Icons Link Heaven and Earth

c. 2007 Religion News Service HUDSON, Ohio _ Chris Rigby can take her simmering ardor and painstakingly arrange it on wood until a painting emerges. But she’s not an artist. Her teacher said so. “An artist creates work of self-expression,” teacher Dennis Bell said, “but an iconographer feels there’s nothing in his petty little life worth expressing.” The pale blond Rigby has no trouble with the teacher’s words.

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Faith-based Program

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next week (Feb. 28) on a technical aspect of church-state law that is being closely watched for its potential impact on how government and religious groups relate to one another. The arguments mark the first time the high court will consider a case challenging the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. But the justices will only decide whether the taxpayers bringing that challenge _ staffers of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation _ have standing to file the suit, not the merits of the faith-based program.

Freedom From Religion; Snooping ministry; a new book from Robert M. Franklin; Icon artist prays and

Thursday’s RNS report features a report by National Correspondent Adelle M. Banks on the challenge to faith-based programs going before the Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next week (Feb. 28) on a technical aspect of church-state law that is being closely watched for its potential implications on how government and religious organizations relate to one another. The arguments mark the first time the high court will consider a case challenging the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. But the justices’ task is to determine whether the taxpayers bringing that challenge-staffers of the Freedom From Religion Foundation-have the right to file the suit. “The case seems very technical in nature but it could end up impacting real substantive rights that people expect and have come to enjoy over decades,” said Melissa Rogers, a visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School.

Vatican Majesty, in a Thousand Tiny Pieces, on Display in U.S.

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ “At long last, here they are,” said Monsignor Crosby W. Kern of the 37 meticulously made glass and marble mosaics that line the rooms of the Old Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter. “I’ve seen them in the Vatican, now here they are in our place.” The mosaics’ history began in the 1500s, Kern explained, when the architects of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome decided that the interior should be decorated entirely with durable mosaics, not fragile paintings or frescoes. And so it was.

Romney Evolves from Left to Right

Romney Once Tilted Left, Now Right, of Official Mormon Teaching RNS’ Peggy Fletcher Stack examines the shift in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s positions from liberal Mormonism to a more conservative, evangelical stance, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: These days, Romney talks like a Southern Baptist. Jesus is his “personal savior,” Romney told a South Carolina newspaper recently. He’s recently awakened to how Roe v. Wade has “cheapened the value of human life.” And that includes stem-cell research.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service AIDS Activist Says Black Church No Longer `Silent’ on Issue WASHINGTON (RNS) Standing at a National Press Club podium, activist Pernessa Seele was rejoicing in the change she has seen in black churches’ response to the AIDS crisis. “No longer can we say the black church is silent,” the founder of The Balm in Gilead said at a news conference Tuesday (Feb. 20), announcing her organization’s 18th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS March 4-10. “No longer can we say the leadership is not involved with addressing this major crisis in our community.” George W. Walker, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, said more church members are addressing the disease as they recognize that it touches their congregations.

After 25 Years, a Catholic Warrior Steps Aside

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ In her 25 years as head of Catholics For a Free Choice, some interesting epithets have been hurled at Frances Kissling. The kinds of names _ “confused lionness” and “progressive heretic” to offer a few _ that most people would like to avoid. But Kissling, 62, said she’s come to expect such treatment. “It doesn’t even annoy me,” she said with a dismissive flip of the hand.

Episcopal fasting on gay issues; 10 minutes with Edward Gilbreath; Kissling steps aside; Gay Jews an

In Wednesday’s RNS report, Katherine Boyle writes that the leader of the Episcopal Church is urging “fasting” on gay issues: Responding to a mandate from the worldwide Anglican Communion, the top leader of the Episcopal Church has called for a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex civil unions and the consecration of gay and lesbian bishops. But it is unclear whether Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori intends for the moratorium-which she describes as “a season of fasting”-to be a permanent or temporary measure. Some conservatives say Jefferts Schori’s statement does not go far enough, noting that Anglican leaders who met last week in Tanzania did not ask for merely a temporary ban. “The Episcopal Church has turned playing with words into a high art form,” said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a prominent conservative leader from South Carolina. Adelle M. Banks spent 10 Minutes With …

