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
SBC Pastor Killed in Church Shooting
Southern Baptist pastor was killed during a morning worship service March 8 by a gunman who reportedly suffered from mental illness caused by Lyme disease. Fred Winters, 45, was preaching in the 8:15 a.m. service with about 150 people in attendance at the St. Louis-area First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, when the gunman, identified in media reports as 27-year-old Terry Joe Sedlacek, walked down the aisle, exchanged some words with the pastor and opened fire, shooting Winters four times in the chest. When the gunman's .45-caliber semiautomatic weapon jammed, he drew a knife and slashed two church members as they wrestled him to the ground, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The attacker stabbed himself in the neck, and he and one of the church members were in serious condition after surgery. The other injured church member was treated and released. Winters, meanwhile, staggered about halfway down a church aisle before collapsing and dying of his injuries at a local hospital, the newspaper said. He is survived by his wife Cindy and daughters Alysia, 14, and Cassidy, 12. "In this day, where uncertainty seems to abound, creating an environment in which people are vulnerable in doing things they might not do otherwise, one thing is certain, we, as human beings need a foundation upon which we can live our lives," a statement posted on the church's website said.
"We at First Baptist Maryville, along with other Christian believers, share this conviction: that foundation is God's Word. In the pages of the Book we call the Bible, we find the pathway for peace, hope, and a quality of living life despite what circumstances we find ourselves in," the statement, which also requested prayer, said.
A graduate of two Southern Baptist seminaries, Winters served as a two-time president of the Illinois Baptist State Association beginning in 2006 and served on the SBC Committee on Committees in 2004. His church has been one of the top Cooperative Program supporting churches in Illinois, giving nearly a quarter of a million dollars last year. "We'll not know in this time why a man unknown to the congregation walked into the worship center and took such drastic measures to end a good and godly man's life," Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said in a statement to Baptist Press. "Dr. Winters was a powerful preacher who loved to reach souls for Christ and minister to those who were hurting and struggling. In his 22 years there, he built a great witness for our Lord Jesus Christ."
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Research Suggest Faith Lowers Stress, Makes Tasks Easier
BY RON CSILLAG ©2009 Religion News Service
Canadian researchers have found that strong religious convictions can lower stress and enhance the performance of basic tasks.
A team in Toronto put 28 students through tests measuring both levels of religious observance and stress caused by making mistakes on a test. The newly published study by professors at the University of Toronto and York University points to religious believers out-performing non-believers on cognitive tasks.
"The more religious they were, the less brain activity they showed in response to their own errors," said University of Toronto assistant psychology professor Michael Inzlicht, lead author of the study. "They are calmer when they make errors."
Researchers asked subjects, who were from a variety of faith backgrounds, to complete a "religious zeal" questionnaire. Subjects were then given a test asking they name the color of the letters in words such as "red" or "blue" (in which the word "red" may appear in blue letters).
Using electrodes, researchers monitored brain activity and found subjects with high levels of religious observance experienced less activity in the part of the brain that governs anxiety and helps modify behavior. The more religious zeal individuals showed, the better they did on the test.
"The more they believe, the less brain activity we see in response to their own errors," Inzlicht said. "(Religious people) were much less anxious and stressed when they made an error."
The study also found that even moderate religious belief resulted in lower levels of anxiety than among non-believers.
Study: Mainline Clergy Growing Even More Liberal
Over the last decade, mainline Protestant clergy have inched leftward, with more identifying as Democrats, supporting gay rights and calling on the government to solve social problems, according to a recently released survey.
The Clergy Voices survey published on March 6 builds on similar studies conducted in 1989 and 2001, according to scholars at Public Religion Research in Washington.
Sometimes called the "quiet hand of God" for their social justice work outside the media's glare, mainline Protestants make up 18 percent of the country, according to researchers. But they are "arguably the most neglected of the major religious groups in the American religious landscape," said Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research, who co-authored the survey.
Mainline Protestant clergy have shown "remarkable consistency over the last 20 years in political ideology and party affiliation," said Jones. Fifty-six percent of the 1,000 clergy surveyed identified as Democrats, compared to 53 percent in 2001 and 1989.
Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of mainline clergy say the federal government should be more involved in solving problems like poverty, low-income housing and unemployment. Sixty-eight percent said the same in 2001.
Nearly 70 percent of mainline clergy called for more environmental protection, up from 60 percent in 2001. And two-thirds favor outlawing capital punishment, a jump of 8 percentage points from 2001.
At the same time, clergy support for gay rights--an issue that has vexed almost all mainline denominations--has steadily increased. In August 2008, when the survey was conducted, nearly eight in 10 clergy said gays and lesbians should have the same rights and privileges as other Americans, up 9 percentage points from 2001.
Researchers found significant disparity among clergy from the seven mainline denominations surveyed, however. Clergy from the United Church of Christ and Episcopal Church tend to be more liberal, while those from the United Methodist Church and American Baptist Churches USA are more centrist or conservative on political and social issues.
There's also a gap between the pulpit and the pews: mainline clergy are more likely than their congregants to identify as Democrats, support legalized abortion and gay marriage, and strongly agree that the government should guarantee health care.
Conducted by mail, the survey is composed of a random sample of 1,000 senior clergy from each of the seven largest Mainline Protestant denominations: the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, American Baptist Churches USA, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ.
With 2,658 clergy responding to the survey, the margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.