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c. 1998 Religion News Service

Paige Patterson is nominee for Southern Baptist presidency

(RNS) Paige Patterson, a seminary president who is known as an architect of the conservative takeover in the Southern Baptist Convention, will be nominated for the presidency of the denomination _ the nation’s largest Protestant body.

James Merritt, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, said Tuesday (Feb. 3) at a conference in Jacksonville, Fla., that he intends to nominate Patterson to head the 15.7 million-member denomination, reported Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Patterson, 55, is the only announced candidate to succeed Tom Elliff, an Oklahoma pastor who will complete his second one-year term as president at the denomination’s annual meeting June 9-11 in Salt Lake City.

Patterson said if he is elected he will have two primary objectives.”First, I want to give myself to work with our churches and the North American Mission Board to baptize 500,000 people during the year 2000,”he said.”Second, I want to do all I can to assist the International Mission Board in getting our arms around the globe with a comprehensive program of evangelism and discipleship.” Patterson played a key role in the takeover of the denomination by conservatives that began in 1979.”Along with many other Southern Baptists, I am indebted to him for helping guide this denomination back to its biblical roots and evangelical heritage,”Merritt said.

Patterson currently is the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He previously served as president of The Criswell College in Dallas and associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.

Merritt said the nomination comes at a time when leaders of Southern Baptist seminaries have become strong supporters of the doctrine of inerrancy, which holds that the Bible is without error.”In a moving expression of their commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible, the presidents of all six seminaries entered into a voluntary covenant with the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,”Merritt said.”It is time to say to the world that we believe in our seminaries and do not hesitate to select as president a man who has put his life and ministry on the line because of his commitment to the fidelity of the word of God.”

Evangelical group faults Falwell’s Middle East position

(RNS) Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU), a 12-year-old Chicago-based group sympathetic to Palestinian concerns, has urged the Rev. Jerry Falwell to reconsider his pledge to mobilize support for Israel among evangelical pastors.

In a letter sent Monday (Feb. 2), EMEU asked Falwell to join in a week of”prayer and discernment for peace with justice in the Middle East”beginning Feb. 15. EMEU also asked Falwell to help make Feb. 16 a national day of prayer and fasting for Middle East peace and urged him to travel to Bethlehem for a conference that begins Sunday (Feb. 8) to learn more about the Palestinian perspective.

In January, Falwell met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington and pledged to mobilize the support of some 200,000 American evangelical Protestant pastors on behalf of Israel.

Falwell also said he and other evangelical Christians would”use our influence to lobby Congress and the White House to … cease making unreasonable demands on land giveaways or withdrawals of troops or anything that threatens Israel’s security. We promised (Netanyahu) a concerted effort from our pulpits and media ministries.” The EMEU letter said Israeli policies were responsible for the decline of the Palestinian Christian population and that Netanyahu had stopped the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The letter asked Falwell whether he agreed with Netanyahu policies that disregard”the spirit of the Torah and of Jesus himself.” There was no immediate response from Falwell, who, like many evangelicals, is a longtime staunch supporter of Israel.

Lutherans oust cleric for being non-celibate homosexual

(RNS) A disciplinary committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has stripped an Iowa pastor of his clergy status for openly violating ELCA rules barring non-celibate homosexuals from the ministry.

The action stripping the Rev. Steve Sabin of his clergy credentials came Tuesday (Feb. 3) after a two-day, closed-door ecclesiastical trial. As a result, Sabin will no longer be able to pastor his 150-member congregation, Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa.”It’s not a happy day whenever we find it necessary to remove a pastor from the roster, especially a pastor as talented as Pastor Sabin and particularly a pastor’s who been doing a good job,”said Bishop Philip Hougen, head of the ELCA’s Southeastern Iowa Synod.

Nancy Lewis, a longtime member of the congregation, told the Associated Press that the congregation supported Sabin and his partner, Karl von Uhl.”This is discrimination,”she said.”It is all right for homosexuals in relationships to be members of our congregations, to hold office in our congregations. It is not fair that our pastors who are homosexual cannot have warm and loving and committed relationships,”she said.

Under ELCA rules, gays can be ordained if they take a vow of celibacy.

The congregation could vote to retain Sabin as its pastor but if it does, it risks expulsion from the ELCA. In recent years, two San Francisco congregations were expelled from the 5.2 million-member denomination over the issue and an Oakland church declared a pastoral vacancy though the minister still presides there.

