Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, a national news program that premiered on PBS last fall, received a $6.6 million grant for a second season. The program is sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based foundation that is one of the nation's largest benefactors of religion research and scholarship. The series now has funding through August 1999. Information oneach week's programming can be found on www. pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/.
# U.N. sources estimate that more than 45,000 people are displaced in the Kosovo province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with some 12,000 of these having fled to neighboring Albania and another 8,000 people going to the province of Montenegro. Action by Churches Together members in Albania are assessing mission needs in the area where most refugees entered the country. ACT and Norwegian Church Aid plan to give emergency assistance in both Kosovo and Montenegro and are still deciding whether an emergency appeal is needed in Albania.
# The Church of Denmark Mission is trying to get congregations in the dioceses of Funen and Aarhus involved in missionary work. Membership in both dioceses' congregations is dwindling and supported mainly by the elderly. As a result, churches are concerned with self-sufficiency and the old missionary societies have weakened. "We must realize that belonging to a congregation means that we also keep our eyes open toward the outside world," said Bishop Kresten Drejergaard at a meeting in the Diocese of Funen.
# Some 200 farmers in the Church of Denmark's Aarhus Diocese wrote a letter saying they will stay away from church when Knud Erik Laegsgaard is preaching. Laegsgaard has angered farmers with his comments in newspapers and in sermons that the destruction of Denmark's most beautiful fjord by pollution came mostly from chemicals used in agriculture.
# The U.S. Senate voted 59-36 to approve education savings accounts that would allow parents to have a tax break on school-related expenses, including tuition at religious and other private institutions. Under the bill, families, employers and others could contribute as much as $2,000 a year to a tax-free savings account on the child's behalf to be used for expenses related to public and private schooling, including home schools. The bill passed the House by a 225-197 vote. President Clinton said he plans to veto the bill.
# The Vatican reported an $11 million surplus for 1997, the fifth consecutive year it has had a surplus after 23 money-losing years in a row. The Vatican's biggest drain on its budget is its media operations-radio, television and a newspaper-which lost $21 million last year. But the Vatican received $48 million in contributions and successful investments in 1997.
# The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at is annual general assembly, voted 412-92 to reject a proposal that asked presbyteries to debate this year whether they want to remove a recently adopted amendment to the church's Book of Order. The amendment requires church officers to uphold the standards of "fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness."
In other action the assembly called on its members to "intentionally work toward removing handguns and assault weapons from our homes and our communities." It also adopted a resolution calling for stiff taxes on cigarettes and strong curbs on cigarette advertising.
# At its general assembly in Holland, Mich., the Reformed Church in America placed a three-year moratorium on debating issues surrounding the question of homosexuality. Delegates also rejected a proposal requesting judicatories " to refrain from discipline based solely on a person's sexual orientation or theological judgments concerning sexual orientation."
# Delegates at the National Assembly of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Riga discussed promoting the use of evangelists to preach where an ordained pastor isn't available. The church has 101 clergy serving 304 congregations. Although 10 pastors were ordained in the last year, several ministers were removed from the roster when they formed the Lutherans of the Augsburg Confession. Latvian Archbishop Janis Vanags expressed disappointment regarding the new Lutheran church and called upon lay and clergy to maintain unity within the Latvian church.
# The United Methodist Church created radio spots called "Civility, a goodwill solution to anger pollution" in response to increases in violence in society, including aggressive driving (see also, page 29). The radio spots use humor to get across the message of love, respect and encouragement.
# The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA expressed concern over nuclear testing by India and Pakistan, while acknowledging that the United States has not yet ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In a statement the council called upon the United States to "ratify the treaty, thus giving credibility to U.S. condemnations of India and Pakistan.
# Canadian Anglicans approved in principle a declaration to lead to closer ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The two churches will vote on the document, Called to Full Communion, in 2001.
# Pope John Paul II made changes in canon law aimed at halting discussion on topics that have been widely debated among Roman Catholics, including sexual relations outside of marriage, euthanasia and the ordination of women. Canon law means the church considers the statement to be definitive and closed to any interpretation.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers