Judge returns infant to faith-healing parents

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) A Clackamas County judge ruled Friday (Sept. 24) that an infant who faced blindness from an untreated medical condition can return home while her parents prepare for trial on charges of criminal mistreatment. Circuit Judge Douglas V. Van Dyk imposed several conditions on Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, who are members of an Oregon City church that rejects medical care and practices faith healing. Although the girl will live with the Wylands, the state Department of Human Services will retain temporary custody and monitor Alayna’s health and medical treatment.

Small dedicated following keeps shape-note singing alive

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) The archaic sounds that fill the historic former church sanctuary echo, hauntingly, like a whispering ghost from the past. Inside the 1902 building that once housed the Second Presbyterian Church, the elaborate archways bounce back the sound of sacred harp singing. It’s a style of music that once dominated rural evangelical religion, in the days before the Civil War and church organs, when a capella singing was the norm. It’s never entirely died out, in part because of people like Tim Cook.

Churches find empty pews at Sunday evening services

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) Doug De Vries describes Sunday evening worship as “a lot less formal” than the morning service at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church. It’s also a lot less crowded. Plymouth Heights is in step with a larger trend of declining evening attendance in evangelical denominations that long have cherished a heritage of worshiping twice on Sunday. Some evening services are more intimate; others have been cancelled or replaced by an alternative.

Monday’s roundup

After a few days in Denver at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, the daily Religion Roundup now returns to its regularly scheduled broadcast. A list of the award winners (all deserving of the honors) is here. The Roundup gives a special shout out to Gustav Niebuhr, who received the lifetime achievement award, and whose work should be studied by all religion journalists. Embattled Bishop Eddie Long cast himself as a stone-throwing David as he confronted allegations that he seduced four teenage boys into sexual relationships with cars and bling. “I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man.

Young evangelicals–not so liberal

Responding to my wish to separate out the views on same-sex marriage of under-30 “sectarians” (evangelicals), Sherkat has kindly run the numbers. What they show, as he points out on his blog, is that the gap between this cohort and its non-evangelical peers is actually greater than between sectarians and non-sectarians in older age cohorts. So much for the myth of young evangelical liberalism on this issue.Up to a point. But it’s still the case that the under-30s are somewhat more liberal on the issue than their evangelical boomer parents–and way more liberal than over-60 evangelicals. So even though they look at this point like over-60 non-evangelicals, the evidence is of a liberalizing generational trend within the evangelical community.

Long denies `false allegations,’ plans to address church

(RNS) Atlanta-area megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long has decried the “false allegations” lodged against him by three young men who filed suit over alleged sexual misconduct. “The charges against me and New Birth are false,” said Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., in a Thursday (Sept. 23) statement. “I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply.” Long said he could not elaborate, on the advice of his lawyers, but would address his congregation on Sunday.

Bishops rebuke theologians’ book over views on homosexuality

(RNS) The U.S. Catholic bishops have issued a rare public rebuke of two Roman Catholic theologians, saying their 2008 book on sexual ethics marks a “radical departure” from church teaching and could be “harmful to one’s moral and spiritual life.” “The Sexual Person: Toward a New Catholic Anthropology,” challenges established Catholic orthodoxy on homosexuality, artificial insemination, and premarital sex, the bishops said in a statement released on Wednesday (Sept. 22). The book was written by Todd Salzman, chairman of the theology department at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha, Neb., and Michael Lawler, also a theologian and a former dean of the university’s graduate school who retired in 2005. The bishops proposed no punitive actions against Creighton or the theologians; instead, their committee on doctrine issued a detailed 24-page rebuttal of the arguments in “The Sexual Person.”

Court puts limits on German church’s ability to fire workers

BERLIN (RNS) The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday (Sept. 23) that a church organist’s employment rights were ignored when he was fired by a Catholic church for remarrying outside the church. The court said German churches have some latitude in firing staff who violate the faith’s moral tenets, but said it must be weighed against the prominence of the job and the worker’s own rights. The case involved Bernhard Schuth, the longtime organist at St. Lambert parish in Essent, who separated from his wife in 1994 and started a relationship with another woman in 1995.

