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Agents of tolerance

Religion | Despite some differences, Jerry Fallwell now says he could support John McCain for president

Issue: "Soldiering on," May 27, 2006

When megachurch preacher Jerry Falwell invited Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to give the commencement address this month at 10,000-student Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., it proved the truce of expedience they worked out last fall was still holding.

The minister had opposed Sen. McCain's candidacy for the presidency in 2000 and had supported George Bush instead. The senator accused Mr. Falwell and others of being "agents of intolerance." In their rapprochement last year, Sen. McCain said he no longer considered Mr. Falwell an agent of intolerance. Mr. Falwell told reporters that apologies were neither offered nor requested. If the senator were to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, Mr. Falwell said he could support him-an apparent signal to others in the Christian right.

The pair expressed respect for each other, despite some differences. For example, Mr. Falwell favors a federal marriage amendment to protect traditional marriage; Sen. McCain thinks that states should protect marriage.

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The overflow crowd of 10,000 in the Liberty gym (which included 2,450 grads) gave Sen. McCain, who spoke on foreign policy issues, several standing ovations. One came when he said the United States should take up arms against the "awful human catastrophe" in the Darfur region of Sudan. He warned that Osama bin Laden and his followers "have called on Muslims to rise up against any Westerner who dares intervene to stop the genocide."

Death of a scholar

Jaroslav Pelikan, distinguished Yale professor and one of the world's foremost scholars of the history of Christianity, died of lung cancer May 13 at his home near New Haven, Conn. He was 82.

A Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, Mr. Pelikan authored more than 30 books. They include the monumental five-volume series, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. He described it as what "the church of Jesus Christ has believed, taught, and confessed on the basis of the word of God" for 20 centuries. Evangelical historian Mark Noll called it "a history of Christian doctrine on a scale no one has attempted before."

He also was a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He tended to steer clear of modern religious controversies and debates. "There ought to be somebody who speaks to the other 19 centuries," he once told a newspaper interviewer. "Not everybody should be caught in this moment. I'm filing a minority report on behalf of the past."

Bulletin Board

Israel's chief council of rabbis no longer is automatically accepting conversions performed by Orthodox Jewish rabbis in the United States and elsewhere. For the conversions to be recognized, they must be performed by a rabbi whose name is kept on a short list the council maintains. To be put on the list, a rabbi must pass an exam and be a recognized expert on conversion. Converts from abroad who want to marry in Israel, and whose certifying rabbi's name is not on the approved list, must appear before an Israeli rabbinical court to prove their Jewishness. American Orthodox rabbis say the new rule is "a slap in the face," but an Israeli rabbinical official said it is needed to "ensure the highest standards" of conversion.

It's official: The governing board of the Pacific Southwest regional unit of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. voted unanimously May 11 to separate from the 1.5-million-member denomination over issues of biblical authority, homosexuality, and discipline. The region has some 300 mostly conservative churches in three states.

Delegates at the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee failed after 36 ballots to nominate a bishop to succeed retiring Bishop Herlong, a conservative. Clergy delegates held out for a moderate who would toe the denomination's majority line; unwavering lay delegates wanted a conservative. A new round of voting is scheduled in October with new nominees.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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