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ReligionNewsBlog.com, Apr. 17-18, 2004

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, Apr. 17-18, 2004 Sun, Apr. 18, 2004 [Christianity] Lazarus Church author says future still bright for mainline denominations
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 19, 2004
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      ReligionNewsBlog.com, Apr. 17-18, 2004

      Sun, Apr. 18, 2004
      [Christianity] 'Lazarus Church' author says future still bright for mainline denominations
      The Rev. Jerry Mayo thinks there's too much discussion about how mainline churches are losing members. [...] He recently wrote The Lazarus Church: Resurrecting Passionate Ministry in Mainline Congregations. The title comes from the biblical story about a friend of Jesus' who died and was buried. Jesus came to the tomb and brought him to life again. ''When Jesus is the focus of the church, it's raised to new life,'' he said. ''The focus shifts from the power of death to the power of life.'' Mayo's book has received positive reviews from several church leaders across the country, including Bishop Bertram Herlong of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee.

      [China] China asks U.S. to learn from failure of human rights resolution
      China on Friday urged the United States to take a lesson from the defeat of its U.N. resolution criticizing China's human rights. ''The United States again made its anti-China motion, and there is not a single piece of evidence,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said via the ministry's website. [...] On Thursday, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights voted 28-16 to take no action on the motion, which means defeat. [...] U.S. officials, who discontinued two-way human rights dialogue with China in December 2002, say that in 2003 China cracked down too hard on Christians, Internet dissidents and Uyghur minorities in the northwest. They also cited action against Falun Gong practitioners. China advocates dialogue as a way to settle any disputes over its human rights record.

      [Homosexuality / Lesbianism] Fury as Church appoints gay canon new dean of St Albans
      The Church of England was accused of creating a "spiritual vacuum" in Britain last night after the disclosure that Jeffrey John, the gay canon forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading, is to be the next dean of St Albans. The appointment, which is due to be announced by Downing Street this week, brought condemnation from traditionalist Anglicans already enraged by the ordination in America of Gene Robinson, a homosexual, as the Bishop of New Hampshire. One cleric described Dr John's appointment as "outrageous", while others predicted that it would deepen divisions that became apparent during the row over Dr John's abortive appointment as bishop last year.

      [Kent Hovind] IRS Raids, Investigating Creationist Theme Park
      Internal Revenue Service agents are investigating a man who runs a creationist theme park and museum here, saying he owes taxes on proceeds of more than $1 million. IRS agents on Wednesday raided the homes and businesses of Kent Hovind, 51. Calling himself Dr. Dino, Hovind argues against evolution and for a Biblical view of creation in travels around the world, on the Internet, in videos and in literature. Agents confiscated computer and paper records of financial activity since 1997, but no charges were filed against Hovind, who denied wrongdoing.

      [Homosexuality / Lesbianism] No 10 drive to give gay priest top job
      Tony Blair personally sanctioned the controversial appointment of a gay priest to one of the most important Church of England jobs as part of a Downing Street campaign to warn Anglican leaders that a person's sexuality should not bar them from senior positions. Number 10 officials are understood to have been dismayed by recent Church infighting over homosexual clergy. They believe the Church is in danger of being seen to be out of step with modern society.

      [Hate Crimes] 2 teens sentenced in cross-burning at pastor's home
      For a brief time yesterday, the courtroom at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center became an impromptu classroom. The subject: the history of hate crimes against blacks in the United States. The pupils: two Arlington teens who burned a cross outside the home of an African-American pastor. "These boys might not know this, but from the (post-Civil War) Reconstruction Period to 1968 there were 3,445 lynchings of African Americans," said Prosecuting Attorney Dave Kurtz. He noted that lynchings were often preceded by burning a cross. "(Cross-burnings) can bring terror, be a precursor to violence, or spawn filthy nonsense," Kurtz said. When the lesson was over, the 16-year-old boys offered tearful apologies for their March 24 act outside the Arlington home of Pastor Jason Martin.

