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Bio

Nicole Symmonds is Beliefnet’s Prayer editor and also covers Christianity. A New Yorker by birth but a Floridian by tenure, Nicole graduated from Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Public Relations and a minor in Sociology. She moved to NY to pursue a career in journalism which started at In Style magazine. There she learned the ropes of magazine reporting, researching, and writing—and became exponentially more stylish. But what seemed like a deep interest in fashion and entertainment would soon be revealed as merely the vehicle that moved her closer to discovering her purpose, writing and covering matters of the Christian faith. While in her purpose-driven vehicle she can be found traveling between Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens for life, work and worship, respectively. From fashion to faith and the journey isn’t over yet…

Methodist Bishops Agree to Pay Cut

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Bishops in the United Methodist Church have voted themselves a pay cut after “recognizing the financial challenges facing the church.” The UMC’s 50 active U.S. bishops voted to give up their planned pay raises for next year and instead […]

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Former Milwaukee Archbishop Comes Out as Gay

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The former Catholic archbishop of Milwaukee, who resigned amid a sex scandal in 2002, reveals his struggles with homosexuality and the church in a forthcoming memoir, according to Publishers Weekly. Archbishop Rembert Weakland headed the archdiocese of Milwaukee from […]

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Churches to Press Solidarity with Palestinians

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) Churches in at least 20 countries plan to participate in the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel organized by the World Council of Churches and leaders in Jerusalem. The fourth annual week of action, scheduled for June […]

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European Muslims More Loyal to Nations than General Public Thinks, Poll Says

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) While majorities of European Muslims say fellow Muslims are loyal to their country, significantly fewer members of the general public believe that, a new survey shows. More than 70 percent of Muslims in France, Germany and Britain say that […]

Pope, in Israel, Confronts Dark History of Germany

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – Pope Benedict XVI confronted the dark history of his native Germany on the first day of his visit to Israel on Monday, shaking the hands of six Holocaust survivors and saying victims of the genocide “lost their lives […]

Leading American Catholic Bishop Slams Obama

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — The American bishop who heads the Vatican’s supreme court slammed President Obama Friday (May 8) for pursuing an “anti-life and anti-family agenda” and called the University of Notre Dame’s plans to honor him this month “the greatest scandal.” […]

Recession Prompts Jewish Schools to Cut Costs

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Orthodox Jewish officials have come up with a plan to rescue struggling religious day schools through shared cost-cutting strategies, while devising plans for a cheaper yeshiva model. While the economic downturn has caused headaches for all private schools, given […]

Pope Lands in Jordan, Praises Peace Efforts

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI praised Jordan’s peace and interfaith efforts when he touched down in the Muslim country on Friday (May 8), the first day of his week-long Holy Land pilgrimage. King Abdullah II of Jordan and his wife, […]

Maine Becomes Fifth State to Allow Gay Marriage

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Gov. John Baldacci signed legislation on Wednesday (May 6) that makes Maine the fifth U.S. state to allow same-sex marriages, and only the second to approve the unions without the threat of a court order. Maine now joins Vermont, […]

Vatican Paper: ‘Angels & Demons’ Film is Harmless

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Reviewers at the Vatican’s newspaper have passed judgment on “Angels & Demons,” finding the religious thriller commercial and inaccurate, but concluding it is “harmless” entertainment and not a danger to the church. L’Osservatore Romano ran a review […]

Israel Says It Won’t Apologize for Gaza War

posted by nsymmonds

UNITED NATIONS – Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday called a U.N. investigation accusing Israel of recklessness during the war in Gaza “outrageous” and said the Jewish state will not apologize for defending its citizens against Hamas missile attacks. He […]

Bill to Allow Jesus License Plates in Fla. Dies

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Moves to create two Florida license plates with images of a crucified Jesus on one, and a stained glass window and cross on another, have died in the Florida legislature. Both plates had come under blistering criticism from Americans […]

Obama Plans Proclamation, Not Event, for National Day of Prayer

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Obama administration says it will issue a proclamation marking the National Day of Prayer on Thursday (May 7), but appears to be moving away from the White House ceremonies hosted by former President George W. Bush. “President […]

Vatican Plays Down Differences Before Israel Trip

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – The Vatican’s representative to the Holy Land on Monday played down the controversies that could mar next week’s visit by Pope Benedict XVI: the conduct of a wartime predecessor and the church’s perceived lenience toward a Holocaust-denying priest. […]

FDR Pushed to Get Jews to Safety in 1930s

posted by nsymmonds

Newly uncovered documents reveal that President Franklin D. Roosevelt worked quietly in the late 1930s to find havens for European Jews, contradicting the view that he ignored their plight in the years leading up to the Holocaust. Roosevelt was “a […]

Pope to Confront Myriad Challenges in Holy Land Trip

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI departs next Friday (May 8) for what promises to be one of the most eventful and memorable events in his reign: a week-long visit to the Holy Land, with stops in Jordan, Israel and […]

Poll Shows ‘Nuanced’ Views on Homosexuality

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A large survey on American attitudes toward homosexuality reveals a “nuanced and at times inconsistent” view on gay rights, with Americans saying states should not be forced to recognize same-sex unions, but also saying gay couples should have access […]

Pope Expresses ‘Sorrow’ to Victims of Canadian Schools

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI met aboriginal survivors of Canada’s residential school system on Wednesday (Apr. 29) and voiced his “sorrow” over “deplorable” abuses in the church-run schools. “Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian […]

Methodist Court Rejects Moves to Support Gay Marriage, OKs Bush Library

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The United Methodist Church’s highest court has ruled that clergy may not officiate at same-sex unions, even in states where such marriages are legal, and gave the final OK for the George W. Bush Library to be built at […]

27 Suspected in Death of French Jew Go on Trial

posted by nsymmonds

PARIS – The presumed leader of a group of 27 young people charged with participating in the torture and killing of a young French Jew took his seat in juvenile court Wednesday with the defiant declaration, “Allah will be victorious.” […]

Southern Baptists’ Baptisms Dip to Lowest in Two Decades

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The number of baptisms by Southern Baptists — who consider the rite a gauge of their evangelism success and a key element of their faith — has dropped to the lowest rate in two decades. The denomination, which also […]

Pat Robertson to Retire from US College Post

posted by nsymmonds

RICHMOND, Virginia – Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson plans to retire next summer as president of Regent University, the private Christian college he founded in 1978, the school said Tuesday. The 79-year-old, who became the university’s sixth president in 2000, will […]

Israel Marks Independence Day Without Peace

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – In a jarring contrast, Israel switched moods Tuesday evening from a somber Memorial Day for fallen soldiers to a joyous Independence Day celebrating 61 years since the Jewish state was created, but the absence of Mideast peace weighed […]

