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Religion Notes

Religion

Issue: "Walk the Talk," Nov. 15, 1997

Mainliners sink to a new low

Officials from the National Council of Churches and the Presbyterian Church (USA) joined business leaders and senators in endorsing a proposed law that would provide employment protection for homosexuals. At an Oct. 23 hearing before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Oliver Thomas of the NCC and Herbert Valentine of the PCUSA expressed their organizations' support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill would establish homosexuality, under the category of "sexual orientation," as a classification deserving protection in the same way race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, and disability now have protected status in the workplace. It failed to gain passage in the Senate last year by only one vote, 50-49. A procedural move cut short the hearing before Mr. Thomas and Mr. Valentine could testify, but they explained the NCC and PCUSA positions in written testimony. Mr. Thomas, NCC counsel, said because federal civil rights laws presently don't cover discrimination based on sexual orientation, "gay and lesbian people are currently deprived of basic human rights." Mr. Valentine, chief executive of the Baltimore Presbytery, said passage of ENDA is "the Christian thing to do." He said homosexuality is not a prominent biblical concern, and Jesus did not express an opinion on the issue. In voicing support for the measure, committee chairman James Jeffords (R-Vt.) said his staff had scoured the country for witnesses with differing opinions, but to no avail. However, leaders of at least four Washington-based organizations that oppose the bill said their groups were not contacted about testifying: Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, and Concerned Women for America. Will Dodson, ERLC's public policy director, told Baptist Press he left the hearing "angry" and "disgusted" that church leaders supported a bill that legitimizes homosexual practice. "It is inexcusable for Christians to defend life-styles which are contrary to Scripture."

Oregon-based evangelist Luis Palau had the support of nearly 500 churches for a crusade last month in Kansas City, Mo. Some 41,000 people attended crusade events, aides said, and Nielsen TV ratings indicated more than 50,000 watched a five-night live call-in show Mr. Palau hosted.

Sanctification and immunity

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People over 65 who go to church or synagogue at least once a week are healthier in body and mind than those who don't. And part of the proof is in their immune systems. So say Duke University researchers Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist, and Harvey Cohen, who directs a Duke center on aging. Their findings, part of the largest national survey ever conducted on aging, were published in the October issue of the International Journal of Psychiatry. Blood samples of the 1,718 participants showed that religious-service attenders were twice as likely to have strong, stable immune systems. Among other things, their blood levels of the undesirable immune system protein Interleukin-6 (IL-6) were lower, Dr. Koenig said. "This is the first study I know that tried to look at the pathways to translate religiosity to medical outcome," said Marcia Ory, chief of social science research at the National Institute on Aging, which helped fund the project. The results support a similar link between religion and good health that Dr. Koenig found last year in interviews with 4,000 randomly selected elderly people.

Hell? Yes.

Fifty-two percent of American adults are certain there is a Hell, and 27 percent think there might be, according to a poll published by USA Today. Those who believe in Hell are almost evenly split on whether it is a real place where people suffer eternal fiery torment (48 percent), or whether it is an anguished state of existence (46 percent).

Anglican leaders: Gay agenda "not acceptable"

Anglican leaders abroad are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Episcopal Church and views and practices of sexuality condoned by some of its clergy. Some 50 Anglican archbishops and bishops from 16 countries attended a recent Anglican Life and Witness conference in Dallas. Of that number, 37-many of them from Africa-signed a letter addressed to each American bishop demanding to know why so many of them are ordaining priests who are sexually active outside of marriage, and why they are permitting their clergy to perform same-sex union rites. They asked for a response in writing or in face-to-face meetings by the first of the year. Their letter warned that failure to repent could lead to a rupture in the worldwide Anglican Communion. "It is not acceptable for a pro-gay agenda to be smuggled into the church's program or foisted upon our people, and we will not permit it," they said. Indeed, in earlier meetings abroad, some prelates suggested that the American church has drifted so far from theological and moral standards, it should be excluded from the Lambeth Conference next July in Canterbury. The once-a-decade Lambeth meetings bring together hundreds of bishops representing the churches to which the world's 70 million Anglicans belong. However, religion columnist Terry Mattingly points out, although 75 percent of Anglicans attend largely conservative churches in the "Two-Thirds World," most of the bishops who can afford to attend Lambeth will come from the First World. One-fourth of them will come from the Episcopal Church alone, he predicts. Also, he adds, Lambeth planners have not included any plenary sessions; participants will be scattered among small-group sessions and have little opportunity to organize large-group actions, such as protests.

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