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
California Supreme Court
Upholds Gay Marriage Ban
he California Supreme Court upheld a statewide ban on gay marriage on May 26, but preserved the estimated 18,000 gay marriages that were performed before voters approved the ban last November. By a 6-to-1 majority, the court said that by approving Proposition 8 last fall, California voters had spoken clearly that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples.
A number of religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, used their money and influence to push for Prop 8, which was backed by 52 percent of
Chief Justice Ronald George, author of the court's majority decision, said same-sex couples maintain the right to form civil unions, which are "officially recognized, and protected family relationship(s)" with "all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage."
Still, those civil unions will differ--in name at least—from the estimated 18,000 still legitimate marriages performed between the court's decision to legalize gay marriage last May and the passage of Proposition 8.
Gay rights leaders had argued that Proposition 8 amounted to a "revision" to California's constitution, and thus needed the approval of two-thirds of the state legislature before it went on the ballot last fall.
The California ruling comes on the heels of a string of victories for gay rights advocates, as Iowa, Vermont, and Maine have legalized gay marriage in recent months. Similar initiatives are underway in New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey. Gay marriage is currently legal in five states; 29 states have constitutional prohibitions against gay marriage or same-sex unions; 12 more have statutory bans on gay marriage.
The California ruling is a bad omen for gay rights advocates in the 29 states that have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, said Robert Tuttle, a professor at the George Washington University Law School. If other state courts take similar approaches, the only way to overturn the bans is through costly voter referenda that have not been effective to date.
"You're going to quickly run out of states where you can do anything through the legislature," as advocates in New England have successfully done in recent months, Tuttle said.
Gay rights groups acknowledged Tuesday's setback but said momentum and poll numbers are increasingly on their side. For the first time, a Washington Post/ABC News poll in April found more Americans supporting gay marriage than opposing it (49 to 47 percent). Several gay rights groups pledged to bring a new referendum to overturn the California ban on gay marriage before voters as soon as 2010.
Christianity Today to Close 4 Publications, Lay Off 31
Publishing powerhouse Christianity Today International (CTI), citing hard times in its industry, is shutting down four publications and laying off 31 workers.
According to a plan announced May 22, two magazines will fold: Today's Christian Woman and Campus Life College Guide, which targets Christian undergrads. CTI will also cease to publish Glimpses, a worship bulletin insert with stories from Christian history, and Church Office Today, a bi-monthly newsletter read by church administrators.
The moves, which reduce CTI staff numbers by 22 percent to 108 employees, mark the latest attempt to cut costs at Carol Stream, Illinois-based CTI. In January, the organization shuttered two other magazines--Marriage Partnership and Ignite Your Faith--and sold a third, Today's Christian. President and publisher Harold Smith called the latest actions "necessary."
"We find ourselves--as does our industry--in the midst of a perfect publishing storm," Smith said in a written statement. "The impact on employees who are truly gifted--and the impact on the church as a whole--is a sobering reality for me and the entire CTI team that remains."
Cuts became necessary as CTI experienced drops in both print and online advertising revenue over the past six to nine months, according to chief operating officer Carol Thompson. Those declines, she said, came on the heels of shrinking circulation figures at certain CTI publications over the past five years.
Each of the four publications scheduled for closure will cease publication later this year, according to executive administrative editor Marty White. Some layoffs took effect Friday, she said; others will take effect this summer.
CTI will continue publishing nine print magazines and newsletters, including its flagship Christianity Today and Leadership Journal. The organization traces its roots to evangelist Billy Graham, who founded Christianity Today in 1956.
Reformed Churches to Merge, Celebrate Calvin's 500th Birthday
Celebrations around the 500th birthday of 16th century Protestant Reformer John Calvin include plans to merge two global Reformed church organizations into one worldwide communion.
"This move towards unity is a fitting tribute to Calvin by his modern day heirs," said Peter Borgdorff, president of the U.S.-based Reformed Ecumenical Council in a statement.
The weeklong meeting of the executive committees of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the REC marks the first time the two groups have met in the city where Calvin promoted the Protestant Reformation. "How appropriate that these meetings should coincide with celebrations of the 500th anniversary in 2009 of John Calvin," noted WARC's president, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the former stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA). "It is proof of his enduring legacy for the worldwide Church."
A group of 40 leaders from 37 churches are gathering at Geneva's John Knox Centre from May 21-31 to lay the foundations of an organization which will unite 75 million Reformed church members around the world.
Discussions focused on plans for the merger of the two organizations to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The merger is scheduled to take place at Grand Rapids, Michigan, in June 2010.
"We will be looking at ensuring the financial base of the new organization in light of the current financial climate," said Borgdorff. "This means shaping the structure so that we can meet the challenges of today while planning for the future."
Kirkpatrick said, "The objective is sustainability." The joint executive committee will receive proposals for the staff structure for the WCRC, the location of the organization's offices, and the budget. Discussions will include decisions about the future directions of WARC programs on economic and environmental justice along with theology and ecumenical involvement.
The proposal to merge came in February 2006. The organizations' executive committees approved the proposal at meetings in 2007.