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
California Passes Prop 8,
a Landmark Pro-family Win
alifornia voters Tuesday overruled the state Supreme Court's ruling legalizing "gay marriage," and in the process handed the nationwide pro-family movement one of its most significant victories ever. With 95 percent of results tabulated, Proposition 8 -- a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman--led by 52-48 percent and a margin of 400,000 votes out of nearly 10 million cast. The amendment reverses the high court's landmark May decision and serves as the biggest setback yet for homosexual activists in their goal of legalizing "gay marriage" nationwide. It is the first time that voters in a state have overturned a court's decision on the issue. The amendment reads, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." "When one looks at the demographics of California, if traditional marriage can win in California, it can win in any of the 50 states when it's put to a vote of the people," Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press. The victory was but one of four "gay rights" ballot initiatives where conservatives were victorious. Florida adopted a marriage amendment -- passing it 62-38 percent and surpassing the necessary 60 percent supermajority -- while Arizona passed its own marriage amendment, 56-44 percent, two years after citizens there had become the first state to defeat an amendment. Three-fifths (30) of the states now have adopted a marriage amendment.
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Episcopal Legal Bills Result in $2.5 Million Deficit
The Episcopal Church has spent nearly $2 million on legal expenses this year, more than four times its budgeted amount, and will run a deficit of $2.5 million in 2009, according to the church's news service.
The denomination's Executive Council, meeting in Helena, Montana, October 20-24, budgeted $450,000 for legal expenses in 2008 but spent $1.97 million, according to Episcopal News Service. The well-heeled denomination is engaged in a number of costly legal battles with conservatives who've left the Episcopal Church but seek to retain parish property.
Also, the stock market decline has decreased the value of the Episcopal Church's endowment funds by 30 percent, said church treasurer Kurt Barnes.
The church anticipates $54.6 million in revenue for 2009 and about $57 million in expenses, according to ENS. The church ran surpluses of $1.2 million in 2007 and $2 million in 2008, the news service reported.
Habitat for Humanity will mark a major milestone November 13–14, when construction begins on the homebuilding ministry’s 300,000th house in Naples, Florida, and 300,001st house in Zacapa, Guatemala. The 300,000th house represents a decade of major growth for Habitat for Humanity, which was founded in 1976. In 2000, Habitat’s 100,000th house was built in New York City and 100,001st house in Plains, GA. Five years later, Habitat dedicated its 200,000th home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and 200,001st house in Kanyakumari, India. “It’s truly an extraordinary accomplishment to reach the 300,000th house milestone, and countless partners have played a vital role in that,” said Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International’s CEO. “Throughout this journey, so many lives have been changed — from the families who now live in decent homes to the volunteers whose hard work and compassion have helped build them.” However, he continued, “as much as we have to celebrate, we are equally humbled by the extent of the housing problem worldwide. We realize we have so much more to do, and we’ll continue building upon the momentum that each of these 300,000 homes has helped generate.” The day after construction begins in Naples, volunteers will break ground on Habitat’s 300,001st house in Zacapa, Guatemala. Zacapa is a region which suffers one of the lowest levels of community and social development in Guatemala, and therefore the most in need of adequate housing. A total of 1,236 Habitat houses have been built in the region, reaching some 7,500 people. “It’s a tremendous pleasure for Habitat Guatemala to be part of this celebration,” said Luis Samayoa, National Director of HFH Guatemala. “It is not only an opportunity for us to show our commitment to the families in Guatemala and across the world in need of adequate housing, but also proof that by working together we can make a sincere difference in each other’s lives.” Construction of the house in Guatemala is being made possible by a contribution by Habitat of Naples’ Collier County as part of Habitat for Humanity’s annual tithe program to help build houses around the world. Habitat Collier County has supported Habitat Guatemala since Sept. 2004, when they first dedicated their yearly tithe towards Guatemala’s building efforts. To date, Habitat Collier County has financed the construction of more than 100 homes in Guatemala, and this year alone will support the construction of 32 houses.
Habitat is a worldwide movement that has a presence in nearly 90 countries, including all 50 states in the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. On average, Habitat for Humanity serves a low-income family somewhere around the world every 10 minutes through new house construction, major house rehabilitation projects and with house repairs. In 2007, Habitat served a record 49,000 families in need.
Zondervan Acquires Bible Gateway, Gospel.com
Christian book publisher Zondervan is acquiring BibleGateway.com, a popular nonprofit Bible search engine, from Gospel Communications Inc. of Muskegon.
The agreement, signed October 27, includes the Bible search engine, which averages 6 million different users each month, and Gospel.com, a central Web site for more than 250 Christian groups.
Eight employees involved in BibleGateway have been hired by Zondervan, said Gordon Loux, CEO of Gospel Communications.
Loux took the helm of the Internet and film organization two months ago, charged with finding new owners for sectors of the financially troubled nonprofit. "We couldn't be happier with the relationship with Zondervan," he said. "Our expectations are that it will blossom many, many times over."
Zondervan CEO Moe Girkins commended Gospel Communications "for being ahead of the curve" in the mid-1990s. "They first had the vision to create a free, online Bible search tool that would include content from all of the key Bible publishers, would be functional and user-friendly and would meet a felt need of those looking to explore God's word," Girkins said.
Owned by HarperCollins, Zondervan expects to expand the Bible search site to incorporate more reference materials and study resources. "Our vision is for BibleGateway.com to be the premier online aggregator of biblical resources, blending relevant content and community features for anyone searching for information to help them in their spiritual journey, wherever they may be," Girkins said.
A waning pace of donations hit Gospel Communications starting in mid-2007, and the slowdown in the economy has not improved the outlook this year, Loux said. On October 1, Gospel Communications stopped accepting donations as it searched for buyers for its film production company and Internet sites. Zondervan's offer came first, for an undisclosed sum.
Gospel.com, a Web site focused on bringing Christian organizations together, started last year. But Gospel Communications had worked with the groups for years. "We were providing a lot of free services to about 250 organizations," Loux said, "but those kinds of services are not free" to provide.