Wednesday, April 30, 2008

30 April 2008

Presbyterians-Week Headlines

[1] PC(USA)’s Top Court Reviews Same-Gender Wedding Case
[2] Kurdish Authorities Move to Annex Assyrian Lands in North Iraq
[3] New Studies Support Abstinence Education
[4] San Joaquin Diocese, Episcopal Church File Suit to Regain Property
[5] At Expense of All Others, Putin Picks a Church
[6] 100,000 Psalter Milestone and a New Blog

[1] PC(USA)’s Top Court Reviews Same-Gender Wedding Case

Evan Silverstein reports that lawyers for the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, who is facing charges for performing weddings for two lesbian couples, told members of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s highest court on Friday (April 25) that there is no language in the denomination’s constitution that prohibits same-gender couples from marrying.

Spahr, in a reversal of an earlier decision, was found guilty last year of violating the PC(USA)’s constitutional ban on performing same-sex marriages.

Spahr has acknowledged that she’d married Annie Senechal to Sherrill Figuera on May 27, 2005, outside Guerneville, California, near San Francisco. She also acknowledged marrying the other couple, Barbara Jean Douglass and Connie Valois, on Aug. 21, 2004, in Rochester, New York. Neither state allows civil marriages of same-sex couples, but Spahr said she considered the ceremonies to be “ecclesiastical” marriages. Both couples were present at the hearing.

+ The Presbyterian News Service, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202

[2] Kurdish Authorities Move to Annex Assyrian Lands in North Iraq

According to the website, Kurdish authorities are coercing Assyrians to sign a form proclaiming the Nineveh Plains should be annexed to the Kurdish areas and come under the rule of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) visited Assyrian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains, including Tel Kepe and Wana, and forced the Assyrians to sign the specially prepared forms. The KDP members included Ali Mohammad Salih Garo, the mayor of Wana, Lieutenant Colonel Safar, in charge of the safety of the dam in the region, Lieutenant Colonel Arshad, the Asayesh (Kurdish Security) officer in Wana and other village heads supported by the Zerevani (Kurdish forces that protect the roads).

The translated form begins:

“To the Committee Implementing Article (140)

We the undersigned notables, clergymen, and mayors from the Christians (Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians) in Telkaif District demand to join the Telkaif District to the region of Iraqi Kurdistan. However, we as Christians should have a "self-rule" within the region of Iraqi Kurdistan.”

We ask all concerned parties to implement article 140 of the Iraqi constitution and to respect the opinion and will of the people…”

+ Assyrian International News Agency

[3] New Studies Support Abstinence Education
Erin Roach reports that abstinence education is effective at delaying sexual initiation and reducing the levels of early sexual activity, according to two studies presented 22 April at the National Press Club in Washington.

A study led by Stan Weed of the Institute of Research and Evaluation examined the impact of abstinence education in reducing the initiation of sexual activity by seventh-grade students in suburban Virginia.

Students receiving abstinence education, the study concluded, were about one-half as likely to initiate sexual activity as students who did not receive abstinence education.

The authors reported "... Opponents of abstinence education contend that these programs fail to influence teen sexual behavior. At this stage, the available evidence supports neither this assessment nor the wholesale dismissal of authentic abstinence education programs."
Janice Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, said it makes no sense for the federal government to decrease funding for abstinence education when it is clearly working to reduce some of the chief problems among youth."It is amazing that some legislators would want to cut abstinence education funding when it is such a drop in the bucket to the amount of money that goes to comprehensive sex education programs," Crouse said in an 22 April news release.

"And, look at what happened when all that money was spent for all those years on comprehensive sex education -- teen sexual activity went up, teen pregnancies went up and abortions went up.+ Baptist Press

[4] San Joaquin Diocese, Episcopal Church File Suit to Regain Property

Pat McCaughan reports that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and The Episcopal Church (TEC) filed a complaint in Fresno County Superior Court on 24 April "to reclaim possession of the real and personal property belonging to the diocese."

The office of the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, David Booth Beers, and the chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, Michael Glass, prepared the complaint jointly. Glass said the decision to sue became necessary after Lamb's request for the return of diocesan property was ignored.

The lawsuit seeks to reclaim "the substantial assets" of corporation sole—including real and personal property of the diocese, Episcopal missions or parishes within the diocese, and property held by the Episcopal Foundation and the Investment Trust.

Those properties "are now under the control of defendant Schofield, an individual who is not affiliated with the Episcopal Church and who is using these assets to advance the ministry and mission of a different church," the lawsuit alleges.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori deposed Schofield on 12 March, after the House of Bishops agreed with the findings of a Title IV Review Committee that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the church.

Schofield, at odds over the ordination of women and gay clergy, had urged the Central California Valley diocese to disaffiliate with TEC and to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

+ Episcopal Life Online, 815 Second Avenue, New York, New York 10017

[5] At Expense of All Others, Putin Picks a Church
Clifford J. Levy reports on how under Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church has become the “… de facto official religion, warding off other Christian denominations that seem to offer the most significant competition for worshipers.”

+The New York Times

[6] 100,000 Psalter Milestone and a New Blog
Josh Wilsey announced that a major milestone had been reached at Crown and Covenant Publications with the printing of 100,000 Psalters beginning in 1973. Wilsey additionally announced the launch of a new blog ( where news and updates about the publisher can be found.

+ Crown and Covenant, 7408 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15208