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
Pope Says Protestants Not Churches
`In the Proper Sense'
he Vatican on July 10 reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, calling other Christian churches defective and saying Protestant denominations are not even churches "in the proper sense."
The statement, which was "ratified and confirmed" by Pope Benedict XVI and published with his approval, reiterates some of the most controversial ideas in a 2000 Vatican declaration published under Benedict's authority when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Tuesday's four-page document purports to correct "erroneous interpretation" and "misunderstanding" of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, which paved the way for ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and other Christian churches.
The new document said Vatican II "neither changed nor intended to change" the teaching that the "one Church of Christ ... subsists in the Catholic Church" alone. Other Christian denominations, it argues, can also be "instruments of salvation," but "suffer from defects" insofar as they depart from Catholicism.
Eastern Orthodox churches, though lacking communion with Rome, nonetheless deserve the term "Church" because their priests follow in the succession of bishops and priests that started in the early church, the document explains.
Protestant denominations, however, "because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery," and are therefore to be termed mere "Christian Communities."
Tuesday's document breaks little new ground but is likely to open old wounds from Dominus Iesus, the 2000 document produced by Ratzinger, which said non-Christians are in a "gravely deficient situation" on the question of salvation and that Catholics alone have "the fullness of the means of salvation." It, too, said Protestant churches suffer "defects."
One ecumenical scholar suggested the document is a piece of historical revisionism. "From a careful reading of the documents of Vatican II, it is clear that the Roman Catholic Church wished to affirm the ecclesial reality of the Protestant churches," said the Rev. Vincent Cushing, former president of Washington Theological Union.
Cushing sees the statement as part of a trend that has marked Benedict's papacy in which Vatican officials reinterpret the teachings of Vatican II as merely the reassertion of traditional doctrines, not something new. The document will have a damaging effect on relations with other churches, Cushing believes, much like Dominus Iesus angered many Protestants in 2000.
"We're like a dysfunctional family sometimes. We keep going back to the same old argument and effectively insult our Protestant brothers and sisters," he said.
Just as the National Education Association geared up for its annual meeting in Philadelphia, a teacher in Ohio won the right to withhold her dues because her religious beliefs conflict with the labor union's political positions.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost ruled June 22 that an Ohio law violated the First Amendment rights of Carol Katter, a Roman Catholic mathematics and language arts instructor who opposes abortion.
The state law had limited the category of employees who may opt out of unions because of religious beliefs to those who have "historically held conscientious objections," including Seventh-day Adventists and Mennonites. But Frost said the law discriminated against Katter because of her religion.
With 3.2 million members, the NEA has for some time been known for its support of a liberal agenda, including abortion on demand and homosexual activism, and the group's more conservative members have sought to change the leadership direction or withhold their mandatory dues.
"There are a lot of employees and teachers who do not know about this and have always thought that they just had no choice but to pay their dues," Katter told CNSNews.com. "I'm thrilled about what it means for us to have the freedom not to support something we object to on moral grounds."
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British Prime Minister Says Church Should Choose Own Bishops
New British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has relinquished his right to choose diocesan bishops in the Church of England, from the archbishop of Canterbury on down, and turned the whole business over to the church itself.
Until now, when such openings for diocesan posts come up, church leaders nominated two names and presented them to the prime minister in order of preference. But the premier had the power to select the second name, or even to ask for more nominees.
But one of Brown's first moves since taking over as prime minister from Tony Blair was to remove himself and his office from the business of choosing diocesan bishops and archbishops.
In a constitutional "Green Paper" presented to Parliament on July 3, Brown's government said the prime minister is giving up any such "active role" in the selection of candidates and making the church itself the "decisive voice" in the process.
Instead, the church's Crown Nominations Commission will submit a single name for each post to the prime minister, who will then simply pass along the recommendation to Queen Elizabeth II, titular head of the Church of England, for her approval.
The current archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was the first choice of the church but had to get Blair's approval before his name could be submitted to the monarch. He was elected to the post of Canterbury on July 23, 2002.
The change, one of a series of initiatives taken by Brown to devolve power in some areas away from the prime minister, is expected to get a routine OK from Parliament soon.
Meanwhile, it was greeted enthusiastically by leaders of the Church of England, who have worked for more than three decades to streamline the process.
Church Court Says Gay Lutheran Pastor Must Be Defrocked
BY DANIEL BURKE ©2007 Religion News Service
An openly gay Lutheran pastor from Atlanta has been defrocked after a church appeals court ruled that he should be removed from ministry before next month's church wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Committee on Appeals' decision to immediately remove the Rev. Bradley Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church overturns a previous ruling that would have allowed him to remain in ministry until August 15. The committee's vote was 10-2 to immediately remove Schmeling.
The 4.9 million-member ELCA holds its biennial meeting in Chicago, August 6-11. The lower court had urged the ELCA to overturn the ban on sexually active gay clergy at that meeting.
Effective immediately, the appeals committee's decision to remove Schmeling from the ELCA's clergy roster is final and ends the judicial process.
"I am disheartened that the Committee on Appeals would remove me from the roster without ever meeting me; without meeting the people of St. John's Lutheran Church; or without even coming to Atlanta to experience our congregation at work," Schmeling said in a statement.
"I want my denomination to witness to the Jesus that I know and love--a savior who is more interested in relationships than in rules," he added.
Schmeling, 44, had led St. John's Lutheran Church, which claims a membership of 350, since 2000. But last year, after Schmeling told Bishop Ronald Warren of the ELCA's Southeastern Synod that he had found a partner, the bishop asked him to resign.
John Ballew, St. John's congregation president, said, "We are going to go to the church-wide Assembly in August to witness to our ELCA the costs of this decision, based on an absurd policy."
In 2005, the ELCA declined to allow local synods to decide whether to accept pastors in same-sex relationships.