RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Federal Judge Dismisses Suit by `Connecticut Six’ Against Bishop (RNS) A federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a lawsuit filed by six conservative Episcopal pastors against their bishop, ruling that the dispute is a matter of church _ not federal _ law. The six pastors, known as the “Connecticut Six,” have fought with Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith over his acceptance of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Their lawsuit alleged that Smith has deprived the six pastors of their First Amendment and other constitutional rights during a protracted dispute that has impacted diocesan finances, property and personnel. Throughout the 2.1-million member Episcopal Church, conservatives, unhappy with the election of an openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003, have battled Episcopal leaders over church resources.

Hospitals Carve Out Space for Muslim Prayer

c. 2006 Religion News Service OAK LAWN, Ill. _ The corridor of a bustling hospital is not the best place for kneeling in devout prayer, many Muslim families and doctors have learned. But praying in a chapel comes with its own set of problems _ forbidden pictures and statues of living beings, pews facing in the opposite direction of Mecca, and worshippers wearing shoes on the floor where Muslims kneel to pray. So when a nondescript Muslim prayer room recently opened at Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in this Chicago suburb, families and staff were “flying from happiness,” said Refat Abukhdeir, the hospital’s Muslim chaplain.

COMMENTARY: How Do We Keep This From Happening Again?

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the more-or-less calm aftermath of the Hezbollah-Israel war, both Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Israeli President Ehud Olmert have declared victory. Pundits are scrambling to assess the physical, psychological, social and moral wins and losses, with each side lamenting the other’s strengths and bemoaning their own weaknesses. The real question, however, should not be who won or lost, but how do we keep this kind of war from happening again? We should not accept the notion that the conflict between Israel and its neighbors will go on forever until one side or the other is destroyed.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Black Clergy Pledge Help for Katrina Recovery NEW ORLEANS (RNS) A national group of black clergy and lay leaders touring the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast said Wednesday (Aug. 16) that they will demand the federal government release money for rebuilding. Standing outside the flood-damaged Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church in the Lower 9th Ward, members of the Gamaliel Foundation’s African American Leadership Commission said they are on a fact-finding mission, dubbed the “Drowning on Dry Land/Connecting Covenant Visit,” to learn how they can provide support to the people of the Gulf Coast, particularly the poor. “We’re here to support the faith community, allies and organizations in their ongoing Katrina/Rita restoration strategies,” said the Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr., pastor of Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church of Milwaukee, Wis., and co-chairman of the commission.

COMMENTARY: Reaping What We Have Sown

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A generation ago, as Americans recovered from defeat in Vietnam and discovered new dangers in the Persian Gulf, American agents quietly funded and trained a far-right government in El Salvador, whose “death squads” slaughtered citizens and preserved elite coffee-growing families. On March 24, 1980, one of those U.S.-trained gunmen took aim down the aisle of a church in San Salvador. When Archbishop Oscar Romero, a bold prophet for justice and equality in an impoverished land ruled by a brutal few, raised the eucharistic host, the assassin shot him in the heart. In the ensuing 12-year civil war, U.S. military advisers, assassins trained at the Pentagon’s infamous School of the Americas, and massive U.S. funding enabled El Salvador’s right-wing government to use anti-communism as a cover for killing more than 70,000 citizens.

Jesus’ Mother Gains Spiritual, Iconic Import

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For Hollywood screenwriters, it’s all about character. Even when you’re writing about the mother of Jesus. “Character drives the story,” says Mike Rich, the Portland, Ore., screenwriter whose films include “Finding Forrester,” “The Rookie” and “Radio.” “All my movies follow ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” His latest, “The Nativity Story,” recounts the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, mostly through the eyes of his mother, Mary. Played by 16-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, the radiant heroine of “Whale Rider,” Mary is extraordinary enough, according to the New Testament, that God chose her to bear his son.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Baptist Church Removes Woman From Teaching Sunday School (RNS) A Baptist church in Watertown, N.Y., has dismissed an 81-year-old female adult Sunday school teacher, citing a biblical passage that prohibits women from teaching men. Rev. Timothy LaBouf, pastor of First Baptist Church, said in a statement that “based on the consistent teaching of Scripture,” both men and women have roles within the church, but women are barred from teaching men. The church’s board of deacons mailed a letter Aug. 9 announcing the decision to Mary Lambert, 81, who had taught an adult Sunday school class for 11 years, on Aug.

