June 15, 2006

World News

Study: [SBC] Ministers’ Salaries
Outpace Inflation

                                                                                                     © 2006 Baptist Press  
capAverage compensation for fulltime Southern Baptist pastors increased more than $3,400 since 2004, according to a biennial ministers’ compensation study.
The data also showed that ministers’ compensation increases over the past decade have significantly outpaced inflation. The study was coordinated by Don Spencer, director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s church financial benefits department, in cooperation with financial benefits directors in state Baptist conventions throughout the nation and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The study included responses from 17,350 pastors and church staff members from more than 7,000 Southern Baptist churches in all 50 states. It is designed to provide detailed information for local church leaders responsible for recommending ministers’ compensation packages.
Bob Henry, who heads GuideStone’s financial solutions and services for churches, said GuideStone officials “are excited about partnering with all of the state conventions to provide this kind of information. We think it will be especially helpful to churches that are in the process of calling a pastor or staff member or even in budget preparation time.”
Spencer, who began conducting a similar study on the state convention level in 1986, worked with peers in other state conventions to expand it to a multi-state study 10 years later. The project has grown from 12 participating state conventions in 1996 to a national effort two years ago. Church leaders “are constantly wanting to know what similar churches are paying” their staff members, Spencer noted. The compensation study “gives them that information in an objective way. How they use it is up to them.”
The average salary and housing allowance for fulltime Southern Baptist pastors is $49,952, an increase of 7.4 percent over 2004. The average pay package, which includes insurance and retirement benefits, is $59,995, a gain of 6.7 percent over the previous study. Average salary and housing for fulltime pastors ranges from $33,956 in the Dakotas to $78,558 in the District of Columbia. Fulltime pastors in the Baptist General Convention of Texas rank second at $64,441.
The study also includes compensation information about bivocational pastors as well as fulltime and bivocational ministerial staff members, office personnel and custodians.
To read the complete story, click here. 

Cardinal Warns Church of England Against Women Bishops

                                                                                         © 2006 Religion News Service

One of Pope Benedict XVI's top envoys has told Church of England bishops that if they go ahead with the ordination of women as bishops, any hopes of Roman Catholic-Anglican unity would become "unreachable."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Council for Christian Unity, and the Vatican's ecumenical point man, said such a move "would lead not only to a short-lived cold, but to a serious and long-lasting chill" in relations between the two churches.
Kasper, one of Benedict's oldest friends and most trusted allies, journeyed to Britain to deliver his warning at a closed-door meeting of the Church of England bishops at Market Bosworth, England, on June 5.
A significant dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans has been ongoing for the past 40 years, the cardinal said, and "we had invested great hopes and expectations" with what had become "a pleasing rapprochement that justifiably aroused promising expectations."

But he said those hopes may now about to be dashed, because "the growing practice of the ordination of women to priesthood (has) led to an appreciable cooling-off."
Ecumenical dialogue "in the true sense of the word" has as its goal "the restoration of full church communion," Kasper said, but "that presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to Episcopal office."
"Above all--and this is the most painful aspect -- the shared partaking of the one Lord's table ... would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance," he said. "Instead of moving toward one another, we would co-exist alongside one another."
In reply, the Anglicans' liberal archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said "nothing is served by avoiding these hard questions" and that "it is important to have this kind of honesty and clarity" about such matters.
Along with homosexual clerics, ordination of women bishops is among the most controversial issues facing the archbishop and other Anglican leaders--and both may remain unresolved for some time, although they are headed for major debate at the Anglican General Synod in July.

Federal Judge Upholds `In God We Trust'

                                                                                                 © 2006 Religion News Service

A federal judge in
California ruled against an atheist on June 12 who argued that minting the phrase "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency violated constitutional prohibitions against the government promoting religious ideas.
Following precedent established by a 1970 court decision, U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ruled that the words "In God We Trust" are a national motto that "have nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion."
Michael Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and lawyer who argued that the phrase violates his right to be treated equally, vowed on Tuesday to appeal the ruling. "It's such a fraud," Newdow said in an interview. "In this nation that's supposed to be this beacon of religious liberty, a bastion of equality. What's next `In Jesus We Trust,' `In Protestantism We Trust'?"
Two years ago, Newdow, an avowed atheist, battled all the way to the Supreme Court to have the phrase "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. The high court ruled the Sacremento man lacked the standing to bring the case.
 With new plaintiffs, Newdow brought an identical lawsuit back to the courts, where it now sits before the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. Newdow said he plans to appeal the coin decision, as well, to the same appeals court. Newdow estimated that he has spent between $7,000 and $8,000 on his court cases.
Newdow's "In God We Trust" case claimed that the government was "excluding people who don't believe in God," and violating the constitutional principle of a separation between church and state.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, said Newdow's lawsuit is an "attempt to alter history by removing a legitimate expression of our religious history."
Federal lawmakers authorized a reference to God on a 2-cent piece in 1864, according to the Associated Press. Congress passed a law that required all U.S. currency to bear the words "In God We Trust" in 1955.

Poll Suggests Gender Inequality Not a Concern of Muslim Women

BY PIET LEVY                                                                                                       © 2006 Religion News Service

Muslim women should be allowed to vote, drive and work outside the home, but gender inequality is not a primary problem, a majority of Muslim women said in a new Gallup poll.
The 2005 poll, released June 6, questioned 8,000 women about their perceptions of life in Muslim and Western countries. Women were polled in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
A majority said that women should be allowed to vote, ranging from 68 percent in Pakistan to 95 percent in Egypt. A majority also said that women should be allowed to work at any job they're qualified for, serve in high levels of government and drive cars by themselves. Most of these countries allow women to conduct these activities legally, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
A vast majority of Muslim women surveyed most admired their society's adherence to Islamic values, suggesting that Sharia (Islamic law) should serve as a source of political legislation. Those sampled said that lack of unity, extremism and political corruption were the main problems with their societies. Inequality between the sexes, criticized by many in the West, barely registered with Muslim women. No more than 2 percent of women in Egypt and Morocco said it was an issue. In the more westernized countries of Lebanon and Turkey, 11 percent said gender inequality was a problem.
While most prefer their Islamic ways, the study said many Muslim women associate gender equality with Western Europe and the United States. But they disapprove of the way women are treated and greatly resent the "promiscuity, pornography and public indecency" in western countries.
"So while the veil is often perceived by many in the West as a symbol of women's inferior cultural status in the Muslim world," the report reads, "in Muslim societies, the perceived lack of modesty portrayed in Western media is thought to signal women's degraded cultural status."