Prelate criticizes saboteurs of Irish peace process

(RNS) Those who are seeking to undermine the search for agreement in Northern Ireland are”enemies of life and the peddlers of death,”Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh said Sunday (Feb. 1) at a Mass marking the first”day for life”observances initiated this year by the Irish Roman Catholic bishops.”They are like those who deal in arms and drugs,”Brady said in his homily at Newbridge, Northern Ireland.”They promote the culture of death … They must not be allowed to win. The combination of patient and courageous discussion on the part of those in the peace talks, supported by the prayers of all who want a genuine peace, will ensure that the death dealers do not win.” Representatives of the British and Irish governments and several of the factions in Northern Ireland have been meeting in an effort to achieve an end to the sectarian strife but those talks have been imperiled by recent bloodshed.

Brady said the”total disrespect for basic human rights”shown by the recent spate of killings of innocent civilians has terrified and angered many.”Such murders of innocent working men, fathers and breadwinners … brings shame not only on the perpetrator but also on all who support or condone in any way their commission,”he said.”They are a terrible indictment of those who have the power to change the bigotry and hatred which underpin such conduct and who fail to do so.” Brady called on all the governments involved in the Irish conflict to create the conditions where the peace negotiators could make legitimate demands on behalf of their communities without thereby exposing innocent members of that community to death.”Those involved in the talks must not be intimidated or deflected from their work. That work is the search for a fair and lasting peace. Any other peace will contain the seeds of future conflict.”Only a lasting peace will create the conditions where the rights of all are acknowledged and cherished, especially the right to live and to earn one’s living, the right to be accepted and esteemed, the right to have one’s dignity respected,”he said.

Brady made his comments as some 10,000 Catholics marched to observe the anniversary of 1972’s”Bloody Sunday,”when British soldiers shot and killed 13 Catholic protesters, helping to fuel the continuing clashes between Catholics and Protestants in the six-county region of Northern Ireland.

Aum Shinri Kyo cult reportedly making a comeback

(RNS) Aum Shinri Kyo, the Japanese cult implicated in a deadly nerve gas attack, is apparently gaining new members and bolstering its finances, according to Japan’s Public Security Investigation Agency.

The government agency, in a report released Tuesday (Feb. 3), said Aum Shinri Kyo is operating about 100 communes and earned at least $32 million in 1997 from sales of computers.

At its height, the group claimed 10,000 members in Japan and 30,000 members in Russia and had amassed a fortune through various business dealings. However, the cult went into sharp decline after more than 400 members were arrested, including leader Shoki Asahara, following the March 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 12 people.

The report said the group now has about 500 members in Japan, according to the Associated Press.”We need to keep a very close watch on the group,”said the report.”They are becoming more secretive and defensive.” Aum Shinri Kyo officials denounced the report, calling it”one-sided and lacking background”and”an attempt to disrupt a religious activity …” Church urges Mormons to get `actively involved’ in politics

(RNS) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has encouraged its 5 million U.S. members to become more politically active.

In a letter to American Mormons, the First Presidency, the church’s top governing body, urged members to be”willing to serve on school boards, city and county councils and commissions, state legislatures, and other high offices of either election or appointment, including involvement in the political party of their choice.” The letter, released Tuesday (Feb. 3), also reminded Mormons to be guided by”gospel principles”in their political activities and to never imply that their candidacy has been endorsed by the church. The letter noted that the Salt Lake City-based church does not endorse candidates, platforms of parties.

During the early years of the 150-year-old church, Mormons avoided mainstream political involvement and sought to establish their own theocracy in what is now Utah.

However, Mormons have since become active participants in U.S. politics on all levels. Today, some 16 Mormons sit in the U.S. Congress.

The church’s American membership accounts for about half of its worldwide total membership of 10 million.

Quote of the day: Karla Faye Tucker

(RNS)”My prayer is that (my case) would make, most especially the body of Christ, realize that God can redeem any life he wants to. … Life is precious, and if we believe life is precious in abortion, or in mercy killing, shouldn’t we believe life is precious in the death penalty? Don’t all of those areas go together?” _ Karla Faye Tucker, convicted murderer executed Tuesday (Feb. 3) in Texas, speaking in her last interview about what impact her death might have on conservative Christians’ thinking about capital punishment. Tucker, who became a devout Christian while in prison, was interviewed on religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s”The 700 Club.”The interview was broadcast Tuesday.

DEA END RNS

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