August 24, 2006

World News

Black Clergy Pledge Help for Katrina Recovery


BY VALERIE FACIANE                                                                           ©2006 Religion News Service
capAnational group of black clergy and lay leaders touring the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast in recent days said that they will demand the federal government release money for rebuilding. Standing outside the flood-damaged Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church in the Lower 9th Ward, members of the Gamaliel Foundation's African American Leadership Commission said they are on a fact-finding mission, dubbed the "Drowning on Dry Land/Connecting Covenant Visit," to learn how they can provide support to the people of the Gulf Coast, particularly the poor.
"We're here to support the faith community, allies and organizations in their ongoing Katrina/Rita restoration strategies," said the Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr., pastor of Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church of Milwaukee, Wis., and co-chairman of the commission.
"We're here visiting with clergy, public policy and public officials to pursue a unified national strategy for releasing all of the resources--real money--to rebuild the Gulf Coast and, more importantly, the people." The Gamaliel Foundation is a network of more than 60 affiliates in 21 states in America and five provinces in South Africa, according to its Web site, The foundation represents more than a million multifaith, multiracial church members who work on social justice campaigns.
One member of the tour, Deacon Gerry Hughley of Cincinnati, said he couldn't believe the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "This is blowing me away," he said. "This is a year later. I'm really blown away by that."
The Rev. Sharon Smith of East St. Louis, Ill., said the group is ready to go to Washington to demand that the federal government rebuild the Gulf Coast. Storm survivors are weary and losing faith in the government, she said, and "it is time for the church and the people of faith beyond the Gulf Coast ... to come together in faith, rebuilding the Gulf Coast. We stand with and for the survivors of Katrina and Rita."
This is what Mount Nebo's pastor, the Rev. Charles Duplessis, wanted to hear. He said he needs help to rebuild the church he has led for 19 years. "I believe these are people of integrity," Duplessis said. "They didn't have to come here. My faith says they are going to do something."

Virginia Priest Consecrated Bishop for Nigerian Group


BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                  ©2006 Religion News Service 

Crossing geographic borders and traditional lines of authority, the Church of Nigeria consecrated a conservative American priest as bishop of a U.S.-based group.

The Rev. Martyn Minns, of Fairfax, Va., will head the Convocation for Anglicans in North America under the direction of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. Minns is pastor of Truro Church, a flagship of the Episcopal Church's conservative wing.
Though the U.S. group was originally founded to minister to Nigerian expatriates, it now will welcome anyone disaffected with the Episcopal Church, according to Minns. The move by Minns and Akinola may be yet another maneuver in the battle between liberals and conservatives in the worldwide 77 million-member Anglican Communion and its American arm, the Episcopal Church. Already, a dissident conclave of conservative North American dioceses and churches has invited CANA to join their group.
The Convocation for Anglicans in North America includes about 20 churches, according to news reports, though it is not clear how many members it has. Calls to CANA's office at Truro Church were not immediately returned.
In appointing Minns, Akinola said he intends "not to challenge or intervene in the churches of (North America) but rather to provide safe harbor for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches."
Nigeria is one of nine African provinces to declare themselves in "impaired communion" with the Episcopal Church since the election of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire.
Divisions over homosexuality and the authority of Scripture are threatening to tear apart the fragile Anglican Communion and the 2.1 million-member Episcopal Church.
Minns, 63, will continue his duties as rector of Truro Church until another rector is found, according to a church news release.
But Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia has called that situation "impossible"and has said that Minns' consecration is "an affront to traditional Anglican provincial autonomy."
Lee said he met with Minns and the two will release a statement in late August to respond to the "various jurisdictional and pastoral challenges that are presented by this development."

Baptist Church Removes Woman From Teaching Sunday School


BY KAT GLASS                                                                               ©2006 Religion News Service
A Baptist church in Watertown, N.Y., has dismissed an 81-year-old female adult Sunday school teacher, citing a biblical passage that prohibits women from teaching men.
Rev. Timothy LaBouf, pastor of First Baptist Church, said in a statement that "based on the consistent teaching of Scripture," both men and women have roles within the church, but women are barred from teaching men. The church's board of deacons mailed a letter Aug. 9 announcing the decision to Mary Lambert, 81, who had taught an adult Sunday school class for 11 years. The letter quoted the New Testament book of 1 Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." LaBouf said in an interview that the decision to remove Lambert was "multifaceted" and did not solely rest on the male-female designations in the Bible.
He cited a lawsuit that Lambert had threatened in May. According to LaBouf, the lawsuit, which was later dismissed, said that each new member should be scrutinized before joining the church. The church's membership has skyrocketed from 18 to 200 members since LaBouf was hired as pastor two years ago.
But, LaBouf said, a legal counsel recommended that the deacons board stick to arguments with an ecclesiastical basis rather than other issues with Lambert, to avoid slander. Lambert, who has been a church member for 54 years, was not available for comment. LaBouf, who is also a member on the Watertown City Council, countered criticisms that the church's decision could carry over to his political role.
"I believe that God has a special role for both men and women within the church setting," he said in the interview. "I don't believe that those special roles make one more inferior than the other. ... And I believe that that ends at the church." The church has classes for children, men only, women only and both men and women. Lambert was teaching a co-ed class of about four men and women.

Companies That Produced `Clean' Movies Close Doors


BY KAT GLASS                                                                                   ©2006 Religion News Service
CleanFilms and CleanFlicks, two companies that edited violence, profanity, nudity, and sex scenes from DVD movies for family viewing, have closed their businesses, rather than appealing a federal judge's July 6 ruling that they were violating copyright law, according to Baptist Press.
The Utah-based businesses had carved a niche over the past several years with Christians and conservatives concerned about movies' content, especially for family viewing. Both companies bought movies and then edited out objectionable material before selling or renting to their customers.
"Anyone who goes to see a movie on occasion will tell you that many of today's films contain scenes of gratuitous sex, violence, nudity, and foul language that for many people (particularly families with small children) are unacceptable," read a statement from CleanFilms' response to the motion filed by Motion Picture Studios.
The motion from Motion Picture Studios argued that the companies' business practices violated the Copyright Act by distributing "unauthorized content-edited versions of the Studios' motion pictures."
CleanFilms and CleanFlicks argued that the companies were within legal bounds because they operated on a one-to-one practice: For each DVD they rented or sold, they would keep an original version of the movie in their inventory.
Troy Romero, an attorney who represented CleanFilms and CleanFlicks, told Baptist Press that he estimated fighting Motion Picture Studios would be a four- to six-year legal battle -- too long for the small companies.
Both CleanFilms and CleanFlicks are currently offering liquidation sales through their Web sites.