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c. 2000 Religion News Service

Catholic Family Radio Network Faces Financial Woes

(RNS) A year after taking to the nation’s airwaves with Catholic-friendly programming, the Catholic Family Radio Network may go off the air if investors cannot come up with more funding.

The San Diego-based network was launched in January last year with great fanfare, promising to offer a Catholic alternative to Christian talk radio that has traditionally been dominated by evangelicals. Its investors included Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza.

The network hoped to establish a presence in 40 of the 50 largest radio markets in the country, and lured Catholic luminaries to host talk shows. Ray Flynn, the former Boston mayor and ambassador to the Vatican, and former California Attorney General Dan Lungren both have shows.

But according to the Associated Press, network officials say the current business plan will go bust if more money isn’t found to keep the network alive.

“The only thing certain is we can’t continue to run the network with the revenues not covering the expenses,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, who was part of the investment team from Ignatius Press.

The network has been relying on programming from the Eternal Word Television Network, a Catholic television station also owned by Monaghan, and is working closely with Monaghan’s Credo Communications.

In a letter to listeners on Credo’s Web site, the network’s chief operating officer, John Bidding, said investors hope to find a way to keep the network afloat, which may mean selling several of the network’s stations.

“In truth, our operating costs have been so high that the board and investors sadly concluded that our only choice was to formally reorganize,” Bidding wrote. “We are in the process of doing that right now.”

Latest in `Left Behind’ Series Tops New York Times Book List

(RNS) The latest book in the popular “Left Behind” Christian novel series will be the first evangelical title to enter The New York Times fiction best-seller list in the No. 1 position.

“The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession” will take the unprecedented step on Sunday (June 11), the newspaper reported.

In April, before it was published officially, the seventh installment in the apocalyptic series reached No. 1 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list due to advance orders.

The authors, retired evangelical minister Tim F. LaHaye and professional writer Jerry B. Jenkins, are on a 10-city tour promoting the books. They said they have earned $10 million each from the series and have donated almost half of the money to religious institutions.

The co-authors say they’re less concerned about the financial benefits and more impressed by the number of people who say they have “received Christ” as a result of reading their books.

“We’ve heard from more than 2,000 people who tell us that,” Jenkins said.

Their latest installment has sold 1.9 million copies since its publication May 23.

“This is a phenomenal number of books we’re talking about,” said Daisy Maryles, executive editor of Publishers Weekly.

Tyndale House, the evangelical Christian publisher of the 5-year-old series, has built a new warehouse at its Carol Stream, Ill., headquarters to try to keep up with the demand for the new book.

Four printing plants worked for 40 days and the first run of 2 million books was delivered to the warehouse by 79 semitrailer trucks.

A movie based on “Left Behind” is scheduled to be filmed by an independent production company for release next February.

Twelve books are projected to be included in the novel series, with the next novel, “The Mark,” slated for publication Nov. 14.

Evangelical Women’s Task Force Calls Attention to Domestic Abuse

(RNS) A task force of the World Evangelical Fellowship’s Commission on Women’s Concerns has released a theological statement encouraging evangelical churches to address domestic violence.

The statement, titled “Toward a Biblical Theology of Relationships: Preventing Abuse Against Women,” outlines biblical support for countering domestic violence and offers suggestions for how churches can relate to victims and perpetrators.

“The hard facts compel us to acknowledge that sinful practices are being ignored, tolerated, sometimes even perpetuated in the church as well as society at large,” the statement reads. “Women worldwide continue to report that domestic violence is a major problem.”

The eight-page document reports that there are more than 100 biblical passages addressing battering, violence, rape, intimidation and related topics.

“Since the word of God condemns violence and abuse, the church must be faithful in teaching this truth,” the statement reads. “What a very curative effect it would have if we excuse from church leadership anyone found to be guilty of violence or abuse!”

It states that “manipulations of Christian truth” can fuel abuse.

“The statement that the husband is head of the wife is intended as a picture of intimate relationship and tenderness rather than as the basis for control or abuse,” the document reads.

The statement addresses such issues as repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. It calls on church members to not be silent about known abuse and to be willing to hold perpetrators responsible and help victims find safety.

It also says that separation and “legal action” are sometimes needed to prevent further abuse.

