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Religion Notes

"Religion Notes" Continued...

Issue: "Quayle's presidential bid," June 19, 1999

Badge of contention

Boy Scouts of America has ordered the Unitarian Universalist Association to stop giving religious awards to Scouts who are Unitarians. But officials of the UUA, a 250,000-member liberal denomination headquartered in Boston, last month accused the BSA of discrimination and vowed to continue to award religious merit badges to the church's Scouts. At issue is the UUA's stance on homosexuality. The BSA, which forbids homosexuals to join as Scouts or workers, a year ago objected to a section of the church's "Religion in Life" manual that promoted gay rights. Following months of negotiation, the church in April agreed to remove the pro-homosexual language from the manual. However, UUA leaders also planned to include a separate document with the manual stating that the Unitarians strongly disagree with the BSA's position on homosexuals. BSA spokesman Gregg Shields claimed the second document was never discussed as part of the compromise. "That document," he said, "reopens the whole issue of using boys as a venue to air the [UUA's] objection to Scouting's commitment to duty, to God, and to traditional family values."

Catholic drift?

How far are America's Catholic bishops willing to back off from proposals one of their committees drafted last year aimed at tighter control of the nation's 240 Catholic colleges and universities? The answer should be evident after the committee amends and refines the proposals in a meeting in Washington, D.C., late this month. The bishops will vote on the final draft in November. The prelates proposed requiring that every university president take an oath of church fidelity, that Catholics constitute a majority of faculty members, if possible, and that local bishops have the power to approve appointments of theology professors. However, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities argued the church should recognize that the schools are governed by secular law and academic expectations, and that their survival depends on continued public funding. Last month, the association urged that all three measures be withdrawn. The American bishops are under pressure from the Vatican, which repeatedly has expressed concern about theological drift on Catholic campuses. Colleges have academic freedom only "within the confines of the truth and the common good," the Vatican declared in 1990.

People

  • North Carolina pastor Mac Brunson will move to the pulpit of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Tex., one of the largest and once one of the most influential churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is the fourth pastor the church has called in the past 10 years as it struggles to find the right person to build on the legacy left by its venerable pastor emeritus, W.A. Criswell. Mr. Brunson succeeds O.S. Hawkins, who was handpicked by Mr. Criswell but left to become president of the SBC pension board.
  • Focus on the Family leader and radio host James Dobson, 63, announced a plan for succession in his monthly letter sent to 2.5 million supporters. He said he is in good health following a mild heart attack in 1990 and a light stroke last year, and hopes to keep working for another decade. Under the plan, his duties would be split between a chief executive hired from the business world and a public spokesman. The latter person is to be chosen within three years and would work as Mr. Dobson's understudy on the radio. The popular psychologist, broadcaster, and conservative activist launched his daily radio program in 1977.
  • Ronald Hasley, a retired bishop in the 3.7-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, resigned from the ELCA's clergy roster. His action came a week after he was stripped of his duties amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Four women claimed the misconduct took place while he was bishop of the church's Northern Illinois Synod, based in Rockford. A bishop from 1987 to 1998, he recently signed an agreement stipulating that he was guilty of sexual harassment. He said he was sorry and hoped the disclosure "will begin a healing process."
  • The Methodist Church of Zimbabwe last month defrocked one of its clergy, Canaan Banana-Zimbabwe's first president. His credentials were lifted following his conviction on a series of charges of sexual assaults on men who were employed by him when he was head of state.

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