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
Lutherans Say No to Changing Gay Clergy Rules
fforts to eliminate a celibacy requirement for gay Lutheran clergy failed on August 11 at a churchwide assembly, but delegates urged bishops to refrain from disciplining sexually active gay pastors.
After five days of debate among delegates from the 5 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, voting members deferred any changes in clergy standards until a special task force on sexuality releases its report just prior to the next assembly, in 2009.
Phil Soucy, a spokesman for the pro-gay group Lutherans Concerned/North America, which brought dozens of supporters adorned with hand-knit rainbow scarves to the assembly, said the move to discourage discipline of gay clergy is a cause for celebration.
"We didn't get policy change now, but in the intervening two years we are not going to have people like Bradley Schmeling hauled up on charges simply for falling in love," Soucy said.
Bradley Schmeling of Atlanta was taken off the ELCA clergy roster after making public that he is in a relationship with another man. His congregation, St. John's Lutheran Church, kept him as their pastor anyway. The actions taken by the church assembly will not affect his situation, Soucy said.
The Rev. Scott Grorud of Minnesota, a leader of WordAlone Network, a group of 235 churches calling for a biblical understanding that prohibits any same-sex relationships, said he prays that bishops will continue to enforce church rules that prohibit sexually active gay clergy.
"The assembly succumbed to a manipulative effort to get in the back door what they had not allowed to come in the front door," Grorud said. "It's a devastating blow to the health and faith of the church."
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who was re-elected this week to another six-year term, asked throughout the debate that the more than 1,000 attendees respond to any vote with prayer rather than emotion. He has previously said he prefers to wait for the social statement before any changes are made to clergy standards.
The assembly also voted on August 9 to refer the issue of blessing same-sex relationships to its task force on sexuality as it develops broader teaching. One delegate proposed Friday to allow local exceptions for non-celibate gay ministers, which was similar to a resolution in 2005 that fell short of the required two-thirds majority. The resolution this year failed to garner a simple majority.
Progressive Baptists Call For Protests of Demeaning Lyrics
Delegates to the annual meeting of the Progressive National Baptist Convention have called for protests of music lyrics demeaning to women and minorities.
"We are speaking out publicly against the denigration of women, minorities and the kind of self-hatred that is often perpetuated by bad language and bad music," said the Rev. T. DeWitt Smith Jr., president of the historically black denomination. "Our youth department, in particular, has asked us not to patronize the rappers that use language
that denigrate our people and others."
The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a Cleveland pastor and outgoing chair of the denomination's Civil Rights Commission, said the concern about "inhumane communication" is not new for the denomination, but "it has reached a special kind of crescendo in recent times with Don Imus."
Imus lost his job as a radio talk show host in the spring after using slurs about the women's basketball team at Rutgers University.
The 2.5 million-member denomination also added its voice to other religious groups calling for a commitment to address climate change.
"The issue of global warming is a very serious one and we know that we are to be good stewards of all of the Earth's resources," said Smith, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church of Metro Atlanta. "We were placed here by God to be caretakers and therefore we are concerned about global warming and will do all that we can to help in the situation rather than to hurt."
Delegates also passed resolutions addressing issues such as support of gun control, fighting poverty, and the denomination's continued opposition to the Iraq war. "We still believe ... that our troops really do need to come home from Iraq and we're asking our president and Congress to move with all deliberate haste to bring them home," Smith said.
About 6,000 delegates attended the denomination's Annual Session.
Groups Fight Pro-homosexuality Curriculum
BY ERIN ROACH ©2007 Baptist Press
As children across the nation head back to school, students in Montgomery County, Maryland, will be taught to celebrate homosexuality, and they'll likely be shielded from anyone who believes such behaviors are wrong.
Pro-family groups are appealing a decision by the Maryland State Board of Education that allows Montgomery County to teach middle and high school students that homosexuality, bisexuality, and transvestitism are normal "innate" sexual variations and that anyone who opposes such conduct is "homophobic."
The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center is assisting Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, and the Family Leader Network in their administrative appeal to the Montgomery County Circuit Court based on four main objections to the "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" curriculum.
The law center says the curriculum (1) teaches students that homosexuality is "innate," which is an unproven theory; (2) labels as "homophobic" children who hold traditional religious or moral beliefs about homosexuality. and (3) teaches students that transgenderism is just another "sexual orientation," even though transgenderism has been classified as a mental disorder.
"This curriculum is full of factual inaccuracies and runs counter to sound educational policy," Edward L. White III, trial counsel with Thomas More, said in a news release. "It should not be taught in the public school."
In response to the appeal, the circuit court could overturn the board's decision, stay the application of the sexuality curriculum while the appeal is pending, or affirm the board's decision and see it appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the law center said.
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Faith Leaders Praised for Spreading the `Eco-Gospel'
The Dalai Lama, Pope Benedict XVI, and the spiritual leader of the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians were among 15 "Green Religious Leaders" cited by a Seattle-based environmental group.
Grist, an environmental news and commentary Web site that also highlighted "green" actors, musicians, and chefs, among others, said the 15 names on the list and five runners-up are dedicated to "spreading the eco-gospel."
Names on the list, released on July 24, include:
-- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, who has been dubbed the "Green Patriarch" for his environmental activism, including a 2003 cruise to discuss overfishing.
-- The Dalai Lama, who says it is "our responsibility toward others to ensure that the world we pass on is healthy, if not healthier, than we found it."
-- The Rev. Sally Bingham, environmental minister at Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral in San Francisco, who has been a leader in Interfaith Power & Light, which encourages houses of worship to purchase green power and conserve energy.
-- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has encouraged Anglican clergy to use organic bread and wine for Communion.
-- Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who has been spreading the green gospel among historically skeptical evangelicals.
-- Pope Benedict XVI, who has installed solar panels at the Vatican and voiced concerns about effects of global warming on the world's poor.
-- Fazlun Khalid, founder and director of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences in the United Kingdom.
-- Norman Habel, the editor and contributing author of the "Earth Bible."
-- Rabbi Warren Stone of Kensington, Maryland, who chairs an environmental protection committee for America's Reform rabbis.
-- Sister Miriam MacGillis, a Dominican nun who co-founded the Genesis Farm in New Jersey to teach people about the environment.
-- The Rev. Fred Small, a Unitarian minister from Littleton, Massachusetts, who has engaged in peaceful civil disobedience as part of Religious Witness for the Earth.
-- The Rev. Joel Hunter, a megachurch pastor near Orlando, Florida, who was tapped to lead the Christian Coalition until his concern over the environment was deemed too controversial for the organization.
-- Karen Baker-Fletcher, a theologian at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, who interprets the Bible from an environmental, black, and feminine perspective.
-- Paul Gorman, co-founder and executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.
-- The Rev. Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest considered "the most important eco-theologian of our time," according to Grist.