“All of us earnestly desire that troubled marriages should be healed, but when an abuser refuses to change, the abused must protect her life and that of her children,” the statement says.

The Task Force to Address Abuse of Women, which includes representatives from 22 countries, released the statement Tuesday (June 6). The group will use the statement as the foundation of its work to urge greater action by churches concerning domestic violence.

“Too many church women are hurting either because someone in the church is the source of their abuse or the church has been ineffectual in response to their abuse,” said Winnie Bartel, chair of the fellowship’s Commission on Women’s Concerns.

Christian Leaders Fear Renewed Attacks From Hindus in India

(RNS) Church bombings and the murder of a Catholic priest this week have clergy in India fearful of a revived anti-Christian campaign by Hindu militants, church leaders said during a forum there Friday (June 9).

“It is an open season on Christians again,” said John Dayal, who organized the United Christian Forum for Human Rights. “The new round of violence gives the lie to government claims of greater security to the community.”

On Thursday (June 8), four churches in three states across India were bombed, according to Reuters news agency. The attacks came just two days after a priest was beaten to death in northern India.

No arrests have been made in the bombings, which appear to be connected, a police official said.

Christian leaders said the recent violence echoes similar attacks on Christians early last year, and expressed concern whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (the Hindu nationalist party that heads India’s coalition government) could control militant Hindu organizations.

But a party spokesman said Hindu groups should not be blamed for the church attacks.

“I fail to understand how you can name the (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh _ the ideological parent of the Hindu nationalist party), or any other organization when the investigation has just begun,” said Venkaiah Naidu. “Since we came to power there has been a campaign to denigrate us.”

Critics of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh contend the organization threatens the rights of religious minorities such as Christians (who comprise less than 3 percent of India’s population) and Muslims. Opponents also say the group is trying to establish Hinduism as the state religion of India, whose 1 billion-strong population is predominantly Hindu.

Dayal said right-wing Hindu groups have grown stronger in the two years that Hindu nationalists have led India’s government.

“There is this feeling that these groups are beyond the pale of law. No concrete action has been taken in even one case,” he said.

Wisconsin ACLU Cries Foul at Religious Education Proposal

(RNS) A school board plan to release students in Augusta, Wis., for religious instruction has the backing of the town’s six churches, but the American Civil Liberties Union is crying foul.

Under the plan, the school district’s 700 students would be released for an hour each week to be dispatched to the town’s churches for religious education. Wisconsin law allows for release time, but the ACLU says the school board is getting too cozy with the town’s pastors.

At a school board meeting Thursday (June 8), the board agreed to postpone the release program and seek legal counsel regarding the constitutional limits of the plan, said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the Wisconsin ACLU.

The plan has been in the works for 18 months, and the pastors of the town’s six churches agreed to provide the religious training for the students. Ahmuty said he has no qualms about the release time, but said the school board has stepped over the line and is “promoting” religious education.

“What we’re concerned about in this situation is the apparent collaboration between the Augusta Ministerial Association and the School Board of Augusta,” Ahmuty said.

In a letter to parents, school officials “welcomed” the program and said it will add a much-needed “spiritual dimension” to students’ education. Ahmuty and several parents disagreed.

“It’s not up to the public schools to add a spiritual dimension, whatever that means,” Ahmuty said. “That’s really the responsibility of parents, religious leaders and congregations to do that.”

Students who do not want to participate can remain in school for a study hall period. That’s fine, Ahmuty said, but what it really means is that the entire school system could lose four or five hours of instruction each month.

That loss would be outweighed by the potential benefits of religious education, said the Rev. Don Horrell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Augusta.

“The way things are, teachers are pretty much muzzled when it comes to speaking about matters of religious faith,” Horrell told the Associated Press. “So this adds a component to education that I think a lot of parents would like to see.”

Quote of the Day: The Rev. Steven Baines, executive coordinator of Equal Partners in Faith.

(RNS) “The Southern Baptists are setting back the clock 40 years. They want to keep women in the kitchen and gays in the closet.”

_ The Rev. Steven Baines, who leads Equal Partners in Faith, a liberal, Washington-based religious coalition, speaking on the upcoming annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The 15.9 million-member body is expected to approve a statement limiting the pastorate to men and voicing opposition to homosexuality.

DEA END RNS

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