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
Vatican Calls for `Ecumenical Catechism’
senior Vatican official called on February 8 for "an ecumenical catechism" setting forth the common beliefs of the Catholic and major Protestant churches.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, announced the proposal at a Vatican symposium with representatives of the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches.
Citing the need for an "ecumenism of basics that identifies, reinforces and deepens the common foundation" of Christianity, Kasper said that the proposed catechism would be written "in consultation with our partners," according to a report by Catholic News Service.
Kasper noted that "we do not yet have any idea how such a catechism could be structured and written."
The cardinal himself is unlikely to preside over such a project, since he turns 77 next month, placing him two years past the normal retirement age for the heads of Vatican offices.
As head of the council since 2001, the noted German theologian has led the Catholic church's ecumenical dialogue with other Christian churches as well as with Jews.
In his address, Kasper warned that ecumenism "is perhaps in danger of becoming a matter for specialists and thus of moving away from the grass roots," and appealed for "a people-centered ecumenism" to revitalize dialogue with other faith communities.
Pastors File Challenge to Hate-crimes Law
Three Michigan pastors and a conservative Christian law firm have filed a legal challenge to the federal hate crime law that was expanded last year to include sexual orientation.
The civil rights suit was filed February 2 in U.S. District Court in Bay City, Michigan, by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Gary Glenn, head of the American Family Association of Michigan, and three pastors: Rene B. Ouellette of First Baptist Church in Bridgeport Township; Jim Combs of Faith Baptist Church in Waterford Township; and Levon R. Yuille of The Bible Church in Ypsilanti.
The suit names U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as the defendant and targets a law that makes it a federal offense to assault someone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
Glenn and the pastors claim the law makes it a crime for them to preach against homosexuality and therefore infringes on their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association and free exercise of religion.
The suit also alleges the law creates an Orwellian society, setting up a special class of citizens who receive special protections. The plaintiffs list biblical prohibitions on homosexuality in their statement of facts.
"According to the Bible, homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity that are intrinsically disordered ... (and) Homosexuality is an illicit lust forbidden by God," the complaint reads.
As opponents of "homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle and the homosexual agenda," the ministers and their churches could be subjected to unfair and increased scrutiny and federal investigations under the new law, the men said.
No Consensus For Obama Advisers on Tricky Church-state Issues
The 25-member council advising the White House on faith-based issues has voted on two contentious issues for religious charities that receive government funds.
By a vote of 13-12, the council members said the government should require houses of worship to form separate corporations in order to receive direct federal funding for social services.
Separately, when asked whether the government should permit charities to offer social services in rooms containing religious art, symbols, messages or scripture, 16 said yes, two said no, and seven said they should be permitted if no other space is available.
Melissa Rogers, chair of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said the votes will be included in a forthcoming report for President Obama.
"There are also a few issues that we address in the report that were ... nonconsensus issues," said Rogers. "That's what those votes represent."
Rogers said the votes and the report reflect recommendations the council will be making to Obama. "The council advises," she said. "The administration decides."
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has questioned the appropriateness of including members who work for charities that receive government funds to vote on the council.
"Wouldn't this be a conflict of interest by any ethical standard?" he wrote in an online column.