Foxman Says Middle East, Economy Fueling Anti-Semitism

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND (RNS) Violence in the Middle East and worldwide economic distress have combined to produce “the biggest explosion of anti-Semitism globally that we have witnessed since World War II,” according to the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Abraham Foxman, […]

Presbyterians Defeat Move to Allow Gay Clergy

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) The Presbyterian Church (USA) has defeated a move — for the third time in 12 years — that would have allowed partnered gay and lesbian clergy, but gay rights groups cheered what they called a “historic shift” in the […]

Survey: Americans Switch Faiths Early, Often

posted by nsymmonds

DENVER – The United States is a nation of religious drifters, with about half of adults switching faith affiliation at least once during their lives, according to a new survey. The reasons behind the swap depend greatly on whether one […]

New Orleans Archbishop Boycotts Commencement Over Abortion Issue

posted by nsymmonds

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Alfred Hughes has told Xavier University of Louisiana he will not attend its upcoming graduation ceremonies because he objects to the university’s decision to award an honorary degree to Donna Brazile, a veteran […]

Italians, Israelis, Palestinians Run Together in ‘Peace Marathon’

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS/ENI) Former Italian volleyball world champion Andrea Zorzi was one of 50 Italian runners who joined about 100 Israelis and Palestinians in the sixth annual Pope John Paul II Peace Marathon on Thursday (April 23) that concluded in Jerusalem. […]

For Financial Guru Dave Ramsey, Sour Economy Has an Upside

posted by nsymmonds

EDMOND, Okla. — In a gloom-and-doom economy, Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey fashions himself as a prophet of hope. Part stand-up comedian, part economics professor, Ramsey built a multimillion-dollar business by dispensing simple financial advice: Live on a budget. Don’t […]

Blair Names 30 Interfaith Fellows to Tackle Malaria

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The foundation started by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has named 30 interfaith fellows, including 12 Americans, to raise awareness about efforts to fight malaria in Africa. The fellows are expected to receive training in London and Chicago, […]

Study: Evangelicals Trail Other Faiths on Global Warming

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) While a majority of white evangelicals believe there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, only one in three says human activity is the cause, according to a recent survey. As the world celebrates Earth Day, a survey […]

Dalai Lama: China Riot Ruling Political

posted by nsymmonds

NARITA, Japan – The Dalai Lama on Wednesday criticized lengthy prison terms given a day earlier by China to three people for arson attacks during rioting last year in the Tibetan capital, calling the rulings politically motivated. The exiled Tibetan […]

Netanyahu Vows Not to Allow Second Holocaust

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday not to allow Holocaust deniers to carry out a second Holocaust against the Jewish people. Speaking at the ceremony marking Israel’s annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by […]

National Day of Prayer Events Overshadowed by Politics

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — Every year between 2001 and 2008, former President Bush’s calendar was cleared on the first Thursday in May to mark the National Day of Prayer in the White House East Room with prominent evangelicals. Now the Obama White […]

Advocates Say NIH Stem Cell Guidelines Are Sensible Middle Ground

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Some anti-abortion religious leaders are welcoming new draft guidelines from the National Institutes of Health on embryonic stem cell research as a balanced approach to the controversial procedure. The guidelines, issued Friday (April 17), permit federally funded research […]

Where Obama Turns for Spiritual Advice: Rev. Joel Hunter

posted by nsymmonds

Apr. 12–He doesn’t thunder from the pulpit in righteous rage. He’d rather relay stories that make a moral point. He has no catchphrases, fussy handlers or televised religious talk shows. What the soft-spoken Rev. Joel Hunter of Longwood does have […]

Suit Says Student Dismissed Over Gay Views

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A conservative legal group has filed suit against Eastern Michigan University on behalf of a graduate student who claims she was dismissed from counseling studies for her religious beliefs regarding homosexuality. The suit was filed with the U.S. District […]

AP Exclusive: Dolan to Fight Anti-Catholic Bias

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan said Monday, on the eve of his installation, that he will challenge the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is unenlightened because it opposes gay marriage and abortion. In an exclusive interview […]

Spiritual Seekers Drawn to Egyptian Sacred Sites

posted by nsymmonds

GIZA, Egypt – The Great Pyramid of Giza was one of the ancient wonders of the world, and even most travelers today would not consider a trip to Egypt complete without seeing the pyramids. But for some tourists, the pyramids […]

Obama Invites Friends, Aides to Seder Dinner

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is inviting close friends and staff to a private White House meal Thursday to mark Passover, part of the new president’s effort to reach out to Jewish voters. Among the invited is Valerie Jarrett, one of […]

In Pilate’s Wife, Some See An Unlikely Saint

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) For all of Pontius Pilate’s faults, one was distinctly damning: he didn’t listen to his wife. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Roman governor of Judea received a note from his spouse during the trial of Jesus. “Have […]

Obama Meets with Eastern Orthodox Leader

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) President Obama met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, on Tuesday (April 7) in Turkey, where they discussed religious freedom and the opening of an historic seminary closed by Turkish authorities. Bartholomew “made a […]

Easter Hats Fall Victim to Economic Downturn

posted by nsymmonds

SILVER SPRING, Md. — There are many things that Paula Settles is willing to forgo in these budget-conscious times, but an Easter hat isn’t one of them. “I wouldn’t consider going to church without a hat on,” said Settles, an […]

Non-Jews take Temporary Custody of Food During Passover

posted by nsymmonds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — At 9 a.m. on Wednesday (April 8) morning, Jose Mendez, a non-Jew, became owner of a huge amount of food he’ll never eat. For the entire length of Passover, which runs April 8-16, Mendez will legally […]

White House Expands Faith-Based Advisory Panel

posted by nsymmonds

A Pentecostal bishop who has challenged Democrats on abortion and a representative of a national gay rights group are among nine new members of a White House advisory council. President Barack Obama announced the appointments of Bishop Charles E. Blake […]

Newsweek Names Nation’s Top 50 Rabbis

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) There’s a new top rabbi in town, according to Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential Jewish clergy in America: Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington and a member of President […]

Obama Tells Turks that US is Not at War with Islam

posted by nsymmonds

ANKARA, Turkey – Barack Obama, making his first visit to a Muslim nation as president, declared Monday the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.” Urging a greater partnership with the Islamic world in an […]

Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in Iowa

posted by nsymmonds

In a precedent-setting ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court Friday upheld a lower court decision legalizing same-sex marriages in Iowa. The unanimous landmark decision is expected to carry national implications as Iowa becomes the first Midwest state to grant full legal […]

A John Paul II Miracle Cure? Maybe, Maybe Not.

