There are graphics…

…and then there are graphics. A Baptist, a Jew, a Catholic, a Generic Christian, a Muslim, and a Mainline Christian go into a bar…To interact with these folks, go here.

No remorse

It seems that eBay won’t permit supporters of Scott Roeder, the man accused of murdering abortion doctor George Tiller, to use its site to hold an auction to raise money for his defense. Among the items they planned to auction is a prison drawing by Roeder of David and Goliath depicting David holding the head of
Goliath with the name “Tiller” inscribed on Goliath’s forehead. On the corpse are the words
“child-murdering industry.”According to the AP, “Roeder’s supporters are encouraging him to use a ‘necessity defense,’
saying that Tiller’s killing on May 31 was an act of justifiable
homicide. Other anti-abortion activists charged with violent crimes
have tried to use such a defense, but with little success.”Update: There’s the Caravaggio, here’s the Roeder:

Shea shares gift with Angola

An organ belonging to George Beverly Shea, the 100-year-old soloist on Billy Graham’s evangelistic team, was supposed to reach the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La., when Shea was no longer on earth to play it. But he recently helped deliver the gift early, Baptist Press reported. Shea explained at a ceremony at Angola that evangelist Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave it to him as a 100th birthday present and said the Rodgers organ would eventually be placed at the prison. “Franklin said the organ would be mine as long as I’m alive,” Shea said. “But every night, on my pillow, I would think about it.” He said opted to give the organ now so he could enjoy giving it away.

Congregations keep on giving, despite the recession

(RNS) Despite the economic recession, a plurality of congregations reported an increase in donations in the first half of 2009, according to a new study. More than two-thirds of 1,500 congregations surveyed said fundraising has increased (37 percent) or held steady (34 percent), according to the study. Nearly 30 percent said giving had decreased in 2009, a significant uptick since 2008, when only 22 percent said giving had declined. “While many congregations have been hit hard by the recession, this study underscores the remarkable resilience of congregations, as evidenced in the extraordinary and imaginative ways they are reaching out to meet the needs of their parishioners and people in their community,” said William Enright, director of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, a program of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The study was part of a joint project between the Lake Institute and the Alban Institute on congregations and the economy.

Jewish leaders welcome new Catholic statement on conversion

(RNS) Jewish leaders are welcoming a revised statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that rejects suggestions that interfaith dialogue could lead to the conversion and baptism of Jews. American Jewish organizations had raised concerns that a document released by the bishops in June reversed earlier statements and indicated that dialogue between Catholics and Jews could be used as an opportunity to proselytize. “Here is this instance where the document was released without consultation with the Jewish partners in June,” said Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, director of interfaith policy at the Anti-Defamation League. “That raises concerns about our level of communication, which needs to be addressed.” Earlier this month (Oct.), the bishops issued a new statement affirming that Jewish-Catholic dialogue “has never been and will never be used by the Catholic Church as a means of proselytism.”

Calvin College agrees to further study ban on homosexual advocacy

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) Calvin College leaders aren’t withdrawing a controversial memo regarding the discussion of homosexuality, but say they will take more time to study how Christian Reformed Church teachings relate to academic freedom. In a letter issued to the college’s faculty Monday (Oct. 26), board of trustees chairman Bastian Knoppers said they did not change a policy banning the advocacy of homosexual practices and same-sex marriage. But trustees said they understand many faculty members thought they did and deeply regret “confusion and distress that has resulted,” he said.

Chilean pastor new head of Lutheran World Federation

GENEVA (RNS/ENI) The Lutheran World Federation has elected a 48-year-old Chilean pastor as general secretary of the global church group that includes more than 68 million Protestants worldwide, including nearly five million in the U.S. The Rev. Martin Junge becomes the first representative from Latin America to hold the highest position in the secretariat at the LWF. The election was announced on Monday (Oct. 26) following a closed session of the LWF’s main governing body taking place near Geneva. Junge is to succeed the Rev. Ishmael Noko, a Zimbabwean theologian who became general secretary of the Lutheran grouping in 1994, and was re-elected for a second term in 2004. Junge will take up his post following the next LWF assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, in July 2010.

Religious freedom report lacks specifics, experts say

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious freedom experts called for more specifics in the State Department’s policies on international religious liberty, but welcomed a new report that highlights abuse faced by people of faith throughout the world. Released by the State Department on Monday (Oct. 26), the status report on religious freedom in 198 countries and territories pays particular attention to authoritarian governments that control religious expression or are hostile to religious minorities. “President Obama has raised religious freedom in his speeches abroad without those sentiments being translated into concrete policy actions,” said Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, “and our hope is that this report will be the administration’s call to action.” The independent commission also disagrees with the State Department on the status of religious freedom in some countries.

