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's Approval Ratings Rise
After U.S. Visit
fter Pope Benedict XVI's first papal visit to the U.S. last month, about 60 percent of Americans now report favorable views of the pontiff, a modest bump from pre-trip opinions, according to new polls.
Before his April 15-20 visit to Washington, D.C. and New York, the German-born pope was largely unknown in the U.S. three years after his election. In March, more than 80 percent of Americans had said they heard little or nothing about him, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
After Benedict met with President Bush, celebrated public Masses before huge crowds and repeatedly spoke of the pain and shame caused by his church's sexual abuse scandal, his "approval ratings" increased.
Sixty-one percent of Americans now say they hold a favorable or very favorable view of the pope, up from 52 percent before the trip. More than half of Americans now say the pope does an excellent or good job of promoting relations with other faiths, up from 39 percent in March.
Almost 40 percent say Benedict did an excellent or good job of addressing the sex abuse scandal, but there are no pre-visit comparison numbers. Forty-eight percent say the pope did a fair or poor job of addressing the scandal.
Roughly 40 percent of Americans said the most meaningful part of Benedict's visit for them was his meeting with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, according to a separate poll conducted by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Following that, 14 percent picked the pope's visit to the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City as most meaningful, according to the poll, which was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.
The margin of error on the Pew poll was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. For the Marist poll, the margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.
Citing widespread confusion about what it means to be an "evangelical," a group of Christian leaders issued a manifesto proposing to define the identity and commitments of evangelical Christians.
Appearing at a Washington, D.C., news conference May 7, the group unveiled "An Evangelical Manifesto" and invited other Christians and people of other faiths to engage in dialogue about what it means to follow Christ.
Evangelicals' primary identity "by definition is theological, not political, social or cultural," said John Huffman Jr., pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Calif. "Yet we are quite concerned that, because some of the more strident voices in our midst, we are increasingly perceived as people whose primary agenda is political. That simply is not the case."
In its broadest sense, evangelicals are "men and women who endeavor to live our lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ, our Savior, a Christ who is above culture, is not subservient to any culture, and who desires to transform and serve in positive ways those cultures in which His people live," Huffman said.
While some voices in society and the media identify evangelical Christianity with a specific moral or political agenda, evangelicals are at heart "Christians who define themselves, their faith and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus Christ," the statement declares. "To be evangelical is to be faithful to the freedom, justice, peace and well-being that are at the heart of the Good News of Jesus."
The declaration asserts the group's desire to distance themselves from two sets of extreme attitudes toward Christian faith:
-- "Privatized faith," which "falsely divorces the spiritual from the secular and causes faith to lose its integrity," and "politicized faith," which makes Christian beliefs "the weapons of political factions," whether conservative, liberal, moderate or progressive.
-- The "sacred public square," which would give one religion a preferred place in public life, and the "naked public square," which would ban religious expression from public life.
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Presbyterians Tap First Black Seminary President
A descendant of slaves has been named the first black head of a predominantly white Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary--one located in the capital of the Confederacy, according to the church's news service.
The Rev. Brian K. Blount, 51, was inaugurated as president of Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia, on May 7.
A Virginia native and an ordained Presbyterian minister, Blount served as a New Testament professor for 15 years at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also a noted author and preacher.
Blount assumes the presidency at Union in July. The seminary has 375 students enrolled and campuses in Richmond and Charlotte, N.C. "I think seminaries should be catalysts for the revitalization of the church," Blount, a married father of two, said in statement released by Union.
The predominantly white Presbyterian Church (USA) has 2.3 million members and 10 seminaries in the U.S. It is related by covenant with two other seminaries.
British Airways Pulls Meat Meals to Avoid Offending Hindus
British Airways has taken beef, one of the nation's favorite dishes, off the menu for thousands of economy class passengers on long-haul flights over concerns that it might offend Hindus.
Britain's flagship airline announced that in-flight choices are now restricted to fish or chicken dishes--and that beef is no longer an option, at least for this summer. It said it still had not decided whether to extend the beef ban into the winter season.
The airline explained to journalists that "we can only serve two options, and beef and pork obviously have religious restrictions ... (and) we have to try to use two meals which appeal to as many customers as possible."
British Airways' second-largest long-haul market is to India, where Hindus, who make up the majority population, shun beef because of their religious beliefs. Economy-class passengers will be given the choice of a fish pie or chicken option. However, in the airline's business and first-class cabins, it will be business--and beef--as usual.
Britain's Hindus appeared bemused by the move. "The Hindu community will welcome this decision and the news it has been made partly because Hindus don't eat beef," said the Hindu Council UK.
But "that said," the council added, "Hindus are tolerant of the beliefs of others and do not expect everyone to stop eating a food because they (Hindus) do not eat it."