RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Christian Reformed Church Votes to Allow Female Clergy GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) The Christian Reformed Church quietly made history as the CRC Synod voted June 12 to remove the word “male” from its requirements for church office. After 37 years of back-and-forth struggle, delegates opened the way for women to become ministers in any of the CRC’s 1,000-plus churches. If other proposed changes are approved as expected, women also will be able to serve as delegates to the Synod for the first time.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Update: Judge Allows Coptic Christian to Stay WASHINGTON (RNS) A Coptic Christian who feared torture if he was returned to Egypt will be allowed to stay in the U.S. indefinitely, a federal court in Pennsylvania has ruled. Several human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, lobbied the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to waive the deportation of 38-year-old Sameh Khouzam, which had been scheduled for Monday (June 18). Khouzam was tortured and detained in Egypt when he refused to convert to Islam. After he fled to the U.S. for asylum in 1998, an Egyptian court found him guilty of murder.

Vatican Tells Drivers: Thou Shalt Cool the Road Rage

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Vatican, taking a detour from its usual pronouncements on faith and morals, on Tuesday (June 19) issued a set of “Drivers’ `Ten Commandments”’ in an effort to promote greater traffic safety. The commandments were part of a document, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road,” published by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Noting that some 35 million people were killed in traffic accidents over the course of the 20th century _ often due to “downright stupid and arrogant behavior by drivers or pedestrians” _ the document proclaims the need for a “road ethics” based on “theological, ethical, legal and technological principles.” According to the guidelines, driving is a matter of virtue. Charity requires drivers to “allow someone who wishes to drive faster to pass,” prudence forbids the use of cell phones behind the wheel, and justice “requires that drivers have a full and precise knowledge of the Highway Code.” The document also recommends praying on the road, in particular the Rosary, “which, due to its rhythm and gentle repetition, does not distract the driver’s attention.” And, in a nod to Mr. Goodwrench, the guidelines said “the duty to have vehicles serviced should be respected.” The guidelines follow in a tradition of Vatican pronouncements on the need for road safety.

Scholar Mulls the `What-Ifs’ of U.S.-Muslim Relations

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) What if, Akbar Ahmed asks, America had limited its military response to 9/11 to liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban and al-Qaida? What if, instead of invading Iraq and waging a global war on terror, the United States had expanded diplomacy and exchange programs with Muslim nations, and tried to win Muslim hearts and minds with hospitals, schools, and irrigation? Those are the questions Ahmed, a former Pakistani diplomat and renown Islamic scholar at American University in Washington, tackles in his new book “Journey Into Islam,” a penetrating analysis of relations between America and the Islamic world. Such an approach, Ahmed argues, could have spared America and the Muslim world the violence, turmoil and fear that both societies feel today, and that stands to get worse.

Sinead O’Connor Is Back, and Singing About Faith

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Sinead O’Connor is not your typical Christian music diva. The Irish singer-songwriter has torn up a picture of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live,” refused to have “The Star-Spangled Banner” played before a concert, been excommunicated following her “ordination” as a Catholic priest, and announced she was a lesbian _ before shortly recanting. Yet with her soon-to-be-released double album “Theology,” the Grammy Award-winning O’Connor will attempt to make a foray into the mainstream Christian music market when the album is released June 26 by KOCH Records. The move, O’Connor said, is not as out of character as it may seem.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Ruth Graham, Wife of Evangelist Billy Graham, Buried at Graham Library (RNS) As his wife Ruth was buried Sunday (June 17) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., her evangelist husband said he looked forward to joining her in heaven. “The Bible says the Lord has prepared a place for us and I know he has prepared a home for her _ I hope she saves a room for me,” Billy Graham said at a private interment ceremony at the new library. “I believe the Lord has brought us to this point. I am looking forward to the day when we’ll have the next service here.” Ruth Graham, 87, died Thursday (June 14) after suffering from ill health in recent years.

