COMMENTARY: Durable Faith in a Challenging World

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As Mideast violence spiraled and power grabs dominated American politics, I told 100 teenage leaders of National Episcopal Happening they would need a “tough faith for a tough world.” By “tough faith,” I didn’t mean bullying religiosity or moral perfectionism. I meant a durable faith, with enough depth to handle a complex and challenging world, without turning mean, nostalgic or escapist. Everything is changing. Economic competition is global.

Senate votes on stem-cell research; House votes on gay marriage; Lilly Endowment helps next generati

RNS National Correspondent Daniel Burke writes in Tuesday’s RNS report that the Senate is expected to vote on stem-cell research today: The Senate is expected to vote on three stem-cell related bills late Tuesday (July 18). Two of the bills are expected to be swiftly approved by the House of Representatives and President Bush. The third, however, which would expand federal funding for research using human embryonic stem cells, has been condemned by religious groups, including conservative evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church. Although the House has already approved that legislation, President Bush has vowed to veto the bill. In other news on Capitol Hill today, Peter Sachs reports that the House has rejected a gay marriage amendment: The House of Representatives rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage Tuesday (July 18), following hours of fiery debate.

NAACP Chairman speaks

Quote of the Day: NAACP Chairman Julian Bond “We have values, we vote our values, and we demand to be valued in return.” -NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, speaking in a keynote address Sunday (July 16) at the African-American organization’s annual convention in Washington about how an appearance by President Bush at the meeting would show he hears the concerns of black Americans. He was quoted by the Associated Press.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Catholic Bishops Plan Response to Revivalist Movements VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican convened Roman Catholic bishops in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday (July 17) to discuss the inroads Christian revivalist movements and Evangelical churches have made into regions once dominated by Catholic missionaries. The weeklong seminar aims “to find a pastoral response to the emerging challenges, particularly the rapid growth of new religious movements _ Pentecostal, Evangelical and charismatic ,” the Vatican said in a statement released Monday. Revival churches have been eating away at Catholicism’s numbers in Africa, Asia and Latin America in recent years. Followers of Pentecostal and charismatic churches preach a more direct relationship with Jesus Christ than Catholic theology typically allows.

Gone Fishing

Quote of the Day: Roman Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas “I hope that he writes on my letter: `You can go fishing.'” -Bishop Charles Grahmann, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, commenting on his offering his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI upon turning 75 on Saturday (July 15). He was quoted by The Dallas Morning News.

Spiritual Cures for the Modern World

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Laura O’Donnell meets you at the door of her brown split-level home in Southwest Portland, Ore. Trim in yoga pants and bare feet, she leads you up a short flight of stairs to her home office. The 34-year-old physical therapist invites you to sit down before settling herself in an overstuffed chair. She folds her hands, gives you a beatific smile and asks, “Do you have any questions for the spirit world?” Today, growing numbers of Americans are turning to psychics _ or intuitives _ as a way to achieve spiritual wellness.

GUEST COMMENTARY: To Know and Be Known

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Joanne and Sammy Seares and their three children, Gellie, Iren, and Jam-Jam, live at the intersection of a putrid canal full of waste and a double set of railroad tracks in the Balic-Balic slum community in Metro Manila, Philippines. A couple times each hour a train bursts past their home, just a few feet from their front door. Their two story, 200-square-foot home is an amalgamation of corrugated iron, found scrap metal, and wood lattice and planks. Thousands of these homes line Manila’s railway tracks.

