RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Adventist Missionary Claims Church Benefits Are Discriminatory WASHINGTON (RNS) A Maryland county human rights office is investigating claims by a retired Seventh-day Adventist missionary who says his church is paying him a meager amount of retirement benefits based on his country of origin. Pastor Berhane Woldemariam, 71, of Adelphi, Md., filed a complaint with the Montgomery County (Md.) Office of Human Rights in February. Earlier this month, the director of that office denied a church request to dismiss the case. “I find that the disputed issues of material fact involved in the resolution of this matter are sufficiently complex to require an extensive investigation,” said Odessa M. Shannon, director of the office in Rockville, Md.

Amish Show the World How _ and Why _ to Forgive

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Religious sects across the globe wage wars of endless retribution. Revenge fantasies fill American movie theaters. Legal courts are crammed with people seeking settled scores. So last October, when the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pa., immediately offered forgiveness to the family of Charles Roberts, the gunman who murdered five Amish schoolgirls and shot five more, a stunned world had some questions.

COMMENTARY: Reality, In the Eye of the Beholder

c. 2007 Religion News Service HELSINKI, Finland _ Seen from a car on the umpteenth consecutive day of rain, this city is easy to imagine as my host describes it _ a place of sadness and depression, where many workers shut down emotionally during the long gray months. By afternoon, however, the sun came out, downtown cobblestone streets filled with smiling walkers and shoppers _ carrying umbrellas, just in case _ and I could imagine why the United Nations ranks Finland as the sixth happiest nation. (Denmark is first, the U.S. 23rd.) Or does this happiness rating have anything to do with sunshine? Maybe it reflects a preponderance of blondes _ assuming “blondes have more fun.” Maybe it is Finland’s well-balanced prosperity (11th in the world), or its determination, born of awful years after the Bolshevik Revolution and then World War II, to remain neutral and at peace.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Church Wants IRS Apology After Probe Into 2004 Sermon LOS ANGELES (RNS) A prominent liberal Episcopal church wants an apology and clarification after a two-year Internal Revenue Service probe that threatened the church’s tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon just before the 2004 elections. The IRS told All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena that its tax-exempt status would remain intact despite the sermon that officials said “constituted prohibited political campaign intervention,” according to a press release issued by the church. On Sunday (Sept. 23), the church’s rector, the Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr., said the letter did “not clarify what in the sermon …

GUEST COMMENTARY: Changing Minds and a War’s Direction

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In explaining what it takes to be a disciple, Jesus talks of a king going to battle, asking: “(W)hat king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with 10,000 to meet him who comes against him with 20,000? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace.” (Luke 14:31-32) Let’s be clear at the outset: With these words Jesus is not justifying war. Instead, he is saying that anyone who wishes to be one of his followers _ even a king who must think wisely especially before sending soldiers off to war _ must be willing to change one’s mind. Certainly, it does not help to wonder what we might have gleaned from these words had we meditated upon them before the Iraq War.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Williams Meets With Bishops, Marks New Orleans Recovery NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Episcopal bishops opened a crucial summit Thursday (Sept. 20) on how the issue of homosexuality may threaten their status within the worldwide Anglican Communion _ but still found time for a jazz-fueled prayer party, New Orleans style. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, led some 2,000 worshippers at an ecumenical service celebrating the city’s efforts to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. “All things are possible with God,” Williams declared.

Williams is the Quiet Rock at the Center of Anglican Storm

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ His admirers describe him as a brilliant theologian with the soul of a poet, but it’s the work of a diplomat _ a church diplomat, no small thing _ that brought the Archbishop of Canterbury here this week. The Most Rev. Rowan Williams’ 77-million member Anglican Communion is in full-body spasm, seemingly on the verge of tearing itself apart over the sanctification of faithful homosexuality. For years, the 2.4-million member Episcopal Church _ the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion _ has steadily marched toward consensus that homosexual relationships are not necessarily sinful; that faithful gay men and lesbians may become bishops, and the unions of faithful gay couples should be sanctified. Leaders of other Anglican churches, especially in Asia and Africa, are furious.