Graham’s Simple Casket Built by Inmates

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ During a visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, La., in 2005, something caught the eye of evangelist Franklin Graham, son of world-famous preacher Billy Graham. On display in the prison’s museum was a plywood coffin built by the prison’s inmates. It was, Franklin Graham decided, the type of coffin he would bury his parents in. His mother, Ruth, was buried in one of the Angola coffins Sunday (June 17) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. Ruth Graham died at her Montreat, N.C., home on Thursday at age 87.

Churches Face Dilemma Over Sheltering Migrants

c. 2007 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ It’s a question that vexes many in the often-silent middle of the immigration debate: What is legal _ and what is right? That dilemma permeates discussions in churches here after 167 suspected illegal workers were detained in a June 12 raid at the Fresh Del Monte Produce plant. In community-room meetings and in pulpits, church leaders are asking whether they should provide sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

Nuns Take Vestments Venture Online

c. 2007 Religion News Service TYRINGHAM, Mass. _ A new business venture on a hilltop in the Berkshires is a true example of Divine inspiration. Here in the Monastery Mont Deux Coeurs of the Sisters of the Visitation, Sister Gemma Maria Parisi directs the work of Chantal Artisans, producing deluxe liturgical vestments for Roman Catholic priests and the clergy of other denominations. There’s nothing new about Parisi designing and making vestments; she’s been doing that for many years, using the skills she learned as a child in Italy.

Shoe, Meet Other Foot

Roman Catholic Bishop James Tobin of Providence, he of the “Rudy Giualiani = Pontius Pilate” fame, dropped by the Providence Journal for an interesting conversation with columnist M. Charles Bakst. Apparently, Tobin peppered the columnist with the types of hard questions Bakst is used to asking _ with revealing results. Maybe it’d be good practice for journalists to produce, from time to time, the kinds of answers we frequently demand. That is: Defend your position on this incredibly complex issue right now. In four sentences or less.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Mass. Lawmakers Defeat Gay Marriage Bill BOSTON (RNS) Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday (June 14) voted to kill a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, leaving gay marriage opponents shocked and discouraged. The state Legislature, meeting in a joint session, voted 151-45 to block the proposed amendment from going to the 2008 ballot. The citizens-backed measure needed 50 votes to make the ballot.

Reactions to the Death of Ruth Graham

c. 2007 Religion News Service Following are various reactions to the death Thursday (June 14) of Ruth Bell Graham at age 87 at her home in Montreat, N.C. “My wife Ruth was the most incredible woman I have ever known. Whenever I was asked to name the finest Christian I ever met, I always replied, `My wife, Ruth.’ She was a spiritual giant … _ The Rev. Billy Graham “Not once did my mother make us feel that by staying behind she was sacrificing her life for us children.

Bush Says Hispanic Evangelicals Key to Immigration Reform

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Leaders from both sides of the political aisle thanked Hispanic evangelicals Friday (June 15) for their push for comprehensive immigration reform and urged their continued support as the Congress reopens debate on the controversial issue. “I thank you for making comprehensive immigration reform your top priority,” President Bush said at the annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, a gathering of politicians with mostly evangelical Protestant leaders. “I share that priority.” The president drew applause from the crowd of about 700 when he urged Congress to pass a bill “I can sign this year.” Congressional leaders announced Thursday that immigration reform had been revived in the Senate. The plan includes increased border enforcement, steps for immigrants to earn citizenship and a proposed program to allow some temporary workers to come to America legally.

Living Goddess, 10, Caught Between Two Worlds

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A young goddess lives between the ragged, regal peaks of the Himalayas. Her name is Sajani Shakya, and Hindus of Nepal _ from peasants to kings _ worship her, prostrating themselves as they bring offerings and touching their foreheads to her tiny feet. They believe that the powerful Hindu goddess Taleju possesses the girl; to do anything but revere her could spell destruction. But this week, venturing outside her developing country for the first time to promote the documentary “Living Goddess,” Sajani is just a normal 10-year-old girl.