Religion briefs 11/23/02

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Community Thanksgiving service scheduled

The annual community Thanksgiving worship service will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bethel Assembly of God Church.

The service includes a litany and hymns that focus on giving thanks and a part of the Lord's Prayer.

Organist for the service is Betty Fadler of United Church of Christ. Jericho, the praise team from St. Andrew Lutheran Church, also will perform.

Clergy participating in the service include the Rev. Stan Hargis, pastor of the host church, James Guerrero of Cornerstone Church, Sam Ramdial of First General Baptist Church, John Ferguson, a retired Methodist minister, Clayton Smith of Centenary United Methodist Church, Paul Kabo of First Presbyterian Church and Jay White of First Baptist Church.

The public is invited to the ecumenical service.

Groups unite to issue Thanksgiving readings

NEW YORK -- The American Jewish Committee said it wants to promote the nation's uniqueness and help unite its people through "A Thanksgiving Reader," which is being distributed free in print form and via the Internet.

The 16-page booklet of materials to be read before Nov. 28 meals was published in conjunction with the Islamic Supreme Council, the NAACP, National Urban League, Cuban American National Council, National Council of La Raza and the Japanese American Citizens League, among others.

The readings express thanks for the United States and its freedoms but note the national past included black slavery, devastation of American Indians and the sufferings of immigrants.

The booklet "puts all Americans on the same page, marking the Thanksgiving holiday with a celebration of our nation's unique democracy and diversity," said the committee's executive director, David A. Harris.

Bishops will consider calling historic council

WASHINGTON -- America's Roman Catholic bishops will hold meetings over the next two years to decide whether to convene an extraordinary council, the first since 1884, on the state of the U.S. church.

The bishops voted during their gathering last week to discuss the idea of the proposed "plenary council" at their next meeting in June -- and then to devote a special June 2004 assembly to the idea.

A plenary council would include U.S. bishops, lay people and representatives of religious orders and schools.

Eight bishops originally suggested the council in the wake of the clerical sex abuse crisis, and the idea drew support from many colleagues. They said it should examine broad issues while affirming church teachings.

The last plenary council, in Baltimore, was noted for promoting the system of parochial schools.

Results withheld from Philly synod involving laity

PHILADELPHIA -- More than 240 Roman Catholics concluded discussions at the Philadelphia Archdiocese's first synod since 1934 and the first to involve lay participants.

The archdiocese is not releasing the recommendations that came out of the meeting. The three sessions were closed to parishioners, the public and the news media.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua said he would consider synod recommendations, but not necessarily follow them, in setting policy.

To set the agenda, the five-county archdiocese distributed 800,000 ballots. The 6,000 returned ballots proposed 80 topics that were narrowed to nine. Among them: ailing parochial schools, anti-abortion issues and racism.

Church settles test case on religious zoning

LIMA, Pa. -- A small Baptist congregation near Philadelphia settled one of the first challenges of a 2000 federal act that exempts religious groups from most local zoning rules, unless a community can prove they are necessary for public safety.

Freedom Baptist Church cited the act in a lawsuit after Middletown Township ordered it to close a small chapel on the first floor of a dentist's office.

The chapel was next to a synagogue and across the street from a Presbyterian church, but township officials said zoning rules limited the office to commercial purposes. Township lawyers argued that the federal act is unconstitutional.

A federal judge approved the settlement, in which the township changed its zoning ordinance to comply with the federal act and paid the church's $10,000 legal expenses.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which defends religions' civil liberties, represented the Baptists.

Malaysia accuses Putin of insulting Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia accused Russia's President Vladimir Putin of insulting Muslims in answering a journalist's question about the war in Chechnya.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar called Putin's remarks, made at a European Union news conference in Belgium, a "nauseating" mockery of Islam.

A French reporter questioned Russian troops' use of heavy weapons against civilians in predominantly Muslim Chechnya.

"If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow," Putin responded. "I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back afterward."

Syed Hamid also urged the United States to prevent conservative Protestants like the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell from making remarks on Islam that he said could aid terrorists and trigger religious clashes.

Malaysia takes over chairmanship of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference next year.

'Amish road' will make travel safer for buggies

GOSHEN, Ind. -- An "Amish road" designed so horse-drawn buggies can avoid dangerous traffic on U.S. 33 is nearly ready for use after two years of planning.

Businesspeople donated land and funding, and Amish residents raised more than $10,000 for the paved route, which will be off limits to motor vehicles. It allows buggies to bypass U.S. 33 in traveling between a county route and a Wal-Mart complex.

"We've had enough accidents and horror stories there," said John Bowers of the Elkhart County engineering department.

Vatican establishes ties with Muslim Qatar

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican said Monday it has established diplomatic relations with the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, where foreign guest workers outnumber the mostly Muslim native population.

The Vatican said there are some 45,000 Catholics among the workers. The government recently granted the Roman Catholic Church property for a church, the announcement said.

Currently, Catholic services meet in the gymnasium of the American school in the capital, Doha.

-- From staff, wire reports

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