Religion Today Summaries - September 23, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 23, 2004

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

  • Storm Relief Keeping Salvation Army Busy
  • Coalition of Faith Leaders and Theologians Declare Religious Support for Same-Sex Marriage
  • School District Drops Discriminatory Stance Against Religion Classes
  • Christians Reach Out to Homeless, Abandoned Children With Compassion - Part II

Storm Relief Keeping Salvation Army Busy
Allie Martin, AgapePress

The Salvation Army has been stretched thin lately as its relief teams respond to a string of natural disasters in the southeastern United States. More than 2,500 volunteers and staff members with the organization have been mobilized to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of residents affected by recent tropical storms and hurricanes. Major George Hood with The Salvation Army says believers who want to help can pray for the staff and volunteer personnel of the community service agency as they put in long hours aiding victims. Also, Hood says, there is a great need for donations. He estimates The Salvation Army will spend in excess 40 million dollars helping U.S. victims of the recent disasters. He asks of concerned individuals, "Pray that resources will be made available for us to respond in the way that we believe that we need to respond."  The Salvation Army does not hold back surplus resources in anticipation of national or regional emergencies like the one being experienced in the Southeast right now, so we need people to not only pray but to also send cash contributions so that we can continue the important work that we are doing," the spokesman explains.

Coalition of Faith Leaders and Theologians Declare Religious Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Religion Institute

As Congress prepares to vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would alter the Constitution to deny same-sex couples access to civil marriage, an unprecedented, diverse and high-profile coalition of faith leaders has released a powerful Open Letter in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples. Functioning under the umbrella nonprofit organization Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, the authors publicly affirmed a broad, faith-based rationale for supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples. With more than ten denominations now permitting their clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, the Religious Institute's Open Letter represents a growing consensus of faith-based support for full inclusion of gay and lesbian couples in civil and religious marriage. The Open Letter challenges those who use their religion to justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Stating that the civil and religious values of marriage should be available to all people, the authors ask religious and civic leaders to promote good marriages based on responsibility, equity, and love, without restrictions based on the biological sex, procreative potential, or sexual orientation of the partners. The Open Letter was developed at a colloquium of theologians sponsored by the Religious Institute and funded by Freedom to Marry. Signing authors of the Open Letter represent theologians and ordained clergy from a broad range of diverse religious perspectives.

School District Drops Discriminatory Stance Against Religion Classes
Jim Brown, AgapePress

A lawsuit threat has prompted a New York school district to rethink it's decision to exclude a teacher from leading community education classes on religious topics. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) sent a demand letter to the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District, accusing it of violating the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of longtime teacher Bruce Bennett by shutting him out of a program that provided education classes of all kinds for the community. Bennett has been teaching in public schools for 15 years and has degrees in biblical studies and social science. The ADF, a group specializing in legal defense and religious freedom advocacy, took up Bennett's cause not long after one of its officials allegedly told the teacher, "I don't care if I'm violating the law, you're not coming into the program." But ADF senior counsel Gary McCaleb says he is glad the school district reversed its course after receiving the demand letter from the Christian legal group, despite the district official's original determination to exclude the religious classes from the program. The attorney says the school district has agreed it will no longer bar Bennett from teaching religious subjects in the community education program and now realizes that it cannot lawfully discriminate against him based on the religious content of his classes.

Christians Reach Out to Homeless, Abandoned Children With Compassion - Part II
Charisma News Service

Caring Christians are reaching out with Christ's compassion to a growing number of homeless, abandoned children. According to researchers, the number of orphans worldwide will reach 106 million by 2010 -- a number equal to more than one-third the population of the United States. In Bulgaria, by law, all orphanages are run by the state. As the children grow they are moved to different institutions. They are fed, clothed and given some level of education. When they turn 18, they are released from the orphanages with no place to live and no job. Many of the girls are lured out of Bulgaria and forced into prostitution. Peter and Ellie Tashev, Christians in the city of Sofia, started ministering to orphans years ago. The Tashevs are employed by Integra Ventures, a ministry based in Chicago. Integra's vision is to create new jobs and businesses in central and east Europe and Eurasia. Through this outreach, Peter has the opportunity to equip orphaned teens for the real world and to supply enthusiastic workers for clients who need to staff new businesses. "There is no requirement for these kids to go to church to take part in our programs, but they come to learn and they find something else: that we love them [and] Jesus loves them," Peter said. (