Top Episcopal Bishop Urges `Fasting’ on Gay Issues

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Responding to demands from the worldwide Anglican Communion, the top bishop in the Episcopal Church on Tuesday (Feb. 21) called for a halt to blessing same-sex unions and consecrating openly gay and lesbian bishops. But it is unclear whether Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori intends for the ban _ which she described as “a season of fasting” _ to be permanent. Some conservatives say Jefferts Schori’s statement does not go far enough, noting that Anglican leaders did not merely ask for a temporary halt to the church’s pro-gay policies when they met last weekend (Feb.

COMMENTARY: How Low Can We Go?

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The recent nastiness zinging among Catholic League President Bill Donohue, Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly and presidential candidate John Edwards’ erstwhile “progressive” bloggers spotlights a new low in civil discourse. Low-blow commentary was caused _ and in some respects matched _ by Web site trash-talk about Catholicism posted by 20-something feminists Amanada Marcotte and Melissa McEwen, who were hired to work on Edwards’ campaign blog. The world has long suffered from private lack of civility, but now anyone can publish anything immediately and worldwide. Trash passes for information and snideness for commentary.

After 25 Years, a Catholic Warrior Steps Aside

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ In her 25 years as head of Catholics For a Free Choice, some interesting epithets have been hurled at Frances Kissling. The kinds of names _ “confused lionness” and “progressive heretic” to offer a few _ that most people would like to avoid. But Kissling, 62, said she’s come to expect such treatment. “It doesn’t even annoy me,” she said with a dismissive flip of the hand.

10 Minutes With … Edward Gilbreath

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Edward Gilbreath, an editor-at-large at Christianity Today magazine and editor of Today’s Christian magazine, calls his new book “Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity.” Gilbreath, 37, spoke about being a distinct minority in many evangelicalsettings, the state of race relations within evangelicalism and how politics can affect those relations. Following are excerpts. Q. Why did you decide to call this book “Reconciliation Blues”? A. The book grew out of my experience of being a black Christian who found himself in mostly white Christian settings all his life.

Oy Gay! Gay Jews See a Coming-Out Story in Purim’s Heroine

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As a child, Idit Klein celebrated Purim by wearing homemade gowns and tiaras to play the beautiful Queen Esther. She fantasized about how she, like the heroine who dangerously confessed her faith to save her fellow Jews in ancient Persia, could have somehow rescued her relatives from the Holocaust. Thirty years later, Klein, the director of Keshet, a pro-gay Jewish advocacy group based in Boston, likens Esther’s fearful revelation of her religious faith to the experience of coming out of the closet. “Purim is really a quintessential coming-out story,” said Klein, now 34.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Church Leaders Visit Tehran in Hopes of Defusing Nuclear Tensions WASHINGTON (RNS) A delegation of 13 U.S. Christian leaders is in Iran this week (Feb. 17-25) to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to foster dialogue between Iran and the U.S. and promote a diplomatic solution to tensions between the two countries. The group has arranged meetings with Christian and Muslim religious leaders, women serving in the Iranian parliament and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Several delegation members met with Ahmadinejad during his trip to New York City last fall, when the idea for the visit to Iran was born.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Commission Denies Press Reports of Moving Anglicans Under the Pope ROME (RNS) An Anglican-Catholic commission has warned that doctrinal disputes within the Anglican Communion are an obstacle to unity between the two churches. An upcoming report by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission lays out areas of doctrinal agreement and disagreement between the two churches and outlines ways to continue ecumenical dialogue. But, contrary to reports in the British press, officials said the report does not lay out a plan for Anglicans to unite under the pope. The commission said “talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated.” The commission chairmen _ a Catholic archbishop from Australia and an Anglican bishop from South Africa, rejected press speculation that Catholic leaders might view disputes within the Anglican Church as an opportunity to draw conservative Anglicans closer to Rome.