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
Virginia Church Property Fight Costs
$2 Million and Counting
he court battle over church assets between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and 11 breakaway congregations has already cost both sides more than $2 million, according to representatives.
The secessionist Anglican District of Virginia has spent about $1 million on legal fees thus far and anticipates spending as much as $3 million to $5 million on the litigation, said Vice Chairman Jim Oakes. The money is being raised through donations from the 11 churches, Oakes said, though only five have contributed so far.
Patrick N. Getlein, a spokesman for the Diocese of Virginia, said the diocese has spent "over a million," on legal fees to date. The diocese recently reported that it has taken out a $2 million line of credit for the litigation.
Financial figures from the national Episcopal Church, which is also a party in the litigation, were not immediately available. Getlein said the national church is not helping the diocese pay its legal fees.
Citing theological disagreements with the national church's increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians, the 11 congregations split from the diocese and the Episcopal Church last January. They have since joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which is headed by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola.
Oakes said the assets in dispute are worth approximately $30 million; Getlein said he could not provide an estimate of their worth.
The Episcopal Church maintains that church assets are held in trust for the national church, and is attempting to block efforts by the congregations to assert ownership of the property. The first phase of the trial, now being heard by a judge in Fairfax County, Virginia, is scheduled to wrap up later this month.
Evangelical Leaders Say Democratic/GOP Polling Skewed
Several influential evangelical leaders have called on pollsters to ask Democrats--and not just Republicans--if they are evangelicals when future primaries occur.
"Thus far, the National Election Pool's exit poll surveys have pigeonholed evangelicals, reinforcing the false stereotype that we are beholden to one political party," wrote nine leaders, including Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and Christianity Today editor David Neff. "No party can own any faith."
Their January 10 letter was sent to polling and political directors of media outlets that are represented by the National Election Pool, which supplies poll data to ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press. An official from the National Election Pool was not immediately available for comment.
Writing as individuals rather than representatives of their organizations, they noted that some evangelicals now have a broad agenda--including the environment and poverty--and are increasingly politically diverse. They also said candidates of both parties talked specifically about their faith while campaigning in Iowa.
"By omitting the question of evangelical/born-again identification from the Democratic polls, you prevented the public from seeing the full picture of how the bipartisan courtship of evangelical voters affected the outcome of the first contest of the 2008 campaign and perpetuated the misperception that all evangelical Christians are Republicans," they said.
Other signatories include the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida; Redeem the Vote founder Randy Brinson; Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; professor David P. Gushee of Mercer University; author Brian McClaren; professor Randall Balmer of Barnard College, Columbia University; and professor Glen Stassen of Fuller Theological Seminary.
British Catholics Seek Baptisms For School Enrollment
Lapsed Roman Catholics in Britain are racing to get their children baptized in hopes of landing them a spot in Catholic schools, where too many students are already chasing increasingly fewer slots, according to new research.
Catholics have traditionally had their offspring baptized before their first birthday, but the Pastoral Research Center Trust now reports that baptisms of children aged to between 1 and 13 years now account for 30 percent of all baptisms, up from 5.4 percent 50 years ago.
Anthony Spencer, a spokesman for the independent research body, attributes the rise in so-called "late" baptisms to lapsed or "marginal" Catholics trying to squeeze their children into parochial schools after learning they would need baptism certificates to get them enrolled.
Spencer said the increase in often last-minute baptisms had been fueled by the improving reputation of Catholic educational institutions over the last half-century. "Because of that," he said, "the demand for places increased, not only from Catholics but from the rest of the community"--a development he described as "a great compliment...to the quality of the Catholic school system."
Researchers said they found that in 1958, there were 6,925 children between ages 1 to 13 in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales; by 2005, that figure had soared to 20,141, or 30.3 percent of the total intake.
By contrast, traditional "cradle" baptisms plunged from 108,996 in 1958 to 42,425 in 2005, their figures showed. The study also suggested that of children born to Catholic parents, 64 percent under age 1 were baptized into the church in 2005, compared to 85 percent 50 years ago.