Forbes Leaves Riverside Pulpit Pulling No Punches

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Make no mistake: Take the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. away from a pulpit and he is not himself. Forbes’s old friend, the late, eminent African-American church historian James Melvin Washington, used to kid the senior minister of Manhattan’s Riverside Church by saying Forbes “would preach to clear his sinuses.” “He was right: If I don’t preach, I won’t be well,” Forbes mused one morning recently in an office overlooking the church where he has presided, implored and, yes, preached for the better of two decades. But as Forbes reflected on his 18 years in one the country’s most prestigious and visible pulpits he hardly sounded wistful. In fact, Forbes, 71,who will officially retire in June, seems fully ready for what he calls a next great chapter _ setting his sights on nothing less than the spiritual renewal of the nation.

COMMENTARY: Abortion Debate Brings Anti-Catholicism Into Focus

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Every so often the undercurrent in the abortion debate snaps clearly into anti-Catholic focus. Witness Rosie O’Donnell’s angry comment about Catholic Supreme Court Justices on the popular ABC women’s program “The View.” Ms. O’Donnell was upset by the high Court’s recent 5-4 decision outlawing partial-birth abortion. The five majority-vote justices are Catholic. “Church and State!” Rosie exclaimed.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Employee Objects to Fingerprint Scanner, Citing `End Time’ Beliefs RESERVE, La. (RNS) A public school employee has been suspended for refusing to use a biometric time clock that scans fingerprints, claiming the process violates his religious beliefs. The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board has scheduled a hearing on a grievance filed by the employee, the Rev. Herman Clayton Jr., for its meeting Thursday (April 19).

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Religious Groups Seek Reforms As Congress Considers Farm Bill (RNS) More than a dozen religious groups are calling on Congress to reduce hunger and help rural farmers as the House holds hearings on the reauthorization of the U.S. farm bill. “Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined 15 other groups to form the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, which has developed a list of legislative principles for members of Congress. The campaign includes visits to Capitol Hill and speaking tours and lobbying on the state level.

Films, Book Explore Mormons’ Darkest Hour

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) One hundred fifty years ago, a glorious September morning in the Utah mountains morphed into Mormonism’s darkest hour when a skittish militia opened fire on a wagon train, leaving more than 120 men, women and children dead in a flowery field. Now the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” is becoming more than a subject of somber reflection within tight-knit Mormon circles. Two new films and a forthcoming book aim to tell the nation what happened, why and _ perhaps most important _ whether the revered Mormon prophet Brigham Young ordered the killing to occur. At stake are not just the details of a tragic moment in pioneer history.

Seminarian `Martyrs’ Shoot for Evangelism and Unity

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ If there is a training ground for leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in America, it is the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Every year, bishops from across the U.S. send their most promising candidates for the priesthood to study at the college; active alumni include 120 bishops and archbishops and nine of the 13 American cardinals. Now the college is an athletic powerhouse, too _ at least within the limited ranks of clergy and clergy-to-be in the Eternal City. Since late February, 20 of its 172 seminarians have taken several hours a week from their heavy schedules to practice and play as the “North American Martyrs” in a Vatican-sponsored soccer tournament called the Clericus Cup.

COMMENTARY: Scalia’s Sermon: Judges Should Put Realism, History First

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” Not Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. At least, not when he’s at his day job deciding cases. Dreaming things that never were and saying “why not” is for lawmakers _ presidents and congressmen _ fantasists and, regrettably, too many of Scalia’s Supreme Court colleagues who practice “What the hey” judicial activism. Scalia kicked off the University of Portland Garaventa Center’s conference on religious freedom April 19.

Sufi Poet Rumi Rides Wave of Popularity 800 Years After His Birth

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Mohammad Nooraee knew exactly what he needed when Brandeis University students asked him to distill the essence of Sufism, an Islamic mystical tradition, one recent Sunday afternoon. Nooraee, director of the Nimatullahi Sufi order in Boston, needed “Grapes,” a poem by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th century poet and mystic. The poem describes an argument among four wise men who all want grapes but don’t know it because they speak different languages. The lesson: People must understand each other or be lost to bickering.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Unbaptized Infants No Longer in Limbo, Vatican Says VATICAN CITY (RNS) Clarifying Catholic thinking on one of the most perplexing theological enigmas, Pope Benedict XVI has endorsed a Vatican report offering hope that unbaptised infants can reach heaven. In a report published Friday (April 20), the International Theological Commission concluded that the medieval concept of limbo _ an intermediate zone between heaven and hell whose denizens enjoy natural happiness but not the “beatific vision” of the creator _ represents an “unduly restrictive view of salvation.” Limbo, which has fallen out of favor since the 1950s and is not mentioned in the current edition of the Roman Catholic catechism, was originally posited by theologians as a way to reconcile belief in divine mercy with the doctrine that there is “no salvation outside the church.” Catholic theologians long taught that babies who died without the benefit of baptism would reside in limbo permanently on account of original sin. The name “limbo” also referred to a place where virtuous Jews and pagans who had lived before the time of Christ would reside temporarily until Christ’s Second Coming. The 41-page report reaffirmed that “there is no salvation which is not from Christ and ecclesial by its very nature,” but explained that God can “give the grace of baptism without the sacrament being conferred,” particularly in cases when conferring it is impossible.

VA Approves Wiccan Symbol for Gravestones

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the pentacle, a religious symbol used by Wiccans, as an official symbol for veterans’ gravestones, according to a settlement announced Monday (April 23). “The Wiccan pentacle will henceforth have the same status as the other emblems of belief on VA’s list of emblems available for inscription on government-furnished headstones and markers,” reads the settlement released by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The agreement comes after the Washington watchdog group filed suit last November seeking recognition of the pentacle used by groups such as Circle Sanctuary, which includes widows of U.S. veterans among its members. “The Department of Veterans Affairs has now agreed to settle the case by giving our plaintiffs exactly what they wanted,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service College for Christian Home-Schoolers Gains Accreditation (RNS) Patrick Henry College, the Virginia institution known for preparing Christian home-schooled students for careers in public service, has received full accreditation. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools granted the accreditation Tuesday (April 17), the Purcellville, Va.-based college announced. “We are thrilled that we were able to get accreditation from TRACS on our first vote upon our application for full accreditation,” said Chancellor Michael Farris, who founded the college in 2000. The accrediting agency, which has also recognized Bob Jones University and the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, is approved as a national accrediting body for Christian colleges, universities and seminaries by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Anglican Bishops to Meet in New Orleans Amid Schism

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ When the head of the worldwide Anglican church meets with Episcopal bishops from across the country in New Orleans this fall, it will briefly position the Crescent City at the center of the Anglican universe, but for an unlikely reason. The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, announced the meeting during a visit with Canadian bishops in Toronto this week. He will be accompanied on his visit by key archbishops, or “primates,” from conservative overseas Anglican churches, where pressure has been steadily building to eject American Episcopalians from the global confederation of churches. The meetings will be held Sept.

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c. 2007 Beliefnet (UNDATED) As much as we want to, we can’t keep our college kids safe in the nest. But they’re finding their own ways to cope with tragedy. My heart is heavy as I read and hear more and more devastating details of the carnage and loss that took place at Virginia Tech. I ache for the families who have lost loved ones and for those traumatized by the events that unfolded on that grisly day in the midst of unseasonable, swirling winds and sleet.