Secret Service Says Gospel Tracts Look Like Funny Money

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When does an evangelistic tract become contraband? A Denton, Texas-based evangelistic ministry and the U.S. Secret Service are locked in a legal dispute over that question after agents seized dozens of packs of tracts resembling $1 million bills. In the past three years, the Great News Network has distributed tens of thousands of the tracts, which feature “1,000,000,” a picture of President Grover Cleveland and, in small type, the words “This is Not Legal Tender” and “Department of Eternal Affairs.” On the back, wording around the edge of the tract begins: “The million-dollar question: Will you go to heaven?” The tracts are the same size as a standard dollar bill. On Tuesday (June 20), U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis of Dallas denied the network’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have said the “Million Dollar” tracts do not violate U.S. counterfeiting laws.

Secret Service Says Gospel Tracts Look Like Funny Money

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When does an evangelistic tract become contraband? A Denton, Texas-based evangelistic ministry and the U.S. Secret Service are locked in a legal dispute over that question after agents seized dozens of packs of tracts resembling $1 million bills. In the past three years, the Great News Network has distributed tens of thousands of the tracts, which feature “1,000,000,” a picture of President Grover Cleveland and, in small type, the words “This is Not Legal Tender” and “Department of Eternal Affairs.” On the back, wording around the edge of the tract begins: “The million-dollar question: Will you go to heaven?” The tracts are the same size as a standard dollar bill. On Tuesday (June 20), U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis of Dallas denied the network’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have said the “Million Dollar” tracts do not violate U.S. counterfeiting laws.

RNS Daily 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.

COMMENTARY: Bishops Plan for 2025 by Returning to 1925

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the same week that Democrats gathered to find a plan that would take them successfully into the future, America’s Catholic bishops revealed their plan to enter the future by returning to the past. The bishops, meeting in Los Angeles, approved new translations of the Mass prayers that make them sound like the original Latin, which was replaced by more graceful English versions after Vatican II more than 40 years ago. Although Catholics and Americans in general long for spiritual nourishment and a resolution to the clergy sex abuse scandal, the bishops chose not to address these large needs but to reveal their own small ones by tinkering with the wording of familiar prayers. This is about as artful as hammering a tin ceiling over Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel.

God or Chicken?

Quote of the Day: United Methodist Pastor Dr. Scott Morris “The church ought to lead the way, not bring up the rear. If the church has to serve fried chicken in order to draw a crowd, then there is something wrong with the message.” -Dr. Scott Morris, physician and associate pastor at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tenn., commenting to United Methodist News Service. Morris is the director of the Church Health Center in Memphis.

In Seismic Shift, Presbyterians Make Room for Gay Clergy

c. 2006 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ The nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, in a seismic shift on the role of gays and lesbians in the church, voted on Tuesday (June 20) to allow local and regional bodies to ordain gays to the church’s ministries. After nearly three hours of debate, delegates voted 298 to 221 to approve a complex proposal that allows local congregations and regional bodies known as presbyteries to bypass the church’s current ban on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. Current rules from 1996 that require “fidelity in marriage …

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Puerto Rican Branch of UCC Severs Ties Over Gay Issue (RNS) The Puerto Rican branch of the United Church of Christ has voted to break from the American church because of “discomfort” over the denomination’s liberal stance on sexuality issues, according to a UCC news release. The Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico voted during its annual assembly June 10 to formally dissolve the union between the two churches, which stretched back to 1961. According to the news release, 75 percent of those assembled voted in favor of the split. “The news …

In Seismic Shift, Presbyterians Make Room for Gay Clergy

c. 2006 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ The nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, in a seismic shift on the role of gays and lesbians in the church, voted on Tuesday (June 20) to allow local and regional bodies to ordain gays to the church’s ministries. After nearly three hours of debate, delegates voted 298 to 221 to approve a complex proposal that allows local congregations and regional bodies known as presbyteries to bypass the church’s current ban on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. Current rules from 1996 that require “fidelity in marriage …

