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
Pittsburgh Diocese Votes to
Leave Episcopal Church
he Diocese of Pittsburgh voted on October 4 to split from the Episcopal Church, becoming the second diocese to leave the national church over differences on homosexuality and the Bible.
A wide majority of clergy and lay people favored aligning the diocese with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone--240 voted for succession, 102 against.
"We deeply value our shared heritage and years of friendship with those still within that denomination," said the Rev. Peter Frank, a spokesman for the diocese. "But this diocese could not in good conscience continue down the road away from mainstream Christianity."
Last December, the Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., became the first diocese to secede and join the more conservative Southern Cone. Two more dioceses--Quincy, Illinois, and Fort Worth, Texas--are scheduled to hold similar secession votes next month.
Conservatives form a majority in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, but a minority in its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, which has 2.2 million members and 110 dioceses.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said there is room in the church for dissent, and schism has "frequently been seen as a more egregious error than charges of heresy."
"I believe that the vast majority of Episcopalians and Anglicans will be intensely grieved by the actions of individuals who thought it necessary to remove them(selves) from the Episcopal Church," Jefferts Schori said.
Conservatives have long lamented what they see as the denomination's drift away from traditional Christianity, especially on matters of sexuality and biblical interpretation. Episcopal leaders say those charges are overblown.
At least 17 of the 74 congregations in the Pittsburgh diocese want to remain part of the Episcopal Church, according to the denomination.
Jefferts Schori said the national church will help to rebuild the diocese in Pittsburgh, as it has in San Joaquin. A lengthy battle over church property and assets is expected.
Next month, Pittsburgh conservatives are expected to return Bishop Robert Duncan to office. He was defrocked by the Episcopal Church last month for advocating secession.
Atheists File Suit Over National Day of Prayer
A Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics has filed suit against President Bush over the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which urges a strict separation of church and state, also names White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, and National Day of Prayer Task Force Chairwoman Shirley Dobson in the lawsuit filed October 3.
"The point is to stop the National Day of Prayer," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, in an interview Monday.
The law, created in 1952 by Congress and signed by President Harry Truman, establishes an annual prayer day. In 1988, President Reagan amended the law, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of May.
"Designations of an official Day of Prayer by presidential and gubernatorial proclamations ... create a hostile environment for nonbelievers," the complaint says.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation maintains the law violates the First Amendment's prohibition against an official establishment of religion. "We hope to buttress the wall of separation of church and state," Gaylor said.
Last year, the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit by the same group that criticized Bush's faith-based initiative. The recent suit charges that the National Day of Prayer Task Force has ties to James Dobson's Focus on the Family, a nonprofit evangelical organization. Shirley Dobson is James Dobson's wife. The task force also rents office space in the Focus on the Family headquarters.
"Presidents throughout our history have called for a national day of prayer," said the task force's vice chairman, Brian Toon. "This is an act of Congress. They can sue if they want to, but they're going to go against some pretty heavy people in our nation."
The foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is also suing Doyle as one of 50 governors to issue a proclamation for the prayer day. Blair Jones, a White House spokesman, said U.S. presidents since George Washington have invoked God's "continuing protection and favor ... without offense to the Constitution."
Parents Plead Not Guilty in Faith-healing Death
The parents of an Oregon City boy who died during attempts to heal him with prayer pleaded not guilty on October 3 to criminally negligent homicide.
Jeffrey Dean Beagley, 50, and Marci Rae Beagley, 46, quietly entered their pleas in Clackamas County Circuit Court. They made no statements and were released on bond. A grand jury indictment accused them of "failing to provide adequate medical care to a child, in violation of the duty of a parent."
Several of the Beagleys' relatives attended the arraignment, including their daughter, Raylene Worthington, and her husband, Carl, whose 15-month-old daughter died under similar circumstances in March. The Worthingtons are awaiting trial on charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.
Family members declined comment as did Wayne Mackeson, who represents Jeffrey Beagley. Marci Beagley appeared without an attorney.
The Beagleys belong to the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, a nondenominational congregation that favors spiritual healing and prayer over medical treatment.
The Beagleys' 16-year-old son, Neil, died in June from complications of a urinary-tract blockage. An autopsy found that the boy became unable to urinate. His kidneys stopped extracting urea from his bloodstream and triggered heart failure.
The autopsy also showed that he had suffered repeated episodes of blockage and pain with no apparent medical intervention. A simple procedure such as catheterization -- inserting a tube into his bladder -- could have saved his life, according to a deputy state medical examiner.
At the time of Neil Beagley's death, the boy was surrounded by dozens of church and family members who were praying for his recovery. Some of those present told police that the teenager chose faith healing over medical care.
If convicted, the Beagleys face a maximum of 10 years in prison. State sentencing guidelines, however, are likely to result in a sentence of 18 months or less in prison or probation.
A proposed constitutional marriage amendment in California has taken a lead in a new statewide poll, days after supporters of the proposal began airing their first statewide television ad.
The amendment, known as Proposal 8, leads 47-42 percent in the SurveyUSA poll, which was conducted Oct. 4-5 among 670 likely voters for four California TV stations. Although the new poll puts the amendment below 50 percent -- not a good position for an initiative -- it nonetheless is the first public poll in more than four months to show Proposition 8 ahead, and could reflect the impact of the new advertisement. Supporters also note that marriage amendments typically outperform polls on Election Day. In late September, a SurveyUSA poll had the amendment trailing, 49-44 percent.
If passed, the amendment would reverse the May decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing "gay marriage."
The new 30-second ad opens by showing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom speaking after the ruling and saying about "gay marriage," "The door's wide open now. It's gonna happen -- whether you like it or not." The scene then shifts to a courtroom showing the justices of the California Supreme Court. A female narrator says, "Four judges ignored 4 million voters and imposed same-sex marriage on California. It's no longer about tolerance. Acceptance of gay marriage is now mandatory." The narrator is referencing Proposition 22, a state statute defining marriage in the traditional sense that garnered 4.6 million votes (61 percent of the vote) in 2000. The court, though, declared the law unconstitutional.
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