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND — It makes a great story. Jory Aebly’s miraculous recovery from an execution-style gunshot to the head bolsters Pope John Paul II’s case for sainthood. Except that four years after the legendary pope died at age 84, the Vatican’s […]

Palm Sunday Goes Greener with Fair-Trade Fronds

posted by nsymmonds

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Christian churches in the U.S. are turning over a new leaf for Palm Sunday. About 2,500 congregations from every major denomination this weekend will use fair-trade palm fronds in their annual celebration of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem […]

Court Hears US Case Over Animal Sacrifices

posted by nsymmonds

NEW ORLEANS – A Santeria priest who sued a Texas city for denying him permission to sacrifice a goat as part of a religious ceremony asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to let him resume the ritual in his home. […]

NAE President Wades Carefully into Immigration Debate

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The president of the National Association of Evangelicals took a rare step into the immigration debate Tuesday (March 31), saying that the long waiting period for citizenship must be shortened. “There are inconsistencies and many outdated aspects of […]

Brooklyn D.A. Launches Program on Orthodox Abuse

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) Responding to increasing reports of sex abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes on Wednesday launched a new outreach program aimed at helping victims come forward. Kol Tzedek, which translates to “Voice of […]

Denominations Trim Presence on Capitol Hill

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — Imagine finally making it to the big game, then having to take half your team off the field. That’s how it feels for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby that recently laid off more than […]

Jews Prepare to ‘Bless the Sun’ Before Passover

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) Traditionalist Jews and tree-huggers alike are coming together for Birkat HaHammah, a Jewish holiday that falls only once every 28 years, marking the sun’s return to its original position at creation. This year, the celebration takes place […]

Poll Finds Catholics to the Left of U.S. on Social Issues

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) American Catholics are more liberal than the general population on social issues like divorce and homosexuality, despite the Catholic Church’s longstanding conservatism on both issues, according to a new survey. Catholics are more likely than non-Catholics to say that […]

Catholic Archbishop Apologizes for Criticizing U.S. Bishops

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — The American archbishop who heads the Vatican’s supreme court has apologized for the “confusion and hurt” caused by his criticism of fellow bishops who do not deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Archbishop Raymond Burke, […]

UN Body OKs Call to Curb Religious Criticism

posted by nsymmonds

GENEVA – The U.N.’s top human-rights body approved a proposal by Muslims nations Thursday urging passage of laws around the world to protect religion from criticism. The proposal put forward by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic countries – with the […]

Archbishop of Canterbury Says God Won’t Rescue World from ‘Stupidity’

posted by nsymmonds

LONDON (RNS) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in one of his sharpest attacks yet on threats to the environment, has warned that God will not save mankind from his own environmental “stupidity.” The spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million-member […]

Jewish Groups Denounce Oliphant Gaza Cartoon

posted by nsymmonds

LOS ANGELES – Two Jewish groups have denounced a Pat Oliphant political cartoon on Gaza as anti-Semitic, likening its fanged Star of David to Nazi imagery before the Holocaust. The syndicated cartoon published Wednesday in newspapers across the country depicts […]

Obama Taps Special Envoy to Combat Human Trafficking

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama announced on Tuesday (March 24) his nomination of Luis C. de Baca as ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat human trafficking. “I’m grateful that this fine public servant has agreed to join my administration, and I am […]

Catholic Bishops Say No to Reiki Treatment

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Catholic Bishops said Thursday (March 26) that Catholic chaplains, health care facilities and retreat centers should not promote or support Reiki therapy, a Japanese alternative healing practice. Reiki “finds no support either in the findings of […]

Conservatives Talk Abortion Reduction with White House

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Leaders from several prominent conservative Christian groups met Tuesday (March 24) with the head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to discuss ways to reduce abortions. Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright sought […]

Presbyterian Court Rules Against Lesbian Minister

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A San Francisco woman’s quest to overturn a ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy in the Presbyterian Church (USA) was denied on a technicality by a regional church court. Lisa Larges, 45, declared a conscientious objection to denominational […]

Open Up Your Mind and Say Ommmm …

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND — Before the group of about 50 people finished their break and found a comfortable spot in the open meeting area for their fourth and final meditation, Venerable Kong Dow, a Buddhist nun, gave them some advice. “You catch […]

Court Says Church Can Brew Hallucinogenic Tea

posted by nsymmonds

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) A church in Ashland, Ore., can import and brew a hallucinogenic tea for its religious services, under a federal court ruling issued March 19. Judge Owen M. Panner issued a permanent injunction that bars the federal government […]

South Africa Bars Dalai Lama from Peace Conference

posted by nsymmonds

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa barred the Dalai Lama from a peace conference in Johannesburg this week, hoping to keep good relations with trading partner China but instead generating a storm of criticism. Friday’s peace conference was organized by South African […]

Pope Wraps Up Week-Long Trip to Africa

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Closing a week-long visit to Africa on Monday (Mar. 23), Pope Benedict XVI urged citizens of war-ravaged Angola to work for “national reconciliation,” and reminded the country’s longstanding president of government’s duty to serve the “common good.” […]

Iran Brushes Aside New Obama Video Message

posted by nsymmonds

TEHRAN, Iran – The Iranian government brushed aside a Persian New Year’s message Friday from President Barack Obama offering to resolve years of hostility, saying it wants concrete change from Washington before it’s ready to enter a dialogue. Obama released […]

Pope Condemns Sexual Violence Against Women

posted by nsymmonds

LUANDA, Angola – Pope Benedict XVI, welcomed to this sweltering capital Friday by the biggest crowds of his African pilgrimage, condemned sexual violence against women in Africa and chided those countries on the continent that have approved abortion. Benedict arrived […]

Former Nazi Guard Living in Wisconsin Deported

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – A former Nazi concentration-camp guard was deported from Wisconsin to Austria on Thursday, despite objections from his lawyer that the guard was simply present at the camp but committed no acts of persecution. Prosecutors said 83-year-old Josias Kumpf […]

Creation Museum Opens Exhibit to Promote Natural Selection

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Kentucky museum that advocates creationism unveiled an exhibit on Sunday (March 15) that affirms Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection even as they reject his teachings on evolution. “All we’re doing is helping people to understand that natural […]

Vatican Defends Pope on Condom Rejection

posted by nsymmonds

YAOUNDE, Cameroon – The Vatican defended Pope Benedict XVI’s rejection of condoms as a way to stop HIV after international criticism Wednesday that he was weakening the fight against the disease. France and Germany sharply critiqued Benedict’s declaration that distributing […]

A Down Economy Doesn’t Mean a Boost for Church Attendance

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) When the economy heads downward, pastors sometimes expect the pews to get a little more crowded. But an analysis of polling data by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicates that, in general, worshippers are not reporting […]

Opponents Hope Book Can Help End Death Penalty

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) Religious opponents of the death penalty hope a new book about a Texas death row case by a best-selling author can help their efforts to end the practice of state-sanctioned executions. Thomas Cahill’s just-published book, “A Saint […]

Vatican Official Says Doctors Didn’t Deserve Excommunication

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s top bioethics official said the two Brazilian doctors who performed an abortion on a 9-year-old rape victim do not merit excommunication, since they acted to save her life. The statement by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president […]

