Catholic Bishops `Fishing’ for New Priests

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In this era of Eminem and Britney Spears, of sexy sitcoms and sexier commercials, of high-speed Internet and instant gratification, a life of celibacy devoted to God can be a hard sell to a teenager. So as the nation’s Roman Catholic leaders gathered recently and watched a video called “Fishers of Men,” designed to draw young men to the priesthood, they had good reason to worry about the future of their chosen way of life. Church leaders have long have been aware of the statistics. There are now about 43,000 Catholic priests in America, down from more than 58,000 in 1965.

Baptist Leader Pledges Continued Focus on New Orleans’ Needs

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The new leader of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention toured New Orleans’ vast flood zone this week and, astonished at what he saw, promised to point more volunteers toward the region where tens of thousands of Baptist church members have toiled since the second day after Hurricane Katrina. In a neighborhood off Elysian Fields Avenue on Monday (July 17), the Rev. Frank Page chatted with nearly two dozen sweat-soaked Missouri teens gutting a house along with a few adult chaperones. Later he visited more than 200 volunteers helping build 40 homes in the Baptist Crossroads Project, a New Orleans effort co-sponsored by local Southern Baptists and Habitat for Humanity. Flanking those visits were tours of Lakeview and the Lower 9th Ward, two New Orleans neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

COMMENTARY: Contemporary Events Collide With Ancient History

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) On July 12, Hezbollah, a terrorist group as defined by the United States and other Western democracies, defied a U.N. Security Council resolution by crossing the internationally recognized border between Lebanon and Israel where it captured two Israeli soldiers and killed others. That reckless but carefully planned attack compelled Israel to vigorously respond in self-defense. As usually happens in such circumstances, there was an immediate stream of haughty pronouncements from some political and religious leaders who, in the smugness of their own physical security, chastised Israel and warned the Jewish state about “overreacting” and its failure to exercise “proportionality.” When directed at Israel, these two terms are code words for obsequious appeasement of terrorists. Sometimes the supercilious phrases are accompanied by a not-so-subtle whiff of anti-Semitism.

U.S. Jews moving to Israel; SBC in N.O.; Israeli Arabs in the middle; Fishing for priests

Jeff Diamant writes in Thursday’s RNS report about American Jews who are keeping their plans to move to Israel despite the increased violence in the Middle East since last week: Ideally, they said, they would have picked another week for the biggest move of their lives. Still, 220 Jews with one-way tickets to Israel boarded an El Al plane Wednesday (July 19), and those interviewed said the past eight days of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel never made them doubt their years-old decision to move to the Jewish nation. “Am I nervous? I don’t know if nervous is the word. Maybe cautious,” Ken Sheff of Passaic, N.J., said an hour before the 3:15 p.m. flight from New York’s Kennedy International Airport.

Congress and Marriage

House Marriage Amendment Falls Short A vote in the House of Representatives failed to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have constitutionally defined marriage as a heterosexual union, as Peter Sachs reports in this week’s full-text RNS article, linked above. The Senate had previously rejected the measure. Interesting quote: A co-sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., called for expansion of the amendment to “go after the other major threats to the institution” by blocking people who divorce, commit adultery or are convicted of child abuse from running for public office. But Davis’ spokesman, Tom Hayden, said the remark was “more tongue-in-cheek than anything else.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service President Vetoes Expansion of Stem Cell Research (RNS) President Bush exercised the first veto of his presidency Wednesday (July 19) to reject a bill that would have expanded federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Speaking at a White House event that included young children from the embryo program of a Christian adoption agency, Bush said that “these boys and girls are not spare parts.” The legislation Bush vetoed was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and by the House of Representatives in 2005. It would have lifted restrictions imposed by the president in 2001 on embryonic stem cell research. While many medical groups argue that the research holds the promise of cures for a variety of illnesses, conservative Christians and the Roman Catholic Church lambaste it because it involves the destruction of human embryos.

Katrina `Mercy’ Killings Cross Line, Ethicists Say

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Conditions were hellish: Electrical power knocked out by Hurricane Katrina. The hospital isolated; its medical staff exhausted, anxious and largely helpless. Profoundly sick patients deteriorating in unbearable heat. But if a doctor and two nurses at Memorial Medical Center purposely injected patients with a lethal dose of painkillers, as Louisiana officials alleged Tuesday (July 18), even if it was to end their suffering, they crossed a legal and ethical boundary, according to several medical ethicists.

