|The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
ABC News Looks at Ministries
That Misuse Donations
BC News targeted the spending habits of the heads of some Christian ministry organizations that repeatedly ask people for monetary donations, with its "20/20" newsmagazine citing multimillion-dollar mansions and a private jet, for example, owned by Paul and Jan Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
"We've all been trained to not even think, to just give the money over and not ask questions and to just not be good stewards," Rusty Leonard, founder of Stewardship Partners, said on 20/20 March 23. "And all the satisfaction we get is in the act of giving, not of making sure that actual good work gets done."
Leonard became so disturbed by the misuse of ministry funds that he started a website, ministrywatch.com, which monitors the spending habits of a significant number of Christian groups. He helps the public keep tabs on which organizations are trustworthy with money and which ones don't have financial transparency.
TBN, the largest religious broadcaster in the world, is on Leonard's "Donor Alerts" list because he has serious concerns about how money given to the group is spent. The ministry "sits on a $340 million cash hoard and owns houses in an exclusive Orange County, California, community hidden behind very regal gates," ABC reported.
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Poll: Giuliani Leads Among Evangelicals,
Clinton Leads Among Catholics
U.S. Presidential hopefuls Rudolph Giuliani and Senator Hillary Clinton hold early leads among key religious voting blocs in the ace to win their party nominations, according to a national survey released this week.
The survey by the Pew Research Center shows religious voters leaning toward more recognizable candidates in the early stages of the race, according to John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Giuliani, a Republican, leads Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., among white evangelical Republican-leaning voters, 27 percent to 23 percent. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was third (7 percent) even though he hasn't announced his candidacy. The GOP's fundraising leader, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, was fourth (6 percent) among this key group of Republican voters.
White evangelicals gave 78 percent of their votes to President Bush in 2004 and 72 percent to Republican congressional candidates in 2006.White (non-Hispanic) Catholics, a crucial swing group, according to Green, are also showing early support for Giuliani among those who lean Republican, at 37 percent. McCain is second (23 percent) among these voters, who went 56 percent in favor of Bush in the 2004 election. Gingrich and Romney are tied at 9 percent each.
Clinton leads among white Catholics who lean Democratic, with 33 percent of their support. According to exit polls, 50 percent of White Catholics voted for Democrats in the 2006 mid-term elections--a slight shift away from the GOP in the 2004 presidential results.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who has said he isn't running for president, is second (22 percent), followed closely by 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards (21 percent). Illinois Senator Barack Obama is fourth (12 percent).
"We're still early in the process, and it's a time when name recognition plays a special role," said Green. "We think these numbers are very interesting in that they provide a baseline by which candidates must react."
Alabama Church Arsonists Sentenced to Prison
Three former Birmingham college students are headed for federal prison cells after a judge on April 9 ordered them to serve sentences ranging from seven to eight years for a series of rural church fires last year.
U.S. District Judge David Proctor sentenced Matthew Cloyd, 21, and Benjamin Moseley, 20, to eight-year prison terms for setting fire to nine churches in West Alabama. Russell DeBusk, 20, who confessed to setting five fires, received a seven-year sentence.
In addition, the judge ordered combined restitution of $3.1 million, with Cloyd and Moseley bearing a greater share of responsibility for those payments than DeBusk. Monday's sentences came after an emotional hearing in which pastors from burned churches spoke of forgiveness, defense lawyers urged leniency and the judge quoted Scriptures assuring the trio that good can come from bad.
"You harmed a lot of people, but with God's grace you have ... opportunity to do good still," Proctor said.
The first series of fires on February 3, 2006, in which all three participated, damaged two churches and destroyed three. Cloyd and Moseley set a second batch four days later to distract investigators; those fires destroyed four churches.
DeBusk offered an explanation for the fires that brought shock and fear to the West Alabama communities and more than 100 law enforcement officers on a round-the-clock mission to solve the mysterious crimes: He said the three decided to break into a church and set fire to plastic flowers after not having much luck spotlighting deer. He said the fires fed off each other, and a "snowball effect" happened as they set more fires.
DeBusk said the magnitude hit him after he sobered up the next day and became physically ill. One by one, the three young men, wearing orange jail jumpsuits and leg irons, stood next to their attorneys at a lectern before Proctor. They apologized and expressed regret for the harm and destruction caused during a night of drinking.
"I'm ready to accept the consequences of my actions and move forward, your honor," Cloyd said.
Moseley said he knew he did wrong and was aware there would be repercussions. "I sincerely apologize for what I've done," he said.
They faced a minimum of seven years in prison because two firefighters were injured battling a fire at Ashby Baptist Church.
Conservative Seminary in Jerusalem
Won't Admit Gays and Lesbians
BY MICHELE CHABIN ©2007 Religion News ServiceThe Conservative Jewish movement's main seminary here has decided not to follow its U.S. counterparts and will continue its ban on gay and lesbian rabbinical students.
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary said "there will be no change in the admissions policy" after the American branch's Rabbinical Assembly voted in December to permit the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and allow same-sex union ceremonies.
The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the movement's flagship American seminary, said March 26 that it would begin admitting gay and lesbian students.
Schechter's decision underscores the differences between the movement's American and more traditional Israeli branches. It remains to be seen how Schechter's U.S. donors will react to its decision.
Rabbi Einat Ramon, Schechter's dean, said: "I have great respect for...Conservative rabbis who have chosen to follow a different opinion, and for the Reform movement in Judaism, which has long admitted candidates to its rabbinical schools who are practicing gays and lesbians or who favor same-sex commitment ceremonies. However, Jewish law has traditionally prohibited homosexuality and only sanctifies sexual relations between members of the opposite sex.
"Today in particular, when the traditional family is in trouble, it is especially important that we ordain modern rabbis who are devoted to this institution and identify with this worldview," Ramon said.
Ramon said Jewish theology "regards the union between a man a woman who are sexually and emotionally different from one another as a complementary covenant of friendship and intimacy, which forms the basis for procreation and childrearing."