RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Presbyterian Benefactor Beset by Money Woes, Newspaper Says (RNS) The Denver man who pledged $150 million to help the Presbyterian Church (USA) start new churches has a house in foreclosure and mountains of debt and legal bills, according to a Denver Post investigation. Stanley W. Anderson made the pledge _ the church’s largest one-time gift ever _ to the church’s new Loaves and Fishes Church Growth Fund to help start new churches, reinvigorate existing ones and expand multicultural ministries. Anderson told the Post that the $150 million would come from his Trinity Foundation, and would be paid by “off-shore investments” that he and business partner Edwin A. Smith “have been working on for quite a period of time.” But public records examined by the Post reveal a history of financial problems for Anderson and his companies, including a suit that charges he failed to repay a $100,000 loan; unpaid rent payments; an outstanding dentist’s bill for almost $1,200; a back tax bill of $54,069 that was eventually settled; and liens against his house from his local homeowners association. Anderson, who founded a commercial credit card processing company, said all businessmen face “challenges” and “trials and tribulations,” but he was confident he could meet his pledge.

Williams Lays Out Two-Tier Membership for Anglicans

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said Tuesday (June 27) that “the best way forward” for the deeply divided Anglican churches is to adopt a Communion-wide covenant and a two-track membership system. Under Williams’ plan, churches that agree to the as-yet-unwritten covenant would be “constituent” churches, while those that don’t would be “churches in association,” he said in a letter to the top bishops in each of the communion’s 38 provinces. The Episcopal Church, with 2.2 million members, is the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. “There is no way the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment,” Williams said.

Missionaries, Witch Doctors Team Up to Battle AIDS

c. 2006 Religion News Service FISH HOEK, South Africa _ When it comes to fighting ailments from witches to the common cold, many black residents of this windswept fishing village have long trusted the medical expertise of the traditional healer Nkonjani Themba. But when AIDS descended on South Africa and the herbs of the ancestors failed to stop chronic sickness and debilitating diarrhea, even Themba began looking elsewhere for answers. “A lot of people are dying every day,” Themba said in Xhosa, an African language interspersed with rapid pops and clicks. “The drugs that are available, they help people for a certain amount of time, but eventually the people will die.” Out of answers, Themba and 14 other healers turned for modern medical advice to the nearby Living Hope Community Centre.

Benedict going to Spain; Archbishop of Canterbury looks forward; Missionaries and witch doctors join

In Tuesday’s RNS report Vatican correspondent Stacy Meichtry writes an advance on Pope Benedict’s upcoming trip to Spain, during which the pontiff will confront growing secularism there: Barely a year has passed since Pope Benedict XVI, in a famous speech prior to his election, called his church to arms against a rising tide of moral indifference in Western culture-a phenomenon he likened to a “dictatorship of relativism.” Next week, he will travel to the front lines of that battle when he visits Valencia, Spain, to celebrate the fifth annual Meeting of Families. The country, once a European stronghold of Roman Catholic teaching, has seen the church’s influence dramatically give way in recent years. Gay marriage and abortion have been legalized. Laws on divorce, in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia have been loosened.

Pope to Confront Growing Secularism During Trip to Spain

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Barely a year has passed since Pope Benedict XVI, in a famous speech prior to his election, issued a call to arms that decried moral indifference in Western culture as a “dictatorship of relativism.” Next week (July 8-9), Benedict will travel to the front lines of that battle when he visits Valencia, Spain, to celebrate the fifth annual World Meeting of Families. Spain, once a European stronghold of Roman Catholic teaching, has seen the church’s influence dramatically wane in recent years. Since the election of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2004, the Spanish government has overhauled laws affecting nearly every hot-button issue in the country. Gay marriage and adoption have been legalized.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Baptist Group Returns Jesus Reference to Constitution (RNS) The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly approved a new constitutional preamble that once again includes a reference to Jesus Christ. About 4,100 people attended the annual meeting of the moderate Baptist group from June 22-23 in Atlanta. During a business session, the assembly approved language that states: “We gladly declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord and to his gospel as we seek to be the continuing presence of Christ in this world.” At their meeting last July, the Baptists adopted language that matched the Atlanta-based group’s mission statement. But that language omitted a reference to Jesus Christ, prompting concerns from both fellowship members and Southern Baptist leaders with more conservative theological views.

COMMENTARY: It’s Time to Get Back to Business

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Now that Episcopalians and Presbyterians have allowed homosexuality to dominate their national conventions yet again, is it time for rant, lament, serious analysis? No, it is time to do what Jesus did: “Turn the other cheek.” Literally, turn away from overwrought national assemblies and manufactured alarms, and look instead at actual people, actual congregations, and the forces that truly shape human life and hope. If a few partisans believe that the future of Christianity depends on homosexuality, fine, let them fight about it. If some want to worry about a late 19th century construct called the Anglican Communion as if it were a divinely inspired source of global norms, fine, let them worry about what a Nigerian archbishop thinks.

FBI Director talks religion

Quote of the Day: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller “I think, in terms of a religion, it’s not the religion that is the terrorist.” -FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, speaking in Cleveland on June 23, a day after the arrest of an alleged terrorist cell in Miami. According to news reports, the individuals are Muslims, although some Muslim groups dispute that claim. Mueller was quoted by Congressional Quarterly.

Former Indonesian Leader Calls for Cleansing of Islam

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Indonesia’s first elected president on Monday (June 26) called for a “spiritual regeneration” within Islam to counteract extremists who he said have given Muslims a bad reputation. “The world today faces a crisis of understanding that threatens all of humanity,” said Abdurrahman Wahid. “The crisis afflicts Muslims and non-Muslims alike with tragic consequences.” The first democratically elected president in Indonesia, Wahid loosened restrictions on press freedoms, decentralized the national government and eliminated discriminatory laws during his term from 1999 to 2001. But he was impeached and removed from office amid charges of corruption in 2001.

A God by any other name …

Quote of the Day: Southern Baptist Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “The Christian faith is based exclusively in the understanding that God alone has the right to name himself. … He does not invite his creatures to experiment in worship by naming him according to their own desires.” -Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., commenting on the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s new report that encourages alternatives to traditional references to the Trinity. Mohler, of Louisville, Ky., made his comments in a column on his Web site.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Muslim Group Says Miami Terror Suspects are Not Muslims (RNS) Days after federal authorities charged seven men with plotting terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, a Muslim advocacy group is insisting the men were not Muslims and shouldn’t be described as such in news reports. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) bases its claim on a June 22 CNN interview. In it, a Miami man claims to belong to the same Seas of David group that apparently counts the suspects as members, and he tells of their religious practice. “We study and we train through the bible,” Brother Corey says in a CNN transcript.

God on the go; and Indonesia’s Wahid on Islam

Kristen Campbellwrites in Monday’s RNS report about alternatives for those who can’t make it to worship at church: Maybe you’re vacationing on a desert island. Perhaps you have to travel at an inopportune time. Perchance the dog ate your alarm clock. Bottom line: You can’t make it to congregational worship. What’s a believer to do?

Younger Southern Baptists Feel `New Day’ in Church’s Life

c. 2006 Religion News Service GREENSBORO, N.C. ÆÂ? On the eve of this year’s annual meeting of Southern Baptists, Micah Fries spoke of how he, as a 27-year-old pastor, often feels left out of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. But with the presidential election of Frank Page, a self-described “normal” pastor, Fries and other young pastors and bloggers say they have greater hopes for inclusion. “It’s a whole new world,” Fries, pastor of a St.