New Society of Priests Has One Goal _ and One Member

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like the Benedictines, who kept bright the lamp of learning during Europe’s Dark Ages, and the Vincentians, who’ve brought comfort to the poor for hundreds of years, the Rev. Frank Pavone believes his new Roman Catholic society, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, will change the world. As the society, which is dedicated to fighting abortion and euthanasia, breaks ground on its new national headquarters Thursday (Aug. 24) in Amarillo, Texas, it boasts but one member: Pavone. But the 37-year-old priest, who has headed the Priests for Life for about a decade, during which he also played a controversial role in the public square, knows how to draw a crowd.

New Society of Priests Has One Goal _ and One Member

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like the Benedictines, who kept bright the lamp of learning during Europe’s Dark Ages, and the Vincentians, who’ve brought comfort to the poor for hundreds of years, the Rev. Frank Pavone believes his new Roman Catholic society, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, will change the world. As the society, which is dedicated to fighting abortion and euthanasia, breaks ground on its new national headquarters Thursday (Aug. 24) in Amarillo, Texas, it boasts but one member: Pavone. But the 37-year-old priest, who has headed the Priests for Life for about a decade, during which he also played a controversial role in the public square, knows how to draw a crowd.

Worshipping the King? Elvis Has Devotees All Shook Up

c. 2006 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ Elvis impersonator Rob Langford, sweating through his white jumpsuit, got all shook up singing Elvis Presley hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Love Me Tender.” Nearby, author Gregory L. Reece signed copies of his book, “Elvis Religion: The Cult of the King,” at a coffeehouse on a recent Thursday night. People clapped and shouted for Langford’s performance. But were they worshipping a messianic figure?

Pope Replaces Intelligent Design Critic at Observatory

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a new director of the Vatican Observatory, replacing the Rev. George Coyne, a long-serving Jesuit astronomer and a vocal opponent of “intelligent design” theory. It was unclear if the replacement of Coyne, the observatory’s director since 1978, reflected a sense of disapproval within the Vatican over his opposition to intelligent design _ the idea that the world is too complex to have been created by natural events alone. Coyne has frequently attacked the theory as a “religious movement” lacking scientific merit. He could not be reached for comment.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Virginia Priest Consecrated Bishop for Nigerian Group (RNS) Crossing geographic borders and traditional lines of authority, the Church of Nigeria consecrated a conservative American priest Sunday (Aug. 20) as bishop of a U.S.-based group. The Rev. Martyn Minns, of Fairfax, Va., will head the Convocation for Anglicans in North America under the direction of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. Minns is pastor of Truro Church, a flagship of the Episcopal Church’s conservative wing.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Former Church Official Charged in Kickback Case CLEVELAND (RNS) The former chief financial officer of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland used money from church collection baskets to pay for a Florida condo, his children’s tuition and a resort membership under a $784,000 kickback scheme, according to charges filed Wednesday (Aug. 16). Joseph Smith was the highest-ranking lay employee at the diocese before he resigned in 2004. He was charged with 23 counts, including conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering and obstruction, in U.S. District Court.

Nuns Closing Convent, and Taking the Cemetery With Them

c. 2006 Religion News Service MENDHAM TOWNSHIP, N.J. _ For the sisters at Mount St. John convent, murmurs of the past echo from every corner of the shady, hilltop campus. From the convent’s chapel frescoes and the dining room’s dark wood paneling. From the dorms where orphans once slept and the classrooms where teens learned the faith.