French Physicist Wins Templeton Prize

posted by nsymmonds

Bernard d’Espagnat, a renowned French physicist whose research has centered on hidden realities that are “beyond our possibilities of description,” has won the 2009 Templeton Prize, valued at $1.42 million. D’Espagnat becomes the latest in a series of physicists and […]

Grassley Praises Ministry’s Move Toward Accountability

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The senator who has investigated six prominent ministries for questionable finances has praised one of them — Joyce Meyer Ministries — for joining the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. “This is a positive development,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, […]

Conservative Jews Push for New Leadership, Direction

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) As a coalition of nearly 60 clergy and lay leaders demands a new strategic plan and greater transparency from Conservative Judaism, the movement’s synagogue arm has tapped a new leader who hopes to fulfill some of those goals. The […]

Catholics Report Rise in Abuse Cases

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — U.S. Catholic leaders processed more than 800 allegations of clergy sexual abuse in 2008, a 16 percent increase from 2007. The majority of the allegations involved abuse that occurred decades ago. A report issued Friday (March 13) by […]

Karmapa Lama emerging as Tibet’s New Voice

posted by nsymmonds

SIDBHARI, India – Like his 16 previous incarnations, this Karmapa Lama has spent his life immersed in the Tibetan Buddhist arts of meditation, study and prayer. Unlike them, he likes to relax playing war games on his PlayStation. This blend […]

Pope Acknowledges ‘Mistakes’ with Holocaust-Denying Bishop

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — Acknowledging an “avalanche of protests,” Pope Benedict XVI justified his controversial decision to readmit a Holocaust-denying bishop to the Catholic Church, but acknowledged that mistakes had contributed to the international furor that followed. Benedict’s remarks appeared in […]

Mormons Angered by Temple Scenes in ‘Big Love’

posted by nsymmonds

SALT LAKE CITY — The creators of HBO’s controversial polygamy drama, “Big Love,” defended an upcoming episode that depicts a sacred and private temple ceremony that has riled some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The […]

Mercy Corps Says Millions Left at Risk in Darfur

posted by nsymmonds

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Sudan’s decision to expel Mercy Corps and 12 other humanitarian organizations from the war-torn nation risks millions of lives, says Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive of the Portland-based humanitarian agency. About 2.5 million Sudanese have been living on […]

Pope to Visit Holy Land in May

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI will visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories for a week this May, the pope confirmed on Sunday (Mar. 8). “I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, as […]

Survey Shows U.S. Growing Less Religious, Less ‘Christian’

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) The nation has grown less religious in the last two decades, a new study shows, with a 10 percent drop in the number of people who call themselves Christians and increases in all 50 states among those who are […]

Library of Congress Collects 250+ Inaugural Sermons

posted by nsymmonds

Religion News Service WASHINGTON — Years from now, when researchers wonder what people preached about at the time of President Obama’s inauguration, they’ll know what the Rev. Christopher Rodkey of Lebanon, Pa., had to say. He’s one of more than […]

Ex-Mormon Fires Back with ‘Hot Mormon Muffins’ Calendar

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) The former Mormon who was excommunicated for publishing a calendar of half-naked Mormon missionaries said Friday (March 6) he will sue a church-owned university for denying him a degree — and plans to publish two risque new calendars. Chad […]

Research Suggest Faith Lowers Stress, Makes Tasks Easier

posted by nsymmonds

TORONTO (RNS) Canadian researchers have found that strong religious convictions can lower stress and enhance the performance of basic tasks. A team in Toronto put 28 students through tests measuring both levels of religious observance and stress caused by making […]

Big Churches Posting Small Membership Losses

posted by nsymmonds

Membership has waned in the nation’s largest Christian bodies– the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention — while mainline Protestant churches continue to shrink, according to the “Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.” With more than 67 million […]

Suit Seeks Overturn of Federal Gay Marriage Law

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious groups are divided over a lawsuit filed Tuesday (March 3) to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which gay groups claim unconstitutionally denies them the rights and responsibilities given to straight married couples. The Clinton-era law […]

PowerPoint Program Helps Deaf Jews Celebrate Purim

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Purim, the noisiest Jewish holiday of the year, has become more accessible to deaf and hearing-impaired worshippers, as a growing number of synagogues now use a PowerPoint program developed for the festival, which falls on March 10 this year. […]

Report: Tibetan Monks Protest New Year Prayer Ban

posted by nsymmonds

BEIJING – Defiant Buddhist monks banned from marking a key Tibetan New Year prayer festival marched in protest in China’s southwest, rights groups and officials said. It was the latest resistance to Chinese rule ahead of sensitive anniversaries in Tibet. […]

Sebelius Pick Draws Attention from Left, Right

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Conservative Christians called Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius an “unfortunate” choice for U.S. Health and Human Services secretary because of her support of abortion rights, while others — including fellow Catholic Democrats — came to her defense. President Obama […]

Ban On A Type of Prayer in School Allowed to Stand

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – Coach Marcus Borden used to bow his head and drop to one knee when his football team prayed. But the Supreme Court on Monday ended the practice when it refused to hear the high school coach’s appeal of […]

Women from Across Judaism to Gather for Prayer Event in New York

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK — More than 350 women from four Jewish movements will gather in New York City (March 1) for an unprecedented dialogue on female spirituality in Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish participants in the sold-out event, called […]

Vatican: Bishop’s Apology on Holocaust Not Enough

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican said Friday that the apology issued by an ultraconservative bishop who denied the Holocaust was not good enough to admit him into the Catholic Church as a clergyman. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Bishop […]

Dobson Resigns as Chairman of Focus on the Family

posted by nsymmonds

DENVER – Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family but will continue to play a prominent role at the organization he founded more than three decades ago. Dobson notified the board of his […]

New Assemblies of God General Secretary Appointed

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Missouri minister has been appointed the new general secretary of the Assemblies of God, replacing the previous officeholder who resigned after admitting to misconduct. Pastor James Bradford of Central Assembly of God in Springfield was appointed on Thursday […]

No Matzo Shortage Expected this Year, Manischewitz Says

posted by nsymmonds

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) Manischewitz, America’s largest producer of processed kosher food, has resumed full Passover matzo production after its factory relocation contributed to a national shortage last year. During Passover, which falls between April 9 and April 15 this year, […]

In Pope’s Choice for New York, A Study in Contrasts

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK — The Rev. Steven Avella, a Roman Catholic priest in Milwaukee, said his counterparts in the Archdiocese of New York should soon expect a phone call from their new boss — Archbishop Timothy Dolan. “He’ll start phoning guys […]

Holy Cards Draw the Collectors’ Eye

posted by nsymmonds

ROME — Until a few decades ago, practically everybody attending a Catholic baptism, first Communion or funeral would walk out of the ceremony with a holy card in their pocket or purse. Typically the size of a slightly elongated playing […]