Christians forgo Facebook for ‘digital fasting’

(RNS) In the world of faith-based social networking, evangelical Christian leader Mark Oestreicher commanded a huge chunk of cyberspace. Known as “Marko,” the technological hipster amassed 4,000 Facebook friends, 1,500 Twitter followers and 2,000 daily readers of his blog. But then he decided he’d had enough — and unplugged from his online circle of friends. “It’s not that I don’t think online connections are real. It’s just that they are perpetually superficial,” said Oestreicher, former longtime president of Youth Specialties, a company based in El Cajon, Calif., that specializes in youth pastor training materials and seminars.

Tuesday’s religion round up

The State Department released its annual report on international religious freedom and strongly condemned efforts by Muslim countries to bar defamation of religion. A new study says two-thirds of U.S. congregations have increased or continued donating at the same level, despite the economic recession. Three California Presbyterian churches are breaking with the PCUSA. America’s Orthodox Christians, estranged for centuries along ethnic lines, may be moving towards unification. An Ohio federal court has temporarily barred the government from designating a Muslim charity a “specially designated global terrorist group,” and high school football fans in Georgia are “living their faith out loud” after the school district told cheerleaders to stop using Bible verses on banners.

COMMENTARY: Something new is coming to pass

(RNS) Before I could send out an essay about a favorite street in Manhattan, I needed photographs. On a Sunday morning when I should have been in church, I went out with my camera into a glorious fall day. Sidewalks were jammed with walkers ambling in family clusters and couples. I passed a caravan of handicapped persons being escorted to Central Park by cheerful helpers. At 100th Street and Broadway, I came across a Halloween street carnival, complete with face painting, games, homemade food, parents sitting with children, and neighbors chatting over apple cobbler.

Where do the bishops stand?

Writing on the WaPo On Faith blog, David Waters concludes a post on the health-care reform spat between Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Rhode Island Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin by taking up cudgels on behalf of the bishops’ worries about abortion:Given that even Democrats don’t agree
on whether current versions of health-reform legislation will or should
cover abortions, don’t the bishops’ concerns seem perfectly reasonable
and consistent?The answer is: no. Here’s the relevant language from the bishops’ October 8 letter to members of Congress.Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test.The question is: What would meet the bishops’ test?

Hear this, white boys!

The Anglican Global South Primates Steering Committee, chaired by the formidable Peter Akinola of Nigeria, has issued an “exhortation to the faithful” turning thumbs down on Pope Benedict’s little Anglican cherry-picking expedition while putting the squeeze on Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) Rowan Williams. Here are the key paragraphs:3. We welcome Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on the common biblical
teaching on human sexuality, and the commitment to continuing
ecumenical dialogue. 4. At the same time we believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant
sets the necessary parameters in safeguarding the catholic and
apostolic faith and order of the Communion. It gives Anglican churches
worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine
purposes together in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of
Jesus Christ.

S.C. diocese distances itself from Episcopal Church

(RNS) The Diocese of South Carolina voted on Saturday (Oct. 24) to begin withdrawing from some governing bodies in the Episcopal Church in protest over the denomination’s approval of same-sex blessings and gay bishops. While the diocese did not secede from the Episcopal Church, as four other dioceses have done in recent years, it did take similar steps, including declaring certain churchwide policies “null and void” and reducing participation in church governance. Bishop Mark Lawrence, whose diocese includes an estimated 30,000 Episcopalians in the southeastern part of South Carolina, said the moves were necessary to fight the “false gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity.” “It is about what the church has the authority to recognize as authentically Christian, and what is appropriate for ordained leadership,” Lawrence said in an address to the special convention on Saturday.

Vatican hosts talks with ultraconservative group

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Representatives of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) met at the Vatican on Monday (Oct. 26) for the first of a planned series of talks aimed at reconciling the breakaway ultra-traditionalist group with the Catholic Church. No details of the discussions were released, but a Vatican statement said they took place “in a cordial, respectful and constructive climate.” Founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the SSPX is the largest and most vocal group of ultra-traditionalist Catholics who reject the modernizing reforms ushered in by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), including the council’s teachings on religious freedom and subsequent changes to the Mass.