Study finds strong Amish growth, western migration

(RNS) A new study says that the population of North American Amish has increased by nearly 10 percent in the past two years, causing many communities to turn westward in search of new land. Conducted by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., the study found that Amish communities in the U.S. have dramatically increased in size over the past decade. The Amish population in the U.S. has more than doubled in the past 10 years. The current annual increase hovers at about 5 percent, meaning the population doubles approximately every 16 years. The largest increases were in New York (19 percent), Minnesota (9 percent) and Missouri (8 percent).

Bodies for/by Jesus

They begin with a group prayer, concluded in Jesus’ name. Their music is religious in nature, a compilation of upbeat and encouraging Gospel music. Their workout kinesthetics could be confused for the choreography of a church piece. These are the images from the Body Gospel DVDs, the latest in the religious diet/workout culture. CNN covered this organization in a piece dated July 21.

Catholic patriarch blasts Israel for allowing gay parade

JERUSALEM (RNS) The Catholic Church’s highest official in the Holy Land sharply criticized Israeli authorities for permitting a gay pride march on Thursday (July 29) through the streets of Jerusalem. In a statement issued Friday following the city’s 8th Annual Gay Pride Parade, which attracted 3,000 marchers, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said the event seeks to “defy family and marriage.” Twal said the parade, “its organizers and the authorities who allow it, care neither for the feelings of families nor the holiness of this city.” The patriarch said homosexuals can “have their parade wherever they want,” as long as it is not in Jerusalem, a city considered holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews. “Leave Jerusalem to her pilgrims and faithful,” Twal urged.

Anglican priest convicted of sham marriages

LONDON (RNS) An Anglican vicar has been convicted of conducting hundreds of bogus marriages in a scam aimed at helping African immigrants gain illegal entry into Britain. A jury at Lewes Crown Court, in southern England, on Thursday (July 29) found the Rev. Alex Brown had violated immigration laws by “marrying” 383 couples over a four-year period at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the village of St. Leonards-on-Sea.

Faith healers plead not guilty to criminal mistreatment

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) Two members of a controversial faith-healing church were charged Thursday (July 29) with first-degree criminal mistreatment for failing to provide medical care for their infant daughter. Timothy and Rebecca Wyland pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance before Circuit Judge Robert D. Herndon and were released without bail. The charges were expected. During a custody hearing last week, a prosecutor disclosed that the Wylands had been indicted by a grand jury.

Novelist Anne Rice says `I quit being a Christian’

(RNS) Vampire novelist Anne Rice says she’s leaving Christianity — again — because she no longer wants to be identified with such a “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.” Born and raised a Catholic, Rice left the church but returned after a 30-year absence in 1998. Best known for “Interview With the Vampire” and other vampire fiction, she later turned to spiritual writing, including a “Christ the Lord” series on Jesus’ life and a well-received spiritual memoir, “Called Out of Darkness.” On Thursday (July 29), Rice said she has “quit being a Christian,” although she remains “committed to Christ.” “I quit being a Christian.

Friday’s roundup

The faith-healing parents in Oregon who are in court for failing to provide medical care to their infant daughter have pleaded not guilty. An Orthodox priest in Eastern Europe is being investigated for allegedly drowning a baby boy as he baptised him. Newt Gingrich is back at it: gave a speech Thursday where he said, “This is not a war on terrorism … this is a struggle with radical Islamists.” Novelest Anne Rice says she’s giving Christianity the quits.

With N.Y. pastor’s help, a Haitian orphanage is reborn

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (RNS) Some believe what happened at the Reformation Hope orphanage on Jan. 12 was a miracle. And some now regard what has happened since that awful day as a second act of divine intervention. “It shows God is a God we can trust and that he wants us to help others,” says Pastor Jean Jacob Paul, a former New York cabdriver who is now a Presbyterian minister. He stands before his newly rebuilt church, the site still smelling of plaster and cement and wood and paint.

Latest Religion in the News now online

Volume 13, No. 1 of Religion
in the News is now online, and before describing its contents, I
need to announce that as of this volume we are cutting back from three
to two issues annually. Partly this is the consequence of shrunken
resources, but it’s also the case that given the amount of real-time
blogging on the religion news of the day (including in this space), the
need for timeliness has decreased. So now RIN will feature more articles
per issue and take a somewhat longer view. This issue begins
with a package of stories on religion and the Haitian earthquake: Leslie
Desmangles on
how the disaster has thrust Vodou into a public role for the first
time in Haitian history; Shannon Smith on
the sad saga of the orphan-seeking Southern Baptists from Idaho;
and Elizabeth McAlister on
the kinds of succor provided by music.For political junkies
there’s Juhem Navarro-Rivera’s piece
on what the Trinity ARIS tells us about Latino political affiliation:
The news is even worse for
Republicans than you thought.

Good morals start at birth

Could our moral sensibility exist from the time of our very first breath? Some researchers believe so. Work being conducted at Yale University has demonstrated that our moral reasoning may find its roots, quite simply, in our mere humanity. Psychologists have often wondered whether ethics and morality are primarily nature or nurture based. Are we born as a clean slate, or do we bear figments of ethics in our bones?

Religious leaders hail cocaine-sentencing bill

WASHINGTON (RNS) U.S. religious leaders are applauding Congress’ approval of legislation that reduces the disparity of jail time between crack and powder cocaine offenses. After passing the Senate in March, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was approved by the House on Wednesday (July 28). The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature. The bill amends the original 1986 law that was passed at a time of high crack use in the U.S. Under that law, individuals received the same sentence for possessing crack cocaine as someone with 100 times the same amount in powder form. The revamped law raises the minimum quantity of crack cocaine that triggers a mandatory minimum sentence.

Interdenominational Theological Center names new president

(RNS) The Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of African-American seminaries in Atlanta, has named a new president. The Rev. Ronald Edward Peters, director of the Metro-Urban Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, will begin the new post on Sept. 1, the center announced. Peters, 65, also is an associate professor of urban ministry at the Pittsburgh seminary. Peters, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), was a pastor in Florida for 18 years before joining the seminary faculty in 1991.

Ugandan church-goers asked for ID after World Cup bombings

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS/ENInews) Ugandan church leaders are asking Christians to produce identity cards and agree to security checks before entering some churches after two terrorist attacks at World Cup viewing parties left more than 70 people dead. “We are taking these new measures to ensure that the worshippers are safe. We do not want the wrong people to enter into our churches,” Anglican Bishop Stanley Ntagali of the Masindi-Kitara Diocese told ENInews. The security measures follow bomb attacks on July 11 in Kampala at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant, where people were watching the final match of the World Cup soccer championship. Al-Shabab, a radical Somali Islamic group, claimed responsibility for the blasts and said there would be more attacks.