Chicago-Area Female Rabbi to Lead Reform Rabbinical Assembly

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (AP) – Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, who leads a small congregation in suburban Chicago, will become the second woman to head the rabbinical assembly of Judaism’s liberal Reform movement. Dreyfus, 57, is to be installed as president of […]

Fairness Doctrine is Still Dead, But Groups Are Still Worried

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — A move to require broadcasters to provide equal time to all sides of controversial issues has religious radio programs worried, even though no formal proposal has been introduced and the White House likely wouldn’t support it. At issue […]

‘Fireproof’ Wins Top Movieguide Award

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) “Fireproof” and “The Christmas Choir” captured the two $100,000 Epiphany Prizes at the 17th annual Movieguide Faith and Values Awards Gala in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Fireproof” depicts the reconciliation of a troubled marriage while “The Christmas Choir” follows homeless […]

Slain Rabbi’s Father Hopes to Rebuild Jewish Center

posted by nsymmonds

CHENNAI, India (RNS) The father of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, the Chabad missionary who was murdered along with his wife in last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai plans to rebuild the Jewish center that was badly damaged in the assault. Rabbi […]

Pope Gives Pelosi a Stern Reprimand

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI lectured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the “dignity of human life” at a private meeting here on Wednesday (Feb. 18), a decidedly less cordial reception than is frequently given many U.S. leaders. Pelosi, D-Calif., […]

Muslim TV Channel Founder Charged with Decapitating Wife

posted by nsymmonds

New York (dpa) – The founder of a Muslim television station in the United States has been charged with murder after allegedly decapitating his wife, the channel’s website and local media reported Tuesday. Muzzammil Hassan, 44, was arrested Thursday after […]

Science Group Boycotts New Orleans Over Teaching Rules

posted by nsymmonds

BATON ROUGE, La. (RNS) A national organization of scientists has informed Gov. Bobby Jindal that it will not hold its annual convention in Louisiana as long as the recently adopted science curriculum standards remain on the books. The Society for […]

New Christian Poverty Forum Aims to Keep Focus on the Poor

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of 18 Christian leaders has developed a host of policy recommendations on poverty reduction that they hope will shape the actions of the Obama administration and Congress. The effort, co-chaired by evangelical activist Jim Wallis […]

Gay Couples Protest at Marriage Bureaus Across US

posted by nsymmonds

Associated Press – February 12, 2009 SAN FRANCISCO – Same-sex couples seeking to wed showed up at marriage license counters nationwide Thursday to highlight a right they don’t have in 48 states, part of an annual protest that took on […]

Ministry Sues for Access to Inmates

posted by nsymmonds

OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) The Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ refusal to allow a Christian ministry access to send Bibles, books about Jesus Christ and other religious materials to inmates has sparked a federal lawsuit. Wingspread Christian Ministries, headquartered in Prairie Grove, […]

Russia: No Orthodox, Catholic Meeting Yet

posted by nsymmonds

MOSCOW – A top Russian Orthodox official signaled that a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Benedict XVI is not likely to happen soon, a news agencies reported Friday. The comments from Bishop Ilarion, the Russian church’s envoy to European […]

Groups Ask Obama to Join Land Mine Treaties

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Leaders from 67 religious and humanitarian organizations have asked President Obama to reconsider U.S. opposition to global treaties that prohibit the use and transfer of landmines and cluster munitions. “Reconsidering these two treaties — and eliminating the threat […]

Muslim Creationists Gain Ground

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) Growing up in Pakistan, Salman Hameed navigated freely between his Muslim beliefs and his secular studies. Now, as an assistant professor of integrated science and humanities at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, he teaches about the scientific origins of the […]

Church of England Debates Allowing Women Bishops

posted by nsymmonds

LONDON – The Church of England’s governing body, seeking to bridge stubborn differences over allowing women to become bishops, was expected to vote Wednesday on a compromise that would let traditionalist parishes be overseen by men. Though bitterly torn over […]

Secularist Group Buying Billboards to Honor Darwin

posted by nsymmonds

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – A secularist group is observing the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin with billboards that urge people to “Evolve Beyond Belief.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation placed “Praise Darwin” billboards in Grand Junction; Dayton, Tennessee; Dover, Pennsylvania; […]

La. Prison Agrees to Strip Monument of Bible Reference

posted by nsymmonds

BATON ROUGE, La. (RNS) Officials at a Louisiana prison, already under fire for allegedly denying Catholic and Muslim inmates access to religious materials, have agreed to remove a biblical reference from a monument outside the prison gates. Cathy Fontenot, a […]

Holocaust-Denying Bishop Dismissed from Seminary

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) In the latest consequence of more than two weeks of international outcry, a Holocaust-denying bishop who was recently readmitted to the Catholic Church has been dismissed as head of an Argentinean seminary. “Statements by Monsignor (Richard) Williamson […]

Venezuela’s Jews Fear More Attacks

posted by nsymmonds

CARACAS, Venezuela – As President Hugo Chavez intensifies his anti-Israel campaign, some Venezuelans have taken action, threatening Jews in the street and vandalizing the largest synagogue in Caracas – where they stole a database of names and addresses. Now many […]

Senate Rejects Stimulus Aid for Religious Buildings

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Senate defeated an amendment to the economic stimulus bill Thursday (Feb. 5) that would have allowed federal funding for renovations at college buildings that are used for religious activity. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., proposed the amendment […]

Vatican Fingers Are Pointing in Holocaust Controversy

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — After two weeks of international outcry over the pope’s decision to readmit a Holocaust-denying bishop, the Vatican’s top leaders are engaged in an extraordinarily severe — and rare — round of public criticism. Jewish groups were outraged […]

Muslim Charity to Get Access to Records

posted by nsymmonds

Feb. 4–Nearly three years after U.S. agents first seized hundreds of documents from a Toledo-based Muslim charity and froze its financial assets, a federal judge issued an order that ultimately allows the organization to defend itself. U.S. District Court Judge […]

Fire Burns Through Roof of Iconic Chicago Church

posted by nsymmonds

CHICAGO – A fire burned for more than two hours Wednesday at Holy Name Cathedral, severely damaging the attic and leaving gaping holes in the roof of the 134-year-old landmark and seat of Cardinal Francis George. Firefighters battled the blaze […]

Vatican Says Bishop Must Recant Holocaust Statements

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — Responding to two weeks of international outcry, the Vatican on Wednesday (Feb. 4) demanded that a traditionalist bishop recant his statements denying the genocide of Jews during in the Holocaust. The statement from the office of Cardinal […]

Dalai Lama Hospitalized with Pinched Nerve

posted by nsymmonds

NEW DELHI – The Dalai Lama was taken to a hospital in India’s capital for medical tests Monday after experiencing minor pain in his arms that was later diagnosed as a pinched nerve, his spokesman said. The 73-year-old exiled Tibetan […]

