October 5, 2007

1527 RNS News II

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

Conservatives Launch Alternative 
to Episcopal Church
BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                                                ©2007 Religion News Service

capAs many as six Episcopal bishops and more than 200 Episcopal congregations have taken a first step toward forming a new alternative to the Episcopal Church that will unite conservatives irked by the church's liberal drift.
Meeting in Pittsburgh [U.S.A] September 25-28, the Common Cause Council of Bishops brought together nine North American splinter groups to lay the groundwork for a conservative counterpart to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The nine North American groups claim to represent 600 congregations; the Episcopal Church has 2.3 million members and more than 7,000 congregations.
Conservative Episcopalians, a minority in the church, have decried the church's increasing progressive stance on gay rights and biblical interpretation, especially the 2003 election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.
Between 40 and 50 bishops--including five of the seven Episcopal bishops present in Pittsburgh--agreed to take part in a new "College of Bishops."
Another Episcopal Bishop, John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, Calif., was represented but not present and is expected to join the new college, according to Peter Frank, a spokesman for Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the convener of the council.
Other Common Cause bishops are from groups such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, which has about 13,000 members and split from the Episcopal Church in 1873. Others are conservatives aligned with one of the 37 other regional provinces in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The bishops' college will oversee the "formation of the separate ecclesiastical structure in North America," according to a statement by Common Cause. "This is really an attempt to build an American structure that will have support from a large group of Anglicans overseas and can stand on its own two feet," Frank said.
It remains to be seen whether other Anglicans--including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams--will recognize the new federation. Frank says Common Cause is using an "if we build it, they will come" strategy. The new organization plans to share clergy and invite bishops to "share Episcopal acts and our sacramental life."
However, issues such as the ordination of women--some of the groups ordain women, some do not--remain to be decided, according to Common Cause.
Supreme Court to Examine Lethal Injection Constitutionality 

BY ERICA SIMONS                                                                                                   ©2007 Baptist Press

The Supreme Court [of the United States] announced Sept. 25 it will hear an appeal concerning the constitutionality of lethal injections, specifically the three-drug concoction used in 36 states to put inmates to death.

A Kentucky case will be used to issue a ruling by next summer on whether the current protocol can be deemed "cruel and unusual punishment," violating the Eighth Amendment [of the U.S. constitution]. Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, two death row inmates, have filed the appeal, claiming the concoction could cause "unnecessary pain."

Both men were convicted of double homicides and given the death penalty in Kentucky. Baze killed a Powell County deputy and sheriff, while Bowling murdered a couple with a young son.

According to Baze and Bowling's attorneys, at least half of those sentenced to lethal injection and facing imminent execution in the last two years have challenged the use of the tri-chemical cocktail. Sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride are used together to render the inmate unconscious, interrupt the breathing process and, finally, stop the heart.

The central issue is whether the possibility of unnecessary pain calls for the use of other drugs in the process. "All of the current lethal injection chemicals could be replaced with other chemicals that would pose less risk of pain," states the petition filed by Baze and Bowling's attorneys.

Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said, "Merely the risk of suffering is inadequate to require the use of another means of execution, but I don't think we should inflict pain unnecessarily."

The convicts' petition claims sodium thiopental, used as an anesthetic, "begins to wear off almost immediately," allowing the condemned to feel pain. Pancuronium bromide is a paralytic that would prevent any "outward signs of pain or consciousness." Potassium chloride, the drug used to stop the heart, is described as "road salt used to melt ice." 

To read the rest of the article, click here. 

Bureau of Prisons Changes Course On Banning Religious Texts
BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                     ©2007 Religion News Service
After receiving criticism from religious leaders and Capitol Hill, the [U.S.] Federal Bureau of Prisons says it will scale back its effort to ban religious texts from prison libraries.
The New York Times reported that the bureau sent an e-mail message on September 26 about its change in plans concerning its Standardized Chapel Library Project. The newspaper previously reported that chaplains were directed to remove books and other materials from prison shelves that were not on a list of approved resources.
"In response to concerns expressed by members of several religious communities, the Bureau of Prisons has decided to alter its planned course of action with respect to the Chapel Library Project," the bureau's message said. "The bureau will begin immediately to return to chapel libraries materials that were removed in June 2007, with the exception of any publications that have been found to be inappropriate, such as material that would be radicalizing or incite violence. The review of all materials in chapel libraries will be completed by the end of January 2008."
Mark Earley, the president of Prison Fellowship, a Christian prison ministry, was among the leaders who contacted the bureau in hopes that it would change course. He applauded its response to concerned faith leaders. "We appreciate the bureau's commitment to keeping the small number of materials that incite violence out of prison chapel libraries," Earley said. "By returning to the common-sense approach of getting rid of only those materials that incite violence, they ensure that prisoners have access to a wide range of quality religious materials that will help them become productive members of society when they are released back to our communities."
Senator John McCain Under Fire for `Christian Nation' Remarks
BY HEATHER DONCKELS                                                                            ©2007 Religion News Service
Presidential hopeful John McCain has come under fire for calling the United States "a Christian nation" that was "founded primarily on Christian principles."
The Arizona Republican made his remarks in an interview with Dan Gilgoff, the political editor for Beliefnet.
The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance, called McCain's remarks "appalling" and said "a Christian is a person who is a follower of Jesus. This whole nation is not a follower of Jesus."
McCain did, however, draw some support from the Christian Coalition, which was founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. During the 2000 campaign, McCain called Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance."
"We believe this took a lot of courage," said spokeswoman Michelle Combs, saying the group was "very proud" of the senator. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, meanwhile, asked McCain to clarify what he meant.
"Senator McCain should know that our nation was founded on universal moral principles common to many religions and philosophies," said Corey Saylor, the national legislative director for CAIR.
The National Jewish Democratic Council expressed similar feelings. "Someone running for president ought to understand the Constitution a little better," Ira N. Forman, executive director of the NJDC, said. "Nowhere does it say the United States is a `Christian' nation."