• Outlook Features 12 hours ago

    Hoping the world will listen

    Hoping the world will listen

    by Leslie Scanlon
    Where it all leads is another question, but no one can accuse Presbyterians of not caring or being afraid to speak. Late into the night, the commissioners at the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) parsed and amended and substitute-motioned their way to crafting position statements on social justice issues — speaking out, hoping the world will listen. Here’s some of what commissioners chose to say: Drones. The assembly approved a resolution — an amended version of a measure brought by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy… continue reading...
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  • Book Reviews 1 day ago

    The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms Second Edition (Bookmark review)

    The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms Second Edition (Bookmark review)

    by Roy Howard
    By Donald K. McKim Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville, Ky. 355 pages  There are those who learn English by reading a good English language dictionary. The best would be the Oxford English Dictionary. Some people have a complete OED as a reference book. (I am one of them.) It’s a joy to dip into it frequently and come away not just with a new word but a deep understanding of the universe contained in that single word. All of this is true for the second edition of this dictionary of… continue reading...
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  • Movie Reviews 3 days ago

    Film in review – “Wish I Was Here”

    Film in review – “Wish I Was Here”

    by Ronald P. Salfen
    This is one, dear readers, where I would ask, if your ears are easily offended, to look past the language. The quality beneath is worth your time. All too often, when an actor writes and directs his own film, he winds up being, if not a superhero, at least faultless, perhaps even iconic. Zach Braff approaches his character, named Aidan, with an amazing amount of humility. He’s approaching middle age and still hasn’t really “found himself” yet, because he’s a struggling actor who’s still trying out for bit parts at… continue reading...
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Political and religious leaders denounce European anti-Jewish outbursts tied to Gaza

PARIS (RNS) Amid mounting protests in Europe against the Gaza conflict, political and religious leaders in the region have sharply denounced anti-Semitism within their borders. “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies,” the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy said in a statement Tuesday (July 22) from Brussels. Fears of escalating unrest are perhaps sharpest in France, home to Europe’s largest populations of Jews and Muslims. Many have roots in North Africa, and violence in the Middle East resonates strongly here. Thousands defied a government ban against Paris-area protests over the weekend, staging pro-Palestinian rallies that degenerated into violence. “We have had eight synagogues attacked. We have had shops attacked,” said Roger Cukierman, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. “We have heard crowds shouting death to the Jews — not death to … [Read more...]

Did Obama finally thread the needle on gay rights and religious freedom? (analysis)

(RNS) One of the toughest political calculations in Washington is balancing competing claims of gay rights with the traditional prerogatives of religious freedom. After a number of setbacks on that front, President Obama may have finally found a small patch of middle ground with Monday’s (July 21) move to bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Obama’s executive order shields gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do work for the federal government by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to long-standing protections from bias based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” Yet Monday’s action also leaves in place a 2002 order signed by President George W. Bush that gives religious groups with federal contracts some leeway by allowing them to use religious beliefs as a criterion in making hiring and firing decisions; as a candidate in 2008 Obama pledged to overturn that … [Read more...]

IRS agrees to monitor churches for electioneering

(RNS) The Internal Revenue Service said it will monitor churches and other houses of worship for electioneering in a settlement reached with an atheist group. The settlement was reached Friday (July 18) in federal court in Madison, Wis., where the initial lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist advocacy group that claims 20,000 members nationwide. The suit alleged the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity. At the time the suit was filed, the IRS maintained it was not ignoring complaints of electioneering, but had failed to hire an official to investigate church politicking, which it had been ordered to do in 2009 as the result of another lawsuit. “This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this … [Read more...]

Bay City Westminster Presbyterian pastor to lead U.S. House of Representatives in prayer this week

Pastor Matthew Schramm of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bay City was invited by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, to lead the U.S. House of Representatives in prayer on Wednesday, July 23, in Washington, D.C. —Andrew Dodson

BAY CITY, MICH (PNS) Bay City pastor will lead members of the United States House of Representatives in prayer this week to begin the day's work session. Following an invitation by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, Matthew Schramm, pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 103 E. Midland St., will read his 150-word prayer after House Speaker John Boehner hits his gavel to begin session at noon on Wednesday, July 23. "It's an honor to lead Congress in prayer and I'm looking forward to it," said Schramm, who will travel with his wife and three children to Washington, D.C., for a vacation to take in the sites of the Capital. Prayers can't be political in nature, Schramm said, but he believes any words of prayer right now come at an important time for the world, especially with current conflicts between Israel and Palestine, ongoing debates of allowing immigrants into America who are seeking asylum and the recent shooting down of a commercial airliner in Ukraine. "No … [Read more...]

Statement issued by PC(USA) denouncing attacks in Mosul

It is with great sadness and deep concern that we join our voice with the voice of the church in Iraq to cry out against the terrible attack being waged against Christians, Shiite Muslims, and other religious minorities in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul. We condemn all actions seeking to discriminate between indigenous residents and citizens of Iraq based on religion or sect, and actions that threaten the safety and human dignity of innocents seeking to live out their Christian or Muslim faith in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the region. We denounce the fear and hate-based tactics of Islamic extremists being used to force Christians to convert to a particular expression of Islam, pay an unspecified tax (jizya) for their safety, leave with only the clothes on their backs, or stay and be killed. We further call for a cessation of all religious targeting, including the marking and confiscation of Christian and Shiite Muslim homes, kidnapping, and murder. All actions that seek to … [Read more...]

Hoping the world will listen

196-14 cover

Where it all leads is another question, but no one can accuse Presbyterians of not caring or being afraid to speak. Late into the night, the commissioners at the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) parsed and amended and substitute-motioned their way to crafting position statements on social justice issues — speaking out, hoping the world will listen. Here’s some of what commissioners chose to say: Drones. The assembly approved a resolution — an amended version of a measure brought by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy — calling on all countries to halt the use of drones as weapons of war. That resolution states in part: “The goal is to ensure that in any justification of targeting human beings that the fundamental rights of all humans are protected, international law upheld, noncombatants safeguarded, and the larger goal of peace and justice advanced.” The sensitivity regarding the debate was evident from one commissioner’s request that … [Read more...]