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
Church of England Loses $78
Million in N.Y. Real Estate Deal
he Church of England will lose about $78 million in a New York real estate investment gone sour, according to Episcopal News Service.
The Anglican church's investment was part of a record-setting $5.4 billion deal put together in 2006 by two New York-based firms to buy two massive apartment complexes in Manhattan.
After defaulting on loan payments, the firms will cede the downtown properties--Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village--to its lenders.
The Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, the world's third-largest Christian denomination, invested about $78 million (40 million pounds) in 2007, before real estate values in New York and elsewhere began to plummet.
Ben Wilson, a senior media officer for the Church of England told ENS that the New York investment represents less than 1 percent of the church's assets, which are valued at some $6.4 billion.
Judge Grants Political Asylum to German Home-schoolers
A U.S. immigration judge has granted political asylum to a Christian family from Germany that wants to home-school its children.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, which defended the family, announced the January 26 decision by Judge Lawrence Burman in Memphis, Tennessee.
"This decision finally recognizes that German home-schoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy," said Mike Donnelly, an attorney and director of international relations for the Purcellville, Virginia-based association.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children left Bissingen, Germany, in August 2008 to live in Morristown, Tennessee.
Lutz Gorgens, German consul general for the Southeast U.S., told the Associated Press that Germany's mandatory policy on school attendance seeks to give all children a high standard of education.
"Parents may choose between public, private and religious schools, including those with alternative curricula like Waldorf or Montessori schools," said Gorgens.
Pope Tells Church Judges to Limit Annulments
Pope Benedict XVI on January 29 urged church judges to limit the number of marriage annulments they grant by encouraging couples to stay together if possible.
Benedict made his remarks to members of the Roman Rota, the church panel with the highest authority in marriage cases, at a ceremony marking the start of the judicial year.
The pope told the judges that if they "glimpse hope" of a positive reconciliation, they should "induce the spouses to affirm if possible their marriage and reestablish their conjugal cohabitation."
"One must shun pseudo-pastoral claims that place the matter on a merely horizontal plane, where all that matters is satisfying subjective requests to obtain (an annulment) at all costs," Benedict said. "In the church, the aim of judicial activity is the salvation of souls."
Under canon law, a marriage can be declared null and void for a variety of reasons, including impotence, a previous marriage, or a lack of psychological maturity at the time of the union. A Catholic who divorces and remarries must obtain an annulment of the first marriage in order to continue receiving Communion.
Most decisions on annulments are made at the diocesan level, and degrees of strictness vary.
In 2002, according to a study by the Italian Catholic magazine "30 Giorni," church courts in Europe granted annulments in 85 percent of cases, compared with 97 percent in the United States. The U.S. generated 57 percent of the requests for annulments that year, despite having only 6 percent of the world's Catholic population.
Graham Tops List of Most Influential Preachers
The Rev. Billy Graham was named by U.S. pastors as the country's most influential living preacher, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.
The study, conducted last November, interviewed more than 1,000 Protestant pastors by telephone. The participants were asked to "name the top three living Christian preachers that most influence you."
Graham was cited as most influential by 21 percent of clergy, followed by pastor and author Charles Swindoll, at 8 percent. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, and Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., followed closely behind Swindoll with 7 percent of the vote each.
Graham, 91, has preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries, written 27 books, advised several U.S. presidents and influenced religious and secular audiences alike.
The lack of diversity--the top picks were nearly all white male Southern pastors -- however, surprised Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Considering our sample includes liberal and conservative, all races and ethnicities, mainline and evangelical, we were surprised that the list looked like mainstream Christian radio and publishing and was not more representative," Stetzer said.
Rounding out the top 10 were: John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.; Barbara Brown Taylor, religion professor at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia; David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego County, Calif.; Max Lucado, minister of writing and preaching at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio; John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis; Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, and Browns Bridge Community Church, all in the Atlanta area.
The survey also asked the interviewees to name the top three most influential Christian "leaders." Two additional names, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, were added to the list of preachers; Graham remained at the top of that list as well.