Sobering HIV/AIDS Report Presents Challenge for Religious Groups

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Ten years ago, the World Council of Churches said the AIDS pandemic “exposes the complicity and complacency of churches, challenging them to be better involved, more active, and more faithful.” On the eve of World AIDS Day on Friday (Dec. 1), religious leaders, citing a new report by the United Nations, are cautiously optimistic that the moral and political will to fight the pandemic is being finally being mobilized. The statistics, however, are sobering, and religious groups vow to keep pushing politicians toward increased action _ and spending _ against the disease. The U.N.’s 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update said the HIV epidemic is growing, with an estimated 39.5 million people worldwide infected with the deadly virus.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Pope, Williams Acknowledge `Serious Obstacles’ to Unity VATICAN CITY (RNS) Doctrinal differences between the Anglican Church and the Vatican loomed large as the archbishop of Canterbury paid a visit to Pope Benedict XVI. As Archbishop Rowan Williams met with Benedict in the Vatican on Thursday (Nov. 23), recent decisions by some Anglicans to sanction gay bishops, women priests and same-sex marriages _ practices that the Vatican continues to fiercely oppose _ continued to hamper the decades-long push to improve ties between the two churches. A joint statement released at the conclusion of the meeting acknowledged the difficulty ahead.

Jews Debate Whether Aid Money Should Assist Non-Jewish Israelis

c. 2006 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ American Jewry’s largest fundraising organization is under fire for using some of the money raised to aid Israeli war victims to help non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Some center-right Jewish organizations have criticized the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of local Jewish federations and communities in North America, for allocating a portion of the $350 million it raised through its Israel Emergency Campaign (IEC) to Christians, Muslims and Druze. The money was raised during and after last summer’s brief war with Hezbollah. Others are hailing the UJC’s decision, believing that Judaism requires Jews to help all who are in need, regardless of their religion.

Heavy Security Planned for Pope’s Trip to Turkey

c. 2006 Religion News Service ANKARA, Turkey _ Turkey’s government is rolling out heavy security measures in preparation for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday (Nov. 28) for the first leg of the pope’s four-day visit to this predominantly Muslim country. Rooftop snipers, bomb squads and more than 3,000 police will be deployed in a clampdown that Turkish authorities say surpasses the measures adopted when President Bush visited Turkey for the 2004 NATO Summit in Istanbul. The security precautions reflect just how contentious the pope’s visit to Turkey has become after his speech in September in which he quoted a medieval Christian ruler describing the teachings of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman.” The measures also underscore the Turkish government’s resolve in ensuring that the pontiff’s visit goes smoothly.

COMMENTARY: HIV/AIDS Is America’s Problem, too

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For the last several years, while Americans have blissfully believed it was someone else’s problem, HIV has been doing what it does best: hiding in plain sight. Taking advantage of shame, stigma and bigotry, the HIV virus has infected not only bodies but minds, luring many Americans into a state of denial. That reality led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV during a routine physical exam. With that simple recommendation, many Americans are now aware that HIV/AIDS has not gone away but has continued the insidious pattern that has made it such an effective killer around the world.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Israeli Supreme Court Approves Overseas Gay Marriages (RNS) An Israeli Supreme Court ruling requiring the government to recognize gay marriages performed abroad has many American Jews rejoicing. “It’s a great day for marriage. It’s a great day for Israel. And it’s a great day for Jews,” said Alan Dershowitz, the prominent civil rights expert and Harvard Law School professor, saying it reflects Israel’s “liberal and progressive approaches to social problems.” The 6-1 ruling on Tuesday (Nov.

COMMENTARY: Can You Hear Me Now?

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) America’s ambivalence, once directed mostly toward in-laws, is now focused on cell phones. Like pets that aren’t housebroken, cell phones ignore the rules, break in where they don’t belong and distract us. But just as people don’t want to put down their pets, they don’t want to get rid of their cell phones either. Cell phones fit this time of giving thanks because even in scraps of overheard conversations, they symbolize the mystery of being human that is celebrated in the end-of-the-year holidays, from Thanksgiving to Christmas and from Kwanzaa to Hanukkah.

Muslim Women Organize for Change, Influence

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Feisal Abdul Rauf, the latest in a family line of imams, weaved through the crowd of chattering women, balancing four cups of coffee on a cardboard tray. Arriving at his table, where he was the only man, he passed the coffees around, wearing a sly grin. The scene contrasted with popular notions of Islamic religious leaders clinging to antiquated gender roles, and Muslim women as sorely oppressed. A religious leader serving women may not be an image that comes to many minds _ either Muslims or non-Muslim.

COMMENTARY: Happy Birthday, Justice Brandeis

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Louis D. Brandeis, one of America’s greatest Supreme Court justices, was born 150 years ago in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 13, 1856. Today, a prestigious university in Waltham, Mass., bears his name as does the University of Louisville Law School and an Israeli kibbutz. Brandeis graduated from Harvard Law School at age 21 with the highest grades of any Harvard law student in history.

Protestants Use Christmas Movie to Talk About Mary

c. 2006 Religion News Service LOS ANGELES _ Scot McKnight, a religious studies professor, was teaching a number of years ago when he had an “aha” moment. McKnight had just read aloud the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary’s hymn of praise from the Gospel of Luke. “What kind of woman would have said this?” McKnight asked his students at North Park University in Chicago. As he listened to their answers, McKnight, an evangelical Christian, became convinced of two things: One, most Protestants know next to nothing about Mary; and two, the popular conception of Mary as “hyper-pious, with her hands folded in prayer …

10 Minutes With … Justin Cannon

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At just 22 years old, Justin Cannon is the founder of, perhaps the first and only gay Christian dating Web site. As a college student, Cannon struggled with self-hate as he tried to reconcile his homosexuality with his Christian beliefs. In 2005, he launched, an informational site about homosexuality and Christianity. RainbowChristians came later that year.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Charges Dismissed Against Presbyterian Minister in Gay Wedding Case (RNS) Charges have been dropped against a Presbyterian pastor accused of officiating at a lesbian wedding after a church court found church prosecutors failed to file their paperwork on time. The Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh faced possible expulsion if convicted. Her legal team said they consider the case closed and do not anticipate an appeal within the Presbyterian Church (USA). “As I came up to the trial, I reflected upon Jesus’ prayer before his crucifixion, that `if it be your will, let this cup pass from me,”’ Edwards said.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service California Bishop Ordered to Counseling to Avoid Charges (RNS) A California Catholic bishop who failed to immediately report allegations of child sex abuse will avoid criminal charges if he undergoes counseling, the Sonoma County district attorney said Monday (Nov. 20). Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa admitted wrongdoing in deciding to wait several days before reporting the Rev. Francisco Xavier Ochoa, a Sonoma priest now wanted on 10 counts of sexual molestation. District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said Walsh’s plea, in addition to his clean record, makes him eligible to enroll in a counseling diversion program.

California Diocese Lays Groundwork to Secede from Episcopal Church

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A battle is brewing in the Episcopal Church over the Diocese of San Joaquin, Calif., which is poised to be the first diocese to secede and position itself as the home of a new U.S. branch of Anglicanism. Home to an estimated 10,000 Episcopalians, the diocese will vote on amendments that would remove all ties to the national church at its convention Dec. 1-2. San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield said the 2.2-million member Episcopal Church is “preaching and practicing heresy” with its progressive approach to homosexuality and the Bible.