RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service South African Anglicans Elect New Primate (RNS) Bishop Thabo Makgoba was elected Archbishop of Cape Town and leader of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa on Tuesday (Sept. 25), succeeding a stalwart ally of the embattled Episcopal Church in the U.S. Makgoba, the current bishop of the Diocese of Grahamstown, will take over as primate, or top bishop, on Jan. 1, 2008, succeeding the retiring Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane. The youngest bishop ever elected primate, Makgoba, 47, will inherit the office once held by anti-Apartheid leader Desmond Tutu.

Internet Fuels Growth of DIY Sukkahs

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Decades ago, preparation for the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot typically involved struggling several hours with plywood or metal to build a sukkah _ the temporary huts Jews are supposed to erect for the eight-day holiday that began Wednesday (Sept. 26) night. Now, Jews are increasingly able to buy pre-fab sukkahs that go up in as little as 20 or 30 minutes, and, as a result, the holiday is more widely celebrated, some say. `There’s definitely a resurgence, because families realize holiday supplies have become more available and the idea of building (a sukkah) isn’t so difficult,” said Rabbi Randi Musnitsky of Temple Har Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Warren, N.J., with its own pre-fabricated sukkah.

GUEST COMMENTARY: `Help Me With My Unbelief’

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A friend told me, “I feel like I just want to hide sometimes.” Don’t we all? She talked about how she suddenly was scared of doing her job at a department store. And about how she had become frightened about singing in the choir. This middle-age lady is an extrovert.

Calendar of October/November Religious Events

c. 2007 Religion News Service Note: Holidays that begin at sundown continue through sundown of the next day, unless otherwise noted. (UNDATED) Here is the RNS calendar of major religious holidays, denominational meetings and other events for October and November. It will be updated monthly. Oct.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Arkansas Nuns Excommunicated for `Army of Mary’ Ties VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, Ark., has excommunicated six nuns for their membership in a Canadian movement whose founder claims to have been inspired by the Virgin Mary. Earlier this month, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s highest doctrinal authority, ruled that the Quebec-based Army of Mary promoted heretical teachings, and that its members faced automatic excommunication. The group was founded in 1971 by Marie-Paule Giguere, 86, who claims to have experienced visions of the Virgin Mary. According to Canada’s National Post newspaper, the group once claimed as many as 20,000 members in Europe and the Americas.

Reinhold Niebuhr is Unseen Force in 2008 Elections

c. 2007 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (UNDATED) Thirty-six years after his death, Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr seems more alive than ever. Perhaps not since President Jimmy Carter acknowledged Niebuhr’s influence in his 1976 campaign has the name been on so many people’s lips. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama told New York Times columnist David Brooks that Niebuhr is “one of my favorite philosophers.” Brooks himself quotes Niebuhr consistently, describing him as a thinker we could use today “to police our excesses” in foreign policy. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne’s forthcoming book takes note of the current longing for a new Niebuhr to inspire religious liberals, while GOP hopeful John McCain, in his volume, “Hard Call,” wonders what the critic of pacifism during World War II would say today about Iraq.

COMMENTARY: Sports’ Season in the Sun is Over

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like millions of other Americans, I am cynical about public leaders who “misspeak” and escape responsibility for their errors by invoking the infantile mantra that “mistakes were made.” Sometimes they use deceptive Orwellian language or shamelessly change their long-standing positions on important issues. But I always assumed there was one area that provided absolute clarity about goals and results, salaries based on verifiable performance, and unquestioned statistical reliability: the world of professional sports. That’s because individual players and teams emerge as clearly defined winners or losers, and sports statistics cannot be “cooked” to fool the public. And unlike elections, there are no recounts, recalls, do-overs, or doubts about the identities of the victors and vanquished.

