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
Survey: Four in 10 Americans Think Clergy Should Endorse Candidates
our in 10 Americans believe that religious leaders should be permitted to endorse political candidates from the pulpit without risking their organization's tax-exempt status, a new survey by the First Amendment Center shows.
Twenty-two percent of respondents "strongly" agreed and 18 percent "mildly" agreed that religious leaders should be able to make such endorsements, which are currently prohibited by IRS regulations.
In comparison, 39 percent strongly disagreed 15 percent mildly disagreed and 6 percent didn't know or refused to answer.
The finding was based on a new question in the Washington-based center's annual "State of the First Amendment" national survey.
When asked to name specific rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, just 15 percent mentioned religion, the lowest percentage to recall that topic since 2000.
Asked if Americans have too much or too little religious freedom, 6 percent said they had too much, 28 percent said they had too little and 62 percent said they had about the right amount.
Fifty-five percent strongly or mildly agreed that people should be permitted to say things in public that could be offensive to religious groups. Forty-two percent mildly or strongly disagreed.
Asked about freedom of worship, 54 percent said the concept applies to all religious groups regardless of how extreme their beliefs may be. In comparison, 29 percent said it was never meant to apply to religious groups that the majority of people consider to be extreme.
The national telephone survey of 1,005 respondents was conducted this summer and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Orthodox Church Seeks New Leader After Financial Scandal
Reeling from an internal investigation that revealed financial misconduct at its highest levels, the Orthodox Church in America has vowed to work on "building a culture within the church which fosters communication, transparency, and personal responsibility."
The church's top official, Metropolitan Herman, retired September 4, a day after a special investigative commission recommended "discipline" against him, former Metropolitan Theodosius, former chancellor Robert S. Kondratick, two former treasurers, and a former comptroller.
The 32-page report confirmed accusations that church leaders had either personally "squandered" millions of dollars or participated in covering up the diversion of the funds for personal expenses and to cover shortfalls.
Church leaders have begun implementing some of the committee's 19 recommendations, said the Rev. Andrew Jarmus, an OCA spokesman.
"Both the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council have been working very hard and with due diligence to address the issues and to come up with solutions, and certainly a plan to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again," he said.
"There will be an increased level of accountability and transparency in the work of the church and the central administration, and making sure that we have qualified individuals doing the work of the church."
Herman, 75, announced his retirement after being denied a medical leave of absence. He was elected to lead the church in 2002, succeeding Metropolitan Theodosius, who had retired after 25 years in the position.
Kondratick was defrocked last year, and the OCA is involved in a legal actions over his alleged embezzlement of church funds.
The OCA's next metropolitan will be selected during a gathering of more than 1,000 clergy and lay representatives at its All-American Council on November 11 in Pittsburgh. Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South and Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada are overseeing the OCA in the interim.
The OCA has appointed a management team in its central administrative office, which "allows for better peer supervision and a greater degree of checks and balances," Jarmus said. To ensure church finances are properly handled, the church's treasurer since November 2007, the Rev. Michael Tassos, is a certified public accountant, he added.
The 27,000-member church, which was granted independent status from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1970, is based in Syosset, New York, Church leaders commissioned the special investigative committee in 2007, composed of a bishop, two priests, two lay members, an attorney and a retired police chief.
The executive board of the California Southern Baptist Convention unanimously endorsed the state's proposed constitutional marriage amendment during its meeting September 11-12 and encouraged Southern Baptists in the state to do the same.
The amendment, known as Proposition 8, will appear on the November 4 ballot and would define marriage as between one man and one woman, thus overturning a May decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing "gay marriage." The board passed a resolution acknowledging the Bible as the "Word of God" and the "standard by which all human conduct and religious opinion should be measured." (See the full text of the resolution at the bottom of this story).
The resolution acknowledges: "The Bible also teaches that marriage was the first institution ordained by God at the beginning of creation when it was established between Adam, a male, and Eve, a female, as the pattern for all time."
The resolution calls on California Southern Baptists to pray about the issue and conduct voter registration drives through October 20, the cutoff date for voter registration. The resolution urges pastors to inform their congregations of issues related to the ballot measure and encourages them to participate in the grassroots effort.
Additionally, the resolution encourages California Southern Baptists to financially support Proposition 8. The resolution points to Internet resources such as those at www.csbc.com/protectmarriage, www.ProtectMarriage.com and www.protectmarriageca.com.
To read the rest of the story, click here.
U.S. Evangelicals Urge Focus on Global Poverty
Responding to a call from their Third World counterparts, U.S. evangelical leaders are urging church members to pay greater attention to global poverty, saying increased advocacy is necessary in light of the current U.S. financial crisis.
Last month, 21 leaders of churches in Africa, Asia, and South America wrote that the U.S. church has preached the gospel in their lands but "has not also raised its voice in protest against the injustices that powerful governments and institutions are inflicting on the global South."
In response, several evangelical leaders, organized by the group Micah Challenges USA, spoke Monday (September 22) about the need for action by U.S. churches.
"Those of us in evangelical churches are kind of late to the table on some of these issues because we've been focusing on more personal morality...and we've forgotten to address the issues of public morality," said megachurch pastor Joel Hunter of Longwood, Florida, a member of the board of the World Evangelical Alliance.
"Even though there are a great number of people who are facing financial instability, this is just the right time to find out what your priorities really are and whether or not you're going to love your neighbor as you love yourself."