Episcopalians Reject Ban on Gay Bishops

c. 2006 Religion News Service COLUMBUS, Ohio _ In a move that threatens to throw the Episcopal Church into further discord with fellow Anglicans, Episcopalians on Tuesday (June 20) refused to accept a proposed ban on the ordination of openly gay bishops. Both liberals and conservatives united to defeat the ban in a deeply divided House of Deputies, which is comprised of lay people and ordained clergy from the church’s 111 dioceses. The rejected resolution urged “very considerable caution” before any diocese elected a bishop “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains” in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The resolution did not directly mention gay or lesbian bishops, but nearly everyone across the church viewed it as an attempt to contain the controversy that erupted three years ago when an openly gay bishop was elected in New Hampshire.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service McCarrick, in Parting Shots, Urges Greater Civility in Politics WASHINGTON (RNS) Retiring Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has spent five years as the Catholic Church’s unofficial liaison to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is urging Catholic politicians to end the “politics of bitter division and polarization.” “For your sake and for the sake of our nation,” McCarrick said Tuesday (June 20), “we must restore greater civility to public discourse so that we attack problems, and not one another.” McCarrick made his remarks at a private breakfast for about 25 Catholic members of Congress, just two days before he officially retires as archbishop of Washington and is succeeded by Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl. In prepared remarks issued by his office, McCarrick did not dwell on the thorny issue of whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Communion, an issue he has grappled with for two years. McCarrick made passing references to “a culture of life” and protecting “the innocent unborn child,” but urged lawmakers to focus on immigration, ensuring peace in the Holy Land and restoring civility in politics. “We must try to break out of the war-room tactics, the daily recriminations, the impugning of motives, the endless cycles of political attack and counterattack,” McCarrick said.

Presbyterians Unveil New Language for Trinity

c. 2006 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ For some Presbyterian churches, the phrase “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” may soon give way to alternatives such as “Compassionate mother, beloved child and lifegiving womb.” The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly on Monday (June 19) accepted a report that encourages _ but does not mandate _ using alternatives to traditional references to the Trinity. “The language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rooted in Scripture and creed, remains an indispensable anchor for our efforts to speak faithfully of God,” said the theological report for the 2.3 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA). “With this anchor in place, however, we are liberated to interpret, amplify and expand upon the ways of naming the three-in-one God familiar to most church members.

Support Grows for Wicca Marker on Soldier’s Grave

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The space where the memorial marker of Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart, a decorated American soldier who was killed last year in Afghanistan, should stand is empty because his Wiccan faith is not one of 30 approved for such designation by the federal government. Stewart, a 34-year-old native of Fernley, Nev., was killed Sept. 25 by a rocket-propelled grenade.

COMMENTARY: The Dying Gasp of the Sexuality Wars … Hopefully

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Halfway through the Episcopal Church’s 10-day General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, a friend and I found a quiet corner at the Convention Center and discussed matters important to the church. We discussed communications, leadership, reaching youth and young adults, the lively work that many congregations are quietly doing, and whether the Episcopal Church can move beyond its relentless partisans and their unresolvable divisions over sexuality. Surely, we agreed, there is more for us to be doing than debating a three-year-old decision to ordain a gay bishop. Maybe that’s it.

Election of Woman Bishop Puts Domestic, Global Strains on Episcopalians

c. 2006 Religion News Service COLUMBUS, Ohio _ The Episcopal Church’s election of the world’s first female primate on Sunday (June 18) threatens to tear the church apart and move it further from the worldwide Anglican Communion, conservative leaders here said Monday. Elected by a majority of Episcopal bishops and enthusiastically confirmed by lay and clergy delegates, Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, will officially become the American church’s presiding bishop in November. Her election comes as church delegates here are trying to respond to demands from Anglican leaders that the church stop ordaining gay bishops for now and cease blessing same-sex unions. Many here hailed Jefferts Schori’s elevation to the 2.2 million-member church as a sign of the church’s progressive and sometimes pioneering leadership.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Group Proposes Splitting Civil, Religious Rites for Marriage LONDON (RNS) A religious think-tank has suggested that legal marriage in Britain be scrapped and replaced with a range of civil partnerships, to make clear the distinction between a religious marriage and one defined under law. The progressive Christian group Ekklesia said the arrangement it proposes would still allow couples to marry if they wished, but the legal aspect would be removed from the ceremony. Instead, they would register their partnership under law in a separate process. Under existing law in Britain, a couple marrying in the Church of England are simultaneously legally and religiously wed because of its status as the state church.