December 18, 2009

1535 RNS 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

Episcopal Church Membership
Drops by Three Percent

BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                                         ©2009 Religion News Service

capDomestic membership in the Episcopal Church dropped by 3 percent in 2008, continuing a decline in which the denomination has lost almost 200,000 American members since 2004, according to Episcopal researchers.

The Episcopal Church now counts slightly more than 2 million members in about 7,000 U.S. parishes. Church leaders say they are pleased, however, that the denomination is growing in its non-domestic dioceses, particularly in Haiti and Latin America, where the church counted about 168,000 members in 470 parishes last year.

Still, the church is “swimming against some difficult cultural tides,” Matilda Kistler, who heads a state-of-the-church committee in the denomination's House of Deputies, said in a statement.

“We find ourselves facing a society that is gravitating toward secularism,” Kistler said. “We also believe that the church-going segment of the public is aging significantly, though the committee will be seeking more definitive data to ascertain if that is so.”

Kistler acknowledged that “internal conflicts within the Episcopal Church have also distracted from the message of hope our clergy and lay leaders seek to share.”

In 2003, the church consecrated an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire, setting off a furor among conservative Episcopalians and the global Anglican Communion, which counts the Episcopal Church as its U.S. branch. Four dioceses and dozens of parishes have since left the Episcopal Church, some to join a rival denomination, the Anglican Church in North America.

On Saturday (Dec. 5), Episcopalians in Los Angeles elected a lesbian priest as an assistant bishop, despite pleas from Anglican bishops throughout the world not to elect any more gay bishops. The Rev. Mary Glasspool must still have her election confirmed by a majority of the church's diocesan standing committees and bishops before she is consecrated as a bishop.

Nearly 1 in 4 Christians Dabble in Eastern, New Age Beliefs

                                                                                            ©2009 Religion News Service

The vast majority of U.S. residents may be Christian, but nearly a quarter of them delve into a range of Eastern or New Age beliefs, a new study shows.

Asked about their supernatural experiences, significant minorities of American Christian respondents said they believe in astrology (23 percent), reincarnation (22 percent), spiritual energy in physical things like trees or crystals (23 percent) and yoga as a spiritual practice (21 percent).

The survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Christians are about as likely as Americans overall to say they've been in touch with the dead (29 percent), had an experience with a ghost (17 percent) or consulted a psychic (14 percent).

Overall, the survey found that most Americans have had some connection with the supernatural. More than six in 10 say they have had at least one of these experiences or beliefs, including the “evil eye,” or the ability to cast spells or curses that do harm.

“With the exception of white evangelicals, majorities of all major religious traditions report holding at least one of these beliefs or having experienced one of these phenomena,” the survey concluded.

The results of the survey, taken by phone Aug. 11-17 and involving a nationwide sample of 4,013 adults, have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.0 percentage points.

Obama Says `Holy War' Can Never be a `Just War'

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                       ©2009 Religion News Service

In a speech bemoaning the necessity of war and the potential for peace, President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize Thursday (Dec. 10) by declaring that “no holy war can ever be a just war.”

In his 36-minute remarks in Oslo, Norway, Obama addressed how fear of loss of identity -- including religious identification -- can lead to conflict and cited the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. eight years ago as an example.

“And most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan,” Obama said. “These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no holy war can ever be a just war.”

Perpetrators believing they are “carrying out divine will” have no restraint in who they harm, he said.

“Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but I believe it's incompatible with the very purpose of faith,” the president said, “for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”