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
Obama Names Hispanic
Theologian as Vatican Envoy
resident Obama has nominated Hispanic theologian Miguel H. Diaz as the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Diaz, a professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Minnesota, was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See on May 27.
If the nomination is approved by the Senate, Diaz’s nomination, 45, would be the ninth ambassador and the first Hispanic in the post since Washington and the Vatican established full diplomatic relations in 1984.
Diaz was Obama's second high-profile Hispanic Catholic nominee in as many days, following the president's choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court. Observers said Diaz is a subtle, if perhaps unintentional, acknowledgment of the growing ranks of Hispanics in the U.S. church. The Cuban native is a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and a past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States.
The Rev. James Martin, associate editor of Jesuit magazine America, hailed Diaz as a ``superb choice,'' and fellow Jesuit Thomas Reese of Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center said Diaz's ``familiarity with Catholic social teaching will allow him to be sensitive to the areas where there will be agreement and friction.''
Massimo Franco, a Rome-based expert on U.S.-Vatican relations and author of the book Parallel Empires, called Diaz a ``shrewd choice'' by the administration, which has weathered rocky relations in recent weeks with conservative Catholics and a number of U.S. bishops.
The most recent U.S. envoy to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, turned down a prestigious honor from the University of Notre Dame after the school invited Obama, who supports abortion rights, to address its graduating class and received an honorary degree. ``The Vatican doesn't want to pretend to agree with the White House where agreement doesn't exist,'' Franco said. ``They want an interlocutor with the administration and a representative of Obama, and I think he (Diaz) will be a representative of Obama.''
The Catholic League's Bill Donohue, meanwhile, criticized the administration for not finding a nominee who was ``unequivocally'' opposed to abortion. Diaz was one of 26 Catholics to sign a petition supporting Obama's choice of Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who supports abortion rights, to become secretary of the Department of Health and
Obama also nominated another theologian, the Rev. Michael A. Battle Sr. of Atlanta, to serve in an ambassadorial role as U.S. representative to the African Union. Battle, 58, is president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of African-American seminaries. Prior to that role, Battle was vice president of the American Committee on Africa and a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain. In April 2008, the seminary issued a statement urging black churches to take proactive steps to address the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
South African Church Still Not `Moving Beyond Apartheid'
A South African church that was suspended from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 1982 because of its support for apartheid is ``still not ready for readmission,''leaders of the Geneva-based Reformed group were told.
The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (Dutch Reformed Church of Africa), or NHKA, had been excluded from the global Reformed alliance because of the theological and biblical backing the church gave to the system of white minority rule that ended in the early 1990s.
The church has applied to rejoin WARC, but the alliance's executive committee said in 2005 that the NHKA first needed to demonstrate to the churches in South Africa and the world that it has renounced apartheid ``fully and completely.”
The Rev. Setri Nyomi, WARC's general secretary, told the group's executive committee on May 23 that a WARC team had visited South Africa in March to meet the denomination. ``Our discussions showed a deep division in the church about moving beyond apartheid,'' said Nyomi, a Presbyterian from Ghana, in his report. ``It was our determination that they were not ready for readmission.''
In separate comments to the Geneva meeting, Nyomi noted that ``there were a few voices that ... were committed to challenge the leadership of their church.''
Five of the NHKA's leading theologians, writing in an article in South Africa's Afrikaans-language press early in March, voiced their ``shame and hurt'' that the NHKA has not yet officially declared apartheid ``unevangelical” and ``evil.” The NHKA's 2007 general synod had scheduled debate on a motion calling for such a declaration, but emotions ran so high before the meeting even began that the matter was taken off the agenda.
The theologians called for other members of the NHKA to add their names to their dissident declaration, in which it is also acknowledged that apartheid was dehumanizing and caused great suffering which had to be redressed.
The larger Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa, which was formed as a merger between black and white Dutch reformed churches, has rejected the racist ideology of apartheid and was earlier readmitted to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
U.S. Home-School Numbers Up
The number of home-schooled students has nearly doubled in the last eight years, with parents' desire to provide religious and moral instruction the most oft-cited cause, according to a recent report by the (U.S.) Department of Education.
An estimated 1.5 million students--nearly 3 percent of the country's school-age population--were home-schooled in the spring of 2007; that's up from 850,000 home-schoolers reported in 1999 and the 1.1 million home-schoolers reported in 2003, according to the report.
More than 8 in 10 parents said they home-school their children to provide religious or moral instruction, up from 72 percent in 2003. A plurality of parents--36 percent--said that was the most important reason they home-school their children, followed by concern about the school environment (21 percent) and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools (17 percent).
Germans `Tweet' Their Way Through the Bible
The entire Bible can now be read in German using Twitter, following a record-breaking attempt to ``tweet'' the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. More than 3,000 Internet users took part in the 10-day initiative, condensing the Bible into 3,906 messages with a maximum of 140 characters each, Ecumenical News International reported.
``We were able to reach more people with this action than we had hoped,'' said Melanie Huber, manager of the Protestant Web site evangelisch.de, which launched the initiative on May 20, the opening day of the biennial German Protestant Convention known as the Kirchentag.
Theologians divided the Bible into more than 3,000 sections to be summarized as individual messages known as ``tweets.'' Volunteers distributed flyers to tens of thousands of Kirchentag visitors listing the Bible verses to be tweeted. The church's Web site provided an ongoing progress report, listing the sections that still needed to be condensed into Twitter format.
The final tweet was received at 11 a.m. on May 30, more than 24 hours before the deadline to have the whole of the Bible online.