Judge Orders Witness to Remove Face Veil

posted by nsymmonds

TORONTO (RNS) In a case that pits religious freedom against the right of a defendant to face an accuser in court, a judge here has ordered a Toronto woman to testify without her face-covering niqab at a sexual assault trial. […]

Carter Urges Baptists to Break Down Racial Barriers

posted by nsymmonds

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Former President Jimmy Carter stepped into the pulpit of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Saturday (Jan. 31) and spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of about 1,200 people who filled the balcony and lined the walls. “There is […]

Report: African-Americans Surpass Others in Religiosity

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) African-Americans surpass others in the U.S. in a range of expressions of faith, from praying more to attending religious services more frequently, a new report shows. “Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most […]

Pope Renews Full Solidarity to Jews

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that he feels “full and indisputable solidarity” with Jews and warned against any denial of the full horror of the Holocaust. Benedict spoke days he revoked the excommunication of a bishop who […]

NBC Rejects Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Ad

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON, Jan 30, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) — A Chicago-based Catholic organization says NBC-TV won’t air an anti-abortion video during Sunday’s Super Bowl that portrays President Obama as an unborn child. The spot has had more than 700,000 hits on […]

Churches Free This Year to Broadcast Super Bowl

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Churches can hold parties to watch the upcoming Super Bowl with fewer restrictions this year. The Rutherford Institute, which joined members of Congress in challenging the National Football League’s previous rules, has reminded churches that they can host viewing […]

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Severs Vatican Ties

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – Israel’s chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. The Jewish state’s highest religious authority sent a […]

Workplace Discrimination Claims On the Rise

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) Complaints of religious discrimination in the workplace are on the rise, but civil rights advocates say that may not be such a bad thing. That’s because a likely reason for a steady rise in reported incidents has nothing to […]

Business of Chinese New Year

posted by nsymmonds

Jan. 24–Its pageantry goes unnoticed in the ubiquitous, cheeky national ad campaigns for Las Vegas. But in the biggest casinos on the Strip, no detail from dining to decor is overlooked when it comes to Chinese New Year, an event […]

Pastor Admits Church Knew of New Allegations Against Haggard

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The pastor of a Colorado Springs megachurch at the center of yet another sex scandal involving former pastor Ted Haggard told his congregation Sunday (Jan. 25) that he knew of the lurid allegations 18 months ago but “there’s nothing […]

Pope’s Internal Reconciliation Causes External Discord

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI allowed the leaders of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) back into the Catholic fold last week, he must have known that his move would cause controversy inside the church. The question […]

Obama Signs Order Reversing Abortion-Funds Policy

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday quietly ended the Bush administration’s ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option. Liberal groups welcomed the decision, while abortion rights foes criticized the […]

Religious Leaders Praise Obama Directives on Torture, Guantanamo

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious leaders from the U.S. Catholic bishops to evangelical human rights advocates have applauded President Obama’s executive order that essentially ends torture of detainees held by the U.S. government. On Thursday (Jan. 22), his second full day in […]

Vatican Launches Its Own YouTube Channel

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican extended its digital communications capabilities on Friday (Jan. 23), when it launched its own video channel on the Web site YouTube. The Vatican channel (www.youtube.com/vatican) features short video news clips about events involving Pope Benedict […]

Annual March for Life Rally Picks Up On Inaugural Themes

posted by nsymmonds

Jan. 21–Sharing the date with President Barack Obama’s inauguration didn’t hurt attendance at the annual March for Life rally on the Capitol steps Tuesday. More than 4,000 people gathered in the chilly afternoon to call for an end to abortion, […]

Young Muslims Ask Obama’s Help in Fighting Extremism

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) As Barack Obama begins his tenure as the first U.S. president with Muslim ancestry, a group of 300 young Muslim activists from 76 countries has asked him to promote policies that can help peacefully curtail religious extremism. The Muslim […]

Obama’s Prayer Service Reflects New Push Toward Diversity

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — President Obama opened his first full day in office at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday (Jan. 21) with a diverse array of religious leaders, including the ceremony’s first-ever woman preacher, who urged him to hold onto his […]

N.Y. Hebrew Charter School Will Be Secular, Officials Say

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) A new charter school will soon provide a free, secular alternative to private Jewish day schools or extracurricular religious education for students who wish to learn Hebrew. Despite the city’s large Jewish population and its dozens of […]

Seven States Sue to Block Controversial HHS Rule Involving Abortion

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Seven states have sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying a new regulation that permits health care workers to abstain from providing abortions is illegal. The suit, filed Thursday (Jan. 15) by Connecticut Attorney General […]

Evangelicals, Progressives Announces Common Agenda

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) An evangelical-progressive coalition has developed an agenda aimed at moving beyond past divisions on hot-button social issues to seek policy changes on abortion, torture and other issues. After two years of discussion, they have concluded that their “Come […]

Blacks, Jews See a New Era Under Obama

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND — Growing up in culturally diverse Shaker Heights, Ohio, the Rev. David Owens, a 48-year-old African-American, saw little interaction between blacks and Jews. Color, creed and class differences seemed too great to overcome. But Owens has seen a big […]

Groups Seek Executive Order Banning Torture

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) An interfaith coalition of religious groups has asked President-elect Barack Obama to sign an executive order banning torture on his first day in office. Members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture sent Obama a letter with their […]

In `the Almighty,’ Bush Sees a Providential God

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — Throughout his eight years in the Oval Office, President Bush frequently made public references to God, but instead of always using the traditional Judeo-Christian term for the divine, he often chose the more generic “Almighty.” “We can be […]

ACLU Claims Catholic Bishops Misusing Grant Money

posted by nsymmonds

BOSTON – A new lawsuit claims Catholic bishops are wrongly imposing their beliefs on victims of human trafficking by not letting federal grant money be used for emergency contraception, condoms or abortions. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint […]

Gay Bishop, Woman Added to Obama’s Inaugural Prayers

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — After choosing an evangelical pastor to deliver the invocation at his swearing-in, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen two progressive Protestant leaders — a woman and an openly gay bishop– to bookend his inaugural ceremonies. “It reflects his commitment […]

Cleveland Clergy Fail in Bid to Ditch Domestic Partner Registry

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND (RNS) A group of Cleveland pastors who tried to trigger a referendum to overturn the city’s domestic-partner registry have come up short in their bid for signatures. The group, led by the Rev. C. Jay Matthews of Mount Sinai […]

After Madoff Scandal, Jewish Yeshivas Say They Can’t ‘Go It Alone’

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK — Parents losing their Wall Street jobs, benefactors with plummeting portfolios scaling back on donations — it’s a one-two punch that has sent many Jewish day schools reeling in recent weeks. At the prestigious Ramaz School on Manhattan’s […]

