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Religion Today Summaries, April 21, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 21, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Judge: Church Can Post Seminar Fliers in San Diego Schools
  • Methodists Call on Bush to `Repent' for Policies
  • Canadian Churches Take SARS-Related Precautions for Easter Week
  • South African Archbishop Says Church Cannot Avoid Same-Sex Unions

Judge: Church Can Post Seminar Fliers in San Diego Schools
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) A San Diego school district must permit a church to post fliers advertising seminars on parenting and school violence, a district court has ruled. School officials rejected requests by the Rev. James Jerpseth, pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church in San Diego, to post the ads. "At a time when the San Diego community was dealing with the trauma and tragedy of school violence, the school district rejected a legitimate request from the church to reach out and help," said Stuart J. Roth, senior counsel of the ACLJ, in a statement. "The court correctly determined that this kind of treatment was not only wrong, but unconstitutional." The fliers, which the church distributed in the wake of shootings at two area high schools, were for seminars with titles such as "How to Spot a Troubled Kid: Stopping the Violence" and "Be a Better Parent." In a modified decision issued April 8, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey T. Miller of San Diego ruled: "This policy would prohibit a religious group access to address a topic addressed by a secular group, even on a topic secular in nature and supportive of school educational goals. Such a policy cannot survive constitutional scrutiny."

Methodists Call on Bush to `Repent' for Policies
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) A group of United Methodists, including seven bishops, has called on President Bush to "repent" of his war policies they say are "incompatible" with Christian teaching. More than 120 Methodists signed the "prophetic epistle" printed in The Christian Century. Both Bush and Vice President Cheney are members of the United Methodist Church. "It is our judgment that some policies advanced by your administration give evidence of the spiritual forces of wickedness that exist in our society today," the ad said. The White House has said the president respects their views but does not agree with them. The Institute on Religion and Democracy, which supports the president and contends that these Methodist leaders do not speak for most church members, criticized the ad. "These United Methodist officials are effectively telling the president he is not a good Christian because his policies do not match their own left-wing beliefs," said Mark Tooley, director of IRD's United Methodist committee.

Canadian Churches Take SARS-Related Precautions for Easter Week
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Some liturgical churches in Canada changed the way worshippers took Communion during Easter week celebrations due to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Roman Catholic Church officials instructed priests in Toronto to place Communion wafers, which represent the body of Christ, in parishioners' hands rather than on their tongues. The traditional distribution of consecrated wine [did] not occur, The Washington Times reported. Worshippers on Good Friday were asked not to kiss the crucifix, which is traditional, but instead bow or kneel and make the sign of the cross. The hand shaking that usually occurs during the exchange of peace should be replaced with a gesture such as bowing, Catholics were told. The Easter restrictions were announced a day after public health officials revealed that more than 500 members of a charismatic Catholic group in the Toronto region had been quarantined after some members contracted the virus. In a separate but related matter, the Baptist World Alliance has announced that it has postponed a global youth conference scheduled for this July in Hong Kong until August 2004. "We had hoped that this would not be necessary," said Emmett Dunn, director of the alliance's youth department.

South African Archbishop Says Church Cannot Avoid Same-Sex Unions
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The Anglican archbishop of South Africa said his church cannot avoid the controversial subject of same-sex unions, even though U.S. Episcopal bishops advised their church against sanctioning rites for gay couples. The report is significant because most other Anglican bishops in Africa strongly oppose homosexuality, an issue that has strained relations with more liberal Western churches, including the Episcopal Church in the United States. It also stands in contrast to a March 17 recommendation by U.S. bishops that the church not move to allow gay unions "because at this time we are nowhere near consensus in the church regarding the blessing of homosexual relationships." The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, will vote this summer on whether to authorize marriage-like rites for same-sex couples. Conservatives have vowed to fight the measure. Ndungane said that while the unity of the church must be preserved, it must not be used as "a delaying tactic or as an excuse to avoid the issue." He also called on his church to move away from a "fundamentalist" and "absolutist" reading of the Bible to one that "accepts that the Bible is God's Word, but argues that it operates dynamically, in interaction with everyday life."