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
Methodist Court Rejects Moves
to Support Gay Marriage Library
he United Methodist Church's highest court has ruled that clergy may not officiate at same-sex unions, even in states where such marriages are legal, and gave the final OK for the George W. Bush Library to be built at Southern Methodist University.
The church's nine-member Judicial Council rejected separate resolutions passed by the California-Nevada and California-Pacific Conferences that voiced support for clergy who officiate at such unions.
Last year, the 8.3 million-member church upheld rules in its Book of Discipline, or constitution, that Methodist churches cannot be used to host same-sex unions and clergy are prohibited from officiating at them. The latest court ruling rejected a California-Nevada resolution that supported retired clergy who volunteered to conduct gay weddings, and a California-Pacific resolution upholding the "pastoral need and prophetic authority" of clergy to do so.
Between May and November, 2008, California allowed same-sex couples to marry until voters banned the practice with a constitutional amendment. “An annual conference may not legally negate, ignore or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree, even when the disagreements are based on conscientious objections to the provisions," the court ruled, according to United Methodist News Service.
In a separate case, the court said it found no reason to halt construction of the planned George W. Bush Presidential Center at the church-owned school in Dallas.
Critics contend the library complex and affiliated policy center will promote policies that the United Methodist Church officially opposed, including the Iraq War. The former president and his wife, Laura, are both United Methodists.
The court said there was nothing in the lease agreement with SMU that violated church law, United Methodist News Service reported.
Evangelicals Launch Bid to Ditch Nuclear Weapons
The destruction one nuclear bomb can wreak is more than horrifying, says megachurch pastor Rob Bell of Grandville, Michichan. It's an insult to God.
"Nuclear weapons are a direct affront to God's dream of shalom for the world," Bell said on April 28. "Life is beautiful, and nuclear weapons are ugly."
Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church and an up-and-coming voice among young evangelicals, has joined other evangelicals to issue an impassioned call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The new Two Futures Project is a coalition of prominent Christians who assert that multilateral disarmament is a biblical imperative. Christians should be in the no-nukes vanguard, Bell and others said, as they face the choice of "a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them."
"We must eliminate these weapons, and we can eliminate these weapons," said Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, 31, a Baptist minister who founded the project. "Who do we think we are to claim authority over life itself and the welfare of future generations? That power belongs to God alone."
The project aims to help eliminate nuclear weapons through education and political pressure. Younger evangelicals are leading the way with support from older activists such as former Nixon lawyer Chuck Colson and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action.
"I'm part of a generation that believes things can actually change," said Bell, 38. "Ideas that sound far-fetched and naive can actually become reality."
The group has strong support from George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan. He recalled being present when Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed that nuclear weapons ought to be eliminated. "Maybe an idea that has staying power because of the `ought' is an idea whose time has come," Shultz said.
Noting the United States and Russia own more than 90 percent of nuclear weapons, Shultz said he's encouraged that President Obama recently agreed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to negotiate a reduction. In a Palm Sunday speech, Obama called for "a world without nuclear weapons."
The group is not calling for unilateral disarmament but a "multilateral process where the United States takes leadership,"
Nigeria Named to Panel's List of Religious Freedom Violators
An independent federal panel on religious freedom has added two countries to its list of "countries of particular concern"--Iraq and Nigeria--and six others to its watch list. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its 2009 report on May 1. It sends an annual set of recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress.
Commissioners had already announced in December that Iraq is now among its "countries of particular concern," which are those designated as having "systemic" or "ongoing" violations of religious freedom.
"The concerns outlined by the commission in December persist," said Nina Shea, one of the nine commissioners, at a news conference at the National Press Club. She said religious minorities in Iraq are the subject of killings, rapes, and abductions, and a significant portion of the Christian population has fled the country.
"A lot of times there is a targeting of the prelates or the religious leaders or the directors of the churches, so it's also a
terrorist tactic to show that even the most prominent Christian with the best protection is vulnerable," she said. "And that sets off an exodus."
Nigeria has been added to the list because commissioners believe the country is tolerating violations of religious freedom. Hundreds – and some estimate thousands--were killed in sectarian violence in the city of Jos in the Plateau state in November.
"The government has allowed these killings as well as other violence and destruction of churches and mosques to occur with impunity, which is ample ground for designation as a country of particular concern," said commissioner Leonard Leo.
The other nations that remain on the commission's list of countries of particular concern are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Now on its second-tier "watch list" are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia. Six new countries--Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela--were added to the list for the first time this year.
Robertson to Step Down as Head of Regent University
Pat Robertson will retire as president of Regent University, the Virginia school he founded, next year, the university announced April 28.
Robertson, 79, founded the school in Virginia Beach in 1978 and has been president since 2000. After his retirement on July 1, 2010, he will remain the university's chancellor and a member of its board of trustees. "Serving as Regent University's president has been an honor and a joy," Robertson said in a statement. "I am so delighted by the achievements of our rapidly growing school. As chancellor and a trustee, I will now focus on helping guide the university toward the next level of strategic growth and the implementation of our master plan."
The school that opened with 77 students and seven faculty now has more than 4,500 students who earn their degrees on campus or online.
Robertson has also stepped down from some responsibilities at the Christian Broadcasting Network, the religious broadcasting empire he founded in 1960. In December 2007, the CBN board elected his son, Gordon, as chief executive officer. The elder Robertson remains chairman of CBN.