Psychic cures; and divorce’s effect on children’s faith

In Monday’s RNS report Michelle Roberts writes about the growing number of Americans who are seeking spiritual cures for the modern world: Laura O’Donnell meets you at the door of her brown split-level home in Portland, Ore. The 34-year-old physical therapist invites you to sit down before settling herself in an overstuffed chair. She folds her hands, gives you a beatific smile and asks, “Do you have any questions for the spirit world?” Today, a growing number of Americans are turning to psychics-or intuitives-as a way to achieve spiritual wellness. For her part, O’Donnell draws upon myriad disciplines-psychology, physiology, sociology, theology, anthropology and mythology-to help her clients achieve harmony and greater consciousness, blending spiritual messages with a score of practical ideas, suggestions and exercises.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service New York Court Refuses to Intervene in Greek Orthodox Church Dispute (RNS) A New York appeals court refused to intervene in a dispute between the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and a group of parishioners over the church’s charter, ruling that the Constitution forbids government intrusion into church matters. “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes courts from intervening in ecclesiastical matters, such as church governance, to resolve disputes involving religious organizations,” wrote state Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman in a June 22 ruling. In 2004, 34 parishioners sued the archdiocese, which is the governing authority of the one-million member Greek Orthodox Church of America, over changes in the church’s charters. Three parishioners subsequently discontinued their claims. The charter changes, which were made in 2003, added eligibility criteria for archbishop candidates, modified procedures for handling a vacancy in the office of archbishop and gave the church’s top synod the additional authority to change the number, seat and boundaries of metropolises _ or dioceses.

Nun Sets Catholics Straight on `Annulments’

c. 2006 Religion News Service SPRINGFIELD, Mass. _ Sister Claire D. Lapointe understands why some Catholics may be confused about annulments. It’s a complicated process, Lapointe said. It’s the reason Lapointe, the director of the Springfield (Mass.) Diocesan Tribunal that decides annulments, addresses the subject at parishes in a talk titled “Myths, Misconceptions and Facts about Annulments.” It’s so confusing that she admits that there is no such thing as an “annulment,” yet she uses the word repeatedly in her talk.

COMMENTARY: Middle East Spiraling Dangerously

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Conflict in the Middle East is nothing new. In fact, it is a chronic state of affairs. But developments in recent days may foreshadow a level of regional conflict there that has not been seen in decades, if ever before. This week the Lebanese group Hezbollah crossed Israel’s northern border in a kidnap raid that snatched two Israeli soldiers and took eight Israeli lives.

Explaining Catholic annulments

In Friday’s RNS report Bill Zajac reports on a nun’s efforts to educate Catholics about annulments: Sister Claire D. Lapointe understands why some Catholics may be confused about annulments. It’s a complicated process, Lapointe said. It’s the reason Lapointe, the director of the Springfield Diocesan Tribunal that decides annulments, addresses the subject at parishes in a talk titled “Myths, Misconceptions and Facts About Annulments.” Annulment is a misnomer. “We don’t annul a marriage.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Vatican Reports `Fat Cattle Year’ With Surplus of $12.4 Million VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Holy See reported a surplus of nearly $12.4 million in 2005 _ the city-state’s best financial results in eight years. The positive results indicate that Vatican finances have safely rebounded from a four-year dip into the red that ended in 2004. The 2005 results, presented on Wednesday (July 12), saw the Holy See’s surplus rise $8.3 million from 2004. “There are times when the cattle are fat, and others when they are thin,” Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Holy See’s economic affairs office, said at a press conference.

Prominent Pastors Resign From Katrina Fund, Question Fiscal Oversight

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The co-chairs of a religious advisory committee to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund have resigned their positions, saying checks were distributed without their knowledge in the $20 million effort to help Gulf Coast churches. Bishop T.D. Jakes, a Dallas megachurch pastor, and the Rev. William H. Gray III, the former president of the United Negro College Fund, said in interviews Thursday (July 13) that they were no longer comfortable leading the committee that has advised religious aspects of the fund established by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. The co-chairs of the fund, former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans, issued a statement thanking Gray and Jakes for their work but declined further comment. But both Jakes and Gray questioned the fund’s fiscal oversight.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Avoid Vote on Gay Marriage Ban

c. 2006 Religion News Service BOSTON _ A divided Massachusetts Legislature voted Wednesday to recess a constitutional convention without taking up a proposed ban on gay marriage. After a four-hour debate on other issues, the Legislature voted 100-91 to recess and meet again on Nov. 9, two days after the general election. Legislators never debated a proposed constitutional amendment to limit marriage to one man and one woman.