May 16, 2007

World News

The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors 

Methodist Bishops Table Policy Change on Homosexuality

BY KEVIN ECKSTROM                                                                  ©2007 Religion News Service 
capUnited Methodist bishops have tabled a proposal that would have loosened restrictions in the church's mostly conservative policies on homosexuality.
The bishops, meeting outside Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, April 29-May 4, decided to keep the church's current policy -- adopted in 1972 -- intact. It calls homosexual activity "incompatible with Christian teaching."
A bishops' subcommittee had proposed language saying the church does not condone sexual activity "outside the bonds of a faithful, loving and committed relationship between two persons; marriage, where legally possible."
The bishops' administrative committee tabled the measure because it "would not have been for the betterment of the church at this time," said Oklahoma Bishop Robert Hayes, the committee's chairman, according to United Methodist News Service.
Because the issue was tabled, it never received a full vote by the assembled bishops, and it will not be presented to the church's General Conference meeting, set for summer 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Methodists, like most other mainline denominations, have been divided by the issue of homosexuality, but have turned down several efforts in recent years to overturn the current policy.
The proposed resolution said current policy "is based on highly questionable theology and biblical understanding and causes profound hurt to thousands of loyal United Methodist members and potential members."

Churches Launch `New Sanctuary' Movement for Immigrants

BY KAT GLASS                                                                             ©2007 Religion News Service
A coalition of faith-based groups on May 9 launched a "New Sanctuary Movement" to provide shelter for illegal immigrants and boost support for immigration reform.
By connecting immigrants who are facing deportation orders with host sanctuaries, the movement aims to provide a broad range of support for these families. Unlike their counterparts in the original 1980s Sanctuary Movement, many of today's immigrants have a physical shelter but still need financial, legal and spiritual support.
Immigration activists and faith leaders celebrated the launch with events in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, San Diego and Seattle.
The movement is uniting Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim traditions. Rabbi Laurie Coskey, an organizer and executive director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice in San Diego, said that immigration reform has a key appeal with faith-based groups. "Every tradition has the message about how we treat human beings because the spark of God lives in every person," Coskey said in an interview.
She added that the cause especially resonates with Jews, explaining that the Judaism "really clearly states the command for Jews to interact with the world in an activist way because of our experience of being strangers."
The movement currently includes two families in New York City, two in Los Angeles and one in San Diego that have been connected with "sanctuary churches." Churches in 28 cities nationwide are in the process of being linked with illegal immigrant families, Coskey said.
Coskey said that it would be up to individual churches whether to bar the door if immigration officials came to deport immigrants harbored within a sanctuary.

Survey Detects Hostility Toward Evangelicals Among Professors

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                ©2007 Religion News Service      
About half of non-evangelical university faculty acknowledge that they have cool or unfavorable feelings about evangelical Christians, a new survey shows.
A survey released May 7 by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research found that 53 percent said they have "cool/unfavorable feelings" toward evangelical Christians. In comparison, 30 percent said they had favorable feelings toward them, 9 percent were neutral, 4 percent said they didn't know and 4 percent
refused to answer. Researchers found this portion of the findings to be the "most troubling" result of the survey.
"Faculty do not feel positively about evangelicals at all," concluded Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg, co-authors of Religious Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty.
"In fact, they feel less positively about evangelicals than about any other religious group. The combination of responses ... raises serious concerns about how evangelical Christian faculty and students are treated or feel they are treated on campus. The levels of faculty disapproval are high enough to raise questions about the overall climate on campus."
One-third of non-Mormon faculty reported unfavorable views of Mormons. Views about other religious groups were more positive, with Muslims getting a 22 percent unfavorable rating, followed by atheists (18 percent), Catholics (13 percent), persons not practicing any religion (10 percent), non-evangelical Christians (9 percent), Buddhists (4 percent) and Jews (3 percent).
Faculty from any particular group were excluded from rating other members of their faith. Results of the online survey were based on a sample of 1,269 faculty members at 712 four-year colleges and universities. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Anglican Leaders Fuming Over `No Smoking' Sign

BY AL WEBB                                                                     ©2007 Religion News Service                 
Senior Anglican clerics have blasted government plans to force churches and cathedrals in Britain to post "no smoking" signs at their entrances starting July 1. The move is part of a nationwide ban on smoking in public places--including places of worship--imposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government.
Anglican reaction has been swift and furious. The Very Rev. Colin Slee, dean of Southwark Cathedral in London, described the government's action as "nonsense."
"We get all sorts of things," the dean told journalists, including "the modern custom of men wearing hats indoors, people wanting to bring their pets in, or even wanting to eat their ice cream cones (or) their hamburgers," all of which church stewards are well trained to handle.
But, Slee said, "one is bound to ask, when did you last hear of somebody smoking in church?"
Bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst, also in London, fumed that "the whole thing is stark raving mad," and described it as "another example of the aggressive nanny state" that Britain has become.
The Department of Health, which is supervising imposition of the new ban, has insisted that religious institutions abide by the new law. It said providing any exemption, as the clerics have requested, "would have created a dangerous precedent."
But Slee suggested that churches could be in for a rough time. He said he knew of one fellow dean who had already been warned by his local government authority that "we'll close you down if you don't put up the sign."
"All (church) deans have received a very formal letter and been instructed that it's mandatory to put up these signs," he told BBC radio. Slee told the BBC the new law will target "not just churches, but also synagogues, temples and mosques as well."