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
Tornado Hits Church During Wednesday Service
BY MICHAEL FOUST ©2007 Baptist Press
tornado disrupted the evening service at a Tennessee church November 14, extensively damaging the building; no one inside, however, was injured.
Members of Kimball Baptist Church, located about 30 miles west of Chattanooga, had taken cover when it became evident they were in danger.
"It happened about 7 o'clock last night, and they were able to take cover with an interior wall," Richard Lewelling, director of missions for the Sequatchie Valley Baptist Association, told Baptist Press. "They got to a place of safety. If not, it could have been worse."
Lewelling said he does not know of any other churches in the association that were damaged. He learned about the damage to Kimball Baptist by speaking to a pastor of a neighboring church. As of Thursday morning, he had been unable to reach the pastor of Kimball Baptist, although Lewelling was on his way there to survey the damage.
"I do know that the education building is destroyed," Lewelling said. "I've heard that rest of the church is probably uninhabitable right now."
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Bishops Warn That Political Choices Could Impact `Salvation'
U.S. Catholic bishops on November 14 overwhelmingly approved new moral guidelines for Catholic voters that prioritize ending abortion and warn that political choices could impact a person's salvation.
The guidelines, called "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," were approved by a vote of 221-4 during the semiannual assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The bishops have issued the election-year guidelines every four years since 1976, but with candidates from both parties making "faith outreach" to voters a top priority, the bishops took pains to stake out their own role.
"This document is a summary of Catholic teaching; it is not a voter guide," said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of New York's Brooklyn Diocese. "It calls us as bishops to help form consciences for political life, not to tell people how to vote or whom to vote for or against. It offers a basic moral framework on what it means to be a Catholic and American, a believer and a voter in this coming election year."
For the first time, the document was approved by a full session of the bishops, rather than an administrative committee within the USCCB. The lack of debate Wednesday, however, suggests that many differences among the bishops were hammered out behind closed doors.
The new guidelines were aimed at Catholic voters, not politicians. The guidelines originally said voters' choices could impact their "spiritual well-being." On Wednesday, bishops toughened that to say such choices "may affect the individual's salvation."
"As bishops we know that we are truly called to warn our people," said Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, who pushed for the change. "If we do not warn our people that choosing `intrinsic evils' will have an impact on their salvation, I believe we are failing."
Other bishops, however, said the guidelines were made "to form consciences, not judge them."
The bishops highlight a range of issues -- such as war, economic justice and immigration -- in the 40-page document. But they make it clear that abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research should top the list." The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed," the document reads, citing decades of Catholic teaching.
Jesuits Tentatively Approve $50 Million Settlement
n Oregon-based Jesuit province has tentatively agreed to pay a record $50 million to settle 110 claims of child sexual abuse in remote Alaska Native villages, attorneys for the accusers said on November 18.
The settlement is the largest ever involving a Catholic religious order, according to a statement issued by plaintiffs attorneys.
The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus includes in its territory Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. It is separate from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, which earlier this year agreed to pay clergy accusers up to $75 million to emerge from bankruptcy.
The Rev. John D. Whitney, the Jesuit provincial superior, on Sunday said he was surprised and disappointed by what he called a premature announcement. "While the Jesuits have been dedicated to finding a just and timely solution to these cases, it is my understanding that there are still many issues that need to be finalized before it is appropriate to make an official announcement about a settlement," Whitney said in a statement.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs provided a copy of an e-mail in which a Portland attorney for the Jesuits confirmed the agreement on the $50 million settlement, but said it probably would take another month to work out the details. It is unclear how the Northwest Jesuits will cover the settlement. Two years ago, Whitney said that the organization had settled cases up to that point with insurance money, savings, and by asking priestly communities to reduce expenses.
He said none of the money had come or could come from prominent Jesuit-affiliated schools such as Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, or Jesuit High School in Portland because they are independent organizations.
The Jesuits, with 20,000 members, the largest Catholic religious order in the world, are known for education and missionary work and report directly to superiors outside the Vatican in Rome.
The child sex abuse incidents at the core of the settlement derive from work in Alaska villages, most of them Eskimo, dating to the 1960s. "The Society of Jesus is laboring to find just settlements in Alaska and elsewhere for the sake of the survivors of abuse and the many men and women who have had their faith and their lives shaken by the crisis of the last few years," Whitney said.
Wife Claims Husband's Church as Asset in Divorce Case
A Brooklyn, New York, pastor has used his church as a "personal piggy bank," his estranged wife says, arguing that it should be considered a marital asset in their divorce proceedings.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur M. Diamond agreed to hear arguments on that claim and ordered a financial appraisal of the church in a decision published earlier this week.
The couple's names were redacted from the decision. The husband's attorney, Eleanor Gery, said she had never seen a court agree to appraise a church in her 16 years practicing law in New York. Her client may appeal the decision, Gery said.
The couple had been married for 31 years and lived in Baldwin, New York. The wife claims the couple together founded Grace Christian Church in Brooklyn with $50,000 of their money. Her lawyer, Robert Pollack, told The Associated Press, "That church is no different than any other business he might have opened."
The wife also said her estranged husband helped himself to the church's coffers whenever he wanted to and ran a business from the church building.
Gery said her client doesn't own the church.