As bombs and rockets rained from the skies in Lebanon and Israel, the American presidents of international Lutheran and Reformed fellowships joined with the World Council of Churches to plead for an immediate cease-fire, saying that “the world cannot wait for signs of ‘a new Middle East’ to stop the killing.”
“I have become profoundly disenchanted with our General Assembly process . . . the unsatisfactory way we were dealing with difficult and complex theological issues . . . and the toxic by-products of perpetually creating winners and losers, friends who are with us and enemies who oppose us.”
At the end of April, a new TV ad financed by the Episcopal Church will show 30-something Paige Blair of Maine talking casually about how during tough times, church provides her “some solace and perspectives that help me understand, reconcile and forgive.”
One Sunday morning in 1960, the Episcopal pastor of a 2,500-member parish in suburban Los Angeles told his congregation that he and 70 other members had been “speaking in tongues." At the end of the service, an assistant priest pulled off his vestments and stalked out, saying, “I can no longer work with this man!” Tumult reigned. One man stood on a chair, shouting, “Throw out the damn tongue-speakers!”
The heresy-fighting bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, France, mentioned the Gospel of Judas about 180 AD, linking the writing to a Gnostic sect. Some two centuries later, Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, criticized the Gospel of Judas for treating the betrayer of Jesus as commendable, one who “performed a good work for our salvation.”
A large, progressive Episcopal church in southern California, warned by the Internal Revenue Service that its tax-exempt status may be at risk over a preelection antiwar sermon delivered last year, says it intends to fight what it calls “unsupported” assertions by the federal agency.
Before John Roberts was approved by the U.S. Senate as chief justice, backers of the federal judge, an active Catholic, warned that the nominee should not be put to an unconstitutional “religious test” in evaluations of his suitability.
After Hurricane Katrina produced vivid images of poverty in America, leaders of five mainline denominations renewed their call on Congress to oppose deep cuts to programs serving the working poor, children and seniors.
Rebuffed at national meetings of American Baptists that declined to adopt tough stances against homosexuality, some conservative leaders will meet this month near Chicago to expand an alternate missionary organization.
An estimated 12,000 Christians from many denominations attended the funeral of Brother Roger, the Protestant founder of the Taizé community in the picturesque Burgundy region of France. Presiding over the funeral Eucharist was Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top ecumenical officer.
On the face of it, the nation’s largest Lutheran church didn’t budge on issues of homosexuality. Though aware that some same-sex couples receive blessings from pastors and that some openly gay or lesbian pastors are ordained, delegates to the biennial assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, held in Orlando, declined to authorize either practice, even on a provisional basis.
It was meant as a compliment when preacher-author Leonard Sweet praised his audience as “a kind of homeland security of the church.” Sweet, evangelism professor at Drew University Theological School, was speaking to an unsung national organization of church business administrators meeting in the Colorado Rockies.
The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination will finally speak with a collective voice this month on whether to allow gay and lesbian pastors and on whether same-sex couples may receive rites of blessing. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose biennial Churchwide Assembly meets August 8-14 in Orlando, is one of the last mainline church bodies to act on the controversies.
Resisting efforts to eliminate organizational havens for congregations that welcome gays, American Baptist leaders and delegates meeting in Denver maintained an open stance on homosexuality—even if that means living with a “paradox,” as it was put by the denomination’s top executive.
In an appeal to American Baptists last November, the denomination’s top official said he suffered “many sleepless nights” worrying whether controversies over homosexuality would shatter the fragile unity of the denomination. “I agonize over the fact that many feel a split is inevitable,” wrote A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.
When some leading Christian conservatives threw their weight behind Republican efforts recently to speed Senate approval of judicial nominees of President Bush, they subtitled their widely viewed “Justice Sunday” rally at a Kentucky church “Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith.”