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
Conservative Anglican Primates
Back New Province
ive Anglican archbishops have backed the introduction of a new Anglican province in North America, a significant, though unsurprising boost for the conservative-led initiative.
"We fully support this development with our prayer and blessing," said the archbishops, who are called primates because they lead regional branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. "It demonstrates the determination of these faithful Christians to remain authentic Anglicans."
On December 3, a group of conservative dissidents announced that they were starting a branch of the Anglican Communion called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The group claims 100,000 members, including most of four dioceses that have split with the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the communion, in the last year.
The new province faces several obstacles before it is officially admitted to the Anglican Communion, however, including the approval of two-thirds of the communion's 38 primates.
Released on December 6, the primates' statement was signed by: Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (South America), and Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. All of the archbishops are members of the Global Anglican Future Conference, a conservative group that disparages the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada as preaching the "false gospel" of gay rights.
Last July, GAFCON, as the group is known, met in Jerusalem and encouraged North American conservatives to create the new province. In recent years, both the U.S. and Canadian churches have separately moved leftward on sexual orientation issues, including the election of a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 and the approval of same-sex blessings in some dioceses.
The conservatives' statement was released after the five primates met on Friday with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans. Williams has not commented publicly on ACNA. A spokesman has said it will "take years" for ACNA to gain approval as a province.
The GAFCON primates said: "A new province will draw together in unity many of those who wish to remain faithful to the teaching of God's word, and also create the highest level of fellowship possible with the wider Anglican Communion."
Salvation Army Says no Flexibility on Officer Marriage Policy
The top spokesman for the Salvation Army on December 5 signaled that there is no flexibility in a marriage policy that threatens to end the career of a Salvation Army officer who plans to marry a non-officer next June.
Capt. Johnny Harsh of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was suspended after he told superiors that he plans to marry a woman who is not a Salvation Army officer. His former wife, Capt. Yalanda "Yoley" Harsh, died last June.
Maj. George Hood, the national community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army, said the marriage policy is "almost as old as the organization itself" and serves the officers' long-term interests. "Married couples, each with the same calling and working together for the same purpose, are more effective in service and better able to support each other," Hood said in a statement to Religion News Service.
"Each officer `cadet' is made aware of this policy before attending one of The Salvation Army's two-year office training schools."
Harsh told The Northwestern newspaper in Oshkosh that he was aware of the policy, but doesn't agree with it. He also knew what the consequences were for disobeying it. "For the Salvation Army to let me go because I will marry outside of the (Salvation) Army, I think is wrong," Harsh told the newspaper. "I pray that people will write letters and call the Salvation Army to change this ruling. It wouldn't be for my benefit, but for future officers."
Hood declined to comment on Harsh's specific case because it is considered a private "personnel" matter. Harsh said his fiancée "saved my life" after the sudden death of his wife. Salvation Army officials also told Harsh the woman could not stay in the guest room of his house, which he also disagreed with.
"I told them ... as long as I live in that house, I can have anyone there that I want," Harsh told The Northwestern. "In my 14 years with the Salvation Army, my wife, Yoley, and I had prostitutes, drug users, homeless people and abused women and their children stay in that house. However, I signed a covenant to obey my Salvation Army leaders and I have failed to obey my leaders."
Harsh said he would be "very very surprised" if he is not dismissed, and if he is, plans to move to Waukesha, Wisconsin, and start a non-denominational church.
ACLU Sues Over Inmate's Right to Preach
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit on behalf of a New Jersey prison inmate who was ordained behind bars eight years ago and now contends his religious freedoms were violated when prison officials forbade him from preaching.
Howard N. Thompson Jr., convicted of murder in 1985 and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison, was ordained as a Pentecostal minister in 2000 and preached regularly for other prisoners for years before corrections officials prohibited preaching by inmates in June 2007.
Edward Barocus, legal director of the ACLU in New Jersey, said the ban is unnecessary and that preaching is an essential part of Thompson's Pentecostal Christian faith.
"A number of religions have active preaching as a requirement," Barocus said. "It's not for the state to determine what is or what is not part of the religion. ... The right to religious freedom and freedom of speech does not extinguish at the cell block gate."
The suit names two defendants: Michelle Ricci, administrator of New Jersey State Prison, a maximum-security facility in Trenton, and George Hayman, commissioner of the state Department of Corrections. A spokeswoman for the DOC said Wednesday (Dec. 3) the agency would have no comment.
The suit contends the ban has no practical purpose for prison management and violates Thompson's religious rights under both the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. It also contends Thompson's past preaching has never caused problems for prison officials.
The suit says Thompson, 44, first preached at a religious service in the prison about a decade ago, when he relieved a prison chaplain who was ill. Later, he would periodically preach at Sunday services, teach Bible study classes, and lead the prison choir.
After his ordination in 2000 -- overseen by a prison chaplain -- he preached more regularly, the suit contends. He often worked with the chaplain at the time, the Rev. Samuel Atchison, until Atchison was replaced by the DOC in September 2006. Thompson continued to preach, usually under the supervision of chaplain volunteers, until a new prison chaplain, the Rev. Pamela Moore, took over in June 2007, the suit says.
Barocus said the ban placed on preaching by inmates that was instituted after Moore's arrival was not explained by the prison's administration. He said Thompson is willing to agree to preach only with staff supervision, and that it was unfair to ban inmate preaching when inmates are allowed other duties. "I have not heard of an outright ban like this in the other prisons in New Jersey," he said.
The complaint seeks permission for Thompson to preach, along with nominal damages and attorneys' fees.
A Christmas season partnership between the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum aimed at boosting tourism has ended days after it was launched, with the zoo pulling out after receiving a significant number of complaints.
As planned, the partnership would have allowed visitors to see both attractions for $25.95 (one adult admission), a savings of $9 compared to the normal combined price. It had been in the works for months and was designed as a way to promote the zoo's Festival of Lights and the museum's Bethlehem's Blessings, which features a free live outdoor nativity.
The zoo, though, withdrew from the partnership December 1 before any combo tickets were sold. In a unique twist, the Creation Museum -- which opened in 2007 and presents a scientific explanation for the biblical view of creation--says it will offer the full $9 discount anyway on its adult tickets through December 11 (with the exception of December 6).
Some of the complaints asserted that the zoo was partnering with an attraction that promotes pseudo-science. Others said the zoo shouldn't be partnering with a museum that promotes a religious viewpoint of creation. The museum teaches that the universe is thousands, and not millions, of years old.
"They seem like diametrically opposed institutions," James Leach, a Cincinnati radiologist, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city's treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock."
But the zoo and the museum -- which has had more than 600,000 visitors since it opened in May 2007 -- said the partnership was no different than similar ones the zoo has with the Cincinnati Reds and the Newport Aquarium. The $27 million, 60,000-square-foot museum is located in Petersburg, Ky., just across the river from Cincinnati. It is operated by Answers in Genesis.
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