COMMENTARY: Shuttle Trumps `Left Behind’ for True Religious Mystery

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Television topped itself this past weekend with an exposition of self-conscious and superficial religious mystery on Sunday (July 16) night and a report of unself-conscious and profound religious mystery on Monday morning. The National Geographic Society, famous for its yellow-bordered magazine, veered perilously close to yellow journalism with its exploration of what it termed the “secrets” of the biblical Book of Revelation. Any organization that features Tim LaHaye, author of an endless series of “Left Behind” books about an ever-ending planet, as a commentator on humanity’s chances for being saved is in the entertainment rather than the education business. The End of the World is foretold by the Book of Revelation, LaHaye believes, so we had better buy tickets from him for the last plane out because he sees “no hope for the unsaved after this life.” He, of course, is only one of the many salvation hucksters who believe that the Book of Revelation is a kind of theological Global Positioning System through which we locate ourselves in the battles, fires and natural disasters that literally fulfill its presumed prophecies.

Adventist Conference Aims to Stamp Out Smoking

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Following a groundbreaking conference, some Seventh-day Adventist doctors are talking about upending their now antiquated approach to helping smokers quit their habit. DeWitt Williams, the director of health for the North American division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said that while Adventists have been known for their anti-tobacco stance, for too long the church has lagged behind the rest of the scientific world when it comes to actually fighting tobacco. Many of the 60-odd health professionals gathered here July 14-16 for the Adventist Global Tobacco Control Summit, expressed the same sentiment. It was the first time such an event has brought together so many voices in the Adventist health community.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Vatican Calls African Cleric’s Comments `Deplorable’ VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican chastised an African cleric on Thursday (July 13), calling his recent denunciation of the church’s clergy celibacy requirement “deplorable.” The comments came in a statement from the Holy See a day after former Zambian archbishop Emmanuel Milingo turned up in Washington, D.C., to deliver an address in favor a dropping the celibacy requirement. Milingo, who scandalized the Vatican in 2001 by marrying a South Korean woman in a ceremony conducted by the Unification Church, said Wednesday (July 12) that “I feel it is time for the church to reconcile with married priests.” By tradition Milingo retains the title “archbishop” though he resigned as head of the archdiocese of Lusaka, Zambia, in 1982 after the Vatican challenged his endorsement of faith-healing and exorcism. The 76-year-old cleric’s stateside appearance ended a month-long mystery that began when he went missing from a Catholic convent near Rome and told nuns there he was never coming back. Milingo was assigned by church leaders to the convent five years ago, after he bucked church tradition and married acupuncturist Maria Sung.

Senate Approves Three Stem Cell Bills

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ After a complex medical and ethical debate, the Senate passed three bills related to embryonic stem-cell research Tuesday (July 18), including one that would expand federal funding in the controversial field of scientific study. Though the House of Representatives and President Bush are expected to quickly approve two of the three bills, the president has vowed to veto the third, which would increase government support for research that employs human embryos. The Senate’s 63-37 vote to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research mirrors a bill the House passed in 2005. However, neither chamber appears to have the two-thirds majority necessary to override the president’s veto, which would be Bush’s first.

House Marriage Amendment Falls Short

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The House of Representatives rejected Tuesday (July 18) an attempt to amend the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage, falling short of the required two-thirds majority. While 236 House members supported the amendment, 187 voted against it. Still the amendment gained votes from 2004, when 227 representatives voted for a similar amendment. The two hours of debate leading to the vote were fiery.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service World Vision President Emeritus Ted Engstrom Dead at 90 (RNS) Ted Engstrom, the president emeritus of the evangelical relief agency World Vision International, died Friday (July 14) at age 90, the agency announced. The author of more than 50 books, Engstrom also was known for his influence among evangelicals through his work with Youth for Christ International and the Zondervan publishing company and his service on the boards of Azusa Pacific University in California and Focus on the Family in Colorado. “He valued everyone and made everyone feel valued,” said Dean Hirsch, president and CEO of World Vision International, in a statement. “And his ability to integrate the gospel with everyday life was absolutely inspiring.

Helping the Next Generation of Ministers

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Amanda Adams was growing up, she considered a number of professions: doctor, nurse, writer, teacher, psychologist and bareback rider. She eventually became a Presbyterian minister because it includes all the things she wants. “Ministry,” said Adams, 26, “is an extraordinary balancing act between what we do every day _ the mundane paperwork and meetings, sitting at people’s beds when they’re ill _ and personal time, time for our own devotions.” Adams and two other young ministers arrived at First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., last September, committed to two-year residencies. They’re part of the Transition-Into-Ministry Program funded by the Lilly Endowment.