Clergy Trained in Reaching Out to Reserve Soldiers

c. 2007 Religion News Service FORT DIX, N.J. _ The Rev. Andrew Barton is a Presbyterian pastor who considers himself an advocate for peace and questions whether the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was justified. Yet he wants to be able to help counsel traumatized soldiers home from the war zone. He has wondered: Would soldiers be open to listening to him? How might he approach them?

Ministers Must Now Be Communion Cops, Archbishop Says

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A hardline U.S. Roman Catholic archbishop is urging ministers to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights, arguing that it’s a “mortal sin” to offer the sacrament to “the unworthy.” St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, a veteran of clashes between Catholic bishops and politicians, has attempted for years to enlist fellow bishops to deny communion to wayward politicians. Now the conservative cleric is invoking the church’s highest punishment _ mortal sin _ to convince the lay and ordained Catholics who distribute Communion at Mass to safeguard the sacrament. Drawing on the works of the late Italian Jesuit scholar Felice Cappello, Burke says those ministers are “held, under pain of mortal sin, to deny the sacraments to the unworthy.” That argument could place Communion ministers on the frontlines of the “wafer wars” as the 2008 presidential race heats up, and as bishops debate a document on “faithful citizenship.” “It is clear that church discipline places an obligation on the minister of Holy Communion to refuse Holy Communion to persons known, by the public, to be in mortal sin,” Burke writes in a new journal article.

COMMENTARY: The Witch in C.S. Lewis’ Wardrobe

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After more than decade spent hosting a daily three-hour talk show, I confess it sometimes seems like there are few subjects that I have not discussed and few opinions or questions that I have not heard. So imagine my surprise at hearing one the other day while I’m waiting for my to-go burger at a local pub: “So is it true C.S. Lewis lost his Christian faith when he wrote `Chronicles of Narnia’?” Since Lewis is considered one of the 20th century’s great Christian apologists, you can imagine my befuddlement. How often is a talk show host left speechless? I finally asked where he heard such a thing.

50 Years Later, `In God We Trust’ Still Mints Controversy

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ It’s been 50 years since “In God We Trust” first appeared on U.S. paper currency, and those four little words have proven to be the source of big debate in the courts. Michael Newdow, the California atheist known for trying to strip “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to declare “In God We Trust” an unconstitutional mingling of church and state. In Indiana, the American Civil Liberties Union has gone to district court, arguing that it’s unfair for the state not to charge administrative fees for “In God We Trust” license plates when a plate advocating for the environment carries extra fees. Why, decades after the words were made the nation’s official motto and printed on our dollar bills, do they still inspire ire?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Bishops Unveil Plan to Minister to Episcopal Conservatives (RNS) As the Episcopal Church began a crucial meeting Thursday (Sept. 20) in New Orleans, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori named eight bishops to take her place in overseeing conservative dioceses that reject her leadership. Because of Jefferts Schori’s progressive theology and pro-gay politics, six U.S. dioceses have asked to be placed under the guidance of another bishop instead. The eight bishops will be called “episcopal visitors” and assume the duties of visiting parishes, ordaining and consecrating bishops, and overseeing church discipline, according to the Episcopal Church.

Yom Kippur, Mortality and the Kittel

At Yom Kippur, a Simple Garment Shrouds Jews in ‘Holiness’ RNS’s Ansley Roan discusses the significance of the kittel, a garmet worn by many Jews on Yom Kippur, in this week’s full text article, linked above. Quote: “We begin by wearing this white kittel Yom Kippur night,” said Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, a professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. “It is as if you are preparing your body for death. The rest of Yom Kippur day, you are like you’re dead-you don’t eat, you don’t drink, you don’t engage in sex.” All of those practices help people think about their own mortality, which is a significant aspect of Yom Kippur, said Small, who leads a Reconstructionist congregation.

10 Minutes With … Ted Roberts

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The Rev. Ted Roberts moves, stands, even sits, with his back straight and his shoulders squared against the enemy. You expect that military bearing from a former fighter pilot-turned-pastor. You want that in a spiritual war against sexual addiction. Roberts, the former senior pastor of East Hill Church in Gresham, Ore., for 24 years, hopes to lead a global assault on sexual addiction.