      [Ananda] Ananda church claiming bigotry
      neighbor of the Ananda Church of Self-Realization and Retreat Center charges that the religious organization has violated the zoning for its 40-acre compound on rural Tomaquag Road. But the church claims neighbor Richard Coppa is mixing his zoning complaints with half-truths about the organization and religious bigotry. [...] Coppa recently circulated a flier to residents on Tomaquag Road that says the Ananda religion is a "cult." And the church's "religious leader (J. Donald Walters) is a fugitive from justice stemming from a previous conviction of 'sexual abuse' and 'constructive fraud' resulting from the church's brainwashing of their followers." In response to Coppa's flier, the church sent a letter to neighbors which argues that Coppa uses the word "cult" as a tabloid label to mask "religious intolerance." Further, the response asserts that Walters, 78, whose religious name is Swami Kriyananda, has no convictions for sexual abuse.

      [Hinduism] 'Hinduness' with vengeance
      The students singing a timeless Hindu hymn in this remote tribal village have no idea that they are pawns in a political experiment driven by ancient Indian hatreds and funded by donated U.S. dollars. To pupils and parents, most of whom are "tribals," or aboriginal peoples, the school is a ray of hope in a life of desperate poverty. "My family sent me here because they couldn't afford me," said Dyneswar Juang, a seventh-grader. "Here I get everything for free. I have a future." But human rights organizations in the eastern state of Orissa say the school and others like it are political tools in the hands of India's foremost Hindu nationalist organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

      [Fraud] For Some, God Is Their Money
      The con game is almost as old as the Bible. Target the audience, tailor the presentation, and prey on vulnerability. If religion happens to be an important part of someone's life, dust off a copy of the Good Book and utter a few lines of Scripture. That's what John W. Gillette did when luring athletes into his stable of financial deceit. That's what Donald D. Lukens did when recruiting athletes for his bogus investment schemes. And that's what William "Tank" Black did when convincing his clients that he was qualified to handle their finances. [...] That is a more common outcome than Martin or any victim of a financial scam may think. Three years ago, the Washington-based North American Securities Administrators Association issued a warning about investment frauds that are tied to religious or spiritual beliefs. The warning came after three high-profile cases in which churches and foundations bilked a combined $1.5 billion from their targets.

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      Sat, Apr. 17, 2004
      [USA] Bush-Sharon Deal a 'Roadmap to War', Says Peace Group
      "Instead of telling Prime Minister Sharon that it's OK now to violate international law and United Nations resolutions, President Bush should be pressuring both sides to stem the violence and start talking again," said Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. "President Bush has effectively told the world that what Israel has taken by force from the Palestinians is now acceptable. This is a roadmap to war," he added in a statement Thursday signed by more than a dozen churches united as the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

      [Christianity] Christian Music's New Wave
      Two decades after Christian rock bands began to fill theaters, the popularity of the Passion Experience tour, billed not as a concert but as a "worship gathering" for college students, reflects a groundswell both within churches and in the Christian music marketplace. The songs' popularity comes not from Christian radio, but from churches, and the musicians - who call themselves "worship leaders" rather than performers - sing not about God, but to God. The audience sings as much as they do. Praise and worship music, as the songs are known, has long been a part of Christian music, cultivated in churches and distributed to a small but passionate audience through independent labels. But in the last half decade, it has become a booming business, with its own channels of promotion, publishing and revenue. [...] The success of the songs outside the church reverses a longstanding assumption within the Christian music business, said Deborah Evans Price, who writes about Christian music for Billboard magazine. "For years people thought that for Christian music to explode it needed to be watered down," she said. Instead, she said, audiences increasingly want "something more spiritually meaty" than Christian pop. "People don't want Christian lite," she said.

      [Mormon Church] Latest in Mormon movies
      A new Mormon movie opens at Phoenix-area theaters this weekend, continuing a series of films with themes specifically related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Best Two Years is a comedy based on four missionaries serving their two-year tours of duty in the Netherlands.

      [Bible] The Bible's baffling one-liners
      Well-received by critics, the movie is only the latest in a developing genre of independent filmmaking. The producer, Halestorm Entertainment, has made six movies, with three more in the works. Another company, Excel Entertainment, has made six, including the top-grossing Mormon film, God's Army. At least three of the movies, including God's Army and The Best Two Years, focus on Mormon missionaries. Halestorm's most popular, called The Singles Ward, about life as a single Mormon adult, played in more than 160 theaters and made almost $1 million. The Best Two Years is expected to exceed that amount.

