Religion Briefing

Saturday, January 17, 2009

EVANGELICAL AND LIBERAL ALLIANCE

Coalition Agrees on Social Issues

A coalition of moderate evangelical Christians and progressives said this week that they have come to an agreement on several social issues that have traditionally divided them.

The alliance of 22 ministers, academics and activists released a list of four issues around which they say they have achieved consensus. The "Come Let Us Reason Together" effort was organized by Third Way, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.

The group includes David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights; the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor at Northland, a Florida megachurch; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Melissa Rogers, professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University; and Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

On abortion, the group agreed on the principle of trying to reduce the number through policies that address the circumstances that lead to it. On gay rights, it said it supports a policy that would make it illegal, except for faith-based employers, to discriminate against gay employees. The coalition said it also agreed that the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise and un-American." And it supports an immigration policy giving undocumented immigrants a way to earn U.S. citizenship.

-- Jacqueline L. Salmon

PLANNED PARENTHOOD

FRC Wants State Funding Cut

Undeterred by solid Democratic gains in November's national elections, religious conservatives who oppose abortion are going on the offensive with a new weapon: a sick economy.

In its largest-ever state-based initiative, the Family Research Council is contacting every state lawmaker in the country with a plea to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the nation's largest providers of family planning and abortion services.

Their argument is that while many organizations need public money in difficult economic times, Planned Parenthood -- with a $1 billion budget and a $114 million operating surplus -- isn't one of them.

"Planned Parenthood has proven that they don't need federal or state handouts," says Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Washington-based FRC. "During these economic times, when states are rethinking their investments, subsidizing abortion is probably not the kind of thing that they want to be known for."

Planned Parenthood has long been a favorite target for abortion opponents, who chafe at the $337 million the organization receives from public sources to help run its 880 clinics nationwide. States are the center of the action because 17 state legislatures permit their funds to be used for abortions. Federal funds, by contrast, can support only non-abortion services, such as counseling and birth control.

-- Religion News Service

SADDLEBACK CHURCH

Warren Opens Campus to Anglicans

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren has offered to open the campus of his California megachurch to conservative Anglicans who have broken with the Episcopal Church.

Warren, a best-selling author and prominent preacher, wrote to 30 Anglican leaders days after California's Supreme Court ruled that Episcopal churches that break with their denomination are not entitled to keep church property.

"We stand in solidarity with them," Warren wrote in an e-mail posted online by Christianity Today, "and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation [that needs] a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County."

Warren's letter was intended to be private, spokeswoman Kristin Cole said. She said she did not know whether any Anglicans have taken Warren up on his offer.

Warren, a Southern Baptist, has built ties to conservative Anglican leaders, including prominent archbishops in Africa, over the past several years. In 2005, he spoke at a conference for conservative Anglicans in Pittsburgh.

In 2003, the Episcopal Church consecrated V. Gene Robinson, a openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire, precipitating a clash between liberals and conservatives in the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion of which it is part.

The Episcopal Church is battling dozens of congregations that have left the denomination to join African and South American branches of the Anglican Communion over church property.

Warren said the Episcopal Church "already considered me an adversary after partnering on projects" with conservative bishops from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. Warren also said that "I've been on Gene Robinson and [others'] attack list for my position on gay marriage."

Warren advocated for the passage of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. President-elect Barack Obama has invited Robinson and Warren to offer prayers at his inaugural ceremonies.

-- Religion News Service

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