knives came out, hard words emerged.

Traveling Educator Preaches Separation of Science and Religion

c. 2006 Religion News Service GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. _ Some conservative Christians call evolution “just a theory.” But to Gregory Forbes, it is a scientific principle under attack. He considers it his mission to defend it in Michigan and across the country. “In science, there has never been a more well-founded theory than evolutionary theory,” Forbes says in a rapid-fire delivery, surrounded by animal skulls and turtle shells in his Grand Rapids Community College office.

Man Behind `Roe v. Wade for Men’ Says He Should Have Had Choice

c. 2006 Religion News Service SAGINAW, Mich. _ Matt Dubay doesn’t see himself as a deadbeat trying to duck child support for his 8-month-old daughter. The Saginaw Township resident views himself as a champion for men who are “railroaded” into becoming fathers for children they never wanted. “I don’t believe men have any say and are not given any rights whatsoever (in childbirth decisions),” the 25-year-old says.