Mormon Men Drop the White Shirts for No Shirts at All

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Mormon missionaries can usually be spotted by what they’re wearing: white shirt, dark tie, name tag, bike helmet. Lately they’re getting noticed for what they’re not wearing: anything above the waist. Hoping to debunk the popular image of Mormons as straight-laced corporate types, a steamy new “Men on a Mission” calendar features 12 former missionaries, each of them shirtless, sculpted and looking seductive. There’s Jonathan, looking like a Mitt Romney clone, and there he is again, sitting shirtless on a park bench with a sultry come-hither stare.

An Urban High School Model That Works

Jesuits Find a Working Model for Urban Schools RNS’s Daniel Burke profiles Christo Rey, “part of a national model of Catholic high schools versed in reaching out to young students from risky backgrounds,” in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: The new schools join a network that sends more than 95 percent of graduates to college-an eye-popping number compared to the rates at many inner-city school districts.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service R.I. College Settles With Students Over Abortion-Rights Signs (RNS) Rhode Island College and a campus group have reached a settlement after the college ordered the removal of signs with messages such as “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island announced Tuesday (Sept. 25) the college will pay the Women’s Studies Organization $5,000. In December 2005, members of the group placed abortion-rights signs near the entrance road to the college in Providence, R.I. A priest visiting the campus saw the signs and mentioned them to security guards, who alerted college President John Nazarian. The president ordered the signs removed.

Insurance Offered for Church Fender Benders

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Pastor Jim Goforth’s Pontiac Aztec got hit by a teenage driver in a church parking lot a couple of years ago, his insurance company waived his $500 deductible. The pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Florissant, Mo., was covered by GuideOne Insurance, which has tailored its FaithGuard line of coverage to churchgoers. “It’s kind of no-brainer,” Goforth said of his decision to go with FaithGuard. “Basically it lets you know that this is a company that is concerned about the same things that you’re concerned about.” Two years ago, GuideOne Insurance, which started in 1958 by providing life insurance for nondrinkers, began testing a series of free benefits for its churchgoing customers to supplement standard coverage.

Churches Urged to Put Service Ahead of Sermons

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Jim Yelvington decided he would do something different with the launch of his new church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. _ cancel Sunday worship services. As part of a new “Faith in Action” program, Yelvington traded traditional Sabbath singing and praying for a Sunday dedicated to community service. His congregation, Sanctuary Church, which included about 20 people at the time, went to senior living homes and visited people who might otherwise have had little company.

10 Minutes On … Forgiveness

c. 2007 Religion News Service (Adelle M. Banks, Daniel Burke, Shona Crabtree, Omar Sacirbey, Ansley Roan and Kevin Eckstrom contributed to this report.) (UNDATED) Reflecting on the murder of five Amish schoolgirls last October in Nickel Mines, Pa., one local Amish man said he was struck by parallels between that crime and the biblical story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph said to his brothers, “When you sold me into slavery, you intended it for evil,” recalled the Amish man, who, in keeping with his community’s practices, asked not to be named. “But God intended it for good.” The good that came out of Nickel Mines, according to the Amish man, was the world’s response to how the Amish practice forgiveness. People saw how the Amish extended forgiveness and mercy to the killer, Charles Roberts, and his family just hours after the crime.

COMMENTARY: Looking East Through Western Eyes

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Why is a Georgetown University theology professor, born in Vietnam and educated in Rome and London, under the microscope of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? The answer is in the first sentence. The professor’s international background gives him an international outlook, and his starting point is Asia, not Rome or even Europe. The Rev. Peter C. Phan, 64, came to the United States when he was 32.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service GOP Wants Answers About Religious Texts in Prisons WASHINGTON (RNS) A group of conservative House Republicans has sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons seeking information about its effort to ban religious texts from prison libraries. “No matter how well-intentioned, a government project to limit books and other material deemed religious raises serious issues with respect to the religious liberties of Americans,” reads the Tuesday (Sept. 18) letter to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin from three members of the Republican Study Committee. The letter writers _ Reps.