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
Vatican Reaffirms Excommunication
For Women Priests
he Vatican on May 30 reaffirmed its longstanding policy that women who seek to become priests, and the bishops who attempt to ordain them, will face excommunication.
The decree was published in the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, and was signed by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada.
Excommunication bars Catholics from receiving the sacraments or participating in acts of public worship. The decree said it was absolute, universal and of immediate effect. Church law already states that only a baptized male can become a priest, in part because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.
But the Vatican had never been as explicit in condemning the ordination of women. The decree is meant to safeguard "the nature and validity of the sacrament of the Holy Orders."
Opponents of the church's position believe that Christ never argued explicitly against the ordination of women, and that by choosing only male apostles he was conforming to the customs of his time.
The controversy over women priesthood intensified over the last couple of years after the formation of the group Roman Catholic Women priests in 2002. While attempts to ordain women remain rare, last March St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke excommunicated three people for participating in a woman's ordination service.
Few Churchgoers Tithe, Study Says
Linda Pateo of Gardendale, Alabama, says she and her husband, Robert, try to give 5 percent of their income to their church and 5 percent to Christian charities, but it's difficult with three children in college.
"I have strong feelings that God expects first fruits," Pateo said. "Sometimes we fall short. It's something we are all called to do."
A recent poll by George Barna shows that only 5 percent of Americans say they tithe, or give at least 10 percent of their income to religious congregations and charitable groups.
According to other studies on church giving, congregants give an average of 2.58 percent of their income to their churches. That's down from 3.11 percent of their income in 1968, according to studies published by Empty Tomb, a ministry that studies church finances.
"Tithing is in decline," said the Rev. William Hull, a research professor at Samford University and a Baptist minister. "The older generation was taught to tithe. It's not being taught very much any more."
Decades ago, the church was a focal point of philanthropy. Now parachurch ministries, schools and charitable agencies compete for those dollars, he said.
"The church has been losing market share," said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of Empty Tomb. "That concerns us. There could be a crisis in the very heart of the church."
Many major mainline denominations are suffering budget shortfalls. "The churches don't get enough money to send on to headquarters," Hull said. Donors and local churches may also reduce the amount of money they forward to denominational headquarters because of disputes over national church policies on divisive issues, such as homosexuality. "In many cases it's a boycott," Hull said.
Pateo recalled how tight finances were when her children were in day care and her salary barely covered the costs. But she believes it's a religious duty to tithe to her church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. "It's not easy," she said. "But other blessings come to you if you
Fourth Canadian Diocese Approves Same-sex Weddings
The fourth Anglican diocese in Canada has voted to approve conducting same-sex marriages.
Clergy and lay delegates attending the annual synod of the southern Ontario Diocese of Huron voted May 26 to ask Bishop Bruce Howe to permit clergy to bless same-sex marriages "where at least one party is baptized" and to authorize an appropriate rite.
Howe said he "gave concurrence" to the motion based on the large percentage in favor, but cautioned that he intends to consult with other bishops before acting on the vote.
Howe said he would likely not announce a final decision before the autumn. "The diocese made a very strong decision -- over the 70 percent mark," he told the Anglican Journal. "I'll be on the phone this week with other bishops, but obviously nobody is going to do anything before the Lambeth Conference," the upcoming decennial meeting of worldwide Anglican bishops in England.
The latest decision mirrors those of the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara, which voted last year in favor of the "local option" that allows clergy "whose conscience permits" to bless gay marriages, provided the parish approves and where at least one party is baptized.
The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster has offered same-sex blessing ceremonies since 2002, but they are not considered marriages. Canada is one of five countries that allow same-sex marriage.
Howe said he did not know of any parishes or clergy which plan to leave the Anglican Church of Canada because of the synod's decision. To date, 17 Canadian congregations have quit the national church and joined the breakaway Anglican Network in Canada, which opposes same-sex marriage.
Dads Create Clean Christian Version of Myspace
About a year ago, Randall Brown started looking for a safe place for kids to hang out. Online, that is.
He found out the hard way that MySpace isn't just for finding friends, networking or listening to cool bands. Companies have hacked into MySpace and spam-slammed it with porn ads and advertisements.
He also looked at Facebook, and although that site has had better luck filtering out porn and advertisements, there are still teenagers being teenagers, posting comments, pictures, graphics and other applications that might be offensive.
So, Brown, 28, of Hartselle, Alabama, and friend Michael Smith, 29, of Hatton, Alabama, decided to come up with something different--christianspaceonline.com.
What makes it different? Christianspaceonline automatically filters out bad language and warns offensive members of improper comments, pictures or graphics. The two men wanted to find a safe space online not only for everyone from teenagers to adults, but also eventually for their kids. Brown has three kids, 10, 4 and 2; and Smith's are 6, 4 and a newborn. "That's where the thought process came from," Brown said. "I was getting bombarded with solicitations from different things; pornography, dating sites, that kind of thing.
"You want it to be a safe place, but companies out there hire people to look for Web sites to solicit. We've had it on ours. Here's the good thing: If you reported things on MySpace, you never heard anything on it. If you report it on ours, it comes to us, and we can delete it and block the IP address."
The Web site went public last November. After a slow start, christianspaceonline soon had 996 members--four off the goal of 1,000. At one point, after getting some exposure at concerts and other events, the site was getting 100 new members a day, and that's quite a challenge, especially since both work during the day and lead a weekly ministry.
Still, the two men think it's worth all the hard work. "You can go on and look at our blogs," Brown said. "We had one girl who said, `I just accepted Christ and things go on in life that make me question my decision. Because I'm a believer of Christ, why do bad things happen?'"
Brown said it was an opportunity to minister.
"I sent her an e-mail that said, `Just because bad things happen doesn't mean God isn't on your side,'" Brown said. "We have pastors who reach out to us and are 100 percent behind it. If there's a situation where they need to be involved, they will help."
Of course, there will always be those who push the boundaries of even a Christian site. "Yeah, we have people who test our language filters," Brown said.
"If you put a curse word on the comments, unless they manipulate the word, we can block it. The good thing about our site is that when it's reported, we're right on the spot and can go in and delete the comment.
We can do the same thing with pictures."
Brown said if a guy puts up a picture of himself at the beach with no shirt, it's pulled. If a girl puts up one in a bathing suit, it's pulled. He recalls a mother who was bothered when her 13-year-old son was contacted by a 19-year-old man from Tennessee. The mother couldn't cite anything offensive, but was uncomfortable, so Brown contacted the 19-year-old and suggested he talk to people more his age.
"We're never going to be 100 percent perfect, but it's better than the alternatives," Brown said. "There's no guaranteed safety at church or school. We try to keep it as clean as possible."