FaithWorld

Biggest U.S. Lutheran group advances gay questions

The largest U.S. Lutheran church group is about to begin a detailed discussion at the grass roots level on a policy change that would enable people in same-sex relationships to become clergy. Between now and June the debate will spread over some 65 synods covering the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

GAYMARRIAGE/

These meetings will produce comminiques which will be sent to the church’s convention in August where a final decision will be made on issues that have nagged the church and other denominations for years.

The ELCA’s current policies allow gays to serve in the ministry but not engage in sexual relations outside marriage — and the church defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

But possible changes advanced this week when the Church Council, a top governing body, approved with only minor revisions recommendations made by a task force  after a lengthy study.  Those recommendations will go before a membership convention in August, after input from the synods which are beginning their meetings this month.

The task force report asks whether the church wants to find ways to recognize life-long, monogamous same-sex relationships, and if so whether the church is committed to finding a way for people in such relationships to serve as clergy. There are other recommendations and proposals on how the process would work, but the first two steps have drawn the most attention.

from UK News:

Reform of UK’s monarchy laws – enlightened or meddling?

Discussions between the British premier and monarch to reverse religious discriminatory laws going back 300 years have sparked consternation in a conservative newspaper while attracting little response from the Roman Catholic church.

Proposed changes of the 1701 Act of Settlement would allow a future king or queen to marry a Roman Catholic, but would still preclude a royal of that faith becoming monarch.

It would also give female heirs an equal claim to the throne.

Nevertheless, Steve Doughty writing an analysis piece in the Daily Mail suggested it was an attack on Britain's constitution, heralding the end of the monarchy as we know it and the Church of England.

GUESTVIEW: Interfaith encounter at a Catholic school in Brooklyn

brooklyn (Photo: Brooklyn, with Manhattan in the background, 21 Sept 2008/Ray Stubblebine)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Matthew Weiner is Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York and Raffaele Timarchi is the Interfaith Center‘s education director.

By Matthew Weiner and Raffaele Timarchi

Why should students in urban high schools learn about religion?

The Interfaith Center of New York recently received a call from Penny Kapanika, a social studies teacher at Nazareth Regional High School in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. Canarsie lies on the eastern edge of Brooklyn, next to Jamaica Bay. To get to the school, you take the number 4 subway train to the end of the line, hop on a bus down Utica Avenue and finally walk to a sparsely populated neighborhood that was once an Italian and Jewish hold out against white flight.

Nazareth, a Roman Catholic school, is now ethnically African American and Caribbean. In the old days, students came from the neighborhood, but now most of them take the bus from Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant. Only 51% of the kids are Catholic, but most are Christian. The kids, though, live amongst Hasidic Jews  in Crown Heights, where a history of racial conflict still looms large, and Muslims in “Bed Stuy,” one of New York’s poorest neighborhoods.

from UK News:

Hindu wants open-air funeral pyres in the UK

A Hindu campaigner is going to the High Court in London in an attempt to establish traditional open-air funeral pyres in the UK.

Outdoor cremations are banned in Britain, where the law dictates that cremations are restricted to designated crematoriums. 

But Davender Ghai, 70, argues it is against his faith and a breach of his human rights to prevent a ritual that has taken place in India over thousands of years.

War: is it the ultimate test of faith?

faithThere are many things that will test a person’s religious faith and war is among the strongest. “Faith Under Fire: An Army Chaplain’s Memoir”, which will be published this week, is Roger Benimoff’s moving account of his battle with the demons of war that almost cost him his faith and his family. He did two tours in Iraq and you can read my interview with him here.

The Iraq war of course remains fraught with religious overtones. Former U.S. President George W. Bush saw many of his policies as driven by his Christian faith (and aimed at his conservative evangelical base); Iraq itself has been riven by religious and sectarian conflict; and many people of faith question the morality of the U.S.-led war there, now six years old.

When I asked Benimoff if the Iraq war has been worth all of the sacrifice, he became very emotional and found that it was a question he is still wrestling with. As he describes in his book, asking such hard questions lead him to question his own faith and made him angry at times with God (while he also battled with post-tramautic stress disorder or PTSD).

from Photographers' Blog:

Monks of the Namo Monastery – Audio slideshow

Click here or on the image above to view an audio slideshow from the Namo Monastery.

U.S. religious groups united on economic crisis

America’s many religious groups agree on one thing: the sinking economy must be the government’s top priority, according to a new analysis of a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. You can view it here.

US-ECONOMY

It found that stengthening the nation’s economy was regarded as the most pressing issue for the government by 83 percent of white evangelical Protestants, 88 percent of white mainline Protestants and 85 percent of Americans unaffilated with any religion.

It doesn’t say what white evangelical Protestants, a key base for the now opposition Republican Party, would like to see the government do to address America’s economic woes.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Marriage feud threatens new Israeli government

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. Reuters PhotoAs if Benjamin Netanyahu didn't have enough to deal with in forming a new government in Israel, a feud over getting married threatens to further complicate his bid to secure a ruling coaltion.

 The Likud party leader was chosen to form a government after a right-wing majority was elected in a Feb. 10 parliamentary election. Netanyahu has been shuttling between factions, trying to cobble together as broad a coalition as possible that will have a better chance of long-term survival.

Major stumbling blocks so far have been over the future of Palestinian statehood talks and strategies to heal a contracting economy.

from Raw Japan:

Jesus Christ Superstar meets kabuki

When I was 14, my best friend and I were obsessed with the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar", and we played the album until we had it memorised.

When I recently saw an ad for a "Japonesque Version" performed by Gekidan Shiki, one of Japan's best-known theatre groups, with the entire cast in the white foundation and flaring makeup lines of traditional kabuki theatre, I knew I had to go.

What I found was a powerful, if sometimes disconcerting, blend of Japan and Jerusalem.

Is a papal visit to Vietnam on the horizon?

Could the Pope make a historic visit to commmunist Vietnam later this year?  A papal envoy hinted at this on Thursday, as Vietnam and the Vatican are seriously discussing establishing diplomatic ties. “This is my wish,” Vatican Undersecretary of State Monsignor Pietro Parolin told reporters when asked if he thought the Pope could visit the Southeast Asian country this year. He added that the question had not been discussed in meetings with the Foreign Ministry and government’s religious affairs committee. (Photo: Priest outside a Hanoi court trying Catholics for illegal protests, 8 Dec 2008/stringer)

The papal envoy has been attending the first meeting of a joint working group on improving ties this week in Hanoi. He said the talks had made progress, but establishing ties was a process that will take time.

Roman Catholicism in Vietnam dates back centuries, even before French colonial rule. Now some 7 percent of mostly-Buddhist Vietnam’s population of 86 million are Catholic, making it one of the biggest Catholic communities in Asia.