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Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 20, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 20, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Warren Denies Making Statements to Syria News
  • Pope, Curial Officials Reaffirm Value of Priestly Celibacy
  • UMC Joins Launch of Global Malaria Campaign
  • Church Suffering Cultural Drift?

Warren Denies Making Statements to Syria News

According to Spero News, the state-run Syrian news agency reported that Pastor Rick Warren disagrees with US policy in Iraq, and believes the American administration is mistaken not to hold dialogue with Syria. Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, visited Syria this week. The report also claimed Warren believes Middle East peace doesn't happen without Syria, and that 80 percent of the American people rejected what the U.S. is doing in Iraq. SANA also said Warren praised the leadership of Syrian President al-Assad. The Christian radio network VCY America responded by commenting that Warren "has no business involving himself in any role that appears to be representative of the United States," and called Warren a "mindless shill for a nation that embraces terror as a legitimate way of solving problems." In a letter to his church members, Warren denied making the alleged statements and criticized those who believe the Syrian media. He wrote, "Of course, [the press release is] ridiculous, but it created a stir." Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily reacted to Warren's visit: "If I were a betting man, I would wager that Warren will come home and allege he was widely misquoted. He probably was. I hope he was. But here's the problem: When you place yourself in the position of being used – and you are used – whose fault is it?"

Pope, Curial Officials Reaffirm Value of Priestly Celibacy

Catholic News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials, meeting to review the status of married priests, reaffirmed the value of priestly celibacy and said its importance should be highlighted among priests and seminarians. The participants also examined the possibility of the return to active ministry of some priests who may have left the priesthood to marry but who now meet certain conditions. The pope presided over the three-hour meeting of more than 20 heads of Vatican congregations and councils Nov. 16. "The value of the choice of priestly celibacy according to the Catholic tradition was reaffirmed, and the need for solid human and Christian formation was underlined, both for seminarians and for those already ordained," a brief Vatican statement said. The pope is expected to publish a document on the synod in the near future. Priests who request and obtain Vatican dispensation from priestly celibacy in order to marry are returned to the lay state. They are not allowed to administer the sacraments, except for granting absolution when there is danger of death.

UMC Joins Launch of Global Malaria Campaign

According to United Methodist News Service, the people of the UMC are participating in the official kickoff of a malaria-prevention campaign. 'Nothing but Nets' plays off the image of balls flying into nets to encourage donations for malaria nets for African families. Bishop Thomas Bickerton said one of the campaign's most appealing aspects is that fact that "anyone, anywhere" can forge this lifesaving link with children in Africa. "It all fits in to the whole issue of eradicating poverty," added Bickerton, president of United Methodist Communications. "A million people are dying of malaria every year; 75 percent of them children." From a $10 contribution, $7 purchases and distributes the insecticide-treated nets, while $3 pays for community workers to educate families on how to use them. Partners in Nothing But Nets include The people of The United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, Sports Illustrated, and the National Basketball Association's foundation NBA Cares, Millennium Promise, and the Measles Initiative.

Church Suffering Cultural Drift?

Does the church need to determine what it is before figuring out what it does? Christianity Today's Mark Galli cites two quotes from evangelical leaders that touch on the challenge of Christianity meeting the culture. Greg Laurie said, "The church has made such tremendous strides that now my only concern is that we're so cutting edge, we're so cool, and we're so hip. But are we still preaching the authentic gospel message?" Franklin Graham commented: "The most important challenge that will face evangelical relief in the next 50 years is to make sure we don't dilute our faith as we respond to hurting people around the world." Galli writes, "While evangelicals have been adept at adapting to culture, we have not always been able to retain a critical distance from it — being in the world, but not of it. The reasons are many." As examples, historian David Bebbington notes how the Wesleys' "optimism of grace" fit the Enlightenment, while the Keswick movement's "victorious life" philosophy owed much to 19th-century romanticism. Theologian David Wells notes how different segments of the church are echoed in secular institutions: preaching (teaching), evangelism (sales), ritual (law/courts), counseling (casework), church administration (business). As a result, evangelicals have lost "their capacity to think theologically," Wells says. Galli adds that, "because we pay little attention to church history, we fail to gain critical distance from our own time and culture."