Some Afghan Women Say Death by Fire is Their Only Choice

posted by nsymmonds

HERAT, Afghanistan — Simagol Yousefi was only 20 when her husband, Abdul, traveled to Iran to find work, leaving her and their two young sons in the care of her in-laws. Yousefi said it soon became clear she and her […]

Library of Congress Seeks Inaugural Sermons

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center is seeking sermons that are preached in U.S. houses of worship during inaugural week. The library said it would mark the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama as the nation’s first […]

Police Evict Catholics from Shuttered New Orleans Churches

posted by nsymmonds

NEW ORLEANS — Police evicted parishioners from two New Orleans Catholic churches on Tuesday (Jan. 6), apparently ending a 72-day standoff that began when parishioners moved into the churches and occupied them around the clock to save them from closure. […]

9 Muslims Removed from Flight Get AirTran Apology

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – AirTran Airways apologized Friday to nine Muslims kicked off a New Year’s Day flight to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security. One of the passengers said the confusion started at Reagan National […]

Honoring Christ’s Baptism: Feast Marks End of Christmas Season

posted by nsymmonds

The Rev. Rick Lawson hates the sight of discarded Christmas trees in the gutter as he drives home from church on Christmas Day. He winces at the day-after rush to the stores. “Nothing is more shocking to me,” says Lawson, […]

Pope Looks Ahead to Busy Year

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — With fresh fighting in the Holy Land and the global economy in ever-deeper crisis, Pope Benedict XVI starts 2009 with poverty and war among his most urgent concerns. Those issues also loom large in his agenda for […]

Polish President Visits Synagogue for Hanukkah

posted by nsymmonds

WARSAW, – Poland’s president has celebrated the start of Hanukkah with Warsaw’s Jewish community – the first time a Polish head of state has attended a religious service in a synagogue. The Jewish community is describing Lech Kaczynski’s visit Sunday […]

Pope Defends World Youth Day as More Than ‘Rock Festival’

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI defended the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day as a “great feast of faith,” rejecting descriptions and criticisms of the popular annual event as a mere “rock festival.” Benedict made his remarks on Monday (Dec. […]

Survey Detects Changes in U.S. Church Life

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) U.S. congregations have changed significantly in the last eight years, according to a new study, with them becoming more ethnically diverse, more technologically savvy and more informal in worship. Predominantly white congregations reported greater racial and ethnic diversity between […]

Virginia Judge Hands Conservatives Big Legal Victory

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Virginia judge ruled on Friday (Dec. 19) that three parcels of land belong to parishes that have broken away from the Episcopal Church, handing conservatives an important, if tentative, legal win. An 1867 state law, passed as Virginia […]

Jewish Women’s Group Cancels Convention, Citing Recession

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The recession has forced Hadassah, the national Jewish women’s organization, to cancel its 2009 convention in New Orleans, a local Hadassah officer said. The organization’s national convention, once scheduled for mid-July 2009 typically would have attracted 1,500 to 1,800 […]

Vatican Calls for Homosexuality to be Decriminalized

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican on Friday (Dec. 19) called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, but said a proposed United Nations declaration on gay rights is vague and excessively far-reaching. The statement by the Holy See’s UN delegation was a […]

Warren and Lowery to Deliver Blessings at Obama Inauguration

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Megachurch pastor Rick Warren and civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery will deliver the invocation and benediction, respectively, at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration next month (Jan 20). The roles of Warren, a best-selling author and leader of Saddleback Church […]

Georgia Judge Jails Muslim Woman Over Head Scarf

posted by nsymmonds

ATLANTA – A judge ordered the arrest of a Muslim woman who refused to take off her head scarf at a court security checkpoint. The judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court, […]

Madoff Scheme Hits Jewish Charities Hard

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – Many of the investors allegedly swindled by Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff are, like him, Jewish, and for many of them, contributing to Jewish causes is a crucial part of their culture. The effect of their […]

American Bible Society’s New President Begins Jan. 1

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A longtime executive of evangelical organizations will become the new president of the American Bible Society on Jan. 1. The Rev. R. Lamar Vest, the current executive vice president of Global Scripture Ministries for the New York-based society, was […]

Bush Honors Hanukkah, Israel’s 60th Birthday

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush recognized Hanukkah on Monday while paying tribute to the nation of Israel’s 60th anniversary earlier this year. The story of Hanukkah recalls the miraculous victory of a small band of patriots against tyranny, and […]

First Muslim Congressman Makes Pilgrimage to Mecca

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The first Muslim elected to Congress has become the first sitting member of that body to travel to Mecca for the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites. “It was transformative. It was a wonderful experience,” Rep. Keith […]

Younger Schuller Resigns from Crystal Cathedral

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Rev. Robert A. Schuller has resigned as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California after his father, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, said his son would no longer be the sole preacher on the church’s “Hour […]

Vatican Issues Instruction on Bioethics, In Vitro Fertilization

posted by nsymmonds

The Vatican on Friday issued the most authoritative and sweeping document on bioethical issues in more than 20 years, taking into account recent developments in biomedical technology and reinforcing the Roman Catholic church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization, human cloning, […]

Palin’s Church Seriously Damaged by Suspicious Fire

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Alaska evangelical church that former Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin calls home was severely damaged Friday (Dec. 12) by a fire that has been ruled suspicious by authorities. “Our building was damaged by a fire, and will […]

Parents in Faith-Healing Case Seek to Dismiss Case

posted by nsymmonds

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Lawyers for two Oregon City parents charged in the faith-healing death of their young daughter will ask a judge next month to dismiss the case. Lawyers for Raylene and Carl Worthington cite several reasons for requesting a […]

Religion Writers Name Election Top News Story

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Religion reporters chose the 2008 elections and the controversy surrounding President-elect Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as the top story of the year. Democrats’ outreach to faith communities, and the selection of GOP vice presidential candidate […]

Cardinal Avery Dulles, Oldest U.S. Cardinal, Dies at 90

posted by nsymmonds

Cardinal Avery Dulles, who left a prominent Protestant pedigree to become one of the nation’s most distinguished theologians and a prince of the Catholic Church, died Friday (Dec. 12) at the age of 90. Dulles, who was one of the […]

Traditionalist Spaniard Named to Vatican Liturgy Office

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Traditionalist Catholics will have a sympathizer in the new head of the Vatican’s liturgical office. Pope Benedict XVI has named Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, currently Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship […]

Supreme Court Declines to Hear `Candy Cane’ Speech Case

posted by nsymmonds

SAGINAW, Mich. (RNS) The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal in a case involving a Michigan fifth-grader who tried to sell candy canes with a religious message at his school. The high court on Monday (Dec. 8) […]

Cizik, Under Pressure for Gay Comments, Resigns From the National Association of Evangelicals

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — The top Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, who had already faced criticism for his embrace of environmental activism, resigned Thursday (Dec. 11) after signaling support for same-sex civil unions. The Rev. Richard Cizik, who had […]

