Doubting Thomas

UCC Prez and General Minister John Thomas declined to meet with Iranian Prez. Ahmadinejad, saying he’s “not convinced” that the meetings are effective. He says: “To the contrary, I fear the occasion can and will be used by President Ahmadinejad to claim legitimacy and support for himself by an association with respected United States religious leaders. I respect the sponsoring organizations’ intent for dialogue, but fear that the more likely outcome is sowing confusion and disappointment among our own members and, in particular, the American Jewish community.” Read the whole statement here.

Vatican to consider role of Scripture in Catholic life

c. 2008 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ When Pope Benedict XVI recites the opening verses of Genesis on Italian national television next Sunday (Oct. 5), he will kick off a marathon reading of the entire Bible by some 1,500 people over six days _ and do something that would have been unthinkable even a generation ago. Catholics over the age of 50 are old enough to remember when the church discouraged non-clergy from acquainting themselves with Scripture, apart from selections quoted in their catechisms or read aloud at Mass. But that traditional attitude has shifted amid the many dramatic changes in Catholicism that began in the 1960s.

Friday fun

This site has some of the funnier church bulletin typos and grammatical mishaps. My favorites: “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.” “Don’t let worry kill you-let the church help.” “The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of David Alan Belzer, the sin of Rev. and Mrs. Julius Belzer.” “This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.”

Pre-debate Roundup

Rich Cizik is still carrying the torch for big-tent evangelicalism, in an interesting Q. and A. with GOM. Melissa Rogers catches the Alliance Defense Fund in full blink mode on its forthcoming Pulpit Initiative. The Anchorage Chabad rabbi thinks Obama would be as good for the Jews as Palin. And last but anything but least, Bill Donohue is defending Palin from witchcraft charges. Well, nobody’s charged Palin herself with being a witch, but she’s been ridiculed for having received a prayer to protect her from the assaults of witches from that Kenyan pastor, who can, according to Donohue, be forgiven for laying on the protection.

Fool Me Twice…

God-o-Meter reported yesterday that Obama’s faith folks had backed out of a scheduled lunchtime debate in DC with opposite numbers on the McCain side. (Hey, wasn’t it the McCain side that was supposed to be suspending its campaign?) GOM quoted at length from a statement by the Family Research Council, which wanted everyone to know about this apparent act of bad faith by the Obamas. The scheduled moderator, Rev. Rob Schenck, was quoted as saying: “Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean assured me…that his party would do everything possible to constructively engage Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, and other moral conservatives… Barack Obama has made similar promises. They did a couple of high-profile media events, but it appears they were not serious at a grassroots level.”

Palestinian Christians share Ramadan spirit

JERUSALEM-Hala Jahshan, a resident of the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, isn’t a Muslim, but like many Holy Land Christians, she feels enriched by the Ramadan traditions of her Muslim neighbors and co-workers. “Palestinian Muslims and Christians live together, we share the same destiny and we join in each other’s celebrations,” says Jahshan, who greets tourists at the Melia Center, an embroidery cooperative for Palestinian women run by the Arab Orthodox Society. While holiday celebrations can underscore the differences and exacerbate tensions between various religious groups, Palestinians say holidays like Ramadan, which ends here next Tuesday (Sept. 30), tend to bring Christians and Muslims closer together.

Setting a rich table for Jewish holidays

It’s fitting that just in time for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Israeli author and magazine editor Janna Gur has created a beautiful compilation of Jewish culinary pastiche. “The Book of New Israeli Food” is an enticing 304-page tribute to that land’s gastronomic legacy and promise.

Faith leaders urge Red Cross access to detainees

WASHINGTON-Top leaders from a number of faiths have asked Congress to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all U.S.-held detainees, including those held at secret overseas prisons.

Muslims allow guide dogs in British mosques

LONDON-British Muslim authorities have issued a fatwa, or religious edict, that allows guide dogs to enter mosques, even though Islam traditionally teaches that dogs are unclean animals.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Pearson’s `gospel of inclusion’ finds new home in Unitarian church (RNS) Bishop Carlton Pearson, who has been publicly criticized for teaching that all people will go to heaven, has folded his Oklahoma church into a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Pearson’s New Dimensions Worship Center began meeting at the All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., in June, and held its last service there on Sept. 7, the Tulsa World reported. Pearson said he and his family would make All Souls their home church, and he encouraged New Dimensions members to worship there as well.

Don’t overlook the poor in Wall Street bailout, clerics say

NEW YORK-Religious leaders are warning that the global financial crisis threatens progress made against poverty and world hunger, and urged political leaders not to ignore the poor while debating how to solve the current international financial panic.

University tries to make sense of racist Obama stunt

c. 2008 Religion News Service NEWBERG, Ore. _ Students and campus leaders at a small Christian university founded by Quaker pioneers in 1891 denounced the hanging of a life-size cardboard cutout of Sen. Barack Obama on campus, vowing to work together to fight racism and intolerance. A custodial crew at the 3,355-student George Fox University found the Obama likeness hanging by fishing wire from a tree at 7 a.m. Tuesday (Sept. 23) and tore it down before students arrived for classes.