      [Sikhism] Wearing turbans helps define Sikhs
      Wearing a turban is one of five symbols that define Sikhs, said Amandeep Singh Sidhu, regional director of the New York City-based Sikh Coalition and a student at the University of Richmond's T.C. Williams Law School. They are: Kesh - uncut hair covered by a turban; Kirpan - a small sword raised only in defense; Kara - a metal bracelet that is a reminder of the Sikh's responsibility to faith; Kanga - a comb that serves as a reminder to always be neat; and Kaccha - special underwear that is a reminder of a Sikh's responsibility to family.

      [Terry Nichols] Judge rules witnesses must testify
      Ten Mohave County residents must appear next month in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of suspect Terry Nichols, Superior Court Judge Steven Conn ruled on Friday. At a hearing in Kingman, Conn directed the prospective witnesses to answer defense subpoenas even though several objected because they would face medical and financial hardship if forced to make the trip to Oklahoma. Nichols' attorneys in the death-penalty trial are attempting to show that their client was a dupe or fall guy, and that lead conspirator Timothy McVeigh had other help in the 1995 terrorism attack that took 169 lives in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Is the doomsday cult poised for revival?
      Shoko Asahara has been sentenced to hang for masterminding the worst terrorist attack in Japanese history; 11 of his closest followers have received death sentences, and many more devotees are serving substantial prison sentences. Yet the deadly doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo, is anything but dead. The Japanese government warned yesterday that Aum - now renamed Aleph - is concentrating its efforts on rebuilding a number of profitable businesses and increasing membership. Most worryingly, the majority of its members remain loyal to its leader Asahara's vision of an apocalyptic collision between believers in his "faith" and the world outside the walls of the cult's numerous compounds.

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Asahara's lawyers awarded 452 million yen for representing guru
      The state-appointed lawyers for Shoko Asahara, the convicted founder of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, received 452 million yen [$4 million - rnb) in total as a state payment for their services, it has been learned. The payment is thought to be the highest ever handed to state-appointed lawyers who have represented one accused person.

      [Religion Trends] Are evangelicals in the mainstream?
      Three-quarters of U.S. evangelicals view themselves as part of mainstream American society, but believe they have to fight to be heard by mainstream Americans, according to a new survey. [...] The survey found that evangelicals are split in their views of national figures often identified in the secular press as their "leaders." Fifty-four percent said they viewed Pat Robertson positively. Jerry Falwell was viewed favorably by 44 percent. In comparison, Pope John Paul II earned a favorable rating from 59 percent of evangelicals. [...] The survey also noted key theological differences. Forty-eight percent of evangelicals said they thought only "born-again" Christians would go to heaven. Forty-five percent said they disagreed with that proposition. (Fewer black evangelicals than white - 42 percent compared with 50 percent - said they believed one had to be born again to enter heaven.) "I think it does tend to undermine the notion that evangelicals are dogmatic and intolerant about faith matters," said Mr. Green. "The fact that they see salvation as something that's available to people other than themselves ... it does go against the stereotype." [...] Michael Cromartie, director of the Evangelical Studies Project of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, said the overall survey confirms the state of evangelicalism, but he questioned if some of the findings related to theological views are actually those of evangelicals. "There is a certain point where you are no longer evangelical," he said. "Part of the definition of being an evangelical is its exclusivity of the Gospel, and that the way of salvation is through Christ. And when you start saying ... 'I believe everybody goes to heaven,' what are you, a liberal Protestant now? What are you?"

      [Harry Potter] Harry Potter the 'new Prozac'
      Harry Potter is the "new Prozac", helping beat teen depression and suicide, an academic says. A paper on the popular book character, Harry Potter: The New Prozac, says Harry Potter helps counsel young readers about depression and anxiety. The paper, by Deakin University's Anna Beth McCormack, will be presented at Flinders University's Harry Potter Conference, which started yesterday. It highlights how the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, makes understanding depression simple for kids through the characters, the dementors and boggarts.

      Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
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