November 8, 2006

World News

Williams Says Anglican Stand
on Gays Will Not Be Debated


BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                               ©2006 Religion News Service
capAnglican leaders will not reopen debate on a resolution that condemns homosexuality and discourages the blessing of same-sex unions at their next meeting in 2008, according to the archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of world Anglicanism.
In 1998, representatives from the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces approved a resolution that rejects homosexual acts as "incompatible with Scripture," and advises against the "legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions." The Lambeth Conference meet every 10 years in England.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has "ruled out (for the time being) reopening of the resolution ... on human sexuality from the previous Lambeth Conference," according to a statement from the archbishop's office.
Williams has, however, "emphasized the `listening process' whereby diverse views and experiences of human sexuality are being collected and collated in accordance with that resolution," the archbishop's spokesman, James Rosenthal, said in a statement. There will be time at the 2008 conference "for this to be presented and reflected on," according to Rosenthal.
Factions within the Anglican Communion and its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, have been bitterly divided over homosexuality. Rifts between liberals and conservatives were exacerbated in 2003, when V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was elected bishop of New Hampshire.
Because the Episcopal Church's soon-to-be presiding bishop supports gay rights, conservative Anglicans, especially in the Global South, have said they will not recognize her at future meetings. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori became the head of the Episcopal Church on November 4.

Marriage Amendments Seven for Eight on Election Day 2006


BY JEFF JOHNSON                                                                                     @2006 Agape Press
Voters have approved "defense of marriage" amendments in Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. But it appears Arizona is the first of more than two dozen states that have considered such measures to defeat a move to constitutionally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
On Election Day two years ago, ballot measures amending state constitutions to protect traditional marriage made a clean sweep, passing in 11 states. That brought to 20 the total number of states taking it upon themselves to define marriage as a heterosexual relationship, effectively banning same-sex "marriage" in those states. Seven of the eight states considering similar initiatives on Election Day 2006 followed suit, with victories ranging from a 80-20 margin in Tennessee to a relatively close 52-48 margin in South Dakota. But with practically all precincts counted, the amendment in Arizona appears to have suffered a narrow defeat (49 percent to 51 percent).
On an election day in which voters may have been sending any number of messages to President Bush or to the Republican-controlled Congress, their message to homosexual activists was clear and overwhelmingly unified.
"Americans believe overwhelmingly that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," says Jim Pfaff with Colorado-based Focus on the Family, where the marriage amendment passed comfortably with 56 percent of that tally. "They know it's a vital institution to our country and to our government despite its faults," he adds.
Voters in Colorado also turned away a measure that would have granted domestic-partnership rights to same-sex couples, effectively establishing "civil unions." Pfaff calls the outcome of the two measures a reflection of voters -- Christians and non-Christians alike -- who "believe in the value of marriage."
Slightly more than 2.3 million Virginians cast their vote on that state's marriage amendment issue, with approximately 1.3 million of those (~57 percent) saying yes to traditional marriage. Chris Freund with is convinced Christians made a real difference in the outcome.
"Virginians have made it very clear that they do not want marriage redefined ...," says Freund. "We're just very pleased that Virginians -- and in particular, the Church in Virginia -- really stepped up to the plate and sent a very clear message." In South Carolina, some opponents of traditional marriage are being accused of resorting to illegal tactics in their attempts to defeat the constitutional amendment measure. But Oran Smith with the Palmetto Family Council says voters in his state were not fooled.

Evangelicals Sift Through Ashes of Haggard Scandal


BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                           ©2006 Religion News Service
As the Rev. Ted Haggard expresses sorrow for being a "deceiver and a liar," leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals are distancing their organization from the man who led it for three years.
"Most people -- I'm not sure everyone -- separate this tragedy from NAE; they consider it a tragedy of a man, a pastor and not an NAE scandal--that's the good news," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental relations of the Washington-based NAE.  
"The bad news is it surely impacts the evangelical world, and that includes the NAE."
As evangelicals across the country recoil from one of their own being caught in a sex and drug scandal, the organization that represents them has chosen an interim president and is pressing on. Both Haggard's 14,000-member church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the NAE have cut ties with Haggard after he admitted to "sexual immorality" with a male escort.
"I am so sorry," Haggard wrote in a letter that was read to members of New Life Church during its two Sunday (Nov. 5) services. "I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you."
The letter came after the church's board of overseers announced he had been dismissed for "sexually immoral conduct," and after Haggard said in a television interview that he had acquired -- but not used -- methamphetamine and sought a massage from a male escort in Denver.
The NAE's executive committee has chosen the Rev. Leith Anderson, pastor of a Minnesota megachurch, to serve as interim president while a permanent replacement for Haggard is sought.
"Internally, I think most evangelicals will not tie what happened with Ted Haggard to NAE," said Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. "They will understand that if there are 45,000 churches (affiliated with NAE), that 44,999 of them have leaders that did not misbehave and that one person misbehaved and that that is an anomaly."
Externally, he said, people looking from the outside at evangelicals may attempt to paint them all with one brush.
"There will be those that will think the worst of evangelicals because of this and I'm sorry about that," Anderson said. "This is not who we are. This is not what we do. This is an exception."
Reality Show Opens the Closed-door Life of a Monastery
BY ANSLEY ROAN                                                                            ©2006 Religion News Service
The latest reality TV show has no snarky judges, no cash prizes and no home makeovers. Instead, it follows five men where no American reality show has gone before: into a monastery.
An ex-con, a recovering alcoholic, an Iraq war veteran who lost a leg in combat, a skeptical paramedic and an aspiring Episcopal priest live with 30 Benedictine monks at a New Mexico monastery for 40 days on the new show "The Monastery," which airs on TLC.
It's not your everyday reality TV. The show is about what happens when these men, who are each at a crossroads, encounter the monks and their way of living. There's tension among them, but much of the drama involves their internal struggles. It's challenging to capture on tape, and difficult for participants, whose problems can't be solved with a new home or a tummy tuck.
As one observer put it, call it "Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition."
"I would describe it as an observational documentary about an experiment that occurred between a group of men and a group of monks," said David Abraham, executive vice president and general manager of  TLC. "It doesn't really have the beat of a reality show."
In fact, the rhythms of daily life at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert are guided by the Rule of St. Benedict, a sixth-century guideline for monastic life. The visitors -- only one of them is particularly religious -- follow the monks' schedule, beginning with the first of eight daily prayer services at 4 a.m. Like the monks, they must do chores and maintain silence at certain places and times, like meals.
"If you bring men in from the outside, even men who know Catholic life, and who have heard about monasteries, our way of life is still a surprise for them," said Abbot Philip, who oversees the monastery. "The amount of silence, the amount of regulation, the amount of prayers said in church -- even men who come to join our community find it difficult."
Cameras capture some of the difficulties. Warren, the aspiring priest, complains about the structure of the church services to the camera that each visitor has in his cell, or room, at the monastery. Alex, the 23-year-old war veteran, chafes at the rules, while Will, the ex-con who works with at-risk youth, wrestles with the silence.
"The biggest struggle with the silence was that for the first time, I really had to listen to myself," he said.
That's something the Abbot hoped the participants might learn during their stay.