Muslim Pilgrims Complete Annual Journey to Mecca

posted by nsymmonds

MECCA, Saudi Arabia – On foot and on the roofs of overflowing buses, Muslims poured into the holy city of Mecca for a final day of the hajj on Wednesday, many of them saying they felt reborn and cleansed of […]

Orthodox Jews Torn on Ethical Aspects of Kosher Foods

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) Struggling with a kosher meat industry labor scandal that won’t go away, Orthodox Jews have begun publicly debating what role– if any — ethical standards should have on their eating habits. At a panel discussion Tuesday (Dec. […]

Calif. Bishops Reach Out to Gays in Wake of Prop 8

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) California’s top Catholic clerics are trying to sooth hard feelings over the recent passage of the state’s gay marriage ban, explaining the church’s support for the measure while attempting to assure gays and lesbians that they are “cherished members […]

Hajj Pilgrims Not Hopeful of Obama

posted by nsymmonds

MINA, Saudi Arabia – After pelting a symbol of the devil with stones, the Iraqi pilgrim knelt and prayed that one day soon all sorts of devils will be removed from his homeland – among them, that American forces will […]

Pope Cautions Against Blurring Lines of Religious Differences

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI praised collaboration with other faiths in pursuit of common social goals but cautioned against dialogue that could lead to blurring of religious differences. Benedict’s statement, released on Tuesday (Dec. 9), was addressed to participants […]

Bush Talks Faith, Won’t Say God Chose Him to Be President

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) President Bush says he prays in the Oval Office and his faith has changed his life but he can’t say if God chose him to be president, ABC News reports. “I just, I can’t go there,” Bush said in […]

Interim Russian Orthodox Leader Chosen After Alexy’s Death

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Metropolitan Kirill, the Russian Orthodox leader of the provinces of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, has been chosen as the interim leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, following the death Friday (Dec. 5) of Patriarch Alexy II. Kirill, 62, was chosen […]

Conservative Anglican Primates Back New Province

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Five Anglican archbishops have backed the introduction of a new Anglican province in North America, a significant, though unsurprising boost for the conservative-led initiative. “We fully support this development with our prayer and blessing,” said the archbishops, who are […]

Hajj Pilgrims Stone Devil, Celebrate Feast

posted by nsymmonds

MINA, Saudi Arabia – The young Iranian threw stones at symbols of the devil Monday and had his beloved black locks shorn – one of 3 million Muslims on the hajj pilgrimage performing rituals to symbolize rejection of temptation and […]

Russian Orthodox Leader Alexy II Dies at 79

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK — Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, who shepherded his church through the rubble of communism but was unable or unwilling to heal a longstanding breach with the Catholic Church, died Friday (Dec.5). He was 79. Alexy, the spiritual […]

3 Million Muslims in Mecca for Pilgrimage

posted by nsymmonds

MECCA, Saudi Arabia – Draped in white robes to symbolize purity and the equality of mankind under God, nearly 3 million Muslims from all over the world gathered Friday in Mecca, on the eve of the start of the annual […]

Reactions Split to New U.S. Anglican ‘Province’

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) Nearly everyone agrees that a conservative group of Anglicans broke new ground when they declared on Wednesday (Dec. 3) that they had founded a new North American province of the Anglican Communion. But further reactions to the new Anglican […]

Jews, Muslims Plan Joint Memorial Tribute to Mumbai Victims

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) In an effort to continue interfaith cooperation and prevent backlash against Muslims, Jews and Muslims are coming together here to memorialize the Jewish victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Imam Mohammed Shamsi Ali and […]

Conservatives Form rival group to Episcopal Church

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – Theological conservatives upset by liberal views of U.S. Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans formed a rival North American province Wednesday, in a long-developing rift over the Bible that erupted when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop. The […]

Doctors’ Panel Won’t Rule on ‘Miracles’ at Lourdes

posted by nsymmonds

PARIS – An international doctors’ panel appointed by the Roman Catholic Church says it’s getting out of the “miracle” business at Lourdes. The panel will no longer judge whether pilgrims to the French shrine could have benefited from “miracle” healing […]

40 Years Later, Merton’s Legacy Looms Large

posted by nsymmonds

TRAPPIST, Ky. — Around the country for the next few weeks, many Roman Catholics will remember and honor the life of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who died 40 years ago on Dec. 10, 1968, in a freak electrocution accident. Merton, […]

He’s Young, Tall, Handsome And a Possible Successor to Dalai Lama

posted by nsymmonds

SIDHBARI, India – Give the magnetic personality and hunky good looks of a rock star to a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and the result might be Gyalwang Karmapa, the third-highest lama in the Tibetan religious firmament. The Karmapa, as he is […]

Hindus Find New Faiths In Marriage

posted by nsymmonds

NEWARK, N.J. — The perfect man for Aparna Kachalia, who was born to Hindu parents from Bombay, will be one who loves the 20-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth College and treats her well. If he happens to be Hindu, great. If […]

Texas Officials Seeks DNA of Polygamist Sect Baby

posted by nsymmonds

SAN ANGELO, Texas – Child welfare authorities want a judge to order a teenage member of a polygamist sect to let them collect a DNA sample from her newborn so they can identify the father and determine if he’s an […]

Study Suggests Worship Services Reduces Risk of Death

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) Regularly attending religious services may significantly reduce the risk of death, according to a comprehensive study by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Findings of the study […]

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Former Muslim Wants to See Change
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=348P3ooQUPk   Author and former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at the National Press Club on April 7th and said there needs to be five amendments to Islam. She said “individuals” within Islam today ...

posted 9:08:12am Apr. 10, 2015 | read full post »

Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular
Worship service attendance is up in New York City, but down among young adult Jews, according to recent studies. On the other hand, fewer Spanish-speaking teens are attending Catholic mass, but more are showing up at Evangelical ...

posted 3:10:30pm Nov. 05, 2013 | read full post »

Billy Graham: I know where I'm going
“Daddy thinks the Lord will allow him to live to 95,” said Franklin Graham recently. It was not a prophecy but a hope, Franklin explained, ...

posted 10:02:01am Oct. 24, 2013 | read full post »

Are All These Christians' Complaints of Persecution Just So Much Empty Whining?
The headlines are alarming: “Catholic-Owned Company Wins Religious Freedom Court Decision,” “Death Toll Rises to 65 in Boko Haram Attack on Students,” “Little Sisters Catholic Charity Victimized By Obamacare,” “Christians Sought ...

posted 2:41:26am Oct. 07, 2013 | read full post »

How can Christians defend themselves against today's random violence?
So, a crazed gunman opens fire and you’re caught in the middle. How can you survive? Heroes come in all sorts of packages. And they wield all sorts of defensive weapons. Such as guns and Jesus. Sometimes both at the same time. [caption ...

posted 2:53:48pm Sep. 27, 2013 | read full post »

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