Young Christians seek intentional community among poor

GRESHAM, Ore. (RNS) In the two years since David Knepprath and Josh Guisinger moved into the rough-and-tumble Barberry Village complex, roughly a dozen young Christian men and women have made Barberry Village their home. Their goal: Create a sense of community in a chaotic neighborhood overrun with drugs, prostitution and gangs. Their work mirrors, in some ways, the “new monasticism” movement, in which Christians move into urban or rural areas to work with the poor. It’s not an easy way to live.

Religious leaders see modest progress in anti-poverty goals

NEW YORK (RNS) Prominent religious, humanitarian and ethical leaders gave mixed grades this week to progress on meeting the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the global yardsticks on fighting poverty. The ambitious goals, established in 2000 with a target date of 2015, include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. World leaders meeting at the United Nations this week for a three-day (Sept. 20-22) summit acknowledged that several of the global aims — including those around maternal health and child mortality — are not likely to be met by 2015, one reason U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a $40 billion global health initiative aimed at mothers and children. “More could have happened, more could be done,” the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister who serves as president of the Washington-based advocacy group Bread for the World, said Wednesday (Sept.

Justice Department: Land-use disputes often involve religious minorities

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious minorities — especially Muslims — figure prominently in religious freedom investigations by the Justice Department, a new report shows. “Jewish synagogues and schools, African-American churches, and, increasingly, Muslim mosques and schools are particularly vulnerable to discriminatory zoning actions taken by local officials, often under community pressure,” the 14-page report stated. The department released the report Wednesday (Sept. 22), the 10th anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The law, which passed with bipartisan support and the advocacy of a range of faith groups, aims to protect both religious liberty in zoning matters and free exercise of religion for prisoners and residents of government-run nursing homes.

AA co-founder scaled back references to God in training manual

(RNS) The basic text used for Alcoholics Anonymous programs, known as “The Big Book,” initially used stronger religious language but was reduced to appeal to a wider audience, The Washington Post is reporting. Hazelden, a nonprofit addiction treatment center, will release the working manuscript of the book written by AA’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, including hand-written edits and comments, according to The Post. The changes marked in red, black and green reveal a debate on how openly God should be a part of addiction recovery in the published manuscript, according to”The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The adoption of more vague religious terms in “The Big Book,” including phrases like “higher power” and the “God of your understanding,” show how Wilson scaled back the religious tone to engage a broader group of people. Worship terms were also taken out of the revised version of the book.

Embattled Philadelphia bishop says he won’t resign

(RNS) The embattled Episcopal bishop of Philadelphia is defiantly refusing to resign, saying his three years of “suffering” through various church trials has “strengthened” his ability to lead his diocese. Bishop Charles Bennison was removed from ministry in 2007 after being charged with “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.” He was found guilty in 2008 for failing to investigate or discipline his younger brother and former fellow priest John Bennison for an affair with an underage parishioner in the 1970s. He was reinstated as bishop in August after a church appeals court ruled the statute of limitations on the charge had expired. Late Wednesday (Sept.

Is burning a Quran an insult or intimidation?

(RNS) A few bullet holes may be the difference between a burnt Quran left at a mosque in Knoxville, Tenn., and one left at a mosque in East Lansing, Mich. On Tuesday (Sept. 21), Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings said the man who allegedly left a burnt Quran outside the Islamic Center of Lansing on Sept. 11 would not face charges because the act doesn’t fall under Michigan’s criminal code. In contrast, FBI agents in Knoxville are still determining whether whoever left a burnt and shot Quran at the entrance to the Annoor Mosque committed a hate crime, based on a 1968 law that makes it a federal offense to use force to prevent anyone from carrying out their religious beliefs.