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
Study Links Subprime Mortgage Crisis to Hunger
he poorest counties in the U.S. are among the hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis, according to a study released February 27 by the Christian anti-hunger advocacy group Bread for the World.
The report, titled "Home Ownership, Subprime Loans and Poverty," found a strong correlation between poverty rates and percentages of mortgages that are subprime.
In eight of the country's 15 poorest counties, which have poverty rates exceeding 40 percent, the percentage of homeowners holding subprime mortgages is even higher -- up to 60 percent, according to the study. Data in the study were compiled from a variety of sources, including the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said the inequity reflects an ignorance of the biblical condemnation against usury. "The principle underlying the biblical warning against usury was that financial contracts, as important as they are, are still less important than basic human needs," he said. "If you were lending money to a really poor person, you couldn't take his coat as security for the loan."
Denunciations of usury -- disproportionately high interest rates -- are found throughout the Bible, including Exodus 22:25, which states, "If you lend money to any of my people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest."
Bread for the World contends that the continuing effects of the subprime mortgage crisis and hunger are interrelated, since victims of high-risk mortgage lending often limit their food purchases because they are saddled with increasing payments.
"Since you can't cut back on mortgage payments or renegotiate the price of gas, the only place where you can save money is food," said study author Todd Post.
Bipartisan Religious Liberty Panel Urges Cuba
to End Religious Repression
A bipartisan religious liberty panel in the United States has called on Cuba's communist government to institute protections for religious expression and other human rights in the wake of Fidel Castro's departure as president.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Castro's resignation after nearly 50 years as president of the northern Caribbean island provides an opportunity for Cuba's new leaders "to reform their repressive practices."
Citing health reasons, Castro, 81, resigned Feb. 19. The National Assembly selected his brother, Raul, 76, as president Feb. 24.
The commission has "no illusions about Raul Castro's political views," USCIRF Chairman Michael Cromartie said in a written statement, but the panel still called for change in Cuba ....
"Today the Cuban government has the chance to fulfill its obligation to correct past wrongs and fully protect religious freedom," Cromartie said. "Cuba's future is best assured by fully protecting, in law and practice, the fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, association and other human rights."
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Update: Benny Hinn Submits Records to Senate Committee
After several weeks of delay, televangelist Benny Hinn has submitted a "significant amount" of financial material to a Senate committee that is investigating the finances of six prominent ministries.
Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee, said ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa "and his staff will evaluate whether the material responds sufficiently but are encouraged by the demonstration of cooperation."
Rusty Leonard, the founder of MinistryWatch.com, a North Carolina-based watchdog organization that advocates financial accountability of Christian ministries, welcomed Hinn's cooperation. "We were pleased to hear that Benny Hinn has come to his senses and agreed to cooperate with Sen. Grassley," Leonard said. "We hope that the other ... uncooperative ministries will also reach the same conclusion that answering the senator's very legitimate questions is their best option."
Two other ministries -- Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Mo., and Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Newark, Texas -- have already provided materials that were reviewed by Senate staff. Joyce Meyer Ministries has provided substantial information in response to Grassley's questions, a representative for Grassley said. Details will be discussed in a meeting between Grassley's staff and Meyer's representatives.
While Copeland has responded, the material he provided did not adequately answer Grassley's questions, Gerber said. Grassley is considering additional steps in the congressional review.
The other three ministries--Creflo Dollar, Paula and Randy White and Bishop Eddie Long--have yet to provide financial records. Grassley's investigators continue to be in contact with these ministries, as Grassley considers sending follow-up letters.
Canadian Court Sides With Breakaway Anglican Parishes
A Canadian court has ruled in favor of two conservative congregations that broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada, stating they have exclusive use of their church buildings—at least for now.
A judge in Hamilton, Ontario, granted the interim order on February 29 that allows the two breakaway churches to hold Sunday services without having to share the facilities with members who wish to remain with the national church.
The decision means that at least until March 9, services at St. George's church in Lowville and St. Hilda's in Oakville are under the auspices of the Anglican Network in Canada, a traditionalist group.
The breakaway group opposes the decision last November by the Niagara diocese to adopt the so-called local option that allows clergy "whose conscience permits" to bless gay marriages.
To date, 10 Canadian parishes have voted to join the Anglican Network, and an additional 15 have placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America.
"It seems to us only fair and equitable that the diocese be able to have access," diocese lawyer John Page told the court. "Can't Christians and Anglicans share? We're prepared to share. We're not asserting any entitlements."